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Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 2.XLV.

Full Text Chapter 2.XLV.

Chapter 2.XLV.

Is it not a shame to make two chapters of what passed in going down one pair of stairs? for we are got no farther yet than to the first landing, and there are fifteen more steps down to the bottom; and for aught I know, as my father and my uncle Toby are in a talking humour, there may be as many chapters as steps:—let that be as it will, Sir, I can no more help it than my destiny:—A sudden impulse comes across me—drop the curtain, Shandy—I drop it—Strike a line here across the paper, Tristram—I strike it—and hey for a new chapter.

The deuce of any other rule have I to govern myself by in this affair—and if I had one—as I do all things out of all rule—I would twist it and tear it to pieces, and throw it into the fire when I had done—Am I warm? I am, and the cause demands it—a pretty story! is a man to follow rules—or rules to follow him?

Now this, you must know, being my chapter upon chapters, which I promised to write before I went to sleep, I thought it meet to ease my conscience entirely before I laid down, by telling the world all I knew about the matter at once: Is not this ten times better than to set out dogmatically with a sententious parade of wisdom, and telling the world a story of a roasted horse—that chapters relieve the mind—that they assist—or impose upon the imagination—and that in a work of this dramatic cast they are as necessary as the shifting of scenes—with fifty other cold conceits, enough to extinguish the fire which roasted him?—O! but to understand this, which is a puff at the fire of Diana's temple—you must read Longinus—read away—if you are not a jot the wiser by reading him the first time over—never fear—read him again—Avicenna and Licetus read Aristotle's metaphysicks forty times through a-piece, and never understood a single word.—But mark the consequence—Avicenna turned out a desperate writer at all kinds of writing—for he wrote books de omni scribili; and for Licetus (Fortunio) though all the world knows he was born a foetus, (Ce Foetus n'etoit pas plus grand que la paume de la main; mais son pere l'ayant examine en qualite de Medecin, & ayant trouve que c'etoit quelque chose de plus qu'un Embryon, le fit transporter tout vivant a Rapallo, ou il le fit voir a Jerome Bardi & a d'autres Medecins du lieu. On trouva qu'il ne lui manquoit rien d'essentiel a la vie; & son pere pour faire voir un essai de son experience, entreprit d'achever l'ouvrage de la Nature, & de travailler a la formation de l'Enfant avec le meme artifice que celui dont on se sert pour faire ecclorre les Poulets en Egypte. Il instruisit une Nourisse de tout ce qu'elle avoit a faire, & ayant fait mettre son fils dans un pour proprement accommode, il reussit a l'elever & a lui faire prendre ses accroissemens necessaires, par l'uniformite d'une chaleur etrangere mesuree exactement sur les degres d'un Thermometre, ou d'un autre instrument equivalent. (Vide Mich. Giustinian, ne gli Scritt. Liguri a 223. 488.) On auroit toujours ete tres satisfait de l'industrie d'un pere si experimente dans l'Art de la Generation, quand il n'auroit pu prolonger la vie a son fils que pour Puelques mois, ou pour peu d'annees. Mais quand on se represente que l'Enfant a vecu pres de quatre-vingts ans, & qu'il a compose quatre-vingts Ouvrages differents tous fruits d'une longue lecture—il faut convenir que tout ce qui est incroyable n'est pas toujours faux, & que la Vraisemblance n'est pas toujours du cote la Verite. Il n'avoit que dix neuf ans lorsqu'il composa Gonopsychanthropologia de Origine Animae humanae. (Les Enfans celebres, revus & corriges par M. de la Monnoye de l'Academie Francoise.)) of no more than five inches and a half in length, yet he grew to that astonishing height in literature, as to write a book with a title as long as himself—the learned know I mean his Gonopsychanthropologia, upon the origin of the human soul.

So much for my chapter upon chapters, which I hold to be the best chapter in my whole work; and take my word, whoever reads it, is full as well employed, as in picking straws.