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Sterne by H.D. Traill

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In conclusion, he tells his friend that the next morning, if Heaven
permit, he begins the fifth volume of _Shandy_, and adds, defiantly,
that he "cares not a curse for the critics," but "will load my vehicle
with what goods He sends me, and they may take 'em off my hands or let
'em alone."

The allusions to foreign travel in this letter were made with,
something more than a jesting intent. Sterne had already begun to be
seriously alarmed, and not without reason, about the condition of his
health. He shrank from facing another English winter, and meditated
a southward flight so soon as he should have finished his fifth
and sixth volumes, and seen them safe in the printer's hands. His
publisher he had changed, for what reason is not known, and the firm
of Becket & De Hondt had taken the place of Dodsley. Sterne hoped by
the end of the year to be free to depart from England, and already he
had made all arrangements with his ecclesiastical superiors for the
necessary leave of absence. He seems to have been treated with all
consideration in the matter. His Archbishop, on being applied to, at
once excused him from parochial work for a year, and promised, if
it should be necessary, to double that term. Fortified with this
permission, Sterne bade farewell to his wife and daughter, and betook
himself to London, with his now completed volumes, at the setting in
of the winter. On the 21st of December they made their appearance, and
in about three weeks from that date their author left England,
with the intention of wintering in the South of France. There were
difficulties, however, of more kinds than one which had first to be
faced--a pecuniary difficulty, which Garrick met by a loan of 20L.,
and a political difficulty, for the removal of which Sterne had to
employ the good offices of new acquaintance later on. He reached Paris
about the 17th of January, 1762, and there met with a reception
which interposed, as might have been expected, the most effectual of
obstacles to his further progress southward. He was received in Paris
with open arms, and stepped at once within the charmed circle of the
philosophic _salons_. Again was the old intoxicating cup presented to
his lips--this time, too, with more dexterous than English hands--and
again did he drink deeply of it. "My head is turned," he writes to
Garrick, "with what I see, and the unexpected honour I have met with
here. _Tristram_ was almost as much known here as in London, at least
among your men of condition and learning, and has got me introduced
into so many circles ('tis _comme a Londres_) I have just now a
fortnight's dinners and suppers on my hands." We may venture to doubt
whether French politeness had not been in one respect taken somewhat
too seriously by the flattered Englishman, and whether it was much
more than the name and general reputation of _Tristram_, which was
"almost as much known" in Paris as in London. The dinners and suppers,
however, were, at any rate, no figures of speech, but very liberal
entertainments, at which Sterne appears to have disported himself with
all his usual unclerical _abandon_. "I Shandy it away," he writes in
his boyish fashion to Garrick, "fifty times more than I was ever wont,
talk more nonsense than ever you heard me talk in all your days,
and to all sorts of people. 'Qui le diable est cet homme-la?' said
Choiseul, t'other day, 'ce Chevalier Shandy?'" [We might be listening
to one of Thackeray's Irish heroes.] "You'll think me as vain as a
devil was I to tell you the rest of the dialogue." But there were
distinguished Frenchmen who were ready to render to the English author
more important services than that of offering him hospitality and
flattery. Peace had not been formally concluded between France and
England, and the passport with which Sterne had been graciously
furnished by Pitt was not of force enough to dispense him from making
special application to the French Government for permission to remain
in the country. In this request he was influentially backed. "My
application," he writes, "to the Count de Choiseul goes on swimmingly,
for not only M. Pelletiere (who by-the-bye sends ten thousand
civilities to you and Mrs. G.) has undertaken my affair, but the Count
de Limbourg. The Baron d'Holbach has offered any security for the
inoffensiveness of my behaviour in France--'tis more, you rogue! than
you will do." And then the orthodox, or professedly orthodox, English
divine, goes on to describe the character and habits of his strange
new friend: "This Baron is one of the most learned noblemen here, the
great protector of wits and of the _savans_ who are no wits; keeps
open house three days a week--his house is now, as yours was to me, my
own--he lives at great expense." Equally communicative is he as to his
other great acquaintances. Among these were the Count de Bissie, whom
by an "odd incident" (as it seemed to his unsuspecting vanity) "I
found reading _Tristram_ when I was introduced to him, which I was,"
he adds (without perceiving the connexion between this fact and the
"incident"), "at his desire;" Mr. Fox and Mr. Macartney (afterwards
the Lord Macartney of Chinese celebrity), and the Duke of Orleans (not
yet Egalite) himself, "who has suffered my portrait to be added to the
number of some odd men in his collection, and has had it taken most
expressively at full length by a gentleman who lives with him." Nor
was it only in the delights of society that Sterne was now revelling.
He was passionately fond of the theatre, and his letters to
Garrick are full of eager criticism of the great French performers,
intermingled with flatteries, sometimes rather full-bodied than
delicate, of their famous English rival. Of Clairon, in _Iphigenie_,
he says "she is extremely great. Would to God you had one or two
like her. What a luxury to see you with one of such power in the same
interesting scene! But 'tis too much." Again he writes: "The French
comedy I seldom visit; they act scarce anything but tragedies; and the
Clairon is great, and Mdlle. Dumesmil in some parts still greater than
her. Yet I cannot bear preaching--I fancy I got a surfeit of it in my
younger days." And in a later letter:

"After a vile suspension of three weeks, we are beginning with
our comedies and operas. Yours I hear never flourished more; here
the comic actors were never so low; the tragedians hold up their
heads in all senses. I have known _one little man_ support the theatrical
world like a David Atlas upon his shoulders, but Preville can't
do half as much here, though Mad. Clairon stands by him and sets
her back to his. She is very great, however, and highly improved
since you saw her. She also supports her dignity at table, and has
her public day every Thursday, when she gives to eat (as they say
here) to all that are hungry and dry. You are much talked of here,
and much expected, as soon as the peace will let you. These two
last days you have happened to engross the whole conversation at
the great houses where I was at dinner. 'Tis the greatest problem
in nature in this meridian that one and the same man should possess
such tragic and comic powers, and in such an _equilibrio_ as to divide
the world for which of the two Nature intended him."

And while on this subject of the stage let us pause for a moment
to glance at an incident which connects Sterne with one of the most
famous of his French contemporaries. He has been asked "by a lady of
talent," he tells Garrick, "to read a tragedy, and conjecture if it
would do for you. 'Tis from the plan of Diderot; and, possibly, half
a translation of it: _The Natural Son, or the Triumph of Virtue_,
in five acts. It has too much sentiment in it (at least for me); the
speeches too long, and savour too much of preaching. This may be
a second reason it is not to my taste--'tis all love, love, love
throughout, without much separation in the characters. So I fear it
would not do for your stage, and perhaps for the very reason which
recommends it to a French one." It is curious to see the "adaptator
cerebrosuga" at work in those days as in these; though not, in this
instance, as it seems, with as successful results. _The Natural Son,
or the Triumph of Virtue_, is not known to have reached either English
readers or English theatrical audiences. The French original, as we
know, fared scarcely better. "It was not until 1771," says Diderot's
latest English biographer, "that the directors of the French Comedy
could be induced to place _Le Fils Naturel_ on the stage. The actors
detested their task, and, as we can well believe, went sulkily through
parts which they had not taken the trouble to master. The public felt
as little interest in the piece as the actors had done, and after one
or two representations, it was put aside.[1]"

[Footnote 1: Morley: _Diderot and the Encyclopaedists_, ii. 305.]

Another, and it is to be guessed a too congenial, acquaintance formed
by Sterne in Paris was that of Crebillon; and with him he concluded "a
convention," unedifying enough, whether in jest or earnest: "As soon
as I get to Toulouse he has agreed to write me an expostulatory
letter upon the indecorums of _T. Shandy_, which is to be answered
by recrimination upon the liberties in his own works. These are to
be printed together--Crebillon against Sterne, Sterne against
Crebillon--the copy to be sold, and the money equally divided. This
is good Swiss-policy," he adds; and the idea (which was never carried
out) had certainly the merit of ingenuity, if no other.

The words "as soon as I get to Toulouse," in a letter written from
Paris on the 10th of April, might well have reminded Sterne of the
strange way in which he had carried out his intention of "wintering
in the South." He insists, however, upon the curative effects of his
winter of gaiety in Paris. "I am recovered greatly," he says; "and if
I could spend one whole winter at Toulouse, I should be fortified in
my inner man beyond all danger of relapsing." There was another, too,
for whom this change of climate had become imperatively necessary.
For three winters past his daughter Lydia, now fourteen years old,
had been suffering severely from asthma, and needed to try "the last
remedy of a warmer and softer air." Her father, therefore, was about
to solicit passports for his wife and daughter, with a view to their
joining him at once in Paris, whence, after a month's stay, they were
to depart together for the South. This application for passports he
intended, he said, to make "this week:" and it would seem that the
intention was carried out; but, for reasons explained in a letter
which Mr. Fitzgerald was the first to publish, it was not till the
middle of the next month that he was able to make preparation for
their joining him. From this letter--written to his Archbishop, to
request an extension of his leave--we learn that while applying for
the passports he was attacked with a fever, "which has ended the worst
way it could for me, in a _defluxion (de) poitrine_, as the French
physicians call it. It is generally fatal to weak lungs, so that I
have lost in ten days all I have gained since I came here; and from
a relaxation of my lungs have lost my voice entirely, that 'twill
be much if I ever quite recover it. This evil sends me directly to
Toulouse, for which I set out from this place directly my family
arrives." Evidently there was no time to be lost, and a week after the
date of this letter we find him in communication with Mrs. and
Miss Sterne, and making arrangements for what was, in those days, a
somewhat formidable undertaking--the journey of two ladies from the
North of England to the centre of France. The correspondence which
ensued may be said to give us the last pleasant glimpse of Sterne's
relations with his wife. One can hardly help suspecting, of course,
that it was his solicitude for the safety and comfort of his
much-loved daughter that mainly inspired the affectionate anxiety
which pervades these letters to Mrs. Sterne; but their writer is, at
the very least, entitled to credit for allowing no difference of tone
to reveal itself in the terms in which he speaks of wife and child.
And, whichever of the two he was mainly thinking of, there is
something very engaging in the thoughtful minuteness of his
instructions to the two women travellers, the earnestness of his
attempts to inspire them with courage for their enterprise, and
the sincere fervour of his many commendations of them to the Divine
keeping. The mixture of "canny" counsel and pious invocation
has frequently a droll effect: as when the advice to "give the
custom-house officers what I told you, and at Calais more, if you have
much Scotch snuff;" and "to drink small Rhenish to keep you cool, that
is, if you like it," is rounded off by the ejaculation, "So God in
Heaven prosper and go along with you!" Letter after letter did he
send them, full of such reminders as that "they have bad pins and vile
needles here," that it would be advisable to bring with them a strong
bottle-screw, and a good stout copper tea-kettle; till at last, in
the final words of preparation, his language assumes something of the
solemnity of a general addressing his army on the eve of a well-nigh
desperate enterprise: "Pluck up your spirits--trust in God, in me,
and yourselves; with this, was you put to it, you would encounter all
these difficulties ten times told. Write instantly, and tell me you
triumph over all fears--tell me Lydia is better, and a help-mate to
you. You say she grows like me: let her show me she does so in her
contempt of small dangers, and fighting against the apprehensions of
them, which is better still."

At last this anxiously awaited journey was taken; and, on Thursday,
July 7, Mrs. Sterne and her daughter arrived in Paris. Their stay
there was not long--not much extended, probably, beyond the proposed
week. For Sterne's health had, some ten days before the arrival of his
family, again given him warning to depart quickly. He had but a few
weeks recovered from the fever of which he spoke in his letter to
the Archbishop, when he again broke a blood-vessel in his lungs. It
happened in the night, and "finding in the morning that I was likely
to bleed to death, I sent immediately," he says, in a sentence which
quaintly brings out the paradox of contemporary medical treatment,
"for a surgeon to bleed me at both arms. This saved me"--_i.e._ did
not kill me--"and, with lying speechless three days, I recovered upon
my back in bed: the breach healed, and in a week after I got out."
But the weakness which ensued, and the subsequent "hurrying about," no
doubt as cicerone of Parisian sights to his wife and daughter, "made
me think it high time to haste to Toulouse." Accordingly, about the
20th of the month, and "in the midst of such heats that the oldest
Frenchman never remembers the like," the party set off by way of Lyons
and Montpellier for their Pyrenean destination. Their journey seems to
have been a journey of many mischances, extraordinary discomfort, and
incredible length; and it is not till the second week in August that
we again take up the broken thread of his correspondence. Writing to
Mr. Foley, his banker in Paris, on the 14th of that month, he speaks
of its having taken him three weeks to reach Toulouse; and adds that
"in our journey we suffered so much from the heats, it gives me pain
to remember it. I never saw a cloud from Paris to Nismes half as
broad as a twenty-four sols piece. Good God! we were toasted, roasted,
grilled, stewed, carbonaded, on one side or other, all the way: and
being all done through (_assez cuits_) in the day, we were eat up at
night by bugs and other unswept-out vermin, the legal inhabitants, if
length of possession give right, at every inn on the way." A few miles
from Beaucaire he broke a hind wheel of his carriage, and was obliged
in consequence "to sit five hours on a gravelly road without one
drop of water, or possibility of getting any;" and here, to mend the
matter, he was cursed with "two dough-hearted fools" for postilions,
who "fell a-crying 'nothing was to be done!'" and could only be
recalled to a worthier and more helpful mood by Sterne's "pulling off
his coat and waistcoat," and "threatening to thrash them both within
an inch of their lives."

