William Makepeace Thackeray
1855 daguerreotype of William Makepeace Thackeray by Jesse Harrison Whitehurst (1819–1875)
|Born||18 July 1811|
Calcutta, British India
|Died||24 December 1863 52) (aged|
|Period||1829–1863 (published posthumously)|
|Notable works||Vanity Fair , The Luck of Barry Lyndon|
|Spouse||Isabella Gethin Shawe|
|Children||3, including Anne Isabella (1837–1919)|
William Makepeace Thackeray ( // ; 18 July 1811 – 24 December 1863) was an English novelist, author and illustrator, who was born in India. He is known for his satirical works, particularly his 1848 novel Vanity Fair , a panoramic portrait of British society, and the 1844 novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon , which was adapted for a 1975 film by Stanley Kubrick.
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Thackeray, an only child, was born in Calcutta,British India, where his father, Richmond Thackeray (1 September 1781 – 13 September 1815), was secretary to the Board of Revenue in the East India Company. His mother, Anne Becher (1792–1864), was the second daughter of Harriet Becher and John Harman Becher, who was also a secretary (writer) for the East India Company. His father was a grandson of Thomas Thackeray (1693–1760), headmaster of Harrow School.
Richmond died in 1815, which caused Anne to send her son to England that same year, while she remained in India. The ship on which he travelled made a short stopover at Saint Helena, where the imprisoned Napoleon was pointed out to him. Once in England he was educated at schools in Southampton and Chiswick, and then at Charterhouse School, where he became a close friend of John Leech. Thackeray disliked Charterhouse, [ citation needed ] Never too keen on academic studies, Thackeray left Cambridge in 1830, but some of his earliest published writing appeared in two university periodicals, The Snob and The Gownsman.and parodied it in his fiction as "Slaughterhouse". Nevertheless, Thackeray was honoured in the Charterhouse Chapel with a monument after his death. Illness in his last year there, during which he reportedly grew to his full height of six-foot three, postponed his matriculation at Trinity College, Cambridge, until February 1829.
Thackeray then travelled for some time on the continent, visiting Paris and Weimar, where he met Goethe. He returned to England and began to study law at the Middle Temple, but soon gave that up. On reaching the age of 21 he came into his inheritance from his father, but he squandered much of it on gambling and on funding two unsuccessful newspapers, The National Standard and The Constitutional, for which he had hoped to write. He also lost a good part of his fortune in the collapse of two Indian banks. Forced to consider a profession to support himself, he turned first to art, which he studied in Paris, but did not pursue it, except in later years as the illustrator of some of his own novels and other writings.[ citation needed ]
Thackeray's years of semi-idleness ended after he married, on 20 August 1836, Isabella Gethin Shawe (1816–1894), second daughter of Isabella Creagh Shawe and Matthew Shawe, a colonel who had died after distinguished service, primarily in India. The Thackerays had three children, all girls: Anne Isabella (1837–1919), Jane (who died at eight months old) and Harriet Marian (1840–1875), who married Sir Leslie Stephen, editor, biographer and philosopher.
Thackeray now began "writing for his life", as he put it, turning to journalism in an effort to support his young family. He primarily worked for Fraser's Magazine , a sharp-witted and sharp-tongued conservative publication for which he produced art criticism, short fictional sketches, and two longer fictional works, Catherine and The Luck of Barry Lyndon . Between 1837 and 1840 he also reviewed books for The Times .He was also a regular contributor to The Morning Chronicle and The Foreign Quarterly Review. Later, through his connection to the illustrator John Leech, he began writing for the newly created magazine Punch , in which he published The Snob Papers, later collected as The Book of Snobs . This work popularised the modern meaning of the word "snob". Thackeray was a regular contributor to Punch between 1843 and 1854.
Tragedy struck in Thackeray's personal life as his wife, Isabella, succumbed to depression after the birth of their third child, in 1840. Finding that he could get no work done at home, he spent more and more time away until September 1840, when he realised how grave his wife's condition was. Struck by guilt, he set out with his wife to Ireland. During the crossing she threw herself from a water-closet into the sea, but she was pulled from the waters. They fled back home after a four-week battle with her mother. From November 1840 to February 1842 Isabella was in and out of professional care, as her condition waxed and waned.
