Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

3.6 219
by William Makepeace Thackeray, W.M. Thackeray

View All Available Formats & Editions

No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success thanthe alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the social ladder. Her sentimental companion Amelia, however, longs for caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of English society in the early 1800s,…  See more details below


No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success thanthe alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the social ladder. Her sentimental companion Amelia, however, longs for caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of English society in the early 1800s, battles—military and domestic—are fought, fortunes made and lost. The one steadfast and honorable figure in this corrupt world is Dobbin, devoted to Amelia, bringing pathos and depth to William Thackeray's gloriously satirical epic of love and social adventure.

Author Biography: William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863) was born in Calcutta but sent to England at the age of six. A journalist for many years, he wrote many novels with a socially satirical edge, including The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. and, most famously, Vanity Fair.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I do not say there is no character as well drawn in Shakespeare [as D'Artagnan]. I do say there is none that I love so wholly."
—Robert Louis Stevenson

"The lasting and universal popularity of The Three Musketeers shows that Dumas, by artlessly expressing his own nature in the persons of his heroes, was responding to that craving for action, strength and generosity which is a fact in all periods and all places."
—Andreé Maurois

Product Details

Everyman Paperback
Publication date:
Everyman Paperback Classics Series
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.79(h) x 1.86(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chiswick Mall

While the present century was in its teens, and on one sunshiny morning in June, there drove up to the great iron gate of Miss Pinkerton's academy for young ladies, on Chiswick Mall, a large family coach, with two fat horses in blazing harness, driven by a fat coachman in a three-cornered hat and wig, at the rate of four miles an hour. A black servant, who reposed on the box beside the fat coachman, uncurled his bandy legs as soon as the equipage drew up opposite Miss Pinkerton's shining brass plate, and as he pulled the bell at least a score of young heads were seen peering out of the narrow windows of the stately old brick house. Nay, the acute observer might have recognized the little red nose of good-natured Miss Jemima Pinkerton herself, rising over some geranium pots in the window of that lady's own drawing-room.

"It is Mrs. Sedley's coach, sister," said Miss Jemima. "Sambo, the black servant, has just rung the bell; and the coachman has a new red waistcoat."

"Have you completed all the necessary preparations incident to Miss Sedley's departure, Miss Jemima?" asked Miss Pinkerton herself, that majestic lady; the Semiramis of Hammersmith, the friend of Doctor Johnson, the correspondent of Mrs. Chapone herself.

"The girls were up at four this morning, packing her trunks, sister," replied Miss Jemima; "we have made her a bow-pot."

"Say a bouquet, sister Jemima, 'tis more genteel."

"Well, a booky as big almost as a haystack; I have put up two bottles of the gillyflower water for Mrs. Sedley, and the receipt for making it, in Amelia's box."

"And Itrust, Miss Jemima, you have made a copy of Miss Sedley's account. This is it, is it? Very good--ninety-three pounds, four shillings. Be kind enough to address it to John Sedley, Esquire, and to seal this billet which I have written to his lady."

In Miss Jemima's eyes an autograph letter of her sister, Miss Pinkerton, was an object of as deep veneration as would have been a letter from a sovereign. Only when her pupils quitted the establishment, or when they were about to be married, and once, when poor Miss Birch died of the scarlet fever, was Miss Pinkerton known to write personally to the parents of her pupils; and it was Jemima's opinion that if anything could console Mrs. Birch for her daughter's loss, it would be that pious and eloquent composition in which Miss Pinkerton announced the event.

In the present instance Miss Pinkerton's "billet" was to the following effect:

-The Mall, Chiswick, June 15, 18-


After her six years' residence at the Mall, I have the honour and happiness of presenting Miss Amelia Sedley to her parents, as a young lady not unworthy to occupy a fitting position in their polished and refined circle. Those virtues which characterize the young English gentlewoman, those accomplishments which become her birth and station, will not be found wanting in the amiable Miss Sedley, whose industry and obedience have endeared her to her instructors, and whose delightful sweetness of temper has charmed her aged and her youthful companions.

In music, in dancing, in orthography, in every variety of embroidery and needlework, she will be found to have realized her friends' fondest wishes. In geography there is still much to be desired; and a careful and undeviating use of the backboard, for four hours daily during the next three years, is recommended as necessary to the acquirement of that dignified deportment and carriage, so requisite for every young lady of fashion.

