The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gent "Persuasion Hung Upon His Lips"

Laurence Sterne

"Persuasion Hung Upon His Lips"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Among the crotchety hypotheses held by Walter Shandy, father of Tristram, was, "That there was a kind of magick bias, which good or bad names, as he called them, irresistibly impressed upon our characters and conduct." Thus, while waiting for his second child to be born he discoursed at length on his notion, expressing "the most unconquerable aversion for TRISTRAM; he had the lowest and most contemptible opinion of it of any thing in the world. . . ." Ironically, when he was told that his wife had presented him with another son, and he informed the maid Susannah that the boy was to be given the noble name of Trismegistus, Susannah misinformed the curate, who then christened the child Tristram, to the endless sorrow of both the father and, later, the son. When writing of the forensic powers of his father, Tristram remarks:

. . . But, indeed, to speak of my father as he was;–he was certainly irresistible, both in his orations and disputations;–he was born an orator; . . . Persuasion hung upon his lips, and the elements of Logick and Rhetorick were so blended up in him,–and, withall, he had so shrewd a guess at the weaknesses and passions of his respondent,–that NATURE might have stood up and said,–"This man is eloquent." . . .