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A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy

Laurence Sterne


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Tags: Fiction » Travel

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Description

A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy is a novel by Laurence Sterne, first published in 1768. Sterne wrote it after travelling through these countries and meeting Tobias Smollett. Smollett had written Travels Through France and Italy a couple of years earlier, and Sterne had objected to his lack of, let's say, positivity about his travels. So he wrote this book (a Sentimental Journey) as a rebuttal of Smollett's more acerbic one. The book helped establish travel writing, but more than that, it moved it away from the academic objective to the more personal subjective view. Whilst no doubt a travel book, it is written as fiction, with the narrator being the Reverend Mr. Yorick, who recounts his various adventures and love affairs. Sterne died less than a month after A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy was published.

№ 71 in Anne Haight's List of Banned Books.

This book has 66 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1768.

Production notes: This edition of A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy was published by Global Grey ebooks on the 14th July 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'The Beautiful Grisette' by William Powell Frith.

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Excerpt from 'A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy'

Calais

When I had fished my dinner, and drank the King of France’s health, to satisfy my mind that I bore him no spleen, but, on the contrary, high honour for the humanity of his temper,—I rose up an inch taller for the accommodation.

—No—said I—the Bourbon is by no means a cruel race: they may be misled, like other people; but there is a mildness in their blood.  As I acknowledged this, I felt a suffusion of a finer kind upon my cheek—more warm and friendly to man, than what Burgundy (at least of two livres a bottle, which was such as I had been drinking) could have produced.

—Just God! said I, kicking my portmanteau aside, what is there in this world’s goods which should sharpen our spirits, and make so many kind-hearted brethren of us fall out so cruelly as we do by the way?

When man is at peace with man, how much lighter than a feather is the heaviest of metals in his hand! he pulls out his purse, and holding it airily and uncompressed, looks round him, as if he sought for an object to share it with.—In doing this, I felt every vessel in my frame dilate,—the arteries beat all cheerily together, and every power which sustained life, performed it with so little friction, that ’twould have confounded the most physical précieuse in France; with all her materialism, she could scarce have called me a machine.—

I’m confident, said I to myself, I should have overset her creed.

The accession of that idea carried nature, at that time, as high as she could go;—I was at peace with the world before, and this finish’d the treaty with myself.—

—Now, was I King of France, cried I—what a moment for an orphan to have begg’d his father’s portmanteau of me!

THE MONK.

CALAIS.

I had scarce uttered the words, when a poor monk of the order of St. Francis came into the room to beg something for his convent.  No man cares to have his virtues the sport of contingencies—or one man may be generous, as another is puissant;—sed non quoad hanc—or be it as it may,—for there is no regular reasoning upon the ebbs and flows of our humours; they may depend upon the same causes, for aught I know, which influence the tides themselves: ’twould oft be no discredit to us, to suppose it was so: I’m sure at least for myself, that in many a case I should be more highly satisfied, to have it said by the world, “I had had an affair with the moon, in which there was neither sin nor shame,” than have it pass altogether as my own act and deed, wherein there was so much of both.

—But, be this as it may,—the moment I cast my eyes upon him, I was predetermined not to give him a single sous; and, accordingly, I put my purse into my pocket—buttoned it—set myself a little more upon my centre, and advanced up gravely to him; there was something, I fear, forbidding in my look: I have his figure this moment before my eyes, and think there was that in it which deserved better.

The monk, as I judged by the break in his tonsure, a few scattered white hairs upon his temples, being all that remained of it, might be about seventy;—but from his eyes, and that sort of fire which was in them, which seemed more temper’d by courtesy than years, could be no more than sixty:—Truth might lie between—He was certainly sixty-five; and the general air of his countenance, notwithstanding something seem’d to have been planting-wrinkles in it before their time, agreed to the account.

It was one of those heads which Guido has often painted,—mild, pale—penetrating, free from all commonplace ideas of fat contented ignorance looking downwards upon the earth;—it look’d forwards; but look’d as if it look’d at something beyond this world.—How one of his order came by it, heaven above, who let it fall upon a monk’s shoulders best knows: but it would have suited a Bramin, and had I met it upon the plains of Indostan, I had reverenced it.

The rest of his outline may be given in a few strokes; one might put it into the hands of any one to design, for ’twas neither elegant nor otherwise, but as character and expression made it so: it was a thin, spare form, something above the common size, if it lost not the distinction by a bend forward in the figure,—but it was the attitude of Intreaty; and, as it now stands presented to my imagination, it gained more than it lost by it.

When he had entered the room three paces, he stood still; and laying his left hand upon his breast (a slender white staff with which he journey’d being in his right)—when I had got close up to him, he introduced himself with the little story of the wants of his convent, and the poverty of his order;—and did it with so simple a grace,—and such an air of deprecation was there in the whole cast of his look and figure,—I was bewitch’d not to have been struck with it.

—A better reason was, I had predetermined not to give him a single sous.

THE MONK.
CALAIS.

—’Tis very true, said I, replying to a cast upwards with his eyes, with which he had concluded his address;—’tis very true,—and heaven be their resource who have no other but the charity of the world, the stock of which, I fear, is no way sufficient for the many great claims which are hourly made upon it.

As I pronounced the words great claims, he gave a slight glance with his eye downwards upon the sleeve of his tunic:—I felt the full force of the appeal—I acknowledge it, said I:—a coarse habit, and that but once in three years with meagre diet,—are no great matters; and the true point of pity is, as they can be earn’d in the world with so little industry, that your order should wish to procure them by pressing upon a fund which is the property of the lame, the blind, the aged and the infirm;—the captive who lies down counting over and over again the days of his afflictions, languishes also for his share of it; and had you been of the order of mercy, instead of the order of St. Francis, poor as I am, continued I, pointing at my portmanteau, full cheerfully should it have been open’d to you, for the ransom of the unfortunate.—The monk made me a bow.—But of all others, resumed I, the unfortunate of our own country, surely, have the first rights; and I have left thousands in distress upon our own shore.—The monk gave a cordial wave with his head,—as much as to say, No doubt there is misery enough in every corner of the world, as well as within our convent—But we distinguish, said I, laying my hand upon the sleeve of his tunic, in return for his appeal—we distinguish, my good father! betwixt those who wish only to eat the bread of their own labour—and those who eat the bread of other people’s, and have no other plan in life, but to get through it in sloth and ignorance, for the love of God.

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