Laurence Sterne, A Political Romance







The great Watch-Coat was purchased
and given above two hundred Years ago,
by the Lord of the Manor, to this Parish-
Church, to the sole Use and Behoof of the
poor Sextons thereof, and their Successors,
for ever, to be worn by them respectively
in winterly cold Nights, in ringing
plines, Passing-Bells, &c. which the said Lord
of the Manor had done, in Piety, to keep
the poor Wretches warm, and for the Good
of his own Soul, for which they were di-
rected to pray,
&c. &c. &c. &c. Just Hea-
said the Parson to himself, looking
upwards, What an Escape have I had!
Give this for an Under-Petticoat to Trim's
Wife! I would not have consented to such
a Desecration to be Primate of all Eng-
land; nay, I would not have disturb'd a
single Button of it for half my Tythes!

Scarce were the Words out of his Mouth,
when in pops Trim with the whole Sub-
ject of the Exclamation under both his
Arms. —I say, under both his Arms;—for
he had actually got it ripp'd and cut out
ready, his own Jerkin under one Arm, and
the Petticoat under the other, in order to
be carried to the Taylor to be made up,—


and had just stepp'd in, in high Spirits, to
shew the Parson how cleverly it had held
  There are many good Similies now sub-
sisting in the World, but which I have nei-
ther Time to recollect or look for, which
would give you a strong Conception of
the Astonishment and honest Indignation
which this unexpected Stroke of Trim's
Impudence impress'd upon the Parson's
Looks. —Let it suffice to say, That it ex-
ceeded all fair Description,—as well as all
Power of proper Resentment,—except
this, that Trim was ordered, in a stern
Voice, to lay the Bundles down upon the
Table,—to go about his Business, and wait
upon him, at his Peril, the next Morning
at Eleven precisely: —Against this Hour,
like a wise Man, the Parson had sent to
desire John the Parish-Clerk, who bore
an exceeding good Character as a Man of
Truth, and who having, moreover, a
pretty Freehold of about eighteen Pounds a
Year in the Township, was a leading Man
in it; and, upon the whole, was such a
one of whom it might be said,—That he
rather did Honour to his Office,—than


that his Office did Honour to him. —Him
he sends for, with the Church-Wardens,
and one of the Sides-Men, a grave, know-
ing, old Man, to be present: —For as Trim
had with-held the whole Truth from the
Parson, touching the Watch-Coat, he
thought it probable he would as certainly
do the same Thing to others; though this,
I said, was wise, the Trouble of the Precau-
tion might have been spared,—because the
Parson's Character was unblemish'd,—and
he had ever been held by the World in the
Estimation of a Man of Honour and Inte-
grity. —Trim's Character, on the contrary,
was as well known, if not in the World,
yet, at least, in all the Parish, to be that of
a little, dirty, pimping, pettifogging, ambi-
dextrous Fellow,—who neither cared what
he did or said of any, provided he could get a
Penny by it. —This might, I say, have made
any Precaution needless;—but you must
know, as the Parson had in a Manner but
just got down to his Living, he dreaded the
Consequences of the least ill Impression on
his first Entrance amongst his Parishioners,
which would have disabled him from do-
ing them the Good he wished;—so that,
out of Regard to his Flock, more than the
             B              neces-


necessary Care due to himself,—he was re-
solv'd not to lie at the Mercy of what Re-
sentment might vent, or Malice lend an Ear
to. —Accordingly the whole Matter was
rehearsed from first to last by the Parson,
in the Manner I've told you, in the Hear-
ing of John the Parish-Clerk, and in the
Presence of Trim.  Trim had little to say for himself, ex-
cept "That the Parson had absolutely pro-
mised to befriend him and his Wife in the
Affair, to the utmost of his Power: That
the Watch-Coat was certainly in his
Power, and that he might still give it him
if he pleased." To this, the Parson's Reply was short,
but strong, "That nothing was in his
Power to do, but what he could do honest-
: —That in giving the Coat to him and
his Wife, he should do a manifest Wrong to
the next Sexton; the great Watch-Coat
being the most comfortable Part of the
Place: —That he should, moreover, injure
the Right of his own Successor, who would
be just so much a worse Patron, as the
Worth of the Coat amounted to;—and, in


a Word, he declared, that his whole Intent
in promising that Coat, was Charity to
Trim; but Wrong to no Man; that was a
Reserve, he said, made in all Cases of this
Kind: —and he declared solemnly, in Verbo
Sacerdotis, That this was his Meaning, and
was so understood by Trim himself."  

