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Mr Leigh Hunt in his work The Seer: “A peacock, with his plumage displayed, full of “rainbows and starry eyes,” is a fine object, but think of a lovely woman, set in front of an ethereal shell, and wafted about like a Venus. This is perhaps the best general idea that can be given of Peter Wilkins's bride. In the first edition of the work, there is an engraved explanation of the wings, or rather drapery, for such it was when at rest. It might be called a natural webbed silk. We are to picture to ourselves a nymph in a vest of the finest texture, and most delicate carnation. On a sudden, this drapery parts in two, and flies back, stretched from head to foot behind the figure like an oval fan or umbrella; and the lady is in front of it, preparing to sweep blushing away from us, and “winnow the buxom air.” The picture is poetical and suggestive, though in working it up, the author of the story introduces homely enough materials.
[Peter Wilkins and his Flying Bride.]
I passed the summer—though I had never yet seen the sun's body—very much to my satisfaction, partly in the work I have been describing—for I had taken two more of the beast-fish, and had a great quantity of oil from them—partly in building me a chimney in my ante-chamber, of mud and earth burnt on my own hearth into a sort of brick; in making a window at one end of the above-said chamber, to let in what little light would come through the trees, when I did not choose to open my door; in moulding an earthen lamp for my oil; and, finally, in providing and laying in stores, fresh and salt—for I had now cured and dried many more fish—against winter. These, I say, were my summer employments at home, intermixed with many agreeable excursions. But now the winter coming on, and the days growing very short, or indeed, there being no day, properly speaking, but a kind of twilight, I kept mostly in my habitation. An indifferent person would now be apt to ask, what would this man desire more than he had? To this I answer, that I was contented, while my condition was such as I have been describing; but a little while after the darkness or twilight came on, I frequently heard voices, sometimes a few only at a time, as it seemed, and then again in great numbers. In the height of my distress, I had recourse to prayer, with no small benefit; begging that if it pleased not the Almighty Power to remove the object of my fears, at least to resolve my doubts about them, and to render them rather helpful than hurtful to me. I hereupon, as I always did on such occasions, found myself much more placid and easy, and began to hope the best, till I had almost persuaded myself that I was out of danger; and then laying myself down, I rested very sweetly till I was awakened by the impulse of the following dream. Methought I was in Cornwall, at my wife's aunt's; and inquiring after her and my children, the old gentlewoman informed me both my wife and children had been dead some time, and that my wife, before her departure, desired her—that is, her aunt—immediately upon my arrival to tell me she was only gone to the lake, where I should be sure to see her, and be happy with her ever after. I then, as I fancied, ran to the lake to find her. In my passage she stopped me, crying: ‘Whither so fast, Peter? I am your wife, your Patty.’ Methought I did not know her, she was so altered; but observing her voice, and looking more wistfully at her, she appeared to me as the most beautiful creature I ever beheld. I then went to seize her in my arms, but the hurry of my spirits awakened me. * * I then heard a sort of shriek, and a rustle near the door of my apartment, all which together seemed very
terrible. But I, having before determined to see what and who it was, resolutely opened my door and leaped out. I saw nobody; all was quite silent, and nothing that I could perceive but my own fears a moving. I went then softly to the corner of the building, and there, looking down by the glimmer of my lamp, which stood in the window, I saw something in human shape lying at my feet. I gave the word: “Who’s there?’ Still no one answered. My heart was ready to force a way through my side. I was for a while fixed to the earth like a statue. At length recovering, I stepped in, fetched my lamp, and returning, saw the very beautiful face my Patty appeared under in my dream; and not considering that it was only a dream, I verily thought I had my Patty before me, but she seemed to be stone dead. Upon viewing her other parts, for I had never yet removed my eyes from her face, I found she had a sort of brown chaplet, like lace, round her head, under and about which her hair was tucked up and twined; and she seemed to me to be clothed in a thin haircoloured silk garment, which, upon trying to raise her, I found to be quite warm, and therefore hoped there was life in the body it contained. I then took her into my arms, and treading a step backwards with her, I put out my lamp; however, having her in my arms, I conveyed her through the doorway, in the dark, into my grotto. * * I thought I saw her eyes stir a