Public domain photograph of William Makepeace Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)

A selective list of online literary criticism for the Victorian-era English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars and articles published in peer-reviewed sources

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Introduction & Biography

"Biographical." A web version of Anthony Trollope's biography of Thackeray, which originally appeared in the English Men of Letters series edited by John Morley. The Victorian Web, edited by Professor George Landow.

"William Makepeace Thackeray." Essays on Thackeray's writing techniques, themes, biography, and the Victorian background.This is an excellent website for getting a thorough overview and detailed understanding of Thackeray and his writing. The Victorian Web, edited by Professor George Landow.

Ray, Gordon N. The Uses of Adversity, 1811-1846 . Volume one of Gordon N. Ray's two-volume biography of Thackeray. Professor Ray, who also published a four-volume edition of Thackeray's letters, is considered the standard biographer of Thackeray [free, full text from the internet archive].

"Thackeray's Vanity Fair." A web page from Professor Lila Melani's class at CUNY Brooklyn on the Victorian novel.

Embry, Kristi N. A review of The Inheritance of Genius: A Thackeray Family Biography by John Aplin. Reviewed in Studies in the Novel 43, 4 (winter 2011), pp. 507-508 [free at jstor].

"William Makepeace Thackeray." Old literary history and criticism (1907-1921), covers Thackeray's major and minor works. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature.

Pearson, Richard. "William Makepeace Thackeray." An introduction to Thackeray from the Literary Encyclopedia, 28 October 2000. On Vanity Fair [subscription service].

Literary Criticism

Brogan, Howard O. "Rachel Esmond and the Dilemma of the Victorian Ideal of Womanhood." ELH 13, 3 (Sep., 1946), pp. 223-232 [free at jstor].

Chase, Karen. "The Kindness of Consanguinity: Family History in Henry Esmond." Modern Language Studies 16, 3 (Summer, 1986), pp. 213-226 [free at jstor].

Colby, Robert A. "Barry Lyndon and the Irish Hero." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 21, 2 (Sep., 1966), pp. 109-130 [free at jstor].

Cole, Sarah Rose. "National Histories, International Genre: Thackeray, Balzac, and the Franco-British Bildungsroman." On Thackeray's Pendennis, Balzac's Lost Illusions and the international genre of the German Bildungsroman. Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 48 (Nov. 2007).

Cole, Sarah Rose. "The Aristocrat in the Mirror: Male Vanity and Bourgeois Desire in William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair." Nineteenth-Century Literature 61, 2 (Sept. 2006) pp 137-70 [free at jstor].

Fasick, Laura. "Thackeray's Treatment of Writing and Painting." Nineteenth-Century Literature 47, 1 (June 1992) [free at jstor].

Kurnick, David. "Empty Houses: Thackeray's Theater of Interiority." On nineteenth-century drama and its cultural competition with the novel. Victorian Studies 48, 2 (Winter 2006) pp 257-67 [free at jstor].

Lindner, Christoph. "Thackeray's Gourmand: Carnivals of Consumption in Vanity Fair." On Thackeray's representation of excessive consumption and runaway consumerism in Vanity Fair. Modern Philology 99, 4 (May 2002) pp 564-81 [free at jstor].

Shillingsburg, Peter. "Esmond in Three Volumes." On the publishing history of Henry Esmond, a chapter from Pegasus in Harness: Victorian Publishing and W. M. Thackeray. Article by the distinguished textual editor Peter L. Shillingsburg, at the Victorian Web.

Tierney, Terry. "Henry Esmond's Double Vision." Discusses the narrative perspective of the novel. Studies in the Novel, 24, 4 (Winter 1992), pp. 349-365 [free at jstor].

Tilford, John E, Jr. "The Love Theme of Henry Esmond", in PMLA 67, 5 (Sep., 1952), pp. 684-701 [free at jstor].

Worth, George J. "The Unity of Henry Esmond, in Nineteenth-Century Fiction 15, No. 4 (Mar., 1961), pp. 345-353 [free at jstor].

"The Victorian Governess: A Bibliography." Vanity Fair's Becky Sharp was one of many governess characters in the Victorian novel. A list of books and articles on the governess in Victorian society and in Victorian novels. By Cynthia E Huggins, at the Victorian Web.

Novels by Thackeray

Barry Lyndon, 1844
Thackeray's first substantial novel makes use of an autobiographical narrator, a charming young Irishman, an inveterate liar determined to pass himself off as a wealthy English gentleman. Both the 18th century setting and the style make the novel feel Fieldingesque.

Vanity Fair, 1847

Pendennis, 1850

Henry Esmond, 1852

The Newcomes, 1853-55

The Virginians, 1857

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