Thackeray, the Novelist

Thackeray, the Novelist

Thackeray, the Novelist

Thackeray, the Novelist

Excerpt

At the present day the place of Thackeray's novels in the regard of Englishmen, and perhaps also of Americans, has its interest for any historian of literary reputations. Most of the critics whose work achieves print dislike or slight them, and give us the impression that they speak for everybody. Having come to like them very much in recent years, I expected to meet polite disapproval--that glaze of the eye behind which the well-disposed mind seeks to turn the conversation-- when I admitted to writing on them; only to find that the embarrassment was on my side alone. Not one of a dozen or so people but voiced either respect or warm liking for Thackeray's novels. On the chance evidence of this dozen people, most of whom do not teach English literature, one of whom is an American, who are of various ages (I show in my book that age counts in a reader of Thackeray) around and above forty--on the evidence of these people, his novels are still honoured and read. I recall the experience of Neville Cardus, given us in his autobiography; at a time when printed criticism assured him of a due arrest, probably a death, in the passion for the novels of Dickens, his inquiries for them at the local public library always found them 'out'. To be in and out of the turnstile of a public library is, I claim, a proof that a novel is alive, and well alive. Of Thackeray's novels, Vanity Fair and perhaps Esmond would by that test be found still in motion. Probably The Virginians also--the British Broadcasting Company presented it a year or two ago as a serial . . .

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