With the Weight of this Truth, and the
great good Sense and strong Reason which
accompanied all the Parson said upon the
Subject,—poor Trim was driven to his last
Shift,—and begg'd he might be suffered
to plead his Right and Title to the Watch-
Coat, if not by Promise, at least by Servi-
. —It was well known how much he
was entitled to it upon these Scores: That
he had black'd the Parson's Shoes without
Count, and greased his Boots above fifty
Times: —That he had run for Eggs into the
Town upon all Occasions;—whetted the
Knives at all Hours;—catched his Horse
and rubbed him down: —That for his
Wife she had been ready upon all Occasions
to charr for them;—and neither he nor she,
to the best of his Remembrance, ever took
a Farthing, or any thing beyond a Mug of
Ale. —To this Account of his Services he
             B2             begg'd


begg'd Leave to add those of his Wishes,
which, he said, had been equally great. —
He affirmed, and was ready, he said, to
make it appear, by Numbers of Witnesses,
"He had drank his Reverence's Health a
thousand Times, (by the bye, he did not
add out of the Parson's own Ale): That
he notonly drank his Health, but wish'd
it; and never came to the House, but ask'd
his Man kindly how he did; that in par-
ticular, about half a Year ago, when his
Reverence cut his Finger in paring an Ap-
ple, he went half a Mile to ask a cunning
Woman, what was good to stanch Blood,
and actually returned with a Cobweb in his
Breeches Pocket: —Nay, says Trim, it
was not a Fortnight ago, when your Reve-
rence took that violent Purge, that I went
to the far End of the whole Town to bor-
row you a Close-stool,—and came back,
as my Neighbours, who flouted me, will
all bear witness, with the Pan upon my
Head, and never thought it too much."  

Trim concluded his pathetick Remon-
strance with saying, "He hoped his Re-
verence's Heart would not suffer him to
requite so many faithful Services by so un-


kind a Return: —That if it was so, as he
was the first, so he hoped he should be the
last, Example of a Man of his Condition
so treated." —This Plan of Trim's De-
fence, which Trim had put himself upon,
—could admit of no other Reply but a ge-
neral Smile.

 Upon the whole, let me inform you,
That all that could be said, pro and con, on
both Sides, being fairly heard, it was plain,
That Trim, in every Part of this Affair,
had behaved very ill;—and one Thing,
which was never expected to be known of
him, happening in the Course of this De-
bate to come out against him;—namely,
That he had gone and told the Parson, be-
fore he had ever set Foot in his Parish,
That John his Parish-Clerk,—his Church-
Wardens, and some of the Heads of the
Parish, were a Parcel of Scoundrels. —Up-
on the Upshot, Trim was kick'd out of
Doors; and told, at his Peril, never to
come there again. At first Trim huff'd and bounced most
terribly;—swore he would get a War-
rant; —then nothing would serve him but



he would call a Bye-Law, and tell the
whole Parish how the Parson had misused
him;—but cooling of that, as fearing the
Parson might possibly bind him over to his
good Behaviour, and, for aught he knew,
might send him to the House of Correc-
tion, —he let the Parson alone; and, to re-
venge himself, falls foul upon his Clerk,
who had no more to do in the Quarrel than
you or I;—rips up the Promise of the old-
cast -Pair-of-black-Plush-Breeches, and
raises an Uproar in the Town about it, not-
withstanding it had slept ten Years. —But
all this, you must know, is look'd upon in
no other Light, but as an artful Stroke of
Generalship in Trim, to raise a Dust, and
cover himself under the disgraceful Cha-
stisement he has undergone.

 If your Curiosity is not yet satisfied,—I
will now proceed to relate the Battle of
the Breeches, in the same exact Manner
I have done that of the Watch-Coat.

