Study Guide

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman Book 3, Chapter 12

By Laurence Sterne

Book 3, Chapter 12

  • Before the door opens, Tristram is going to give you the low-down on oaths.
  • Hold up. Tristram digresses into a rant about connoisseurs who have so many rules that they can't appreciate works of genius.
  • Think the type of person who can't focus on a famous actor's performance—they're too busy critiquing his grammar. Or, you know, someone who gets hung up on the printing style of a new book. Basically, a good reader needs to chill out about the nitty-gritty details and have a good chuckle instead.
  • But back to oaths. All oaths for the past 250 years are just wonky copies of the original, like Ernulphus's excommunication. But Mr. Shandy disagrees: he thinks Ernulphus was simply collecting other people's stronger swears against their inevitable decline.

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