William Thackeray, 1811-1863



William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta, India, as the only son of Richmond Thackeray, a Collector in the East Indian Company's service. After his father died he was sent to home to England. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Trinity College, Cambridge. Thackeray abandoned his studies without taking a degree, having lost some of his inheritance of twenty thousand pounds through gambling. During 1831-33 Thackeray studied law at the Middle Temple, London, but had little enthusiasm to continued his studies. In 1833 he brought with a large heritage the National Standard, but lost his fortune a year later in the Indian bank failures and other bad investments. In 1836 he married a poor Irish girl, Isabella Shawe; they had three daughters. Thackeray returned in 1837 to London and started his career as a hard working journalist. In the 1840s Thackeray started to gain name as a writer. He died suddenly on Christmas Eve 1863 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

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A story of two heroines: one humble, the other scheming and social climbing. This vast satirical panorama of a materialistic society centers on Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, good-natured but 'silly'. They are two boarding-school friends, whose destinies are contrasted. Clever and ambitious Becky is born into poverty as the daughter of a penniless artist. Her plans to marry Amelia's brother Joseph fail. She marries Rowdon Crawley, but he is disinherited. Becky manages to live at the height of fashion through the patronage of Lord Steyne. When her husband discovers the truth, he departs to become the governor of Coventry Island. Becky is ostracized and she moves to the Continent. In the meantime Amelia's stockbroker father is ruined. Amelia is loved by William Dobbin but she marries George Osborne - he dies in the battle of Waterloo. Amelia's son is left into the care of his grandfather, who dies and leaves him a fortune. Amelia travels in the Continent with his brother and they meet Becky. Dobbin has returned from India and disapproves Amelia's kindness to Becky. Older and disillusioned, Dobbin and Amelia can marry. Becky regains her hold over Joseph, who dies in suspicious circumstances. Becky's husband Rowdon dies, and Becky ends the novel in the guise of a pious widow.


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