Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)
From 18th Century Literary Anecdotes

IN the month of January 1768, we set off for London. We stopped for some time at Almack's House in Pall Mall. My master afterwards took Sir James Gray's house in Clifford Street, who was going Ambassador to Spain. He now began housekeeping, hired a French cook, a housemaid, and kitchenmaid, and kept a great deal of the best company. My master and Henry had words, and the valet had warning to provide for himself.

About this time Mr. Sterne, the celebrated author, was taken ill at the silk-bag shop in Old Bond Street. He was sometimes called `Tristram Shandy', and sometimes `Yorick' — a very great favourite of the gentlemen's. One day my master had company to dinner who were speaking about him; the Duke of Roxburgh, the Earl of March, the Earl of Ossory, the Duke of Grafton, Mr. Garrick, Mr. Hume, and a Mr. James. `John,' said my master, `go and inquire how Mr. Sterne is today.' I went, returned, and said: `I went to Mr. Sterne's lodging; the mistress opened the door; I inquired how he did. She told me to go up to the nurse. I went into the room, and he was just a-dying. I waited ten minutes; but in five he said: "Now it is come." He put up his hand as if to stop a blow, and died in a minute.' The gentlemen were all very sorry, and lamented him very much.

From John Macdonald, Travels in Various Parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa (1790)
(reprinted as Memoirs of an Eighteenth-Century Footman, ed. John Beresford (1927), pp. 91-2).

« NEXT » « 18th Century Anecdotes » « All Anecdotes » « Humour » « Library »