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Sterne, 'Tristram Shandy > Week 10 (4)Vol 3: 1 - 14 (9)Vol 5: 1 - 14

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message 1: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Volume 5 Title-Page translations:
Dixero si quid fortè jocosius, hoc mihi juris cum venia dabis
Hor.

"If I say anything too facetius, you will grant it to me indulgently”
Or
"If in my words I am too free, perchance too light, this bit of liberty you will indulgently grant me"

Si quis calumnietur levius esse quam decet Theologum, aut mordacius quam deceat Christianus
Erasumus.

"Should anyone judge my writings harshly as being in a lighter vein than suits a theologian or more biting than is appropriate to a Christian-not I, but Demmocritus said it"

Si quis Clericus, aut Monachus, verba joculatoria, risum moventia serat anathema esto.
Second Council of Carthage

"If any priest or monk using jesting words, exciting laughter, let him be denounced". This quote was added by Sterne in the second edition and it is present in Penguin and Florida Edition.
http://www.tristramshandyweb.it/sezio...
I am not sure what we should take from the dedication to Lord Viscount Spencer. Anyone?

Ch.1 It took me a while to realize TS was lamenting plagiarism. The following footnote helped to explain that fact, as well as the joke being played here:
this is a ‘characteristic example of Sterne’s roguishness’, since his attack on plagiarists is plagiarized from Burton’s introduction: ‘As Apothecaries we make new mixtures everie day, poure out of one vessell into another’ and ‘but we weave the same web still, twist the same rope again and again’.
The Fragment on Whiskers
I was not sure quite how to come to terms with Sterne on his use of whiskers but I suspect that may be part of the joke here. First, we are primed with a possible relationship between noses and whiskers: as surely as noses are noses, and whiskers are whiskers still; (let the world say what it will to the contrary. With the possibility that whiskers was being used euphemistically like noses was, I was unable to connect the dots despite the suggestive way the term was used in the fragment. The clue that whiskers was meant in a traditional and non-euphemistic sense was the pondering that other everyday terms were in danger of gaining bawdy meanings:
Are not trouse, and placket-holes, and pump-handles—and spigots and faucets, in danger still, from the same association?—Chastity, by nature the gentlest of all affections—give it but its head—’tis like a ramping and a roaring lion.
I have since found this article supporting the hypothesis that whiskers is a fake-euphemism here (SPOILER ALERT):
https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf...
Either way, like noses, I will never again be able think of whiskers without one foot in the gutter.

Ch.2 While trying to work out traveling logistics, a letter is received which Uncle Toby reads aloud informing them of Bobby's Death.

Ch.3 Walter copes with his grief over Bobby’s death by orating consolations from philosophy.

Ch.4 As for Cornelius Gallus, dying while lying with a women, Toby remarks it would be an acceptable way to go if the woman was his wife.

Ch.5 Tristram’s mother, hearing the word wife listens at the door. TS compares the scene to a well known statue: https://museum.classics.cam.ac.uk/col...

Ch.6 We are set up for a comparison between Walter and Corporal Trim’s style of addressing the death of Bobby:
Corporal Trim and my father, two orators so contrasted by nature and education, haranguing over the same bier. My father a man of deep reading—prompt memory—with Cato, and Seneca, and Epictetus, at his fingers ends.— The corporal—with nothing—to remember—of no deeper reading than his muster-roll—or greater names at his finger’s end, than the contents of it.
Ch.7 Who’s style of oration do you think is more appropriate for the death of Bobby? Could Trim’s military battle experience has a role in Trim’s effectiveness?

Ch.8 Sterne can’t resist injecting some bawdy joke even at this point in the story. He interrupts Trim’s oration to apologize for not providing the chapter on chamber-maids and button-holes because his critics warned him it would be too immoral. So instead:
. . .I pray the chapter upon chamber-maids and button-holes may be forgiven me,—and that they will accept of the last chapter in lieu of it; which is nothing, an’t please your reverences, but a chapter of chamber-maids, green-gowns, and old hats.1
The note explaining one dirty joke substituting for another:
1 green-gowns, and old hats: ‘To give a green-gown’ is to ‘tumble a woman on the grass’ (Partridge, Dictionary), as in Robert Herrick’s ‘Corrina’s going a Maying’: ‘Many a green-gown has been given; / Many a kisse, both odde and even.’ Partridge also has an entry for old hat: ‘The female pudend … Because frequently felt.’ Cf. VIII.x: ‘the affair of an old hat cock’d—and a cock’d old hat’.
Ch.9 Trim seems to touch on the shortness of life and the suddenness of death.

Ch.10 There is a brief discussion about the preferred way to die, outside in battle, or at home in bed. Trim thinks Elizabeth will weep her sadness away but fears for Uncle Toby who will silently keep his feelings locked privately away and suffer all the more for it.

