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years he was on the staff of "Punch" as both artist and author. It was in that publication, with “The Snobs of England," that he first achieved popularity, his earlier novels, “Catherine” and “Barry Lyndon," having failed to hit the popular taste. In January, 1847, “Vanity Fair" began to appear in monthly numbers, and by the time it was concluded in the July of the following year he was generally awarded a place in the first rank of English novelists. Dickens was then at the height of his fame, and, though the two men appreciated each other's work, their admirers were fond of debating their comparative merits—a form of criticism which, though futile enough in the case of talents so dissimilar, has not yet entirely gone out of fashion.
"Pendennis," the most autobiographical of Thackeray's novels, came out in 1848-50, and still farther strengthened his reputation. In 1851 he took up lecturing, beginning with the series on the English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century, which he delivered first in London. These were in a sense a by-product of "Esmond," published in 1852, in the autumn of which year he carried them across the Atlantic. He lectured at Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah, was received with great hospitality, made many friends, and went hoine the next spring the richer by some $10,000. A second tour in America, with “The Four Georges," followed in 1855, and was also successful. Meantime he had completed “The Newcomes," and while in Rome with his daughters for the Christmas season of 1853, he wrote and illustrated for some children the amusing burlesque of "The Rose and the Ring."
Thackeray was now one of the notable figures of English society and was financially at ease. In 1857 he stood for Parliament for the city of Oxford, but missed election by a narrow margin. Apparently little downcast, he returned to his literary work and issued “The Virginians,” 1857-59. It is commonly felt that with this book the quality of his work begins to fall off, and none of his subsequent novels achieved great success. In 1860 he undertook the editorship of the newly founded "Cornhill Magazine,” and to it he contributed his delightful essays, "The Roundabout Papers."
But his health, which for years had been far from good, untitted him for the labor oi editorship, and he resigned in 1862. On the morning of December 24, 1863, he was found dead.
The death of Thackeray was keenly felt through a wide circle both in England and abroad. His striking figurehe was six feet, three inches in height, with a massive head-had become familiar not only through his appearances on the platform but through the caricatures of himself that he had whimsically introduced into many of his drawings in "Punch” and elsewhere; and he was held in affectionate reverence by thousands who had never seen him. Though he first made his reputation as a satirist, he was a man without malice and of extraordinarily tender sensibilities. He had had to struggle hard to gain a footing in letters, and suffered more than his share of domestic sorrow; but he was generously helpful to others, even when he could little afford it, and found his greatest delight in brightening the lives of children. He used to be blamed for cynicism, but it has long been clear that it was the keenness of his appreciation of the loftier possibilities of human nature that lay at the root of his sadness that these possibilities are so seldom realized.
Though he achieved brilliant success in the fields of the burlesque and the essay, it is, of course, on his work as a novelist that his great reputation is chiefly based. But when the attempt is made to rank his novels among themselves, great diversity of opinion appears. Some specialists would give first place to the comparatively little read “Barry Lyndon"; more favor "The Newcomes." His style nowhere reaches greater perfection than in the astonishing reproduction of the diction of Queen Anne's reign in "Esmond." Yet, all in all, it is safe to say that he never surpassed his first great success, “Vanity Fair.” Here we find at their height his distinguishing qualities: his power of conveying the spirit and atmosphere of an epoch, of delineating a throng of people and making them all living men and women, of conceiving great dramatic situations anil presenting these so as to display character with the utinost vividness, of stripping away the veils that hide our motives not only from others but from ourselves. It is doubtful if any English novel possesses a heroine more completely vitalized than Becky Sharp, a creature so amazingly real that critics are occasionally to be found taking sides with her against her creator. And in his description of such figures, in his painting of their backgrounds, and in his characteristically intimate discussion with his readers of their faults and follies, he wields an English style unsurpassed for clarity, ease, and grace, capable of lofty eloquence, extreme tenderness, and fiery scorn, but always appropriate and always sincere.
CRITICISMS AND INTERPRETATIONS
By James HaxxAY
HEN Thackeray wrote "Vanity Fair," in 1846-7-8,
he was living in Young Street, Kensington, a street
on your left hand before you come to the church; and here, in 1848, the author of this sketch had first the pleasure of seeing him, of being received at his table, and of knowing how essentially a kind, humane, and perfectly honest man he was. “Vanity Fair” was then unfinished, but its success was made and he spoke frankly and generally of his work and his career. “Vanity Fair," always, we think, ranked in his own mind as best in story of his greater books; and he once pointed out to us the very house in Russell Square where his imaginary Sedleys lived--a curious proof of the reality his creations had for his mind. The man and the books were equally real and true; and it was natural that he should speak without hesitation of his books, if you wished it; though as a man of the world and a polished gentleman who knew the world thoroughly, literature to him only took its turn among other topics. From this point of view, his relation to it was a good deal like that of Scott. According to Lockhart, people were wrong in say: ing that Sir Walter declined at all markedly to talk about literature, and yet his main interest was in active life. Just so, Thackeray was not bookish, and yet turned readily to the subject of books if invited. His reading was undoubtedly large in memoirs, inodern history, biography, poetry, essays, and fiction-and, taken in conjunction with his scholarship. probably placed him, as a man of letters, above any other novelist except Sir Bulwer Lytton. Here is a characteristic fragment from one of his letters, written in August, 1854.
and now before us: "I hate Juvenal,” he says; “I mean I think him a truculent brute, and I love Horace better than you do, and rate Churchill much lower; and as for Swift, you haven't made me alter my opinion. I admire, or rather admit, his power as much as you do; but I don't admire that kind of power so much as I did fifteen years ago, or twenty shall we say. Love is a higher intellectual exercise than Hatred: and when you get one or two more of those young ones you write so pleasantly about, you'll come over to the side of the kind wags, I think, rather than the cruel ones.” Passages like this, which men who knew him will not need to have quoted to them, have a double value for the world at large. They not only show a familiar command of writers whom it is by no means easy to know well, but they show what the real philosophy was of a man whom the envious represented to the ignorant as a cynic and a scoffer. Why, his favorite authors were just those whose influence he thought had been beneficial to the cause of virtue and charity. "I take off my hat to Joseph Addison," he would say, after an energetic testimony to his good effect on English life. He was, in fact, even greater as a moralist than as a mere describer of manners; and his very hatred of quackery and meanness was proved to be real by his simplicity, humanity, and kindliness of character. In private, this great satirist, whose aspect in a crowd was often one of austere politeness and reserve, unbent into a familiar naiveté which somehow one seldom finds in the demonstratively genial. And this was the more charming and precious that it rested on a basis of severe and profound reflection, before the glance of which all that was dark and serious in man's life and prospects lay open. The gravity of that white head, with its noble brow, and thoughtful face full of feeling and meaning, enhanced the piquancy of his playfulness, and of the little personal revelations which came with such a grace from the depths of his kindly nature. When we congratulated him, many years ago, on the touch in "Vanity Fair” in which Becky "admires” her husband when he is giving Lord Steyne the chastisement which ruins her for life, “Well,” he said, "when I wrote the sentence I slapped my fist on the table, and said 'that is a touch of