The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gent

by Laurence Sterne
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"A Tom Fool's Errand"

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Last Updated on August 2, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 192

Context: According to the marriage settlement between his mother, Elizabeth Mollineux, and his father, Walter Shandy, we are informed by Tristram Shandy, the wife was to have the privilege, paid for by the husband out of his own money, of having her children born wherever she chose. The wife was allotted the sum of £ 120 for each lying-in. In September, 1717, Mrs. Shandy, believing herself to be pregnant, insisted upon her right and was taken by Walter Shandy to London for the birth of a child. To her chagrin, and her husband's vexation, the pregnancy proved false. On the way back home to Shandy Hall, Walter Shandy fretted about the needless trip his wife had imposed upon him, with its inconvenience and expense. What mattered most to the irritated husband was that his "wall-fruit and green gages" were ripe in September and required his personal attention at their picking. To indicate his extreme irritation, he said to his wife, while riding home in the coach:

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. . . Had he been whistled up to London, upon a Tom Fool's errand, in any other month of the whole year, he should not have said three words about it.

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