The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Part 5 out of 10
'Twould be a pity, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby, thou shouldst ever feel
sorrow of thy own--thou feelest it so tenderly for others.--Alack-o-day,
replied the corporal, brightening up his face--your honour knows I have
neither wife or child--I can have no sorrows in this world.--My father
could not help smiling.--As few as any man, Trim, replied my uncle Toby;
nor can I see how a fellow of thy light heart can suffer, but from the
distress of poverty in thy old age--when thou art passed all services,
Trim--and hast outlived thy friends.--An' please your honour, never fear,
replied Trim, chearily.--But I would have thee never fear, Trim, replied my
uncle Toby, and therefore, continued my uncle Toby, throwing down his
crutch, and getting up upon his legs as he uttered the word therefore--in
recompence, Trim, of thy long fidelity to me, and that goodness of thy
heart I have had such proofs of--whilst thy master is worth a shilling--
thou shalt never ask elsewhere, Trim, for a penny. Trim attempted to thank
my uncle Toby--but had not power--tears trickled down his cheeks faster
than he could wipe them off--He laid his hands upon his breast--made a bow
to the ground, and shut the door.
--I have left Trim my bowling-green, cried my uncle Toby--My father
smiled.--I have left him moreover a pension, continued my uncle Toby.--My
father looked grave.
Is this a fit time, said my father to himself, to talk of Pensions and
When my uncle Toby first mentioned the grenadier, my father, I said, fell
down with his nose flat to the quilt, and as suddenly as if my uncle Toby
had shot him; but it was not added that every other limb and member of my
father instantly relapsed with his nose into the same precise attitude in
which he lay first described; so that when corporal Trim left the room, and
my father found himself disposed to rise off the bed--he had all the little
preparatory movements to run over again, before he could do it. Attitudes
are nothing, madam--'tis the transition from one attitude to another--like
the preparation and resolution of the discord into harmony, which is all in
For which reason my father played the same jig over again with his toe upon
the floor--pushed the chamber-pot still a little farther within the
valance--gave a hem--raised himself up upon his elbow--and was just
beginning to address himself to my uncle Toby--when recollecting the
unsuccessfulness of his first effort in that attitude--he got upon his
legs, and in making the third turn across the room, he stopped short before
my uncle Toby; and laying the three first fingers of his right-hand in the
palm of his left, and stooping a little, he addressed himself to my uncle
Toby as follows:
When I reflect, brother Toby, upon Man; and take a view of that dark side
of him which represents his life as open to so many causes of trouble--when
I consider, brother Toby, how oft we eat the bread of affliction, and that
we are born to it, as to the portion of our inheritance--I was born to
nothing, quoth my uncle Toby, interrupting my father--but my commission.
Zooks! said my father, did not my uncle leave you a hundred and twenty
pounds a year?--What could I have done without it? replied my uncle Toby--
That's another concern, said my father testily--But I say Toby, when one
runs over the catalogue of all the cross-reckonings and sorrowful Items
with which the heart of man is overcharged, 'tis wonderful by what hidden
resources the mind is enabled to stand out, and bear itself up, as it does,
against the impositions laid upon our nature.--'Tis by the assistance of
Almighty God, cried my uncle Toby, looking up, and pressing the palms of
his hands close together--'tis not from our own strength, brother Shandy--a
centinel in a wooden centry-box might as well pretend to stand it out
against a detachment of fifty men.--We are upheld by the grace and the
assistance of the best of Beings.
--That is cutting the knot, said my father, instead of untying it,--But
give me leave to lead you, brother Toby, a little deeper into the mystery.
With all my heart, replied my uncle Toby.
My father instantly exchanged the attitude he was in, for that in which
Socrates is so finely painted by Raffael in his school of Athens; which
your connoisseurship knows is so exquisitely imagined, that even the
particular manner of the reasoning of Socrates is expressed by it--for he
holds the fore-finger of his left-hand between the fore-finger and the
thumb of his right, and seems as if he was saying to the libertine he is
reclaiming--'You grant me this--and this: and this, and this, I don't ask
of you--they follow of themselves in course.'
So stood my father, holding fast his fore-finger betwixt his finger and his
thumb, and reasoning with my uncle Toby as he sat in his old fringed chair,
valanced around with party-coloured worsted bobs--O Garrick!--what a rich
scene of this would thy exquisite powers make! and how gladly would I write
such another to avail myself of thy immortality, and secure my own behind
Though man is of all others the most curious vehicle, said my father, yet
at the same time 'tis of so slight a frame, and so totteringly put
together, that the sudden jerks and hard jostlings it unavoidably meets
with in this rugged journey, would overset and tear it to pieces a dozen
times a day--was it not, brother Toby, that there is a secret spring within
us.--Which spring, said my uncle Toby, I take to be Religion.--Will that
set my child's nose on? cried my father, letting go his finger, and
striking one hand against the other.--It makes every thing straight for us,
answered my uncle Toby.--Figuratively speaking, dear Toby, it may, for
aught I know, said my father; but the spring I am speaking of, is that
great and elastic power within us of counterbalancing evil, which, like a
secret spring in a well-ordered machine, though it can't prevent the shock-
-at least it imposes upon our sense of it.
Now, my dear brother, said my father, replacing his fore-finger, as he was
coming closer to the point--had my child arrived safe into the world,
unmartyr'd in that precious part of him--fanciful and extravagant as I may
appear to the world in my opinion of christian names, and of that magic
bias which good or bad names irresistibly impress upon our characters and
conducts--Heaven is witness! that in the warmest transports of my wishes
for the prosperity of my child, I never once wished to crown his head with
more glory and honour than what George or Edward would have spread around
But alas! continued my father, as the greatest evil has befallen him--I
must counteract and undo it with the greatest good.
He shall be christened Trismegistus, brother.
I wish it may answer--replied my uncle Toby, rising up.
What a chapter of chances, said my father, turning himself about upon the
first landing, as he and my uncle Toby were going down stairs, what a long
chapter of chances do the events of this world lay open to us! Take pen
and ink in hand, brother Toby, and calculate it fairly--I know no more of
calculation than this balluster, said my uncle Toby (striking short of it
with his crutch, and hitting my father a desperate blow souse upon his
shin-bone)--'Twas a hundred to one-cried my uncle Toby--I thought, quoth my
father, (rubbing his shin) you had known nothing of calculations, brother
Toby. a mere chance, said my uncle Toby.--Then it adds one to the chapter-
-replied my father.
The double success of my father's repartees tickled off the pain of his
shin at once--it was well it so fell out--(chance! again)--or the world to
this day had never known the subject of my father's calculation--to guess
it--there was no chance--What a lucky chapter of chances has this turned
out! for it has saved me the trouble of writing one express, and in truth I
have enough already upon my hands without it.--Have not I promised the
world a chapter of knots? two chapters upon the right and the wrong end of
a woman? a chapter upon whiskers? a chapter upon wishes?--a chapter of
noses?--No, I have done that--a chapter upon my uncle Toby's modesty? to
say nothing of a chapter upon chapters, which I will finish before I sleep-
-by my great grandfather's whiskers, I shall never get half of 'em through
Take pen and ink in hand, and calculate it fairly, brother Toby, said my
father, and it will turn out a million to one, that of all the parts of the
body, the edge of the forceps should have the ill luck just to fall upon
and break down that one part, which should break down the fortunes of our
house with it.
It might have been worse, replied my uncle Toby.--I don't comprehend, said
my father.--Suppose the hip had presented, replied my uncle Toby, as Dr.
My father reflected half a minute--looked down--touched the middle of his
forehead slightly with his finger--
--True, said he.
Is it not a shame to make two chapters of what passed in going down one
pair of stairs? for we are got no farther yet than to the first landing,
and there are fifteen more steps down to the bottom; and for aught I know,
as my father and my uncle Toby are in a talking humour, there may be as
many chapters as steps:--let that be as it will, Sir, I can no more help it
than my destiny:--A sudden impulse comes across me--drop the curtain,
Shandy--I drop it--Strike a line here across the paper, Tristram--I strike
it--and hey for a new chapter.
The deuce of any other rule have I to govern myself by in this affair--and
if I had one--as I do all things out of all rule--I would twist it and tear
it to pieces, and throw it into the fire when I had done--Am I warm? I am,
and the cause demands it--a pretty story! is a man to follow rules--or
rules to follow him?
Now this, you must know, being my chapter upon chapters, which I promised
to write before I went to sleep, I thought it meet to ease my conscience
entirely before I laid down, by telling the world all I knew about the
matter at once: Is not this ten times better than to set out dogmatically
with a sententious parade of wisdom, and telling the world a story of a
roasted horse--that chapters relieve the mind--that they assist--or impose
upon the imagination--and that in a work of this dramatic cast they are as
necessary as the shifting of scenes--with fifty other cold conceits, enough
to extinguish the fire which roasted him?--O! but to understand this, which
is a puff at the fire of Diana's temple--you must read Longinus--read away-
-if you are not a jot the wiser by reading him the first time over--never
fear--read him again--Avicenna and Licetus read Aristotle's metaphysicks
forty times through a-piece, and never understood a single word.--But mark
the consequence--Avicenna turned out a desperate writer at all kinds of
writing--for he wrote books de omni scribili; and for Licetus (Fortunio)
though all the world knows he was born a foetus, (Ce Foetus n'etoit pas
plus grand que la paume de la main; mais son pere l'ayant examine en
qualite de Medecin, & ayant trouve que c'etoit quelque chose de plus qu'un
Embryon, le fit transporter tout vivant a Rapallo, ou il le fit voir a
Jerome Bardi & a d'autres Medecins du lieu. On trouva qu'il ne lui
manquoit rien d'essentiel a la vie; & son pere pour faire voir un essai de
son experience, entreprit d'achever l'ouvrage de la Nature, & de travailler
a la formation de l'Enfant avec le meme artifice que celui dont on se sert
pour faire ecclorre les Poulets en Egypte. Il instruisit une Nourisse de
tout ce qu'elle avoit a faire, & ayant fait mettre son fils dans un pour
proprement accommode, il reussit a l'elever & a lui faire prendre ses
accroissemens necessaires, par l'uniformite d'une chaleur etrangere mesuree
exactement sur les degres d'un Thermometre, ou d'un autre instrument
equivalent. (Vide Mich. Giustinian, ne gli Scritt. Liguri a 223. 488.) On
auroit toujours ete tres satisfait de l'industrie d'un pere si experimente
dans l'Art de la Generation, quand il n'auroit pu prolonger la vie a son
fils que pour Puelques mois, ou pour peu d'annees. Mais quand on se
represente que l'Enfant a vecu pres de quatre-vingts ans, & qu'il a compose
quatre-vingts Ouvrages differents tous fruits d'une longue lecture--il faut
convenir que tout ce qui est incroyable n'est pas toujours faux, & que la
Vraisemblance n'est pas toujours du cote la Verite. Il n'avoit que dix
neuf ans lorsqu'il composa Gonopsychanthropologia de Origine Animae
humanae. (Les Enfans celebres, revus & corriges par M. de la Monnoye de
l'Academie Francoise.)) of no more than five inches and a half in length,
yet he grew to that astonishing height in literature, as to write a book
with a title as long as himself--the learned know I mean his
Gonopsychanthropologia, upon the origin of the human soul.
So much for my chapter upon chapters, which I hold to be the best chapter
in my whole work; and take my word, whoever reads it, is full as well
employed, as in picking straws.
