Laurence Sterne (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics.
"-They order, said I, this matter better in France-
-You have been in France? said my gentleman, turning quick upon me with the most civil triumph in the world. - Strange! quoth I, debating the matter with myself, That one and twenty miles sailing, for 'tis absolutely no further from Dover to Calais, should give a man these right"
"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; had they duly consider'd how much depended upon what they were doing; -- that not only the production of a rational Being was concern'd in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body."
"In the course of his journey, Yorick displays with manifest self-approval all the benevolent sentiments widely regarded during the eighteenth century as the essence of virtue, particularly by those who shared the credo of the "man of feeling." One the other hand, his sentimental travels consistently exhibit the comic incongruities between his exalted impulses and the situations which occasion them, expose their instability and radical impurity , and reveal his susceptibility to all the venial imperfections of human nature, including prurience, concupiscence, selfishess and vanity."
"Early eighteenth century satire, such as that of Swift and Pope, launched attacks on the misuse of reason and on those who allowed themselves to be dominated by their passions. As the century advanced, such satire softened into sentimental comedy - Congreve was replaced by Goldsmith. The writings of Sterne seem to support this thesis admirably."
The novel defies conventional expectations of what a travel book might be. An apparently random collection of scattered experiences, it mingles affecting vignettes with episodes in a heartier, comic mode, but coherence of imagination is secured by the delicate insistence with which Sterne ponders how the impulses of sentimental and erotic feeling are psychologically interdependent.
A hilarious, often ribald novel, <i>Tristram Shandy</i> 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 <i>Tristram Shandy</i> as the ancestor of psychological and stream-of-consciousness fiction.
Best known today for the innovative satire and experimental narrative of <i>The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman</i> (1759–67), Laurence Sterne was no less famous in his time for <i>A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy</i> (1768), an iconic text of the sensibility vogue and a pioneering novel of consciousness, and for his controversial sermons.
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.
He entered the Church, a profession for which he was very indifferently fitted, and through family influence procured the living of Sutton, Yorkshire. In 1741 he married a lady — Miss Lumley — whose influence obtained for him in addition an adjacent benefice, and he also became a prebendary of York.
A novelist, son of an officer in the army, and the great-grandson of an Archbishop of York, was born at Clonmel, where his father’s regiment happened to be stationed, and passed part of his boyhood in Ireland. At the age of 10 he was handed over to a relation, Mr. Sterne of Elvington in Yorkshire, who put him to school at Halifax, and thereafter sent him to Cambridge.