Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Calais (ka-LAY). French port town on the English Channel, where Yorick lands after crossing from England. The author places travelers in various categories such as “Inquisitive” and “Splenetic.” Yorick himself wishes to be a “sentimental traveller.” He will experience the world without a jaundiced eye, and thereby learn more about himself than about the places he visits. It hardly concerns this type of traveler where he goes; it is the journey that matters.

Yorick has not entirely slipped into the sentimental mode when he first arrives in Calais. While dining at a local inn, he rudely dismisses a poor monk seeking alms. He quickly repents of his harsh treatment, however, and, through the rest of the novel treats people, from noblemen to beggars, with great interest and compassion. This is particularly true of the many women he encounters. Though Calais is Yorick’s first experience in a foreign country, he spends his entire time there flirting with a woman from Brussels. Time is largely irrelevant to the sentimental traveler. If one looks at everything around him with interest in his heart, he muses, “what a large volume of adventures may be grasped” within a single hour.


*Paris. French capital and obligatory stop on the grand tour of Europe. On the way to the great city, Yorick employs a manservant named La Fleur, a young Frenchman who is a sentimental traveler in his own right and who sees the world through his heart. When they arrive in Paris, Yorick makes a point of avoiding famous sites such as the Louvre, the Palais Royal, and galleries and churches. He believes that the “originals” of art are humankind and that all people are temples unto themselves. Sterne himself was a cleric, and Christian love for one’s neighbor, both charitable and physical, suffuses his traveler’s universe.

Eschewing the city’s traditional tourist spots,...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Brissenden, R. F. “The Sentimental Comedy: A Sentimental Journey.” In Virtue in Distress. London: Macmillan, 1974. Argues that the primary purpose of A Sentimental Journey is to show the inextricable if ironic link between human beings’ capacity for the social virtues of compassion and sympathy and their capacity for sexual responsiveness.

Cash, Arthur Hill. Sterne’s Comedy of Moral Sentiment: The Ethical Dimensions of the “Journey.” Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1966. Explores ethical rationalism by comparing A Sentimental Journey and “the comedy of moral problems” to Sterne’s The Sermons of Mr. Yorick (1760, 1766) and The Sermons by the Late Rev. Mr. Sterne (1769).

Howes, Alan B., ed. Sterne: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974. A thorough and well-organized compilation of criticism, acclaim, and accusations of plagiarism by Sterne’s contemporaries in response to the publication of A Sentimental Journey. Also discusses other works by Sterne.

Loveridge, Mark. Laurence Sterne and the Argument About Design. London: Macmillan, 1982. Explores Sterne’s use of pattern, design, and form, and places these concepts within the general cultural and literary context of his day. Chapter 7 deals exclusively with A Sentimental Journey.

Moglen, Helene. The Philosophical Irony of Laurence Sterne. Gainesville: The University Presses of Florida, 1975. Systematically discusses Sterne’s use of stylistic and thematic irony in relation to character, theme development, and thematic unity. Also explores the relevance of his novel to contemporary times.