Laurence Sterne: Wikis


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Laurence Sterne

Portrait of Laurence Sterne by Joshua Reynolds, 1760
Born Laurence Sterne
November 24, 1713 (1713-11-24)
Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland
Died March 18, 1768 (1768-03-19)
Occupation novelist, clergyman
Nationality English, Irish
Notable work(s) The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy

Laurence Sterne (November 24, 1713 – March 18, 1768) was an Irish-born English novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics. Sterne died in London after years of fighting consumption.



Laurence Sterne was born November 24, 1713 in Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland. His father, Roger Sterne, was an Ensign in a British regiment recently returned from Dunkirk. Roger's regiment was disbanded on the day of Sterne’s birth, and within six months the family had returned to Yorkshire in northern England.

The first decade of Sterne’s life was spent moving from place to place as his father was reassigned throughout Ireland. During this period Sterne never lived in one place for more than a year. In 1724, his father took Sterne to Roger's wealthy brother, Richard, so that Sterne could attend Hipperholme Grammar School near Halifax; Sterne never saw his father again as Roger was ordered to Jamaica where he died of a fever in 1731. Sterne was admitted to a sizarship at Jesus College, Cambridge, in July 1733 at the age of 20.[1] His great-grandfather Richard Sterne had been the Master of the college as well as the Arhbishop of York. Sterne graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in January 1737; and returned in the summer of 1740 to be awarded his Master of Arts degree.[1]

Sterne seems to have been destined to become a clergyman, and was ordained as a deacon in March of 1737 and as a priest in August, 1738. Shortly thereafter Sterne was awarded the vicarship living of Sutton-on-the-Forest in Yorkshire (1713-1768). Sterne married Elizabeth Lumley in 1741. Both were ill with consumption. In 1743, he was presented to the neighbouring living of Stillington by Rev. Richard Levett, Prebendary of Stillington, who was patron of the living.[2] Subsequently Sterne did duty both there and at Sutton. He was also a prebendary of York Minster. Sterne’s life at this time was closely tied with his uncle, Dr. Jaques Sterne, the Archdeacon of Cleveland and Precentor of York Minster. Sterne’s uncle was an ardent Whig, and urged Sterne to begin a career of political journalism which resulted in some scandal for Sterne and, eventually, a terminal falling-out between the two men.

Jaques Sterne was a powerful clergyman but a mean-tempered man and a rabid politician. In 1741–42 Sterne wrote political articles supporting the administration of Sir Robert Walpole for a newspaper founded by his uncle but soon withdrew from politics in disgust. His uncle became his archenemy, thwarting his advancement whenever possible.

Sterne lived in Sutton for twenty years, during which time he kept up an intimacy which had begun at Cambridge with John Hall-Stevenson, a witty and accomplished bon vivant, owner of Skelton Hall in the Cleveland district of Yorkshire. Without Stevenson, Sterne might have been a more decorous parish priest, but then might never have written Tristram Shandy.

It was while living in the country-side, having failed in his attempts to supplement his income as a farmer and struggling with tuberculosis, that Sterne began work on his most famous novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, the first volumes of which were published in 1759. Sterne was at work on his celebrated comic novel during the year that his mother died, his wife was seriously ill, and he was ill himself with consumption. The publication of Tristram Shandy made Sterne famous in London and on the continent. He was delighted by the attention, and spent part of each year in London, being fêted as new volumes appeared. Indeed, Baron Fauconberg rewarded Sterne by appointing him as the perpetual curate of Coxwold, North Yorkshire.

In 1759, to support his dean in a church squabble, Sterne wrote A Political Romance (later called The History of a Good Warm Watch-Coat), a Swiftian satire of dignitaries of the spiritual courts. At the demands of embarrassed churchmen, the book was burned. Thus, Sterne lost his chances for clerical advancement but discovered his real talents. Turning over his parishes to a curate, he began Tristram Shandy. An initial, sharply satiric version was rejected by Robert Dodsley, the London printer, just when Sterne's personal life was upset. His mother and uncle both died. His wife had a nervous breakdown and threatened suicide. Sterne continued his comic novel, but every sentence, he said, was “written under the greatest heaviness of heart.” In this mood, he softened the satire and told about Tristram's opinions, his eccentric family, and ill-fated childhood with a sympathetic humour, sometimes hilarious, sometimes sweetly melancholic—a comedy skirting tragedy.

