Tristram Shandy Book 7, Chapters 1-13 Summary

Laurence Sterne

Book 7, Chapters 1-13 Summary

The narrator takes a break from the storyline and decides to record the details of a trip he takes as if he were a travel writer. He is going to France. He begins his story while he is on a ship crossing the channel. He is on the ship, and he is miserably sick. He is so sick that he fears he is going to die and asks the captain if he knows of anyone dying of seasickness. The captain assures him that he has never witnessed such a death.

The narrator attempts to describe how sick he is. He writes that he feels as if he were upside down, that all the cells in his body have "broke loose" and all his bodily fluids have mixed together. He also says that everything in his body is turning around as if he were caught in a giant whirlpool.

Finally the narrator reaches Calais in France. He is on his way to Paris. He writes that he does not know much about Calais. Having arrived at night and left in the morning before the sun rose, he cannot even justify describing it. However, this does not stop him from offering his views about the city.

Calais was once a small village, but when the narrator visits the French town, it has grown in size and now claims 14,000 citizens. There is but one church, which the narrator finds disturbing because the building would have to be enormous to hold its entire population for one service. Whatever its size, the narrator has read that the church is built in the shape of a cross and has eleven altars, the main one of white marble and almost sixty feet high.

At the center of Calais is a great square, although the narrator clarifies that the square is not really square as it is 40 feet longer measuring east to west than it is measuring north to south. It should not then be called a square, but rather a Place. Most of the streets of Calais end at the square. Had there been a fountain in the town (although there was not), it would have been perfectly placed in the square, the narrator writes.

Second in importance in Calais is the Town House, a "sorry building" in need of repair. Although it is not a great architectural wonder, this building does serve a purpose as it is where the town magistrates like to meet.

The last piece of information the narrator offers is that there are historic fortifications in Calais, which the narrator writes are the strongest in the world. Unfortunately, he is unable to visit them.