How this event came about,--and what a train of vexatious disappointments, in one stage or other of my life, have pursued me from the mere loss, or rather compression, of this one single member,--shall be laid before the reader all in due time. My father, as any body may naturally imagine, came down with my mother into the country, in but a pettish kind of a humour. The first twenty or five- and-twenty miles he did nothing in the world but fret and teaze himself, and indeed my mother too, about the cursed expence, which he said might every shilling of it have been saved;--then what vexed him more than every thing else was, the provoking time of the year,--which, as I told you, was towards the end of September, when his wall-fruit and green gages especially, in which he was very curious, were just ready for pulling 'Had he been whistled up to London, upon a Tom Fool's errand, in any other month of the whole year, he should not have said three words about it.
For the next two whole stages, no subject would go down, but the heavy blow he had sustain'd from the loss of a son, whom it seems he had fully reckon'd upon in his mind, and register'd down in his pocket-book, as a second staff for his old age, in case Bobby should fail him. From Stilton, all the way to Grantham, nothing in the whole affair provoked him so much as the condolences of his friends, and the foolish figure they should both make at church, the first Sunday;--of which, in the satirical vehemence of his wit, now sharpen'd a little by vexation, he would give so many humorous and provoking descriptions,--and place his rib and self in so many tormenting lights and attitudes in the face of the whole congregation;--that my mother declared, these two stages were so truly tragi-comical, that she did nothing but laugh and cry in a breath, from one end to the other of them all the way.
From Grantham, till they had cross'd the Trent, my father was out of all kind of patience at the vile trick and imposition which he fancied my mother had put upon him in this affair--'Certainly,' he would say to himself, over and over again, 'the woman could not be deceived herself--if she could,--what weakness!
In short, he had so many little subjects of disquietude springing out of this one affair, all fretting successively in his mind as they rose up in it, that my mother, whatever was her journey up, had but an uneasy journey of it down. Though my father travelled homewards, as I told you, in none of the best of moods,--pshawing and pishing all the way down,--yet he had the complaisance to keep the worst part of the story still to himself;--which was the resolution he had taken of doing himself the justice, which my uncle Toby's clause in the marriage-settlement empowered him; nor was it till the very night in which I was begot, which was thirteen months after, that she had the least intimation of his design: when my father, happening, as you remember, to be a little chagrin'd and out of temper,--took occasion as they lay chatting gravely in bed afterwards, talking over what was to come,--to let her know that she must accommodate herself as well as she could to the bargain made between them in their marriage-deeds; which was to lye-in of her next child in the country, to balance the last year's journey.
My father was a gentleman of many virtues,--but he had a strong spice of that in his temper, which might, or might not, add to the number. As the point was that night agreed, or rather determined, that my mother should lye-in of me in the country, she took her measures accordingly; for which purpose, when she was three days, or thereabouts, gone with child, she began to cast her eyes upon the midwife, whom you have so often heard me mention; and before the week was well got round, as the famous Dr.
Manningham was not to be had, she had come to a final determination in her mind,--notwithstanding there was a scientific operator within so near a call as eight miles of us, and who, moreover, had expressly wrote a five shillings book upon the subject of midwifery, in which he had exposed, not only the blunders of the sisterhood itself,--but had likewise super-added many curious improvements for the quicker extraction of the foetus in cross births, and some other cases of danger, which belay us in getting into the world; notwithstanding all this, my mother, I say, was absolutely determined to trust her life, and mine with it, into no soul's hand but this old woman's only.
These facts, tho' they had their weight, yet did not altogether satisfy some few scruples and uneasinesses which hung upon my father's spirits in relation to this choice. Shandy, poor gentlewoman! Shandy got with her,--was no such mighty matter to have complied with, the lady and her babe might both of them have been alive at this hour.
This exclamation, my father knew, was unanswerable;--and yet, it was not merely to shelter himself,--nor was it altogether for the care of his offspring and wife that he seemed so extremely anxious about this point;-- my father had extensive views of things,--and stood moreover, as he thought, deeply concerned in it for the publick good, from the dread he entertained of the bad uses an ill-fated instance might be put to.
He was very sensible that all political writers upon the subject had unanimously agreed and lamented, from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign down to his own time, that the current of men and money towards the metropolis, upon one frivolous errand or another,--set in so strong,--as to become dangerous to our civil rights,--though, by the bye,--a current was not the image he took most delight in,--a distemper was here his favourite metaphor, and he would run it down into a perfect allegory, by maintaining it was identically the same in the body national as in the body natural, where the blood and spirits were driven up into the head faster than they could find their ways down;--a stoppage of circulation must ensue, which was death in both cases.
There was little danger, he would say, of losing our liberties by French politicks or French invasions;--nor was he so much in pain of a consumption from the mass of corrupted matter and ulcerated humours in our constitution, which he hoped was not so bad as it was imagined;--but he verily feared, that in some violent push, we should go off, all at once, in a state-apoplexy;--and then he would say, The Lord have mercy upon us all. My father was never able to give the history of this distemper,--without the remedy along with it. By this means I shall take care, that my metropolis totter'd not thro' its own weight;--that the head be no longer too big for the body;--that the extremes, now wasted and pinn'd in, be restored to their due share of nourishment, and regain with it their natural strength and beautyI would effectually provide, That the meadows and corn fields of my dominions, should laugh and sing;--that good chear and hospitality flourish once more;--and that such weight and influence be put thereby into the hands of the Squirality of my kingdom, as should counterpoise what I perceive my Nobility are now taking from them.
Whence is it that the few remaining Chateaus amongst them are so dismantled,--so unfurnished, and in so ruinous and desolate a condition? Another political reason which prompted my father so strongly to guard against the least evil accident in my mother's lying-in in the country,-- was, That any such instance would infallibly throw a balance of power, too great already, into the weaker vessels of the gentry, in his own, or higher stations;--which, with the many other usurped rights which that part of the constitution was hourly establishing,--would, in the end, prove fatal to the monarchical system of domestick government established in the first creation of things by God.
In this point he was entirely of Sir Robert Filmer's opinion, That the plans and institutions of the greatest monarchies in the eastern parts of the world, were, originally, all stolen from that admirable pattern and prototype of this houshold and paternal power;--which, for a century, he said, and more, had gradually been degenerating away into a mix'd government;--the form of which, however desirable in great combinations of the species,--was very troublesome in small ones,--and seldom produced any thing, that he saw, but sorrow and confusion.
For all these reasons, private and publick, put together,--my father was for having the man-midwife by all means,--my mother, by no means. My father begg'd and intreated, she would for once recede from her prerogative in this matter, and suffer him to choose for her;--my mother, on the contrary, insisted upon her privilege in this matter, to choose for herself,--and have no mortal's help but the old woman's.
He was almost at his wit's end;--talked it over with her in all moods;--placed his arguments in all lights;--argued the matter with her like a christian,--like a heathen,--like a husband,--like a father,--like a patriot,--like a manMy mother answered every thing only like a woman; which was a little hard upon her;--for as she could not assume and fight it out behind such a variety of characters,--'twas no fair match'twas seven to one.
In a word, my mother was to have the old woman,--and the operator was to have licence to drink a bottle of wine with my father and my uncle Toby Shandy in the back parlour,--for which he was to be paid five guineas. I must beg leave, before I finish this chapter, to enter a caveat in the breast of my fair reader;--and it is this,--Not to take it absolutely for granted, from an unguarded word or two which I have dropp'd in it,--'That I am a married man.
All I contend for, is the utter impossibility, for some volumes, that you, or the most penetrating spirit upon earth, should know how this matter really stands. ShandyWithout any thing, Madam, but that tender and delicious sentiment which ever mixes in friendship, where there is a difference of sex. Let me intreat you to study the pure and sentimental parts of the best French Romances;--it will really, Madam, astonish you to see with what a variety of chaste expressions this delicious sentiment, which I have the honour to speak of, is dress'd out.
I would sooner undertake to explain the hardest problem in geometry, than pretend to account for it, that a gentleman of my father's great good sense,--knowing, as the reader must have observed him, and curious too in philosophy,--wise also in political reasoning,--and in polemical as he will find no way ignorant,--could be capable of entertaining a notion in his head, so out of the common track,--that I fear the reader, when I come to mention it to him, if he is the least of a cholerick temper, will immediatly throw the book by; if mercurial, he will laugh most heartily at it;--and if he is of a grave and saturnine cast, he will, at first sight, absolutely condemn as fanciful and extravagant; and that was in respect to the choice and imposition of christian names, on which he thought a great deal more depended than what superficial minds were capable of conceiving.
His opinion, in this matter, was, That there was a strange kind of magick bias, which good or bad names, as he called them, irresistibly impressed upon our characters and conduct. The hero of Cervantes argued not the point with more seriousness,--nor had he more faith,--or more to say on the powers of necromancy in dishonouring his deeds,--or on Dulcinea's name, in shedding lustre upon them, than my father had on those of Trismegistus or Archimedes, on the one hand--or of Nyky and Simkin on the other. How many Caesars and Pompeys, he would say, by mere inspiration of the names, have been rendered worthy of them?
And how many, he would add, are there, who might have done exceeding well in the world, had not their characters and spirits been totally depressed and Nicodemus'd into nothing? I see plainly, Sir, by your looks, or as the case happened my father would say--that you do not heartily subscribe to this opinion of mine,-- which, to those, he would add, who have not carefully sifted it to the bottom,--I own has an air more of fancy than of solid reasoning in it;--and yet, my dear Sir, if I may presume to know your character, I am morally assured, I should hazard little in stating a case to you, not as a party in the dispute,--but as a judge, and trusting my appeal upon it to your own good sense and candid disquisition in this matter;--you are a person free from as many narrow prejudices of education as most men;--and, if I may presume to penetrate farther into you,--of a liberality of genius above bearing down an opinion, merely because it wants friends.
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- The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne - lyzard tutoring keristars.
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Your son,--your dear son,--from whose sweet and open temper you have so much to expect. Your greatness of mind in this action, which I admire, with that generous contempt of money, which you shew me in the whole transaction, is really noble;--and what renders it more so, is the principle of it;--the workings of a parent's love upon the truth and conviction of this very hypothesis, namely, That was your son called Judas,--the forbid and treacherous idea, so inseparable from the name, would have accompanied him through life like his shadow, and, in the end, made a miser and a rascal of him, in spite, Sir, of your example.
I never knew a man able to answer this argument. To work with them in the best manner he could, was what my father was, however, perpetually forced upon;--for he had a thousand little sceptical notions of the comick kind to defend--most of which notions, I verily believe, at first entered upon the footing of mere whims, and of a vive la Bagatelle; and as such he would make merry with them for half an hour or so, and having sharpened his wit upon them, dismiss them till another day. I mention this, not only as matter of hypothesis or conjecture upon the progress and establishment of my father's many odd opinions,--but as a warning to the learned reader against the indiscreet reception of such guests, who, after a free and undisturbed entrance, for some years, into our brains,--at length claim a kind of settlement there,--working sometimes like yeast;--but more generally after the manner of the gentle passion, beginning in jest,--but ending in downright earnest.
Whether this was the case of the singularity of my father's notions--or that his judgment, at length, became the dupe of his wit;--or how far, in many of his notions, he might, though odd, be absolutely right;--the reader, as he comes at them, shall decide. All that I maintain here, is, that in this one, of the influence of christian names, however it gained footing, he was serious;--he was all uniformity;--he was systematical, and, like all systematic reasoners, he would move both heaven and earth, and twist and torture every thing in nature to support his hypothesis.
In a word I repeat it over again;--he was serious;--and, in consequence of it, he would lose all kind of patience whenever he saw people, especially of condition, who should have known better,--as careless and as indifferent about the name they imposed upon their child,--or more so, than in the choice of Ponto or Cupid for their puppy-dog.
Tristram Shandy/Chapter 1
This, he would say, look'd ill;--and had, moreover, this particular aggravation in it, viz. That when once a vile name was wrongfully or injudiciously given, 'twas not like the case of a man's character, which, when wrong'd, might hereafter be cleared;--and, possibly, some time or other, if not in the man's life, at least after his death,--be, somehow or other, set to rights with the world: But the injury of this, he would say, could never be undone;--nay, he doubted even whether an act of parliament could reach itHe knew as well as you, that the legislature assumed a power over surnames;--but for very strong reasons, which he could give, it had never yet adventured, he would say, to go a step farther.
It was observable, that tho' my father, in consequence of this opinion, had, as I have told you, the strongest likings and dislikings towards certain names;--that there were still numbers of names which hung so equally in the balance before him, that they were absolutely indifferent to him. Jack, Dick, and Tom were of this class: These my father called neutral names;--affirming of them, without a satire, That there had been as many knaves and fools, at least, as wise and good men, since the world began, who had indifferently borne them;--so that, like equal forces acting against each other in contrary directions, he thought they mutually destroyed each other's effects; for which reason, he would often declare, He would not give a cherry-stone to choose amongst them.
Bob, which was my brother's name, was another of these neutral kinds of christian names, which operated very little either way; and as my father happen'd to be at Epsom, when it was given him,--he would oft-times thank Heaven it was no worse. Andrew was something like a negative quantity in Algebra with him;- -'twas worse, he said, than nothing.
But of all names in the universe he had the most unconquerable aversion for Tristram;--he had the lowest and most contemptible opinion of it of any thing in the world,--thinking it could possibly produce nothing in rerum natura, but what was extremely mean and pitiful: So that in the midst of a dispute on the subject, in which, by the bye, he was frequently involved,-- he would sometimes break off in a sudden and spirited Epiphonema, or rather Erotesis, raised a third, and sometimes a full fifth above the key of the discourse,--and demand it categorically of his antagonist, Whether he would take upon him to say, he had ever remembered,--whether he had ever read,-- or even whether he had ever heard tell of a man, called Tristram, performing any thing great or worth recording?
What could be wanting in my father but to have wrote a book to publish this notion of his to the world? Little boots it to the subtle speculatist to stand single in his opinions,--unless he gives them proper ventIt was the identical thing which my father didfor in the year sixteen, which was two years before I was born, he was at the pains of writing an express Dissertation simply upon the word Tristram,--shewing the world, with great candour and modesty, the grounds of his great abhorrence to the name.
When this story is compared with the title-page,--Will not the gentle reader pity my father from his soul? I swear it,--if ever malignant spirit took pleasure, or busied itself in traversing the purposes of mortal man,--it must have been here;--and if it was not necessary I should be born before I was christened, I would this moment give the reader an account of it.
