None for you, Monk.

Religion is not a main topic of concern of Laurence Sterne in his A Sentimental Journey, it is however, mentioned just often enough to make it a topic of interest. Yorick, Sterne’s main character, begins his travel journal with a rejection of a religion via a Monk, but ends his tale with dancing in support of piety. The Monk changes Yorick’s perspectiving on giving, and is ultimately redeemed when Yorick himself is shown charity and kindness by a family who provides him dinner.

Yorick’s initial contact with religion in ASJ  is when he meets a Monk in Calais, who “came into the room to beg something for his convent” (7). Yorick is determined “not to give him a single sous” (7) but quickly regrets his decision: “I had no right over the poor Franciscan, but to deny him; and that the punishment of that was enough” (9). Yorick’s initial attitude towards beggars is softened after meeting the Monk for more than a minute; he even reminds himself to “learn better manners” as he goes about his travels (10). Thus, Yorick has his first experience with religion during his travels.

Yorick’s experience with the Monk makes him a more generous man. In Montriul “the sons and daughters of poverty [surrounded]” Yorick and he found himself compel himself to give out a “few sous” (35). His generosity comes through later when he meets a girl in a book shop and gives her money: “I never gave a girl a crown in my life which gave me half the pleasure” (64). Though this girl is no beggar, Yorick is acquiring a taste for giving and one can see the transition from a miser to a much more generous man.

Lastly Yorick comes across a man who is able to sway women into giving him money by flattering them. Yorick is more than ready to give the man “a sous or two out of [his] pocket” but the man is only interested in “[asking] charity of [. . .] little women” (91). As Yorick watches the man as he “begg’d for a twelve-sous piece” from each woman (103), only to discover that the man sweet talks these women into giving him money. This last moment of charity for Yorick is interesting because it is literally the opposite of how his money giving adventures started. The Monk asked for nothing, but Yorick is let with a man who has the audacity to ask women for a specific amount of money

There is no mention of religiousness throughout the course of the novel, however, when charity is bestowed upon Yorick in the form of a dinner he is graced with a performance of a family’s religious devotion: “[The father] had made it a rule [for] his family to dance and rejoice; believing [. . .] a cheerful and contended mind was the best sort of thanks to heaven” (114). For Yorick, there is a twinge that religion ignites in him that leads him to cloister his money or turn loose his pocket strings. But in the only act of charity and grace bestowed upon him, Yorick is much more open to another man’s religiosity finally seeing how charity may work in one’s favor.

4 thoughts on “None for you, Monk.

  1. Interesting. It is almost as if when creating the novel that audience awareness was a key point for Sterne. With this new emerging readership, it is as if Sterne addresses the concerns of the day, such as religion, politics, economic questions that plagued many individuals at the time. Maybe the language that Yoric uses to describe characters, such as the Monk and other characters, were common feelings toward the themes he discusses among individuals at the time. Maybe, there was a certain awareness of situations which many felt they had to be on guard.

  2. I was very curious when I first read about the monk, why was there a monk in 18 century of France? Did he mean a Buddhist monk or other religion?(Are other religions called monks?) Back to the topic, it seems, that Yorick gave the monk something mainly to keep him from telling the fair lady about how rude he was. Perhaps it is also one of the reasons why he became a more generous man- to be known as generous to female.

  3. Interesting topic. Religions have set costumes that might pleases us or not. There are many religious duties that might not be seen as great because they are only done for God, such as praying. Charity, on the other hand is a social activity that will not be forgotten easily. Performing religious costumes could be difficult to consider unless one sees a positive outcome.
    Our character likes to have a great reputation, and charity is one of the shortcuts. He has a hard time expressing himself to women, this could mean that many women will not be attracted to him, or see other men more outgoing. However, he knows that money talk, and being kind in action has its impact on women’s hearts.
    Now I’m not sure if I am saying that his kindness and charity are only for that reason. But, he solely ties charity to his reputation.

  4. What is the nature of his charity? How does it function, do you think, in the novel? For instance, is Yorick in a position of power vis-a-vis the monk, the woman, and others? What does he get out of the exchange? I think you’re right that religion is evident in the novel (Sterne was a parson and was well-known for his sermons), but what can we do with that general observation? Is it religion that’s at stake here, or a kind of charitable empathy?

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