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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.

A work by Laurence Sterne

(two lines in Greek)

To the Right Honourable Mr. Pitt.


Never poor Wight of a Dedicator had less hopes from his Dedication, than I
have from this of mine; for it is written in a bye corner of the kingdom,
and in a retir'd thatch'd house, where I live in a constant endeavour to
fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by
mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles,--but much more
so, when he laughs, it adds something to this Fragment of Life.

I humbly beg, Sir, that you will honour this book, by taking it--(not under
your Protection,--it must protect itself, but)--into the country with you;
where, if I am ever told, it has made you smile; or can conceive it has
beguiled you of one moment's pain--I shall think myself as happy as a
minister of state;--perhaps much happier than any one (one only excepted)
that I have read or heard of.

I am, Great Sir, (and, what is more to your Honour) I am, Good Sir, Your
Well-wisher, and most humble Fellow-subject,

The Author.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.

Chapter 1.I.

I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were
in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they
begot me; had they duly consider'd how much depended upon what they were
then doing;--that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned
in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body,
perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;--and, for aught they knew
to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn
from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost;--Had they duly
weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,--I am verily
persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from
that in which the reader is likely to see me.--Believe me, good folks, this
is not so inconsiderable a thing as many of you may think it;--you have
all, I dare say, heard of the animal spirits, as how they are transfused
from father to son, &c. &c.--and a great deal to that purpose:--Well, you
may take my word, that nine parts in ten of a man's sense or his nonsense,
his successes and miscarriages in this world depend upon their motions and
activity, and the different tracks and trains you put them into, so that
when they are once set a-going, whether right or wrong, 'tis not a half-
penny matter,--away they go cluttering like hey-go mad; and by treading the
same steps over and over again, they presently make a road of it, as plain
and as smooth as a garden-walk, which, when they are once used to, the
Devil himself sometimes shall not be able to drive them off it.

Pray my Dear, quoth my mother, have you not forgot to wind up the clock?--
Good G..! cried my father, making an exclamation, but taking care to
moderate his voice at the same time,--Did ever woman, since the creation of
the world, interrupt a man with such a silly question? Pray, what was your
father saying?--Nothing.

Chapter 1.II.

--Then, positively, there is nothing in the question that I can see, either
good or bad.--Then, let me tell you, Sir, it was a very unseasonable
question at least,--because it scattered and dispersed the animal spirits,
whose business it was to have escorted and gone hand in hand with the
Homunculus, and conducted him safe to the place destined for his reception.

The Homunculus, Sir, in however low and ludicrous a light he may appear, in
this age of levity, to the eye of folly or prejudice;--to the eye of reason
in scientific research, he stands confess'd--a Being guarded and
circumscribed with rights.--The minutest philosophers, who by the bye, have
the most enlarged understandings, (their souls being inversely as their
enquiries) shew us incontestably, that the Homunculus is created by the
same hand,--engender'd in the same course of nature,--endow'd with the same
loco-motive powers and faculties with us:--That he consists as we do, of
skin, hair, fat, flesh, veins, arteries, ligaments, nerves, cartilages,
bones, marrow, brains, glands, genitals, humours, and articulations;--is a
Being of as much activity,--and in all senses of the word, as much and as
truly our fellow-creature as my Lord Chancellor of England.--He may be
benefitted,--he may be injured,--he may obtain redress; in a word, he has
all the claims and rights of humanity, which Tully, Puffendorf, or the best
ethick writers allow to arise out of that state and relation.

Now, dear Sir, what if any accident had befallen him in his way alone!--or
that through terror of it, natural to so young a traveller, my little
Gentleman had got to his journey's end miserably spent;--his muscular
strength and virility worn down to a thread;--his own animal spirits
ruffled beyond description,--and that in this sad disorder'd state of
nerves, he had lain down a prey to sudden starts, or a series of melancholy
dreams and fancies, for nine long, long months together.--I tremble to
think what a foundation had been laid for a thousand weaknesses both of
body and mind, which no skill of the physician or the philosopher could
ever afterwards have set thoroughly to rights.

Chapter 1.III.

To my uncle Mr. Toby Shandy do I stand indebted for the preceding anecdote,
to whom my father, who was an excellent natural philosopher, and much given
to close reasoning upon the smallest matters, had oft, and heavily
complained of the injury; but once more particularly, as my uncle Toby well
remember'd, upon his observing a most unaccountable obliquity, (as he
call'd it) in my manner of setting up my top, and justifying the principles
upon which I had done it,--the old gentleman shook his head, and in a tone
more expressive by half of sorrow than reproach,--he said his heart all
along foreboded, and he saw it verified in this, and from a thousand other
observations he had made upon me, That I should neither think nor act like
any other man's child:--But alas! continued he, shaking his head a second
time, and wiping away a tear which was trickling down his cheeks, My
Tristram's misfortunes began nine months before ever he came into the

--My mother, who was sitting by, look'd up, but she knew no more than her
backside what my father meant,--but my uncle, Mr. Toby Shandy, who had been
often informed of the affair,--understood him very well.

Chapter 1.IV.

I know there are readers in the world, as well as many other good people in
it, who are no readers at all,--who find themselves ill at ease, unless
they are let into the whole secret from first to last, of every thing which
concerns you.

It is in pure compliance with this humour of theirs, and from a
backwardness in my nature to disappoint any one soul living, that I have
been so very particular already. As my life and opinions are likely to
make some noise in the world, and, if I conjecture right, will take in all
ranks, professions, and denominations of men whatever,--be no less read
than the Pilgrim's Progress itself--and in the end, prove the very thing
which Montaigne dreaded his Essays should turn out, that is, a book for a
parlour-window;--I find it necessary to consult every one a little in his
turn; and therefore must beg pardon for going on a little farther in the
same way: For which cause, right glad I am, that I have begun the history
of myself in the way I have done; and that I am able to go on, tracing
every thing in it, as Horace says, ab Ovo.

Horace, I know, does not recommend this fashion altogether: But that
gentleman is speaking only of an epic poem or a tragedy;--(I forget which,)
besides, if it was not so, I should beg Mr. Horace's pardon;--for in writing
what I have set about, I shall confine myself neither to his rules, nor to
any man's rules that ever lived.

To such however as do not choose to go so far back into these things, I can
give no better advice than that they skip over the remaining part of this
chapter; for I declare before-hand, 'tis wrote only for the curious and

--Shut the door.--

I was begot in the night betwixt the first Sunday and the first Monday in
the month of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and
eighteen. I am positive I was.--But how I came to be so very particular in
my account of a thing which happened before I was born, is owing to another
small anecdote known only in our own family, but now made publick for the
better clearing up this point.

My father, you must know, who was originally a Turkey merchant, but had
left off business for some years, in order to retire to, and die upon, his
paternal estate in the county of ----, was, I believe, one of the most
regular men in every thing he did, whether 'twas matter of business, or
matter of amusement, that ever lived. As a small specimen of this extreme
exactness of his, to which he was in truth a slave, he had made it a rule
for many years of his life,--on the first Sunday-night of every month
throughout the whole year,--as certain as ever the Sunday-night came,--to
wind up a large house-clock, which we had standing on the back-stairs head,
with his own hands:--And being somewhere between fifty and sixty years of
age at the time I have been speaking of,--he had likewise gradually brought
some other little family concernments to the same period, in order, as he
would often say to my uncle Toby, to get them all out of the way at one
time, and be no more plagued and pestered with them the rest of the month.

It was attended but with one misfortune, which, in a great measure, fell
upon myself, and the effects of which I fear I shall carry with me to my
grave; namely, that from an unhappy association of ideas, which have no
connection in nature, it so fell out at length, that my poor mother could
never hear the said clock wound up,--but the thoughts of some other things
unavoidably popped into her head--& vice versa:--Which strange combination
of ideas, the sagacious Locke, who certainly understood the nature of these
things better than most men, affirms to have produced more wry actions than
all other sources of prejudice whatsoever.

But this by the bye.

Now it appears by a memorandum in my father's pocket-book, which now lies
upon the table, 'That on Lady-day, which was on the 25th of the same month
in which I date my geniture,--my father set upon his journey to London,
with my eldest brother Bobby, to fix him at Westminster school;' and, as it
appears from the same authority, 'That he did not get down to his wife and
family till the second week in May following,'--it brings the thing almost
to a certainty. However, what follows in the beginning of the next
chapter, puts it beyond all possibility of a doubt.

--But pray, Sir, What was your father doing all December, January, and
February?--Why, Madam,--he was all that time afflicted with a Sciatica.

Chapter 1.V.

On the fifth day of November, 1718, which to the aera fixed on, was as near
nine kalendar months as any husband could in reason have expected,--was I
Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, brought forth into this scurvy and disastrous
world of ours.--I wish I had been born in the Moon, or in any of the
planets, (except Jupiter or Saturn, because I never could bear cold
weather) for it could not well have fared worse with me in any of them
(though I will not answer for Venus) than it has in this vile, dirty planet
of ours,--which, o' my conscience, with reverence be it spoken, I take to
be made up of the shreds and clippings of the rest;--not but the planet is
well enough, provided a man could be born in it to a great title or to a
great estate; or could any how contrive to be called up to public charges,
and employments of dignity or power;--but that is not my case;--and
therefore every man will speak of the fair as his own market has gone in
it;--for which cause I affirm it over again to be one of the vilest worlds
that ever was made;--for I can truly say, that from the first hour I drew
my breath in it, to this, that I can now scarce draw it at all, for an
asthma I got in scating against the wind in Flanders;--I have been the
continual sport of what the world calls Fortune; and though I will not
wrong her by saying, She has ever made me feel the weight of any great or
signal evil;--yet with all the good temper in the world I affirm it of her,
that in every stage of my life, and at every turn and corner where she
could get fairly at me, the ungracious duchess has pelted me with a set of
as pitiful misadventures and cross accidents as ever small Hero sustained.

