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) was the second daughter of Harriet and John Harman Becher and was also a secretary (writer) for the East India Company.
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.
1. Life is a mirror: if you frown at it, it frowns back; if you smile, it returns the greeting
2. To love and win is the best thing.
To love and lose, the next best
3. Good humor may be said to be one of the very best articles of dress one can wear in society
4. Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural
5. Never lose a chance of saying a kind word
6. Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?
7. Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.
8. All is vanity, nothing is fair.
9. If a man’s character is to be abused, say what you will, there’s nobody like a relative to do the business.
10. A woman may possess the wisdom and chastity of Minerva, and we give no heed to her, if she has a plain face. What folly will not a pair of bright eyes make pardonable? What dullness may not red lips are sweet accents render pleasant? And so, with their usual sense of justice, ladies argue that because a woman is handsome, therefore she is a fool. O ladies, ladies! there are some of you who are neither handsome nor wise.
11. People hate as they love, unreasonably.
12. The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.
13. Are not there little chapters in everybody’s life, that seem to be nothing, and yet affect all the rest of the history?
14. There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write
15. In the midst of friends, home, and kind parents, she was alone
16. Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?-Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out
17. The wicked are wicked, no doubt, and they go astray and they fall, and they come by their deserts; but who can tell the mischief which the very virtuous do?
18. The moral world has no particular objection to vice, but an insuperable repugnance to hearing vice called by its proper name.
19. A good laugh is sunshine in a house
20. Bravery never goes out of fashion.
21. A woman with fair opportunities, and without an absolute hump, may marry WHOM SHE LIKES.
22. A person can’t help their birth.
23. It is better to love wisely, no doubt: but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all
24. One of the great conditions of anger and hatred is, that you must tell and believe lies against the hated object, in order, as we said, to be consistent.
25. I would rather make my name then inherit it.
26. Some cynical Frenchman has said that there are two parties to a love-transaction: the one who loves and the other who condescends to be so treated.
27. it is the ordinary lot of people to have no friends if they themselves care for nobody
28. She lived in her past life- these relics and remembrances of dead affection were all that was left her in the world.
29. If you are not allowed to touch the heart sometimes in spite of syntax, and are not to be loved until you all know the difference between trimeter and trameter, may all Poetry go to the deuce, and every schoolmaster perish miserably!
30. The two most engaging powers of a good author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new
31. Vanity Fair is a very vain, wicked, foolish place, full of all sorts of humbugs and falsenesses and pretensions
32. A lady who sets her heart upon a lad in uniform must prepare to change lovers pretty quickly, or her life will be but a sad one.
33. If a man has committed wrong in life, I don’t know any moralist more anxious to point his errors out to the world than his own relations.
34. When one fib becomes due as it were, you must forge another to take up the old acceptance; and so the stock of your lies in circulation inevitably multiplies, and the danger of detection increases every day.
35. A clever, ugly man every now and then is successful with the ladies, but a handsome fool is irresistible.
36. If people only made prudent marriages, what a stop to population there would be!
37. The little cares, fears, tears, timid misgivings, sleepless fancies of I don’t know how many days and nights, were forgotten under one moment’s influence of that familiar, irresistible smile.
38. It was in the reign of George II. that the above-named personages lived and quarrelled ; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now
39. Money has only a different value in the eyes of each.
40. Perhaps all early love affairs ought to be strangled or drowned, like so many blind kittens.
41. Praise everybody, I say to such: never be squeamish, but speak out your compliment both point-blank in a man’s face, and behind his back, when you know there is a reasonable chance of his hearing it again. Never lose a chance of saying a kind word. As Collingwood never saw a vacant place in his estate but he took an acorn out of his pocket and popped it in; so deal with your compliments through life. An acorn costs nothing; but it may sprout into a prodigious bit of timber.
