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Detail of Biography - William Makepeace Thackeray
Name :
William Makepeace Thackeray
Date :
Views :
479
Category :
Birth Date :
18/07/1811
Birth Place :
Calcutta, India.
Death Date :
December 24, 1863
Biography - William Makepeace Thackeray
Thackeray was never a ‘crusader’ and never attempted to solve any problems. He kept closely to the world he knew, and did not, like Dickens, create a wide world of fantasy. Like Fielding, he saw that in life it is hard to draw a clear line between vice and virtue.[br /]
[br /]


He possessed a terrible power to detect and expose men’s self-deceptions, shams, pretenses and unworthy aspirations. In the tendency to divide his age into good and bad he reflects an age which was uncompromising on moral issues. He struggles against convention insinuating unavoidable circumstances into ‘wicked’ nature and showing how often ‘good’ people are weak and foolish.[br /]
[br /]


In his hands, the novel advanced in several ways. In all the novels the reader is made aware of the flight of time, of renewal and decay, of the generations trodden down by their successors. Thackeray was the first to introduce this effect of time’s remorseless flow, associated with such later novelists as Bennett and Galsworthy , into English fiction.[br /]
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[b]Birth[/b][br /]
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William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta, India, on July 18, 1811, into a wealthy English merchant family. His father, Richmond Thackeray, an officer in the East India Company, died in 1815, and the following year William was sent to England to live with his aunt at Chiswick. After his father’s death, William’s mother married an engineering officer named Major Carmichael Symth. She had been in love with him before she married Richmond Thackeray.[br /]
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[b]Solace In Patterns[/b][br /]
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William showed his talent for drawing at a very early age. He would draw caricatures of his relatives and send them to his mother through letters. Even at school, he used to draw pictures of his friends and teachers and his friends preserved those pictures all through their lives. Though his caricatures of his teachers got him into trouble sometime, he enjoyed his popularity in school due to his art. Otherwise, William was not much physically active as a boy due to his shortsightedness. Furthermore, he found solace in drawing, as he said later,' They are a great relief to my mind.'[br /]
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[b]Education[/b][br /]
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William was given the 'education of a gentleman', at private boarding schools. He was sent to the Charterhouse School, where he was enrolled as a day-scholar. He led a rather lonely and miserable existence as a child. He wrote regularly to his mother and stepfather. In one of his letters, he wrote : "There are 370 in the school; I wish there were 369". This subtle post-script showed how utterly out of place he felt at the institution. The caning and other abuses he suffered at school became the basis for recollection in his essays, such as The Roundabout Papers, as well as episodes in his novels Vanity Fair and The Newcomes.[br /]
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In 1820, William’s mother and stepfather Major Carmichael Symth joined him at Chiswick. The reunion of mother and child was very emotional. He got along well with Major Symth as well, he also addressed him 'father' later on. They met many times after that as he used to spend holidays with them. Thackeray based the character of Colonel Newcome on this respectable, unworldly gentleman.[br /]
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William later recalled the dry lessons in the classical languages that he was forced to learn and the debilitating effect it had on what he felt about classical literature. He developed a life-long dislike for classical literature. He relied on literary escapades on popular fictions of the day like Scott’s Heart of Midlothian or Pierce Egan’s Life in London. William was never an outstanding student but while at school he developed two habits that were to stay with him lifelong : sketching and reading novels. He also started working as an amateur theatre artist.[br /]
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When he graduated from the Charterhouse school, he needed additional tutoring to prepare for Cambridge. He got this tutoring from Major Symth. He made many good acquaintances at Cambridge including Edward FitzGerald. Cambridge was full of distraction for the young man. Rowing was an official sport which the students enjoyed a lot but drinking and occasional illicit visits to London was also added to their list of recreation. William started his adventure in journalism at Cambridge. He started to enjoy writing as much as drawing.[br /]
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From 1828 to 1830 he studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. His tutor then was William Whewell (a philosopher of natural science), but Thackeray saw little of the don and spent his time at wine parties. Neither at Charterhouse nor at Cambridge did he distinguish himself as a scholar. In 1830, Thackeray left Cambridge without a degree. During 1831-33 he studied law at the Middle Temple, London. He attempted to develop his literary and artistic talents, first as the editor of a short–lived journal and subsequently as an art student in Paris. None of these worked out since he kept oscillating between various occupations that were temporary in nature.[br /]
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The trouble with Thackeray was that he could never settle for one thing. One day he would translate Horace; the next day he would draw funny sketches; the day after that, he would write satirical verses. After having left the university, he toured the continent, visited museums, theaters and libraries. He also wrote poems, which penned his profound observation upon the vanity and pity of life.[br /]
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[b]Stepping Into World[/b][br /]
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He moved to Weimer, Germany, then the intellectual capital of Europe. He learned German and read Goethe. Personal life of Goethe was making waves in the German society at that time. He had the opportunity to meet the aged poet once. Though nothing significant occurred at the meeting, as Goethe was almost a national monument and Thackeray an upcoming journalist. Though he did not achieve anything great during his nine month stay in Germany, his sketchbook gained a lot many pages of excellent portraits, landscapes and caricatures. This stay gained for him a command of the language, a knowledge of German romantic literature and an increasing skepticism about religious doctrine. The time he spent at Weimar is reflected in the Pumpernickel chapters of Vanity Fair.[br /]
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On his return from Germany, Thackeray lived the life of a young indulgent man, gambling, drinking in taverns, and enjoying the company of women. He considered painting as a profession and his artistic gifts can be seen in his letters and his early writings, which are energetically illustrated. On his return, he had to pursue his law study, however reluctantly. Pulling on his study, he took utmost advantage of London life, moving freely between high society balls and parties, and low class taverns and gambling houses. In fact, gambling and theatre became his full time occupation during that time.[br /]
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On coming of age in 1832, Thackeray inherited £ 20,000 from his father. However, he soon lost his fortune through gambling, unlucky speculations and reading investments. Most of it was lost due to the failure of an Indian bank where he had invested a lot of money. [br /]
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In 1832, Thackeray met William Maginn. Maginn was an editor and he influenced Thackeray's professional life. Thackeray got the break into the world of London journalism through him. He also invested part of his patrimony in a weekly paper, The National Standard, which he took over as editor and proprietor in 1833. He used to write most of the articles himself. He was very hopeful of the success of his newspaper, but his wait for about a year never yielded any result. The paper was unsuccessful and went under quickly, but it gave Thackeray his first taste of the world of London journalism. It was an event that Thackeray once again found use for in his novel The Newcomes. He was seriously in trouble, as he had to earn his living.[br /]
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Thackeray resolved to study art when he found that he could earn a living by using his artistic talents. In 1834 he went to Paris for this purpose. Life in Paris was neither easy. He could barely support himself there with his limited income form occasional journalism. But Paris brought him a dream realized - to find someone to love. He had met many a girls and women in his life and had fallen in and out of their love quite many times by now. Even his sketchbook was filled with imaginary characters like Mr and Mrs Thack and their trail of many children.[br /]
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[b]Marriage[/b][br /]
[br /]


