skip to content

Sterne and Sterneana : Yorick's sentimental journey, continued to which is prefixed, some account of the life and writings of Mr. Sterne Vol. 4

Sterne, Laurence 1713-1768

Sterne and Sterneana

<p style='text-align: justify;'><p>Published a year after Sterne's death, this purports to be the third and fourth volumes of <i>A Sentimental Journey</i> (1768), as retold to his close friend, 'Eugenius'. The editor claims an intimacy with the author and knowledge of 'the most remarkable incidents' of the latter part of the journey, which led to the work being attributed to John Hall Stevenson, usually regarded as the model for Sterne's 'Eugenius'. This has been questioned by a number of scholars, including Karl Thompson and Lodwick Hartley, and the attribution to Hall is regarded as extremely doubtful. A brief - and often factually inaccurate - account of the life of Sterne is prefixed. It is hard not to see this as an opportunistic attempt to cash in on Sterne's name, and it was occasionally packaged with the two volumes of <i>A Sentimental Journey</i> to produce a spurious 'completed' text.</p><p>The proximity in terms of time to the original makes this a particulalry interesting example of Sterneana, and it can be viewed as a type of gloss or reader response to Sterne's text. Very little new material is added, and 'Eugenius' for the most part revisits characters created by Sterne. The narrative is in effect the frist two volumes of <i>A Sentimental Journey</i> in reverse; the promise of a journey to Italy is ignored, and almost immediately Yorick, having signed a new treaty to accompany the Piedmontese lady he shared a room with, breaks his word to return to France. If Yorick's initial treaty infraction was due to getting too close to someone, his next signals a retreat.</p><p>This is not the only backward step, as 'Eugenius' exchanges the open-endedness that characterises <i>A Sentimental Journey</i> for a desire to close down narrative possibilities. Maria is killed off, Madame de L*** is revealed to be married (and hence no longer a romantic possibility), and unresolved questions are unconvincingly explained. We are told, for instance, that the 'matter' which prompted the original journey is whether the French manage drinking toasts at meals better than the English. Instead of Sterne's subtle interrogation of boundaries, we got a 'Dialogue between my Soul and my Body', or a list of 'for' and 'againsts' as to whether he should have sex. Not many of Yorick's ambiguities are allowed to survive, and the text ends with the ultimate closure, the death of Sterne.</p><p>The text tries to imitate some of Sterne's techniques, with a series of short chapters and digressions. If, as Thomas Keymer suggests, Sterne's work became a byword for stretching out scanty material, 'Eugenius' takes the use of white space to a new level. In accord with a text that is uncomfortable with ambiguity,t he use of the dash is not as prevalent, while the Russian dolls of a Sterne narrative are translated into the standard, unimaginative interpolated tales that characterised the mid-century novel. The two main narrative additions - the story of a young man who fights his best friend in a duel, and the subsequent history of the <i>fille de chambre</i> - are standard fare. The clumsiness of the double-entendres (Yorick is described as standing 'bolt upright' when he discovers his breeches are undone) makes Sterne seem like a master of delicacy, and also, as M-C. Newbould suggests, makes Yorick appear 'innocently vague by comparison'.</p><p>The preface promises an interest in moral simplicity, but this is far from a chaste version of Yorick. The <i>fille de chambre</i>, who in the original delivered a message to Yorick, is newly christened Madame Laborde (a none-too-subtle pun on her descent to prostitution, which suggestst the obtuseness with which sexual relations are depicted). As Newbould has argued, this text moves from the complex pulsing of motives in Sterne to a clerly predatory Yorick. At one point he toys with the reader as to whether he has slept with madame Laborde, only to then boast of his conquest. Sterne's text has often been used to highlight concerns about the sentimental mode; here sentimentalism feels the thinnest of coverings for selfish needs and sexual urges. The shockingly unfeeling discussion of Madame Laborde's rape, and the suggestion she should set a price on her honour, puts the monetary element of Yorick's relationships with women in a less severe light. The sentimental mode has been accused of paying for tears; here men are happy to pay for very different satisfactions.</p><p>Catholicism and French manners are also given less balanced consideration, with Paris described as 'the paradise of coquet, the Elysium of <i>petits-maîtres</i>, and the center of frivolity', while frogs' legs are pointedly compared to The Roast Beef of Old England. One interesting element is again the reversal of Sterne's journey structure: the slowness of the arrival in Calais in volume I becomes a race to get home in 'volume IV'. Eight paragraphs and three chapters deal with the Shandyesque return via Dover, Canterbury and London, suggesting Sterne's critique of fast travel has here gone either unheeded or unnoticed (like so many of the distinctive ideas and themes of <i>A Sentimental Journey</i>).</p><p>Chris Ewers</p><p><b>References:</b></p><p>Gerard, W.B., 'The First "Temptation" of Yorick, or, a Pirate Tale', <i>THe Shandean</i> 15 (2004), 107-16</p><p>Hartley, Lodwick, 'Yorick's Sentimental Journey Continued: A Reconsideration of the Authorship", <i>South Atlantic Quarterly</i> 70.2 (1971), 180-90</p><p>Keymer, Thomas, <i>Sterne, the Moderns, and teh Novel</i> (Oxford: Oxfrod University Press, 2002)</p><p>Newbould, M-C., 'Sex, death, and the aposiopesis: Two early attempts to fill the gaps of Laurence Sterne's <i>A Sentimental Journey,' Postgraduate English</i> 17 (March 2008), 1-17</p><p> -, <i>Adaptations of Laurence Sterne's Fiction: Sterneana, 1760-1840</i> (Ashgate, 2013)</p><p>Thompson, Karl F., 'The Authorship of Yorick's "Sentimental Journey Continued"', <i>Notes and Queries</i> 195 (1950), 318-9</p></p>

Want to know more?

Under the 'More' menu you can find , and information about sharing this image.

No Contents List Available
No Metadata Available


If you want to share this page with others you can send them a link to this individual page:
Alternatively please share this page on social media

You can also embed the viewer into your own website or blog using the code below: