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

The Passport. Versailles

THERE is not a more perplexing affair in life to me, than to set about telling any one who I am—for there is scarce anybody I cannot give a better account of than of myself; and I have often wish’d I could do it in a single word—and have an end of it. It was the only time and occasion in my life I could accomplish this to any purpose—for Shakspere lying upon the table, and recollecting I was in his books, I took up Hamlet, and turning immediately to the grave-diggers scene in the fifth act, I laid my finger upon YORICK, and advancing the book to the Count, with my finger all the way over the name—Me voici! said I.

Now whether the idea of poor Yorick’s skull was put out of the Count’s mind by the reality of my own, or by what magic he could drop a period of seven or eight hundred years, makes nothing in this account—’t is certain the French conceive better than they combine—I wonder at nothing in this world, and the less at this; inasmuch as one of the first of our own church, for whose candor and paternal sentiments I have the highest veneration, fell into the same mistake in the very same case.—“He could not bear,” he said, “to look into sermons wrote by the king of Denmark’s jester.”—Good my lord! said I—but there are two Yoricks. The Yorick your lordship thinks of has been dead and buried eight hundred years ago; he flourish’d in Horwendillus’s court—the other Yorick is myself, who have flourish’d, my lord, in no court.—He shook his head.—Good God! said I, you might as well confound Alexander the Great with Alexander the Coppersmith, my lord—’T was all one, he replied.—

—If Alexander king of Macedon could have translated your lordship, said I—I’m sure your lordship would not have said so.

The poor Count de B—— fell but into the same error—Et, Monsieur, est il Yorick? cried the Count.—Je le suis, said I.—Vous?—Moi—moi qui ai l’honneur de vous parler, Monsieur le Comte.—Mon Dieu! said he, embracing me—Vous êtes Yorick!

The Count instantly put the Shakspere into his pocket—and left me alone in his room.