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reached him. From the period he lost his wife, says our informant, he has frequently visited England, to whose natives he is extremely partial, sometimes as a sergeant, at others as an express. Where zeal and diligence were required, La Fleur was never yet wanting.”
In addition to La Fleur's account of himself, (continues Mr Davis) the writer of the preceding obtained from him several little circumstances relative to his master, as well as the characters depicted by him, a few of which, as they would lose by abridgment, I shall give verbatim.
“ There were moments," said La Fleur, “ in which my master appeared sunk into the deepest dejection—when his calls upon me for my services were so seldom, that I sometimes apprehensively pressed in upon his privacy, to suggest what I thought might divert his melancholy. He used to smile at my well-meant zeal, and I could see was happy to be relieved. At others, he seemed to have received a new soul-he launched into the levity natural à mon pays," said La Fleur, " and cried gaily enough, 'Vive la Bagatelle !' It was in one of those moments that he became acquainted with the Grisette at the glove shop-she afterwards visited him at his lodgings, upon which La Fleur made not a single remark ; but on naming the fille de chambre, his other visitant, he exclaimed, 'It was certainly a pity she was so pretty and petite.
The lady mentioned under the initial L. was the Marquise Lamberti; to the interest of this lady he was indebted for the passport, which began to make him seriously uneasy. Count de B. (Bretuil) notwithstanding the Shakespeare, La Fleur thinks, would have troubled himself little about him. Choiseul was Minister at the time.
“ Poor Maria Was, alas ! no fiction.—When we came up to her, she was grovelling in the road like an infant, and throwing the dust upon her head-and yet few were more lovely. Upon Sterne's accosting her with tenderness, and raising her in his arms, she collected herself, and resumed some composure—told him her tale of misery, and wept upon his breast—my master sobbed aloud. I saw her gently disengage herself from his arms, and she sung him the service to the Virgin; my poor master covered his face with his hands, and walked by her side to the cottage where she lived; there he talked earnestly to the old woman.'
“ Every day,” said La Fleur,“ while we stayed there, I carried them meat and drink from the hotel, and when we departed from Moulines, my master left his blessings and some money with the mother."_“How much," added he, " I know not-he always gave more than he could afford.”
Sterne was frequently at a loss upon his travels for ready money. Remittances were become interrupted by war, and he had wrongly estimated his expenses ; he had reckoned along the post-roads, without adverting to the wretchedness that was to call upon him in his way. At many
of our stages my master has turned to me with tears in his eyes“ These poor people oppress me, La Fleur; how shall I relieve me?" He wrote much, and to a late hour. I told La Fleur of the inconsiderable quantity, he had published ; he expressed extreme surprise. “ I know,” said he,“ upon our return from this tour, there was a large trunk completely filled with papers." “Do you know any thing of their tendency, La Fleur?” “ Yes; they were miscellaneous remarks upon the manners of the different nations he visited; and in Italy he was deeply engaged in making the most elaborate inquiries into the differing governments of the towns, and the character- ' istic peculiarities of the Italians of the various states.”
To effect this, he read much ; for the collections of the Patrons of Literature were open to him ; he observed more. Singular as it may seem, Sterne endeavoured in vain to speak Italian. His valet acquired it on their journey ; but his master, though he applied now and then, gave it up at length as unattainable.—“ I the more wondered at this,” said La Fleur, “ as he must have understood Latin."
The assertion, sanctioned by Johnson, that Sterne was licentious and dissolute in conversation, stands thus far contradicted by the tes
timony of La Fleur. “ His conversation with women,” he said, “ was of the most interesting kind ; he usually left them serious, if he did not find them so.”
The Dead Ass Was no invention. The mourner was as simple and affecting as Sterne has related. La Fleur recollected the circumstance perfectly.
To Monks ne never exhibited any particular sympathy. La Fleur remembered several pressing in upon him, to all of whom his answer was the same-Mon pére, je suis occupè. Je suis pauvre comme vous.
