Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1761), pp. 236-237

The thing I lament is, that things have crowded in so thick upon me, that I have not been able to get into that part of my work, towards which, I have all the way, looked forwards, with so much earnest desire; and that is the campaigns, but especially the amours of my uncle Toby , the events of which are of so singular a nature, and so Cervantick a cast, that if I can so manage it, as to convey but the same impressions to every other brain, which the occurrences themselves excite in my own----I will answer for it the book shall make its way in the world, much better than its master has done before it----Oh Tristram! Tristram! can this but be once brought about----the credit, which will attend thee as an author, shall counterbalance the many evils which have befallen thee as a man----thou wilt feast about the one----when thou hast lost all sense and remembrance of the other!----

Assume that empathy is feeling for someone and sympathy is feeling with them. If so, this is a banner illustration of these two sensible responses. Tristram's intent is to shuttle his own sensations into the reader's brain; the vehicle for this operation is Uncle Toby; insofar as Toby is an object of empathy, Tristram is one of sympathy. There are times, however, when Toby performs sensible acts, at which points he becomes sympathetic. The same distinction should be made in Clarissa ; Clarissa's didactic mode is much different from Richardson's, and if we ever stop feeling for Clarissa and start feeling with her, the text, I would argue, becomes less a novel of sensibility, and more. . .well, something else, though maybe as good. This all filters into a discussion of the difference between depicting sensibility and evoking it in the reader.

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography