Shandymania: Class, religion, and constupration in the pamphlet responses to “Tristram Shandy”

Thomas V Kenney, Fordham University


Shandymania: Class, Religion, and Constupration in the Pamphlet Responses to Tristram Shandy provides a new edition of annotated pamphlets, poems and prints originally published in response to The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. The publication of the first two volumes of Tristram Shandy in late 1759 and early 1760 set off a wave of publications relating to Shandy, and I have attempted to provide readers with a representative cross section of that material. Included here are several texts that have not previously been easily available to scholars, and which are not reproduced elsewhere. Accompanying the texts is an introduction that argues that these responses can be situated in four broad frameworks that help a modern reader understand the Shandy craze in its eighteenth century context. These consist of (1) Steme's celebrity, and the frequent conflation of him with his own fictional creation by both himself and his readers who then linked him with several other scandalous figures of the period; (2) the perception that the Shandy fad was evidence of English gullibility; (3) the suggestion that the popularity of Stern's novel was uncomfortably similar to the much reviled "Enthusiasm" of the Methodists and their leader, George Whitefield; and (4) the criticism of Sterne's perceived abuse of his status as a clergyman, who, having a written a bawdy novel, was then linked to a larger pattern of priestly corruption in the 1760's. The pamphlets reveal that the fundamental issues at stake for Sterne's contemporaries were anxiety over class mobility and the rigidly defined boundaries of appropriate clerical behavior. Taken as a whole, this material offers a picture of intense cultural anxiety, and makes it evident that the novel was seen as radical in its own time in ways that are not obvious to the modern reader. Tristram Shandy acted as a cultural lightening rod, providing a focal point for the highly charged cultural, religious, and social debates that were roiling London in the 1760s, and it is my hope that making these texts available in a more accessible format will provide scholars with new tools to study this classic work.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Kenney, Thomas V, "Shandymania: Class, religion, and constupration in the pamphlet responses to “Tristram Shandy”" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3314563.