Chapter 45

When my father had danced his white bear backwards and forwards through half a dozen pages, he closed the book for good an’ all,—and in a kind of triumph redelivered it into Trim’s hand, with a nod to lay it upon the ’scrutoire, where he found it.—Tristram, said he, shall be made to conjugate every word in the dictionary, backwards and forwards the same way;—every word, Yorick, by this means, you see, is converted into a thesis or an hypothesis;—every thesis and hypothesis have an off-spring of propositions;—and each proposition has its own consequences and conclusions; every one of which leads the mind on again, into fresh tracks of enquiries and doubtings.—The force of this engine, added my father, is incredible in opening a child’s head.—’Tis enough, brother Shandy, cried my uncle Toby, to burst it into a thousand splinters.—

I presume, said Yorick, smiling,—it must be owing to this,—(for let logicians say what they will, it is not to be accounted for sufficiently from the bare use of the ten predicaments)—That the famous Vincent Quirino, amongst the many other astonishing feats of his childhood, of which the Cardinal Bembo has given the world so exact a story,—should be able to paste up in the public schools at Rome, so early as in the eighth year of his age, no less than four thousand five hundred and fifty different theses, upon the most abstruse points of the most abstruse theology;—and to defend and maintain them in such sort, as to cramp and dumbfound his opponents.—What is that, cried my father, to what is told us of Alphonsus Tostatus, who, almost in his nurse’s arms, learned all the sciences and liberal arts without being taught any one of them?—What shall we say of the great Piereskius?—That’s the very man, cried my uncle Toby, I once told you of, brother Shandy, who walked a matter of five hundred miles, reckoning from Paris to Shevling, and from Shevling back again, merely to see Stevinus’s flying chariot.—He was a very great man! added my uncle Toby (meaning Stevinus)—He was so, brother Toby, said my father (meaning Piereskius)—and had multiplied his ideas so fast, and increased his knowledge to such a prodigious stock, that, if we may give credit to an anecdote concerning him, which we cannot withhold here, without shaking the authority of all anecdotes whatever—at seven years of age, his father committed entirely to his care the education of his younger brother, a boy of five years old,—with the sole management of all his concerns.—Was the father as wise as the son? quoth my uncle Toby:—I should think not, said Yorick:—But what are these, continued my father—(breaking out in a kind of enthusiasm)—what are these, to those prodigies of childhood in Grotius, Scioppius, Heinsius, Politian, Pascal, Joseph Scaliger, Ferdinand de Cordoue, and others—some of which left off their substantial forms at nine years old, or sooner, and went on reasoning without them;—others went through their classics at seven;—wrote tragedies at eight;—Ferdinand de Cordoue was so wise at nine,—’twas thought the Devil was in him;—and at Venice gave such proofs of his knowledge and goodness, that the monks imagined he was Antichrist, or nothing.—Others were masters of fourteen languages at ten,—finished the course of their rhetoric, poetry, logic, and ethics, at eleven,—put forth their commentaries upon Servius and Martianus Capella at twelve,—and at thirteen received their degrees in philosophy, laws, and divinity:—but you forget the great Lipsius, quoth Yorick, who composed a work (Nous aurions quelque interet, says Baillet, de montrer qu’il n’a rien de ridicule s’il etoit veritable, au moins dans le sens enigmatique que Nicius Erythraeus a ta he de lui donner. Cet auteur dit que pour comprendre comme Lipse, il a pu composer un ouvrage le premier jour de sa vie, il faut s’imaginer, que ce premier jour n’est pas celui de sa naissance charnelle, mais celui au quel il a commence d’user de la raison; il veut que c’ait ete a l’age de neuf ans; et il nous veut persuader que ce fut en cet age, que Lipse fit un poeme.—Le tour est ingenieux, &c. &c.) the day he was born:—They should have wiped it up, said my uncle Toby, and said no more about it.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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