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Vanity Fair (Barnes & Noble Classics) by…

Vanity Fair (Barnes & Noble Classics) (original 1847; edition 2003)

by William Makepeace Thackeray, Nicholas Dames (Introduction)

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11,341159337 (3.88)1 / 683
Title:Vanity Fair (Barnes & Noble Classics)
Authors:William Makepeace Thackeray
Other authors:Nicholas Dames (Introduction)
Info:Barnes & Noble Classics (2003), Paperback, 736 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (1847)

  1. 131
    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (HollyMS)
    HollyMS: Both works are about women who would do anything to gain a life of luxury.
  2. 20
    Moll Flanders: The Fortunes and Misfortunes by Daniel Defoe (flissp, Booksloth)
  3. 00
    Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: It's all about what people do for entertainment, status, and sport. Along the way, the entire spectrum of society is satirized.
  4. 11
    Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Antarehs)
  5. 01
    Bleak House by Charles Dickens (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Obra soberbia de Dickens. Más "luminosa" que otras de sus obras. Historia larga, pero atrapante.
Satire (24)

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English (149)  Italian (4)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (159)
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When I was in junior high school (The Age of the Dinosaurs), I read “Gone with the Wind” for the first time, and was raving about Scarlett O’Hara to an English teacher I greatly admired. She said Scarlett was but a poor imitation of The Original Anti-Heroine, Becky Sharp, and if I wanted the real thing, I should read “Vanity Fair”.

I believe I may have attempted to do so, and gave up fairly quickly. Five decades have now passed, and I actually read Mr. Thackeray’s classic this month.

Well, I read about 75% of it. Toward the end there, when Thackeray’s wordiness overwhelmed me and all I wanted to do was to finish the d*d thing, I admit to skimming his incredibly wordy, repetitive, and dull lists of who was at which party and what their ancestry was and how their great-grandfather cheated somebody else’s great-grandfather out of the ancestral manse, etc etc etc…… (The work originally appeared in serialization, and Thackeray may have been paid by the word. That would certainly explain much of his meandering.)

Mark Twain said that a classic is “something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.” He may well have been talking about “Vanity Fair”.

Lord love a duck, it’s dreary. Though sometimes considered the "principal founder" of the Victorian domestic novel, it is terribly dated. And it’s very much a novel of its time, repeatedly reminding the reader of the delicacy of womankind, bless her kind little heart and dull little intellect. Amelia Sedley, the literary foremother of Melanie Hamilton is so sappy that the modern reader really, really wants to smack her upside the head. Her frenemy Becky Sharp is certainly manipulative, avaricious, duplicitous, and all the negative things Scarlett O’Hara also represented, but without Scarlett’s stubborn resourcefulness or passionate tango with the dashing Rhett Butler.

"Vanity Fair" also presents itself as a biting indictment of the falseness of British society in the 19th century, with its emphasis on titles, elaborate social codes, and fascination with wealth and status. Unfortunately, the humor doesn’t age well, either, as much of it (as with any satirical work) depends on the reader’s familiarity with the milieu it skewers.

Sprinkled with phrases in French, German, Latin, and Greek, and full of now-archaic language, the modern reader will need a very comprehensive dictionary at hand, as well as a phrase book of the common non-English terms with which the text is ornamented. Thackeray’s tendency to step back and address the reader directly is yet another stylistic choice which (fortunately) largely disappeared along about the middle of the 20th century.

All in all, reading "Vanity Fair" may itself be an exercise in vanity for the modern reader, who can now say “I’ve read it.” The same reader would probably be stretching the boundaries of truth to say “I enjoyed it.”

The convoluted plot involves the interplay among Rebecca (Becky) Sharp, Amelia (Emmy) Sedley, and begins as the girls leave finishing school. Becky, the orphaned daughter of an itinerant portrait-painter and a French dancing girl, is in line to begin a position as governess in a baronet's household, but plans a brief visit with her school friend Emmy, first. Emmy’s family is well-off, her father doing something that apparently involves stocks or banking or somesuch. (He makes money. ‘Nuff said.) Becky hopes to leverage this visit into a marriage with Emmy’s elder brother Joseph, a sadly ridiculous figure, pompous, self-important, and dim, but nevertheless the heir to Sedley’s estate. Emmy’s marriage prospects are fixed on George Osborne, the son of her father’s business partner and a foppish young man without much moral character, though he looks quite dashing in his military uniform. Emmy is too dim (and well-bred) to see the emptiness behind George’s pretty face. (Apparently, dimness runs rampant in the Sedley genes.)

The Becky/Joseph pairing never gets off the ground and Becky goes off to her governess position at roughly the same time Emma’s father is cheated out of his business share by George’s father. The young sweethearts, in defiance of the elder Osborne’s command, run off and are married, laughing gaily at the old man’s obdurate insistence that he will disown George, which he does. Becky, meantime, has now set her lacy cap at one Rawdon Crawley, the second son of her baronet employer. Rawdon is also a military man, and while the title will never be his, he is the favorite of a wealthy spinster aunt, thus making him prime marriage material in Becky’s eyes. It’s all very gay (except that George is already beginning to letch for Becky) and the two newlywed couples, accompanied by Osborne’s good buddy William Dobbins, are having a gay old time until Napoleon Bonaparte escapes his exile and once again begins ravaging across Europe and – dash it all – the young soldiers are actually expected to take up arms, leaving their pregnant brides after a bare six weeks of marital bliss.