She eventually deteriorated into a permanent state of detachment from reality. Thackeray desperately sought cures for her, but nothing worked, and she ended up in two different asylums in or near Paris until 1845, after which Thackeray took her back to England, where he installed her with a Mrs Bakewell at Camberwell. Isabella outlived her husband by 30 years, in the end being cared for by a family named Thompson in Leigh-on-Sea at Southend until her death in 1894. [ citation needed ]After his wife's illness Thackeray became a de facto widower, never establishing another permanent relationship. He did pursue other women, however, in particular Mrs Jane Brookfield and Sally Baxter. In 1851 Mr Brookfield barred Thackeray from further visits to or correspondence with Jane. Baxter, an American twenty years Thackeray's junior whom he met during a lecture tour in New York City in 1852, married another man in 1855.
In the early 1840s Thackeray had some success with two travel books, The Paris Sketch Book and The Irish Sketch Book, the latter marked by its hostility towards Irish Catholics. However, as the book appealed to anti-Irish sentiment in Britain at the time, Thackeray was given the job of being Punch's Irish expert, often under the pseudonym Hibernis Hibernior ("more Irish than the Irish"). Thackeray became responsible for creating Punch's notoriously hostile and negative depictions of the Irish during the Great Irish Famine of 1845 to 1851.
Thackeray achieved more recognition with his Snob Papers (serialised 1846/7, published in book form in 1848), but the work that really established his fame was the novel Vanity Fair, which first appeared in serialised instalments beginning in January 1847. Even before Vanity Fair completed its serial run Thackeray had become a celebrity, sought after by the very lords and ladies whom he satirised. They hailed him as the equal of Charles Dickens.
He remained "at the top of the tree", as he put it, for the rest of his life, during which he produced several large novels, notably Pendennis , The Newcomes and The History of Henry Esmond , despite various illnesses, including a near-fatal one that struck him in 1849 in the middle of writing Pendennis. He twice visited the United States on lecture tours during this period. Thackeray also gave lectures in London on the English humorists of the eighteenth century, and on the first four Hanoverian monarchs. The latter series was published in book form as The Four Georges.
In July 1857 Thackeray stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal for the city of Oxford in Parliament.Although not the most fiery agitator, Thackeray was always a decided liberal in his politics, and he promised to vote for the ballot in extension of the suffrage, and was ready to accept triennial parliaments. He was narrowly beaten by Cardwell, who received 1,070 votes, as against 1,005 for Thackeray.
In 1860 Thackeray became editor of the newly established Cornhill Magazine , [ citation needed ]but he was never comfortable in the role, preferring to contribute to the magazine as the writer of a column called "Roundabout Papers".
Thackeray's health worsened during the 1850s and he was plagued by a recurring stricture of the urethra that laid him up for days at a time. He also felt that he had lost much of his creative impetus. He worsened matters by excessive eating and drinking, and avoiding exercise, though he enjoyed riding (he kept a horse). He has been described as "the greatest literary glutton who ever lived". His main activity apart from writing was "gutting and gorging".He could not break his addiction to spicy peppers, further ruining his digestion.
On 23 December 1863, after returning from dining out and before dressing for bed, he suffered a stroke. He was found dead in his bed the following morning. His death at the age of fifty-two was entirely unexpected, and shocked his family, his friends and the reading public. An estimated 7,000 people attended his funeral at Kensington Gardens. He was buried on 29 December at Kensal Green Cemetery, and a memorial bust sculpted by Marochetti can be found in Westminster Abbey.
Thackeray began as a satirist and parodist, writing works that displayed a sneaking fondness for roguish upstarts such as Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair , and the title characters of The Luck of Barry Lyndon and Catherine . In his earliest works, written under such pseudonyms as Charles James Yellowplush, Michael Angelo Titmarsh and George Savage Fitz-Boodle, he tended towards savagery in his attacks on high society, military prowess, the institution of marriage and hypocrisy.
