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Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 2.LXIV.

Full Text Chapter 2.LXIV.

Chapter 2.LXIV.

—Now, quoth Didius, rising up, and laying his right hand with his fingers spread upon his breast—had such a blunder about a christian-name happened before the Reformation—(It happened the day before yesterday, quoth my uncle Toby to himself)—and when baptism was administer'd in Latin—('Twas all in English, said my uncle)—many things might have coincided with it, and upon the authority of sundry decreed cases, to have pronounced the baptism null, with a power of giving the child a new name—Had a priest, for instance, which was no uncommon thing, through ignorance of the Latin tongue, baptized a child of Tom-o'Stiles, in nomine patriae & filia & spiritum sanctos—the baptism was held null.—I beg your pardon, replied Kysarcius—in that case, as the mistake was only the terminations, the baptism was valid—and to have rendered it null, the blunder of the priest should have fallen upon the first syllable of each noun—and not, as in your case, upon the last.

My father delighted in subtleties of this kind, and listen'd with infinite attention.

Gastripheres, for example, continued Kysarcius, baptizes a child of John Stradling's in Gomine gatris, &c. &c. instead of in Nomine patris, &c.—Is this a baptism? No—say the ablest canonists; in as much as the radix of each word is hereby torn up, and the sense and meaning of them removed and changed quite to another object; for Gomine does not signify a name, nor gatris a father.—What do they signify? said my uncle Toby.—Nothing at all—quoth Yorick.—Ergo, such a baptism is null, said Kysarcius.—

In course, answered Yorick, in a tone two parts jest and one part earnest.—But in the case cited, continued Kysarcius, where patriae is put for patris, filia for filii, and so on—as it is a fault only in the declension, and the roots of the words continue untouch'd, the inflections of their branches either this way or that, does not in any sort hinder the baptism, inasmuch as the same sense continues in the words as before.—But then, said Didius, the intention of the priest's pronouncing them grammatically must have been proved to have gone along with it.—Right, answered Kysarcius; and of this, brother Didius, we have an instance in a decree of the decretals of Pope Leo the IIId.—But my brother's child, cried my uncle Toby, has nothing to do with the Pope—'tis the plain child of a Protestant gentleman, christen'd Tristram against the wills and wishes both of his father and mother, and all who are a-kin to it.—

If the wills and wishes, said Kysarcius, interrupting my uncle Toby, of those only who stand related to Mr. Shandy's child, were to have weight in this matter, Mrs. Shandy, of all people, has the least to do in it.—My uncle Toby lay'd down his pipe, and my father drew his chair still closer to the table, to hear the conclusion of so strange an introduction.

—It has not only been a question, Captain Shandy, amongst the (Vide Swinburn on Testaments, Part 7. para 8.) best lawyers and civilians in this land, continued Kysarcius, 'Whether the mother be of kin to her child,'—but, after much dispassionate enquiry and jactitation of the arguments on all sides—it has been adjudged for the negative—namely, 'That the mother is not of kin to her child.' (Vide Brook Abridg. Tit. Administr. N. 47.) My father instantly clapp'd his hand upon my uncle Toby's mouth, under colour of whispering in his ear;—the truth was, he was alarmed for Lillabullero—and having a great desire to hear more of so curious an argument—he begg'd my uncle Toby, for heaven's sake, not to disappoint him in it.—My uncle Toby gave a nod—resumed his pipe, and contenting himself with whistling Lillabullero inwardly—Kysarcius, Didius, and Triptolemus went on with the discourse as follows:

This determination, continued Kysarcius, how contrary soever it may seem to run to the stream of vulgar ideas, yet had reason strongly on its side; and has been put out of all manner of dispute from the famous case, known commonly by the name of the Duke of Suffolk's case.—It is cited in Brook, said Triptolemus—And taken notice of by Lord Coke, added Didius.—And you may find it in Swinburn on Testaments, said Kysarcius.

The case, Mr. Shandy, was this:

In the reign of Edward the Sixth, Charles duke of Suffolk having issue a son by one venter, and a daughter by another venter, made his last will, wherein he devised goods to his son, and died; after whose death the son died also—but without will, without wife, and without child—his mother and his sister by the father's side (for she was born of the former venter) then living. The mother took the administration of her son's goods, according to the statute of the 21st of Harry the Eighth, whereby it is enacted, That in case any person die intestate the administration of his goods shall be committed to the next of kin.

The administration being thus (surreptitiously) granted to the mother, the sister by the father's side commenced a suit before the Ecclesiastical Judge, alledging, 1st, That she herself was next of kin; and 2dly, That the mother was not of kin at all to the party deceased; and therefore prayed the court, that the administration granted to the mother might be revoked, and be committed unto her, as next of kin to the deceased, by force of the said statute.

Hereupon, as it was a great cause, and much depending upon its issue—and many causes of great property likely to be decided in times to come, by the precedent to be then made—the most learned, as well in the laws of this realm, as in the civil law, were consulted together, whether the mother was of kin to her son, or no.—Whereunto not only the temporal lawyers—but the church lawyers—the juris-consulti—the jurisprudentes—the civilians—the advocates—the commissaries—the judges of the consistory and prerogative courts of Canterbury and York, with the master of the faculties, were all unanimously of opinion, That the mother was not of (Mater non numeratur inter consanguineos, Bald. in ult. C. de Verb. signific.) kin to her child.—

And what said the duchess of Suffolk to it? said my uncle Toby.

The unexpectedness of my uncle Toby's question, confounded Kysarcius more than the ablest advocate—He stopp'd a full minute, looking in my uncle Toby's face without replying—and in that single minute Triptolemus put by him, and took the lead as follows.

'Tis a ground and principle in the law, said Triptolemus, that things do not ascend, but descend in it; and I make no doubt 'tis for this cause, that however true it is, that the child may be of the blood and seed of its parents—that the parents, nevertheless, are not of the blood and seed of it; inasmuch as the parents are not begot by the child, but the child by the parents—For so they write, Liberi sunt de sanguine patris & matris, sed pater & mater non sunt de sanguine liberorum.

—But this, Triptolemus, cried Didius, proves too much—for from this authority cited it would follow, not only what indeed is granted on all sides, that the mother is not of kin to her child—but the father likewise.—It is held, said Triptolemus, the better opinion; because the father, the mother, and the child, though they be three persons, yet are they but (una caro (Vide Brook Abridg. tit. Administr. N.47.)) one flesh; and consequently no degree of kindred—or any method of acquiring one in nature.—There you push the argument again too far, cried Didius—for there is no prohibition in nature, though there is in the Levitical law—but that a man may beget a child upon his grandmother—in which case, supposing the issue a daughter, she would stand in relation both of—But who ever thought, cried Kysarcius, of laying with his grandmother?—The young gentleman, replied Yorick, whom Selden speaks of—who not only thought of it, but justified his intention to his father by the argument drawn from the law of retaliation.—'You laid, Sir, with my mother,' said the lad—'why may not I lay with yours?'—'Tis the Argumentum commune, added Yorick.—'Tis as good, replied Eugenius, taking down his hat, as they deserve.

The company broke up.