In February, 1768, Laurence Sterne, his frame exhausted by long debilitating illness, expired at his lodgings in Bond Street, London. There was something in the manner of his death singularly resembling the particulars detailed by Mrs Quickly, as attending that of Falstaff, the compeer of Yorick for infinite jest, however unlike in other particulars. As he lay on his bed totally exhausted, he complained that his feet were cold, and requested the female attendant to chafe them. She did so, and it seemed to relieve him. He complained that the cold came up higher; and whilst the assistant was in the act of chafing his ancles and legs, he expired without a groan. It was also remarkable that his death took place much in the manner which he himself had wished ; and that the last offices were rendered him, not in his own house, or by the hand of kindred affection, but in an inn, and by strangers.
We are well acquainted with Sterne's features and personal appearance, to which he himself frequently alludes. He was tall and thin, with a hectic and consumptive appearance. His features, though capable of expressing with peculiar effect the sentimental emotions by which he was often affected, had also a shrewd, humorous, and sarcastic expression, proper to the wit, and the satirist. His conversation was animated, and witty ; but Johnson complained that it was marked by licence, better suiting the company of the Lord of Crazy Castle, than of the great moralist. It has been said, and probably with truth, that his temper was variable and unequal, the natural consequence of irritable temperament, and continued bad health. But we will not readily believe that the parent of uncle Toby could be a harsh, or habitually a bad-humoured man. Sterne's letters to his friends, and especially to his daughter, breathe all the fondness of affection;
and his resources, such as they were, seem to have been always at the command of those whom he loved.
If we consider Sterne's reputation as chiefly founded on Tristram Shandy, he must be considered as liable to two severe charges;—those, namely, of indecency, and of affectation. Upon the first accusation Sterne was himself peculiarly sore, and used to justify the licentiousness of his humour by representing it as a mere breach of decorum, which had no perilous consequence to morals. The following anecdote we have from a sure source. Soon after Tristram had appeared, Sterne asked a Yorkshire lady of fortune and condition whether she had read his book. “I have not, Mr Sterne," was the answer ; “ and, to be plain with you, I am informed it is not proper for female perusal.”—“My dear good lady,” replied the author, “ do not be gulled by such stories; the book is like your young heir there, (pointing to a child of three years old, who was rolling on the carpet in his white tunics) he shews at times a good deal that is usually concealed, but it is all in perfect innocence !" This witty excuse may be so far admitted; for it cannot be said that the licentious humour of Tristram Shandy is of the kind which applies itself to the passions, or is calculated to corrupt society. But it is a sin against taste, if allowed to be harmless as to morals. A handful of mud is neither a firebrand nor a stone; but to fling it about in sport, argues coarseness of taste, and want of common manners.
Sterne, however, began and ended by braving the censure of the world in this particular. A remarkable passage in one of his letters shews how lightly he was disposed to esteem the charge ; and what is singular enough, his plan for turning it into ridicule seems to have been serious. “ Crebillon (le fils) has made a convention with me, which, if he is not too lazy, will be no bad persiflage. As soon as I get to Toulouse, he has agreed to write me an expostulatory letter on the indecencies of T. Shandy—which is to be answered by recrimination upon the liberties in his own works. These are to be printed together-Crebillon against Sterne-Sterne against Crebillon—the copy to be sold, and the money equally divided : this is good Swiss policy."
In like manner, the greatest admirers of Sterne must own, that his style is affected, eminently, and in a degree which even his wit and pathos are inadequate to support. The style of Rabelais, which he assumed for his model, is to the highest excess rambling, excursive, and intermingled with the greatest absurdities. But Rabelais was in some measure compelled to adopt this Harlequin's habit, in order that, like licensed jesters, he might, under the cover of his folly, have permission to vent his satire against church and state. Sterne assumed the manner of his master, only as a mode of attracting attention, and of making the public stare ; and, therefore, his extravagancies, like those of a feigned madman, are cold and forced, even in the midst of his most irregular flights. A man may, in the present day, be, with perfect impunity, as wise or as witty as he can, without assuming the cap and bells of the ancient jester as an apology; and that Sterne chose voluntarily to appear under such a disguise, must be set down as mere affectation, and ranked with the tricks of black or marbled pages, as used merely ad captandum vulgus. All popularity thus founded, carries in it the seeds of decay; for eccentricity in composition, like fantastic modes of dress, however attractive when first introduced, is sure to be caricatured by stupid imitators, to become soon unfashionable, and of course to be neglected.
If we proceed to look more closely into the manner of composition which Sterne thought proper to adopt, we find a sure guide in the ingenious Dr Ferriar of Manchester, who, with most singular patience,