Lillabullero

" My father  was a philosopher in grain, -- speculative,-- systematical" ["and like all systematick reasoners, he would move both heaven and earth, and twist and torture every thing in nature to support his hypothesis". (A theory of his, for instance, concerned) "the choice and imposition of Christian names, on which he thought a great deal more depended than what superficial minds were capable of conceiving. His opinion, in this matter, was, That there was a strange kind of magick bias, which good or bad names, as he called them, irresistibly impress'd upon our characters and conduct".
(To support his theory he often talked about a family dishonour, i.e. the case of) "my great aunt DINAH, who, about sixty years ago, was married and got with a child by the coachman, for which my father, according to his hypothesis of Christian names, would often say, She might thank her godfathers and godmothers."]
"In any other family dishonour, my father, I believe, had as nice a sense of shame as any man whatever;-- and [ he wouldn't have divulged the affair ] but for obligations [he] owed, as [he] thought, to truth. ---
Amicus Plato, my father would say, construing the words to my uncle Toby [ the least hint of the affair was enough to make the blood fly into Toby's face], as he went along, Amicus Plato; that is, DINAH was my aunt; -- sed magis amica veritas -- but TRUTH is my sister.
The contrariety of humours betwixt my father and my uncle, was the source of many a fraternal squabble. The one could not bear to hear the tale of family disgrace recorded, -- and the other would scarce ever let a day pass to an end without some hint at it.
For God sake, my uncle
Toby would cry, -- and for my sake, and for all our sake, my dear brother Shandy, -- do let this story of our aunt's and her ashes sleep in peace; -- how can you, -- how can you have so little feeling and compassion for the character of our family: -- What is the character of a family to an hypothesis ? My father would reply. -- Nay, if you come to that -- what is the life of a family: -- The life of a family ? --my uncle Toby would say, throwing himself back in his arm-chair, and lifting up his hands, his eyes, and one leg, -- Yes, the life, -- my father would say, maintaining his point. How many thousand of 'em are there every year that comes cast away, ( in all civilized countries at least) --- and consider'd as nothing but common air, in competition of an hypothesis. In my plain sense of things, my uncle Toby, would answer, -- every such instance is downright MURDER, let who will commit it. -- There lies your mistake, my father would reply; -- for, in Foro Scientiae there is no such a thing as MURDER, -- 'tis only DEATH, brother.
My uncle
Toby would never offer to answer this by any other kind of argument, than that of whistling half a dozen bars of Lillabullero. ---- You must know it was the usual channel tro' which his passions got vent, when any thing shocked or surprised him; ---- but especially when any thing, which he deem'd very absurd, was offerer'd.
As not one of our logical writers, nor any of the commentators upon them, that I remember, have thought proper to give a name to this particular species of argument [ ] I do therefore, by these presents, strictly order and command, That it be known and distinguish'd by the name and title of the
Argumentum Fistulatorium, and no other; --- and that it rank hereafter with the Argumentum baculinum, and the Argumentum ad Crumenam, and for ever hereafter be treated of in the same chapter.

  • Laurence Sterne,
    The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy,
    vol I (1760),
    chapter XXI