Foreign travel

Sterne continued to struggle with his illness, and departed England for France in 1762 in an effort to find a climate that would alleviate his suffering. Sterne was lucky to attach himself to a diplomatic party bound for Turin, as England and France were still adversaries in the Seven Years' War. Sterne was gratified by his reception in France where reports of the genius of Tristram Shandy had made him a celebrity. Aspects of this trip to France were incorporated into Sterne’s second novel, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, which was published at the beginning of 1768. The novel was written during a period in which Sterne was increasingly ill and weak.

Less than a month after Sentimental Journey was published, early in 1768, Sterne's strength failed him, and he died in his lodgings at 41 Old Bond Street on the 18 March, at the age of 54. He was buried in the churchyard of St George's, Hanover Square.

In a curiously "Shandean" twist in events, it appears that Sterne's body was stolen shortly after it was interred and sold to the anatomists. It was recognised by somebody who knew him and discreetly reinterred. When the churchyard of St. George's was redeveloped in the 1960s, his skull was disinterred (in a manner befitting somebody who chose for himself the nickname of "Yorick"), partly identified by the fact that it was the only skull of the five in Sterne's grave that bore evidence of having been anatomised, and transferred to Coxwold Churchyard in 1969.[3] The story of the reinterment of Sterne's skull in Coxwold is alluded to in Malcolm Bradbury's novel To The Hermitage.


Sterne's early writing life was unremarkable. He wrote letters, had two ordinary sermons published (in 1747 and 1750), and tried his hand at satire. He was involved in, and wrote about, local politics in 1742. His major publication prior to Tristram Shandy was the satire A Political Romance (1759), aimed at conflicts of interest within York Minster. A posthumously published piece on the art of preaching, A Fragment in the Manner of Rabelais, appears to have been written in 1759. Sterne did not begin work on Tristram Shandy until he was 46 years old.

Sterne is best known for his novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, for which he became famous not only in England, but throughout Europe. Translations of the work began to appear in all the major European languages almost upon its publication, and Sterne influenced European writers as diverse as Diderot and the German Romanticists. His work had also noticeable influence over Brazilian author Machado de Assis, who made exceptional (and outstandingly original) usage of the digressive technique in the masterful novel The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas. Indeed, the novel, in which Sterne manipulates narrative time and voice, parodies accepted narrative form, and includes a healthy dose of "bawdy" humor, was largely dismissed in England as being too corrupt. Samuel Johnson's verdict in 1776 was that "Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last." This is strikingly different from the views of European critics of the day, who praised Sterne and Tristram Shandy as innovative and superior. Voltaire called it "clearly superior to Rabelais", and later Goethe praised Sterne as "the most beautiful spirit that ever lived." Both during his life and for a long time after, efforts were made by many to reclaim Sterne as an arch-sentimentalist; parts of Tristram Shandy, such as the tale of Le Fever, were excerpted and published separately to wide acclaim from the moralists of the day. The success of the novel and its serialized nature also allowed many imitators to publish pamphlets concerning the Shandean characters and other Shandean-related material even while the novel was yet unfinished.

