William Makepeace Thackeray.

The history of Henry Esmond, Esq. online

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M.A. [Harvard], Ph.D. fYale]










The text of this edition is taken, by the kind permission of
Messrs. Harper and Brothers, from the Biographical Edition of
Tliackeray's works. With the exception of some half-dozen typo-
graphical errors, I have followed that standard text verhatim et
literatim. The Introduction is intended to furnish the necessary
biographical information, with just enough literary criticism to
arouse and stimulate, rather than to answer and settle, inquiry and
discussion. It is hoped that the "Suggestions for Studying
Esmond'^ will not seem an impertinence; to those who dislike such
remarks, they can cause only a temporary irritation, while it is
possible that in some cases they may prove useful. After thorough
consideration, I have decided to furnish no notes; anything
approaching complete annotation would swell the volume to thrice
its present size, while meagre and scattering bits of explanation
are, to the judicious instructor, an annoyance. Esmond is, after
all, a romance rather than a text-book; and yet, those students
who are able to spend considerable time upon it may, by looking up
for themselves its frequent historical and literary allusions, find in
this great work of fiction the gateway to a valuable knowledge of
eighteenth century life and literature.

Yale University, W. L. P.

June 14, 1903.






Life . 1

Works .12

"Esmond" . 19

Suggestions for Studying "Esmond" 24

A Few Works Helpful in Studying "Esmond" ... 27

Author's Preface 31




I. An Account of the Family of Esmond of Castlewood

Hall .......... 41

II. Relates How Francis, Fourth Viscount Arrives at

Castlewood 47

III. Whither, in the Time of Thomas, Third Viscount, I

Had Preceded Him as Page to Isabella , . .56

IV. I am Placed Under a Popish Priest, and Bred to that

Religion — Viscountess Castlewood .... 68
V. My Superiors are Engaged in Plots for the Restoration

of King James the Second 75

VI. The Issue of the Plots— The Death of Thomas, Third

Viscount of Castlew^ood ; and the Imprisonment of
His Viscountess 87

VII. I am Left at Castlewood, an Orphan, and Find Most

Kind Protectors There 108

VHI. After Good Fortune Comes Evil 112

IX. I Have the Small-Pox, and Prepare to Leave Castlewood 122

X. I Go to Cambridge, and Do But Little Good There . 143
XL I Come Home for a Holiday to Castlewood, and Find a

Skeleton in the House 151

XII, My Lord Mohun Comes Among Us for No Good . . 165
XIIL My Lord Leaves Us and His Evil Behind Him . .176

