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other furiously. In the hands of a less skillful artist they would have been mere caricatures, but, under the magic touch of Sterne, they actually live and move before our eyes. Mr. Shandy never opens his mouth without beginning a philosophic dissertation; but we should certainly recognize him though he did not utter a single syllable about philosophy. Uncle Toby discourses for ever, in season and out of season, to the faithful Corporal Trim, to the faithless Widow Wadman, to all comers, of sieges and battles, moats and draw-bridges, counterscarps, ravelins, and half-moons. But he would be Uncle Toby still, though he were never to use a military phrase again. These peculiarities are a source of endless amusement, but we are made to feel that they are but the fringe, the "outward flourishes of the brothers' characters. Sterne stands alone and unrivaled among writers of fiction in this power of investing his creations with whimsical qualities, which are only accidental and not essential. With most writers, the shell of oddity contains no kernel. Take, for example, Miss Burney's Cecilia. Subtract from Mr. Briggs his vulgar and incessant boastings over his hoarded wealth, or from Mr. Delville his eternal talk about his family, and only shadows are left. Even Mr. Dickens will not stand this test. Would Toots be Toots without his ever-recurring "It's of no consequence?" or his Micawber be Micawber without his "Something will turn up?" To them these phrases are really as important as the familiar "Here we are again! " to the clown at Christmas. To delineato eccentricity, and yet to keep it subordinate, almost requires the delicate touch and the unerring insight of a Shakspeare.
suited to Swift than to any other English writer, he is perpetually indulging in lengthy digressions, which all the finish and sparkle of his style can not save from being dull. These quaint and often clumsy gambols are inexcusable. He has no deep political meaning to hide beneath them, no public end to serve. Satirists like Rabelais or the terrible Dean of St. Patrick's, may have a right to hide their faces under grotesque masks, for they are grimly in earnest. But Sterne's nonsense begins and ends with itself; it is as objectless and disagreeable as the fantastic grimacing of a maniac. Then, again, his repeated offenses against decorum and good taste are disgusting to readers who have become used to the innocent and unsullied pages of Dickens and Thackeray. His coarseness admits of no apology, although it may in part be fairly attributed to the freer manners of the age. In the days of Tristram Shandy, Tom Jones, and Peregrine Pickle, fine ladies and gentlemen talked after a fashion which would now insure their expulsion from society. The novels of Mrs. Aphra Behn might still have been found on young maidens' toilet tables. Only ten years before Sterne became the rage, Dr. Doddridge, that pious and admirable divine, had thought it no harm to laugh heartily with Nancy Moore over the Wife of Bath's tale. Johnson, the most severe of moralists, actually considered Prior to be a lady's author, and one day told Boswell that "no lady need be ashamed to have his works standing in her library." Yet even amongst his cotemporaries Sterne's indelicacy did not escape without reproof. Liberties, easily pardoned to laymen like Fielding and Smollett, were felt to be scandalous in one who was a clergyman and cathedral dignitary. Goldsmith, smarting himself under undeserved neglect, and jealous of an interloper whose genius he would never acknowledge, was justly severe on the unworthy arts by which a "licentious blockhead" was able to pass for a "fellow of smart parts and pretensions." Other reviewers followed suit; and presently the murmurs of a few swelled into a chorus of disapprobation.
