Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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[179]

THE TRANSLATION.

PARIS.

THERE was nobody in the
box I was let into but a kindly
old French officer. I love the cha-
racter, not only because I honour the
man whose manners are softened by
a profession which makes bad men
worse; but that I once knew one---
for he is no more---and why should I
not rescue one page from violation
by writing his name in it, and telling
the world it was Captain Tobias
Shandy, the dearest of my flock and
friends, whose philanthropy I never

N 2          think

[180]

think of at this long distance from
his death---but my eyes gush out
with tears. For his sake, I have a
predilection for the whole corps of
veterans; and so I strode over the
two back rows of benches, and placed
myself beside him.

The old officer was reading atten-
tively a small pamphlet, it might be
the book of the opera, with a large
pair of spectacles. As soon as I sat
down, he took his spectacles off, and
putting them into a shagreen case,
return'd them and the book into his
pocket together. I half rose up, and
made him a bow.

              Translate

[181]

Translate this into any civilized
language in the world--- the sense is
this:

"Here's a poor stranger come in
"to the box---he seems as if he knew
"no body; and is never likely,
"was he to be seven years in Paris,
"if every man he comes near keeps
"his spectacles upon his nose---'tis
"shutting the door of conversation
"absolutely in his face---and using
"him worse than a German."

The French officer might as well
have said it all aloud; and if he had,
I should in course have put the bow
I made him into French too, and
told him, "I was sensible of his at-

N 3          "tention,

[182]

tention, and return'd him a thou-
sand thanks for it."

There is not a secret so aiding to
the progress of sociality, as to get
master of this short hand, and be
quick in rendering the several turns
of looks and limbs, with all their
inflections and delineations, into plain
words. For my own part, by long
habitude, I do it so mechanically,
that when I walk the streets of Lon-
don, I go translating all the way;
and have more than once stood be-
hind in the circle, where not three
words have been said, and have
brought off twenty different dialogues
with me, which I could have fairly
wrote down and sworn to.

              I

[183]

I was going one evening to Mar-
tini's concert at Milan, and was just
entering the door of the hall, when
the Marquesina di F*** was coming
out in a sort of a hurry---she was al-
most upon me before I saw her; so I
gave a spring to one side to let her
pass---She had done the same, and
on the same side too: so we ran our
heads together: she instantly got to
the other side to get out: I was just
as unfortunate as she had been; for
I had sprung to that side, and op-
posed her passage again---We both
flew together to the other side, and
then back---and so on---It was ridi-
culous; we both blush'd intolerably;
so I did at last the thing I should have

N 4          done


[184]

done at first---I stood stock still, and
the Marquesina had no more diffi-
culty. I had no power to go into
the room, till I had made her so
much reparation as to wait and fol-
low her with my eye to the end of
the passage---She look'd back twice,
and walk'd along it rather side-ways,
as if she would make room for any
one coming up stairs to pass her---
No, said I---that's a vile translation:
the Marquesina has a right to the
best apology I can make her; and
that opening is left for me to do it
in---so I ran and begg'd pardon for
the embarrassment I had given her,
saying it was my intention to have
made her way. She answered, she

              was

[185]

was guided by the same intention to-
wards me---so we reciprocally thank'd
each other. She was at the top of
the stairs; and seeing no chichesbee
near her, I begg'd to hand her to her
coach--- So we went down the stairs,
stopping at every third step to talk of
the concert and the adventure---Upon
my word, Madame, said I when I had
handed her in, I made six different
efforts to let you go out---And I made
six efforts, replied she, to let you enter
--- I wish to heaven you would make
the seventh, said I---With all my heart,
said she, making room---Life is too
short to be long about the forms of
it--so I instantly stepp'd in, and she
carried me home with her---And

              what

[186]

what became of the concert, St Ce-
cilia, who, I suppose, was at it,
knows more than I.

I will only add, that the connec-
tion which arose out of the transla-
tion, gave me more pleasure than
any one I had the honour to make
in Italy.


                 


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