little. I then set the lamp further off, for fear of offending them if she should look up; and warming the last glass I had reserved of my Madeira, I carried it to her, but she never stirred. I now supposed the fall had absolutely killed her, and was prodigiously grieved, when laying my hand on her breast, I perceived the fountain of life had some motion. This gave me infinite pleasure; so, not despairing, I dipped my finger in the wine, and moistened her lips with it two or three times, and I imagined they opened a little. Upon this I bethought me, and taking a tea-spoon, I gently poured a few drops of the wine by that means into her mouth. Finding she swallowed it, I poured in another spoonful, and another, till I brought her to herself so well as to be able to sit up. I then spoke to her, and asked divers questions, as if she had really been Patty, and understood me; in return of which, she uttered a language I had no idea of, though, in the most musical tone, and with the sweetest accent I ever heard. It grieved me I could not understand her. However, thinking she might like to be upon her feet, I went to lift her off the bed, when she felt to my touch in the oddest manner imaginable; for while in one respect it was as though she had been cased in whalebone, it was at the same time as soft and warm as if she had been naked. * * You may imagine we stared heartily at each other, and I doubted not but she wondered as much as I by what means we came so near each other. I offered her everything in my grotto which I thought might please her, some of which she gratefully received, as appeared by her looks and behaviour. But she avoided my lamp, and always placed her back toward it. I observing that, and ascribing it to her modesty, in my company, let her have her will, and took care to set it in such a position myself as seemed agreeable to her, though it deprived me of a prospect I very much admired. After we had sat a good while, now and then, I may say, chattering to one another, she got up and took * turn or two about the room. When I saw her in that attitude, her grace and motion perfectly charmed me, and her shape was incomparable. Well, we supped together, and I set the best of everything I had before her, nor could either of us forbear speaking in our own tongue, though we were sensible neither of us understood the other. After supper, I gave her some of my cordials, for which she
shewed great tokens of thankfulness, and *:# her way, by signs and gestures, which were very far from being insignificant, expressed her gratitude for my kindness. When supper had been some time over, I shewed her my bed, and made signs for her to go to it; but she seemed very shy of that, till I shewed her where I meant to lie myself, by pointing to myself, then to that, and again pointing to her and to my bed. When at length I had made this matter intelligible to her, she lay down very composedly; and after I had taken care of my fire, and set the things I had been using for supper in their places, I laid myself down too; for I could have no suspicious thoughts, or fear of danger, from a form so excellent. I treated her for some time with all the respect imaginable, and never suffered her to do the least part of my work. It was very inconvenient to both of us only to know each other's meaning by signs; but I could not be otherwise than pleased to see that she endeavoured all in her power to learn to talk like me. Indeed I was not behind-hand with her in that respect, striving all I could to imitate her. What I all the while wondered at was, she never shewed the least disquiet at her confinement; for I kept my door shut at first, through fear of losing her, thinking she would have taken an opportunity to run away from me, for little did I then think she could fly. After my new love had been with me a fortnight, finding my water run low, I was greatly troubled at the thought of quitting her any time to go for more; and having hinted it to her, with seeming uneasiness, she could not for a while fathom my meaning; but when she saw me much confused, she came at length, by the many signs I made, to imagine it was my concern for her which made me so; whereupon she expressively enough signified I might be easy, for she did not fear anything happening to her in my absence. On this, as well as I could declare my meaning, I entreated her not to go away before my return. As soon as she understood what I signified to her by actions, she sat down, with her arms across, leaning her head against the wall, to assure me she would not stir. I took my boat, net, and water-cask as usual, desirous of bringing her home a fresh fish-dinner, and succeeded so well as to catch enough for several good meals, and to spare. What remained I salted, and found she liked that better than the fresh, after a few days' salting. As my salt grew very low, though I had been as sparing of it as possible, I now resolved to try making some; and the next summer I effected it. Thus we spent the remainder of the winter together, till the days began to be light enough for me to walk abroad a little in the middle of them; for I was now under no apprehensions of her leaving me, as she had before this time had so many opportunities of doing so, but never once attempted it. I did not even then know that the covering she wore was not the work of art but the work of nature, for I really took it for silk, though it must be premised, that I had never seen it by any other light than of my lamp. Indeed, the modesty of her carriage, and sweetness of her behaviour to me, had struck into me a dread of offending her. When the weather cleared up a little, by the lengthening of daylight, I took courage one afternoon to invite her to walk with me to the lake; but she sweetly excused herself from it, whilst there was such a frightful glare of light as she said;* but, looking out at the door, told me if I would not go out of the wood, she would accompany me, so we agreed to take a turn only there. I first went myself over the style of the door, and thinking it rather too high for her, I took her in my arms, and lifted her over. But even when I had her in this manner, I knew not what to make of her clothing, it sat so true and close; but seeing her by a steadier and truer light in the grove, though a heavy
* # the regions of the flying people, it is always twilight. 32
gloomy one, than my lamp had afforded, I begged she would let me know of what silk or other composition her garment was made. She smiled, and asked me if mine was not the same under my jacket. “No, lady,’ says I, ‘I have nothing but my skin under my clothes.’ “Why, what do you mean?’ replies she, somewhat tartly; “but, indeed, I was afraid something was the matter, by that nasty covering you wear, that you might not be seen. Are you not a glumm ?’ (a man). ‘Yes,’ says I, ‘fair creature. (Here, though you may conceive she spoke part English, part her own tongue, and I the same, as we best understood each other, yet I shall give you our discourse, word for word, in plain English.) “Then, says she, “I am afraid you must have been a very bad man, and have been crashee,” which I should be very sorry to hear. I told her I believed we were none of us so good as we might be, but I hoped my faults had not at most exceeded other men's; but I had suffered abundance of hardships in my time, and that at last Providence having settled me in this spot, from whence I had no prospect of ever departing, it was none of the least of its mercies to bring to my knowledge and company the most exquisite piece of all his works in her, which I should acknowledge as long as I lived. She was surprised at this discourse, and asked me—if I did not mean to impose upon her, and was indeed an ingcrashee (unslit) glumm—why I should tell her I had no prospect of departing from hence. “Have not you, says she, “the same prospect that I or any other person has of departing? Sir, added she, “you don't do well, and really I fear you are slit, or you would not wear this nasty cumbersome coat-taking hold of my jacket sleeve—if you were not afraid of shewing the signs of a bad life upon your natural clothing.’ I could not for my heart imagine what way there was to get out of my dominions; but certainly, thought I, there must be some or other, or she would not be so peremptory. And as to my jacket, and shewing myself in my natural clothing, I profess she made me blush; and, but for shame, I would have stripped to my skin, to have satisfied her. “But, madam, says I, ‘pray pardon me, for you are really mistaken; I have examined every nook and corner of this new world in which we now are, and can find no possible outlet.’ “Why, says she, “what outlets have you searched for, or what way can you expect out but the way you came in? And why is that impossible to return by again? If you are not slit, is not the air open to you? Will not the sky admit you to patrol in it, as well as other people? I tell you, sir, I fear you have been slit for your crimes; and though you have been so good to me that I cannot help loving of you heartily for it, yet, if I thought you had been slit, I would not, nay, could not, stay a moment longer with you; no, though it should break my heart to leave you!” I found myself now in a strange quandary. But seeing her look a little angrily upon me, ‘Pray, madam,' says I, “do not be offended if I take the liberty to ask you what you mean by the word crashee, so often repeated by you, for I am an utter stranger to what you mean by it?’ ‘Sir, says she, ‘pray, answer me first how you came here?’ ‘Madam, replied I, ‘will you please to take a walk to the verge of the wood, and I will shew you the very passage?’ ‘Sir, says she, “I perfectly know the range of the rocks all round, and by the least description, without going to see them, can tell from which you descended. ‘In truth, said I, ‘most charming lady, I descended from no rock at all: nor would I, for a thousand worlds, attempt what could not be accomplished but by my destruction. “Sir, says she, in some anger, “it is false, and you impose upon me. “I declare to you, says I, ‘madam, what I tell
"Slit. Criminals, in the flying regions, are punished by having their wings slit, thus rendering them unable to fly.
you is strictly true; I never was near the summit of any of the surrounding rocks, or anything like it; but as you are not far from the verge of the wood, be so good as to step a little further, and I will shew you my entrance in hither. ‘Well, says she, “now this odious dazzle of light is lessened, I do not care if I do go with you.’ When we came far enough to see the bridge, “There, madam, says I, ‘there is my entrance, where the sea pours into this lake from yonder cavern. “It is not possible, says she ; “this is another untruth; and as I see you would deceive me, and are not to be believed, farewell, I must be gone. But hold, says she, “let me ask you one thing more, that is, by what means did you come through that cavern? You could not have used to have come over the rock. ‘Bless me, madam, says I, ‘do you think I and my boat could fly? Come over the rock, did you say? No, madam, I sailed from the great sea, the main ocean, in my boat, through that cavern into this very lake here. ‘What do you mean by your boat?’ says she ‘You seem to make two things of your boat you say you sailed with, and yourself.’ ‘I do so, replied I; ‘for, madam, I take myself to be good flesh and blood, but my boat is made of wood and other materials. “Is it so?” says she ; “and pray, where is this boat that is made of wood and other materials, under your jacket?’ ‘Lord! madam, says I, ‘you put me in fear that you was angry, but now I hope you only joke with me; what, put a boat under my jacket! No, madam, my boat is in the lake.' ‘What! more untruths?” says she. ‘No, madam, I replied, “if you would be satisfied of what I say, every word of which is as true as that my boat now is in the lake, pray walk with me thither, and make your own eyes judges what sincerity I speak with. To this she agreed, it growing dusky; but assured me, if I did not give her good satisfaction, I should see her no more. We arrived at the lake, and going to my wet-dock, ‘Now, madam, says I, ‘pray, satisfy yourself whether I spake true or no. She looked at my boat, but could not yet frame a proper notion of it. Says I: ‘Madam, in this very boat I sailed from the main ocean through that cavern into this lake; and shall at last think myself the happiest of all men, if you continue with me, love me, and credit me; and I promise you I will never deceive you, but think my life happily spent in your service. I found she was hardly content yet to believe what I told her of my boat to be true, until I stepped into it, and pushing from the shore, took my oars in my hand, and sailed along the lake by her as she walked on the shore. At last, she seemed so well reconciled to me and my boat, that she desired I would take her in. I immediately did so, and we sailed a good way, and as we returned to my dock, I described to her how I procured the water we drank, and brought it to shore in that vessel. ‘Well, says she, “I have sailed, as you call it, many a mile in my lifetime, but never in such a thing as this. I own it will serve very well where one has a great many things to carry from place to place; but to be labouring thus at an oar, when one intends pleasure in sailing, is, in my mind, a most ridiculous piece of slavery. “Why, pray, madam, how would you have me sail? for getting into the boat only will not carry us this way or that, without using some force. “But, says she, ‘pray, where did you get this boat, as you call it?’ ‘O madam, says I, ‘that is too long and fatal a story to begin upon now; this boat was made many thousand miles from hence, among a people coal-black, a quite different sort from us; and when I first had it, I little thought of seeing this country; but I will make a faithful relation of all to you when we come home.' * * As we talked, and walked by the lake, she made a little run before me, and sprang into it. Perceiving this, I cried out; whereupon she merrily called on me
to follow her. The light was then so dim as prevented my having more than a confused sight of her, when she jumped in; and looking earnestly after her, I could discern nothing more than a small boat on the water, which skimmed along at so great a rate that I almost lost sight of it presently: but running along the shore, for fear of losing her, I met her gravely walking to meet me, and then had entirely lost sight of the boat upon the lake. ‘This, says she, accosting me with a smile, ‘is my way of sailing, which, I perceive, by the fright you were in, you are altogether unacquainted with; and as you tell me you came from so many thousand miles off, it is possible you may be made differently from me; but surely we are the part of the creation which has had most care bestowed upon it; and I suspect from all your discourse, to which I have been very attentive, it is possible you may no more be able to fly than to sail as I do.’ ‘No, charming creature, says I, ‘that I cannot, I will assure you.” She then, stepping to the edge of the lake, for the advantage of a descent before her, sprang up into the air, and away she went, further than my eyes could follow her. I was quite astonished. So, says I, then all is over, all a delusion which I have so long been in, a mere phantom ! better had it been for me never to have seen her, than thus to lose her again ' I had but very little time for reflection; for in about ten minutes after she had left me in this mixture of grief and amazement, she alighted just by me on her feet. Her return, as she plainly saw, filled me with a transport not to be concealed, and which, as she afterwards told me, was very agreeable to her. Indeed, I was some moments in such an agitation of mind, from these unparalleled incidents, that I was like one thunderstruck; but coming presently to myself, and clasping her in my arms, with as much love and passion as I was capable of expressing, ‘Are you returned again, kind angel, said I, ‘to bless a wretch who can only be happy in adoring you? Can it be that you, who have so many advantages over me, should quit all the pleasures that nature has formed you for, and all your friends and relations, to take an asylum in my arms? But I here make you a tender of all I am able to bestow, my love and constancy.’ “Come, come, says she, “no more raptures; I find you are a worthier man than I thought I had reason to take you for; and I beg your pardon for my distrust, whilst I was ignorant of your imperfections; but now, I verily believe all you have said is true; and I promise you, as you have seemed so much to delight in me, I will never quit you till death or other as fatal accident shall part us. But we will now, if you choose, go home, for I know you have been some time uneasy in this gloom, though, agreeable to me. For, giving my eyes the pleasure of looking eagerly on you, it conceals my blushes from your sight.' In this manner, exchanging mutual endearments and soft speeches, hand in hand, we arrived at the grotto.
