Laurence Sterne: A Life

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Oxford University Press, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 498 pages
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"I wrote to be famous, not to be fed," said Laurence Sterne upon publication of his comic masterpiece, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. And indeed, almost overnight, Sterne achieved fame beyond his wildest dreams. In this fascinating biography, Ian Campbell Ross shows how the great comic author combined a genius for self-promotion with a clear grasp of the nascent business of publishing to soar across the cultural and social firmament of mid-18th century England.
Ross begins with Sterne's childhood in Yorkshire and follows the young gentleman's progress to Cambridge and then to the Church of England and a humdrum rural vicarage. He describes his unhappy marriage to a woman who suffered a nervous breakdown and at one time believed herself to be the Queen of Bohemia, as well as his many scandalous liaisons with other women, experiences that helped inform his Rabelaisian novel. But the heart of the book is Ross's account of the country parson's sudden rise to prominence, swept up in a frenzy of celebrity excessive even by today's standards. Ross draws us into the glamorous world of literary London--a world of power and privilege ruled by fashionable legislators of taste--showing how Sterne marketed himself, as well as his novel, by seeking favors from influential critics, famous authors, and even leading statesmen.
Laurence Sterne: A Life is the first full biography to appear in fifteen years. Ian Campbell Ross makes deft use of recently discovered material, particularly a holograph of Sterne's memoir, to shed new light on the man, his work, and the nature of celebrity.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

An extremely detailed scholarly biography of Sterne, omitting little. A bit dry in parts, but very well researched and overall quite a readable treatment. Sterne was and remains quite a character, and Ross has done him justice with this thorough and unsparing biography. Read full review

Laurence Sterne: a life

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy is one of the enduring masterpieces of comic literature, justly compared to Don Quixote. Sterne himself is a problematic individual a husband and rake, an Anglican ... Read full review


Tristram is the Fashion I
Ireland and England 17131738
Priest and Husband 17381741

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About the author (2001)

Ian Campbell Ross is A Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and Senior Lecturer in English.

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