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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.(Volume4,chapter58)

2006-08-22 18:55

  Chapter 58

  My father had such a skirmishing, cutting kind of a slashing way with him in his disputations, thrusting and ripping, and giving every one a stroke to remember him by in his turn—that if there were twenty people in company—in less than half an hour he was sure to have every one of ‘em against him.

  What did not a little contribute to leave him thus without an ally, was, that if there was any one post more untenable than the rest, he would be sure to throw himself into it; and to do him justice, when he was once there, he would defend it so gallantly, that ‘twould have been a concern, either to a brave man or a good-natured one, to have seen him driven out.

  Yorick, for this reason, though he would often attack him—yet could never bear to do it with all his force.

  Doctor Slop‘s Virginity, in the close of the last chapter, had got him for once on the right side of the rampart; and he was beginning to blow up all the convents in Christendom about Slop’s ears, when corporal Trim came into the parlour to inform my uncle Toby, that his thin scarlet breeches, in which the attack was to be made upon Mrs. Wadman, would not do; for that the taylor, in ripping them up, in order to turn them, had found they had been turn‘d before—Then turn them again, brother, said my father, rapidly, for there will be many a turning of ’em yet before all‘s done in the affair—They are as rotten as dirt, said the corporal—Then by all means, said my father, bespeak a new pair, brother—for though I know, continued my father, turning himself to the company, that widow Wadman has been deeply in love with my brother Toby for many years, and has used every art and circumvention of woman to outwit him into the same passion, yet now that she has caught him—her fever will be pass’d its height—

  —She has gained her point.

  In this case, continued my father, which Plato, I am persuaded, never thought of—Love, you see, is not so much a Sentiment as a Situation, into which a man enters, as my brother Toby would do, into a corps—no matter whether he loves the service or no—being once in it—he acts as if he did; and takes every step to shew himself a man of prowesse.

  The hypothesis, like the rest of my father‘s, was plausible enough, and my uncle Toby had but a single word to object to it—in which Trim stood ready to second him—but my father had not drawn his conclusion—

  For this reason, continued my father (stating the case over again)— notwithstanding all the world knows, that Mrs. Wadman affects my brother Toby—and my brother Toby contrariwise affects Mrs. Wadman, and no obstacle in nature to forbid the music striking up this very night, yet will I answer for it, that this self-same tune will not be play‘d this twelvemonth.

  We have taken our measures badly, quoth my uncle Toby, looking up interrogatively in Trim‘s face.

  I would lay my Montero-cap, said Trim—Now Trim‘s Montero-cap, as I once told you, was his constant wager; and having furbish’d it up that very night, in order to go upon the attack—it made the odds look more considerable—I would lay, an‘ please your honour, my Montero-cap to a shilling—was it proper, continued Trim (making a bow), to offer a wager before your honours—

  —There is nothing improper in it, said my father—‘tis a mode of expression; for in saying thou would’st lay thy Montero-cap to a shilling— all thou meanest is this—that thou believest—

  —Now, What do‘st thou believe?

  That widow Wadman, an‘ please your worship, cannot hold it out ten days—

  And whence, cried Slop, jeeringly, hast thou all this knowledge of woman, friend?

  By falling in love with a popish clergy-woman; said Trim.

  ‘Twas a Beguine, said my uncle Toby.

  Doctor Slop was too much in wrath to listen to the distinction; and my father taking that very crisis to fall in helter-skelter upon the whole order of Nuns and Beguines, a set of silly, fusty, baggages—Slop could not stand it—and my uncle Toby having some measures to take about his breeches—and Yorick about his fourth general division—in order for their several attacks next day—the company broke up: and my father being left alone, and having half an hour upon his hands betwixt that and bed-time; he called for pen, ink, and paper, and wrote my uncle Toby the following letter of instructions:

  My dear brother Toby,

  What I am going to say to thee is upon the nature of women, and of love- making to them; and perhaps it is as well for thee—tho‘ not so well for me—that thou hast occasion for a letter of instructions upon that head, and that I am able to write it to thee.

  Had it been the good pleasure of him who disposes of our lots—and thou no sufferer by the knowledge, I had been well content that thou should‘st have dipp’d the pen this moment into the ink, instead of myself; but that not being the case—Mrs Shandy being now close beside me, preparing for bed—I have thrown together without order, and just as they have come into my mind, such hints and documents as I deem may be of use to thee; intending, in this, to give thee a token of my love; not doubting, my dear Toby, of the manner in which it will be accepted.

  In the first place, with regard to all which concerns religion in the affair—though I perceive from a glow in my cheek, that I blush as I begin to speak to thee upon the subject, as well knowing, notwithstanding thy unaffected secrecy, how few of its offices thou neglectest—yet I would remind thee of one (during the continuance of thy courtship) in a particular manner, which I would not have omitted; and that is, never to go forth upon the enterprize, whether it be in the morning or the afternoon, without first recommending thyself to the protection of Almighty God, that he may defend thee from the evil one.

  Shave the whole top of thy crown clean once at least every four or five days, but oftner if convenient; lest in taking off thy wig before her, thro‘ absence of mind, she should be able to discover how much has been cut away by Time—how much by Trim.

  —‘Twere better to keep ideas of baldness out of her fancy.

  Always carry it in thy mind, and act upon it as a sure maxim, Toby—

  ‘That women are timid:’ And ‘tis well they are—else there would be no dealing with them.

  Let not thy breeches be too tight, or hang too loose about thy thighs, like the trunk-hose of our ancestors.

  —A just medium prevents all conclusions.

  Whatever thou hast to say, be it more or less, forget not to utter it in a low soft tone of voice. Silence, and whatever approaches it, weaves dreams of midnight secrecy into the brain: For this cause, if thou canst help it, never throw down the tongs and poker.

  Avoid all kinds of pleasantry and facetiousness in thy discourse with her, and do whatever lies in thy power at the same time, to keep her from all books and writings which tend thereto: there are some devotional tracts, which if thou canst entice her to read over—it will be well: but suffer her not to look into Rabelais, or Scarron, or Don Quixote—

  —They are all books which excite laughter; and thou knowest, dear Toby, that there is no passion so serious as lust.

  Stick a pin in the bosom of thy shirt, before thou enterest her parlour.

  And if thou art permitted to sit upon the same sopha with her, and she gives thee occasion to lay thy hand upon hers—beware of taking it—thou canst not lay thy hand on hers, but she will feel the temper of thine. Leave that and as many other things as thou canst, quite undetermined; by so doing, thou wilt have her curiosity on thy side; and if she is not conquered by that, and thy Asse continues still kicking, which there is great reason to suppose—Thou must begin, with first losing a few ounces of blood below the ears, according to the practice of the ancient Scythians, who cured the most intemperate fits of the appetite by that means.

  Avicenna, after this, is for having the part anointed with the syrup of hellebore, using proper evacuations and purges—and I believe rightly. But thou must eat little or no goat‘s flesh, nor red deer—nor even foal’s flesh by any means; and carefully abstain—that is, as much as thou canst, from peacocks, cranes, coots, didappers, and water-hens—

  As for thy drink—I need not tell thee, it must be the infusion of Vervain and the herb Hanea, of which Aelian relates such effects—but if thy stomach palls with it—discontinue it from time to time, taking cucumbers, melons, purslane, water-lillies, woodbine, and lettice, in the stead of them.

  There is nothing further for thee, which occurs to me at present—

  —Unless the breaking out of a fresh war—So wishing every thing, dear Toby, for best,

  I rest thy affectionate brother,

  Walter Shandy.

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