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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.(Volume3,chapter97)

2006-08-22 18:35

  Chapter 97

  —But she did not know I was under a vow not to shave my beard till I got to Paris;—yet I hate to make mysteries of nothing;—‘tis the cold cautiousness of one of those little souls from which Lessius (lib. 13. de moribus divinis, cap. 24.) hath made his estimate, wherein he setteth forth, That one Dutch mile, cubically multiplied, will allow room enough, and to spare, for eight hundred thousand millions, which he supposes to be as great a number of souls (counting from the fall of Adam) as can possibly be damn’d to the end of the world.

  From what he has made this second estimate—unless from the parental goodness of God—I don‘t know—I am much more at a loss what could be in Franciscus Ribbera’s head, who pretends that no less a space than one of two hundred Italian miles multiplied into itself, will be sufficient to hold the like number—he certainly must have gone upon some of the old Roman souls, of which he had read, without reflecting how much, by a gradual and most tabid decline, in the course of eighteen hundred years, they must unavoidably have shrunk so as to have come, when he wrote, almost to nothing.

  In Lessius‘s time, who seems the cooler man, they were as little as can be imagined—

  —We find them less now—

  And next winter we shall find them less again; so that if we go on from little to less, and from less to nothing, I hesitate not one moment to affirm, that in half a century at this rate, we shall have no souls at all; which being the period beyond which I doubt likewise of the existence of the Christian faith, ‘twill be one advantage that both of ’em will be exactly worn out together.

  Blessed Jupiter! and blessed every other heathen god and goddess! for now ye will all come into play again, and with Priapus at your tails—what jovial times!—but where am I? and into what a delicious riot of things am I rushing? I—I who must be cut short in the midst of my days, and taste no more of ‘em than what I borrow from my imagination—peace to thee, generous fool! and let me go on.

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