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Johnson's feelings of morality and respect for the priesthood led him to speak of Sterne with contempt; but when Goldsmith added, "And a very dull fellow," he replied with his emphatic, "Why, no, sir."
The two first volumes of Tristram proved introductors-singular in their character, certainly-to two volumes of Sermons which the simple name of the Reverend Laurence Sterne (ere yet he became known as the author of a fine novel) would never have recommended to notice, but which were sought for and read eagerly under that of Yorick. They maintained the character of the author for wit, genius, and eccentricity.
The third and fourth volumes of Tristram appeared in 1761, and the fifth and sixth in 1762. Both these publications were as popular as the two first volumes. The seventh and eighth, which came forth in 1765, did not attract so much attention. The novelty was in a great measure over; and although they contain some of the most beautiful passages which ever fell from the author's pen, yet neither Uncle Toby nor his faithful attendant were sufficient to attract the public attention in the same degree as before. Thus the popularity of this singular work was for a time impeded by that singular and affected style, which had at first attracted by its novelty, but which ceased to please when it was no longer new. Four additional volumes of Sermons appeared in 1766; and in 1767 the ninth and last volume of Tristram Shandy. "I shall publish," he says, "but one this year; and the next I shall begin a new
work of four volumes, which, when finished, I shall continue Tristram with fresh spirit."
The new work was unquestionably his Sentimental Journey; for which, according to the evidence of La Fleur, Sterne had made much larger collections than were ever destined to see the light. The author's health was now become extremely feeble; and his Italian travels were designed, if possible, to relieve his consumptive complaints. The remedy proved unsuccessful; yet he lived to arrive in England, and to prepare for the press the first part of the Sentimental Journey, which was published in 1768.
In this place we may insert with propriety those notices of Sterne and his valet La Fleur, which appear in Mr. Davis's interesting selection of anecdotes, which he has entitled an Olio.
"La Fleur was born in Burgundy: when a mere child he conceived a strong passion to see the world, and at eight years of age ran away from his parents. His prevenancy was always his passport, and his wants were easily supplied-milk, bread, and a straw bed amongst the peasantry, were all he wanted for the night, and in the morning he wished to be on his way again. This rambling life he continued till he attained. his tenth year, when being one day on the Pont Neuf at Paris, surveying with wonder the objects that surrounded him, he was accosted by a drummer, who easily enlisted him in the service. For six years La Fleur beat his drum in the French army; two years more would have entitled him to his discharge, but he
preferred anticipation, and, exchanging dress with a peasant, easily made his escape. By having recourse to his old expedients, he made his way to Montreuil, where he introduced himself to Varenne, who fortunately took a fancy to him. The little accommodations he needed were given him with cheerfulness; and as what we sow we wish to see flourish, this worthy landlord promised to get him a master; and as he deemed the best not better than La Fleur merited, he promised to recommend him to un Milord Anglois. He fortunately could perform as well as promise, and he introduced him to Sterne, ragged as a colt, but full of health and hilarity. The little picture which Sterne has drawn of La Fleur's Amours is so far true:-He was fond of a very pretty girl at Montreuil, the elder of two sisters who, if living, he said, resembled the Maria of Moulines; her he afterwards married, and, whatever proof it might be of his affection, was none of his prudence, for it made him not a jot richer or happier than he was before. She was a mantua-maker, and her closest application could produce no more than six sous a day; finding that her assistance could go little towards their support, and after having had a daughter by her, they separated, and he went to service. At length, with what money he had got together by his servitude, he returned to his wife, and they took a public-house in Royal Street, Calais.-There ill luck attended him,— war broke out; and the loss of the English sailors, who navigated the packets, and who were his principal customers, so reduced his little business, that he was obliged again to quit his wife, and confide to her guid
ance the little trade which was insufficient to support them both. He returned in March 1783, but his wife had fled. A strolling company of comedians passing through the town, had seduced her from her home, and no tale or tidings of her have ever since reached him. From the period he lost his wife, says our informant, he has frequently visited England, to whose natives he is extremely partial, sometimes as a sergeant, at others as an express. Where zeal and diligence were required, La Fleur was never yet wanting."
In addition to La Fleur's account of himself (continues Mr. Davis), the writer of the preceding obtained from him several little circumstances relative to his master; as well as the characters depicted by him, a few of which, as they would lose by abridgment, I shall give verbatim.
"There were moments," said La Fleur, "in which my master appeared sunk into the deepest dejection— when his calls upon me for my services were so seldom, that I sometimes apprehensively pressed in upon his privacy, to suggest what I thought might divert his melancholy. He used to smile at my well-meant zeal, and I could see was happy to be relieved. At others, he seemed to have received a new soul-he launched into the levity natural à mon pays," said La Fleur, "and cried gaily enough,' Vive la Bagatelle!' It was in one of those moments that he became acquainted with the Grisette at the glove shop-she afterwards visited him at his lodgings, upon which La Fleur made not a single remark; but on naming the fille
de chambre, his other visitant, he exclaimed, 'It was certainly a pity she was so pretty and petite.'
The lady mentioned under the initial L. was the Marquise Lamberti; to the interest of this lady he was indebted for the passport, which began to make him seriously uneasy. Count de B. (Bretuil), notwithstanding the Shakespeare, La Fleur thinks, would have troubled himself little about him. Choiseul was Minister at the time.
Was, alas! no fiction.-When we came up to her, she was grovelling in the road like an infant, and throwing the dust upon her head-and yet few were more lovely. Upon Sterne's accosting her with tenderness, and raising her in his arms, she collected herself, and resumed some composure-told him her tale of misery, and wept upon his breast-my master sobbed aloud. I saw her gently disengage herself from his arms, and she sung him the service to the Virgin; my poor master covered his face with his hands, and walked by her side to the cottage where she lived; there he talked earnestly to the old woman."
"Every day," said La Fleur, "while we stayed there, I carried them meat and drink from the hotel, and when we departed from Moulines, my master left his blessings and some money with the mother.""How much," added he, "I know not-he always gave more than he could afford."
Sterne was frequently at a loss upon his travels for