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father, gave real tenderness afterwards to many a touch in "Tristram Shandy” that played about Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim. They may be felt also in passages of the story of Le Fevre, although that is said to have included recollections of the son of a Le Fevre, who was among the exiles from France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and set up a French school at Portarlington. The son, who obtained a commission in the army, is said to have become known to Sterne in his earlier life, and it is observed that Sterne has made his Le Fevre's son a schoolmaster. But let us not omit to consider what must have been the effect on Laurence Sterne himself of a homeless childhood, in which he was shifted restlessly from barrack to barrack, the comrade of small brothers and sisters of whom three perished under the blight of an unwholesome life.
Sterne says of himself that“ at school he would learn what he pleased, and not oftener than once a fortnight.” In 1732 his uncle Richard sent him to Jesus College, Cambridge, and saved expense by entering him as a sizar. While at Cambridge he for the first time spat blood. He was small, thin, of consumptive habit, and the cough that now carne stuck to him. He took his B.A. degree, and took Holy Orders ; was ordained deacon in 1736, and priest in August 1738. In the same year, family influence obtained for him the Vicarage of Sutton-on-the-Forest, which was in the gift of the Archbishop of York. His uncle Jaques was Canon Residentiary, Prebendary and Precentor of York Minster, and held also two small rectories in Yorkshire. It was not until 1746 that Canon Sterne became Archdeacon. He had a bachelor house at York in Minster Yard ; and there was also a town-house of Richard Sterne's in Castlegate. So far only as outward circumstances were concerned, the way of life lay plain and easy before Laurence Sterne. In 1740 he proceeded to his M.A. degree. In 1741, after two years' courtship, he married, in his 28th year, Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. Mr. Lumley, late Rector of Bedal, Staffordshire. The lady had been in ill health, and had been lodging at York. She brought him £40 a year, and the further patronage of a friend who would have the gift of some York preferment. Sterne had also the rare gift of genius, and the artist nature in him was perhaps indicated by a taste that he had for playing the bass viol and for drawing. In 1743 the prebendal stall and living of Stillington became vacant, and were given to Sterne by his wife's friend. They added about £50 a year to his income.
It was at this time that the English novel had just broken itself free from the conventional forms of chivalrous pastoral romance, in which Pamelas and Parthenissas were all heroines of royal blood. Samuel Richardson had produced in 1740 his story of a Pamela who was only a servant-maid, and Henry Fielding, who was but six or seven years older than Laurence Sterne, had produced, with jest on the weak point in Richardson's story, his "Joseph Andrews,” the first novel of our English master novelist,
In 1743 followed, among Fielding's “ Miscellanies,” his “ History of the Life of the late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great,” a keen satire on false estimates of human glory.
In Sterne there was frailty of body, and for his mind the springs of health had in his childhood been almost sealed up. He was conscious of the quick movement of his genius, and glad of applause for free sallies of wit. While Fielding's mind, vigorous in health to the last, whatever the condition of his body, shaped images of life, expressing the wholesome truths associated with revolt from dead convention and the growing movement towards truer relations between man and man, Sterne often was content to follow the humour of his day, in defiance of convention, sometimes by mere witless eccentricities, and often by witty flights beyond what ordinary men took for the bounds of decency. On the first of October 1745 a daughter was born to him, who was named Lydia, and died next day. At this time Sterne's wit, unknown to the world, had attached him to John Hall, who took from his wife's family the name of Stevenson. Hall Stevenson was five years younger than himself, had been a fellowcommoner at Jesus College, and now lived crazily at Skelton Castle, near Guisboro', called the place “Crazy Castle," and cstablished there a would-be Rabelaisian order of the Monks of Medmenham Abbey. They took for their motto that of an ideal Abbey, through whose monks Rabelais pointed upwards to a higher race of men. But their minds were low, and could not rise above the gross animal surrounding within which Rabelais set the highest aspirations of his soul. Having Jolin Hall Stevenson for one of his familiar friends, the Reverend Laurence Sterne employed his wit as Yorick in such unseemly trifling as his friend-- his Eugenius-had mind enough to praise. So began Sterne's association of himself with Rabelais, of whose manner
• Tristram Shandy" contains sundry weak imitations, but in whose mind there were aims and aspirations little known to Sterne.
