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Nothing Odd Will Do Long. Tristram Shandy Did Not Last. Samuel Johnson Notes

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Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last. Samuel Johnson There are many ways in which Sterne's Tristram Shandy (1759-46) might be considered "odd". Within the text itself, one can identify it's digressional and fragmentary form and its unconventional plot and chronology as candidates for its perceived oddity. Outside of the text, the manner of its composition, Sterne's adherence to the earlier patronage system and his careful construction of his "Shandian" persona can also be considered odd. Johnson's assessment is however, one of the 18th century and therefore the perception of Sterne's text, not only in comparison to his other writing, but also with those of the period is crucial to understanding what about it was truly odd, and why it was considered so. Similarly, our ability with hindsight to assert that Johnson was incorrect should not compromise **
What Johnson deemed "odd", from a modern perspective, and with the indisputable knowledge that Tristram Shandy did last, may now be described as "innovative". The innovation's of Sterne's text, in terms of both its form and content, is what is most often credited for the longetivity of his text. It is however important to note the extent to which Sterne attempted to market himself within his literary environment and thus ensure the success of his text. His method of doing this is in many ways as "odd" as the text itself. Sterne's petitions to Garrick and Lord Bathurst reveals not only the way in which he wanted his text to be perceived, that is by a distinctly theatrical audience rather than a literary one, but also his adherence to a more traditional mode of patronage. The 18th Century had brought a transformation of literary production in which patronage ceased to dominate; earlier in the century Pope had claimed that he was "above a patron" and Johnson's 1755 letter to Lord Chesterfield which denounced him for not supporting his dictionary demonstrated that patronage was no longer equated with worth since the highest members of the literary chain were seeking support in alternative ways. Sterne's choice to seek Lord Barthurst, the once patron of Pope and Swift can be seen as an attempt to reestablish a continuity between himself the literary giants of the previous period. Sterne did not give up on the notion of patronage, not necessarily for its fiscal benefits but for its social and aristocratic connotations. Sterne was painfully aware of this elevation by association technique as he uses it throughout Tristram Shandy to the point of absurdity to evoke bonds between himself and the elite (both real and imaginary) "my Lord A, B, C, D, E, F, G....". His appeal to Garrick indicates his ideal theatrical audience and the pointed, self-conscious way in which Sterne created and marketed his text. Like Garrick, Sterne wanted to capture his reader's attention through dramatic detail and presentation. In his description of his father reasoning with his Uncle Toby, as well as providing atmospheric detail of his father's mannerisms and the furniture, he also appeals to Garrick himself and his dramatic skill "O Garrick! - What a rich scene of this why exquisite powers make! And how gladly would I Write such another to avail thyself of thy immortality, and secure my own behind it". Sterne's apostrophe, not only confirms his adherence to the

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