I told you in it, That my mother was not a papist. You told me no such thing, Sir. I have imposed this penance upon the lady, neither out of wantonness nor cruelty; but from the best of motives; and therefore shall make her no apology for it when she returns back'Tis to rebuke a vicious taste, which has crept into thousands besides herself,--of reading straight forwards, more in quest of the adventures, than of the deep erudition and knowledge which a book of this cast, if read over as it should be, would infallibly impart with them--The mind should be accustomed to make wise reflections, and draw curious conclusions as it goes along; the habitude of which made Pliny the younger affirm, 'That he never read a book so bad, but he drew some profit from it.
Have you read over again the chapter, Madam, as I desired you? Then, Madam, be pleased to ponder well the last line but one of the chapter, where I take upon me to say, 'It was necessary I should be born before I was christen'd. The Romish Rituals direct the baptizing of the child, in cases of danger, before it is born;--but upon this proviso, That some part or other of the child's body be seen by the baptizerBut the Doctors of the Sorbonne, by a deliberation held amongst them, April 10, ,--have enlarged the powers of the midwives, by determining, That though no part of the child's body should appear,--that baptism shall, nevertheless, be administered to it by injection,--par le moyen d'une petite canulle,--Anglice a squirt.
Thomas Aquinas, who had so good a mechanical head, both for tying and untying the knots of school-divinity,--should, after so much pains bestowed upon this,- -give up the point at last, as a second La chose impossible,--'Infantes in maternis uteris existentes quoth St. If the reader has the curiosity to see the question upon baptism by injection, as presented to the Doctors of the Sorbonne, with their consultation thereupon, it is as follows. It is a terrible misfortune for this same book of mine, but more so to the Republick of letters;--so that my own is quite swallowed up in the consideration of it,--that this self-same vile pruriency for fresh adventures in all things, has got so strongly into our habit and humour,-- and so wholly intent are we upon satisfying the impatience of our concupiscence that way,--that nothing but the gross and more carnal parts of a composition will go downThe subtle hints and sly communications of science fly off, like spirits upwards,--the heavy moral escapes downwards; and both the one and the other are as much lost to the world, as if they were still left in the bottom of the ink-horn.
I wish the male-reader has not pass'd by many a one, as quaint and curious as this one, in which the female-reader has been detected. I wish it may have its effects;--and that all good people, both male and female, from example, may be taught to think as well as read. Paris Edit. Le Chirurgien, qui consulte, pretend, par le moyen d'une petite canulle, de pouvoir baptiser immediatement l'enfant, sans faire aucun tort a la mere. Le Conseil estime, que la question proposee souffre de grandes difficultes.
Les Theologiens posent d'un cote pour principe, que le bapteme, qui est une naissance spirituelle, suppose une premiere naissance; il faut etre ne dans le monde, pour renaitre en Jesus Christ, comme ils l'enseignent. Thomas, 3 part. Tristram Shandy's compliments to Messrs.
Le Moyne, De Romigny, and De Marcilly; hopes they all rested well the night after so tiresome a consultation. Shandy apprehends it may, par le moyen d'une petite canulle, and sans faire aucune tort au pere.
I think, replied my uncle Toby, taking his pipe from his mouth, and striking the head of it two or three times upon the nail of his left thumb, as he began his sentence,--I think, says heBut to enter rightly into my uncle Toby's sentiments upon this matter, you must be made to enter first a little into his character, the out-lines of which I shall just give you, and then the dialogue between him and my father will go on as well again.
Pray what was that man's name,--for I write in such a hurry, I have no time to recollect or look for it,--who first made the observation, 'That there was great inconstancy in our air and climate? Indeed toward the latter end of queen Anne, the great Addison began to patronize the notion, and more fully explained it to the world in one or two of his Spectators;--but the discovery was not his. Thus--thus, my fellow-labourers and associates in this great harvest of our learning, now ripening before our eyes; thus it is, by slow steps of casual increase, that our knowledge physical, metaphysical, physiological, polemical, nautical, mathematical, aenigmatical, technical, biographical, romantical, chemical, and obstetrical, with fifty other branches of it, most of 'em ending as these do, in ical have for these two last centuries and more, gradually been creeping upwards towards that Akme of their perfections, from which, if we may form a conjecture from the advances of these last seven years, we cannot possibly be far off.
When that happens, it is to be hoped, it will put an end to all kind of writings whatsoever;--the want of all kind of writing will put an end to all kind of reading;--and that in time, As war begets poverty; poverty peace,--must, in course, put an end to all kind of knowledge,--and then--we shall have all to begin over again; or, in other words, be exactly where we started.