We shall bring all things to rights, said my father, setting his foot upon
the first step from the landing.--This Trismegistus, continued my father,
drawing his leg back and turning to my uncle Toby--was the greatest (Toby)
of all earthly beings--he was the greatest king--the greatest lawgiver--the
greatest philosopher--and the greatest priest--and engineer--said my uncle
--In course, said my father.
--And how does your mistress? cried my father, taking the same step over
again from the landing, and calling to Susannah, whom he saw passing by the
foot of the stairs with a huge pin-cushion in her hand--how does your
mistress? As well, said Susannah, tripping by, but without looking up, as
can be expected.--What a fool am I! said my father, drawing his leg back
again--let things be as they will, brother Toby, 'tis ever the precise
answer--And how is the child, pray?--No answer. And where is Dr. Slop?
added my father, raising his voice aloud, and looking over the ballusters--
Susannah was out of hearing.
Of all the riddles of a married life, said my father, crossing the landing
in order to set his back against the wall, whilst he propounded it to my
uncle Toby--of all the puzzling riddles, said he, in a marriage state,--of
which you may trust me, brother Toby, there are more asses loads than all
Job's stock of asses could have carried--there is not one that has more
intricacies in it than this--that from the very moment the mistress of the
house is brought to bed, every female in it, from my lady's gentlewoman
down to the cinder-wench, becomes an inch taller for it; and give
themselves more airs upon that single inch, than all their other inches put
I think rather, replied my uncle Toby, that 'tis we who sink an inch
lower.--If I meet but a woman with child--I do it.--'Tis a heavy tax upon
that half of our fellow-creatures, brother Shandy, said my uncle Toby--'Tis
a piteous burden upon 'em, continued he, shaking his head--Yes, yes, 'tis a
painful thing--said my father, shaking his head too--but certainly since
shaking of heads came into fashion, never did two heads shake together, in
concert, from two such different springs.
God bless / Deuce take 'em all--said my uncle Toby and my father, each to
Holla!--you, chairman!--here's sixpence--do step into that bookseller's
shop, and call me a day-tall critick. I am very willing to give any one of
'em a crown to help me with his tackling, to get my father and my uncle
Toby off the stairs, and to put them to bed.
--'Tis even high time; for except a short nap, which they both got whilst
Trim was boring the jack-boots--and which, by-the-bye, did my father no
sort of good, upon the score of the bad hinge--they have not else shut
their eyes, since nine hours before the time that doctor Slop was led into
the back parlour in that dirty pickle by Obadiah.
Was every day of my life to be as busy a day as this--and to take up--
I will not finish that sentence till I have made an observation upon the
strange state of affairs between the reader and myself, just as things
stand at present--an observation never applicable before to any one
biographical writer since the creation of the world, but to myself--and I
believe, will never hold good to any other, until its final destruction--
and therefore, for the very novelty of it alone, it must be worth your
worships attending to.
I am this month one whole year older than I was this time twelve-month; and
having got, as you perceive, almost into the middle of my third volume
(According to the preceding Editions.)--and no farther than to my first
day's life--'tis demonstrative that I have three hundred and sixty-four
days more life to write just now, than when I first set out; so that
instead of advancing, as a common writer, in my work with what I have been
doing at it--on the contrary, I am just thrown so many volumes back--was
every day of my life to be as busy a day as this--And why not?--and the
transactions and opinions of it to take up as much description--And for
what reason should they be cut short? as at this rate I should just live
364 times faster than I should write--It must follow, an' please your
worships, that the more I write, the more I shall have to write--and
consequently, the more your worships read, the more your worships will have
Will this be good for your worships eyes?
It will do well for mine; and, was it not that my Opinions will be the
death of me, I perceive I shall lead a fine life of it out of this self-
same life of mine; or, in other words, shall lead a couple of fine lives
As for the proposal of twelve volumes a year, or a volume a month, it no
way alters my prospect--write as I will, and rush as I may into the middle
of things, as Horace advises--I shall never overtake myself whipp'd and
driven to the last pinch; at the worst I shall have one day the start of my
pen--and one day is enough for two volumes--and two volumes will be enough
for one year.--
Heaven prosper the manufacturers of paper under this propitious reign,
which is now opened to us--as I trust its providence will prosper every
thing else in it that is taken in hand.
As for the propagation of Geese--I give myself no concern--Nature is all-
bountiful--I shall never want tools to work with.
--So then, friend! you have got my father and my uncle Toby off the stairs,
and seen them to bed?--And how did you manage it?--You dropp'd a curtain at
the stair-foot--I thought you had no other way for it--Here's a crown for
--Then reach me my breeches off the chair, said my father to Susannah.--
There is not a moment's time to dress you, Sir, cried Susannah--the child
is as black in the face as my--As your what? said my father, for like all
orators, he was a dear searcher into comparisons.--Bless, me, Sir, said
Susannah, the child's in a fit.--And where's Mr. Yorick?--Never where he
should be, said Susannah, but his curate's in the dressing-room, with the
child upon his arm, waiting for the name--and my mistress bid me run as
fast as I could to know, as captain Shandy is the godfather, whether it
should not be called after him.
Were one sure, said my father to himself, scratching his eye-brow, that the
child was expiring, one might as well compliment my brother Toby as not--
and it would be a pity, in such a case, to throw away so great a name as
Trismegistus upon him--but he may recover.
No, no,--said my father to Susannah, I'll get up--There is no time, cried
Susannah, the child's as black as my shoe. Trismegistus, said my father--
But stay--thou art a leaky vessel, Susannah, added my father; canst thou
carry Trismegistus in thy head, the length of the gallery without
scattering?--Can I? cried Susannah, shutting the door in a huff.--If she
can, I'll be shot, said my father, bouncing out of bed in the dark, and
groping for his breeches.
Susannah ran with all speed along the gallery.
My father made all possible speed to find his breeches.
Susannah got the start, and kept it--'Tis Tris--something, cried Susannah--
There is no christian-name in the world, said the curate, beginning with
Tris--but Tristram. Then 'tis Tristram-gistus, quoth Susannah.
--There is no gistus to it, noodle!--'tis my own name, replied the curate,
dipping his hand, as he spoke, into the bason--Tristram! said he, &c. &c.
&c. &c.--so Tristram was I called, and Tristram shall I be to the day of my
My father followed Susannah, with his night-gown across his arm, with
nothing more than his breeches on, fastened through haste with but a single
button, and that button through haste thrust only half into the button-
--She has not forgot the name, cried my father, half opening the door?--No,
no, said the curate, with a tone of intelligence.--And the child is better,
cried Susannah.--And how does your mistress? As well, said Susannah, as
can be expected.--Pish! said my father, the button of his breeches slipping
out of the button-hole--So that whether the interjection was levelled at
Susannah, or the button-hole--whether Pish was an interjection of contempt
or an interjection of modesty, is a doubt, and must be a doubt till I shall
have time to write the three following favourite chapters, that is, my
chapter of chamber-maids, my chapter of pishes, and my chapter of button-
All the light I am able to give the reader at present is this, that the
moment my father cried Pish! he whisk'd himself about--and with his
breeches held up by one hand, and his night-gown thrown across the arm of
the other, he turned along the gallery to bed, something slower than he
I wish I could write a chapter upon sleep.
A fitter occasion could never have presented itself, than what this moment
offers, when all the curtains of the family are drawn--the candles put out-
-and no creature's eyes are open but a single one, for the other has been
shut these twenty years, of my mother's nurse.
It is a fine subject.
And yet, as fine as it is, I would undertake to write a dozen chapters upon
button-holes, both quicker and with more fame, than a single chapter upon
Button-holes! there is something lively in the very idea of 'em--and trust
me, when I get amongst 'em--You gentry with great beards--look as grave as
you will--I'll make merry work with my button-holes--I shall have 'em all
to myself--'tis a maiden subject--I shall run foul of no man's wisdom or
fine sayings in it.
But for sleep--I know I shall make nothing of it before I begin--I am no
dab at your fine sayings in the first place--and in the next, I cannot for
my soul set a grave face upon a bad matter, and tell the world--'tis the
refuge of the unfortunate--the enfranchisement of the prisoner--the downy
lap of the hopeless, the weary, and the broken-hearted; nor could I set out
with a lye in my mouth, by affirming, that of all the soft and delicious
functions of our nature, by which the great Author of it, in his bounty,
has been pleased to recompence the sufferings wherewith his justice and his
good pleasure has wearied us--that this is the chiefest (I know pleasures
worth ten of it); or what a happiness it is to man, when the anxieties and
passions of the day are over, and he lies down upon his back, that his soul
shall be so seated within him, that whichever way she turns her eyes, the
heavens shall look calm and sweet above her--no desire--or fear--or doubt
that troubles the air, nor any difficulty past, present, or to come, that
the imagination may not pass over without offence, in that sweet secession.
'God's blessing,' said Sancho Panca, 'be upon the man who first invented
this self-same thing called sleep--it covers a man all over like a cloak.'
Now there is more to me in this, and it speaks warmer to my heart and
affections, than all the dissertations squeez'd out of the heads of the
learned together upon the subject.
--Not that I altogether disapprove of what Montaigne advances upon it--'tis
admirable in its way--(I quote by memory.)
The world enjoys other pleasures, says he, as they do that of sleep,
without tasting or feeling it as it slips and passes by.--We should study
and ruminate upon it, in order to render proper thanks to him who grants it
to us.--For this end I cause myself to be disturbed in my sleep, that I may
the better and more sensibly relish it.--And yet I see few, says he again,
who live with less sleep, when need requires; my body is capable of a firm,
but not of a violent and sudden agitation--I evade of late all violent
exercises--I am never weary with walking--but from my youth, I never looked
to ride upon pavements. I love to lie hard and alone, and even without my
wife--This last word may stagger the faith of the world--but remember, 'La
Vraisemblance' (as Bayle says in the affair of Liceti) 'n'est pas toujours
du Cote de la Verite.' And so much for sleep.
If my wife will but venture him--brother Toby, Trismegistus shall be
dress'd and brought down to us, whilst you and I are getting our breakfasts
--Go, tell Susannah, Obadiah, to step here.
She is run up stairs, answered Obadiah, this very instant, sobbing and
crying, and wringing her hands as if her heart would break.
We shall have a rare month of it, said my father, turning his head from
Obadiah, and looking wistfully in my uncle Toby's face for some time--we
shall have a devilish month of it, brother Toby, said my father, setting
his arms a'kimbo, and shaking his head; fire, water, women, wind--brother
Toby!--'Tis some misfortune, quoth my uncle Toby.--That it is, cried my
father--to have so many jarring elements breaking loose, and riding triumph
in every corner of a gentleman's house--Little boots it to the peace of a
family, brother Toby, that you and I possess ourselves, and sit here silent
and unmoved--whilst such a storm is whistling over our heads.--
And what's the matter, Susannah? They have called the child Tristram--and
my mistress is just got out of an hysterick fit about it--No!--'tis not my
fault, said Susannah--I told him it was Tristram-gistus.
--Make tea for yourself, brother Toby, said my father, taking down his hat-
-but how different from the sallies and agitations of voice and members
which a common reader would imagine!
--For he spake in the sweetest modulation--and took down his hat with the
genteelest movement of limbs, that ever affliction harmonized and attuned
--Go to the bowling-green for corporal Trim, said my uncle Toby, speaking
to Obadiah, as soon as my father left the room.
When the misfortune of my Nose fell so heavily upon my father's head;--the
reader remembers that he walked instantly up stairs, and cast himself down
upon his bed; and from hence, unless he has a great insight into human
nature, he will be apt to expect a rotation of the same ascending and
descending movements from him, upon this misfortune of my Name;--no.