XIV. We Ride After Him to London 190


viii CO^'TEyTS





I. I am in Prison, and Visited, but Not Consoled There 207
II. I Come to the End of My Captivity, but Not of My

Trouble 218

III. f I Take the Queen's Pay in Quin's Regiment . . . 228

IV. Recapitulations . 239

V. I Go On the Vigo Bay Expedition, Taste Salt Water,

and Smell Powder 2-16

VI. The 29th December 258

VII. I am Made Welcome at Walcote 266

VIII. Family Talk 277

IX. I Make the Campaign of 1704 . . . . . .285

X. An Old Story About a Fool and a AVoman . . . 295

XL The Famous Mr. Joseph Addison 305

XII. I Get a Company in the Campaign of 1706 . . . 317

XIII. I Meet an Old Acquaintance in Flanders, and Find My

Mother's Grave and My Own Cradle There . . 323

XIV. The Campaign of 1707, 1708 337

XV. General Webb Wins the Battle of Wynendael . 346



I. I Come to an End of My Battles and Bruises . . . 374
II. I Go Home and Harp on the Old String , . . .389

III. A Paper Out of the "Spectator" 404

IV. Beatrix's New Suitor 425

V. Mohun Appears for the Last Time in this History . 437

VI. Poor Beatrix 452

VII. I Visit Castlewood Once More 459

VIII. I Travel to France and Bring Home a Portrait of

Rigaud 471

IX. The Original of the Portrait Comes to England . . 482
X. We Entertain a Very Distinguished Guest at Kensing-
ton 497

XL Our Guest Quits Us as Not Being Hospitable Enough . 512

J^IL A Great Scheme, and Who Balked It ... . 523

XIIL August 1st, 1714 ....... 530



William Makepeace Thackeray was born at Calcutta, India,

July 18, 1811, two years after the birth of Tennyson, Gladstone, and

Darwin, and only a year before that of Browning,

and the novelist's great rival, Charles Dickens. It
is somewhat remarkable that a group of Englishmen endowed with
such extraordinary genius in literature, politics, and science
should have all entered the world within a period of four years.
Thackeray came from a Yorkshire family, one of whom in the
eighteenth century was successively Head-Master of Harrow, and
Archdeacon of Surrey. William Makepeace, the youngest of
his sixteen children, went to the Orient to make his living
under the East India Company. Besides showing a distinct apti-
tude for political manipulation, he enjoyed a wide reputation as
an elephant hunter. In 1776 he was married to a daughter of
Colonel Richmond Webb, a relative of the distinguished gen-
eral whose praises are sounded so frequently in the pages of Esmond.
In this same year, having made a comfortable sum by selling
elephants, he returned to England. Six of his sons followed their
father's example, and sought their fortune by going to India.
In 1810 one of them, Richmond Thackeray, was married to a
Calcutta belle, and an only child, the future novelist, received the
same name as his grandfather and his uncle. William Make-
peace. Richmond was a lover of art, both pictorial and musical,
and for the benefit of those who delight in tracing the qualities of
a genius back to his ancestry, we may observe that perhaps the



great ^'''"iter derivad h^'s artistic ability from his father, his courage
from his elephant-hunting grandfather, and his predilection for
teaching and preaching from his great-grandfather, who was a
burning and a shining light in the wide fields of education and the

In 1816 Richmond Thackeray died, and the next year the boy
was sent to England. During the voyage the ship stopped at St.

Helena and the grandchild of the Manager of Ele-
Early Years, phants gazed on the features of the Manager of

Men, Napoleon Bonaparte. Thackeray first went
to school in Hampshire, where so many of the scenes in Esmond
are laid, then at Chiswick, while from 1822 to 1828 he was a pupil
at the Charterhouse, a famous school where boys so different as
John Wesley and George Grote had preceded him, and where Colo-
nel Newcome was to die. Young Thackeray seemed in no way
precocious, and did not injure his health by overstudy, though
even at that time he amused himself by the composition of playful
verses. The most distinct impression made upon him during his
school days was by one of his mates, V enables, who broke his nose
in a fight. Thackeray always regarded English school life as
rough and brutal, and he was able to refresh his memory of it at
aijv time by glancing in a mirror.

Thackeray's mother had married again, and in 1828 the youth
went from the Charterhouse to live with her and his step-father

in Devonshire, near Ottery St. Mary, already
CoUege i.ife. famous as the birth-place of Coleridge. Here again

his impressionable mind unconsciously absorbed
material, to appear later on in Pendennis, where the above-men-
tioned town is thinly disguised as Clavering St. Mary. Mr. Leslie
Stephen believes that the county paper, which printed the boy's
parody on Moore, had the honor of containing Thackeray's first
publication. In February 1829, he went to the University of Cam-
bridge, entering Trinity College. Here his life conformed some-
what to the pattern pictured in Pendennis. He was too indolent to
study diligently, his preparation in Greek and Latin was meagre,


and, like most literary geniuses, he disliked mathematics. His
social qualities, however, developed rapidly; and in this highly
important phase of college life he appeared to most advantage. At
that time an extraordinary body of young men were at Cambridge,
including Tennyson, Edward FitzGerald, Spedding, and Monckton
Milnes. Thackeray did much desultory reading in poetry, and in the
novels of Henry Fielding ; and wrote bits of nonsense for the S)iob,
a college paper. To this mock journal he contributed a parody on
the subject announced for the prize in poetry — Timbjictoo. Both
subject and parody would to-day be forgotten, had not the prize
finally been won by Thackeraj^'s college mate, Alfred Tennyson.

