Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 1.XXX.

Full Text Chapter 1.XXX.

Chapter 1.XXX.

When a man gives himself up to the government of a ruling passion,—or, in other words, when his Hobby-Horse grows headstrong,—farewell cool reason and fair discretion!

My uncle Toby's wound was near well, and as soon as the surgeon recovered his surprize, and could get leave to say as much—he told him, 'twas just beginning to incarnate; and that if no fresh exfoliation happened, which there was no sign of,—it would be dried up in five or six weeks. The sound of as many Olympiads, twelve hours before, would have conveyed an idea of shorter duration to my uncle Toby's mind.—The succession of his ideas was now rapid,—he broiled with impatience to put his design in execution;—and so, without consulting farther with any soul living,—which, by the bye, I think is right, when you are predetermined to take no one soul's advice,—he privately ordered Trim, his man, to pack up a bundle of lint and dressings, and hire a chariot-and-four to be at the door exactly by twelve o'clock that day, when he knew my father would be upon 'Change.—So leaving a bank-note upon the table for the surgeon's care of him, and a letter of tender thanks for his brother's—he packed up his maps, his books of fortification, his instruments, &c. and by the help of a crutch on one side, and Trim on the other,—my uncle Toby embarked for Shandy-Hall.

The reason, or rather the rise of this sudden demigration was as follows:

The table in my uncle Toby's room, and at which, the night before this change happened, he was sitting with his maps, &c. about him—being somewhat of the smallest, for that infinity of great and small instruments of knowledge which usually lay crowded upon it—he had the accident, in reaching over for his tobacco-box, to throw down his compasses, and in stooping to take the compasses up, with his sleeve he threw down his case of instruments and snuffers;—and as the dice took a run against him, in his endeavouring to catch the snuffers in falling,—he thrust Monsieur Blondel off the table, and Count de Pagon o'top of him.

'Twas to no purpose for a man, lame as my uncle Toby was, to think of redressing these evils by himself,—he rung his bell for his man Trim;—Trim, quoth my uncle Toby, prithee see what confusion I have here been making—I must have some better contrivance, Trim.—Can'st not thou take my rule, and measure the length and breadth of this table, and then go and bespeak me one as big again?—Yes, an' please your Honour, replied Trim, making a bow; but I hope your Honour will be soon well enough to get down to your country-seat, where,—as your Honour takes so much pleasure in fortification, we could manage this matter to a T.

I must here inform you, that this servant of my uncle Toby's, who went by the name of Trim, had been a corporal in my uncle's own company,—his real name was James Butler,—but having got the nick-name of Trim, in the regiment, my uncle Toby, unless when he happened to be very angry with him, would never call him by any other name.

The poor fellow had been disabled for the service, by a wound on his left knee by a musket-bullet, at the battle of Landen, which was two years before the affair of Namur;—and as the fellow was well-beloved in the regiment, and a handy fellow into the bargain, my uncle Toby took him for his servant; and of an excellent use was he, attending my uncle Toby in the camp and in his quarters as a valet, groom, barber, cook, sempster, and nurse; and indeed, from first to last, waited upon him and served him with great fidelity and affection.

My uncle Toby loved the man in return, and what attached him more to him still, was the similitude of their knowledge.—For Corporal Trim, (for so, for the future, I shall call him) by four years occasional attention to his Master's discourse upon fortified towns, and the advantage of prying and peeping continually into his Master's plans, &c. exclusive and besides what he gained Hobby-Horsically, as a body-servant, Non Hobby Horsical per se;—had become no mean proficient in the science; and was thought, by the cook and chamber-maid, to know as much of the nature of strong-holds as my uncle Toby himself.

I have but one more stroke to give to finish Corporal Trim's character,—and it is the only dark line in it.—The fellow loved to advise,—or rather to hear himself talk; his carriage, however, was so perfectly respectful, 'twas easy to keep him silent when you had him so; but set his tongue a-going,—you had no hold of him—he was voluble;—the eternal interlardings of your Honour, with the respectfulness of Corporal Trim's manner, interceding so strong in behalf of his elocution,—that though you might have been incommoded,—you could not well be angry. My uncle Toby was seldom either the one or the other with him,—or, at least, this fault, in Trim, broke no squares with them. My uncle Toby, as I said, loved the man;—and besides, as he ever looked upon a faithful servant,—but as an humble friend,—he could not bear to stop his mouth.—Such was Corporal Trim.