Yet, in spite of the many merits of Sterne's great work, it is at present perhaps even less known than the novels of his cotemporaries, Richardson, Smollett, and Fielding. Those who have really read it through might almost be counted on the fingers. Most students have dipped into it and picked out such plums as the Story of Lefevre," the "Nut-brown Maid," or the "Donkey of Lyons;" but, as a whole, its affectation and indecency make it unreadable or not fit to be read. Unfortunately for his reputation, Sterne had once been called-and called by a bishop-the "English Rabelais." In order to justify his claim to a title, far more
Meanwhile Sterne remained as popular as ever with his aristocratic friends, and could afford to set the critics at defiance. He was now busy on a new undertaking. Into the first volume of Tristram Shandy he had introduced an assize sermon on
conscience, which he had preached years before he became famous, in York cathedral. Its delivery by Corporal Trim to Mr. Sandy, Uncle Toby, and Dr. Slop, forms one of the most amusing and dramatic passages in the book; indeed, according to Walpole, whose criticism, however, of a man whom he detested, is not worth much-it was "the best thing in it." The sample was so satisfactory that there was an eager demand for more, and accordingly, in May, 1760, two volumes were advertised, entitled, "Sermons of Mr. Yorick, published by the Rev. Mr. Sterne, Prebendary of York." Most of them had been preached in Sutton parish church, so we can form some idea from them of the sort of fare provided every Sunday by their author for his rus tic parishioners. On the whole they are very good. They are short, simple, and earnest, and must have been well suited to a country congregation. After reading them we feel inclined to indorse Lady Cowper's opinion, that they were written by a good man. They met with great approval. Johnson, who cordially despised "the man Sterne," said that they contained merely the froth from the sur-merits and faults as their predecessors, face of the cup of salvation; but he is and were read by the public with the alone in his condemnation of them. Ocsame eagerness, and abused by the recasionally, it is true, the preacher's "Shan- viewers with the same virulence. Sterne dean" humor breaks forth, and, to use came up to town for the season, and found the language of Gray, he seems to be all London in a frenzy of enthusiasm for "tottering on the verge of laughter, and the "charming young king," George ready to throw his periwig in the face of III. After six months'. waste of time his audience." Thus, when preaching on and health, during which the flattery of the text, "It is better to go to the house the great seems to have made him wholly of mourning than the house of feasting,,, oblivious of his duties as a country rector, he begins with "That I deny" he returned again to Coxwould. In a and it is only when the hearers' attention letter addressed to one of his London is fairly aroused, and drowsiness has be- friends, we catch a pleasant glimpse of come impossible, that it turns out not to him at home. be Mr. Sterne, but a heartless sensualist who questions the wise man's saying. But such blemishes are few and trifling, and might easily be matched by some of our best living preachers. As a rule, Sterne banished humor, learning, ornament of any kind, from the pulpit, and adopted, as nearly as he could, the style which "Yorick" recommends in Tristram Shandy:
Almost immediately after the publication of his Sermons, Sterne returned to Yorkshire, but not to Sutton. He went to Cox would to take possession of the living to which Lord Fauconberg had presented him. There in the quiet retirement of a country rectory, far from the whirl of London, and with no companions but his wife and child, "his darling little Lyd," he recruited his strength after his fashionable campaign. His time was di vided between his parish duties and the third and fourth volumes of Tristram, at which, in spite of a "vile cough," and a head that "ached dismally," he worked manfully. By December they were ready, and showed no abatement of that "careless alacrity, which every day of my life prompts me to say and write a thousand things I should not." They had all the
the poor single half-hour in a week which is
"To preach to show the extent of our reading or the subtleties of our wit, to parade it in the eyes of the vulgar with the beggarly account of a little learning, tinseled over with a few words, which glitter, but convey little light, and less warmth, is a dishonest use of
An admirable definition of what all preaching should be, and of what Sterne's preaching often was.
"This place is within a mile of Lord Fauconberg's seat and park. 'Tis a very agreeable ride out in the chaise I purchased for my wife. Lyd has a pony which she delights in. Whilst they take these diversions, I am scribbling away at my Tristram. These two volumes are, I think, the best. I shall write as long as I live-'tis, in fact, my hobby-horse; and so much am I delighted with my Uncle Toby's imaginary character, that I am become an enthusiast. My Lydia helps to copy for me, and my wife knits and listens as I read her chapters."
The volumes are both the best and the purest. and there is nothing in them which "Lyd" need have been ashamed to copy.
