The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Keep your temper

Posted on: January 12, 2008

In the beginning of the last chapter, I inform’d you exactly when I was born; — but I did not inform you, how. No; that particular was reserved entirely for a chapter by itself; — besides, Sir, as you and I are in a manner perfect strangers to each other, it would not have been proper to have let you into too many circumstances relating to myself all at once. — You must have a little patience. I have undertaken, you see, to write not only my life, but my opinions also; hoping and expecting that your knowledge of my character, and of what kind of mortal I am, by the one, would give you a better relish for the other: As you proceed further with me, the slight acquaintance which is now beginning betwixt us, will grow into familiarity; and that, unless one of us is in fault, will terminate in friendship. —- ¹O diem præclarum! —- then nothing which has touched me will be thought trifling in its nature, or tedious in its telling. Therefore, my dear friend and companion, if you should think me somewhat sparing of my narrative on my first setting out, — bear with me, — and let me go on, and tell my story my own way: —- or if I should seem now and then to trifle upon the road, —- or should sometimes put on a fool’s cap with a bell to it, for a moment or two as we pass along, — don’t fly off, — but rather courteously give me credit for a little more wisdom than appears upon my outside: — and as we jog on, either laugh with me or, or at me, or in short, do anything, — only keep your temper.

¹”O glorious day.” A stock phrase from Cicero’s De Senectus (On Old Age).

From The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. Footnote by Ian Watt. 


4 Responses to "Keep your temper"

My favorite aspect of the book is the way the narrator talks to the reader — great quote.

Thanks! I can see why my quotes from Diderot’s Jacques the Fatalist reminded you of Tristram. I’m having a ball with it so far — I blinked in the amazement and how many bawdy innuendos he could fit in a few sentences.

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