Headpiece ("Preface") — cameo portrait of the Reverend Mr. Yorick as a satyr for "In the Désobligeant," prefacing Sterne's humorous description of various kinds of travellers, for the most part, British travellers, whom one might have encountered in eighteenth-century Europe. Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, first published in 1768, may be ambiguous about Yorick's motives in his relationship with the Belgian lady, but C. Jacques and G. Nicholls in 1841 edition make the narrator's lascivious intentions plain in characterizing him as a satyr. Wood-engraving, 8.8 cm high by 8.8 cm wide, top of p. 11. In the 1841 edition, the leering, hairy diarist with his oversized quill and goat's legs and hooves is a far cry from the smiling Enlightenment thinker that the earliest illustrated edition showcases in the frontispiece (1792). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated

It must have been observed by many a peripatetic philosopher, that Nature has set up by her own unquestionable authority certain boundaries and fences to circumscribe the discontent of man; she has effected her purpose in the quietest and easiest manner by laying him under almost insuperable obligations to work out his ease, and to sustain his sufferings at home. It is there only that she has provided him with the most suitable objects to partake of his happiness, and bear a part of that burden which in all countries and ages has ever been too heavy for one pair of shoulders. ’Tis true, we are endued with an imperfect power of spreading our happiness sometimes beyond her limits, but ’tis so ordered, that, from the want of languages, connections, and dependencies, and from the difference in education, customs, and habits, we lie under so many impediments in communicating our sensations out of our own sphere, as often amount to a total impossibility. ["In the Désobligeant," p. 11]

Relevant representations of Laurence Sterne (1792, 1841 and 1857)

Left: Thomas Stothard's study of the author based on a portrait by Joshua Reynolds, Frontispiece (1792). Right: Tony Johannot's fanciful frontispiece in which a genial Laurence Sterne presides iover the characters of his creation.

Above: Jacque and Fussell's amiable cameo of the quirky 18th c. author whose personality permeates so much of the novella, Portrait of Sterne (1841).


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; West and Hughes, Paternoster-Row, and E. Harding, Pall-Mall, 1801.

Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. Illustrated with one hundred engravings on wood, by J. Bastin and G. Nicholls, from original designs by C. 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.

Last modified 26 October 2018