One of his earliest works, "Timbuctoo" (1829), contains a burlesque upon the subject set for the Cambridge Chancellor's Medal for English Verse (the contest was won by Tennyson with "Timbuctoo"). Thackeray's writing career really began with a series of satirical sketches now usually known as The Yellowplush Papers, which appeared in Fraser's Magazine beginning in 1837. These were adapted for BBC Radio 4 in 2009, with Adam Buxton playing Charles Yellowplush.
Between May 1839 and February 1840 Fraser's published the work sometimes considered Thackeray's first novel, Catherine . Originally intended as a satire of the Newgate school of crime fiction, it ended up being more of a picaresque tale. He also began work, never finished, on the novel later published as A Shabby Genteel Story .
Thackeray is probably best known now for Vanity Fair. Literary theorist Kornelije Kvas wrote that "the meteoric rise of the heroine of Vanity Fair Rebecca Sharp is a satirical presentation of the striving for profit, power and social recognition of the new middle class. Old and new members of the middle class strive to emulate the lifestyle of the higher class (noblemen and landowners), and thereby to increase their material possessions and to own luxury objects. In Vanity Fair, one can observe a greater degree of violation of moral values among members of the new middle class, for the decline of morality is proportionate to the degree of closeness of the individual to the market and its laws."In contrast, his large novels from the period after Vanity Fair, which were once described by Henry James as examples of "loose baggy monsters", have largely faded from view, perhaps because they reflect a mellowing in Thackeray, who had become so successful with his satires on society that he seemed to lose his zest for attacking it. These later works include Pendennis , a Bildungsroman depicting the coming of age of Arthur Pendennis, an alter ego of Thackeray, who also features as the narrator of two later novels, The Newcomes and The Adventures of Philip . The Newcomes is noteworthy for its critical portrayal of the "marriage market," while Philip is known for its semi-autobiographical depiction of Thackeray's early life, in which he partially regains some of his early satirical power.
Also notable among the later novels is The History of Henry Esmond , in which Thackeray tried to write a novel in the style of the eighteenth century, a period that held great appeal for him. About this novel, there have been found evident analogies—in the fundamental structure of the plot; in the psychological outlines of the main characters; in frequent episodes; and in the use of metaphors—to Ippolito Nievo's "Confessions of an Italian". Nievo wrote his novel during his stay in Milan where, in the "Ambrosiana" library, "The History of Henry Esmond" was available, just published.
Not only Esmond but also Barry Lyndon and Catherine are set in that period, as is the sequel to Esmond, The Virginians , which is set partially in North America and includes George Washington as a character who nearly kills one of the protagonists in a duel.
Thackeray's father, Richmond Thackeray, was born at South Mimms and went to India in 1798 at age sixteen as a writer (civil servant) with the East India Company. Richmond's father's name was also William Makepeace Thackeray.Richmond fathered a daughter, Sarah Redfield, in 1804 with Charlotte Sophia Rudd, his possibly Eurasian mistress, and both mother and daughter were named in his will. Such liaisons were common among gentlemen of the East India Company, and it formed no bar to his later courting and marrying William's mother.
Thackeray's mother, Anne Becher (born 1792), was "one of the reigning beauties of the day" and a daughter of John Harmon Becher, Collector of the South 24 Parganas district (d. Calcutta, 1800), of an old Bengal civilian family "noted for the tenderness of its women". Anne Becher, her sister Harriet and their widowed mother, also Harriet, had been sent back to India by her authoritarian guardian grandmother, Ann Becher, in 1809 on the Earl Howe. Anne's grandmother had told her that the man she loved, Henry Carmichael-Smyth, an ensign in the Bengal Engineers whom she met at an Assembly Ball in 1807 in Bath, had died, while he was told that Anne was no longer interested in him. Neither of these assertions was true. Though Carmichael-Smyth was from a distinguished Scottish military family, Anne's grandmother went to extreme lengths to prevent their marriage. Surviving family letters state that she wanted a better match for her granddaughter.
Anne Becher and Richmond Thackeray were married in Calcutta on 13 October 1810. Their only child, William, was born on 18 July 1811.There is a fine miniature portrait of Anne Becher Thackeray and William Makepeace Thackeray, aged about two, done in Madras by George Chinnery c. 1813.
Anne's family's deception was unexpectedly revealed in 1812, when Richmond Thackeray unwittingly invited the supposedly dead Carmichael-Smyth to dinner. Five years later, after Richmond had died of a fever on 13 September 1815, Anne married Henry Carmichael-Smyth, on 13 March 1817. The couple moved to England in 1820, after having sent William off to school there more than three years earlier. The separation from his mother had a traumatic effect on the young Thackeray, which he discussed in his essay "On Letts's Diary" in The Roundabout Papers.
Thackeray is an ancestor of the British financier Ryan Williams, and is the great-great-great-grandfather of the British comedian Al Murrayand author Joanna Nadin.
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During the Victorian era Thackeray was ranked second only to Charles Dickens, but he is now much less widely read and is known almost exclusively for Vanity Fair, which has become a fixture in university courses, and has been repeatedly adapted for the cinema and television.
In Thackeray's own day some commentators, such as Anthony Trollope, ranked his History of Henry Esmond as his greatest work, perhaps because it expressed Victorian values of duty and earnestness, as did some of his other later novels. It is perhaps for this reason that they have not survived as well as Vanity Fair, which satirises those values.
Thackeray saw himself as writing in the realistic tradition, and distinguished his work from the exaggerations and sentimentality of Dickens. Some later commentators have accepted this self-evaluation and seen him as a realist, but others note his inclination to use eighteenth-century narrative techniques, such as digressions and direct addresses to the reader, and argue that through them he frequently disrupts the illusion of reality. The school of Henry James, with its emphasis on maintaining that illusion, marked a break with Thackeray's techniques.
Charlotte Brontë dedicated the second edition of Jane Eyre to Thackeray.
In 1887 the Royal Society of Arts unveiled a blue plaque to commemorate Thackeray at the house at 2 Palace Green, London, that had been built for him in the 1860s.It is now the location of the Israeli Embassy.
Thackeray's former home in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, is now a restaurant named after the author.
Thackeray was also a member of the Albion Lodge of the Ancient Order of Druids at Oxford.
The Christmas Books of Mr M. A. Titmarsh
Thackeray wrote and illustrated five Christmas books as "by Mr M. A. Titmarsh". They were collected under the pseudonymous title and his real name no later than 1868 by Smith, Elder & Co.
The Rose and the Ring was dated 1855 in its first edition, published for Christmas 1854.
Vanity Fair is an English novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, which follows the lives of Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley amid their friends and families during and after the Napoleonic Wars. It was first published as a 19-volume monthly serial from 1847 to 1848, carrying the subtitle Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society, reflecting both its satirisation of early 19th-century British society and the many illustrations drawn by Thackeray to accompany the text. It was published as a single volume in 1848 with the subtitle A Novel without a Hero, reflecting Thackeray's interest in deconstructing his era's conventions regarding literary heroism. It is sometimes considered the "principal founder" of the Victorian domestic novel.
The Newcomes: Memoirs of a Most Respectable Family is a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, first published in 1854 and 1855.
This article contains information about the literary events and publications of 1863.
This article contains information about the literary events and publications of 1848.
This article contains information about the literary events and publications of 1847.
The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His Friends and His Greatest Enemy (1848–50) is a novel by the English author William Makepeace Thackeray. It is set in 19th-century England, particularly in London. The main hero is a young English gentleman Arthur Pendennis, who is born in the country and sets out for London to seek his place in life and society. The novel took two years for Thackeray to write and, in line with other Thackeray's works, most notably Vanity Fair, it offers an insightful and satiric picture of human character and aristocratic society. The characters include the snobbish social hanger-on Major Pendennis and the tipsy Captain Costigan. Miss Amory and Sir Francis Clavering are somewhat reminiscent of Becky Sharp and Sir Pitt from Vanity Fair.
