(SHAKESPEARE HEAD PRESS). STERNE, LAURENCE.
THE WORKS.(Stratford-on-Avon: Printed at the Shakespeare Head Press for Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926). 238 x 162 mm (9 3/8 x 6 3/8"). Seven volumes.. No. 65 OF 500 COPIES.
Quite attractive original dark blue three-quarter morocco over blue linen bound at the Riverside Press (signed on verso of front free endpaper), raised bands, spines gilt in compartments with corner curls and ornate scrollwork, top edges gilt, other edges untrimmed. UNOPENED. With 12 pleasing plates by George Cruikshank. Isolated pencilled marginalia. Franklin, p. 234; Ransom 47. Occasional minor foxing, especially to leaves at the beginning and end of volumes, otherwise A NEARLY MINT SET, the bindings with no perceivable wear, and the text obviously with no signs of use.
Laurence Sterne (1713-68) is the perfect example of an author whose scandalous personal behavior overshadowed his achievements as a writer. The journalist and editor Robert Shelton Mackenzie said in his "Noctes Ambrosianœ" of 1854 that Sterne was "so infamous [in] his private character, that when he entered the pulpit to preach in York Minster, of which he was a prebend, many of the congregation rose from their seats and left the cathedral." Most notorious, perhaps, was Sterne's membership in good standing in the "Club of Demoniacks," a group of Yorkshire rakehells who met frequently in the half-ruined Skelton Castle to undertake heavy drinking and coarse jests. At least as outrageous, he made no attempt to cover up his infidelities. Even DNB, which normally strains to put the behavior of its subjects in the best possible light, says that Sterne's "deficiency in self-control induced a condition of moral apathy." Still, none of this should diminish the importance of, or achievement represented by, "Tristram Shandy," the dynamic work that made Sterne famous and the book that is generally regarded as the first novel dominated by a conscious psychological theory. Also of considerable interest is his "Sentimental Journey through France and Italy," an account of a sojourn occasioned by poor health and a travel book of continuing interest. Add to these Sterne's letters and his sermons, and one has a corpus of material of very substantial interest, here presented in a handsome package that has yet to be opened. (ST11462a-048)