The Special Collections Library holds a number of works by 19th century British novelist, short story writer, artist and illustrator William Makepeace Thackeray, including his Christmas books.
In 1844, Thackeray wrote a complimentary review of the recently published A Christmas Carol, the first of five Christmas books by his contemporary, and sometimes rival, Charles Dickens. A few years later he decided to capitalize on the popularity of Dickens’ Christmas books by writing his own short amusing stories designed to be given as gifts at Christmas.
Between 1847 and 1854 Thackeray wrote six Christmas books: Mrs. Perkins’s Ball, Our Street, Doctor Birch and His Young Friends, Rebecca and Rowena, Kickleburys on the Rhine and The Rose and the Ring. The books were published under one of Thackeray’s favorite pseudonyms: Mr. M. A. (Michael Angelo) Titmarsh. Most were illustrated by the author.
Thackeray’s first Christmas book, Mrs. Peterkins’s Ball, was published while he was becoming a household name for his serialized novel Vanity Fair, the story of three families interrelated by acquaintance and marriage. Vanity Fair, as well as his other satirical writings, made Thackeray a celebrity among the upper class English men and women he lampooned. At the height of his career, only Dickens was more popular in England. Charlotte Brontë, who admired Thackeray’s writing, dedicated the second edition of Jane Eyre to him. In the 1850s, he made two speaking tours of the United States.
Thackeray materials in the Special Collections Library include first editions, autographed letters, two sketches by 19th century British portrait artist Samuel Laurence and a rare statuette of the author that originally was owned by Anthony Trollope, another prolific and successful English novelist of the Victorian era. Most of the material is found in the Bernard A. Behrend Collection (mss 240). Behrend was an avid collector of Thackerayana.
Charles Dickens’ other Christmas books:
Thackeray’s Christmas books:
William Makepeace Thackeray: