The Penguin English Library Edition of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
'I am got, I know not how, into a cold unmetaphorical vein of infamous writing, and cannot take a plumb-lift out of it for my soul; so must be obliged to go on writing like a Dutch commentator to the end of the chapter, unless something be done ...'
Laurence Sterne's great masterpiece of bawdy humour and rich satire defies any attempt to categorize it. Part novel, part digression, its gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate 'hero' Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters, including Dr Slop, Corporal Trim and the parson Yorick. A joyful celebration of the endless possibilities of the art of fiction, Tristram Shandy is also a wry demonstration of its limitations.
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Born in Clonmel, Ireland, in 1713, Laurence Sterne spent the first ten years of his life moving from place to place within Ireland and also Yorkshire, as his father, an army ensign, was assigned and reassigned constantly. Educated at a grammar school near Halifax, Sterne took a place at Jesus College, Cambridge in 1733, two years after his father died of a fever in Jamaica. Going on to become a clergyman, he published four sermons during his lifetime - but it was for his literary works that he earned great acclaim, particularly The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, his nine-volume masterpiece, which made him a celebrity. Dogged by ill-health for much of his life, he took various recuperative trips to the continent, the experience of which formed the experience behind his final work, A Sentimental Journey, published barely three weeks before his death in London in 1768 at the age of fifty-four.