Labyrinth of Digressions: Tristram Shandy as Perceived and Influenced by Sterne's Early Imitators
With their appearance during the 1760s, the five instalments of Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman caused something like a booksellers' hype. Small publishers and anonymous imitators seized on Sterne's success by bringing out great numbers of spurious new volumes, critical or ironic pamphlets, and works that in style and title express a congeniality with Tristram Shandy.
This study explores these eighteenth-century imitations as indicators of contemporary assumptions about Sterne's intentions. Comparisons between the original, the first reactions, and a number of late eighteenth-century imitations, show that Tristram Shandy was initially read against the background of Augustan and Grub-street satire. The earliest imitators harked back to traditions of banter and folklore, bawdy and grotesque humour, pathetic stories and orthodox religiosity, reaffirming a pattern of moral and aesthetic values that was conservative for its time. Philosophical Sentimentalism appears to have been a late development.
It is also argued that, partly because of their bad reputation, some of the authors of forgeries and parodies had a greater influence on the original than the reviewers to whom Sterne is often said to have listened. The imitators followed leads and themes in the first instalments, developing them according to their own conception of Sterne's project and the reasons for his success. As a consequence, they unintentially put a pressure on Sterne to alter his course, and even to abandon some of the narrative lines and themes he had set out for himself.
The literature section contains a chronological checklist of English eighteenth-century Sterneana.
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Anglican Anon appears Augustan Bandry Bertram Montfichet bookseller chapter character Charles Churchill Cibber Clockmakers Outcry Clonmell Colley Cibber Critical Review cultural digressive discussion early edition eighteenth century Ephraim Tristram Bates Essay father feelings Fragment Garrick Gentleman Genuine Letter George Alexander Stevens Griffith Grub-street hacks Hall-Stevenson human humour Ibid ideas Jeremiah Kunastrokius John Buncle late Laurence Sterne literary London Magazine Maria Melvyn Mickle’s midwife modern Monthly Review moral narrator nature notion novel obscene Opinions of Tristram pamphlet parody passages passions pathetic philosophical political Pope Posthumous Printed Querpo Rabelais readers reference Remarks Richard Griffith Rousseau Roy Porter satire Scriblerians seems Sentimental Journey sexual Shandean Shandy’s Slawkenbergius Slop spirits spurious continuation spurious Vol Sterne imitations Sterne’s story suggests Swift thought Toby’s Tom Fool tradition Triglyph Tristram Shandy Triumvirate Uncle Toby Voltaire volumes of Tristram Walter Walter Shandy Warburton women writer Yorick Yorick’s Meditations
Page 32 - Ten times a day has Yorick's ghost the consolation to hear his monumental inscription read over with such a variety of plaintive tones, as denote a general pity and esteem for him; — a foot-way crossing the church-yard close by the side of his grave, — not a passenger goes by without stopping to cast a look upon it, — and sighing as he walks on, Alas, poor YORICK!