William Makepeace Thackeray: Rise in Literature through ‘Vanity Fair’

Introduction to William Thackeray’s life and works

William Thackeray
William Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray, (born July 18, 1811, Calcutta, India—died Dec. 24, 1863, London, Eng.), English novelist whose reputation rests chiefly on Vanity Fair (1847–48), a novel of the Napoleonic period in England, and The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852), set in the early 18th century.

Early Life

Thackeray was the only son of Richmond Thackeray, who was an administrator in the East India Company. When he died, Thackeray was sent home to England after which his mother joined him in 1820. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1828–30.
In 1830 he left Cambridge without taking a degree, and during 1831–33 he studied law at the Middle Temple, London. He had inherited 20,000 pounds from his father but soon lost his fortune, through gambling and unlucky speculations and investments.Thackeray married young and had three daughters, of whom one died in infancy.
In the year 1840, Mrs. Thackeray became insane. Thackeray lived for his daughters and remained a widower in effect for the rest of his life. The publication of his novel Vanity Fair brought him both fame and prosperity. From this novel onwards, he was an established author.

William Makepeace Thackeray Vanity fair

Vanity Fair (1847–48), was published as a novel serially in monthly parts, a formula that had been previously used by Dickens. The novel catapulted him to fame, establishing a new genre. The novel is deliberately antiheroic, he states that in this novel, his objective is to indicate and empahsize the vanities of the people of that society.

William Makepeace Thackeray the Virginians

The Virginians was Thackeray’s next novel, which is set partly in America and partly in England in the latter half of the 18th century. In that time, he was regarded as the only possible rival to Dickens. His portrayal of contemporary life were real and were accepted as such by the middle classes. Through his works, he analyzed and satirized snobbery and examined  subjects such as hypocrisy, secret emotions, and the vanity of much of life.

William Thackeray quotes

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.
The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.
To love and win is the best thing. To love and lose, the next best.
A good laugh is sunshine in the house.
Next to excellence is the appreciation of it.
Bravery never goes out of fashion.
Despair is perfectly compatible with a good dinner, I promise you.
When I walk with you I feel as if I had a flower in my buttonhole.
People who do not know how to laugh are always pompous and self-conceited.
It is to the middle class we must look for the safety of England.

William Thackeray’s works

Henry Esmond

The History of Henry Esmond (1852) – ISBN 0-14-143916-5
The Virginians (1857–1859) – ISBN 1-4142-3952-1
Arthur Pendennis

Pendennis (1848–1850) – ISBN 1-4043-8659-9
The Newcomes (1855) – ISBN 0-460-87495-0
A Shabby Genteel Story (Unfinished) (1840) – ISBN 1-4101-0509-1
The Adventures of Philip (1862) – ISBN 1-4101-0510-5
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.[26]

The Rose and the Ring was dated 1855 in its first edition, published for Christmas 1854.

Mrs. Perkins’s Ball (1846), as by M. A. Titmarsh
Our Street
Doctor Birch and His Young Friends
The Kickleburys on the Rhine (Christmas 1850) – “a new picture book, drawn and written by Mr M. A. Titmarsh”[27]
The Rose and the Ring (Christmas 1854) – ISBN 1-4043-2741-X

Novels
Catherine (1839–40) – ISBN 1-4065-0055-0 (originally credited to “Ikey Solomons, Esq. Junior”[28])
The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), filmed as Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick – ISBN 0-19-283628-5
Vanity Fair (1847–53) – ISBN 0-14-062085-0
Men’s Wives (1852) – ISBN 978-1-77545-023-8
Lovel the Widower
Denis Duval (unfinished) (1864) – ISBN 1-4191-1561-8

Novellas
‘Elizabeth Brownbridge
‘Sultan Stork
Little Spitz
The Yellowplush Papers (1837) – ISBN 0-8095-9676-8
The Professor
Miss Löwe
The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
The Fatal Boots
Cox’s Diary
The Bedford-Row Conspiracy
The History of Samuel Titmarsh and the Great Hoggarty Diamond
The Fitz-Boodle Papers
The Diary of C. Jeames de la Pluche, Esq. with his letters
A Legend of the Rhine
A Little Dinner at Timmins’s
Rebecca and Rowena (1850), a parody sequel of Ivanhoe – ISBN 1-84391-018-7
Bluebeard’s Ghost

Sketches and satires
The Irish Sketchbook (2 Volumes) (1843) – ISBN 0-86299-754-2
The Book of Snobs (1848), which popularised that term- ISBN 0-8095-9672-5
Flore et Zephyr
Roundabout Papers
Some Roundabout Papers
Charles Dickens in France

Character Sketches
Sketches and Travels in London
Mr. Brown’s Letters
The Proser
Miscellanies
Play
The Wolves and the Lamb

Travel writing
Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo (1846), under the name Mr M. A. Titmarsh.
The Paris Sketchbook (1840), featuring Roger Bontemps
The Little Travels and Roadside Sketches (1840)

Other non-fiction
The English Humorists of the 18th Century]] (1853)
Four Georges]] (1860-1861) – ISBN 978-1410203007
Roundabout Papers (1863)
The Orphan of Pimlico (1876)
Sketches and Travels in London
Stray Papers: Being Stories, Reviews, Verses, and Sketches (1821-1847)
Literary Essays
The English Humorists of the 18th century: a series of lectures (1867)
Ballads
Miscellanies
Stories
Burlesques
Character Sketches
Critical Reviews
Second Funeral of Napoleon

Found info useful?