LAURENCE STERN E.
Next in order of time and genius to Fielding and Smollett, and not inferior in conception of rich eccentric comic character, was the witty, pathetic, and sentimental author of Tristram Shandy. Sterne was an original writer, though a plagiarist of thoughts and illustrations... Brother Shandy, my Uncle Toby, Trim, the Widow Wadman, and, Dr Slop, will go down to posterity with the kindred creations of Cervantes. This idol of his own day is now, however, but little read, except in passages of pure sentiment. His broad humour is not relished; his oddities have not the gloss of novelty; his indecencies startle the prudish and correct. The readers of this busy age will not hunt # his
beauties amidst the blank and marbled leaves—the pages of no-meaning—the quaint erudition stolen from forgotten folios—the abrupt transitions and discursive flights in which his Shakspearean touches of character, and his gems of fancy, judgment, and feeling, lie hid and imbedded. His sparkling
polished diction has even an air of false glitter, yet it is the weapon of a master—of one who can stir the heart to tears as well as laughter. The want of simplicity and decency is his greatest fault. His whim and caprice, which he partly imitated from Rabelais, and partly assumed for effect, come in sometimes with intrusive awkwardness to mar the touches of true genius, and the kindlings of enthusiasm. He took as much pains to spoil his own natural powers by affectation, as Lady Mary says Fielding did to destroy his fine constitution. The life of LAURENCE STERNE was as little in keeping as his writings. A clergyman, he was dissolute and licentious; a sentimentalist, who had, with his pen, tears for all animate and inanimate nature, he was hardhearted and selfish in his conduct. Had he kept to his living in the country, going his daily round of pastoral duties, he would have been a better and wiser man. “He degenerated in London,’ says David Garrick, ‘like an ill-transplanted shrub: the incense of the great spoiled his head, and their ragouts his stomach. He grew sickly and proud—an invalid in body and mind.” Hard is the life of a wit when united to a susceptible temperament, and the cares and sensibilities of an author! Sterne was the son of an Irish lieutenant, and was born at Clonmel, November 24, 1713. He was educated by a relation, a cousin, and took his degree of M.A. at Cambridge in 1740. Having entered into orders, his uncle, Dr Sterne, a rich pluralist, presented him with the living of Sutton, to which was afterwards added a prebend of York. He married a York lady, and derived from the connection another living in that county, the rectory of Stillington. He lived nearly twenty years at Sutton, reading, painting, fiddling, and shooting, with occasional quarrels with his brethren of the cloth, with whom he was no favourite. He left
Yorkshire for London in 1759, to publish the two first volumes of Tristram Shandy. Two others were published in 1761, and the same number in 1762. He now took a tour to France, which enriched some of his subsequent volumes of Tristram with his exquisite sketches of peasants and vine-dressers, the muleteer, the abbess and Margarita, Maria at Moulines—not forgetting the poor ass with his heavy panniers at Lyon. In 1765 he took another continental tour, and penetrated into Italy, to which we are indebted for his Sentimental Journey. The latter work he composed on his return to Coxwould, the living of which had been presented to him, on the first publication of Tristram, by Lord Falconbridge. Having completed the first part of his Journey, Sterne went to London to see it published, and died in lodgings in Bond Street, March 18, 1768. There was nobody but a hired nurse by his death-bed. He had wished to die in an inn, where the few cold offices he wanted would be purchased with a few guineas, and paid to him with an undisturbed but punctual attention. His wish was realised almost to the letter. In Yorkshire, before he had attained celebrity, much of Sterne's time was spent at Skelton Hall, the residence of JoHN HALL STEvENsoN (1718–1785), a writer of satirical and humorous poetry, possessed of lively talents, but over-convivial in his habits, and licentious in his writings and conversation. Stevenson wrote Crazy Tales, Fables for Grown Gentlemen, Lyric Epistles, &c., but his