The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. - William Makepeace Thackeray - ebook
Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1844

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William Makepeace Thackeray

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Opis ebooka The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. - William Makepeace Thackeray

The Luck of Barry Lyndon is a picaresque novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, first published in serial form in 1844, about a member of the Irish gentry trying to become a member of the English aristocracy. Thackeray, who based the novel on the life and exploits of the Anglo-Irish rakehell and fortune-hunter Andrew Robinson Stoney, later reissued it under the title The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq..

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About Thackeray:

Thackeray, an only child, was born in Calcutta, India, where his father, Richmond Thackeray (1 September 1781 – 13 September 1815), held the high rank of secretary to the board of revenue in the British East India Company. His mother, Anne Becher (1792–1864; second daughter of John Harman Becher, a writer for the East India Company, and his wife Harriet), married Richmond Thackeray on 13 October 1810 after being sent to India in 1809. She was sent abroad after being told that the man she loved, Henry Carmichael-Smyth, had died. This was not true, but her family wanted a better marriage for her than with Carmichael-Smyth, a military man. The truth was unexpectedly revealed in 1812, when Richmond Thackeray unwittingly invited to dinner the supposedly dead Carmichael-Smyth. Richmond Thackeray, born at South Mimms, went to India at the age of sixteen to assume his duties as writer. By 1804 he had fathered a daughter by a native mistress, the mother and daughter being named in his will. Such liaisons being common among gentlemen of the East India Company, it formed no bar to his courting and marrying Anne Becher. After Richmond's death, Henry Carmichael-Smyth married Anne in 1818 and they returned to England the next year. William had been sent to England earlier, at the age of five, with a short stopover at St. Helena where the imprisoned Napoleon was pointed out to him. He was educated at schools in Southampton and Chiswick and then at Charterhouse School, where he was a close friend of John Leech. He disliked Charterhouse, parodying it in his later fiction as "Slaughterhouse." Illness in his last year there (during which he reportedly grew to his full height of 6'3") postponed his matriculation at Trinity College, Cambridge, until February 1829. Never too keen on academic studies, he left the University in 1830. He travelled for some time on the continent, visiting Paris and Weimar, where he met Goethe. He returned to England and began to study law at the Middle Temple, but soon gave that up. On reaching twenty-one, he came into his inheritance, but he squandered much of it on gambling and by funding two unsuccessful newspapers, The National Standard and The Constitutional, which he had hoped to write for. He also lost a good part of his fortune in the collapse of two Indian banks. Forced to consider a profession to support himself, he turned first to art, which he studied in Paris, but he did not pursue it, except in later years as the illustrator of some of his own novels and other writings. Thackeray's years of semi-idleness ended after he met and, on 20 August 1836, married Isabella Gethin Shawe (1816-1893), second daughter of Matthew Shawe, a colonel, who had died after extraordinary service, primarily in India, and his wife, Isabella Creagh. The marriage appears to have been a very happy one, though beset by problems (an overbearing mother-in-law and sickness). Their three daughters were Anne Isabella (1837-1919), Jane (1837; died at 8 months) and Harriet Marian (1840-1875). He now began "writing for his life," as he put it, turning to journalism in an effort to support his young family. He primarily worked for Fraser's Magazine, a sharp-witted and sharp-tongued conservative publication, for which he produced art criticism, short fictional sketches, and two longer fictional works, Catherine and The Luck of Barry Lyndon. Later, through his connection to the illustrator John Leech, he began writing for the newly created Punch magazine, where he published The Snob Papers, later collected as The Book of Snobs. This work popularized the modern meaning of the word "snob." Meanwhile tragedy struck in his personal life as his wife succumbed to depression after the birth of their third child. Finding he could get no work done at home, he spent more and more time away, until September 1840, when he noticed how grave her condition was and, struck by guilt, he took his ailing wife to Ireland. During the crossing she threw herself from a water-closet into the sea (from which she was rescued). They fled back home after a four-week domestic battle with her mother. From November 1840 to February 1842 she was in and out of professional care, her condition waxing and waning. In the long run she deteriorated into a permanent state of detachment from reality, unaware of the world around her. Thackeray desperately sought cures for her, but nothing worked, and she ended up confined in a home near Paris, where she remained until 1893, outliving her husband by thirty years. After his wife's illness, Thackeray became a de facto widower, never establishing another permanent relationship. He did pursue other women, in particular Mrs. Jane Brookfield and Sally Baxter. In 1851 Mr. Brookfield barred Thackeray from further visits to or correspondence with Jane, while Baxter, an American twenty years his junior whom he met in New York City in 1852, married another man in 1855. In the early 1840s, Thackeray had some success with two travel books, The Paris Sketch Book and The Irish Sketch Book. Later in the decade, he achieved some notoriety with his Snob Papers, but the work that really established his fame was the novel Vanity Fair, which first appeared in serialized installments beginning in January 1847. Even before Vanity Fair completed its serial run, Thackeray had become a celebrity, sought after by the very lords and ladies he satirized and hailed as the equal of Dickens. He remained "at the top of the tree," as he put it, for the remaining decade and a half of his life, producing several large novels, notably Pendennis, The Newcomes, and The History of Henry Esmond, despite various illnesses, including a near fatal one that struck him in 1849 in the middle of writing Pendennis. He twice visited the United States on lecture tours during this period, and there fell in love with a young American girl, Sally Baxter. Thackeray also gave lectures in London, on the English humourists of the eighteenth century, and on the first four Hanoverian monarchs, the latter series being published in book form as The Four Georges. In Oxford, he stood unsuccessfully as an independent for Parliament. He was narrowly beaten by Cardwell (1070 votes, against 1005 for Thackeray). In 1860, Thackeray became editor of the newly established Cornhill Magazine, but was never comfortable as an editor, preferring to contribute to the magazine as a columnist, producing his Roundabout Papers for it. His health worsened during the 1850s and he was plagued by the recurring stricture of the urethra that laid him up for days at a time. He also felt he had lost much of his creative impetus. He worsened matters by over-eating and drinking and avoiding exercise, though he enjoyed horseback riding and kept a horse. On 23 December 1863, after returning from dining out and before dressing for bed, Thackeray suffered a stroke and was found dead on his bed in the morning. His death at the age of fifty-three was entirely unexpected by his family, friends, and reading public. An estimated 7000 people attended his funeral at Kensington Gardens. He was buried on 29 December at Kensal Green Cemetery, and a memorial bust sculpted by Marochetti can be found in Westminster Abbey. Source: Wikipedia

