Page images
PDF
EPUB

LAURENCE STERNE

After the painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds

[graphic]

which was written in the summer of 1767 at Coxwold, and about the end of the year he went up to London to have it published. By this time, consumption of the lungs, which had long threatened him, took a firmer hold. However, he still visited his friends as usual, being no way frightened at the approach of death. He wrote several letters to his daughter, in a vein which proves him to have been not a mere jester, but somewhat of a philosopher, who frequently, like Figaro, made haste to laugh lest he be forced to cry. These letters she published in three volumes, with a short autobiography of her father, in 1775. He died March 18, 1768. Garrick, who knew him well, wrote the following epitaph for him :

"Shall pride a heap of sculptured marble raise,
Some worthless, unmourned titled fool to praise;
And shall we not by one poor grave-stone learn
Where genius, wit, and humor sleep with Sterne?"

.

"

Sterne's works were published in the following order: 'The Case of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath Considered,' a sermon, 1747; The Abuses of Conscience,' a sermon, 1750; Tristram Shandy,' Vols. I. II., 1759; III., IV., 1761; V., VI., 1762; VII., VIII., 1765; IX., 1767; Sermons,' Vols. I.. II., 1761; III., IV., V., VI., 1766; and A Sentimental Journey,' 1768. His other and lesser works appeared after his death. In 1808 his complete works, with life, and plates, by Stothard and Thurston, were published.

WIDOW WADMAN'S EYE.

From 'Tristram Shandy.'

I am half distracted, Captain Shandy, said Mrs. Wadman, holding up her cambric handkerchief to her left eye, as she approached the door of my uncle Toby's sentry-box; a mote, or sand, or something, I know not what, has got into this eye of mine;-do look into it :-it's not in the white.

In saying which Mrs. Wadman edged herself close in beside my uncle Toby, and squeezing herself down upon the corner of his bench, she gave him an opportunity of doing it without rising up.-Do look into it, said she.

Honest soul! thou didst look into it with as much innocency of heart as ever child looked into a raree-showbox; and 't were as much a sin to have hurt thee.

If a man will be peeping of his own accord into things of that nature, I've nothing to say to it.

My uncle Toby never did: and I will answer for him

that he would have sat quietly upon a sofa from June to January (which, you know, takes in both the hot and cold months) with an eye as fine as the Thracian Rhodope's beside him, without being able to tell whether it was a black or a blue one.

The difficulty was to get my uncle Toby to look at one at all.

"T is surmounted.

And

I see him yonder with his pipe pendulous in his hand, and the ashes falling out of it,-looking,-and looking,then rubbing his eyes,-and looking again, with twice the good-nature that ever Galileo looked for a spot in the sun.

In vain! for, by all the powers which animate the organ -Widow Wadman's left eye shines this moment as lucid as her right; there is neither mote, nor sand, nor dust, nor chaff, nor speck, nor particle of opaque matter floating in it. There is nothing, my dear paternal uncle! but one lambent delicious fire, furtively shooting out from every part of it, in all directions into thine.

If thou lookest, uncle Toby, in search of this mote one moment longer, thou art undone..

I protest, madam, said my uncle Toby, I can see nothing whatever in your eye.

My uncle

-It is not in the white, said Mrs. Wadman. Toby looked with might and main into the pupil.

Now, of all the eyes which ever were created, from your own, madam, up to those of Venus herself, which certainly were as venereal a pair of eyes as ever stood in a head, there never was an eye of them all so fitted to rob my uncle Toby of his repose as the very eye at which he was looking. It was not, madam, a rolling eye,-a romping, or a wanton one; nor was it an eye sparkling, petulant, or imperious —of high claims and terrifying exactions, which would have curdled at once that milk of human nature of which my uncle Toby was made up;-but 't was an eye full of gentle salutations, and soft responses,-speaking,—not like the trumpet-stop of some ill-made organ, in which many an eye I talk to, holds coarse converse, but whispering soft,-like the last low accents of an expiring saint,"How can you live comfortless, Captain Shandy, and alone, without a bosom to lean your head on, or trust your cares to?"

« PreviousContinue »