Uncaptioned Headpiece — "Montreuil" in Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, first published in 1768. Wood-engraving of a military drum and fiddle, 7.1 cm high by 8.6 cm wide, top of p. 53. Johannot shows not merely the two sides of La Fleur's character (the soldier who deserted and the fiddler at community functions), but the opposing aspects of human nature that Sterne vivifies in "A Fragment: Abdera." The passage complemented introduces the young Frenchman, a deserter from the army who will serve as the Sancho Panzo to Yorick's Don Quixote. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Complemented

Now poor La Fleur could do nothing in the world but beat a drum, and play a march or two upon the fife. I was determined to make his talents do; and can’t say my weakness was ever so insulted by my wisdom as in the attempt.

La Fleur had set out early in life, as gallantly as most Frenchmen do, with serving for a few years; at the end of which, having satisfied the sentiment, and found, moreover, that the honour of beating a drum was likely to be its own reward, as it open’d no further track of glory to him, — he retired à ses terres, and lived comme il plaisoit à Dieu; — that is to say, upon nothing.

— And so, quoth Wisdom, you have hired a drummer to attend you in this tour of yours through France and Italy! — Psha! said I, and do not one half of our gentry go with a humdrum compagnon du voyage the same round, and have the piper and the devil and all to pay besides? When man can extricate himself with an équivoque in such an unequal match, — he is not ill off. — But you can do something else, La Fleur? said I. — O qu’oui! he could make spatterdashes, and play a little upon the fiddle. — Bravo! said Wisdom. — Why, I play a bass myself, said I; — we shall do very well. ["Montreuil," pp. 54-55]


Johannot has conceived of La Fleur's identity as he military role he has rejected (the drum) and the civilian role he embraces (the fiddler), Then, too, the illustrator may be implying that the young, exuberant La Fleur will foil the middle-aged intellectual, Mr. Yorick, as the pair will henceforth be travelling together, experiencing the people and places which they encounter from rather different perspectives.

Closer inspection of the illustration reveals the harness for the drum, a fife, and a bass fiddle or viol, implying the harmonious and mutually supportive relation of the philosophical English master and the romantic young French servant.


Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. With 100 illustrations by Tony Johannot. London: Willoughby, 1857.

Turner, Katherine. "Notes." Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768). Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2010.

Last modified 22 September 2018