Journal Article

Patronage, performance, and reputation in Sterne's early clerical career, 1737-1742


Whereas current research into the biographical aspects of Sterne’s life chiefly seeks to explore the connective sinews of the author’s social networks at the height of his literary fame, this essay argues that new pathways for investigating Sterne’s formative years can be discovered through the re-examination of his early clerical career. Whilst Sterne is usually treated as the focal subject when looking at the Church in York, the completion of an extensive historical investigation into Lancelot Blackburne’s archiepiscopate (1724–1743) has made it possible to reinsert him into a refreshed historical context and thereby test old assumptions about the formation of his clerical identity. This provides a foundation for the reassessment of patronage connections between Sterne and his uncle Jaques. Attention is also drawn to the case of Lewis Stephens (1689–1747), prebendary of York, and satirical writer – hitherto unknown to Sterne studies – whose experience of breaking patronage ties with Blackburne in the 1730s provides an instructive comparison for Sterne’s later rejection of the same in 1742. This essay utilises the guiding themes of patronage, performance, and reputation, and its findings are supported by new discoveries from the York diocesan archives and elsewhere.

Attached files


Reed, Daniel

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of History, Philosophy and Culture


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-10-25

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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This RADAR resource is Part of Originally published in: The Shandean, v. 33 (2022). Reproduced with permission of the publisher.


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