Laurence Sterne (November 24, 1713 - March 18, 1768)
Born: 24th November, 1713
Died: 18th March, 1768
Nationality: Irish
Profession/Occupation: Novelist
Region: Clonmel, London, England
Notable works: "Tristram Shandy", "A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy", "The History of a Good Warm Watch-Coat"

Laurence Sterne Facts

Biography

Laurence Sterne, (born Nov. 24, 1713, Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ire.—died March 18, 1768, London, Eng.), Irish-born English novelist and humorist, author of Tristram Shandy (1759–67), an early novel in which story is subordinate to the free associations and digressions of its narrator. He is also known for the novel A Sentimental Journey (1768).

Life.

Sterne’s father, Roger, though grandson of an archbishop of York, was an infantry officer of the lowest rank who fought in many battles during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14). In Flanders, Roger married Agnes, the widow of an officer, but of a social class much below Roger’s. The regiment retired to Ireland, and there Laurence was born. Most of his early childhood was spent in poverty, following the troops about Ireland. Later, Sterne expressed his affection for soldiers through his portraits in Tristram Shandy of the gentle uncle Toby and Corporal Trim.

At age 10, Sterne was sent to school at Hipperholme, near Halifax, where his uncle, Richard Sterne, whose estate was nearby, could look out for him. He grew into a tall, thin man, with a long nose but likable face. Sterne attended Jesus College, Cambridge, on a scholarship. At college he met his great friend John Hall-Stevenson (Eugenius in his fiction) and also suffered his first severe hemorrhage of the lungs. He had incurable tuberculosis.

After graduating he took holy orders and became vicar of Sutton-on-the-Forest, north of York. He soon became a prebendary (or canon) of York Minster and acquired the vicarage of Stillington. At first he was helped by another uncle, Jaques Sterne, precentor of York and archdeacon of Cleveland, a powerful clergyman but a mean-tempered man and a rabid politician. In 1741–42 Sterne wrote political articles supporting the administration of Sir Robert Walpole for a newspaper founded by his uncle but soon withdrew from politics in disgust. His uncle became his archenemy, thwarting his advancement whenever possible.

Sterne fell in love with Elizabeth Lumley, a cousin to Elizabeth Montagu, the bluestocking. They married in 1741. According to the account of an acquaintance, Sterne’s infidelities were a cause of discord in the marriage.

As a clergyman Sterne worked hard but erratically. In two ecclesiastical courts he served as commissary (judge), and his frequent sermons at York Minster were popular. Externally, his life was typical of the moderately successful clergy. But Elizabeth, who had several stillborn children, was unhappy. Only one child, Lydia, lived.

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

At his own expense, Sterne published the first two volumes of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman at York late in 1759, but he sent half of the imprint to Dodsley to sell in London. By March 1760, when he went to London, Tristram Shandy was the rage, and he was famous. Dodsley’s brother James, the new proprietor, brought out a second edition of the novel, and two volumes of sermons followed. The witty, naughty “Tristram Shandy,” or “Parson Yorick,” as Sterne was called after characters in his novel, was the most sought-after man in town. Although the timing was coincidental, Lord Fauconberg, a Yorkshire neighbour, presented him with a third parish, Coxwold. Sterne returned north joyfully to settle at Coxwold in his beloved “Shandy Hall,” a charming old house that is now a museum. He began to write at Shandy Hall during the summers, going to London in the winter to publish what he had written. James Dodsley brought out two more volumes of Tristram Shandy; thereafter, Sterne became his own publisher. In London he enjoyed the company of many great people, but his nights were sometimes wild. In 1762, after almost dying from lung hemorrhages, he fled the damp air of England into France, a journey he described as Tristram’s flight from death. This and a later trip abroad gave him much material for his later Sentimental Journey. Elizabeth, now recovered, followed him to France, where she and their daughter settled permanently. Sterne returned to England virtually a single man.

