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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman


by Laurence Sterne

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman Book 1, Chapter 20 Summary

  • Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure novel: Tristram sends his reader back to read the previous chapter again, to find where he said that his mother was not a Papist (Roman Catholic).
  • When the lady returns, he asks her if she found it. No, she says. It was in the last line: It was necessary I should be born before I was christened (1.19.14).
  • Still confused? In a footnote, Tristram explains that Roman Catholics allowed a child to be baptized as soon as a part of its body could be seen—and, after 1733, could even be baptized by injection before birth.
  • Tristram warns his readers that they've really got to pay attention, because a lot of information is conveyed in subtle hints.
  • He then presents the proceedings of the Sorbonne convention that discussed baptism by injection. In French. Without a translation. In response to all this debate, Tristram proposes a solution: let's baptize the homunculi (the sperm) with a small injection pipe.

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