Friday, December 14, 2018

Letters for all occasions

Elaine and I are having a grand time reading Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through England and France. Here is an excerpt. The scene: Yorick, our narrator, must reply to a letter from Madame de L***, a young woman he has met in Calais. Now the two are in Amiens, where Madame de L***’s brother, the Count de L***, is on the scene. Madame has written Yorick a letter, delivered by her servant, who (tipsy) brings Yorick’s servant La Fleur back with him to the Count’s apartment. And look, here’s Madame. When she asks for Yorick’s reply, La Fleur says that — oops — he has forgotten to bring it. And now Yorick is stuck figuring out what to say:

Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768). Text from the 2001 Penguin edition, ed. Paul Goring.

I have already confessed in a letter to a friend that Yorick and La Fleur remind me of Larry (Larry David) and Leon (J.B. Smoove) in Curb Your Enthusiasm. “What should I say to her, Leon?” “I got this, Larry.” Except Leon wouldn’t apologize or tremble.

Also from this novel
Yorick, distracted

[Translation, from Penguin edition: “I am filled with the deepest sadness and at the same time reduced to despair by this unforeseen return of the Corporal, which renders our meeting tonight the most impossible thing in the world. But let there be joy! And all of my joy will be in thinking of you. Love is nothing without sentiment. And sentiment is even less without love. It is said that one should never despair. It is also said that Monsieur le Corporal will be mounting guard on Wednesday: then it will be my turn. Everyone has his turn. While we wait — Long live love! And long live sweet nothings! I am, Madame, with all the most respectful and tender sentiments, all yours.” Goring points out that the letter echoes one of Sterne’s: “‘l’amour’ (say they) ‘n’est rien sans sentiment.’”]

comments: 2

Anonymous said...

Vive la bagatelle could be the name of your blog.

Michael Leddy said...

I think that’s the spirit of it. Thanks.