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Laurence Sterne. (1713–1768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

The Fragment. Paris

LA FLEUR had left me something to amuse myself with for the day more than I had bargain’d for, or could have enter’d either into his head or mine.

He had brought the little print of butter upon a currantleaf; and as the morning was warm, he had begg’d a sheet of waste paper to put betwixt the currant-leaf and his hand.—As that was plate sufficient, I bad him lay it upon the table as it was; and as I resolved to stay within all day, I ordered him to call upon the traiteur, to bespeak my dinner, and leave me to breakfast by myself.

When I had finish’d the butter, I threw the currant-leaf out of the window, and was going to do the same by the waste paper—but stopping to read a line first, and that drawing me on to a second and third—I thought it better worth; so I shut the window, and drawing a chair up to it, I sat down to read it.

It was in the old French of Rabelais’s time, and for aught I know might have been wrote by him—it was moreover in a Gothic letter, and that so faded and gone off by damps and length of time, it cost me infinite trouble to make anything of it.—I threw it down; and then wrote a letter to Eugenius—then I took it up again and embroiled my patience with it afresh—and then to cure that, I wrote a letter to Eliza.—Still it kept hold of me; and the difficulty of understanding it increased but the desire.

I got my dinner; and after I had enlightened my mind with a bottle of Burgundy, I at it again—and after two or three hours’ poring upon it, with almost as deep attention as ever Gruter or Jacob Spon did upon a nonsensical inscription, I thought I made sense of it; but to make sure of it, the best way, I imagined, was to turn it into English, and see how it would look then—so I went on leisurely as a trifling man does, sometimes writing a sentence—then taking a turn or two—and then looking how the world went out of the window; so that it was nine o’clock at night before I had done it.—I then begun to read it as follows.