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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 1 Sep 2015 16:58:02 -0700
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Friends of the Dickens Forum,

     Kale Kishor <[log in to unmask]> writes, "Since the subject has 
come up, do listmembers have any comments about any of Thackeray's 
novels other than *Vanity Fair*? Perhaps they can contact me off-list, 
if so?"
Friends of the Dickens Forum,

     We have been carried away in reflecting on Dickens's great rival, 
William Makepeace Thackeray:

     "Ignored or slighted in respected corners,....., Thackeray is , 
after all,  a great novelist." Thus, Geoffrey Tillotson in *Thackeray 
the Novelist* (1954).  Tillotson urged this position against the severe 
strictures of F.R. Leavis.  It cannot be said that Tillotson won out, 
but the novels of Thackeray have broad charms, wit, and knowledge that 
have attracted "a multitude of devoted readers."

     It is not our purpose here to defend Thackeray but to recall our 
own enjoyment primarily, of course, of *Vanity Fair* and then of certain 
Tony  Roche, the Dublin critic, burst on us one day with an enthusiastic 
rave about *The Luck of Barry Lyndon,* and later about the beautifully 
made movie of
that lively work.  Then it was Michael Cuddihy, the astute Tucson poet, 
who made us re-read *The History of Henry Esmond* as a totally engaging 
18th-century re-creation--later seconded by Professor Jerry Buckley.  
*Esmond* lovers slipped easily into admiration for *The Newcomes* with 
its large, unforgettable Colonel Thomas Newcome, who had appeared 
earlier, taking up most of the stage.  Characters appear and re-appear 
in novel after novel, so we are not surprised to meet familiar faces in 
the autobiographical *Pendennis* (often compared to *David Copperfield*) 
and others.

     We recall our astonishment when Harry Levin, a Shakespearean and 
Joyce scholar, wrote a longish piece for the TLS entitled "The Uncles in 
Thackeray." It was though all of Thackeray were of a piece.  If there is 
a uniting power, appearing in all, it is his voice, large, bemused, 
blithe, "modified into repose."  But this phrase, found in Tillotson, 
misses his unique presence, assured, knowing, all-subsuming.  Ah, but we 
get ahead of ourselves.

     What novels, Kale Kishor?  If not *Vanity Fair* for the twentieth 
time, perhaps the early *Catherine*, which we have not read but which a 
committed Thackerayan recommends,  or *Pendennis * (1848-1850) which we 
remember enjoying especially for its lively characters.