« ElőzőTovább »
in dark nights and dismal roads, the country thereabouts being nothing but a deep clay, was almost equal to fourteen ; and that in effect was sometimes next to having no midwife at all ; it came into her head that it would be doing as seasonable a kindness to the whole parish, as to the
poor creature herself, to get her a little instructed in some of the plain principles of the business in order to set her up in it. As no woman thereabouts was better qualified to execute the plan she had formed than herself, the gentlewoman very charitably undertook it; and having great influence over the female part of the parish, she found no difficulty in effecting it to the utmost of her wishes. In truth, the parson joined his interest with his wife's in the whole affair, and in order to do things as they should be, and give the poor soul as good a title by law to practice as his wife had given by institution, he cheerfully paid the fees for the ordinary's license himself
, amounting in the whole to the sum of eighteen shillings and four-pence.
De gustibus non est disputandum : that is, there is no disputing against Hobby-horses; and, for my part, I seldom do; nor could I with any sort of grace had I been an enemy to them at the bottom, for happening at certain intervals and changes of the moon to be both fiddler and painter, according as the fly stings : be it known to you, that I keep a couple of pads myself, upon which in their turns (nor do I care who knows it), I frequently ride out and take the air ; though sometimes, to my shame be it spoken, I take somewhat longer journeys than what a wise man would think altogether right, but the truth is, I am not a wise man; and besides am à mortal of so little consequence in the world, it is not much matter what I do ; so I seldom fret or fume at all or about it: nor does it much disturb my rest when I see such great lords and tall personages as hereafter follow, such, for instance, as my Lord A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, and so on, all of a row, mounted upon their several horses ; some with large stirrups, getting on in a more grave and sober pace ; others, on the contrary, tucked up to their very chins, with whips across their mouths, scourging and scampering it away like so many little parti-coloured devils astride a mortgage, and as if some of them were resolved to break their necks. So much the better, say I to myself ; for in case the worst should happen, the world would make a shift to do excellently well without them; and for the rest, why, God speed them ;, even let them ride on without any opposition from me; for were their lordships unhorsed this very night, 'tis ten to one but that many of them would be worse mounted by one half before to-morrow morning.
Not many of these instances therefore can be said to break in upon my rest. But there is an instance, which I own puts me off my guard, and that is when I see one born for great actions, and, what is still more for his honour, whose nature ever inclines him to good ones, when I behold such a one, my lord, like yourself, whose principles and conduct are as generous and noble as his blood, and whom for that reason a corrupt world cannot spare one moment; when I see such a one, my lord, mounted, though it is but for a minute beyond the time which my love to my country has prescribed to him, and my zeal for his glory wishes, then, my lord, I cease to be a philosopher, and in the first transport of an honest impatience, I wish the Hobby-horse with all his fraternity at the devil.
“MY LORD, “I maintain this to be a dedication, notwithstanding its singularity in the three great essentials, of matter, form, and place : I beg, therefore, you will accept it as such, and that you will permit me to lay it witb the most respectsul humility at your lordship's feet, when you are upon them, which you can be when you please; and that is, my lord, whenever there is occasion for it, and I will add to the best purposes 100.
I have the honour to be,
“My lord, your lordship's most obedient,
“ TRISTRAM SHANDY.”
I SOLEMNLY declare to all mankind that the above dedication was made for no one prince, prelate, Pope, or potentate, duke, marquis, earl, viscount, or baron, of this or any other realm in Christendom; nor has it yet been hawked about, or offered publicly or privately, directly or indirectly, to any one person or personage, great or small ; but is honestly a true virgin dedication, untried on upon any soul living.
I labour this point so particularly merely to remove any offence or ohjection which might arise against it from the manner in which I propose to make the most of it ; which is the putting it up fairly to public sale, which I now do.
Every author has a way of his own in bringing his points to bear ; for my own part, as I hate chaffering and higgling for a few guineas in a dark entry, I resolved within myself, from the very beginning, to deal squarely and openly with your great folks in this affair, and try whether I should not come off the better by it.
If therefore there is any one duke, marquis ,earl, viscount, or baron in these His Majesty's dominions who stands in need of a tight, genteel dedication, and whom the above will suit (for, by-the-by, unless it suits in some degree, I will not part with it), it is much at his service for fifty guineas, which I am positive is twenty guineas less than it ought to be afforded for by any man of genius.