The novel itself is difficult to describe. The story starts with the narration, by Tristram, of his own conception. It proceeds by fits and starts, but mostly by what Sterne calls "progressive digressions" so that we do not reach Tristram's birth before the third volume. The novel is rich in characters and humor, and the influences of Rabelais and Cervantes are present throughout. The novel ends after 9 volumes, published over a decade, but without anything that might be considered a traditional conclusion. Sterne inserts sermons, essays and legal documents into the pages of his novel; and he explores the limits of typography and print design by including marbled pages and, most famously, an entirely black page within the narrative. Many of the innovations that Sterne introduced, adaptations in form that should be understood as an exploration of what constitutes the novel, were highly influential to Modernist writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, and more contemporary writers such as Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace. Italo Calvino referred to Tristram Shandy as the "undoubted progenitor of all avant-garde novels of our century." The Russian Formalist writer Viktor Shklovsky regarded Tristram Shandy as the archetypal, quintessential novel, of which all other novels are mere subsets: "Tristram Shandy is the most typical novel of world literature."[4]

However, the leading critical opinions of Tristram Shandy tend to be markedly polarised in their evaluations of its significance. Since the 1950s, following the lead of D.W. Jefferson, there are those who argue that, whatever its legacy of influence may be, Tristram Shandy in its original context actually represents a resurgence of a much older, Renaissance tradition of "Learned Wit" - owing a debt to such influences as the Scriblerian approach.

A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy is a less influential book, although it was better received by English critics of the day. The book has many stylistic parallels with Tristram Shandy, and indeed, the narrator is one of the minor characters from the earlier novel. Although the story is more straightforward, A Sentimental Journey can be understood to be part of the same artistic project to which Tristram Shandy belongs.

Two volumes of Sterne's Sermons were published during his lifetime; more copies of his Sermons were sold in his lifetime than copies of Tristram Shandy, and for a while he was better known in some circles as a preacher than as a novelist. The sermons though are conventional in both style and substance. Several volumes of letters were published after his death, as was Journal to Eliza, a more sentimental than humorous love letter to a woman Sterne was courting during the final years of his life. Compared to many eighteenth century authors Sterne's body of work is quite small.


His works, first collected in 1779, were edited, with newly discovered letters, by J. P. Browne (London, 1873). A less complete edition was edited by G. Saintsbury (London, 1894). The Florida Edition of Sterne's works is currently the leading scholarly edition - although the final volume (Sterne's letters) has yet to be published.

See also


  1. ^ a b Laurence Sterne in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  2. ^ The Life and Times of Laurence Sterne, Wilbur Lucius Cross, Russell & Russell, 1967
  3. ^ "Is this the skull of Sterne?", The Times, 1969-06-05 
  4. ^ [1]

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Only the brave know how to forgive... A coward never forgave; it is not in his nature.

Laurence Sterne (1713-11-241768-03-18) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics.



  • Only the brave know how to forgive...A coward never forgave; it is not in his nature.
    • Sermons, Vol. I, No. 12 (1760).

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1760-1767)

