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Laurence Sterne

1713-1768. English writer. He is rarely thought of as a theologian, even though he was for many years rector of Coxwold and prebendary of York. His fame rests on the whimsical, idiosyncratic, and even occasionally bawdy Tristram Shandy (1760-67), but in the same years he also published several volumes of the Sermons of Mr Yorick. Full though they are of unacknowledged borrowings from earlier writers, these sermons are as characteristically Sternean as anything he ever wrote. His biographer, Cross, described the best of them as “embryonic dramas,” and so they are with their vivid account of incident, depiction of character and presentation of dialogue, and their unpredictable manipulation of language. In his preoccupation with conduct Sterne does not get much beyond eighteenth-century orthodoxy, but he is alone in presenting this with such original, versatile, and penetrating insights. Sterne's sermons are literature, because they are imaginative creations.