Рефераты. Уильям Теккерей: биография

Уильям Теккерей: биография


William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta, India, on July 18,

1811, into a wealthy English merchant family. His father, Richmond

Thackeray, an officer in the East India Company, died in 1815, and the

following year William was sent to England to live with his aunt at

Chiswick. After his father’s death, William’s mother married an engineering

officer named Major Carmichael Symth. She had been in love with him before

she married Richmond Thackeray. Solace In Patterns William showed his

talent for drawing at a very early age. He would draw caricatures of his

relatives and send them to his mother through letters. Even at school, he

used to draw pictures of his friends and teachers and his friends preserved

those pictures all through their lives. Though his caricatures of his

teachers got him into trouble sometime, he enjoyed his popularity in

school due to his art. Otherwise, William was not much physically active as

a boy due to his shortsightedness. Furthermore, he found solace in drawing,

as he said later,' They are a great relief to my mind.'


William was given the 'education of a gentleman', at private boarding

schools. He was sent to the Charterhouse School, where he was enrolled as a

day-scholar. He led a rather lonely and miserable existence as a child. He

wrote regularly to his mother and stepfather. In one of his letters, he

wrote: "There are 370 in the school; I wish there were 369". This subtle

post-script showed how utterly out of place he felt at the institution. The

caning and other abuses he suffered at school became the basis for

recollection in his essays, such as The Roundabout Papers, as well as

episodes in his novels Vanity Fair and The Newcomes.

In 1820, William’s mother and stepfather Major Carmichael Symth joined

him at Chiswick. The reunion of mother and child was very emotional. He got

along well with Major Symth as well, he also addressed him 'father' later

on. They met many times after that as he used to spend holidays with them.

Thackeray based the character of Colonel Newcome on this respectable,

unworldly gentleman. William later recalled the dry lessons in the

classical languages that he was forced to learn and the debilitating effect

it had on what he felt about classical literature. He developed a life-long

dislike for classical literature. He relied on literary escapades on

popular fictions of the day like Scott’s Heart of Midlothian or Pierce

Egan’s Life in London. William was never an outstanding student but while

at school he developed two habits that were to stay with him lifelong:

sketching and reading novels. He also started working as an amateur theatre


When he graduated from the Charterhouse school, he needed additional

tutoring to prepare for Cambridge. He got this tutoring from Major Symth.

He made many good acquaintances at Cambridge including Edward FitzGerald.

Cambridge was full of distraction for the young man. Rowing was an official

sport which the students enjoyed a lot but drinking and occasional illicit

visits to London was also added to their list of recreation. William

started his adventure in journalism at Cambridge. He started to enjoy

writing as much as drawing.

From 1828 to 1830 he studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. His tutor

then was William Whewell (a philosopher of natural science), but Thackeray

saw little of the don and spent his time at wine parties. Neither at

Charterhouse nor at Cambridge did he distinguish himself as

a scholar. In 1830, Thackeray left Cambridge without a degree. During 1831-

33 he studied law at the Middle Temple, London. He attempted to develop his

literary and artistic talents, first as the editor of a short–lived journal

and subsequently as an art student in Paris. None of these worked out since

he kept oscillating between various occupations that were temporary in

nature. The trouble with Thackeray was that he could never settle for one

thing. One day he would translate Horace; the next day he would draw funny

sketches; the day after that, he would write satirical verses.

After having left the university, he toured the continent, visited

museums, theaters and libraries. He also wrote poems, which penned his

profound observation upon the vanity and pity of life.

Stepping Into World

He moved to Weimer, Germany, then the intellectual capital of Europe.

He learned German and read Goethe. Personal life of Goethe was making waves

in the German society at that time. He had the opportunity to meet the aged

poet once. Though nothing significant occurred at the meeting, as Goethe

was almost a national monument and Thackeray an upcoming journalist. Though

he did not achieve anything great during his nine month stay in Germany,

his sketchbook gained a lot many pages of excellent portraits, landscapes

and caricatures. This stay gained for him a command of the language, a

knowledge of German romantic literature and an increasing skepticism about

religious doctrine. The time he spent at Weimar is reflected in the

Pumpernickel chapters of Vanity Fair.

On his return from Germany, Thackeray lived the life of a young

indulgent man, gambling, drinking in taverns, and enjoying the company of

women. He considered painting as a profession and his artistic gifts can be

seen in his letters and his early writings, which are energetically

illustrated. On his return, he had to pursue his law study, however

reluctantly. Pulling on his study, he took utmost advantage of London life,

moving freely between high society balls and parties, and low class taverns

and gambling houses. In fact, gambling and theatre became his full time

occupation during that time.

On coming of age in 1832, Thackeray inherited Ј 20,000 from his

father. However, he soon lost his fortune through gambling, unlucky

speculations and reading investments. Most of it was lost due to the

failure of an Indian bank where he had invested a lot of money.

