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'clergyman,' (continued Sterne) but he immediately flies at him.' "How long "may he have had that trick, Sir?"-E. ver fince he was a puppy.' The young man felt the keenness of the fatire, turned upon his heel, and left Sterne to triumph.
At this time Mr. Sterne was possessed of some good livings, having enjoyed, so early as the year 1745, the vicarage of Sutton on the Foreft of Galtrees, where he usually performed divine fervice on Sunday mornings; and in the afternoon he preached at the rectory of Stillington, which he held as one of the prebends of York, in which capacity he also assisted regularly, in his turn, at the cathedral. Thus he decently lived a becoming ornament of the church, till his Rabelaifian spirit, which issued from the press, immerfed him into the gayeties and frivolities of the World.
His wit and humour were already greatly admired within the circle of his acquaintance; but his genius had never yet reach ed the capital, when his two first volumes of Triftram Shandy made their appear
ance *). They were printed at York, and proposed to the bookfellers there at a very moderate price thofe gentlemen, however, were fuch judges of their value, that they scarce offered the price of paper and print; and the work made its way into the world without any of the artifices, which are often practised to put off an edition. A large impression being almoft inftantaneoufly fold, the bookfellers were roufed from their lethargy, and every one was eager to purchase the second edition of the copy. Mr. Sterne fold it for fix hundred pounds, after being refufed fifty pounds for the firft impreflion and proprietorship.
The two firft volumes of Triftram Shandy were now in every body's hands. All read, most approved, but few underfood them. Thofe who had not entered into the ludicrous manner of Rabelais, or the poignant fatire of Swift, did not comprehend them; but they joined with the multitude, and pronounced Triftram Shan
*) The first edition was printed in 1759, át York.
dy very clever. Even the reviewers recommended Mr. Shandy as a writer infinitely more ingenious and entertaining than any other of the prefent race of novelists; adding, his characters were ftriking and fingular, his observations fhrewd and pertinent, and, making a few exceptions, that his humour was easy and genuine.
The publication of these two volumes brought Mr. Sterne into great repute. He was confidered as the genius of the age. His company was equally courted by the great, the literati, the witty and the gay; and it was confidered as a kind of honour to have passed an evening with the author of Triftram Shandy. Though some of the over-rigid clergy condemned this ludicrous performance, and judged it incompatible with that purity and morality, which should ever accompany the writings of the gentlemen of the gown; thefe cenfures were far from being univerfal, even among the clergy; and the acquaintance he made by this publication, were, in many respects, advantageous to him. Among others, the Earl Faulconberg fo particularly patronized the Author of this
work, that, to teftify his approbation, he prefented Mr. Sterne with the rectory of Cawood, which was an agreeable and convenient addition to his other livings, being all in the neighbourhood of York.
His next publication confifted of two volumes of Sermons *), which the severest critics could not help applauding, for the purity and elegance of their style, and the excellence of their moral. The manner, in which they were ushered to public notice was, by fome, feverely condemned, whilft others lamented, that fuch excellent difcourses should stand in need of fuch an introduction; and many were of opinion, that he had wrote Triftram Shandy purely to introduce them, as, in his preface to the fermons, he acquaints the reader, That "the fermon which gave "rife to the publication of these, having "been offered to the public as a fermon
of Yorick's, he hoped the most serious "reader would find nothing to offend him,
*) The first two volumes of Sermons were printed in 1760. The third and fourth volumes in 1766.
in his continuing thofe two volumes "under the fame title: Left it should be "otherwise, I have added a fecond title "page, with the real name of the au"thor -the firft will ferve the book"feller's purpose, as Yorick's name is "poffibly of the two the more known;"and the fecond will eafe the minds of "those who see a jeft, and the danger "which lurks under it, where no jeft was "meant."
When the third and fourth volumes of Triftram Shandy *) made their appearance, the public was not quite fo eager in pur chafing and applauding them, as they had been with respect to the first two volumes. The novelty of the ftyle and manner no longer remained; his digreffions were by many confidered as tedious, and his afterisks too obscure; nay, some invidious critics, who pretended to be able to point them out, infinuated, that they were too indelicate for the eye of chastity.
He had nevertheless a great number of admirers; and he was encouraged to
*) In 1761.