Art is a central subject of The Newcomes, no doubt calling upon Thackeray’s own experience and training as an artist and art reviewer. The Newcomes follows the career of a young man from a commercial family who decides to become an artist, and through his reflections we encounter art schools, museums, studios, and many works and artists. Perhaps more important still, the novel dwells constantly on the artistic impulse, not only in artists but in everyone; that is, its central activity, observed in all the major characters, is the fashioning of imaginative constructs that make life harmonious, unified, patterned, and that frequently adopt conventional motifs in doing so. Reality and romantic artifice are constantly played off against, and fused with, each other. Ethel at one moment affects the style of worldly cynicism — ‘I belong to the world like all the rest of my family’ (p. 425) — and enrages Lady Kew, her mentor in worldliness, by flourishing a ‘Sold’ sign on her dress. At another she affects the pastoral shepherdess: ‘you would have fancied her an artless young country lass, only longing to trip back to her village, milk her cows at sunrise, and sit spinning of winter evenings by the fire’ (p. 690).


Fairy Tale Royal Academy Moral Reflection Historical Subject British History 
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  1. 4.
    Robert Colby, Thackeray’s Canvass of Humanity: An Author and his Public (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1979) Part One, Section 2, ‘Literyture and the Fine Harts’, pp. 57–86 and 374–7. See also Helene E. Roberts’s, “‘The Sentiment of Reality”: Thackeray’s Art Criticism’, Studies in the Novel, 13 (1978) pp. 21–39.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    Jeremy Maas, Victorian Painters (London: Barrie and Rockliff, The Cresset Press, 1969), p. 22.Google Scholar
  3. 17.
    Benjamin Robert Haydon in Malcolm Elwin (ed.) The Autobiography and Journals of Benjamin Robert Haydon (London: Macdonald, 1950) p. 462.Google Scholar
  4. 20.
    Willard Bissell Pope (ed.), The Diary of Benjamin Robert Haydon 5 vols (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963) Vol. V. p. 148.Google Scholar
  5. 22.
    Helen Smailes and Duncan Thomson, The Queen’s Image (Edinburgh: Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1987) p. 57.Google Scholar
  6. 28.
    Edwin Landseer, quoted in Campbell Lennie, Landseer, The Victorian Paragon (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1976) p. 212.Google Scholar
  7. 31.
    Robert Colby, Thackeray’s Canvas of Humanity (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1979) pp. 65–6.Google Scholar
  8. 32.
    J. R. Harvey, in Victorian Novelists and Their Illustrators (London: Sidgewick and Jackson, 1970) pp. 94–5, makes the connection and observes that Doyle used his own face for illustration of J.J. for the frontispiece of The Newcomes (as Thackeray had described him in the text). Viola Hopkins Winner, in ‘Thackeray and Richard Doyle, the “wayward artist” of The Newcomes’, Harvard Library Bulletin, 26 (1978) pp. 193–211, gives a detailed account of the collaboration between Thackeray and Doyle, with several pages of illustrations. She considers that the ‘pervasiveness of the fairy-tale and the animal fable elements in the novel may safely be attributed to Thackeray’s associations with him’ (p. 197). John C. Olmsted discusses ‘Richard Doyle’s Illustrations to The Newcomesin Studies in the Novel 13 (1978) pp 93–108.Google Scholar
  9. 34.
    W. M. Rossetti, Reminiscences (London: Brown Langham, 1906) p. 147.Google Scholar
  10. 36.
    W. P. Frith, My Autiobiography and Reminiscences, 2 vols. (London: Bentley, 1887) I, p. 96.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© R.D. McMaster 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. D. McMaster
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AlbertaCanada

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