Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
A Franciscan Monk
By Laurence Sterne (17131768)
From A Sentimental Journey
THE MONK, as I judged from the break in his tonsure, a few scattered white hairs upon his temples being all that remained of it, might be about seventy; but, from his eyes, and that sort of fire which was in them, which seemed more tempered by courtesy than years, could be no more than sixty. Truth might lie between,he was certainly sixty-five; and the general air of his countenance, notwithstanding something seemed to have been planting wrinkles in it before their time, agreed to the account.
It was one of those heads which Guido has often paintedmild, pale, penetrating, free from all commonplace ideas of fat contented ignorance looking downwards upon the earthit looked forwards; but looked as if it looked at something beyond this world. How one of his order came by it, heaven above who let it fall upon a monks shoulders best knows: but it would have suited a Brahmin, and had I met it upon the plains of Hindoostan, I had reverenced it.
The rest of his outline may be given in a few strokes; one might put it into the hands of any one to design, for twas neither elegant or otherwise, but as character and expression made it so: it was a thin spare form, something above the common size, if it lost not the distinction by a bend forward in the figure,but it was the attitude of entreaty; and as it now stands presented to my imagination, it gained more than it lost by it.
When he had entered the room three paces he stood still, and laying his left hand upon his breast (a slender white staff with which he journeyed being in his right)when I had got close up to him, he introduced himself with the little story of the wants of his convent, and the poverty of his order; and did it with so simple a grace and such an air of deprecation was there in the whole cast of his look and figure, I was bewitched not to have been struck with it.