Novels of the Eighteen-Forties

By Kathleen Tillotson | Go to book overview

VANITY FAIR

§ I

THACKERAY'S first full-length novel began to appear when he was thirty-five; it represents a fresh start in his literary career, and the emergence of such a novel as a 'first' novel has something of the miraculous. Behind him lay ten or twelve years of miscellaneous journalism--writing verses, sketches, reviews, and tales, works most of which seemed in comparison 'jokes, and schoolboy exercises as it were'.1 He had written under many disguises-- Charles Yellowplush, Ikey Solomons, Fitz-Boodle, Our Fat Contributor, Michael Angelo Titmarsh, and over a dozen more; the multiplicity suggests an unwillingness to commit himself, an awareness that he had not yet found his medium. 'Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society', the original title, and later sub-title, of Vanity Fair, well describes the main mass of his earlier writing, but is ludicrously inadequate to the novel. There is common material, a common preoccupation with snobs and humbugs; but there is in these writings little preparation for a work so large in scale, so complex in organization or so mature in outlook, as Vanity Fair. Some preparation for its deeper tone may be found in Thackeray's private life; in the new stability of his ménage,2 his change from Bohemianism to domesticity, and the

____________________
1
Letters, ii. 316; letter to A. Hayward, 5 September 1847.
2
In June 1846 he took a house in Kensington and in the autumn brought his young daughters to live with him.

-224-

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Novels of the Eighteen-Forties
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Contents xi
  • Note on Editions and References xii
  • Abbreviated Titles - Of Works Frequently Referred To xiii
  • Part I Introductory 1
  • Part II Four Novels 157
  • Mary Barton 202
  • Vanity Fair 224
  • Jane Eyre 257
  • Appendix I 314
  • Appendix II 316
  • Appendix III 318
  • Index 319
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