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Saturday, 28 August 2010

Tristram Shandy: The Battle of the Cataplasm


File:The battle of the cataplasm.jpg

The Battle of the Cataplasm: engraving by Henry Bunbury in The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, published by J. Bretherton, London, 1773. Dr. Slop and Susannah exchanging abuse; Dr. Slop stands, with his wig burning, about to throw cataplasm in Susannah's face. Susannah stands behind the cradle in which lies the infant Tristram, a plaster across his nose, as she holds her nose and a candle. (British Cartoon Collection, Library of Congress)

WHEN the cataplasm was ready, a scruple of decorum had unseasonably rose up in Susannah's conscience, about holding the candle, whilst Slop tied it on; Slop had not treated Susannah's distemper with anodines, ---and so a quarrel had ensued betwixt them.

-----Oh! oh!-----said Slop, casting a glance of undue freedom in Susannah's face, as she declined the office;-----then, I think I know you, madam-----You know me, Sir! cried Susannah fastidiously, and with a toss of her head, levelled evidently, not at his profession, but at the doctor himself,-----you know me! cried Susannah again.-----Doctor Slop clapped his finger and his thumb instantly upon his nostrils; -----Susannah's spleen was ready to burst at it ;-----Tis false, said Susannah.---Come, come, Mrs. Modesty, said Slop, not a little elated with the success of his last thrust,----- if you won't hold the candle, and look ---you may hold it and shut your eyes:---That's one of your popish shifts, cried Susannah:---'Tis better, said Slop, with a nod, than no shift at all, young
woman ;-----I defy you, Sir, cried Susannah, pulling her shift sleeve below her elbow.

It was almost impossible for two persons to assist each other in a surgical case with a more splenetic cordiality.

Slop snatched up the cataplasm,-----Susannah snatched up the candle ;-----A little this way, said Slop; Susannah looking one way, and rowing another, instantly set fire to Slop's wig, which being somewhat bushy and unctuous withal, was burnt out before it was well kindled.-----You impudent whore! cried Slop, ---(for what is passion, but a wild beast)--- you impudent whore, cried Slop, getting upright, with the cataplasm in his hand ;-----I never was the destruction of any body's nose, said Susannah,---which is more than you can say:
---- Is it ? cried Slop, throwing the cataplasm in her face;-----Yes, it is, cried Susannah, returning the compliment with what was left in the pan.-----

Laurence Sterne: from The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman: Volume VI (1762), Chapter III

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