Tiny details imperceptible to us decide everything!
I have been drawing in the Cambridge Zoology Museum. Creepy crawlies, beasty bubble eyes, slimy, slithering and allsorts of weird and wonderful dead things are preserved for the pleasures of a viewing public.
…So she put her hand into her right pocket, which was next me, and felt for it some time—then into the left.—“She had lost it.”—I never bore expectation more quietly;—it was in her right pocket at last;—she pull’d it out; it was of green taffeta, lined with a little bit of white quilted satin, and just big enough to hold the crown: she put it into my hand;—it was pretty; and I held it ten minutes with the back of my hand resting upon her lap—looking sometimes at the purse, sometimes on one side of it.
A stitch or two had broke out in the gathers of my stock; the fair _fille de chambre_, without saying a word, took out her little housewife, threaded a small needle, and sew’d it up.—I foresaw it would hazard the glory of the day; and, as she pass’d her hand in silence across and across my neck in the manœuvre, I felt the laurels shake which fancy had wreath’d about my head.
A strap had given way in her walk, and the buckle of her shoe was just falling off.—See, said the _fille de chambre_, holding up her foot.—I could not, for my soul but fasten the buckle in return, and putting in the strap,—and lifting up the other foot with it, when I had done, to see both were right….
Laurence Sterne ‘A Sentimental Journey’
I had some occasion (I forget what) to step into the court-yard, as I settled this account; and remember I walk’d down stairs in no small triumph with the conceit of my reasoning.—Beshrew the sombre pencil! said I, vauntingly—for I envy not its powers, which paints the evils of life with so hard and deadly a colouring. The mind sits terrified at the objects she has magnified herself, and blackened: reduce them to their proper size and hue, she overlooks them.—’Tis true, said I, correcting the proposition,—the Bastile is not an evil to be despised;—but strip it of its towers—fill up the fosse,—unbarricade the doors—call it simply a confinement, and suppose ’tis some tyrant of a distemper—and not of a man, which holds you in it,—the evil vanishes, and you bear the other half without complaint.
I was interrupted in the heyday of this soliloquy, with a voice which I took to be of a child, which complained “it could not get out.”—I look’d up and down the passage, and seeing neither man, woman, nor child, I went out without farther attention.
In my return back through the passage, I heard the same words repeated twice over; and, looking up, I saw it was a starling hung in a little cage.—“I can’t get out,—I can’t get out,” said the starling. I stood looking at the bird: and to every person who came through the passage it ran fluttering to the side towards which they approach’d it, with the same lamentation of its captivity.
“I can’t get out,” said the starling.—God help thee! said I, but I’ll let thee out, cost what it will; so I turned about the cage to get to the door: it was twisted and double twisted so fast with wire, there was no getting it open without pulling the cage to pieces.—I took both hands to it.
The bird flew to the place where I was attempting his deliverance, and thrusting his head through the trellis pressed his breast against it as if impatient.—I fear, poor creature! said I, I cannot set thee at liberty.—“No,” said the starling,— “I can’t get out—I can’t get out,” said the starling.
I vow I never had my affections more tenderly awakened; nor do I remember an incident in my life, where the dissipated spirits, to which my reason had been a bubble, were so suddenly call’d home. Mechanical as the notes were, yet so true in tune to nature were they chanted, that in one moment they overthrew all my systematic reasonings upon the Bastile; and I heavily walked upstairs, unsaying every word I had said in going down them.
Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still, Slavery! said I,—still thou art a bitter draught! and though thousands in all ages have been made to drink of thee, thou art no less bitter on that account.—’Tis thou, thrice sweet and gracious goddess, addressing myself to Liberty, whom all in public or in private worship, whose taste is grateful, and ever will be so, till Nature herself shall change.—No _tint_ of words can spot thy snowy mantle, or chymic power turn thy sceptre into iron:—with thee to smile upon him as he eats his crust, the swain is happier than his monarch, from whose court thou art exiled!—Gracious Heaven! cried I, kneeling down upon the last step but one in my ascent, grant me but health, thou great Bestower of it, and give me but this fair goddess as my companion,—and shower down thy mitres, if it seems good unto thy divine providence, upon those heads which are aching for them!
Lawrence Sterne: ‘A Sentimental Journey’