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OF STERNE, AND HIS WRITINGS :
IN A FAMILIAR EPISTLE FROM A GENTLEMAN IN IRELAND TO HIS FRIEND.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1769.
WHAT trifle comes next?-Spare the censure, my friend,
Yet, when you consider (your laughter pray stifle)
That pence compose millions, and moments the year,
How widely digressive! yet could I, O STERNE *,
*The late Reverend Laurence Sterne, A.M. etc. Author of that truly original, humorous, heteroclite work, called, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, of a Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (which, alas! he did
The vain wish I repress-Poor YORICK! no more
O'er each feeling breast its strong influence hold,
not live to finish) and of some volumes of Sermons. Of his skill in delineating and supporting his characters, those of the Father of his hero, ofhis Uncle Toby, and of Corporal Trim (out of numberless others) afford ample proof. To his power in the pathetic, whoever shall read the stories of Le Fevre, Maria, the Monk, and the Dead Ass, must, if he has feelings, bear sufficient testimony; and his Sermons throughout (though sometimes, perhaps, chargeable with a levity not entirely becoming the pulpit) breathe the kindest spirit of Philanthropy, of good-will towards man. For the few exceptional parts of his works, those small blemishes,
Quas aut incuria fudit
Aut humana parum cavit natura
suffer them, kind critic, to rest with his ashes!
The above eulogium will, I doubt not, appear to you (and perhaps also to many others) much too high for the literary character of Sterne. I have not at present either leisure or inclination to enter into argument upon the question; but, in truth, I consider myself as largely his debtor for the tears and the laughter he so frequently excited, and was desirous to leave behind me (for so long at least as this trifle shall remain) some small memorial of my gratitude. I will even add, that, although I regard the memory of Shakspeare with a veneration little short of idolatry, I esteem the Monk's Horn Box a relic "as devoutly to be wish'd" as a pipe-stopper, a walking-stick, or even an ink-stand of the mulberry-tree.
TRIM and TOBY with soft intercession attend;
Favour'd pupil of Nature and Fancy of yore,
This meed too, kind Spirit, unoffended receive
From a youth next to SHAKSPEARE's, who honours thy grave!