- "Read, read, read, read, my unlearned reader!":Five Twenty-First-Century Studies of Laurence Sterne and His Works
The first decade of the twentieth century was auspicious for Sterneans. In 1904 Wilbur Cross published the first modern edition of Sterne's works in ten volumes, with an additional two volumes containing Percy Fitzgerald's expanded edition of his 1864 Sterne biography. Cross, still dissatisfied with Fitzgerald's biography, published his own Life and Times of Laurence Sterne in 1909, revised and republished in 1923 and again in 1929. The Cross edition of Works was standard until replaced (ever so slowly) by the Florida edition; his biography remained the primary authority until Arthur Cash's thorough reexamination of Sterne's life (2 vols., 1976, 1984). Among the noteworthy critics who wrote about Sterne in that first decade, we might mention Herbert Paul, Men and Letters (1901), Paul Elmer More, Shelburne Essays (1904), Charles Whibley, Studies in Frankness (1910), and Virginia Woolf, whose first of several insightful discussions of Sterne appeared in the TLS in 1909. Also worth mentioning in view of the ever-increasing international status of Sterne is H. W. Hewett-Thayer, Laurence Sterne in Germany (1905), and Francis Brown Barton, Étude sur l'influence de Laurence Sterne en France au dixhuitième siècle (1911).
The first decade of the twenty-first century has also begun auspiciously. I will recuse myself from commenting on some of this work: the Florida edition of A Sentimental Journey and Bramine's Journal (2002) and Letters (2009), volumes 6–8 of the Florida edition of the Works of Sterne, for obvious reasons; Thomas Keymer's Sterne, The Moderns and the Novel (2002), and Peter de Voogd and John Neubauer's The Reception of Laurence Sterne in Europe (2004), because I have reviewed them elsewhere; and W. B. Gerard's Laurence Sterne and the Visual Imagination (2006), because the author studied under me. The Shandean, an annual edited by de Voogd, continues to provide useful documentary and critical essays devoted to Sterne. Two collections of essays on Tristram, the Oxford Casebook (2006) and the Cambridge Companion (2009), both edited by Keymer, and new textbook editions of Tristram Shandy (2004), edited by Robert Folkenflik, and Sentimental Journey and Bramine's Journal (2006), edited by me and W. G. Day, indicate that Sterne is still read in the university.
It is a sign of Sterne's international reputation that for two years of this first decade of our century, France has had Tristram on its Agrégation list; that two of the titles under review here are by French scholars, while a third deals with Sterne's reputation in eighteenth-century France; and that another title first appeared as a Dutch doctoral dissertation, now translated into English. And although our century may not be able to claim a Virginia Woolf, we can note that the Nobelist [End Page 123] author Orhan Pamuk has written a splendid introduction to the first Turkish translation of Tristram.
Lana Asfour's Laurence Sterne in France is a brief study, narrowed in scope by her decision to examine Sterne's reception for only forty years, from 1760 to 1800. Historically speaking, the years could not be more important, but Asfour hardly mentions the Revolution and its aftermath, concentrating instead on several aesthetic issues that leave us wondering how, during all that turmoil, anyone found time to read and comment on Sterne. Not surprisingly, French criticism reflects English criticism at the time...