Full Title: The Works of Laurence Sterne, Complete in Eight Volumes. Containing I. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. II. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, and Continuation. III. Sermons. IV. Letters. V. The Fragment. VI. The Koran. VII. History of a Good Warm Coat. With A Life of the Author, Written by Himself. Vol. I. Edinburgh: Printed by J. Turnbull, Anchor-Close, for Gray, Maver, & Co. Booksellers, Glasgow, 1803.
The works of Mr. Sterne, after contending with the prejudices of some, and the ignorance of others, have at length obtained that general approbation which they are entitled to by their various, original, and intrinsic merits. No writer of the present times can lay claim to so many unborrowd excellencies. In none, have with, humour, fancy, pathos, an unbounded knowledge of mankind, and a correct and elegant style, been so happily united. These properties, which render him the delight of every reader of taste, have surmounted all opposition. Even envy, prudery, and hypocrisy are silent.
Time, which allots to each author his due portion of fame, and admits a free discussion of his beauties and faults, without favour and without partiality, hath done ample justice to the superior genius of Mr. Sterne. It hath fixed his reputation as one of the first writers in the English language, on the firmest basis, and advanced him to the rank of a classic. As such, it becomes a debt of gratitude, to collect his scattered performences into a compleate edition, with those embellishments usually bestowed on our most distinguished authors.
This hath been attempted in the present edition, which comprehends all the works of Mr. Sterne, either made public in his lifetime or since his death. They are printed from the best and most correct copies, with no other alterations than what became necessary from the correction of literal errors. The letters are arranged according to their several dates, as far as they can be discoverd, and a few illustrations added, to explain some temporary circumstances mentioned or alluded to in them. Those which are confessedly spurious are rejected; and that no credit may be given to such as are of doubtful authority, it will be proper to observe, that the letters mumbered 129, 130, 131, have not those proofs of authenticity which the others possess. They cannot, however, be pronounced forgeries with so much confidence as some which are discarded from the present edition may be, and therfore are retained in it.
That no part of the genuine works of Mr. Sterne might be omitted, his own account of himself and his family is inserted without variation. But as this appears to have been a hasty composition, intended only for the information of his daughter, a small number of facts and dates, by way of notes, are added to it. These, it is presumed, will not be considered as improper additions.
It would be trespassing on the reader’s patience, to detain him any longer from the pleasure which these volumes will afford, by bespeaking his favour either for the author or his works. The former is out of the reach of censure or praise; and the reputation of the latter is too well established to be either supported or shook by panegyric or criticism. To the taste therefore, the feelings, the good sense, and the candour of the public, the present collection of Mr. Sterne’s works may be submitted, without the least apprehension that the perusal of any part of them will be followed by consequences unfavourable to the interests of society. The oftener they are read, the stronger will a sense of universal benevolence be impressed on the mind; and the attentive reader will subscribe to the character of the author, given by a comic writer, who declares he held him to be “a moralist in the noblest sense; he plays indeed with the fancy, and sometimes perhaps too wantonly; but while he thus designmedly masks his main attack, he comes at once upon the heart; refines, amends it, softens it; beats down each selfich barrier from abut it, andopens every sluice of pity and benevolence.