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Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)

Laurence Sterne was born in Ireland in 1713.
His father, who was an English Army officer, died when he was only 18, leaving his family without money.
However Sterne managed to go to Cambridge university with the help of a relative, and then he took Holy Orders.

When he was 28, he got married to a woman who made him unhappy and eventually became insane. They had a daughter that Sterne adored.

Together with his friends, Sterne formed a group called “The Demoniacks”, and they used to meet in an old castle that they used to call “the crazy castle”.

Because of tuberculosis, Sterne settled with his wife and his daughter in France, and then made a tour of Italy.

Even if he was a clergyman, he had lots of love affairs. In London he fell in love with Eliza Draper, a married woman, and so he left his wife and his daughter.

He died in 1768.

Works:
Laurence Sterne started writing when he was already 45 years old, but his works were soon suppressed because of the ideas contained.
He wrote lots of satirical poems.
Among his most famous works we remember:

1) A SENTIMENTAL JOUNEY THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY, in which he describes his adventures and all the thing seen during these two journeys.
2) THE JOURNAL TO ELIZA;
3) His masterpiece “TRISTRAM SHADY”, composed by nine volumes whose plot is difficult to describe, because of the great number of original episodes and facts told in them.

Basically this work tells the story of Tristram Shady’s birth and the circumstances in with it took place.
In the fist volume the author himself says that he found the time to write about it while everybody was busy with the baby’s birth.
In the second volume the obstetrician mistook the infant’s hip for its nose, thus flattened with his forceps.
Also the name of the baby is wrong: he’s called Tristram because of a misunderstanding of “Trismegistus”.
Then it tells about the death of Tritram’s brother, Bobby, Tristram’s education and Uncle Toby’s love affairs.

The whole story is described by Tristram himself, who remembers particular events of his life. It is all confused, like a patchwork of ideas, thoughts and feelings.

The older elements that we find in this work, and belong to Sterne’s previous writings, are the fact that the whole story is a sort a satire and that there are characters belonging both to lower and upper classes.

The new element is instead the use of the association of ideas. A similar work had already been written by Cervantes, but Sterne does it without time and places. According to Sterne, human mind doesn’t have temporal or spatial values: what is important is just what the characters feel.

Each of them has its hobbyhorse and they are all very eccentric.

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