The Good Humour Club or Doctors’ Club and Sterne’s Political Romance

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Abstract

This essay argues that Sterne’s satire in A Political Romance pokes fun not just at the disagreement between lawyer Francis Topham and Dean of York John Fountayne, as is well known by Sterne scholars, but also at the role of a convivial club in that disagreement. Through analysing an early manuscript minute book of an eighteenth-century gentleman’s club previously unknown to scholars, the Good Humour Club of York (c.1724-1800), it will be demonstrated that nine of the club’s ninety-nine identified members were known to Sterne and that four of those were central to the pamphlet wars which climaxed with Sterne’s Political Romance in 1759. Sterne’s self-reflexivity in the Romance, through which he deconstructs his own satirical project and creates the self-consciousness perceived by scholars as anticipating the humour of Tristram Shandy, can be seen as a response to, and a satire of, the Good Humour Club’s involvement in local ecclesiastical affairs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Shandean
Volume31
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2020

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