In 1767 he published the final volume of Tristram Shandy. Soon thereafter he fell in love with Eliza Draper, who was half his age and unhappily married to an official of the East India Company. They carried on an open, sentimental flirtation, but Eliza was under a promise to return to her husband in Bombay. After she sailed, Sterne finished A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, by Mr. Yorick, published it to acclaim early in 1768, and collapsed.

Lying in his London lodgings, he put up his arm as though to ward off a blow, saying, “Now it is come,” and died. Soon after burial at London, Sterne’s body was stolen by grave robbers, taken to Cambridge, and used for an anatomy lecture. Someone recognized the body, and it was quietly returned to the grave. The story, only whispered at the time, was confirmed in 1969: Sterne’s remains were exhumed and now rest in the churchyard at Coxwold, close to Shandy Hall.

Works.

Sterne’s Tristram Shandy was published in nine slim volumes (released in five installments) from 1759 to 1767. In it the narrator, Tristram, sets out to do the impossible—to tell the story of his life. He begins with the story of his conception—an innocent remark of his mother upsetting his father’s concentration and causing poor Tristram to be conceived a weakling. To understand that, Tristram must then explain John Locke’s principle of the association of ideas. This, in turn, embroils him in a discussion of his parents’ marriage contract, his Uncle Toby, Parson Yorick, the midwife, and Dr. Slop. He has so much to tell that he does not get himself born until the third volume. Finally reality dawns upon Tristram: it takes more time to tell the story of his life than it does to live it; he can never catch himself.

At one level Tristram Shandy is a satire upon intellectual pride. Walter Shandy thinks he can beget and rear the perfect child, yet Tristram is misconceived, misbaptized, miseducated, and circumcised by a falling window sash. He grows to manhood an impotent weakling whose only hope of transcending death is to tell the story of himself and his family. Finally, Tristram turns to the sweet, funny story of his Uncle Toby’s amours with the Widow Wadman, concluding the novel at a point in time years before Tristram was born. A hilarious, often ribald novel, Tristram Shandy nevertheless makes a serious comment on the isolation of people from each other caused by the inadequacies of language and describes the breaking-through of isolation by impulsive gestures of sympathy and love. A second great theme of the novel is that of time—the discrepancy between clock time and time as sensed, the impinging of the past upon the present, the awareness that a joyous life inexorably leads to death. Modern commentators regard Tristram Shandy as the ancestor of psychological and stream-of-consciousness fiction.

Sterne’s second and last novel, A Sentimental Journey, is the story of Yorick’s travels through France; Sterne did not live to complete the part on Italy. He called it a “sentimental” journey because the point of travel was not to see sights or visit art collections, but to make meaningful contact with people. Yorick succeeds, but in every adventure, his ego or inappropriate desires and impulses get in the way of “sentimental commerce.” The result is a light-hearted comedy of moral sentiments. A Sentimental Journey was translated into many languages, but the translations tended to lose the comedy and emphasize the sentiments. Abroad Sterne became the “high priest of sentimentalism,” and as such had a profound impact upon continental letters in the second half of the 18th century.