Sterne's mother appears to have maintained herself by keeping a school, until she was brought to ruin by the extravagance of her daughter Catherine. Sterne afterwards spoke of Catherine as unhappily estranged from me by my uncle's wickedness and her own folly.” But in the year before “Tristram Shandy” appeared, a letter of Sterne's shows him to have been busy at York on his mother's behalf, for he writes, “ I trust my poor mother's affair is by this time ended to our comfort, and I trust to hers.” The sins of omission in Sterne's life were many; but he did not deserve the sneer at the close of Horace Walpole's note on the position of his mother:“I know from indubitable authority that his mother, who kept a school, having run in debt on account of an extravagant daughter, would have rotted in a gaol if the parents of her scholars had not raised a subscription for her. Her own son had too much sentiment to have any feeling. A dead ass was more important to him than a living mother.”
Sterne's first printed work was a charity sermon preached at York on Good Friday in the year 1747. On the ist of December in that year a daughter was again born to him. Again he gave the name of Lydia ; but this Lydia lived. A sermon preached on the 29th of July before the Judges at the York Summer Assizes, was not printed at the time, but was introduced afterwards into “ Tristram Shandy” as the sermon on Conscience read by Corporal Trim.
In the year 1759, the Rev. Mr. Sterne, aged forty-six, was in love sentimentally with a young French lady, Miss Catherine de Fourmantelle, who was lodging at York with her mother. “I must ever,” he said, “have some Dulcinea in my head : it harmonizes the soul." And so he harmonized the soul by talking and writing empty sentiment, after the weaker manner of the sentimentalists who represented in France the emotional form of the reaction of the time, and whose great master was Rousseau, a man but one year older than Sterne. It was between 1747 and 1755 that Rousseau, sentimentally united to the cook-maid Therèse Levasseur, sent all his five children to the Foundling Hospital, because he trembled to think how their mother would have spoilt them, or what monsters their mother's family would have made of them. And yet in his “ Emile," published in 1762, he thought it a fine sentiment to write, and therefore wrote, no toils, no poverty, and no respect of men absolve a father from the duty of being himself the educator of his children." The writings of Rousseau, who was, like Sterne, a weak man of fine genius, were a product of the human forces of their time, under the influence of which Rousseau wrote. By his power of expression, he became a source from which like influences spread ; and Sterne's sensitive mind was far more under the influence of Rousscau, and of those free movements of thought in his time to which Rousseau gave intellectual expression, than under the influence of Rabelais, or of those English writers who in his own day found in man the proper study of mankind. To Miss Fourmantelle Sterne wrote, “I have but one obstacle to my happiness, and what that is you know as well as I.” The reverend sentimentalist even speculated on his wife's death by saying, “God will open a door when we shall some time be much more together.” And in Sterne, as in Rousseau, the mainstay of the worst weaknesses was vanity.
In 1758 there was an ecclesiastical squabble at York. A lawyer, Dr. Topham, held an office in the Cathedral, to which, as a patent place, he claimed for his son the right of succession. Sterne took part in the controversy that arose, and attacked the claim in a pamphlet, withheld from the press, in which the story of the patent place was figured as the story of “A Good Warm Watch Coat” that had hung up for many years in the church. Dr. Topham appeared in the parable under the name of Trim. At the same tiine Sterne was beginning to write Tristram Shandy, about the beginning of the year 1759, ten years after Fielding's “ Tom Jones,” and in the year of Voltaire's“ Candide" and of Johnson's “Rasselas.” Indeed, when arranging for publication in two volumes of the part then written, Sterne wrote to Dodsley : “I propose to print a lean edition, in two small volumes of the size of Rasselas, and on the same paper and type, at my own expense, merely to feel the pulse of the world, and that I may know what price to set on the remaining volume from the reception of the first.” If the venture succeeded he proposed to furnish a new volume every six months.