Chapter 1.VI.

In the beginning of the last chapter, I informed you exactly when I was
born; but I did not inform you how. No, that particular was reserved
entirely for a chapter by itself;--besides, Sir, as you and I are in a
manner perfect strangers to each other, it would not have been proper to
have let you into too many circumstances relating to myself all at once.

--You must have a little patience. I have undertaken, you see, to write
not only my life, but my opinions also; hoping and expecting that your
knowledge of my character, and of what kind of a mortal I am, by the one,
would give you a better relish for the other: As you proceed farther with
me, the slight acquaintance, which is now beginning betwixt us, will grow
into familiarity; and that unless one of us is in fault, will terminate in
friendship.--O diem praeclarum!--then nothing which has touched me will be
thought trifling in its nature, or tedious in its telling. Therefore, my
dear friend and companion, if you should think me somewhat sparing of my
narrative on my first setting out--bear with me,--and let me go on, and
tell my story my own way:--Or, if I should seem now and then to trifle upon
the road,--or should sometimes put on a fool's cap with a bell to it, for a
moment or two as we pass along,--don't fly off,--but rather courteously
give me credit for a little more wisdom than appears upon my outside;--and
as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short do any thing,--
only keep your temper.

Chapter 1.VII.

In the same village where my father and my mother dwelt, dwelt also a thin,
upright, motherly, notable, good old body of a midwife, who with the help
of a little plain good sense, and some years full employment in her
business, in which she had all along trusted little to her own efforts, and
a great deal to those of dame Nature,--had acquired, in her way, no small
degree of reputation in the world:--by which word world, need I in this
place inform your worship, that I would be understood to mean no more of
it, than a small circle described upon the circle of the great world, of
four English miles diameter, or thereabouts, of which the cottage where the
good old woman lived is supposed to be the centre?--She had been left it
seems a widow in great distress, with three or four small children, in her
forty-seventh year; and as she was at that time a person of decent
carriage,--grave deportment,--a woman moreover of few words and withal an
object of compassion, whose distress, and silence under it, called out the
louder for a friendly lift: the wife of the parson of the parish was
touched with pity; and having often lamented an inconvenience to which her
husband's flock had for many years been exposed, inasmuch as there was no
such thing as a midwife, of any kind or degree, to be got at, let the case
have been never so urgent, within less than six or seven long miles riding;
which said seven long miles in dark nights and dismal roads, the country
thereabouts being nothing but a deep clay, was almost equal to fourteen;
and that in effect was sometimes next to having no midwife at all; it came
into her head, that it would be doing as seasonable a kindness to the whole
parish, as to the poor creature herself, to get her a little instructed in
some of the plain principles of the business, in order to set her up in it.
As no woman thereabouts was better qualified to execute the plan she had
formed than herself, the gentlewoman very charitably undertook it; and
having great influence over the female part of the parish, she found no
difficulty in effecting it to the utmost of her wishes. In truth, the
parson join'd his interest with his wife's in the whole affair, and in
order to do things as they should be, and give the poor soul as good a
title by law to practise, as his wife had given by institution,--he
cheerfully paid the fees for the ordinary's licence himself, amounting in
the whole, to the sum of eighteen shillings and four pence; so that betwixt
them both, the good woman was fully invested in the real and corporal
possession of her office, together with all its rights, members, and
appurtenances whatsoever.

These last words, you must know, were not according to the old form in
which such licences, faculties, and powers usually ran, which in like cases
had heretofore been granted to the sisterhood. But it was according to a
neat Formula of Didius his own devising, who having a particular turn for
taking to pieces, and new framing over again all kind of instruments in
that way, not only hit upon this dainty amendment, but coaxed many of the
old licensed matrons in the neighbourhood, to open their faculties afresh,
in order to have this wham-wham of his inserted.

I own I never could envy Didius in these kinds of fancies of his:--But
every man to his own taste.--Did not Dr. Kunastrokius, that great man, at
his leisure hours, take the greatest delight imaginable in combing of asses
tails, and plucking the dead hairs out with his teeth, though he had
tweezers always in his pocket? Nay, if you come to that, Sir, have not the
wisest of men in all ages, not excepting Solomon himself,--have they not
had their Hobby-Horses;--their running horses,--their coins and their
cockle-shells, their drums and their trumpets, their fiddles, their
pallets,--their maggots and their butterflies?--and so long as a man rides
his Hobby-Horse peaceably and quietly along the King's highway, and neither
compels you or me to get up behind him,--pray, Sir, what have either you or
I to do with it?

Chapter 1.VIII.

--De gustibus non est disputandum;--that is, there is no disputing against
Hobby-Horses; and for my part, I seldom do; nor could I with any sort of
grace, had I been an enemy to them at the bottom; for happening, at certain
intervals and changes of the moon, to be both fidler and painter, according
as the fly stings:--Be it known to you, that I keep a couple of pads
myself, upon which, in their turns, (nor do I care who knows it) I
frequently ride out and take the air;--though sometimes, to my shame be it
spoken, I take somewhat longer journies than what a wise man would think
altogether right.--But the truth is,--I am not a wise man;--and besides am
a mortal of so little consequence in the world, it is not much matter what
I do: so I seldom fret or fume at all about it: Nor does it much disturb
my rest, when I see such great Lords and tall Personages as hereafter
follow;--such, for instance, as my Lord A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M,
N, O, P, Q, and so on, all of a row, mounted upon their several horses,--
some with large stirrups, getting on in a more grave and sober pace;--
others on the contrary, tucked up to their very chins, with whips across
their mouths, scouring and scampering it away like so many little party-
coloured devils astride a mortgage,--and as if some of them were resolved
to break their necks.--So much the better--say I to myself;--for in case
the worst should happen, the world will make a shift to do excellently well
without them; and for the rest,--why--God speed them--e'en let them ride on
without opposition from me; for were their lordships unhorsed this very
night--'tis ten to one but that many of them would be worse mounted by one
half before tomorrow morning.

Not one of these instances therefore can be said to break in upon my rest.-
-But there is an instance, which I own puts me off my guard, and that is,
when I see one born for great actions, and what is still more for his
honour, whose nature ever inclines him to good ones;--when I behold such a
one, my Lord, like yourself, whose principles and conduct are as generous
and noble as his blood, and whom, for that reason, a corrupt world cannot
spare one moment;--when I see such a one, my Lord, mounted, though it is
but for a minute beyond the time which my love to my country has prescribed
to him, and my zeal for his glory wishes,--then, my Lord, I cease to be a
philosopher, and in the first transport of an honest impatience, I wish the
Hobby-Horse, with all his fraternity, at the Devil.

'My Lord,
I maintain this to be a dedication, notwithstanding its singularity in the
three great essentials of matter, form and place: I beg, therefore, you
will accept it as such, and that you will permit me to lay it, with the
most respectful humility, at your Lordship's feet--when you are upon them,-
-which you can be when you please;--and that is, my Lord, whenever there is
occasion for it, and I will add, to the best purposes too. I have the
honour to be,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's most obedient,
and most devoted,
and most humble servant,
Tristram Shandy.'

Chapter 1.IX.

I solemnly declare to all mankind, that the above dedication was made for
no one Prince, Prelate, Pope, or Potentate,--Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount,
or Baron, of this, or any other Realm in Christendom;--nor has it yet been
hawked about, or offered publicly or privately, directly or indirectly, to
any one person or personage, great or small; but is honestly a true Virgin-
Dedication untried on, upon any soul living.

I labour this point so particularly, merely to remove any offence or
objection which might arise against it from the manner in which I propose
to make the most of it;--which is the putting it up fairly to public sale;
which I now do.

--Every author has a way of his own in bringing his points to bear;--for my
own part, as I hate chaffering and higgling for a few guineas in a dark
entry;--I resolved within myself, from the very beginning, to deal squarely
and openly with your Great Folks in this affair, and try whether I should
not come off the better by it.

If therefore there is any one Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount, or Baron, in
these his Majesty's dominions, who stands in need of a tight, genteel
dedication, and whom the above will suit, (for by the bye, unless it suits
in some degree, I will not part with it)--it is much at his service for
fifty guineas;--which I am positive is twenty guineas less than it ought to
be afforded for, by any man of genius.

My Lord, if you examine it over again, it is far from being a gross piece
of daubing, as some dedications are. The design, your Lordship sees, is
good,--the colouring transparent,--the drawing not amiss;--or to speak more
like a man of science,--and measure my piece in the painter's scale,
divided into 20,--I believe, my Lord, the outlines will turn out as 12,--
the composition as 9,--the colouring as 6,--the expression 13 and a half,--
and the design,--if I may be allowed, my Lord, to understand my own design,
and supposing absolute perfection in designing, to be as 20,--I think it
cannot well fall short of 19. Besides all this,--there is keeping in it,
and the dark strokes in the Hobby-Horse, (which is a secondary figure, and
a kind of back-ground to the whole) give great force to the principal
lights in your own figure, and make it come off wonderfully;--and besides,
there is an air of originality in the tout ensemble.

