Sociability in Sterne’s writings

For all Sterne takes on the characteristics of lovesickness in the Continuation of the Bramine’s Journal, this text focussing on a failed romantic relationship with Eliza Draper remains a surprisingly important source regarding the social opportunities available to eighteenth-century gentlemen in York and its environs. The Journal opens with Sterne referring to his dining ‘with Hall &c—at the brawn’s head—the whole Pandaemonium assembled’. The ‘whole Pandaemonium’ refers to Sterne’s friends, possible, as Melvyn New suggests, the Demoniacs, meeting in a hitherto unidentified tavern. The men assemble, and then, as Sterne goes on to describe, ‘—supp’d together at Halls—’ [1].

Occasionally Sterne stays at Hall’s home, Skelton Castle, referred to as Crazy Castle. Situated in Skelton, Hall’s place is nearer the centre of York than Shandy Hall, perhaps reflected in the range of events the men get up to:

June 26. eleven at night—out all the day—dined with a large Party—shewd yr Picture from the fullness of my heart—highly admired—alas! said I—did You but see the Original! [2]

Sterne frequently describes himself staying with Hall, being at one point delighted to find that his friendly meeting has been referred to in the London newspaper, the Public Advertiser:

I set off to morrow morning to take Sanctuary in Crasy Castle—The news papers have sent me there already by putting in the following paragraph

“We hear from Yorkshire, That Skelton Castle is the present Rendezvous, of the most brilliant Wits of the Age—the admired Author of Tristram—Mr Garrick &c. being there, & Mr Coleman & many other men of Wit & Learning being every day expected”—when I get there, wch will be to morrow night, My Eliza will hear from her Yorick—her Yorick—who loves her more than ever. [3]

Puffing up this advert to Eliza, Sterne exaggerates the notice which appeared in the Public Advertiser on Monday 20 July, 1767:

A Correspondent writes, that Skelton-Castle is, at present, the place of rendezvous of the most celebrated wits: The humourous author of Tristram Shandy, and Mr. G–, author of several ingenious pieces, have been there some time: some other persons of distinguished rank and abilities in the literary world, are daily expected. [4]

Throughout the Journal, Sterne counterpoints his sociable activities with his longing for Eliza, and his distress that they will be separated for years, perhaps even forever. On July 19 he describes going to ‘Harrogate Spaws’, which had been in use since the 16th century [5], ‘drinking the waters here till the 26th—to no effect, but a cold dislike of every one of your sex’ [6]. Arthur Cash has shown how Sterne manipulated the social calendar in the Journal in order to fill in gaps when he had not written [7]. Rather than shunning the company of his peers in his distress, his Journal makes Sterne appear as if he relentlessly followed the social calendar, going immediately to York Races after taking the waters at Harrogate.


  1. Florida, p. 171.

  2. Florida, p. 207.

  3. July 12, Florida, p. 219.

  4. See Florida, pp. 417-418.

  5. Florida, p. 420.

  6. Florida, p. 221.

  7. Florida, p. 420.

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