The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century and Charity and Humour

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University of Michigan Press, 2007 - Literary Collections - 283 pages
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The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century collects a series of engaging lectures by W. M. Thackeray on Swift, Pope, Fielding, and others---offering a rare look at this classic author's views of his forbearers. The lectures and the final essay Charity and Humour were written for an American audience (the latter published in Harper's Monthly Magazine in June 1853) and showcase Thackeray's views of American sensibilities. Compiled by means of a comparative study of all relevant documents---from the first published appearance to the last edition touched by the author---this edition is a unique achievement.

This volume is the latest addition to The Thackeray Edition, a multi-volume series representing the first full-scale scholarly edition of William Makepeace Thackeray's works to appear in over seventy years and the only one ever to be based on an examination of manuscripts and relevant printed texts. This series puts into practice a theory of scholarly editing that gives new insight into Thackeray's own compositional process. Other volumes from the University of Michigan Press available in the series include The Snobs of England and Punch's Prize Novelists, Catherine: A Story, The Luck of Barry Lyndon, and The History of Henry Osmond.

Edgar F. Harden is Emeritus Professor of English at Simon Fraser University. He is editor of The Snobs of England and Punch's Prize Novelists and The Luck of Barry Lyndon.

  

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Contents

Notes on The English Humourists by James Hannay
109
Charity and Humour
195
Historical Introduction
209
A Note on the Text
217
A Note on the Manuscripts
225
Alternative American Ending
231
Variants in Manuscripts of the Lecture on Swift
245
A Historical and Textual Note
255
Other Versions of Charity and Humour
261
Ambiguous EndLine Hyphenated Compounds
279
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta, India, where his father was in service to the East India Company. After the death of his father in 1816, he was sent to England to attend school. Upon reaching college age, Thackeray attended Trinity College, Cambridge, but he left before completing his degree. Instead, he devoted his time to traveling and journalism. Generally considered the most effective satirist and humorist of the mid-nineteenth century, Thackeray moved from humorous journalism to successful fiction with a facility that was partially the result of a genial fictional persona and a graceful, relaxed style. At his best, he held up a mirror to Victorian manners and morals, gently satirizing, with a tone of sophisticated acceptance, the inevitable failure of the individual and of society. He took up the popular fictional situation of the young person of talent who must make his way in the world and dramatized it with satiric directness in The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), with the highest fictional skill and appreciation of complexities inherent within the satiric vision in his masterpiece, Vanity Fair (1847), and with a great subtlety of point of view and background in his one historical novel, Henry Esmond (1852). Vanity Fair, a complex interweaving in a vast historical panorama of a large number of characters, derives its title from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and attempts to invert for satirical purposes, the traditional Christian image of the City of God. Vanity Fair, the corrupt City of Man, remains Thackeray's most appreciated and widely read novel. It contrasts the lives of two boarding-school friends, Becky Sharp and Amelia Smedley. Constantly attuned to the demands of incidental journalism and his sense of professionalism in his relationship with his public, Thackeray wrote entertaining sketches and children's stories and published his humorous lectures on eighteenth-century life and literature. His own fiction shows the influence of his dedication to such eighteenth-century models as Henry Fielding, particularly in his satire, which accepts human nature rather than condemns it and takes quite seriously the applicability of the true English gentleman as a model for moral behavior. Thackeray requested that no authorized biography of him should ever be written, but members of his family did write about him, and these accounts were subsequently published.

One of the world's leading authorities on Thackeray, Edgar F. Harden is Professor of English at Simon Fraser University in England, and is the author of several books including The Emergence of Thackeray's Serial Fiction.

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