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LECTURE THE SIXTH.
STERNE AND GOLDSMITH.
ROGER STERNE, Sterne's father, was the second son of a numerous race, descendants of Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York, in the reign of James II.; and children of Simon Sterne and Mary Jaques, his wife, heiress of Elvington, near York.* Roger was a lieutenant in Handiside's regiments, and engaged in Flanders, in Queen Anne's wars. He married the daughter of a noted suttler, “N.B., he was in debt to him," his son writes, pursuing the paternal biography, and marched through the world with this companion, following the regiment and bringing many children to poor Roger Sterne. The captain was an irascible but kind and simple little man, Sterne says, and informs us that his sire was run through the body at Gibraltar, by a brother officer, in a duel, which arose out of a dispute about a goose. Roger never entirely recovered from the effects of this rencontre, but died presently at Jamaica, whither he had followed the drum.
Lawrence, his second child, was borne at Clonmel, in Ireland, in 1713, and travelled for the first ten
* He came of a Suffolk family - one of whom settled in Nottinghamshire. The famous “starling” was actually the family crest.
years of his life, on his father's march, from barrack to transport, from Ireland to England. *
One relative of his mother's took her and her family under shelter for ten months at Mullingar: another collateral descendant of the Archbishop's housed them for a year at his castle near Carrickfergus. Larry Sterne was put to school at Halifax in England, finally was adopted by his kinsman of Elvington, and parted company with his father, the Captain, who marched on his path of life till he met the fatal goose, which closed his career. The most picturesque and delightful parts of Lawrence Sterne's writings, we owe to his recollections of the military life. Trim's montero cap, and Le Fevre's sword, and dear Uncle Toby's roquelaure, are doubtless reminiscences of the boy, who had lived with the followers of William and Marlborough, and had beat time with his little feet to the fifes of Ramillies in Dublin barrack-yard, or played with the torn flags and halberds of Malplaquet on the parade ground at Clonmel.
Lawrence remained at Halifax school till he was eighteen years old. His wit and cleverness appear to have acquired the respect of his master here: for when the usher whipped Lawrence for writing his name on the newly white-washed school-room ceiling, the pedagogue in chief rebuked the under-strapper, and said
*“It was in this parish (of Animo, in Wicklow), during our stay, that I had that wonderful escape in falling through a mill-race, whilst the mill was going, and of being taken up unhurt; the story is incredible, but known for truth in all that part of Ireland, where hundreds of the common people flocked to see me.” — STERNE.
that the name should never be effaced, for Sterne was a boy of genius, and would come to preferment.
His cousin, the Squire of Elvington, sent Sterne to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he remained five years, and taking orders, got, through his uncle's interest, the living of Sutton and the Prebendary of York. Through his wife's connexions, he got the living of Stillington. He married her in 1741; having ardently courted the young lady for some years previously. It was not until the young lady fancied herself dying, that she made Sterne acquainted with the extent of her liking for him. One evening when he was sitting with her, with an almost broken heart to see her so ill (the Rev. Mr. Sterne's heart was a good deal broken in the course of his life,) she said “My dear Laurey, I never can be yours, for I verily believe I have not long to live, but I have left you every shilling of my fortune," a generosity which overpowered Sterne: she recovered: and so they were married, and grew heartily tired of each other before many years were over. “Nescio quid est materia cum me,” Sterne writes to one of his friends in dog Latin, and very sad-dog Latin too) “sed sum fatigatus et ægrotus de meâ uxore plus quam unquam,” which means, I am sorry to say, ī I don't know what is the matter with me: but I am more tired and sick of my wife than ever.
*“My wife returns to Toulouse, and proposes to pass the summer at Bignaères -I, on the contrary, go and visit my wife, the church, in Yorkshire. We all live the longer, at least the happier, for having things our own way; this is my conjugal maxim. I own 't is not the best of maxims, but I maintain 't is not the worst." STERNE's Letters, 20th Ja
This to be sure was five-and-twenty years after Laurey had been overcome by her generosity and she by Laurey's love. Then he wrote to her of the delights of marriage, saying “We will be as merry and as innocent as our first parents in Paradise: before the arch fiend entered that indescribable scene. The kindest affections will have room to expand in our retirement
let the human tempest and hurricane rage at a distance, the desolation is beyond the horizon of peace. My L. has seen a polyanthus blow in December? Some friendly wall has sheltered it from the biting wind — no planetary influence shall reach us, but that which presides and cherishes the sweetest flowers. The gloomy family of care and distrust shall be banished from our dwelling, guarded by thy kind and tutelar deity, we will sing our choral songs of gratitude and rejoice to the end of our pilgrimage. Adieu, my L. Return to one who languishes for thy society! As I take up my pen, my poor pulse quickens, my pale face glows, and tears are trickling down on my paper as I trace the word L.”
And it is about this woman, with whom he finds no fault, but that she bores him, that our philanthropist writes, “Sum fatigatus et ægrotus Sum mortaliter in amore with somebody else! That fine flower of love, that polyanthus over which Sterne snivelled so many tears, could not last for a quarter of a century!
Or rather it could not be expected that a gentleman with such a fountain at command, should keep it to arroser one homely old lady, when a score of younger and prettier people might be refreshed from the same
gushing source. * It was in December, 1767, that the Rev. Lawrence Sterne, the famous Shandean, the
* In a collection of “Seven Letters by Sterne and his friends,” (printed for private circulation), in 1844, is a letter of M. Tollot, who was in France with Sterne and his family in 1764. Here is a paragraph:
“Nous arrivâmes le lendemain à Montpellier, où nous trouvâmes notre ami Mr.Sterne, sa femme, sa fille, Mr. Huet et quelques autres Anglaises; j'eus, je vous l'avoue, beaucoup de plaisir en revoyant le bon et agréable Tristram.
Il avait été assez longtemps à Toulouse, où il se serait amusé sans sa femme, qui le poursuivit partout, et qui voulait être de tout. Ces dispositions dans cette bonne dame, lui ont fait passer d'assez mauvais momens; il supporte tous ces désagrémens avec une patience d'ange.".
About four months after this very characteristic letter, Sterne wrote to the same gentleman to whom Tollot had written; and from his letter we may extract a companion paragraph:
“All which being premised, I have been for eight weeks smitten with the tenderest passion that ever tender wight underwent. I wish, dear cousin, thou couldst conceive (perhaps thou canst without my wishing it) how deliciously I canter'd away with it the first month, two up, two down, always upon my hânches along the streets from my hotel to bers, at first once then twice, then three times a day, till at length I was within an ace of setting up my hobby-horse in her stable for good and all. I might as well, considering how the enemies of the Lord have blasphemed thereupon. The last three weeks we were every hour upon the doleful ditty of parting — and thou mayest conceive, dear cousin, how it altered my gait and air — for I went and came like any louden'd carl, and did nothing but jouer des sentimens with her from sun-rising even to the setting of the same; and now she is gone to the south of France; and to finish the comédie, I fell ill, and broke a vessel in my lungs, and half bled to death. Voilà mon histoire!”
Whether husband or wife had most of the "patience