He met Isabella Shawe, a timid, simple and artless girl. He fell outrightly in love with Isabella. She was just 17 and was totally under control of her mother. He was immediately ready for marriage, but Mrs Shawe did not permit. Isabella herself could not make any decision. Similarly, his parents were also much reluctant for the union. His stepfather wanted him to establish himself first, for that Thackeray was made the Paris correspondent for a newspaper The Constitutional and Public Register at £400 per year. Backed by the income and through his steady persistence, the marriage did take place finally on August 20, 1836. After trying out briefly the bohemian life of an artist in Paris, and failure of his newspaper, he returned to London in 1837 and started his career as a journalist. He worked for periodicals like Fraser’s Magazine and The Morning Chronicle, but his most successful association was with Punch. [br /]
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Thackeray worked as a freelance journalist for about 10 years, publishing literary criticism, art criticism, articles, and fiction, either anonymously or under a number of comic pseudonyms. Often he used absurd pen names such as George Savage Fitzboodle, Michael Angelo Tit Marsh, Theophile Wagstaff and C J Yellowplush, Esq. William and Isabella Thackeray’s first child, Anne Isabella, was born on June 9, 1837. Her birth was followed by the collapse of The Constitution of which William was the Paris correspondent. Thackeray began writing as many articles as humanly possible and sent them to any newspaper that would print them. This was a precarious sort of existence, which would continue for most of the rest of his life. He was fortunate enough to get two popular series going on in two different publications. During this time, Thackeray also produced his first books, Collections of Essays and Observations published as travel books. This combination of hack writing and frequent travel took Thackeray away from home and kept him from his wife’s growing depression.[br /]
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[b]Troubled Times[/b][br /]
[br /]