In 1832, Thackeray met William Maginn. Maginn was an editor and

heinfluenced Thackeray's professional life. Thackeray got the break into

the world of London journalism through him. He also invested part of his

patrimony in a weekly paper, The National Standard, which he took over as

editor and proprietor in 1833. He used to write most of the articles

himself. He was very hopeful of the success of his newspaper, but his wait

for about a year never yielded any result. The paper was unsuccessful and

went under quickly, but it gave Thackeray his first taste of the world of

London journalism. It was an event that Thackeray once again found use for

in his novel The Newcomes. He was seriously in trouble, as he had to earn

his living. Thackeray resolved to study art when he found that he could

earn a living by using his artistic talents. In 1834 he went to Paris for

this purpose. Life in Paris was neither easy. He could barely support

himself there with his limited income form occasional journalism. But Paris

brought him a dream realized - to find someone to love. He had met many a

girls and women in his life and had fallen in and out of their love quite

many times by now. Even his sketchbook was filled with imaginary characters

like Mr and Mrs Thack and their trail of many children.


He met Isabella Shawe, a timid, simple and artless girl. He

fell outrightly in love with Isabella. She was just 17 and was totally

under control of her mother. He was immediately ready for marriage, but Mrs

Shawe did not permit. Isabella herself could not make any decision.

Similarly, his parents were also much reluctant for the union. His

stepfather wanted him to establish himself first, for that Thackeray was

made the Paris correspondent for a newspaper The Constitutional and Public

Register at Ј400 per year. Backed by the income and through his steady

persistence, the marriage did take place finally on August 20, 1836. After

trying out briefly the bohemian life of an artist in Paris, and failure of

his newspaper, he returned to London in 1837 and started his career as a

journalist. He worked for periodicals like Fraser’s Magazine and The

Morning Chronicle, but his most successful association was with Punch.

Thackeray worked as a freelance journalist for about 10 years,

publishing literary criticism, art criticism, articles, and fiction, either

anonymously or under a number of comic pseudonyms. Often he used absurd pen

names such as George Savage Fitzboodle, Michael Angelo Tit Marsh, Theophile

Wagstaff and C J Yellowplush, Esq. William and Isabella Thackeray’s first

child, Anne Isabella, was born on June 9, 1837. Her birth was followed by

the collapse of The Constitution of which William was the Paris

correspondent. Thackeray began writing as many articles as humanly possible

and sent them to any newspaper that would print them. This was a precarious

sort of existence, which would continue for most of the rest of his life.

He was fortunate enough to get two popular series going on in two different

publications. During this time, Thackeray also produced his first books,

Collections of Essays and Observations published as travel books. This

combination of hack writing and frequent travel took Thackeray away from

home and kept him from his wife’s growing depression.

Troubled Times

Thackeray and Isabella Shawe had a happy life during their first

years of marriage. But as financial demands forced Thackeray into more and

more work, Isabella became isolated and lonely. The happy years of marriage

was eclipsed by the tragic death of their second daughter Jane, born in

July 1838. She died of respiratory illness in March the following year.

Harriet Marian, their third daughter was born in 1840. It was at this time

that Isabella fell victim to mental illness . After a few months she

started displaying suicidal tendencies and as it was difficult to control

her, she was placed in a private institution. Doctors told Thackeray that

all she needed was a change of air. She was taken to her mother in Ireland,

where she attempted to drown herself in the ocean. Thackeray began a series

of futile searches for her cure. He took Isabella to various spas and

sanatoriums, at one point himself undergoing a 'water cure' with her, since

she wouldn’t go at it alone. He continued to hope for some time that she

would make a full recovery. He was forced to send his children to France to

his mother. For the next several years he shuttled back and forth between

London and Paris - from the journalism that supported himself and his debt-

laden family, to his parents and children in Paris, and to his wife in

French asylums. Thackeray entrusted Isabella to the care of a friendly

family, and threw himself into the maelstrom of club-life for which he had

but little taste. He said, "My social activity is but a lifelong effort at



Thackeray’s children returned to England in 1846. He gradually began

paying more and more attention to his daughters, for whom he established a

home in London. Eventually, he resigned himself to Isabella’s condition and

was seemingly indifferent to the circumstances around her and the children.

He raised his daughters with the help of his mother, who was never

satisfied with the governess’s Thackeray hired. The touching reminiscences

of Anne Thackeray’s biographical introductions to his works portray him as

a loving, if busy, father.

He started the serial publication of his novel Vanity Fair in 1847.

It brought Thackeray both fame and prosperity. From then on he was an

established author on the English literary scene. Dickens was then at the

height of his fame, and, though the two men appreciated each other’s work,

their admirers were fond of debating their comparative merits.

The Brookfields

During these years of success, Thackeray lived the life of a bachelor

in London. He spent much time with his friends, attending the social

functions of a fashionable society. He became the constant attendant upon

Jane Brookfield, the wife of an old friend from Cambridge.

