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selves what manner of man he was. If we try him by the high standard of morality and decency to which we happily have become accustomed in the reign of Victoria, we shall be unable to acquit him. But when we remember that he had the misfortune to live amidst the unhealthy atmosphere, the riot, vice, and irreligion which marked the era of the second George, we shall feel justified in dismissing him with a lenient sentence.
"In all our numerous family, for these four generations, we count no more than one archbishop, a Welsh judge, some three or four aldermen, and a single mountebank." The "archbishop' was Richard Sterne, who filled the see of York from 1664 to 1683. He had been an ardent royalist during the civil war, and when master of Jesus College, Cambridge, sent the college plate as an offering to King Charles. His loyalty cost him his liberty. Cromwell seized him and carried him captive to London, along with some other "pestilent, bad birds of the same viperous brood." He was, however, speedily released, and reäppeared, after a brief eclipse, on the restoration, to be recompensed first with the bishopric of Carlisle, and afterward with the primacy of York. Adversity, it seems, had not taught him toleration, for we presently hear that he was a (6 High Churchman, who dealt strictly with the Nonconformists," and again, from Baxter, that he had "a promising face, but not half the charity which became so grave a bishop, nor so mortified an aspect." Burnet is not more complimentary. "Sterne died," he tells us, "in the eighty-sixth year of his age: he was a sour, ill-tempered divine, and minded chiefly the enriching of his family: he was suspected of Popery."
The Welsh judge " is unknown; the "aldermen" are known but insignificant; the "mountebank" is the author of Tristram Shandy himself, and great grandson of the loyal primate. Roger Sterne, his father, was an ensign in Chudleigh's regiment, which formed part of that British army famous, according to "my Uncle Toby," for having "sworn terribly in Flanders." He joined in 1708, and served through several of Marlborough's campaigns. At Bauchain, in 1711, he fell in with a widow, named Agnes Hebert, the step-daughter of a "noted sutler." "N. B.," writes the son concerning his father, "he was in debt to him," and by way,
we presume, of payment, he married the sutler's daughter. Her life from marriage to death seems to have been made up of one unbroken series of fatigues and hardships. For years, like the homeless tramp in Bleak House, she was incessantly obliged to "move on." First from Flanders to Clonmel, where Laurence was born in the November of 1713, the year of the peace of Utrecht: next to Dublin, where her husband "took a large house, furnished it, and in a year and a half's time spent a great deal of money: then to the Isle of Wight to bid him farewell before he sailed to Vigo Bay, on what Mr. Carlyle calls the " missfire "" expedition : back again to Ireland to wander to and fro, a genteel pensioner on the ensign's friends: always poor and often penniless, mostly alone and left to her own resources, who can help pitying the lot of this soldier's wife? After her husband's death she set up a school, but the extravagance of her daughter Catherine reduced her to bankruptcy, so that even in her old age she was not free from the wearing anxiety which want of money always causes. Her celebrated son has been most unjustly accused of neglecting her.
intentions, that he suspected no one: so that you might have cheated him ten times in a day, if nine had not been sufficient for your pur
Doubtless this kind and gentle creature furnished Sterne with the idea of that most delightfull of all characters in fiction, my Uncle Toby." If we compare this genial picture of the father with the following sketch from Tristram Shandy, we shall find two Dromios who confound us:
"My Uncle Toby was a man patient of injuries-not from want of courage, but he was of a peaceful, placid nature-no jarring element in it-all was mixed up so kindly within him; my Uncle Toby had scarce a heart to retaliate on a fly. Go," says he, one day at dinner, to an overgrown one which had buzzed about his nose, and tormented him cruelly all dinnertime, and which, after infinite attempts, he had caught at last, as it flew by him.' "I'll not hurt thee," says my Uncle Toby, rising from his chair, and going across the room with the fly in his hand. "I'll not hurt a hair of thy head. Go," says he, lifting up the sash, and opening his hand as he spoke, to let it escape; poor devil, get thee gone; why should I hurt thee? This world is surely wide enough to
hold both thee and me." """
A man who hesitates to crush a fly, is likely to get crushed himself in the "ugly rush" of his comrades for promotion and rewards. We can not wonder that the simple Roger Sterne lived and died a subaltern. His career was one long campaign unsweetened by success. In Flanders, in Portugal, at Gibraltar-where he was run through the body by a brother officer in a duel about a goose!-the single-minded soldier toiled at the tedious round of duty in barracks and in the field, unnoticed and uncared for. At last death overtook him in Jamaica, far away from friends and kindred. "The country fever," his son writes, in a sentence where emotion appears to have overpowered grammar, "took away his senses first, and made a child of him; and then, in a month or two, walking about continually without complaining, till the moment he sat down in an arm-chair and breathed his last."
have often drank in, with breathless interest, the glorious story of the deeds of the brave "army in Flanders;" or, seated in the guard-room, have listened with eager ears to the yarns of Marlborough's battered veterans. Of course he lost in this strange rough school much knowledge which other school-boys naturally gain. Spelling, for instance, was an art which he was not taught, and which he never afterward acquired. His mistakes, even in common words, are ludicrous. Thus we have "vinierd" for vineyard; "akes" for aches; "magazeen " for magazine; "mettles for metals; and dozens of blunders quite as execrable. But this ignorance of what every school-boy knows" was a price he could well afford to pay for the education of the barrackyard and parade-ground-for the acquaintance of captains like "my Uncle Toby," and corporals like Trim.
