Category Archives: Sterne

Nature’s Blunder

From Tristram Shandy, IX, xxii.

We live in a world beset on all sides with mysteries and riddles — and so ’tis no matter—else it seems strange, that Nature, who makes every thing so well to answer its destination, and seldom or never errs, unless for pastime, in giving such forms and aptitudes to whatever passes through her hands, that whether she designs for the plough, the caravan, the cart—or whatever other creature she models, be it but an ass’s foal, you are sure to have the thing you wanted; and yet at the same time should so eternally bungle it as she does, in making so simple a thing as a married man.

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Shandean Method

From Tristram Shandy, VI.xvii.

In all nice and ticklish discussions — (of which, heaven knows, there are but too many in my book) — where I find I cannot take a step without the danger of having either their worships or their reverences upon my back — I write one half full, — and t’other fasting; — or write it all full, — and correct it fasting; — or write it fasting, — and correct it full, for they all come to the same thing: — So that with a less variation from my father’s plan, than my father’s from the Gothick— I feel myself upon a par with him in his first bed of justice, — and no way inferior to him in his second. —These different and almost irreconcileable effects, flow uniformly from the wise and wonderful mechanism of nature, — of which, — be her’s the honor. —All that we can do, is to turn and work the machine to the improvement and better manufactury of the arts and sciences. —

Now, when I write full, — I write as if I was never to write fasting again as long as I live; —that is, I write free from the cares, as well as the terrors of the world. —I count not the number of my scars, — nor does my fancy go forth into dark entries and bye corners to ante-date my stabs. — In a word, my pen takes its course; and I write on as much from the fullness of my heart, as my stomach. —

But when, an’ please your honours, I indite fasting, ’tis a different history. —I pay the world all possible attention and respect, —and have as great a share (whilst it lasts) of that understrapping virtue of discretion, as the best of you. —So that betixt both, I write a careless kind of a civil, nonsensical, good humoured Shandean book, which will do all your hears good— And all your heads too, —provided you understand it.

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Laurence Sterne Comments, in 1760, on Political Discussion in the 21st Century

From Tristram Shandy, Vol 4:

Heat is in proportion to the want of true knowledge.

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