Chapter 1

Photograph Photograph

Letter from Thackeray to James Carmichael-Smyth, [29 November] 1832. HEW 12.6.9.

“Prepare your mind to undergo a great shock,” Thackeray to James Carmichael-Smyth, [29 November] 1832.

Thackeray turned 21 on 18 July 1832, and came into possession of his inheritance.  “Here is the day for which I have been panting for so long,” he wrote in his diary.  “I am a man now and must deal with men.” After a failed attempt to study law, he travelled to Paris, where he divided his time between attending the theater, gambling, eating in fine restaurants, and reading French literature. After gambling away a large part of his fortune, he resolved to be more frugal.  In this letter to his stepfather’s nephew, Thackeray pictured his family’s reaction to the news that he would return home from Paris earlier than expected, and sketched the imagined scene of family chaos.

HEW 12.6.9.  Harry Elkins Widener Collection.