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Page) but he never forgot the scenes of his earliest childhood, and
in his novels the characters and circumstances of Anglo-Indian life vividly
reappear. Mr. Jos. Sedley, the Begum, and Colonel Newcome, one of the tenderest
and most beautiful characters in fiction, all—as it were—smell of bamboo and
camphor trunks. On his way to England the ship touched at St. Helena, and the
boy, strolling in the charge of his attendant, saw the Emperor Napoleon, an
incident which was always fresh in his memory, and to which he alludes in one of
his lectures upon the Georges. In London he was sent to the Charter House
School, which he has described in "The Newcomes;" and went afterward to the
University at Cambridge, which he left without a degree. His recollections of
university life supplied him with the material of delightful chapters in "Pendennis."
Soon after leaving Cambridge he came into possession of a pretty fortune of
twenty thousand pounds; and to pursue his studies in Art, for which he had much
love but less talent, he lived upon the Continent for several years.
Abandoning the profession of an
artist, however, in which he felt that he was not likely to excel, and losing
much of his fortune by unlucky speculations, he returned to England and devoted
himself to literature. His first essays were in the London Times, where he wrote
a paper upon Fielding, whom he always considered the great master of English
fiction; and he contributed to Fraser's Magazine a great variety of essays and
sketches, sparkling with exuberant humor and satire, under the names of Michel
Angelo Titmarsh and George Fitz Boodle. The first, which was his favorite
pseudonym, is itself a stroke of his peculiar humor, for he had a Michel-Angelesque
nose, and his frame was large and tall, and he assaulted with tremendous vigor
what are called the little things of society. In one of the author-portraits of
Fraser called "Our Contributors" (which is reproduced in Bohn's edition of
Father Prout's Reliques), there is the head which we publish in this paper—a
score of years younger, but with the same clear, penetrating expression—as of a
mind on the scent—and the same unshrinking sincerity and humor—a Saxon Rabelais.
Yet so little impression was made by Thackeray's earlier writings that Horne's
Spirit of the Age, published in 1843, which contains sketches of many authors
now forgotten, does not even mention Michel Angelo Titmarsh.—
"Jeames's Diary" and "The Snob
Papers," published in Punch, to which he was one of the most constant and the
cleverest contributor, made his reputation.
But "Vanity Fair," begun serially
in 1847, the preface of which is dated June 28, 1848, and for which he found a
publisher with difficulty, established Thackeray's position among the chief
"Vanity Fair" was followed by "Pendennis"
and "Henry Esmond," and by the Lectures upon the English Humorists, which were
delivered in 1851, to great and delighted audiences in London and elsewhere in
Great Britain, and subsequently in this country. They were, in many respects—as
delivered by him—the most delightful lectures ever heard. His American visit was
altogether agreeable and profitable to him. Upon his return to England he
published "The Newcomes," the ripest and finest of his works, and the best novel
of English society since Fielding's "Tom Jones." This was followed by the
Lectures upon the Georges, which were delivered in Great Britain and in America,
to which he made a second visit in 1855-'6. They were even more popular at home
than the earlier series.
Upon his second return to
England, mindful of Addison and Prior, Thackeray was not unwilling to try his
political chances, and offered himself as a liberal Parliamentary candidate for
Oxford in 1857. He was defeated by a majority of 67. He immediately began the
serial publication of "The Virginians," a story of English and American life
during the Revolution. But his heart was clearly not in the work, and it was
less successful than its predecessors. In January, 1860, the Cornhill Magazine
began under his editorship. He remained in charge of it for two years, and
contributed to it "Lovel the Widower," "The Adventures of Philip," and the
charming essays lately collected, and the last book of Thackeray, called "The
Roundabout Papers." A new novel by him was already announced in the Cornhill,
but on the day before
Christmas, 1863, after but a day's illness, he
was found dead in his bed, not having completed his fifty-third year.
We but mention here a few names
and dates, which are of permanent interest and significance in English
literature. Elsewhere in these pages we endeavor to say something of the
character and genius of a great author, of a tender, true, and generous man.
THE LATE WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY.
PARIS FASHIONS FOR JANUARY, 1864.