Historical statements about Tristram Shandy have in the past generally been hampered by critical misconceptions about the book. As long as it was taken to be a farrago, the value of which depended on a few lucky strokes on an otherwise haphazard and worthless canvas, efforts to see it in its historical context were doomed to failure. In effect, such a hodgepodge could have no important context. It was, as critics and historians repeated endlessly, a mad, inexplicable thing, unreasoned and unreasonable, having real kinship in literature only with other mad books, most of them long since wisely forgotten. As a whole it was really nothing, and consequently as a whole it could not be related to other wholes. Thus, with the exception of such matters as the peculiar sentence structure, the minute delineation of gesture, and the depiction of humor and sentiment, there were really no artistic devices to be placed in a historical context; all one could do was to place Sterne in the historical stream of those who were delightfully inartistic.