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Henry's conversion seems pretty clearly decided in the Baron de Fænesté, in the chapter on Nuns, book iv. chapter xii.

Sterne has generally concealed the sources of his curious trains of investigation, and uncommon opinions, but in one instance he ventured to break through his restraint, by mentioning Bouchet's Evening Conferences, among the treasures of Mr. Shandy's library. This book is now become so ex. tremely scarce, that for a long period, it has escaped all my enquiries, and the most persevering exertions of my friends. Some of the most curious collectors of books, among whom I need only mention the late excellent Dr. Farmer, informed me that they had never seen it. I owe to the indefatigable kindness of Thomas Thompson, Esq. M. P. the satisfaction of perusing an odd. volume of this work. I have great reason to believe that it was in the SKELTON library some years ago, where I suspect Sterne found most of the authors of this

per, and

class; for Mr. Hall's poetry shews that he knew and read them much.

The Sereès of Bouchet consist of a set of regular conversations, held, as the title implies, in the evening, generally during sup

may be regarded as transcripts of the petits soupers of that age. A subject of discussion is proposed each evening, generally by the host, and it is treated characteristically, with a mixture of great knowledge and light humour. Every conversation concludes with a jest. The chief characters, supported through the whole volume which I have seen re, a man of learning, such as the times afforded; a soldier, very fond of talking over his past dangers ; a physician, who is sometimes found deficient in his philosophy; and a droll, who winds up all with his raillery. The conversations are not, indeed, connected by any narrative, but I entertain little doubt, that from the perusal of this work, Sterne conceived the first precise idea of his Tristram, as far as any thing can be called precise, in

a desultory book, apparently written with great rapidity.

The most ludicrous and extravagant parts of the book seem to have dwelt upon Sterne's mind, and he appears to have frequently recurred to them from memory. In the twenty-ninth Sereè, for example, there is a long and very able dis- , cussion of the causes of colour in negroes; and Bouchet has anticipated most of the objections which are made to the supposition, that the darkness of their complexion is produced by the heat of the climate. In the course of the Sereè, it is asked, why negroes are flat-nosed, and this question brings into play the subject of noses, so often in. troduced in Tristram Shandy.

I extract the following passages as specimens of Bouchet's manner: the reader may not be displeased to acquire some idea of a book so uncommon,

Je me trouvay un jour à la table d'un grand Seigneur, ou nous etions bien empeschez à rendre la raison, pourquoy en Espagne on faisoit les pains plus grands qu'en France ou Italie. Les uns disoient que c'estoit à cause que le grand pain se tient plus frais que le petit, et qu'il ne se desseiche pas si tost, estant l'Espagne fort chaude. Les autres soustenoient

que les Espagnols avoient leurs fours plus grands que

les autres peuples, parce qu'ils disent que le pain est meilleur cuit en un grand four qu'en un petit, le pain cuit en un petit four ne cuisant pas esgallement, comme en un grand, et les fours d'Espagne estant grande, ce n'est pas de merveilles s'ils font les pains grands, et aussi qu' à l'enforner on faict les pains cornus.

Le tiers disoit, que tant plus le pain estoit grand, tant plus on le trouvoit savoureux et meilleur, ayant plus de vertu & faculté assemblée, comme le vin est plus fort & meilleur en une pippe qu'en un bussard. Que le grand pain, adjoustoit-il, soit meilleur que le petit, cela se peut prouver de ce qu'il y avoit des festes, qui se nommoient Megalartia, à cause de la grandeur des pains, dont le pain estoit estimé sur tous les autres, & aussi bon que celuy de la ville d'Eresus, si nous croyons au poëte Archestrate, pour lequel

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pain Mercure prenoit bien la peine de descendre du ciel, et en venir faire provision pour les dieux.

Et aussi quand le pain est petit, il se brusle par la crouste, & demeure mal cuit au dedans, par l'obstacle de la crouste havie : et si la paste croist et leve mieux quand il y en à beaucoup, que quand il n'y en à gueres, comme on dit que la paste se leve mieux durant la pleine Lune qu'en un autre temps. Lors un lourdaut qui servoit, à la table, nous voyant en si grand debat, se, va mocquer de nous, de ce qu'estions empeschez en si peu de chose, & nous va dire, que les Espagnols faisoient leurs pains plus grands qu'ailleurs, parce qu'ils y mettoient plus de paste.

Another of his speakers tells the following story

Ce maitre qui estoit de nos Sereès, nous conta qu'un jour il demanda à un sien mestayer comme il se portoit depuis deux ou trois jours que sa femme estoit morte, lesquel lui re

* Sereès, tom. iii. p. 204. This edition was published at Paris, 1608.

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