Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 2.LIV.

Full Text Chapter 2.LIV.

Chapter 2.LIV.

My father was returned from his walk to the fish-pond—and opened the parlour-door in the very height of the attack, just as my uncle Toby was marching up the glacis—Trim recovered his arms—never was my uncle Toby caught in riding at such a desperate rate in his life! Alas! my uncle Toby! had not a weightier matter called forth all the ready eloquence of my father—how hadst thou then and thy poor Hobby-Horse too been insulted!

My father hung up his hat with the same air he took it down; and after giving a slight look at the disorder of the room, he took hold of one of the chairs which had formed the corporal's breach, and placing it over-against my uncle Toby, he sat down in it, and as soon as the tea-things were taken away, and the door shut, he broke out in a lamentation as follows:

My Father's Lamentation.

It is in vain longer, said my father, addressing himself as much to Ernulphus's curse, which was laid upon the corner of the chimney-piece—as to my uncle Toby who sat under it—it is in vain longer, said my father, in the most querulous monotony imaginable, to struggle as I have done against this most uncomfortable of human persuasions—I see it plainly, that either for my own sins, brother Toby, or the sins and follies of the Shandy family, Heaven has thought fit to draw forth the heaviest of its artillery against me; and that the prosperity of my child is the point upon which the whole force of it is directed to play.—Such a thing would batter the whole universe about our ears, brother Shandy, said my uncle Toby—if it was so-Unhappy Tristram! child of wrath! child of decrepitude! interruption! mistake! and discontent! What one misfortune or disaster in the book of embryotic evils, that could unmechanize thy frame, or entangle thy filaments! which has not fallen upon thy head, or ever thou camest into the world—what evils in thy passage into it!—what evils since!—produced into being, in the decline of thy father's days—when the powers of his imagination and of his body were waxing feeble—when radical heat and radical moisture, the elements which should have temper'd thine, were drying up; and nothing left to found thy stamina in, but negations—'tis pitiful—brother Toby, at the best, and called out for all the little helps that care and attention on both sides could give it. But how were we defeated! You know the event, brother Toby—'tis too melancholy a one to be repeated now—when the few animal spirits I was worth in the world, and with which memory, fancy, and quick parts should have been convey'd—were all dispersed, confused, confounded, scattered, and sent to the devil.—

Here then was the time to have put a stop to this persecution against him;—and tried an experiment at least—whether calmness and serenity of mind in your sister, with a due attention, brother Toby, to her evacuations and repletions—and the rest of her non-naturals, might not, in a course of nine months gestation, have set all things to rights.—My child was bereft of these!—What a teazing life did she lead herself, and consequently her foetus too, with that nonsensical anxiety of hers about lying-in in town? I thought my sister submitted with the greatest patience, replied my uncle Toby—I never heard her utter one fretful word about it.—She fumed inwardly, cried my father; and that, let me tell you, brother, was ten times worse for the child—and then! what battles did she fight with me, and what perpetual storms about the midwife.—There she gave vent, said my uncle Toby.—Vent! cried my father, looking up.

But what was all this, my dear Toby, to the injuries done us by my child's coming head foremost into the world, when all I wished, in this general wreck of his frame, was to have saved this little casket unbroke, unrifled.—

With all my precautions, how was my system turned topside-turvy in the womb with my child! his head exposed to the hand of violence, and a pressure of 470 pounds avoirdupois weight acting so perpendicularly upon its apex—that at this hour 'tis ninety per Cent. insurance, that the fine net-work of the intellectual web be not rent and torn to a thousand tatters.

—Still we could have done.—Fool, coxcomb, puppy—give him but a Nose—Cripple, Dwarf, Driveller, Goosecap—(shape him as you will) the door of fortune stands open—O Licetus! Licetus! had I been blest with a foetus five inches long and a half, like thee—Fate might have done her worst.

Still, brother Toby, there was one cast of the dye left for our child after all—O Tristram! Tristram! Tristram!

We will send for Mr. Yorick, said my uncle Toby.

—You may send for whom you will, replied my father.