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Laurence Sterne, Robert Adam, and the Lascelles family.

In the last chapter of volume IV of Tristram Shandy, when Tristram has just recounted the news of Bobby's death, Tristram announces, 'FROM this moment I am to be considered as heir-apparent to the Shandy family - and it is from this point properly, that the story of my LIFE and my OPINIONS sets out; with all my hurry and precipitation I have but been clearing the ground to raise the building - and such a building do I foresee it will turn out, as never was planned, and as never was executed since Adam'.(1) Although 'Adam' here could certainly refer to Adam in the Garden of Eden, especially because a passing of much time is implied, I would like to suggest that 'Adam' could also be a Shandean nod to Robert Adam (1728-92), the famous Scottish architect and interior designer. The image of 'clearing the ground to raise the building' and the words 'planned' and 'executed' all point to an architectural reference.

Robert Adam returned from Italy in 1758 to establish his practice in London, and he quickly became the most fashionable architect of the day. Writing in 1760, Sterne was almost certainly aware of him, especially because of Adam's involvement in the building of Harewood House, the country house near York being built by Sterne's acquaintance Edwin Lascelles, later Lord Harewood (1712-95). Architectural plans for the house had been drawn by John Cart, and in 1758 Lascelles showed them to Adam, who proposed a few revisions, not all of which were accepted by Lascelles, in the neoclassical style he favoured. Although Adam was not the primary architect for Harewood, he was the primary designer of the interiors, one of his most famous commissions.(2) Adam's work on the interiors dates from 1765, which is well after the writing of volume IV of Tristram Shandy, but it is quite likely that Sterne knew of Adam's earlier involvement with the plans for Harewood and was paying him a covert compliment by way of acknowledgement.

This reference to Adam is not the only compliment to an architect in Tristram Shandy. In volume VII, Sterne mentions 'a handsome pavillion built by Pringello' (II, 622). Pringello is Sir William Chambers, who is also referred to as Don Pringello in John Hall-Stevenson's Crazy Tales and who submitted, with the recommendation of Hall-Stevenson, plans for Harewood, which were rejected in favour of Carr's.(3) Chambers went on to become a leading architect, and he later designed renovations to Hall-Stevenson's Crazy Castle (although these, too, were never executed).(4) Yet another connection linking Sterne with the architects of the day and with the Lascelles family is the fact that John Carr, who designed Harewood House, was the architect for Sterne's remodelling of Shandy Hall in 1767.(5)

Sterne's acquaintance with the Lascelles family is a matter of some confusion.(6) Sterne seems to have been acquainted with both Edwin Lascelles and his nephew and heir, Edward Lascelles (1740-1820). Edwin was Sterne's friend from Cambridge and was a subscriber to A Sentimental Journey and volumes III and IV of the sermons (1766). Edward was also a subscriber to A Sentimental Journey, but not to the sermons. In 1761 Edward married Sterne's acquaintance Anne Chaloner (a neighbour of Hall-Stevenson), and in 1812 he was created the first Earl of Harewood.

SHARON LONG DAMOFF University of Florida

1 Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, ed. Melvyn New and Joan New, 2 vols (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1978), I, 400; hereafter cited in the text.

2 George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood, Harewood, Yorkshire: A Guide (Harewood: Harewood House Trust, n.d.), 6.

3 Lodwick Hartley, 'The "Don Pringello" of Sterne and Hall-Stevenson', N&Q, ccxix (July 1974), 261.

4 Ibid., 261.-2.

5 Arthur H. Cash, Laurence Sterne: The Later Years (London: Methuen, 1986), 294; it is highly unlikely that this John Cart is the 'John Carr' who supposedly wrote the spurious volume III of Tristram, although that identification has not yet been positively made.

6 Arthur H. Cash, in a rare slip in his careful scholarship, seems to have conflated the two men, stating incorrectly that it was Edwin who married Anne Chaloner (Laurence Sterne: The Early and Middle Years (London: Methuen, 1975), 58, 188). That Sterne knew both men contributes to the confusion. In annotating a 1768 letter in which Sterne mentions a Mr Lascelles, Lewis Perry Curtis thinks it is probable Sterne refers to Edward Lascelles (Letters of Laurence Sterne (Oxford: Clarendon, 1935), 410 n. 2); Wilbur L. Cross thinks it is Edwin (The Life and Times of Laurence Sterne, 3rd edn (New Haven: Yale, 1929), 468).
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Author:Damoff, Sharon Long
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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