In the principles of religion and morality, Miss Sedley will be found worthy of an establishment which has been honoured by the presence of The Great Lexicographer, and the patronage of the admirable Mrs. Chapone. In leaving the Mall, Miss Amelia carries with her the hearts of her companions, and the affectionate regards of her mistress, who has the honour to subscribe herself, Madam,

Your most obliged humble servant,
Barbara Pinkerton

P.S.--Miss Sharp accompanies Miss Sedley. It is particularly requested that Miss Sharp's stay in Russell Square may not exceed ten days. The family of distinction with whom she is engaged, desire to avail themselves of her services as soon as possible.

This letter completed, Miss Pinkerton proceeded to write her own name, and Miss Sedley's, in the fly-leaf of a Johnson's Dictionary--the interesting work which she invariably presented to her scholars, on their departure from the Mall. On the cover was inserted a copy of "Lines addressed to a young lady on quitting Miss Pinkerton's school, at the Mall; by the late revered Doctor Samuel Johnson." In fact, the Lexicographer's name was always on the lips of this majestic woman, and a visit he had paid to her was the cause of her reputation and her fortune.

Being commanded by her elder sister to get "the Dictionary" from the cupboard, Miss Jemima had extracted two copies of the book from the receptacle in question. When Miss Pinkerton had finished the inscription in the first, Jemima, with rather a dubious and timid air, handed her the second.

"For whom is this, Miss Jemima?" said Miss Pinkerton, with awful coldness.

"For Becky Sharp," answered Jemima, trembling very much, and blushing over her withered face and neck, as she turned her back on her sister. "For Becky Sharp: she's going too."

"MISS JEMIMA!" exclaimed Miss Pinkerton, in the largest capitals. "Are you in your senses? Replace the Dixonary in the closet, and never venture to take such a liberty in future."

"Well, sister, it's only two-and-ninepence, and poor Becky will be miserable if she don't get one."

"Send Miss Sedley instantly to me," said Miss Pinkerton. And so venturing not to say another word, poor Jemima trotted off, exceedingly flurried and nervous.

Miss Sedley's papa was a merchant in London, and a man of some wealth; whereas Miss Sharp was an articled pupil, for whom Miss Pinkerton had done, as she thought, quite enough, without conferring upon her at parting the high honour of the Dixonary.
Although schoolmistresses' letters are to be trusted no more nor less than churchyard epitaphs; yet, as it sometimes happens that a person departs this life who is really deserving of all the praises the stone-cutter carves over his bones; who is a good Christian, a good parent, child, wife, or husband; who actually does leave a disconsolate family to mourn his loss; so in academies of the male and female sex it occurs every now and then that the pupil is fully worthy of the praises bestowed by the disinterested instructor. Now, Miss Amelia Sedley was a young lady of this singular species; and deserved not only all that Miss Pinkerton said in her praise, but had many charming qualities which that pompous old Minerva of a woman could not see, from the differences of rank and age between her pupil and herself.

For she could not only sing like a lark, or a Mrs. Billington, and dance like Hillisberg or Parisot; and embroider beautifully; and spell as well as a Dixonary itself; but she had such a kindly, smiling, tender, gentle, generous heart of her own, as won the love of everybody who came near her, from Minerva herself down to the poor girl in the scullery, and the one-eyed tart-woman's daughter, who was permitted to vend her wares once a week to the young ladies in the Mall. She had twelve intimate and bosom friends out of the twenty-four young ladies. Even envious Miss Briggs never spoke ill of her; high and mighty Miss Saltire (Lord Dexter's granddaughter) allowed that her figure was genteel; and as for Miss Swartz, the rich woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitt's, on the day Amelia went away, she was in such a passion of tears that they were obliged to send for Dr. Floss, and half tipsify her with salvolatile. Miss Pinkerton's attachment was, as may be supposed from the high position and eminent virtues of that lady, calm and dignified; but Miss Jemima had already whimpered several times at the idea of Amelia's departure; and, but for fear of her sister, would have gone off in downright hysterics, like the heiress (who paid double) of St. Kitt's. Such luxury of grief, however, is only allowed to parlour-boarders. Honest Jemima had all the bills, and the washing, and the mending, and the puddings, and the plate and crockery, and the servants to superintend. But why speak about her? It is probable that we shall not hear of her again from this moment to the end of time, and that when the great filigree iron gates are once closed on her, she and her awful sister will never issue therefrom into this little world of history.