Be pleased, my good Lord, to order the sum to be paid into the hands of Mr.
Dodsley, for the benefit of the author; and in the next edition care shall
be taken that this chapter be expunged, and your Lordship's titles,
distinctions, arms, and good actions, be placed at the front of the
preceding chapter: All which, from the words, De gustibus non est
disputandum, and whatever else in this book relates to Hobby-Horses, but no
more, shall stand dedicated to your Lordship.--The rest I dedicate to the
Moon, who, by the bye, of all the Patrons or Matrons I can think of, has
most power to set my book a-going, and make the world run mad after it.

Bright Goddess,
If thou art not too busy with Candid and Miss Cunegund's affairs,--take
Tristram Shandy's under thy protection also.

Chapter 1.X.

Whatever degree of small merit the act of benignity in favour of the
midwife might justly claim, or in whom that claim truly rested,--at first
sight seems not very material to this history;--certain however it was,
that the gentlewoman, the parson's wife, did run away at that time with the
whole of it: And yet, for my life, I cannot help thinking but that the
parson himself, though he had not the good fortune to hit upon the design
first,--yet, as he heartily concurred in it the moment it was laid before
him, and as heartily parted with his money to carry it into execution, had
a claim to some share of it,--if not to a full half of whatever honour was
due to it.

The world at that time was pleased to determine the matter otherwise.

Lay down the book, and I will allow you half a day to give a probable guess
at the grounds of this procedure.

Be it known then, that, for about five years before the date of the
midwife's licence, of which you have had so circumstantial an account,--the
parson we have to do with had made himself a country-talk by a breach of
all decorum, which he had committed against himself, his station, and his
office;--and that was in never appearing better, or otherwise mounted, than
upon a lean, sorry, jackass of a horse, value about one pound fifteen
shillings; who, to shorten all description of him, was full brother to
Rosinante, as far as similitude congenial could make him; for he answered
his description to a hair-breadth in every thing,--except that I do not
remember 'tis any where said, that Rosinante was broken-winded; and that,
moreover, Rosinante, as is the happiness of most Spanish horses, fat or
lean,--was undoubtedly a horse at all points.

I know very well that the Hero's horse was a horse of chaste deportment,
which may have given grounds for the contrary opinion: But it is as
certain at the same time that Rosinante's continency (as may be
demonstrated from the adventure of the Yanguesian carriers) proceeded from
no bodily defect or cause whatsoever, but from the temperance and orderly
current of his blood.--And let me tell you, Madam, there is a great deal of
very good chastity in the world, in behalf of which you could not say more
for your life.

Let that be as it may, as my purpose is to do exact justice to every
creature brought upon the stage of this dramatic work,--I could not stifle
this distinction in favour of Don Quixote's horse;--in all other points,
the parson's horse, I say, was just such another, for he was as lean, and
as lank, and as sorry a jade, as Humility herself could have bestrided.

In the estimation of here and there a man of weak judgment, it was greatly
in the parson's power to have helped the figure of this horse of his,--for
he was master of a very handsome demi-peaked saddle, quilted on the seat
with green plush, garnished with a double row of silver-headed studs, and a
noble pair of shining brass stirrups, with a housing altogether suitable,
of grey superfine cloth, with an edging of black lace, terminating in a
deep, black, silk fringe, poudre d'or,--all which he had purchased in the
pride and prime of his life, together with a grand embossed bridle,
ornamented at all points as it should be.--But not caring to banter his
beast, he had hung all these up behind his study door: and, in lieu of
them, had seriously befitted him with just such a bridle and such a saddle,
as the figure and value of such a steed might well and truly deserve.

In the several sallies about his parish, and in the neighbouring visits to
the gentry who lived around him,--you will easily comprehend, that the
parson, so appointed, would both hear and see enough to keep his philosophy
from rusting. To speak the truth, he never could enter a village, but he
caught the attention of both old and young.--Labour stood still as he
pass'd--the bucket hung suspended in the middle of the well,--the spinning-
wheel forgot its round,--even chuck-farthing and shuffle-cap themselves
stood gaping till he had got out of sight; and as his movement was not of
the quickest, he had generally time enough upon his hands to make his
observations,--to hear the groans of the serious,--and the laughter of the
light-hearted; all which he bore with excellent tranquillity.--His
character was,--he loved a jest in his heart--and as he saw himself in the
true point of ridicule, he would say he could not be angry with others for
seeing him in a light, in which he so strongly saw himself: So that to his
friends, who knew his foible was not the love of money, and who therefore
made the less scruple in bantering the extravagance of his humour,--instead
of giving the true cause,--he chose rather to join in the laugh against
himself; and as he never carried one single ounce of flesh upon his own
bones, being altogether as spare a figure as his beast,--he would sometimes
insist upon it, that the horse was as good as the rider deserved;--that
they were, centaur-like,--both of a piece. At other times, and in other
moods, when his spirits were above the temptation of false wit,--he would
say, he found himself going off fast in a consumption; and, with great
gravity, would pretend, he could not bear the sight of a fat horse, without
a dejection of heart, and a sensible alteration in his pulse; and that he
had made choice of the lean one he rode upon, not only to keep himself in
countenance, but in spirits.

At different times he would give fifty humorous and apposite reasons for
riding a meek-spirited jade of a broken-winded horse, preferably to one of
mettle;--for on such a one he could sit mechanically, and meditate as
delightfully de vanitate mundi et fuga faeculi, as with the advantage of a
death's-head before him;--that, in all other exercitations, he could spend
his time, as he rode slowly along,--to as much account as in his study;--
that he could draw up an argument in his sermon,--or a hole in his
breeches, as steadily on the one as in the other;--that brisk trotting and
slow argumentation, like wit and judgment, were two incompatible
movements.--But that upon his steed--he could unite and reconcile every
thing,--he could compose his sermon--he could compose his cough,--and, in
case nature gave a call that way, he could likewise compose himself to
sleep.--In short, the parson upon such encounters would assign any cause
but the true cause,--and he with-held the true one, only out of a nicety of
temper, because he thought it did honour to him.

But the truth of the story was as follows: In the first years of this
gentleman's life, and about the time when the superb saddle and bridle were
purchased by him, it had been his manner, or vanity, or call it what you
will,--to run into the opposite extreme.--In the language of the county
where he dwelt, he was said to have loved a good horse, and generally had
one of the best in the whole parish standing in his stable always ready for
saddling: and as the nearest midwife, as I told you, did not live nearer to
the village than seven miles, and in a vile country,--it so fell out that
the poor gentleman was scarce a whole week together without some piteous
application for his beast; and as he was not an unkind-hearted man, and
every case was more pressing and more distressful than the last;--as much
as he loved his beast, he had never a heart to refuse him; the upshot of
which was generally this; that his horse was either clapp'd, or spavin'd,
or greaz'd;--or he was twitter-bon'd, or broken-winded, or something, in
short, or other had befallen him, which would let him carry no flesh;--so
that he had every nine or ten months a bad horse to get rid of,--and a good
horse to purchase in his stead.

What the loss in such a balance might amount to, communibus annis, I would
leave to a special jury of sufferers in the same traffick, to determine;--
but let it be what it would, the honest gentleman bore it for many years
without a murmur, till at length, by repeated ill accidents of the kind, he
found it necessary to take the thing under consideration; and upon weighing
the whole, and summing it up in his mind, he found it not only
disproportioned to his other expences, but withal so heavy an article in
itself, as to disable him from any other act of generosity in his parish:
Besides this, he considered that with half the sum thus galloped away, he
could do ten times as much good;--and what still weighed more with him than
all other considerations put together, was this, that it confined all his
charity into one particular channel, and where, as he fancied, it was the
least wanted, namely, to the child-bearing and child-getting part of his
parish; reserving nothing for the impotent,--nothing for the aged,--nothing
for the many comfortless scenes he was hourly called forth to visit, where
poverty, and sickness and affliction dwelt together.

For these reasons he resolved to discontinue the expence; and there
appeared but two possible ways to extricate him clearly out of it;--and
these were, either to make it an irrevocable law never more to lend his
steed upon any application whatever,--or else be content to ride the last
poor devil, such as they had made him, with all his aches and infirmities,
to the very end of the chapter.

As he dreaded his own constancy in the first--he very chearfully betook
himself to the second; and though he could very well have explained it, as
I said, to his honour,--yet, for that very reason, he had a spirit above
it; choosing rather to bear the contempt of his enemies, and the laughter
of his friends, than undergo the pain of telling a story, which might seem
a panegyrick upon himself.

I have the highest idea of the spiritual and refined sentiments of this
reverend gentleman, from this single stroke in his character, which I think
comes up to any of the honest refinements of the peerless knight of La
Mancha, whom, by the bye, with all his follies, I love more, and would
actually have gone farther to have paid a visit to, than the greatest hero
of antiquity.

But this is not the moral of my story: The thing I had in view was to shew
the temper of the world in the whole of this affair.--For you must know,
that so long as this explanation would have done the parson credit,--the
devil a soul could find it out,--I suppose his enemies would not, and that
his friends could not.--But no sooner did he bestir himself in behalf of
the midwife, and pay the expences of the ordinary's licence to set her up,-
-but the whole secret came out; every horse he had lost, and two horses
more than ever he had lost, with all the circumstances of their
destruction, were known and distinctly remembered.--The story ran like
wild-fire.--'The parson had a returning fit of pride which had just seized
him; and he was going to be well mounted once again in his life; and if it
was so, 'twas plain as the sun at noon-day, he would pocket the expence of
the licence ten times told, the very first year:--So that every body was
left to judge what were his views in this act of charity.'

