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Title: A Political Romance
Author: Sterne, Laurence
Language: English
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A Political Romance

by Laurence Sterne

Addressed To _____ ________, Esq;
of
York.
To which is subjoined a
KEY.

_Ridiculum acri Fortius et melius magnas plerumque secat Res_

YORK:
Printed in the Year MDCCLIX.
[Price ONE SHILLING.]



A POLITICAL ROMANCE, &C.


SIR,

In my last, for want of something better to write about, I told you
what a World of Fending and Proving we have had of late, in this little
Village of ours, about an _old-cast-Pair-of-black-Plush-Breeches_,
which _John_, our Parish-Clerk, about ten Years ago, it seems, had made
a Promise of to one _Trim_, who is our Sexton and Dog-Whipper.—To this
you write me Word, that you have had more than either one or two
Occasions to know a good deal of the shifty Behaviour of this said
Master _Trim_,—and that you are astonished, nor can you for your Soul
conceive, how so worthless a Fellow, and so worthless a Thing into the
Bargain, could become the Occasion of such a Racket as I have
represented.

Now, though you do not say expressly, you could wish to hear any more
about it, yet I see plain enough that I have raised your Curiosity; and
therefore, from the same Motive, that I slightly mentioned it at all in
my last Letter, I will, in this, give you a full and very
circumstantial Account of the whole Affair.

But, before I begin, I must first set you right in one very material
Point, in which I have misled you, as to the true Cause of all this
Uproar amongst us;—which does not take its Rise, as I then told you,
from the Affair of the _Breeches;_—but, on the contrary, the whole
Affair of the _Breeches_ has taken its Rise from it:—To understand
which, you must know, that the first Beginning of the Squabble was not
between _John_ the Parish-Clerk and _Trim_ the Sexton, but betwixt the
Parson of the Parish and the said Master Trim, about an old
_Watch-Coat_, which had many Years hung up in the Church, which _Trim_
had set his Heart upon; and nothing would serve _Trim_ but he must take
it home, in order to have it converted into a _warm Under-Petticoat_
for his Wife, and a _Jerkin_ for himself, against Winter; which, in a
plaintive Tone, he most humbly begg’d his Reverence would consent to.

I need not tell you, Sir, who have so often felt it, that a Principle
of strong Compassion transports a generous Mind sometimes beyond what
is strictly right,—the Parson was within an Ace of being an honourable
Example of this very Crime;—for no sooner did the distinct
Words—_Petticoat—poor Wife—warm—Winter_ strike upon his Ear, but his
Heart warmed,—and, before _Trim_ had well got to the End of his
Petition, (being a Gentleman of a frank and open Temper) he told him he
was welcome to it, with all his Heart and Soul. But, _Trim_, says he,
as you see I am but just got down to my Living, and am an utter
Stranger to all Parish-Matters, know nothing about this old Watch-Coat
you beg of me, having never seen it in my Life, and therefore cannot be
a Judge whether ’tis fit for such a Purpose; or, if it is, in Truth,
know not whether ’tis mine to bestow upon you or not;—you must have a
Week or ten Days Patience, till I can make some Inquiries about
it;—and, if I find it is in my Power, I tell you again, Man, your Wife
is heartily welcome to an Under-Petticoat out of it, and you to a
Jerkin, was the Thing as good again as you represent it.

It is necessary to inform you, Sir, in this Place, That the Parson was
earnestly bent to serve _Trim_ in this Affair, not only from the Motive
of Generality, which I have justly ascribed to him, but likewise from
another Motive; and that was by way of making some Sort of Recompence
for a Multitude of small Services which _Trim_ had occasionally done,
and indeed was continually doing, (as he was much about the House) when
his own Man was out of the Way. For all these Reasons together, I say,
the Parson of the Parish intended to serve _Trim_ in this Matter to the
utmost of his Power: All that was wanting was previously to inquire, if
any one had a _Claim_ to it;—or whether, as it had, Time immemorial,
hung up in the Church, the taking it down might not raise a Clamour in
the Parish. These Inquiries were the very Thing that _Trim_ dreaded in
his Heart—He knew very well that if the Parson should but say one Word
to the Church-Wardens about it, there would be an End of the whole
Affair. For this, and some other Reasons not necessary to be told you,
at present, _Trim_ was for allowing no Time in this Matter;—but, on the
contrary, doubled his Diligence and Importunity at the
Vicarage-House;—plagued the whole Family to Death;—pressed his Suit
Morning, Noon, and Night; and, to shorten my Story, teazed the poor
Gentleman, who was but in an ill State of Health, almost out of his
Life about it.

You will not wonder, when I tell you, that all this Hurry and
Precipitation, on the Side of Master _Trim_, produced its natural
Effect on the Side of the Parson, and that was, a Suspicion that all
was not right at the Bottom.

He was one Evening sitting alone in his Study, weighing and turning
this Doubt every Way in his Mind; and, after an Hour and a half’s
serious Deliberation upon the Affair, and running over _Trim_’s
Behaviour throughout,—he was just saying to himself, _It must be
so;_—when a sudden Rap at the Door put an End to his Soliloquy,—and, in
a few Minutes, to his Doubts too; for a Labourer in the Town, who
deem’d himself past his fifty-second Year, had been returned by the
Constable in the Militia-List,—and he had come, with a Groat in his
Hand, to search the Parish Register for his Age.—The Parson bid the
poor Fellow put the Groat into his Pocket, and go into the
Kitchen:—Then shutting the Study Door, and taking down the Parish
Register,—_Who knows_, says he, _but I may find something here about
this self-same Watch-Coat?_—He had scarce unclasped the Book, in saying
this, when he popp’d upon the very Thing he wanted, fairly wrote on the
first Page, pasted to the Inside of one of the Covers, whereon was a
Memorandum about the very Thing in Question, in these express Words:

MEMORANDUM.

The great Watch-Coat was purchased and given above two hundred years
ago, by the Lord of the Manor, to this Parish-Church, to the sole use
and Behoof of the poor sextons thereof, and their Sucessors, for ever,
to be Worn by them respectively in wintery cold Nights, in ringing
Complines, Passing-Bells, &c. which the said Lord of the manor had
done, in Piety, to keep the poor Wretches warm, and for the Good of his
own Soul, for Which they were directed to pray, &c. &c. &c. &c. _Just
Heaven!_ said the Parson to himself, looking upwards, _What an Escape
have I had! Give this for an Under-Petticoat to Trim’s Wife! I would
not have consented to such a Desecration to be Primate of all England;
nay, I would not have disturb’d a single Button of it for half my
Tythes!_

Scarce were the Words out of his Mouth, when in pops _Trim_ with the
whole Subject of the Exclamation under both his Arms.—I say, under both
his Arms;—for he had actually got it ripp’d and cut out ready, his own
Jerkin under one Arm, and the Petticoat under the other, in order to be
carried to the Taylor to be made up,—and had just stepp’d in, in high
Spirits, to shew the Parson how cleverly it had held out.

