Monday, January 4, 2010
William Thackeray (1811-1863) was born in India where his father served in the British East India Company. When his father died when William was four, his mother Anne sent him to England, where he was living at age 21 when he received his inheritance of 20,000 pounds. That money was lost to his gambling habit. He turned to writing after studying law and painting. He offered to illustrate The Pickwick Papers but Dickens turned him down. As a result, Thackeray became the only major Victorian writer that illustrated his own works.
He wrote his first novel Catherine, an assault on the Newgate novels of the 1830s, in 1839. His first major novel was The Luck of Barry Lyndon, published in 1844, and he became a rival of Dickens and Vanity Fair was serialized simultaneously with Dickens' Dombey and Son. His later works included Pendennis, Henry Esmond, and The Virginians.
In Vanity Fair, subtitled "A Novel without a Hero," Thackeray depicts a scheming and selfish English society against a backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Thackeray creates vastly different characters such as Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley to show the vast array of vanities to which people submit themselves.