Laurence Sterne and William Hogarth in Parallel
by S. Piazza, I. Grassi and I. Mastroianni 

INTRODUCTION

COMPUTATIONAL ANALYSES

STERNE BIOGRAPHY


HOGARTH BIOGRAPHY

SOURCES

   Computational analyses
VOL. I - II -III

Laurence Sterne’s great comic novel, Tristram Shandy, was originally published between 1759 and 1767 in nine small separate volumes, the last appearing shortly before the author’s death.

FIRST SENTENCE OF TRISTRAM SHANDY

COMMENT

Tristram Shandy begins: "Pray my Dear, have you not forgot to wind up the clock?"

The clock is the first Shandean symbol: under its influence Tristram was procreated and his misfortunes began, the two of which are equivalent. Death marks time, the time of individualization, of separation, the abstract time that runs to its end. The protagonist doesn’t want to be born because he doesn’t want to die. Tristram’s birth is a masterpiece of refusal: it takes more than two hundred pages for him to be born. If parricide is the most obvious way of refusing time, Tristram Shandy is a constant parricide. All the things that the father figure wants and desires are contradicted, they do not come true. The father is time. But there is another kind of time: that of fantasy and this is a very long, almost eternal, time.

TRISTRAM SHANDY

THE ANALYSIS OF BEAUTY

Vol. I, chapter 4 --------------shut the door

We find the same use of dashes as in Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty page 111

… mystical dance--------------------

--------------------mazes intricate …

VOL. I-TRISTRAM SHANDY’S BLACK PAGE-

COMMENT

Time, Death are the "black pages" that worldly wisdom is unable to work out.

1rst APPEARANCE OF THE FINGER:

VOL. II Chapter 11

COMMENT

Sterne attracts the reader’s attention to different aspects that he wants to point out.

 

"THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT" BY W. HOGARTH

VOL.I IN TRISTRAM SHANDY~ MARRIAGE CONTRACT

Vol. I chapter 14

Tristram examines his mother’s marriage contract. Hogart’s painting is precisely "The Marriage Contract".

"TAILPIECE" BY HOGARTH - FINIS

FINIS IN TRISTRAM SHANDY

We find the word "FINIS" at the end of the sermon delivered by corporal Trim – Vol. II chapter 17, in The Analysis of Beauty page 113 and also in Hogarth’s "Tail Piece" (1764)

SENTENCES ABOUT ART IN TRISTRAM SHANDY

COMMENT

Vol. I chapter 9

"The design, your Lordship sees is good - the colouring transparent – the drawing not amiss – or to speak more like a man of science – and measure my piece in the painter’s scale".

Vol. II chapter 4

"Writers of my stamp have one principle in common with painters – where an exact copying makes our pictures less striking, we choose the less evil deeming it even more pardonable to trespass against truth, than beauty."

Vol. II chapter 5

"I have but one more stroke to give to finish corporal’s Trim character – and it is the only dark line in it."

Vol. II chapter 9

"If you have read Hogarth’s The Analysis of Beauty, you must know, may as certainly be caricatured, and conveyed to the mind by three strokes as three hundred."

Sterne inserts into his text precise references to art and painting, for example in his "painting" Tristram Shandy.

VOL. III -HAND MARBLED PAGE IN TRISTRAM SHANDY- COMMENT

Vol. III chapter 37

The hand marbled page where each side is different - the whirling and labyrinthine page: this is the chaotic symbol of an antenatal period. Sterne wanders through this labyrinth. In the duration time he brings himself and the world.

VOL. IV - V- VI

VOL. IV TRISTRAM SHANDY

COMMENT

 

There are various parallel texts, in Latin and in French.

HOGARTH’S ENGRAVING

BAPTISM IN TRISTRAM SHANDY

Vol. II chapter 20

Description of Tristram’s baptism and Hogarth’s picture.

VOL. VI -BLANK PAGE IN "TRISTRAM SHANDY"-

COMMENT

Each page is characterised by an intricate system of dashes, hyphens, asterisks and occasional crosses; remarkable use is made of the dash of varying lengths, which are considered as if they were words while the generous spacing and margins of the original volumes emphasise their invisibility. Sterne frequenlty manipulates the page: one typical example of this is the blank page where the reader is invited to interact with the book and draw his own portrait of the Widow Wadman.

 

Vol. IX chapter 18/19

The stratagem of the blank page is taken up a second time, but it has a different function: it is oriented to the narration.

VOL. VI -DIFFERENT TYPES OF LINES-

COMMENT

These four particular lines represent the first four volumes: the curves show possible authorial digressions, his journeys as well as the means through which he makes one lose his traces, so that death does not reach him.

VOL. VII -VIII -IX

VOL. IX -ODDITIES IN TRISTRAM SHANDY-

COMMENT

Other oddities in the volumes include the single-sentence chapter: such peculiarities draw our attention to the visual appearance of the page and highlight the novel’s lack of conventional form.

 

Tristram Shandy could be considered as the first example of hypertext because it allows the reader to take part in the "visual achievement" of the book.

 

 

W. HOGARTH’S ENGRAVINGS

STERNE’S DESCRIPTIONS OF BIG NOSES

These are some examples in Hogarth’s engravings about "big noses". A description of this kind, is to be found in volume IV of Tristram Shandy, entitled "Slawkenbergius’ Tale"

THE SYMBOL OF HOGARTH’S IDEA

COMMENT

Hogarth claims that he will continue his narration along a straight line. But this is not true, the straight line in fact represents death for him.

Vol. V chapter 5: "My mother was going…." It is the statue of a man on his knees (which is familiar to Eighteenth century English tourists because it is situated in the tribune of the Uffizi Palace in Florence.)
…My father instantly exchanged the attitude he was in, for that in which Socrates is so finely painted by Raphael in his school of Athens…So stood my father, holding fast his fore-finger betwixt his finger and his thumb, and reasoning with my uncle Toby. (Book 4 Chapter 8)  
The moment he got home, the weight of his afflictions returned upon him but so much the heavier, as is ever the case when the staff we lean on slips from under us. (Book 4 Chapter 31)  
When Agrippina was told of her son's death, Tacitus informs us that, not being able to moderate the violence of her passions, she abruptly broke off her work. -My father stuck his compasses into Nevers, but so much the faster.- (Book 5 Chapter 2)  
My mother was going very gingerly in the dark along the passage which led to the parlour. So laying the edge of her finger across her two lips,-holding in her breath, and bending her head a little downwards, with a twist of her neck-…she listened with all her powers:-the listening slave, with the Goddess of Silence at his back, could not have given a finer thought for an intaglio (Book 5 Chapter 5).  
The Montero-cap was scarlet, of a superfine Spanish cloth, dyed in grain, and mounted all round with fur.. (Book 6 Chapter 25)  

The corporal held the ivory pipe, appertaining to the battery on the right ,betwixt the finger and thumb of his right hand,- and the ebony pipe tipped with silver, which appertained to the battery on the left betwixt the finger and thumb of the another.. ( Book 6 Chapter 27)