"Vanity Fair" is an English novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. The book was originally published as a serial entitled "Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Life", and was available in illustrated pamphlets which had been hand drawn by Thackeray himself. In 1848 it was published as a novel and the subtitle, "A novel without a hero" was added to reflect the moral ambiguity of the central … [Read more...]
William Makepeace Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray was born July 18, 1811, in Calcutta, India into a wealthy English merchant family. In 1829, Thackeray entered the University of Cambridge. Leaving the university without taking his degree, he attempted to develop his literary and artistic abilities, first as the editor of a short-lived journal and then as an art student in Paris.
In 1836, he married Isabella Gethin Shawe, and the two had three daughters together. Thackeray began working as a satirist and parodist and wrote under pseudonyms so that he could attack London high society and it's warped ideals in his books. Thackeray's first published work was "The Yellowish Papers" in 1837, and his first novel was "Catherine" published between 1839 and 1840 in Fraser's Magazine.
Throughout their marriage, Isabella, unfortunately, suffered from depression and suicidal attempts. Eventually, her mental state deteriorated to the point that she had to be homed with a professional nurse. Thackeray never remarried and lived as a de facto widower for the rest of his life.
In 1840, despite financial hardship and the mental illness of his wife, Thackeray produced "The Paris Sketchbook," one of two travel books that he created. Thackeray published many novels through serialized versions in magazines, including his most famous novel, "Vanity Fair" (1848).
After the success of Vanity Fair, Thackeray suffered some mellowing of his satire and began to see less and less success. During his lifetime, Thackeray was, if not highly respected, as least a very highly read author. He was, at that time, ranked second only to Charles Dickens in readership. In recent years, however, he is less widely read and primarily known for 'Vanity Fair' which is still considered a classic work of Victorian literature.
During the 1850's, Thackeray's health worsened, and he suffered a stroke on December 29th, 1863 and was found dead at home the following morning at the age of fifty-two. His death was a cause for national mourning, and some 7,000 people attended his funeral at Kensington Gardens in London.