The master of the hotel — headpiece for "The Case of Conscience. Paris" in Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, first published in 1768. Wood-engraving, 6.2 cm high by 8 cm wide, top of page 136. In the 1841 edition, the illustrators employ an earlier image of an agitated hotel manager to suggest his consternation at Yorick's failure to procure official travelling papers may well result in his imprisonment as a foreign agent, France then being at war with Great Britain. The caricatural style of the earlier illustration contrasts the more serious demeanour of the manager here as he is (supposedly) upset about his guest's immoral behaviour with young women in his hotel room. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated

I was immediately followed up by the master of the hotel, who came into my room to tell me I must provide lodgings elsewhere. — How so, friend? said I. — He answered, I had had a young woman lock’d up with me two hours that evening in my bedchamber, and ’twas against the rules of his house. — Very well, said I, we’ll all part friends then, — for the girl is no worse, — and I am no worse, — and you will be just as I found you. — It was enough, he said, to overthrow the credit of his hotel. — Voyez vous, Monsieur, said he, pointing to the foot of the bed we had been sitting upon. — I own it had something of the appearance of an evidence; but my pride not suffering me to enter into any detail of the case, I exhorted him to let his soul sleep in peace, as I resolved to let mine do that night, and that I would discharge what I owed him at breakfast. [pp. 136-37]


Since Sterne tells the reader very little about the manager of the hotel, the illustrators have had a free hand to show a censorious, elderly, emotional hotelier who may well believe that Yorick has compromised the reputation of his establishment.

Sterne injects a note of ambiguity into the interview when he implies that the manager receives kickbacks from a grisette who sells ruffles to hotel-guests, and that the supposedly indignant manager is using the recent visit of the fille-de-chambre as a pretext for giving Yorick notice. A former illustration, on the other hand, dealing with the recent visit of the Lieutenant de Police regarding Yorick's lack of a passport, implies that the manager's present dismay about Yorick's questionable conduct may be genuine as he a much more sober figure — and the illustrators have placed the bed, scene of Yorick's recent "Temptation," between the pair. But complicating the reader's interpretation of this second interview between the manager and the guest is the cartoon-like nature of Jacque and Fussell's manager in the earlier illustration, in which he is not a realistic representation, but a mere comic caricature.

Jacque and Fussell's decidedly comic illustration of the manager's approaching Yorick regarding his supposed sexual misconduct, uncaptioned.

In the earlier illustration in the hotel-room, the manager's agitation as he approaches Yorick and La Fleur seems to be genuine (as implied by his raised hand, angry expression, and the overturned chair, right), whereas Yorick seems to be only midly surprised by whatever the manager is saying. The illustrators have admirably detailed Yorick's sitting-room, including an ornately framed painting, a chest of drawers with wine and brandy bottles, and Yorick in his nightgown, seated at a writing-desk — the overflowing wastepaper basket suggests that Yorick is experiencing difficulties with his correspondence and journal-keeping)


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 30 September 2018