There are many good Similies now subsisting in the World, but which I
have neither Time to recollect or look for, which would give you a
strong Conception of the Astonishment and honest Indignation which this
unexpected Stroke of _Trim_’s Impudence impress’d upon the Parson’s
Looks.—Let it suffice to say, That it exceeded all fair Description,—as
well as all Power of proper Resentment,—except this, that _Trim_ was
ordered, in a stern Voice, to lay the Bundles down upon the Table,—to
go about his Business, and wait upon him, at his Peril, the next
Morning at Eleven precisely,:—Against this Hour, like a wise Man, the
Parson had sent to desire _John_ the Parish-Clerk, who bore an
exceeding good Character as a Man of Truth, and who having, moreover, a
pretty Freehold of about eighteen Pounds a Year in the Township, was a
leading Man in it; and, upon the whole, was such a one of whom it might
be said,—That he rather did Honour to his Office,—than that his Office
did Honour to him.—Him he sends for, with the Church-Wardens, and one
of the Sides-Men, a grave, knowing, old Man, to be present:—For as
_Trim_ had withheld the whole Truth from the Parson, touching the
Watch-Coat, he thought it probable he would as certainly do the same
Thing to others; though this, I said, was wise, the Trouble of the
Precaution might have been spared, —because the Parson’s Character was
unblemish’d,—and he had ever been held by the World in the Estimation
of a Man of Honour and Integrity.—_Trim_’s Character, on the contrary,
was as well known, if not in the World, yet, at least, in all the
Parish, to be that of a little, dirty, pimping, pettifogging,
ambidextrous Fellow,—who neither cared what he did or said of any,
provided he could get a Penny by it.—This might, I say, have made any
Precaution needless;—but you must know, as the Parson had in a Manner
but just got down to his Living, he dreaded the Consequences of the
least ill Impression on his first Entrance amongst his Parishioners,
which would have disabled him from doing them the Good he Wished;—so
that, out of Regard to his Flock, more than the necessary Care due to
himself,—he was resolv’d not to lie at the Mercy of what Resentment
might vent, or Malice lend an Ear to.—Accordingly the whole Matter was
rehearsed from first to last by the Parson, in the Manner I’ve told
you, in the Hearing of _John_ the Parish-Clerk, and in the Presence of
_Trim_.

_Trim_ had little to say for himself, except “That the Parson had
absolutely promised to befriend him and his Wife in the Affair, to the
utmost of his Power: That the Watch-Coat was certainly in his Power,
and that he might give it him if he pleased.”

To this, the Parson’s Reply was short, but strong, “That nothing was in
his Power to do, but what he could do _honestly:_—That in giving the
Coat to him and his Wife, he should do a manifest Wrong to the next
Sexton; the great Watch-Coat being the most comfortable Part of the
Place:—That he should, moreover, injure the Right of his own Successor,
who would be just so much a worse Patron, as the Worth of the Coat
amounted to;—and, in a Word, he declared, that his whole intent in
promising that Coat, was Charity to _Trim;_ but _Wrong_ to no Man; that
was a Reserve, he said, made in all Cases of this Kind:—and he declared
solemnly, _in Verbo Sacerdotis_, That this was his Meaning, and was so
understood by _Trim_ himself.”

With the Weight of this Truth, and the great good Sense and strong
Reason which accompanied all the Parson said upon the Subject,—poor
_Trim_ was driven to his last Shift,—and begg’d he might be suffered to
plead his Right and Title to the Watch-Coat, if not by _Promise_, at
least by _Services_.—It was well known how much he was entitled to it
upon these Scores: That he had black’d the Parson’s Shoes without
Count, and greased his Boots above fifty Times:—That he had run for
Eggs into the Town upon all Occasions;—whetted the Knives at all
Hours;—catched his Horse and rubbed him down:—That for his Wife she had
been ready upon all Occasions to charr for them;—and neither he nor
she, to the best of his Remembrance, ever took a Farthing, or any thing
beyond a Mug of Ale.—To this Account of his Services he begg’d Leave to
add those of his Wishes, which, he said, had been equally great.—He
affirmed, and was ready, he said, to make it appear, by Numbers of
Witnesses, “He had drank his Reverence’s Health a thousand Times, (by
the bye, he did not add out of the Parson’s own Ale): That he not only
drank his Health, but wish’d it; and never came to the House, but ask’d
his Man kindly how he did; that in particular, about half a Year ago,
when his Reverence cut his Finger in paring an Apple, he went half a
Mile to ask a cunning Woman, what was good to stanch Blood, and
actually returned with a Cobweb in his Breeches Pocket:—Nay, says
_Trim_, it was not a Fortnight ago, when your Reverence took that
violent Purge, that I went to the far End of the whole Town to borrow
you a Close-stool,—and came back, as my Neighbours, who flouted me,
will all bear witness, with the Pan upon my Head, and never thought it
too much.”

_Trim_ concluded his pathetick Remonstrance with saying, “He hoped his
Reverence’s Heart would not suffer him to requite so many faithful
Services by so unkind a Return:—That if it was so, as he was the first,
so he hoped he should be the last, Example of a Man of his Condition so
treated.”—This Plan of _Trim_’s Defence, which _Trim_ had put himself
upon,—could admit of no other Reply but a general Smile.

Upon the whole, let me inform you, That all that could be said, _pro_
and _con_, on both Sides, being fairly heard, it was plain, That
_Trim_, in every Part of this Affair, had behaved very ill;—and _one_
Thing, which was never expected to be known of him, happening in the
Course of this Debate to come out against him; namely, That he had gone
and told the Parson, before he had ever set Foot in his Parish, That
_John_ his Parish-Clerk,—his Church-Wardens, and some of the Heads of
the Parish, were a Parcel of Scoundrels.—Upon the Upshot, _Trim_ was
kick’d out of Doors; and told, at his Peril, never to come there again.

At first _Trim_ huff’d and bounced most terribly;—swore he would get a
Warrant;—then nothing would serve him but he would call a Bye-Law, and
tell the whole Parish how the Parson had misused him;—but cooling of
that, as fearing the Parson might possibly bind him over to his good
Behaviour, and, for aught he knew, might send him to the House of
Correction,—he let the Parson alone; and, to revenge himself, falls
foul upon his Clerk, who had no more to do in the Quarrel than you or
I;—rips up the Promise of the old-cast-Pair-of-black-Plush-Breeches,
and raises an Uproar in the Town about it, notwithstanding it had slept
ten Years.—But all this, you must know, is look’d upon in no other
Light, but as an artful Stroke of Generalship in _Trim_, to raise a
Dust, and cover himself under the disgraceful Chastisement he has
undergone.

If your Curiosity is not yet satisfied,—I will now proceed to relate
the _Battle_ of the Breeches, in the same exact Manner I have done
_that_ of the Watch-Coat.

Be it known then, that, about ten Years ago, when _John_ was appointed
Parish-Clerk of this Church, this said Master _Trim_ took no small
Pains to get into _John_’s good Graces in order, as it afterwards
appeared, to coax a Promise out of him of a Pair of Breeches, which
_John_ had then by him, of black Plush, not much the worse for
wearing;—_Trim_ only begging for God’s Sake to have them bestowed upon
him when _John_ should think fit to cast them.

_Trim_ was one of those kind of Men who loved a Bit of Finery in his
Heart, and would rather have a tatter’d Rag of a Better Body’s, than
the best plain whole Thing his Wife could spin him.

_John_, who was naturally unsuspicious, made no more Difficulty of
promising the Breeches, than the Parson had done in promising the Great
Coat; and, indeed, with something less Reserve,—because the Breeches
were _John’s own_, and he could give them, without Wrong, to whom he
thought fit.

It happened, I was going to say unluckily, but, I should rather say,
most luckily, for _Trim_, for he was the only Gainer by it;—that a
Quarrel, about some six or eight Weeks after this, broke out between
_the late_ Parson of the Parish and _John_ the Clerk. Somebody (and it
was thought to be Nobody but _Trim_) had put it into the Parson’s Head,
“That _John_’s Desk in the Church was, at the least, four Inches higher
than it should be:—That the Thing gave Offence, and was indecorous,
inasmuch as it approach’d too near upon a Level with the Parson’s Desk
itself.” This Hardship the Parson complained of loudly,—and told _John_
one Day after Prayers, “He could bear it no longer:—And would have it
alter’d and brought down as it should be.” _John_ made no other Reply,
but, “That the Desk was not of his raising:—That ’twas not one Hair
Breadth higher than he found it;—and that as he found it, so would he
leave it:—In short, he would neither make an Encroachment, nor would he
suffer one.”

The _late_ Parson might have his Virtues, but the leading Part of his
Character was not _Humility;_ so that _John_’s Stiffness in this Point
was not likely to reconcile Matters.—This was _Trim_’s Harvest.

After a friendly Hint to _John_ to stand his Ground,—away hies _Trim_
to make his Market at the Vicarage: What pass’d there, I will not say,
intending not to be uncharitable; so shall content myself with only
guessing at it, from the sudden Change that appeared in _Trim_’s Dress
for the better;—for he had left his old ragged Coat, Hat and Wig, in
the Stable, and was come forth strutting across the Church-yard, y’clad
in a good creditable cast Coat, large Hat and Wig, which the Parson had
just given him.—Ho! Ho! Hollo! _John!_ cries _Trim_, in an insolent
Bravo, as loud as ever he could bawl—See here, my Lad! how fine I
am.—The more Shame for you, answered _John_, seriously.—Do you think,
_Trim_, says he, such Finery, gain’d by such Services, becomes you, or
can wear well?—Fye upon it, _Trim;_—I could not have expected this from
you, considering what Friendship you pretended, and how kind I have
ever been to you:—How many Shillings and Sixpences I have generously
lent you in your Distresses?—Nay, it was but t’other Day that I
promised you these black Plush Breeches I have on.—Rot your Breeches,
quoth _Trim;_ for _Trim_’s Brain was half turn’d with his new
Finery:—Rot your Breeches, says he, —I would not take them up, were
they laid at my Door;—give ’em, and be d——d to you, to whom you like; I
would have you to know I can have a better Pair at the Parson’s any Day
in the Week:—_John_ told him plainly, as his Word had once pass’d him,
he had a Spirit above taking Advantage of his Insolence, in giving them
away to another:—But, to tell him his Mind freely, he thought he had
got so many Favours of that Kind, and was so likely to get many more
for the same Services, of the Parson, that he had better give up the
Breeches, with good Nature, to some one who would be more thankful for
them.

Here _John_ mentioned _Mark Slender_, (who, it seems, the Day before,
had ask’d _John_ for ’em) not knowing they were under Promise to
_Trim_.—“Come, _Trim_, says he, let poor _Mark_ have ’em,—You know he
has not a Pair to his. A——: Besides, you see he is just of my Size, and
they will fit him to a T; whereas, if I give ’em to you,—look ye, they
are not worth much; and, besides, you could not get your Backside into
them, if you had them, without tearing them all to Pieces.”

Every Tittle of this was most undoubtedly true; for _Trim_, you must
know, by foul Feeding, and playing the good Fellow at the Parson’s, was
grown somewhat gross about the lower Parts, _if not higher:_ So that,
as all _John_ said upon the Occasion was fact, _Trim_, with much ado,
and after a hundred Hum’s and Hah’s, at last, out of mere Compassion to
Mark, _signs, seals, and delivers up_ all Right, Interest, and
Pretentions whatsoever, in and to the said breeches; thereby binding
his Heirs, Executors, Administrators, and Assignes, never more to call
the said Claim in Question.

All this Renunciation was set forth in an ample Manner, to be in pure
Pity to _Mark_’s Nakedness;—but the Secret was, _Trim_ had an Eye to,
and firmly expected in his own Mind, the great Green Pulpit-Cloth and
old Velvet Cushion, which were that very Year to be taken down;—which,
by the Bye, could he have wheedled _John_ a second Time out of ’em, as
he hoped, he had made up the Loss of his Breeches Seven-fold.

Now, you must know, this Pulpit-Cloth and Cushion were not in _John_’s
Gift, but in the Church-Wardens, _&c._—However, as I said above, that
_John_ was a leading Man in the Parish, _Trim_ knew he could help him
to them if he would:—But _John_ had got a Surfeit of him;—so, when the
Pulpit-Cloth, &c. were taken down, they were immediately given (_John_
having a great Say in it) to _William Doe_, who understood very well
what Use to make of them.

As for the old Breeches, poor _Mark Slender_ lived to wear them but a
short Time, and they got into the Possession of _Lorry Slim_, an
unlucky Wight, by whom they are still worn;—in Truth, as you will
guess, they are very thin by this Time:—But _Lorry_ has a light Heart;
and what recommends them to him, is this, that, as, thin as they are,
he knows that Trim, let him say what he will to the contrary, still
envies the _Possessor_ of them,—and, with all his Pride, would be very
glad to wear them after _him_.

Upon this Footing have these Affairs slept quietly for near ten
Years,—and would have slept for ever, but for the unlucky Kicking-Bout;
which, as I said, has ripp’d this Squabble up afresh: So that it was no
longer ago than last Week, that _Trim_ met and insulted _John_ in the
public Town- Way, before a hundred People;—tax’d him with the Promise
of the old-cast-Pair-of-black-Breeches, notwithstanding _Trim_’s solemn
Renunciation; twitted him with the Pulpit-Cloth and Velvet Cushion,—as
good as told him, he was ignorant of the common Duties of his
Clerkship; adding, very insolently, That he knew not so much as to give
out a common Psalm in Tune.—

_John_ contented himself with giving a plain Answer to every Article
that _Trim_ had laid to his Charge, and appealed to his Neighbours who
remembered the whole Affair;—and as he knew there was never any Thing
to be got in wrestling with a Chimney-Sweeper,—he was going to take
Leave of _Trim_ for ever.—But, hold,—the Mob by this Time had got round
them, and their High Mightinesses insisted upon having _Trim_ tried
upon the Spot.—_Trim_ was accordingly tried; and, after a full Hearing,
was convicted a second Time, and handled more roughly by one or more of
them, than even at the Parson’s.

