Laurence Sterne, A Political Romance





To Dr.




Though the Reply to the Dean of
York is not declared, in the Title-
, or elsewhere, to be wrote by you,
—Yet I take that Point for granted; and
therefore beg Leave, in this public Man-
ner, to write to you in Behalf of myself;
with Intent to set you right in two Points
where I stand concerned in this Affair; and
which I find you have misapprehended, and
consequently (as I hope) misrepresented.

The First is, in respect of some Words,
made use of in the Instrument, signed by
Dr. Herring, Mr. Berdmore and myself.
—Namely, to the best of our Remembrance
and Belief
, which Words you have caught
hold of, as implying some Abatement of
our Certainty as to the Facts therein at-
tested. Whether it was so with the other
two Gentlemen who signed that Attesta-
tion with me, it is not for me to say; they
are able to answer for themselves, and I de-
sire to do so for myself; and therefore I de-
clare to you, and to all Mankind, "That
" the Words in the first Paragraph, to the

                       " best


"best of our Remembrance and Belief, im-
plied no Doubt remaining upon my Mind,
nor any Distrust whatever of my Memo-
ry, from the Distance of Time;—Nor, in
short, was it my Intention to attest the
several Facts therein, as Matters of Be-
lief—But as Matters of as much Certain-
ty as a Man was capable of having, or gi-
ving Evidence to. In Consequence of this
Explanation of myself, I do declare my-
self ready to attest the same Instrument
over again, striking out the Words to the
best of our Remembrance and Belief
, which
I see, have raised this Exception to it.

Whether I was mistaken or no, I leave
to better Judges; but I understood those
Words were a very common Preamble to
Attestations of Things, to which we bore
the clearest Evidence: —However, Dr.
Topham, as you have claimed just such
another Indulgence yourself, in the Case of
begging the Dean's Authority to say, what,
as you affirm, you had sufficient Autho-
rity to say without, as a modest and Gen-
tleman-like Way of Affirmation;—I wish
you had spared either the one or the other
of your Remarks upon these two Passages:

Veniam petimus, demusque vicissim.



There is another Observation relating to
this Instrument, which I perceive has
escaped your Notice; which I take the
Liberty to point out to you, namely, That
the Words, To the best of our Remembrance
and Belief
, if they imply any Abatement
of Certainty, seem only confined to that
Paragraph, and to what is immediately at-
tested after them in it: —For in the second
Paragraph, wherein the main Points are
minutely attested, and upon which the
whole Dispute, and main Charge against
the Dean, turns, it is introduced thus:

"We do particularly remember, That as
"soon as Dinner was over, &c."

In the second Place you affirm, "That
" it is not said, That Ie could
" affirm he had heard you charge the
" I with a Promise, in its own Na-
" ture so very extraordinary, as of the
" Commissaryship of the Dean and Chap-
" ter:—To this I answer, That my
true Intent in subscribing that very In-
strument, and I suppose of others, was to
attest this very Thing; and I have just now
read that Part of the Instrument over;
and cannot, for my Life, affirm it either
more directly or expresly, than in the



Words as they there stand;—therefore
please to let me transcribe them.

—"But being press'd by Mr. Sterne
" with an undeniable Proof, That he,
" (Dr. Topham) did propagate the said
" Story, (viz. of a Promise from the Dean
" to Dr. Topham of the Dean and Chap-
" ter's Commissaryship)—Dr. Topham did
" at last acknowledge it; adding, as his
" Reason or Excuse for so doing, That he
" apprehended (or Words to that Effect)
" he had a Promise under the Dean's own
" Hand, of the Dean and Chapter's Com-
" missaryship."

This I have attested, and what Weight
the Sanction of an Oath will add to it, I
am willing and ready to give.

