Tristram Shandy provoked a literary sensation when it first appeared in a series of installments between 1759 and 1767. The ribald, high-spirited book prompted Diderot to hail Sterne as 'the English Rabelais.' An ingeniously structured novel (about writing a novel) that fascinates like a verbal game of chess, Tristram Shandy is both a joyful celebration of the infinite possibilities of the art of fiction and a wry demonstration of its limitations. Many view this picaresque masterpiece as the precursor of the modern novel.
A Sentimental Journey, which came out in 1768, begins as a travelogue. Yet it ends as a treasury of portraits, sketches, and philosophical musings, for as Virginia Woolf observed: 'A Sentimental Journey, for all its levity and wit, is based upon something fundamentally philosophic--the philosophy of pleasure.'