Short summary - A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy - Laurence Sterne

British literature summaries -

Short summary - A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
Laurence Sterne

Having decided to make a trip to France and Italy, an Englishman with the Shakespearean name Yorick landed in Calais. He reflects on travels and travelers, dividing them into different categories. He categorizes himself as "sensitive travelers." A monk comes to Yorik's hotel with a request to donate to a poor monastery, which prompts the hero to think about the dangers of charity. The monk is refused. But wishing to make a favorable impression on the lady he met, the hero gives him a tortoise snuff box. He offers this attractive lady to ride together, as they are on the way, but, despite the mutual sympathy, he is refused. Arriving from Calais in Montreux, he hires a servant, a young Frenchman named La Fleur, whose cheerful character and cheerful disposition greatly contribute to a pleasant journey. On the way from Montreux to Nanpon, La Fleur threw off a horse, and the rest of the way the master and servant drove together in a mail carriage. In Nanpong, they meet a pilgrim bitterly mourning the death of his donkey. At the entrance to Amiens, Yorick sees the carriage of Count L ***, in which his sister, already familiar to the hero, is sitting with him. The servant brings him a note, in it Madame de L *** offers to continue acquaintance and invites her to return to her in Brussels on the way back. But the hero recalls a certain Eliza, whom he swore allegiance to England, and after painful deliberation solemnly promises himself that he will not go to Brussels, so as not to fall into temptation. La Fleur, having made friends with the servant of Madame de L ***, ends up in her house and entertains the maid by playing the flute. Hearing the music, the hostess calls him to her, where he scatters in compliments, allegedly on behalf of his master.

Arriving in Paris, the hero visits the barber, a conversation with which leads him to think about the hallmarks of national characters. Leaving the barber, he goes into the shop to find the way to Opera Covique, and gets acquainted with the charming grisette, but, having felt that her beauty made too much an impression on him, he hurriedly leaves. In the theater, looking at the people standing in the stalls, Yorick reflects on why there are so many dwarfs in France. From a conversation with an elderly officer sitting in the same box, he learns about some French customs that shock him somewhat. After leaving the theater, he accidentally meets a young girl in a bookshop, she turns out to be maid Madame R ***, to whom he was going to visit to deliver a letter.

Returning to the hotel, the hero finds out that he is interested in the police. He came to France without a passport, and since England and France were at that time at war, such a document was necessary. The innkeeper warns Yorick that the Bastille awaits him. The thought of the Bastille brings to him memories of a starling that he once released from his cage. Having painted a gloomy picture of his imprisonment, Yorick decides to ask for the patronage of the Duke de Choisede, for which he goes to Versailles. Without waiting for a reception from the duke, he goes to Count B ***, whom he was told in the bookstore as a great admirer of Shakespeare. After a short conversation, imbued with sympathy for the hero and incredibly struck by his name, the count himself goes to the duke and two hours later returns with a passport. Continuing the conversation, the count asks Yorick what he thinks of the French. In a lengthy monologue, the hero speaks highly of the representatives of this nation, but nevertheless claims that if the British had acquired even the best features of the French character, they would have lost their originality, which arose from the island position of the country. The conversation ends with the Count's invitation to dine with him before leaving for Italy.


At the door of her room in the Yorick hotel, a pretty maid, Madame R ***, catches. The landlady sent her to find out if he had left Paris, and if he left, then did not leave a letter for her. The girl enters the room and behaves so sweetly and directly that the hero begins to overcome temptation. But he manages to overcome it, and only seeing off the girl to the gates of the hotel, he modestly kisses her on the cheek. On the street, Yorik's attention was attracted by a strange man asking for alms. At the same time, he held out his hat only when a woman passed by, and did not turn to men for alms. Returning to himself, the hero for a long time ponders two questions: why not a single woman refuses to the requestor, and what a touching story he tells everyone in his ear. But the innkeeper, who suggested he move out, prevented him from thinking about it. since he hosted a woman for two hours. As a result, it turns out that the owner just wants to impose on him the services of familiar shopkeepers, who take part of their money for goods sold at his hotel. The conflict with the owner is settled through the mediation of La Fleur. Yorik again returns to the riddle of an extraordinary beggar; he worries about the same question: what words can touch the heart of any woman.

La Fleur, with the four louis donors given to him by the owner, buys a new suit and asks him to be released all Sunday, "in order to take care of his beloved." Yorick is surprised that the servant in such a short time managed to acquire passion in Paris. It turned out that La Fleur met the maid of Count B ***, while the owner was busy with his passport. This is again an occasion for reflection on the national French character. «A happy people,» Stern writes, «can dance, sing and have fun, throwing off the burden of sorrows that so oppresses the spirit of other nations.»

