Writer, fiction, peotry
(1811 – 1863)
British author William Makepeace Thackeray is best known for his satiric sketches and novels of upper- and middle-class English life and is credited with bringing a simpler style and greater realism to the English novel. Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero (1848), a panorama of early nineteenth-century English upper-middle-class society, is generally regarded as Thackeray’s masterpiece. Although Vanity Fair has received more critical attention than any of his other works, many regard The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., a Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Q. Anne (1852), a historical novel set in early eighteenth-century England, to be his most well-planned and carefully executed work.
Thackeray was born in Calcutta, India, in 1811, where his father worked as a secretary for the British East India Company. At the time, India was under the colonial rule of the company, and, indirectly, Great Britain. The British East India Company was a trading company with political power that reaped high profits from such goods as salt, indigo, and coffee while modernizing India. After his father’s death when Thackeray was six, however, Thackeray was sent to England, where he was cared for by relatives. His mother, who remarried and remained in India, did not return to England for four years.
During these years Thackeray attended several boarding schools, where he was extremely unhappy.He later attended the prestigious Charterhouse School and then Trinity College, Cambridge, which he left before finishing his degree. After reading law for a short time, Thackeraymoved to Paris, where he studied art. Although he eventually abandoned the idea of making his living as a painter, Thackeray continued to sketch and paint throughout his life and illustrated many of his own works. While studying in Paris, he married a young Irishwoman named Isabella Shawe. Shortly after their marriage, they returned to London, where Thackeray began writing professionally, contributing to Fraser’s Magazine, New Monthly Magazine, and later to Punch, to support himself and his new family after the fortune he inherited from his father was lost in an Indian bank failure in 1833. In 1839, the Thackerays’ second daughter, Jane, died in infancy, and the next year, shortly after the birth of their third daughter, Harriet, Isabella Thackeray went mad, never regaining her sanity. Because she outlived him, Thackeray was unable to remarry and was thus deprived of the family life he so desired. Read the rest of this entry