42. There’s a great power of imagination about these little creatures, and a creative fancy and belief that is very curious to watch . . . I am sure that horrid matter-of-fact child-rearers . . . do away with the child’s most beautiful privilege. I am determined that Anny shall have a very extensive and instructive store of learning in Tom Thumbs, Jack-the-Giant-Killers, etc.
43. She had not character enough to take to drinking, and moaned about, slip-shod and in curl-papers, all day.
44. All the world used her ill, said this young misanthropist, … and we may be pretty certain that persons whom all the world treats ill, deserve entirely the treatment they get. The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.
45. Let the man who has to make his fortune in life remember this maxim. Attacking is his only secret. Dare, and the world always yields: or, if it beat you sometimes, dare again, and it will succumb.
46. The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.
47. To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted my no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it; to go through intrigue spotless; to forgo even ambition when the end is gained – who can say this is not greatness?
48. Be cautious then, young ladies; be wary how you engage. Be shy of loving frankly; never tell all you feel, or (a better way still), feel very little. See the consequences of being prematurely honest and confiding, and mistrust yourselves and everybody. Get yourselves married as they do in France, where the lawyers are the bridesmaids and confidantes. At any rate, never have any feelings which may make you uncomfortable, or make any promises which you cannot at any required moment command and withdraw. That is the way to get on, and be respected, and have a virtuous character in Vanity Fair.
49. The world is a looking glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.
50. Follow your honest convictions, and stay strong.
51. The hidden and awful Wisdom which apportions the destinies of mankind is pleased so to humiliate and cast down the tender, good, and wise; and to set up the selfish, the foolish, or the wicked. Oh, be humble, my brother, in your prosperity! Be gentle with those who are less lucky, if not more deserving. Think, what right have you to be scornful, whose virtue is a deficiency of temptation, whose success may be a chance, whose rank may be an ancestor’s accident, whose prosperity is very likely a satire.
52. It is the pretty face which creates sympathy in the hearts of men, those wicked rogues. A woman may possess the wisdom and chastity of Minerva, and we give no heed to her, if she has a plain face. What folly will not a pair of bright eyes make pardonable? What dulness may not red lips and sweet accents render pleasant? And so, with their usual sense of justice, ladies argue that because a woman is handsome, therefore she is a fool. O ladies, ladies! there are some of you who are neither handsome nor wise.
53. No, you are not worthy of the love which I have devoted to you. I knew all along that the prize I had set my life on was not worth the winning; that I was a fool, with fond fancies, too, bartering away my all of truth and ardour against your little feeble remnant of love. I will bargain no more: I withdraw.
54. He had placed himself at her feet so long that the poor little woman had been accustomed to trample upon him. She didn’t wish to marry him, but she wished to keep him. She wished to give him nothing, but that he should give her all. It is a bargain not unfrequently levied in love.
55. Very likely Miss Binny was right to a great extent. It is the pretty face which creates sympathy in the hearts of men, those wicked rogues. A woman may possess the wisdom and chastity of Minerva, and we give no heed to her, if she has a plain face. What folly will not a pair of bright eyes make pardonable? What dulness may not red lips and sweet accents render pleasant? And so, with their usual sense of justice, ladies argue that because a woman is handsome, therefore she is a fool. Oh, ladies, ladies! some there are of you who are neither handsome nor wise.
56. Picture to yourself, O fair young reader, a worldly, selfish, graceless, thankless, religionless old woman, writhing in pain and fear, and without her wig. Picture her to yourself, and ere you be old, learn to love and pray.
57. You must not judge hastily or vulgarly of Snobs: to do so shows that you are yourself a Snob.
58. Long brooding over those lost pleasures exaggerates their charm and sweetness.
59. I have long gone about with a conviction on my mind that I had a work to do—a Work, if you like, with a great W; a Purpose to fulfil; … a Great Social Evil to Discover and to Remedy.
60. I can’t help always falling upon it, and cry out with particular loudness and wailing, and become especially melancholy, when I see a dead love tied to a live love.