Thackeray, William Makepeace (18111863)

Thackeray, William Makepeace, novelist, born in Calcutta, educated at the Charterhouse and at Trinity College, Cambridge; after leaving college, which he did without taking a degree, travelled on the Continent, making long stays at Rome and Paris, and “the dear little Saxon town (Weimar) where Goethe lived”; his ambition was to be an artist, but failing in that and pecuniary resources, he turned to literature; in straitened circumstances at first wrote for the journals of the day and contributed to Punch, in which the well-known “Snob Papers” and “Jeames's Diary” originally appeared; in 1840 he produced the “Paris Sketch-Book,” his first published work, but it was not till 1847 the first of his novels, “Vanity Fair,” was issued in parts, which was followed in 1848 by “Pendennis,” in 1852 by “Esmond,” in 1853 by “The Newcomes,” in 1857 by “The Virginians,” in 1862 by “Philip,” and in 1863 by “Denis Duval”; in 1852 he lectured in the United States on “The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century,” and in 1855 on “The Four Georges,” while in 1860 he was appointed first editor of Cornhill. When “Vanity Fair” was issuing, Mrs. Carlyle wrote her husband: “Very good indeed; beats Dickens out of the world”; but his greatest effort was “Esmond,” which accordingly is accounted “the most perfect, artistically, of his fictions.” Of Thackeray, in comparison with Dickens, M. Taine says, he was “more self-contained, better instructed and stronger, a lover of moral dissertations, a counsellor of the public, a sort of lay preacher, less bent on defending the poor, more bent on censuring man; brought to the aid of satire a sustained common-sense, great knowledge of the heart, consummate cleverness, powerful reasoning, a store of meditated hatred, and persecuted vice with all the weapons of reflection... His novels are a war against the upper classes of his country” (18111863).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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