What were his views in this, and in every other action of his life,--or
rather what were the opinions which floated in the brains of other people
concerning it, was a thought which too much floated in his own, and too
often broke in upon his rest, when he should have been sound asleep.

About ten years ago this gentleman had the good fortune to be made entirely
easy upon that score,--it being just so long since he left his parish,--and
the whole world at the same time behind him,--and stands accountable to a
Judge of whom he will have no cause to complain.

But there is a fatality attends the actions of some men: Order them as
they will, they pass thro' a certain medium, which so twists and refracts
them from their true directions--that, with all the titles to praise which
a rectitude of heart can give, the doers of them are nevertheless forced to
live and die without it.

Of the truth of which, this gentleman was a painful example.--But to know
by what means this came to pass,--and to make that knowledge of use to you,
I insist upon it that you read the two following chapters, which contain
such a sketch of his life and conversation, as will carry its moral along
with it.--When this is done, if nothing stops us in our way, we will go on
with the midwife.

Chapter 1.XI.

Yorick was this parson's name, and, what is very remarkable in it, (as
appears from a most ancient account of the family, wrote upon strong
vellum, and now in perfect preservation) it had been exactly so spelt for
near,--I was within an ace of saying nine hundred years;--but I would not
shake my credit in telling an improbable truth, however indisputable in
itself,--and therefore I shall content myself with only saying--It had been
exactly so spelt, without the least variation or transposition of a single
letter, for I do not know how long; which is more than I would venture to
say of one half of the best surnames in the kingdom; which, in a course of
years, have generally undergone as many chops and changes as their owners.-
-Has this been owing to the pride, or to the shame of the respective
proprietors?--In honest truth, I think sometimes to the one, and sometimes
to the other, just as the temptation has wrought. But a villainous affair
it is, and will one day so blend and confound us all together, that no one
shall be able to stand up and swear, 'That his own great grandfather was
the man who did either this or that.'

This evil had been sufficiently fenced against by the prudent care of the
Yorick's family, and their religious preservation of these records I quote,
which do farther inform us, That the family was originally of Danish
extraction, and had been transplanted into England as early as in the reign
of Horwendillus, king of Denmark, in whose court, it seems, an ancestor of
this Mr. Yorick's, and from whom he was lineally descended, held a
considerable post to the day of his death. Of what nature this
considerable post was, this record saith not;--it only adds, That, for near
two centuries, it had been totally abolished, as altogether unnecessary,
not only in that court, but in every other court of the Christian world.

It has often come into my head, that this post could be no other than that
of the king's chief Jester;--and that Hamlet's Yorick, in our Shakespeare,
many of whose plays, you know, are founded upon authenticated facts, was
certainly the very man.

I have not the time to look into Saxo-Grammaticus's Danish history, to know
the certainty of this;--but if you have leisure, and can easily get at the
book, you may do it full as well yourself.

I had just time, in my travels through Denmark with Mr. Noddy's eldest son,
whom, in the year 1741, I accompanied as governor, riding along with him at
a prodigious rate thro' most parts of Europe, and of which original journey
performed by us two, a most delectable narrative will be given in the
progress of this work. I had just time, I say, and that was all, to prove
the truth of an observation made by a long sojourner in that country;--
namely, 'That nature was neither very lavish, nor was she very stingy in
her gifts of genius and capacity to its inhabitants;--but, like a discreet
parent, was moderately kind to them all; observing such an equal tenor in
the distribution of her favours, as to bring them, in those points, pretty
near to a level with each other; so that you will meet with few instances
in that kingdom of refined parts; but a great deal of good plain houshold
understanding amongst all ranks of people, of which every body has a
share;' which is, I think, very right.

With us, you see, the case is quite different:--we are all ups and downs in
this matter;--you are a great genius;--or 'tis fifty to one, Sir, you are a
great dunce and a blockhead;--not that there is a total want of
intermediate steps,--no,--we are not so irregular as that comes to;--but
the two extremes are more common, and in a greater degree in this unsettled
island, where nature, in her gifts and dispositions of this kind, is most
whimsical and capricious; fortune herself not being more so in the bequest
of her goods and chattels than she.

This is all that ever staggered my faith in regard to Yorick's extraction,
who, by what I can remember of him, and by all the accounts I could ever
get of him, seemed not to have had one single drop of Danish blood in his
whole crasis; in nine hundred years, it might possibly have all run out:--I
will not philosophize one moment with you about it; for happen how it
would, the fact was this:--That instead of that cold phlegm and exact
regularity of sense and humours, you would have looked for, in one so
extracted;--he was, on the contrary, as mercurial and sublimated a
composition,--as heteroclite a creature in all his declensions;--with as
much life and whim, and gaite de coeur about him, as the kindliest climate
could have engendered and put together. With all this sail, poor Yorick
carried not one ounce of ballast; he was utterly unpractised in the world;
and at the age of twenty-six, knew just about as well how to steer his
course in it, as a romping, unsuspicious girl of thirteen: So that upon
his first setting out, the brisk gale of his spirits, as you will imagine,
ran him foul ten times in a day of somebody's tackling; and as the grave
and more slow-paced were oftenest in his way,--you may likewise imagine,
'twas with such he had generally the ill luck to get the most entangled.
For aught I know there might be some mixture of unlucky wit at the bottom
of such Fracas:--For, to speak the truth, Yorick had an invincible dislike
and opposition in his nature to gravity;--not to gravity as such;--for
where gravity was wanted, he would be the most grave or serious of mortal
men for days and weeks together;--but he was an enemy to the affectation of
it, and declared open war against it, only as it appeared a cloak for
ignorance, or for folly: and then, whenever it fell in his way, however
sheltered and protected, he seldom gave it much quarter.

Sometimes, in his wild way of talking, he would say, that Gravity was an
errant scoundrel, and he would add,--of the most dangerous kind too,--
because a sly one; and that he verily believed, more honest, well-meaning
people were bubbled out of their goods and money by it in one twelve-month,
than by pocket-picking and shop-lifting in seven. In the naked temper
which a merry heart discovered, he would say there was no danger,--but to
itself:--whereas the very essence of gravity was design, and consequently
deceit;--'twas a taught trick to gain credit of the world for more sense
and knowledge than a man was worth; and that, with all its pretensions,--it
was no better, but often worse, than what a French wit had long ago defined
it,--viz. 'A mysterious carriage of the body to cover the defects of the
mind;'--which definition of gravity, Yorick, with great imprudence, would
say, deserved to be wrote in letters of gold.

But, in plain truth, he was a man unhackneyed and unpractised in the world,
and was altogether as indiscreet and foolish on every other subject of
discourse where policy is wont to impress restraint. Yorick had no
impression but one, and that was what arose from the nature of the deed
spoken of; which impression he would usually translate into plain English
without any periphrasis;--and too oft without much distinction of either
person, time, or place;--so that when mention was made of a pitiful or an
ungenerous proceeding--he never gave himself a moment's time to reflect who
was the hero of the piece,--what his station,--or how far he had power to
hurt him hereafter;--but if it was a dirty action,--without more ado,--The
man was a dirty fellow,--and so on.--And as his comments had usually the
ill fate to be terminated either in a bon mot, or to be enlivened
throughout with some drollery or humour of expression, it gave wings to
Yorick's indiscretion. In a word, tho' he never sought, yet, at the same
time, as he seldom shunned occasions of saying what came uppermost, and
without much ceremony;--he had but too many temptations in life, of
scattering his wit and his humour,--his gibes and his jests about him.--
They were not lost for want of gathering.

What were the consequences, and what was Yorick's catastrophe thereupon,
you will read in the next chapter.

Chapter 1.XII.

The Mortgager and Mortgagee differ the one from the other, not more in
length of purse, than the Jester and Jestee do, in that of memory. But in
this the comparison between them runs, as the scholiasts call it, upon all-
four; which, by the bye, is upon one or two legs more than some of the best
of Homer's can pretend to;--namely, That the one raises a sum, and the
other a laugh at your expence, and thinks no more about it. Interest,
however, still runs on in both cases;--the periodical or accidental
payments of it, just serving to keep the memory of the affair alive; till,
at length, in some evil hour, pop comes the creditor upon each, and by
demanding principal upon the spot, together with full interest to the very
day, makes them both feel the full extent of their obligations.

As the reader (for I hate your ifs) has a thorough knowledge of human
nature, I need not say more to satisfy him, that my Hero could not go on at
this rate without some slight experience of these incidental mementos. To
speak the truth, he had wantonly involved himself in a multitude of small
book-debts of this stamp, which, notwithstanding Eugenius's frequent
advice, he too much disregarded; thinking, that as not one of them was
contracted thro' any malignancy;--but, on the contrary, from an honesty of
mind, and a mere jocundity of humour, they would all of them be cross'd out
in course.