Two small volumes, forming the first instalment of “Tristrain Shandy," appeared first at York in 1759, and were reprinted in London. Their success was immediate, and in March 1760, Sterne went to London, took lodgings in Pall Mall, “the genteelest in town,” and wrote sentiment to Miss Fourmantelle as “dear, dear Jenny;" but there are no extant
letters to his wife. He sat to Sir Joshua Reynolds, taking extreme pains to look clever ; dined out abundantly; and was, as Horace Walpole then reported of him, “topsy-turvy with success and fame." Warburton gave Sterne the name he sought, "the English Rabelais.” A new game of cards called “Tristram Shandy” was presented to the fashionable world ; and Gray the poet wrote, “one is invited to dinner, where he dines, a fortnight beforehand.” Goldsmith, in “The Citizen of the World,” condemned the wilful indelicacies of the book, which had no other aim than to excite attention by defiance of convention while ingeniously pandering to the corrupt taste of the time. Warburton also ventured to write Sterne a wise and kind letter of counsel against them. Sterne had wit and genius given him for higher uses, and “ Tristram Shandy” does not depend for life on its unseemly pages, which are only about a tenth part of the whole. In sweeping them out of this edition of the book-and so, for once, taking tithe from a parsonmany shrewd turns of wit have doubtless been lost, but there is less disturbed enjoyment of the nine-tenths that remain.
Sterne supped with the gay and dissolute Prince Edward, afterwards Duke of York ; announced sermons for publication as “The Sermons of Mr. Yorick ;" and went back to Yorkshire with a new curacy of Coxwould, about sixteen miles from York, which he now made his home, and where he styled his parsonage house Shandy Hall.
In January 1761, at the beginning of the reign of George III., vols. iii. and iv, were ready. Sterne came to London to drink flattery, and before coming wrote in comic Latin to his friend, Hall Stevenson, that he was more than ever sick and tired of his wifefatigatus et ægrotus de meo uxore plus quam unquam. He returned to Coxwould in July to write more volumes, " unless this vile cough kills me," anxious to be back in London. He was still negligent of his wife ; and his daughter Lydia, fourteen years old and in weak health, was copying “ Tristram" for him. Before Christmas 1761 he was again in London, and burst a blood-vessel in his lungs.
On the 21st of December volumes v. and vi. appeared, containing his story of “Le Fevre.” Sterne came to London again to be lionized ; travelled in France in January 1762 ; was lionized in Paris without his wife and daughter. Joined by his wife and Lydia in July 1762,-Lydia having “a vile asthma,"—he made an expensive journey to Lyons, Avignon, Toulouse, where they remained while he finished another “Shandy" volume. Having obtained extended leave from his Bishop, he left Toulouse for Baguières, then visited Marseilles.
By October 5, 1763, they were at Montpellier. Being told that the climate of Montpellier would not suit him, Sterne became eager again for London. His wife, anxious for Lydia, remained at Montauban. Sterne passing through Paris, where he found Hume being lionized, was in London by the end of May.
In January 1765 appeared volumes vii. and viii. of “ Tristram Shandy.” He was in London till April
, then at Bath; then sentiment, scandal, cough and spitting of blood. In September Sterne had again to leave England. He passed through France, twice visiting Paris, went to Turin, to Rome, and was back in London, lodging at 41 Old Bond Street, when volume ix. (the last published) of “ Tristram Shandy " appeared.
A Mrs. Draper had come with weakened health from India with her children, sent by her husband. Sterne weakly sentimentalized with her as Eliza, wrote silly letters, enjoyed silly scandal, again broke a blood vessel. He was at Coxwould in September, when his wife and daughter returned. They were to winter at York, and return to France in the spring. Again there was spitting of blood, but after Christmas Day Sterne went to London again leaving his wife and daughter at York.
On the 27th of February 1768 appeared his “ Sentimental Journey." On the 18th of the following March Sterne was found dying in his lodgings by a footman sent to remind him that he was expected at one of the dinner parties to which his vanity had caused hinı to sacrifice his higher duties as the fool of fashion. He was followed to his grave by two gentlemen in a mourning-coach. His body was then dug up by a resurrectionist, and. afterwards recognized on a dissecting-table. He died eleven hundred pounds in debt, and left no will. His effects produced only £400. His neglected wife gave up her own £40 a year to clear his memory. But the hat was sent round for the wife and daughter of the Reverend Laurence Sterne at the next York races, and from the sympathies of the sporting world £800 were collected.
H. M. August 1884.
LIFE AND OPINIONS
TRISTRAM SHANDY, GENTLEMAN.
On the 5th day of November, 1718, which to the era fixed on, was as near nine calendar months as any husband could in reason have expected, was I, Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, brought forth into this scurvy and disastrous world of ours. I wish I had been born in the moon, or in any of the planets (except Jupiter or Saturn), because I never could bear cold weather ; for it could not well have fared worse with me in any of them (though I will not answer for Venus) than it has in this vile dirty planet of ours, which of my conscience, with reverence be it spoken, I take to be made up of the shreds and clippings of the rest; not but the planet is well enough, provided a man could be born in it to a great title or to a great estate, or could anyhow contrive to be called up to public charges and employments of dignity and power; but that is not my case; and therefore every man will speak of the fair as his own market has gone in it ; for which cause I affirm it over again to be one of the vilest worlds that ever was made ; for I can truly say, that from the first hour I drew my breath in it, to this, that I can now scarce draw it at all, for an asthma I got in skating against the wind in Flanders, I have been the continual sport of what the world calls Fortune, and though I will not wrong her by saying she has ever made me feel the weight of any great and signal evil; yet with all the good temper in the world, I affirm it of her, that in every stage of my life, and at every turn and corner where she could get fairly at me, the ungracious Duchess has pelted me with a set of as pitiful misadventures and cross accidents as ever small hero sustained.
In the beginning of the last chapter, I informed you exactly when I was born ; but I did not inform you how. No, that particular was reserved entirely for a chapter by itself ; besides, Sir, as you and I are in a manner perfect strangers to each other, it would not have been proper to have let you into too many circumstances relating to myself
You must have a little patience. I have undertaken, you see, to write not only my life, but my opinions also ; hoping and expecting
knowledge of my character, and of what kind of a mortal I am, by the one, would give you a better relish for the other. proceed further with me, the slight acquaintance which is now beginning betwixt us, will grow into familiarity; and that, unless one of us is in fault, will terminate in friendship~0 diem præclarum !—then nothing which has touched me will be thought trifling in its nature, or tedious in its telling. Therefore, my dear friend and companion, if you should think me somewhat sparing of my narrative on my first setting out, bear with me, and let me go on, and tell my story my own way; or if I should seem now and then to trifle upon the road, or should sometimes put on a fool's cap with a bell to it for a moment or two as we pass along, don't fly off, but rather courteously give me credit for a little more wisdom than appears on my outside ; and as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short, do any thing-only keep your temper.
In the same village where my father and mother dwelt, dwelt also a thin, upright, motherly, notable, good old body of a midwife, who, with the help of a little plain good sense, and some years full employment in her business, in which she had all along trusted little to her own efforts, and a great deal to those of dame Nature, had acquired in her way no small degree of reputation in the world ; by which word world, need I in this place inform your worship, that I would be understood to mean no more of it than a small circle described upon the circle of the great world of four English miles diameter, or thereabouts, of which the cottage where the good old woman lived is supposed to be the centre. She had been left, it seems, a widow in great distress, with three or four small children, in her forty-seventh year; and as she was at that time a person of decent carriage, grave deportment, a woman moreover of few words, and withal an object of compassion, whose distress and silence under it called out the louder for a friendly lift, the wife of the parson of the parish was touched with pity; and having often lamented an inconvenience, to which her husband's flock had for many years been exposed, inasmuch as there was no such thing as a midwife of any kind or degree to be got at, let the case have been never so urgent, within less than six or seven long miles riding, which said seven long miles