The different weight, dear Sir--nay even the different package of two
vexations of the same weight--makes a very wide difference in our manner of
bearing and getting through with them.--It is not half an hour ago, when
(in the great hurry and precipitation of a poor devil's writing for daily
bread) I threw a fair sheet, which I had just finished, and carefully wrote
out, slap into the fire, instead of the foul one.
Instantly I snatch'd off my wig, and threw it perpendicularly, with all
imaginable violence, up to the top of the room--indeed I caught it as it
fell--but there was an end of the matter; nor do I think any think else in
Nature would have given such immediate ease: She, dear Goddess, by an
instantaneous impulse, in all provoking cases, determines us to a sally of
this or that member--or else she thrusts us into this or that place, or
posture of body, we know not why--But mark, madam, we live amongst riddles
and mysteries--the most obvious things, which come in our way, have dark
sides, which the quickest sight cannot penetrate into; and even the
clearest and most exalted understandings amongst us find ourselves puzzled
and at a loss in almost every cranny of nature's works: so that this, like
a thousand other things, falls out for us in a way, which tho' we cannot
reason upon it--yet we find the good of it, may it please your reverences
and your worships--and that's enough for us.
Now, my father could not lie down with this affliction for his life--nor
could he carry it up stairs like the other--he walked composedly out with
it to the fish-pond.
Had my father leaned his head upon his hand, and reasoned an hour which way
to have gone--reason, with all her force, could not have directed him to
any think like it: there is something, Sir, in fish-ponds--but what it is,
I leave to system-builders and fish-pond-diggers betwixt 'em to find out--
but there is something, under the first disorderly transport of the
humours, so unaccountably becalming in an orderly and a sober walk towards
one of them, that I have often wondered that neither Pythagoras, nor Plato,
nor Solon, nor Lycurgus, nor Mahomet, nor any one of your noted lawgivers,
ever gave order about them.
Your honour, said Trim, shutting the parlour-door before he began to speak,
has heard, I imagine, of this unlucky accident--O yes, Trim, said my uncle
Toby, and it gives me great concern.--I am heartily concerned too, but I
hope your honour, replied Trim, will do me the justice to believe, that it
was not in the least owing to me.--To thee--Trim?--cried my uncle Toby,
looking kindly in his face--'twas Susannah's and the curate's folly betwixt
them.--What business could they have together, an' please your honour, in
the garden?--In the gallery thou meanest, replied my uncle Toby.
Trim found he was upon a wrong scent, and stopped short with a low bow--Two
misfortunes, quoth the corporal to himself, are twice as many at least as
are needful to be talked over at one time;--the mischief the cow has done
in breaking into the fortifications, may be told his honour hereafter.--
Trim's casuistry and address, under the cover of his low bow, prevented all
suspicion in my uncle Toby, so he went on with what he had to say to Trim
--For my own part, Trim, though I can see little or no difference betwixt
my nephew's being called Tristram or Trismegistus--yet as the thing sits so
near my brother's heart, Trim--I would freely have given a hundred pounds
rather than it should have happened.--A hundred pounds, an' please your
honour! replied Trim,--I would not give a cherry-stone to boot.--Nor would
I, Trim, upon my own account, quoth my uncle Toby--but my brother, whom
there is no arguing with in this case--maintains that a great deal more
depends, Trim, upon christian-names, than what ignorant people imagine--for
he says there never was a great or heroic action performed since the world
began by one called Tristram--nay, he will have it, Trim, that a man can
neither be learned, or wise, or brave.--'Tis all fancy, an' please your
honour--I fought just as well, replied the corporal, when the regiment
called me Trim, as when they called me James Butler.--And for my own part,
said my uncle Toby, though I should blush to boast of myself, Trim--yet had
my name been Alexander, I could have done no more at Namur than my duty.--
Bless your honour! cried Trim, advancing three steps as he spoke, does a
man think of his christian-name when he goes upon the attack?--Or when he
stands in the trench, Trim? cried my uncle Toby, looking firm.--Or when he
enters a breach? said Trim, pushing in between two chairs.--Or forces the
lines? cried my uncle, rising up, and pushing his crutch like a pike.--Or
facing a platoon? cried Trim, presenting his stick like a firelock.--Or
when he marches up the glacis? cried my uncle Toby, looking warm and
setting his foot upon his stool.--
My father was returned from his walk to the fish-pond--and opened the
parlour-door in the very height of the attack, just as my uncle Toby was
marching up the glacis--Trim recovered his arms--never was my uncle Toby
caught in riding at such a desperate rate in his life! Alas! my uncle Toby!
had not a weightier matter called forth all the ready eloquence of my
father--how hadst thou then and thy poor Hobby-Horse too been insulted!
My father hung up his hat with the same air he took it down; and after
giving a slight look at the disorder of the room, he took hold of one of
the chairs which had formed the corporal's breach, and placing it over-
against my uncle Toby, he sat down in it, and as soon as the tea-things
were taken away, and the door shut, he broke out in a lamentation as
My Father's Lamentation.
It is in vain longer, said my father, addressing himself as much to
Ernulphus's curse, which was laid upon the corner of the chimney-piece--as
to my uncle Toby who sat under it--it is in vain longer, said my father, in
the most querulous monotony imaginable, to struggle as I have done against
this most uncomfortable of human persuasions--I see it plainly, that either
for my own sins, brother Toby, or the sins and follies of the Shandy
family, Heaven has thought fit to draw forth the heaviest of its artillery
against me; and that the prosperity of my child is the point upon which the
whole force of it is directed to play.--Such a thing would batter the whole
universe about our ears, brother Shandy, said my uncle Toby--if it was so-
Unhappy Tristram! child of wrath! child of decrepitude! interruption!
mistake! and discontent! What one misfortune or disaster in the book of
embryotic evils, that could unmechanize thy frame, or entangle thy
filaments! which has not fallen upon thy head, or ever thou camest into the
world--what evils in thy passage into it!--what evils since!--produced into
being, in the decline of thy father's days--when the powers of his
imagination and of his body were waxing feeble--when radical heat and
radical moisture, the elements which should have temper'd thine, were
drying up; and nothing left to found thy stamina in, but negations--'tis
pitiful--brother Toby, at the best, and called out for all the little helps
that care and attention on both sides could give it. But how were we
defeated! You know the event, brother Toby--'tis too melancholy a one to
be repeated now--when the few animal spirits I was worth in the world, and
with which memory, fancy, and quick parts should have been convey'd--were
all dispersed, confused, confounded, scattered, and sent to the devil.--
Here then was the time to have put a stop to this persecution against him;-
-and tried an experiment at least--whether calmness and serenity of mind in
your sister, with a due attention, brother Toby, to her evacuations and
repletions--and the rest of her non-naturals, might not, in a course of
nine months gestation, have set all things to rights.--My child was bereft
of these!--What a teazing life did she lead herself, and consequently her
foetus too, with that nonsensical anxiety of hers about lying-in in town?
I thought my sister submitted with the greatest patience, replied my uncle
Toby--I never heard her utter one fretful word about it.--She fumed
inwardly, cried my father; and that, let me tell you, brother, was ten
times worse for the child--and then! what battles did she fight with me,
and what perpetual storms about the midwife.--There she gave vent, said my
uncle Toby.--Vent! cried my father, looking up.
But what was all this, my dear Toby, to the injuries done us by my child's
coming head foremost into the world, when all I wished, in this general
wreck of his frame, was to have saved this little casket unbroke,
With all my precautions, how was my system turned topside-turvy in the womb
with my child! his head exposed to the hand of violence, and a pressure of
470 pounds avoirdupois weight acting so perpendicularly upon its apex--that
at this hour 'tis ninety per Cent. insurance, that the fine net-work of the
intellectual web be not rent and torn to a thousand tatters.
--Still we could have done.--Fool, coxcomb, puppy--give him but a Nose--
Cripple, Dwarf, Driveller, Goosecap--(shape him as you will) the door of
fortune stands open--O Licetus! Licetus! had I been blest with a foetus
five inches long and a half, like thee--Fate might have done her worst.
Still, brother Toby, there was one cast of the dye left for our child after
all--O Tristram! Tristram! Tristram!
We will send for Mr. Yorick, said my uncle Toby.
--You may send for whom you will, replied my father.
What a rate have I gone on at, curvetting and striking it away, two up and
two down for three volumes (According to the preceding Editions.) together,
without looking once behind, or even on one side of me, to see whom I trod
upon!--I'll tread upon no one--quoth I to myself when I mounted--I'll take
a good rattling gallop; but I'll not hurt the poorest jack-ass upon the
road.--So off I set--up one lane--down another, through this turnpike--over
that, as if the arch-jockey of jockeys had got behind me.
Now ride at this rate with what good intention and resolution you may--'tis
a million to one you'll do some one a mischief, if not yourself--He's
flung--he's off--he's lost his hat--he's down--he'll break his neck--see!--
if he has not galloped full among the scaffolding of the undertaking
criticks!--he'll knock his brains out against some of their posts--he's
bounced out!--look--he's now riding like a mad-cap full tilt through a
whole crowd of painters, fiddlers, poets, biographers, physicians, lawyers,
logicians, players, school-men, churchmen, statesmen, soldiers, casuists,
connoisseurs, prelates, popes, and engineers.--Don't fear, said I--I'll not
hurt the poorest jack-ass upon the king's highway.--But your horse throws
dirt; see you've splash'd a bishop--I hope in God, 'twas only Ernulphus,
said I.--But you have squirted full in the faces of Mess. Le Moyne, De
Romigny, and De Marcilly, doctors of the Sorbonne.--That was last year,
replied I.--But you have trod this moment upon a king.--Kings have bad
times on't, said I, to be trod upon by such people as me.
You have done it, replied my accuser.
I deny it, quoth I, and so have got off, and here am I standing with my
bridle in one hand, and with my cap in the other, to tell my story.--And
what in it? You shall hear in the next chapter.
As Francis the first of France was one winterly night warming himself over
the embers of a wood fire, and talking with his first minister of sundry
things for the good of the state (Vide Menagiana, Vol. I.)--It would not be
amiss, said the king, stirring up the embers with his cane, if this good
understanding betwixt ourselves and Switzerland was a little strengthened.-
-There is no end, Sire, replied the minister, in giving money to these
people--they would swallow up the treasury of France.--Poo! poo! answered
the king--there are more ways, Mons. le Premier, of bribing states, besides
that of giving money--I'll pay Switzerland the honour of standing godfather
for my next child.--Your majesty, said the minister, in so doing, would
have all the grammarians in Europe upon your back;--Switzerland, as a
republic, being a female, can in no construction be godfather.--She may be
godmother, replied Francis hastily--so announce my intentions by a courier
I am astonished, said Francis the First, (that day fortnight) speaking to
his minister as he entered the closet, that we have had no answer from
Switzerland.--Sire, I wait upon you this moment, said Mons. le Premier, to
lay before you my dispatches upon that business.--They take it kindly, said
the king.--They do, Sire, replied the minister, and have the highest sense
of the honour your majesty has done them--but the republick, as godmother,
claims her right, in this case, of naming the child.
In all reason, quoth the king--she will christen him Francis, or Henry, or
Lewis, or some name that she knows will be agreeable to us. Your majesty
is deceived, replied the minister--I have this hour received a dispatch
from our resident, with the determination of the republic on that point
also.--And what name has the republick fixed upon for the Dauphin?--
Shadrach, Mesech, Abed-nego, replied the minister.--By Saint Peter's
girdle, I will have nothing to do with the Swiss, cried Francis the First,
pulling up his breeches and walking hastily across the floor.
Your majesty, replied the minister calmly, cannot bring yourself off.