The History of Henry Esmond is a historical novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, originally published in 1852. The book tells the story of the early life of Henry Esmond, a colonel in the service of Queen Anne of England. A typical example of Victorian historical novels, Thackeray's work of historical fiction tells its tale against the backdrop of late 17th- and early 18th-century England – specifically, major events surrounding the English Restoration — and utilises characters both real and imagined. It weaves its central character into a number of events such as the Glorious Revolution, the War of the Spanish Succession, the Hamilton–Mohun Duel and the Hanoverian Succession.
Vanity Fair has been the title of at least five magazines, including an 1859–1863 American publication, an 1868–1914 British publication, an unrelated 1902–1904 New York magazine, and a 1913–1936 American publication edited by Condé Nast, which was revived in 1983.
Catherine: A Story was the first full-length work of fiction produced by William Makepeace Thackeray. It first appeared in serialized installments in Fraser's Magazine between May 1839 and February 1840, credited to "Ikey Solomons, Esq. Junior". Thackeray's original intention in writing it was to criticize the Newgate school of crime fiction, exemplified by Bulwer-Lytton and Harrison Ainsworth, whose works Thackeray felt glorified criminals. Thackeray even included Dickens in this criticism for his portrayal of the good-hearted streetwalker Nancy and the charming pickpocket, the Artful Dodger, in Oliver Twist.
Anne Isabella, Lady Ritchie, the eldest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, was an English writer, whose several novels were highly regarded in their time and made her a central figure on the late Victorian literary scene. She is especially remembered as the custodian of her father's literary legacy, and for short fiction that places traditional fairy tale narratives in a Victorian milieu. Her 1885 novel Mrs. Dymond contains the earliest use in English of the proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for life."
The Book League of America, Inc. was a US book publisher and mail order book sales club. It was established in 1930, a few years after the Book of the Month Club. Its founder was Lawrence Lamm, previously an editor at Macmillan. The company was located at 100 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York in a 240,000-square-foot (22,000 m2) office building that was constructed in 1906. It printed and distributed a variety of volumes in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. A victim of the Great Depression, the Book League of America was purchased by Doubleday in 1936.
Fashionable novels, also called silver-fork novels, were a 19th-century genre of English literature that depicted the lives of the upper class and the aristocracy.
James Freney (1719–1788) was an Irish highwayman.
Colonel Thomas Be(e)cher JP was an Irish politician and soldier. The family's surname varies in its spelling, caused by its pronunciation.
The Virginians: A Tale of the Last Century (1857–59) is a historical novel by William Makepeace Thackeray which forms a sequel to his Henry Esmond and is also loosely linked to Pendennis.
The Adventures of Philip on his Way Through the World: Shewing Who Robbed Him, Who Helped Him, and Who Passed Him By (1861–62) is a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. It was the last novel Thackeray completed, and harks back to several of his previous ones, involving as it does characters from A Shabby Genteel Story and being, like The Newcomes, narrated by the title character of his Pendennis. In recent years it has not found as much favour from either readers or critics as Thackeray's early novels.
The Book of Snobs is a collection of satirical works by William Makepeace Thackeray published in book form in 1848, the same year as his more famous Vanity Fair. The pieces first appeared in fifty-three weekly pieces from February 28, 1846 to February 27, 1847, as "The Snobs of England, by one of themselves", in the satirical magazine Punch. The pieces, which were immensely popular and thrust Thackeray into widespread public view, were "rigorously revised" before their collection in book form and omitted the numbers which dealt with then current political issues.
Jane Octavia Brookfield was a literary hostess and writer, best known for her platonic friendship with William Makepeace Thackeray. She also wrote four novels; some critics have drawn parallels between the events in these novels and her relationship with Thackeray.
Vanity Fair is a 2018 historical drama miniseries based on the 1848 novel of the same name by William Makepeace Thackeray. It was produced by Mammoth Screen and distributed by ITV and Amazon Studios.
Thomas Thackeray DD was a Church of England clergyman who taught at his old school, Eton College, and ended his career as Head Master of Harrow School.
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