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Vanity Fair: Biography

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William Makepeace Thackeray, English novelist, was born in India in 1811. His father died in 1815 and was sent to live in England at the age of five. He went on to be a pupil at Charterhouse and suffered from the regime of this prestigious English public school. He later studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, but left a year later. After dabbling in law and art, he turned to journalism. Although he inherited £17,000 from his father, much of this was lost with the collapse of the bank, and some to gambling, and so writing became a financial necessity. He married Isabella Shawe in 1836, but her debilitating depressive illness created a great rift in their relationship.

 

Before achieving fame as a novelist, he wrote for various outlets such as Fraser’s Magazine and Punch. His earlier book-length works include his first novel, The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), the travel book The Paris Sketch Book (1840) and the enormously successful Vanity Fair (1847-1848). Of his other works, The History of Pendennis (1849-1850) and The History of Henry Esmond (1852) are particularly noteworthy. The latter novel was published in three volumes without first being serialized as the others were.

 

In 1860, he was appointed editor of a new literary journal, The Cornhill Magazine. This was popular and sold 110,000 copies of its first ‘number’.  After two years in this post, he resigned. He died on Christmas Eve in 1863 and it is estimated that over 2,000 mourners paid their respects at his funeral.




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