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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.(Volume3,chapter79)

2006-08-22 18:24

  Chapter 79

  Now, because I have once or twice said, in my inconsiderate way of talking, That I was confident the following memoirs of my uncle Toby‘s courtship of widow Wadman, whenever I got time to write them, would turn out one of the most complete systems, both of the elementary and practical part of love and love-making, that ever was addressed to the world—are you to imagine from thence, that I shall set out with a description of what love is? whether part God and part Devil, as Plotinus will have it—

  —Or by a more critical equation, and supposing the whole of love to be as ten—to determine with Ficinus, ‘How many parts of it—the one,—and how many the other;’—or whether it is all of it one great Devil, from head to tail, as Plato has taken upon him to pronounce; concerning which conceit of his, I shall not offer my opinion:—but my opinion of Plato is this; that he appears, from this instance, to have been a man of much the same temper and way of reasoning with doctor Baynyard, who being a great enemy to blisters, as imagining that half a dozen of ‘em at once, would draw a man as surely to his grave, as a herse and six—rashly concluded, that the Devil himself was nothing in the world, but one great bouncing Cantharidis.—

  I have nothing to say to people who allow themselves this monstrous liberty in arguing, but what Nazianzen cried out (that is, polemically) to Philagrius—

  ‘(Greek)!’ O rare! ‘tis fine reasoning, Sir indeed!—’(Greek)‘ and most nobly do you aim at truth, when you philosophize about it in your moods and passions.

  Nor is it to be imagined, for the same reason, I should stop to inquire, whether love is a disease,—or embroil myself with Rhasis and Dioscorides, whether the seat of it is in the brain or liver;—because this would lead me on, to an examination of the two very opposite manners, in which patients have been treated—the one, of Aoetius, who always begun with a cooling clyster of hempseed and bruised cucumbers;—and followed on with thin potations of water-lilies and purslane—to which he added a pinch of snuff, of the herb Hanea;—and where Aoetius durst venture it,—his topaz- ring.

  —The other, that of Gordonius, who (in his cap. 15. de Amore) directs they should be thrashed, ‘ad putorem usque,’—till they stink again.

  These are disquisitions which my father, who had laid in a great stock of knowledge of this kind, will be very busy with in the progress of my uncle Toby‘s affairs: I must anticipate thus much, That from his theories of love, (with which, by the way, he contrived to crucify my uncle Toby’s mind, almost as much as his amours themselves,)—he took a single step into practice;—and by means of a camphorated cerecloth, which he found means to impose upon the taylor for buckram, whilst he was making my uncle Toby a new pair of breeches, he produced Gordonius‘s effect upon my uncle Toby without the disgrace.

  What changes this produced, will be read in its proper place: all that is needful to be added to the anecdote, is this—That whatever effect it had upon my uncle Toby,—it had a vile effect upon the house;—and if my uncle Toby had not smoaked it down as he did, it might have had a vile effect upon my father too.

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