As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram's narration of his life story. But it is one of the central jokes of the novel that he cannot explain anything simply, that he must make explanatory diversions to add context and colour to his tale, to the extent that we do not even reach Tristram's own birth until Volume III.
Ταράσσει τοὺς Ἀνθρώπους οὐ τὰ Πράγματα,Ἀλλὰ τὰ περὶ τῶν Πραγμάτων Δόγματα.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLEM r. P I T T.
S I R,
NEVER poor Wight of a Dedicator had less hopes from his Dedication, than I have from this of mine; for it is written in a bye corner of the kingdom, and in a retir’d thatch’d house, where I live in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles,——but much more so, when he laughs, it adds something to this Fragment of Life.
I humbly beg, Sir, that you will honour this book, by taking it—(not under your Protection,—it must protect itself, but)—into the country with you; where, if I am ever told, it has made you smile; or can conceive it has beguiled you of one moment’s pain—I shall think myself as happy as a minister of state;——perhaps much happier than any one (one only excepted) that I have read or heard of.
I am, GREAT SIR,(and, what is more to your Honour)I am, GOOD SIR,Your Well-wisher, andmost humble Fellow-subject,
T H E A U T H O R.