We'll pay them in money--said the king.
Sire, there are not sixty thousand crowns in the treasury, answered the
minister.--I'll pawn the best jewel in my crown, quoth Francis the First.
Your honour stands pawn'd already in this matter, answered Monsieur le
Then, Mons. le Premier, said the king, by. . .we'll go to war with 'em.
Albeit, gentle reader, I have lusted earnestly, and endeavoured carefully
(according to the measure of such a slender skill as God has vouchsafed me,
and as convenient leisure from other occasions of needful profit and
healthful pastime have permitted) that these little books which I here put
into thy hands, might stand instead of many bigger books--yet have I
carried myself towards thee in such fanciful guise of careless disport,
that right sore am I ashamed now to intreat thy lenity seriously--in
beseeching thee to believe it of me, that in the story of my father and his
christian-names--I have no thoughts of treading upon Francis the First--nor
in the affair of the nose--upon Francis the Ninth--nor in the character of
my uncle Toby--of characterizing the militiating spirits of my country--the
wound upon his groin, is a wound to every comparison of that kind--nor by
Trim--that I meant the duke of Ormond--or that my book is wrote against
predestination, or free-will, or taxes--If 'tis wrote against any thing,--
'tis wrote, an' please your worships, against the spleen! in order, by a
more frequent and a more convulsive elevation and depression of the
diaphragm, and the succussations of the intercostal and abdominal muscles
in laughter, to drive the gall and other bitter juices from the gall-
bladder, liver, and sweet-bread of his majesty's subjects, with all the
inimicitious passions which belong to them, down into their duodenums.
--But can the thing be undone, Yorick? said my father--for in my opinion,
continued he, it cannot. I am a vile canonist, replied Yorick--but of all
evils, holding suspence to be the most tormenting, we shall at least know
the worst of this matter. I hate these great dinners--said my father--The
size of the dinner is not the point, answered Yorick--we want, Mr. Shandy,
to dive into the bottom of this doubt, whether the name can be changed or
not--and as the beards of so many commissaries, officials, advocates,
proctors, registers, and of the most eminent of our school-divines, and
others, are all to meet in the middle of one table, and Didius has so
pressingly invited you--who in your distress would miss such an occasion?
All that is requisite, continued Yorick, is to apprize Didius, and let him
manage a conversation after dinner so as to introduce the subject.--Then my
brother Toby, cried my father, clapping his two hands together, shall go
--Let my old tye-wig, quoth my uncle Toby, and my laced regimentals, be
hung to the fire all night, Trim.
(page numbering skips ten pages)
--No doubt, Sir,--there is a whole chapter wanting here--and a chasm of ten
pages made in the book by it--but the book-binder is neither a fool, or a
knave, or a puppy--nor is the book a jot more imperfect (at least upon that
score)--but, on the contrary, the book is more perfect and complete by
wanting the chapter, than having it, as I shall demonstrate to your
reverences in this manner.--I question first, by-the-bye, whether the same
experiment might not be made as successfully upon sundry other chapters--
but there is no end, an' please your reverences, in trying experiments upon
chapters--we have had enough of it--So there's an end of that matter.
But before I begin my demonstration, let me only tell you, that the chapter
which I have torn out, and which otherwise you would all have been reading
just now, instead of this--was the description of my father's, my uncle
Toby's, Trim's, and Obadiah's setting out and journeying to the visitation
at. . ..
We'll go in the coach, said my father--Prithee, have the arms been altered,
Obadiah?--It would have made my story much better to have begun with
telling you, that at the time my mother's arms were added to the Shandy's,
when the coach was re-painted upon my father's marriage, it had so fallen
out that the coach-painter, whether by performing all his works with the
left hand, like Turpilius the Roman, or Hans Holbein of Basil--or whether
'twas more from the blunder of his head than hand--or whether, lastly, it
was from the sinister turn which every thing relating to our family was apt
to take--it so fell out, however, to our reproach, that instead of the
bend-dexter, which since Harry the Eighth's reign was honestly our due--a
bend-sinister, by some of these fatalities, had been drawn quite across the
field of the Shandy arms. 'Tis scarce credible that the mind of so wise a
man as my father was, could be so much incommoded with so small a matter.
The word coach--let it be whose it would--or coach-man, or coach-horse, or
coach-hire, could never be named in the family, but he constantly
complained of carrying this vile mark of illegitimacy upon the door of his
own; he never once was able to step into the coach, or out of it, without
turning round to take a view of the arms, and making a vow at the same
time, that it was the last time he would ever set his foot in it again,
till the bend-sinister was taken out--but like the affair of the hinge, it
was one of the many things which the Destinies had set down in their books
ever to be grumbled at (and in wiser families than ours)--but never to be
--Has the bend-sinister been brush'd out, I say? said my father.--There has
been nothing brush'd out, Sir, answered Obadiah, but the lining. We'll go
o'horseback, said my father, turning to Yorick--Of all things in the world,
except politicks, the clergy know the least of heraldry, said Yorick.--No
matter for that, cried my father--I should be sorry to appear with a blot
in my escutcheon before them.--Never mind the bend-sinister, said my uncle
Toby, putting on his tye-wig.--No, indeed, said my father--you may go with
my aunt Dinah to a visitation with a bend-sinister, if you think fit--My
poor uncle Toby blush'd. My father was vexed at himself.--No--my dear
brother Toby, said my father, changing his tone--but the damp of the coach-
lining about my loins, may give me the sciatica again, as it did December,
January, and February last winter--so if you please you shall ride my
wife's pad--and as you are to preach, Yorick, you had better make the best
of your way before--and leave me to take care of my brother Toby, and to
follow at our own rates.
Now the chapter I was obliged to tear out, was the description of this
cavalcade, in which Corporal Trim and Obadiah, upon two coach-horses a-
breast, led the way as slow as a patrole--whilst my uncle Toby, in his
laced regimentals and tye-wig, kept his rank with my father, in deep roads
and dissertations alternately upon the advantage of learning and arms, as
each could get the start.
--But the painting of this journey, upon reviewing it, appears to be so
much above the stile and manner of any thing else I have been able to paint
in this book, that it could not have remained in it, without depreciating
every other scene; and destroying at the same time that necessary equipoise
and balance, (whether of good or bad) betwixt chapter and chapter, from
whence the just proportions and harmony of the whole work results. For my
own part, I am but just set up in the business, so know little about it--
but, in my opinion, to write a book is for all the world like humming a
song--be but in tune with yourself, madam, 'tis no matter how high or how
low you take it.
--This is the reason, may it please your reverences, that some of the
lowest and flattest compositions pass off very well--(as Yorick told my
uncle Toby one night) by siege.--My uncle Toby looked brisk at the sound of
the word siege, but could make neither head or tail of it.
I'm to preach at court next Sunday, said Homenas--run over my notes--so I
humm'd over doctor Homenas's notes--the modulation's very well--'twill do,
Homenas, if it holds on at this rate--so on I humm'd--and a tolerable tune
I thought it was; and to this hour, may it please your reverences, had
never found out how low, how flat, how spiritless and jejune it was, but
that all of a sudden, up started an air in the middle of it, so fine, so
rich, so heavenly,--it carried my soul up with it into the other world; now
had I (as Montaigne complained in a parallel accident)--had I found the
declivity easy, or the ascent accessible--certes I had been outwitted.--
Your notes, Homenas, I should have said, are good notes;--but it was so
perpendicular a precipice--so wholly cut off from the rest of the work,
that by the first note I humm'd I found myself flying into the other world,
and from thence discovered the vale from whence I came, so deep, so low,
and dismal, that I shall never have the heart to descend into it again.
> A dwarf who brings a standard along with him to measure his own size--
take my word, is a dwarf in more articles than one.--And so much for
tearing out of chapters.
--See if he is not cutting it into slips, and giving them about him to
light their pipes!--'Tis abominable, answered Didius; it should not go
unnoticed, said doctor Kysarcius--> he was of the Kysarcii of the Low
Methinks, said Didius, half rising from his chair, in order to remove a
bottle and a tall decanter, which stood in a direct line betwixt him and
Yorick--you might have spared this sarcastic stroke, and have hit upon a
more proper place, Mr. Yorick--or at least upon a more proper occasion to
have shewn your contempt of what we have been about: If the sermon is of
no better worth than to light pipes with--'twas certainly, Sir, not good
enough to be preached before so learned a body; and if 'twas good enough to
be preached before so learned a body--'twas certainly Sir, too good to
light their pipes with afterwards.
--I have got him fast hung up, quoth Didius to himself, upon one of the two
horns of my dilemma--let him get off as he can.
I have undergone such unspeakable torments, in bringing forth this sermon,
quoth Yorick, upon this occasion--that I declare, Didius, I would suffer
martyrdom--and if it was possible my horse with me, a thousand times over,
before I would sit down and make such another: I was delivered of it at
the wrong end of me--it came from my head instead of my heart--and it is
for the pain it gave me, both in the writing and preaching of it, that I
revenge myself of it, in this manner--To preach, to shew the extent of our
reading, or the subtleties of our wit--to parade in the eyes of the vulgar
with the beggarly accounts of a little learning, tinsel'd over with a few
words which glitter, but convey little light and less warmth--is a
dishonest use of the poor single half hour in a week which is put into our
hands--'Tis not preaching the gospel--but ourselves--For my own part,
continued Yorick, I had rather direct five words point-blank to the heart.-
As Yorick pronounced the word point-blank, my uncle Toby rose up to say
something upon projectiles--when a single word and no more uttered from the
opposite side of the table drew every one's ears towards it--a word of all
others in the dictionary the last in that place to be expected--a word I am
ashamed to write--yet must be written--must be read--illegal--uncanonical--
guess ten thousand guesses, multiplied into themselves--rack--torture your
invention for ever, you're where you was--In short, I'll tell it in the
Zounds!--Z...ds! cried Phutatorius, partly to himself--and yet high enough
to be heard--and what seemed odd, 'twas uttered in a construction of look,
and in a tone of voice, somewhat between that of a man in amazement and one
in bodily pain.
One or two who had very nice ears, and could distinguish the expression and
mixture of the two tones as plainly as a third or a fifth, or any other
chord in musick--were the most puzzled and perplexed with it--the concord
was good in itself--but then 'twas quite out of the key, and no way
applicable to the subject started;--so that with all their knowledge, they
could not tell what in the world to make of it.
Others who knew nothing of musical expression, and merely lent their ears
to the plain import of the word, imagined that Phutatorius, who was
somewhat of a cholerick spirit, was just going to snatch the cudgels out of
Didius's hands, in order to bemaul Yorick to some purpose--and that the
desperate monosyllable Z...ds was the exordium to an oration, which, as
they judged from the sample, presaged but a rough kind of handling of him;
so that my uncle Toby's good-nature felt a pang for what Yorick was about
to undergo. But seeing Phutatorius stop short, without any attempt or
desire to go on--a third party began to suppose, that it was no more than
an involuntary respiration, casually forming itself into the shape of a
twelve-penny oath--without the sin or substance of one.
Others, and especially one or two who sat next him, looked upon it on the
contrary as a real and substantial oath, propensly formed against Yorick,
to whom he was known to bear no good liking--which said oath, as my father
philosophized upon it, actually lay fretting and fuming at that very time
in the upper regions of Phutatorius's purtenance; and so was naturally, and
according to the due course of things, first squeezed out by the sudden
influx of blood which was driven into the right ventricle of Phutatorius's
heart, by the stroke of surprize which so strange a theory of preaching had
How finely we argue upon mistaken facts!