Eugenius would never admit this; and would often tell him, that one day or
other he would certainly be reckoned with; and he would often add, in an
accent of sorrowful apprehension,--to the uttermost mite. To which Yorick,
with his usual carelessness of heart, would as often answer with a pshaw!--
and if the subject was started in the fields,--with a hop, skip, and a jump
at the end of it; but if close pent up in the social chimney-corner, where
the culprit was barricado'd in, with a table and a couple of arm-chairs,
and could not so readily fly off in a tangent,--Eugenius would then go on
with his lecture upon discretion in words to this purpose, though somewhat
better put together.

Trust me, dear Yorick, this unwary pleasantry of thine will sooner or later
bring thee into scrapes and difficulties, which no after-wit can extricate
thee out of.--In these sallies, too oft, I see, it happens, that a person
laughed at, considers himself in the light of a person injured, with all
the rights of such a situation belonging to him; and when thou viewest him
in that light too, and reckons up his friends, his family, his kindred and
allies,--and musters up with them the many recruits which will list under
him from a sense of common danger;--'tis no extravagant arithmetic to say,
that for every ten jokes,--thou hast got an hundred enemies; and till thou
hast gone on, and raised a swarm of wasps about thine ears, and art half
stung to death by them, thou wilt never be convinced it is so.

I cannot suspect it in the man whom I esteem, that there is the least spur
from spleen or malevolence of intent in these sallies--I believe and know
them to be truly honest and sportive:--But consider, my dear lad, that
fools cannot distinguish this,--and that knaves will not: and thou knowest
not what it is, either to provoke the one, or to make merry with the
other:--whenever they associate for mutual defence, depend upon it, they
will carry on the war in such a manner against thee, my dear friend, as to
make thee heartily sick of it, and of thy life too.

Revenge from some baneful corner shall level a tale of dishonour at thee,
which no innocence of heart or integrity of conduct shall set right.--The
fortunes of thy house shall totter,--thy character, which led the way to
them, shall bleed on every side of it,--thy faith questioned,--thy works
belied,--thy wit forgotten,--thy learning trampled on. To wind up the last
scene of thy tragedy, Cruelty and Cowardice, twin ruffians, hired and set
on by Malice in the dark, shall strike together at all thy infirmities and
mistakes:--The best of us, my dear lad, lie open there,--and trust me,--
trust me, Yorick, when to gratify a private appetite, it is once resolved
upon, that an innocent and an helpless creature shall be sacrificed, 'tis
an easy matter to pick up sticks enough from any thicket where it has
strayed, to make a fire to offer it up with.

Yorick scarce ever heard this sad vaticination of his destiny read over to
him, but with a tear stealing from his eye, and a promissory look attending
it, that he was resolved, for the time to come, to ride his tit with more
sobriety.--But, alas, too late!--a grand confederacy with. . .and. . .at
the head of it, was formed before the first prediction of it.--The whole
plan of the attack, just as Eugenius had foreboded, was put in execution
all at once,--with so little mercy on the side of the allies,--and so
little suspicion in Yorick, of what was carrying on against him,--that when
he thought, good easy man! full surely preferment was o'ripening,--they had
smote his root, and then he fell, as many a worthy man had fallen before

Yorick, however, fought it out with all imaginable gallantry for some time;
till, overpowered by numbers, and worn out at length by the calamities of
the war,--but more so, by the ungenerous manner in which it was carried
on,--he threw down the sword; and though he kept up his spirits in
appearance to the last, he died, nevertheless, as was generally thought,
quite broken-hearted.

What inclined Eugenius to the same opinion was as follows:

A few hours before Yorick breathed his last, Eugenius stept in with an
intent to take his last sight and last farewell of him. Upon his drawing
Yorick's curtain, and asking how he felt himself, Yorick looking up in his
face took hold of his hand,--and after thanking him for the many tokens of
his friendship to him, for which, he said, if it was their fate to meet
hereafter,--he would thank him again and again,--he told him, he was within
a few hours of giving his enemies the slip for ever.--I hope not, answered
Eugenius, with tears trickling down his cheeks, and with the tenderest tone
that ever man spoke.--I hope not, Yorick, said he.--Yorick replied, with a
look up, and a gentle squeeze of Eugenius's hand, and that was all,--but it
cut Eugenius to his heart.--Come,--come, Yorick, quoth Eugenius, wiping his
eyes, and summoning up the man within him,--my dear lad, be comforted,--let
not all thy spirits and fortitude forsake thee at this crisis when thou
most wants them;--who knows what resources are in store, and what the power
of God may yet do for thee!--Yorick laid his hand upon his heart, and
gently shook his head;--For my part, continued Eugenius, crying bitterly as
he uttered the words,--I declare I know not, Yorick, how to part with thee,
and would gladly flatter my hopes, added Eugenius, chearing up his voice,
that there is still enough left of thee to make a bishop, and that I may
live to see it.--I beseech thee, Eugenius, quoth Yorick, taking off his
night-cap as well as he could with his left hand,--his right being still
grasped close in that of Eugenius,--I beseech thee to take a view of my
head.--I see nothing that ails it, replied Eugenius. Then, alas! my
friend, said Yorick, let me tell you, that 'tis so bruised and mis-shapened
with the blows which. . .and. . ., and some others have so unhandsomely
given me in the dark, that I might say with Sancho Panca, that should I
recover, and 'Mitres thereupon be suffered to rain down from heaven as
thick as hail, not one of them would fit it.'--Yorick's last breath was
hanging upon his trembling lips ready to depart as he uttered this:--yet
still it was uttered with something of a Cervantick tone;--and as he spoke
it, Eugenius could perceive a stream of lambent fire lighted up for a
moment in his eyes;--faint picture of those flashes of his spirit, which
(as Shakespeare said of his ancestor) were wont to set the table in a roar!

Eugenius was convinced from this, that the heart of his friend was broke:
he squeezed his hand,--and then walked softly out of the room, weeping as
he walked. Yorick followed Eugenius with his eyes to the door,--he then
closed them, and never opened them more.

He lies buried in the corner of his church-yard, in the parish of. . .,
under a plain marble slab, which his friend Eugenius, by leave of his
executors, laid upon his grave, with no more than these three words of
inscription, serving both for his epitaph and elegy. Alas, poor Yorick!

Ten times a day has Yorick's ghost the consolation to hear his monumental
inscription read over with such a variety of plaintive tones, as denote a
general pity and esteem for him;--a foot-way crossing the church-yard close
by the side of his grave,--not a passenger goes by without stopping to cast
a look upon it,--and sighing as he walks on, Alas, poor Yorick!

Chapter 1.XIII.

It is so long since the reader of this rhapsodical work has been parted
from the midwife, that it is high time to mention her again to him, merely
to put him in mind that there is such a body still in the world, and whom,
upon the best judgment I can form upon my own plan at present, I am going
to introduce to him for good and all: But as fresh matter may be started,
and much unexpected business fall out betwixt the reader and myself, which
may require immediate dispatch;--'twas right to take care that the poor
woman should not be lost in the mean time;--because when she is wanted, we
can no way do without her.

I think I told you that this good woman was a person of no small note and
consequence throughout our whole village and township;--that her fame had
spread itself to the very out-edge and circumference of that circle of
importance, of which kind every soul living, whether he has a shirt to his
back or no,--has one surrounding him;--which said circle, by the way,
whenever 'tis said that such a one is of great weight and importance in the
world,--I desire may be enlarged or contracted in your worship's fancy, in
a compound ratio of the station, profession, knowledge, abilities, height
and depth (measuring both ways) of the personage brought before you.

In the present case, if I remember, I fixed it about four or five miles,
which not only comprehended the whole parish, but extended itself to two or
three of the adjacent hamlets in the skirts of the next parish; which made
a considerable thing of it. I must add, That she was, moreover, very well
looked on at one large grange-house, and some other odd houses and farms
within two or three miles, as I said, from the smoke of her own chimney:--
But I must here, once for all, inform you, that all this will be more
exactly delineated and explain'd in a map, now in the hands of the
engraver, which, with many other pieces and developements of this work,
will be added to the end of the twentieth volume,--not to swell the work,--
I detest the thought of such a thing;--but by way of commentary, scholium,
illustration, and key to such passages, incidents, or inuendos as shall be
thought to be either of private interpretation, or of dark or doubtful
meaning, after my life and my opinions shall have been read over (now don't
forget the meaning of the word) by all the world;--which, betwixt you and
me, and in spite of all the gentlemen-reviewers in Great Britain, and of
all that their worships shall undertake to write or say to the contrary,--I
am determined shall be the case.--I need not tell your worship, that all
this is spoke in confidence.

Chapter 1.XIV.

Upon looking into my mother's marriage settlement, in order to satisfy
myself and reader in a point necessary to be cleared up, before we could
proceed any farther in this history;--I had the good fortune to pop upon
the very thing I wanted before I had read a day and a half straight
forwards,--it might have taken me up a month;--which shews plainly, that
when a man sits down to write a history,--tho' it be but the history of
Jack Hickathrift or Tom Thumb, he knows no more than his heels what lets
and confounded hindrances he is to meet with in his way,--or what a dance
he may be led, by one excursion or another, before all is over. Could a
historiographer drive on his history, as a muleteer drives on his mule,--
straight forward;--for instance, from Rome all the way to Loretto, without
ever once turning his head aside, either to the right hand or to the left,-
-he might venture to foretell you to an hour when he should get to his
journey's end;--but the thing is, morally speaking, impossible: For, if he
is a man of the least spirit, he will have fifty deviations from a straight
line to make with this or that party as he goes along, which he can no ways
avoid. He will have views and prospects to himself perpetually soliciting
his eye, which he can no more help standing still to look at than he can
fly; he will moreover have various
Accounts to reconcile:
Anecdotes to pick up:
Inscriptions to make out:
Stories to weave in:
Traditions to sift:
Personages to call upon:
Panegyricks to paste up at this door;
Pasquinades at that:--All which both the man and his mule are quite exempt
from. To sum up all; there are archives at every stage to be look'd into,
and rolls, records, documents, and endless genealogies, which justice ever
and anon calls him back to stay the reading of:--In short there is no end
of it;--for my own part, I declare I have been at it these six weeks,
making all the speed I possibly could,--and am not yet born:--I have just
been able, and that's all, to tell you when it happen'd, but not how;--so
that you see the thing is yet far from being accomplished.

