Laurence Sterne Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

0111201587-Sterne.jpg Laurence Sterne (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Laurence Sterne was born on November 24, 1713, in Clonmel, Ireland, to a respected Yorkshire family (his great-grandfather, Richard Sterne, had been archbishop of York). His father, Roger Sterne, was a young ensign, and Laurence spent his early years in towns and cities all over England and Ireland. The second of seven children, only three of whom lived to adulthood, he left at age ten for school in Halifax, England. There he was taken under the wing of his uncle Richard Sterne, a community leader who became a second father to him.

Roger Sterne squandered the family’s wealth before his death in Jamaica in 1731. When Richard Sterne died the following year, Laurence, now detached from his mother, was penniless. In 1733, he entered Jesus College, Cambridge; after first working to earn the tuition for his education, he was awarded one of the Sterne scholarships established by his great-grandfather. He studied Latin, Greek, mathematics, rhetoric, and philosophy (which included geography, ethics, and the natural sciences). He admired the Greek philosopher Plato and the English thinkers John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton. Matriculating in 1735, Sterne received his degree, most likely in early 1737.

Already indebted to associates such as his lifelong friend John Hall, Sterne had few options but to go into the church. He was admitted to the Order of Deacons and given an assistant curacy in St. Ives, an unimpressive post. For two decades, he lived a pastoral life, climbing the parochial hierarchy of Yorkshire with the help of political contacts, which included his uncle, the Archdeacon Jaques Sterne. With each post—prebendary of Givendale, vicar of Sutton, commissary of the Peculiar Court of Tollerton—came increased lands and their incomes. Sterne’s duties were both religious and political. He preached regularly and oversaw cases in the spiritual courts. As a rising clergyman and nephew to Jacques Sterne, he became involved in Yorkshire’s political life, contributing political articles to the York Gazetteer and publishing political pamphlets.

On March 30, 1741, Sterne married Elizabeth Lumley. A daughter, Lydia, was born on October 1, 1745, but she died the following day. A second Lydia was born on December 1, 1747; she would grow to be her father’s beloved and only child. Elizabeth’s health was poor, and the marriage was not happy; Sterne is known to have entertained other women...

(The entire section is 992 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In his introduction to a 1935 limited edition of Tristram Shandy, Christopher Morley wrote, “Perhaps Tristram Shandy should be read first at not over 20 years, and again at not less than 40.” Whether Laurence Sterne would have agreed is questionable, but it is clear that his writing offers a dazzling combination of youthful vitality and experienced wisdom that has wide appeal. Though Sterne’s contemporary reader was a certain type of eighteenth century aristocrat, Sterne’s direct and intimate style speaks to many beyond that limited group and era. His humor and candor, even in more liberal-minded epochs, continue to be disarming in their simple truthfulness. Sterne is not a simple author, for much of his language and erudition is of a past world, yet for readers who approach his works as he approached life, with open heart and ravenous mind, his spirit is unmistakable.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Laurence Sterne, one of the most delightfully eccentric of English novelists, was born in Clonmel, Ireland, on November 24, 1713, the son of an Irish woman and an ensign in the English army whose regiment had just been transferred to Ireland from Dunkirk. Though his parentage was undistinguished, Sterne’s father came from an old family in Yorkshire, where a great-grandfather had been an archbishop. A childhood spent in the rigors of camp-following undoubtedly had a harmful effect on the novelist’s frail constitution, but the experience provided him with details of barracks life and campaign reminiscences that ultimately enriched his great novel with such authentic creations as Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim.


(The entire section is 1231 words.)