They contain the "Story of Lefevre," the gem of all Sterne's writings, a perfect masterpiece of exquisite pathos and purity of style. It is too long to be extracted unabridged, but we may perhaps be able to convey some conception of its beauties
to the reader.
One evening, while Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim were sitting at their supper, the landlord of the village came into the parlor to beg a glass or two of sack. 'Tis for a poor gentleman of the army who has been taken ill at my house, and has a fancy for a glass of sack and a thin toast. 'I think," says he, 'it would comfort me.'" The word "army" proves a passport to Uncle Toby's sympathies, and he straightway dispatches Trim to bring him a full account of the affair.
"I despaired at first,' said the corporal, on his return, of being able to bring back any intelligence to your honor about the lieutenant and his son; for when asked where his servant was, from whom I made myself sure of knowing every thing which was proper to be asked' (That's a right distinction, Trim,' said my Uncle Toby)-'I was answered, an' please your honor, that he had no servant with him; that he had come to the inn with hired horses, which, upon finding himself unable to proceed, he had dismissed the morning after he "If I get better, my dear," said he, as he gave his purse to his son to pay the man, "But, alas! we can hire horses from hence." the poor gentleman will never go from hence,' said the landlady to me, "for I heard the death-watch all the night long; and when he dies, the youth, his son, will certainly die with him; for he is broken-hearted already.'
The son, coming into the kitchen to order a toast for his father just at this moment, the corporal sends up his respects to the lieutenant, and soon receives an invitation to step up stairs, in about ten minutes. "I believe," said the landlord, "he is going to say his prayers; for there was a book laid upon the chair by his bedside, and, as I shut the door, I saw his son take up a cushion."
"When I went up,' continued the corporal, 'into the lieutenant's room, he was lying in his bed with his head raised upon his hand, with his elbow on the pillow, and a clean white cambric handkerchief beside it. The youth was just stooping down to take up the cushion, upon which, I suppose, he had been kneeling: the book was laid upon the bed; and as he rose, in taking up the cushion with one hand, he reached out his other to take it away at the "Let it remain there, my dear," same time. said the lieutenant. "If you are Captain Shan
dy's servant," said he, "you must present my
"I wish,' said my Uncle Toby, with a deep sigh, I wish, Trim, I was asleep.
"Your honor,' replied the corporal, 'is too much concerned. Shall I pour your honor out a glass of sack to your pipe? Do, Trim,' said my Uncle Toby."
Uncle Toby can think of nothing but the sick lieutenant; he will not hear of the case being hopeless. He makes affectionate plans for the patient's welfare.
"A sick brother officer should have the best quarters, Trim; and if we had him with us, we could tend and look to him. Thou art an excellent nurse thyself, Trim; and what with thy care of him and the old woman's and his boy's and mine together, we might recruit "In a fortnight or three weeks,' added my him again at once, and set him on his legs.' Uncle Toby, smiling, he might march.' 'He He will march,' will never march, an' please your honor, in this world,' said the corporal. said my Uncle Toby, rising up from the side of An' please your honor,' said the corporal, he will never march the bed, with one shoe off. but to his grave." He shall march,' cried my Uncle Toby, marching the foot which had the shoe on, though without advancing an inch; he shall march to his regiment.' 'He can not stand it,' said the corporal. He shall be supported,' said my Uncle Toby. 'He'll drop at last,' said the corporal, and what will beHe shall not drop,' said come of his boy?' my Uncle Toby, firmly. 'Ah, well-a-day! do what we can for him,' said Trim, maintaining his point, 'the poor soul will die.' He shall not die, by
'said my Uncle Toby. "The accusing spirit which flew up to heaven's chancery with the oath, blushed as he gave it in; and the recording angel, as he wrote it down, dropped a tear upon the word and blotted it out for ever."