There was not a soul busied in all these various reasonings upon the
monosyllable which Phutatorius uttered--who did not take this for granted,
proceeding upon it as from an axiom, namely, that Phutatorius's mind was
intent upon the subject of debate which was arising between Didius and
Yorick; and indeed as he looked first towards the one and then towards the
other, with the air of a man listening to what was going forwards--who
would not have thought the same? But the truth was, that Phutatorius knew
not one word or one syllable of what was passing--but his whole thoughts
and attention were taken up with a transaction which was going forwards at
that very instant within the precincts of his own Galligaskins, and in a
part of them, where of all others he stood most interested to watch
accidents: So that notwithstanding he looked with all the attention in the
world, and had gradually skrewed up every nerve and muscle in his face, to
the utmost pitch the instrument would bear, in order, as it was thought, to
give a sharp reply to Yorick, who sat over-against him--yet, I say, was
Yorick never once in any one domicile of Phutatorius's brain--but the true
cause of his exclamation lay at least a yard below.
This I will endeavour to explain to you with all imaginable decency.
You must be informed then, that Gastripheres, who had taken a turn into the
kitchen a little before dinner, to see how things went on--observing a
wicker-basket of fine chesnuts standing upon the dresser, had ordered that
a hundred or two of them might be roasted and sent in, as soon as dinner
was over--Gastripheres inforcing his orders about them, that Didius, but
Phutatorius especially, were particularly fond of 'em.
About two minutes before the time that my uncle Toby interrupted Yorick's
harangue--Gastripheres's chesnuts were brought in--and as Phutatorius's
fondness for 'em was uppermost in the waiter's head, he laid them directly
before Phutatorius, wrapt up hot in a clean damask napkin.
Now whether it was physically impossible, with half a dozen hands all
thrust into the napkin at a time--but that some one chesnut, of more life
and rotundity than the rest, must be put in motion--it so fell out,
however, that one was actually sent rolling off the table; and as
Phutatorius sat straddling under--it fell perpendicularly into that
particular aperture of Phutatorius's breeches, for which, to the shame and
indelicacy of our language be it spoke, there is no chaste word throughout
all Johnson's dictionary--let it suffice to say--it was that particular
aperture which, in all good societies, the laws of decorum do strictly
require, like the temple of Janus (in peace at least) to be universally
The neglect of this punctilio in Phutatorius (which by-the-bye should be a
warning to all mankind) had opened a door to this accident.--
Accident I call it, in compliance to a received mode of speaking--but in no
opposition to the opinion either of Acrites or Mythogeras in this matter; I
know they were both prepossessed and fully persuaded of it--and are so to
this hour, That there was nothing of accident in the whole event--but that
the chesnut's taking that particular course, and in a manner of its own
accord--and then falling with all its heat directly into that one
particular place, and no other--was a real judgment upon Phutatorius for
that filthy and obscene treatise de Concubinis retinendis, which
Phutatorius had published about twenty years ago--and was that identical
week going to give the world a second edition of.
It is not my business to dip my pen in this controversy--much undoubtedly
may be wrote on both sides of the question--all that concerns me as an
historian, is to represent the matter of fact, and render it credible to
the reader, that the hiatus in Phutatorius's breeches was sufficiently wide
to receive the chesnut;--and that the chesnut, somehow or other, did fall
perpendicularly, and piping hot into it, without Phutatorius's perceiving
it, or any one else at that time.
The genial warmth which the chesnut imparted, was not undelectable for the
first twenty or five-and-twenty seconds--and did no more than gently
solicit Phutatorius's attention towards the part:--But the heat gradually
increasing, and in a few seconds more getting beyond the point of all sober
pleasure, and then advancing with all speed into the regions of pain, the
soul of Phutatorius, together with all his ideas, his thoughts, his
attention, his imagination, judgment, resolution, deliberation,
ratiocination, memory, fancy, with ten battalions of animal spirits, all
tumultuously crowded down, through different defiles and circuits, to the
place of danger, leaving all his upper regions, as you may imagine, as
empty as my purse.
With the best intelligence which all these messengers could bring him back,
Phutatorius was not able to dive into the secret of what was going forwards
below, nor could he make any kind of conjecture, what the devil was the
matter with it: However, as he knew not what the true cause might turn
out, he deemed it most prudent in the situation he was in at present, to
bear it, if possible, like a Stoick; which, with the help of some wry faces
and compursions of the mouth, he had certainly accomplished, had his
imagination continued neuter;--but the sallies of the imagination are
ungovernable in things of this kind--a thought instantly darted into his
mind, that tho' the anguish had the sensation of glowing heat--it might,
notwithstanding that, be a bite as well as a burn; and if so, that possibly
a Newt or an Asker, or some such detested reptile, had crept up, and was
fastening his teeth--the horrid idea of which, with a fresh glow of pain
arising that instant from the chesnut, seized Phutatorius with a sudden
panick, and in the first terrifying disorder of the passion, it threw him,
as it has done the best generals upon earth, quite off his guard:--the
effect of which was this, that he leapt incontinently up, uttering as he
rose that interjection of surprise so much descanted upon, with the
aposiopestic break after it, marked thus, Z...ds--which, though not
strictly canonical, was still as little as any man could have said upon the
occasion;--and which, by-the-bye, whether canonical or not, Phutatorius
could no more help than he could the cause of it.
Though this has taken up some time in the narrative, it took up little more
time in the transaction, than just to allow time for Phutatorius to draw
forth the chesnut, and throw it down with violence upon the floor--and for
Yorick to rise from his chair, and pick the chesnut up.
It is curious to observe the triumph of slight incidents over the mind:--
What incredible weight they have in forming and governing our opinions,
both of men and things--that trifles, light as air, shall waft a belief
into the soul, and plant it so immoveably within it--that Euclid's
demonstrations, could they be brought to batter it in breach, should not
all have power to overthrow it.
Yorick, I said, picked up the chesnut which Phutatorius's wrath had flung
down--the action was trifling--I am ashamed to account for it--he did it,
for no reason, but that he thought the chesnut not a jot worse for the
adventure--and that he held a good chesnut worth stooping for.--But this
incident, trifling as it was, wrought differently in Phutatorius's head:
He considered this act of Yorick's in getting off his chair and picking up
the chesnut, as a plain acknowledgment in him, that the chesnut was
originally his--and in course, that it must have been the owner of the
chesnut, and no one else, who could have played him such a prank with it:
What greatly confirmed him in this opinion, was this, that the table being
parallelogramical and very narrow, it afforded a fair opportunity for
Yorick, who sat directly over against Phutatorius, of slipping the chesnut
in--and consequently that he did it. The look of something more than
suspicion, which Phutatorius cast full upon Yorick as these thoughts arose,
too evidently spoke his opinion--and as Phutatorius was naturally supposed
to know more of the matter than any person besides, his opinion at once
became the general one;--and for a reason very different from any which
have been yet given--in a little time it was put out of all manner of
When great or unexpected events fall out upon the stage of this sublunary
world--the mind of man, which is an inquisitive kind of a substance,
naturally takes a flight behind the scenes to see what is the cause and
first spring of them.--The search was not long in this instance.
It was well known that Yorick had never a good opinion of the treatise
which Phutatorius had wrote de Concubinis retinendis, as a thing which he
feared had done hurt in the world--and 'twas easily found out, that there
was a mystical meaning in Yorick's prank--and that his chucking the chesnut
hot into Phutatorius's. . .--. . ., was a sarcastical fling at his book--
the doctrines of which, they said, had enflamed many an honest man in the
This conceit awaken'd Somnolentus--made Agelastes smile--and if you can
recollect the precise look and air of a man's face intent in finding out a
riddle--it threw Gastripheres's into that form--and in short was thought by
many to be a master-stroke of arch-wit.
This, as the reader has seen from one end to the other, was as groundless
as the dreams of philosophy: Yorick, no doubt, as Shakespeare said of his
ancestor--'was a man of jest,' but it was temper'd with something which
withheld him from that, and many other ungracious pranks, of which he as
undeservedly bore the blame;--but it was his misfortune all his life long
to bear the imputation of saying and doing a thousand things, of which
(unless my esteem blinds me) his nature was incapable. All I blame him
for--or rather, all I blame and alternately like him for, was that
singularity of his temper, which would never suffer him to take pains to
set a story right with the world, however in his power. In every ill usage
of that sort, he acted precisely as in the affair of his lean horse--he
could have explained it to his honour, but his spirit was above it; and
besides, he ever looked upon the inventor, the propagator and believer of
an illiberal report alike so injurious to him--he could not stoop to tell
his story to them--and so trusted to time and truth to do it for him.
This heroic cast produced him inconveniences in many respects--in the
present it was followed by the fixed resentment of Phutatorius, who, as
Yorick had just made an end of his chesnut, rose up from his chair a second
time, to let him know it--which indeed he did with a smile; saying only--
that he would endeavour not to forget the obligation.
But you must mark and carefully separate and distinguish these two things
in your mind.
--The smile was for the company.
--The threat was for Yorick.
--Can you tell me, quoth Phutatorius, speaking to Gastripheres who sat next
to him--for one would not apply to a surgeon in so foolish an affair--can
you tell me, Gastripheres, what is best to take out the fire?--Ask
Eugenius, said Gastripheres.--That greatly depends, said Eugenius,
pretending ignorance of the adventure, upon the nature of the part--If it
is a tender part, and a part which can conveniently be wrapt up--It is both
the one and the other, replied Phutatorius, laying his hand as he spoke,
with an emphatical nod of his head, upon the part in question, and lifting
up his right leg at the same time to ease and ventilate it.--If that is the
case, said Eugenius, I would advise you, Phutatorius, not to tamper with it
by any means; but if you will send to the next printer, and trust your cure
to such a simple thing as a soft sheet of paper just come off the press--
you need do nothing more than twist it round.--The damp paper, quoth Yorick
(who sat next to his friend Eugenius) though I know it has a refreshing
coolness in it--yet I presume is no more than the vehicle--and that the oil
and lamp-black with which the paper is so strongly impregnated, does the
business.--Right, said Eugenius, and is, of any outward application I would
venture to recommend, the most anodyne and safe.
Was it my case, said Gastripheres, as the main thing is the oil and lamp-
black, I should spread them thick upon a rag, and clap it on directly.--
That would make a very devil of it, replied Yorick.--And besides, added
Eugenius, it would not answer the intention, which is the extreme neatness
and elegance of the prescription, which the Faculty hold to be half in
half;--for consider, if the type is a very small one (which it should be)
the sanative particles, which come into contact in this form, have the
advantage of being spread so infinitely thin, and with such a mathematical
equality (fresh paragraphs and large capitals excepted) as no art or
management of the spatula can come up to.--It falls out very luckily,
replied Phutatorius, that the second edition of my treatise de Concubinis
retinendis is at this instant in the press.--You may take any leaf of it,
said Eugenius--no matter which.--Provided, quoth Yorick, there is no bawdry
They are just now, replied Phutatorius, printing off the ninth chapter--
which is the last chapter but one in the book.--Pray what is the title of
that chapter? said Yorick; making a respectful bow to Phutatorius as he
spoke.--I think, answered Phutatorius, 'tis that de re concubinaria.
For Heaven's sake keep out of that chapter, quoth Yorick.
--By all means--added Eugenius.