These unforeseen stoppages, which I own I had no conception of when I first
set out;--but which, I am convinced now, will rather increase than diminish
as I advance,--have struck out a hint which I am resolved to follow;--and
that is,--not to be in a hurry;--but to go on leisurely, writing and
publishing two volumes of my life every year;--which, if I am suffered to
go on quietly, and can make a tolerable bargain with my bookseller, I shall
continue to do as long as I live.

Chapter 1.XV.

The article in my mother's marriage-settlement, which I told the reader I
was at the pains to search for, and which, now that I have found it, I
think proper to lay before him,--is so much more fully express'd in the
deed itself, than ever I can pretend to do it, that it would be barbarity
to take it out of the lawyer's hand:--It is as follows.

'And this Indenture further witnesseth, That the said Walter Shandy,
merchant, in consideration of the said intended marriage to be had, and, by
God's blessing, to be well and truly solemnized and consummated between the
said Walter Shandy and Elizabeth Mollineux aforesaid, and divers other good
and valuable causes and considerations him thereunto specially moving,--
doth grant, covenant, condescend, consent, conclude, bargain, and fully
agree to and with John Dixon, and James Turner, Esqrs. the above-named
Trustees, &c. &c.--to wit,--That in case it should hereafter so fall out,
chance, happen, or otherwise come to pass,--That the said Walter Shandy,
merchant, shall have left off business before the time or times, that the
said Elizabeth Mollineux shall, according to the course of nature, or
otherwise, have left off bearing and bringing forth children;--and that, in
consequence of the said Walter Shandy having so left off business, he shall
in despight, and against the free-will, consent, and good-liking of the
said Elizabeth Mollineux,--make a departure from the city of London, in
order to retire to, and dwell upon, his estate at Shandy Hall, in the
county of. . ., or at any other country-seat, castle, hall, mansion-house,
messuage or grainge-house, now purchased, or hereafter to be purchased, or
upon any part or parcel thereof:--That then, and as often as the said
Elizabeth Mollineux shall happen to be enceint with child or children
severally and lawfully begot, or to be begotten, upon the body of the said
Elizabeth Mollineux, during her said coverture,--he the said Walter Shandy
shall, at his own proper cost and charges, and out of his own proper
monies, upon good and reasonable notice, which is hereby agreed to be
within six weeks of her the said Elizabeth Mollineux's full reckoning, or
time of supposed and computed delivery,--pay, or cause to be paid, the sum
of one hundred and twenty pounds of good and lawful money, to John Dixon,
and James Turner, Esqrs. or assigns,--upon Trust and confidence, and for
and unto the use and uses, intent, end, and purpose following:--That is to
say,--That the said sum of one hundred and twenty pounds shall be paid into
the hands of the said Elizabeth Mollineux, or to be otherwise applied by
them the said Trustees, for the well and truly hiring of one coach, with
able and sufficient horses, to carry and convey the body of the said
Elizabeth Mollineux, and the child or children which she shall be then and
there enceint and pregnant with,--unto the city of London; and for the
further paying and defraying of all other incidental costs, charges, and
expences whatsoever,--in and about, and for, and relating to, her said
intended delivery and lying-in, in the said city or suburbs thereof. And
that the said Elizabeth Mollineux shall and may, from time to time, and at
all such time and times as are here covenanted and agreed upon,--peaceably
and quietly hire the said coach and horses, and have free ingress, egress,
and regress throughout her journey, in and from the said coach, according
to the tenor, true intent, and meaning of these presents, without any let,
suit, trouble, disturbance, molestation, discharge, hinderance, forfeiture,
eviction, vexation, interruption, or incumbrance whatsoever.--And that it
shall moreover be lawful to and for the said Elizabeth Mollineux, from time
to time, and as oft or often as she shall well and truly be advanced in her
said pregnancy, to the time heretofore stipulated and agreed upon,--to live
and reside in such place or places, and in such family or families, and
with such relations, friends, and other persons within the said city of
London, as she at her own will and pleasure, notwithstanding her present
coverture, and as if she was a femme sole and unmarried,--shall think fit.-
-And this Indenture further witnesseth, That for the more effectually
carrying of the said covenant into execution, the said Walter Shandy,
merchant, doth hereby grant, bargain, sell, release, and confirm unto the
said John Dixon, and James Turner, Esqrs. their heirs, executors, and
assigns, in their actual possession now being, by virtue of an indenture of
bargain and sale for a year to them the said John Dixon, and James Turner,
Esqrs. by him the said Walter Shandy, merchant, thereof made; which said
bargain and sale for a year, bears date the day next before the date of
these presents, and by force and virtue of the statute for transferring of
uses into possession,--All that the manor and lordship of Shandy, in the
county of. . ., with all the rights, members, and appurtenances thereof;
and all and every the messuages, houses, buildings, barns, stables,
orchards, gardens, backsides, tofts, crofts, garths, cottages, lands,
meadows, feedings, pastures, marshes, commons, woods, underwoods, drains,
fisheries, waters, and water-courses;--together with all rents, reversions,
services, annuities, fee-farms, knights fees, views of frankpledge,
escheats, reliefs, mines, quarries, goods and chattels of felons and
fugitives, felons of themselves, and put in exigent, deodands, free
warrens, and all other royalties and seigniories, rights and jurisdictions,
privileges and hereditaments whatsoever.--And also the advowson, donation,
presentation, and free disposition of the rectory or parsonage of Shandy
aforesaid, and all and every the tenths, tythes, glebe-lands.'--In three
words,--'My mother was to lay in (if she chose it) in London.'

But in order to put a stop to the practice of any unfair play on the part
of my mother, which a marriage-article of this nature too manifestly opened
a door to, and which indeed had never been thought of at all, but for my
uncle Toby Shandy;--a clause was added in security of my father which was
this:--'That in case my mother hereafter should, at any time, put my father
to the trouble and expence of a London journey, upon false cries and
tokens;--that for every such instance, she should forfeit all the right and
title which the covenant gave her to the next turn;--but to no more,--and
so on, toties quoties, in as effectual a manner, as if such a covenant
betwixt them had not been made.'--This, by the way, was no more than what
was reasonable;--and yet, as reasonable as it was, I have ever thought it
hard that the whole weight of the article should have fallen entirely, as
it did, upon myself.

But I was begot and born to misfortunes;--for my poor mother, whether it
was wind or water--or a compound of both,--or neither;--or whether it was
simply the mere swell of imagination and fancy in her;--or how far a strong
wish and desire to have it so, might mislead her judgment;--in short,
whether she was deceived or deceiving in this matter, it no way becomes me
to decide. The fact was this, That in the latter end of September 1717,
which was the year before I was born, my mother having carried my father up
to town much against the grain,--he peremptorily insisted upon the clause;-
-so that I was doom'd, by marriage-articles, to have my nose squeez'd as
flat to my face, as if the destinies had actually spun me without one.

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.

Chapter 1.XVI.

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. 'The
disappointment of this, he said, was ten times more to a wise man, than all
the money which the journey, &c. had cost him, put together,--rot the
hundred and twenty pounds,--he did not mind it a rush.'

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!'--tormenting word!--which led his imagination a
thorny dance, and, before all was over, play'd the duce and all with him;--
for sure as ever the word weakness was uttered, and struck full upon his
brain--so sure it set him upon running divisions upon how many kinds of
weaknesses there were;--that there was such a thing as weakness of the
body,--as well as weakness of the mind,--and then he would do nothing but
syllogize within himself for a stage or two together, How far the cause of
all these vexations might, or might not, have arisen out of himself.

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.--In a word, as she complained to my uncle Toby, he would have
tired out the patience of any flesh alive.

Chapter 1.XVII.

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

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.--'Tis
known by the name of perseverance in a good cause,--and of obstinacy in a
bad one: Of this my mother had so much knowledge, that she knew 'twas to
no purpose to make any remonstrance,--so she e'en resolved to sit down
quietly, and make the most of it.

Chapter 1.XVIII.

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.--Now this I like;--when we cannot get at the very
thing we wish--never to take up with the next best in degree to it:--no;
that's pitiful beyond description;--it is no more than a week from this
very day, in which I am now writing this book for the edification of the
world;--which is March 9, 1759,--that my dear, dear Jenny, observing I
looked a little grave, as she stood cheapening a silk of five-and-twenty
shillings a yard,--told the mercer, she was sorry she had given him so much
trouble;--and immediately went and bought herself a yard-wide stuff of ten-
pence a yard.--'Tis the duplication of one and the same greatness of soul;
only what lessened the honour of it, somewhat, in my mother's case, was,
that she could not heroine it into so violent and hazardous an extreme, as
one in her situation might have wished, because the old midwife had really
some little claim to be depended upon,--as much, at least, as success could
give her; having, in the course of her practice of near twenty years in the
parish, brought every mother's son of them into the world without any one
slip or accident which could fairly be laid to her account.