Be it known then, that, about ten
Years ago, when John was appointed Pa-
rish-Clerk of this Church, this said Master
Trim took no small Pains to get into John's



good Graces; in order, as it afterwards
appeared, to coax a Promise out of him of a Pair
of Breeches, which John had then
by him, of black Plush, not much the
worse for wearing;—Trim only begging
for God's Sake to have them bestowed up-
on him when John should think fit to cast
them.  Trim was one of those kind of Men who
loved a Bit of Finery in his Heart, and
would rather have a tatter'd Rag of a Bet-
ter Body's, than the best plain whole Thing
his Wife could spin him. John, who was naturally unsuspicious,
made no more Difficulty of promising the
Breeches, than the Parson had done in pro-
mising the Great Coat; and, indeed, with
something less Reserve,—because the
Breeches were John's own, and he could
give them, without Wrong, to whom he
thought fit. It happened, I was going to say un-
luckily, but, I should rather say, most
luckily, for Trim, for he was the only
Gainer by it,—that a Quarrel, about some


six or eight Weeks after this, broke out
between the late Parson of the Parish
and John the Clerk. Somebody (and
it was thought to be Nobody but Trim)
had put it into the Parson's Head, "That
John's Desk in the Church was, at the
least, four Inches higher than it should
be: —That the Thing gave Offence,
and was indecorous, inasmuch as it ap-
proach'd too near upon a Level with the
Parson's Desk itself. This Hardship the
Parson complained of loudly,—and told
John one Day after Prayers,—"He could
bear it no longer: —And would have it al-
ter'd and brought down as it should be."
John made no other Reply, but, "That
the Desk was not of his raising: —That
'twas not one Hair Breadth higher than he
found it;—and that as he found it, so would
he leave it: —In short, he would neither
make an Encroachment, nor would he
suffer one."   The late Parson might have his Virtues,
but the leading Part of his Character was
not Humility; so that John's Stiffness in
this Point was not likely to reconcile Mat-
ters. —This was Trim's Harvest.


After a friendly Hint to John to stand
his Ground,—away hies Trim to make his
Market at the Vicarage: —What pass'd
there, I will not say, intending not to be
uncharitable; so shall content myself with
only guessing at it, from the sudden Change
that appeared in Trim's Dress for the bet-
ter; —for he had left his old ragged Coat,
Hat and Wig, in the Stable, and was come
forth strutting across the Church-yard,
y'clad in a good creditable cast Coat, large
Hat and Wig, which the Parson had just
given him. —Ho! Ho! Hollo! John!
cries Trim, in an insolent Bravo, as loud as
ever he could bawl—See here, my Lad!
how fine I am. —The more Shame for
you, answered John, seriously. —Do you
think, Trim, says he, such Finery, gain'd
by such Services, becomes you, or can
wear well? —Fye upon it, Trim;—I could
not have expected this from you, cons-
idering what Friendship you pretended,
and how kind I have ever been to you:
—How many Shillings and Sixpences I
have generously lent you in your Distres-
ses? —Nay, it was but t'other Day that I
promised you these black Plush Breeches I
have on. —Rot your Breeches, quoth
                        C              Trim;


Trim: for Trim's Brain was half turn'd
with his new Finery: —Rot your Breeches,
says he,—I would not take them up, were
they laid at my Door;—give 'em, and be
d--d to you, to whom you like; — I
would have you to know I can have a bet-
ter Pair at the Parson's any Day in the
Week: — John told him plainly, as his
Word had once pass'd him, he had a Spi-
rit above taking Advantage of his Inso-
lence, in giving them away to another: —
But, to tell him his Mind freely, he
thought he had got so many Favours of
that Kind, and was so likely to get many
more for the same Services, of the Parson,
that he had better give up the Breeches,
with good Nature, to some one who would
be more thankful for them.  

Here John mentioned Mark Slender,
(who, it seems, the Day before, had ask'd
John for 'em) not knowing they were un-
der Promise to Trim. ——"Come, Trim,
says he, let poor Mark have 'em,—
You know he has not a Pair to his
A—: Besides, you see he is just of my
Size, and they will fit him to a T; where-
as, if I give 'em to you,—look ye, they



are not worth much; and, besides, you
could not get your Backside into them, if
you had them, without tearing them all
to Pieces."  Every Tittle of this was most undoubt-
edly true; for Trim, you must know, by
soul Feeding, and playing the good Fel-
low at the Parson's, was grown somewhat
gross about the lower Parts, if not higher:
So that, as all John said upon the Occa-
sion was fact, Trim, with much ado, and
after a hundred Hum's and Hah's, at last,
out of mere Compassion to Mark, signs,
seals, and delivers up
all Right, Interest,
and Pretensions whatsoever, in and to the
said Breeches; thereby binding his Heirs,
Executors, Administrators, and Assignes,
never more to call the said Claim in Que-
. All this Renunciation was set forth in
an ample Manner, to be in pure Pity to
Mark's Nakedness;—but the Secret was,
Trim had an Eye to, and firmly expected
in his own Mind, the great Green Pulpit-
Cloth and old Velvet Cushion, which
were that very Year to be taken down; —
             C2             which


