Open main menu

The New Student's Reference Work/Thackeray, William Makepeace

Thack′eray, William Makepeace, a great novelist of England, was born at Calcutta, NSRW William Makepeace Thackeray.jpg
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE
THACKERAY
India, in 1811. His father was in the civil service of the East India Company, and dying young left his son a fortune of $100,000. When William was seven, he was sent to England and placed in the noted Charterhouse School, often mentioned in his books. He next went to Cambridge, and in 1831 was at Weimar, where he saw Goethe. His ambition was to become an artist, and he traveled over most of Europe, studying at Paris and at Rome. His drawings were quaint, picturesque and truthful; his art may be seen in the illustrations of his novels, which, as he expressed it, were “illuminated by the author's own candles.” But his success in this line did not satisfy him and he tried his hand at writing, much to the delight of readers then and now. He first wrote for Fraser's Magazine, in which appeared The Great Hoggarty Diamond and Barry Lyndon. Most of his capital had been spent in foreign travel and losing investments; he now adopted literature as a profession. His Snob Papers and Jeames's Diary in Punch made him known, but his reputation as one of the greatest of English novelists was made by Vanity Fair (1846-8), which disputes the first place among English stories with such books as Ivanhoe, Adam Bede, Tom Jones and David Copperfield. In 1849 he published Pendennis, one of the best of his books, which tells his own story. His lectures on English Humorists and on The Four Georges were delivered in America as well as in England. In 1852-5 appeared Henry Esmond and The Newcomes, his finest works. He also wrote The Virginians, a sequel to Henry Esmond, in which Washington figures. In 1859 he became the first editor of Cornhill Magazine. Thackeray was tall and powerfully built, witn massive head, and, as he aged, silvery white hair. He died at London, Dec. 24, 1863. See Life by Trollope.