Thackeray and Isabella Shawe had a happy life during their first years of marriage. But as financial demands forced Thackeray into more and more work, Isabella became isolated and lonely. The happy years of marriage was eclipsed by the tragic death of their second daughter Jane, born in July 1838. She died of respiratory illness in March the following year. Harriet Marian, their third daughter was born in 1840. It was at this time that Isabella fell victim to mental illness . After a few months she started displaying suicidal tendencies and as it was difficult to control her, she was placed in a private institution. Doctors told Thackeray that all she needed was a change of air. She was taken to her mother in Ireland, where she attempted to drown herself in the ocean.[br /]
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Thackeray began a series of futile searches for her cure. He took Isabella to various spas and sanatoriums, at one point himself undergoing a 'water cure' with her, since she wouldn’t go at it alone. He continued to hope for some time that she would make a full recovery. He was forced to send his children to France to his mother. For the next several years he shuttled back and forth between London and Paris - from the journalism that supported himself and his debt-laden family, to his parents and children in Paris, and to his wife in French asylums.[br /]
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Thackeray entrusted Isabella to the care of a friendly family, and threw himself into the maelstrom of club-life for which he had but little taste. He said, "My social activity is but a lifelong effort at forgetting."[br /]
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[b]Responsibilities[/b][br /]
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Thackeray’s children returned to England in 1846. He gradually began paying more and more attention to his daughters, for whom he established a home in London. Eventually, he resigned himself to Isabella’s condition and was seemingly indifferent to the circumstances around her and the children. He raised his daughters with the help of his mother, who was never satisfied with the governess’s Thackeray hired. The touching reminiscences of Anne Thackeray’s biographical introductions to his works portray him as a loving, if busy, father.[br /]
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He started the serial publication of his novel Vanity Fair in 1847. It brought Thackeray both fame and prosperity. From then on he was an established author on the English literary scene. Dickens was then at the height of his fame, and, though the two men appreciated each other’s work, their admirers were fond of debating their comparative merits.[br /]
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[b]The Brookfields[/b][br /]
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During these years of success, Thackeray lived the life of a bachelor in London. He spent much time with his friends, attending the social functions of a fashionable society. He became the constant attendant upon Jane Brookfield, the wife of an old friend from Cambridge.[br /]
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Thackeray and the Brookfields were involved in an increasingly tense emotional triangle. His first trip to America in 1852 provided the time and distance for Thackeray to try and extricate himself from the tangle. Henry Brookfield’s coldness and desire to dominate his wife, her resistance and the need for someone to turn to, and Thackeray’s loneliness combined to create a complicated affair.[br /]
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Brookfield alternately ignored or forbade his wife’s warm communications with the successful novelist. Jane Brookfield returned Thackeray’s ardent expressions of friendship and lamented her husband’s inability to understand her. Thackeray, for his part, professed for Jane a devotion that was pure and he also remained a companion of her husband. He nonetheless felt betrayed by Jane’s tendency to cool down the correspondence when Brookfield complained. Thackeray eventually caused a dramatic break in the triangle by berating Brookfield for his neglectful treatment of Jane. After Thackeray heard of Jane’s pregnancy, during his second trip to America, he decided never to return to her.[br /]
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[b]Trip To America[/b][br /]
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Thackeray tried to find consolation through travel and, lecturing in the United States. He thus followed in Dickens’ footsteps. These lectures were profitable for Thackeray and also provided influential insight on novelists like Jonathan Swift and Laurence Sterne. Dickens had offended the Americans and did not write a profitable account of his journey. Thackeray, on the other hand, saw America through friendly eyes. In one of his letters to his mother, Thackeray wrote that he did not recognize blacks as equals (though he condemned slavery on moral grounds). He chose to believe that the whipping of slaves in America was rare and that families were not normally separated on the auction block. This was because he was apprehensive about criticism from his hosts that the living conditions for English workers were worse than those for slaves in America.[br /]
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Thackeray made enduring friendships during his lecture trips to the United States. The most significant of these was the one with the Baxter family of New York. The eldest daughter, Sally Baxter, enchanted the novelist and she became the model for Ethel Newcome, the protagonist of his novel. She was vibrant, intelligent, beautiful and young. He visited her again on his second tour of the States by which time she was married to a South Carolina gentleman.[br /]
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Through all this, he was continually ill with recurrent kidney infections caused by a bout of syphilis in his youth. Inspite of his failing health, Thackeray still managed to have an impressive house built and settled generous dowries on his daughters.[br /]
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After the second profitable lecturing tour on The Four Georges (that is, the Hanoverian kings of the 18th and early 19th centuries), Thackeray stood for parliament elections as an independent candidate. His sense of humor perhaps prevented him from trying too hard for appealing his constituents. When Lord Monck, presiding at one of his rallies, said "May the better man win", Thackeray retorted with a smile, "I hope not !" He knew that the rival candidate, Edward Cardwell would make a much better statesman. Thackeray believed that his advocacy of entertainment on the Sabbath was crucial in his defeat.[br /]
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[b]Controversy With Charles Dickens[/b][br /]
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Of the several literary quarrels in which Thackeray got involved during his life, the ‘Garrick Club affair’ is best remembered. Charles Dickens had always been one of Thackeray’s earliest and best friends. But a quarrel had arisen and for several years the two men were not on talking terms. Thackeray had taken offense at some personal remarks in a column by Edmund Yates and demanded an apology, eventually taking the affair to the Garrick Club committee. Dickens was already upset with Thackeray for an indiscreet remark about his affair with Ellen Ternan and so he championed Yates. Dickens helped Yates to draft letters both to Thackeray, and in his defense, to the club’s committee. Despite Dickens’ intervention, Yates eventually lost the vote of the club’s members, but the quarrel was stretched out through journal articles and pamphlets. Thackeray told Charles Kingsley, "What pains me most is that Dickens should have been his advisor; and next that I should have had to lay a heavy hand on a young

