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.