The longest journey, however, must come to an end; and the party found
much to console them at Toulouse for the miseries of travel. They were
fortunate enough to secure one of those large, old comfortable houses
which were and, here and there, perhaps, still are to be hired on the
outskirts of provincial towns, at a rent which would now be thought
absurdly small; and Sterne writes in terms of high complacency of
his temporary abode. "Excellent," "well furnished," "elegant beyond
anything I ever looked for," are some of the expressions of praise
which it draws from him. He observes with pride that the "very great
_salle a compagnie_ is as large as Baron d'Holbach's;" and he records
with great satisfaction--as well he might--that for the use of this
and a country house two miles out of town, "besides the enjoyment of
gardens, which the landlord engaged to keep in order," he was to pay
no more than thirty pounds a year. "All things," he adds, "are cheap
in proportion: so we shall live here for a very, very little."

And this, no doubt, was to Sterne a matter of some moment at this
time. The expenses of his long and tedious journey must have been
heavy; and the gold-yielding vein of literary popularity, which he
had for three years been working, had already begun to show signs of
exhaustion. _Tristram Shandy_ had lost its first vogue; and the fifth
and sixth volumes, the copyright of which he does not seem to have
disposed of, were "going off" but slowly.




The diminished appetite of the public for the humours of Mr. Shandy
and his brother is, perhaps, not very difficult to understand. Time
was simply doing its usual wholesome work in sifting the false from
the true--in ridding Sterne's audience of its contingent of sham
admirers. This is not to say, of course, that there might not have
been other and better grounds for a partial withdrawal of popular
favour. A writer who systematically employs Sterne's peculiar methods
must lay his account with undeserved loss as well as with unmerited
gain. The fifth and sixth volumes deal quite largely enough in mere
eccentricity to justify the distaste of any reader upon whom mere
eccentricity had begun to pall. But if this were the sole explanation
of the book's declining popularity, we should have to admit that the
adverse judgment of the public had been delayed too long for justice,
and had passed over the worst to light upon the less heinous offences.
For the third volume, though its earlier pages contain some good
touches, drifts away into mere dull, uncleanly equivoque in its
concluding chapters; and the fifth and sixth volumes may, at any rate,
quite safely challenge favourable comparison with the fourth--the
poorest, I venture to think, of the whole series. There is nothing
in these two later volumes to compare, for instance, with that most
wearisome exercise in _double entendre_, Slawkenbergius's Tale;
nothing to match that painfully elaborate piece of low comedy, the
consultation of philosophers and its episode of Phutatorius's mishap
with the hot chestnut; no such persistent resort, in short, to those
mechanical methods of mirth-making upon which Sterne, throughout a
great part of the fourth volume, almost exclusively relies. The humour
of the fifth is, to a far larger extent, of the creative and dramatic
order; the ever-delightful collision of intellectual incongruities in
the persons of the two brothers Shandy gives animation to the volume
almost from beginning to end. The arrival of the news of Bobby
Shandy's death, and the contrast of its reception by the philosophic
father and the simple-minded uncle, form a scene of inimitable
absurdity, and the "Tristrapaedia," with its ingenious project for
opening up innumerable "tracks of inquiry" before the mind of the
pupil by sheer skill in the manipulation of the auxiliary verbs, is
in the author's happiest vein. The sixth volume, again, which contains
the irresistible dialogue between Mr. and Mrs. Shandy on the great
question of the "breeching of Tristram," and the much-admired, if not
wholly admirable, episode of Le Fevre's death, is fully entitled to
rank beside its predecessors. On the whole, therefore, it must be said
that the colder reception accorded to this instalment of the novel,
as compared with the previous one, can hardly be justified on sound
critical grounds. But that literary shortcomings were not, in fact,
the cause of _Tristram's_ declining popularity may be confidently
inferred from the fact that the seventh volume, with its admirably
vivid and spirited scenes of Continental travel, and the eighth and
ninth, with their charming narrative of Captain Shandy's love affair,
were but slightly more successful. The readers whom this, the third
instalment of the novel, had begun to repel, were mainly, I imagine,
those who had never felt any intelligent admiration for the former;
who had been caught by the writer's eccentricity, without appreciating
his insight into character and his graphic power, and who had seen no
other aspects of his humour than those buffooneries and puerilities
which, after first amusing, had begun, in the natural course of
things, to weary them.

Meanwhile, however, and with spirits restored by the Southern warmth
to that buoyancy which never long deserted them, Sterne had begun to
set to work upon a new volume. His letters show that this was not
the seventh but the eighth; and Mr. Fitzgerald's conjecture, that
the materials ultimately given to the world in the former volume were
originally designed for another work, appears exceedingly probable.
But for some time after his arrival at Toulouse he was unable, it
would seem, to resume his literary labours in any form. Ever liable,
through his weakly constitution, to whatever local maladies might
anywhere prevail, he had fallen ill, he writes to Hall Stevenson, "of
an epidemic vile fever which killed hundreds about me. The physicians
here," he adds, "are the arrantest charlatans in Europe, or the most
ignorant of all pretending fools. I withdrew what was left of me out
of their hands, and recommended my affairs entirely to Dame Nature.
She (dear goddess) has saved me in fifty different pinching bouts, and
I begin to have a kind of enthusiasm now in her favour and my own, so
that one or two more escapes will make me believe I shall leave you
all at last by translation, and not by fair death." Having now become
"stout and foolish again as a man can wish to be, I am," he says,
"busy playing the fool with my Uncle Toby, whom I have got soused over
head and ears in love." Now, it is not till the eighth volume that
the Widow Wadman begins to weave her spells around Captain Shandy's
ingenuous heart; while the seventh volume is mainly composed of that
series of travel-pictures in which Sterne has manifestly recorded
his own impressions of Northern France in the person of the youthful
Tristram. It is scarcely doubtful, therefore, that it is these
sketches, and the use which he then proposed to make of them, that
he refers to, when speaking in this letter of "hints and projects
for other works." Originally intended to form a part of the volume
afterwards published as the _Sentimental Journey_, it was found
necessary--under pressure, it is to be supposed, of insufficient
matter--to work them up instead into an interpolated seventh volume
of _Tristram Shandy_. At the moment, however, he no doubt as little
foresaw this as he did the delay which was to take place before any
continuation of the novel appeared. He clearly contemplated no very
long absence from England. "When I have reaped the benefit of the
winter at Toulouse, I cannot see I have anything more to do with it.
Therefore, after having gone with my wife and girl to Bagneres, I
shall return from whence I came." Already, however, one can perceive
signs of his having too presumptuously marked out his future. "My
wife wants to stay another year, to save money; and this opposition of
wishes, though it will not be as sour as lemon, yet 'twill not be as
sweet as sugar." And again: "If the snows will suffer me, I propose to
spend two or three months at Barege or Bagneres; but my dear wife is
against all schemes of additional expense, which wicked propensity
(though not of despotic power) yet I cannot suffer--though,
by-the-bye, laudable enough. But she may talk; I will go my own way,
and she will acquiesce without a word of debate on the subject. Who
can say so much in praise of his wife? Few, I trow." The tone of
contemptuous amiability shows pretty clearly that the relations
between husband and wife had in nowise improved. But wives do not
always lose all their influence over husbands' wills along with the
power over their affections; and it will be seen that Sterne did _not_
make his projected winter trip to Bagneres, and that he did remain
at Toulouse for a considerable part of the second year for which Mrs.
Sterne desired to prolong their stay. The place, however, was not to
his taste; and he was not the first traveller in France who, delighted
with the gaiety of Paris, has been disappointed at finding that French
provincial towns can be as dull as dulness itself could require. It is
in the somewhat unjust mood which is commonly begotten of disillusion
that Sterne discovers the cause of his _ennui_ in "the eternal
platitude of the French character," with its "little variety and no
originality at all." "They are very civil," he admits, "but civility
itself so thus uniform wearies and bothers me to death. If I do
not mind I shall grow most stupid and sententious." With such
apprehensions it is not surprising that he should have eagerly
welcomed any distraction that chance might offer, and in December we
find him joyfully informing his chief correspondent of the period,
Mr. Foley--who to his services as Sterne's banker seems to have added
those of a most helpful and trusted friend--that "there are a company
of English strollers arrived here who are to act comedies all the
Christmas, and are now busy in making dresses and preparing some of
our best comedies." These so-called strollers were, in fact, certain
members of the English colony in Toulouse, and their performances were
among the first of those "amateur theatrical" entertainments which
now-a-days may be said to rival the famous "morning drum-beat" of
Daniel Webster's oration, in marking the ubiquity of British boredom,
as the _reveil_ does that of British power over all the terrestrial
globe. "The next week," writes Sterne, "with a grand orchestra, we
play _The Busybody_, and the _Journey to London_ the week after; but
I have some thought of adapting it to our situation, and making it the
_Journey to Toulouse_, which, with the change of half-a-dozen scenes,
may be easily done. Thus, my dear Foley, for want of something better
we have recourse to ourselves, and strike out the best amusements we
can from such materials." "Recourse to ourselves," however, means,
in strict accuracy, "recourse to each other;" and when the amateur
players had played themselves out, and exhausted their powers of
contributing to each others' amusement, it is probable that
"recourse to ourselves," in the exact sense of the phrase, was found
ineffective--in Sterne's case, at any rate--to stave off _ennui_.
To him, with his copiously if somewhat oddly furnished mind, and his
natural activity of imagination, one could hardly apply the line of

"Tecum habita et noris quam sit tibi curta supellex;"

but it is yet evident enough that Sterne's was one of that numerous
order of intellects which are the convivial associates, rather than
the fireside companions, of their owners, and which, when deprived
of the stimulus of external excitement, are apt to become very dull
company indeed. Nor does he seem to have obtained much diversion of
mind from his literary work--a form of intellectual enjoyment which,
indeed, more often presupposes than begets good spirits in such
temperaments as his. He declares, it is true, that he "sports much
with my Uncle Toby" in the volume which he is now "fabricating for the
laughing part of the world;" but if so he must have sported only after
a very desultory and dilatory fashion. On the whole one cannot escape
a very strong impression that Sterne was heartily bored by his sojourn
in Toulouse, and that he eagerly longed for the day of his return to
"the dalliance and the wit, the flattery and the strife," which he had
left behind him in the two great capitals in which he had shone.

His stay, however, was destined to be very prolonged. The winter of
1762 went by, and the succeeding year had run nearly half its course,
before he changed his quarters. "The first week in June," he writes in
April to Mr. Foley, "I decamp like a patriarch, with all my household,
to pitch our tents for three months at the foot of the Pyrenean hills
at Bagneres, where I expect much health and much amusement from all
corners of the earth." He talked too at this time of spending the
winter at Florence, and, after a visit to Leghorn, returning home the
following April by way of Paris; "but this," he adds, "is a sketch
only," and it remained only a sketch. Toulouse, however, he was in
any case resolved to quit. He should not, he said, be tempted to spend
another winter there. It did not suit his health, as he had hoped: he
complained that it was too moist, and that he could not keep clear of
ague. In June, 1763, he quitted it finally for Bagneres; whence after
a short, and, as we subsequently learn, a disappointed, sojourn, he
passed on to Marseilles, and later to Aix, for both of which places
he expressed dislike; and by October he had gone again into winter
quarters at Montpellier, where "my wife and daughter," he writes,
"purpose to stay at least a year behind me." His own intention was to
set out in February for England, "where my heart has been fled these
six months." Here again, however, there are traces of that periodic,
or rather, perhaps, that chronic conflict of inclination between
himself and Mrs. Sterne, of which he speaks with such a tell-tale
affectation of philosophy. "My wife," he writes in January, "returns
to Toulouse, and proposes to spend the summer at Bagneres. I, on the
contrary, go to visit my wife the church in Yorkshire. We all live the
longer, at least the happier, for having things our own way. This is
my conjugal maxim. I own 'tis not the best of maxims, but I maintain
'tis not the worst." It was natural enough that Sterne, at any rate,
should wish to turn his back on Montpellier. Again had the unlucky
invalid been attacked by a dangerous illness; the "sharp air" of the
place disagreed with him, and his physicians, after having him under
their hands more than a month, informed him coolly that if he stayed
any longer in Montpellier it would be fatal to him. How soon after
that somewhat late warning he took his departure there is no record
to show; but it is not till the middle of May that we find him writing
from Paris to his daughter. And since he there announces his intention
of leaving for England in a few days, it is a probable conjecture that
he had arrived at the French capital some fortnight or so before.

His short stay in Paris was marked by two incidents--trifling in
themselves, but too characteristic of the man to be omitted. Lord
Hertford, the British Ambassador, had just taken a magnificent hotel
in Paris, and Sterne was asked to preach the first sermon in its
chapel. The message was brought him, he writes, "when I was playing
a sober game of whist with Mr. Thornhill; and whether I was called
abruptly from my afternoon amusement to prepare myself for the
business on the next day, or from what other cause, I do not pretend
to determine; but that unlucky kind of fit seized me which you know
I am never able to resist, and a very unlucky text did come into my
head." The text referred to was 2 Kings XX. 15--Hezekiah's admission
of that ostentatious display of the treasures of his palace to the
ambassadors of Babylon for which Isaiah rebuked him by prophesying the
Babylonian captivity of Judah. Nothing, indeed, as Sterne protests,
could have been more innocent than the discourse which he founded
upon the _mal-a-propos_ text; but still it was unquestionably a fair
subject for "chaff," and the preacher was rallied upon it by no less
a person than David Hume. Gossip having magnified this into a dispute
between the parson and the philosopher, Sterne disposes of the idle
story in a passage deriving an additional interest from its tribute to
that sweet disposition which had an equal charm for two men so utterly
unlike as the author of _Tristram Shandy_ and the author of the
_Wealth of Nations_. "I should," he writes, "be exceedingly surprised
to hear that David ever had an unpleasant contention with any man; and
if I should ever be made to believe that such an event had happened,
nothing would persuade me that his opponent was not in the wrong, for
in my life did I never meet with a being of a more placid and gentle
nature; and it is this amiable turn of his character which has given
more consequence and force to his scepticism than all the arguments of
his sophistry." The real truth of the matter was that, meeting Sterne
at Lord Hertford's table on the day when he had preached at the
Embassy Chapel, "David was disposed to make a little merry with the
parson, and in return the parson was equally disposed to make a little
merry with the infidel. We laughed at one another, and the company
laughed with us both." It would be absurd, of course, to identify
Sterne's latitudinarian _bonhomie_ with the higher order of tolerance;
but many a more confirmed and notorious Gallio than the clerical
humourist would have assumed prudish airs of orthodoxy in such a
presence, and the incident, if it does not raise one's estimate of
Sterne's dignity, displays him to us as laudably free from hypocrisy.

But the long holiday of somewhat dull travel, with its short last act
of social gaiety, was drawing to a close. In the third or fourth week
of May Sterne quitted Paris; and after a stay of a few weeks in London
he returned to the Yorkshire parsonage, from which he had been absent
some thirty months.

Unusually long as was the interval which had elapsed since the
publication of the last instalment of _Tristram Shandy_, the new one
was far from ready; and even in the "sweet retirement" of Coxwold
he seems to have made but slow progress with it. Indeed, the "sweet
retirement" itself became soon a little tedious to him. The month of
September found him already bored with work and solitude; and the fine
autumn weather of 1764 set him longing for a few days' pleasure-making
at what was even then the fashionable Yorkshire watering-place. "I
do not think," he writes, with characteristic incoherence, to Hall
Stevenson--"I do not think a week or ten days' playing the good fellow
(at this very time) so abominable a thing; but if a man could get
there cleverly, and every soul in his house in the mind to try what
could be done in furtherance thereof, I have no one to consult in
these affairs. Therefore, as a man may do worse things, the plain
English of all which is, that I am going to leave a few poor sheep in
the wilderness for fourteen days, and from pride and naughtiness
of heart to go see what is doing at Scarborough, steadfully meaning
afterwards to lead a new life and strengthen my faith. Now, some folks
say there is much company there, and some say not; and I believe there
is neither the one nor the other, but will be both if the world will
have patience for a month or so." Of his work he has not much to say:
"I go on not rapidly but well enough with my Uncle Toby's amours.
There is no sitting and cudgelling one's brains whilst the sun shines
bright. 'Twill be all over in six or seven weeks; and there are dismal
weeks enow after to endure suffocation by a brimstone fireside." He
was anxious that his boon companion should join him at Scarborough;
but that additional pleasure was denied him, and he had to content
himself with the usual gay society of the place. Three weeks, it
seems, were passed by him in this most doubtfully judicious form of
bodily and mental relaxation--weeks which he spent, he afterwards
writes, in "drinking the waters, and receiving from them marvellous
strength, had I not debilitated it as fast as I got it by playing
the good fellow with Lord Granby and Co. too much." By the end of the
month he was back again at Coxwold, "returned to my Philosophical Hut
to finish _Tristram_, which I calculate will be ready for the
world about Christmas, at which time I decamp from hence and fix
my headquarters at London for the winter, unless my cough pushes me
forward to your metropolis" (he is writing to Foley, in Paris), "or
that I can persuade some _gros milord_ to make a trip to you."
Again, too, in this letter we get another glimpse at that thoroughly
desentimentalized "domestic interior" which the sentimentalist's
household had long presented to the view. Writing to request a
remittance of money to Mrs. Sterne at Montauban--a duty which, to do
him justice, he seems to have very watchfully observed--Sterne adds
his solicitation to Mr. Foley to "do something equally essential to
rectify a mistake in the mind of your correspondent there, who, it
seems, gave her a hint not long ago 'that she was separated from me
for life.' Now, as this is not true, in the first place, and may fix a
disadvantageous impression of her to those she lives amongst, 'twould
be unmerciful to let her or my daughter suffer by it. So do be so good
as to undeceive him; for in a year or two she purposes (and I expect
it with impatience from her) to rejoin me."

Early in November the two new volumes of _Shandy_ began to approach
completion; for by this time Sterne had already made up his mind to
interpolate these notes of his French travels, which now do duty as
Vol. VII. "You will read," he tells Foley, "as odd a tour through
France as was ever projected or executed by traveller or travel-writer
since the world began. 'Tis a laughing, good-tempered satire upon
travelling--as _puppies_ travel." By the 16th of the month he had
"finished my two volumes of _Tristram_," and looked to be in London at
Christmas, "whence I have some thoughts of going to Italy this year.
At least I shall not defer it above another." On the 26th of January,
1765, the two new volumes were given to the world.

Shorter in length than any of the preceding instalments, and filled
out as it was, even so, by a process of what would now be called
"book-making," this issue will yet bear comparison, I think, with the
best of its predecessors. Its sketches of travel, though destined
to be surpassed in vigour and freedom of draftsmanship by the
_Sentimental Journey_, are yet excellent, and their very obvious want
of connexion with the story--if story it can be called--is so little
felt that we almost resent the head-and-ears introduction of Mr.
Shandy and his brother, and the Corporal, in apparent concession to
the popular prejudice in favour of some sort of coherence between
the various parts of a narrative. The first seventeen chapters are,
perhaps, as freshly delightful reading as anything in Sterne. They are
literally filled and brimming over with the exhilaration of travel:
written, or at least prepared for writing, we can clearly see, under
the full intoxicant effect which a bewildering succession of new
sights and sounds will produce, in a certain measure, upon the coolest
of us, and which would set a head like Sterne's in an absolute whirl.
The contagion of his high spirits is, however, irresistible; and,
putting aside all other and more solid qualities in them, these
chapters are, for mere fun--for that kind of clever nonsense which
only wins by perfect spontaneity, and which so promptly makes ashamed
the moment spontaneity fails--unsurpassed by anything of the same kind
from the same hand. How strange, then, that, with so keen an eye for
the humorous, so sound and true a judgment in the highest qualities of
humour, Sterne should think it possible for any one who has outgrown
what may be called the dirty stage of boyhood to smile at the story
which begins a few chapters afterwards--that of the Abbess and Novice
of the Convent of Andouillets! The adult male person is not so much
shocked at the coarseness of this story as astounded at the bathos of
its introduction. It is as though some matchless connoisseur in wine,
after having a hundred times demonstrated the unerring discrimination
of his palate for the finest brands, should then produce some vile and
loaded compound, and invite us to drink it with all the relish with
which he seems to be swallowing it himself. This story of the Abbess
and Novice almost impels us to turn back to certain earlier chapters,
or former volumes, and re-examine some of the subtler passages of
humour to be found there--in downright apprehension lest we should
turn out to have read these "good things," not "in," but "into," our
author. The bad wine is so very bad, that we catch ourselves wondering
whether the finer brands were genuine, when we see the same palate
equally satisfied with both. But one should, of course, add that it
is only in respect of its supposed humour that this story shakes
its readers' faith in the gifts of the narrator. As a mere piece of
story-telling, and even as a study in landscape and figure-painting,
it is quite perversely skilful. There is something almost irritating,
as a waste of powers on unworthy material, in the prettiness of the
picture which Sterne draws of the preparations for the departure
of the two _religieuses_--the stir in the simple village, the
co-operating labours of the gardener and the tailor, the carpenter and
the smith, and all those other little details which bring the whole
scene before the eye so vividly that Sterne may, perhaps, in
all seriousness, and not merely as a piece of his characteristic
persiflage, have thrown in the exclamation, "I declare I am interested
in this story, and wish I had been there." Nothing, again, could be
better done than the sketch of the little good-natured, "broad-set"
gardener, who acted as the ladies' muleteer, and the recital of the
indiscretions by which he was betrayed into temporary desertion of his
duties. The whole scene is Chaucerian in its sharpness of outline
and translucency of atmosphere: though there, unfortunately, the
resemblance ends. Sterne's manner of saying what we now leave unsaid
is as unlike Chaucer's, and as unlike for the worse, as it can
possibly be.

Still, a certain amount of this element of the _non nominandum_ must
be compounded for, one regrets to say, in nearly every chapter that
Sterne ever wrote; and there is certainly less than the average amount
of it in the seventh volume. Then, again, this volume contains the
famous scene with the ass--the live and genuinely touching, and not
the dead and fictitiously pathetic, animal; and that perfect piece of
comic dialogue--the interview between the puzzled English traveller
and the French commissary of the posts. To have suggested this scene
is, perhaps, the sole claim of the absurd fiscal system of the _Ancien
regime_ upon the grateful remembrance of the world. A scheme of
taxation which exacted posting-charges from a traveller who proposed
to continue his journey by water, possesses a natural ingredient of
drollery infused into its mere vexatiousness; but a whole volume of
satire could hardly put its essential absurdity in a stronger
light than is thrown upon it in the short conversation between the
astonished Tristram and the officer of the fisc, who had just handed
him a little bill for six livres four sous:

"'Upon what account?' said I.

"''Tis upon the part of the King,' said the commissary, heaving
up his shoulders.

"'My good friend,' quoth I, 'as sure as I am I, and you are you--'

"'And who are you?' he said.

"'Don't puzzle me,' said I. 'But it is an indubitable verity,' I
continued, addressing myself to the commissary, changing only the
form of my asseveration,' that I owe the King of France nothing but
my good-will, for he is a very honest man, and I wish him all the health
and pastime in the world.'

"'Pardonnez-moi,' replied the commissary. 'You are indebted to
him six livres four sous for the next post from hence to St. Fons, on
your route to Avignon, which being a post royal, you pay double for
the horses and postilion, otherwise 'twould have amounted to no more
than three livres two sous.'

"'But I don't go by land,' said I.

"'You may if you please,' replied the commissary.

"'Your most obedient servant,' said I, making him a low bow.

"The commissary, with all the sincerity of grave good-breeding,
made me one as low again. I never was more disconcerted by a bow
in my life. 'The devil take the serious character of these people,'
said I, aside; 'they understand no more of irony than this.' The
comparison was standing close by with her panniers, but something
sealed up my lips. I could not pronounce the name.

"'Sir,' said I, collecting myself, 'it is not my intention to take

"'But you may,' said he, persisting in his first reply. 'You may
if you choose.'

"'And I may take salt to my pickled herring if I choose.[1] But I
do not choose.'

"'But you must pay for it, whether you do or no.'

"'Ay, for the salt,' said I, 'I know.'

"'And for the post, too,' added he.

"'Defend me!' cried I. 'I travel by water. I am going down the
Rhone this very afternoon; my baggage is in the boat, and I have
actually paid nine livres for my passage.'

"'C'est tout egal--'tis all one,' said he.

"'Bon Dieu! What! pay for the way I go and for the way I do
not go?'

"'C'est tout egal,' replied the commissary.

