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LIFE AND OPINIONS
Ταράσσει τους Ανθρώπους ου τα πράγματα, 'Αλλά τα περί των Πραγμάτων, Δόγματα.
TERNE was forty-five years old when he took
pen in hand to compose Tristram Shandy. With little doubt he sat down to work in the last week of January, 1759. He was living much alone at Sutton that winter, for his wife had been placed under a physician's care at York; and to ward off melancholy on rainy days, he amused himself by writing “a laughable book.” Distracted only by the sentimental entanglement with Miss Fourmantelle, which occasioned visits to York so soon as spring broke, he went on easily with his work, completing the second volume as early as June. While the book was in making, Sterne took some of the loose sheets over to his friend Croft's, where he read them to a company which the Squire of Stillington assembled for the purpose after dinner. Some of the company “ fell asleep, at which
Sterne was so nettled that he threw the manuscript into the fire.” “Luckily Mr. Croft so the story goes — “rescued the scorched papers from the flames.” Sterne persevered with his work, though none of his friends except Croft, seem to have found much in it. Like most men who have written books out of the common run, Sterne had difficulties in getting a publisher. The booksellers at York
would not have anything to say to it, nor would they offer any price for it.” It was next declined by Dodsley, the London publisher, to whom Sterne evidently sent some specimen pages. After these rebuffs, Sterne went over his manuscript, removing or softening the local satire, and adding “about a hundred and fifty pages.” Sterne's friends now changed their opinion of his book. By fall he could write to Dodsley that there was “a strong interest formed and forming in its behalf.” It was now passed about that the Vicar of Sutton was writing“ an extraordinary book.” “A Mr. Lee, a gentleman of York, and a bachelor of a liberal turn of mind,” lent him one hundred pounds towards its publication; and with this aid, the first two volumes of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, were printed at York in November or December, 1759.
Once in print, Tristram Shandy was a “ witty smart book”; and within two days, said Sterne (and I think he wasn't lying) the York bookseller sold two hundred copies. Some of Sterne's friends, it is true, shook their heads, fearful for Yorick's reputation. “Get your preferment first,” remarked a brother in the cloth, "and then write and welcome.” But the volumes had “a prodigious run.” Copies reached London in time for an extended notice in the literary appendix of The Monthly Review for December, wherein Mr. Tristram Shandy was recommended “as a writer infinitely more ingenious and entertaining than any other of the present race of novelists.” And Dodsley was persuaded to handle a bundle of copies sent up from York. He placed them on sale in his shop on the last day of the year, 1759. At first there was some hesitancy on the part of the London public. Dodsley indeed still thought the book unsaleable. But Garrick got hold of a copy and recommended it to his friends. That in itself was enough to insure its success. Wherefore when Sterne in company with Croft went up