William Makepeace Thackeray(redirected from Thackeray, William Makepeace)
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Thackeray, William Makepeace
See his complete works (26 vol., 1910–11); his letters (ed. by G. N. Ray, 4 vol., 1945–46); studies by R. A. Colby (1979) and E. F. Harden (1979); G. N. Ray, Thackeray (2 vol., 1955 and 1958, repr. 1972) and The Buried Life (1952, repr. 1974); D. J. Taylor, Thackeray: The Life of a Literary Man (2001).
Thackeray, William Makepeace
Born July 18, 1811, in Calcutta; died Dec. 24,1863, in London. English author.
Thackeray is the major representative of what K. Marx called the “brilliant pleiad” of 19th-century English novelists (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 10, p. 648). The son of a wealthy colonial official, Thackeray studied at Cambridge University from 1829 to 1830. He traveled extensively and worked as a journalist for Punch and other publications. He was also a talented cartoonist.
Thackeray’s work, while varied in genre (including novels, comic novellas, humoresques, fairy tales, parodies, sketches, and ballads), has a consistent ideology and artistic method. His best works include The Yellowplush Correspondence (1837), the novella Catherine (1840), the cycle of parodies The Snobs of England (1846-47; republished in 1848 as The Book of Snobs; Russian title, Novels of Celebrities), and the novels Vanity Fair (1848), Pendennis (1850), The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852), The Newcomes (1855), and The Virginians (1857). Thackeray’s essays in literary criticism (The English Humorists of the 18th Century, 1853) and his letters are remarkable examples of English prose.
Thackeray’s work is critical of the Victorian bourgeois era, combining an understanding of sociohistorical patterns with a vision of life as an unending masquerade. He saw history as a cycle, full of the tragicomic and grotesque (see the letter to his mother of Mar. 10, 1848). His philosophical views were close to those of Montaigne and Hume.
Thackeray created a new type of satirical novel. While drawing on European literary traditions (as represented by Aristophanes, Petronius, Rabelais, Cervantes, Swift, Fielding, Sterne, and W. Scott), he used special techniques that played with literary conventions yet established a realistic framework. He also used the entire range of devices from folk literature, including motifs from mythology, fairy tales, fables, and the English Christmas pantomimes. In this way, he expanded the possibilities of social satire and deepened the realism of representation. Thackeray’s broadly satirized characters (Yellowplush, Barry Lyndon, Becky Sharp, Lord Steyne, and Barnes Newcome) reveal the depth of man’s alienation in a class-structured society. They are at once socially conditioned and eternal types. In depicting his characters, Thackeray used symbolism, ironic implication, alogism, and parodie stylization, among other devices. He devoted particular attention to developing the semblance of a first-person author, using various pseudonyms (Ike Solomons, Michael Angelo Tit-marsh, and Pendennis). Thackeray’s work enjoyed wide popularity in Russia in the early 1850’s and was supported by the revolutionary-democratic school of criticism.
WORKSThe Works, vols. 1–26. New York-London, 1910–11.
The Letters and Private Papers, vols. 1–4. Collected and edited by G. N. Ray. Cambridge, Mass., 1946.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–12. St. Petersburg, 1894-95.
Sobr. soch. v 12 tt., vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1974–75—.
REFERENCESlstoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 2, issue 2. Moscow, 1955.
Alekseev, M. P. Iz istorii angliiskoi literatury. Moscow, 1960.
Ivasheva, V. V. Tekerei-satirik. Moscow, 1958.
Ray, G. N. Thackeray, vols. 1–2. London, 1955–58.
Loofbourow, J. Thackeray and the Form of Fiction. Princeton, N. J., 1964.
Flamm, D. Thackeray’s Critics. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1967.
McMaster, J. Thackeray: The Major Novels. Toronto, 1971.
Pantůčková, L. W. M. Thackeray as a Critic of Literature. Brno, 1972.
V. S. VAKHRUSHEV