Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 1.XXXIX.

Full Text Chapter 1.XXXIX.

Chapter 1.XXXIX.

At the end of the last chapter, my father and my uncle Toby were left both standing, like Brutus and Cassius, at the close of the scene, making up their accounts.

As my father spoke the three last words,—he sat down;—my uncle Toby exactly followed his example, only, that before he took his chair, he rung the bell, to order Corporal Trim, who was in waiting, to step home for Stevinus:—my uncle Toby's house being no farther off than the opposite side of the way.

Some men would have dropped the subject of Stevinus;—but my uncle Toby had no resentment in his heart, and he went on with the subject, to shew my father that he had none.

Your sudden appearance, Dr. Slop, quoth my uncle, resuming the discourse, instantly brought Stevinus into my head. (My father, you may be sure, did not offer to lay any more wagers upon Stevinus's head.)—Because, continued my uncle Toby, the celebrated sailing chariot, which belonged to Prince Maurice, and was of such wonderful contrivance and velocity, as to carry half a dozen people thirty German miles, in I don't know how few minutes,—was invented by Stevinus, that great mathematician and engineer.

You might have spared your servant the trouble, quoth Dr. Slop (as the fellow is lame) of going for Stevinus's account of it, because in my return from Leyden thro' the Hague, I walked as far as Schevling, which is two long miles, on purpose to take a view of it.

That's nothing, replied my uncle Toby, to what the learned Peireskius did, who walked a matter of five hundred miles, reckoning from Paris to Schevling, and from Schevling to Paris back again, in order to see it, and nothing else.

Some men cannot bear to be out-gone.

The more fool Peireskius, replied Dr. Slop. But mark, 'twas out of no contempt of Peireskius at all;—but that Peireskius's indefatigable labour in trudging so far on foot, out of love for the sciences, reduced the exploit of Dr. Slop, in that affair, to nothing:—the more fool Peireskius, said he again.—Why so?—replied my father, taking his brother's part, not only to make reparation as fast as he could for the insult he had given him, which sat still upon my father's mind;—but partly, that my father began really to interest himself in the discourse.—Why so?—said he. Why is Peireskius, or any man else, to be abused for an appetite for that, or any other morsel of sound knowledge: For notwithstanding I know nothing of the chariot in question, continued he, the inventor of it must have had a very mechanical head; and tho' I cannot guess upon what principles of philosophy he has atchieved it;—yet certainly his machine has been constructed upon solid ones, be they what they will, or it could not have answered at the rate my brother mentions.

It answered, replied my uncle Toby, as well, if not better; for, as Peireskius elegantly expresses it, speaking of the velocity of its motion, Tam citus erat, quam erat ventus; which, unless I have forgot my Latin, is, that it was as swift as the wind itself.

But pray, Dr. Slop, quoth my father, interrupting my uncle (tho' not without begging pardon for it at the same time) upon what principles was this self-same chariot set a-going?—Upon very pretty principles to be sure, replied Dr. Slop:—And I have often wondered, continued he, evading the question, why none of our gentry, who live upon large plains like this of ours,—(especially they whose wives are not past child-bearing) attempt nothing of this kind; for it would not only be infinitely expeditious upon sudden calls, to which the sex is subject,—if the wind only served,—but would be excellent good husbandry to make use of the winds, which cost nothing, and which eat nothing, rather than horses, which (the devil take 'em) both cost and eat a great deal.

For that very reason, replied my father, 'Because they cost nothing, and because they eat nothing,'—the scheme is bad;—it is the consumption of our products, as well as the manufactures of them, which gives bread to the hungry, circulates trade,—brings in money, and supports the value of our lands;—and tho', I own, if I was a Prince, I would generously recompense the scientifick head which brought forth such contrivances;—yet I would as peremptorily suppress the use of them.

My father here had got into his element,—and was going on as prosperously with his dissertation upon trade, as my uncle Toby had before, upon his of fortification;—but to the loss of much sound knowledge, the destinies in the morning had decreed that no dissertation of any kind should be spun by my father that day,—for as he opened his mouth to begin the next sentence,