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With the merits of the far-famed
Sentimental Journey,' the world has long been acquainted. It is a standard book of English literature; is decidedly the most popular of Sterne's works, and will always find a welcome from every reader of taste. The 'Sentimental Journey's the varat've of an English clergyman.
The life of our humorous and eccentric writer is found in a brief autobiograpy that Sterne left behind him, which it appears he prepared for his daughter, in case hereafter she might have a curiosity, or a kinder motive, to become acquainted with some particulars regarding himself or his family.' The autobiography is a rapid but a comprehensive sketch, and conveys an accurate idea of human life. In addition to its biographical interest, we are enabled to recognise the quaint and happy description, those flashes of wit and humour, which the leading traits of his Sentimental Journey' exhibit. The author's own words, however, will serve best to amuse the reader :
'Roger Sterne, grandson of archbishop Sterne*, was descended from a family in Suffolk. He was a lieutenant in Handaside's regiment. I was born at Clonmel, in Ireland, November 24, 1713, a few days after my mother arrived from Dunkirk. My birthday was ominous to my poor father, who was, the day of my arrival, with many other officers, broke, and sent adrift into the wide world. As soon as I was able to be carried with the rest of the family, we were sent to the family-seat at Elvington, near York, where my father's mother resided. There we sojourned for about ten months, when the regiment was
Dr. Richard Sterne was appointed archbishop of Canterbury in the time of Charles II. He died in 1684.
re-established, and our household decamped with bag and baggage for Dublin. There my father furnished a large house; and in a year and a half's time, he spent a great deal of money. In 1719, all unhinged again. The regiment was ordered with others to the Isle of Wight, in order to embark for Spain. We accompanied the regiment, and were driven into Milford-Haven, but landed at Bristol; from thence by land to Plymouth again, and to the Isle of Wight. During this expedition, we lost a pretty boy with the small-pox; but we had his loss supplied by the birth of a girl: this pretty blossom fell at the age of three years, in Dublín barracks. We embarked for Dublin, and had all been cast away by a most violent storm, but my mother prevailed upon the captain to turn into Wales, where we stayed a month; at length, we got to Dublin, and travelled by land to Wicklow. From thence, we decamped to stay half a year with a relation of my mother, a clergyman, residing at Animo, a few miles from Wicklow. It was during our stay in that village, that I had that wonderful escape in falling through a mill-race, while the mill was going, and of being taken up unhurt. The story is incredible; but known for truth in all that part of Ireland, where hundreds of people flocked to see me. In 1721, I learned to write, &c., and in 1722, the regiment was ordered to Carrickfergus. We once more all decamped; but got no farther than Drogheda ; thence ordered to Mullingar, where, by Providence, we stumbled upon a kind relation, who entertained us at his castle for a year, and sent us to the regiment at Carrickfergus loaded with kindnesses. My father got leave of his colonel to fix me at school, which he did near Halifax, where I stayed some time; but my cousin Sterne, of Elvington, became a father to me, and sent me to the university. My father was next ordered to Londonderry; and from that station was sent with his regiment to defend the siege of Gibraltar, at which place he was run through the body in a duel. (The quarrel began about a goose.) With much difficulty he survived, though with an impaired
constitution. He was soon after sent to Jamaica, where he soon fell by the fever, which first took away his senses, and then made a child of him. He walked about continually without complaining, until the moment he sat down and breathed his last, which was at Port Antonio, in 1731. I remained at Halifax until the latter end of that year; and cannot omit mentioning this anecdote of myself and the schoolmaster. We had the ceiling of the school-room white-washed. The ladder remained there: I mounted it, and wrote with a brush, in large letters, LAW. STERNE; for which the usher severely whipped me. My master was much hurt at this, and said that never should that name be effaced; for I was a boy of genius, and would come to preferment. These words made me forget the stripes I had received. In 1732, I was sent to the university*, where I remained some time. I then came to York, and my uncle presented me with the living of Sutton. At York, I became acquainted with your mother: she owned she liked me; but thought herself not rich enough, or me too poor, to be joined together. She fell into a consumption; and one evening while I was sitting by her, she said: "My dear Lawrey, I can never be yours; for I have not long to live; but I have left you every shilling of my fortune." She, however, recovered; and in 1741, I married her; and soon after obtained the prebendary of York. My uncle† quarrelled with me because I would not write paragraphs for the newspapers. He was a party-man, and I was not; and I detested such dirty work ‡.-By the means of my wife I obtained the living of Stillington. I remained nearly twenty years at Sutton; doing duty at both places. Books, painting, fiddling, and shooting, formed my amuse
*Sterne was admitted to the degree of B. A. in 1736, and to that of M. A. in 1740.
+ Dr. James Sterne. He was prebendary of Darham, and held two valuable livings in the East Riding of Yorkshire, tle died in 1759.
The Monthly Review, (vol 53 on the con at £6 that he for some time wrote for a York paper in vosi be whig interest.
ments. In 1760, I took a house at York for your mother and yourself, and went up to London to publish my Shandy. In the same year, I was presented with the curacy of Coxwould. In 1762, I went to France; and you both followed me. In two years after, I went to Italy, for the benefit of my health; and when I called upon you, I tried to engage your mother to return to England with me. She and yourself are, at length, arrived; and I have had the inexpressible joy of seeing my girl every thing I wished for.'
The incidents of our author's life are brought within a short period of its close; and we have only a few particulars to add to complete the narrative. The first part of the 'Sentimental Journey' was published early in 1768; and the last efforts of its author's literary powers were employed to prepare it for the press. What he presented to the public, however, must have been but a small portion of the book it was his first intention to write; for it is supposed that the work was to have been extended to four volumes.
Sterne now began to decline, and every means was used to resist the progress of disease. In February, 1768, the approaches of death became visible to his attendants, and all efforts proved unavailing. His death took place under circumstances similar to those which he had frequently expressed a wish to end his days. He rejected those offices of affection which are generally eagerly sought, and bade adieu to the world in a boarding-house in Bond-street; and his last moments were unaccompanied by pain. He was buried in the church-yard of St. George, Hanover-square, and over the place of his interment a memorial has since been placed by a few of his ad
mirers; but the time is incorrect which it assigns for his death.
The levity of our author is only in appearance. 'Though my language is improper,' says Sterne, 'it is by no means licentious.' Men too generally assoriate the ideas of moral grandear with the idea of genius, thougn genius revolts at the slightest indication of compulsion er restraint; and consequently faults are not so frequently pardoned in those from whom was expected a full amount of moral excellence.
There are numbers of circumstances which attend every action of a man's life which ought to be known and considered before sentence be pronounced; and as our views and sense of things are so different, that before we can form a just estimate of the character of another, we must remove innumerable difficulties, let us rather pity than censure with severity and ill-will.
The eccentricities of his character and his unsettled habits, have imparted to his history an air of romance which is not usually connected with the life of a scholar. A restless love of adventure, joined with imprudence, frequently involved him in difficulties; and while he alternately obtained the admiration of the world by his writings, he exposed himself to ridicule by the absurdity of his conduct. STERNE'S NAME,
HOWEVER, STANDS REGISTERED AMONG THOSE WHO ADORN THE ANNALS OF HIS COUNTRY.