"'The devil it is!' said I. 'But I will go to ten thousand Bastilles
first. O, England! England! thou land of liberty and climate of
good-sense! thou tenderest of mothers and gentlest of nurses!' cried
I, kneeling upon one knee as I was beginning my apostrophe--when
the director of Madame L. Blanc's conscience coming in at that instant,
and seeing a person in black, with a face as pale as ashes, at
his devotions, asked if I stood in want of the aids of the Church.

"'I go by water,' said I, 'and here's another will be for making
me pay for going by oil.'"

[Footnote 1: It is the penalty--I suppose the just penalty--paid by
habitually extravagant humourists, that _meaning_ not being always
expected of them, it is not always sought by their readers with
sufficient care. Anyhow, it may be suspected that this retort of
Tristram's is too often passed over as a mere random absurdity
designed for his interlocutor's mystification, and that its extremely
felicitous pertinence to the question in dispute is thus overlooked.
The point of it, of course, is that the business in which the
commissary was then engaged was precisely analogous to that of
exacting salt dues from perverse persons who were impoverishing the
revenue by possessing herrings already pickled.]

The commissary, of course, remains obdurate, and Tristram protests
that the treatment to which he is being subjected is "contrary to the
law of nature, contrary to reason, contrary to the Gospel:"

"'But not to this,' said he, putting a printed paper into my hand.

"'De par le Roi.' ''Tis a pithy prolegomenon,' quoth I, and so
read on.... 'By all which it appears,' quoth I, having read it over
a little too rapidly, 'that if a man sets out in a post-chaise for Paris,
he must go on travelling in one all the days of his life, or pay for it.'

"'Excuse me,' said the commissary, 'the spirit of the ordinance is
this, that if you set out with an intention of running post from Paris
to Avignon, &c., you shall not change that intention or mode of
travelling without first satisfying the fermiers for two posts further
than the place you repent at; and 'tis founded,' continued he, 'upon
this, that the revenues are not to fall short through your fickleness.'

"'O, by heavens!' cried I, 'if fickleness is taxable in France, we
have nothing to do but to make the best peace we can.'

"And so the peace was made."

And the volume ends with the dance of villagers on "the road between
Nismes and Lunel, where is the best Muscatto wine in all France"--that
charming little idyll which won the unwilling admiration of the least
friendly of Sterne's critics.[1]

With the close of this volume the shadowy Tristram disappears
altogether from the scene; and even the clearly-sketched figures of
Mr. and Mrs. Shandy recede somewhat into the background. The courtship
of my Uncle Toby forms the whole _motif_ and indeed almost the entire
substance, of the next volume. Of this famous episode in the novel a
great deal has been said and written, and much of the praise
bestowed upon it is certainly deserved. The artful coquetries of the
fascinating widow, and the gradual capitulation of the Captain, are
studied with admirable power of humorous insight, and described with
infinite grace and skill. But there is, perhaps, no episode in the
novel which brings out what may be called the perversity of Sterne's
animalism in a more exasperating way. It is not so much the amount
of this element as the time, place, and manner in which it makes its
presence felt. The senses must, of course, play their part in all
love affairs, except those of the angels--or the triangles; and such
writers as Byron, for instance, are quite free from the charge of
over-spiritualizing their description of the passion. Yet one might
safely say that there is far less to repel a healthy mind in the
poet's account of the amour of Juan and Haidee than is to be found in
many a passage in this volume. It is not merely that one is the poetry
and the other the prose of the sexual passion: the distinction goes
deeper, and points to a fundamental difference of attitude towards
their subject in the two writers' minds.

The success of this instalment of _Tristram Shandy_ appears to have
been slightly greater than that of the preceding one. Writing from
London, where he was once more basking in the sunshine of social
popularity, to Garrick, then in Paris, he says (March 16, 1765): "I
have had a lucrative campaign here. _Shandy_ sells well," and "I am
taxing the public with two more volumes of sermons, which will more
than double the gains of _Shandy_. It goes into the world with a
prancing list _de toute la noblesse_, which will bring me in three
hundred pounds, exclusive of the sale of the copy." The list was,
indeed, extensive and distinguished enough to justify the curious
epithet which he applies to it; but the cavalcade of noble names
continued to "prance" for some considerable time without advancing.
Yet he had good reasons, according to his own account, for wishing to
push on their publication. His parsonage-house at Button had just been
burnt down through the carelessness of one of his curate's household,
with a loss to Sterne of some 350_l._ "As soon as I can," he says, "I
must rebuild it, but I lack the means at present." Nevertheless, the
new sermons continued to hang fire. Again, in April he describes the
subscription list as "the most splendid list which ever pranced before
a book since subscription came into fashion;" but though the volumes
which it was to usher into the world were then spoken of as about to
be printed "very soon," he has again in July to write of them only
as "forthcoming in September, though I fear not in time to bring them
with me" to Paris. And, as a matter of fact, they do not seem to have
made their appearance until after Sterne had quitted England on his
second and last Continental journey. The full subscription list may
have had the effect of relaxing his energies; but the subscribers had
no reason to complain when, in 1766, the volumes at last appeared.

The reception given to the first batch of sermons which Sterne had
published was quite favourable enough to encourage a repetition of the
experiment. He was shrewd enough, however, to perceive that on
this second occasion a somewhat different sort of article would be
required. In the first flush of _Tristram Shandy's_ success, and in
the first piquancy of the contrast between the grave profession of the
writer and the unbounded license of the book, he could safely reckon
on as large and curious a public for _any_ sermons whatever from the
pen of Mr. Yorick. There was no need that the humourist in his pulpit
should at all resemble the humourist at his desk, or, indeed, that
he should be in any way an impressive or commanding figure. The great
desire of the world was to know what he _did_ resemble in this new
and incongruous position. Men wished to see what the queer, sly face
looked like over a velvet cushion, in the assurance that the sight
would be a strange and interesting one, at any rate. Five years
afterwards, however, the case was different. The public then had
already had one set of sermons, and had discovered that the humorous
Mr. Sterne was not a very different man in the pulpit from the dullest
and most decorous of his brethren. Such discoveries as these are
instructive to make, but not attractive to dwell upon; and Sterne was
fully alive to the probability that there would be no great demand for
a volume of sermons which should only illustrate for the second time
the fact that he could be as commonplace as his neighbour. He saw that
in future the Rev. Mr. Yorick must a little more resemble the author
of _Tristram Shandy,_ and it is not improbable that from 1760 onwards
he composed his parochial sermons with especial attention to this mode
of qualifying them for republication. There is, at any rate, no slight
critical difficulty in believing that the bulk of the sermons of 1766
can be assigned to the same literary period as the sermons of 1761.
The one set seems as manifestly to belong to the post-Shandian as
the other does to the pre-Shandian era; and in some, indeed, of
the apparently later productions the daring quaintness of style and
illustration is carried so far that, except for the fact that Sterne
had no time to spare for the composition of sermons not intended for
professional use, one would have been disposed to believe that they
neither were nor were meant to be delivered from the pulpit at all.[1]
Throughout all of them, however, Sterne's new-found literary power
displays itself in a vigour of expression and vivacity of illustration
which at least serve to make the sermons of 1766 considerably more
entertaining reading than those of 1761. In the first of the latter
series, for instance--the sermon on Shimei--a discourse in which there
are no very noticeable sallies of unclerical humour, the quality of
liveliness is very conspicuously present. The preacher's view of the
character of Shimei, and of his behaviour to David, is hardly that,
perhaps, of a competent historical critic, and in treating of the
Benjamite's insults to the King of Israel he appears to take no
account of the blood-feud between the house of David and the clan
to which the railer belonged; just as in commenting on Shimei's
subsequent and most abject submission to the victorious monarch,
Sterne lays altogether too much stress upon conduct which is
indicative, not so much of any exceptional meanness of disposition,
as of the ordinary suppleness of the Oriental put in fear of his life.
However, it makes a more piquant and dramatic picture to represent
Shimei as a type of the wretch of insolence and servility compact,
with a tongue ever ready to be loosed against the unfortunate, and a
knee ever ready to be bent to the strong. And thus he moralizes on his

[Footnote 1: Mr. Fitzgerald, indeed, asserts as a fact that some
at least of these sermons were actually composed in the capacity
of _litterateur_ and not of divine--for the press and not for the

"There is not a character in the world which has so bad an influence
upon it as this of Shimei. While power meets with honest
checks, and the evils of life with honest refuge, the world will never
be undone; but thou, Shimei, hast sapped it at both extremes: for
thou corruptest prosperity, and 'tis thou who hast broken the heart
of poverty. And so long as worthless spirits can be ambitious ones
'tis a character we never shall want. Oh! it infests the court, the
camp, the cabinet; it infests the Church. Go where you will, in
every quarter, in every profession, you see a Shimei following the
wheels of the fortunate through thick mire and clay. Haste, Shimei,
haste! or thou wilt be undone forever. Shimei girdeth up his loins
and speedeth after him. Behold the hand which governs everything
takes the wheel from his chariot, so that he who driveth, driveth on
heavily. Shimei doubles his speed; but 'tis the contrary way: he flies
like the wind over a sandy desert.... Stay, Shimei! 'tis your patron,
your friend, your benefactor, the man who has saved you from the
dunghill. 'Tis all one to Shimei. Shimei is the barometer of every
man's fortune; marks the rise and fall of it, with all the variations
from scorching hot to freezing cold upon his countenance that the
simile will admit of.[1] Is a cloud upon thy affairs? See, it hangs
over Shimei's brow! Hast thou been spoken for to the king or the
captain of the host without success? Look not into the Court Calendar,
the vacancy is filled in Shimei's face. Art thou in debt, though
not to Shimei? No matter. The worst officer of the law shall not
be more insolent. What, then, Shimei, is the fault of poverty so
black? is it of so general concern that thou and all thy family must
rise up as one man to reproach it? When it lost everything, did it
lose the right to pity too? Or did he who maketh poor as well as
maketh rich strip it of its natural powers to mollify the heart and
supple the temper of your race? Trust me you have much to answer
for. It is this treatment which it has ever met with from spirits
like yours which has gradually taught the world to look upon it
as the greatest of evils, and shun it as the worst disgrace. And what
is it, I beseech you--what is it that men will not do to keep clear of
so sore an imputation and punishment? Is it not to fly from this
that he rises early, late takes rest, and eats the bread of carefulness?
that he plots, contrives, swears, lies, shuffles, puts on all shapes,
tries all garments, wears them with this or that side outward, just as
it may favour his escape?"

And though the sermon ends in orthodox fashion, with an assurance
that, in spite of the Shimeis by whom we are surrounded, it is in
our power to "lay the foundation of our peace (where it ought to be)
within our own hearts," yet the preacher can, in the midst of his
earlier reflections, permit himself the quaintly pessimistic outburst:
"O Shimei! would to Heaven, when thou wast slain, that all thy family
had been slain with thee, and not one of thy resemblance left! But
ye have multiplied exceedingly, and replenished the earth; and if I
prophesy rightly, ye will in the end subdue it."

[Footnote 1: Which are not many in the case of a _barometer_.]

Nowhere, however, does the man of the world reveal himself with more
strangely comical effect under the gown of the divine than in the
sermon on "The Prodigal Son." The repentant spendthrift has returned
to his father's house, and is about to confess his follies. But--

"Alas! How shall he tell his story?

"Ye who have trod this round, tell me in what words he shall give
in to his father the sad items of his extravagance and folly: the
feasts and banquets which he gave to whole cities in the East; the
costs of Asiatic rarities, and of Asiatic cooks to dress them; the
expenses of singing men and singing women; the flute, the harp, the
sackbut, and all kinds of music; the dress of the Persian Court how
magnificent! their slaves how numerous! their chariots, their homes,
their pictures, their furniture, what immense sums they had devoured!
what expectations from strangers of condition! what exactions!
How shall the youth make his father comprehend that he was cheated
at Damascus by one of the best men in the world; that he had
lent a part of his substance to a friend at Nineveh, who had fled off
with it to the Ganges; that a whore of Babylon had swallowed his
best pearl, and anointed the whole city with his balm of Gilead; that
he had been sold by a man of honour for twenty shekels of silver to
a worker in graven images; that the images he had purchased produced
him nothing, that they could not be transported across the
wilderness, and had been burnt with fire at Shusan; that the apes
and peacocks which he had sent for from Tharsis lay dead upon his
hands; that the mummies had not been dead long enough which he
had brought from Egypt; that all had gone wrong from the day he
forsook his father's house?"