But as we are to see a great deal of Amelia, there is no harm in saying, at the outset of our acquaintance, that she was a dear little creature; and a great mercy it is, both in life and in novels, which (and the latter especially) abound in villains of the most sombre sort, that we are to have for a constant companion so guileless and good-natured a person. As she is not a heroine, there is no need to describe her person; indeed I am afraid that her nose was rather short than otherwise, and her cheeks a great deal too round and red for a heroine; but her face blushed with rosy health, and her lips with the freshest of smiles, and she had a pair of eyes which sparkled with the brightest and honestest good-humour, except indeed when they filled with tears, and that was a great deal too often; for the silly thing would cry over a dead canary-bird; or over a mouse, that the cat haply had seized upon; or over the end of a novel, were it ever so stupid; and as for saying an unkind word to her, were any persons hard-hearted enough to do so--why, so much the worse for them. Even Miss Pinkerton, that austere and godlike woman, ceased scolding her after the first time, and though she no more comprehended sensibility than she did Algebra, gave all masters and teachers particular orders to treat Miss Sedley with the utmost gentleness, as harsh treatment was injurious to her.So that when the day of departure came, between her two customs of laughing and crying, Miss Sedley was greatly puzzled how to act. She was glad to go home, and yet most woefully sad at leaving school. For three days before, little Laura Martin, the orphan, followed her about like a little dog. She had to make and receive at least fourteen presents--to make fourteen solemn promises of writing every week: "Send my letters under cover to my grandpapa, the Earl of Dexter," said Miss Saltire (who, by the way, was rather shabby). "Never mind the postage, but write every day, you dear darling," said the impetuous and woolly-headed, but generous and affectionate Miss Swartz; and the orphan little Laura Martin (who was just in round-hand), took her friend's hand and said, looking up in her face wistfully, "Amelia, when I write to you I shall call you Mamma." All which details, I have no doubt, Jones, who reads this book at his Club, will pronounce to be excessively foolish, trivial, twaddling, and ultra-sentimental. Yes; I can see Jones at this minute (rather flushed with his joint of mutton and half pint of wine), taking out his pencil and scoring under the words "foolish, twaddling," &c., and adding to them his own remark of "quite true." Well, he is a lofty man of genius, and admires the great and heroic in life and novels; and so had better take warning and go elsewhere.

