Vanity Fair (Thackeray)

Author Bio
Birth—July 18, 1811
Where—Calcutta, India
Died—December 24, 1863
Where—London, England, UK
Education—Cambridge Univeristy (UK)

William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta in 1811, but sent to England at the age of six. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1833 he settled in Paris, after a major financial loss, and tried his career as a painter. It was here that he met nineteen-year-old Isabella Shaw, upon whom he based many of his virtuous but weak heroines, and whom he married in 1836.

A year later they settled in London, where Thackeray turned seriously to journalism. His writing for periodicals included Yellowplush Correspondence, which appeared in Fraser's Magazine and then in 1841 in book form. Around this time personal and domestic pressures caused the already helpless Isabella to subside into a state of complete and permanent mental collapse, and the subsequent breakdown of the marriage formed a central part of Thackeray's consciousness.

Thackeray's early work centered around rogues and villains, most famously in The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844; revised as The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. in 1856), and in his masterpiece, Vanity Fair, which appeared in monthly parts in 1847-48 and which most clearly reveals his socially satirical edge. The Book of Snobs, which originally appeared as a series in Punch, also attacks Victorian society with vicious wit.

Thackeray's later novels include The History of Pendennis (1848-50), The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852), The Newcomes (1852-53), The Virginians (1857-59), which is the sequel to Henry Esmond, and The Adventures of Philip (1861-62).

He also wrote a series of lectures, The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century (1852-53), and numerous reviews, articles, and sketches, usually in the comic vein. From 1860 to 1862, he also edited Cornhill Magazine. Thackeray died suddenly on Christmas Eve, 1863 (From Penguin Classics—cover image, top-right.)

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