All this, it must be admitted, is pretty lively for a sermon. But hear
the reverend gentleman once more, in the same discourse, and observe
the characteristic coolness with which he touches, only to drop, what
may be called the "professional" moral of the parable, and glides
off into a train of interesting, but thoroughly mundane, reflections,
suggested--or rather, supposed in courtesy to have been suggested--by
the text. "I know not," he says, "whether it would be a subject
of much edification to convince you here that our Saviour, by the
Prodigal Son, particularly pointed out those who were sinners of the
Gentiles, and were recovered by divine grace to repentance; and that
by the elder brother he intended manifestly the more forward of the
Jews," &c. But, whether it would edify you or not, he goes on, in
effect, to say, I do not propose to provide you with edification in
that kind. "These uses have been so ably set forth in so many good
sermons upon the Prodigal Son that I shall turn aside from them at
present, and content myself with some reflections upon that fatal
passion which led him--and so many thousands after the example--to
gather all he had together and take his journey into a far country."
In other words, "I propose to make the parable a peg whereon to hang
a few observations on (what does the reader suppose?) the practice of
sending young men upon the Grand Tour, accompanied by a 'bear-leader,'
and herein of the various kinds of bear-leaders, and the services
which they do, and do not, render to their charges; with a few words
on society in Continental cities, and a true view of 'letters of
introduction.'" That is literally the substance of the remainder
of the sermon. And thus pleasantly does the preacher play with his
curious subject:

"But you will send an able pilot with your son--a scholar. If
wisdom can speak in no other tongue but Greek or Latin, you do
well; or if mathematics will make a man a gentleman, or natural
philosophy but teach him to make a bow, he may be of some service
in introducing your son into good societies, and supporting him in
them when he had done. But the upshot will be generally this, that
on the most pressing occasions of addresses, if he is not a mere man
of reading, the unhappy youth will have the tutor to carry, and not
the tutor to carry him. But (let us say) you will avoid this extreme;
he shall be escorted by one who knows the world, not only from
books but from his own experience; a man who has been employed
on such services, and thrice 'made the tour of Europe with success'--that
is, without breaking his own or his pupil's neck; for if he is
such as my eyes have seen, some broken Swiss _valet de chambre_, some
general undertaker, who will perform the journey in so many months,
'if God permit,' much knowledge will not accrue. Some profit, at
least: he will learn the amount to a halfpenny of every stage from
Calais to Rome; he will be carried to the best inns, instructed where
there is the best wine, and sup a livre cheaper than if the youth had
been left to make the tour and the bargain himself. Look at our
governor, I beseech you! See, he is an inch taller as he relates the
advantages. And here endeth his pride, his knowledge, and his use.
But when your son gets abroad he will be taken out of his hand by
his society with men of rank and letters, with whom he will pass the
greatest part of his time."

So much for the bear-leader; and now a remark or two on the young
man's chances of getting into good foreign society; and then--the

"Let me observe, in the first place, that company which is really
good is very rare and very shy. But you have surmounted this difficulty,
and procured him the best letters of recommendation to the
most eminent and respectable in every capital. And I answer that
he will obtain all by them which courtesy strictly stands obliged to
pay on such occasions, but no more. There is nothing in which we
are so much deceived as in the advantages proposed from our connexions
and discourse with the literati, &c., in foreign parts, especially
if the experiment is made before we are matured by years or
study. Conversation is a traffic; and if you enter it without some
stock of knowledge to balance the account perpetually betwixt you,
the trade drops at once; and this is the reason, however it may be
boasted to the contrary, why travellers have so little (especially good)
conversation with the natives, owing to their suspicion, or perhaps
conviction, that there is nothing to be extracted from the conversation
of young itinerants worth the trouble of their bad language, or
the interruption of their visits."

Very true, no doubt, and excellently well put; but we seem to have got
some distance, in spirit at any rate, from Luke xv. 13; and it is with
somewhat too visible effect, perhaps, that Sterne forces his way
back into the orthodox routes of pulpit disquisition. The youth,
disappointed with his reception by "the literati," &c., seeks "an
easier society; and as bad company is always ready, and ever lying in
wait, the career is soon finished, and the poor prodigal returns--the
same object of pity with the prodigal in the Gospel." Hardly a good
enough "tag," perhaps, to reconcile the ear to the "And now to," &c.,
as a fitting close to this pointed little essay in the style of the
Chesterfield Letters. There is much internal evidence to show that
this so-called sermon was written either after Sterne's visit to or
during his stay in France; and there is strong reason, I think, to
suppose that it was in reality neither intended for a sermon nor
actually delivered from the pulpit.

No other of his sermons has quite so much vivacity as this. But in
the famous discourse upon an unlucky text--the sermon preached at
the chapel of the English Embassy, in Paris--there are touches of
unclerical raillery not a few. Thus: "What a noise," he exclaims,
"among the simulants of the various virtues!... Behold Humility,
become so out of mere pride; Chastity, never once in harm's way; and
Courage, like a Spanish soldier upon an Italian stage--a bladder full
of wind. Hush! the sound of that trumpet! Let not my soldier run!'
tis some good Christian giving alms. O Pity, thou gentlest of human
passions! soft and tender are thy notes, and ill accord they with so
loud an instrument."

Here, again, is a somewhat bold saying for a divine: "But, to avoid
all commonplace cant as much as I can on this head, I will forbear to
say, because I do not think, that 'tis a breach of Christian charity
to think or speak ill of our neighbour. We cannot avoid it: our
opinion must follow the evidence," &c. And a little later on,
commenting on the insinuation conveyed in Satan's question, "Does Job
serve God for nought?" he says: "It is a bad picture, and done by a
terrible master; and yet we are always copying it. Does a man from
real conviction of heart forsake his vices? The position is not to be
allowed. No; his vices have forsaken him. Does a pure virgin fear God,
and say her prayers? She is in her climacteric? Does humility clothe
and educate the unknown orphan? Poverty, thou hast no genealogies.
See! is he not the father of the child?" In another sermon he launches
out into quaintly contemptuous criticism of a religious movement which
he was certainly the last person in the world to understand--to wit,
Methodism. He asks whether, "when a poor, disconsolated, drooping
creature is terrified from all enjoyment, prays without ceasing till
his imagination is heated, fasts and mortifies and mopes till his body
is in as bad a plight as his mind, it is a wonder that the mechanical
disturbances and conflicts of an empty belly, interpreted by an empty
head, should be mistook for workings of a different kind from what
they are?" Other sermons reflect the singularly bitter anti-Catholic
feeling which was characteristic even of indifferentism in those
days--at any rate amongst Whig divines. But in most of them one is
liable to come at any moment across one of those strange sallies to
which Gray alluded, when he said of the effect of Sterne's sermons
upon a reader that "you often see him tottering on the verge of
laughter, and ready to throw his periwig in the face of the audience."




In the first week of October, 1765, or a few days later, Sterne
set out on what was afterwards to become famous as the "Sentimental
Journey through France and Italy." Not, of course, that all the
materials for that celebrated piece of literary travel were collected
on this occasion. From London as far as Lyons his way lay by a route
which he had already traversed three years before, and there is
reason to believe that at least some of the scenes in the _Sentimental
Journey_ were drawn from observation made on his former visit. His
stay in Paris was shorter this year than it had been on the previous
occasion. A month after leaving England he was at Pont Beauvoisin,
and by the middle of November he had reached Turin. From this city he
writes, with his characteristic simplicity: "I am very happy, and
have found my way into a dozen houses already. To-morrow I am to be
presented to the King, and when that ceremony is over I shall have my
hands full of engagements." From Turin he went on, by way of Milan,
Parma, Piacenza, and Bologna, to Florence, where, after three days'
stay, "to dine with our Plenipo," he continued his journey to
Rome. Here, and at Naples, he passed the winter of 1765-'66,[1]
and prolonged his stay in Italy until the ensuing spring was well
advanced. In the month of May he was again on his way home, through
France, and had had a meeting, after two years' separation from them,
with his wife and daughter. His account of it to Hall Stevenson is
curious: "Never man," he writes, "has been such a wild-goose chase
after his wife as I have been. After having sought her in five or six
different towns, I found her at last in Franche Comte. Poor woman!"
he adds, "she was very cordial, &c." The &c. is charming. But
her cordiality had evidently no tendency to deepen into any more
impassioned sentiment, for she "begged to stay another year or so."
As to "my Lydia"--the real cause, we must suspect, of Sterne's having
turned out of his road--she, he says, "pleases me much. I found her
greatly improved in everything I wished her." As to himself: "I am
most unaccountably well, and most accountably nonsensical. 'Tis at
least a proof of good spirits, which is a sign and token, in these
latter days, that I must take up my pen. In faith, I think I shall
die with it in my hand; but I shall live these ten years, my Antony,
notwithstanding the fears of my wife, whom I left most melancholy
on that account." The "fears" and the melancholy were, alas! to be
justified, rather than the "good spirits;" and the shears of Atropos
were to close, not in ten years, but in little more than twenty
months, upon that fragile thread of life.

[Footnote 1: It was on this tour that Sterne picked up the French
valet Lafleur, whom he introduced as a character into the _Sentimental
Journey_, but whose subsequently published recollections of the tour
(if, indeed, the veritable Lafleur was the author of the notes from
which Scott quotes so freely) appear, as Mr. Fitzgerald has pointed
out, from internal evidence to be mostly fictitious.]

By the end of June he was back again in his Yorkshire home, and very
soon after had settled down to work upon the ninth and last volume of
_Tristram Shandy_. He was writing, however, as it should seem,
under something more than the usual distractions of a man with two
establishments. Mrs. Sterne was just then ill at Marseilles, and her
husband--who, to do him justice, was always properly solicitous for
her material comfort--was busy making provision for her to change her
quarters to Chalons. He writes to M. Panchaud, at Paris, sending fifty
pounds, and begging him to make her all further advances that might be
necessary. "I have," he says, "such entire confidence in my wife
that she spends as little as she can, though she is confined to no
particular sum ... and you may rely--in case she should draw for fifty
or a hundred pounds extraordinary--that it and every demand shall
be punctually paid, and with proper thanks; and for this the whole
Shandian family are ready to stand security." Later on, too, he writes
that "a young nobleman is now inaugurating a jaunt with me for six
weeks, about Christmas, to the Faubourg St. Germain;" and he adds--in
a tone the sincerity of which he would himself have probably found
a difficulty in gauging--"if my wife should grow worse (having had a
very poor account of her in my daughter's last), I cannot think of her
being without me; and, however expensive the journey would be, I would
fly to Avignon to administer consolation to her and my poor girl.[1]"

[Footnote 1: There can be few admirers of Sterne's genius who
would not gladly incline, whenever they find it possible, to Mr.
Fitzgerald's very indulgent estimate of his disposition. But this
is only one of many instances in which the charity of the
biographer appears to me to be, if the expression may be permitted,
unconscionable. I can, at any rate, find no warrant whatever in the
above passage for the too kindly suggestion that "Sterne was actually
negotiating a journey to Paris as 'bear-leader' to a young nobleman
(an odious office, to which he had special aversion), _in order_ that
he might with economy fly over to Avignon."]

The necessity for this flight, however, did not arise. Better
accounts of Mrs. Sterne arrived a few weeks later, and the husband's
consolations were not required.

Meanwhile the idyll of Captain Shandy's love-making was gradually
approaching completion; and there are signs to be met with--in
the author's correspondence, that is to say, and not in the work
itself--that he was somewhat impatient to be done with it, at any rate
for the time. "I shall publish," he says, "late in this year; and the
next I shall begin a new work of four volumes, which, when finished,
I shall continue _Tristram_ with fresh spirit." The new work in
four volumes (not destined to get beyond one) was, of course, the
_Sentimental Journey_. His ninth volume of _Tristram Shandy_ was
finished by the end of the year, and at Christmas he came up to
London, after his usual practice, to see to its publication and enjoy
the honours of its reception. The book passed duly through the press,
and in the last days of January was issued the announcement of its
immediate appearance. Of the character of its welcome I can find no
other evidence than that of Sterne himself, in a letter addressed to
M. Panchaud some fortnight after the book appeared. "'Tis liked the
best of all here;" but, with whatever accuracy this may have expressed
the complimentary opinion of friends, or even the well-considered
judgment of critics, one can hardly believe that it enjoyed anything
like the vogue of the former volumes. Sterne, however, would be the
less concerned for this, that his head was at the moment full of
his new venture. "I am going," he writes, "to publish _A Sentimental
Journey through France and Italy_. The undertaking is protected and
highly encouraged by all our noblesse. 'Tis subscribed for at a great
rate 'twill be an original, in large quarto, the subscription half a
guinea. If you (Panchaud) can procure me the honour of a few names of
men of science or fashion, I shall thank you: they will appear in good
company, as all the nobility here have honoured me with their names."
As was usual with him, however, he postponed commencing it until he
should have returned to Coxwold; and, as was equally usual with
him, he found it difficult to tear himself away from the delights
of London. Moreover, there was in the present instance a special
difficulty, arising out of an affair upon which, as it has relations
with the history of Sterne's literary work, it would be impossible,
even in the most strictly critical and least general of biographies,
to observe complete silence. I refer, of course, to the famous and
furious flirtation with Mrs. Draper--the Eliza of the Yorick and Eliza
Letters. Of the affair itself but little need be said. I have already
stated my own views on the general subject of Sterne's love affairs;
and I feel no inducement to discuss the question of their innocence
or otherwise in relation to this particular amourette. I will only
say that were it technically as innocent as you please, the mean
which must be found between Thackeray's somewhat too harsh and Mr.
Fitzgerald's considerably too indulgent judgment on it will lie,
it seems to me, decidedly nearer to the former than to the latter's
extreme. This episode of violently sentimental philandering with an
Indian "grass widow" was, in any case, an extremely unlovely passage
in Sterne's life. On the best and most charitable view of it, the
flirtation, pursued in the way it was, and to the lengths to which
it was carried, must be held to convict the elderly lover of the most
deplorable levity, vanity, indiscretion, and sickly sentimentalism. It
was, to say the least of it, most unbecoming in a man of Sterne's age
and profession; and when it is added that Yorick's attentions to Eliza
were paid in so open a fashion as to be brought by gossip to the ears
of his neglected wife, then living many hundred miles away from him,
its highly reprehensible character seems manifest enough in all ways.

