The Works of Laurence Sterne

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by Laurence Sterne

Works of Laurence Sterne

Title page from Works of Laurence Sterne, volume two, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Laurence Sterne
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed for W. Strahan, J. Rivington and Sons, J. Dodsley, G. Kearsley, T. Lowndes, G. Robinson [etc.]
Date 1780
Edition {{{edition}}}
Language English
Volumes 10 volume set
Pages {{{pages}}}
Desc. 8vo (19 cm.)
Location Shelf N-2
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]
Frontispiece, volume one.

Laurence Sterne (1713-1768) was a writer and clergyman of the Church of England.[1] Sterne was the author of numerous works and sermons, including those found in this collection. Sterne spent nineteen years between 1740 and 1759 as a rural clergyman before beginning his best-known work, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. After releasing the initial volumes of Tristram Shandy, Sterne was “heralded as a second Rabelais, Cervantes, or Swift and was condemned, especially when his clerical profession was disclosed, as an immoral hypocrite.”[2] Despite this condemnation, the work was immensely popular during the eighteenth century. James Boswell, a contemporary of Sterne’s, wrote the following "Poetical Epistle":

Who has not Tristram Shandy read?
Is any mortal so ill bred?[3]

Sterne’s work, particularly Tristram Shandy, has had an enduring influence into the twenty-first century. “[E]ven in Sterne's own day—and in the following century, which responded to him, for the most part, negatively—Sterne could attract the best minds of each generation.[4] The Works of Laurence Sterne includes Tristam Shandy, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, sermons (including The Sermons of Mr. Yorick), letters, A Fragment, in the Manner of Rabelais, and The History of a Watch-Coat.

Bookplate of Buchanan Washbourn, front pastedown, volume eight.
Illustration, volume two.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Wythe cited The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy in his case report for Aylett v. Aylett, "In Brookes abridgment, title administer, n. 47, in Swinburnes treatise of testaments, part 7, sect. 8 and in the life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, gentleman, vol. 4, p. 195, we meet with the case stated in the note."[5] Brown's Bibliography[6] lists the 1782 edition of Tristam Shandy, while noting that Thomas Jefferson owned, and sold to the Library of Congress, the ten-volume, 1780 edition of The Works of Laurence Sterne as well as other Sterne works.[7] The Works set includes Tristam Shandy. We do not have enough information to determine if Wythe owned either Tristam Shandy or The Works of Laurence Sterne, nor do we have any edition information to pinpoint the work or the year of publication. The Wolf Law Library chose to purchase the 1780 edition of The Works of Laurence Sterne based on Jefferson's set and on Wythe's seeming preference for sets of authors' works (such as The Works of Alexander Pope, The Works of Dr. Jonathan Swift, and The Works of Shakespeare).

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Features gilt tooling to the spines. Each volume includes the bookplate of Buchanan Washbourn with the Latin motto "Purificatus non consumptus" (Purified, not consumed) on the front pastedown. Some volumes mislabeled: volume 2 labeled volume 8, volume 5 labeled volume 6, volumes 6-8 labeled volume 9, volume 2 and volume 7, respectively, volume 9 labeled volume 5. Purchased from Raptis Rare Books.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. Melvyn New, [ "Sterne, Laurence (1713–1768)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed Oct. 9, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Sterne: the Critical Heritage, ed. Alan B. Howes (London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1974), 82.
  4. ”New, "Sterne, Laurence".
  5. George Wythe, Decisions of Cases in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery ed. B. B. Minor, 2nd ed. (Richmond: J.W. Randolph, 1852), 229.
  6. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  7. See E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 4:445-447 [no.4335-4336].

External Links

Read volume one of this book in Google Books.
Read volume five of this book in Google Books.