  • I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me.
    • Book I (1760), Ch. 1.
  • "Pray, my dear," quoth my mother, "have you not forgot to wind up the clock?" — "Good G—!" cried my father, making an exclamation, but taking care to moderate his voice at the same time, — "Did ever woman, since the creation of the world, interrupt a man with such a silly question?"
    • Book I, Ch. 1.
  • So long as a man rides his hobbyhorse peaceably and quietly along the King's highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him — pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?
    • Book I, Ch. 7.
  • For every ten jokes, thou hast got a hundred enemies.
    • Book I, Ch. 12.
  • He was within a few hours of giving his enemies the slip forever.
    • Book I, Ch. 12.
  • Whistled up to London, upon a Tom Fool's errand.
    • Book I, Ch. 16.
  • 'Tis known by the name of perseverance in a good cause — and of obstinacy in a bad one.
    • Book I, Ch. 17.
  • Persuasion hung upon his lips, and the elements of Logick and Rhetorick were so blended up in him, — and, withall, he had so shrewd guess at the weaknesses and passions of his respondent, — that NATURE might have stood up and said, — "This man is eloquent."
    • Book I, Ch. 19.
  • Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; —& they are the life, the soul of reading; — take them out of this book for instance, — you might as well take the book along with them.
    • Book I, Ch. 22.
  • The history of a soldier's wound beguiles the pain of it.
    • Book I, Ch. 25.
  • The desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it.
    • Book II (1760), Ch. 3.
  • Writing, when properly managed, (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.
    • Book II, Ch. 11.
  • Go poor Devil, get thee gone, why should I hurt thee? — This world surely is wide enough to hold both thee and me.
    • Book II, Ch. 12 (Uncle Toby to the fly).
  • Trust that man in nothing who has not a conscience in everything.
    • Book II, Ch. 17.
  • Great wits jump.
    • Book III (1761-1762), Ch. 9. Compare: "Great wits jump", John Byrom, The Nimmers; Earl of Buckingham, The Chances, act. iv, scene 1; "Good wits jump", Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, part II, ch. 38.
  • Our armies swore terribly in Flanders, cried my uncle Toby, — but nothing to this. — For my own part, I could not have a heart to curse my dog so.
    • Book III, Ch. 11.
  • Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world, — though the cant of hypocrites may be the worst, — the cant of criticism is the most tormenting!
    • Book III, Ch. 12.
  • As for the clergy — No — If I say a word against them, I'll be shot. — I have no desire, — and besides, if I had, — I durst not for my soul touch upon the subject, — with such weak nerves and spirits, and in the condition I am in at present, 'twould be as much as my life was worth, to deject and contrist myself with so bad and melancholy an account, — and therefore, 'tis safer to draw a curtain across, and hasten from it, as fast as I can, to the main and principal point I have undertaken to clear up, — and that is, How it comes to pass, that your men of least wit are reported to be men of most judgment.
    • Book III, Ch. 20.
  • I have got him fast hung up, quoth Didius to himself, upon one of the two horns of my dilemma — let him get off as he can.
    • Book IV (1761-1762), Ch. 26.
  • It had ever been the custom of the family, and by length of time was almost become a matter of common right, that the eldest son of it should have free ingress, egress, and regress into foreign parts before marriage, — not only for the sake of bettering his own private parts, by the benefit of exercise and change of so much air — but simply for the mere delectation of his fancy, by the feather put into his cap, of having been abroad.
    • Book IV, Ch. 31.
  • Now or never was the time.
    • Book IV, Ch. 31.
  • Shall we be destined to the days of eternity, on holy-days, as well as working-days, to be showing the relics of learning, as monks do the relics of their saints — without working one — one single miracle with them?
    • Book V (1761-1762), Ch. 1.
  • My father was as proud of his eloquence as MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO could be for his life, and and for aught I am convinced of to the contrary at present, with as much reason: it was indeed his strength — and his weakness, too. — His strength — for he was by nature eloquent — and his weakness — for he was hourly a dupe to it; and provided an occasion in life would but permit him to shew his talents, or say either a wise thing, a witty, or a shrewd one — (bating the case of a systematic misfortune)— he had all he wanted.— A blessing which tied up my father's tongue, and a misfortune which let it loose with a good grace, were pretty equal: sometimes, indeed, the misfortune was the better of the two; for instance, where the pleasure of the harangue was as ten, and the pain of the misfortune was as five — my father gained half in half, and consequently was as well again off, as if it had never befallen him.
    • Book V, Ch. 3.
  • I am convinced, Yorick, continued my father, half reading and half discoursing, that there is a Northwest Passage to the intellectual world; and that the soul of man has shorter ways of going to work, in furnishing itself with knowledge and instruction, than we generally take with it.
    • Book V, Ch. 42.
  • The Accusing Spirit which flew up to heaven's chancery with the oath, blush'd as he gave it in; and the Recording Angel as he wrote it down, dropp'd a tear upon the word, and blotted it out forever.
    • Book VI (1761-1762), Ch. 8. Compare: "But sad as angels for the good man’s sin, Weep to record, and blush to give it in", Thomas Campbell, Pleasures of Hope, part ii, line 357.
  • A man should know something of his own country too, before he goes abroad.
    • Book VII (1765), Ch. 2.
  • I am sick as a horse.
    • Book VII, Ch. 11.
  • Ho! 'tis the time of salads.
    • Book VII, Ch. 17.
  • I believe in my conscience I intercept many a thought which heaven intended for another man.
    • Book VIII, Ch. 2.
  • When issues of events like these my father is waiting for, are hanging in the scales of fate, the mind has the advantage of changing the principle of expectation three times, without which it would not have power to see it out.