which, by the Bye, could he have wheed-
led John a second Time out of 'em, as he
hoped, he had made up the Loss of his
Breeches Seven-fold.  Now, you must know, this Pulpit-
Cloth and Cushion were not in John's
Gift, but in the Church-Wardens, &c. —
However, as I said above, that John was
a leading Man in the Parish, Trim knew
he could help him to them if he would: —
But John had got a Surfeit of him;—
so, when the Pulpit-Cloth, &c. were ta-
ken down, they were immediately given
(John having a great Say in it) to William
, who understood very well what Use
to make of them. As for the old Breeches, poor Mark
lived to wear them but a short
Time, and they got into the Possession of
Lorry Slim, an unlucky Wight, by whom
they are still worn; — in Truth, as
you will guess, they are very thin by this
Time: —But Lorry has a light Heart; and
what recommends them to him, is this,
that, as thin as they are, he knows that
Trim, let him say what he will to the con-
trary, still envies the Possessor of them,—


and, with all his Pride, would be very glad
to wear them after him .  

Upon this Footing have these Affairs
slept quietly for near ten Years, — and
would have slept for ever, but for the un-
lucky Kicking-Bout; which, as I said,
has ripp'd this Squabble up afresh: So
that it was no longer ago than last Week,
that Trim met and insulted John in the
public Town-Way, before a hundred
People;—tax'd him with the Promise of
the old-cast-Pair-of-black-Breeches, not-
withstanding Trim's solemn Renunciation;
twitted him with the Pulpit-Cloth and
Velvet Cushion,—as good as told him, he
was ignorant of the common Duties of his
Clerkship; adding, very insolently, That
he knew not so much as to give out a
common Psalm in Tune.— John contented himself with giving a
plain Answer to every Article that Trim
had laid to his Charge, and appealed to his
Neighbours who remembered the whole
Affair;—and as he knew there was never
any Thing to be got in wrestling with a


Chimney-Sweeper,—he was going to take
Leave of Trim for ever. —But, hold,—
the Mob by this Time had got round
them, and their High Mightinesses insisted
upon having Trim tried upon the Spot. —
Trim was accordingly tried; and, after a
full Hearing, was convicted a second Time,
and handled more roughly by one or more
of them, than even at the Parson's.  Trim, says one, are you not ashamed of
yourself, to make all this Rout and Di-
sturbance in the Town, and set Neigh-
bours together by the Ears, about an old-
worn -out-Pair-of-cast-Breeches, not
worth Half a Crown? —Is there a cast-
Coat, or a Place in the whole Town, that
will bring you in a Shilling, but what you
have snapp'd up, like a greedy Hound as
you are? In the first Place, are you not Sexton
and Dog-Whipper, worth Three Pounds
a Year? —Then you begg'd the Church-
Wardens to let your Wife have the Wash-
ing and Darning of the Surplice and
Church-Linen, which brings you in Thir-


teen Shillings and Four Pence. —Then you
have Six Shillings and Eight Pence for
oiling and winding up the Clock, both paid
you at Easter. —The Pinder's Place, which
is worth Forty Shillings a Year,—you have
got that too. —You are the Bailiff, which the
late Parson got you, which brings you in
Forty Shillings more. —Besides all this, you
have Six Pounds a Year, paid you Quarter-
ly for being Mole-Catcher to the Parish. —
Aye, says the luckless Wight above-men-
tioned, (who was standing close to him
with his Plush Breeches on) "You are not
only Mole-Catcher, Trim, but you catch
STRAY CONIES too in the Dark; and you
pretend a Licence for it, which, I trow,
will be look'd into at the next Quarter Ses-
sions." I maintain it, I have a Licence,
says Trim, blushing as red as Scarlet: —
I have a Licence,—and as I farm a War-
ren in the next Parish, I will catch Conies
every Hour of the Night. —You catch
cries a toothless old Woman, who
was just passing by.—  

This set the Mob a laughing, and sent
every Man home in perfect good Humour,


except Trim, who waddled very slowly
off with that Kind of inflexible Gravity
only to be equalled by one Animal in the
whole Creation,—and surpassed by none.
I am,  SIR, Yours, &c. &c.

F    I    N    I    S.


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