_Trim_, says one, are you not ashamed of yourself, to make all this
Rout and Disturbance in the Town, and set Neighbours together by the
Ears, about an old-worn-out-Pair-of-cast-Breeches, not worth Half a
Crown?—Is there a cast-Coat, or a Place in the whole Town, that will
bring you in a Shilling, but what you have snapp’d up, like a greedy
Hound as you are?

In the first Place, are you not Sexton and Dog-Whipper, worth Three
Pounds a Year?—Then you begg’d the Church-Wardens to let your Wife have
the Washing and Darning of the Surplice and Church-Linen, which brings
you in Thirteen Shillings and Four Pence.—Then you have Six Shillings
and Eight Pence for oiling and winding up the Clock, both paid you at
_Easter_.—The Pinder’s Place, which is worth Forty Shillings a
Year,—you have got that too.—You are the Bailiff, which the late Parson
got you, which brings you in Forty Shillings more.—Besides all this,
you have Six Pounds a Year, paid you Quarterly for being Mole-Catcher
to the Parish.—Aye, says the luckless Wight above-mentioned, (who was
standing close to him with his Plush Breeches on) “You are not only
Mole-Catcher, _Trim_, but you catch STRAY CONIES too in the _Dark;_ and
you pretend a _Licence_ for it, which, I trove, will be look’d into at
the next Quarter Sessions.” I maintain it, I have a Licence, says
_Trim_, blushing as red as Scarlet:—I have a Licence,—and as I farm a
Warren in the next Parish, I will catch Conies every Hour of the
Night.—_You catch Conies!_ cries a toothless old Woman, who was just
passing by.—

This set the Mob a laughing, and sent every Man home in perfect good
Humour, except _Trim_, who waddled very slowly off with that Kind of
inflexible Gravity only to be equalled by one Animal in the whole
Creation,—and surpassed by none, I am,

SIR,
Yours, &c. &c.

FINIS.



POSTSCRIPT.


I have broke open my Letter to inform you, that I miss’d the
Opportunity of sending it by the Messenger, who I expected would have
called upon me in his Return through this Village to _York_, so it has
laid a Week or ten Days by me.

—I am not sorry for the Disappointment, because something has since
happened, in Continuation of this Affair, which I am thereby enabled to
transmit to you, all under one Trouble.

When I finished the above Account, I thought (as did every Soul in the
Parish) _Trim_ had met with so thorough a Rebuff from _John_ the
Parish-Clerk and the Town’s Folks, who all took against him, that
_Trim_ would be glad to be quiet, and let the Matter rest.

But, it seems, it is not half an Hour ago since _Trim_ sallied forth
again; and, having borrowed a Sow-Gelder’s Horn, with hard Blowing he
got the whole Town round him, and endeavoured to raise a Disturbance,
and fight the whole Battle over again:—That he had been used in the
last Fray worse than a Dog;—not by _John_ the Parish-Clerk,—for I
shou’d not, quoth _Trim_, have valued him a Rush single Hands:—But all
the Town sided with him, and twelve Men in Buckram set upon me all at
once, and kept me in Play at Sword’s Point for three Hours
together.—Besides, quoth Trim, there were two misbegotten Knaves in
_Kendal Green_, who lay all the while in Ambush in _John_’s own House,
and they all sixteen came upon my Back, and let drive at me together.—A
Plague, says _Trim_, of all Cowards!—_Trim_ repeated this Story above a
Dozen Times;—which made some of the Neighbours pity him, thinking the
poor Fellow crack-brain’d, and that he actually believed what he said.
After this _Trim_ dropp’d the Affair of the _Breeches_, and begun a
fresh Dispute about the _Reading-Desk_, which I told you had occasioned
some small Dispute between the _late_ Parson and _John_, some Years
ago.

This _Reading-Desk_, as you will observe, was but an Episode wove into
the main Story by the Bye;—for the main Affair was the _Battle of the
Breeches_ and _Great Watch-Coat_.—However, _Trim_ being at last driven
out of these two Citadels,—he has seized hold, in his Retreat, of this
_Reading-Desk_, with a View, as it seems, to take Shelter behind it.

I cannot say but the Man has fought it out obstinately enough;—and, had
his Cause been good, I should have really pitied him. For when he was
driven out of the _Great Watch-Coat_,—you see, he did not run away;—no,
—he retreated behind the _Breeches;_—and, when he could make nothing of
it behind the _Breeches_,—he got behind the _Reading-Desk_.—To what
other Hold Trim will next retreat, the Politicians of this Village are
not agreed.—Some think his next Move will be towards the Rear of the
Parson’s Boot;—but, as it is thought he cannot make a long Stand
there,—others are of Opinion, That _Trim_ will once more in his Life
get hold of the Parson’s Horse, and charge upon him, or perhaps behind
him. But as the Horse is not easy to be caught, the more general
Opinion is, That, when he is driven out of the _Reading-Desk_, he will
make his last Retreat in such a Manner as, if possible, to gain the
_Close-Stool_, and defend himself behind it to the very last Drop. If
_Trim_ should make this Movement, by my Advice he should be left
besides his Citadel, in full Possession of the Field of Battle;—where,
’tis certain, he will keep every Body a League off, and may pop by
himself till he is weary: Besides, as _Trim_ seems bent upon _purging_
himself, and may have Abundance of foul Humours to work off, I think he
cannot be better placed.

But this is all Matter of Speculation.—Let me carry you back to Matter
of Fact, and tell you what Kind of a Stand _Trim_ has actually made
behind the said _Desk_.

“Neighbours and Townsmen all, I will be sworn before my Lord Mayor,
That _John_ and his nineteen Men in _Buckram_, have abused me worse
than a Dog; for they told you that I play’d fast and go-loose with the
_late_ Parson and him, in that old Dispute of theirs about the
_Reading-Desk;_ and that I made Matters worse between them, and not
better.”

Of this Charge, _Trim_ declared he was as innocent as the Child that
was unborn: That he would be Book-sworn he had no Hand in it. He
produced a strong Witness;—and, moreover, insinuated, that _John_
himself, instead of being angry for what he had done in it, had
actually thank’d him. Aye, _Trim_, says the Wight in the Plush
Breeches, but that was, _Trim_, the Day before _John_ found thee
out.—Besides, _Trim_, there is nothing in that:—For, the very Year that
thou wast made Town’s Pinder, thou knowest well, that I both thank’d
thee myself; and, moreover, gave thee a good warm Supper for turning
_John Lund_’s Cows and Horses out of my Hard-Corn Close; which if thou
had’st not done, (as thou told’st me) I should have lost my whole Crop:
Whereas, _John Lund_ and _Thomas Patt_, who are both here to testify,
and will take their Oaths on’t, That thou thyself wast the very Man who
set the Gate open; and, after all,—it was not thee, _Trim_,—’twas the
Blacksmith’s poor Lad who turn’d them out: So that a Man may be thank’d
and rewarded too for a good Turn which he never did, nor ever did
intend.

_Trim_ could not sustain this unexpected Stroke;—so _Trim_ march’d off
the Field, without Colours flying, or his Horn sounding, or any other
Ensigns of Honour whatever.