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.--To say nothing of the natural workings of
humanity and justice--or of the yearnings of parental and connubial love,
all which prompted him to leave as little to hazard as possible in a case
of this kind;--he felt himself concerned in a particular manner, that all
should go right in the present case;--from the accumulated sorrow he lay
open to, should any evil betide his wife and child in lying-in at Shandy-
Hall.--He knew the world judged by events, and would add to his afflictions
in such a misfortune, by loading him with the whole blame of it.--'Alas
o'day;--had Mrs. Shandy, poor gentlewoman! had but her wish in going up to
town just to lye-in and come down again;--which they say, she begged and
prayed for upon her bare knees,--and which, in my opinion, considering the
fortune which Mr. 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.

'Was I an absolute prince,' he would say, pulling up his breeches with both
his hands, as he rose from his arm-chair, 'I would appoint able judges, at
every avenue of my metropolis, who should take cognizance of every fool's
business who came there;--and if, upon a fair and candid hearing, it
appeared not of weight sufficient to leave his own home, and come up, bag
and baggage, with his wife and children, farmer's sons, &c. &c. at his
backside, they should be all sent back, from constable to constable, like
vagrants as they were, to the place of their legal settlements. 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 beauty:--I 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.

'Why are there so few palaces and gentlemen's seats,' he would ask, with
some emotion, as he walked across the room, 'throughout so many delicious
provinces in France? Whence is it that the few remaining Chateaus amongst
them are so dismantled,--so unfurnished, and in so ruinous and desolate a
condition?--Because, Sir' (he would say) 'in that kingdom no man has any
country-interest to support;--the little interest of any kind which any man
has any where in it, is concentrated in the court, and the looks of the
Grand Monarch: by the sunshine of whose countenance, or the clouds which
pass across it, every French man lives or dies.'

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.--What could my
father do? 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 man:--My 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.--What could my mother do?--She had the advantage (otherwise she had
been certainly overpowered) of a small reinforcement of chagrin personal at
the bottom, which bore her up, and enabled her to dispute the affair with
my father with so equal an advantage,--that both sides sung Te Deum. 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.'--I own, the tender appellation of my dear, dear Jenny,--
with some other strokes of conjugal knowledge, interspersed here and there,
might, naturally enough, have misled the most candid judge in the world
into such a determination against me.--All I plead for, in this case,
Madam, is strict justice, and that you do so much of it, to me as well as
to yourself,--as not to prejudge, or receive such an impression of me, till
you have better evidence, than, I am positive, at present can be produced
against me.--Not that I can be so vain or unreasonable, Madam, as to desire
you should therefore think, that my dear, dear Jenny is my kept mistress;--
no,--that would be flattering my character in the other extreme, and giving
it an air of freedom, which, perhaps, it has no kind of right to. 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.--It is not impossible, but that my dear, dear Jenny! tender as the
appellation is, may be my child.--Consider,--I was born in the year
eighteen.--Nor is there any thing unnatural or extravagant in the
supposition, that my dear Jenny may be my friend.--Friend!--My friend.--
Surely, Madam, a friendship between the two sexes may subsist, and be
supported without--Fy! Mr. Shandy:--Without 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.

Chapter 1.XIX.

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. Your son,--your
dear son,--from whose sweet and open temper you have so much to expect.--
Your Billy, Sir!--would you, for the world, have called him Judas?--Would
you, my dear Sir, he would say, laying his hand upon your breast, with the
genteelest address,--and in that soft and irresistible piano of voice,
which the nature of the argumentum ad hominem absolutely requires,--Would
you, Sir, if a Jew of a godfather had proposed the name for your child, and
offered you his purse along with it, would you have consented to such a
desecration of him?--O my God! he would say, looking up, if I know your
temper right, Sir,--you are incapable of it;--you would have trampled upon
the offer;--you would have thrown the temptation at the tempter's head with

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.--But, indeed, to speak of
my father as he was;--he was certainly irresistible;--both in his orations
and disputations;--he was born an orator;--(Greek).--Persuasion hung upon
his lips, and the elements of Logick and Rhetorick were so blended up in
him,--and, withal, he had so shrewd a guess at the weaknesses and passions
of his respondent,--that Nature might have stood up and said,--'This man is
eloquent.'--In short, whether he was on the weak or the strong side of the
question, 'twas hazardous in either case to attack him.--And yet, 'tis
strange, he had never read Cicero, nor Quintilian de Oratore, nor
Isocrates, nor Aristotle, nor Longinus, amongst the antients;--nor Vossius,
nor Skioppius, nor Ramus, nor Farnaby, amongst the moderns;--and what is
more astonishing, he had never in his whole life the least light or spark
of subtilty struck into his mind, by one single lecture upon Crackenthorp
or Burgersdicius or any Dutch logician or commentator;--he knew not so much
as in what the difference of an argument ad ignorantiam, and an argument ad
hominem consisted; so that I well remember, when he went up along with me
to enter my name at Jesus College in. . .,--it was a matter of just wonder
with my worthy tutor, and two or three fellows of that learned society,--
that a man who knew not so much as the names of his tools, should be able
to work after that fashion with them.

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.

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 it:--He 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.--William stood pretty high:--Numps
again was low with him:--and Nick, he said, was the Devil.

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?--No,--he would say,--
Tristram!--The thing is impossible.

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 vent:--It was
the identical thing which my father did:--for 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?--to see an orderly and well-disposed
gentleman, who tho' singular,--yet inoffensive in his notions,--so played
upon in them by cross purposes;--to look down upon the stage, and see him
baffled and overthrown in all his little systems and wishes; to behold a
train of events perpetually falling out against him, and in so critical and
cruel a way, as if they had purposedly been plann'd and pointed against
him, merely to insult his speculations.--In a word, to behold such a one,
in his old age, ill-fitted for troubles, ten times in a day suffering
sorrow;--ten times in a day calling the child of his prayers Tristram!--
Melancholy dissyllable of sound! which, to his ears, was unison to
Nincompoop, and every name vituperative under heaven.--By his ashes! 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.

Chapter 1.XX.

--How could you, Madam, be so inattentive in reading the last chapter? I
told you in it, That my mother was not a papist.--Papist! You told me no
such thing, Sir.--Madam, I beg leave to repeat it over again, that I told
you as plain, at least, as words, by direct inference, could tell you such
a thing.--Then, Sir, I must have miss'd a page.--No, Madam, you have not
miss'd a word.--Then I was asleep, Sir.--My pride, Madam, cannot allow you
that refuge.--Then, I declare, I know nothing at all about the matter.--
That, Madam, is the very fault I lay to your charge; and as a punishment
for it, I do insist upon it, that you immediately turn back, that is as
soon as you get to the next full stop, and read the whole chapter over
again. 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.' The stories of Greece and Rome, run over
without this turn and application,--do less service, I affirm it, than the
history of Parismus and Parismenus, or of the Seven Champions of England,
read with it.

--But here comes my fair lady. Have you read over again the chapter,
Madam, as I desired you?--You have: And did you not observe the passage,
upon the second reading, which admits the inference?--Not a word like it!
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.' Had my mother, Madam, been a Papist, that
consequence did not follow. (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 baptizer:--But
the Doctors of the Sorbonne, by a deliberation held amongst them, April 10,
1733,--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.--'Tis very strange that St. 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. Thomas!) baptizari possunt nullo
modo.'--O Thomas! Thomas! 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 down:--The 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.

Memoire presente a Messieurs les Docteurs de Sorbonne
Vide Deventer. Paris Edit. 4to, 1734, p. 366.

Un Chirurgien Accoucheur, represente a Messieurs les Docteurs de Sorbonne,
qu'il y a des cas, quoique tres rares, ou une mere ne scauroit accoucher, &
meme ou l'enfant est tellement renferme dans le sein de sa mere, qu'il ne
fait paroitre aucune partie de son corps, ce qui seroit un cas, suivant les
Rituels, de lui conferer, du moins sous condition, le bapteme. 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.--
Il demand si ce moyen, qu'il vient de proposer, est permis & legitime, &
s'il peut s'en servir dans les cas qu'il vient d'exposer.