--Now, quoth Didius, rising up, and laying his right hand with his fingers
spread upon his breast--had such a blunder about a christian-name happened
before the Reformation--(It happened the day before yesterday, quoth my
uncle Toby to himself)--and when baptism was administer'd in Latin--('Twas
all in English, said my uncle)--many things might have coincided with it,
and upon the authority of sundry decreed cases, to have pronounced the
baptism null, with a power of giving the child a new name--Had a priest,
for instance, which was no uncommon thing, through ignorance of the Latin
tongue, baptized a child of Tom-o'Stiles, in nomine patriae & filia &
spiritum sanctos--the baptism was held null.--I beg your pardon, replied
Kysarcius--in that case, as the mistake was only the terminations, the
baptism was valid--and to have rendered it null, the blunder of the priest
should have fallen upon the first syllable of each noun--and not, as in
your case, upon the last.
My father delighted in subtleties of this kind, and listen'd with infinite
Gastripheres, for example, continued Kysarcius, baptizes a child of John
Stradling's in Gomine gatris, &c. &c. instead of in Nomine patris, &c.--Is
this a baptism? No--say the ablest canonists; in as much as the radix of
each word is hereby torn up, and the sense and meaning of them removed and
changed quite to another object; for Gomine does not signify a name, nor
gatris a father.--What do they signify? said my uncle Toby.--Nothing at
all--quoth Yorick.--Ergo, such a baptism is null, said Kysarcius.--
In course, answered Yorick, in a tone two parts jest and one part earnest.-
But in the case cited, continued Kysarcius, where patriae is put for
patris, filia for filii, and so on--as it is a fault only in the
declension, and the roots of the words continue untouch'd, the inflections
of their branches either this way or that, does not in any sort hinder the
baptism, inasmuch as the same sense continues in the words as before.--But
then, said Didius, the intention of the priest's pronouncing them
grammatically must have been proved to have gone along with it.--Right,
answered Kysarcius; and of this, brother Didius, we have an instance in a
decree of the decretals of Pope Leo the IIId.--But my brother's child,
cried my uncle Toby, has nothing to do with the Pope--'tis the plain child
of a Protestant gentleman, christen'd Tristram against the wills and wishes
both of his father and mother, and all who are a-kin to it.--
If the wills and wishes, said Kysarcius, interrupting my uncle Toby, of
those only who stand related to Mr. Shandy's child, were to have weight in
this matter, Mrs. Shandy, of all people, has the least to do in it.--My
uncle Toby lay'd down his pipe, and my father drew his chair still closer
to the table, to hear the conclusion of so strange an introduction.
--It has not only been a question, Captain Shandy, amongst the (Vide
Swinburn on Testaments, Part 7. para 8.) best lawyers and civilians in this
land, continued Kysarcius, 'Whether the mother be of kin to her child,'--
but, after much dispassionate enquiry and jactitation of the arguments on
all sides--it has been adjudged for the negative--namely, 'That the mother
is not of kin to her child.' (Vide Brook Abridg. Tit. Administr. N. 47.)
My father instantly clapp'd his hand upon my uncle Toby's mouth, under
colour of whispering in his ear;--the truth was, he was alarmed for
Lillabullero--and having a great desire to hear more of so curious an
argument--he begg'd my uncle Toby, for heaven's sake, not to disappoint him
in it.--My uncle Toby gave a nod--resumed his pipe, and contenting himself
with whistling Lillabullero inwardly--Kysarcius, Didius, and Triptolemus
went on with the discourse as follows:
This determination, continued Kysarcius, how contrary soever it may seem to
run to the stream of vulgar ideas, yet had reason strongly on its side; and
has been put out of all manner of dispute from the famous case, known
commonly by the name of the Duke of Suffolk's case.--It is cited in Brook,
said Triptolemus--And taken notice of by Lord Coke, added Didius.--And you
may find it in Swinburn on Testaments, said Kysarcius.
The case, Mr. Shandy, was this:
In the reign of Edward the Sixth, Charles duke of Suffolk having issue a
son by one venter, and a daughter by another venter, made his last will,
wherein he devised goods to his son, and died; after whose death the son
died also--but without will, without wife, and without child--his mother
and his sister by the father's side (for she was born of the former venter)
then living. The mother took the administration of her son's goods,
according to the statute of the 21st of Harry the Eighth, whereby it is
enacted, That in case any person die intestate the administration of his
goods shall be committed to the next of kin.
The administration being thus (surreptitiously) granted to the mother, the
sister by the father's side commenced a suit before the Ecclesiastical
Judge, alledging, 1st, That she herself was next of kin; and 2dly, That the
mother was not of kin at all to the party deceased; and therefore prayed
the court, that the administration granted to the mother might be revoked,
and be committed unto her, as next of kin to the deceased, by force of the
Hereupon, as it was a great cause, and much depending upon its issue--and
many causes of great property likely to be decided in times to come, by the
precedent to be then made--the most learned, as well in the laws of this
realm, as in the civil law, were consulted together, whether the mother was
of kin to her son, or no.--Whereunto not only the temporal lawyers--but the
church lawyers--the juris-consulti--the jurisprudentes--the civilians--the
advocates--the commissaries--the judges of the consistory and prerogative
courts of Canterbury and York, with the master of the faculties, were all
unanimously of opinion, That the mother was not of (Mater non numeratur
inter consanguineos, Bald. in ult. C. de Verb. signific.) kin to her
And what said the duchess of Suffolk to it? said my uncle Toby.
The unexpectedness of my uncle Toby's question, confounded Kysarcius more
than the ablest advocate--He stopp'd a full minute, looking in my uncle
Toby's face without replying--and in that single minute Triptolemus put by
him, and took the lead as follows.
'Tis a ground and principle in the law, said Triptolemus, that things do
not ascend, but descend in it; and I make no doubt 'tis for this cause,
that however true it is, that the child may be of the blood and seed of its
parents--that the parents, nevertheless, are not of the blood and seed of
it; inasmuch as the parents are not begot by the child, but the child by
the parents--For so they write, Liberi sunt de sanguine patris & matris,
sed pater & mater non sunt de sanguine liberorum.
--But this, Triptolemus, cried Didius, proves too much--for from this
authority cited it would follow, not only what indeed is granted on all
sides, that the mother is not of kin to her child--but the father
likewise.--It is held, said Triptolemus, the better opinion; because the
father, the mother, and the child, though they be three persons, yet are
they but (una caro (Vide Brook Abridg. tit. Administr. N .47.)) one flesh;
and consequently no degree of kindred--or any method of acquiring one in
nature.--There you push the argument again too far, cried Didius--for there
is no prohibition in nature, though there is in the Levitical law--but that
a man may beget a child upon his grandmother--in which case, supposing the
issue a daughter, she would stand in relation both of--But who ever
thought, cried Kysarcius, of laying with his grandmother?--The young
gentleman, replied Yorick, whom Selden speaks of--who not only thought of
it, but justified his intention to his father by the argument drawn from
the law of retaliation.--'You laid, Sir, with my mother,' said the lad--
'why may not I lay with yours?'--'Tis the Argumentum commune, added
Yorick.--'Tis as good, replied Eugenius, taking down his hat, as they
The company broke up.
--And pray, said my uncle Toby, leaning upon Yorick, as he and my father
were helping him leisurely down the stairs--don't be terrified, madam, this
stair-case conversation is not so long as the last--And pray, Yorick, said
my uncle Toby, which way is this said affair of Tristram at length settled
by these learned men? Very satisfactorily, replied Yorick; no mortal, Sir,
has any concern with it--for Mrs. Shandy the mother is nothing at all a-kin
to him--and as the mother's is the surest side--Mr. Shandy, in course is
still less than nothing--In short, he is not as much a-kin to him, Sir, as
--That may well be, said my father, shaking his head.
--Let the learned say what they will, there must certainly, quoth my uncle
Toby, have been some sort of consanguinity betwixt the duchess of Suffolk
and her son.
The vulgar are of the same opinion, quoth Yorick, to this hour.
Though my father was hugely tickled with the subtleties of these learned
discourses--'twas still but like the anointing of a broken bone--The moment
he got home, the weight of his afflictions returned upon him but so much
the heavier, as is ever the case when the staff we lean on slips from under
us.--He became pensive--walked frequently forth to the fish-pond--let down
one loop of his hat--sigh'd often--forbore to snap--and, as the hasty
sparks of temper, which occasion snapping, so much assist perspiration and
digestion, as Hippocrates tells us--he had certainly fallen ill with the
extinction of them, had not his thoughts been critically drawn off, and his
health rescued by a fresh train of disquietudes left him, with a legacy of
a thousand pounds, by my aunt Dinah.
My father had scarce read the letter, when taking the thing by the right
end, he instantly began to plague and puzzle his head how to lay it out
mostly to the honour of his family.--A hundred-and-fifty odd projects took
possession of his brains by turns--he would do this, and that and t'other--
He would go to Rome--he would go to law--he would buy stock--he would buy
John Hobson's farm--he would new fore front his house, and add a new wing
to make it even--There was a fine water-mill on this side, and he would
build a wind-mill on the other side of the river in full view to answer it-
-But above all things in the world, he would inclose the great Ox-moor, and
send out my brother Bobby immediately upon his travels.
But as the sum was finite, and consequently could not do every thing--and
in truth very few of these to any purpose--of all the projects which
offered themselves upon this occasion, the two last seemed to make the
deepest impression; and he would infallibly have determined upon both at
once, but for the small inconvenience hinted at above, which absolutely put
him under a necessity of deciding in favour either of the one or the other.
This was not altogether so easy to be done; for though 'tis certain my
father had long before set his heart upon this necessary part of my
brother's education, and like a prudent man had actually determined to
carry it into execution, with the first money that returned from the second
creation of actions in the Missisippi-scheme, in which he was an
adventurer--yet the Ox-moor, which was a fine, large, whinny, undrained,
unimproved common, belonging to the Shandy-estate, had almost as old a
claim upon him: he had long and affectionately set his heart upon turning
it likewise to some account.
But having never hitherto been pressed with such a conjuncture of things,
as made it necessary to settle either the priority or justice of their
claims--like a wise man he had refrained entering into any nice or critical
examination about them: so that upon the dismission of every other project
at this crisis--the two old projects, the Ox-moor and my Brother, divided
him again; and so equal a match were they for each other, as to become the
occasion of no small contest in the old gentleman's mind--which of the two
should be set o'going first.
--People may laugh as they will--but the case was this.
It had ever been the custom of the family, and by length of time was almost
become a matter of common right, that the eldest son of it should have free
ingress, egress, and regress into foreign parts before marriage--not only
for the sake of bettering his own private parts, by the benefit of exercise
and change of so much air--but simply for the mere delectation of his
fancy, by the feather put into his cap, of having been abroad--tantum
valet, my father would say, quantum sonat.
Now as this was a reasonable, and in course a most christian indulgence--to
deprive him of it, without why or wherefore--and thereby make an example of
him, as the first Shandy unwhirl'd about Europe in a post-chaise, and only
because he was a heavy lad--would be using him ten times worse than a Turk.
On the other hand, the case of the Ox-moor was full as hard.
Exclusive of the original purchase-money, which was eight hundred pounds--
it had cost the family eight hundred pounds more in a law-suit about
fifteen years before--besides the Lord knows what trouble and vexation.
It had been moreover in possession of the Shandy-family ever since the
middle of the last century; and though it lay full in view before the
house, bounded on one extremity by the water-mill, and on the other by the
projected wind-mill spoken of above--and for all these reasons seemed to
have the fairest title of any part of the estate to the care and protection
of the family--yet by an unaccountable fatality, common to men, as well as
the ground they tread on--it had all along most shamefully been overlook'd;
and to speak the truth of it, had suffered so much by it, that it would
have made any man's heart have bled (Obadiah said) who understood the value
of the land, to have rode over it, and only seen the condition it was in.