Thackeray's rooms at Cambridge were in the great court of
Trinity, on the ground floor, not far from the gateway. Sir Isaac
Newton had occupied the room just above, and the young student
playfully prophesied to his mother that future visitors would come
to see the place where "Newton and Thackeray" lodged. This
prophecy has certainly been realised, for the thousands of Ameri-
can tourists who wander through Cambridge every summer, invar-
iably visit this corner of Trinity, and are probably more impressed
by the memory of Thackeray than by that of the great scientist.
Not long before Thackeray's undergraduate days, another man had
roomed close by, who has helped also to draw pilgrims — Lord

In 1830 the young man quitted Cambridge without a degree.
He suspected he was losing valuable time, and he knew he was
losing money, which he spent freely. His father
had left him about one hundred thousand dollars,
and disregarding the advice of his relatives, who urged him to
become a lawyer, and not feeling a strong desire to become any-
thing else, he decided to improve his mind by Continental travel.
Before the year was out, he had visited Cologne and arrived at
Weimar, the home of the greatest literary genius of modern times,
Goethe. The poet was over eighty, and had only two years to live.
Thackeray had the rare opportunity of observing (to quote Carlyle)
"that great mind, beaming in mildest mellow splendour, beaming,


if also trembling, like a great sun on the verge of the horizon, near
now to its long farewell." That the light of this glorious sunset
was an inspiration to the young Englishman, we may see from his
own words, in a letter to G. H. Lewes, April 38, 1855:

Of course I remember very well the perturbation of spirit
with which, as a lad of nineteen, I received the long-expected
intimation that the Herr Geheimrath would see me on such a
morning. This notable audience took place in a little ante-chambei-
of his private apartments, covered all round with antique casts and
bas-reliefs. He was habited in a long grey or drab redingote, with
a white neckcloth and a red ribbon in his Ijutton-hole. He kept
his hands behind his back, just as in Ranch's statuette. His coia-
plexion was very bright, clear, and rosy. His eyes extraordinarily
dark, piercing, and brilliant. I felt quite afraid before them, and
recollect comparing them to the eyes of the hero of a certain
romance called "Melmoth the Wanderer," which used to alarm us
boys thirty years agO; eyes of an individual wlio had made a bar-
gain with a Certain Person, and at an extreme old age retained
these eyes in all their awful splendour. I fancy Goethe must have
been still more handsome as an old man than even in the days of
his youth. His voice was very rich and sweet. He asked me ques-
tions about myself, which I answered as best I could. I recollect I
was at first astonished, and then somewhat relieved, when I found
he spoke French with not a good accent.

Vidi tantum. I saw him but three times. Once walking in
the garden of his house in the Frauenplan; once going to step into
his chariot on a sunshiny day, wearing a cap and a cloak with a
red collar. He was caressing at the time a beautiful little golden-
haired granddaughter, over whose sweet fair face the earth has
long since closed too. ... I can fancy nothing more serene, majes-
tic, and healthy-looking than the grand old Goethe.

This sojourn at Weimar included possibly the happiest weeks
of Thackeraj-'s life. He increased his knowledge of German, made
pretty translations, and his pencil was ever active in caricatures.
At the close of the letter quoted above, he wrote:

With a five-and-twenty years' experience since those happy
daj's of which I write, and an acquaintance with an immense variety
of human kind, I think I have never seen a society more simple,
charitable, courteous, gentleman-like, than that of the dear little
Saxon city where the good Schiller and the great Goethe lived and
lie buried.

Thackeray spent much ot his time there lying on a sofa and
indulging in day-dreams; but the day-dreams of some men are
more productive than the energy of others.


Rather suddenly he made up his mind, after all, to study law,
and in 1831 he returned to England, and entered the Middle Tem-
ple. This seems to have been an attempt, equally
honest and mistaken, to force his genius into the
wrong channel; for all he got out of this experience was material
for future novels. We can hardly imagine a man less fitted for
the legal profession. He stuck to his studies, however, until they
became wholly unpalatable, and even before the end, he had more
than once to go to Paris to take the taste of the Temple out of his

By 1833 Thackeray; was becoming, in a mild way, something of

a literary Bohemian, and his acquaintance among literary men

was steadily increasing. He made one desperate

Journalism' , , . , .

plunge, by smking — an appropriate word — some of
liis capital in a paper, of which he was Editor and Proprietor,
Fiaancially, the result was unfortunate, and early in 1834 the
journal died. The money lost in this venture, combined with fail-
ures in investments, and ill luck at gambling, produced an entire
change in his assets, and he suddenly discovered, that like most
children of Adam, he must eat his bread in the sweat of his face.
He therefore determined to become an artist, and to take the usual
preparatory course in Paris. Thither he went, worked hard, and
enjoyed life, partially supporting himself by journalism.

