About the Author

English journalist, novelist, famous for his novel Vanity Fair (1847-48), a tale of two middle-class London families. Most of Thackeray's major novels were published as monthly serials. Thackeray studied in a satirical and moralistic light upper- and middle-class English life - he was once seen as the equal of his contemporary Dickens, or even as his superior.

"This I set as a positive truth. A woman with fair opportunities, and without a positive hump, may marry whom she likes." (from Vanity Fair, 1847-48)

William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta, India, as the only son of Richmond Thackeray, a Collector in the East Indian Company's service. After his father died he was sent to home to England. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Trinity College, Cambridge. Thackeray abandoned his studies without taking a degree, having lost some of his inheritance of twenty thousand pounds through gambling. In the beginning of the 1830s he visited Germany, where he met Goethe.

During 1831-33 Thackeray studied law at the Middle Temple, London, but had little enthusiasm to continued his studies. In 1833 he brought with a large heritage the National Standard, but lost his fortune a year later in the Indian bank failures and other bad investments.

"Suppose in a game of life - and it is but a twopenny game after all - you are equally eager of winning. Shall you be ashamed of your ambition, or glory in it?" (from 'Autour de mon Chapeau', 1863)

After art studies in Paris, Thackeray returned in 1837 to London and started his career as a hard working journalist. Often he used absurd pen names such as George Savage Fitz-Boodle, Michael Angelo Titmarsh, Théophile Wagstaff, and C.J. Yellowplush, Esq. In 1836 he married a poor Irish girl, Isabella Shawe; they had three daughters. Their first child, Anne Thackeray Ritchie (1837-1919), became a writer - her impressionistic texts impressed Virginia Woolf, who drew a portrait of her in Night and Day as 'Mrs Hilbery'.

Thackeray began to contribute regularly to Fraser's Magazine, Morning Chronicle, New Monthly Magazine and The Times. His writings attracted first attention in Punch, where he satirized English snobbery. These sketches reappeared in 1848 as The Book of Snobs, stating in it that "he who meanly admires mean things is a Snob." In 1840 Isabella Thackeray suffered a mental breakdown, from which she never recovered, through she survived Thackeray by thirty years. The author was forced to send his children to France to his mother. The children returned to England in 1846 to live with him.

In the 1840s Thackeray started to gain name as a writer. In Vanity Fair he gave a panoramic picture of high life in England, and created one of the most fascinating immoral female characters, Becky Sharp. "I think I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year." (from Vanity Fair) The book brought him prosperity and made him established writer and popular lecturer in Europe and in the United States. His increasing love for Jane Brookfield, the wife of an old Cambridge friend, led to a rupture in their friendship. The History of Henry Esmond appeared in three volumes in 1852, and reflected the melancholic period in the life of the author. "'Tis strange what a man may do, and a woman yet think him an angel." By the end of his career, Thackeray's disillusionment with contemporary culture seems to have deepened. In The Adventures of Philip (1862) the protagonist, Philip, is out of place in a world that does not accommodate his vision of masculinity.

Thackeray said that he couldn't start a novel until he knew every aspect of his characters. He called Victorian times "if not the most moral, certainly the most squeamish." Once, as an editor, he rejected an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem because it employed the word harlot. Thackeray became in 1860 the first editor of the Cornhill Magazine, for which he wrote his Raundabout Papers, Love the Widower, The Adventures of Philip and the unfinished Denis Duval. Less successful Thackeray was with his attempt to stand for Parliament. His contacts with friendly rival Charles Dickens ended in a quarrel. Thackeray died suddenly on Christams Eve 1863. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Thackeray's bust was made by the Italian sculptor Marachetti. The poet's daughter was not satisfied with the work and let another sculptor to modify her father's stone sideburns until they were the right length.

Most author biographies courtesy of Author's Calendar. Used with permission.