[ 160 ]

``That it is an abominable thing for a
man to commend himself;'' -- and I real-
ly think it is so.

  And yet, on the other hand, when a
thing is executed in a masterly kind of a
fashion, which thing is not likely to be
found out ; -- I think it is full as abomi-
nable, that a man should lose the ho-
nour of it, and go out of the world with
the conceit of it rotting in his head.

  This is precisely my situation.

  For in this long digression which I was
accidentally led into, as in all my digres-
sions (one only excepted) there is a
master-stroke of digressive skill, the me-
rit of which has all along, I fear, been
overlooked by my reader, -- not for want
of penetration in him, -- but because 'tis

[ 161 ]

an excellence seldom looked for, or ex-
pected indeed, in a digression ; -- and it
is this : That tho' my digressions are all
fair, as you observe, -- and that I fly off
from what I am about, as far and as of-
ten too as any writer in Great-Britain ;
yet I constantly take care to order affairs
so, that my main business does not stand
still in my absence.

  I was just going, for example, to have
given you the great out-lines of my uncle
Toby's most whimsical character ; -- when
my aunt Dinah and the coachman came
a-cross us, and led us a vagary some mil-
lions of miles into the very heart of the
planetary system : Notwithstanding all
this, you perceive that the drawing of
my uncle Toby's character went on gently
all the time ; -- not the great contours of
it, -- that was impossible, -- but some fa-
   VOL. I.        L           miliar

[ 162 ]

miliar strokes and faint designations of
it, were here and there touch'd in, as we
went along, so that you are much better
acquainted with my uncle Toby now than
you was before.

  By this contrivance the machinery of
my work is of a species by itself ; two
contrary motions are introduced into it,
and reconciled, which were thought to
be at variance with each other. In a
word, my work is digressive, and it is
progressive too, -- and at the same time.

  This, Sir, is a very different story
from that of the earth's moving round
her axis, in her diurnal rotation, with her
progress in her elliptick orbit which
brings about the year, and constitutes
that variety and vicissitude of seasons we
enjoy ; -- though I own it suggested the

[ 163 ]

thought, -- as I believe the greatest of
our boasted improvements and discove-
ries have come from some such trifling

  Digressions, incontestably, are the sun-
shine ; ---- they are the life, the soul of
reading ; -- take them out of this book
for instance, -- you might as well take the
book along with them; -- one cold eternal
winter would reign in every page of it ;
restore them to the writer ; ---- he steps
forth like a bridegroom, -- bids All hail ;
brings in variety, and forbids the appe-
tite to fail.

  All the dexterity is in the good cook-
ery and management of them, so as to
be not only for the advantage of the
reader, but also of the author, whose di-
stress, in this matter, is truely pitiable :
             L 2              For

[ 164 ]

For, if he begins a digression, -- from
that moment, I observe, his whole work
stands stock-still ; -- and if he goes on
with his main work, ---- then there is an
end of his digression.

  ---- This is vile work. -- For which
reason, from the beginning of this, you
see, I have constructed the main work
and the adventitious parts of it with such
intersections, and have so complicated
and involved the digressive and progres-
sive movements, one wheel within ano-
ther, that the whole machine, in general,
has been kept a-going ; -- and, what's
more, it shall be kept a-going these forty
years, if it pleases the fountain of health
to bless me so long with life and good
                          C H A P.

[ 165 ]


I HAVE a strong propensity in me to
begin this chapter very nonsensically,
and I will not balk my fancy. -- Accord-
ingly I set off thus.

  If the fixure of Momus's glass, in the
human breast, according to the proposed
emendation of that arch-critick, had ta-
ken place, ---- first, This foolish conse-
quence would certainly have followed, --
That the very wisest and the very gravest
of us all, in one coin or other, must have
paid window-money every day of our

  And, secondly, That had the said glass
been there set up, nothing more would
have been wanting, in order to have ta-
             L 3              ken

[ 166 ]

ken a man's character, but to have ta-
ken a chair and gone softly, as you would
to a dioptrical bee-hive, and look'd in, --
view'd the soul stark naked ; -- observ'd
all her motions, -- her machinations ; --
traced all her maggots from their first
engendering to their crawling forth ; --
watched her loose in her frisks, her gam-
bols, her capricios ; and after some no-
tice of her more solemn deportment, con-
sequent upon such frisks, &c. ---- then
taken your pen and ink and set down
nothing but what you had seen, and
could have sworn to : -- But this is an
advantage not to be had by the bio-
grapher in this planet, -- in the planet
Mercury (belike) it may be so, if not
better still for him ; ---- for there the in-
tense heat of the country, which is pro-
ved by computators, from its vicinity to
the sun, to be more than equal to that

