Laurence Stars

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Laurence Sterne, painting by Joshua Reynolds , 1760
Signature Laurence Sterne.JPG

Laurence Sterne [ stɜːɹn ] (born November 24, 1713 in Clonmel , Kingdom of Ireland , † March 18, 1768 in London ) was an Anglo-Irish writer during the Enlightenment and vicar (pastor) of the Anglican Church .

life and death

Shandy Hall, the home of Stars in Coxwold , North Yorkshire

Sternes father Roger was an ensign in the English army, his mother Agnes was the daughter of a sutler . The family had to follow the constantly changing stationing of the paternal regiment for over ten years. When Stern was 18 years old, his father died. An uncle took care of the young man. Sterne studied theology at Jesus College at Cambridge University and in 1738 got a pastor's position in Sutton-on-the-Forest near York . He had suffered a first hemorrhage in college . In 1741 he married Elizabeth Lumley, two years later a benefice was added to York Cathedral. Until 1760, his life in Sutton seems to have been quite leisurely. However, difficulties are reported with the unstable state of mind of his wife.

However, when in 1759 he caused a scandal in York with the first two volumes of the novel Life and Views of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and caused a sensation in London, he moved to London in 1760. A neighbor, Lord Fauconberg, found another parish for him in Coxwold; from now on he commuted between London and Shandy Hall in Coxwold. After he had written four more volumes, he went - after another hemorrhage - to France for two and a half years . His wife, who had followed him, settled there; Stars returned alone. In the summer of 1765 he made a trip that took him to Naples . In 1767 he began an affair with Eliza Draper (1744–1778), who was married to an officer in the East India Company .

In January 1762, Sterne traveled to the European continent. He was accompanied by George Pitt, 1st Baron Rivers . Both reached Paris and lived in Faubourg Saint-Germain . He attended various salons and soirées and so he got to know the encyclopaedist and French enlightener Baron Paul Henri Thiry d'Holbach . He also became friends with Denis Diderot . At that time (from 1759) D'Holbach lived in Paris in a five-story palace in the №. 8 Rue Royale Saint Roch (now Rue des Moulins ).

Entrance area №. 8 Rue Royale Saint Roch (now Rue des Moulins )

Sterne met his wife and child later in Toulouse and then traveled back to Paris alone in March 1764, where he stayed at the Hôtel d'Entraigues (12, rue de Tournon in the 6th arrondissement ) until May .

After the ninth (last) volume of the Tristram was published in 1767 , Sterne turned to another project: the Sensitive Journey . However, only three months after the first two volumes appeared, in March 1768 in London, Star died of tuberculosis . He was buried in the graveyard of St George's Church in Mayfair, London .

Later, the rumor spread, corpse thieves had stolen the star's body shortly after the funeral and sold to the anatomy at Cambridge. However, the body was recognized by an acquaintance and buried again near the original burial site. A year later, some Freemasons erected a memorial stone with an inscription, the content of which was corrected on a second gravestone in 1893. When the cemetery was redesigned in 1969, some 11,500 skulls were found that had been cut from an autopsy . One specimen corresponded in size to a bust by the sculptor Joseph Nollekens (1737–1823) and was identified - with a certain doubt - as Sternes skull. Together with almost skeletal bones, these remains were transferred to the Coxwold cemetery in 1969 by the Laurence Sterne Trust .

The circumstances of the reburial of Sternes skull are referred to in a novel by Malcolm Bradbury .

Sternes grave in Coxwold (since 1969)


The main work

Engraving by Henry William Bunbury. Published January 26, 1773 by J. Bretherton, London. Part of a series of illustrations for Sternes Tristram Shandy .

In 1759, in connection with a confrontation in York, Sterne had written a satire in the style of Swift , which was burned by indignant clerics . His chances of making a career in the clergy were thus ruined, but Sterne recognized his talent as a writer.

His main work is the novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman ( The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy ), whose two first volumes - despite negative reviews from Samuel Johnson and Horace Walpole  - made already popular him. The other seven volumes appeared between 1761 and 1767. The novelty and peculiarity of his style aroused general attention; he became the "spoiled darling" of London's high society. The first German edition of Tristram Shandy appeared in the translation and in the publishing house of Johann Joachim Christoph Bode in Hamburg as early as 1774 and marks the beginning of the reception by the leading German-speaking authors of the time; so belonged among others Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to the subscribers of this edition.

Tristram Shandy is a novel that consists of a series of sketches and is read partly under the mask of Yorick, a clergyman and humorist, and partly under that of the fantastic Tristram. As with Jean Paul , the whole thing is mixed up with strange learning, more of a colorful mess than a well-planned work of art. Quote from VI. Book, Chapter 17: “So I am writing […] a carefree, kind, nonsensical, good-humored Shandy book that will do all your hearts good. - And also all of your heads - provided you understand it. ”Reading becomes an act of discovery, deciphering and imaginative additions. At Sterne, the reader has to slip into the role of a co-author.

Tristram wants to tell the story of his life and begins with the account of his conception. A harmless remark by his mother bothers his father, and poor Tristram is born a cripple. In order to explain the causal relationship, John Locke's theory of the association of thoughts must first be presented. Which in turn leads to his parents' marriage contract, to his uncle Toby and his hobbyhorse, to the midwife and the limited Dr. Slop. So he can only report about his own birth in the third volume. It dawns on the narrator that telling his life is taking more time than his life itself. Finally, he turns to the cheerful story of Uncle Toby's love affairs with the widow Wadman. Sterne lovingly described how the distance between people - caused by misunderstandings - can be overcome with affection.

