Thackeray

Thackeray

Thackeray

Thackeray

Excerpt

When the nineteenth century opened, the population of London was less than a million. By 1861, in Thackeray's last years, it was growing rapidly towards three millions. At the beginning of the century, immense docks were being built in the Thames estuary and new bridges were being thrown across the river. In the 'thirties and 'forties the railways came to London and the age of the post-chaise which Dickens loved to celebrate had come to an end.

The towns and villages which clustered round Westminster and the City became one unending sprawl, and the boroughs which then formed London were the greatest agglomeration of humanity ever known in the western world. All these people had to be entertained, and as many of them were well housed and had money to spare, publishers made it their business to make books and magazines fashionable. The age of Dickens and Thackeray was the age of reading. The average yearly number of new books rose from 850 between 1802 and 1807 to about 2,530 in 1853.

Everyone except the most serious-minded read novels. Scott had made the novel respectable. It offered entertainment and a pattern of living. A wonderful market was open to Dickens and Thackeray with the result that Dombey and Son and Vanity Fair were on sale at the same time in shilling parts. Dickens created a world of his own; a world essentially London which yet had never quite existed. Thackeray offered to his own Kensington and the new boroughs a picture of upper middle-class life in the ancient boroughs. In his own time they said he was a realist. Just after his death Bagehot wrote: 'A painfulness certainly clings like an atmosphere round Mr. Thackeray's writings, in consequence of his inseparable and ever-present realism.'

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