Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.
The full title is: ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ and it was originally published in nine volumes between 1759 and 1767.
This is the longest cock and bull story in the history of the world.
This fictitious autobiography starts with Tristram Shandy describing his conception, eventually reaching his birth and baptism, several hundred pages in. His story in interwoven with that of his Uncle Toby, who sustained a groin injury at the siege of Namur. He has recreated the battlefield in miniature in his garden. The Widow Wadman has fallen for Uncle Toby but needs more information about the precise location of his injury. But Toby merely shows her the place on the battlefield. There are also numerous digressions.
Here’s an extract:
‘—My brother Toby,’ quoth she, ‘is going to be married to Mrs. Wadman.’
—Then he will never, quoth my father, be able to lie diagonally in his bed again as long as he lives.
It was a consuming vexation to my father, that my mother never asked the meaning of a thing she did not understand.
—That she is not a woman of science, my father would say—is her misfortune—but she might ask a question.—
My mother never did.—In short, she went out of the world at last without knowing whether it turned round, or stood still.—My father had officiously told her above a thousand times which way it was,—but she always forgot.
This book is a transcriber’s nightmare. There is a black page; several single-sentence chapters; two completely blank chapters; and several chapters in deliberately non-chronological order. BD gave a lot of trouble.
I have added italics, using my paper copy as a guide, and restored French accents. I couldn’t get BD to use Sterne’s fingerpost sign, so I used -->. There are some Greek quotations, which I have mostly transliterated. I have also attempted to recreate some of Sterne’s idiosyncratic uses of asterisks.
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