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A Sentimental Journey (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Laurence Sterne , Paul Goring
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Nov 2001 Penguin Classics

A furiously witty response to Tobias Smollett's curmudgeonly 'Travels through France and Italy', Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy became a hugely influential work of travel writing in its own right. This Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction and notes by Paul Goring.

When Yorick, the roving narrator of Sterne's innovative final novel, sets off for France on a whim, he produces no ordinary travelogue. Jolting along in his coach from Calais, through Paris, and on towards the Italian border, the amiable parson is blithely unconcerned by famous views or monuments, but he engages us with tales of his encounters with all manner of people, from counts and noblewomen to beggars and chambermaids. And as drama piles upon drama, anecdote, flirtation and digression, Yorick's destination takes second place to an exhilarating voyage of emotional and erotic exploration. Interweaving sharp wit with warm humour and irony with genuine feeling, A Sentimental Journey paints a captivating picture of an Englishman's adventures abroad.

In his introduction, Paul Goring discusses Sterne's literary career and his semi-autobiographical depiction of Yorick, and sets the novel within the context of eighteenth-century travel writing and the vogue of sentimental fiction. This edition also includes a chronology, updated further reading and notes.

Laurence Sterne (1713-1768) graduated from Cambridge in 1737 and took holy orders, becoming a prebend in York Cathedral. His masterpiece, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman made him a celebrity but ill-health necessitated recuperative travel and A Sentimental Journey grew out of a seven-month trip through France and Italy. He died the year it was published, 1768.

If you enjoyed A Sentimental Journey, you might like Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, also available in Penguin Classics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (29 Nov 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140437797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140437799
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.1 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Irish-born Laurence Sterne graduated from Cambridge in 1737 and took holy orders, becoming a prebend in York Cathedral. His masterpiece, 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy' made him a celebrity but ill-health necessitated recuperative travel and A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY grew out of a seven-month trip through France and Italy. He died the year it was published, 1768. Paul Goring teaches English at Trondheim University in Norway and has completed a doctorate on Sterne's novels.

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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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journey of discovery 5 Nov 2004
Even for modern readers, "A Sentimental Journey" (published 1768)is as startlingly innovative as Sterne's celebrated "Tristram Shandy". Sterne's ability to crystallize the minute details of experience - which may be down to a few seconds only - is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse". Indeed, Woolf admired this book.
This is by no means an easy read. The 18th-century prose is difficult; the book is larded with Frenchisms and Biblical or classical allusions; the complex, slow narrative often requires re-reading. But the rewards are great! It's wise, deeply comical, and incredibly perceptive.
There are several helpful reviews below dealing with the aspect of "sentimentality", and so I will just single out two things which appealed to me:
1. STERNE AND BODY LANGUAGE. Sterne shows an almost 20th-century appreciation of body language. In fact, I believe he may have almost discovered it. His chapter, "The Translation", highlights the importance of being able to interpret subtle physical hints, like a language: "There is not a secret so aiding to the progress of sociality, as to get master of this _shorthand_, and be quick in rendering the several turns of looks and limbs, with all their inflections and delineations, into plain words." How visionary!
2. STERNE AND THE FRENCH. Ever since Shakespeare inserted a scene in "cod French" into "Henry V", actually ever since the Norman Conquest and up to Monty Python and beyond, the English have revelled in mocking the French and their language. His Continental travelling gives Sterne the perfect excuse to do this. At one point he differentiates between "tant pis" (= "never mind" - where there is nothing to be gained) and "tant mieux" (= so much the better - where there IS an advantage).
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A nice thin book, and quirky too! 20 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Yes, thats right, this is a very short book and for me thats a great part of its appeal. It meant I could get a flavour of Sterne's work very quickly for that essay I had to write!
Seriously though, this book is well worth reading for a number of other reasons. It's seemingly quirky set of brief "episodes" recounting the experiences of a traveller in Europe are on one level deep and telling signs of Sterne's fascination with the trivial (which in one sense all our lives are.) On another, it's just a very enlightening insight into the times it is a product.
One important point: don't be mislead/put off by the title. It's not really all weepy, over-inflated and sentimental twaddle; instead it is a novel that reads more like a pre-echo of Joyce and other modernists.
For the price, its length and the chance to read something a bit off the beaten track of literature you could do much worse then this little gem.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsufferable 3 Aug 2011
Required reading for a course of Travelling Literature, I had to force myself to read large parts of this book. It was a real struggle, as I greatly disliked the haughty, sleazy little prick that does the travelling. I did not care one bit for his observations or his take on what he observed. I know it's supposed to be funny, a sarcastic twist on the journey of a well known sourpuss, but I just cannot see what's funny about it, even with a considerable amount of goodwill. I was so glad when I could put this book down for good, and plan on never ever reading the rest of it!
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sentimental Journey 18 April 2011
By emc17
Bought this as a set text for my degree course, it was delivered quickly and in perfect condition - just knocked a star off because I wasn't keen on the text itself!
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Strange, But Very Human Little Novel 7 Aug 2002
By mp - Published on Amazon.com
Laurence Sterne's 1768 novel, "A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy," is a strange and largely plotless book - less the recounting of a journey than of Parson Yorick's ramblings. Following the wildly successfuly, and no less diffuse "Tristram Shandy," Sterne crafts a much smaller, but no less intense work, recounting the misadventures of Parson Yorick, himself a character in the earlier novel. Labelling himself a 'sentimental traveler,' Yorick's account of his travels is not descriptive, but emotive, revealing his conflicted, if warm-hearted psychology.
The novel begins abruptly in the middle of a conversation between Yorick and his servant over a French policy in the eighteenth century of seizing the property of a foreigner who dies in France. Eager to discover the truth of the matter, Yorick impulsively throws a few shirts in a bag and before the next day ends, lands in Calais, France. Upon his arrival, his initial purpose, like many which he determines on in the course of the book, is forgotten, as his mind drifts from topic to topic as things and people happen to cross his sight. What remains of the novel are a series of pathetic and amorous adventures, in which Yorick's senses of morality, propriety, and common sense are brought into constant conflict with his impetuous nature and good humored guile.
Sterne is too intelligent and expert a writer to allow sentiment, what we might call sappy nonsense, to rule the day in his novel, and the scrapes Yorick get himself into are as much a critique of pure sentiment as an exploration of the uses and practicality of human sympathy. Sterne is playing with a recent tradition of moral philosophy, including the likes of such authors as Shaftesbury and Adam Smith, the latter of whose "Theory of Moral Sentiments" (1759) was at the forefront of popularizing and pragmatizing fellow-feeling. Sterne uses the excitable and impulsive Yorick to play with these ideas, along with those of his acquaintance, David Hume, whose notions of moral aesthetics marked a radical departure from the aforementioned predecessors. Out of all of these high flown philosophical traditions, Sterne fashions a witty and clever series of scenarios - from eating with peasants, bantering with a monk, flirting with a married woman while her husband indifferently watches, and nearly getting thrown in the Bastille - all display a very human look at the world.
Encounters between Yorick and various classes and characters in France illustrate the distance between theory and practice in terms of implementing any kind of systematic philosophy - even, and especially for a man of the cloth, like our protagonist. Yorick means well most of the time, which makes his faults and foibles all the more endearing and amusing. By his own admission, Yorick is constantly falling in love, perhaps to give his bachelor life some sense of chivalric purpose, but when he starts falling in love with every chamber-maid and noblewoman in France, we begin to question, not only his sincerity, but the capacity of his sexual and emotional appetites. It makes for hilarious episodes, especially when his French servant, La Fleur, is dragged into the middle of them.
A forerunner of the focused genre of sentimental fiction like Mackenzie's "The Man of Feeling" and the more refined imaginative sensibilities of many Romantic Era authors, Sterne's little novel, along with "Tristram Shandy" made immediate cultural impact, not only in England, but throughout Europe. Sometimes confusing, often amusing, reading Sterne's "Sentimental Journey" is a great way to while away a summer afternoon.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The amorous adventures of a gentleman in 18th century France 15 Oct 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This autobiographical acount by Sterne of his amorous progress through France and Northern Italy is surely one of the most delightful books ever written. Composed as he lay dying of tuberculosis, the book nonetheless encaptures the author's renowned zest for life as well as the libertine spirit of the age in which he lived. The journey down through France to Northern Italy is the perfect vehicle for an excursion into the nature of human sensibility, and from the moment that this cultured Anglo-Irish cleric sets foot in Calais, the reader is treated to a seies of exquisite encounters with the fairer sex. Rarely has an author transmitted so well his understanding of the psychological complexity of women, or the pleasure he takes in their company. Engaging, perceptive and witty, this is a book whiich cannot fail to leave an imprint on the imagination.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish I wish 30 May 2006
By Benedict - Published on Amazon.com
I wish I could go around France and Italy and chat it up like this fellow does.

I also wish I could write like him. Every once in a while I run across a writer who can really tell a tale and uses English as a painter uses oils.

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. Absolutely hillarious satire 17 Nov 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Sterne befuddles and delights readers and critics alike in A Sentimental Journey. He takes the fashionable travel log of the time and satarizes it. Contemporary critics had a fit over its supposedly bawdy nature, yet some modern readers may over look its sublte innuendo. The form of the novel is quite unlike anything that had preceeded it, thus is important for any scholars. Most importanly, however, the book is funny and fun to read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By C. Scanlon - Published on Amazon.com
a similar seemingly pointless but profoundly significant AND FUNNY epic delivered under the guise of a trivial travelogue, written by a fellow Irishman. Nice to know Joyce read his Sterne as well as his daily newspaper while traveling in Trieste.

This parody must be read and enjoyed on its own terms. Recent academic commentaries are helpful in understanding, a fact which does not detract from this work.
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