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Sterne's publications

Laurence Sterne

Sterne began his literary career in 1759 with a pamphlet satirising local Yorkshire politics, commonly known as A Political Romance. However, it was Tristram Shandy that catapulted this country clergyman to fame; when its first two volumes were published in London in January 1760 they were an immediate sensation. Talk of Sterne’s book and its charismatic narrator was on everyone’s lips: ‘Who is more thought of, heard of, talked of, by dukes, duchesses, lords, ladies, earls, marquises, countesses, and common whores, than Tristram Shandy?’, asked one commentator. Sterne was encouraged to publish more instalments; two volumes at a time appeared over the next seven years until the single volume 9 in 1767. Although public interest in Tristram Shandy seemed to wane as the decade wore on, Sterne incorporated scenes in its later volumes that responded to readers’ increasing interest in sensibility – intense emotional sensitivity, typically manifested in swooning and weeping. Sterne capitalised on this taste in his sentimentalised travel narrative, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768). Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey, alongside Sterne’s other publications – four volumes of Sermons; his posthumous correspondence – have helped to secure enduring interest in his work.