Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair


William Makepeace Thackeray


As the manager of the Performance sits before the curtain on the boards and looks into the Fair, a feeling of profound melancholy comes over him in his survey of the bustling place. There is a great quantity of eating and drinking, making love and jilting, laughing and the contrary, smoking, cheating, fighting, dancing and fiddling; there are bullies pushing about, bucks ogling the women, knaves picking pockets, policemen on the look-out, quacks (OTHER quacks, plague take them!) bawling in front of their booths, and yokels looking up at the tinselled dancers and poor old rouged tumblers, while the light-fingered folk are operating upon their pockets behind. Yes, this is VANITY FAIR; not a moral place certainly; nor a merry one, though very noisy. Look at the faces of the actors and buffoons when they come off from their business; and Tom Fool washing the paint off his cheeks before he sits down to dinner with his wife and the little Jack Puddings behind the canvas. The curtain will be up presently, and he will be turning over head and heels, and crying, "How are you?"

A man with a reflective turn of mind, walking through an exhibition of this sort, will not be oppressed, I take it, by his own or other people's hilarity. An episode of humour or kindness touches and amuses him here and there—a pretty child looking at a gingerbread stall; a pretty girl blushing whilst her lover talks to her and chooses her fairing; poor Tom Fool, yonder behind the waggon, mumbling his bone with the honest family which lives by his tumbling; but the general impression is one more melancholy than mirthful. When you come home you sit down in a sober, contemplative, not uncharitable frame of mind, and apply yourself to your books or your business.

I have no other moral than this to tag to the present story of "Vanity Fair." Some people consider Fairs immoral altogether, and eschew such, with their servants and families: very likely they are right. But persons who think otherwise, and are of a lazy, or a benevolent, or a sarcastic mood, may perhaps like to step in for half an hour, and look at the performances. There are scenes of all sorts; some dreadful combats, some grand and lofty horse-riding, some scenes of high life, and some of very middling indeed; some love-making for the sentimental, and some light comic business; the whole accompanied by appropriate scenery and brilliantly illuminated with the Author's own candles.

What more has the Manager of the Performance to say?—To acknowledge the kindness with which it has been received in all the principal towns of England through which the Show has passed, and where it has been most favourably noticed by the respected conductors of the public Press, and by the Nobility and Gentry. He is proud to think that his Puppets have given satisfaction to the very best company in this empire.  The famous little Becky Puppet has been pronounced to be uncommonly flexible in the joints, and lively on the wire; the Amelia Doll, though it has had a smaller circle of admirers, has yet been carved and dressed with the greatest care by the artist; the Dobbin Figure, though apparently clumsy, yet dances in a very amusing and natural manner; the Little Boys' Dance has been liked by some; and please to remark the richly dressed figure of the Wicked Nobleman, on which no expense has been spared, and which Old Nick will fetch away at the end of this singular performance.

And with this, and a profound bow to his patrons, the Manager retires, and the curtain rises.

LONDON, June 28, 1848


I  Chiswick Mall
II  In Which Miss Sharp and Miss Sedley Prepare to Open the Campaign
III  Rebecca Is in Presence of the Enemy
IV  The Green Silk Purse
V  Dobbin of Ours
VI  Vauxhall
VII  Crawley of Queen's Crawley
VIII  Private and Confidential
IX  Family Portraits
X  Miss Sharp Begins to Make Friends
XI  Arcadian Simplicity
XII  Quite a Sentimental Chapter
XIII  Sentimental and Otherwise
XIV  Miss Crawley at Home
XV  In Which Rebecca's Husband Appears for a Short Time
XVI  The Letter on the Pincushion
XVII  How Captain Dobbin Bought a Piano
XVIII  Who Played on the Piano Captain Dobbin Bought
XIX  Miss Crawley at Nurse
XX  In Which Captain Dobbin Acts as the Messenger of Hymen
XXI  A Quarrel About an Heiress
XXII  A Marriage and Part of a Honeymoon
XXIII  Captain Dobbin Proceeds on His Canvass
XXIV  In Which Mr. Osborne Takes Down the Family Bible
XXV  In Which All the Principal Personages Think Fit to Leave Brighton
XXVI  Between London and Chatham
XXVII  In Which Amelia Joins Her Regiment
XXVIII  In Which Amelia Invades the Low Countries
XXIX  Brussels
XXX  "The Girl I Left Behind Me"
XXXI  In Which Jos Sedley Takes Care of His Sister
XXXII  In Which Jos Takes Flight, and the War Is Brought to a Close
XXXIII  In Which Miss Crawley's Relations Are Very Anxious About Her
XXXIV  James Crawley's Pipe Is Put Out
XXXV  Widow and Mother
XXXVI  How to Live Well on Nothing a Year
XXXVII  The Subject Continued
XXXVIII  A Family in a Very Small Way
XXXIX  A Cynical Chapter
XL  In Which Becky Is Recognized by the Family
XLI  In Which Becky Revisits the Halls of Her Ancestors
XLII  Which Treats of the Osborne Family
XLIII  In Which the Reader Has to Double the Cape
XLIV  A Round-about Chapter between London and Hampshire
XLV  Between Hampshire and London
XLVI  Struggles and Trials
XLVII  Gaunt House
XLVIII  In Which the Reader Is Introduced to the Very Best of Company
XLIX  In Which We Enjoy Three Courses and a Dessert
L  Contains a Vulgar Incident
LI  In Which a Charade Is Acted Which May or May Not Puzzle the Reader
LII  In Which Lord Steyne Shows Himself in a Most Amiable Light
LIII  A Rescue and a Catastrophe
LIV  Sunday After the Battle
LV  In Which the Same Subject is Pursued
LVI  Georgy is Made a Gentleman
LVII  Eothen
LVIII  Our Friend the Major
LIX  The Old Piano
LX  Returns to the Genteel World
LXI  In Which Two Lights are Put Out
LXII  Am Rhein
LXIII  In Which We Meet an Old Acquaintance
LXIV  A Vagabond Chapter
LXV  Full of Business and Pleasure
LXVI  Amantium Irae
LXVII  Which Contains Births, Marriages, and Deaths