Index

Laurence Sterne, A Political Romance

 


CONTENT




[31]



THE KEY.

-1-----

 

This Romance was, by some Mis-
chance or other, dropp'd in the
Minster-Yard, York, and pick'd up by a
Member of a small Political Club in that
City; where it was carried, and publickly
read to the Members the last Club Night.

It was instantly agreed to, by a great
Majority, That it was a Political Romance;
but concerning what State or Potentate,
could not so easily be settled amongst them.

The President of the Night, who is
thought to be as clear and quick-sighted
as any one of the whole Club in Things
of this Nature, discovered plainly, That the
Disturbances therein set forth, related to
those on the Continent:—That Trim could
be Nobody but the King of France, by
whose shifting and intriguing Behaviour,
all Europe was set together by the Ears:—
That Trim's Wife was certainly the Em-
press, who are as kind together, says he,
as any Man and Wife can be for their

                        Lives.


[32]

Lives. —The more Shame for 'em, says an
Alderman, low to himself. —Agreeable to
this Key, continues the President,—The
Parson, who I think is a most excellent
Character,—is His Most Excellent Ma-
jesty King George;—John, the Parish-
Clerk, is the King of Prussia ; who, by the
Manner of his first entering Saxony, shew'd
the World most evidently,—That he did
know how to lead out the Psalm, and in
Tune and Time too, notwithstanding
Trim's vile Insult upon him in that Parti-
cular. —But who do you think, says a Sur-
geon and Man-Midwife, who sat next
him, (whose Coat-Button the President,
in the Earnestness of this Explanation, had
got fast hold of, and had thereby partly
drawn him over to his Opinion) Who do
you think, Mr. President, says he, are
meant by the Church-Wardens, Sides-Men,
Mark Slender, Lorry Slim, &c.
—Who do
I think? says he, Why,—Why, Sir, as I
take the Thing,—the Church-Wardens
and Sides-Men, are the Electors and the
other Princes who form the Germanick
Body. —And as for the other subordinate
Characters of Mark Slim,—the unlucky
Wight in the Plush Breeches,—the Parson's

                        Man

[33]

Man who was so often out of the Way,
&c. &c.—these, to be sure, are the se-
veral Marshals and Generals, who fought,
or should have fought, under them the last
Campaign. —The Men in Buckram, con-
tinued the President, are the Gross of the
King of Prussia's Army, who are as stiff
a Body of Men as are in the World:—And
Trim's saying they were twelve, and then
nineteen, is a Wipe for the Brussels Gazet-
teer, who, to my Knowledge, was never
two Weeks in the same Story, about that
or any thing else.

As for the rest of the Romance, continu-
ed the President, it sufficiently explains it-
self, —The Old-cast-Pair-of-Black-Plush-
Breeches
must be Saxony, which the Elec-
tor
, you see, has left off wearing:—And
as for the Great Watch-Coat, which, you
know, covers all, it signifies all Europe;
comprehending, at least, so many of its
different States and Dominions, as we
have any Concern with in the present
War.

I protest, says a Gentleman who sat
next but one to the President, and who, it
seems, was the Parson of the Parish, a

             E             Mem-

[34]

Member not only of the Political, but also
of a Musical Club in the next Street;—
I protest, says he, if this Explanation is
right, which I think it is,—That the
whole makes a very fine Symbol. —You
have always some Musical Instrument or
other in your Head, I think, says the Al-
derman. ——Musical Instrument! replies
the Parson, in Astonishment,—Mr. Alder-
man, I mean an Allegory; and I think the
greedy Disposition of Trim and his Wife,
in ripping the Great Watch-Coat to Pieces,
in order to convert it into a Petticoat for
the one, and a Jerkin for the other, is one
of the most beautiful of the Kind I ever
met with; and will shew all the World
what have been the true Views and Inten-
tions of the Houses of Bourbon and Au-
stria
in this abominable Coalition,—I
might have called it Whoredom:—Nay,
says the Alderman, 'tis downright Adul-
terydom, or nothing.

