« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
boast of the proud and magnificent names of the ancient nobility, such as Don Grumedan, Don Quedragan, Don Agesilan, or to say that on hearing them pronounced, he felt that they must be a different kind of people from Peter, Giles, and Jacob.
Another passage contains, I suspect, a stroke of satire against the Huguenots, where he compliments them on their subduing the old names of Charles, Louis, and Francis, and peopling the world with Methusalems, Ezekiels, and Malachis.
It is curious enough, that St. Pierre, a late writer, should adopt,* and treat largely of this hypothesis, without referring either to Montaigne or to Sterne.
Pasquier wrote a whole chapter, in his Recherches sur la France, on the fortune attendant on particular names, allotted to the French monarchs; but Morhoff, who treats gravely of the fatality of Christian names, goes much farther, and asserts, that the evil înfluence of the original name may be corrected by assuming another. 66 Notarunt nonnulli infaustorum nominum impostione fortunam hominum labefactari, eorum immutatione quoque immutari.* 'This would have been a good quotation for Mr, Shandy, at the Visitation.
* In the Etudes de la Nature, tom. iii.
On one occasion, Sterne has pressed a name into this service to which he had no right. 66 But who the duce has got laid down here beside her? qouth my father, pointing with his cane to a large tomb_as he walked on-It is St. Optat, sir, answered the sacristan–And properly is St. Optat placed! said my father: and what is St. Optat's story? continued he. St. Optat, replied the sacristan, was a bishop. I thought so, by heaven! cried my father, interrupting him-St. Optat! how should St. Optat fail ?”+ Unluckily for all this good raillery, the saint's name was Optatus, which
* Morhoff. Polyhistor, tom. i. p. 116, 86. + Tristram Shandy, vol. viii. chap, 27.
is quite a different affair, unless the world should be disposed to admit the sincerity of the nolo episcopari. If Sterne had looked into Pasquier, he might have found other promising names, such as St. Opportune, St. Pretextat, and several others; Machiavel too informs us, that the first pope
who altered his name was Ospurcus; he changed it to Sergius, from his dislike of the former; but indeed all these curiosities are, as Diogenes said on another subject, μεγάλα dav lucem o luwpois, great marvels for fools.
In the present state of knowledge, it would be unpardonable to omit a remark, with which an author like Sterne would make himself very merry. It relates to the passage, in which Mr. Shandy treats the name of TRISTRAM with such indignity, and demands of his supposed' adversary, “ Whether he had ever remembered, whether he had ever reador whether he had ever heard tell of a man, called Tristram, performing any thing great or worth recording?--No, -- he would say,--Tristram!—The thing is impossible!” A student of the fashionable black-letter erudition would have triumphed, in proclaiming the redoubted Sir Tristram, Knight of the Round-table, and one of the most famous knights-errant upon record. Sterne might have replied:
Non scribit, cujus Carmina nemo legit ;*
and indeed his pleasant hero has no resemblance to the preux chevalier.
I have a few observations to add, which are quite unconnected with each other. Sterne truly resembled Shakespeare's Biron, in the extent of his depredations from other writers, for the supply of Tristram :
His eye begot occasion for his wit :
Burton furnished the grand magazine, but many other books, which fell incidentally into his hands, were laid under contribution. I am sorry to deprive Sterne of the following pretty figure, but justice must be done to every one.
* Martial, lib. ii.
“ In short, my father advanced so very slowly with his work, and I began to live and get forward at such a rate, that if an event had not happened—&c. I verily believe I had put by my father, and left him drawing a sun-dial, for no better purpose than to be buried under ground."*
Donne concludes his poem entitled The Will, with this very thought:
And all your graces no more use shall have
I have said that Sterne took the hint of his marbled pages either from Swift, or the author of Gabriel John, quisquis fuit ille. There is no great merit in his mourning pages for Yorick, which are little superior, in point of invention, to the black borders of
* Tris, Shandy, vol. v. chap. 16.