Whether after this _Trim_ intends to rally a second Time, or whether
_Trim_ may not take it into his Head to claim the Victory,—no one but
_Trim_ himself can inform you:—However, the general Opinion, upon the
whole, is this, That, in three several pitch’d Battles, _Trim_ has been
so trimm’d, as never disastrous Hero was _trimm’d_ before him.



THE KEY.


This _Romance_ was, by some Mischance or other, dropp’d in the
_Minster-Yard, York_, and pick’d up by a Member of a small Political
Club in that City; where it was carried, and publickly read to the
Members the last Club Night.

It was instantly agreed to, by a great Majority, That it was a
_Political Romance;_ but concerning what State or Potentate, could not
so easily be settled amongst them.

The President of the Night, who is thought to be as clear and
quick-lighted as any one of the whole Club in Things of this Nature,
discovered plainly, That the Disturbances therein set forth, related to
those on the _Continent:_—That _Trim_ could be Nobody but the King of
_France_, by whole shifting and intriguing Behaviour, all _Europe_ was
set together by the Ears:—That _Trim_’s Wife was certainly the
_Empress_, who are as kind together, says he, as any Man and Wife can
be for their Lives.—The more Shame for ’em, says an Alderman, low to
himself.—Agreeable to this Key, continues the President,—The _Parson_,
who I think is a most excellent Character,—is His Most Excellent
Majesty King _George;_—_John_, the Parish-Clerk, is the King of
_Prussia;_ who, by the Manner of his first entering _Saxony_, shew’d
the World most evidently,—That he did know how to lead out the Psalm,
and in Tune and Time too, notwithstanding _Trim_’s vile Insult upon him
in that Particular.—But who do you think, says a Surgeon and
Man-Midwife, who sat next him, (whose Coat-Button the President, in the
Earnestness of this Explanation, had got fast hold of, and had thereby
partly drawn him over to his Opinion) Who do you think, Mr. President,
says he, are meant by the _Church-Wardens, Sides-Men, Mark Slender,
Lorry Slim, &c._—Who do I think? says he, Why,—Why, Sir, as I take the
Thing,—the _Church-Wardens_ and _Sides-Men_, are the _Electors_ and the
other _Princes_ who form the _Germanick Body_.—And as for the other
subordinate Characters of _Mark Slim?_—the _unlucky Wight_ in the Plush
Breeches,—the _Parson’s Man_ who was so often out of the Way, &c.
&c.—these, to be sure, are the several _Marshals_ and _Generals_, who
fought, or should have fought, under them the last Campaign.—The Men in
_Buckram_, continued the President, are the Grofs of the King of
_Prussia_’s Army, who are as _stiff_ a Body of Men as are in the
World:—And _Trim_’s saying they were twelve, and then nineteen, is a
Wipe for the _Brussels Gazetteer_, who, to my Knowledge, was never two
Weeks in the same Story, about that or any thing else.

As for the rest of the _Romance_, continued the President, it
sufficiently explains itself,—The
_Old-cast-Pair-of-Black-Plush-Breeches_ must be _Saxony_, which the
_Elector_, you see, _has left of wearing:_—And as for the _Great
Watch-Coat_, which, you know, covers all, it signifies all _Europe;_
comprehending, at least, so many of its different States and Dominions,
as we have any Concern with in the present War.

I protest, says a Gentleman who sat next but one to the President, and
who, it seems, was the Parson of the Parish, a Member not only of the
Political, but also of a Musical Club in the next Street;—I protest,
says he, if this Explanation is right, which I think it is, That the
whole makes a very fine Symbol.—You have always some Musical Instrument
or other in your Head, I think, says the Alderman.—Musical instrument!
replies the Parson, in Astonishment,—Mr. Alderman, I mean an Allegory;
and I think the greedy Disposition of _Trim_ and his Wife, in ripping
the _Great Watch-Coat_ to Pieces, in order to convert it into a
Petticoat for the one, and a Jerkin for the other, is one of the most
beautiful of the Kind I ever met with; and will shew all the World what
have been the true Views and Intentions of the Houses of _Bourbon_ and
_Austria_ in this abominable Coalition,—I might have called it
Whoredom:—Nay, says the Alderman, ’tis downright Adulterydom, or
nothing.

This Hypothesis of the President’s explain’d every Thing in the
_Romance_ extreamly well; and, withall, was delivered with so much
Readiness and Air of Certainty, as begot an Opinion in two Thirds of
the Club, that Mr. President was actually the Author of the _Romance_
himself: But a Gentleman who sat on the opposite Side of the Table, who
had come piping-hot from reading the History of King _William_’s and
Queen _Anne_’s Wars, and who was thought, at the Bottom, to envy the
President the Honour both of the _Romance_ and Explanation too, gave an
entire new Turn to it all. He acquainted the Club, That Mr. President
was altogether wrong in every Supposition he had made, except that one,
where the _Great Watch-Coat_ was said by him to represent _Europe_, or
at least a great Part of it:—So far he acknowledged he was pretty
right; but that he had not gone far enough backwards into our History
to come at the Truth. He then acquainted them, that the dividing the
_Great Watch-Coat_ did, and could, allude to nothing else in the World
but the _Partition-Treaty;_ which, by the Bye, he told them, was the
most unhappy and scandalous Transaction in all King _William_’s Life:
It was that false Step, and that only, says he, rising from his Chair,
and striking his Hand upon the Table with great Violence; it was that
false Step, says he, knitting his Brows and throwing his Pipe down upon
the Ground, that has laid the Foundation of all the Disturbances and
Sorrows we feel and lament at this very Hour; and as for _Trim_’s
giving up the _Breeches_, look ye, it is almost Word for Word copied
from the _French_ King and _Dauphin_’s Renunciation of _Spain_ and the
_West-Indies_, which all the World knew (as was the very Case of the
_Breeches_) were renounced by them on purpose to be reclaim’d when Time
should serve.

This Explanation had too much Ingenuity in it to be altogether
slighted; and, in Truth, the worst Fault it had, seem’d to be the
prodigious Heat of it; which (as an Apothecary, who sat next the Fire,
observ’d, in a very low Whisper to his next Neighbour) was so much
incorporated into every Particle of it, that it was impossible, under
such Fermentation, it should work its defined Effect.

This, however, no way intimidated a little valiant Gentleman, though he
sat the very next Man, from giving an Opinion as diametrically opposite
as _East_ is from _West_.

This Gentleman, who was by much the best Geographer in the whole Club,
and, moreover, second Cousin to an Engineer, was positive the
_Breeches_ meant _Gibraltar;_ for, if you remember, Gentlemen, says he,
tho’ possibly you don’t, the Ichnography and Plan of that Town and
Fortress, it exactly resembles a Pair of Trunk-Hose, the two
Promontories forming the two Slops, &c. &c.—Now we all know, continued
he, that King _George_ the First made a Promise of that important Pass
to the King of _Spain:_—So that the whole Drift of the _Romance_,
according to my Sense of Things, is merely to vindicate the King and
the Parliament in that Transaction, which made so much Noise in the
World.