My lord, if you examine it over again, it is far from being a gross piece of daubing, as some dedications are. The design, your lordship sees, is good, the colouring transparent, the drawing not amiss, or, to speak more like a man of science, and measure my piece in the painter's scale, divided into 20, I believe, my lord, the outlines will turn out as 12, the composition as 9, the colouring as 6, the expression 13 and a half, and the design—if I may be allowed, my lord, to understand my own design, and supposing absolute perfection in designing-to be as 20, I think it cannot well fall short of 19. Besides all this, there is keeping in it, and the dark strokes in the Hobby-horse (which is a secondary figure, and a kind of background to the whole) give great force to the principal lights in your own figure, and make it come off wonderfully, and besides there is an air of originality in the tout ensemble.
Be pleased, my good lord, to order the sum to be paid into the hands of Mr. Dodsley, for the benefit of the author ; and in the next edition care shall be taken that this chapter be expunged, and your lordship's titles, distinctions, arms and good actions, be placed at the front of the preceding chapter : all which from the words De gustibus non est disputandun, and whatever else in this book relates to Hobbyhorses, but no more shall stand dedicated to your lordship. The rest I dedicate to the moon, who, by-the-by, of all the patrons or matrons I can think of, has most power to set my book a-going, and make the world run mad after it.
Bright Goddess, If thou art not too busy with Candid and Miss Cunegund's affairs, take Tristram Shandy's under thy protection also.
CHAPTER X. WHATEVER degree of small merit, the act of benignity in favour of the midwife might justly claim, or in whom that claim truly rested, at first sight seems not very material to this history ; certain, however, it was, that the gentlewoman, the parson's wife, did run away at that time with the whole of it. And yet, for any life, I cannot help thinking but that the parson himself, though he had not the good fortune to hit upon the design first, yet, as he heartily concurred in it the moment it was laid before him, and as heartily parted with his money to carry it into execution, had a claim to some share of it, if not to a full half of whatever honour was due to it.
The world at that time was pleased to determine the matter otherwise.
Lay down the book, and I will allow you half a day to give a pro. bable guess at the grounds of this procedure.
Be it known, then, that for about five years before the date of the midwife's license, of which you have had so circumstantial an account, the parson we have to do with had made himself a country. talk by a breach of all decorum which he had committed against himself, his station, and his office, and that was in never appearing better, or otherwise mounted than upon a lean, sorry jackass of a horse, value about one pound fifteen shillings, who, to shorten all description of him, was full brother to Rosinante, as far as similitude congenial could make him, for he answered his description to a hair-breadth in everything, except that I do not remember it is any where said that Rosinante was broken-winded, and that, moreover, Rosinante, as is the happiness of most Spanish horses, fat or lean, was undoubtedly a horse at all points.
I know very well that the hero's horse was a horse of chaste deportment, which may have given grounds for a contrary opinion. But it is certain at the same time that Rosinante's continency (as may be demon. strated from the adventure of the Yanguesian carriers) proceeded from no bodily defect or cause whatsoever, but from the temperance and
orderly current of his blood ; and let me tell you, madam, there is a gread deal of very good chastity in the world, in behalf of which you could not say more for your life.
Let that be as it may, as my purpose is to do exact justice to every creature brought upon the stage of this dramatic work, I could not stifle this distinction in favour of Don Quixote's horse ; in all other points the parson's horse, I say, was just such another, for he was as lean, and as lank, and as sorry a jade as Humility herself could have bestrided.
In the estimation of here and there a man of weak judgment, it was greatly in the parson's power to have helped the figure of this horse of his, for he was master of a very handsome demi-peaked saddle, quilted on the seat with green plush, garnished with a double row of silverheaded studs, and a noble pair of shining brass stirrups, with a housing altogether suitable, of grey superfine cloth, with an edging of black lace, terminating in a deep black silk fringe, poudre d'or, all which he had purchased in the pride and prime of his life, together with a grand embossed bridle ornamented at all points as it should be. But not caring to banter his beast, he had hung all these up behind his study, door, and, in lieu of them, had seriously befitted him with just such a bridle and such a saddle as the figure and value of such a steed might well and truly deserve.
