Thackeray: the Sentimental Cynic

Thackeray: the Sentimental Cynic

Thackeray: the Sentimental Cynic

Thackeray: the Sentimental Cynic

Excerpt

The reader who picks up this book expecting a full-dress biography of Thackeray will be disappointed. A minute proportion of the thousands of known facts about his life are included. This study is, if anything at all, a chronicle of Thackeray's attitudes. To achieve this goal I have attempted to trace his conduct during the major crises of his life in terms of those attitudes. Secondly, I have had my fling at what is now a prevailing activity among Thackeray biographies: the detection of more or less unsuspected, quasi-biographical elements in the major novels. This seems to me part and parcel of the study of an author's attitudes, since those attitudes control to a large extent the insertion of his own experience into his work.

Any author's experience will of course be altered to a greater or less degree as it finds its way into his books. This fact hardly needs repetition were it not that present-day reviewers so often attack biographers for explaining a creative process as conscious, when in fact they never meant to interpret it as other than subconscious.

It is almost supererogation to say that this book could not have been written without the help of Professor Gordon N. Ray edition of The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray. Whenever I have quoted from this work, I have preserved Thackeray's spelling and punctuation intact, but have regularized such orthographical conventions as the writing of w for "which." I am further indebted to Professor Ray for his careful reading of this manuscript, his many valuable suggestions, and his permission to use certain items in his vast, unpublished store of Thackerayan lore.

I am also grateful to Mrs. Hester Thackeray Ritchie Fuller for permission to quote from the text of the correspondence in The Letters and Private Papers and to The Harvard University Press for allowing me to copy certain editorial matter in that edition. The Oxford University Press has graciously accorded me permission to quote from Professor J. Y. T. Greig Thackeray:
A Reconsideration
and Charles Scribner's Sons to use material from Professor Lionel Stevenson's The Showman of Vanity Fair.

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