    Curiosity governs the first moment; and the second moment is all economy to justify the expense of the first — and for the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth moments, and so on to the day of judgment — 'tis a point of HONOUR.

    I need not be told, that the ethic writers have assigned this all to Patience; but that VIRTUE, methinks, has extent of domination sufficient of her own, and enough to do in it, without invading the few dismantled castles which HONOUR has left him upon the earth.

    • Book IX (1767), Ch. 10.
  • L—d! said my mother, what is all this story about? — A Cock and a Bull, said Yorick — And one of the best of its kind I ever heard.
    • Book IX, Ch. 33.

A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768)

  • They order, said I, this matter better in France.
    • Line 1.
  • I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba and cry, 'Tis all barren!
    • In the Street, Calais.
  • Tant pis and tant mieux, being two of the great hinges in French conversation, a stranger would do well to set himself right in the use of them before he gets to Paris.
    • Montreuil.
  • Hail, ye small, sweet courtesies of life! for smooth do ye make the road of it.
    • The Pulse, Paris.
  • God tempers the wind, said Maria, to the shorn lamb.
    • Maria. Compare: "Dieu mésure le froid à la brebis tondue" (translated: "God measures the cold to the shorn lamb"), Henri Estienne (1594), Prémices, etc, p. 47; "To a close-shorn sheep God gives wind by measure", George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum.
  • We get forwards in the world not so much by doing services, as receiving them: you take a withering twig, and put it in the ground; and then you water it, because you have planted it.
    • Paris.


  • "Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still, Slavery", said I, "still thou art a bitter draught".
    • The Passport, The Hotel at Paris.
  • The sad vicissitude of things.
    • Sermon xvi. Compare: "Resolves the sad vicissitudes of things", R. Gifford, Contemplation.
  • Trust that man in nothing who has not a conscience in everything.
    • Sermon xxvii.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LAURENCE STERNE (1713-1768), English humorist, was the son of Roger Sterne, an English officer, and great-grandson of an archbishop of York. Nearly all our information about the first forty-six years of his life before he became famous as the author of Tristram Shandy is derived from a short memoir jotted down by himself for the use of his daughter. It gives nothing but the barest facts, excepting three anecdotes about his infancy, his school days and his marriage. He was born at Clonmel, Ireland, on the 24th of November 1713, a few days after the arrival of his father's regiment from Dunkirk. The regiment was then disbanded, but very soon after re-established, and for ten years the boy and his mother moved from place to place after the regiment, from England to Ireland, and from one part of Ireland to another. The familiarity thus acquired with military life and character stood Sterne in good stead when he drew the portraits of Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim. After ten years of wandering, he was fixed for eight or nine years at a school at Halifax in Yorkshire. His father died when he was in his eighteenth year, and he was indebted for his university education to one of the members of his father's family. His great-grandfather the archbishop had been master of Jesus College, Cambridge, and to Jesus College he was sent. He was admitted to a sizarship in July 1733, took his B.A. degree in 1736 and proceeded M.A. in 1740. One of his uncles was precentor and canon of York. Young Sterne took orders, and through this uncle's influence obtained in 17 3 8 the living of Sutton-in-the-Forest, some 8 m. north of York. Two years after his marriage in 1741 to a lady named Elizabeth Lumley he was presented to the neighbouring living of Stillington, and did duty at both places. He was also a prebendary of York Cathedral.