Top 41 Laurence Sterne quotes

An English man does not travel to see English men.
Does
English
Man
Men
See
Travel
I take a simple view of life. It is keep your eyes open and get on with it.
Eyes
Get
Keep
Life
Open
Simple
Take
View
Your
God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.
God
Lamb
Wind
A dwarf who brings a standard along with him to measure his own size, take my word, is a dwarf in more articles than one.
Along
Articles
Brings
Dwarf
Him
His
Measure
More
Own
Size
Standard
Take
Than
Who
People who overly take care of their health are like misers. They hoard up a treasure which they never enjoy.
Care
Enjoy
Health
Hoard
Like
Never
Overly
People
Take
Take Care
Treasure
Up
Which
Who
The most accomplished way of using books is to serve them as some people do lords; learn their titles and then brag of their acquaintance.
Accomplished
Acquaintance
Books
Brag
Learn
Lords
Most
People
Serve
Some
Some People
Them
Then
Titles
Alas! if the principles of contentment are not within us, the height of station and worldly grandeur will as soon add a cubit to a man's stature as to his happiness.
Add
Alas
Contentment
Grandeur
Happiness
Height
His
Man
Principles
Soon
Station
Stature
Us
Will
Only the brave know how to forgive; it is the most refined and generous pitch of virtue human nature can arrive at.
Arrive
Brave
Forgive
Generous
How
Human
Human Nature
Know
Most
Nature
Only
Pitch
Refined
Virtue
I once asked a hermit in Italy how he could venture to live alone, in a single cottage, on the top of a mountain, a mile from any habitation? He replied, that Providence was his next-door neighbor.
Alone
Any
Asked
Cottage
Could
He
Hermit
His
How
Italy
Live
Mile
Mountain
Neighbor
Keyholes are the occasions of more sin and wickedness, than all other holes in this world put together.
Holes
More
Occasions
Other
Put
Sin
Than
Together
Wickedness
World
People who are always taking care of their health are like misers, who are hoarding a treasure which they have never spirit enough to enjoy.
Always
Care
Enjoy
Enough
Health
Hoarding
Like
Never
People
Spirit
Taking
Treasure
Which
Who
Of all duties, prayer certainly is the sweetest and most easy.
Certainly
Duties
Easy
Most
Prayer
Sweetest
Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.
Guides
Manners
Morals
Others
Our
Ourselves
Respect
Respect For Others
Religion which lays so many restraints upon us, is a troublesome companion to those who will lay no restraints upon themselves.
Companion
Lay
Lays
Many
Religion
Themselves
Those
Troublesome
Us
Which
Who
Will
Only the brave know how to forgive... a coward never forgave; it is not in his nature.
Brave
Coward
Forgive
His
How
Know
Nature
Never
Only
Nothing is so perfectly amusing as a total change of ideas.
Amusing
Change
Ideas
Nothing
Perfectly
Total
Courtship consists in a number of quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as not to be understood.
Alarm
Consists
Courtship
Nor
Number
Pointed
Quiet
Understood
Vague
I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me.
About
Both
Bound
Duty
Either
Equally
Father
Had
I Wish
Indeed
Me
Minded
Mother
Them
When a man is discontented with himself, it has one advantage - that it puts him into an excellent frame of mind for making a bargain.
Advantage
Bargain
Discontented
Excellent
Frame
Him
Himself
Making
Man
Mind
Puts
What is the life of man! Is it not to shift from side to side? From sorrow to sorrow? To button up one cause of vexation! And unbutton another!
Another
Button
Cause
Life
Man
Shift
Side
Sorrow
Up
I am persuaded that every time a man smiles - but much more so when he laughs - it adds something to this fragment of life.
Adds
Am
Every
Every Time
Fragment
He
I Am
Laughs
Life
Man
More
Much
Persuaded
Smiles
Writing, when properly managed, (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.
Conversation
Different
I Think
May
Mine
Name
Properly
Sure
Think
Writing
You
One may as well be asleep as to read for anything but to improve his mind and morals, and regulate his conduct.
Anything
Asleep
Conduct
His
Improve
May
Mind
Morals
Read
Regulate
Well
In all unmerciful actions, the worst of men pay this compliment at least to humanity, as to endeavour to wear as much of the appearance of it, as the case will well let them.
Actions
Appearance
Case
Compliment
Endeavour
Humanity
Least
Men
Much
Pay
Them
Wear
Well
Will
'Tis known by the name of perseverance in a good cause, and of obstinacy in a bad one.
Bad
Bad One
Cause
Good
Good Cause
Known
Name
Obstinacy
Perseverance
Tis
Lessons of wisdom have the most power over us when they capture the heart through the groundwork of a story, which engages the passions.
Capture
Groundwork
Heart
Lessons
Most
Over
Passions
Power
Story
Through
Us
Which
Wisdom
For every ten jokes you acquire a hundred enemies.
Acquire
Enemies
Every
Hundred
Jokes
Ten
You
So much of motion, is so much of life, and so much of joy, and to stand still, or get on but slowly, is death and the devil.
Death
Devil
Get
Joy
Life
Motion
Much
Slowly
Stand
Still
It is a great pity but tis certain from every day's observation of man, that he may be set on fire like a candle, at either end provided there is a sufficient wick standing out.
Candle
Certain
Day
Either
End
Every
Fire
Great
He
Like
Man
May
Observation
Out
Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world, - though the cant of hypocrites may be the worst, - the cant of criticism is the most tormenting!
Cant
Criticism
Hypocrites
May
Most
Though
Which
World
Worst
The desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it.
Acquisition
Desire
Ever
Increases
Knowledge
Like
Riches
Thirst
In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself.
Gains
Itself
Lean
Learns
Mind
Solitude
Strength
Men tire themselves in pursuit of rest.
Men
Pursuit
Rest
Themselves
Tire
When the heart flies out before the understanding, it saves the judgment a world of pains.
Before
Flies
Heart
Judgment
Out
Pains
Saves
Understanding
World
Pain and pleasure, like light and darkness, succeed each other.
Darkness
Each
Light
Like
Other
Pain
Pleasure
Succeed
Sciences may be learned by rote, but wisdom not.
Learned
May
Rote
Sciences
Wisdom
Titles of honor are like the impressions on coins, which add no value to gold or silver, but only render brass current.
Add
Brass
Current
Gold
Honor
Impressions
Like
Only
Render
Silver
Titles
Value
Which
There have been no sects in the Christian world, however absurd, which have not endeavoured to support their opinions by arguments drawn from Scripture.
Absurd
Argument
Been
Christian
Christian World
Drawn
However
Opinions
Scripture
Support
Which
World
An actor should be able to create the universe in the palm of his hand.
Able
Actor
Create
Hand
His
Palm
Should
Universe
But this is neither here nor there why do I mention it? Ask my pen, it governs me, I govern not it.
Ask
Govern
Governs
Here
Me
Mention
Neither
Nor
Pen
Why
Our passion and principals are constantly in a frenzy, but begin to shift and waver, as we return to reason.
Begin
Constantly
Frenzy
Our
Passion
Principals
Reason
Return
Shift
Waver

