Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 3.XII.

Full Text Chapter 3.XII.

Chapter 3.XII.

—but to Return to My Mother.

My uncle Toby's opinion, Madam, 'that there could be no harm in Cornelius Gallus, the Roman praetor's lying with his wife;'—or rather the last word of that opinion,—(for it was all my mother heard of it) caught hold of her by the weak part of the whole sex:—You shall not mistake me,—I mean her curiosity,—she instantly concluded herself the subject of the conversation, and with that prepossession upon her fancy, you will readily conceive every word my father said, was accommodated either to herself, or her family concerns.

—Pray, Madam, in what street does the lady live, who would not have done the same?

From the strange mode of Cornelius's death, my father had made a transition to that of Socrates, and was giving my uncle Toby an abstract of his pleading before his judges;—'twas irresistible:—not the oration of Socrates,—but my father's temptation to it.—He had wrote the Life of Socrates (This book my father would never consent to publish; 'tis in manuscript, with some other tracts of his, in the family, all, or most of which will be printed in due time.) himself the year before he left off trade, which, I fear, was the means of hastening him out of it;—so that no one was able to set out with so full a sail, and in so swelling a tide of heroic loftiness upon the occasion, as my father was. Not a period in Socrates's oration, which closed with a shorter word than transmigration, or annihilation,—or a worse thought in the middle of it than to be—or not to be,—the entering upon a new and untried state of things,—or, upon a long, a profound and peaceful sleep, without dreams, without disturbance?—That we and our children were born to die,—but neither of us born to be slaves.—No—there I mistake; that was part of Eleazer's oration, as recorded by Josephus (de Bell. Judaic)—Eleazer owns he had it from the philosophers of India; in all likelihood Alexander the Great, in his irruption into India, after he had over-run Persia, amongst the many things he stole,—stole that sentiment also; by which means it was carried, if not all the way by himself (for we all know he died at Babylon), at least by some of his maroders, into Greece,—from Greece it got to Rome,—from Rome to France,—and from France to England:—So things come round.—

By land carriage, I can conceive no other way.—

By water the sentiment might easily have come down the Ganges into the Sinus Gangeticus, or Bay of Bengal, and so into the Indian Sea; and following the course of trade (the way from India by the Cape of Good Hope being then unknown), might be carried with other drugs and spices up the Red Sea to Joddah, the port of Mekka, or else to Tor or Sues, towns at the bottom of the gulf; and from thence by karrawans to Coptos, but three days journey distant, so down the Nile directly to Alexandria, where the Sentiment would be landed at the very foot of the great stair-case of the Alexandrian library,—and from that store-house it would be fetched.—Bless me! what a trade was driven by the learned in those days!