Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 3.XLVIII.

Full Text Chapter 3.XLVIII.

Chapter 3.XLVIII.

You see 'tis high time, said my father, addressing himself equally to my uncle Toby and Yorick, to take this young creature out of these women's hands, and put him into those of a private governor. Marcus Antoninus provided fourteen governors all at once to superintend his son Commodus's education,—and in six weeks he cashiered five of them;—I know very well, continued my father, that Commodus's mother was in love with a gladiator at the time of her conception, which accounts for a great many of Commodus's cruelties when he became emperor;—but still I am of opinion, that those five whom Antoninus dismissed, did Commodus's temper, in that short time, more hurt than the other nine were able to rectify all their lives long.

Now as I consider the person who is to be about my son, as the mirror in which he is to view himself from morning to night, by which he is to adjust his looks, his carriage, and perhaps the inmost sentiments of his heart;—I would have one, Yorick, if possible, polished at all points, fit for my child to look into.—This is very good sense, quoth my uncle Toby to himself.

—There is, continued my father, a certain mien and motion of the body and all its parts, both in acting and speaking, which argues a man well within; and I am not at all surprised that Gregory of Nazianzum, upon observing the hasty and untoward gestures of Julian, should foretel he would one day become an apostate;—or that St. Ambrose should turn his Amanuensis out of doors, because of an indecent motion of his head, which went backwards and forwards like a flail;—or that Democritus should conceive Protagoras to be a scholar, from seeing him bind up a faggot, and thrusting, as he did it, the small twigs inwards.—There are a thousand unnoticed openings, continued my father, which let a penetrating eye at once into a man's soul; and I maintain it, added he, that a man of sense does not lay down his hat in coming into a room,—or take it up in going out of it, but something escapes, which discovers him.

It is for these reasons, continued my father, that the governor I make choice of shall neither (Vid. Pellegrina.) lisp, or squint, or wink, or talk loud, or look fierce, or foolish;—or bite his lips, or grind his teeth, or speak through his nose, or pick it, or blow it with his fingers.—He shall neither walk fast,—or slow, or fold his arms,—for that is laziness;—or hang them down,—for that is folly; or hide them in his pocket, for that is nonsense.—

He shall neither strike, or pinch, or tickle—or bite, or cut his nails, or hawk, or spit, or snift, or drum with his feet or fingers in company;—nor (according to Erasmus) shall he speak to any one in making water,—nor shall he point to carrion or excrement.—Now this is all nonsense again, quoth my uncle Toby to himself.—

I will have him, continued my father, cheerful, facete, jovial; at the same time, prudent, attentive to business, vigilant, acute, argute, inventive, quick in resolving doubts and speculative questions;—he shall be wise, and judicious, and learned:—And why not humble, and moderate, and gentle-tempered, and good? said Yorick:—And why not, cried my uncle Toby, free, and generous, and bountiful, and brave?—He shall, my dear Toby, replied my father, getting up and shaking him by his hand.—Then, brother Shandy, answered my uncle Toby, raising himself off the chair, and laying down his pipe to take hold of my father's other hand,—I humbly beg I may recommend poor Le Fever's son to you;—a tear of joy of the first water sparkled in my uncle Toby's eye, and another, the fellow to it, in the corporal's, as the proposition was made;—you will see why when you read Le Fever's story:—fool that I was! nor can I recollect (nor perhaps you) without turning back to the place, what it was that hindered me from letting the corporal tell it in his own words;—but the occasion is lost,—I must tell it now in my own.