Thackeray and the Brookfields were involved in an increasingly tense

emotional triangle. His first trip to America in 1852 provided the time and

distance for Thackeray to try and extricate himself from the tangle. Henry

Brookfield’s coldness and desire to dominate his wife, her resistance and

the need for someone to turn to, and Thackeray’s loneliness combined to

create a complicated affair. Brookfield alternately ignored or forbade his

wife’s warm communications with the successful novelist. Jane Brookfield

returned Thackeray’s ardent expressions of friendship and lamented her

husband’s inability to understand her. Thackeray, for his part, professed

for Jane a devotion that was pure and he also remained a

companion of her husband. He nonetheless felt betrayed by Jane’s tendency

to cool down the correspondence when Brookfield complained. Thackeray

eventually caused a dramatic break in the triangle by berating Brookfield

for his neglectful treatment of Jane. After Thackeray heard of Jane’s

pregnancy, during his second trip to America, he decided never to return to


Trip To America

Thackeray tried to find consolation through travel and, lecturing in

the United States. He thus followed in Dickens’ footsteps. These lectures

were profitable for Thackeray and also provided influential insight on

novelists like Jonathan Swift and Laurence Sterne.

Dickens had offended the Americans and did not write a profitable account

of his journey. Thackeray, on the other hand, saw America through friendly

eyes. In one of his letters to his mother, Thackeray wrote that he did not

recognize blacks as equals (though he condemned slavery on moral grounds).

He chose to believe that the whipping of slaves in America was rare and

that families were not normally separated on the auction block. This was

because he was apprehensive about criticism from his hosts that the living

conditions for English workers were worse than those for slaves in America.

Thackeray made enduring friendships during his lecture trips to the

United States. The most significant of these was the one with the Baxter

family of New York. The eldest daughter, Sally Baxter, enchanted the

novelist and she became the model for Ethel Newcome, the protagonist of his

novel. She was vibrant, intelligent, beautiful and young. He visited her

again on his second tour of the States by which time she was married to a

South Carolina gentleman.

Through all this, he was continually ill with recurrent kidney

infections caused by a bout of syphilis in his youth. In spite of his

failing health, Thackeray still managed to have an impressive house built

and settled generous dowries on his daughters. After the second profitable

lecturing tour on The Four Georges (that is, the Hanoverian kings of the

18th and early 19th centuries), Thackeray stood for parliament elections as

an independent candidate. His sense of humor perhaps prevented him from

trying too hard for appealing his constituents. When Lord Monck, presiding

at one of his rallies, said "May the better man win", Thackeray retorted

with a smile, "I hope not !" He knew that the rival candidate, Edward

Cardwell would make a much better statesman. Thackeray believed that his

advocacy of entertainment on the Sabbath was crucial in his defeat.

Controversy With Charles Dickens

Of the several literary quarrels in which Thackeray got involved

during his life, the ‘Garrick Club affair’ is best remembered. Charles

Dickens had always been one of Thackeray’s earliest and best friends. But a

quarrel had arisen and for several years the two men were not on talking

terms. Thackeray had taken offense at some personal remarks in a column by

Edmund Yates and demanded an apology, eventually taking the affair to the

Garrick Club committee. Dickens was already upset with Thackeray for an

indiscreet remark

about his affair with Ellen Ternan and so he championed Yates. Dickens

helped Yates to draft letters both to Thackeray, and in his defense, to the

club’s committee. Despite Dickens’ intervention, Yates eventually lost the

vote of the club’s members, but the quarrel was stretched out through

journal articles and pamphlets. Thackeray told Charles Kingsley, "What

pains me most is that Dickens should have been his advisor; and next that I

should have had to lay a heavy hand on a young man who, I take it, has been

cruelly punished by the issue of the affair, and I believe is hardly aware

of the nature of his own offence, and doesn’t even now understand that a

gentleman should resent the monstrous insult which he volunteered."

This quarrel was resolved only in Thackeray’s last months when one

evening the two met on the stairs of the Athenaeum, a London club.

Thackeray impulsively held out his hand to Dickens. The latter returned the

greeting, and the old quarrel was patched up.

Later Years

It was as if Thackeray had an intuition that he must make haste to

hail and farewell to his old friend. It was only a few nights later –

December 23, 1863 – that he went to sleep for the last time. He was found

dead on the morning of Christmas Eve. The master had called the roll; and

Thackeray, like the beloved Colonel Newcome in one of his novels, responded

gently, "Adsum – I am here." Towards the end of his life, Thackeray was

proud that through his writings, he had regained the patrimony lost to bank

failures and gambling. He passed on to his daughters an inheritance

sufficient for their support and also a grand house in Kensington.

He was buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery on December 30. An

estimated 2000 mourners came to pay tribute, among them was Charles

Dickens. After his death, a commemorative bust was placed in Westminster


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