The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
1759–1767 in nine volumes
Approx. 199,500 words
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 concerned 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 fromthe 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 miscarriages 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 half-penny 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.
As we jogg on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short do any thing—only keep your temper.
The desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it.
The chambermaid had left no ******* *** under the bed:——Cannot you contrive, master, quoth Susannah, lifting up the sash with one hand, as she spoke, and helping me up into the window seat with the
other,—cannot you manage, my dear, for a single time to **** *** ** ***
I am convinced, Yorick, continued my father, half reading and half discoursing, that there is a Northwest Passage to the intellectual world; and that the soul of man has shorter ways of going to work, in furnishing itself with knowledge and instruction, than we generally take with it.
I believe in my conscience I intercept many a thought which heaven intended for another man.
L—d! said my mother, what is all this story about?——
A Cock and a Bull, said Yorick——And one of the best of its kind, I ever heard.