Yorik accidentally comes across a piece of paper with text in the Old French language of the Rabelais and, possibly, written by his hand. Yorik parses hard-to-read text all day and translates it into English. It tells about a certain notary who, having quarreled with his wife, went for a walk on the New Bridge, where his hat was blown off by the wind. When he, complaining about his fate, was walking along a dark alley, he heard a voice calling a girl and told her to run for the nearest notary. Entering this house, he saw an old nobleman who said that he was poor and could not pay for the work, but the will itself would be paid - it will describe the whole story of his life. This is such an extraordinary story that all of humanity should be familiar with it, and its publication will bring great notaries to the notary. Yorik had only one sheet, and he could not find out what follows next. When La Fleur returned, it turned out that there were only three leaves, but in two of them the servant wrapped the bouquet that the maid presented. The owner sends him to the house of Count B ***, but it so happened that the girl gave a bouquet to one of the footmen, the lackey to a young seamstress, and the seamstress to a violinist. Both the master and the servant are upset. One by the loss of the manuscript, the other by the frivolity of the beloved.

Yorik walks the streets in the evening, believing that a man who is afraid of dark alleys «will never turn out to be a good sensitive traveler». On the way to the hotel, he sees two ladies standing in anticipation of fiacra. A quiet voice in elegant expressions appealed to them with a request to give twelve sous. Yorika was surprised that the beggar sets the amount of alms, as well as the required amount: usually one or two sou was served. Women refuse, saying that they don’t have money with them, and when the elder lady agrees to see if she accidentally loses one sou, the beggar insists on the previous amount, scattering compliments to the ladies at the same time. This ends with the fact that both take out twelve sous each and the beggar leaves. Yorik follows him: he recognized the very man whose mystery he tried unsuccessfully to solve. Now he knows the answer:

Having revealed the secret, Yorik skillfully uses it. Count B *** renders him another service, introducing several notable persons, who in turn introduced him to their acquaintances. Yorik managed to find a common language with each of them, as he talked about what interested them, trying to screw on a compliment appropriate to the occasion. «For three weeks, I shared the opinion of everyone I met,» Yorick says, and finally begins to be ashamed of his behavior, realizing that it is humiliating. He tells La Fleur to order horses to go to Italy. Passing through the Bourbonne, «the most beautiful part of France», he admires the grape harvest. This sight makes him enthusiastic. But at the same time he recalls the sad story told to him by a friend, Mr. Shandy, who two years ago met in these parts of the crazy girl Maria and her family. Yorik decides to visit Mary's parents to ask about her. It turned out that Mary's father died a month ago, and the girl is very homesick for him. Her mother, talking about it, causes tears even in the eyes of the cheerful La Fleur. Not far from Moulin, Yorick meets a poor girl. Having sent the coachman and La Fleur to Moulins, he sits down next to her and tries, as best he can, to console the patient, alternately wiping away her tears with her handkerchief. Yorik asks if she remembers his friend Shandy, and she recalls how her goat dragged his handkerchief, which she now always carries with her to return when she meets. The girl says that she made a pilgrimage to Rome, passing alone and without money the Apennines, Lombardy and Savoy. Yorick tells her that, if she lived in England, he would shelter her and take care of her. Maria erases his handkerchief, wet from tears, in a stream and hides it on her chest. Together they go to Moulins and say goodbye there. Continuing his journey through the province of Bourbonne, the hero reflects on «sweet sensitivity», thanks to which he «feels the noble joys and noble anxieties beyond his personality».

Due to the fact that when climbing the mountain Tarar, the root of the team lost two horseshoes, the carriage was forced to stop. Yorick sees a small farm. A family consisting of an old farmer, his wife, children and many grandchildren sat at dinner. Yorick was cordially invited to join the meal. He felt at home and then long recalled the taste of a wheat loaf and young wine. But even more he liked the «thank-you prayer» - every day after dinner the old man called his family for dancing and fun, believing that «a joyful and contented soul is the best kind of gratitude that an illiterate peasant can bring to heaven».

Passing Mount Tarar, the road descends to Lyon. This is a difficult stretch of road with sharp turns, cliffs and waterfalls, overthrowing huge stones from the top. Travelers watched for two hours as the peasants cleaned a stone block between Saint-Michel and Modana. Due to unforeseen delays and bad weather, Yorik had to stop in a small inn. Soon another stroller arrived, in which the lady traveled with her maid. However, there was only one bedroom, but the presence of three beds made it possible to accommodate everyone. Nevertheless, both feel uncomfortable, and only after having dined and drank Burgundy, they decide to talk about how best to get out of this situation. As a result of the two-hour debate, a contract is drawn up, according to which Yorik undertakes to sleep dressed and not to utter a single word all night. Unfortunately, the last condition was violated, and the text of the novel (the author’s death prevented him from completing the work) ends in a juicy situation, when Yorik, wanting to calm the lady, reaches out to her, but accidentally grabs the maid who unexpectedly approached.