No sooner, however, had the fascinating widow set sail, than the
sentimental lover began to feel so strongly the need of a female
consoler, that his heart seems to have softened, insensibly, even
towards his wife. "I am unhappy," he writes plaintively to Lydia
Sterne. "Thy mother and thyself at a distance from me--and what can
compensate for such a destitution? For God's sake persuade her to come
and fix in England! for life is too short to waste in separation;
and while she lives in one country and I in another, many people will
suppose it proceeds from choice"--a supposition, he seems to imply,
which even my scrupulously discreet conduct in her absence scarcely
suffices to refute. "Besides"--a word in which there is here almost
as much virtue as in an "if"--"I want thee near me, thou child and
darling of my heart. I am in a melancholy mood, and my Lydia's eyes
will smart with weeping when I tell her the cause that just now
affects me." And then his sensibilities brim over, and into his
daughter's ear he pours forth his lamentations over the loss of her
mother's rival. "I am apprehensive the dear friend I mentioned in my
last letter is going into a decline. I was with her two days ago, and
I never beheld a being so altered. She has a tender frame, and looks
like a drooping lily, for the roses are fled from her cheeks. I can
never see or talk to this incomparable woman without bursting into
tears. I have a thousand obligations to her, and I love her more than
her whole sex, if not all the world put together. She has a delicacy,"
&c., &c. And after reciting a frigid epitaph which he had written,
"expressive of her modest worth," he winds up with--"Say all that is
kind of me to thy mother; and believe me, my Lydia, that I love
thee most truly." My excuse for quoting thus fully from this most
characteristic letter, and, indeed, for dwelling at all upon these
closing incidents of the Yorick and Eliza episode, is, that in their
striking illustration of the soft, weak, spiritually self-indulgent
nature of the man, they assist us, far more than many pages of
criticism would do, to understand one particular aspect of his
literary idiosyncrasy. The sentimentalist of real life explains the
sentimentalist in art.

In the early days of May Sterne managed at last to tear himself away
from London and its joys, and with painful slowness, for he was now in
a wretched state of health, to make his way back to Yorkshire. "I have
got conveyed," he says in a distressing letter from Newark to Hall
Stevenson--"I have got conveyed thus far like a bale of cadaverous
goods consigned to Pluto and Company, lying in the bottom of my chaise
most of the route, upon a large pillow which I had the _prevoyance_ to
purchase before I set out. I am worn out, but pass on to Barnby Moor
to-night, and if possible to York the next. I know not what is the
matter with me, but some derangement presses hard upon this machine.
Still, I think it will not be overset this bout"--another of those
utterances of a cheerful courage under the prostration of pain which
reveal to us the manliest side of Sterne's nature. On reaching Coxwold
his health appears to have temporarily mended, and in June we find him
giving a far better account of himself to another of his friends. The
fresh Yorkshire air seems to have temporarily revived him, and to his
friend, Arthur Lee, a young American, he writes thus: "I am as happy
as a prince at Coxwold, and I wish you could see in how princely a
manner I live. 'Tis a land of plenty. I sit down alone to dinner--fish
and wild-fowl, or a couple of fowls or ducks, with cream and all the
simple plenty which a rich valley under Hamilton Hills can produce,
with a clean cloth on my table, and a bottle of wine on my right hand
to drink your health. I have a hundred hens and chickens about my
yard; and not a parishioner catches a hare, a rabbit, or a trout but
he brings it as an offering to me." Another of his correspondents at
this period was the Mrs. H. of his letters, whose identity I have been
unable to trace, but who is addressed in a manner which seems to show
Sterne's anxiety to expel the old flame of Eliza's kindling by a new
one. There is little, indeed, of the sentimentalizing strain in which
he was wont to sigh at the feet of Mrs. Draper, but in its place
there is a freedom of a very prominent, and here and there of a highly
unpleasant, kind. To his friends, Mr. and Mrs. James, too, he writes
frequently during this year, chiefly to pour out his soul on the
subject of Eliza; and Mrs. James, who is always addressed in company
with her husband, enjoys the almost unique distinction of being the
only woman outside his own family circle whom Sterne never approaches
in the language of artificial gallantry, but always in that of simple
friendship and respect.[1] Meanwhile, however, the _Sentimental
Journey_ was advancing at a reasonable rate of speed towards
completion. In July he writes of himself as "now beginning to be truly
busy" on it, "the pain and sorrows of this life having retarded its

[Footnote 1: To this period of Sterne's life, it may here be remarked,
is to be assigned the dog-Latin letter ("and very sad dog-Latin too")
so justly animadverted upon by Thackeray, and containing a passage
of which Madame de Medalle, it is to be charitably hoped, had no
suspicion of the meaning. Mr. Fitzgerald, through an oversight in
translation, and understanding Sterne to say that he himself, and
not his correspondent, Hall Stevenson, was "quadraginta et plus annos
natus," has referred it to an earlier date. The point, however, is of
no great importance, as the untranslatable passage in the letter would
be little less unseemly in 1754 or 1755 than in 1768, at the beginning
of which year, since the letter is addressed from London to Hall
Stevenson, then in Yorkshire, it must, in fact, have been written.]

His wife and daughter were about to rejoin him in the autumn, and he
looked forward to settling them at a hired house in York before going
up to town to publish his new volumes. On the 1st of October the two
ladies arrived at York, and the next day the reunited family went on
to Coxwold. The meeting with the daughter gave Sterne one of the
few quite innocent pleasures which he was capable of feeling; and
he writes next day to Mr. and Mrs. James in terms of high pride
and satisfaction of his recovered child. "My girl has returned,"
he writes, in the language of playful affection, "an elegant,
accomplished little slut. My wife--but I hate," he adds, with
remarkable presence of mind, "to praise my wife. 'Tis as much as
decency will allow to praise my daughter. I suppose," he concludes,
"they will return next summer to France. They leave me in a month to
reside at York for the winter, and I stay at Coxwold till the 1st
of January." This seems to indicate a little longer delay in the
publication of the _Sentimental Journey_ than he had at first
intended; for it seems that the book was finished by the end of
November. On the 28th of that month he writes to the Earl of ---- (as
his daughter's foolish mysteriousness has headed the letter), to thank
him for his letter of inquiry about Yorick, and to say that Yorick
"has worn out both his spirits and body with the _Sentimental
Journey_. 'Tis true that an author must feel himself, or his reader
will not" (how mistaken a devotion Sterne showed to this Horatian
canon will be noted hereafter), "but I have torn my whole frame into
pieces by my feelings. I believe the brain stands as much in need of
recruiting as the body; therefore I shall set out for town the 20th of
next month, after having recruited myself at York." Then he adds the
strange observation, "I might, indeed, solace myself with my wife (who
is come from France), but, in fact, I have long been a sentimental
being, whatever your Lordship may think to the contrary. The world
has imagined because I wrote _Tristram Shandy_ that I was myself more
Shandian than I really ever was. 'Tis a good-natured world we live
in, and we are often painted in divers colours, according to the ideas
each one frames in his head." It would, perhaps, have been scarcely
possible for Sterne to state his essentially unhealthy philosophy of
life so concisely as in this naive passage. The connubial affections
are here, in all seriousness and good faith apparently, opposed to
the sentimental emotions--as the lower to the higher. To indulge the
former is to be "Shandian," that is to say, coarse and carnal; to
devote oneself to the latter, or, in other words, to spend one's
days in semi-erotic languishings over the whole female sex
indiscriminately, is to show spirituality and taste.

Meanwhile, however, that fragile abode of sentimentalism--that frame
which had just been "torn to pieces" by the feelings--was becoming
weaker than its owner supposed. Much of the exhaustion which Sterne
had attributed to the violence of his literary emotions was no doubt
due to the rapid decline of bodily powers which, unknown to him, were
already within a few months of their final collapse. He did not set
out for London on the 20th of December, as he had promised himself,
for on that day he was only just recovering from "an attack of fever
and bleeding at the lungs," which had confined him to his room for
nearly three weeks. "I am worn down to a shadow," he writes on the
23rd, "but as my fever has left me, I set off the latter end of next
week with my friend, Mr. Hall, for town." His home affairs had already
been settled. Early in December it had been arranged that his wife
and daughter should only remain at York during the winter, and should
return to the Continent in the spring. "Mrs. Sterne's health," he
writes, "is insupportable in England. She must return to France, and
justice and humanity forbid me to oppose it." But separation from his
wife meant separation from his daughter; it was this, of course, which
was the really painful parting, and it is to the credit of Sterne's
disinterestedness of affection for Lydia, that in his then state
of health he brought himself to consent to her leaving him. But he
recognized that it was for the advantage of her prospect of settling
herself in life that she should go with her mother, who seemed
"inclined to establish her in France, where she has had many
advantageous offers." Nevertheless "his heart bled," as he wrote to
Lee, when he thought of parting with his child. "'Twill be like the
separation of soul and body, and equal to nothing but what passes at
that tremendous moment; and like it in one respect, for she will be in
one kingdom while I am in another." Thus was this matter settled, and
by the 1st of January Sterne had arrived in London for the last time,
with the two volumes of the _Sentimental Journey_. He took up his
quarters at the lodgings in Bond Street (No. 41), which he had
occupied during his stay in town the previous year, and entered at
once upon the arrangements for publication. These occupied two full
months, and on the 27th of February the last work, as it was destined
to be, of the Rev. Mr. Yorick was issued to the world.

Its success would seem to have been immediate, and was certainly great
and lasting. In one sense, indeed, it was far greater than had been,
or than has since been, attained by _Tristram Shandy_. The compliments
which courteous Frenchmen had paid the author upon his former work,
and which his simple vanity had swallowed whole and unseasoned,
without the much-needed grain of salt, might, no doubt, have been
repeated to him with far greater sincerity as regards the _Sentimental
Journey_, had he lived to receive them. Had any Frenchman told him a
year or two afterwards that the latter work was "almost as much known
in Paris as in London, at least among men of condition and learning,"
he would very likely have been telling him no more than the truth. The
_Sentimental Journey_ certainly acquired what _Tristram Shandy_ never
did--a European reputation. It has been translated into Italian,
German, Dutch, and even Polish; and into French again and again.
The French, indeed, have no doubt whatever of its being Sterne's
_chef-d'oeuvre_; and one has only to compare a French translation of
it with a rendering of _Tristram Shandy_ into the same language to
understand, and from our neighbours' point of view even to admit, the
justice of their preference. The charms of the _Journey_, its grace,
wit, and urbanity, are thoroughly congenial to that most graceful of
languages, and reproduce themselves readily enough therein; while,
on the other hand, the fantastic digressions, the elaborate
mystifications, the farcical interludes of the earlier work, appear
intolerably awkward and _bizzare_ in their French dress; and, what
is much more strange, even the point of the _double entendres_ is
sometimes unaccountably lost. Were it not that the genuine humour of
_Tristram Shandy_ in a great measure evaporates in translation, one
would be forced to admit that the work which is the more catholic
in its appeal to appreciation is the better of the two. But, having
regard to this disappearance of genuine and unquestionable excellences
in the process of translation, I see no good reason why those
Englishmen--the great majority, I imagine--who prefer _Tristram
Shandy_ to the _Sentimental Journey_ should feel any misgivings as to
the soundness of their taste. The humour which goes the deepest
down beneath the surface of things is the most likely to become
inextricably interwoven with those deeper fibres of associations which
lie at the roots of a language; and it may well happen, therefore,
though from the cosmopolitan point of view it is a melancholy
reflection, that the merit of a book, to those who use the language
in which it is written, bears a direct ratio to the persistence of its
refusal to yield up its charm to men of another tongue.