George is inconsiderate enough to die at Waterloo, leaving Emma the bereaved widow, doting on the son born after his father’s death, and eking out a living by moving in with her also-impoverished parents. Dobbins, who has loved her all along, does The Honorable Thing, and she spurns him, preferring the untarnished (and highly embroidered) memory of George, so William is forced to sneakily provide a small living for Emma and the baby. Becky’s husband fares better, but the avaricious little imp, attempting to worm her way into the graces of the Rich Old Spinster Aunt, manages to piss off the old broad so thoroughly that she leaves all her money elsewhere. This is highly inconvenient to Becky, whose husband has left the military and supports them with his gambling skills which, alas, are not consistent, and the young couple learns how to Live Well on Nothing, mostly by sponging off friends and stiffing the various landlords, grocers, and milliners who provide them with their surface prosperity.

This state of affairs goes on for about 600 pages, with Emma being poor but gracious and Becky being sinful and scheming until she is caught en flagrante (or as close to en flagrante as the literary conventions of the day will allow) with one of her wealthy “sponsors”, and her husband kicks her out and goes off to be the governor of some miserable tropical locale. Emma feels sorry for her and believes Becky's edited version of events in which she is the totally innocent victim. It seems that Becky may yet rise from the ashes, but – worse luck! – Emma discovers what a rotter George really was and how close he came to running off with her friend. Eventually, the faithful devotion of Dobbin makes an impression on her, and they are married to live happily ever after while Becky sinks irretrievably into sin. Not to worry, though – her husband eventually dies and leaves her a small pension. We assume she toddles off into old age with a dashing young buck on each arm, and the exhausted reader finally shuts the cover of this massive and overwrought tome.

If you’re really interested in more, there’s a movie. Reese Witherspoon is in it. It’s three bucks (used) on eBay.

( )
  LyndaInOregon | Dec 14, 2018 |
Long and sprawling, witty and satirical, this is quite a character study. I think I recognized someone I know in real life in each and every one of the main characters. A novel without a hero, you say, Mr. Thackeray? Then please explain Dobbin! :) ( )
  sprainedbrain | Dec 1, 2018 |

It's on my shelve because his middle name is 'Makepeace' ✌
  iSatyajeet | Nov 21, 2018 |

It's on my shelve because his middle name is 'Makepeace' ✌
  iSatyajeet | Nov 21, 2018 |
I thought I will never finish this book; I tried once but gave up after a few pages. I am glad I tried again, and what a sense of accomplishment upon finishing it. At times, Thackeray deviates too much from the main story, when he cites tales of other people. But overall, it is an interesting read, with Thackeray using uncommon literary devices, for example, he even inserts himself into the story. I also find myself touched when old Osborne forgives Amelia and returns guardianship of Georgie to her. ( )
  siok | Nov 14, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (85 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thackeray, William Makepeaceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ball, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beach, Joseph WarrenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carey, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carey, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Castle, JohnReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Macchi, RuthTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marquand, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melosi, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nierop, A. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pym, RolandIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ridley, M. R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saintsbury, GeorgeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stewart, J. I. M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stewart, J. I. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutton, GeorginaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trollope, JoannaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tuomikoski, AinoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weldon, FayIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winterich, John T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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this story is affectionately dedicated
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While the present century was in its teens, and on one sun-shiny morning in June, there drove up to the great iron gate of Miss Pinkerton's academy for young ladies, on Chiswick Mall, a large family coach, with two fat horses in blazing harness, driven by a fat coachman in a three-cornered hat and wig, at the rate of four miles an hour.
But, lo! and just as the coach drove off, Miss Sharp put her pale face out of the window and actually flung the book back into the garden.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439831, Paperback)

No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her sentimental companion amelia, however, longs only for caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of Regency society, battles—military and domestic—are fought, fortunes made and lost. The one steadfast and honourable figure in this corrupt world is Dobbin with his devotion to Amelia, bringing pathos and depth to Thackeray's gloriously satirical epic of love and social adventure. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:34 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"Thus asks Thackeray in his gloriously entertaining saga, as a vibrant cast of characters scheme and scramble for life's prizes on the crowded stage of Vanity Fair. And no one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than Becky Sharp, Thackeray's supreme creation. Brilliant, alluring and ruthless, she defies her poverty-stricken background to clamber up the social ladder, while her sentimental companion Amelia longs only for caddish soldier George." "As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of Regency society, battles - military and domestic - are fought; fortunes are made and lost. And amid the fast-paced action stands Dobbin with his unrequited love for Amelia. A true gentleman in a corrupt world, he brings pathos and depth to Thackeray's epic tale of love and social adventure."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439831, 0141199644, 0141199547

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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