Laurence Sterne

Laurence Sterne (Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 1713 – London, 1768) first came to Paris very late in his life. In poor health, he crossed the English Channel early in January 1762 to seek a better climate. He travelled as part of a diplomatic party led by George Pitt and stayed in the Faubourg Saint Germain (6th and 7th arrondissement), much favoured by moneyed Englishmen.
Sterne initially shared rooms with one George MacCartney the Anglo-Irish tutor of Charles Fox (future leader of the Whigs). He was invited to various dinners and soirées, notably by one of the great contributors to the Encyclopédie, the Baron d’Holbach at his house at 8, rue Royal (now rue des Moulins, 1st arrondissement). Sterne also spent time at the residence of Michel-Etienne Lepeletier, le Comte de Saint-Fargeau, president of the Paris parliament, whose residence still stands at 29, rue de Sévigné (3rd arrondissement).
 Fire at the Saint Germain Fair in 1762
Having witnessed a major fire at the Saint Germain fair the previous month, Sterne moved out of his accommodation in the district and lodged instead with a French family starting in April 1762. There, he made the acquaintance of an Irish playwright, former actress and translator called Elizabeth Griffiths.
Sterne was joined in Paris by his wife and daughter in July 1762 with whom he headed straight for Toulouse, where they benefited from the “good natured offices” of a certain abbé MacCarthy. Later, in the same city, the Sternes got to know another kindly priest called abbé O’Leari, while Sterne’s financial affairs were confided to a Paris-based banker by the name of Robert Foley.

 Section of rue Jacob where Sterne stayed in 1764
Sterne travelled back (alone) to Paris in March 1764, staying at the Hôtel d’Entraigues at 12, rue de Tournon (6
th arrondissement) until May. He frequented the newly appointed British ambassador, Lord Hertford, who paid Sterne the honour of asking him to preach in his chapel at the opening of the new British embassy in the Hôtel de Brancas at the corner of Boulevard des Italiens and rue Taitbout (9th arrondissement, building no longer exists).

Sterne again passed through Paris in Oct. 1765 on his way to Italy in search for inspiration for a new book. He may have stayed in the Hôtel de Modène in the rue Jacob (6th arrondissement), “opposite the Rue des Deux Anges”, the hotel in which Yorick stays in A sentimental journey.  The street plan in this part of the Latin Quarter has been radically altered since Sterne's time, but there is a  remainder of rue des Deux Anges, now called  l’Impasse des Deux Anges)),
 Rue de Nevers
One episode in
A Sentimental Journey recounts Yorick’s walk to the nearby Quai de Conti to find a complete set of the works of Shakespeare. On his way, Yorick meets a young girl “who by her air and dress seemed to be fille de chambre to some devout woman of fashion” and to whom he gives half a crown. The two walked together for a while but part at the corner of the rue de Nevers and the Quai de Conti. Yorick asked the girl if the rue de Nevers would bring him back to the Hotel de Modene. “She told me it would—or that I might go by the rue de Guineygaude” (actually rue Guénégaud, 6th arrondissement), “which was the next turn." Another scene from the same book—surely drawn from experience
involves two ladies who give 12 sous (a lot of money) to a beggar who flatters them outside the Théâtre de l’Opéra Comique, which in 1765 was located in the Hôtel de Bourgogne on the rue Mauconseil (now rue Étienne Marcel, 2nd arrondissement).

Sterne’s last visit to Paris was in late May 1766, on his way back from Naples. On the 27th of that month, he was seen attending mass in St Roch on the rue St Honoré (1st arrondissement).

Select Bibliography
A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768, Penguin Classics edition, 1988)
Laurence Sterne

Laurence Sterne: A Life (2002)
Ian Campbell Ross

Wild Excursions: The Life and Fiction of Laurence Sterne (1972)
David Thomson