In 1836 he became the Paris correspondent of the Constitu-
tional, a radical paper. Although his salary was small, he supposed
he had at last obtained regular employment. On
the twentieth of August of this year he was married
at Paris to Miss Isabella Gethin Creagh Shawe, of Cork County,
Ireland, to whom lie had been engaged for a few months. His
courage in taking this step may be estimated by noting that the
marriage took place nearly a month before the first number of the
Constitutional appeared, and that the bridegroom's salar}- was to be
only about forty dollars a week. In less than a year, the Constitu-
tional went under, and in 1837 Thackeray was once more struggling
forali'/ing in London. He did all kinds of work. On the third of


August, his review of Carlyle's French Revolution appeared in the
London Times, and it is interesting to compare the language of this
review with the waj^ in which the novelist speaks of the great
Scotsman in the Virginians. The book had been out only two
months, and Thackeray, like many others, had not overcome his
bewilderment at the strange style of the new writer. Still, the
review was distinct h' favorable, and in places enthusiastic.

The following passage, characteristic of Thackeray, must have
pleased Carlyle:

The reader will see in the above extracts most of the faults
and a few of tlie merits, of this book. ^ He need not be told
tliat it is written in an eccentric prose, here and there disfigured
by grotesque conceits and images; but. for all this, it betrays
most extraordinary powers, — learning, observation, and humour.
Above all. it has no cant. . . . Clev^er critics . . . cried down Mr.
Carlyle"s history, opening upon it a hundred little piddling sluices
of small wit, destined to wash the book sheer away; and lo! the
book remains, it is only the poor wit which has run dry.

Carlyle remarked, after reading the review, that the author was
"one Thackeray, a half-monstrous Cornish giant, kind of painter,
Cambridge man, and Paris newspaper correspondent, who is now
writing for his life in London."

Besides reviewing, he wrote many things for Fraser's Magazine,
some of which, like the Yelloir-Plush Correspondence, belong among
his more enduring works. This Correspondence enjoys the distinction
of being the first publication of Thackeray's in book form, and
curiously enough, the first edition came from the press of an Ameri-
can firm, Messrs. Carey and Hart, of Philadelphia. Two years before
(1836) Thackeray had published at London and Paris, Flore et
Zephyr, but this was merely a set of drawings.

For a few short years, Thackeray's marriage resulted in undis-
turbed happiness, but in 1840 came the great tragedy of his life.
After the birth of her third daughter, his wife
became ill, and steadily grew worse, suffering from
a singular disease of the brain, a malady that convinced "the great
assay of art."' By 1842 she was in a hopeless condition, and had at
last to be placed in charge, her mental powers having entirely


vanished. Tliis unspeakable calamity Thackeray endured with the

highest courage and nobility, though of course it destroyed the

possibility of home life and domestic happiness. His two daughters

— one had died in infancy — went to live with their grandparents in

Paris; and with the unfortunate vitality of those whose lives are

worse than worthless, his wife survived her reason fifty years. Her

death in 1892 was a strange shock to the world, as it brought np so

vividly memories of her great husband. Nobler words have never

issued from a suffering man than those which, in 1852, Thackeray

wrote to a friend: "Though my marriage was a wreck, I would do

it over again, for behold love is the crown and completion of all

earthly good."

In 1841 he wrote portions of Vault u Fair, and the next year

saw the first of his contributions to Punch, which was only eleven

months old. Before long he became one of its most

Success in important and valuable contributors, and a volume

might be written on his connection with this

famous sheet. Here he had the opportunity to indulge himself
in one of his greatest amusements, the double employment of pen
and pencil, and his genius for pure fun had a steady outlet. Punch
printed nearly four hundred sketches by Thackeray; the Snob
Papers brought him for the first time a wide circle of readers, and
his reputation increased apace. His literary success showed itself
financially; in 1846 he took a house, and fulfilled one of his dearest
wishes by having his children live with him. Better than creature
comforts, he was now in a position where he could write real liter-
ature, and satisfy an ambition which had steadily grown into a life
purpose. In January 1847, the first installment of Vanity Fair
appeared ; and before the publication of the last number in July
1848, Thackeray's place among English novelists was assured.

