The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gent "Cock And Bull Story"

Laurence Sterne

"Cock And Bull Story"

Context: Laurence Sterne's novel displays his whimsical nature as an author throughout. He uses such tricks of typography as blank pages, black pages, pointing fingers, and a large assortment of dots, dashes, and asterisks. Even the Preface is at an unusual place, not being found by the reader till he reaches the twentieth chapter of Book III. The very end of the novel is as whimsical as the portions that precede it. The final chapter begins with Mr. Walter Shandy, Tristram's father, discoursing upon idiosyncrasies of man's attitudes toward sex, as compared to those we have about the honor attached to the killing of men, especially in war. While he is speaking he is interrupted by one of his tenants, who has come with a complaint about the bull that Walter Shandy keeps to serve the cows of the parish. The tenant's wife has been brought to bed with a child some six weeks before, but the man's cow, which should have calved at the same time, has not produced an offspring. At the end of the conversation which follows, about the bull and his paternal abilities, Mrs. Shandy asks what the story is all about. Parson Yorick comments to her about the story of the bull, but the ambiguity of his comment goes further, being a statement as well about the novel which Laurence Sterne has laid before the reader.

–Most of the townsmen, an' please your worship, quoth Obadiah, believe that 'tis all the Bull's fault–
–But may not a cow be barren? replied my father, turning to Dr. Slop.
–It never happens: said Dr. Slop, but the man's wife may have come before her time naturally enough–Prithee has the child hair upon his head?–added Dr. Slop–
–It is as hairy as I am; said Obadiah.–Obadiah had not been shaved for three weeks–Wheu–u––u–––cried my father; beginning the sentence with an exclamatory whistle–and so, brother Toby, this poor Bull of mine, who is as good a bull as ever p-ssed, and might have done for Europa herself in purer times–had he but two legs less, might have been driven into Doctors' Commons and lost his character–which to a town Bull, brother Toby, is the very same thing as his life–L–d! said my mother, what is this story all about?–
A Cock and a Bull, said Yorick–and one of the best of its kind, I ever heard.