Home  »  A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy  »  In the Street. Calais

Laurence Sterne. (1713–1768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

In the Street. Calais

I NEVER finished a twelve-guinea bargain so expeditiously in my life: my time seemed heavy upon the loss of the lady, and knowing every moment of it would be as two, till I put myself into motion—I ordered post-horses directly, and walked towards the hotel.    1
  Lord! said I, hearing the town clock strike four, and recollecting that I had been little more than a single hour in Calais—    2
  —What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything, and who, having eyes to see what time and chance are perpetually holding out to him as he journeyeth on his way, misses nothing he can fairly lay his hands on.—    3
  —If this won’t turn out something—another will—no matter—’t is an assay upon human nature—I get my labor for my pains—’t is enough—the pleasure of the experiment has kept my senses and the best part of my blood awake, and laid the gross to sleep.    4
  I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba, and cry, ’T is all barren—and so it is; and so is all the world to him, who will not cultivate the fruits it offers. I declare, said I, clapping my hands cheerily together, that was I in a desert, I would find out wherewith in it to call forth my affections.—If I could not do better, I would fasten them upon some sweet myrtle, or seek some melancholy cypress to connect myself to—I would court their shade, and greet them kindly for their protection—I would cut my name upon them, and swear they were the loveliest trees throughout the desert: if their leaves wither’d, I would teach myself to mourn, and when they rejoiced, I would rejoice along with them.    5
  The learned SMELFUNGUS traveled from Boulogne to Paris—from Paris to Rome—and so on—but he set out with the spleen and jaundice, and every object he pass’d by was discolored or distorted.—He wrote an account of them, but ’t was nothing but the account of his miserable feelings.    6
  I met Smelfungus in the grand portico of the Pantheon—he was just coming out of it.—’T is nothing but a huge cock-pit, 1 said he.—I wish you had said nothing worse of the Venus of Medicis, replied I—for in passing through Florence, I had heard he had fallen foul upon the goddess, and used her worse than a common strumpet, without the least provocation in nature.    7
  I popp’d upon Smelfungus again at Turin, in his return home; and a sad tale of sorrowful adventures had he to tell, “wherein he spoke of moving accidents by flood and field, and of the cannibals which each other eat: the Anthropophagi”—he had been flay’d alive, and bedevil’d, and used worse than St. Bartholomew, at every stage he had come at.—    8
  —I’ll tell it, cried Smelfungus, to the world. You had better tell it, said I, to your physician.    9
  Mundungus, with an immense fortune, made the whole tour; going on from Rome to Naples—from Naples to Venice—from Venice to Vienna—to Dresden, to Berlin, without one generous connection or pleasurable anecdote to tell of; but he had travel’d straight on, looking neither to his right hand or his left, lest Love or Pity should seduce him out of his road.   10
  Peace be to them! if it is to be found; but heaven itself, was it possible to get there with such tempers, would want objects to give it.—Every gentle spirit would come flying upon the wings of Love to hail their arrival.—Nothing would the souls of Smelfungus and Mundungus hear of, but fresh anthems of joy, fresh raptures of love, and fresh congratulations of their common felicity.—I heartily pity them: they have brought up no faculties for this work; and was the happiest mansion in heaven to be allotted to Smelfungus and Mundungus, they would be so far from being happy, that the souls of Smelfungus and Mundungus would do penance there to all eternity.   11
Note 1.  Vide S——’s Travels. [back]