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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.(Volume3,chapter83)

2006-08-22 18:24

  Chapter 83

  I am now beginning to get fairly into my work; and by the help of a vegetable diet, with a few of the cold seeds, I make no doubt but I shall be able to go on with my uncle Toby‘s story, and my own, in a tolerable straight line. Now,

  Picture

  These were the four lines I moved in through my first, second, third, and fourth volumes (Alluding to the first edition.)—In the fifth volume I have been very good,—the precise line I have described in it being this:

  Picture

  By which it appears, that except at the curve, marked A. where I took a trip to Navarre,—and the indented curve B. which is the short airing when I was there with the Lady Baussiere and her page,—I have not taken the least frisk of a digression, till John de la Casse‘s devils led me the round you see marked D.—for as for C C C C C they are nothing but parentheses, and the common ins and outs incident to the lives of the greatest ministers of state; and when compared with what men have done,—or with my own transgressions at the letters ABD—they vanish into nothing.

  In this last volume I have done better still—for from the end of Le Fever‘s episode, to the beginning of my uncle Toby’s campaigns,—I have scarce stepped a yard out of my way.

  If I mend at this rate, it is not impossible—by the good leave of his grace of Benevento‘s devils—but I may arrive hereafter at the excellency of going on even thus:

  (straight line across the page)

  which is a line drawn as straight as I could draw it, by a writing-master‘s ruler (borrowed for that purpose), turning neither to the right hand or to the left.

  This right line,—the path-way for Christians to walk in! say divines—

  —The emblem of moral rectitude! says Cicero—

  —The best line! say cabbage planters—is the shortest line, says Archimedes, which can be drawn from one given point to another.—

  I wish your ladyships would lay this matter to heart, in your next birth- day suits!

  —What a journey!

  Pray can you tell me,—that is, without anger, before I write my chapter upon straight lines—by what mistake—who told them so—or how it has come to pass, that your men of wit and genius have all along confounded this line, with the line of Gravitation?

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