Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 2.II.

Full Text Chapter 2.II.

Chapter 2.II.

In the case of knots,—by which, in the first place, I would not be understood to mean slip-knots—because in the course of my life and opinions—my opinions concerning them will come in more properly when I mention the catastrophe of my great uncle Mr. Hammond Shandy,—a little man,—but of high fancy:—he rushed into the duke of Monmouth's affair:—nor, secondly, in this place, do I mean that particular species of knots called bow-knots;—there is so little address, or skill, or patience required in the unloosing them, that they are below my giving any opinion at all about them.—But by the knots I am speaking of, may it please your reverences to believe, that I mean good, honest, devilish tight, hard knots, made bona fide, as Obadiah made his;—in which there is no quibbling provision made by the duplication and return of the two ends of the strings thro' the annulus or noose made by the second implication of them—to get them slipp'd and undone by.—I hope you apprehend me.

In the case of these knots then, and of the several obstructions, which, may it please your reverences, such knots cast in our way in getting through life—every hasty man can whip out his pen-knife and cut through them.—'Tis wrong. Believe me, Sirs, the most virtuous way, and which both reason and conscience dictate—is to take our teeth or our fingers to them.—Dr. Slop had lost his teeth—his favourite instrument, by extracting in a wrong direction, or by some misapplication of it, unfortunately slipping, he had formerly, in a hard labour, knock'd out three of the best of them with the handle of it:—he tried his fingers—alas; the nails of his fingers and thumbs were cut close.—The duce take it! I can make nothing of it either way, cried Dr. Slop.—The trampling over head near my mother's bed-side increased.—Pox take the fellow! I shall never get the knots untied as long as I live.—My mother gave a groan.—Lend me your penknife—I must e'en cut the knots at last—pugh!—psha!—Lord! I have cut my thumb quite across to the very bone—curse the fellow—if there was not another man-midwife within fifty miles—I am undone for this bout—I wish the scoundrel hang'd—I wish he was shot—I wish all the devils in hell had him for a blockhead—!

My father had a great respect for Obadiah, and could not bear to hear him disposed of in such a manner—he had moreover some little respect for himself—and could as ill bear with the indignity offered to himself in it.

Had Dr. Slop cut any part about him, but his thumb—my father had pass'd it by—his prudence had triumphed: as it was, he was determined to have his revenge.

Small curses, Dr. Slop, upon great occasions, quoth my father (condoling with him first upon the accident) are but so much waste of our strength and soul's health to no manner of purpose.—I own it, replied Dr. Slop.—They are like sparrow-shot, quoth my uncle Toby (suspending his whistling) fired against a bastion.—They serve, continued my father, to stir the humours—but carry off none of their acrimony:—for my own part, I seldom swear or curse at all—I hold it bad—but if I fall into it by surprize, I generally retain so much presence of mind (right, quoth my uncle Toby) as to make it answer my purpose—that is, I swear on till I find myself easy. A wife and a just man however would always endeavour to proportion the vent given to these humours, not only to the degree of them stirring within himself—but to the size and ill intent of the offence upon which they are to fall.—'Injuries come only from the heart,'—quoth my uncle Toby. For this reason, continued my father, with the most Cervantick gravity, I have the greatest veneration in the world for that gentleman, who, in distrust of his own discretion in this point, sat down and composed (that is at his leisure) fit forms of swearing suitable to all cases, from the lowest to the highest provocation which could possibly happen to him—which forms being well considered by him, and such moreover as he could stand to, he kept them ever by him on the chimney-piece, within his reach, ready for use.—I never apprehended, replied Dr. Slop, that such a thing was ever thought of—much less executed. I beg your pardon, answered my father; I was reading, though not using, one of them to my brother Toby this morning, whilst he pour'd out the tea—'tis here upon the shelf over my head;—but if I remember right, 'tis too violent for a cut of the thumb.—Not at all, quoth Dr. Slop—the devil take the fellow.—Then, answered my father, 'Tis much at your service, Dr. Slop—on condition you will read it aloud;—so rising up and reaching down a form of excommunication of the church of Rome, a copy of which, my father (who was curious in his collections) had procured out of the leger-book of the church of Rochester, writ by Ernulphus the bishop—with a most affected seriousness of look and voice, which might have cajoled Ernulphus himself—he put it into Dr. Slop's hands.—Dr. Slop wrapt his thumb up in the corner of his handkerchief, and with a wry face, though without any suspicion, read aloud, as follows—my uncle Toby whistling Lillabullero as loud as he could all the time.

(As the geniuneness of the consultation of the Sorbonne upon the question of baptism, was doubted by some, and denied by others—'twas thought proper to print the original of this excommunication; for the copy of which Mr. Shandy returns thanks to the chapter clerk of the dean and chapter of Rochester.)