Laurence Sterne, A Political Romance





In my last, for want of some-
thing better to write about,
I told you what a World of
Fending and Proving we have
had of late, in this little Vil-
lage of ours, about an old-cast-Pair-of-
, which John, our Pa-
rish-Clerk, about ten Years ago, it seems,
had made a Promise of to one Trim, who
is our Sexton and Dog-Whipper. —To
this you write me Word, that you have
had more than either one or two Occasions
to know a good deal of the shifty Beha-
viour of this said Master Trim,—and that

             A             you


you are astonished, nor can you for your
Soul conceive, how so worthless a Fellow,
and so worthless a Thing into the Bargain,
could become the Occasion of such a
Racket as I have represented.


Now, though you do not say expressly,
you could wish to hear any more about it,
yet I see plain enough that I have raised
your Curiosity; and therefore, from the
same Motive, that I slightly mentioned it
at all in my last Letter, I will, in this, give
you a full and very circumstantial Account
of the whole Affair.

But, before I begin, I must first set you
right in one very material Point, in which
I have missled you, as to the true Cause
of all this Uproar amongst us;—which
does not take its Rise, as I then told you,
from the Affair of the Breeches;—but, on
the contrary, the whole Affair of the
Breeches has taken its Rise from it: —
To understand which, you must know,
that the first Beginning of the Squabble
was not between John the Parish-Clerk
and Trim the Sexton, but betwixt the Par-
son of the Parish and the said Master Trim,



about an old Watch-Coat, which had many
Years hung up in the Church, which Trim
had set his Heart upon; and nothing would
serve Trim but he must take it home, in
order to have it converted into a warm
for his Wife, and a Jerkin
for himself, against Winter; which, in a
plaintive Tone, he most humbly begg'd his
Reverence would consent to.

I need not tell you, Sir, who have so
often felt it, that a Principle of strong
Compassion transports a generous Mind
sometimes beyond what is strictly right,—
the Parson was within an
Ace of being an honourable Example of this very Crime;—
for no sooner did the distinct Words—
Petticoat—poor Wife—warm—Winter
strike upon his Ear,—but his Heart
warmed,—and, before Trim had well got
to the End of his Petition, (being a Gentle-
man of a frank and open Temper) he told
him he was welcome to it, with all his
Heart and Soul. But, Trim, says he, as you
see I am but just got down to my Living, and
am an utter Stranger to all Parish-Matters,
know nothing about this old Watch-Coat
you beg of me, having never seen it in my

             A2              Life,


Life, and therefore cannot be a Judge
whether 'tis fit for such a Purpose; or, if
it is, in Truth, know not whether 'tis
mine to bestow upon you or not;—you
must have a Week or ten Days Patience,
till I can make some Inquiries about it;—
and, if I find it is in my Power, I tell you
again, Man, your Wife is heartily welcome
to an Under-Petticoat out of it, and you
to a Jerkin, was the Thing as good again
as you represent it.

It is necessary to inform you, Sir, in
this Place, That the Parson was earnestly
bent to serve Trim in this Affair, not only
from the Motive of Generosity, which I
have justly ascribed to him, but likewise
from another Motive; and that was by
way of making some Sort of Recompence
for a Multitude of small Services which
Trim had occasionally done, and indeed
was continually doing, (as he was much
about the House) when his own Man was
out of the Way. For all these Reasons to-
gether, I say, the Parson of the Parish in-
tended to serve Trim in this Matter to the
utmost of his Power: All that was want-
ing was previously to inquire, if any one



had a Claim to it;—or whether, as it had,
Time immemorial, hung up in the
Church, the taking it down might not
raise a Clamour in the Parish. These In-
quiries were the very Thing that Trim
dreaded in his Heart. —He knew very
well that if the Parson should but say one
Word to the Church-Wardens about it,
there would be an End of the whole Af-
fair. For this, and some other Reasons not
necessary to be told you, at present, Trim
was for allowing no Time in this Mat-
ter; —but, on the contrary, doubled his
Diligence and Importunity at the Vicarage-
House; —plagued the whole Family to
Death;—pressed his Suit Morning, Noon,
and Night; and, to shorten my Story,
teazed the poor Gentleman, who was but
in an ill State of Health, almost out of his
Life about it.

You will not wonder, when I tell you,
that all this Hurry and Precipitation, on
the Side of Master Trim, produced its na-
tural Effect on the Side of the Parson, and
that was, a Suspicion that all was not right
at the Bottom.



He was one Evening sitting alone in his
Study, weighing and turning this Doubt
every Way in his Mind; and, after an
Hour and a half's serious Deliberation up-
on the Affair, and running over Trim's Be-
haviour throughout,—he was just saying
to himself, It must be so;—when a sudden
Rap at the Door put an End to his Solilo-
quy, —and, in a few Minutes, to his
Doubts too; for a Labourer in the Town,
who deem'd himself past his fifty-second
Year, had been returned by the Constable
in the Militia-List,—and he had come,
with a Groat in his Hand, to search the
Parish Register for his Age. —The Parson
bid the poor Fellow put the Groat into his
Pocket, and go into the Kitchen: —Then
shutting the Study Door, and taking down
the Parish Register,—Who knows, says he,
but I may find something here about this self-
same Watch-Coat?
—He had scarce un-
clasped the Book, in saying this, when he
popp'd upon the very Thing he wanted,
fairly wrote on the first Page, pasted to the
Inside of one of the Covers, whereon was
a Memorandum about the very Thing in
Question, in these express Words:

                       m c.


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