Sutton was Sterne's residence for twenty uneventful years. He kept up an intimacy which had begun at Cambridge with John Hall-Stevenson (1718-1785), a witty and accomplished epicurean, owner of Skelton Hall ("Crazy Castle") in the Cleveland district of Yorkshire. Skelton Hall is nearly 40 m. from Sutton, but Sterne, in spite of his double duties, seems to have been a frequent visitor there, and to have found in his not too strait-laced friend a highly congenial companion. Sterneis said to have never formally become a member of the circle of gay squires and clerics at Skelton known as the "Demoniacks"; but no doubt he shared their festivities. Stevenson's various occasional sallies in verse and prose - his Fables for Grown Gentlemen (1761-1770), his Crazy Tales (1762), and his numerous skits at the political opponents of Wilkes, among whose "macaronies" he numbered himself - were collected after his death, and it is impossible to read them without being struck with their close family resemblance in spirit and turn of thought to Sterne's work, inferior as they are in literary genius. Without Stevenson, Sterne would probably have been a more decorous parish priest, but he would probably never have written Tristram Shandy or left any other memorial of his singular genius. In 1 747 Sterne published a sermon preached in York under the title of The Case of Elijah. This was followed,in 1750 by The Abuses of Conscience, afterwards inserted in vol. ii. of Tristram Shandy. In 1759 he wrote a skit on a quarrel between Dean Fountayne and Dr Topham, a York lawyer, over the bestowal of an office in the gift of the archbishop. This sketch, in which Topham figures as Trim the sexton, and the author as Lorry Slim, gives an earnest of Sterne's powers as a humorist. It was not published until after his death, when it appeared in 1769 under the title of A Political Romance, and afterwards the History of a Warm Watch-Coat. The first two volumes of Tristram Shandy were issued at York in 1759 and advertised in London on the 1st of January 1760, and at once made a sensation. York was scandalized at its clergyman's indecency, and indignant at his caricature as "Slop" of a local physician (Dr John Burton); London was charmed with his audacity, wit and graphic unconventional power. He went to London early in the year to enjoy his triumph, and found himself at once a personage in society - was called upon and invited out by lion-hunters, was taken to Windsor by Lord Rockingham, and had the honour of supping with the duke of York.

For the last eight years of his life after this sudden leap out of obscurity we have a faithful record of Sterne's feelings and movements in letters to various persons, published in 1 775 by his sole child and daughter, Lydia Sterne de Medalle, and in the Letters from Yorick to Eliza (1766-1767), also published in 1775. At the end of the sermon in Tristram he had intimated that, if this sample of Yorick's pulpit eloquence was liked, "there are now in the possession of the Shandy family as many as will make a handsome volume, at the world's service, and much good may they do it." Accordingly, when a. second edition of the first instalment of Tristram was called for in three months, two volumes of Sermons by Yorick were announced. Although they had little or none of the eccentricity of the history, they proved almost as popular. Sterne's clerical character was far from being universally injured by his indecorous freaks as a humorist: Lord Fauconberg presented the author of Tristram Shandy with the perpetual curacy of Coxwold. To this new residence he went in high spirits with his success, "fully determined to write as hard as could be," seeing no reason why he should not give the public two volumes of Shandyism every year and why this should not go on for forty years. By the beginning of August 1760 he had another volume written, and was so "delighted with Uncle Toby's imaginary character that he was become an enthusiast." The author's delight in this wonderful creation was not misleading; it has been fully shared by every generation of readers since. For two years in succession Sterne kept his bargain with himself to provide two volumes a year. Vols. iii. and iv. appeared in 1761; vols. v. and vi. in January 1762. But his sanguine hopes of continuing at this rate were frustrated by ill-health. He was ordered to the south of France; it was two years and a half before he returned; and he came back with very little accession of strength. His reception by literary circles in France was very flattering. He was overjoyed with it. "'Tis comme a Londres," he wrote to Garrick from Paris; "I have just now a fortnight's dinners and suppers upon my hands." Through all his pleasant experiences of French society, and through the fits of dangerous illness by which they were diversified, he continued to build up his history of the Shandy family, but the work did not progress as rapidly as it had done. Not till January 1765 was he ready with the fourth instalment of two volumes; and one of them, vol. vii., leaving the Shandy family for a time, gave a lively sketch of the writer's own travels to the south of France in search of health. This was a digression of a new kind, if anything can be called a digression in a work the plan of which is to fly off at a tangent whenever and wherever the writer's whim tempts him. In the first volume, anticipating an obvious complaint, he had protested against digressions that left the main work to stand still, and had boasted - not without justice in a Shandean sense - that he had reconciled digressive motion with progressive. But in vol. vii. the work is allowed to stand still while the writer is being transported from Shandy Hall to Languedoc. The only progress we make is in the illustration of the buoyant and joyous temper of Tristram himself, who, after all, is a member of the Shandy family, and was due a volume for the elucidation of his character. Vol. viii. begins the longpromised story of Uncle Toby's amours with the Widow Wadman. After seeing to the publication of this instalment of Tristram and of another set of sermons - more pronouncedly Shandean in their eccentricity - he quitted England again in the summer of 1765, and tavelled in Italy as far as Naples. The ninth and last and shortest volume of Tristram, concluding the episode of Toby Shandy's amours, appeared in 1767. This despatched, Sterne turned to a new project, which had probably been suggested by the ease and freedom with which he had moved through the travelling volume in Tristram. The Sentimental Journey through France and Italy was intended to be a long work: the plan admitted of any length that the author chose, but, after seeing the first two volumes through the press in the early months of 1768, Sterne's strength failed him, and he died in his lodgings at 41 Old Bond Street on the 18th of March, three weeks after the publication. The loneliness of his end has often been commented on; it was probably due to its unexpectedness. He had pulled through so many sharp attacks of his "vile influenza" and other lung disorders that he began to be seriously alarmed only three days before his death.