A Wholesale Taylor, who from the Beginning had resolved not to speak at
all in the Debate,—was at last drawn into it, by something very
unexpected in the last Person’s Argument.

He told the Company, frankly, he did not understand what _Ichnography_
meant:—But as for the Shape of a _Pair of Breeches_, as he had had the
Advantage of cutting out so many hundred Pairs in his Life-Time, he
hoped he might be allowed to know as much of the Matter as another Man.

Now, to my Mind, says he, there is nothing in all the Terraqueous Globe
(a Map of which, it seems, hung up in his Work-Shop) so like a _Pair of
Breeches_ unmade up, as the Island of _Sicily:_—Nor is there any thing,
if you go to that, quoth an honest Shoe-maker, who had the Honour to be
a Member of the Club, so much like a _Jack-Boot_, to my Fancy, as the
Kingdom of _Italy_.—What the Duce has either _Italy_ or _Sicily_ to do
in the Affair? cries the President, who, by this Time, began to tremble
for his Hypothesis,—What have they to do?—Why, answered the
_Partition-Treaty_ Gentleman, with great Spirit and Joy sparkling in
his Eyes,—They have just so much, Sir, to do in the Debate as to
overthrow your Suppositions, and to establish the Certainty of mine
beyond the Possibility of a Doubt: For, says he, (with an Air of
Sovereign Triumph over the President’s Politicks)—By the
_Partition-Treaty_, Sir, both _Naples_ and _Sicily_ were the very
Kingdoms made to devolve upon the _Dauphin;_—and _Trim_’s _greasing the
Parson’s Boots_, is a Devilish Satyrical Stroke;—for it exposes the
Corruption, and Bribery made Use of at that Juncture, in bringing over
the several States and Princes of _Italy_ to use their Interests at
_Rome_, to stop the Pope from giving the Investitures of those Kingdoms
to any Body else.—The Pope has not the Investiture of _Sicily_, cries
another Gentleman.—I care not, says he, for that.

Almost every one apprehended the Debate to be now ended, and that no
one Member would venture any new Conjecture upon the _Romance_, after
so many clear and decisive Interpretations had been given. But,
hold,—Close to the Fire, and opposite to where the Apothecary sat,
there sat also a Gentleman of the Law, who, from the Beginning to the
End of the Hearing of this Case, seem’d no way satisfied in his
Conscience with any one Proceeding in it. This Gentleman had not yet
opened his Mouth, but had waited patiently till they had all gone thro’
their several Evidences on the other Side;—reserving himself, like an
expert Practitioner, for the last Word in the Debate. When the
_Partition-Treaty_-Gentleman had finish’d what he had to say,—He got
up,—and, advancing towards the Table, told them, That the Error they
had all gone upon thus far, in making out the several Facts in the
_Romance_,—was in looking too high; which, with great Candor, he said,
was a very natural Thing, and very excusable withall, in such a
Political Club as theirs: For Instance, continues he, you have been
searching the _Registers_, and looking into the _Deeds_ of _Kings_ and
_Emperors_,—as if Nobody had any _Deeds_ to shew or compare the
_Romance_ to but themselves.—This, continued the Attorney, is just as
much out of the Way of good Practice, as if I should carry a Thing
slap-dash into the House of Lords, which was under forty Shillings, and
might be decided in the next County-Court for six Shillings and
Eight-pence.—He then took the _Romance_ in his Left Hand, and pointing
with the Fore-Finger of his Right towards the second Page, he humbly
begg’d Leave to observe, (and, to do him Justice, he did it in somewhat
of a _forensic Air_) That the _Parson, John_, and _Sexton_, shewed
incontestably the Thing to be _Tripartite;_ now, if you will take
Notice, Gentlemen, says he, these several Persons, who are Parties to
this Instrument, are merely Ecclesiastical; that the _Reading-Desk,
Pulpit-Cloth_, and _Velvet Cushion_, are tripartite too; and are, by
Intendment of Law, Goods and Chattles merely of an Ecclesiastick
Nature, belonging and appertaining ‘only unto them,’ _and to them
only_.—So that it appears very plain to me, That the _Romance_, neither
directly nor indirectly, goes upon Temporal, but altogether upon
Church-Matters.—And do not you think, says he, softening his Voice a
little, and addressing himself to the Parson with a forced Smile,—Do
not you think Doctor, says he, That the Dispute in the _Romance_,
between the _Parson_ of the Parish and _John_, about the Height of
_John_’s Desk, is a very fine Panegyrick upon the _Humility of
Church-Men?_—I think, says the Parson, it is much of the same Fineness
with that which your Profession is complimented with, in the pimping,
dirty, pettyfogging Character of _Trim_,—which, in my Opinion, Sir, is
just such another Panegyrick upon the _Honesty_ of _Attornies_.

Nothing whets the Spirits like an Insult:—Therefore the Parson went on
with a visible Superiority and an uncommon Acuteness.—As you are so
happy, Sir, continues he, in making Applications,—pray turn over a Page
or two to the black Law-Letters in the _Romance_.—What do you think of
them, Sir?—Nay,—pray read the Grant of the _Great Watch-Coat_ and
_Trim_’s Renunciation of the _Breeches_.—Why, there is downright Lease
and Release for you,—’tis the very Thing, Man;—only with this small
Difference,—and in which consists the whole Strength of the Panegyric,
That the Author of the _Romance_ has convey’d and re-convey’d, in about
ten Lines, —what you, with the glorious Prolixity of the Law, could not
have crowded into as many Skins of Parchment.

The Apothecary, who had paid the Attorney, the same Afternoon, a Demand
of Three Pounds Six Shillings and Eight-Pence, for much such another
Jobb,—was so highly tickled with the Parson’s Repartee in that
particular Point,—that he rubb’d his Hands together most fervently,—and
laugh’d most triumphantly thereupon.

This could not escape the Attorney’s Notice, any more than the Cause of
it did escape his Penetration.

I think, Sir, says he, (dropping his Voice a Third) you might well have
spared this immoderate Mirth, since you and your Profession have the
least Reason to triumph here of any of us.—I beg, quoth he, that you
would reflect a Moment upon the _Cob-Web_ which _Trim_ went so far for,
and brought back with an Air of so much Importance, in his Breeches
Pocket, to lay upon the Parson’s cut Finger.—This said Cob-Web, Sir, is
a fine-spun Satyre, upon the flimsy Nature of one Half of the
Shop-Medicines, with which you make a Property of the Sick, the
Ignorant, and the Unsuspecting.—And as for the Moral of the
_Close-Stool-Pan_, Sir, ’tis too plain, Does not nine Parts in ten of
the whole Practice, and of all you vend under _its Colours_, pass into
and concenter in that one nasty Utensil?—And let me tell you, Sir, says
he, raising his Voice,—had not your unseasonable Mirth blinded you, you
might have seen that _Trim_’s carrying the Close-Stool-Pan upon his
Head the whole Length of the Town, without blushing, is a pointed
Raillery,—and one of the sharpest Sarcasms, Sir, that ever was thrown
out upon you;—for it unveils the solemn Impudence of the whole
Profession, who, I see, are ashamed of nothing which brings in Money.