As for Mr. Ricard's feeble Attestation,
brought to shake the Credit of this firm
and solemn one, I have nothing to say to it,
as it is only an Attestation of Mr Ricard's
Conjectures upon the Subject. —But this I
can say, That I had the Honour to be at
the Deanery with the learned Counsel,
when Mr. Ricard underwent that most
Examination you speak of;—



and I solemnly affirm, That he then said,
He knew nothing at all about the Matter,
one Way or the other; and the Reasons
he gave for his utter Ignorance, were, first,
That he was then so full of Concern, at
the Difference which arose between two
Gentlemen, both his Friends, that he did
not attend to the Subject Matter of it,—
and of which he declared again he knew
nothing at all. And secondly, If he had
understood it then, the Distance would
have put it out of his Head by this Time.

He has since scower'd his Memory, I
ween; for now he says, That he appre-
hended the Dispute regarded something in
the Dean's Gift, as he could not naturally
suppose, &c. 'Tis certain, at the Deanery,
he had naturally no Suppositions in his
Head about this Affair; so that I wish this
may not prove one of the After-Thoughts
you speak of, and not so much a natural
as an artificial Supposition of my good

As for the formidable Enquiry you re-
present him as undergoing,—let me intreat
you to give me Credit in what I say upon
it,—namely,—That it was as much the

             H             Re-


Reverse to every Idea that ever was
couch'd under that Word, as Words can
represent it to you. As for the learned
Counsel and myself, who were in the
Room all the Time, I do not remember
that we, either of us, spoke ten Words.
The Dean was the only one that ask'd Mr.
Ricard what he remembered about the
Affair of the Sessions Dinner; which he
did in the most Gentleman-like and candid
Manner,—and with an Air of as much
Calmness and seeming Indifference, as if
he had been questioning him about the
News in the last Brussels Gazette.

What Mr. Ricard saw to terrify him so
sadly, I cannot apprehend, unless the
Dean's Gothic Book-Case,—which I own
has an odd Appearance to a Stranger;
so that if he came terrified in his Mind
there, and with a Resolution not to plead,
he might naturally suppose it to be a great
Engine brought there on purpose to exer-
cise the Peine fort et dure upon him. —
But to be serious; if Mr. Ricard told you,
That this Enquiry was most formidable,
He was much to blame;—and if you have
said it, without his express Information,
then You are much to blame.




This is all, I think, in your Reply, which
concerns me to answer: —As for the many
coarse and unchristian Insinuations scatter'd
throughout your Reply,—as it is my Duty
to beg God to forgive you, so I do from
my Heart: Believe me, Dr. Topham, they
hurt yourself more than the Person they
are aimed at; and when the first Trans-
of Rage is a little over, they will
grieve you more too.

——prima est hæc Ultio.
But these I hold to be no answerable Part
of a Controversy;—and for the little that
remains unanswered in yours,—I believe I
could, in another half Hour, set it right
in the Eyes of the World: —But this is
not my Business. —And if it is thought
worth the while, which I hope it never
will, I know no one more able to do it
than the very Reverend and Worthy Gen-
tleman whom you have so unhandsomely
insulted upon that Score.

As for the supposed Compilers, whom
you have been so wrath and so unmerciful
against, I'll be answerable for it, as they
are Creatures of your own Fancy, they
will bear you no Malice. However, I

             H2             think


think the more positively any Charge is
made, let it be against whom it will, the
better it should be supported; and there-
fore I should be sorry, for your own Ho-
nour, if you have not some better Grounds
for all you have thrown out about them,
than the mere Heat of your Imagination
or Anger. To tell you truly, your Suppo-
sitions on this Head oft put me in Mind of
Trim's twelve Men in Buckram, which his
disordered Fancy represented as laying in
Ambush in John the Clerk's House, and
letting drive at him all together. I am,


  Your most obedient
Sutton on the Forest,
Jan. 20, 1759.
And most humble Servant,

P.S. I beg Pardon for clapping this upon
the Back of the Romance,—which is done
out of no Disrespect to you. —But the Ve-
stood ready at the Door,—and as I
was to pay the whole Fare, and there was
Room enough behind it,—it was the
cheapest and readiest Conveyance I could
think of.

F    I    N    I    S.

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