However, as neither the purchasing this tract of ground--nor indeed the
placing of it where it lay, were either of them, properly speaking, of my
father's doing--he had never thought himself any way concerned in the
affair--till the fifteen years before, when the breaking out of that cursed
law-suit mentioned above (and which had arose about its boundaries)--which
being altogether my father's own act and deed, it naturally awakened every
other argument in its favour, and upon summing them all up together, he
saw, not merely in interest, but in honour, he was bound to do something
for it--and that now or never was the time.
I think there must certainly have been a mixture of ill-luck in it, that
the reasons on both sides should happen to be so equally balanced by each
other; for though my father weigh'd them in all humours and conditions--
spent many an anxious hour in the most profound and abstracted meditation
upon what was best to be done--reading books of farming one day--books of
travels another--laying aside all passion whatever--viewing the arguments
on both sides in all their lights and circumstances--communing every day
with my uncle Toby--arguing with Yorick, and talking over the whole affair
of the Ox-moor with Obadiah--yet nothing in all that time appeared so
strongly in behalf of the one, which was not either strictly applicable to
the other, or at least so far counterbalanced by some consideration of
equal weight, as to keep the scales even.
For to be sure, with proper helps, in the hands of some people, tho' the
Ox-moor would undoubtedly have made a different appearance in the world
from what it did, or ever could do in the condition it lay--yet every
tittle of this was true, with regard to my brother Bobby--let Obadiah say
what he would.--
In point of interest--the contest, I own, at first sight, did not appear so
undecisive betwixt them; for whenever my father took pen and ink in hand,
and set about calculating the simple expence of paring and burning, and
fencing in the Ox-moor, &c. &c.--with the certain profit it would bring him
in return--the latter turned out so prodigiously in his way of working the
account, that you would have sworn the Ox-moor would have carried all
before it. For it was plain he should reap a hundred lasts of rape, at
twenty pounds a last, the very first year--besides an excellent crop of
wheat the year following--and the year after that, to speak within bounds,
a hundred--but in all likelihood, a hundred and fifty--if not two hundred
quarters of pease and beans--besides potatoes without end.--But then, to
think he was all this while breeding up my brother, like a hog to eat them-
-knocked all on the head again, and generally left the old gentleman in
such a state of suspense--that, as he often declared to my uncle Toby--he
knew no more than his heels what to do.
No body, but he who has felt it, can conceive what a plaguing thing it is
to have a man's mind torn asunder by two projects of equal strength, both
obstinately pulling in a contrary direction at the same time: for to say
nothing of the havock, which by a certain consequence is unavoidably made
by it all over the finer system of the nerves, which you know convey the
animal spirits and more subtle juices from the heart to the head, and so
on--it is not to be told in what a degree such a wayward kind of friction
works upon the more gross and solid parts, wasting the fat and impairing
the strength of a man every time as it goes backwards and forwards.
My father had certainly sunk under this evil, as certainly as he had done
under that of my Christian Name--had he not been rescued out of it, as he
was out of that, by a fresh evil--the misfortune of my brother Bobby's
What is the life of man! Is it not to shift from side to side?--from
sorrow to sorrow?--to button up one cause of vexation--and unbutton
From this moment I am to be considered as heir-apparent to the Shandy
family--and it is from this point properly, that the story of my Life and
my Opinions sets out. With all my hurry and precipitation, I have but been
clearing the ground to raise the building--and such a building do I foresee
it will turn out, as never was planned, and as never was executed since
Adam. In less than five minutes I shall have thrown my pen into the fire,
and the little drop of thick ink which is left remaining at the bottom of
my ink-horn, after it--I have but half a score things to do in the time--I
have a thing to name--a thing to lament--a thing to hope--a thing to
promise, and a thing to threaten--I have a thing to suppose--a thing to
declare--a thing to conceal--a thing to choose, and a thing to pray for--
This chapter, therefore, I name the chapter of Things--and my next chapter
to it, that is, the first chapter of my next volume, if I live, shall be my
chapter upon Whiskers, in order to keep up some sort of connection in my
The thing I lament is, that things have crowded in so thick upon me, that I
have not been able to get into that part of my work, towards which I have
all the way looked forwards, with so much earnest desire; and that is the
Campaigns, but especially the amours of my uncle Toby, the events of which
are of so singular a nature, and so Cervantick a cast, that if I can so
manage it, as to convey but the same impressions to every other brain,
which the occurrences themselves excite in my own--I will answer for it the
book shall make its way in the world, much better than its master has done
before it.--Oh Tristram! Tristram! can this but be once brought about--the
credit, which will attend thee as an author, shall counterbalance the many
evils will have befallen thee as a man--thou wilt feast upon the one--when
thou hast lost all sense and remembrance of the other!--
No wonder I itch so much as I do, to get at these amours--They are the
choicest morsel of my whole story! and when I do get at 'em--assure
yourselves, good folks--(nor do I value whose squeamish stomach takes
offence at it) I shall not be at all nice in the choice of my words!--and
that's the thing I have to declare.--I shall never get all through in five
minutes, that I fear--and the thing I hope is, that your worships and
reverences are not offended--if you are, depend upon't I'll give you
something, my good gentry, next year to be offended at--that's my dear
Jenny's way--but who my Jenny is--and which is the right and which the
wrong end of a woman, is the thing to be concealed--it shall be told you in
the next chapter but one to my chapter of Button-holes--and not one chapter
And now that you have just got to the end of these (According to the
preceding Editions.) three volumes--the thing I have to ask is, how you
feel your heads? my own akes dismally!--as for your healths, I know, they
are much better.--True Shandeism, think what you will against it, opens the
heart and lungs, and like all those affections which partake of its nature,
it forces the blood and other vital fluids of the body to run freely
through its channels, makes the wheel of life run long and cheerfully
Was I left, like Sancho Panca, to choose my kingdom, it should not be
maritime--or a kingdom of blacks to make a penny of;--no, it should be a
kingdom of hearty laughing subjects: And as the bilious and more saturnine
passions, by creating disorders in the blood and humours, have as bad an
influence, I see, upon the body politick as body natural--and as nothing
but a habit of virtue can fully govern those passions, and subject them to
reason--I should add to my prayer--that God would give my subjects grace to
be as Wise as they were Merry; and then should I be the happiest monarch,
and they are the happiest people under heaven.
And so with this moral for the present, may it please your worships and
your reverences, I take my leave of you till this time twelve-month, when,
(unless this vile cough kills me in the mean time) I'll have another pluck
at your beards, and lay open a story to the world you little dream of.
End of the Second Volume.
Volume the Third.
Dixero si quid forte jocosius, hoc mihi juris
Cum venia dabis.--Hor.
--Si quis calumnietur levius esse quam decet theologum, aut mordacius quam
deceat Christianum--non Ego, sed Democritus dixit.--Erasmus.
Si quis Clericus, aut Monachus, verba joculatoria, risum moventia, sciebat,
anathema esto. Second Council of Carthage.
To the Right Honorable John, Lord Viscount Spencer.
I Humbly beg leave to offer you these two Volumes (Volumes V. and VI. in
the first Edition.); they are the best my talents, with such bad health as
I have, could produce:--had Providence granted me a larger stock of either,
they had been a much more proper present to your Lordship.
I beg your Lordship will forgive me, if, at the same time I dedicate this
work to you, I join Lady Spencer, in the liberty I take of inscribing the
story of Le Fever to her name; for which I have no other motive, which my
heart has informed me of, but that the story is a humane one.
I am, My Lord, Your Lordship's most devoted and most humble Servant,
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.
If it had not been for those two mettlesome tits, and that madcap of a
postillion who drove them from Stilton to Stamford, the thought had never
entered my head. He flew like lightning--there was a slope of three miles
and a half--we scarce touched the ground--the motion was most rapid--most
impetuous--'twas communicated to my brain--my heart partook of it--'By the
great God of day,' said I, looking towards the sun, and thrusting my arm
out of the fore-window of the chaise, as I made my vow, 'I will lock up my
study-door the moment I get home, and throw the key of it ninety feet below
the surface of the earth, into the draw-well at the back of my house.'
The London waggon confirmed me in my resolution; it hung tottering upon the
hill, scarce progressive, drag'd--drag'd up by eight heavy beasts--'by main
strength!--quoth I, nodding--but your betters draw the same way--and
something of every body's!--O rare!'
Tell me, ye learned, shall we for ever be adding so much to the bulk--so
little to the stock?
Shall we for ever make new books, as apothecaries make new mixtures, by
pouring only out of one vessel into another?
Are we for ever to be twisting, and untwisting the same rope? for ever in
the same track--for ever at the same pace?
Shall we be destined to the days of eternity, on holy-days, as well as
working-days, to be shewing the relicks of learning, as monks do the
relicks of their saints--without working one--one single miracle with them?
Who made Man, with powers which dart him from earth to heaven in a moment--
that great, that most excellent, and most noble creature of the world--the
miracle of nature, as Zoroaster in his book (Greek) called him--the
Shekinah of the divine presence, as Chrysostom--the image of God, as Moses-
-the ray of divinity, as Plato--the marvel of marvels, as Aristotle--to go
sneaking on at this pitiful--pimping--pettifogging rate?
I scorn to be as abusive as Horace upon the occasion--but if there is no
catachresis in the wish, and no sin in it, I wish from my soul, that every
imitator in Great Britain, France, and Ireland, had the farcy for his
pains; and that there was a good farcical house, large enough to hold--aye-
-and sublimate them, shag rag and bob-tail, male and female, all together:
and this leads me to the affair of Whiskers--but, by what chain of ideas--I
leave as a legacy in mort-main to Prudes and Tartufs, to enjoy and make the
I'm sorry I made it--'twas as inconsiderate a promise as ever entered a
man's head--A chapter upon whiskers! alas! the world will not bear it--'tis
a delicate world--but I knew not of what mettle it was made--nor had I ever
seen the under-written fragment; otherwise, as surely as noses are noses,
and whiskers are whiskers still (let the world say what it will to the
contrary); so surely would I have steered clear of this dangerous chapter.
. . .--You are half asleep, my good lady, said the old gentleman, taking
hold of the old lady's hand, and giving it a gentle squeeze, as he
pronounced the word Whiskers--shall we change the subject? By no means,
replied the old lady--I like your account of those matters; so throwing a
thin gauze handkerchief over her head, and leaning it back upon the chair
with her face turned towards him, and advancing her two feet as she
reclined herself--I desire, continued she, you will go on.
The old gentleman went on as follows:--Whiskers! cried the queen of
Navarre, dropping her knotting ball, as La Fosseuse uttered the word--
Whiskers, madam, said La Fosseuse, pinning the ball to the queen's apron,
and making a courtesy as she repeated it.