The favour, however, with which the _Sentimental Journey_ was received
abroad, and which it still enjoys (the last French translation is
very recent), is, as Mr. Fitzgerald says, "worthily merited, if grace,
nature, true sentiment, and exquisite dramatic power be qualities that
are to find a welcome. And apart," he adds, "from these attractions
it has a unique charm of its own, a flavour, so to speak, a fragrance
that belongs to that one book alone. Never was there such a charming
series of complete little pictures, which for delicacy seem like the
series of medallions done on Sevres china which we sometimes see in
old French cabinets.... The figures stand out brightly, and in what
number and variety! Old Calais, with its old inn; M. Dessein, the
monk, one of the most artistic figures on literary canvas; the
charming French lady whom M. Dessein shut into the carriage with the
traveller; the _debonnaire_ French captain, and the English travellers
returning, touched in with only a couple of strokes; La Fleur, the
valet; the pretty French glove-seller, whose pulse the Sentimental one
felt; her husband, who passed through the shop and pulled off his hat
to Monsieur for the honour he was doing him; the little maid in the
bookseller's shop, who put her little present _a part_; the charming
Greuze 'grisset,' who sold him the ruffles; the reduced chevalier
selling _pates_; the groups of beggars at Montreuil; the _fade_
Count de Bissie, who read Shakespeare; and the crowd of minor
_croquis_--postilions, landlords, notaries, soldiers, abbes,
_precieuses_, maids--merely touched, but touched with wonderful art,
make up a surprising collection of distinct and graphic characters."




The end was now fast approaching. Months before, Sterne had written
doubtfully of his being able to stand another winter in England, and
his doubts were to be fatally justified. One can easily see, however,
how the unhappy experiment came to be tried. It is possible that he
might have delayed the publication of his book for a while, and taken
refuge abroad from the rigours of the two remaining winter months,
had it not been in the nature of his malady to conceal its deadly
approaches. Consumption sported with its victim in the cruel fashion
that is its wont. "I continue to mend," Sterne writes from Bond Street
on the first day of the new year, "and doubt not but this with all
other evils and uncertainties of life will end for the best." And
for the best perhaps it did end, in the sense in which the resigned
Christian uses these pious words; but this, one fears, was not the
sense intended by the dying man. All through January and February he
was occupied not only with business, but as it would seem with a fair
amount, though less, no doubt, than his usual share, of pleasure also.
Vastly active was he, it seems, in the great undertaking of obtaining
tickets for one of Mrs. Cornely's entertainments--the "thing" to go to
at that particular time--for his friends the Jameses. He writes them
on Monday that he has not been a moment at rest since writing the
previous day about the Soho ticket. "I have been at a Secretary of
State to get one, have been upon one knee to my friend Sir George
Macartney, Mr. Lascelles, and Mr. Fitzmaurice, without mentioning
five more. I believe I could as soon get you a place at Court, for
everybody is going; but I will go out and try a new circle, and if
you do not hear from me by a quarter to three, you may conclude I
have been unfortunate in my supplications." Whether he was or was not
unfortunate history does not record. A week or two later the old round
of dissipation had apparently set in. "I am now tied down neck and
heels by engagements every night this week, or most joyfully would
have trod the old pleasing road from Bond to Gerrard Street. I am
quite well, but exhausted with a roomful of company every morning till
dinner." A little later, and this momentary flash of health had died
out; and we find him writing what was his last letter to his daughter,
full, evidently, of uneasy forebodings as to his approaching end. He
speaks of "this vile influenza--be not alarmed. I think I shall get
the better of it, and shall be with you both the 1st of May;"
though, he adds, "if I escape, 'twill not be for a long period, my
child--unless a quiet retreat and peace of mind can restore me." But
the occasion of this letter was a curious one, and a little more must
be extracted from it. Lydia Sterne's letter to her father had, he
said, astonished him. "She (Mrs. Sterne) could know but little of my
feelings to tell thee that under the supposition I should survive
thy mother I should bequeath thee as a legacy to Mrs. Draper. No, my
Lydia, 'tis a lady whose virtues I wish thee to imitate"--Mrs.
James, in fact, whom he proceeds to praise with much and probably
well-deserved warmth. "But," he adds, sadly, "I think, my Lydia,
thy mother will survive me; do not deject her spirit with thy
apprehensions on my account. I have sent you a necklace and buckles,
and the same to your mother. My girl cannot form a wish that is in the
power of her father that he will not gratify her in; and I cannot in
justice be less kind to thy mother. I am never alone. The kindness of
my friends is ever the same. I wish though I had thee to nurse me, but
I am denied that. Write to me twice a week at least. God bless thee,
my child, and believe me ever, ever, thy affectionate father."

The despondent tone of this letter was to be only too soon justified.
The "vile influenza" proved to be or became a pleurisy. On Thursday,
March 10, he was bled three times, and blistered on the day after. And
on the Tuesday following, in evident consciousness that his end was
near, he penned that cry "for pity and pardon," as Thackeray calls
it--the first as well as the last, and which sounds almost as strange
as it does piteous from those mocking lips:

"The physician says I am better.... God knows, for I feel myself
sadly wrong, and shall, if I recover, be a long while of gaining
strength. Before I have gone through half the letter I must stop to
rest my weak hand a dozen times. Mr. James was so good as to call
upon me yesterday. I felt emotions not to be described at the sight
of him, and he overjoyed me by talking a great deal of you. Do,
dear Mrs. James, entreat him to come to-morrow or next day, for perhaps
I have not many days or hours to live. I want to ask a favour
of him, if I find myself worse, that I shall beg of you if in this
wrestling I come off conqueror. My spirits are fled. It is a bad omen;
do not weep, my dear lady. Your tears are too precious to be shed
for me. Bottle them up, and may the cork never be drawn. Dearest,
kindest, gentlest, and best of women! may health, peace, and happiness
prove your handmaids. If I die, cherish the remembrance of
me, and forget the follies which you so often condemned, which my
heart, not my head, betrayed me into. Should my child, my Lydia,
want a mother, may I hope you will (if she is left parentless) take her
to your bosom? You are the only woman on earth I can depend
upon for such a benevolent action. I wrote to her a fortnight ago,
and told her what, I trust, she will find in you. Mr. James will be a
father to her.... Commend me to him, as I now commend you to
that Being who takes under his care the good and kind part of the
world. Adieu, all grateful thanks to you and Mr. James.

"From your affectionate friend, L. STERNE."

This pathetic death-bed letter is superscribed "Tuesday." It seems to
have been written on Tuesday, the 15th of March, and three days later
the writer breathed his last. But two persons, strangers both, were
present at his deathbed, and it is by a singularly fortunate chance,
therefore, that one of these--and he not belonging to the class of
people who usually leave behind them published records of the events
of their lives--should have preserved for us an account of the closing
scene. This, however, is to be found in the Memoirs of John Macdonald,
"a cadet of the house of Keppoch," at that time footman to Mr.
Crawford, a fashionable friend of Sterne's. His master had taken a
house in Clifford Street in the spring of 1768; and "about this time,"
he writes, "Mr. Sterne, the celebrated author, was taken ill at the
silk-bag shop in Old Bond Street. He was sometimes called Tristram
Shandy and sometimes Yorick, a very great favourite of the gentlemen.
One day"--namely, on the aforesaid 18th of March--"my master had
company to dinner who were speaking about him--the Duke of Roxburghe,
the Earl of March, the Earl of Ossory, the Duke of Grafton, Mr.
Garrick, Mr. Hume, and a Mr. James." Many, if not most, of the party,
therefore, were personal friends of the man who lay dying in the
street hard by, and naturally enough the conversation turned on his
condition. "'John,' said my master," the narrative continues, "'go and
inquire how Mr. Sterne is to-day.'" Macdonald did so; and, in language
which seems to bear the stamp of truth upon it, he thus records the
grim story which he had to report to the assembled guests on his
return: "I went to Mr. Sterne's lodgings; the mistress opened the
door. I enquired how he did; she told me to go up to the nurse. I went
into the room, and he was just a-dying. I waited ten minutes; but in
five he said, 'Now it is come.' He put up his hand as if to stop a
blow, and died in a minute. The gentlemen were all very sorry, and
lamented him very much."

Thus, supported by a hired nurse, and under the curious eyes of a
stranger, Sterne breathed his last. His wife and daughter were far
away; the convivial associates "who were all very sorry and lamented
him very much," were for the moment represented only by "John;" and
the shocking tradition goes that the alien hands by which the "dying
eyes were closed," and the "decent limbs composed," remunerated
themselves for the pious office by abstracting the gold sleeve-links
from the dead man's wrists. One may hope, indeed, that this last
circumstance is to be rejected as sensational legend, but even without
it the story of Sterne's death seems sad enough, no doubt. Yet it is,
after all, only by contrast with the excited gaiety of his daily
life in London that his end appears so forlorn. From many a "set of
residential chambers," from many of the old and silent inns of the
lawyers, departures as lonely, or lonelier, are being made around us
in London every year: the departures of men not necessarily kinless or
friendless, but living solitary lives, and dying before their friends
or kindred can be summoned to their bedsides. Such deaths, no doubt,
are often contrasted in conventional pathos with that of the husband
and father surrounded by a weeping wife and children; but the more
sensible among us construct no tragedy out of a mode of exit which
must have many times entered as at least a possibility into the
previous contemplation of the dying man. And except, as has been
said, that Sterne associates himself in our minds with the perpetual
excitements of lively companionship, there would be nothing
particularly melancholy in his end. This is subject, of course, to
the assumption that the story of his landlady having stolen the gold
sleeve-links from his dead body may be treated as mythical; and,
rejecting this story, there seems no good reason for making much ado
about the manner of his death. Of friends, as distinguished from mere
dinner-table acquaintances, he seems to have had but few in London:
with the exception of the Jameses, one knows not with certainty
of any; and the Jameses do not appear to have neglected him in the
illness which neither they nor he suspected to be his last. Mr. James
had paid him a visit but a day or two before the end came; and it may
very likely have been upon his report of his friend's condition that
the message of inquiry was sent from the dinner table at which he was
a guest. No doubt Sterne's flourish in _Tristram Shandy_ about his
preferring to die at an inn, untroubled by the spectacle of "the
concern of my friends, and the last services of wiping my brows
and smoothing my pillow," was a mere piece of bravado; and the more
probably so because the reflection is appropriated almost bodily from
Bishop Burnet, who quotes it as a frequent observation of Archbishop
Leighton. But, considering that Sterne was in the habit of passing
nearly half of each year alone in London lodgings, the realization of
his wish does not strike me, I confess, as so dramatically impressive
a coincidence as it is sometimes represented.

According, however, to one strange story the dramatic element gives
place after Sterne's very burial to melodrama of the darkest kind. The
funeral, which pointed, after all, a far sadder moral than the death,
took place on Tuesday, March 22, attended by only two mourners, one of
whom is said to have been his publisher Becket, and the other probably
Mr. James; and, thus duly neglected by the whole crowd of boon
companions, the remains of Yorick were consigned to the "new
burying-ground near Tyburn" of the parish of St. George's, Hanover
Square. In that now squalid and long-decayed grave-yard, within sight
of the Marble Arch and over against the broad expanse of Hyde Park,
is still to be found a tombstone inscribed with some inferior lines to
the memory of the departed humourist, and with a statement, inaccurate
by eight months, of the date of his death, and a year out as to his
age. Dying, as has been seen, on the 18th of March, 1768, at the age
of fifty-four, he is declared on this slab to have died on the 13th of
November, aged fifty-three years. There is more excuse, however, for
this want of veracity than sepulchral inscriptions can usually plead.
The stone was erected by the pious hands of "two brother Masons," many
years, it is said, after the event which it purports to record; and
from the wording of the epitaph which commences, "Near this place
lyes the body," &c., it obviously does not profess to indicate--what,
doubtless, there was no longer any means of tracing--the exact spot in
which Sterne's remains were laid. But, wherever the grave really was,
the body interred in it, according to the strange story to which I
have referred, is no longer there. That story goes: that two days
after the burial, on the night of the 24th of March, the corpse was
stolen by body-snatchers, and by them disposed of to M. Collignon,
Professor of Anatomy at Cambridge; that the Professor invited a few
scientific friends to witness a demonstration, and that among these
was one who had been acquainted with Sterne, and who fainted with
horror on recognizing in the already partially dissected "subject" the
features of his friend. So, at least, this very gruesome and Poe-like
legend runs; but it must be confessed that all the evidence which
Mr. Fitzgerald has been able to collect in its favour is of the very
loosest and vaguest description. On the other hand, it is, of course,
only fair to recollect that, in days when respectable surgeons and
grave scientific professors had to depend upon the assistance of
law-breakers for the prosecution of their studies and teachings, every
effort would naturally be made to hush up any such unfortunate affair.
There is, moreover, independent evidence to the fact that similar
desecrations of this grave-yard had of late been very common; and
that at least one previous attempt to check the operations of the
"resurrection-men" had been attended with peculiarly infelicitous
results. In the _St. James's Chronicle_ for November 26, 1767, we find
it recorded that "the Burying Ground in Oxford Road, belonging to the
Parish of St. George's, Hanover Square, having been lately robbed of
several dead bodies, a Watcher was placed there, attended by a
large mastiff Dog; notwithstanding which, on Sunday night last, some
Villains found means to steal out another dead Body, and carried off
the very Dog." Body-snatchers so adroit and determined as to contrive
to make additional profit out of the actual means taken to prevent
their depredations, would certainly not have been deterred by any
considerations of prudence from attempting the theft of Sterne's
corpse. There was no such ceremony about his funeral as would lead
them to suppose that the deceased was a person of any importance,
or one whose body could not be stolen without a risk of creating
undesirable excitement. On the whole, therefore, it is impossible
to reject the body-snatching story as certainly fabulous, though
its truth is far from being proved; and though I can scarcely myself
subscribe to Mr. Fitzgerald's view, that there is a "grim and lurid
Shandyism" about the scene of dissection, yet if others discover an
appeal to their sense of humour in the idea of Sterne's body being
dissected after death, I see nothing to prevent them from holding that
hypothesis as a "pious opinion."



