The Sentimental Journey is so direct in its appeal that perhaps “Intrusion” is the proper word to write at the head of this page. This is the last book in the world to be burdened with pedantry. It reads like the first careless and spontaneous overflow of an inspired pen; we might imagine that, like Rasselas, it was written in a few days, without intermission. We know differently. It is the book of a sick and harassed man, composed slowly and painfully, much corrected in manuscript, and only delivered to the world with a dying hand.

For those who are interested in more than the surface of literature, these circumstances are sufficient to justify a short inquiry.


Sterne made two journeys to the Continent. The first, which followed the amazing success of the fifth and sixth volumes of Tristram Shandy, was of some duration. Sterne went to Paris in January 1762, and, after staying there for six months, established himself for considerable periods at Toulouse and Montpellier, and was in France altogether no less than two years and five months. It may have been his original intention to publish his experiences and reflections of these first travels as a sequel to Tristram Shandy, and certainly material was collected with some such purpose in mind. But Sterne had still two volumes of the original story to complete, and finding his inspiration running out, and time and debts pressing him, he seized on some of this material and packed it into the empty volume. These last volumes of Tristram Shandy were published on January 22nd, 1765. In October of the same year, Sterne set out on his second journey to the Continent, and it is to this journey that the Sentimental Journey ostensibly relates, though actually as it stands the book only covers a small part of the journey and is complicated by references to, and incidents from, the earlier tour in France. That is to say, the Sentimental Journey is not the journal of a particular tour, but is a composite work of art based on the general experiences of the author as traveller.

Another consideration, which has a bearing on the problem of prose style in general, and on the objective creation of the work of art that the Sentimental Journey actually is, is brought to light in a diary kept by Sterne, which is now known as the Journal to Eliza. This diary belongs to the same period as the composition of the Sentimental Journey, and contains several references to the Travels. It is also a complete revelation of Sterne’s spiritual state during the same time. The first mention of the Travels is under the date June 3rd:

“Cannot write my Travels, or give one half hour’s close attention to them, upon Thy account my dearest friend—Yet write I must, and what to do with You whilst I write—I declare I know not—I want to have you ever before my Imagination—and cannot keep you out of my heart or head—In short thou enter’st my Library, Eliza! (as thou one day shalt) without tapping—or sending for—by thy own Right of ever being close to thy Bramine—Now I must shut you out sometimes, or meet you Eliza! with an empty purse upon the Beach—Pity my entanglements from other passions—my Wife with me every moment of the Summer—think without restraint upon a Fancy that should Sport and be in all points at its ease—O had I my dear Bramine this Summer, to soften—and modulate my feelings—to enrich my Fancy and fill my heart brim full with bounty—my Book would be worth the reading—”

On June 17th he writes:

“I have brought your name, Eliza! and Picture into my work—where they will remain, when you and I are at rest for ever—Some Annotator or explainer of my works in this place will take occasion, to speak of the Friendship which subsisted so long and faithfully betwixt Yorick and the Lady he speaks of—Her name he will tell the world was Draper—a Native of India—married there to a gentleman in the India Service of that Name, who brought her over to England for the recovery of her health in the Year 65—where she continued to April the Year 1767. It was about three months before her Return to India, that our Author’s acquaintance and hers began.—Mrs. Draper had a great thirst for knowledge—was

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