La Fosseuse's voice was naturally soft and low, yet 'twas an articulate
voice: and every letter of the word Whiskers fell distinctly upon the
queen of Navarre's ear--Whiskers! cried the queen, laying a greater stress
upon the word, and as if she had still distrusted her ears--Whiskers!
replied La Fosseuse, repeating the word a third time--There is not a
cavalier, madam, of his age in Navarre, continued the maid of honour,
pressing the page's interest upon the queen, that has so gallant a pair--Of
what? cried Margaret, smiling--Of whiskers, said La Fosseuse, with infinite
The word Whiskers still stood its ground, and continued to be made use of
in most of the best companies throughout the little kingdom of Navarre,
notwithstanding the indiscreet use which La Fosseuse had made of it: the
truth was, La Fosseuse had pronounced the word, not only before the queen,
but upon sundry other occasions at court, with an accent which always
implied something of a mystery--And as the court of Margaret, as all the
world knows, was at that time a mixture of gallantry and devotion--and
whiskers being as applicable to the one, as the other, the word naturally
stood its ground--it gained full as much as it lost; that is, the clergy
were for it--the laity were against it--and for the women,--they were
The excellency of the figure and mien of the young Sieur De Croix, was at
that time beginning to draw the attention of the maids of honour towards
the terrace before the palace gate, where the guard was mounted. The lady
De Baussiere fell deeply in love with him,--La Battarelle did the same--it
was the finest weather for it, that ever was remembered in Navarre--La
Guyol, La Maronette, La Sabatiere, fell in love with the Sieur De Croix
also--La Rebours and La Fosseuse knew better--De Croix had failed in an
attempt to recommend himself to La Rebours; and La Rebours and La Fosseuse
The queen of Navarre was sitting with her ladies in the painted bow-window,
facing the gate of the second court, as De Croix passed through it--He is
handsome, said the Lady Baussiere--He has a good mien, said La Battarelle--
He is finely shaped, said La Guyol--I never saw an officer of the horse-
guards in my life, said La Maronette, with two such legs--Or who stood so
well upon them, said La Sabatiere--But he has no whiskers, cried La
Fosseuse--Not a pile, said La Rebours.
The queen went directly to her oratory, musing all the way, as she walked
through the gallery, upon the subject; turning it this way and that way in
her fancy--Ave Maria!--what can La-Fosseuse mean? said she, kneeling down
upon the cushion.
La Guyol, La Battarelle, La Maronette, La Sabatiere, retired instantly to
their chambers--Whiskers! said all four of them to themselves, as they
bolted their doors on the inside.
The Lady Carnavallette was counting her beads with both hands, unsuspected,
under her farthingal--from St. Antony down to St. Ursula inclusive, not a
saint passed through her fingers without whiskers; St. Francis, St.
Dominick, St. Bennet, St. Basil, St. Bridget, had all whiskers.
The Lady Baussiere had got into a wilderness of conceits, with moralizing
too intricately upon La Fosseuse's text--She mounted her palfrey, her page
followed her--the host passed by--the Lady Baussiere rode on.
One denier, cried the order of mercy--one single denier, in behalf of a
thousand patient captives, whose eyes look towards heaven and you for their
--The Lady Baussiere rode on.
Pity the unhappy, said a devout, venerable, hoary-headed man, meekly
holding up a box, begirt with iron, in his withered hands--I beg for the
unfortunate--good my Lady, 'tis for a prison--for an hospital--'tis for an
old man--a poor man undone by shipwreck, by suretyship, by fire--I call God
and all his angels to witness--'tis to clothe the naked--to feed the
hungry--'tis to comfort the sick and the broken-hearted.
The Lady Baussiere rode on.
A decayed kinsman bowed himself to the ground.
--The Lady Baussiere rode on.
He ran begging bare-headed on one side of her palfrey, conjuring her by the
former bonds of friendship, alliance, consanguinity, &c.--Cousin, aunt,
sister, mother,--for virtue's sake, for your own, for mine, for Christ's
sake, remember me--pity me.
--The Lady Baussiere rode on.
Take hold of my whiskers, said the Lady Baussiere--The page took hold of
her palfrey. She dismounted at the end of the terrace.
There are some trains of certain ideas which leave prints of themselves
about our eyes and eye-brows; and there is a consciousness of it, somewhere
about the heart, which serves but to make these etchings the stronger--we
see, spell, and put them together without a dictionary.
Ha, ha! he, hee! cried La Guyol and La Sabatiere, looking close at each
other's prints--Ho, ho! cried La Battarelle and Maronette, doing the same:-
-Whist! cried one--ft, ft,--said a second--hush, quoth a third--poo, poo,
replied a fourth--gramercy! cried the Lady Carnavallette;--'twas she who
bewhisker'd St. Bridget.
La Fosseuse drew her bodkin from the knot of her hair, and having traced
the outline of a small whisker, with the blunt end of it, upon one side of
her upper lip, put in into La Rebours' hand--La Rebours shook her head.
The Lady Baussiere coughed thrice into the inside of her muff--La Guyol
smiled--Fy, said the Lady Baussiere. The queen of Navarre touched her eye
with the tip of her fore-finger--as much as to say, I understand you all.
'Twas plain to the whole court the word was ruined: La Fosseuse had given
it a wound, and it was not the better for passing through all these
defiles--It made a faint stand, however, for a few months, by the
expiration of which, the Sieur De Croix, finding it high time to leave
Navarre for want of whiskers--the word in course became indecent, and
(after a few efforts) absolutely unfit for use.
The best word, in the best language of the best world, must have suffered
under such combinations.--The curate of d'Estella wrote a book against
them, setting forth the dangers of accessory ideas, and warning the
Navarois against them.
Does not all the world know, said the curate d'Estella at the conclusion of
his work, that Noses ran the same fate some centuries ago in most parts of
Europe, which Whiskers have now done in the kingdom of Navarre?--The evil
indeed spread no farther then--but have not beds and bolsters, and night-
caps and chamber-pots stood upon the brink of destruction ever since? Are
not trouse, and placket-holes, and pump-handles--and spigots and faucets,
in danger still from the same association?--Chastity, by nature, the
gentlest of all affections--give it but its head--'tis like a ramping and a
The drift of the curate d'Estella's argument was not understood.--They ran
the scent the wrong way.--The world bridled his ass at the tail.--And when
the extremes of Delicacy, and the beginnings of Concupiscence, hold their
next provincial chapter together, they may decree that bawdy also.
When my father received the letter which brought him the melancholy account
of my brother Bobby's death, he was busy calculating the expence of his
riding post from Calais to Paris, and so on to Lyons.
'Twas a most inauspicious journey; my father having had every foot of it to
travel over again, and his calculation to begin afresh, when he had almost
got to the end of it, by Obadiah's opening the door to acquaint him the
family was out of yeast--and to ask whether he might not take the great
coach-horse early in the morning and ride in search of some.--With all my
heart, Obadiah, said my father (pursuing his journey)--take the coach-
horse, and welcome.--But he wants a shoe, poor creature! said Obadiah.--
Poor creature! said my uncle Toby, vibrating the note back again, like a
string in unison. Then ride the Scotch horse, quoth my father hastily.--He
cannot bear a saddle upon his back, quoth Obadiah, for the whole world.--
The devil's in that horse; then take Patriot, cried my father, and shut the
door.--Patriot is sold, said Obadiah. Here's for you! cried my father,
making a pause, and looking in my uncle Toby's face, as if the thing had
not been a matter of fact.--Your worship ordered me to sell him last April,
said Obadiah.--Then go on foot for your pains, cried my father--I had much
rather walk than ride, said Obadiah, shutting the door.
What plagues, cried my father, going on with his calculation.--But the
waters are out, said Obadiah,--opening the door again.
Till that moment, my father, who had a map of Sanson's, and a book of the
post-roads before him, had kept his hand upon the head of his compasses,
with one foot of them fixed upon Nevers, the last stage he had paid for--
purposing to go on from that point with his journey and calculation, as
soon as Obadiah quitted the room: but this second attack of Obadiah's, in
opening the door and laying the whole country under water, was too much.--
He let go his compasses--or rather with a mixed motion between accident and
anger, he threw them upon the table; and then there was nothing for him to
do, but to return back to Calais (like many others) as wise as he had set
When the letter was brought into the parlour, which contained the news of
my brother's death, my father had got forwards again upon his journey to
within a stride of the compasses of the very same stage of Nevers.--By your
leave, Mons. Sanson, cried my father, striking the point of his compasses
through Nevers into the table--and nodding to my uncle Toby to see what was
in the letter--twice of one night, is too much for an English gentleman and
his son, Mons. Sanson, to be turned back from so lousy a town as Nevers--
What think'st thou, Toby? added my father in a sprightly tone.--Unless it
be a garrison town, said my uncle Toby--for then--I shall be a fool, said
my father, smiling to himself, as long as I live.--So giving a second nod--
and keeping his compasses still upon Nevers with one hand, and holding his
book of the post-roads in the other--half calculating and half listening,
he leaned forwards upon the table with both elbows, as my uncle Toby hummed
over the letter.
. . .he's gone! said my uncle Toby--Where--Who? cried my father.--My
nephew, said my uncle Toby.--What--without leave--without money--without
governor? cried my father in amazement. No:--he is dead, my dear brother,
quoth my uncle Toby.--Without being ill? cried my father again.--I dare say
not, said my uncle Toby, in a low voice, and fetching a deep sigh from the
bottom of his heart, he has been ill enough, poor lad! I'll answer for
him--for he is dead.
When Agrippina was told of her son's death, Tacitus informs us, that, not
being able to moderate the violence of her passions, she abruptly broke off
her work--My father stuck his compasses into Nevers, but so much the
faster.--What contrarieties! his, indeed, was matter of calculation!--
Agrippina's must have been quite a different affair; who else could pretend
to reason from history?
How my father went on, in my opinion, deserves a chapter to itself.--
. . .--And a chapter it shall have, and a devil of a one too--so look to
'Tis either Plato, or Plutarch, or Seneca, or Xenophon, or Epictetus, or
Theophrastus, or Lucian--or some one perhaps of later date--either Cardan,
or Budaeus, or Petrarch, or Stella--or possibly it may be some divine or
father of the church, St. Austin, or St. Cyprian, or Barnard, who affirms
that it is an irresistible and natural passion to weep for the loss of our
friends or children--and Seneca (I'm positive) tells us somewhere, that
such griefs evacuate themselves best by that particular channel--And
accordingly we find, that David wept for his son Absalom--Adrian for his
Antinous--Niobe for her children, and that Apollodorus and Crito both shed
tears for Socrates before his death.
My father managed his affliction otherwise; and indeed differently from
most men either ancient or modern; for he neither wept it away, as the
Hebrews and the Romans--or slept it off, as the Laplanders--or hanged it,
as the English, or drowned it, as the Germans,--nor did he curse it, or
damn it, or excommunicate it, or rhyme it, or lillabullero it.--
--He got rid of it, however.
Will your worships give me leave to squeeze in a story between these two
When Tully was bereft of his dear daughter Tullia, at first he laid it to
his heart,--he listened to the voice of nature, and modulated his own unto
it.--O my Tullia! my daughter! my child!--still, still, still,--'twas O my
Tullia!--my Tullia! Methinks I see my Tullia, I hear my Tullia, I talk
with my Tullia.--But as soon as he began to look into the stores of
philosophy, and consider how many excellent things might be said upon the
occasion--no body upon earth can conceive, says the great orator, how
happy, how joyful it made me.
My father was as proud of his eloquence as Marcus Tullius Cicero could be
for his life, and, for aught I am convinced of to the contrary at present,
with as much reason: it was indeed his strength--and his weakness too.--
His strength--for he was by nature eloquent; and his weakness--for he was
hourly a dupe to it; and, provided an occasion in life would but permit him
to shew his talents, or say either a wise thing, a witty, or a shrewd one--
(bating the case of a systematic misfortune)--he had all he wanted.--A
blessing which tied up my father's tongue, and a misfortune which let it
loose with a good grace, were pretty equal: sometimes, indeed, the
misfortune was the better of the two; for instance, where the pleasure of
the harangue was as ten, and the pain of the misfortune but as five--my
father gained half in half, and consequently was as well again off, as if
it had never befallen him.
This clue will unravel what otherwise would seem very inconsistent in my
father's domestic character; and it is this, that, in the provocations
arising from the neglects and blunders of servants, or other mishaps
Back to Full Books