william makepeace thackeray (1811 – 1863)

William Makepeace Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray’s life was quite adventurous, like the one of his characters. He was born in Calcutta, where his father was an officer in the Civil Service of the East India Company. Orphan at five, he was sent to London and then to Cambridge. The future writer left the University without a degree and went to Paris and Weimar to study art. He never became a great artist, but his studies in Germany and France prepared him for his literary career. In 1832 he inherited a fortune which might have enabled him to live on his income ; but in a year or two it was all gone. Then it became necessary for him to work for a living , and he turned to literature. His sketches and stories in Fraser’s Magazine were highly successful. Then he wrote to other newspapers, and especially for Punch. His first novel, The Luck of Barry Lyndon, appeared on the Fraser’s magazine in 1844, then it was published as The Memoire of Barry Lyndon in 1856. His masterpiece, the novel which gave him fame and money, was Vanity Fair, published in 1848. It is not a story of faultless heroes and abandoned villains, but of “good people who have their faults, and bad people who have their virtues”. It shows meanness, wickedness and folly combined with weatlth and respectability. Thackeray painted men and women with all their faults and idiosyncrasies as well as their modest virtues, using a fresh and idiomatic language Vanity Fair was followed by The History of Arthur Pendennis (1850), The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852), The Newcomers (1855) and The Virginians (1857). When his fame was established, Thackeray started appearing as a public lecturer both in England and in America. the first series of lectures was on The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century, the second on The Four Georges. He died suddenly on Christmas Eve 1863.

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