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owned, that the author had warned the reader, with uncommon candour, in the titlepage, that he should introduce other strange thing's, not insufferably clever, nor furiously to the purpose; the worst that can be said of him therefore, is, that he has kept his word.
"Why," says our poet, "may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole?" These masters of ridicule may be tracked to a state of similar degradation, through the works of estimable writers, to miserable farces, and at length to the jest-books, where the dregs of different authors are so effectually intermingled, that the brightest wit is confounded with the vilest absurdity.
Other writers imitated by Sterne-Burton
Sterne was no friend to gravity, for which he had very good reasons; it was a quality which excited his disgust, even in authors who lived in times that exacted an appearance of it. Like the manager in the Farce,* he sometimes" took the best part of their tragedy to put it into his own come dy." Previous to the Reformation, great latitude in manners was assumed by the clergy. Bandello, who published three
volumes of tales, in which he often laid aside decorum, was a bishop; and perhaps some of Sterne's friends expected him to become one also, without considering the severity of conduct required in protestant prelates. His friend Hall has run the parallel to my hands.
Why may 'nt BANDELLO have a rap?
Sterne has contrived to give a ludicrious turn to those passages which he took from BURTON'S Anatomy of Melancholy, a book, once the favourite of the learned and the witty, and a source of surreptitious learning to many others besides our author.t I had
+ See note II.
often wondered at the pains bestowed by Sterne in ridiculing opinions not fashionable in his time, and had thought it singular, that he should produce the portrait of his sophist, Mr. Shandy, with all the stains and mouldiness of the last century about him. I am now convinced that most of the sin gularities of that character were drawn from the perusal of Burton.
The strange title of Tristram Shandy, and the assumption of the name of Yorick, were probably suggested by a passage in Burton's preface, where he apologizes for styling himself Democritus junior, and for his title-page.
"If the title and inscription offend your gravity, were it a sufficient justification to accuse others, I could produce many sober treatises, even sermons themselves, which in their fronts carry more fantastical names. Howsoever it is a kind of policy in these days, to prefix a fantastical title to a book which is to be sold: for as larks come down to a day-net, many vain readers will tarry and stand gazing, like silly passengers, at an
antic picture in a painter's shop, that will not look at a judicious piece." The hint respecting sermons was not lost upon Sterne.
The Anatomy of Melancholy, though written on a regular plan, consists chiefly of quotations: the author has honestly termed it a cento. He collects, under every division, the opinions of a multitude of writers, without regard to chronological order, and has too often the modesty to decline the interposition of his own sentiments. Indeed the bulk of his materials generally overwhelms him. In the course of his folio, he has contrived to treat a great variety of topics, that scem very loosely connected with the general subject, and, like Bayle, when he starts a favourite train of quotations, he does not scruple to let the digression outrun the principal question. Thus from the doctrines of religion to military discipline, from inland navigation to the morality of dancingschools, every thing is discussed and determined.
In his introductory address to the reader,