Everyday experience suffices to show that the qualities which win
enduring fame for books and for their authors are not always those
to which they owe their first popularity. It may with the utmost
probability be affirmed that this was the case with _Tristram Shandy_
and with Sterne. We cannot, it is true, altogether dissociate the
permanent attractions of the novel from those characteristics of it
which have long since ceased to attract at all; the two are united in
a greater or less degree throughout the work; and this being so, it
is, of course, impossible to prove to demonstration that it was the
latter qualities, and not the former, which procured it its immediate
vogue. But, as it happens, it is possible to show that what may be
called its spurious attractions varied directly, and its real merits
inversely, as its popularity with the public of its day. In the
higher qualities of humour, in dramatic vigour, in skilful and subtle
delineation of character, the novel showed no deterioration, but, in
some instances, a marked improvement, as it proceeded; yet the second
instalment was not more popular, and most of the succeeding ones
were distinctly less popular, than the first. They had gained in many
qualities, while they had lost in only the single one of novelty; and
we may infer, therefore, with approximate certainty, that what "took
the town" in the first instance was, that quality of the book which
was strangest at its first appearance. The mass of the public read,
and enjoyed, or thought they enjoyed, when they were really
only puzzled and perplexed. The wild digressions, the audacious
impertinences, the burlesque philosophizing, the broad jests, the
air of recondite learning, all combined to make the book a nine
days' wonder; and a majority of its readers would probably have been
prepared to pronounce _Tristram Shandy_ a work as original in scheme
and conception as it was eccentric. Some there were, no doubt, who
perceived the influence of Rabelais in the incessant digressions and
the burlesque of philosophy; others, it may be, found a reminder of
Burton in the parade of learning; and yet a few others, the scattered
students of French facetiae of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,
may have read the broad jests with a feeling that they had "seen
something like it before." But no single reader, no single critic of
the time, appears to have combined the knowledge necessary for tracing
these three characteristics of the novel to their respective sources;
and none certainly had any suspicion of the extent to which the
books and authors from whom they were imitated had been laid under
contribution. No one suspected that Sterne, not content with borrowing
his trick of rambling from Rabelais, and his airs of erudition from
Burton, and his fooleries from Bruscambille, had coolly transferred
whole passages from the second of these writers, not only without
acknowledgment, but with the intention, obviously indicated by his
mode of procedure, of passing them off as his own. Nay, it was not
till full fifty years afterwards that these daring robberies were
detected, or, at any rate, revealed to the world; and, with an irony
which Sterne himself would have appreciated, it was reserved for a
sincere admirer of the humourist to play the part of detective. In
1812 Dr. John Ferriar published his _Illustrations of Sterne_, and
the prefatory sonnet, in which he solicits pardon for his too minute
investigations, is sufficient proof of the curiously reverent spirit
in which he set about his damaging task:

"Sterne, for whose sake I plod through miry ways
Of antic wit, and quibbling mazes drear,
Let not thy shade malignant censure fear,
If aught of inward mirth my search betrays.
Long slept that mirth in dust of ancient days,
Erewhile to Guise or wanton Valois dear," &c.

Thus commences Dr. Ferriar's apology, which, however, can hardly
be held to cover his offence; for, as a matter of fact, Sterne's
borrowings extend to a good deal besides "mirth;" and some of the
most unscrupulous of these forced loans are raised from passages of a
perfectly serious import in the originals from which they are taken.

Here, however, is the list of authors to whom Dr. Ferriar holds Sterne
to have been more or less indebted: Rabelais, Beroalde de Verville,
Bouchet, Bruscambille, Scarron, Swift, an author of the name or
pseudonym of "Gabriel John," Burton, Bacon, Blount, Montaigne, Bishop
Hall. The catalogue is a reasonably long one; but it is not, of
course, to be supposed that Sterne helped himself equally freely from
every author named in it. His obligations to some of them are, as Dr.
Ferriar admits, but slight. From Rabelais, besides his vagaries of
narrative, Sterne took, no doubt, the idea of the _Tristra-paedia_
(by descent from the "education of Pantagruel," through "Martinus
Scriblerus"); but though he has appropriated bodily the passage in
which Friar John attributes the beauty of his nose to the pectoral
conformation of his nurse, he may be said to have constructively
acknowledged the debt in a reference to one of the characters in the
Rabelaisian dialogue.[1]

[Footnote 1: "There is no cause but one," said my Uncle Toby, "why
one man's nose is longer than another, but because that God pleases to
have it so." "That is Grangousier's solution," said my father. "'Tis
He," continued my Uncle Toby, "who makes us all, and frames and puts
us together in such forms ... and for such ends as is agreeable to
His infinite wisdom."--_Tristram Shandy_, vol. iii. c. 41. "Par ce,
repondit Grangousier, qu'ainsi Dieu l'a voulu, lequel nous fait en
cette forme et cette fin selon divin arbitre."--_Rabelais_, book i. c.
41. In another place, however (vol. viii. c. 3), Sterne has borrowed a
whole passage from this French humourist without any acknowledgment at

Upon Beroalde, again, upon D'Aubigne, and upon Bouchet he has made no
direct and _verbatim_ depredations. From Bruscambille he seems to have
taken little or nothing but the not very valuable idea of the tedious
buffoonery of vol. iii. c. 30, _et sqq._; and to Scarron he, perhaps,
owed the incident of the dwarf at the theatre in the _Sentimental
Journey_, an incident which, it must be owned, he vastly improved in
the taking. All this, however, does not amount to very much, and it
is only when we come to Dr. Ferriar's collations of _Tristram Shandy_
with the _Anatomy of Melancholy_ that we begin to understand what
feats Sterne was capable of as a plagiarist. He must, to begin with,
have relied with cynical confidence on the conviction that famous
writers are talked about and not read, for he sets to work with the
scissors upon Burton's first page:

"Man, the most excellent and noble creature of the world, the
principal and mighty work of God; wonder of nature, as Zoroaster calls
him; _audacis naturae miraculum_, the marvel of marvels, as Plato; the
abridgment and epitome of the world, as Pliny," &c. Thus Burton; and,
with a few additions of his own, and the substitution of Aristotle for
Plato as the author of one of the descriptions, thus Sterne: "Who made
MAN with powers which dart him from heaven to earth in a moment--that
great, that most excellent and noble creature of the world, the
miracle of nature, as Zoroaster, in his book [Greek: peri phuseos],
called him--the Shekinah of the Divine Presence, as Chrysostom--the
image of God, as Moses--the ray of Divinity, as Plato--the marvel
of marvels, as Aristotle," &c.[1] And in the same chapter, in the
"Fragment upon Whiskers," Sterne relates how a "decayed kinsman"
of the Lady Baussiere "ran begging, bareheaded, on one side of her
palfrey, conjuring her by the former bonds of friendship, alliance,
consanguinity, &c.--cousin, aunt, sister, mother--for virtue's sake,
for your own sake, for mine, for Christ's sake, remember me! pity me!"
And again he tells how a "devout, venerable, hoary-headed man" thus
beseeched her: "'I beg for the unfortunate. Good my lady, 'tis for
a prison--for an hospital; 'tis for an old man--a poor man undone by
shipwreck, by suretyship, by fire. I call God and all His angels to
witness, 'tis to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry--'tis to comfort
the sick and the brokenhearted.' The Lady Baussiere rode on.[2]"

[Footnote 1: _Tristram Shandy_, vol. v.c. 1.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._]

But now compare this passage from the _Anatomy of Melancholy_:

"A poor decayed kinsman of his sets upon him by the way, in all
his jollity, and runs begging, bareheaded, by him, conjuring him by
those former bonds of friendship, alliance, consanguinity, &c., 'uncle,
cousin, brother, father, show some pity for Christ's sake, pity a
sick man, an old man,' &c.; he cares not--ride on: pretend sickness,
inevitable loss of limbs, plead suretyship or shipwreck, fire,
common calamities, show thy wants and imperfections, take God
and all His angels to witness ... put up a supplication to him in
the name of a thousand orphans, an hospital, a spittle, a prison, as
he goes by ... ride on."[1]

[Footnote 1: Burton: _Anat. Mel._, p. 269.]

Hardly a casual coincidence this. But it is yet more unpleasant to
find that the mock philosophic reflections with which Mr. Shandy
consoles himself on Bobby's death, in those delightful chapters on
that event, are not taken, as they profess to be, direct from the
sages of antiquity, but have been conveyed through, and "conveyed"
from, Burton.

"When Agrippina was told of her son's death," says Sterne, "Tacitus
informs us that, not being able to moderate her passions, she abruptly
broke off her work." Tacitus does, it is true, inform us of this. But
it was undoubtedly Burton (_Anat. Mel._, p. 213) who informed Sterne
of it. So, too, when Mr. Shandy goes on to remark upon death that
"'Tis an inevitable chance--the first statute in Magna Charta--it is
an everlasting Act of Parliament, my dear brother--all must die," the
agreement of his views with those of Burton, who had himself said
of death, "'Tis an inevitable chance--the first statute in Magna
Charta--an everlasting Act of Parliament--all must die,[2]" is even
textually exact.

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, p. 215.]

In the next passage, however, the humourist gets the better of the
plagiarist, and we are ready to forgive the theft for the happily
comic turn which he gives to it.


"Tully was much grieved for his daughter Tulliola's death at first,
until such time that he had confirmed his mind by philosophical precepts;
then he began to triumph over fortune and grief, and for her
reception into heaven to be much more joyed than before he was
troubled for her loss."


"When Tully was bereft of his daughter, at first he laid it to his
heart, he listened to the voice of nature, and modulated his own unto
it. O my Tullia! my daughter! my child!--Still, still, still--'twas O
my Tullia, my Tullia! Me thinks I see my Tullia, I hear my Tullia, I
talk with my Tullia. But as soon as he began to look into the stores
of philosophy, and _consider how many excellent things might be said
upon the occasion_, nobody on earth can conceive, says the great
orator, how happy, how joyful it made me."

"Kingdoms and provinces, cities and towns," continues Burton, "have
their periods, and are consumed." "Kingdoms and provinces, and towns
and cities," exclaims Mr. Shandy, throwing the sentence, like
the "born orator" his son considered him, into the rhetorical
interrogative, "have they not their periods?" "Where," he proceeds,
"is Troy, and Mycenae, and Thebes, and Delos, and Persepolis, and
Agrigentum? What is become, brother Toby, of Nineveh and Babylon, of
Cyzicum and Mytilene? The fairest towns that ever the sun rose upon"
(and all, with the curious exception of Mytilene, enumerated by
Burton) "are now no more." And then the famous consolatory letter
from Servius Sulpicius to Cicero on the death of Tullia is laid under
contribution--Burton's rendering of the Latin being followed almost
word for word. "Returning out of Asia," declaims Mr. Shandy, "when I
sailed from Aegina towards Megara" (when can this have been? thought
my Uncle Toby), "I began to view the country round about. Aegina
was behind me, Megara before," &c., and so on, down to the final
reflection of the philosopher, "Remember that thou art but a man;" at
which point Sterne remarks coolly, "Now, my Uncle Toby knew not that
this last paragraph was an extract of Servius Sulpicius's consolatory
letter to Tully"--the thing to be really known being that the
paragraph was, in fact, Servius Sulpicius filtered through Burton.
Again, and still quoting from the _Anatomy of Melancholy_, Mr. Shandy
remarks how "the Thracians wept when a child was born, and feasted and
made merry when a man went out of the world; and with reason." He then
goes on to lay predatory hands on that fine, sad passage in Lucian,
which Burton had quoted before him: "Is it not better not to hunger at
all, than to eat? not to thirst, than to take physic to cure it?"
(why not "than to drink to satisfy thirst?" as Lucian wrote and Burton

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