Ch.11 Can anyone take a stab at what TS is saying in this chapter? He seems to be expressing that he prefers remaining in a state of doubt to debating the truth.

Ch.12 Elizabeth still listening at the door assumes Walter is talking of her.

Ch.13 Elizabeth hears Walter paraphrasing Socrates in declaring he has three children. Elizabeth thinking Walter was talking as himself wonders where a third child had come from and Walter leaves the room in frustration

Ch.14 Uncle Toby explains the confusion to Elizabeth and gently leads her out of the room.


message 2: by Alexey (new)

Alexey | 289 comments David wrote: "Volume 5 Title-Page translations:
Dixero si quid fortè jocosius, hoc mihi juris cum venia dabis
Hor.
"If I say anything too facetius, you will grant it to me indulgently”
Or
"If in my words I am to..."


Thank you for clarifying many moments, specifically about Chapter 1 - with your comments I can draw something beyond general understanding, that this is a joke.


message 3: by Alexey (new)

Alexey | 289 comments David wrote: "Ch.2 While trying to work out traveling logistics, a letter is received which Uncle Toby reads aloud informing them of Bobby's Death."

How Sterns insert Bobby's Death in the novel looks like a bad and evil joke even for TS's standards.


message 4: by David (last edited Jan 22, 2020 09:05AM) (new)

David | 2681 comments Alexey wrote: "How Sterns insert Bobby's Death in the novel looks like a bad and evil joke even for TS's standards"

I was thinking the same. We barely knew of Bobby's existence and then we suddenly learn of his death. Here one minute, gone the next without reason or even cause of death disclosed.

On second thought, that all seems consistent with what Trim was getting at in parts of his speech.

Also, in the intro to my version I see this:
When Mr Shandy hears of the death of his son Bobby, it is not long before the exhilaration of making a flowing speech on death has allowed him to forget the actual death. Sterne does not snicker at the ability of the human mind to behave in such a way – on the contrary, he finds it something to admire and to be grateful for.
the introduction also adds:
Dr Johnson thought Sterne a sordid writer, but Sterne’s work bears out Johnson’s magnificent judgement that ‘The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.’ Tristram Shandy enables us to do both.



message 5: by Alexey (new)

Alexey | 289 comments David wrote: "Alexey wrote: "How Sterns insert Bobby's Death in the novel looks like a bad and evil joke even for TS's standards"

I was thinking the same. We barely knew of Bobby's existence and then we suddenl..."


I miss this parallel between the plot and Trim's harangue. Thank you, for sharing the commentaries the last one is brilliant.


David wrote: "Ch.7 Who’s style of oration do you think is more appropriate for the death of Bobby? Could Trim’s military battle experience has a role in Trim’s effectiveness?"

Though Trim making good use of his war experience in his speech, I think, Sterne went here with the same idea of addressing mind or heart and showed the superiority of the latter. I even want to read his sermons to understand what they were like, but on the second thought...


message 6: by Alexey (new)

Alexey | 289 comments David wrote: "Ch.13 Elizabeth hears Walter paraphrasing Socrates in declaring he has three children. Elizabeth thinking Walter was talking as himself wonders where a third child had come from and Walter leaves the room in frustration

Ch.14 Uncle Toby explains the confusion to Elizabeth and gently leads her out of the room."


These chapters look like a description of the play, TS made a good farce out of his brother death.


message 7: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Alexey wrote: " I think, Sterne went here with the same idea of addressing mind or heart and showed the superiority of the latter.

I see that as well, and maybe we could take it one step further.
1. Walter copes with Bobby's death in using his head to wax poetically on the philosophy of death, mostly for himself although Uncle Toby is present for it.
2. Trim copes with Bobby's death by directing less lofty and somewhat more heartfelt rhetoric for the staff.
3. But it is Uncle Toby who acts on the situation and takes Elizabeth by the hand.

Talking about it is only so much smoke? Maybe this is why Yorick burns his sermon up in lighting pipes?


message 8: by Alexey (new)

Alexey | 289 comments Talking as they described in TS should produce a lot of smoke.

Interestingly, Sterne did not mention (so far) how Toby's action influenced Elizabeth and described in detail affects of both speeches.


message 9: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments David wrote: "Ch.11 Can anyone take a stab at what TS is saying in this chapter? He seems to be expressing that he prefers remaining in a state of doubt to debating the truth..."

I think he's saying he values truth: "I reverence truth as much as anybody" and is willing "to go quietly in search of it." But he refuses to be drawn into an argument about what is true:

I resolved from the beginning, That if ever the army of martyrs was to be augmented,—or a new one raised,—I would have no hand in it, one way or t'other.