[ 167 ]

of red hot iron, -- must, I think, long ago
have vitrified the bodies of the inhabi-
tants, (as the efficient cause) to suit them
for the climate (which is the final cause) ;
so that, betwixt them both, all the tene-
ments of their souls, from top to bot-
tom, may be nothing else, for aught the
soundest philosophy can shew to the con-
trary, but one fine transparent body of
clear glass (bating the umbilical knot) ; --
so, that till the inhabitants grow old and
tolerably wrinkled, whereby the rays of
light, in passing through them, become
so monstrously refracted, ---- or return
reflected from their surfaces in such
transverse lines to the eye, that a man
cannot be seen thro' ; -- his soul might as
well, unless, for more ceremony, -- or
the trifling advantage which the umbi-
lical point gave her, ---- might, upon all
             L 4              other

[ 168 ]

other accounts, I say, as well play the
fool out o' doors as in her own house.

  But this, as I said above, is not the
case of the inhabitants of this earth ; --
our minds shine not through the body,
but are wrapt up here in a dark covering
of uncrystalized flesh and blood ; so that
if we would come to the specifick cha-
racters of them, we must go some other
way to work.

  Many, in good truth, are the ways
which human wit has been forced to take
to do this thing with exactness.

  Some, for instance, draw all their cha-
racters with wind instruments. -- Virgil
takes notice of that way in the affair of
Dido and Æneas ; -- but it is as fallacious
as the breath of fame ; -- and, moreover,

[ 169 ]

bespeaks a narrow genius. I am not ig-
norant that the Italians pretend to a ma-
thematical exactness in their designations
of one particular sort of character among
them, from the forte or piano of a cer-
tain wind instrument they use, -- which
they say is infallible. -- I dare not men-
tion the name of the instrument in this
place ; -- 'tis sufficient we have it amongst
us, -- but never think of making a draw-
ing by it ; -- this is ænigmatical, and in-
tended to be so, at least ad populum : --
And therefore I beg, Madam, when you
come here, that you read on as fast as
you can, and never stop to make any in-
quiry about it.

  There are others again, who will draw
a man's character from no other helps in
the world, but merely from his evacua-
tions ; -- but this often gives a very in-

[ 170 ]

correct out-line, -- unless, indeed, you
take a sketch of his repletions too ; and
by correcting one drawing from the
other, compound one good figure out of
them both.

  I should have no objection to this me-
thod, but that I think it must smell too
strong of the lamp, -- and be render'd still
more operose, by forcing you to have an
eye to the rest of his Non-Naturals. ----
Why the most natural actions of a man's
life should be call'd his Non-Naturals, --
is another question.

  There are others, fourthly, who dis-
dain every one of these expedients ; -- not
from any fertility of their own, but from
the various ways of doing it, which they
have borrowed from the honourable de-

[ 171 ]

vices which the Pentagraphic Brethren *
of the brush have shewn in taking co-
pies. -- These, you must know, are your
great historians.

  One of these you will see drawing a
full-length character against the light ; --
that's illiberal, ---- dishonest, ---- and hard
upon the character of the man who sits.

  Others, to mend the matter, will make
a drawing of you in the Camera ; -- that
is most unfair of all, -- because, there you
are sure to be represented in some of
your most ridiculous attitudes.

  To avoid all and every one of these
errors, in giving you my uncle Toby's
character, I am determin'd to draw it by

* Pentagraph, an instrument to copy prints and
pictures mechanically, and in any proportion.


[ 172 ]

no mechanical help whatever ; ---- nor
shall my pencil be guided by any one
wind instrument which ever was blown
upon, either on this, or on the other
side of the Alps ; -- nor will I consider
either his repletions or his discharges, --
or touch upon his Non-Naturals ; -- but,
in a word, I will draw my uncle Toby's
character from his HOBBY-HORSE.


