Sterne’s letter

A coffee-house full of loud mouthed companions

Your most witty letter, dear cousin, dearer than all my cousins, I received on Venus’s Day [Friday]; but there was no return post to the north that day, or I would have written just as you wished. I do not know what is the matter with me, but I am more sick & tired of my wife – and am possessed by a Devil who drives me to town – & you are possessed by this selfsame evil spirit who holds you here in the desert to be tempted by your serving maids and troubled to distraction by your wife – believe me, my Antony, this is not the way to salvation in this world or the next; you’re not beginning to worry about money, are you, which, according to St. Paul, is the root of all evil & you are not saying in your heart often enough, “ I Antony of Crazy Castle am already forty odd years old & have completed my fourth decade and it is now time to cure myself, & to make myself, Antony, a happy man, a free man, and especially to do some good to myself, as Solomon urges us, who says that nothing is better in this life than that a man live merrily, & eat and drink & enjoy good things, because this is his portion & dowry in this world.”

And now I would like you to know that I ought not to be reprimanded for rushing off to London, because God is my witness I am not hurrying there out of pride & to show myself off; for that devil who has entered me is not a prideful devil like his cousin Lucifer – but rather a lascivious devil who does not want to allow me to be alone; for what with not sleeping with my wife, I am quite libidinous – & I’m dying with desire – & I’m foolish; so you will excuse me, my dear Antony, because you too have been done in by love & have travelled over land & sea & have rushed around like a devil with that same devil driving you. I have a lot to write to you – but I am writing this letter in a coffee- house full of loud-mouthed companions who do not let me think a single thought.

Greet my friend Panty, whose letter I will reply to – greet my friends in the house at Guisborough, & I beg you to believe me most firmly held in the chains of cousin-ness & love to you, my Antony.
L Sterne

This letter was written in Sunton’s Coffee House, sometime in 1760, by Laurence Sterne and was addressed to Mr. John Hall Stevenson of Skelton (‘Crazy’) Castle.

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