Laurence Sterne

Laurence Sterne (November 24, 1713 – March 18, 1768) was an English novelist and clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics. Sterne died in London after years of fighting tuberculosis.

Laurence Sterne was born November 24, 1713 in Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland. His father was an Ensign in a British regiment recently returned from Dunkirk. Sterne's father's regiment was disbanded on the day of Sterne's birth, and within six months the family had returned to Yorkshire in northern England.

The first decade of Sterne's life was spent moving from place to place as his father was reassigned throughout England and Ireland. During this period Sterne never lived in one place for more than a year. Sterne was sent to school near Halifax when he was ten years old; he never saw his father again. Sterne entered Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1733 at the age of 20. His great-Grandfather, who was made Archbishop of York in 1664, had been the Master of Jesus College, twice, earlier in the seventeenth century. Sterne graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in January 1737; and returned in the summer of 1740 to be awarded his Master of Arts degree.

Sterne seems to have been destined to become a clergyman, and was ordained as a deacon in March of 1737 and as a priest in August, 1738. Shortly thereafter Sterne was awarded the living at Sutton-on-the-Forest in Yorkshire. Sterne married Elizabeth Lumley in 1741. Both were ill with tuberculosis. Sterne's life at this time was closely tied with his uncle, Dr. Jacques Sterne, an archdeacon at Cleveland and precentor at York Minister. Sterne's uncle was also a loyal Whig proponent, and urged Sterne to begin a career of political journalism which resulted in some scandal for Sterne and a falling out between the two men.

It was while living in the country-side, struggling with tuberculosis, that Sterne began work on his most famous novel, Tristram Shandy, the first volumes of which were published in 1759. Sterne was at work on his celebrated comic novel during the year that his mother died, his wife was seriously ill, and he was ill himself with TB. The publication of Tristram Shandy made Sterne a man famous in London and on the continent. He was delighted by the attention, and spent part of each year in London, being, feted as new volumes appeared.

Sterne continued to struggle with his illness, and departed England for France in 1762 in an effort to find a climate that would alleviate his suffering. Sterne was lucky to attach himself to a diplomatic party bound for Turin, as England and France were still adversaries in the Seven Years' War. Sterne was gratified by his reception in France where reports of the genius of Tristram Shandy had made him a celebrity. Aspects of this trip to France were incorporated into Sterne's second novel, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, which was published at the beginning of 1768. The novel was written during a period in which Sterne was increasingly ill and weak. Less than a month after Sentimental Journey was published Laurence Sterne died at the age of 54.

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