Thrice happy times! I only wish that the aera of my begetting, as well as the mode and manner of it, had been a little alter'd,--or that it could have been put off, with any convenience to my father or mother, for some twenty or five-and-twenty years longer, when a man in the literary world might have stood some chance. But I forget my uncle Toby, whom all this while we have left knocking the ashes out of his tobacco-pipe.
It will seem strange,--and I would as soon think of dropping a riddle in the reader's way, which is not my interest to do, as set him upon guessing how it could come to pass, that an event of this kind, so many years after it had happened, should be reserved for the interruption of the peace and unity, which otherwise so cordially subsisted, between my father and my uncle Toby.
One would have thought, that the whole force of the misfortune should have spent and wasted itself in the family at first,--as is generally the case. Possibly at the very time this happened, it might have something else to afflict it; and as afflictions are sent down for our good, and that as this had never done the Shandy Family any good at all, it might lie waiting till apt times and circumstances should give it an opportunity to discharge its office. Why this cause of sorrow, therefore, was thus reserved for my father and uncle, is undetermined by me.
But how and in what direction it exerted itself so as to become the cause of dissatisfaction between them, after it began to operate, is what I am able to explain with great exactness, and is as follows:. My uncle Toby Shandy, Madam, was a gentleman, who, with the virtues which usually constitute the character of a man of honour and rectitude,-- possessed one in a very eminent degree, which is seldom or never put into the catalogue; and that was a most extreme and unparallel'd modesty of nature;--though I correct the word nature, for this reason, that I may not prejudge a point which must shortly come to a hearing, and that is, Whether this modesty of his was natural or acquir'd.
You will imagine, Madam, that my uncle Toby had contracted all this from this very source;--that he had spent a great part of his time in converse with your sex, and that from a thorough knowledge of you, and the force of imitation which such fair examples render irresistible, he had acquired this amiable turn of mind.
I wish I could say so,--for unless it was with his sister-in-law, my father's wife and my mother--my uncle Toby scarce exchanged three words with the sex in as many years;--no, he got it, Madam, by a blow. The story of that, Madam, is long and interesting;--but it would be running my history all upon heaps to give it you here.
My father, I believe, had the truest love and tenderness for my uncle Toby, that ever one brother bore towards another, and would have done any thing in nature, which one brother in reason could have desir'd of another, to have made my uncle Toby's heart easy in this, or any other point. But this lay out of his power. In any other family dishonour, my father, I believe, had as nice a sense of shame as any man whatever;--and neither he, nor, I dare say, Copernicus, would have divulged the affair in either case, or have taken the least notice of it to the world, but for the obligations they owed, as they thought, to truth.
This contrariety of humours betwixt my father and my uncle, was the source of many a fraternal squabble. The one could not bear to hear the tale of family disgrace recorded,--and the other would scarce ever let a day pass to an end without some hint at it. For God's sake, my uncle Toby would cry,--and for my sake, and for all our sakes, my dear brother Shandy,--do let this story of our aunt's and her ashes sleep in peace;--how can you,--how can you have so little feeling and compassion for the character of our family?
How many thousands of 'em are there every year that come cast away, in all civilized countries at least --and considered as nothing but common air, in competition of an hypothesis. In my plain sense of things, my uncle Toby would answer,--every such instance is downright Murder, let who will commit it. My uncle Toby would never offer to answer this by any other kind of argument, than that of whistling half a dozen bars of Lillebullero.
As not one of our logical writers, nor any of the commentators upon them, that I remember, have thought proper to give a name to this particular species of argument. First, That, in order to prevent all confusion in disputes, it may stand as much distinguished for ever, from every other species of argument--as the Argumentum ad Verecundiam, ex Absurdo, ex Fortiori, or any other argument whatsoeverAnd, secondly, That it may be said by my children's children, when my head is laid to rest,--that their learn'd grandfather's head had been busied to as much purpose once, as other people's;--That he had invented a name, and generously thrown it into the Treasury of the Ars Logica, for one of the most unanswerable arguments in the whole science.
And, if the end of disputation is more to silence than convince,--they may add, if they please, to one of the best arguments too. I do, therefore, by these presents, strictly order and command, That it be known and distinguished by the name and title of the Argumentum Fistulatorium, and no other;--and that it rank hereafter with the Argumentum Baculinum and the Argumentum ad Crumenam, and for ever hereafter be treated of in the same chapter.
As for the Argumentum Tripodium, which is never used but by the woman against the man;--and the Argumentum ad Rem, which, contrarywise, is made use of by the man only against the woman;--As these two are enough in conscience for one lecture;--and, moreover, as the one is the best answer to the other,--let them likewise be kept apart, and be treated of in a place by themselves.
The learned Bishop Hall, I mean the famous Dr. Joseph Hall, who was Bishop of Exeter in King James the First's reign, tells us in one of Decads, at the end of his divine art of meditation, imprinted at London, in the year , by John Beal, dwelling in Aldersgate-street, 'That it is an abominable thing for a man to commend himself;'--and I really think it is so.
And yet, on the other hand, when a thing is executed in a masterly kind of a fashion, which thing is not likely to be found out;--I think it is full as abominable, that a man should lose the honour of it, and go out of the world with the conceit of it rotting in his head. For in this long digression which I was accidentally led into, as in all my digressions one only excepted there is a master-stroke of digressive skill, the merit of which has all along, I fear, been over-looked by my reader,--not for want of penetration in him,--but because 'tis an excellence seldom looked for, or expected indeed, in a digression;--and it is this: That tho' my digressions are all fair, as you observe,--and that I fly off from what I am about, as far, and as often too, as any writer in Great Britain; yet I constantly take care to order affairs so that my main business does not stand still in my absence.
I was just going, for example, to have given you the great out-lines of my uncle Toby's most whimsical character;--when my aunt Dinah and the coachman came across us, and led us a vagary some millions of miles into the very heart of the planetary system: Notwithstanding all this, you perceive that the drawing of my uncle Toby's character went on gently all the time;--not the great contours of it,--that was impossible,--but some familiar strokes and faint designations of it, were here and there touch'd on, as we went along, so that you are much better acquainted with my uncle Toby now than you was before.
By this contrivance the machinery of my work is of a species by itself; two contrary motions are introduced into it, and reconciled, which were thought to be at variance with each other. In a word, my work is digressive, and it is progressive too,--and at the same time. This, Sir, is a very different story from that of the earth's moving round her axis, in her diurnal rotation, with her progress in her elliptick orbit which brings about the year, and constitutes that variety and vicissitude of seasons we enjoy;--though I own it suggested the thought,--as I believe the greatest of our boasted improvements and discoveries have come from such trifling hints.
Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;--they are the life, the soul of reading! All the dexterity is in the good cookery and management of them, so as to be not only for the advantage of the reader, but also of the author, whose distress, in this matter, is truly pitiable: For, if he begins a digression,--from that moment, I observe, his whole work stands stock still;--and if he goes on with his main work,--then there is an end of his digression. I have a strong propensity in me to begin this chapter very nonsensically, and I will not balk my fancy.
If the fixture of Momus's glass in the human breast, according to the proposed emendation of that arch-critick, had taken place,--first, This foolish consequence would certainly have followed,--That the very wisest and very gravest of us all, in one coin or other, must have paid window- money every day of our lives.
But this, as I said above, is not the case of the inhabitants of this earth;--our minds shine not through the body, but are wrapt up here in a dark covering of uncrystalized flesh and blood; so that, if we would come to the specific characters of them, we must go some other way to work. Many, in good truth, are the ways, which human wit has been forced to take, to do this thing with exactness. Some, for instance, draw all their characters with wind-instruments.
I am not ignorant that the Italians pretend to a mathematical exactness in their designations of one particular sort of character among them, from the forte or piano of a certain wind-instrument they use,--which they say is infallible. There are others again, who will draw a man's character from no other helps in the world, but merely from his evacuations;--but this often gives a very incorrect outline,--unless, indeed, you take a sketch of his repletions too; and by correcting one drawing from the other, compound one good figure out of them both.
I should have no objection to this method, but that I think it must smell too strong of the lamp,--and be render'd still more operose, by forcing you to have an eye to the rest of his Non-naturals. There are others, fourthly, who disdain every one of these expedients;--not from any fertility of their own, but from the various ways of doing it, which they have borrowed from the honourable devices which the Pentagraphic Brethren Pentagraph, an instrument to copy Prints and Pictures mechanically, and in any proportion.
One of these you will see drawing a full length character against the light;--that's illiberal,--dishonest,--and hard upon the character of the man who sits. Others, to mend the matter, will make a drawing of you in the Camera;--that is most unfair of all, because, there you are sure to be represented in some of your most ridiculous attitudes. To avoid all and every one of these errors in giving you my uncle Toby's character, I am determined to draw it by no mechanical help whatever;--nor shall my pencil be guided by any one wind-instrument which ever was blown upon, either on this, or on the other side of the Alps;--nor will I consider either his repletions or his discharges,--or touch upon his Non- naturals; but, in a word, I will draw my uncle Toby's character from his Hobby-Horse.
If I was not morally sure that the reader must be out of all patience for my uncle Toby's character,--I would here previously have convinced him that there is no instrument so fit to draw such a thing with, as that which I have pitch'd upon. A man and his Hobby-Horse, tho' I cannot say that they act and re-act exactly after the same manner in which the soul and body do upon each other: Yet doubtless there is a communication between them of some kind; and my opinion rather is, that there is something in it more of the manner of electrified bodies,--and that, by means of the heated parts of the rider, which come immediately into contact with the back of the Hobby- Horse,--by long journies and much friction, it so happens, that the body of the rider is at length fill'd as full of Hobby-Horsical matter as it can hold;--so that if you are able to give but a clear description of the nature of the one, you may form a pretty exact notion of the genius and character of the other.