I think this ties in with what he said in the beginning about doubting his own judgement:

For my own part, I never wonder at any thing;—and so often has my judgment deceived me in my life, that I always suspect it, right or wrong,


message 10: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Just as an aside, David, I really appreciate all the links and commentaries you are inserting. They are very helpful. Thank you.


message 11: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Alexey wrote: "These chapters look like a description of the play, TS made a good farce out of his brother death..."

That's the same impression I get. At times the interruptions sound like TS is giving stage directions. For example,

What is the finest face that ever man looked at!—I could hear Trim talk so for ever, cried Susannah,—what is it! (Susannah laid her hand upon Trim's shoulder)—but corruption?—Susannah took it off. (my underlining)

Also, his address to the reader sound like asides to the audience. I can almost see the character on the stage leaning forward and talking to the audience directly.


message 12: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Uncle Toby is such a gentle, sensitive soul. Unlike Walter and Trim who speechify, he understands the impact the death of her child will have on the mother. He handles it delicately. I also like the fact he takes her off stage to break the news to her. It's a private moment, not one that should be handled in a joking fashion for all the world to see:

he laid down his pipe deliberately upon the table, and rising up, and taking my mother most kindly by the hand, without saying another word, either good or bad, to her, he led her out after my father, that he might finish the ecclaircissement himself.


message 13: by Gary (new)

Gary | 205 comments Tamara wrote: "Just as an aside, David, I really appreciate all the links and commentaries you are inserting. They are very helpful. Thank you."

I'd like to second that.


message 14: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Tamara wrote: "Uncle Toby is such a gentle, sensitive soul. Unlike Walter and Trim who speechify, he understands the impact the death of her child will have on the mother. He handles it delicately. I also like th..."

Perhaps through Uncle Toby, Sterne is demonstrating someone appropriately expressing himself a grave manner.


message 15: by Gary (last edited Jan 26, 2020 10:20AM) (new)

Gary | 205 comments Tristram makes a parenthetical remark in Chapter 7 that cried out to me:
” ... for matter and motion are infinite ... ”.
Looking further into this took me to a couple of interesting places. The source for this phrase is likely a book on natural philosophy published a century earlier, Philosophical Fancies (1653).

”There is no first Matter, nor first Motion; for matter and motion are infinite, and being infinite, must consequently be Eternall … “. http://digitalcavendish.org/complete-...

This is an outright denial of the Biblical creation story, and even a creator. For a Church of England cleric to include this in his book, even a humorous one, is astounding. I have to wonder whose view this represents. For this to be Sterne's own view would make him a hypocrite, and this I reject. Does it represent a character's view, Tristram's perhaps? I'm more inclined to believe that Sterne inserted this into TS to shock his readers, to give them a jolt, and then to move quickly on to the importance of accident and chance in life, which is perhaps his major theme.

The author of the phrase is Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, who is herself quite remarkable, a poet, scientist, fiction-writer, playwright and, most relevant here, natural philosopher. For a woman of that time to publish poetry and plays under her own name was outlandish enough, but to speak and write on science and natural philosophy was beyond the pale. For her effrontery to dispute with men, she was mocked by them as “Mad Madge.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margare...


message 16: by David (last edited Jan 26, 2020 03:25PM) (new)

David | 2681 comments Gary wrote: "Tristram makes a parenthetical remark in Chapter 7 that cried out to me: ” ... for matter and motion are infinite ..."

Nice find! I think this is Sterne once again sounding modern to us where he is in fact not. Experience has taught me the divine polemics, which Sterne seems to mean as Christian aplogists, have come up with various workarounds for statements like this to incorporate it into their beliefs.

Thanks for the link to Margaret Cavendish. I found her religious views interesting and quite telling. Her avoidance of the arguments is the most relevant:
Cavendish's views on God and religion remained somewhat ambiguous. From her writings, it is clear that she was a Christian but she did not often address her religious orientation. In her Physical Opinions, however, she explicitly acknowledges her belief in the existence of God, writing "pray account me not an Atheist, but beleeve as I do in God Almighty." Still, she seeks to split philosophy from theology, and therefore avoids debating God's actions in many of her philosophical works. Uncertainty regarding her theological viewpoints is unusual for a woman writer of her time period, considering that much of early modern women's writing was oriented around religion. However, Cavendish acknowledged the existence of God but she "holds that natural reason cannot perceive or have an idea of an immaterial being". She argued that “when we name God, we name an Unexpressible, and Incomprehensible Being.”
I suspect the appeals to ignorance like this last statement were attractive alternatives over the tediuous details of debate for both Cavendish and Sterne.


message 17: by Alexey (new)

Alexey | 289 comments Gary wrote: "Tamara wrote: "Just as an aside, David, I really appreciate all the links and commentaries you are inserting. They are very helpful. Thank you."

I'd like to second that."


Me too. As a one who is reading TS without commentaries, I am infinitely grateful for sharing commentaries, links, and other additional information.


message 18: by Alexey (new)

Alexey | 289 comments Tamara wrote: "Uncle Toby is such a gentle, sensitive soul. Unlike Walter and Trim who speechify, he understands the impact the death of her child will have on the mother. He handles it delicately. I also like the..."

Nice that you have brought it here. There are a lot of details in the novel that could be lost in digressions and verbosity. In this chapter, we see that Walter was not so consoled with his philosophising and still cannot speak about his son death easily when he should do it directly. So his speculations was much more avoidance than a real consolation.


message 19: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5030 comments Alexey wrote: "...we see that Walter was not so consoled with his philosophising and still cannot speak about his son death easily when he should do it directly....."

The academic stuff I've been (trying to) read as background (and which made little sense until I had at least perused most of the entire novel) are suggesting ideas like Sterne is parodying the ancient wisdom of using words in the form of rhetoric and debate and response as adequate to the expression of the realities of being human. And that he does some of the same with more modern substitutions, like philosophy and logic. But he does bring wit and satire and reflection forward as means of bringing to words the realities of being human, realities that also always have an existence beyond words. I'm probably making no sense in this attempt to paraphrase those scholarly explorations, but I think you bring forward one specific example in the handling of Bobby's death.

As society wrangles with the death of Kobe Bryant, we perhaps are struggling with modern ways of moving difficult reality into words and images, all at the same time distanced from actuality. Sterne seems to be acutely aware of historic modes of rhetoric and skeptical of current ones, seeing in wit and humor the complex and contradictory expression of being human. The clarity his father figure character Walter seeks simply is not available with words. So wit calls the human mind to be awake, and hence the so-called seriousness of Sterne?


message 20: by Gary (last edited Jan 28, 2020 01:28PM) (new)

Gary | 205 comments Lily wrote: " ... suggesting ideas like Sterne is parodying the ancient wisdom of using words in the form of rhetoric and debate and response as adequate to the expression of the realities of being human...."

Thanks for sharing this interesting idea, Lily. Walter's response to adversity throughout seems to illustrate the inadequacy of the ancients, of rhetoric, and of scholarship when it comes to dealing with real life.


message 21: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Maybe Walter's methods are called philosophical "consolations" for a reason. Consolations generally fall short because they attempt to make the best of a unpleasant situation, but one is still left in the unpleasant situation. Maybe there are times when digressions and distractions are useful, hmm? But when has something like, "there's always next year" or "he or she is in a better place now" been the most preferred responses?

Trim gives an example of the most hoped for response:
we shall have all to go into mourning, said Susannah. I hope not, said Trim.—You hope not! cried Susannah earnestly.—The mourning ran not in Trim’s head, whatever it did in Susannah’s.—I hope—said Trim, explaining himself, I hope in God the news is not true.
However, there was an aphorism of the day that went something like, He that dines on hope will die fasting. Maybe these opposing inward hopes and consolations aren't so bad, but I think Uncle Toby's behavior seems to be most praiseworthy.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Okay--caught back up. Sorry for not contributing more to the conversation. Sometimes I'm at a loss to know what to say.

I'll add my thanks, David, to that of the others--especially for supplying us with the pertinent snippets of commentary, let alone all the work involved in summarizing the chapters at the intro.

I wouldn't say I found these chapters laugh-out-loud funny, but I thought they were droll. The opening chapter made me think of the Dave Letterman top ten list: Top ten things that sound dirty but probably aren't:

http://www.republibot.com/content/thi... (safe for work!)

I'd have never picked up on the green-gown and the old hat. I feel much wiser today than yesterday.


message 23: by David (last edited Jan 28, 2020 08:18PM) (new)

David | 2681 comments Bryan wrote: The opening chapter made me think of the Dave Letterman top ten list: Top ten things that sound dirty but probably aren't..."

I actually did laugh out loud at the chapter on whiskers, and I laughed 10 times more at David Letterman's top 10 list, because there were 10 of them. I think the spirit of the chapter on wiskers is perfectly captured by that list. Thanks for posting it. I have now come to the conclusion that one of my feet must have taken up permanent residency in the gutter.


message 24: by Alexey (new)

Alexey | 289 comments Bryan wrote: "I'd have never picked up on the green-gown and the old hat. I feel much wiser today than yesterday."

So do I, besides all the information from this discussion, by the time we will have finished TS, I will be able to safely mark Oxford Dictionary as 'Read'...


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan | 395 comments Bobby is rather a strange character. I'm not sure what his role in the story really is, except to give the other characters a chance to react to his death. (Of course since he died when our narrator was a baby, TS wouldn't have known him).

This section reminded me that Sterne was a minister who would have encountered first hand the different ways people respond to death and loss. Still, Walter's agony over Tristram getting the wrong name seems disproportionate to his reaction here.


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