William Makepeace Thackeray, 1811 - 1863

portrait of William Makepeace Thackeray
Portrait by Jesse Harrison Whitehurst, ca. 1855
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Born: 18 July 1811, Calcutta, British Indian Empire
Died: 24 December 1863, London, England, UK

Thackeray's father Richmond was a secretary for the board of revenue of the East India Company at Calcutta, when William was born Richmond's daughter by his mistress was seven, and Richmond had been married for just over nine months. After Richmond's death, William was sent to England and educated at Charterhouse (which he later parodied as "Slaughterhouse") in Surrey and Trinity College, Cambridge, although he never completed a degree. After traveling for a time he returned to London and studied law briefly before coming into his inheritance, which he lost most of by gambling and trying to start two newspapers, the rest was lost when the Indian banks failed. Three years later he married and began writing prolifically to make ends meet. The wrote extensively for Fraser's Magazine, including art criticism, short fictional pieces, and two of his early novels, then began writing for the new Punch. After his third daughter died his wife went into a deep depression, ending up in an institution and outliving him by three decades. He wrote both under his own name as well as such charming pseudonyms as Charles James Yellowplush, Michael Angelo Titmarsh, and George Savage FitzBoodle. From 1847 when Vanity Fair was serialized he became a celebrity, sought out by the cream of society which he was so deftly skewering. His health, never consistently good, declined in the 1850s, and he was found fully dressed on his bed having suffered a stroke the night before. His funeral was attended by over 7,000 mourners, including his friend and rival Charles Dickens.

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