William Makepeace Thackeray
On this date in 1811, William Makepeace Thackeray was born in India. He was educated at Cambridge, Trinity College, met Goethe in Germany, lost most of his inheritance through gambling or bad investments, and then studied law. Thackeray decided to go into writing. He lived in Paris for several years, then moved back to London for a journalism career. Employing highly unlikely noms de plume, such as "C.J. Yellowplush" and "George Savage Fitz-Boodle," Thackeray eventually wrote for Punch. His sketches, The Book of Snobs, was published in 1848. (Sample: "he who meanly admires mean things is a Snob.") The satirist had success with The Paris Sketchbook (1840), Barry Lyndon (1844) and Vanity Fair, which was serialized between 1847-48, and introduced the amoral and memorable character of Becky Sharp ("I think I could be a good woman if I have five thousand a year"). For a time his popularity rivaled Dickens, and, like Dickens, Thackeray lectured in the United States to great acclaim. After his wife had three daughters in three years, she suffered a permanent nervous breakdown. Thackeray and his mother took care of the girls. His daughter Harriet married Sir Leslie Stephen, a clergyman who became an agnostic. Thackeray "seems to have formed no very definite creed" (Life of W.M. Thackeray, by Herman Merivale, 1891). "About my future state I don't know. I leave it in the disposal of the awful Father" (Life of W.M. Thackeray, by Louis Melville, Vol. 2, 1899). D. 1863.
“Ah, what rubbish!”
—-Letter by Thackeray, upon hearing a preacher "on the Evangelical dodge," in Letters to Dr. J. Brown,1912, cited in A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists by Joseph McCabe, 1920
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor
© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.