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William Makepeace Thackeray

Legacy Libraries

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Edited: Aug 4, 2013, 4:10pm Top

I give you the library of William Makepeace Thackeray, from his home in Kensington, London.

I originally became interested in Thackeray's library when a volume belonging to him showed up in the library of Leonard & Virginia Woolf. I was curious of the link, and now I can only presume that when Thackeray died in 1863, vol. 1 of Chrysal : or, The adventures of a guinea by Charles Johnstone was in the possession of his daughter, Harriet Marian, whom later married Leslie Stephen in 1867. Harriet died 1875, and once Leslie Stephen died in 1904, his entire library passed to his daughter, Virginia Woolf (neƩ Stephen).

Side-note: A quote I found in E.M. Forster's Howard End recently, instantly brought Virginia and Vanessa to mind, whom I think may have been the inspiration:

Chairs, tables, pictures, books, that had rumbled down to them through the generations, must rumble forward again like a slide of rubbish to which she longed to give the final push, and send it toppling into the sea. But there were all their father's books - they never read them, but they were their father''s and must be kept.

Anyways, I've catalogued as much as I could, using the records of the original auction catalogue from 1864, digitised by the HathiTrust. Not all the details were given, and even some errors were discovered in the entries, which was likely due to the sale taking place just three months after Thackeray's death.

I've linked the catalogue in the comments section to every work taken from it. However, because Thackeray left a very distinguisable provenance mark in his books, an embossed stamp with his initials, I was able to find other catalogues which recorded later sales, notably the library of William H. Lambert, and several entries in Maggs Bros. Ltd.

The library is not complete. There are 193 unidentified volumes from the original sale, and several "large parcels" of French and German books, and travel guides. No institution has ever attempted to recreate Thackeray's library so future sales records are all that can be hoped for.

Edit: Link corrections

Aug 2, 2013, 1:16am Top

Wonderful. Thanks. (Ah yes, I hear you. Those hasty auction catalogues with entries like "and a parcel of" are indeed awful).

And I really should pick up a good biography of Woolf some of these days. I didn't even know she and Thackeray were related.

Aug 2, 2013, 8:52am Top

Ha. If only the auctioneers knew that these catalogues would be preserved for posterity.

I would fully recommend any Woolf biography, or all of them even, but I don't think any book would discuss the connection between Virginia and Thackeray as they're not technically related.

Virginia was the product of Leslie Stephen's second marriage to Julia Jackson, herself the widow of Herbert Duckworth. As you can imagine, Woolf did have an interesting upbringing. Also, in contradiction to Forster's quote, she was home-schooled for most of her early life and did read a substantial amount of her father's books.

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