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Sterne and Sterneana : Nouveau voyage sentimental

Gorjy, Jean-Claude 1753-1795

Sterne and Sterneana

<p style='text-align: justify;'><p>This was the first edition of Jean-Claude Gorjy’s journey narrative in the manner of Sterne’s Sentimental Journey, published in London. It was followed by a new edition, much augmented, also published in London, in 1785. The narrative forms part of the earlier literary production of Gorjy (1753-1795), better remembered for ’Ann’Quin Bredouille, ou le Petit cousin de Tristram Shandy (1792), among many other fictional and dramatic works.</p><p>In a signed foreword, Gorjy conforms to the convention of the discovered manuscript, in the shape of wrapping paper, which he purports to have edited: ‘des feuilles manuscrites que j’ai trouvées enveloppant des marchandises venues de Londres. Un Anglois, qui étoit présent, crut y reconnoître l’écriture de Stern [sic]’. Gorjy denies authorship with typical Sternean ambiguity. </p><p>Explicit references and allusions to A Sentimental Journey are made, with Lisette instead of Eliza as fictional recipient, and the discovery of a new fragment to perplex the traveller (95). More significantly, Gorjy feels at one with the ‘sentimental’ principle that feeling is the clue to understanding. His text is also notable for its handling of motifs which are his original contribution to the literary scene in the turbulent last two decades of the eighteenth century.</p><p>The first chapter begins with two lines of dots, then a dialogue in medias res between La Fleur and a carefree Yorick, stumbling on a welcoming group of French peasants. The benevolent narrator has an eye for the incomparably white roundness of a young mother’s breast, while extolling the spirit of disinterested hospitality shown by the country people. He repeatedly declares his preference for the company of common people rather than rich ones, as he hovers between the two. His ready empathy and his willingness to engulf himself in others’ stories are formally translated into the systematic use of frame narrative.</p><p>The following chapters - the book is composed of 32 altogether - describe the episodes of the journey, meeting eccentrics, catching sight of a lady’s white legs and red garter, shedding tears, feeling pulses, all culminating in privileged moments of shared emotion. Such epiphanies, laced with innuendos and emotional exclamations, bear the imprint of A Sentimental Journey. So does untitled chapter VII, calling itself ‘à peu près une Préface ; & on ne peut plus faire lire une Préface que par surprise’ (25).</p><p>Gorjy’s Yorick is bound for the harsher environment of Paris. The French capital provides a satirical chapter on female intellectuals, ‘Les femmes savantes’ (31). When penniless Yorick finds work as a clockmaker, this gives him the opportunity of an incursion into the fascinating world of grissets: ‘Les grisettes sont des ouvrières […] trop gentilles pour vouloir être peuple, & trop sages pour vouloir sortir […] de leur sphère’ (43). These young women are the ideal combination of sexual freedom and moral conscience, of taste and modesty, in stark contrast with some richer women in whom Yorick sees ‘des squelettes fanés par les jouissances’ (83). </p><p>Among the secondary stories, each of which is pursued to its happy denouement, one stands out: it narrates the cruel public punishment of an old coquette (135-146), showing a more Swiftian than Sternean fascination for the metamorphosis of the female body. The final chapter ends on a melancholy note, as Yorick meets the inconsolable Maria with a young child.</p><p>Madeleine Descargues Grant</p><p><b>References:</b></p><p>Bandry-Scubbi Anne, ‘Sterne, l’imitateur imité’, XVII-XVIII. Bulletin de la société d’études anglo-américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, n° 32 (1991), 67–77</p><p>Monselet, Charles, ‘Gorjy’, Les Originaux du siècle dernier : les oubliés et les dédaignés (Paris, 1864), 229-256. [Monselet notes the two variant spellings of the author’s name, ‘Gorjy’ and ‘Gorgy’]</p></p>

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