Study Guide

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman Book 2, Chapter 2

By Laurence Sterne

Book 2, Chapter 2

  • Tristram pauses to compare writing a book to giving a party. He says that he has left six places for critics, since he knows they'll just get mad if he leaves them out. He even allows a critic to speak, but the critic just wonders how Toby could be so foolish.
  • Tristram asks if the critic has ever read Locke's Essay upon the Human Understanding. Locke says that people get confused for three reasons: (1) the senses are dull; (2) consequently objects don't make a strong impression; (3) they can't remember the impressions that do get made. To explain Locke, Tristram uses the metaphor of sealing wax.
  • And this isn't any sealing wax: it belongs to Dolly, the imaginary servant of the imaginary critic. Keeping those imaginary characters straight?
  • But Toby's problem is a little different—it's all about his words. They're tricky, particularly philosophical words such as "essence," the basic translation for Sterne's Greek here.

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