This Hypothesis of the President's ex-
plain'd every Thing in the Romance ex-
treamly well; and, withall, was delivered
with so much Readiness and Air of Cer-
tainty, as begot an Opinion in two Thirds
of the Club, that Mr. President was actu-

                        ally


[35]

ally the Author of the Romance himself:
But a Gentleman who sat on the opposite
Side of the Table, who had come piping-
hot from reading the History of King Wil-
liam
's and Queen Anne's Wars, and who
was thought, at the Bottom, to envy the
President the Honour both of the Romance
and Explanation too, gave an entire new
Turn to it all. He acquainted the Club,
That Mr. President was altogether wrong
in every Supposition he had made, except
that one, where the Great Watch-Coat was
said by him to represent Europe, or at least a
great Part of it:—So far he acknowledged
he was pretty right; but that he had not
gone far enough backwards into our His-
tory to come at the Truth. He then ac-
quainted them, that the dividing the Great
Watch-Coat
did, and could, allude to no-
thing else in the World but the Partition-
Treaty
; which, by the Bye, he told them,
was the most unhappy and scandalous
Transaction in all King William's Life: It
was that false Step, and that only, says he,
rising from his Chair, and striking his Hand
upon the Table with great Violence; it was
that false Step, says he, knitting his Brows

                        and

[35]

and throwing his Pipe down upon the
Ground, that has laid the Foundation of all
the Disturbances and Sorrows we feel and
lament at this very Hour; and as for Trim's
giving up the Breeches, look ye, it is a-
lmost Word for Word copied from the
French King and Dauphin's Renunciation
of Spain and the West-Indies, which all the
World knew (as was the very Case of the
Breeches
) were renounced by them on pur-
pose to be reclaim'd when Time should
serve.

This Explanation had too much Inge-
nuity in it to be altogether slighted; and,
in Truth, the worst Fault it had, seem'd to
be the prodigious Heat of it; which (as
an Apothecary, who sat next the Fire, ob-
serv'd, in a very low Whisper to his next
Neighbour) was so much incorporated into
every Particle of it, that it was impossible,
under such Fermentation, it should work
its desired Effect.

This, however, no way intimidated a
little valiant Gentleman, though he sat the
very next Man, from giving an Opinion as
diametrically opposite as East is from West.

                        This


[37]

This Gentleman, who was by much the
best Geographer in the whole Club, and,
moreover, second Cousin to an Engineer,
was positive the Breeches meant Gibraltar;
for, if you remember, Gentlemen, says he,
tho' possibly you don't, the Ichnography
and Plan of that Town and Fortress, it
exactly resembles a Pair of Trunk-Hose,
the two Promontories forming the two
Slops, &c. &c. —Now we all know, con-
tinued he, that King George the First made
a Promise of that important Pass to the
King of Spain:—So that the whole Drift
of the Romance, according to my Sense of
Things, is merely to vindicate the King
and the Parliament in that Transaction,
which made so much Noise in the World.

A Wholesale Taylor, who from the
Beginning had resolved not to speak at all
in the Debate,—was at last drawn into it,
by something very unexpected in the last
Person's Argument.

He told the Company, frankly, he did
not understand what Ichnography meant:
——But as for the Shape of a Pair of
Breeches
, as he had had the Advantage of
cutting out so many hundred Pairs in his

                        Life-

[38]

Life-Time, he hoped he might be allowed
to know as much of the Matter as another
Man.

Now, to my Mind, says he, there is
nothing in all the Terraqueous Globe (a
Map of which, it seems, hung up in his
Work-Shop) so like a Pair of Breeches
unmade up, as the Island of Sicily:—Nor
is there any thing, if you go to that, quoth
an honest Shoe-maker, who had the Ho-
nour to be a Member of the Club, so much
like a Jack-Boot, to my Fancy, as the
Kingdom of Italy. —What the Duce has
either Italy or Sicily to do in the Affair?
cries the President, who, by this Time,
began to tremble for his Hypothesis,—
What have they to do? —Why, answered
the Partition-Treaty Gentleman, with
great Spirit and Joy sparkling in his Eyes,—
They have just so much, Sir, to do in the
Debate as to overthrow your Suppositions,
and to establish the Certainty of mine be-
yond the Possibility of a Doubt: For, says
he, (with an Air of Sovereign Triumph
over the President's Politicks)——By the
Partition-Treaty, Sir, both Naples and
Sicily were the very Kingdoms made to

                        devolve

[39]

devolve upon the Dauphin;—and Trim's
greasing the Parson's Boots, is a Devilish
Satyrical Stroke;—for it exposes the Cor-
ruption and Bribery made Use of at that
Juncture, in bringing over the several
States and Princes of Italy to use their In-
terests at Rome, to stop the Pope from gi-
ving the Investitures of those Kingdoms to
any Body else. —The Pope has not the In-
vestiture of Sicily, cries another Gentle-
man. —I care not, says he, for that.