Sterne's character defies analysis in brief space. It is too subtle and individual to be conveyed in general terms. For comments upon him from points of view more or less diverse the reader may be referred to Thackeray's Humourists, Professor Masson's British Novelists (1859), and H. D. Traill's sketch in the "English Men of Letters" Series. The fullest biography is Mr Percy Fitzgerald's (1864). But the reader who cares to have an opinion about Sterne should hesitate till he has read and re-read in various moods considerable portions of Sterne's own writing. This writing is so singularly frank and unconventional that its drift is not at once apparent to the literary student. The indefensible indecency and overstrained sentimentality are on the surface; but after a time every repellent defect is forgotten in the enjoyment of the exquisite literary art. In the delineation of character by graphically significant speech and action, introduced at unexpected turns, left with happy audacity to point their own meaning, and pointing it with a force that the dullest cannot but understand, he takes rank with the very greatest masters. In Toby Shandy he has drawn a character universally lovable and admirable; but Walter Shandy is almost greater as an artistic triumph, considering the difficulty of the achievement. Dr Ferriar, in his Illustrations of Sterne (published in 1798), pointed out several unacknowledged plagiarisms from Rabelais, Burton and others; but it is only fair to the critic to say that he was fully aware that they were only plagiarisms of material, and do not detract in the slightest from Sterne's reputation as one of the greatest of literary artists.

A revised edition of Mr Percy Fitzgerald's Life of Sterne, containing much new information, appeared in 1896. There is also a valuable study of Sterne by M. Paul Stapfer (1870, 2nd ed., 1882); and many fresh particulars as to Sterne's relations with his wife and daughter, and also with the lady known as "Eliza" (Mrs Elizabeth Draper), are collected in Mr Sidney Lee's article in the Did. Nat. Biog. Sterne's original journal to Mrs Draper ("The Bramine's Journal"), after she had gone back to India, and extending from the 13th of April to the 4th of August 1767, is now in the department of MSS., British Museum (addit. MS. 34,527). A convenient edition of Sterne's works, edited by Professor George Saintsbury, was issued in six volumes in 1894. See also Wilbur L. Cross, The Life and Times of Laurence Sterne (New York, 1909); and Walter Sichel, Sterne: a Study (1910). (W. M.; A. D.)

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