Tristram Shandy

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy. Sterne’s comic masterpiece is an extravagantly inventive work which was hugely popular when first published in 1759. Its often bawdy humour, and numerous digressions, are combined with bold literary experiment, such as a page printed entirely black to mark the death of one of the novel’s characters. Dr Johnson wrote that “Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last” - but two hundred and fifty years after the book’s publication, Tristram Shandy remains one of the most influential and widely admired books of the eighteenth century.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Judith Hawley 13 episodes
    Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London
  • John Mullan 14 episodes
    Professor of English at University College London
  • Mary Newbould No other episodes
    Bowman Supervisor in English at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge

Reading list

  • Tristram Shandy
    Max Byrd (HarperCollins, 1985) Google Books →
  • Laurence Sterne: A Life
    Ian Campbell Ross (Oxford University Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • Laurence Sterne: The Early and Middle Years
    Arthur H. Cash (Routledge, 1992) Google Books →
  • Laurence Sterne: The Later Years
    Arthur H. Cash (Routledge, 1993) Google Books →
  • Crazy John and the Bishop and Other Essays on Irish Culture
    Terry Eagleton (Cork University Press, 1998) Google Books →
  • Sterne: The Critical Heritage
    Alan B. Howes (ed.) (Routledge, 2002) Google Books →
  • Sterne, The Moderns and The Novel
    Thomas Keymer (Oxford University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Laurence Sterne
    Thomas Keymer (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • Human, All Too Human
    Friedrich Nietzsche (1st published 1879, General Books LLC, 2012) Google Books →
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
    Martin Rowson (Picador, 1996) Google Books →
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy
    Laurence Sterne (eds. Melvyn New and Joan New) (University Presses of Florida, 1984) Google Books →
  • New Casebooks: Tristram Shandy
    Laurence Sterne (ed.) Melvyn New (Macmillan, 1992)

Related episodes

Programme ID: b0418phf

Episode page:

Auto-category: 823.6 (English fiction–1700-1799)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1760, a London periodical called The Monthly Review published a review of two books by an Anglican clergyman.