"When Dolly has indited her epistle to Robin, and has thrust her arm into the bottom of her pocket hanging by her right-side;--take that opportunity to recollect that the organs and faculties of perception, can, by nothing in this world, be so aptly typified and explained as by that one thing which Dolly's hand is in search of.--Your organs are not so dull that I should inform you,--'tis an inch, Sir, of red seal-wax."
— Sterne, Laurence (1713-1768)
When this is melted and dropped upon the letter, if Dolly fumbles too long for her thimble, till the wax is over harden'd, it will not receive the mark of her thimble from the usual impulse which was wont to imprint it. Very well: If Dolly's wax, for want of better, is bees-wax, or of a temper too soft,--tho' it may receive,--it will not hold the impression, how hard soever Dolly thrusts against it; and last of all, supposing the wax good, and eke the thimble, but applied thereto in careless haste, as her Mistress rings the bell;--in any one of these three cases, the print, left by the thimble, will be as unlike the prototype as a brassjack.
Now you must understand that not one of these was the true cause of the confusion in my uncle Toby's discourse; and it is for that very reason I enlarge upon them so long, after the manner of great physiologists,--to shew the world what it did not arise from.
What it did arise from, I have hinted above, and a fertile source of obscurity it is,--and ever will be,--and that is the unsteady uses of words which have perplexed the clearest and most exalted understandings.
(II.ii, pp. 13-16)
See Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 9 vols. (London: Printed for D. Lynch, 1760-1767). <Link to ECCO><Link to 1759 York edition in ECCO>
First two volumes available in ECCO-TCP: <Vol. 1><Vol. 2>. Most text drawn from second (London) edition <Link to LION>.
For vols. 3-4, see ESTC T14705 <R. and J. Dodsley, 1761>. For vols. 5-6, see ESTC T14706 <T. Becket and P. A. Dehondt, 1762>. For vols. 7-8, see ESTC T14820 <T. Becket and P. A. Dehont, 1765>. For vol. 9, <T. Becket and P. A. Dehondt, 1767>.
Reading in Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism, Ed. Howard Anderson (New York: Norton, 1980).