Laurence Sterne,-Letters from Yorick to Eliza








I HAVE been within the verge of the
gates of death: I was ill the last
time I wrote to you, and apprehen-
sive of what would be the consequence.
--- My fears were but too well founded,
for in ten minutes after I dispatch'd
my letter, this poor fine-spun frame
of Yorick's gave way, and I broke a
vessel in my breast, and could not stop
the loss of blood till four this morn-
ing --- I have fill'd all thy India han-
dkerchiefs with it, it came, I think,
from my heart --- I fell asleep thro'



weakness at t six, I awoke with the
bosom of my shirt steep'd in tears ---

I dream'd I was sitting under the
canopy of Indolence, and that thou
cam'st into the room with a shaul in
thy hand, and told me, "my spirit
had flown to thee in the Downs with
tidings of my fate, and that you was
come to administer what consolation
filial affection could bestow, and to
receive my parting breath: and bles-
sings," with that you folded the shaul
about my waist, and, kneeling, suppli-
cated my attention.

I awoke, but in what a frame!
Oh! my God! but "Thou wilt re-



memeber number my tears, and put them all
into thy bottle" --- Dear girl, I see thee,
thou art for ever present to my fancy,
embracing my feeble knees, and rais-
ing thy fine eyes to bid me be of
comfort ---

And when I talk to Lydia, the words
of Esau, as utter'd by thee, perpetu-
a1ly ring in my ears.

"Bless me even also, my fa-
ther." ---

Blessing attend thee, thou child of
my heart --- My bleeding is quite
stopp'd, and I feel the principle of life



strong within me --- so be not alarm'd,
Eliza, I know I shall do well ---

I have eat my breakfast with hun-
ger, and I write to thee with a plea-
sure arising from that prophetic im-
pression in my imagination.

"That all will terminate to our
hearts content" --- Comfort thyself , eter-
nally with this persuasion, "That
the best of beings (as thou hast sweetly
express'd it) could not by a com-
bination of accidents, produce such a
chain of events, merely to be the
source of misery to the leading person
engaged in them" ---



The observation was very applica-
ble, very good, and very elegantly
expres'd --- I wish my memory did
justice to the wording of it ---

Who taught you the art of writing
so sweetly, Eliza? You absolutely have
exalted it to a science -- When I am in
want of ready cash, and ill health will
not permit my genius to exert itself, I
shall print your letters, as Finish'd
Essays by an unfortunate Indian Lady!
The style is new, and would almost be
a sufficient recommendation for their
selling well, without merit; but their
sense, natural ease, and spirit, is not
to be equall'd, I believe, in this sec-
tion of the globe; nor, I will answer



for it, by any of your country women
in yours ---

I have shew'd your letter to Mrs.
B. and to half the literati in town; you
shall not be angry with me for it, be-
cause I meant to do you honour by
it ----

You cannot imagine how many ad-
mirers your epistolary productions
have gain'd you, that never view'd
your external merits ---

I only wonder where thou couldst
acquire thy graces, thy goodness, thy
accomplishments! so connected! so
educated! Nature has surely study'd



to make thee her peculiar care, for thou
art (and not in my eyes alone) the best
and fairest of all her works --- and so
this is the last letter thou art to receive
from me, because the Earl of Chatham
(I read in the papers) is got to the
Downs, and the wind (I find) is fair
--- if so, blessed woman, take my last,
last farewell! cherish the remembrance
of me, think how I esteem, nay, how
affectionately I love thee, and what a
price I set upon thee. Adieu, adieu;
and with my adieu, let me give thee
one straight rule of conduct, that thou
hast heard from my lips in a thousand
forms, but I concenter it in one word,

--- Reverevce Thyself ---



Adieu once more, Eliza, may no an-
guish of heart plant a wrinkle upon
thy face, till I behold it again; may
no doubt or misgivings disturb the
serenity of thy mind, or awaken a
painful thought about thy children,
for they are Yorick's-and Yorick is thy friend for ever! Adieu, adieu, adieu!

P.S. Remember that "Hope
shortens journies, by sweetening
them;" so sing my little stanza on
the subject, with the devotion of an
hymn, every morning when thou arisest,
and thou wilt eat thy breakfast with
more comfort for it --- Blessings, rest



and Hygeia go with thee; may'st thou
soon return in peace and affluence to
illume my night. I am, and shall
be the last to deplore thy loss, and
will be the first to congratulate, and
hail thy return ---

Fare thee well ---


next section