Tristram Shandy Book 3, Chapters 7-11 Summary

Laurence Sterne

Book 3, Chapters 7-11 Summary

The scene changes so that the readers hear about Obadiah's travails as he rides to the doctor's home to retrieve the instruments the doctor needs to assist Mrs. Tristram in her delivery of the baby.

Once at the doctor's home, Obadiah receives the bag of instruments from the maid. The medical instruments are in a cloth bag, the straps of which the maid hangs over Obadiah's head. However, Obadiah worries that the instruments might fall out while his horse gallops back home, so he and the maid tie knots in the straps to close the bag more securely.

This keeps the instruments from falling out, but it does not keep them from banging against one another in the bag as Obadiah rushes back to the Shandy home. The noise the banging causes all but drives Obadiah crazy as it keeps him from hearing himself whistle during the ride.

Obadiah loves music and is determined to hear his own whistling while he is riding his horse. Without stopping his horse from running, Obadiah loosens his head band with one hand, and by using his teeth and free hand, ties the band around the body of the bag so the instruments inside stop clanging against one another. This tight restriction performs exactly as Obadiah has planned and he continues on his journey, enjoying the silence in which he can now hear the sound of his whistle.

However, upon arriving at the Shandy home, the doctor cannot stop cursing. When he receives the bag with the necessary medical instruments inside, he cannot get to them; all the knots in the head band wrapped around the instruments.

While the doctor continues to curse, Mr. Shandy tells him that a church official, Bishop Ernulphus, has written a declaration that includes the proper curses to use according to the gravity of the incident that caused the need for profanity. Mr. Shandy has the list on his bookshelf. When the doctor wants to read it, Mr. Shandy tells him that he can but must read it out loud.

The next chapter is then devoted to the list of curses. The list is written in Latin and is presented in this chapter in its original language but not translated into English until the following chapter.

The list that follows contains references to various aspects of the Christian God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost) as well as mention of the Virgin Mary and many saints. After calling out these venerable beings, the list then asks that the saints "curse" the intended person.

As the doctor reads the incantations, he inserts the name of Obadiah because he is the intended target of his private curses. In response, when the doctor has completed the list of curses, Uncle Toby declares that he could never curse any living being so harshly, no matter what the person might have done.