There were two Apothecaries in the Club, besides the Surgeon mentioned
before, with a Chemist and an Undertaker, who all felt themselves
equally hurt and aggrieved by this discourteous Retort:—And they were
all five rising up together from their Chairs, with full Intent of
Heart, as it was thought, to return the _Reproof Valiant_
thereupon.—But the President, fearing it would end in a general
Engagement, he instantly call’d out, _To Order;_—and gave Notice, That
if there was any Member in the Club, who had not yet spoke, and yet did
desire to speak upon the main Subject of the Debate,—that he should
immediately be heard.

This was a happy Invitation for a stammering Member, who, it seems, had
but a weak Voice at the best; and having often attempted to speak in
the Debate, but to no Purpose, had sat down in utter Despair of an
Opportunity.

This Member, you must know, had got a sad Crush upon his Hip, in the
late _Election_, which gave him intolerable Anguish;—so that, in short,
he could think of nothing else:—For which Cause, and others, he was
strongly of Opinion, That the whole _Romance_ was a just Gird at the
late _York_ Election; and I think, says he, that the _Promise_ of the
_Breeches_ broke, may well and truly signify _Somebody’s else Promise_,
which was broke, and occasion’d to much Disturbance amongst us.

Thus every Man turn’d the Story to what was swimming uppermost in his
own Brain;—so that, before all was over, there were full as many
Satyres spun out of it,—and as great a Variety of Personages, Opinions,
Transactions, and Truths, found to lay hid under the dark Veil of its
Allegory, as ever were discovered in the thrice-renowned History of the
Acts of _Gargantua_ and _Pantagruel_.

At the Close of all, and just before the Club was going to break
up,—Mr. President rose from his Chair, and begg’d Leave to make the two
following Motions, which were instantly agreed to, without any
Division.

_First_, Gentlemen, says he, as _Trim_’s Character in the Romance, of a
shuffling intriguing Fellow,—whoever it was drawn for, is, in Truth, as
like the _French King_ as it can stare,—I move, That the _Romance_ be
forthwith _printed:_—For, continues he, if we can but once turn the
Laugh against him, and make him asham’d of what he has done, it may be
a great Means, with the Blessing of God upon our Fleets and Armies, to
save the Liberties of _Europe_.

In the _second_ Place, I move, That Mr. Attorney, our worthy Member, be
desired to take Minutes, upon the Spot, of every Conjecture which has
been made upon the _Romance_, by the several Members who have spoke;
which, I think, says he, will answer two good Ends:

1st, It will establish the Political Knowledge of our Club for ever,
and place it in a respectable Light to all the World.

In the _next_ Place, it will furnish what will be wanted; that is, a
_Key_ to the _Romance_.—In troth you might have said a whole Bunch of
_Keys_, quoth a Whitesmith, who was the only Member in the Club who had
not said something in the Debate: But let me tell you, Mr. President,
says he, That the _Right Key_, if it could but be found, would be worth
the whole Bunch put together.



To —— ——, Esq;
_of_ York.


SIR,

You write me Word that the Letter I wrote to you, and now stiled _The
Political Romance_ is printing; and that, as it was drop’d by
Carelessness, to make some Amends, you will overlook the Printing of it
yourself, and take Care to see that it comes right into the World.

I was just going to return you Thanks, and to beg, withal, you would
take Care That the Child be not laid at my Door.—But having, this
Moment, perused the _Reply_ to the _Dean_ of _York_’s _Answer_,—it has
made me alter my Mind in that respect; so that, instead of making you
the Request I intended, I do here desire That the Child be filiated
upon me, _Laurence Sterne_, Prebendary of _York_, &c. &c. And I do,
accordingly, own it for my own true and lawful Offspring.

My Reason for this is plain;—for as, you see, the _Writer_ of that
_Reply_, has taken upon him to invade this _incontested Right_ of
another Man’s in a Thing of this Kind, it is high Time for every Man to
look to his own—Since, upon the _same Grounds_, and with half the
Degree of Anger, that he affirms the Production of that very Reverend
Gentleman’s, to be the Child of many Fathers, some one in his Spight
(for I am not without my Friends of that Stamp) may run headlong into
the other Extream, and swear, That mine had no Father at all:—And
therefore, to make use of _Bay_’s Plea in the _Rehearsal_, for _Prince
Pretty-Man;_ I merely do it, as he says, “for fear it should be said to
be no Body’s Child at all.”

I have only to add two Things:—First, That, at your Peril, you do not
presume to alter or transpose one Word, nor rectify one false Spelling,
nor so much as add or diminish one Comma or Tittle, in or to my
_Romance:_—For if you do,—In case any of the Descendents of _Curl_
should think fit to invade my Copy-Right, and print it over again in my
Teeth, I may not be able, in a Court of Justice, to swear strictly to
my own Child, after you had _so large a Share_ in the begetting it.

In the next Place, I do not approve of your _quaint Conceit_ at the
Foot of the Title Page of my _Romance_,—It would only set People on
finding a Page or two before I give them Leave;—and besides, all
Attempts either at Wit or Humour, in that Place, are a Forestalling of
what slender Entertainment of those Kinds are prepared within:
Therefore I would have it stand thus:

YORK: Printed in the Year 1759. (_Price One Shilling_.)

I know you will tell me, That it is set too high; and as a Proof, you
will say, That this last _Reply_ to the _Dean_’s _Answer_ does consist
of near as many Pages as mine; and yet is all sold for Six-pence.—But
mine, my dear Friend, is quite a _different Story:_—It is a Web wrought
out of my own Brain, of twice the Fineness of this which he has spun
out of his; and besides, I maintain it, it is of a more curious
Pattern, and could not be afforded at the Price that his is sold at, by
any _honest_ Workman in _Great-Britain_.

Moreover, Sir, you do not consider, That the Writer is interested in
his _Story_, and that it is his Business to set it a-going at _any
Price:_ And indeed, from the Information of Persons conversant in Paper
and Print, I have very good Reason to believe, if he should sell every
Pamphlet of them, he would inevitably be a _Great Loser_ by it, This I
believe verily, and am,

_Dear Sir_, _Your obliged Friend_
_and humble Servant_,
LAURENCE STERNE,
Sutton on the Forest,
Jan. 20, 1759



To Dr. TOPHAM.


SIR,

Though the _Reply_ to the _Dean_ of _York_ is not declared, in the
_Title-Page_, or elsewhere, to be wrote by you,—Yet I take that Point
for granted; and therefore beg Leave, in this public Manner, to write
to you in Behalf of myself; with Intent to set you right in two Points
where I stand concerned in this Affair; and which I find you have
misapprehended, and consequently (as I hope) misrepresented.

