A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, first published in 1768. Wood-engraving, 3.9 cm high by 7.4 cm wide, top of p. 60. Johannot uses the wrestling cupidons to suggest the Manachaean struggle for the human soul between the atavistic forces for survival versus those representing civilised conduct and community. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]— "A Fragment" in Laurence Sterne's
The town of Abdera, notwithstanding Democritus lived there, trying all the powers of irony and laughter to reclaim it, was the vilest and most profligate town in all Thrace. What for poisons, conspiracies, and assassinations,— libels, pasquinades, and tumults, there was no going there by day — ’twas worse by night. ["A Fragment," p. 60]
Johannot depicts the opposing aspects of human nature — sentiment and savagery — as two cupidons, wrestling. In this myth about the beneficial powers of sentiment, the God of Love conquers his opposite, an incarnation of the atavistic impulse, to create a sense of community that will, in turn, lead to Democritus's creation of the idyllic pastoral form, which in turn influenced the German and English Romantics.
As Turner notes, the story of the fractious town of Abdera is hardly original with
Sterne, who likely borrowed from Robert Burton's
Above: The 1768 edition's pages 106-107, Fragment: Abdera. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. By Mr. Yorick. London: T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, 1768. 2 vols.
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