Laurence Sterne books

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Penguin Classics)

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Penguin Classics)

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

A Sentimental Journey and Other Writings (Oxford World's Classics)

A Sentimental Journey and Other Writings (Oxford World's Classics)

A Sentimental Journey (Penguin Classics)

A Sentimental Journey (Penguin Classics)

Laurence Sterne: A Life

Laurence Sterne: A Life

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Modern Library Classics)

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Modern Library Classics)

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman: (with an Introduction by Wilbur L. Cross)

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman: (with an Introduction by Wilbur L. Cross)

A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy

A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy

Tristram Shandy (Collins Classics)

Tristram Shandy (Collins Classics)

A Sentimental Journey (Penguin Classics) by Laurence Sterne (29-Nov-2001) Paperback

A Sentimental Journey (Penguin Classics) by Laurence Sterne (29-Nov-2001) Paperback

A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (Annotated): THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY

A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (Annotated): THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY

Tristram Shandy (Norton Critical Editions)

Tristram Shandy (Norton Critical Editions)

Laurence Sterne essays

Read more informative topics on our blog
Tristram Shandy An Immortal Autobiography English Literature Essay
The essay accessible briefly traces examples of Laurence Sterne's refutation of temporal and epistemological conventions in his novel Tristram Shandy specifically in the first two amounts of the series. The strategy undertaken is principally in the light of structural narratology. Islamic Azad University Tristram Shandy: An Immortal Autobiography A Project Made by: Marzieh Hashemi Course:The Literature of 17th and 18th cent. Instructor: Ms. Takapoui December, 2010 The books of eighteenth hundred years being well-known for its dogmatic as well as pragmatic views was..
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