Now the Hobby-Horse which my uncle Toby always rode upon, was in my opinion an Hobby-Horse well worth giving a description of, if it was only upon the score of his great singularity;--for you might have travelled from York to Dover,--from Dover to Penzance in Cornwall, and from Penzance to York back again, and not have seen such another upon the road; or if you had seen such a one, whatever haste you had been in, you must infallibly have stopp'd to have taken a view of him. Indeed, the gait and figure of him was so strange, and so utterly unlike was he, from his head to his tail, to any one of the whole species, that it was now and then made a matter of dispute,--whether he was really a Hobby-Horse or no: But as the Philosopher would use no other argument to the Sceptic, who disputed with him against the reality of motion, save that of rising up upon his legs, and walking across the room;--so would my uncle Toby use no other argument to prove his Hobby-Horse was a Hobby-Horse indeed, but by getting upon his back and riding him about;--leaving the world, after that, to determine the point as it thought fit.
In good truth, my uncle Toby mounted him with so much pleasure, and he carried my uncle Toby so well,--that he troubled his head very little with what the world either said or thought about it. It is now high time, however, that I give you a description of himBut to go on regularly, I only beg you will give me leave to acquaint you first, how my uncle Toby came by him.
The wound in my uncle Toby's groin, which he received at the siege of Namur, rendering him unfit for the service, it was thought expedient he should return to England, in order, if possible, to be set to rights. He was four years totally confined,--part of it to his bed, and all of it to his room: and in the course of his cure, which was all that time in hand, suffer'd unspeakable miseries,--owing to a succession of exfoliations from the os pubis, and the outward edge of that part of the coxendix called the os illium,--both which bones were dismally crush'd, as much by the irregularity of the stone, which I told you was broke off the parapet,--as by its size,-- tho' it was pretty large which inclined the surgeon all along to think, that the great injury which it had done my uncle Toby's groin, was more owing to the gravity of the stone itself, than to the projectile force of it,--which he would often tell him was a great happiness.
My father at that time was just beginning business in London, and had taken a house;--and as the truest friendship and cordiality subsisted between the two brothers,--and that my father thought my uncle Toby could no where be so well nursed and taken care of as in his own house,--he assign'd him the very best apartment in it. The history of a soldier's wound beguiles the pain of it;--my uncle's visitors at least thought so, and in their daily calls upon him, from the courtesy arising out of that belief, they would frequently turn the discourse to that subject,--and from that subject the discourse would generally roll on to the siege itself.
These conversations were infinitely kind; and my uncle Toby received great relief from them, and would have received much more, but that they brought him into some unforeseen perplexities, which, for three months together, retarded his cure greatly; and if he had not hit upon an expedient to extricate himself out of them, I verily believe they would have laid him in his grave. What these perplexities of my uncle Toby were,--'tis impossible for you to guess;--if you could,--I should blush; not as a relation,--not as a man,-- nor even as a woman,--but I should blush as an author; inasmuch as I set no small store by myself upon this very account, that my reader has never yet been able to guess at any thing.
And in this, Sir, I am of so nice and singular a humour, that if I thought you was able to form the least judgment or probable conjecture to yourself, of what was to come in the next page,--I would tear it out of my book. I have begun a new book, on purpose that I might have room enough to explain the nature of the perplexities in which my uncle Toby was involved, from the many discourses and interrogations about the siege of Namur, where he received his wound.
I must remind the reader, in case he has read the history of King William's wars,--but if he has not,--I then inform him, that one of the most memorable attacks in that siege, was that which was made by the English and Dutch upon the point of the advanced counterscarp, between the gate of St. Nicolas, which inclosed the great sluice or water-stop, where the English were terribly exposed to the shot of the counter-guard and demi-bastion of St. Roch: The issue of which hot dispute, in three words, was this; That the Dutch lodged themselves upon the counter-guard,--and that the English made themselves masters of the covered-way before St.
Nicolas-gate, notwithstanding the gallantry of the French officers, who exposed themselves upon the glacis sword in hand. As this was the principal attack of which my uncle Toby was an eye-witness at Namur,--the army of the besiegers being cut off, by the confluence of the Maes and Sambre, from seeing much of each other's operations,--my uncle Toby was generally more eloquent and particular in his account of it; and the many perplexities he was in, arose out of the almost insurmountable difficulties he found in telling his story intelligibly, and giving such clear ideas of the differences and distinctions between the scarp and counterscarp,--the glacis and covered-way,--the half-moon and ravelin,--as to make his company fully comprehend where and what he was about.
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Writers themselves are too apt to confound these terms; so that you will the less wonder, if in his endeavours to explain them, and in opposition to many misconceptions, that my uncle Toby did oft-times puzzle his visitors, and sometimes himself too. To speak the truth, unless the company my father led up stairs were tolerably clear-headed, or my uncle Toby was in one of his explanatory moods, 'twas a difficult thing, do what he could, to keep the discourse free from obscurity. What rendered the account of this affair the more intricate to my uncle Toby, was this,--that in the attack of the counterscarp, before the gate of St.