Anyone who reads the novel for the first time may feel fooled: There is hardly any talk of "life" or the "views" of the narrator. The chronological sequence is turned upside down (the end of the novel is before its beginning), the whole thing seems to be a picture puzzle of a quirky author. From today's perspective, however, the novel is a bold experiment in form, combined with a subtle understanding of human nature.

More fonts

After Eliza Draper left for her husband in Bombay, Sterne began A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy , but suffered one - final - breakdown while working on this book. The witty, keenly observant, deeply sensitive traveler, behind whose easily thrown love affairs one hardly suspects a clergyman, is one of the freshest and most immortal characters of the 18th century. While Sentimental Journey in England was mainly recorded as a funny moral comedy, many translations emphasized the sentimental side of the book, which led to the fact that in the following decades Sterne was misunderstood as the "high priest of the cult of feeling ".

In addition to the novels mentioned, Stern published several volumes of sermons ( Sermons , 1760 ff.), Which betray no less the humorist , as well as, after his death, Letters to his most intimate friends (1775, 3 volumes) and his correspondence with Elisa [Draper] ( 1767).


Friedrich Nietzsche was an admirer of Sternes , who described his work in detail in Mixed Opinions and Proverbs in 1879:

“The freest writer. - How could Lorenz Sterne go unnamed in a book for free spirits, he whom Goethe honored as the freest spirit of his century! Let him here with the honor of being called the freest writer of all time, in comparison with whom all others appear stiff, squat, intolerant and downright peasant. It is not the closed, clear, but the “infinite melody” that should be praised in him: when with this word a style of art comes to a name in which the specific form is continually broken, shifted, translated back into the indefinite so that it is the one and at the same time the other means. Sterne is the great master of ambiguity - this word is appropriately taken much further than is commonly done when one thinks of sexual relations. The reader is lost, who always wants to know exactly what Sterne actually thinks about a thing, whether he makes a serious or a smiling face with it: for he understands both in one fold of his face; he also understands it and even wants to be right and wrong at the same time, to mess up profundity and farce. "

Victor Klemperer sees in de Maistre's best-known work Nocturnal Journey of Discovery around my room , which he also classifies as literarily meaningless, essentially a quote from Sternes novel A Sensitive Journey Through France and Italy by Mr. Yorick .



  • Stars, Laurence . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 25 : Shuválov - Subliminal Self . London 1911, p. 901 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).
  • John Ferriar: Illustrations of Stars . Garland, New York 1974, ISBN 0-8240-1337-9 (reprint of the London 1798 edition).
  • Percy Fitzgerald: Life of Laurence Stars . Taylor, New York 1904 (2 volumes).
  • Peter Michelsen : Laurence Sterne and the German Novel of the Eighteenth Century. 2. through Edition Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1972 (=  Palaestra , Volume 232), ISBN 3-525-20527-9
  • Alain Montandon: La réception de Laurence Sterne en Allemagne. Publishers Université de Clermont-Ferrand 2, Blaise Pascal (Zugl. Diss. Phil. Paris 1983). Series: Publications de la Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Nouveau Series, 22. Clermont-Ferrand 1985 ISSN  0397-3352 Bibliography pp. 345–391
  • Ian C. Ross: Laurence Stars. A life . University Press, Oxford 2001, ISBN 0-19-212235-5 .
  • David Thomson: Laurence Stars. A biography . Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt, Frankfurt 1991, ISBN 3-627-10231-2 .
  • Dietrich Rolle : Fielding and Stars; Research on the function of the narrator . Münster, Aschendorff 1963.
  • Christian Schuldt: Self-observation and the evolution of the art system . Transcript, Bielefeld 2005, ISBN 3-89942-402-6 (system-theoretical analysis of Sternes Tristram Shandy and the metafictional novels Flann O'Brien )
  • Henry D. Traill: Stars . AMS Press, New York 1968 (reprint of the London 1889 edition).
  • Marcus Walsh: Laurence Stars . Longman, London 2002, ISBN 0-582-36850-2 .
  • Alexander Huber: Dissolution of the concepts of the paratext: Laurence Sternes “Tristram Shandy” (1759–1767). In: Paratexts in English narrative prose of the 18th century . (PDF; 1.6 MB) Master's thesis, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich 1997, Chapter 5

Web links

Commons : Laurence Sterne  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Laurence Sterne  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Laurence Sterne: Delphi Complete Works of Laurence Sterne. Delphi Classics, 2013 ISBN 1-909496-72-3 , Introduction S.CXXVIII
  2. Entrance of the building in the №. 8 Rue Royale Saint Roch
  3. ^ Writers and journalists: Laurence Sterne. Irish in Paris,
  4. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche: Menschliches, Allzumenschliches , Volume 2: Mixed opinions and sayings, Aphorism 113
  5. Victor Klemperer : History of French literature . Volume 5: French literature from Napoleon to the present . 1925, Reprint Trapeza, 2012, ISBN 3-86454-124-7 , p. 45
  6. by Walter again in the work edition: Tristram Shandy, Sentimental Journey, Diary of the Brahmin, Satires, Little Writings, Letters. 3 volumes. Galiani Verlag, Berlin 2018.
  7. see note above on Tristam Shandy: 2018 as a work edition