man who, I take it, has been cruelly punished by the issue of the affair, and I believe is hardly aware of the nature of his own offence, and doesn’t even now understand that a gentleman should resent the monstrous insult which he volunteered."[br /]
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This quarrel was resolved only in Thackeray’s last months when one evening the two met on the stairs of the Athenaeum, a London club. Thackeray impulsively held out his hand to Dickens. The latter returned the greeting, and the old quarrel was patched up.[br /]
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[b]Later Years[/b][br /]
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It was as if Thackeray had an intuition that he must make haste to hail and farewell to his old friend. It was only a few nights later – December 23, 1863 – that he went to sleep for the last time. He was found dead on the morning of Christmas Eve. The master had called the roll; and Thackeray, like the beloved Colonel Newcome in one of his novels, responded gently, "Adsum – I am here."[br /]
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Towards the end of his life, Thackeray was proud that through his writings, he had regained the patrimony lost to bank failures and gambling. He passed on to his daughters an inheritance sufficient for their support and also a grand house in Kensington.[br /]
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He was buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery on December 30. An estimated 2000 mourners came to pay tribute, among them was Charles Dickens. After his death, a commemorative bust was placed in Westminster Abbey. [br /]
[br /]
[br /]

William Makepeace Thackeray was an English novelist, whose reputation rests chiefly on Vanity Fair, a novel of the Napoleonic era in England, and The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., set in the early 18th century.[br /]
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A striking figure – six feet three inches in height, with a massive head – he had become familiar due to his appearances on stage and popular through the caricatures of himself that he had introduced into many of his drawings in Punch and elsewhere. He was held in affectionate reverence by thousands who had never seen him. Though he first became famous as a satirist, he was a man without malice and of extraordinarily tender sensibilities. He had to struggle hard to gain a footing in the literary world and suffered more than his share of domestic sorrow; but he was genuinely helpful to others, even as he could little afford it. Thackeray found his greatest delight in brightening up the lives of children. In his writings, he wields an English style , which not many can surpass for its clarity, ease, and grace. It was a style capable of lofty eloquence, extreme tenderness, and fiery scorn, but always appropriate and enduringly sincere.[br /]
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[h2]Chronology of Life[/h2][br /]
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[b]1811[/b]

