Vanity Fair

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Wordsworth Editions, 1992 - Fiction - 951 pages
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Vanity Fair, Thackeray's panoramic, satirical saga of corruption at all levels of English society, was published in 1847 but set during the Napoleonic Wars. It chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family. Becky's fluctuating fortunes eventually bring her to an affair with Amelia's dissolute husband; when he is killed at Waterloo, Amelia and her child are left penniless, while Becky and her husband Rawdon Crawley rise in the world, managing to lead a high life in London solely on the basis of their shrewdness. (The chapter entitled "How to Live on Nothing" is a classic.) Thackeray's subtitle, "A Novel Without a Hero," is understating the case; his view of humanity in this novel is distinctly bleak and deliberately antiheroic. Critics of the time misunderstood the book, decrying it as (among other things) vicious, vile, and odious. But VANITY FAIR has endured as one of the great comic novels of all time, and a landmark in the history of realism in fiction.
 

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Contents

Chiswick Mall
3
In which Miss Sharp and Miss Sedley prepare to open
9
1n Rebecca is in presence of the enemy
17
rv The green silk purse
24
v1 Vauxhall
45
v111 Private and confidential
64
xn Quite a sentimental chapter
98
In which Rebeccas husband appears for a short time
133
Gaunt House
441
In which the reader is introduced to the very best
448
In which we enjoy three coursesand a dessert
459
Contains a vulgar incident
466
In which a charade is acted which may or may not puzzle the reader
474
In which Lord Steyne shows himself in a most amiable light
491
A rescue and a catastrophe
500
Sunday after the battle
508

xv1 The letter on the pincushion
141
xv11 How Captain Dobbin bought a piano
149
of Hymen
177
xx1 A quarrel about an heiress
186
leave Brighton
220
xxvu1 In which Amelia invades the Low Countries
250
xx1x Brussels
259
xxx11 In which Jos takes flight and the warts brought
290
xxx111 In which Miss Crawleys relations are very anxious
305
xxx1v James Crawley r pipe is put out
314
Widow and mother
330
xxxv1 How to live well on nothing a year
340
xxxv11 The subject continued
347
xxxv1n A family in a small way
361
xxx1x A cynical chapter
374
In which the same subject is pursued
516
Georgy is made a gentleman
530
Eothen
541
Our friend the Major
548
The old piano
559
Returns to the genteel world
568
In which two lights are put out
574
Lxri Am Rhein
586
x111 In which we meet an old acquaintance
596
A vagabond chapter
606
Full of business and pleasure
621
Amantium Irae
628
Which contains births marriages and deaths
642
NOTES TO THE TEXT
659
Copyright

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About the author (1992)

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.

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