Sterne is one of the most original and unexpected of writers, and
A Sentimental Journey differs from other travel books as greatly as
Tristram Shandy differs from other novels. Sterne travelled in France during the 1760s and drew on his experiences to write the narrative of Mr. Yorick, the Sentimental Traveller. Mr Yorick follows his Sensibility and finds pleasure in everything he does, in contrast to contemporary travel writers, Tobias Smollett in particular, whom Sterne satirizes in the figure of 'Smelfungus'.
Sterne did not live to complete the part on Italy. He called it a "sentimental" journey because the point of travel was not to see sights or visit art collections, but to make meaningful contact with people. Yorick succeeds, but in every adventure, his ego or inappropriate desires and impulses get in the way of "sentimental commerce." The result is a light-hearted comedy of moral sentiments. Abroad Sterne became the "high priest of sentimentalism," and as such had a profound impact upon continental letters in the second half of the 18th century.