The Désobligeant (uncaptioned) for "Calais" — a view of the closed carriage for one that Monsieur Dessein offers to sell the unwary traveller, Mr. Yorick in "Calais," A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, first published in 1768. Wood-engraving, 5.4 cm high by 7.4 cm wide, top of p. 9. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: A Quiet Place to Write

When a man is discontented with himself, it has one advantage however — that it puts him into an excellent frame of mind for making a bargain. Now, there being no travelling through France and Italy without a chaise, — and nature generally prompting us to the thing we are fittest for, I walk’d out into the coach-yard to buy or hire something of that kind to my purpose: an old désobligeant, * in the furthest corner of the court, hit my fancy at first sight, so I instantly got into it, and finding it in tolerable harmony with my feelings, I ordered the waiter to call Monsieur Dessein, the master of the hotel: — but Monsieur Dessein being gone to vespers, and not caring to face the Franciscan, whom I saw on the opposite side of the court, in conference with a lady just arrived at the inn, — I drew the taffeta curtain betwixt us, and being determined to write my journey, I took out my pen and ink and wrote the preface to it in the désobligeant. ["The Désobligeant. Calais," pp. 9-10]

* A chaise, so called in France from its holding but one person. [Note for p. 9]


The illustrator's drawing attention to Yorick's writing his preface to a putative book on what he expects will be his personal Grand Tour underscores the self-conscious, writerly nature of Sterne's final project. Ironically, the well-worn carriage that has already been dismantled and reassembled becomes a symbol of Yorick's quest for enlightenment, with its constant temptations to seduce maids and exploit for material gain in the Parisian salons his ability to articulate sentimental observations" "though it had been twice taken to pieces on Mount Sennis, it had not profited much by its adventures, — but by none so little as the standing so many months unpitied in the corner of Mons. Dessein’s coach-yard" (p. 17).

Mons. Dessein and his remise: 1841 and 1857

Left: The portrait of Monsieur Dessein as the 1841 illustrators imagine the actual Calais inn-keeper, Pierre Quillacq (1726-93) in Jacque and Fussell's Monsieur Dessein (1841). Centre: The same illustrators' wood-engraving of Yorick, stepping out of the carriage in the Remise, as the two elderly Englishmen inspect the carriage: In the Désobligeant (1841). Right: Johannot's study of Yorick and the Lady in the carriage, Untitled Headpiece for "The Remise Door, Calais" (1857).


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.

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

Turner, Katherine. "Introduction" to Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2010. Pp. 11-46.

Last modified 19 September 2018