Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Pat Rogers

Keywords

Art Criticism, British Literature, Literary Criticism, Periodicals, W. M. Thackeray

Abstract

Scholars have heretofore under-examined William Makepeace Thackeray's early critical essays despite their potential for illuminating Victorian manners and life. Further, these essays' treatments of aesthetics, class, society, history, and politics are all influenced by the pecuniary aspects of periodical journalism and frequently expose socio-economic attitudes and realities. This study explicates the circumstances, contents, and cultural implications of Thackeray's critical essays. Compensatory payments Thackeray received are reconciled with his bibliographic record, questions regarding Thackeray's interactions with periodicals such as Punch and Fraser's Magazine answered, and a database of the payment practices of early Victorian periodicals established.

Thackeray's contributions to leading London newspapers, the Times and the Morning Chronicle, address history, travel, art, literature, religion, and international affairs. Based upon biblio-economic payment records, cross-references, and other information, Thackeray's previously skeletal newspaper bibliographic record is fleshed out with twenty-eight new attributions. With this new information in hand, Thackeray's views on colonial emigration and imperialism, international affairs, religion, medievalism, Ireland, the East, and English middle-class identity are clarified. Further, Thackeray wrote a series of social and political "London" letters for an Indian newspaper, the Calcutta Star. This dissertation establishes that Thackeray's letters were answered in print by "colonial" letters written by James Hume, editor of the Calcutta Star; their mutual correspondence thus constitutes a revealing cosmopolitan - colonial discourse. The particulars of Thackeray's Calcutta Star writings are established, insights into the personalities and viewpoints of both men provided, and societal aspects of their correspondence analyzed.

In his many newspaper art exhibition reviews Thackeray popularized serious painting and shaped middle-class taste. The nature and timing of Thackeray's art essays are assessed, espoused values characterized and earlier analyses critiqued, and Thackeray's role introducing middle-class readers to contemporary Victorian art explored. Other Thackeray newspaper reviews addressed literature; indeed, Thackeray's grounding of literature in economic realities demonstrably carried over from his critical thesiss to his subsequent work as a novelist, creating a unity of theme, style, and subject between his early and late writings. Literary pathways originating in Thackeray's critical reviews are shown to offer new insights into Thackeray novels Catherine, Vanity Fair, Henry Esmond, and Pendennis.