[This document serves as note 3 to my "Tristram Shandy and the Comedy of Context."]

Locke's 'Of Particles' (III, pp. 98-100) ends with an example of different uses of particles and this is probably parodied by the close of Sterne's Chapter xliii, Vol. V,

A WHITE BEAR! Very well. Have I ever seen one? Might I ever have seen one? Am I ever to see one? Ought I ever to see one? Or can I ever see one?

Would I had seen a white bear! (for how can I imagine it?)

If I should see a white bear, what should I say? If I should neve'r see a white bear, what then?

if I never have, can, must or shall see a white bear alive; have I ever seen the skin of one? Did I ever see one painted? — described? Have I ever dreamed of one?

Did my father, mother, uncle, brothers or sisters, ever see a white bear? What would they give? How would they behave? How would the white bear have 6ehaved? Is he wild? Tame? Terrible? Rough? Smooth?

— Is the white bear worth seeing?

— Is there no sin in it?

Is it better than a BLACK ONE? (pp. 406-407)

Once again, Sterne transfers something from one context to another, gradually taking the questions not as exercises but as actual inquiries.


Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Alexander Campbell Fraser. New York, 1959.

Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. ed. James Aiken Work. New York, 1940.

Last modified 1 February 2003