Laurence Sterne, born in Ireland in 1713 and a former student of Jesus College, Cambridge, had lived in relative obscurity as a Yorkshire clergyman before The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, gentleman first appeared in London in 1760, making its author an instant celebrity. A sentimental journey through France and Italy, by Mr Yorick, published shortly before his death in 1768, further secured the legacy of ‘the inimitable Sterne’ as one of the world’s greatest comic writers.
From the early 1760s to the present day Sterne has inspired readers to channel their responses to his work through imitation, parody, and adaptation, a body of material known as ‘Sterneana’. Sterneana ranges across genres and art-forms, including prose, poetry, music, drama, illustrations, paintings, artefacts, and radio and film adaptations. The Oates Collection at Cambridge University Library is a major archive of early imitations and translations of Sterne comprising around 600 items. Sterneana collectively demonstrates the breadth and diversity of Sterne’s reception as measured through these imaginative responses to his work.