Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey (1768), p. 76

Then nothing would serve me, when I got within sight of Versailles, but putting words and sentences together, and conceiving attitudes and tones to wreath myself into Monsieur Le Duc de C*****'s good graces--This will do----said I--Just as well, retorted I again, as a coat carried up to him by an adventurous tailor, without taking his measure--Fool! continued I--see Monsieur le Duc's face first--observe what character is written in it; take notice in what posture he stands to hear you--mark the turns and expressions of his body and limbs--And for the tone--the first sound which comes from his lips will give it you; and from all these together you'll compound an address at once upon the spot, which cannot disgust the Duke--the ingredients are his own, and most likely to go down.

Well! said I, I wish it well over--Coward again! as if man to man was not equal, throughout the whole surface of the globe; and if in the field--why not face to face in the cabinet too? And trust me, Yorick, whenever it is not so, man is false to himself; and betrays his own succours ten times, where nature does it once. Go to the Duc de C**** with the Bastille in thy looks--My life for it, thou wilt be sent back to Paris in half an hour, with an escort.

Yorick's decision that he is EQUAL to the Duc coincides with the disclosure that he is UNLIKE him. In the first paragraph above, Yorick has devised a system which very much resembles a mechanical sympathetic sensibility. That is, Yorick will use his own sensibility toward the purpose of tactical espionage, allowing him to project an image identical to the Duc's, thereby to elicit the Duc's sympathy. But Yorick changes his tactic, deciding to project not an image of the Duc's own carriage, but a frightened consciousness of danger. Yorick judges empathy more effective than sympathy; it is notable that Yorick's second scheme does not require any special sensibility on his own part; there is no talent to being an object of pity.

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography