The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gent "This World Surely Is Wide Enough To Hold Both Thee And Me"

Laurence Sterne

"This World Surely Is Wide Enough To Hold Both Thee And Me"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: When Sterne began to write Tristram Shandy, he intended to continue it in annual installments for the rest of his life. This plan perhaps accounts partially for the casual, digressive narrative technique in the book. The author seems to take a great deal of time to arrive nowhere at all. This very rambling quality is, however, one of the delights of the novel. It enables Sterne to treat in detail the characters and events he has created. One of the most vivid personalities is Uncle Toby, a retired army officer who talks incessantly of battles and fortifications. For all his warlike talk, Uncle Toby is, however, "of a peaceful, placid nature–no jarring element in it–all was mixed up so kindly within; my Uncle Toby had scarce a heart to retaliate upon a fly." To illustrate this quality, Sterne describes how Uncle Toby once, after many attempts, caught a fly which had been buzzing about his head all through dinner:

". . . I'll not hurt thee," says my Uncle Toby rising from his chair, and going across the room with the fly in his hand . . . "Go," says he, lifting up the sash, and opening his hand as he spoke, to let it escape;–"go, poor devil, get thee gone; why should I hurt thee?–This world surely is wide enough to hold both thee and me."