Saturday, October 23, 2010


From Sterne's Sentimental Journey:
The old officer was reading attentively a small pamphlet, it might be the book of the opera, with a large pair of spectacles. As soon as I sat down, he took his spectacles off, and putting them into a shagreen case, return’d them and the book into his pocket together. I half rose up, and made him a bow.

Translate this into any civilized language in the world--the sense is this:

‘Here’s a poor stranger come in to the box--he seems as if he knew no body; and is never likely, was he to be seven years in Paris, if every man he comes near keeps his spectacles upon his nose—’tis shutting the door of conversation absolutely in his face--and using him worse than a German.’

The French officer might as well have said it all aloud; and if he had, I should in course have put the bow I made him into French too, and told him, ‘I was sensible of his attention, and return’d him a thousand thanks for it.’

There is not a secret so aiding to the progress of sociality, as to get master of this short hand, and be quick in rendering the several turns of looks and limbs, with all their inflections and delineations, into plain words. For my own part, by long habitude, I do it so mechanically, that when I walk the streets of London, I go translating all the way; and have more than once stood behind in the circle, where not three words have been said, and have brought off twenty different dialogues with me, which I could have fairly wrote down and sworn to.

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