Almost every one apprehended the De-
bate to be now ended, and that no one
Member would venture any new Conjec-
ture upon the Romance, after so many clear
and decisive Interpretations had been given.
But, hold,—Close to the Fire, and op-
posite to where the Apothecary sat, there
sat also a Gentleman of the Law, who, from
the Beginning to the End of the Hearing
of this Cause, seem'd no way satisfied in
his Conscience with any one Proceeding in
it. This Gentleman had not yet opened
his Mouth, but had waited patiently till
they had all gone thro' their several Evi-
dences on the other Side;—reserving him-
self, like an expert Practitioner, for the
last Word in the Debate. When the

                        Par-

[40]

Partition-Treaty-Gentleman had finish'd
what he had to say, — He got up,—and,
advancing towards the Table, told them,
That the Error they had all gone upon
thus far, in making out the several Facts
in the Romance,—was in looking too high;
which, with great Candor, he said, was a
very natural Thing, and very excusable
withall, in such a Political Club as theirs:
For Instance, continues he, you have been
searching the Registers, and looking into
the Deeds of Kings and Emperors, —as if
Nobody had any Deeds to shew or compare
the Romance to but themselves. ——This,
continued the Attorney, is just as much
out of the Way of good Practice, as if I
should carry a Thing slap-dash into the
House of Lords, which was under forty
Shillings, and might be decided in the next
County-Court for six Shillings and Eight-
pence. —He then took the Romance in his
Left Hand, and pointing with the Fore-
Finger of his Right towards the second
Page, he humbly begg'd Leave to observe,
(and, to do him Justice, he did it in some-
what of a forensic  Air) That the Parson,
John,
and Sexton, shewed incontestably
the Thing to be Tripartite ; now, if you
will take Notice, Gentlemen, says he,

                        these

[41]

these several Persons, who are Parties to
this Instrument, are merely Ecclesiastical;
that the Reading-Desk, Pulpit-Cloth, and
Velvet Cushion, are tripartite too; and are,
by Intendment of Law, Goods and Chat-
tles merely of an Ecclesiastick Nature, be-
longing and appertaining 'only unto them,'
and to them only. —So that it appears very
plain to me, That the Romance, neither
directly nor indirectly, goes upon Temp-
oral, but altogether upon Church-Matters.
—And do not you think, says he, soften-
ing his Voice a little, and addressing him-
self to the Parson with a forced Smile, —
Do not you think Doctor, says he, That
the Dispute in the Romance, between the
Parson of the Parish and John, about the
Height of John's Desk, is a very fine Pa-
negyrick upon the Humility of Church-
Men
? — I think, says the Parson, it is
much of the same Fineness with that which
your Profession is complimented with, in
the pimping, dirty, pettyfogging Character
of Trim,—which, in my Opinion, Sir, is
just such another Panegyrick upon the
Honesty of Attornies.

Nothing whets the Spirits like an In-
sult: —Therefore the Parson went on with

             F             a

[42]

visible Superiority and an uncommon
Acuteness. —As you are so happy, Sir,
continues he, in making Applications,—
pray turn over a Page or two to the black
Law-Letters in the Romance. —What do
you think of them, Sir? — Nay,—pray
read the Grant of the Great Watch-Coat
and Trim's Renunciation of the Breeches. —
Why, there is downright Lease and Release
for you,—'tis the very Thing, Man; —
only with this small Difference,—and in
which consists the whole Strength of the
Panegyric,—That the Author of the
Romance has convey'd and re-convey'd, in
about ten Lines,—what you, with the glo-
rious Prolixity of the Law, could not have
crowded into as many Skins of Parch-
ment.

The Apothecary, who had paid the At-
torney, the same Afternoon, a Demand of
Three Pounds Six Shillings and Eight-
Pence, for much such another Jobb, —
was so highly tickled with the Parson's
Repartee in that particular Point,—that
he rubb'd his Hands together most fer-
vently, —and laugh'd most triumphantly
thereupon.

                        This

[43]

This could not escape the Attorney's
Notice, any more than the Cause of it did
escape his Penetration.

