Date of Award

Summer 1970

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Among the pioneer novelists of the eighteenth century, Laurence Sterne stands out as an unexplained curiosity. In many ways the most modern of the early novelists, he is regarded as the first stream-of-consciousness author, and thus the forerunner of the most significant school in today's fiction. Sterne constructed his original style from ideas derived from the seventeenth century philosopher, John Locke, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. A less obvious but equally defendable fact is that this philosophical work provided Sterne with a thematic as well as stylistic bridge into the twentieth century. The clearest illustration of this relationship is the case of David Herbert Lawrence, and it is the purpose of this thesis to analyze the thematic relationship between Sterne and this twentieth century author.

First a consistency in philosophical doctrine will be demonstrated, consisting mainly in the belief that mankind's unhappiness and hie shortcomings are directly attributable to his overstimulation of the intellect and neqlect of the physical and sensual aspects of life. His acceptance of synthetic substitutes for sensual rewards and his conformity to artificial patterns is viewed by these authors as man's chief downfall. It will be shown that these principles are derived from a common philosophical source, and that thee ideas, suggested only in passing by Locke, are given emphasis and force by Sterne and Lawrence, who present them through two different media: humor and romantic didacticism.

The continuity of the messages of Sterne and Lawrence will be further emphasised by the fact that the two authors employ similar imagery, The use of horse and "hobbyhorse" symbolism, abundant in both writers, will be shown as paradoxical in their various interpretations, but consistent in their application by these two authors as a contrast between the sensual and real, and the intellectual and artificial.

Finally, certain inconsistencies in the methods and messages of Sterne and Lawrence will be considered. Of primary importance will be Sterne''''s humorous treatment of subjects that Lawrence treats tragically. These superficial contradictions will be resolved partially within the context of the separate personalities of the authors, but primarily with regard to their conflicting literary backgrounds of classicism and romanticism. The synthesis of their messages reached in this study will then be evaluated.