The _First_ is, in respect of some Words, made use of in the
Instrument, signed by Dr _Herring_, Mr _Berdmore_ and myself.—Namely,
_to the best of our Remembrance and Belief,_ which Words you have
caught hold of, as implying some Abatement of our Certainty as to the
Facts therein attested. Whether it was so with the other two Gentlemen
who signed that Attestation with me, it is not for me to say; they are
able to answer for themselves, and I desire to do so for myself; and
therefore I declare to you, and to all Mankind, That the Words in the
first Paragraph, _to the best of our Remembrance and Belief_, implied
no Doubt remaining upon my Mind, nor any Distrust whatever of my
Memory, from the Distance of Time;—Nor, in short, was it my Intention
to attest the several Facts therein, as Matters of Belief—But as
Matters of as much Certainty as a Man was capable of having, or giving
Evidence to. In Consequence of this Explanation of myself, I do declare
myself ready to attest the same Instrument over again, striking out the
Words _to the best of our Remembrance and Belief_ which I see, have
raised this Exception to it.

Whether I was mistaken or no, I leave to better Judges; but I
understood those Words were a very common Preamble to Attestations of
Things, to which we bore the clearest Evidence;—However, Dr _Topham_,
as you have claimed just such another Indulgence yourself, in the Case
of begging the _Dean_’s Authority to say, what, as you affirm, you had
sufficient Authority to say without, as a modest and Gentleman-like Way
of Affirmation;—I wish you had spared either the one or the other of
your Remarks upon these two Passages:—_Veniam petimus, demusque
vicissim_.

There is another Observation relating to this Instrument, which I
perceive has escaped your Notice; which I take the Liberty to point out
to you, namely, That the Words, _To the best of our Remembrance and
Belief_, if they imply any Abatement of Certainty, seem only confined
to that Paragraph, and to what is immediately attested after them in
it:—For in the second Paragraph, wherein the main Points are minutely
attested, and upon which the whole Dispute, and main Charge against the
_Dean_, turns, it is introduced thus:

“_We do particularly remember_, That as soon as Dinner was over, &c.”

In the second Place you affirm, “That it is not said that Mr. _Sterne_
could affirm he had heard you charge the _Dean_ with a Promise, in its
own Nature so very extraordinary, as of the Commissaryship of the Dean
and Chapter”:—To this I answer, That my true Intent in subscribing that
very instrument, and I suppose of others, was to attest this _very
Thing;_ and I have just now read that Part of the Instrument over; and
cannot, for my Life, affirm it either more directly or expresly, than
in the Words as they there stand;—therefore please to let me transcribe
them.

“But being press’d by Mr. _Sterne_ with an undeniable Proof, That he,
(Dr. _Topham_) did propagate the said Story, (viz: _of a Promise from
the Dean to Dr._ Topham _of the Dean and Chapter’s Commissaryship_)—Dr.
_Topham_ did at last acknowledge it; adding, as his Reason or Excuse
for so doing, That he apprehended (or Words to that Effect) he had a
_Promise_ under the _Dean’s own Hand_, of the _Dean and Chapter’s
Commissaryship_.”

This I have attested, and what Weight the Sanction of an Oath will add
to it, I am willing and ready to give.

As for Mr. _Ricard_’s feeble Attestation, brought to shake the Credit
of this firm and solemn one, I have nothing to say to it, as it is only
an Attestation of Mr. _Ricard_’s Conjectures upon the Subject.—But this
I can say, That I had the Honour to be at the Deanery with the learned
Counsel, when Mr. _Ricard_ underwent that _most formidable_ Examination
you speak of,—and I solemnly affirm, That he then said, He knew nothing
at all about the Matter, one Way or the other; and the Reasons he gave
for his utter Ignorance, were, first, That he was then so full of
Concern, at the Difference which arose between two Gentlemen, both his
Friends, that he did not attend to the Subject Matter of it,—and of
which he declared again he knew nothing at all. And secondly, If he had
understood it then, the Distance would have put it out of his Head by
this Time.

He has since scower’d his Memory, I ween; for now he says, That he
apprehended the Dispute regarded something in the Dean’s Gift, as he
could not _naturally_ suppose, &c. ’Tis certain, at the Deanery, he had
_naturally_ no Suppositions in his Head about this Affair; so that I
with this may not prove one of the After-Thoughts you speak of, and not
so much a _natural_ as an _artificial_ Supposition of my good Friend’s.

As for the _formidable_ Enquiry you represent him as undergoing,—let me
intreat you to give me Credit in what I say upon it,—namely,—That it
was as much the Reverse to every Idea that ever was couch’d under that
Word, as Words can represent it to you. As for the learned Counsel and
myself, who were in the Room all the Time, I do not remember that we,
either of us, spoke ten Words. The Dean was the only one that ask’d Mr.
_Ricard_ what he remembered about the Affair of the Sessions Dinner;
which he did in the most Gentleman-like and candid Manner,—and with an
Air of as much Calmness and seeming Indifference, as if he had been
questioning him about the News in the last _Brussels Gazette_.

What Mr. _Ricard_ saw to terrify him so sadly, I cannot apprehend,
unless the Dean’s _Gothic_ Book-Case,—which I own has an odd Appearance
to a Stranger; so that if he came terrified in his Mind there, and with
a Resolution not to _plead_, he might _naturally suppose_ it to be a
great Engine brought there on purpose to exercise the _Peine fort et
dure_ upon him.—But to be serious; if Mr. _Ricard_ told you, That this
Enquiry was _most formidable_, He was much to blame;—and if you have
said it, without his express Information, then _You_ are much to blame.

This is all, I think, in your _Reply_, which concerns me to answer:—As
for the many coarse and unchristian Insinuations scatter’d throughout
your _Reply_,—as it is my Duty to beg God to forgive you, so I do from
my Heart: Believe me, Dr. _Topham_, they hurt yourself more than the
Person they are aimed at; and when the _first Transport_ of Rage is a
little over, they will grieve you more too.

—_prima est hæc Ultio_.

But these I hold to be no answerable Part of a Controversy;—and for the
little that remains unanswered in yours,—I believe I could, in another
half Hour, set it right in the Eyes of the World: But this is not my
Business.—And is it is thought worth the while, which I hope it never
will, I know no one more able to do it than the very Reverend and
Worthy Gentleman whom you have so unhandsomely insulted upon that
Score.

As for the _supposed Compilers_, whom you have been so wrath and so
unmerciful against, I’ll be answerable for it, as they are Creatures of
your own Fancy, they will bear you no Malice. However, I think the more
positively any Charge is made, let it be against whom it will, the
better it should be supported; and therefore I should be sorry, for
your own Honour, if you have not some better Grounds for all you have
thrown out about them, than the mere Heat of your Imagination or Anger.
To tell you truly, your Suppositions on this Head oft put me in Mind of
_Trim_’s twelve Men in _Buckram_, which his disordered Fancy
represented as laying in Ambush in _John_ the Clerk’s House, and
letting drive at him all together. I am,

SIR,
_Your most obedient_
_And most humble Servan_t,
LAWRENCE STERNE
Sutton on the Forest,
Jan. 20, 1759

P.S. I beg Pardon for _clapping_ this upon the _Back_ of the
_Romance_,—which is done out of no Disrespect to you.—But the _Vehicle_
stood ready at the Door,—and as I was to pay the whole Fare, and there
was Room enough behind it,—it was the cheapest and readiest Conveyance
I could think of.

FINIS.





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