Daily Archives: October 31, 2005

Item of the Day: Sterne’s Sentimental Journey (1790)

Full Title:

A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy by Mr. Yorick. A New Edition.

Written by Laurence Sterne. With engravings. Bound in ivory vellum with gold leaf. Printed in London by A. Strahan; for J. Johnson, G.G. J. & J. Robinson, T. Cadell, J. Murray, W. Lowndes, G. & T. Wilkie, Ogilvy and Speare, and W. Bent, 1790.

From pp. 1-5:

—THEY order, said I, this matter better in France—

—You have been in France? said my gentleman, turning quick upon me with the most civil triumph in the world.—Strange! quoth I, debating the matter with myself, That one and twenty miles sailing, for ’tis absolutely no further from Dover to Calais, should give a man these rights—I’ll look into them: so giving up the argument—I went straight to my lodgings, put up half a dozen shirts and a black pair of silk breeches—”the coat I have on,” said I, looking at the sleeve, “will do”—took a place in the Dover stage; and the packet sailing at nine the next morning—by three I had got sat down to my dinner upon a fricassee’d chicken, so incontesably in France, that had I died that night of an indigestion, the whole world could not have suspended the effects of the Droits d’aubaine*—my shirts, and black pair of silk breeches—portmanteau and all must have gone to the King of France—even the little picture which I have so long worn, and so often have told thee, Eliza, I would carry with me into my grave, would have been torn from my neck.—Ungenerous!—to seize upon the wreck of an unwary passenger, whom your subjects had beckon’d to their coast—by heaven! SIRE, it is not well done; and much does it grieve me, ’tis the monarch of a people so civilized and courteous, and so renown’d for sentiment and fine feelings, that I have to reason with—

But I have scarce set foot in your dominions—

C A L A I S.

WHEN I had finishd 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 uncompress’d, 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, perform’d it with so little friction, that ‘twould have confounded the most physical precieuse 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 a King of France, cried I—what a moment for an orphan to have begg’d his father’s portmanteau of me!

* All the effects of strangers (Swiss and Scotch excepted) dying in France, are seized by virtue of this law, though the heir be upon the spot—the profit of these contingencies being farmed, there is no redress.


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Filed under 1790's, Fiction, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt