Why I Love Lawrence Sterne Scholarship
But the faint-hearted should think again. If you like Sterne, a passage like this:
"After studying the surviving manuscripts of A Sentimental Journay and A Journal to Eliza, the editors decided that normalizing Sterne's erratic spellings, grammar and punctuation would, in too many instances, possibly confuse his intentions. Did he, for example, alter 'Rugians' (the name of a Germanic tribe correctly spelled in his source) to 'Bugians' to create a bawdy play (see n. i to VI.xvii), or did the compositor, unfamiliar with 'Rugians,' make a simple error? Is Sterne showing his poor command of French when he write 'a le pere,' as many correcting editors seem to believe; or is he making a deliberate error, designed to echo 'à la mere' (see nn. 4 and 5 to I.xx)?"
offers an inquiry wholly in the spirit of the man. Wayne Booth wrote an essay asking whether Tristram Shandy is in fact complete; how can lovers of that novel not find the question interesting? (Remember, the final page merely says "Here Endeth the Ninth Volume," in similar manner to its predecessors.) Booth adduces passages in the first four volumes to argue that Sterne had always intended the work to end with the history of Uncle Toby's amours.
Tristram Shandy is always so nearly on the edge of turning into a critical apparatus of itself that it would take a particularly incompetent or priggish commentary (I am sure some exists) to traduce it. I am rereading the novel for the first time since college, and using the new Penguin edition, which retains the original Christopher Ricks introduction but adds a new one and employs the definitive "Florida" edition and has no notes. How Shandian it is to have two introductions!