In the several sallies about his parish, and in the neighbouring visits to the gentry who lived around him, you will easily comprehend that the parson, so appointed, would both hear and see enough to keep his philosophy from rusting. To speak the truth, he neves could enter a village but he caught the attention of both old and young. Labour stood still as he passed, the bucket hung suspended in the middle of the well, the spinning wheel forgot its round, even chuck-farthing and shuffle-cap themselves stood gaping till he had got out of sight, and as his movement was not of the quickest, he had generally time enough upon his hands to make his observations, to hear the groans of the serious, and the laughter of the light-hearted, all which he bore with excellent tranquillity. His character was-he loved a jest in his heart, and as he saw himself in the true point of ridicule, he would say, he could not be angry with others for seeing him in a light in which he so strongly saw himself; so that to his friends, who knew his foible was not the love of money, and who therefore made the less scruple in bantering the extravagance of his humour, instead of giving the true cause, he chose rather to join in the laugh against himself, and as he never carried one single ounce of flesh upon his own bones, being altogether as spare a figure as his beast, he would sometimes insist upon it that the horse was as good as the rider deserved that they were centaur-like, both of a piece. At other times, and in other moods, when his spirits were above the temptation of false wit, he would say he found himself going off fast in a consumption, and with great gravity would pretend he could not bear the sight of a fat horse without a dejection of heart, and a sensible alteration in his pulse, and that he had made choice of the lean one he rode upon, not only to keep himself in countenance, but in spirits.
At different times he would give fifty humorous and opposite reasons for riding a meek-spirited jade of a broken-winded horse preferable to one of mettle-for on such a one he could sit mechanically, and medi. tate as delightfully de vanitate mundi et fuga sæculi, as with the advan
tage of a death's head before him ; that in all other exercitations he could spend his time as he rode slowly along to as much account as in his study; that he could draw up an argument in his sermon, or a hole in his breeches, as steadily on the one as in the other ; that brisk trotting and slow argumentation, like wit and judgment, were two incompatible movements; but that upon his steed he could unite and reconcile everything : he could compose his sermon, he could compose his cough, and, in case nature gave a call that way, he could likewise compose himself to sleep. In short, the parson upon such encounters would assign any cause but the true cause--and he withheld the true one, only out of a nicety of temper, because he thought it did honour to him.
But the truth of the story was as follows : In the first years of this gentleman's life, and about the time when the superb saddle and bridle were purchased by him, it had been his manner, or vanity, or call it what you will, to run into the opposite extreme. In the language of the country where he dwelt, he was said to have loved a good horse, and generally had one of the best in the whole parish standing in his stable always ready for saddling; and as the nearest midwife, as I told you, did not live nearer to the village than seven miles, and in a vile country, it so fell out that the poor gentleman was scarce a whole week together without some piteous application for his beast ; and as he was not an unkind-hearted man, and every case was more pressing and more distressful than the last ; as much as he loved his beast, he had never a heart to refuse him. The upshot of which was generally this--that his horse was either clapped, or spavined, or greased, or he was twitterboned or broken-winded, or something, in short, or other had befallen him which would let him carry no flesh; so that he had, every nine or ten months, a bad horse to get rid of and a good horse to purchase in his stead.
What the loss in such a balance might amount to communibus annis, I would leave to a special jury of sufferers the same traffic to determine ; but let it be what it would, the honest gentleman bore it for many years without a murmur, till at length, by repeated ill-accidents of the kind, he found it necessar; to take the thing under consideration ; and upon weighing the whole and summing it up in his mind, he found it not only disproportioned to his other expenses, but withal so heavy an article in itself as to disable him from any other act of generosity in his parish. Besides this, he considered that, with half the sum thus galloped away, he could do ten times as much good. And what still weighed more with him than all other considerations put together was this, that it confined all his charity into one particular channel, reserving nothing for the impotent, nothing for the aged, nothing for the many comfortless scenes he was hourly called forth to visit, where poverty, and sickness, and affliction dwelt together.
For these reasons he resolved to discontinue the expense ; and there appeared but two possible ways to extricate him clearly out of it-and these were either to make it an irrevocable law never more to lend his steed upon any application whatever, or else to be content to ride the last poor devil, such as they had made him, with all his aches and infirmities, to the very end of the chapter.
As he dreaded his own constancy in the first, he very cheerfully