The Unsentimental Journey of Laurence Sterne

The Unsentimental Journey of Laurence Sterne

The Unsentimental Journey of Laurence Sterne

The Unsentimental Journey of Laurence Sterne

Excerpt

If we were to read no Sterne, but only commentaries on him, I think we should come to a two-fold conclusion: that he is a great comic artist and also our Master Sniveller. Then, in thinking over what we had read about the snivelling, we should begin to be confused; for the commentators are not in agreement on the nature of his sentimentality. They find his sentiment in one way or another tending always to excess, but they do not agree as to whether it is honest to begin with. Is Sterne's sentiment sincere or is it affected? That, as we pondered, would seem to be the question on which they first diverge. As we went on to read more commentaries, even the idea that Sterne is sentimental would begin to divide into questionable shapes to plague us: Is his sentiment only virtuosity, or is it satire, perhaps, or shameless fun? If our habit of reading books about books was strong, we might even wish, in our bewilderment, that someone would make a study of just this matter of sentiment in Sterne--one that, somewhat methodically, should call attention to Sterne's encounters with the feelings; should consider them critically in their context; and should clarify both their nature and the artist's intent. That is the sort of book I have tried to write. Really, I mean to encourage the reading of Sterne himself; and I have put into this book as much of him as was feasible. Such relevant passages as I neither quote nor refer to are, I hope, covered by my treatment of similar ones.

But the reader--particularly if he has not read the commentaries . . .

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