Yorick and the Monk — eighth wood-engraving for the opening scene in Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, first published in 1768. 5.2 cm high by 6.3 cm wide, bottom half of p. 172. In the 1768 edition, despite a general absence of illustration, the final page of the second volume ends not with a period, but with a long dash, as if to say, "To be continued." This, however, is where Sterne, nearing death, stopped writing. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Yorick and the Monk argue about the merits of his begging alms

"’Tis very true, said I, replying to a cast upwards with his eyes, with which he had concluded his address; — ’tis very true, — and heaven be their resource who have no other but the charity of the world, the stock of which, I fear, is no way sufficient for the many great claims which are hourly made upon it."

As I pronounced the words "great claims," he gave a slight glance with his eye downwards upon the sleeve of his tunic. — I felt the full force of the appeal. — "I acknowledge it," said I; "a coarse habit, and that but once in three years with meagre diet, are no great matters; and the true point of pity is, as they can be earned in the world with so little industry, that your order should wish to procure them by pressing upon a fund which is the property of the lame, the blind, the aged and the infirm; the captive who lies down counting over and over again the days of his afflictions, languishes also for his share of it; and had you been of the order of mercy, instead of the order of St. Francis, poor as I am, continued I, pointing at my portmanteau, full cheerfully should it have been open’d to you, for the ransom of the unfortunate. — The monk made me a bow. . . .

The poor Franciscan made no reply: a hectic of a moment pass’d across his cheek, but could not tarry — Nature seemed to have done with her resentments in him; — he showed none: — but letting his staff fall within his arms, he pressed both his hands with resignation upon his breast, and retired. ["Calais. The Monk," pp. 6-8]


Although the context of this dialogue should be the streets of Calais, not far from the port, the illustrator has situated the scene involving the begging Monk and Yorick inside the traveller's hotel-room, even as Yorick is attempting to unpack his meagre luggage (left). Unencumbered by the oversight that a living author would have provided (and, if he were a Harrison Ainsworth or a Charles Dickens, insisted upon), Jacque and Fussell likely wanted a fresh situation other than a street in which to situate the dialogue.

Pre-Victorian illustrators such as Archer (1794) and Thomas Stothard (1792) clearly felt that the sentimental interaction between the Franciscan friar, Father Lorenzo, and Mr. Yorick, should be a subject for illustration, these standard scenes bearing such titles as The Snuff-box and Yorick and the Monk Exchanging Snuff Boxes. The scene involving the exchange of the English traveller's expensive tortoise-shell snuff-box for the Franciscan's humble horn container marks the turning point in Yorick's determining to become a better traveller — less callous, more sensitive, kinder, and more sentimental. These later illustrators were likely responding to the 1792 illustration by Thomas Stothard The Snuff-Box.

Other Calais Scenes involving Yorick and the Monk (1841 & 1857)

Left: The portrait of Sterne's Monk in the 1841 edition, illustrated by Jacque and Fussell, Father Lorenzo. Centre: Thomas Stothard's earlier copper-plate engraving of the snuff-box echange, Yorick, the Lady, and the Monk (1792). Right: Johannot's meeting of the Monk, the Lady, and Yorick, misentitled Sterne and The Monk. — The Snuff-Box (1857).


Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy by Mr. Yorick. Illustrated by Thomas Stothard. London: J. Good, No. 159, New Bond Street; and E. and S. Harding, No. 102, Pall Mall, 1792.

Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. London: T. Beckett and P. A. De Hondt, 1768. 2 vols.

Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. Illustrated with one hundred engravings on wood, by Bastin and G. Nichols, from original designs by Jacque and Fussell. London: Joseph Thomas, 1841.

Last modified 17 September 2018