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Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 3.VII.

Full Text Chapter 3.VII.

Chapter 3.VII.

—my Young Master in London is Dead? Said Obadiah.—

—A green sattin night-gown of my mother's, which had been twice scoured, was the first idea which Obadiah's exclamation brought into Susannah's head.—Well might Locke write a chapter upon the imperfections of words.—Then, quoth Susannah, we must all go into mourning.—But note a second time: the word mourning, notwithstanding Susannah made use of it herself—failed also of doing its office; it excited not one single idea, tinged either with grey or black,—all was green.—The green sattin night-gown hung there still.

—O! 'twill be the death of my poor mistress, cried Susannah.—My mother's whole wardrobe followed.—What a procession! her red damask,—her orange tawney,—her white and yellow lutestrings,—her brown taffata,—her bone-laced caps, her bed-gowns, and comfortable under-petticoats.—Not a rag was left behind.—'No,—she will never look up again,' said Susannah.

We had a fat, foolish scullion—my father, I think, kept her for her simplicity;—she had been all autumn struggling with a dropsy.—He is dead, said Obadiah,—he is certainly dead!—So am not I, said the foolish scullion.

—Here is sad news, Trim, cried Susannah, wiping her eyes as Trim stepp'd into the kitchen,—master Bobby is dead and buried—the funeral was an interpolation of Susannah's—we shall have all to go into mourning, said Susannah.

I hope not, said Trim.—You hope not! cried Susannah earnestly.—The mourning ran not in Trim's head, whatever it did in Susannah's.—I hope—said Trim, explaining himself, I hope in God the news is not true. I heard the letter read with my own ears, answered Obadiah; and we shall have a terrible piece of work of it in stubbing the ox-moor.—Oh! he's dead, said Susannah.—As sure, said the scullion, as I'm alive.

I lament for him from my heart and my soul, said Trim, fetching a sigh.—Poor creature!—poor boy!—poor gentleman!

—He was alive last Whitsontide! said the coachman.—Whitsontide! alas! cried Trim, extending his right arm, and falling instantly into the same attitude in which he read the sermon,—what is Whitsontide, Jonathan (for that was the coachman's name), or Shrovetide, or any tide or time past, to this? Are we not here now, continued the corporal (striking the end of his stick perpendicularly upon the floor, so as to give an idea of health and stability)—and are we not—(dropping his hat upon the ground) gone! in a moment!—'Twas infinitely striking! Susannah burst into a flood of tears.—We are not stocks and stones.—Jonathan, Obadiah, the cook-maid, all melted.—The foolish fat scullion herself, who was scouring a fish-kettle upon her knees, was rous'd with it.—The whole kitchen crowded about the corporal.

Now, as I perceive plainly, that the preservation of our constitution in church and state,—and possibly the preservation of the whole world—or what is the same thing, the distribution and balance of its property and power, may in time to come depend greatly upon the right understanding of this stroke of the corporal's eloquence—I do demand your attention—your worships and reverences, for any ten pages together, take them where you will in any other part of the work, shall sleep for it at your ease.

I said, 'we were not stocks and stones'—'tis very well. I should have added, nor are we angels, I wish we were,—but men clothed with bodies, and governed by our imaginations;—and what a junketing piece of work of it there is, betwixt these and our seven senses, especially some of them, for my own part, I own it, I am ashamed to confess. Let it suffice to affirm, that of all the senses, the eye (for I absolutely deny the touch, though most of your Barbati, I know, are for it) has the quickest commerce with the soul,—gives a smarter stroke, and leaves something more inexpressible upon the fancy, than words can either convey—or sometimes get rid of.

—I've gone a little about—no matter, 'tis for health—let us only carry it back in our mind to the mortality of Trim's hat—'Are we not here now,—and gone in a moment?'—There was nothing in the sentence—'twas one of your self-evident truths we have the advantage of hearing every day; and if Trim had not trusted more to his hat than his head—he made nothing at all of it.

—'Are we not here now;' continued the corporal, 'and are we not'—(dropping his hat plumb upon the ground—and pausing, before he pronounced the word)—'gone! in a moment?' The descent of the hat was as if a heavy lump of clay had been kneaded into the crown of it.—Nothing could have expressed the sentiment of mortality, of which it was the type and fore-runner, like it,—his hand seemed to vanish from under it,—it fell dead,—the corporal's eye fixed upon it, as upon a corpse,—and Susannah burst into a flood of tears.

Now—Ten thousand, and ten thousand times ten thousand (for matter and motion are infinite) are the ways by which a hat may be dropped upon the ground, without any effect.—Had he flung it, or thrown it, or cast it, or skimmed it, or squirted it, or let it slip or fall in any possible direction under heaven,—or in the best direction that could be given to it,—had he dropped it like a goose—like a puppy—like an ass—or in doing it, or even after he had done, had he looked like a fool—like a ninny—like a nincompoop—it had fail'd, and the effect upon the heart had been lost.

Ye who govern this mighty world and its mighty concerns with the engines of eloquence,—who heat it, and cool it, and melt it, and mollify it,—and then harden it again to your purpose—

Ye who wind and turn the passions with this great windlass, and, having done it, lead the owners of them, whither ye think meet.

Ye, lastly, who drive—and why not, Ye also who are driven, like turkeys to market with a stick and a red clout—meditate—meditate, I beseech you, upon Trim's hat.