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able. As an adequate picture of human life, Vanity Fair is marred by these defects of manner and invention. As a social satire, as a purely objective picture of a life which the author observed without reading himself into it, nothing, on the other hand, could be more brilliant. Becky Sharp, the unscrupulous adventuress, is of the same family as Barry Lyndon ; her determination, from the day of her departure from Chiswick Mall to the fatal evening of her supper with Lord Steyne, carries her from triumph to triumph; she is a Lady Macbeth of comedy, taking the central place by virtue of her will. In view of her machinations, it is inevitable that we lose our consciousness of the disagreeable side of her character and its environment, and become her partisans, sympathising with her in her attack upon society. Similarly, the whole account of the Crawleys—the horrible old baronet, his hypocritical heir, his old sister, his clerical brother, and the ingenious Mrs. Bute Crawley-is, as humorous satire, admirable. Thackeray makes all his points unwaveringly ; his aim is always direct, and the shot is unerringly clean and decisive. There are very few novels in English which give the

reader so high a sense of perfect workmanship. The Its general question of plot enters into the book very little; the ship.

construction is, however, not in the least chaotic, and

we follow the various threads of the story, the separate fortunes of Becky and Amelia, as we follow the course of a chronicle which covers much historical ground without undue complexity. The style is easy and talkative, even slipshod ; but Thackeray's fastidious taste and faculty of saying the right thing in the right way, his gift of phrase and the sense of humour which is never far absent from his simplest words, envelop even his solecisms with a certain & stinction. Such passages as Becky Sharp's letters, or the famous description of Brussels on the day of Waterloo, have a classic place in English prose. But the dramatic power of the book is beyond criticism. In addition to the fact that the interest is always so sustained that no single chapter can be called dull, there is no undue artificiality or striving after dramatic effect. The great scene between Rawdon Crawley and Lord Steyne is the natural result of a long train of events; there is no transparent artifice employed to lead up to it ; it is the natural catastrophe that must have come sooner or later.

Thackeray's next novel, Pendennis (1849-50), is partly autobiographical, and is a long series of scenes and pictures of

society rather than a comedy like Vanity Fair, " Pendennis" (1849-50).

which, in spite of its rambling plot, has some

dramatic connection. Pendennis is the most garrulous and digressive of Thackeray's novels, and, in the course of its haphazard progress, is not always very engrossing. However, the opening chapters are complete in themselves, a perfect little comedy of calf-love; and Major Pendennis, Captain



Costigan, Harry Foker, Blanche Amory, and Alcide de Miro-
bolant, have all of them qualities which give a novel immortality.
Thackeray, too, touched a deeper pathos here than in Vanity
Fair, Helen Pendennis has the truth to nature in which
Amelia was wanting, and the episode of her death is one of
the most affecting passages in English. In his next novel, the
very different History of Henry Esmond (1852), Thackeray
showed the real greatness and tenderness of heart
of which he had given only partial glimpses beneath


(1852). his ironical humour. Esmond, like the rest of his books, is a chronicle extending over a long period of time; unlike them, it is historical, and written in the style of a past

There was an eighteenth-century vein in Thackeray's humour, whose source he had already shown in his brilliant but not soundly critical lectures on the English-Humorists of the Eighteenth Century. In Esmond he flung himself back into the age of Anne, and wrote as a contemporary of Pope and Swift might have written. The result is a magnificent historical romance, and the most finished masterpiece of the nineteenth century. It could, however, be achieved only once, and in his history of Esmond's descendants, The Virginians (1858-9), he failed, although writing in his natural manner, to produce a worthy sequel. In the meantime, The Newcomes (1854-5) had appeared--a great but unequal novel, sometimes on the level of Vanity Fair, sometimes far below it. Newcomes" A novelist who had created the Beatrix of Esmond (1855) and could not fail to give more than ordinary interest to Ethel Newcome ; but Clive, like Arthur Pendennis, is an unstable hero, who seems to be created for the express purpose of perplexing his friends and relatives. Two generations have seen in Colonel Newcome one of the most noble figures in fiction, and the verdict is.not likely to be reversed. One cannot, however, admire the ruthlessness of the imagination which surrounded the close of his life with sordid persecution. The satire of the book is often more terrifying than amusing. Mrs. Hobson Newcome, with her soiled gloves and oblique references to third persons, is laughable enough ; but the picture of the Duchesse d'Ivry and her entourage of sharpers and women of no reputation has an emphatically unpleasant side. So much, too, is crowded into the book that it becomes little more than an entertaining miscellany. In The Virginians, similarly, one or two episodes come into the foreground, and is difficult, without constant study, to discern between the varieties which remain over. The last of Thackeray's long novels, Philip (1862), which, like Lovel the Widower (1861), appeared in the Cor nhill Magazine during his editorship, is much inferior to the rest-a casual narrative of events, whose hero is an understudy of Clive Newcome, and is surrounded by circumstances that are occasionally little better than a replica of the situations in The Newcomes. His last novel, Denis Duval (1867), which promisee!

later work.

and con

to be admirable, was cut short in its serial form by his sudden death on December 24, 1863.

§ 15. Chaotic and irregular as these novels are in their general plan, Thackeray has a place second to none among

nineteenth-century novelists. He drew society as no Thackeray

one but Miss Austen had drawn it. To compare temporary two novelists so different in every way would be society. impossible. Thackeray worked on a far larger scale and never achieved minute perfection ; his work is often attractive because it is manifestly imperfect, just as the beauty of his style depends upon his casual felicity of phrase and a natural good taste which varnishes over its errors. His whole sphere of vision was wider ; he wrote as a man of the world who had seen and travelled much ; his sarcasm, far more withering than Miss Austen's, was tempered by a compassion of which her constant asperity was incapable. He had no invariable standard of praise and blame; sometimes he chastised unduly, at other times he forgave inexplicably. The novel, far more truly than poetry, is a criticism of life ; and, if this is granted, it must be owned that Thackeray, as a critic, suffered from lapses of which few great novelists have been guilty. He had, as we have said, a gift of instinctive observation where the superficial features of life were concerned, but his perception of the secrets of human nature, profound enough to go behind the mere humours ” of his characters, was yet vague and limited. He had ideals of virtue and villainy alike, and, in drawing from reality, he added touches which were purely imaginary. Jos Sedley and Mrs. Hobson Newcome are pleasant caricatures whose obvious extravagances are only an exaggeration of human nature in its most feeble aspects. But Dobbin in Vanity Fair is not intentionally ludicrous ; his weak qualities, in which he might justly be expected to fail, are idealised in order to exalt his singleness of purpose. Thackeray's method of idealisation is, however, not altogether fortunate. The effect of Dobbin upon most readers is an effect of caricature, which distorts without emphasising real peculiarities ; his eccentricities overshadow the sterling qualities which they were intended to relieve. In the case of Colonel Newcome something of the same kind happens ; his patience and submission are outside nature, and are so much exaggerated that only the great coup of the final scene, where Thackeray's pathos is at its manliest, saves him from ignominy. These are individual examples which, however, have a general application. The brilliant and vivid picture of society has everywhere its unreality ; its relation to real life is that of Mr. Yellowplush's English to common orthography. It is accurate in the sense that it conveys its real meaning, but there are natural defects inherent in its method.

However, as a humorist, Thackeray is open to less serious imputations. What has been said already of Fielding may be said of his great disciple. It is impossible to deny that, of the

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two, Fielding was the greater humorist. His Homeric laughter,
the Shakespearean truth to nature with which he laid bare the
souls of his heroes, were qualities which Thackeray
scarcely inherited. Fielding's comprehensiveness of his

vision could not be imparted even to those who
could understand him best. But in one leading feature of
humour Thackeray improved on his master. Fielding's careless,
all-embracing view of life admitted of human charity, but was
far too robust to give much expression to those tears which are
never far off from laughter. His humour rings true, but has
not the final delicacy which can distinguish the pathetic from
the effeminate, and he consequently left this perilous side of
humour alone. Thackeray, a master of roaring farce and the
author of some of the most laughable things in the world, was
at the same time a master of pathos. In the middle of his
most humorous scenes, after he has given us a long entertain-
ment of fun and satire and has hardened our hearts to his own
mood, he turns round in amiable contradiction and, by a single
phrase or sentence, moves us to tears. These sudden changes
are not guiltless of theatrical effect ; but his more sustained
passages in this manner, where he leads up to and achieves
legitimate pathos, sway us equally. And this pathetic quality,
inasmuch as it is part and parcel of Thackeray's humour, is
never merely sentimental or maudlin ; its manliness is genuine
because its sentiment is so real.

