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Carriages, Conversation, and Λ Sentimental Journey DANIELLE BOBKER At Whitehall inquiring for a coach, there was a Frenchman with one eye that was going my way, so he and I hired the coach between us . . . Strange how the fellow, without asking, did tell me all what he was... —Samuel Pepys1 This day, set up my Carriage,—new Subject of heartache, That Eliza is not here to share it with me— —Laurence Sterne2 What if we saw [intimacy] emerge from much more mobile processes of attachment? —Lauren Berlant3 Sterne's Post-Chaise Intimate space was on Laurence Sterne's mind in the summer of 1767 when he began writing A Sentimental Journey. He was making improvements to his Yorkshire cottage, and indulging fantasies of future domestic bliss with Eliza Draper, a young married woman he had met in London several months before, while soliciting subscriptions for his second novel. "I have this week fmish'd a sweet little apartment which all the time it was doing, I flatter'd the most delicious of Ideas, in thinking I was making it for you—," he wrote in his Bromine s Journal addressed to her as she traveled back to her husband in Bombay. "Tis a neat little simple elegant room, overlook'd only by the Sun— just big enough to hold a Sopha,—for us—"(June 7:196-7). In three weeks' time the apartment fantasy had grown considerably: "I... am projecting a good Bed-chamber adjoining [the sitting room], with a pretty dressing room 243 244 / BOBKER for You, which connects them together—the Sleeping room will be very large— The dressing room, thr' wch You pass into yr Temple, will be little—... but if ever it holds You & I, my Eliza—the Room will not be too little for us—but We shall be too big for the Room" (June 29: 209 original emphasis). Around the same time Sterne acquired his first carriage, a second-hand post-chaise. In a letter to a friend, he adored it unequivocally: "when I say my Lord's prayer, I always think of it," he joked.4 But in his Journal to Eliza, the coach, like the dressing room, gives shape to his longing: "—I have a thousand things to remark & say as I roll along—but I want You to say them to—I could sometimes be wise—& often Witty—" (June 9:198). Whereas Sterne pictures being together in Eliza's dressing room as an essentially static expansion of consciousness ("we shall be too big for the Room"), the post-chaise brings in temporality, movement, and communication. As if keeping time with the carriage, he imagines a warm and wide-ranging conversation with his lover.5 This article will suggest that the communicative pull of the coach Sterne notes in his Journal plays a crucial role in his concurrent fictional travelogue.6 Throughout the first fifth of A Sentimental Journey, Yorick, the novel's clericnarrator (and Sterne's alterego), shops for a chaise. I argue that the models named in these opening episodes, the Desobligeant and the Vis a vis, matter as much for the internal and interpersonal experiences they represent as for the distances they can cover.7 Sterne was by no means the first writer to take an intimate look at the carriage. Well before David Hume and Adam Smith conceived the emotional mechanisms connecting all individuals in society, close encounters on the road had occasioned more concrete forms of protosociological musing in British narrative writing. The arbitrary mingling of travelers in hired vehicles, where a range of differences including gender, rank, religion, profession, or nationality might have to be navigated, well nigh demanded such investigation. Coach conversation achieves an unprecedented coherence, optimism, and figurative significance in Sterne's hands, however, shoring up the novel's projection of its own international public: an entirely approachable sphere in which an English parson might chat as breezily with a French Duke as with a chamber maid. Before Sterne: Reluctant Familiarities From the sixteenth-century advent of the coach at the English court until around the time of the publication of A Sentimental Journey, the place of the passenger, not the driver, was the honored one.8 Coaches were distinct...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1938-6133
Print ISSN
0360-2370
Pages
pp. 243-266
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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