Thackeray pp 154-156 | Cite as

‘No Ortolans for Pendennis!’

  • William Howard Russell


From John Black Atkins, The Life of Sir William Howard Russell (1911) i, 113–14, 375; ii, 120. Russell (1820–1907), journalist, knighted 1895, became famous through his reports in The Times on the Crimean War, and was a familiar figure in literary circles. Reflecting, years afterwards, on Thackeray, he wrote (14 Mar 1899), ‘But oh! the pity of it! He never had a chance of being at his best. He suffered the greatest tortures. He told me of his sufferings sometimes when he was obliged to write “funny” papers for Punch …. Yes! It was a “privilege” to know him — to love him as I did’ (Life of Russell, ii, 438). His biographer remarks that ‘there are touching entries in the diaries which suggest briefly, but completely, the unwavering friendship of Thackeray’, particularly valued when Mrs Russell was suffering from a painful terminal illness. Thackeray used often to walk past his house at appointed times, ‘and Russell would appear at the window and if he felt unable to leave his wife would wave Thackeray away, or, in the contrary case, would signal that he was coming down for a walk’ (ibid., i, 386). The first extract from Russell’s diary provides a pleasant instance of Thackeray’s ability to take with good humour an invidious comparison between Dickens and himself. It also exemplifies his habit of publicly identifying himself with his character Pendennis.


Publishing Firm Intimate Friend Literary Circle Great Torture Affectionate Nature 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1983

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  • William Howard Russell

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