Thackeray's humour, so exuberant and yet so marked by delicacy and self-restraint, has won for itself a host of admirers, while his good taste and the rare quality of his wit preclude him from universal popularity. Many, Comparison indeed, who quarrel with one star because it differs from another in glory are apt to make invidious comparisons between him and Dickens. Most people will be content to admire both of the great artists who worked on so different lines. Thackeray painted a society in which Dickens showed himself incompetent ; but, if Dickens could not have drawn Becky Sharp, Thackeray still less could have drawn Mrs. Gamp. Dickens' work' was, at its best, the triumph of farce ; at its worst, it was excellent melodrama. Thackeray worked in the larger and more difficult sphere of comedy, and could not have exercised his talent for farce and burlesque on a wider scale. Such stories as The Great Hoggarty Diamond (1849) and The Ravenswing (1843), which show Thackeray in his lightest mood, would not make a man's reputation, although they might be remembered as perfect jeux d'esprit. And, although it is not easy to imagine Dickens treating such subjects, it was in this kind of writing that he did his best, and out of such material, fantastic and improbable, that he constructed his immense and complicated masterpieces. In the end, Dickens produced a body of work which is, as a whole, more complete and less perplexing. Thackeray, with far greater versatility, left


with Dickens.

2 x

much behind him that seems unfinished and capable of improvement. The Roundabout Papers (1863), containing some

of his latest work, are the best example of his power His minor

as an admirable and talkative essayist-a later dewritings.

velopment of the admirable beginning which we see in the Book of Snobs, the three early sketch-books, and the drawings and jokes of the Christmas Books. His genius for burlesque is seen in three sketches as different as The Rose and The Ring (1855), Sultan Stork (1842), and Major Geoghegan (1838–9)—the last perhaps a little strained in places. His picturesque talent as historian and critic is evident in the papers on The Four Georges (1861) and English Humorists (1853). As a writer of comic verse-and of verse, too, that is charmingly simple and pathetic-he is well known. Bouillabaisse, the Sailor's Farewell to his Sweetheart, Sultan Saladin, Werther and Charlotte, the Ballads of Policeman X, and Becky Sharp's songs in Vanity Fair, are the best examples out of many. And, when we remember that the acute and unsympathetic critic of Vanity Fair, the unsparing satirist of Barry Lyndon, was also the tender and compassionate biographer of Ésmond, the singularity of Thackeray's genius is evident. Its somewhat fragmentary character is also manifest. Yet, while some readers may be attracted by the fulness of his humour,

and others repelled by the contradiction between in the his bitter sarcasm and his lapses into tenderness; history of while some may praise and others may blame him the novel.

for his lack of that genial vulgarity which has given Dickens his place in everybody's affections, his place among our novelists cannot be doubted. He is the third in time of the five great writers of prose fiction who have founded their work upon English life, seeing it with an unexampled greatness of humour and breadth of vision. Fielding was the first, Jane Austen the second. Scott, the master of romance, and Dickens, the master of fantasy, are outside the group. While Thackeray was still alive, the two remaining novelists entered the field-George Eliot and Mr. George Meredith.

His place


Tales, which dealt with the life of OTHER NOVELISTS. the Irish peasantry, confining them

selves mostly to its tragic and JOHN BANIM (1798-1842) of Kil. melodramatic side. The work of kenny, has been called the "Scott the two Banims is very similar. The of Ireland." It was in avowed imi- younger, who began by writing tation of Scott that he, in collabora- poetry, had the greater imagination tion with his elder brother MICHAEL Neither had an overpowering sense BANIM (1796-1874), began the series of humour, and the great defect of of novels known as The O'Hara their work is that, side by side wild

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