Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 3.XXXI.

Full Text Chapter 3.XXXI.

Chapter 3.XXXI.

The first thirty pages, said my father, turning over the leaves,—are a little dry; and as they are not closely connected with the subject,—for the present we'll pass them by: 'tis a prefatory introduction, continued my father, or an introductory preface (for I am not determined which name to give it) upon political or civil government; the foundation of which being laid in the first conjunction betwixt male and female, for procreation of the species—I was insensibly led into it.—'Twas natural, said Yorick.

The original of society, continued my father, I'm satisfied is, what Politian tells us, i. e. merely conjugal; and nothing more than the getting together of one man and one woman;—to which, (according to Hesiod) the philosopher adds a servant:—but supposing in the first beginning there were no men servants born—he lays the foundation of it, in a man,—a woman—and a bull.—I believe 'tis an ox, quoth Yorick, quoting the passage (Greek)—A bull must have given more trouble than his head was worth.—But there is a better reason still, said my father (dipping his pen into his ink); for the ox being the most patient of animals, and the most useful withal in tilling the ground for their nourishment,—was the properest instrument, and emblem too, for the new joined couple, that the creation could have associated with them.—And there is a stronger reason, added my uncle Toby, than them all for the ox.—My father had not power to take his pen out of his ink-horn, till he had heard my uncle Toby's reason.—For when the ground was tilled, said my uncle Toby, and made worth inclosing, then they began to secure it by walls and ditches, which was the origin of fortification.—True, true, dear Toby, cried my father, striking out the bull, and putting the ox in his place.

My father gave Trim a nod, to snuff the candle, and resumed his discourse.

—I enter upon this speculation, said my father carelessly, and half shutting the book, as he went on, merely to shew the foundation of the natural relation between a father and his child; the right and jurisdiction over whom he acquires these several ways—

1st, by marriage.

2d, by adoption.

3d, by legitimation.

And 4th, by procreation; all which I consider in their order.

I lay a slight stress upon one of them, replied Yorick—the act, especially where it ends there, in my opinion lays as little obligation upon the child, as it conveys power to the father.—You are wrong,—said my father argutely, and for this plain reason....—I own, added my father, that the offspring, upon this account, is not so under the power and jurisdiction of the mother.—But the reason, replied Yorick, equally holds good for her.—She is under authority herself, said my father:—and besides, continued my father, nodding his head, and laying his finger upon the side of his nose, as he assigned his reason,—she is not the principal agent, Yorick.—In what, quoth my uncle Toby? stopping his pipe.—Though by all means, added my father (not attending to my uncle Toby), 'The son ought to pay her respect,' as you may read, Yorick, at large in the first book of the Institutes of Justinian, at the eleventh title and the tenth section.—I can read it as well, replied Yorick, in the Catechism.