Sterne passed his childhood with his parents. Up to his eleventh year he was their companion in all their wanderings. It was in these early days that he gained that insight into the small details of a sol. dier's life, which he turned to such good account in Tristram Shandy. The little fellow, mounted on his father's knee, must
In 1724 the boy's gipsy life came to an end, and he was fixed at Halifax free school by his father, whom he never saw again. He was not, however, left quite alone; for near at hand lived his Yorkshire relatives, the Sternes of Elvington, with whom he often spent his holidays. He seems to have been an idle, careless, irregular scholar; but an incident related by himself proves that his natural brilliancy had already become discernible :
whitewashed, and the ladder left behind by the "The ceiling of the school-room having been workmen, I, one unlucky day, mounted it, and wrote with a brush, in large capital letters, Lau. Sterne, for which the usher severely whipped me. My master was very much hurt at this, and said before me that never should that name be effaced, for I was a boy of genius, and he was sure I should come to preferment. This made me forget the stripes I had re
lege, Cambridge. Within its quiet pre- | very smooth. "She owned she liked me, cincts the memory of his sturdy royalist but thought herself not rich enough, or ancestor, who sent the plate to Charles I., me too poor, to be joined together. She must still have been cherished. His own went to her sisters in Staffordshire. I college career was undistinguished. "At wrote to her often." Some of these letthe university," we read in a short sketch ters were published after Sterne's death; of him, published in a London paper after they are in the ardent, exaggerated style he had become famous, and suspected to in which he always addressed the other be from his own pen, "he spent the usual sex. He professes himself in despair benumber of years; read a great deal, cause his "L" is absent. He weeps laughed more, and sometimes took the freely: diversion of troubling his tutors. He left Cambridge with the character of an odd man, who had no harm in him, and who had parts if he would use them"-just such a person as we should imagine the lad would grow into, who would learn when he pleased, but not oftener than once a fortnight. His great friend was John Hall Stevenson, the writer of the shameful Crazy Tales, and whom we may justly call the corrupter of the mind of Sterne. He is the "Eugenius" of Tristram Shandy, and throughout life he was the constant associate of "Yorick." At college they seem to have belonged to a rollicking "fast" set. Troubling the tutors was among the more innocent of their pleasures. The riotous companionship of a noisy profligate was a sorry preparation for the sacred duties which were awaiting Sterne.
On leaving the university, he was or dained deacon by the Bishop of Lincoln, and, two years later, priest by the Bishop of Chester. Well would it have been for his reputation had he never taken on himself that solemn office! Construe his conduct as charitably as we may, it is impossible to help seeing how radically unfit he was for the serious responsibilities of a minister of religion. His sole motive in assuming them was the certainty of pre-heart of the writer had grown cold toward ferment. His uncle, Jaques Sterne, an her.
This sort of rhodomontade sounds rather absurd to a calm bystander, but it must have been acceptable enough to L. We are not surprised that she treasured such glowing love-letters long after the
ardent politician, and, we may add, an The objection of poverty soon melted unblushing pluralist, was archdeacon of away in the sunshine of Sterne's clerical the East Riding, and ready to push a rel-promotion; but a new obstacle to the marative without scruple. Sterne, who had riage arose. Miss Lumley fell into bad been guilty of the meanness and hypoc- health, and narrowly escaped sinking into risy of "taking orders" to secure a liveli- a fatal decline. She herself anticipated hood, was not disappointed in his expect that her illness would end in death. ations, for five days after his ordination. he was presented to the vicarage of Suttonon-the-Forest.
Meanwhile, during one of his visits to York, he had met his future wife. Her name was Elizabeth Lumley, and she came of a good family in Staffordshire. The course of true love did not at first run
all attention to me; but I sat over it with "Fanny had prepared me a supper; she is tears; a bitter sauce, my L, but I could eat it with no other. One solitary plate, one knife, one fork, one glass! I gave a thousand pensive, penetrating looks at the chair thou hast so often graced, in those quiet and sentimental repasts; then laid down my knife and fork, and took out my handkerchief and clapped it across my face, and wept like a child."
The lover's tears are for ever flowing. "Tears are trickling down upon the paper at I trace the word L Sometimes he addresses her in a gayer strain:
"Methinks I see my contemplative girl now in the garden, watching the gradual approaches of spring. Dost thou not mark with delight rose, those early and welcome visitors, spring the first vernal buds? the snowdrop and primbeneath thy feet.. The feathered race are all thy own; and with their untaught harmony will soon begin to cheer thy morning and evening walk. Sweet as this may be, return, return; the birds of Yorkshire will tune their pipes, and sing as melodiously as those of Staffordshire."
