Laurence Sterne (1713 - 1768)
Novelist, son of an officer in the army, and the great-grandson of an Archbishop of York, was born in Clonmel, where his fathers regiment happened to be stationed, and spent part of his boyhood in Ireland. At the age of 10 he was handed over to a relative, Mr. Sterne of Elvington in Yorkshire, who put him to school at Halifax, and later sent him to Cambridge. He entered the Church, a profession he was very indifferently fitted for, and thanks to family influence he could afford to live in Sutton, Yorkshire. In 1741 he married a ladyMiss Lumley The first two volumes of his famous novel, Tristram Shandy, appeared only in 1760. Its peculiar kind of humour, its whimsicality, and perhaps also its defiance of conventionality, achieved an immediate and great popularity.
Sterne soon moved to London and became the lion of the day. The third and fourth volumes appeared in 1761, the fifth and sixth in 1762, the seventh and eighth in 1765, and the last in 1767. Meanwhile he had published the Sermons of Mr. Yorick (1760), and his remaining work, The Sentimental Journey was published in 1768.He spent most of his time either in the gaieties of London or in travelling throughout the Continent. His health, which had begun to give way soon after his literary career had commenced, finally broke down, and he fell into a consumption, that was responsible for his death on March 18, 1768, miserably alone. He died in debt, but a subscription was raised for his wife and daughter.
Worthless as a man, Sterne possessed undoubted genius. He had wit, originality, and pathos, though the last one often turned into mawkishness. He has created some immortal characters of English fiction, including Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim. Yet he exhibited, as a writer, a kind of affection and a deliberate indecency; moreover, he was by no means scrupulous in adopting, without acknowledgment, the literary manners of previous writers.
From Biographical Dictionary of English Literature - the Everyman Edition of 1910
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