William Makepeace Thackeray

Thackeray, William Makepeace, one of the greatest writers of fiction in the nineteenth century, was born in Calcutta, in 1811, but was sent to England while a child and educated in the Charterhouse School, which he has immortalized in his great story, The Newcomes. On the death of his parents, he found himself in possession of a handsome fortune, but it soon vanished and he was compelled to earn his subsistence. He dallied with law, courted art, and finally—a resolution which for the lovers of high fiction will never cease to be grateful—resolved to devote himself to literature. Then came from his pen the series of books which made him famous. It is a remarkable fact, however, that while Thackeray's writings were comparatively neglected in England, they enjoyed an extensive popularity in the United States, where they are still read with eagerness and delight by all who look beneath the surface of novels into the soul which animates them. It is impossible to do justice to the characteristics of Thackeray as a writer within the limits of this brief notice, but one or two of them may be briefly mentioned. He was a cynic, though a kindly one; he was a keen student of human nature, quick to recognize and denounce its weaknesses; yet he apparently found his deepest pleasure in depicting its features and recording its noblest manifestations. Nor is Thackeray an author from whose greater works an appropriate and satisfactory selection may be taken for a work of this kind. It has been thought wiser, therefore, to give a selection from his Rose and the Ring, as being suitable for younger readers and at the same time exhibiting his humour. Several of his charming ballads are also given.