"One evening," writes her husband to their daughter Lydia, "when I was sitting by her with an almost broken heart to see her so ill, she said, 'My dear Laurey, I can never be yours, for I verily belive I have not long to live; but I have left you every shilling of my fortune. Upon that she showed me her will. This generosity overpowered me. It pleased
God that she recovered, and I married her in, day wedded him more and more closely the year 1741.”
to his college friend, Stevenson, who had come to dwell hard by at Skelton Castle. There, in a magnificent library well stored with the quaint old authors, to whom we owe many of Sterne's happiest thoughts, or in the great hall carousing with Eugenius" and other choice spirits, not inaptly self-named "Demoniacs," he passed many intoxicating hours. Strange employment for an English clergyman, yet hardly more demoralizing than the dull dissipation in which many of his order indulged. "Eugenius" has left us a comical sketch of one of the ordinary country parsons of the day:
The marriage was not a happy one. Indeed we may gather from Sterne's own account of the manner in which her "generosity" overpowered him that even be fore the wedding-day love had departed." It is difficult to apportion blame when husband and wife disagree. As time passed on, Sterne certainly did become indifferent to his L-, but he was not alogether without excuse. She seems to have been singularly uninteresting. Mr. Hawthorne notices, in his last book, the disagreeable expression of her portrait; and she was as destitute of mental as of physical gifts. Wholly incapable of appreciating her husband's genius, real union with him and affection for him must have been impossible. In spite of her "fine voice and good taste in music," and of his "books, painting, shooting, and fiddling," the hours must often have hung heavily in the parsonage at Sutton.
Who can wonder that the feeble and nervous Vicar of Sutton despised and avoided these muscular pagans? Neither they nor their patrons, the Squire Westerns of the county, were at all to his taste. He felt a contempt for them and their rude jokes and boisterous mirth, which he was at no pains to conceal. They repaid his contempt with hatred. In the wellknown dialogue between Yorick and Eugenius, in Tristram Shandy, we learn the penalty he paid for jesting at the ex
In that rural and rather dull retirement, however, Sterne was destined to live for nearly twenty years, unnoticed and almost unknown. Now and again we catch glimpses of him mingling in party politics, and, until he quarreled with his uncle the archdeacon, writing occasionally in the whig interest in party newspapers. After the quarrel, he refused to continue writ-pense of others. "For every ten jokes ing, and suddenly discovered that he de- thou hast got a hundred enemies. Whentested such dirty work. There was little ever they associate for mutual defense, or no society in which he could have cared depend upon it they will carry on the war to mix. The clergy of the province in such a manner, my dear friend, as to were notoriously underpaid and illiterate. make thee heartily sick of it, and of thy Twelve shillings a week was the ordinary life, too." This gloomy prediction was wages of curates, who in those days were signally verified. "Revenge, from some the companions of footmen and maid-serv-baneful corner," was never weary of levelCorporal Trim, when he went to ing tales of dishonor at him; "the forsee the poor lieutenant, found Mr. Yorick's tunes of his house tottered; his character curate "smoking a pipe by the kitchen bled on every side." fire." In Macklin's Man of the World, .which represents the manners of a somewhat later period, the lady's maid sets her cap at the chaplain. Nor were the rectors and vicars, in Yorkshire at any rate, more refined than their humbler brethren, although they were perhaps less needy. Hunting, swearing, and drinking were by no means uncommon in the reign of the primate whom Walpole calls, "The jolly old Archbishop" Blackburne. The fastidious "Yorick can not have found many friends among these rough neighbors, and it is not surprising that every
Sutton was within an easy distance of York, and a visit to the cathedral city was one of Sterne's favorite relaxations. There he first made his reputation as a wit and as a preacher; and there, in 1759 or thereabouts, he found in Miss Catherine de Fourmantelle, the object of a sentimental attachment. We may observe that both in this instance and in the many others which were to follow, we believe the attachments to have been in truth sentimental, and nothing more. Even when regarded in this light they are discreditable enough. An elderly ecclesias
"Not more renowed for song and pipe,
tic, who had a wife and daughter waiting
Meanwhile he was hard at work on the first two volumes of Tristram Shandy. He published them at the end of 1759. Their success both in York and London was instantaneous, and when in March, 1760, the author came up to town he found himself the lion of the season. No literary man, except perhaps Lord Byron, was ever so feted and caressed. His letters to Kitty, left behind in York, and soon to be forgotten, glow with triumph. "Tristram is the fashion," he exclaims; "I
VOL. LXIII.-NO. 1
have the greatest honors paid me,
Tristram Shandy, although now read only by the curious, thoroughly deserved the astonishing success which it attained. It was, and indeed it still remains, a complete novelty in English literature. Continuous story there is none; the whole interest depends on the sayings and doings of the group of originals whom Sterne has created with such consummate art. They are all odd, yet all natural. Mr. Shandy, Uncle Toby, that sweetest, simplest, and most lovable of soldiers, Yorick, and Dr. Slop-we can see them all in the back parlor at Shandy Hall, solemnly smoking their pipes, talking delightful nonsense, and riding their hobby-horses at each