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24 September 2021

Laurence Sterne’s Chair returns to Shandy Hall

Sterne's chair with books
Sterne’s chair with books

When Robert Athol, the Archivist at Jesus College Cambridge, was looking in the storerooms for a suitable seat for his office, he pulled out a likely-looking 18th century chair. On closer examination, he found a brass plaque on the back, inscribed ‘Hic sedebat Laurentius Sterne’ (‘Here used to sit Laurence Sterne’).

Later he uncovered the story of the chair. After Sterne’s death the chair had passed through the hands of subsequent vicars of Coxwold until it was offered to Jesus College in 1928. Sterne had studied there from 1733-7, and looked set for a lifelong career as a country parson, until he published Tristram Shandy and became an overnight celebrity. This, then, is the chair on which Sterne sat to write his masterpiece (never out of print and translated into many languages).

Members of The Laurence Sterne Trust were so delighted by the find that Robert decided to forgo the comfortable seat and arranged with Jesus College for it to be displayed at Sterne’s old home, so that it could be appreciated by Sterne’s many admirers.

More information on the chair’s history

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