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The reflections submitted here aim at grasping the significance of the French for Sterne as he wrote A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, assuming that the role played by France extended further than the mere presence of the word "France" in the title of the book.
And naturally enough, if not unambiguously, the shifting reflections of the French in Yorick's narration and in Sterne's letters provide the best available material for such an undertaking.
Not that the focus of this article is on the necessary alterations Sterne worked at in the refining of his French impressions from the form of the letters to that of the novel. It has already been very convincingly argued that Yorick's reactions to French idiosyncrasies in A Sentimental Journey can be construed as a proof of Sterne's own mature commitment to the cause of toleration.
Yorick does that himself very well — calling into question what he says, to attain a form of truth that is hardly provable and highly evanescent — throughout his journey.
Quoting extracts from Sterne's letters,2 one might also be tempted to oppose an early, optimistic view of French characters as seen through rose-tinted spectacles, when Sterne first set foot on French soil, with a later, more pessimistic and at times bitter analysis of French national features, before the balance and maturity finally achieved in A Sentimental Journey.
In reality, Sterne's descriptions of and reactions to French peculiarities do not allow such a one-way interpretation: The experience of foreignness may even have been conducive to the growing familiarity of Yorick with himself as an unreliable autobiographic narrator and to the complicity he felt the need to require from his readers.
At least, Yorick learnt a few things about himself when watching or mimicking his French hosts. Most of the letters quoted here were in fact written during Sterne's first stay The earlier letters do contain some criticism which was decanted in the course of the following years, and also convey some bitterness at times which must partly be ascribed to Sterne's irritation with his health and marital problems then.
But the biographical aspect is not the purpose of this article.
The passages which have been selected from Sterne's letters are in fact typical descriptions, vivid sketches, instant impressions that arrested the visitor, and sometimes motivated his diatribes: Perhaps a keener awareness of the interaction of the adjectives "French" and "Sternean" can be gained by playing with the facets of the word "reflection," in the course of a journey from Sterne's novel to his letters, and vice versa, in search of French reflections in the sense, first of all, of the mirror image of French people, French concepts and France itself which can be found in Sterne's correspondence and in A Sentimental Journey.
As a second stage, I would like to examine a few significant — and distinctly Sternean — French images and to try and analyse whether they tell us anything of what, in essence, the French were to Sterne's inspiration.
Then the other side of the question is also worth considering: As a third stage, I will suggest that Sterne looked at the French in a way that allowed them to see their English reflection in him. Needless to say, in so doing, the French stuck to a view of Sterne which they did not bother too much to compare with his writings.
With two distorted mirror images, how did it occur that any sort of communication was achieved at all? How can a French intelligence make sense of that sympathy between Sterne and the French which A Sentimental Journey was supposed to herald in its time, and which persisted well after Sterne had died and France had meanwhile profoundly transformed itself?
On the contrary he intended and managed to derive part of his popular success by ridiculing Smollett's dyspeptic if documentary account of his journey in his Travels through France and Italy.
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It is no wonder then that the discernible reflections should at times have the features of caricature, or should seem puzzling, even deceitful, or more simply just conventional: Sterne's portrait gallery of French originals is much like Smollett's in many respects: They had indeed reasons for invective when, tuberculosis being their common lot, they were subjected to the same "bouillon" therapy: My physicians have almost poisoned me with what they call bouillons rejraichissants — 'tis a cock flead alive and boiled with poppy seeds, then pounded in a mortar, afterwards pass'd thro' a sieve — There is to be one crawfish in it, and I was gravely told it must be a male one — a female would do me more hurt than good.
And here is a good example of Smollettian invective on the part of Sterne:A set of quick reference cards for yorick fits onto three double sided US letter sheets.
To print them, use initiativeblog.com. The original constraint to fit onto six sheets makes the organization of this Quick Reference somewhat illogical; in particular, the division between the "Language" and "Function" sheets is . Jan 12, · Letter 1.
[London,?late January ] Yorick sends 'my books' and declares himself to be 'half in love.' This video is part of the Precious Cargo . May 31, · Pix fluttered into Yorick's room and dropped a somewhat large letter in front of the gravedigger before flying off.
He didn't need to deal with those ghouls more than he already did on the fields. The letter read as follows. P.S. Probably you will have an opportunity of writing to me by ſome Dutch or French ſhip, or from the Cape de Verd Iſlands, for in ten minutes after I diſpatch'd my letter, this poor fine-ſpun frame of Yorick's gave way, and I broke a veſſel in my breaſt.
View all notes So, “Jorvik,” pronounced “Iorvick” is merely one letter away in writing—and one short sound in diction—from the name of Sterne’s Danish descended provincial parson. Finally, as Kenneth Monkman points out, “Yorick” was an old regional pronunciation of the name of that town, which long remained in use by Yorkshire.
But by letting him free to play his part thoroughly and without restriction, Sterne gives him a chance to do no less than teach Yorick a lesson in courtesy and in the writing of love letters: that the servant should thus take precedence over the acknowledged master of sentiment gives us pause for thought.