Born on July 18 in Calcutta, India.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1815[/b] Thackeray’s father died.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1817[/b] Was sent to school in England[br /]
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[b]1822-28[/b] Attended Charterhouse School at Smithfield.[br /]
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[b]1829-30[/b] Entered Trinity College, Cambridge; left without a degree, traveled the continent; met Goethe.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1831-33[/b] Thackeray studied law at Middle Temple, London but gave it up when he inherited £ 20,000.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1834-35[/b] Studied art in Paris and became a caricaturist.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1836[/b] Married Isabella Shawe. Speculated and gambled away his inheritance.[br /]
[br /]

[b]June 9, 1837[/b] Anne Isabella, first daughter was born.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1837[/b] Worked as a hack writer in London; published in The Times, Fraser’s Magazine, and Punch.[br /]
[br /]

[b]July 1838[/b] Second daughter Jane was born.[br /]
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[b]March 1839[/b] Jane died of respiratory illness.[br /]
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[b]1840[/b] Harriet Marian, their third daughter was born. Thackeray’s wife went insane[br /]
[br /]

[b]1842[/b] Visited Ireland and stayed with the novelist Lever.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1844[/b] Traveled to the Far East.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1846[/b] Became emotionally attached to his friend’s wife, Mrs Jane Henry Brookfield.[br /]
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[b]1851[/b] Ended his relationship with Mrs Brookfield at her husband’s insistence.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1852-53[/b] Lecture tour of the United States on The English Humorists of the 18th Century.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1855-57[/b]

Second the US lecture tour.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1861-62[/b]

Founder and editor of the Cornhill Magazine.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1863[/b]

Died on December 24, (Christmas Eve) of a cerebral hemorrhage in his new home at Palace Gardens and was buried at Kensal Green.[br /]
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[h2]Chronology of Works[/h2][br /]
[br /]

[b]1831 – 1833[/b] Thackeray bought The National Standard newspaper, and went to Paris as its correspondent. The venture failed.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1836[/b] His first article appeared in The Constitutional.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1837[/b] Worked as a hack writer in London. Published in The Times, Fraser’s Magazine, The New Monthly Magazine and Punch.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1840[/b] His first book was published in England. The Paris Sketch Book & A Shabby Genteel Story appeared in Fraser’s.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1841[/b] The Great Hoggarty Diamond appeared in Fraser’s, a two volume collection of Comic Tales and Sketches.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1843[/b] Published The Irish Sketchbook, the first work to appear under his name.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1844[/b] The Luck of Barry Lyndon was published in Fraser’s.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1846[/b] Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to Cairo published.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1847 – 1848[/b] Vanity Fair was serialized.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1848[/b] Published The Book of Snobs, a collection of portraits that appeared in Punch.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1848 – 1850[/b] Published The History of Pendennis.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1852[/b] Published The History of Henry Esmond.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1853 – 1855[/b] Published The Newcomes, a sequel to The History of Pendennis.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1855 – 1857[/b] Published The Rose and the Ring, his Christmas book, and Miscellanies, a four-volume collection of early writings.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1857 – 1862[/b] Publication of : [br /]

- The Virginians (a sequel to Henry Esmond).[br /]

- The Adventures of Philip on His Way Through the World.[br /]

- Lovel the Widower.[br /]
[br /]

[b]1861 – 1862[/b] Became Founder and editor of the Cornhill Magazine.[br /]
[br /]
[br /]

In his own time Thackeray was regarded as the only possible rival to Charles Dickens. The pictures of life that he painted were real and were accepted as such by the middle class. He was a great professional who provided novels, stories, essays and verses to his audience. He also toured the nation as a lecturer. Throughout his works, Thackeray analyzed and satirized snobbery and frequently gave his opinions on human behavior and the shortcomings of society.He examined such subjects as hypocrisy, secret emotions, sorrow, memories and the vanity of much of life. He was of the opinion that such moralizing was an important function of a novelist. Thackeray preferred his own work to be true to life which could plunge the reader into entertaining narrative, description, dialogue and comment.[br /]
[br /]


