Sterne “achieved celebrity late in life” after he published Tristram Shandy in 1759, a popular comic novel which brought him “instant success”Wikimedia Commons

A chair which belonged to Laurence Sterne, an eighteenth-century author, has been found in a storeroom in Jesus College. The artefact was found by Robert Athol, a Jesus College archivist, while “rummaging in storage” to look for a new chair for his desk.

Between 1733-1737 Laurence Sterne studied at Jesus College. Following his ordination, he served as vicar of Coxwold.

Sterne “achieved celebrity late in life”; he was already 46 when he published Tristram Shandy in 1759, a popular comic novel which brought him “instant success” and made him into a best-selling author.

Athol knew the chair was important when he saw its Latin plaque, which read: “Here sat Laurence Sterne”. After finding “bundles of letters” which detailed the chair’s ownership, he realised it was authentic.


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The letters revealed that the chair had been passed down by successive vicars in Coxwold, Yorkshire, and in 1928 was given to Jesus College.

After this discovery, Athol got in touch with the Laurence Sterne Trust. The chair was then returned to Sterne’s home, Shandy Hall, now a museum dedicated to him in Coxwold.

The Curator at Shandy Hall, Patrick Wildgust stated: “We have very few things that belonged to Sterne — letters perhaps are the closest you can get to a writer — but we now have the chair in which he sat.”

“I can imagine there will be writers who would be delighted to sit in Sterne’s chair. It can add another dimension to the fact he was a living, breathing writer. It’s a delight for us to be able to have it.”