Next morning the kind and true-heart
ed veteran goes straight to Lefevre's bed- I when he was out of temper. Many a betside and tries to cheer the dying man with his cordial words, but all in vain.
ter man than Sterne had suffered under his stormy invectives. He had called Smollett a vagabond Scot, Burton a pupPy, Priestley a wretched fellow, and once in the House of Lords actually begged pardon of the enemy of mankind for comparing Wilkes to him. In this Paris correspondence, at all events, we can find no trace of a scoundrel, but only of a loving husband and father. The anxious solicitude Sterne displays for the travelers is almost feminine. He tells them what hotels to stay at; to travel slowly so as not to heat their blood; to live well; to deny themselves nothing; and in a parting letter, written to catch them just as they were on the wing for their long flight from Coxwould, he winds up with a hearty exhortation, which must have braced their nerves and banished their fears.
"You shall go home, directly, Lefevre,' said my Unele Toby, 'to my house; and we'll send for a doctor to see what's the matter; and we have an apothecary; and the corporal shall be your nurse; and I'll be your servant, Lefevre,' There was a frankness in my Uncle Toby, not the effect of familiarity, but the cause of it, which let you at once into his soul, and showed you the goodness of his nature. To this there was something in his looks, voice, and manner, superadded, which eternally beckoned to the unfortunate to come and take shelter under him; so that before my Uncle Toby had half finished the kind offers he was making to the father, the son had insensibly pressed up close to his knees and had taken hold of the breast of his coat and was pulling it toward him. The blood and spirits of Lefevre, which were waxing cold and slow within him, and were retreating to their last citadel, the heart, rallied back; the film forsook his eyes for a moment; he looked up wishfully in my Uncle "Now, my dears, once more pluck up your Toby's face; then cast a look upon his boy; Write instantly, and tell me you triumph over spirits; trust in God, in me, and in yourselves. and that ligament, fine as it was, was never broken. Nature instantly ebbed again; the all fears. Tell me Lydia is better, and a help film returned to its place; the pulse fluttered-mate to you. You say she grows like me. Let stopped went on-throbbed-stopped again -moved-stopped. Shall I go on? No."
her show me that she does so in her contempt
Sterne's health had now become so seriously affected, that he was induced to try the effect of a journey to the south of Europe. "Allons!' said I the postboy gave a crack with his whip-off "I went like a cannon, and in half a dozen They reached Paris in July, and found bounds got to Dover." Although trav- Sterne very weak. He had paid dear for eling in search of strength, he could not his "shandying it" in the poisoned atmosresist the temptations of Paris. Anglo- phere of crowded rooms. One night, mania was raging in the salons, and a real just before his wife's arrival, he burst a English lion was rapturously welcomed. blood-vessel. For some days his life was For months he remained there, "shandy- in jeopardy. He was likely to have bled ing it away," he tells Garrick, "fifty times to death, and lay speechless in bed, not more than I was ever wont, and talking able to do more than whisper; but he es more nonsense than ever you heard me caped for the time, and by the end of the talk in your days, and to all sorts of peo-month was traveling south to Toulouse. ple." In June, 1762, he wrote to his wife In the seventh volume of Tristram Shanand daughter to join him. His letters | dy, we can follow him in every stage of containing directions for their journey, are full of affectionate minuteness. They are very pleasant to read, and are quite inconsistent with the view which would represent him as an "irrecoverable scoundrel." Warburton, who had never forgiven Sterne's neglect of some well-meant advice about the freedoms of Tristram Shandy, had fixed this stinging epithet upon him. We must not attach too much weight to it. The irritable prelate was notorious for the scurrility of his abuse
the journey. Through Fontainebleau, Sens, and Auxerre to Lyons, where he met, on the threshold of his inn, the poor ass whom he fed with macaroons, and could not bear to strike. Onward by water to Avignon, and thence on a mule, through the rich plains of Languedoc, "as slowly as foot could fall." The ladies went forward in a carriage; he loitered far behind, turning the plain into a city, and studying the manners of the people. So, stopping and talking to every body he