chief claim to remembrance is that he was the original of Sterne's Eugenius in Tristram Shandy, and the chosen friend and associate of the witty novelist. In the library at Skelton Hall, there was a collection of old French authors, from whom Sterne derived part of the quaint lore that figures in his works. His chief plagiarisms, however, were derived from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, which he plundered with an audacity almost without a parallel. Even when condemning such literary dishonesty, Sterne was eminently dishonest. Burton has the following figurative passage: “As apothecaries, we make new mixtures, every day pour out of one vessel into another; and as the Romans robbed all the cities in the world to set out their bad-sited Rome, we skim the cream of other men's wits, pick the choice flowers of their tilled gardens to set out our own sterile plots. We weave the same web, still twist the same rope again and again. Sterne follows: “Shall we for ever make new books, as apothecaries make new medicines, by pouring only out of one vessel into another? Are we for ever to be twisting and untwisting the same rope—for ever in the same track—for ever at the same pace?” Scores of such thefts from Burton might be cited, with others from Bishop Hall, Donne, &c. Luckily for Sterne, his wholesale plagiarisms were not detected until after his death." He died in the blaze of his fame, as an original eccentric author—the wittiest and most popular of boon-companions and novelists. His influence on the literature of his age was also considerable. No one reads Sterne for the story: his great work is but a bundle of episodes and digressions, strung together without any attempt at order. The reader must “give up the reins of his imagination into his author's hand-be pleased he knows not why, and cares not wherefore. Through the whole novel, however, over its mists and absurdities, shines his
* The detection was first made by a Manchester physician, DR John FERRIAR (1764-1815), who, in 1798, published his Illustrations of Sterne. Dr Ferriar was also the author of an Essay on Apparitions, and some medical treatises.
little family band of friends and relatives—that inimitable group of originals and humorists—which stand out from the canvas with the force and distinctness of reality. This distinctness and separate identity is a proof of what Coleridge has termed the peculiar power of Sterne, of seizing on and bringing forward those points on which every man is a humorist, and of the masterly manner in which he has brought out the characteristics of two beings of the most opposite natures—the elder Shandy and Toby—and surrounded them with a group of followers, sketched with equal life and individuality; in the Corporal, the obstetric Dr Slop; Yorick, the lively and careless parson; the Widow Wadman and Susannah. During the intervals of the publication of Tristram, Sterne ventured before the public some volumes of Sermons, with his own comic figure, from a painting by Reynolds, at the head of them. The Sermons, according to the just opinion of Gray the poet, shew a strong imagination and a sensible heart; ‘but, he adds, “you see the author often tottering on the verge of laughter, and ready to throw his periwig in the face of the audience. The affected pauses and abrupt transitions which disfigure Tristram, are not banished from the Sermons, but there is, of course, more connection and coherency in the subject. The Sentimental Journey is also more regular than Tristram in its plan and details; but, beautiful as some of its descriptions are, we want the oddities of Shandy, and the ever-pleasing good-nature and simplicity of Uncle Toby. Sterne himself is the only character. The pathetic passages are rather overstrained, but still finely conceived, and often expressed in his most felicitous manner. That ‘gentle spirit of sweetest humour, who erst didst sit upon the easy pen of his beloved Cervantes, turning the twilight of his prison into noonday brightness, was seldom absent long from the invocations of his English imitator, even when he mounted his wildest hobby, and dabbled in the mire of sensuality. Of the sentimental style of Sterne—his humour is at once too subtle and too broad to be compressed into our limits—a few specimens are added.
The Story of Le Fevre. [From Tristram Shandy.]
