Sterne, Laurence

, said to be great-grandson of the preceding, was the son of Roger Sterne, "lieutenant of the army. He was born at Clonmel in the South of Ireland, Nov. 24, 1713. It has been thought that his affecting story of Le Fevre was founded on the circumstances of his father’s family, which had long to struggle with poverty and hardships on the slender pay of a lieutenant. As soon as Lawrence was able to travel, his father and family left Ireland and went to Elvington near York, where his father’s mother resided, but in less than a year, they returned to Ireland, and afterwards moved from place to place with the regiment, until Lawrence was placed at a school near Halifax in Yorkshire. In 1731 his father died.

Lawrence remained at Halifax till about the latter end of the above year, and in the following, was admitted of Jesus-college, Cambridge, where he took his bachelor’s degree, January 1736, and that of master in 1740. During this time he was ordained, and his uncle Jaques Sierne, LL. D. prebendary of Durham, &c. procure.; him the living of Sutton, and afterwards a prebend of York, and by his wife’s means (whom he married in 1741), he got the living of Stillington. He ‘resided, houever, principally, and for above twenty years, at Sutton, where, as he informs us, his chief amusements were painting, fiddling, and shooting. Here, however, he must have employed a considerable part of his time in reading, as some of the works which he afterwards published plainly evince the study of many voluminous and neglected authors. He had also before he quitted Sutton, published in 1747, a charity sermon for the support of the charity-school at York, and in 1756 an assize sermon, preached at the cathedral, York. | in 1759 he published at York the first two volumes of his “Tristram Shandy,” anci in 1760 took a house at York. Tin: same year he went up to London to republish the above volumes, and to print two volumes of’ his “Sermons;” and this year also lord Falconbridge presented him to the ciftacy of Coxwold. In 1762 he went to France, and two years after to Italy. In 1767 he left York, and came to London to publish the “Sentimental Journey;” but his health was now fast declining, and, aftt-r a short but severe struggle with his disorder, he died at his lodgings in Bond-street, March 18, 1768, and was buried in the new burying-ground belonging to the parish of St. George Hanover-square.

His principal works consist of the “Tristram Shandy,” the “Sentimental Journey,” and some volumes of “Sermons.” Several letters have been published since i:is death, which partake much of the style and manner of his other works. Were a judgment to be formed of his character from these, it would appear that, with more laxity of morals than becomes the clerical character, he was a man abounding in the tenderness and delicacy of humanity; but there were many well-known circumstances in his life which proved, that he was more an adept in the language than the practice of these virtues.

The works of few men, however, attracted more notice than those of Sterne during their publication from 1759 to the time of his death. He appeared an humourist of great originality, and became the founder of a school of sentimental writers which may be said still to rlouiish. Certainly no man ever delineated the feelings of a tender heart, the sweetness of compassion, and the duties of humanity, in more elegant or striking colours, although he was grossly deficient in that practice which is above all language and all expression.

As an original writer, Sterne’s merit has been lately disputed in an article which originally appeared in the Manchester memoirs, and has since b^en published in a separate form by Dr. Ferriar. This ingenious writer has incontestabiy traced many very striking sentiments and passages from our author’s works, to Burton’s “/in atomy qf Melancholy,” bishop Hall’s works, and other books not generally read. Yet with these exceptions, for exceptions they certainly are, enough will remain the exclusive property of Sterne, to prove that both in the language of | sentiment and the delineation of character, he was in a very high degree original, and altogether so in those indecencies which displace his most popular writings. 1


Life prefixed to his Works.