Thackeray was never a ‘crusader’ and never attempted to solve any problems. He kept closely to the world he knew, and did not, like Dickens, create a wide world of fantasy. Like Fielding, he saw that in life it is hard to draw a clear line between vice and virtue.[br /]
[br /]


He possessed a terrible power to detect and expose men’s self-deceptions, shams, pretenses and unworthy aspirations. In the tendency to divide his age into good and bad he reflects an age which was uncompromising on moral issues. He struggles against convention insinuating unavoidable circumstances into ‘wicked’ nature and showing how often ‘good’ people are weak and foolish.[br /]
[br /]


In his hands, the novel advanced in several ways. In all the novels the reader is made aware of the flight of time, of renewal and decay, of the generations trodden down by their successors. Thackeray was the first to introduce this effect of time’s remorseless flow, associated with such later novelists as Bennett and Galsworthy , into English fiction.[br /]
[br /]

[b]EARLY WRITINGS[/b][br /]
[br /]


To a great number of people, Thackeray is the author of two or perhaps three novels. The versatility of his talents as a novelist, essayist, humorist, rhymester and draughtsman makes him less easy to judge than most homogenous writers. He combined the views of a satirist and sentimentalist, and in both capacities, worked with a refinement that did not make him hugely popular.[br /]
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The 19th century was the age of the magazine, which had been developed to meet the growing demand for family reading among the emerging middle class. In the late 1830s, Thackeray became a notable contributor of articles on varied topics to Fraser’s Magazine, The New Monthly Magazine, and later, to Punch. His work was unsigned or written under such absurd pen names as Michael Angelo, Titmarsh, George Savage FitzBoodle, The Fat Contributor and Ikey Solomons. He collected the best of these early writings in Miscellanies (1855-57). They include:[br /]
[br /]


[b]•[/b] The Yellowplush Correspondence which contains the diary and memoirs of a young Cockney footman, written in his own vocabulary and style. The story is about how the footman makes a fortune by gambling in railway shares.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] Major Gahagan (1838-39), a fantasy of soldiering in India.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] Catherine (1839-40) is a burlesque of the popular ‘Newgate novels’ of romanticized crime and[br /]
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[b]•[/b] Low Life is a realistic crime story. Catherine is the name of a woman who murdered her husband and was burned at Tyburn, it was based upon an actual case of 1726. Thackeray’s intention was to expose the pretensions of the criminal-as-hero; but as in other works, his footing is unsteady.[br /]
[br /]

[b]•[/b] The History of Samuel Titmarsh and The Great Hoggarty Diamond (1841) is an earlier version of the young married life described in Philip. It is the story of a morally innocent but foolishly gullible employee in a swindling company. He is involved in the crash of its affairs and subsequently sent to prison. This book was written under the pseudonym Michael Angelo Titmarsh.[br /]
[br /]

[b]•[/b] The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844) was revised as the Memoirs of Barry Lyndon in 1856. It is a historical novel and his first full-length work. It recounts with ironic detachment of a rascal’s actual exploits. It has an excellent speedy, satirical narrative and the final sadistic scenes are a trial run for Vanity Fair.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] The Book of Snobs (1848) is a collection of articles that had appeared successfully in Punch (as The Snobs of England, by One of Themselves, 1846-47). It consists of sketches of London characters and displays Thackeray’s skill in quick character sketching. Thackeray had formerly known the word ‘snob’ as Cambridge slang but he now used it with serious intent. Snobbery is ‘toad-eating’, ‘climbing’ and ‘vulgar humbug’. In his definition, the snob is one who, seeking to initiate his social superiors, "meanly admires mean things".[br /]
[br /]

[b]•[/b] The Rose and the Ring (1855), Thackeray’s Christmas book, remains excellent entertainment, as do some of his verses. Like many good prose writers, he had a felicity in writing light verse and ballads. It is unforgettable for its illustrations, its ruined page-headings, its speeches, sense and nonsense, parody and romance.[br /]
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[b]Other Lesser Known Early Works :[/b][br /]
[br /]

