Advanced Reading Survey: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

I’ve decided that on Mondays I’m going to revisit the books I read for a course in college called Advanced Reading Survey, taught by the eminent scholar and lovable professor, Dr. Huff. I’m not going to re-read all the books and poems I read for that course, probably more than fifty, but I am going to post to Semicolon the entries in the reading journal that I was required to keep for that class because I think that my entries on these works of literature may be of interest to readers here and because I’m afraid t

Author: Prior to Vanity Fair, Thackeray had written various short pieces under such imaginative pseudonyms as Michael Angelo Titmarsh, Charles Yellowplush, and George Fitz-Boodle. Vanity Fair was written for publication in monthly installments over a period of a year and a half, and it is said that as each publication deadline neared, the printer’s boy sometimes had to wait in the passage to carry off the pages as they were finished. At any rate, Vanity Fair became quite successful and gave Thackeray the means and popularity to go on writing other novels.

Amelia Sedley Osbourne: a young entlewoman
Becky Sharp: a cunning and beautiful orphan girl
Joseph Sedley: Amelia’s brother
Rawdon Crawley: an aristocrat and rake who marries Becky
George Osbourne: Amelia’s first husband
Miss Crawley: Rawdon’s wealthy aunt
Lord Steyne: A close friend of Becky’s
William Dobbin: Amelia’s protector and second husband

The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion. (p. 9-10)

I, for my part, have known a five-pound note to interpose and knock up a half century’s attachment between two brethren; and I can’t but admire, as I think what a fine and durable thing Love is among worldly people. (p. 93)

She did not dare to own that the man she loved was her inferior; or to feel that she had given her heart away too soon. Given once, the pure bashful maiden was too modest, too tender, too trustful, too weak, too much woman to recall it. (p. 173)

And for my part I believe that remorse is the least active of all a man’s moral senses —the very easiest to be deadened when wakened; and in some never wakened at all. We grieve at being found out and at the idea of shame or punishment; but the mere sense of wrong makes very few people unhappy in Vanity Fair. (p. 443)

It is all Vanity, to be sure, but who will not own to liking a little of it? I should like to know what well-constituted mind, merely because it is transitory, dislikes roast beef? (p. 526)

Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? (p. 728)

Thoughts and Tidbits Thirty Years later:

According to Wikipedia, “the character of Becky Sharp is based in part on Thackeray’s maternal grandmother Harriet Becher. She abandoned her husband and children when she eloped with Captain Charles Christie. In 1806 shortly after the death of Christie and her husband she married Edward Butler, another army officer. Thackeray lived with his grandmother in Paris in the 1830s and again in the 1840s.”

I never knew until a few years ago that Gone With the Wind was inspired by Vanity Fair. It makes perfect sense that Scarlett O’Hara and Becky Sharp are essentially the same characters each in a different place and time. Vanity Fair and Gone With the Wind.

Carrie at Mommy Brain hates Becky Sharp.

What I wrote about Thackeray and Vanity Fair on Thackeray’s birthday.

You can read Vanity Fair at Project Gutenberg., but it’s rather long. I suggest a nice cuddly 700+ page book, paperback or hardcover.

Eccclesiastes 1:1-3:
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?

3 thoughts on “Advanced Reading Survey: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

  1. Oh how I love this book. When I had to come up with a pseudonym for online groups and then my blog, I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than Becky Sharp!

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