Plot and Character in Tristram Shandy

  • Mark Loveridge


What the previous chapter has not done is to provide an unbiased argument about the ‘typicality’ of Tristram Shandy. Shklovsky and Goethe are both prejudiced to some extent by their historical situation, and Shklovsky’s critical writing is polemical throughout. So this chapter will try to give other reasons as to why one might consider Tristram Shandy a ‘pure’ novel.


Causal Power Literary Practice External System Figurative Language Shaky Ground 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Tony Tanner, City of Words: American Fiction 1950–1970 (1971), p. 156.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alan D. McKiliop, The Early Masters of English Fiction (Lawrence, Kansas, 1956), p. 210.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Frank Brady, ‘Tristram Shandy: Sexuality, Morality and Sensibility’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 4 (1970), 41–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 6.
    Desiderius Erasmus, ‘De Captandis Sacerdotiis’, in Familiarium Colloquiorum Formulae (Basle, 1519), trans: Nathan Bailey as All the Familiar Colloquies of Desiderius Erasmus (1725), pp. 26–7.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Alexander Pope, Epistle to Cobham (1734), Poems, one-volume edition of the Twickenham text, ed. John Butt (1963, 5th printing 1973), pp. 549–59.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Michael V. Deporte, ‘Digressions and Madness in A Tale of A Tub and Tristram Shandy’, Huntingdon Library Quarterly, 34 (1970), 43–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 10.
    William Battie, A Treatise on Madness (1758), p. 85, rpt. with John Monro, Remarks on Dr. Battie’s Treatise on Madness (1758), in Psychiatric Monograph Series, 3, Intro. Richard Hunter and Ida Macalpine(1962).Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Walter Scott, Introductory Epistle to The Fortunes of Nigel (Edinburgh, 1822). Centenary Edition of Scott (Edinburgh, 1886), p. 16.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Gabriel Josipovici, The World and the Book: A Study of Modern Fiction (1971), pp. 299–300.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Stephen Werner, Diderot’s Great Scroll: Narrative Art in ‘Jacques le Fataliste’ (Banbury, Oxon., 1975), p. 96, n. 13.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    Ian Watt, ‘The Comic Syntax of Tristram Shandy’ (Minneapolis, 1967), p. 328.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    R. F. Brissenden, Virtue in Distress (1974), p. 199.Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    Thomas Hardy, The Life and Death of the Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Chapter 17: ‘“Character is Fate”, says Novalis’, and George Eliot, though in a different mood, in The Mill on The Floss (1860), VI, 6: ‘“Character,” says Novalis, in one of his questionable aphorisms, “character is desdny.”’Google Scholar
  14. 25.
    Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748), rpt. Folio Society (1961), p. 25.Google Scholar
  15. 27.
    Robert Alter, ‘The Picaroon as Fortune’s Plaything’, an essay mosdy on Smollett (from whom the essay’s tide is derived), in Essays on the Eighteenth-Century Novel, ed. R. Spector (Bloomington, Indiana, 1965), pp. 131–53.Google Scholar
  16. 29.
    Fred Gettings, The Book of the Hand: An Illustrated History of Palmistry (1965), p. 39. See also pp. 41, 54, 64, 72 for a discussion of early humour-theory.Google Scholar
  17. 33.
    Ibid., p. 13. The other explanation, given in A. H. Cash’s Laurence Sterne: The Early and Middle Years (1975), p. 295, is that Sterne’s ‘brief satirical jab was read as a reference to Mead’s keeping in his house a young married woman for the pleasures of dalliance even when he had become impotent’. But I think Cash acknowledges that Mead could well have been recognised from the particular leisure activity mentioned in Tristram Shandy.Google Scholar
  18. 40.
    John M. Stedmond, The Comic Art of Laurence Sterne (Toronto, 1967), p. 20.Google Scholar
  19. 41.
    Ibid., p. 28, quoting B. H. Lehman, ‘Of Time, Personality and the Author: A Study of Tristram Shandy’, University of California Publications in English, 8 (1941), 233–50.Google Scholar
  20. 46.
    W. J. Farrell, ‘Nature versus Art as a Comic Principle in Tristram Shandy’, ELH, 30 (1963), 16–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 49.
    Ibid., p. 4, and John Traugott, Tristram Shandy’s World: Sterne’s Philosophical Rhetoric (Berkeley and LA, 1954), p. 135.Google Scholar
  22. 55.
    Earl R. Wasserman, The Subtler Language: Critical Readings of Neoclassical and Romantic Poems (Baltimore, 1959), p. 169.Google Scholar
  23. 56.
    Gustave Lanson, Etudes d’Histoire Littéraire: Réunies et Publiécs par ses Collègues, ses Elèves et ses Amis (Paris, 1929), p. 92.Google Scholar
  24. 57.
    It may even be wrong to say that novelists do ‘use’ philosophy directly. See Duke Maskell, ‘Locke and Sterne, or, Can Philosophy Influence Literature?’, EC, 23 (1973), 22–39.Google Scholar
  25. 64.
    Ian Donaldson, ‘The Clockwork Novel: Three Notes on an Eighteenth-Century Analogy’, Review of English Studies, NS 21 (1970), 14–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 65.
    Bob Dylan, ‘Idiot Wind’, CBS LP 69097 Blood on the Tracks (CBS Inc., 1974).Google Scholar
  27. 66.
    Sigurd Burkhardt, ‘Tristram Shandy’s Law of Gravity’, ELH, 28 (1961), 70–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 73.
    Simon Stevin, Beghinselen der Weeghconst (Leyden, 1586), describes the experiment: see Edouard Jan Dijksterhuis, The Mechanization of the World-Picture (Oxford, 1961), translated from the Dutch De Mechanisering van het Wereldbeeld (Amsterdam, 1950) by C. Dikshoorn, p. 329. Galileo’s working life started c. 1605.Google Scholar
  29. 75.
    W. W. Rouse Ball, A Short Account of the History of Mathematics (1888, 3rd ed, 1901), p. 254.Google Scholar
  30. 79.
    John Ferriar, Illustrations of Sterne (1798), p. 182.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mark Loveridge 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Loveridge

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations