A Culture of Mimicry

A Culture of Mimicry: Laurence Sterne, His Readers and the Art of Bodysnatching

Warren L. Oakley
Volume: 73
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    A Culture of Mimicry
    Book Description:

    After his death in 1768, the famous novelist Laurence Sterne did not rest undisturbed in his grave. While rumours of the theft and dissection of Sterne's corpse circulated in the anatomy schools, numerous writers took possession of his literary body of work. New forms of Sternean entertainment were produced by literary mimics who impersonated the author through the medium of print, impersonations which included startling and unique interpretations of Sterne's character and fiction. Warren Oakley introduces two new critical concepts to eighteenth-century literary study, 'bodysnatching' and 'mimicry', to understand these texts that have been neglected and overlooked in Sterne studies. This lucid account reveals the personal stories of such literary mimics, the creative techniques they employed and the consequences of their actions upon the posthumous perception of Sterne, the man and his 'cadaverous goods'. 

    eISBN: 978-1-78188-062-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iv-v)
    (pp. vi-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Articulating Sterne
    (pp. 1-28)

    As in Hamlet’s remembrance of Yorick while he holds the jester’s skull, the dead continue to exist in the phantasies of the living. Their identities, reputations, and bodies become controlled and refashioned by the imagination of other people, as illustrated by the posthumous fate of Laurence Sterne. Even his gravestone exists as a testimony to the invention of two admirers who attempted to recreate the famous novelist in the late eighteenth century. This generous gift from two anonymous ‘masons’ was partly inscribed with a eulogy in verse seeking to reappraise Sterne’s literary reputation, through defending this satirical and sentimental writer...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Garrick and Literary Mimicry
    (pp. 29-52)

    Before Sterne haunted the lecture theatres of anatomy schools, he loitered in the stalls and boxes of theatres at London and York. Unsurprisingly, contemporaries of Sterne frequently portray a figure who loves the stage. Charles Churchill in his verse tribute to Garrick,The Rosciad(1761), even considers Sterne as a potential judge of performers featured in the poem’s fictional competition to find the Georgian successor to Quintus Roscius, the greatest of Roman comic actors:

    Who should be judge in such a tryal:----Who?

    For J-HNS-N some; but J-HNS-N, it was fear’d,

    Would be too grave; and ST-NE too loose appear’d:¹


  7. CHAPTER 3 The Redeployment of Uncle Toby
    (pp. 53-76)

    In the autumn of 1782, Thomas Harris had many reasons to anticipate the forthcoming theatrical season with great confidence. As Drury Lane still struggled to recover from Garrick’s retirement, Harris moved to establish further the dominance of Covent Garden. While retaining the services of Richard Wilson (1744–1796), a notorious low comedian and the favourite of gallery audiences, Harris strengthened his troupe of comics through poaching the seasoned actor and singer Charles Bannister (1741–1804) from the rival theatre after doubling his salary from six to twelve pounds. Months earlier, Bannister had gained fame as Polly in a burlesque version...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Erotic Yorick, the Man of Feeling
    (pp. 77-106)

    On one particular Tuesday in March 1787, a gentleman perusing the front page of the daily newspaper,The World and Fashionable Advertiser, to discover the performances scheduled for that evening at Harris’s Covent Garden, may have been distracted by a titillating advertisement from William Holland, purveyor of erotica, flagellation literature, satirical prints, and caricatures. At a time when, according to Julie Peakman, a new sub-genre of erotica emerged, ‘which concentrated specifically on flagellation as a sexual predilection’, this announcement was intended to place Holland’s Drury Lane business at the forefront of this literary trend:¹

    Man of Feeling and Miss Walton...

  9. CHAPTER 5 William Combe, Esq., Sterne’s ‘Dear Boy’
    (pp. 107-126)

    As a man of means in the early 1760s, Combe was eager to gain access to Hall-Stevenson’s bacchanalian group. In a letter dated 13 November 1764, Sterne told Hall-Stevenson about a message from ‘C—’ who was ‘ambitious of being better acquainted with you; and longs from his soul for a sight of you in your own castle’.¹ At this time, Combe was unfamiliar with the novelist’s network of friendships at Skelton; he had, after all, only become acquainted with Sterne earlier in the year while at Paris.² An embarrassed Sterne felt the need to apologize to Hall-Stevenson for introducing...

  10. CODA Tristram Shandy and Fooling Around
    (pp. 127-130)

    Sternean mimicry did not end with the eighteenth century. The desire to appropriate Sterne, to create new forms of entertainment, continues into the twenty-first century as illustrated by Michael Winterbottom’s recent film adaptation ofTristram Shandy.¹ However,A Cock and Bull Story(2005) is not simply a screen version of Sterne’s novel; it also self-consciously reflects upon the process of composition through a behind-the-scenes account of the film’s creation. Just as Sterne’s novel is partly about the writing of a novel,A Cock and Bull Storyis, to a certain degree, about the making of a film.² Winterbottom’s self-reflexive adaptation...

    (pp. 131-144)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 145-150)