William Makepeace Thackeray

A picture of the author William Makepeace Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 - 1863) was a 19th century English novelist best known for his satires about human weakness, and his biography, Henry Esmond.

Thackeray's family life was cut short at an early age. Born in Calcutta, India in 1811, his father died in 1815. His mother remained in India but chose to send young William to England to be educated. He was a good student, but postponed his academic studies. After receiving a sizable inheritance at twenty one years of age, he quickly squandered it all gambling and on two unsuccessful newspapers. Thackeray settled down and became more responsible after his marriage in 1836.

Thackeray is best known for his novel Vanity Fair, a satirical work with an attractive heroine and take-no-prisoners skewering of human weaknesses and foibles. About Thackeray's novel The History of Henry Esmond, Oscar Wilde wrote in his essay, The Soul of Man Under Socialism: "Popular authority and the recognition of popular authority are fatal. Thackeray's Esmond is a beautiful work of art because he wrote it to please himself."

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