Tristram Shandy provoked a literary sensation when it first appeared in a series of installments between 1759 and 1767. The ribald, high-spirited book prompted Diderot to hail Sterne as 'the English Rabelais.' An ingeniously structured novel (about writing a novel) that fascinates like a verbal game of chess, Tristram Shandy is both a joyful celebration of the infinite possibilities of the art of fiction and a wry demonstration of its limitations. Many view this picaresque masterpiece as the precursor of the modern novel.A Sentimental Journey, which came out in 1768, begins as a travelogue. Yet it ends as a treasury of portraits, sketches, and philosophical musings, for as Virginia Woolf observed: 'A Sentimental Journey, for all its levity and wit, is based upon something fundamentally philosophic--the philosophy of pleasure.'
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March 07, 1995
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Excerpt from Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne
I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing;--that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;--and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost:----Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,----I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world from that in which the reader is likely to see me.--Believe me, good folks, this is not so inconsiderable a thing as many of you may think it;--you have all, I dare say, heard of the animal spirits, as how they are transfused from father to son, &c. &c.--and a great deal to that purpose:--Well, you may take my word that nine parts in ten of a man's sense or his nonsense, his successes and miscarriages in this world depend upon their motions and activity, and the different tracks and trains you put them into, so that when they are once set a-going, whether right or wrong, 'tis not a halfpenny matter,--away they go cluttering like hey-go-mad; and by treading the same steps over and over again, they presently make a road of it, as plain and as smooth as a garden-walk, which, when they are once used to, the devil himself sometimes shall not be able to drive them off it.
Pray, my dear, quoth my mother, have you not forgot to wind up the clock?----Good G--! cried my father, making an exclamation, but taking care to moderate his voice at the same time,----Did ever woman, since the creation of the world, interrupt a man with such a silly question? Pray, what was your father saying?----Nothing.