Nearly all our information about the first forty-six years of his life before he became famous as the author of Tristram Shandy is derived from a short memoir jotted down by himself for the use of his daughter.
Without Stevenson, Sterne would probably have been a more decorous parish priest, but he would probably never have written Tristram Shandy or left any other memorial of his singular genius.
The first two volumes of Tristram Shandy were issued at York in 1759 and advertised in London on the 1st of January 1760, and at once made a sensation.
At the end of the sermon in Tristram he had intimated that, if this sample of Yorick's pulpit eloquence was liked, "there are now in the possession of the Shandy family as many as will make a handsome volume, at the world's service, and much good may they do it."
Through all his pleasant experiences of French society, and through the fits of dangerous illness by which they were diversified, he continued to build up his history of the Shandy family, but the work did not progress as rapidly as it had done.