“Whatever you are, be a good one.”
William Makepeace Thackeray (July 18, 1811 –December 24, 1863) was an English novelist of the 19th century. He is known for his satirical works, particularly Vanity Fair, a panoramic portrait of English society.
In the early 1840s Thackeray had some success with two travel books, The Paris Sketch Book and The Irish Sketch Book, the latter marked by hostility to Irish Catholics. However, as the book appealed to British prejudices, Thackeray was given the job of being Punch’s Irish expert, often under the pseudonym Hibernis Hibernior. It was Thackeray, in other words, who was chiefly responsible for Punch’s notoriously hostile and condescending depictions of the Irish during the Irish Famine (1845–51).
Thackeray achieved more recognition with his Snob Papers (serialised 1846/7, published in book form in 1848), but the work that really established his fame was the novel Vanity Fair, which first appeared in serialised instalments beginning in January 1847. Even before Vanity Fair completed its serial run Thackeray had become a celebrity, sought after by the very lords and ladies whom he satirised. They hailed him as the equal of Dickens.
He remained “at the top of the tree,” as he put it, for the rest of his life, during which he produced several large novels, notably Pendennis, The Newcomes and The History of Henry Esmond, despite various illnesses, including a near-fatal one that struck him in 1849 in the middle of writing Pendennis. He twice visited the United States on lecture tours during this period. Thackeray also gave lectures in London on the English humorists of the eighteenth century, and on the first four Hanoverian monarchs. The latter series was published in book form as The Four Georges.
In Oxford he stood unsuccessfully as an independent for Parliament. He was narrowly beaten by Cardwell, who received 1,070 votes, as against 1,005 for Thackeray.