The Book of Snobs by William Makepeace Thackeray

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Excerpt: ...and Paris, and Brussels, there are so many of his sort that I will lay a wager that I shall be accused of gross personality for showing him up. Many a less irreclaimable villain is transported; many a more honourable man is at present at the treadmill; and although we are the noblest, greatest, most religious, and most moral people in the world, I would still like to know where, except in the United Kingdom, debts are a matter of joke, and making tradesmen 'suffer' a sport that gentlemen own to? It is dishonourable to owe money in France. You never hear people in other parts of Europe brag of their swindling; or see a prison in a large Continental town which is not more or less peopled with English rogues. A still more loathsome and dangerous Snob than the above transparent and passive scamp, is frequent on the continent of Europe, and my young Snob friends who are travelling thither should be especially warned against him. Captain Legg is a gentleman, like Raff, though perhaps of a better degree. He has robbed his family too, but of a great deal more, and has boldly dishonoured bills for thousands, where Raff has been boggling over the clumsy conveyance of a ten-pound note. Legg is always at the best inn, with the finest waistcoats and moustaches, or tearing about in the flashest of britzkas, while poor Raff is tipsifying himself with spirits, and smoking cheap tobacco. It is amazing to think that Legg, so often shown up, and known everywhere, is flourishing yet. He would sink into utter ruin, but for the constant and ardent love of gentility that distinguishes the English Snob. There is many a young fellow of the middle classes who must know Legg to be a rogue and a cheat; and yet from his desire to be in the fashion, and his admiration of tip-top swells, and from his ambition to air himself by the side of a Lord's son, will let Legg make an income out of him; content to pay, so long as he can enjoy that society. Many a worthy father of a family,...
 

About William Makepeace Thackeray

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William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta, India, where his father was in service to the East India Company. After the death of his father in 1816, he was sent to England to attend school. Upon reaching college age, Thackeray attended Trinity College, Cambridge, but he left before completing his degree. Instead, he devoted his time to traveling and journalism. Generally considered the most effective satirist and humorist of the mid-nineteenth century, Thackeray moved from humorous journalism to successful fiction with a facility that was partially the result of a genial fictional persona and a graceful, relaxed style. At his best, he held up a mirror to Victorian manners and morals, gently satirizing, with a tone of sophisticated acceptance, the inevitable failure of the individual and of society. He took up the popular fictional situation of the young person of talent who must make his way in the world and dramatized it with satiric directness in The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), with the highest fictional skill and appreciation of complexities inherent within the satiric vision in his masterpiece, Vanity Fair (1847), and with a great subtlety of point of view and background in his one historical novel, Henry Esmond (1852). Vanity Fair, a complex interweaving in a vast historical panorama of a large number of characters, derives its title from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and attempts to invert for satirical purposes, the traditional Christian image of the City of God. Vanity Fair, the corrupt City of Man, remains Thackeray's most appreciated and widely read novel. It contrasts the lives of two boarding-school friends, Becky Sharp and Amelia Smedley. Constantly attuned to the demands of incidental journalism and his sense of professionalism in his relationship with his public, Thackeray wrote entertaining sketches and children's stories and published his humorous lectures on eighteenth-century life and literature. His own fiction shows the influence of his dedication to such eighteenth-century models as Henry Fielding, particularly in his satire, which accepts human nature rather than condemns it and takes quite seriously the applicability of the true English gentleman as a model for moral behavior. Thackeray requested that no authorized biography of him should ever be written, but members of his family did write about him, and these accounts were subsequently published.
 
Published May 17, 2012 by SMITH, ELDER & CO. 143 pages
Genres: Romance, Literature & Fiction, History, Humor & Entertainment, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction

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