Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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[22]

 

PREFACE.

IN THE DESOBLIGEANT.

IT must have been observed by
many a peripatetic philosopher,
That nature has set up by her
own unquestionable authority certain
boundaries and fences to circum-
scribe the discontent of man: she has
effected her purpose in the quietest
and easiest manner by laying him
under almost insuperable obligations
to work out his ease, and to sustain
his suffering at home. It is there
only that she has provided him with
the most suitable objects to partake
of his happiness, and bear a part of
that burden, which, in all countries
and ages, has ever been too heavy

                      for

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for one pair of shoulders. 'Tis true
we are endued with an imperfect
power of spreading our happiness
sometimes beyond her limits, but
'tis so ordered, that from the want
of languages, connections, and de-
pendencies, and from the difference
in educations, customs, and habits,
we lie under so many impediments
in communicating our sensations out
of our own sphere, as often amount
to a total impossibility.

It will always follow from hence,
that the balance of sentimental com-
merce is always against the expa-
triated adventurer: he must buy
what he has little occasion for at
their own price---his conversation

      C 4       will

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will seldom be taken in exchange
for theirs without a large discount---
and this, by the by, eternally driv-
ing him into the hands of more
equitable brokers for such conver-
sation as he can find, it requires no
great spirit of divination to guess at
his party---

This brings me to my point; and
naturally leads me (if the see-saw of
this Désobligeant will but let me get
on) into the efficient as well as the
final causes of travelling---

Your idle people will leave their
native country, and go abroad for
some reason or reasons which may
be derived from one of these general
causes---

                      Infirmity

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Infirmity of body,

Imbecility of the mind, or

Inevitable necessity.

The first two include all those who
travel by land or by water, la-
bouring with pride, curiosity, vanity
or spleen, subdivided and combined
in infinitum.

The third class includes the whole
army of peregrine martyrs; more
especially those travellers who set
out upon their travels with the be-
nefit of clergy, either as delin-
quents travelling under the direction
of governors recommended by the
magistrate---or young gentlemen
transported by the cruelty of pa-
rents and guardians, and travelling
under the direction of governors re-

                      commended

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commended by Oxford, Aberdeen
and Glasgow.

There is a fourth class, but their
number is so small that they would
not deserve a distinction, was it not
necessary in a work of this nature to
observe the greatest precision and
nicety, to avoid a confusion of cha-
racter. And these men I speak of,
are such as cross the seas and sojourn
in a land of strangers with a view of
saving money for various reasons and
upon various pretence: but as they
might also save themselves and others
a great deal of unnecessary trouble
by saving their money at home---
and as their reasons for travelling
are the least complex of any other
species of emigrants, I shall di-

                      stinguish

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stinguish these gentlemen by the
name of

Simple Travellers.

Thus the whole circle of travellers
may be reduced to the following
Heads

Idle Travellers,
Inquisitive Travellers,
Lying Travellers,
Proud Travellers,
Vain Travellers
Splenetic Travellers.

Then follow the Travellers of
Necessity.
The delinquent and felonious
Traveller,
The unfortunate and innocent
Traveller,
The simple Traveller,

                      And

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And last of all (if you please) The
Sentimental Traveller (meaning
thereby myself), who have travell'd,
and of which I am now sitting down
to give an account---as much out of
Necessity, and the besoin de Voyager,
as any one in the class.

I am well aware, at the same time,
as both my travels and observations
will be altogether of a different cast
from any of my fore-runners; that I
might have insisted upon a whole
nitch entirely to myself---but I
should break in upon the confines of
the Vain Traveller, in wishing to
draw attention towards me, till I
have some better grounds for it,
than the mere Novelty of my Ve-
hicle
.

                      It

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It is sufficient for my reader, if
he has been a traveller himself, that
with study and reflection hereupon
he may be able to determine his
own place and rank in the cata-
logue--- it will be one step towards
knowing himself; as it is great odds,
but he retains some tincture and
resemblance of what he imbibed or
carried out, to the present hour.

The man who first transplanted
the grape of Burgundy to the Cape
of Good Hope (observe he was a
Dutch man) never dreamt of drink-
ing the same wine at the Cape,
the same grape produced upon
the French mountains---he was too
phlegmatic for that--- but undoubt-

                      edly

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edly he expected to drink some sort
of vinous liquor; but whether good,
bad, or indifferent---he knew enough
of this world to know, that it did
not depend upon his choice, but
that what is generally called chance
was to decide his success: however,
he hoped for the best; and in these
hopes, by an intemperate confidence
in the fortitude of his head, and the
depth of his discretion, Mynheer
might possibly overset both in his
new vineyard; and by discovering
his nakedness, become a laughing-
stock to his people.

Even so it fares with the poor
Traveller, sailing and posting through
the politer kingdoms of the globe

                      in

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in pursuit of knowledge and im-
provements.

Knowledge and improvements are
to be got by sailing and posting
for that purpose; but whether use-
ful knowledge and real improve-
ments, is all a lottery---and even
where the adventurer is successful,
the acquired stock must be used
with caution and sobriety to turn
any profit---but as the chances
run prodigiously the other way both
as to the acquisition and application,
I am of opinion, That a man
would act as wisely, if he could
prevail upon himself, to live con-
tented without foreign knowledge
or foreign improvements, especially

                      if

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if he lives in a country that has no
absolute want of either---and indeed,
much grief of heart has it oft and
many a time cost me, when I have
observed how many a foul step the
inquisitive Traveller has measured
to see sights and look into disco-
veries; all which, as Sancho Panca
said to Don Quixote, they might
have seen dry-shod at home. It is
an age so full of light, that there
is scarce a country or corner of Eu-
rope, whose beams are not crossed
and interchanged with others---
Knowledge in most of its branches,
and in most affairs, is like music
in an Italian street, whereof those
may partake, who pay nothing---
But there is no nation under heaven

                      ---and

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---and God is my record, (before
whose tribunal I must one day come
and give an account of this work)---
that I do not speak it vauntingly---
But there is no nation under heaven
abounding with more variety of learn-
ing---where the sciences may be more
fitly woo'd, or more surely won than
here---where art is encouraged, and
will so soon rise high---where Nature
(take her altogether) has so little
to answer for---and, to close all, where
there is more wit and variety of cha-
racter to feed the mind with---Where
then, my dear countrymen, are you
going---

---We are only looking at this
chaise, said they---Your most obe-
                                                       

VOL. I.          D            dient       

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dient servant, said I, skipping out of
it, and pulling off my hat---We were
wondering, said one of them, who,
I found, was an inquisitive traveller
---what could occasion its motion.---
'Twas the agitation, said I coolly,
of writing a preface.---I never heard,
said the other, who was a simple tra-
veller
,
of a preface wrote in a Déso-
bligeant
.
---It would have been better,
said I, in a Vis-à-Vis,

---As an English man does not travel
to see English men
,
I retired to my
room.

 



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