Well, then. The flowers, and the presents, and the trunks, and bonnet-boxes of Miss Sedley having been arranged by Mr. Sambo in the carriage, together with a very small and weather-beaten old cow's-skin trunk with Miss Sharp's card neatly nailed upon it, which was delivered by Sambo with a grin, and packed by the coachman with a corresponding sneer--the hour for parting came; and the grief of that moment was considerably lessened by the admirable discourse which Miss Pinkerton addressed to her pupil. Not that the parting speech caused Amelia to philosophise, or that it armed her in any way with a calmness, the result of argument; but it was intolerably dull, pompous, and tedious; and having the fear of her schoolmistress greatly before her eyes, Miss Sedley did not venture, in her presence, to give way to any ebullitions of private grief. A seed-cake and a bottle of wine were produced in the drawing-room, as on the solemn occasions of the visits of parents, and these refreshments being partaken of, Miss Sedley was at liberty to depart.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Vanity Fair 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 219 reviews.
inkarus More than 1 year ago
Surprisingly, after over 150 years, Vanity Fair is still a page-turner. This novel is supposed to be a groundbreaking work of "English realism" for its time (middle 1800's), but is surprisingly pertinent to today's consumer-oriented culture. Anyone who wants a slightly cynical look at the human condition will really enjoy this rendition of the foibles of human society and the sharply drawn characters of Becky Sharp, Emmy Sedly and her brother, Jos., and Thackeray's alter-ego, Dobbin (who is a bit too virtuous, of course). Not only is it a classic but it is very entertaining. It helps, however, to know just a bit of French an German, since there are a few foreign phrases salted in here and there. Even if you are in the dark about these exotic expressions, however, there are plenty of quips and escapades to keep you amused and anxious to move from chapter to chapter. I would have given Vanity Fair five stars, except for the difficulty of downloading the entire novel. My first attempt produced a (1853) download of the beginning third of the book (despite being told I was downloading "Vanity Fair"). My next attempt got farther, however this version ended in mid-sentence. I then downloaded another "Vanity Fair, Vol. II", which picked up later than the point at which I was dumped by my second attempt,and this third (and final) download also included another short novel not noted on the cover page. Furthermore, the OCR image of the "Vol II" final download had a fair number of uncorrected errors, although it was usually possible to understand what was in the original. I managed to fill in the missing chapters between my second and third downloads from a paperback I had purchased (I had only downloaded to the Nook because it is more convenient to read than a fat paperback). These problems with the descriptions of the various copies available for download limit the overall enjoyment of the reading experience. B&N needs to clear up these problems before they can expect perfect scores! The novel is well worth the effort, however.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading vanity fair and was very pleased with the book. There were some parts that were alittle boring but the rest of the book makes up for it. The ending, in particular, could not have been better. This is a very big book and does take alot of time to read, however, it is well worth it. I read Anna korenina right before Vanity Fair, and I have to say that this one is much better. Vanity Fair is definately going into my book collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The difference between right and wrong- who doesn't know it? This book is all around amazing. You know, before reading Vanity Fair, I had no idea how bad the magazine disgraces this great book. I loved it! It's not like it goes into detail about who is cheating and such like a country song, but shows what is wrong and write. It also simply shows the dark side of this seemingly innocent era.
twigtip More than 1 year ago
This is an epic social satire with spot-on observation and biting commentary. The characters are wholly believable and recognizable, even in today's society. I must add that it is very, very long, and to be fully appreciated probably needs to be read at a leisurely pace. Set aside a week's worth of spare time. You'll be amply rewarded.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always thought that this would be a drag to read because it looked like a snobby, long Victorian novel. However, once I started reading it, I was addicted.
prettybrowneyes More than 1 year ago
I loved reading Vanity Fair. Rebecca Sharp is one of the most evil but intelligent characters I have ever read! Thackeray reminds me alot of Charles Dickens by the way he describes the characters and the enviornment they live in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book of all time, so clearly I am a biased reviewer. That said, there are many reasons for why that is so. The character of Becky Sharp is engaging and well-developed--beautiful, witty and ambitious, she is capable of manipulating her way through society at any cost, even that of 'implied' murder. Thackeray's range in the novel is tremendous: he takes us from the drawing-rooms of the great Lord Steyne, to the country parsonage of Bute Crawley, to the battlefields of Waterloo and back again. His delineations of social class are equally widespread, and delightfully perceptive. Additionally, the Barnes and Noble edition happens to have an extremely good introduction and notes--which cannot be said for every title in their classics series. I think I need not say that it is superior to the movie in every way imaginable 'although, granted, the film was not bad'. Highly, highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Vanity Fair is not a short novel. It is long, and has many difficult words (so get a dictionary). However, by assiduously following the plot, one is quickly enchanted by the characters, and the intricately woven plot. It's a novel that needs some work to be appreciated, but the footnotes (with translations of the occasional French dialogue and cultural notes)are helpful in achieving this task. I finished the novel after reading it in installments for half a year, and it made me more aware of Victorian culture than any history book ever could. It's historical, romantic, and comedic. I'd give it six stars if I could.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While it may be long, it is far from boring. Thackery makes hilarious commentaries on British society.
Guest More than 1 year ago
William Thackeray's Vanity Fair is, by far, one of the most amazing works of fiction I have ever read. Unlike most authors of his age (especially those who wrote similar serials), Thackeray remains the consummate third-person satirist, creating characatures of some of the greatest minds in England of the time. Reading Vanity Fair was like eating the richest possible chocolate. Do not be turned off by the size, Vanity Fair is well worth the time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Drama and comedy mix beautifully in this period character study. The story line does not necessarily go where the reader anticipates; but it is never disappointing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
W.M.Thackeray did a wonderful job in grasping the convictions and the rationalisms of the 19 Century in England. The book is filled with over a dozen truly genuine characters who have much to teach us about the true characters of men and women in circumstances of much opulence and poverty. In the story one of the pivotal characters , Becky overcomes many of the social barriers imposed by her low station in society by using her charms, magnetism and charisma to raise her self in society. The Barnes & Nobles Classics Editions was much helpful for it provided; critical background information and important language translations which made the text a lot more agreeable. Due to the fact that the book was published in installment its lengthy and requires a significantly long time to finish reading it.
SarahJenny More than 1 year ago
Excellently written, yet I have never, ever so disliked a heroine. I couldn't feel concern for such an awful character and was awaiting her demise with glee!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of blind ambition and blinder honesty manages to be several things at once: it is laugh-out-loud funny and at some points tragic; it is a what-will-happen next potboiler and a philosophical exploration; it offers bleak cynicism and surprising tenderness. Perhaps what helps it to work is the fact that it was published in chapter-long installments, and Thackeray needed to keep the public coming back. But it's much more than just a soap opera. The emotional range is hugely impressive, on occasion it moves from farce to tragedy within a single sentence. The book has a surprisingly modern feel to it, considering its age. With most classics you have to steel yourself a little bit to get through them. This was quite the opposite for me: I looked forward to every opportunity to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well isn't that lovely. Hope to see you soon, Four V.V
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What is going on?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People who like riding on bikes MAKE PO<_>OP!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What's dis for? Randeh may be on tonight, but her mom is unpredictable. :3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont know what to do next. Vanity Fair is great.