met, "joining all parties before-waiting my antagonist presses closer than ever." for every soul behind-hailing all those There was no help for it but to take who were coming through cross roads another expedition to the South, and arresting all kinds of beggars, pilgrims, in October he was again in the Dover fiddlers, friars "—and at last "in the road mail, beginning the Sentimental Journey. betwixt Nismes and Lunel, where is the As far as Montreuil he traveled alone; best Muscatto wine in all France," joining but there he picked up a youth named La in the sunset dance with the "nut-brown Fleur, who served him as a valet through maid," he journeyed slowly forward to the rest of the tour. He stopped awhile Toulouse, with no drawback to his pleas-in Paris, which he found graver than on ure but the tremendous heat, by which he his former visit. Philosophy was in the was toasted, roasted, grilled, stewed, ascendant, and society had in consequence and carbonaded on one side or the other grown ineffably dull. Sterne took refuge all the way." in observing the manners of a class below his own. He lingered about the shops, buying trifles, and gossiping with the shop-keepers, lounged on the quays, looking over old books, sauntered on the Bou levards, studying the motley crowd of passers-by. After three weeks' rest he started for Italy. His health improved
At Toulouse he stopped for nearly a twelvemonth without much advantage to himself, although his daughter, who was also delicate, greatly benefited by her stay. Since the first day of his arrival, he tells his archbishop in a letter praying an extension of leave, he had been in a continual warfare with agues, fevers, and phy-under its sunny sky; he found the climate sicians. In the autumn of 1763 he went, 'heavenly." On his return through still accompanied by Mrs. Sterne and France he went out of the beaten track Lydia, to Montpellier, where, in an agu- to see his wife and child, whom he had ish fever, he had another terrible "scuffle not forgotten during his rambles, but with death." The climate of the place kept well supplied with news, and, what did not suit him, and he made up his mind was more important, money. He had no to return home. He could not persuade small difficulty in finding them. "Never his wife to come with him. Lydia's man has been such a wild-goose chase health was her excuse for the separation, after a wife as I have been," he writes to and Sterne reluctantly yielded, though it "Eugenius;" "after having sought her in almost broke his heart to part with "Lyd." five or six different towns, I found her at On his way to England he again paid a last in Franche-Comté. Poor woman! visit to Paris; and there on a Sunday in she was very cordial, and begs to stay January, 1764, he preached a sermon in another year or so. My Lydia pleases the chapel of the Embassy, in the Rue St. me much. I am most unaccountHonoré, an effort which occasioned the ably well, and most unaccountably nonrupture of another vessel in the lungs. sensical." In this happy mood he jourHis preaching days were nearly over: heneyed home, and before midsummer was was only to ascend the pulpit once more. once more in his parsonage at Coxwould. He seems to have spent the latter half of 1764 between Coxwould, York, and Scarborough. At Christmas he was in London, with the seventh and eighth volumes of Tristram ready for publication. The seventh contained his travels, and the eighth the delightful love-passages between Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman. His London season was as gay as ever, but the "plaguy cough" was gaining ground and conquering his hitherto indomitable spirit. "It will bring me to my grave," he mournfully confesses, "in spite of me. But whilst I have strength to run away from it I will. I have been wrestling with it these twenty years past, and what with laughter and good spirits have prevented its giving me a fall; but
There he remained until Christmas, in perfect solitude, with the exception of a Sunday in the autumn when he was at York, preaching in the cathedral before the young King of Denmark. The discourse was the last he ever delivered, and was pronounced by the newspapers to be "excellent." The voice of the lean and sickly prebendary was never heard again; the days of the "bale of cadaverous goods," as he calls his body, were drawing to a close. But he was as busy as ever with his pen. The ninth and concluding volume of Tristram was nearly written, and during the winter the Sentimental Journey was projected and begun. A second installment of Sermons was also ready, and was published in January,