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Laurence Sterne
English novelist
(1713-68)



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I live in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles,—but much more so, when he laughs, it adds something to this Fragment of Life.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), dedication

I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 1, Ch. 1

As we jogg on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short do anything—only keep your temper.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 1, Ch. 6

So long as a man rides his Hobby-Horse peaceably and quietly along the King's highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him, -- pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 1, Ch. 7

For every ten jokes, thou hast got a hundred enemies.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Book I, Ch. 12.

He was in a few hours of giving his enemies the slip for ever.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 1, Ch. 12

Whistled up to London, upon a Tom Fool's errand.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 1, Ch. 12

My uncle Toby would never offer to answer this by any other kind of argument, than that of whistling half a dozen bars of Lillabullero.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 1, Ch. 21

Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;— they are the life, the soul of reading!—take them out of this book for instance,—you might as well take the book along with them.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 1, Ch. 22

"I'll not hurt thee," says my uncle Toby, rising from his chair, and going across the room, with the fly in his hand. -- "I'll not hurt a hair of thy head:-- "Go," says he, lifting up the sash and opening his hand as he spoke, to let it escape; -- "go, poor devil, get thee gone, why should I hurt thee? -- This world surely is wide enough to hold both thee and me."
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 2, Ch. 12.

Whenever a man talks loudly against religion,— always suspect that it is not his reason, but his passions which have got the better of his creed.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 2, Ch. 17

Our armies swore terribly in Flanders, cried my uncle Toby, — but nothing to this. — For my own part, I could not have a heart to curse my dog so.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 3, Ch. 11

The corregiescity of Corregio.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 3, Ch. 12

Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world,--though the cant of hypocrites may be the worst--the cant of criticism is the most tormenting.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 3, Ch. 12

The nonsense of the old women (of both sexes).
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 3, Ch. 16

It had ever been the custom of the family, and by length of time was almost become a matter of common right, that the eldest son of it should have free ingress, egress, and regress into foreign parts before marriage, — not only for the sake of bettering his own private parts, by the benefit of exercise and change of so much air — but simply for the mere delectation of his fancy, by the feather put into his cap, of having been abroad.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Book 4, Ch. 31.

Now or never was the time.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Book 4, Ch. 31.

True Shandyism, think what you will against it, opens the heart and lungs, and like all those affections which partake of its nature, it forces the blood and other vital fluids through its channels, and makes the wheel of life run long and cheerfully round.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 4, Ch. 32

'There is no terror, brother Toby, in its looks, bu what it borrows from groans and convulsions--and the blowing of noses, and the wiping away of tears with the bottoms of curtains, in a dying man's room--Strip it of these, what is it?'--'Tis better in batle than in bed.
-- Of death.Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 5, Ch. 3

I am convinced, Yorick, continued my father, half reading and half discoursing, that there is a Northwest Passage to the intellectual world; and that the soul of man has shorter ways of going to work, in furnishing itself with knowledge and instruction, than we generally take with it.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 5, Ch. 42

The Accusing Spirit which flew up to heaven's chancery with the oath, blush'd as he gave it in; and the Recording Angel as he wrote it down, dropp'd a tear upon the word, and blotted it out forever.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 6, Ch. 8

To say a man is fallen in love,--or that he is deeply in love,--or up to the ears in love,--and sometimes over head and ears in it,--carries an idiomatical kind of implication, that love is a thing below a man:--this is recurring again to Plato's opinion, which, with all his divinityship,--I hold to be damnable and heretical,--and so much for that. Let love therefore be what it will,--my uncle Toby fell into it.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 6, Ch. 37

My brother Toby, quoth she, is going to be married to Mrs Wadman. Then he will never, quoth my father, lie diagonally in his bed again as long as he lives.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 6, Ch. 39

Now hang it! quoth I, as I look'd towards the French coast--a man should know something of his own country too, before he goes abroad.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 7, Ch. 2

I am sick as a horse.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Book 7, Ch. 11.

'A soldier,' cried my uncle Toby, interrupting the corporal, is no more exempt from saying a foolish thing, Trim, than a man of letters.'--'But not so often, an' please your honour,' replied the corporal.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 8, Ch. 19

Love, an' please your Honour, is exactly like war, in this; that a soldier, though he has escaped three weeks complete o' Saturday night,—may, nevertheless, be shot through his heart on Sunday morning.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 8, Ch. 21

Everything presses on--whilst thou art twisting that lock,see! It grows grey; and every time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, and every absence which follows it, are preludes to that eternal separation which we are shortly to make.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 9, Ch. 8

Said my mother,' what is all this story about?'-- 'A Cock and a Bull,' said Yorick.
-- Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Bk. 9, Ch. 13

They order, said I, this matter better in France.
--Opening words of A Sentimental Journey (1768),

As an Englishman does not travel to see Englishmen, I retired to my room.
-- A Sentimental Journey (1768), "Preface. In the Desobligeant."

There are worse occupations in the world than feeling a woman's pulse.
-- A Sentimental Journey (1768), "The Pulse. Paris."

I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba, and cry, 'tis all barren.
-- A Sentimental Journey (1768), "In the Street. Calais."

Vive l'amour! Et vive la bagatelle!
-- A Sentimental Journey (1768), "The Latter"

God tempers the wind, said Maria, to the shorn lamb.
-- A Sentimental Journey (1768), "Maria"

Dear sensibility! Source inexhausted of all that's precious in our joys, or costly in our sorrows!
-- A Sentimental Journey (1768), "The Bourbonnois"


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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