If I durst presume, continued Trim, to give your Honour my advice, and speak my opinion in this matter.—Thou art welcome, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby—speak,—speak what thou thinkest upon the subject, man, without fear.—Why then, replied Trim, (not hanging his ears and scratching his head like a country-lout, but) stroking his hair back from his forehead, and standing erect as before his division,—I think, quoth Trim, advancing his left, which was his lame leg, a little forwards,—and pointing with his right hand open towards a map of Dunkirk, which was pinned against the hangings,—I think, quoth Corporal Trim, with humble submission to your Honour's better judgment,—that these ravelins, bastions, curtins, and hornworks, make but a poor, contemptible, fiddle-faddle piece of work of it here upon paper, compared to what your Honour and I could make of it were we in the country by ourselves, and had but a rood, or a rood and a half of ground to do what we pleased with: As summer is coming on, continued Trim, your Honour might sit out of doors, and give me the nography—(Call it ichnography, quoth my uncle,)—of the town or citadel, your Honour was pleased to sit down before,—and I will be shot by your Honour upon the glacis of it, if I did not fortify it to your Honour's mind.—I dare say thou would'st, Trim, quoth my uncle.—For if your Honour, continued the Corporal, could but mark me the polygon, with its exact lines and angles—That I could do very well, quoth my uncle.—I would begin with the fosse, and if your Honour could tell me the proper depth and breadth—I can to a hair's breadth, Trim, replied my uncle.—I would throw out the earth upon this hand towards the town for the scarp,—and on that hand towards the campaign for the counterscarp.—Very right, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby:—And when I had sloped them to your mind,—an' please your Honour, I would face the glacis, as the finest fortifications are done in Flanders, with sods,—and as your Honour knows they should be,—and I would make the walls and parapets with sods too.—The best engineers call them gazons, Trim, said my uncle Toby.—Whether they are gazons or sods, is not much matter, replied Trim; your Honour knows they are ten times beyond a facing either of brick or stone.—I know they are, Trim in some respects,—quoth my uncle Toby, nodding his head;—for a cannon-ball enters into the gazon right onwards, without bringing any rubbish down with it, which might fill the fosse, (as was the case at St. Nicolas's gate) and facilitate the passage over it.

Your Honour understands these matters, replied Corporal Trim, better than any officer in his Majesty's service;—but would your Honour please to let the bespeaking of the table alone, and let us but go into the country, I would work under your Honour's directions like a horse, and make fortifications for you something like a tansy, with all their batteries, saps, ditches, and palisadoes, that it should be worth all the world's riding twenty miles to go and see it.

My uncle Toby blushed as red as scarlet as Trim went on;—but it was not a blush of guilt,—of modesty,—or of anger,—it was a blush of joy;—he was fired with Corporal Trim's project and description.—Trim! said my uncle Toby, thou hast said enough.—We might begin the campaign, continued Trim, on the very day that his Majesty and the Allies take the field, and demolish them town by town as fast as—Trim, quoth my uncle Toby, say no more. Your Honour, continued Trim, might sit in your arm-chair (pointing to it) this fine weather, giving me your orders, and I would—Say no more, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby—Besides, your Honour would get not only pleasure and good pastime—but good air, and good exercise, and good health,—and your Honour's wound would be well in a month. Thou hast said enough, Trim,—quoth my uncle Toby (putting his hand into his breeches-pocket)—I like thy project mightily.—And if your Honour pleases, I'll this moment go and buy a pioneer's spade to take down with us, and I'll bespeak a shovel and a pick-axe, and a couple of—Say no more, Trim, quoth my uncle Toby, leaping up upon one leg, quite overcome with rapture,—and thrusting a guinea into Trim's hand,—Trim, said my uncle Toby, say no more;—but go down, Trim, this moment, my lad, and bring up my supper this instant.

Trim ran down and brought up his master's supper,—to no purpose:—Trim's plan of operation ran so in my uncle Toby's head, he could not taste it.—Trim, quoth my uncle Toby, get me to bed.—'Twas all one.—Corporal Trim's description had fired his imagination,—my uncle Toby could not shut his eyes.—The more he considered it, the more bewitching the scene appeared to him;—so that, two full hours before day-light, he had come to a final determination and had concerted the whole plan of his and Corporal Trim's decampment.

My uncle Toby had a little neat country-house of his own, in the village where my father's estate lay at Shandy, which had been left him by an old uncle, with a small estate of about one hundred pounds a-year. Behind this house, and contiguous to it, was a kitchen-garden of about half an acre, and at the bottom of the garden, and cut off from it by a tall yew hedge, was a bowling-green, containing just about as much ground as Corporal Trim wished for;—so that as Trim uttered the words, 'A rood and a half of ground to do what they would with,'—this identical bowling-green instantly presented itself, and became curiously painted all at once, upon the retina of my uncle Toby's fancy;—which was the physical cause of making him change colour, or at least of heightening his blush, to that immoderate degree I spoke of.

Never did lover post down to a beloved mistress with more heat and expectation, than my uncle Toby did, to enjoy this self-same thing in private;—I say in private;—for it was sheltered from the house, as I told you, by a tall yew hedge, and was covered on the other three sides, from mortal sight, by rough holly and thick-set flowering shrubs:—so that the idea of not being seen, did not a little contribute to the idea of pleasure pre-conceived in my uncle Toby's mind.—Vain thought! however thick it was planted about,—or private soever it might seem,—to think, dear uncle Toby, of enjoying a thing which took up a whole rood and a half of ground,—and not have it known!

How my uncle Toby and Corporal Trim managed this matter,—with the history of their campaigns, which were no way barren of events,—may make no uninteresting under-plot in the epitasis and working-up of this drama.—At present the scene must drop,—and change for the parlour fire-side.