Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 3.LIV.

Full Text Chapter 3.LIV.

Chapter 3.LIV.

I am so impatient to return to my own story, that what remains of young Le Fever's, that is, from this turn of his fortune, to the time my uncle Toby recommended him for my preceptor, shall be told in a very few words in the next chapter.—All that is necessary to be added to this chapter is as follows.—

That my uncle Toby, with young Le Fever in his hand, attended the poor lieutenant, as chief mourners, to his grave.

That the governor of Dendermond paid his obsequies all military honours,—and that Yorick, not to be behind-hand—paid him all ecclesiastic—for he buried him in his chancel:—And it appears likewise, he preached a funeral sermon over him—I say it appears,—for it was Yorick's custom, which I suppose a general one with those of his profession, on the first leaf of every sermon which he composed, to chronicle down the time, the place, and the occasion of its being preached: to this, he was ever wont to add some short comment or stricture upon the sermon itself, seldom, indeed, much to its credit:—For instance, This sermon upon the Jewish dispensation—I don't like it at all;—Though I own there is a world of Water-Landish knowledge in it;—but 'tis all tritical, and most tritically put together.—This is but a flimsy kind of a composition; what was in my head when I made it?

—N.B. The excellency of this text is, that it will suit any sermon,—and of this sermon,—that it will suit any text.—

—For this sermon I shall be hanged,—for I have stolen the greatest part of it. Doctor Paidagunes found me out. > Set a thief to catch a thief.—

On the back of half a dozen I find written, So, so, and no more—and upon a couple Moderato; by which, as far as one may gather from Altieri's Italian dictionary,—but mostly from the authority of a piece of green whipcord, which seemed to have been the unravelling of Yorick's whip-lash, with which he has left us the two sermons marked Moderato, and the half dozen of So, so, tied fast together in one bundle by themselves,—one may safely suppose he meant pretty near the same thing.

There is but one difficulty in the way of this conjecture, which is this, that the moderato's are five times better than the so, so's;—show ten times more knowledge of the human heart;—have seventy times more wit and spirit in them;—(and, to rise properly in my climax)—discovered a thousand times more genius;—and to crown all, are infinitely more entertaining than those tied up with them:—for which reason, whene'er Yorick's dramatic sermons are offered to the world, though I shall admit but one out of the whole number of the so, so's, I shall, nevertheless, adventure to print the two moderato's without any sort of scruple.

What Yorick could mean by the words lentamente,—tenute,—grave,—and sometimes adagio,—as applied to theological compositions, and with which he has characterised some of these sermons, I dare not venture to guess.—I am more puzzled still upon finding a l'octava alta! upon one;—Con strepito upon the back of another;—Scicilliana upon a third;—Alla capella upon a fourth;—Con l'arco upon this;—Senza l'arco upon that.—All I know is, that they are musical terms, and have a meaning;—and as he was a musical man, I will make no doubt, but that by some quaint application of such metaphors to the compositions in hand, they impressed very distinct ideas of their several characters upon his fancy,—whatever they may do upon that of others.

Amongst these, there is that particular sermon which has unaccountably led me into this digression—The funeral sermon upon poor Le Fever, wrote out very fairly, as if from a hasty copy.—I take notice of it the more, because it seems to have been his favourite composition—It is upon mortality; and is tied length-ways and cross-ways with a yarn thrum, and then rolled up and twisted round with a half-sheet of dirty blue paper, which seems to have been once the cast cover of a general review, which to this day smells horribly of horse drugs.—Whether these marks of humiliation were designed,—I something doubt;—because at the end of the sermon (and not at the beginning of it)—very different from his way of treating the rest, he had wrote—Bravo!

—Though not very offensively,—for it is at two inches, at least, and a half's distance from, and below the concluding line of the sermon, at the very extremity of the page, and in that right hand corner of it, which, you know, is generally covered with your thumb; and, to do it justice, it is wrote besides with a crow's quill so faintly in a small Italian hand, as scarce to solicit the eye towards the place, whether your thumb is there or not,—so that from the manner of it, it stands half excused; and being wrote moreover with very pale ink, diluted almost to nothing,—'tis more like a ritratto of the shadow of vanity, than of Vanity herself—of the two; resembling rather a faint thought of transient applause, secretly stirring up in the heart of the composer; than a gross mark of it, coarsely obtruded upon the world.

With all these extenuations, I am aware, that in publishing this, I do no service to Yorick's character as a modest man;—but all men have their failings! and what lessens this still farther, and almost wipes it away, is this; that the word was struck through sometime afterwards (as appears from a different tint of the ink) with a line quite across it in this manner, BRAVO (crossed out)—as if he had retracted, or was ashamed of the opinion he had once entertained of it.

These short characters of his sermons were always written, excepting in this one instance, upon the first leaf of his sermon, which served as a cover to it; and usually upon the inside of it, which was turned towards the text;—but at the end of his discourse, where, perhaps, he had five or six pages, and sometimes, perhaps, a whole score to turn himself in,—he took a large circuit, and, indeed, a much more mettlesome one;—as if he had snatched the occasion of unlacing himself with a few more frolicksome strokes at vice, than the straitness of the pulpit allowed.—These, though hussar-like, they skirmish lightly and out of all order, are still auxiliaries on the side of virtue;—tell me then, Mynheer Vander Blonederdondergewdenstronke, why they should not be printed together?