Nicolas, extending itself from the bank of the Maes, quite up to the great water-stop,--the ground was cut and cross cut with such a multitude of dykes, drains, rivulets, and sluices, on all sides,--and he would get so sadly bewildered, and set fast amongst them, that frequently he could neither get backwards or forwards to save his life; and was oft-times obliged to give up the attack upon that very account only. These perplexing rebuffs gave my uncle Toby Shandy more perturbations than you would imagine; and as my father's kindness to him was continually dragging up fresh friends and fresh enquirers,--he had but a very uneasy task of it.
No doubt my uncle Toby had great command of himself,--and could guard appearances, I believe, as well as most men;--yet any one may imagine, that when he could not retreat out of the ravelin without getting into the half- moon, or get out of the covered-way without falling down the counterscarp, nor cross the dyke without danger of slipping into the ditch, but that he must have fretted and fumed inwardlyHe did so;--and the little and hourly vexations, which may seem trifling and of no account to the man who has not read Hippocrates, yet, whoever has read Hippocrates, or Dr.
James Mackenzie, and has considered well the effects which the passions and affections of the mind have upon the digestion-- Why not of a wound as well as of a dinner? He was one morning lying upon his back in his bed, the anguish and nature of the wound upon his groin suffering him to lie in no other position, when a thought came into his head, that if he could purchase such a thing, and have it pasted down upon a board, as a large map of the fortification of the town and citadel of Namur, with its environs, it might be a means of giving him ease.
Rochso that he was pretty confident he could stick a pin upon the identical spot of ground where he was standing on when the stone struck him. All this succeeded to his wishes, and not only freed him from a world of sad explanations, but, in the end, it proved the happy means, as you will read, of procuring my uncle Toby his Hobby-Horse. There is nothing so foolish, when you are at the expence of making an entertainment of this kind, as to order things so badly, as to let your criticks and gentry of refined taste run it down: Nor is there any thing so likely to make them do it, as that of leaving them out of the party, or, what is full as offensive, of bestowing your attention upon the rest of your guests in so particular a way, as if there was no such thing as a critick by occupation at table.
I said I had left six places, and I was upon the point of carrying my complaisance so far, as to have left a seventh open for them,--and in this very spot I stand on; but being told by a Critick tho' not by occupation,- -but by nature that I had acquitted myself well enough, I shall fill it up directly, hoping, in the mean time, that I shall be able to make a great deal of more room next year. So, Sir Critick, I could have replied; but I scorn it.
It is moreover the reply valiant--and therefore I reject it; for tho' it might have suited my uncle Toby's character as a soldier excellently well,--and had he not accustomed himself, in such attacks, to whistle the Lillabullero, as he wanted no courage, 'tis the very answer he would have given; yet it would by no means have done for me. You see as plain as can be, that I write as a man of erudition;--that even my similies, my allusions, my illustrations, my metaphors, are erudite,--and that I must sustain my character properly, and contrast it properly too,--else what would become of me?
Why, Sir, I should be undone;--at this very moment that I am going here to fill up one place against a critick,--I should have made an opening for a couple. Pray, Sir, in all the reading which you have ever read, did you ever read such a book as Locke's Essay upon the Human Understanding? Don't hurry yourself--It is a history-book, Sir, which may possibly recommend it to the world of what passes in a man's own mind; and if you will say so much of the book, and no more, believe me, you will cut no contemptible figure in a metaphysick circle.
Now if you will venture to go along with me, and look down into the bottom of this matter, it will be found that the cause of obscurity and confusion, in the mind of a man, is threefold. Dull organs, dear Sir, in the first place. Secondly, slight and transient impressions made by the objects, when the said organs are not dull. And thirdly, a memory like unto a sieve, not able to retain what it has received. When this is melted and dropped upon the letter, if Dolly fumbles too long for her thimble, till the wax is over hardened, it will not receive the mark of her thimble from the usual impulse which was wont to imprint it.
Very well. If Dolly's wax, for want of better, is bees-wax, or of a temper too soft,--tho' it may receive,--it will not hold the impression, how hard soever Dolly thrusts against it; and last of all, supposing the wax good, and eke the thimble, but applied thereto in careless haste, as her Mistress rings the bell;--in any one of these three cases the print left by the thimble will be as unlike the prototype as a brass-jack. Now you must understand that not one of these was the true cause of the confusion in my uncle Toby's discourse; and it is for that very reason I enlarge upon them so long, after the manner of great physiologists--to shew the world, what it did not arise from.
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What it did arise from, I have hinted above, and a fertile source of obscurity it is,--and ever will be,--and that is the unsteady uses of words, which have perplexed the clearest and most exalted understandings. Lesson Calendar. Chapter Abstracts. Character Descriptions. Object Descriptions. Daily Lessons.
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