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Barry Lyndon—far from the best known, but by some critics acclaimed as the finest, of Thackeray's works—appeared originally as a serial a few years before VANITY FAIR was written; yet it was not published in book form, and then not by itself, until after the publication of VANITY FAIR, PENDENNIS, ESMOND and THE NEWCOMES had placed its author in the forefront of the literary men of the day. So many years after the event we cannot help wondering why the story was not earlier put in book form; for in its delineation of the character of an adventurer it is as great as VANITY FAIR, while for the local colour of history, if I may put it so, it is no undistinguished precursor of ESMOND.

In the number of FRASER'S MAGAZINE for January 1844 appeared the first instalment of 'THE LUCK OF BARRY LYNDON, ESQ., A ROMANCE OF THE LAST CENTURY, by FitzBoodle,' and the story continued to appear month by month—with the exception of October—up to the end of the year, when the concluding portion was signed 'G. S. FitzBoodle.' FITZBOODLE'S CONFESSIONS, it should be added, had appeared occasionally in the magazine during the years immediately precedent, so that the pseudonym was familiar to FRASER'S readers. The story was written, according to its author's own words, 'with a great deal of dulness, unwillingness and labour,' and was evidently done as the instalments were required, for in August he wrote 'read for "B. L." all the morning at the club,' and four days later of '"B. L." lying like a nightmare on my mind.' The journey to the East—which was to give us in literary results NOTES OF A JOURNEY FROM CORNHILL TO GRAND CAIRO—was begun with BARRY LYNDON yet unfinished, for at Malta the author noted on the first three days of November—'Wrote Barry but slowly and with great difficulty.' 'Wrote Barry with no more success than yesterday.' 'Finished Barry after great throes late at night.' In the number of Fraser's for the following month, as I have said, the conclusion appeared. A dozen years later, in 1856, the story formed the first part of the third volume of Thackeray's MISCELLANIES, when it was called MEMOIRS OF BARRY LYNDON, ESQ., WRITTEN BY HIMSELF. Since then, it has nearly always been issued with other matter, as though it were not strong enough to stand alone, or as though the importance of a work was mainly to be gauged by the number of pages to be crowded into one cover. The scheme of the present edition fortunately allows fitting honour to be done to the memoirs of the great adventurer.