[b]•[/b] The Paris Sketch Book (1840) which is a miscellany of small travel episodes. It is also a comment on French politics and history, art and literature, and theatres of contemporary Paris. Two stories in the grotesque vein are The Painter’s Bargain and The Devil’s Wager.[br /]
[br /]

[b]•[/b] The Irish Sketch Book (1843) has an abundance of anecdotes and local color but says little about Ireland and its problems. It seems as if a disillusioned tourist wrote the book since Thackeray remembered the discomforts of the journeys more vividly than the sights he visited.[br /]
[br /]

[b]•[/b] A Shabby-Genteel Story (1840) was a mixture of serious realism and ironical comedy. Sometimes it falls to mere burlesque since it was at a time Thackeray was distracted and distressed by his wife’s breakdown.[br /]
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[b]Vanity Fair[/b] (1847–48) [br /]
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It was the first work published under Thackeray’s own name. With it, he adopted the system of publishing a novel serially in monthly parts – a method successfully used by Dickens. The time prior to Vanity Fair, Thackeray had failed to establish equality with Dickens. When it appeared in 20 serial numbers, it did not take long in making its way up to the highest ranks of contemporary fiction. Thackeray set the events of the novel back by a generation and thus did not criticize his own period too explicitly.[br /]
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The novel is set in the second decade of the 19th century (the period of the Regency) and deals mainly with the fortunes of two contrasting women – Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp. The latter, an unprincipled adventurous lady, is the central figure and is perhaps the most memorable character that Thackeray created. The novel is deliberately anti-heroic and is subtitled : “A Novel Without a Hero”. Thackeray states that in this novel his object is to “indicate… that we are for the most part… foolish and selfish people all eager after vanities.”[br /]
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He employs no romantic machinery, no intrigue to be unraveled, and no secrets to be disclosed. He is concerned with the common places in the life of people who, as he says, have “no reverence except for cheer and no eye for anything beyond success”, “a set of people living without God in the world.”[br /]
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The wealthy, well-born, passive Amelia Sedley and the ambitious, energetic, scheming, provocative, and essentially amoral Becky Sharp, daughter of a poor drawing-master, are contrasted in their fortunes and reactions to life. But the contrast of their characters is not the simple one between good and evil – both are presented dispassionately.[br /]
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Becky is the character around whom all the men play their parts in an upper middle-class and aristocratic background. Amelia marries George Osborne, but George is ready to desert his young wife for Becky. He is killed in the Battle of Waterloo. Becky is married to Rawdon Crawley, a young officer from a good family. Crawley, disillusioned, finally, leaves Becky and in the end, virtue apparently triumphs. Amelia marries her lifelong admirer, Colonel Dobbin, and Becky settles down to genteel living and charitable works.[br /]
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It was the first time conventional categories of human types were disregarded in favor of an individualization so complete that the characters seemed real.[br /]
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The movement and color of this panorama of early 19th century society make Vanity Fair Thackeray’s greatest achievement. The narrative skill, subtle characterization, and descriptive power make it one of the outstanding novels of its period. But Vanity Fair is more than that – throughout the novel, we are made aware of the ambivalence of human motives. Thackeray concluded it with, “Ah Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world ? Which of us has his desire, or having it, is satisfied?”[br /]
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It is the tragic irony of Vanity Fair that makes it a lasting and insightful evaluation of human ambition and experience.[br /]
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Successful and famous, Thackeray went on to exploit his gifts for evoking the London scene and for writing historical novels. He thus demonstrated the excellent connections between past and present[br /]
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[b]The History of Pendennis (1848-50)[/b][br /]
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It is a partly fictionalized autobiography. In it, Thackeray traces the youthful career of Arthur Pendennis – his first love affair, his experiences at Oxbridge University, his working as a London journalist and so on. It is a book that is little read today. In its scenes of town, country and university, Thackeray shows us the uncertainty of life. He drew upon his own experiences of school and university and the world of journalism. The success of the book lies in its wealth of minor characters such as the Captain, the Major, Morgan, Blanche and Laura.[br /]
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[b]The History of Henry Esmond (1852)[/b][br /]
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Thackeray turned to the historical novel and chose the reign of Queen Anne for the setting of The History of Henry Esmond. He constructed this book with great care, giving it a much more formal plot structure. The story, narrated by Esmond, begins when he is 12, in 1691, and ends in 1718. Beatrix and Esmond, the main characters, give its various incidents a unity. They stand out against a background of London society and the political life of the time.[br /]
