Thackeray’s Things: Time’s Local Habitation

  • Juliet McMaster
  • Rowland McMaster


As Chesterton said, Thackeray is the novelist of memory.1 All his sensitive characters, and his narrators too, are occupied in summoning up remembrance of things past. I don’t know if Proust read Thackeray, but Thackeray certainly didn’t need to read Proust to learn to take up the quest for the recapture of the past. Esmond, George Warrington and Denis Duval write their memoirs at a stage when one expects all passion to be spent, but though they recollect their emotion in tranquillity they find that it is emotion still. Esmond’s love for Beatrix ended in that moment when the roses shuddered out of her cheeks and he saw her as merely an intriguing prostitute to a prince; but yet “I invoke that beautiful spirit from the shades and love her still; or rather I should say such a past is always present to a man; such a passion once felt forms a part of his whole being, and cannot be separated from it” (Esmond, 383).2


Marriage Market Blue Ribbon Yellow Paper Love Letter Diamond Ring 
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  1. 1.
    G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (London, 1913 ) p. 126.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Geoffrey Tillotson, Thackeray the Novelist (Cambridge, 1954) pp. 60, 87ff.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Barbara Hardy, The Exposure of Luxury: Radical Themes in Thackeray (London, 1972) p. 102.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    George Worth, “The Unity of Henry Esmond”, Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 15 (1961) 345–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 8.
    Gordon N. Ray (ed.), The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray, vol. II (London, 1945–6) p. 532.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Martin Fido, “The History of Pendennis: A Reconsideration”, Essays in Criticism, 14 (1964) 363–79. See also Edgar Harden, “Theatricality in Pendennis”, Ariel, 4 (1973) 74–94.Google Scholar
  7. See also Edgar Harden, “Theatricality in Pendennis”, Ariel, 4 (1973) 74–94.Google Scholar

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© Juliet and Rowland McMaster 1981

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  • Juliet McMaster
  • Rowland McMaster

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