It was some time in the summer of that year in
which Dendermond was taken by the allies, which was about seven years before my father came into the
country, and about as many after the time that my uncle Toby and Trim had privately decamped from my father's house in town, in order to lay some of the finest sieges to some of the finest fortified cities in Europe, when my uncle Toby was one evening getting his supper, with Trim sitting behind him at a small sideboard. I say sitting, for in consideration of the corporal's lame knee, which sometimes gave him exquisite pain, when my uncle Toby dined or supped alone, he would never suffer the corporal to stand; and the poor fellow's veneration for his master was such, that, with a proper artillery, my uncle Toby could have taken Dendermond itself with less trouble than he was able to gain this point over him; for many a time, when my uncle Toby supposed the corporal's leg was at rest, he would look back and detect him standing behind him with the most dutiful respect. This bred more little squabbles betwixt them than all other causes for five-and-twenty years together; but this is neither here nor there—why do I mention it? Ask my pen—it governs me—I govern not it. He was one evening sitting thus at his supper, when the landlord of a little inn in the village came into the
parlour with an empty phial in his hand, to beg a glass or two of sack. ‘’Tis for a poor gentleman—I think of the army, said the landlord, ‘who has been taken ill at my house four days ago, and has never held up his head since, or had a desire to taste anything, till just now, that he has a fancy for a glass of sack and a thin toast. “I think,” says he, taking his hand from his forehead, “it would comfort me.” If I could neither beg, borrow, nor buy such a thing, added the landlord, ‘I would almost steal it for the poor gentleman, he is so ill. I hope in God he will still mend, continued he; “we are all of us concerned for him.’ ‘Thou art a good-natured soul, I will answer for thee, cried my uncle Toby; ‘and thou shalt drink the poor gentleman's health in a glass of sack thyself; and take a couple of bottles with my service, and tell him he is heartily welcome to them, and to a dozen more if they will do him good.’ ‘Though I am persuaded, said my uncle Toby, as the landlord shut the door, ‘he is a very compassionate fellow, Trim, yet I cannot help entertaining a high opinion of his guest too: there must be something more than common in him that in so short a time should win so much upon the affections of his host.” “And of his whole family, added the corporal; ‘for they are all concerned for him.’ “Step after him, said my uncle Toby; “do, Trim; and ask if he knows his name.’ ‘I have quite forgot it, truly, said the landlord, coming back into the parlour with the corporal; ‘but I can ask his son again. “Has he a son with him, then?’ said my uncle Toby. ‘A boy, replied the landlord, ‘of about eleven or twelve years of age; but the poor creature has tasted almost as little as his father; he does nothing but mourn and lament for him night and day. * He has not stirred from the bedside these two days. My uncle Toby laid down his knife and fork, and thrust his plate from before him, as the landlord gave him the account; and Trim, without being ordered, took it away, without saying one word, and in a few minutes after brought him his pipe and tobacco. “Stay in the room a little, said my uncle Toby. ‘Trim !" said my uncle Toby, after he lighted his pipe, and smoked about a dozen whiffs. Trim came in front of his master, and made his bow. My uncle Toby smoked on, and said no more. ‘Corporal l’ said my uncle Toby. The corporal made his bow. My uncle Toby proceeded no further, but finished his pipe. ‘Trim, said my uncle Toby, “I have a project in my head, as it is a bad night, of wrapping myself up warm in my roquelaure, and paying a visit to this poor gentleman.’ ‘Your honour's roquelaure, replied the corporal, ‘has not once been had on since the night before your honour received your wound, when we mounted guard in the trenches before the gate of St Nicholas. And besides, it is so cold and rainy a night, that what with the roquelaure, and what with the weather, 'twill be enough to give your honour your death, and bring on your honour's torment in your groin. “I fear so, replied my uncle Toby; ‘but I am not at rest in my mind, Trim, since the account the landlord has given me. I wish I had not known so much of this affair, added my uncle Toby, or that I had known more of it. How shall we manage it?’ ‘Leave it, an’t please your honour, to me, quoth the corporal. “I’ll take my hat and stick, and go to the house and reconnoitre, and act accordingly; and I will bring your honour a full account in an hour. ‘Thou shalt go, Trim, said my uncle Toby; ‘and here's a shilling for thee to drink with his servant.’ “I shall get it all out of him, said the corporal, shutting the door. My uncle Toby filled his second pipe; and had it not been that he now and then wandered from the point, with considering whether it was not full as well to have the curtain of the tenaille a straight line as a crooked one, he might be said to have thought of ": else