I think, Sir, says he, (dropping his Voice
a Third) you might well have spared this
immoderate Mirth, since you and your
Profession have the least Reason to tri-
umph here of any of us. —I beg, quoth
he, that you would reflect a Moment up-
on the Cob-Web which Trim went so far
for, and brought back with an Air of so
much Importance, in his Breeches Pocket,
to lay upon the Parson's cut Finger. —
This said Cob-Web, Sir, is a fine-spun
Satyre, upon the flimsy Nature of one
Half of the Shop-Medicines, with which
you make a Property of the Sick, the Ig-
norant, and the Unsuspecting. —And as
for the Moral of the Close-Stool-Pan, Sir,
'tis too plain, — Does not nine Parts in
ten of the whole Practice, and of all you
vend under its Colours, pass into and con-
center in that one nasty Utensil? — And
let me tell you, Sir, says he, raising his
Voice,—had not your unseasonable Mirth
blinded you, you might have seen that
Trim's carrying the Close-Stool-Pan upon
his Head the whole Length of the Town,

             F2             without

[44]

without blushing, is a pointed Raillery,—
and one of the sharpest Sarcasms, Sir, that
ever was thrown out upon you;—for it
unveils the solemn Impudence of the whole
Profession, who, I see, are ashamed of no-
thing which brings in Money.

There were two Apothecaries in the
Club, besides the Surgeon mentioned be-
fore, with a Chemist and an Undertaker,
who all felt themselves equally hurt
and aggrieved by this discourteous Retort: —
And they were all five rising up together
from their Chairs, with full Intent of Heart,
as it was thought, to return the Reproof Va-
lian
t thereupon. —But the President, fear-
ing it would end in a general Engagement,
he instantly call'd out, To Order; — and
gave Notice, That if there was any Member
in the Club, who had not yet spoke, and
yet did desire to speak upon the main Sub-
ject of the Debate,—that he should im-
mediately be heard.

This was a happy Invitation for a stam-
mering Member, who, it seems, had but a
weak Voice at the best; and having often
attempted to speak in the Debate, but to

             no

[45]

Purpose, had sat down in utter Despair
of an Opportunity.

This Member, you must know, had got
a sad Crush upon his Hip, in the late
Election, which gave him intolerable An-
guish; —so that, in short, he could think
of nothing else: —For which Cause, and
others, he was strongly of Opinion, That
the whole Romance was a just Gird at the
late York Election; and I think, says he,
that the Promise of the Breeches broke,
may well and truly signify Somebody's else
Promise
, which was broke, and occasion'd
so much Disturbance amongst us.

— Thus every Man turn'd the Story
to what was swimming uppermost in his
own Brain;—so that, before all was over,
there were full as many Satyres spun out
of it,—and as great a Variety of Person-
ages, Opinions, Transactions, and Truths,
found to lay hid under the dark Veil of its
Allegory, as ever were discovered in the
thrice-renowned History of the Acts of
Gargantua and Pantagruel.

At the Close of all, and just before the
Club was going to break up,—Mr. Presi-

                        dent

[46]

dent rose from his Chair, and begg'd Leave
to make the two following Motions, which
were instantly agreed to, without any
Division.

First, Gentlemen, says he, as Trim's
Character in the Romance, of a shuffling
intriguing Fellow,—whoever it was drawn
for, is, in Truth, as like the French King
as it can stare,—I move, That the Ro-
mance
be forthwith printed: —For, conti-
nues he, if we can but once turn the
Laugh against him, and make him asham'd
of what he has done, it may be a great
Means, with the Blessing of God upon our
Fleets and Armies, to save the Liberties of
Europe.

In the second Place, I move, That
Mr. Attorney, our worthy Member, be
desired to take Minutes, upon the Spot, of
every Conjecture which has been made
upon the Romance, by the several Mem-
bers who have spoke; which, I think,
says he, will answer two good Ends:

Ist, It will establish the Political Know-
ledge of our Club for ever, and place it in
a respectable Light to all the World.

                        In

[47]

In the next Place, it will furnish what
will be wanted; that is, a Key to the Ro-
mance
. —In troth you might have said a
whole Bunch of Keys, quoth a White-
smith, who was the only Member in the
Club who had not said something in the
Debate: But let me tell you, Mr. Presi-
dent, says he, That the Right Key, if it
could but be found, would be worth the
whole Bunch put together.

 

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