IF I was not morally sure that the reader
must be out of all patience for my
uncle Toby's character, ---- I would here
previously have convinced him, that
there is no instrument so fit to draw such
a thing with, as that which I have pitch'd

[ 173 ]

  A man and his HOBBY-HORSE,
tho' I cannot say that they act and re-act
exactly after the same manner in which
the soul and body do upon each other :
Yet doubtless there is a communication
between them of some kind, and my
opinion rather is, that there is something
in it more of the manner of electrified
bodies, -- and that by means of the heated
parts of the rider, which come immedi-
ately into contact with the back of the
HOBBY-HORSE. -- By long journies and
much friction, it so happens that the bo-
dy of the rider is at length fill'd as full
of HOBBY-HORSICAL matter as it can
hold ; ---- so that if you are able to give
but a clear description of the nature of
the one, you may form a pretty exact
notion of the genius and character of the

[ 174 ]

  Now the HOBBY-HORSE which my
uncle Toby always rode upon, was, in my
opinion, an HOBBY-HORSE well worth
giving a description of, if it was only
upon the score of his great singularity ;
for you might have travelled from York
to Dover, ---- from Dover to Penzance in
Cornwall, and from Penzance to York back
again, and not have seen such another
upon the road ; or if you had seen such
a one, whatever haste you had been in,
you must infallibly have stopp'd to have
taken a view of him. Indeed, the gait
and figure of him was so strange, and so
utterly unlike was he, from his head to
his tail, to any one of the whole species,
that it was now and then made a matter
of dispute, ---- whether he was really a
HOBBY-HORSE or no : But as the Philo-
sopher would use no other argument to
the sceptic, who disputed with him against

[ 175 ]

the reality of motion, save that of rising
up upon his legs, and walking a-cross
the room ; -- so would my uncle Toby use
no other argument to prove his HOBBY-
HORSE was a HOBBY-HORSE indeed,
but by getting upon his back and riding
him about ; -- leaving the world after that
to determine the point as it thought fit.

  In good truth, my uncle Toby mounted
him with so much pleasure, and he car-
ried my uncle Toby so well, ---- that he
troubled his head very little with what
the world either said or thought about

  It is now high time, however, that I
give you a description of him : -- But to
go on regularly, I only beg you will give
me leave to acquaint you first, how my
uncle Toby came by him.
                          C H A P.

[ 176 ]


THE wound in my uncle Toby's
groin, which he received at the
siege of Namur, rendering him unfit for
the service, it was thought expedient he
should return to England, in order, if
possible, to be set to rights.

  He was four years totally confined, --
part of it to his bed, and all of it to his
room ; and in the course of his cure,
which was all that time in hand, suffer'd
unspeakable miseries, -- owing to a suc-
cession of exfoliations from the oss pubis,
and the outward edge of that part of the
coxendix called the oss illeum, ---- both
which bones were dismally crush'd, as
much by the irregularity of the stone,
which I told you was broke off the pa-

[ 177 ]

rapet, -- as by its size, -- (though it was
pretty large) which inclined the surgeon
all along to think, that the great injury
which it had done my uncle Toby's groin,
was more owing to the gravity of the
stone itself, than to the projectile force
of it, -- which he would often tell him
was a great happiness.

  My father at that time was just begin-
ning business in London, and had taken a
house ; -- and as the truest friendship and
cordiality subsisted between the two bro-
thers, -- and that my father thought my
uncle Toby could no where be so well
nursed and taken care of as in his own
house, ---- he assign'd him the very best
apartment in it. -- And what was a much
more sincere mark of his affection still,
he would never suffer a friend or an ac-
quaintance to step into the house on any
   VOL. I.        M           occasion,

[ 178 ]

occasion, but he would take him by the
hand, and lead him up stairs to see his
brother Toby, and chat an hour by his
bed side.

  The history of a soldier's wound be-
guiles the pain of it ; -- my uncle's visit-
ers at least thought so, and in their daily
calls upon him, from the courtesy arising
out of that belief, they would frequently
turn the discourse to that subject, -- and
from that subject the discourse would
generally roll on to the siege itself.

  These conversations were infinitely
kind ; and my uncle Toby received great
relief from them, and would have recei-
ved much more, but that they brought
him into some unforeseen perplexities,
which, for three months together, re-
tarded his cure greatly ; and if he had

[ 179 ]

not hit upon an expedient to extricate
himself out of them, I verily believe they
would have laid him in his grave.

  What these perplexities of my uncle
Toby were, ---- 'tis impossible for you to
guess ; -- if you could, -- I should blush ;
not as a relation, -- not as a man, -- nor
even as a woman, -- but I should blush as
an author ; inasmuch as I set no small
store by myself upon this very account,
that my reader has never yet been able
to guess at any thing. And in this, Sir,
I am of so nice and singular a humour,
that if I thought you was able to form
the least judgment or probable conjecture
to yourself, of what was to come in the
next page, -- I would tear it out of my