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the ladder remained there. Sterne, one unlucky day, mounted it, and wrote with a brush in large capital letters , LAU. STERNE, for which the usher whipped him. His master was very much hurt at this, and said before him, that never should that name be effaced; for he was a boy of genius, and he was sure he should come to preferment. This expression made the boy forget the stripes he had received. In the year 1732, his cousin Sterne, of Elvington, became a father to our author, and sent him to the university of Cambridge, where he spent the usual number of years , read a great deal , laughed more, and sometimes took the diversion of puzzling his tutors. He left Cambridge with the character of an odd man, who had no harı in him, and who had parts if he would use them.
Upon leaving the university, he seated himself quietly in the lap of the church, at Sutton on the forest of Galtrees, a small vicarage in Yorkshire, which he got by the means of his uncle. At York he became acquainted with his wife. He married her in the year 1741, and got by her his only daughter, who is known by the name of Lydia. Sterne and his uncle were then upon very good terms, for he soon got by him the prebend of York; but the uncle, being a party-man, qüarrelled with him afterwards, because he would not write paragraphs in the news-papers, detesting such dirty work, and thinking it beneath him. I'rom that period his uncle became his bitterest enemy. By his wife's means he got the living of Stillington. A friend of her’s in the south had promised her, that if she married a clergyman in Yorkshire, when the living became vacant , he would make her a con
liment of it. He remained near twenty years at Sutton. As he had then very good health , books, painting, fiddling and shooting ( as our author expresses himself) were his favourile amusements. In the year 1760, he took a house al York for his wife and daughter, and went up to London to publish his two first volumes of Shandy *. In that year Lord F- presented him with the curacy of Coxwould, a sweet retirement in comparison of Sutton. In 1762, he went to France, before the peace was concluded , whither his wife and daughler followed him. He left them both in France, and two ycars after he went to Italy for the recovery of his health. In his way home to England , he called upon them again in France, from whence they returned after him to England.
This is almost all we have learned from the account ** of Sterne himself. The rest we have gathered from the accounts of his friends.
When Sterne lived at Sutton, an occasion
* The first edition was printed in the preceding year at York.
** Memoirs of the life and family of the late Rev. Mr. Laurence Sterne.
offered, which made him first feel himself, and to which , perhaps, we owe the origin of the history of Tristram. There happened a dispule among some of the superiors of his order, in which Sterne's friend, one of the best men in the world, was concerned. A person, who filled a lucrative benefice, was not satisfied with enjoying it during his own life-time, but exerted all his interest to have it entailed upon his wife and son after his decease. Sterne's friend, who expecled the reversion of this living , had nol, however, sufficient influence to prevent the success of his adversary. At this critical period , Sterne altacked the monopolizer in joke, and wrote « The history of a good « warm watch-coat, with which the present pos« sessor is not content to cover his own shonlders, « unless he can also cut out of it a petticoat for « his wife, and a pair of breeches for his son. »
What all the serious arguments in the world could not have effected, Sterne's satirical pen brought about. The intended monopolizer sent him word, that if he would suppress the publicalion of this sarcasm, he would resign his pretensions to the next candidate. The pamphlet was suppressed, the reversion took place, and Sterne was requited, by the interest of his patron, with the prebendaryship of York *.
* This pamphlet was afterwards published under this title : A POLITICAL ROMANCE ADDRESSED TO — Esq. OF YORK.
An incident, much about the same time, contributed exceedingly to establish the reputation of Sterne's wit. It was this : He was sitting in the coffee-house at York, when a stranger came in, who gave much offence to the company, consisting chiefly of gentlemen of the gown, by descanting too freely upon religion and the hypocrisy of the clergy. The young fellow at length addressed himself to Sterne, asking him, what were his sentiments upon the subject : when , instead of answering him directly, he told the willing: «That « his dog was reckoned one of the most beautiful « pointers in the whole county, was very good« natured, but that he had an infernal trick, « which destroyed all his good qualities. — He « never sees a clergyman, (continued Sterne) but « he immediately flies at him.»-«How long may « he have had that trick, Sir ? » « Ever since he a was a puppy. » The young man felt the keenness of the satire, turned upon his heel, and left Sterne to triumph.
At this time Sterne was possessed of some good livings, having enjoyed, so early as the year 1745, the vicarage of Sution on the forest of Ĝaltrees, where he usually performed divine service 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 Rabelaisian spirit, which issued from the press , immersed him into the gayeties and frivolities of the world.
His wit and humour were already greally admired within the circle of his acquaintance; but his genius had never yet reached the capital, when his two first volumes of Tristram Shandy made their appearance *. They were printed at York, and proposed to the booksellers there at a very moderate price: those gentlemen , however, were such 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 almost instantaneously sold, the booksellers were roused from their lethargy, and every one was eager to purchase the second edition of the copy. Sterne sold it for six hundred pounds, after being refused fifty pounds for the first impression and proprietorship.
The two first volumes of Tristram Shandy were now in every body's hands. All read , mosl approved, but few understood them. Those who had not entered into the ludicrous manner of Rabelais, or the poignant satire of Swift, did not comprehend them ; but they joined with the multitude, and pronounced Tristram Shandy very clever. Even the Reviewers recommended Shandy
* The first edition was printed in 1759, at York.