To come from the story as a whole to the personality of the eponymous hero. Three widely-differing historical individuals are suggested as having contributed to the composite portrait. Best known of these was that very prince among adventurers, G. J. Casanova de Seingalt, a man who in the latter half of the eighteenth century played the part of adventurer—and generally that of the successful adventurer—in most of the European capitals; who within the first five-and-twenty years of his life had been 'abbe, secretary to Cardinal Aquaviva, ensign, and violinist, at Rome, Constantinople, Corfu, and his own birthplace (Venice), where he cured a senator of apoplexy.' His autobiography, MEMOIRES ECRIT PAR LUI MEME (in twelve volumes), has been described as 'unmatched as a self-revelation of scoundrelism.' It has also been suggested, with I think far less colour of probability, that the original of Barry was the diplomatist and satiric poet Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, whom Dr Johnson described as 'our lively and elegant though too licentious lyrick bard.' The third original, and one who, there cannot be the slightest doubt, contributed features to the great portrait, is a certain Andrew Robinson Stoney, afterwards Stoney- Bowes.

The original of the Countess Lyndon was Mary Eleanor Bowes, Dowager Countess of Strathmore, and heiress of a very wealthy Durham family. This lady had many suitors, but in 1777 Stoney, a bankrupt lieutenant on half pay, who had fought a duel on her behalf, induced her to marry him, and subsequently hyphenated her name with his own. He became member of Parliament, and ran such extravagant courses as does Barry Lyndon, treated his wife with similar barbarity, abducted her when she had escaped from him, and then, after being divorced, found his way to a debtors' prison. There are similarities here which no seeker after originals can overlook. Mrs Ritchie says that her father had a friend at Paris, 'a Mr Bowes, who may have first told him this history of which the details are almost incredible, as quoted from the papers of the time.' The name of Thackeray's friend is a curious coincidence, unless, as may well have been the case, he was a connection of the family into which the notorious adventurer had married. It is not unlikely that Thackeray had seen the work published in 1810—the year of Stoney-Bowes's death—in which the whole unhappy romance was set forth. This was 'THE LIVES OF ANDREW ROBINSON BOWES ESQ., and THE COUNTESS OF STRATHMORE. Written from thirty-three years' Professional Attendance, from letters and other well authenticated Documents by Jesse Foot, Surgeon.' In this book we find several incidents similar to ones in the story. Bowes cut down all the timber on his wife's estate, but 'the neighbours would not buy it.' Such practical jokes as Barry Lyndon played upon his son's tutor were played by Bowes on his chaplain. The story of Stoney and his marriage will be found briefly given in the notice of the Countess's life in the DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY.

Whence that part of the romantic interlude dealing with the stay in the Duchy of X——, dealt with in chapter x., etc., was inspired, Thackeray's own note (as quoted by Mrs Ritchie) conclusively show: 'January 4,1844. Read in a silly book called L'EMPIRE, a good story about the first K. of Wurtemberg's wife; killed by her husband for adultery. Frederic William, born in 1734 (?), m. in 1780 the Princess Caroline of Brunswick Wolfenbuttel, who died the 27th September 1788. For the rest of the story see L'EMPIRE, OU DIX ANS SOUS NAPOLEON, PAR UN CHAMBELLAN: Paris, Allardin, 1836; vol. i. 220.' The 'Captain Freny' to whom Barry owed his adventures on his journey to Dublin (chapter iii.) was a notorious highwayman, on whose doings Thackeray had enlarged in the fifteenth chapter of his IRISH SKETCH BOOK.

Despite the slowness with which it was written, and the seeming neglect with which it was permitted to remain unreprinted, BARRY LYNDON was to be hailed by competent critics as one of Thackeray's finest performances, though the author himself seems to have had no strong regard for the story. His daughter has recorded, 'My father once said to me when I was a girl: "You needn't read BARRY LYNDON, you won't like it." Indeed, it is scarcely a book to LIKE, but one to admire and to wonder at for its consummate power and mastery.' Another novelist, Anthony Trollope, has said of it: 'In imagination, language, construction, and general literary capacity, Thackeray never did anything more remarkable than BARRY LYNDON.' Mr Leslie Stephen says: 'All later critics have recognised in this book one of his most powerful performances. In directness and vigour he never surpassed it.'