In 1851, Thackeray delivered, with marked success, his lec-
tures on the English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century. "On
October 30, 1852, he sailed for Boston, touching at Halifax on the
way, and began his American tour. Two other distinguishe 1 men
of letters were his shipmates, James Russell Lowell, and the poet


Clough. We can easily imagine how intimate the three must have

become during the long voyage. Thackeray's success in the United

States was so pronounced that in 1855 he came again, and delivered

for the first time his lectures on the Four Georges,

Lectures. , . , t . n » . .

which were prepared especially for American
consumption, though i\\Qj were afterwards repeated in Great
Britain. He became acquainted with nearly all of our literary
men, to one of whom he paid a splendid compliment in the opening
paragraph of the Virginians. He learned to know America better
than most Englishmen have known it before or since, for he spoke
in Boston, Savannah, and St. Louis, and in many towns included
in that vast triangle. He understood and sympathized with the
sentiments of both North and South, and though he was naturally
homesick at times, he immensely enjoyed his travels and appre-
ciated the kindness with which he was everywhere received.
Dickens had aroused the anger of the whole nation by the way he
had recorded his impressions after reaching home, and those wlio
looked for a similar result from Thackeray's visit were agreeably
disappointed. A writer in Putnam s Magazine remarked, "He cer-
tainly knit more closely our sympathy with Englishmen." The
people who packed the halls where he spoke naturally went to see
the great author, rather than to hear what he had to say about
Swift and Addison. It is curiosity rather than a zeal for knowl-
edge which draws the crowd. Still, in Thackeray's case, those who
came to see remained to hear, for his eloquent words, combined
with his refined and unpretentious manner, charmed all his lis-
teners. The literary and financial results of these lectures were
highly important ; it was his preparation for the Humourists that
caused and enabled him to write his greatest book, Esmond, and it
was the composition of the Four Georges, with the American
experience he gained by travelling, that gave birth to the Vir-
ginians. But his real aim in taking the platform was not a literary
■ one ; it was simply to provide money for his children. It is pleas-
ant to remember that the financial results exceeded his highest


Thackeray's political career was amusingly brief. He came,
saw, and was conquered. England differs from the United States
in nothing more than in the qualities which cause
the nomination of a man for a political office. No
sooner does one achieve a literary reputation in England than ho
is talked of for Parliament, whereas in this country, certain other
and quite different qualifications seem most necessary for a Con-
gressional candidacy. Whatever may be the merits of the question
in general, Thackeray himself was as little fitted for a Parliamentary
career as he was for the law ; and we all have reason to rejoice in
his defeat, which happened in 1857, when he stood as a Liberal for
the city of Oxford. Both before and after the contest was settled,
he preserved his good temper and an admirable courtesy toward his

The now famous Cornhill Magazine was started in 1860, with

Thackeray as Editor-in-chief. His name immediately established

the success of the periodical, giving it great vogue,


and making possible a notable list of contributors,
including Tennyson. He found the position, however, very trying
and exacting, and was'glad to relinquish it at the end of two years
of service. It necessitated two things which Thackeray instinc-
tively had always disliked; methodical habits of work, against
which his whole nature rebelled, and the infliction of pain on
worthy persons by refusing their contributions. He was forced
once or twice to decline articles signed by names of high commer-
cial value, one by Anthony Trollope and one by Elizabeth Barrett
Browning, the latter (mirabile dictu) on the ground of its indeli-
cacy ! Trollope said Thackeray was not a good editor ; a natural
complaint by the man of Method against the man of Inspiration.
It is difficvilt to find a better comparison of the results of Industry
and the results of Genius, than is afforded by the novels of Trollope
when placed alongside the novels of Thackeray.

In August 1901, the Cornhill Magazine printed its five-hun-
dredth number, and, after quoting Thackeray's words, "On our
first day out, I asked leave to speak for myself, whom I regarded as


the captain of a great ship," Mr. Austin Dobson celebrated the
occasion with a ^OEdeau, the first part of which runs as follows:

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayThe history of Henry Esmond, Esq. → online text (page 1 of 46)