Words of Wisdom--Tristram Shandy

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from the beginning of Tristram Shandy
Laurence Sterne

I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly consider’d how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concern’d in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost:—— Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,——I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.—Believe me, good folks, this is not so inconsiderable a thing as many of you may think it;—you have all, I dare say, heard of the animal spirits, as how they are transfused from father to son, &c. &c.—and a great deal to that purpose:—Well, you may take my word, that nine parts in ten of a man’s sense or his nonsense, his successes and mis-carriages in this world depend upon their motions and activity, and the different tracks and trains you put them into; so that when they are once set a-going, whether right or wrong, ’tis not a halfpenny matter, - - away they go cluttering like hey-go-mad; and by treading the same steps over and over again, they presently make a road of it, as plain and as smooth as a garden-walk, which, when they are once used to, the Devil himself sometimes shall not be able to drive them off it.

There's a lot here beneath the comic bombast.

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Steven, only you could post from Tristram Shandy for spiritual edification. :) But you're right; for all Sterne's personal faults, there is a lot worth thinking about beneath the comic (and bawdy) bombast.

His first name is spelt Laurence (with a U), BTW.

Dear Klaus,

You know what--I knew that! However one of two things happened, and I honestly don't recall which--because it is a more uncommon spelling I checked it against my source and the source had it wrong, or, more likely, even knowing it my fingers typed incorrectly any way. Thanks for the heads-up. I'll change it shortly.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 4, 2006 2:22 PM.

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