« ZurückWeiter »
the merit of
read my Tristram, do not, like some people, condemn it. Laugh I am sure you will at some passages. I have hired a small house in the Minster Yard for my wife and daughter, the latter is to begin dancing, &c. If I cannot leave her a fortune, I will at least give her an education. As I shall publish my works very soon, I shall be in town by March, and shall have the pleasure of meeting with you. All your friends are well, and ever hold you in the same estimation that
sincere friend does.
Adieu, dear lady, believe me, with every wish for your happiness, your most faithful, &c.
VI. – TO DR. *** **.
Jan. 30, 1760.
DEAR SIR, De mortuis nil nisi bonum is a maxim which you have so often of late urged in conversation, and in your letters (but in your last especially), with such seriousness, and severity against me, as the supposed transgressor of the rule, that you have made me at length as serious and severe as yourself: but that the humours you have stirred up might not work too potently within me, I have waited four days to cool myself, before I would set pen to paper to answer you, “de mortuis nil nisi bonum.” I declare I have considered the wisdom and foundation of it over and over again, as dispassionately and charitably as a good Christian can, and, after all, I can find nothing in it, or make
more of it than a nonsensical lullaby of some nurse, put into Latin by some pedant, to be chanted by some hypocrite to the end of the world, for the consolation of departing lechers. -- 'Tis, I own, Latin; and I think that is all the weight it has - for, in plain English, 'tis a loose and futile position below a dispute — "you are not to speak any thing of the dead but what is good,” Why so?
Who says so? neither reason nor scripture. Inspired authors have done otherwise, and reason and common sense tell me that, if the characters of past ages and men are to be drawn at all, they are to be drawn like themselves; that is, with their excellences, and with their foibles; and it is as much a piece of justice to the world, and to virtue too, to do the one, as the other. The ruling passion, et les egaremens du cæur, are the very things which mark and distinguish a man's character; in which I would as soon leave out a man's head as his hobby-horse. However, if, like the poor devil of a painter, we must conform to this pious canon, de mortuis, &c., which I own has a spice of piety in the sound of it, and be obliged to paint both our angels and our devils out of the same pot, I then infer that our Sydenhams, and Sangrados, our Lucretias, and Messalinas, our Somers, and our Bolingbrokes are alike entitled to statues, and all the historians or satirists who have said otherwise since they departed this life, from Sallust to s-e, are guilty of the crimes you charge me with, “cowardice and injustice."
But why cowardice? “because 'tis not courage to attack dead man who can't defend himself.” But why do you doctors of the faculty attack such a one with your incision-knife? Oh! for the good of the
living. "Tis my plea, but I have something more to say in my behalf, and it is this, I am not guilty of the charge, tho' defensible. I have not cut up Doctor Kunastrokius at all. I have just scratch'd him, and that scarce skin deep. I do him first all honour speak of Kunastrokius as a great man (be he who he will), and then most distantly hint at a droll foible in his character, and that not first reported (to the few who can even understand the hint) by me, but known before by every chamber-maid and footman within the bills of mortality but Kunastrokius, you say, was a great man 'tis that very circumstance which makes the pleasantry, for I could name at this instant a score of honest gentlemen who might have done the very thing which Kunastrokius did, and seen no joke in it at all: as to the failing of Kunastrokius, which you say can only be imputed to his friends as a misfortune, I see nothing like a misfortune in it, to any friend or relation of Kunastrokius, that Kunastrokius upon occasion should sit with ***** and ***** these stars not to hurt your worship’s delicacy. If Kunastrokius, after all, is too sacred a character to be even smiled at (which is all I have done), he has had better luck than his betters. In the same page (without imputation of cowardice) I have said as much of a man of twice his wisdom and that is Solomon, of whom I have made the same remark, “That they were both great men, and like all mortal men had each their ruling passion.” The consolation you give me, “That my book,
, however, will be read enough to answer my design of raising å tax upon the public".
is very unconsolatory; -- to say nothing how very mortifying! by h-n!
I have put
an author is worse treated than a common *****
at this rate You will get a penny by your sins, and that's enough.” Upon this chapter let me comment. That I proposed laying the world under contribution when I set pen to paper is what I own, and I suppose I may be allow'd to have that view in my head in common with every other writer, to make my
labour of advantage to myself. Do you not do the same? but I beg I may
add that, whatever views I had of that kind, I had other views the first of which was the hopes of doing the world good, by ridiculing what I thought deserving of it, or of disservice to sound learning &c., how I have succeeded, my book must shew and this I leave entirely to the world but not to that little world of your acquaintance, whose opinion and sentiments you call the general opinion of the best judges without exception, who all affirm (you say) that my book cannot be put into the hands of any woman of character. (I hope you except widows, doctor – for they are not all so squeamish, but I am told they are all really of my party, in return for some good offices done their interests in the 274th page of my first volume.) But for the chaste married, and chaste unmarried, part of the sex, they must not read my book! Heaven forbid the stock of chastity should be lessened by the Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy – yes, his Opinions - it would certainly debauch 'em. God take them under his protection in this fiery trial, and send us plenty of Duennas to watch the workings of their humours, till they have safely got through the whole work. If this will not be sufficient, may we have plenty of Sangrados to pour in plenty of cold water,
till this terrible fermentation is over! As for the nummum in loculo, which you mention to me a second time, I fear you think me very poor, or in debt I thank God, though I don't abound, that I have enough for a clean shirt every day and a mutton chop and my contentment with this, has thus far (and I hope ever will) put me above stooping an inch for it, even for -'s estate. Curse on it, I like it not to that degree, nor envy (you may be sure) any man who kneels in the dirt for it, so that, however I may fall short of the ends proposed in commencing author – I enter this protest, first, that my end was honest; and, secondly, that I wrote not to be fed, but to be famous. I am much obliged to Mr. Garrick for his
favourable opinion; but why, dear Sir, had he done better in finding fault with it than in commending it? to humble me! An author is not so soon humbled as you imagine
no, but to make the book better by castrations, that is still sub judice, and I can assure you, upon this chapter, that the very passages and descriptions you propose that I should sacrifice in my second edition are what are best relished by men of wit, and some others whom I esteem as sound critics - so that, upon the whole, I am still kept up, if not above fear, at least above despair, and have seen enough to shew me the folly of an attempt of castrating my book to the prudish humours of particulars. I believe the short cut would be to publish this letter at the beginning of the third volume, as an apology for the first and second. I was sorry to find a censure upon the insincerity of some of my friends I have no reason myself to reproach any one man, my friends have continued in the same opinions of my books which they first gave