Acknowledged by his contemporaries as one of the great novelists of the 19th-century, WM Thackeray's critical reputation suffered a marked decline over the last hundred years. This book, the first introductory critical study of Thackeray's writings in twenty years, seeks to redress this state of relative neglect by examining a much wider range of writing - from novels to shorter fiction, journalism and criticism - than is customarily familiar to readers of Vanity Fair. The generic and formal diversity of Thackeray's writing is shown to emerge out of the specific material contexts of early to mid 19th-century literary culture, primarily the journalistic culture of the periodicals to which he contributed. Richard Salmon argues that the materiality of culture, a recent preoccupation of literary criticism and theory, is one of the most pervasive characteristics of Thackeray's consciousness of time. His journalistic relationship to the present and antiquarian fascination with memory and the 18th-century past is a recurrent feature of his writing.
Divided into chapters along conceptual rather than strictly chronological grounds, this work identifies many of the persistent patterns and concerns of Thackeray's writing.
Richard Salmon is a lecturer in the School of English, University of Leeds. His publications include several articles in the field of Victorian literature and culture.