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Beatrix dominates the book. She appears first as a charming child and develops a beauty combined with a power that is fatal to men she loves. She is one of Thackeray’s great creations – a heroine of a new type, emotionally complex and compelling, but not a pattern of virtue. Esmond, a sensitive, brave, aristocratic soldier, falls in love with her, but in the final chapters of the novel is disillusioned. Henry Esmond is an orphan befriended by Beatrix’s parents, Lord and Lady Castlewood. Henry initially adores Lady Castlewood as a mother but eventually, in his maturity, marries her.[br /]
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The political, social and cultural scenario of the reign of Queen Anne is painted with a masterly confidence. This novel, however, was not well received – Esmond’s marriage to Lady Castlewood was criticized. George Eliot called it “the most uncomfortable book you can imagine.” But it has come to be accepted as a notable English historical novel. The supreme creation of the novel is Beatrix in her fascinating and imperious beauty, her calculative worldliness, and her tragic life.[br /]
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Critics have debated whether Thackeray was justified when he portrayed her in her old age in The Virginians as the Baroness de Bernstein - the person he thought Beatrix was fated to become.[br /]
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[b]The Newcomes (1853-55)[/b][br /]
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Thackeray returned to the contemporary scene in this novel. This work is a detailed study of the upper middle-class. Colonel Thomas Newcome returns to London from India to be with his son Clive. The unheroic but attractive Clive falls in love with his cousin Ethel but their love for each other is fated to be thwarted for years because of social considerations. Clive marries Rose Mackenzie. The selfish, greedy, cold-hearted Barnes Newcome, Ethel’s father, conspires against Clive and the Colonel. The Colonel invests his fortune imprudently and ends up in an almshouse. Rose dies during childbirth and the novel ends. This deathbed scene, described with deep feeling is one of the most famous in Victorian fiction. In a short epilogue, Thackeray tells us that Clive and Ethel eventually marry – but this, he says, is a fable.[br /]
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Readers are swayed by memories of the closing pages and by the character of Ethel Newcome. She is Thackeray’s warmest tribute to the noble qualities of womanhood. For all the beauty of his nature, Colonel Newcome is foolish; and the portraits of Barnes Newcome, the meanly successful worldly man, and of Clive’s mother-in-law are terrible in their uncompromising clarity.[br /]
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[b]LATER NOVELS[/b][br /]
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In 1859, Thackeray accepted the editorship of the newly founded Cornhill Magazine. The duties irked him and he soon resigned.[br /]
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[b]The Virginians (1857-59)[/b][br /]
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This novel is set partly in America and partly in England in the later half of the 18th century. It is concerned with the adventures of two brothers, George and Henry Warrington, who are the grandsons of Henry Esmond, the hero of his earlier novel.[br /]
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Thackeray wrote two other serial novels, Lovel the Widower (1860) and The Adventures of Philip (1861-62). He died before he completed his last novel Denis Duval.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] The world is a looking glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it is a jolly king companion.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] Novelty has charms that our mind can hardly withstand.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] The most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, familiar things new.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] Let the man who has to make his fortune in life remember this maxim: Attacking is the only secret. Dare and the world always yields; or if it beats you sometimes, dare it again and it will succumb.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it – who can say this is not greatness?[br /]
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[b]•[/b] Good humor is one of the best articles of dress one can wear in society.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] A good laugh is sunshine in the house.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] To love and win is the best thing. To love and lose, the next best.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] I would rather make my name than inherit it.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] If a man’s character is to be abused there’s nobody like a relative to do the business.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] Despair is perfectly compatible with a good dinner, I promise you.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] I never know whether to pity or congratulate a man on coming to his senses.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] Those who forget their friends to follow those of a higher status are truly snobs.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] It is best to love wisely, no doubt: but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all.[br /]
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[b]•[/b] ’Tis strange what a man may do, and a woman yet thinks him an angel.[br /]
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