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. S.
Thomas, 3 part. quaest. 88 artic. II. suit cette doctrine comme une verite
constante; l'on ne peut, dit ce S. Docteur, baptiser les enfans qui sont
renfermes dans le sein de leurs meres, & S. Thomas est fonde sur ce, que
les enfans ne sont point nes, & ne peuvent etre comptes parmi les autres
hommes; d'ou il conclud, qu'ils ne peuvent etre l'objet d'une action
exterieure, pour recevoir par leur ministere, les sacremens necessaires au
salut: Pueri in maternis uteris existentes nondum prodierunt in lucem ut
cum aliis hominibus vitam ducant; unde non possunt subjici actioni humanae,
ut per eorum ministerium sacramenta recipiant ad salutem. Les rituels
ordonnent dans la pratique ce que les theologiens ont etabli sur les memes
matieres, & ils deffendent tous d'une maniere uniforme, de baptiser les
enfans qui sont renfermes dans le sein de leurs meres, s'ils ne sont
paroitre quelque partie de leurs corps. Le concours des theologiens, & des
rituels, qui sont les regles des dioceses, paroit former une autorite qui
termine la question presente; cependant le conseil de conscience
considerant d'un cote, que le raisonnement des theologiens est uniquement
fonde sur une raison de convenance, & que la deffense des rituels suppose
que l'on ne peut baptiser immediatement les enfans ainsi renfermes dans le
sein de leurs meres, ce qui est contre la supposition presente; & d'un
autre cote, considerant que les memes theologiens enseignent, que l'on peut
risquer les sacremens que Jesus Christ a etablis comme des moyens faciles,
mais necessaires pour sanctifier les hommes; & d'ailleurs estimant, que les
enfans renfermes dans le sein de leurs meres, pourroient etre capables de
salut, parcequ'ils sont capables de damnation;--pour ces considerations, &
en egard a l'expose, suivant lequel on assure avoir trouve un moyen certain
de baptiser ces enfans ainsi renfermes, sans faire aucun tort a la mere, le
Conseil estime que l'on pourroit se servir du moyen propose, dans la
confiance qu'il a, que Dieu n'a point laisse ces sortes d'enfans sans
aucuns secours, & supposant, comme il est expose, que le moyen dont il
s'agit est propre a leur procurer le bapteme; cependant comme il s'agiroit,
en autorisant la pratique proposee, de changer une regle universellement
etablie, le Conseil croit que celui qui consulte doit s'addresser a son
eveque, & a qui il appartient de juger de l'utilite, & du danger du moyen
propose, & comme, sous le bon plaisir de l'eveque, le Conseil estime qu'il
faudroit recourir au Pape, qui a le droit d'expliquer les regles de
l'eglise, & d'y deroger dans le cas, ou la loi ne scauroit obliger, quelque
sage & quelque utile que paroisse la maniere de baptiser dont il s'agit, le
Conseil ne pourroit l'approver sans le concours de ces deux autorites. On
conseile au moins a celui qui consulte, de s'addresser a son eveque, & de
lui faire part de la presente decision, afin que, si le prelat entre dans
les raisons sur lesquelles les docteurs soussignes s'appuyent, il puisse
etre autorise dans le cas de necessite, ou il risqueroit trop d'attendre
que la permission fut demandee & accordee d'employer le moyen qu'il propose
si avantageux au salut de l'enfant. Au reste, le Conseil, en estimant que
l'on pourroit s'en servir, croit cependant, que si les enfans dont il
s'agit, venoient au monde, contre l'esperance de ceux qui se seroient
servis du meme moyen, il seroit necessaire de les baptiser sous condition;
& en cela le Conseil se conforme a tous les rituels, qui en autorisant le
bapteme d'un enfant qui fait paroitre quelque partie de son corps,
enjoignent neantmoins, & ordonnent de le baptiser sous condition, s'il
vient heureusement au monde.

Delibere en Sorbonne, le 10 Avril, 1733.
A. Le Moyne.
L. De Romigny.
De Marcilly.

Mr. 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.--He begs to know, whether after the ceremony of marriage, and
before that of consummation, the baptizing all the Homunculi at once,
slapdash, by injection, would not be a shorter and safer cut still; on
condition, as above, That if the Homunculi do well, and come safe into the
world after this, that each and every of them shall be baptized again (sous
condition)--And provided, in the second place, That the thing can be done,
which Mr. Shandy apprehends it may, par le moyen d'une petite canulle, and
sans faire aucune tort au pere.

Chapter 1.XXI.

--I wonder what's all that noise, and running backwards and forwards for,
above stairs, quoth my father, addressing himself, after an hour and a
half's silence, to my uncle Toby,--who, you must know, was sitting on the
opposite side of the fire, smoaking his social pipe all the time, in mute
contemplation of a new pair of black plush-breeches which he had got on:--
What can they be doing, brother?--quoth my father,--we can scarce hear
ourselves talk.

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 he:--But 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?' Whoever he was, 'twas a
just and good observation in him.--But the corollary drawn from it, namely,
'That it is this which has furnished us with such a variety of odd and
whimsical characters;'--that was not his;--it was found out by another man,
at least a century and a half after him: Then again,--that this copious
store-house of original materials, is the true and natural cause that our
Comedies are so much better than those of France, or any others that either
have, or can be wrote upon the Continent:--that discovery was not fully
made till about the middle of King William's reign,--when the great Dryden,
in writing one of his long prefaces, (if I mistake not) most fortunately
hit upon it. 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.--Then,
fourthly and lastly, that this strange irregularity in our climate,
producing so strange an irregularity in our characters,--doth thereby, in
some sort, make us amends, by giving us somewhat to make us merry with when
the weather will not suffer us to go out of doors,--that observation is my
own;--and was struck out by me this very rainy day, March 26, 1759, and
betwixt the hours of nine and ten in the morning.

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

--Happy! 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.

His humour was of that particular species, which does honour to our
atmosphere; and I should have made no scruple of ranking him amongst one of
the first-rate productions of it, had not there appeared too many strong
lines in it of a family-likeness, which shewed that he derived the
singularity of his temper more from blood, than either wind or water, or
any modifications or combinations of them whatever: And I have, therefore,
oft-times wondered, that my father, tho' I believe he had his reasons for
it, upon his observing some tokens of eccentricity, in my course, when I
was a boy,--should never once endeavour to account for them in this way:
for all the Shandy Family were of an original character throughout:--I mean
the males,--the females had no character at all,--except, indeed, my great
aunt Dinah, who, about sixty years ago, was married and got with child by
the coachman, for which my father, according to his hypothesis of christian
names, would often say, She might thank her godfathers and godmothers.

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.--But nothing ever wrought with our family after the
ordinary way. 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.--Observe, I determine nothing upon
this.--My way is ever to point out to the curious, different tracts of
investigation, to come at the first springs of the events I tell;--not with
a pedantic Fescue,--or in the decisive manner or Tacitus, who outwits
himself and his reader;--but with the officious humility of a heart devoted
to the assistance merely of the inquisitive;--to them I write,--and by them
I shall be read,--if any such reading as this could be supposed to hold out
so long,--to the very end of the world.

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.--Whichever way my uncle Toby
came by it, 'twas nevertheless modesty in the truest sense of it; and that
is, Madam, not in regard to words, for he was so unhappy as to have very
little choice in them,--but to things;--and this kind of modesty so
possessed him, and it arose to such a height in him, as almost to equal, if
such a thing could be, even the modesty of a woman: That female nicety,
Madam, and inward cleanliness of mind and fancy, in your sex, which makes
you so much the awe of ours.

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.--A blow!--
Yes, Madam, it was owing to a blow from a stone, broke off by a ball from
the parapet of a horn-work at the siege of Namur, which struck full upon my
uncle Toby's groin.--Which way could that effect it? The story of that,
Madam, is long and interesting;--but it would be running my history all
upon heaps to give it you here.--'Tis for an episode hereafter; and every
circumstance relating to it, in its proper place, shall be faithfully laid
before you:--'Till then, it is not in my power to give farther light into
this matter, or say more than what I have said already,--That my uncle Toby
was a gentleman of unparallel'd modesty, which happening to be somewhat
subtilized and rarified by the constant heat of a little family pride,--
they both so wrought together within him, that he could never bear to hear
the affair of my aunt Dinah touch'd upon, but with the greatest emotion.--
The least hint of it was enough to make the blood fly into his face;--but
when my father enlarged upon the story in mixed companies, which the
illustration of his hypothesis frequently obliged him to do,--the
unfortunate blight of one of the fairest branches of the family, would set
my uncle Toby's honour and modesty o'bleeding; and he would often take my
father aside, in the greatest concern imaginable, to expostulate and tell
him, he would give him any thing in the world, only to let the story rest.

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.

--My father, as I told you was a philosopher in grain,--speculative,--
systematical;--and my aunt Dinah's affair was a matter of as much
consequence to him, as the retrogradation of the planets to Copernicus:--
The backslidings of Venus in her orbit fortified the Copernican system,
called so after his name; and the backslidings of my aunt Dinah in her
orbit, did the same service in establishing my father's system, which, I
trust, will for ever hereafter be called the Shandean System, after his.

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.--Amicus Plato, my father would say, construing the words
to my uncle Toby, as he went along, Amicus Plato; that is, Dinah was my
aunt;--sed magis amica veritas--but Truth is my sister.

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?--What is the character of a
family to an hypothesis? my father would reply.--Nay, if you come to that--
what is the life of a family?--The life of a family!--my uncle Toby would
say, throwing himself back in his arm chair, and lifting up his hands, his
eyes, and one leg--Yes, the life,--my father would say, maintaining his
point. 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.--There lies your mistake, my father would reply;--for, in
Foro Scientiae there is no such thing as Murder,--'tis only Death, brother.

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.--You
must know it was the usual channel thro' which his passions got vent, when
any thing shocked or surprized him:--but especially when any thing, which
he deem'd very absurd, was offered.

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.--I here take the liberty to do it myself, for two
reasons. 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 whatsoever:--And, 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.

Chapter 1.XXII.

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
1610, 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

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.

This is precisely my situation.

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!--take them out of this book, for instance,--you might as well
take the book along with them;--one cold eternal winter would reign in
every page of it; restore them to the writer;--he steps forth like a
bridegroom,--bids All-hail; brings in variety, and forbids the appetite to

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