"The End" (Maria) — Jacque and Fussell's tailpiece for the final scene in Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, first published in 1768. Artists: Bastin and G. Nichols, from original designs by Jacque and Fussell. Wood-engraving, 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 Complemented

So that when I stretch’d out my hand I caught hold of the Fille de Chambre’s —


Commentary: A Cliffhanger Persuading the Reader to Purchase Volume Three

Although the conclusion of the novella involves the lady and her maid with whom Yorick is sharing his room at the inn, the final illustration in the 1841 edition reiterates the image of Maria at her father's grave near Moulines. The original ending in the first edition concludes with a long dash — — as if demanding the reader's anticipating how the third volume will complete the scenario. However, the tailpiece refers to the conclusion of Yorick's visit to the mournful shepherdess:

Though I hate salutations and greetings in the market-place, yet, when we got into the middle of this, I stopp’d to take my last look and last farewell of Maria.

Maria, though not tall, was nevertheless of the first order of fine forms: — affliction had touched her looks with something that was scarce earthly; — still she was feminine; — and so much was there about her of all that the heart wishes, or the eye looks for in woman, that could the traces be ever worn out of her brain, and those of Eliza out of mine, she should not only eat of my bread and drink of my own cup, but Maria should lie in my bosom, and be unto me as a daughter.

Adieu, poor luckless maiden! — Imbibe the oil and wine which the compassion of a stranger, as he journeyeth on his way, now pours into thy wounds; — the Being, who has twice bruised thee, can only bind them up for ever. ["Maria Moulines," p. 162]

The above passage presents one of Sterne’s stylistic characteristics, the effusion, defined by the OED as “An act of talking or writing in an unrestrained or heartfelt way.” The effect is to stall or disrupt the narrative flow with a spontaneous eruption of feeling, as, for example, in the above quotation, to which the tailpiece on page 172 apparently alludes in "Maria Moulines," although it occurs ten pages before the image.

Sterne is adopting a form of editorializing known as poeticizing in order to move the reader emotionally, so that, although he apostrophizes Maria as "poor luckless Maiden," he is attempting to make her pathetic state memorable to the reader. We, like Sterne, are to regard such sufferers as worthy of our sympathy, for in encountering them we should, implies the clergyman, regard ourselves as potential Good Samaritans. Hence, Sterne employs a distinctly biblical diction (“oil and wine . . . journeyeth . . . pours into thy wounds”) to connect the rural shepherdess and the story of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament. The 1841 thumbnail which serves as the volume's tailpiece reiterates the image of Maria as an appropriate object of sympathy for the sentimental reader.


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