Chapter 4

Photograph Photograph

Thackeray to Robert Bell, 3 September 1848. MS Fr 167 (56).

Thackeray to Robert Bell, 3 September 1848.

In the September 1848 issue of Fraser’s Irish journalist Robert Bell reviewed Vanity Fair, worrying that “over-good people will be apt to shudder at a story so full of petty vices and groveling passions. They will be afraid to trust it in the hands of young ladies and gentlemen, lest the unredeemed wickedness of its pictures should corrupt their morals…” Responding to the review, Thackeray wrote this letter to his friend, “Although I have made a rule to myself never to thank critics yet I like to break it continually, and especially in the present instance for what I hope is the excellent article in Fraser.” He went on to explain his motives: “If I had put in more fresh air as you call it my object would have been defeated – It is to indicate, in cheerful terms, that we are for the most part an abominably foolish and selfish people…I want to leave every body dissatisfied and unhappy at the end of the story.”

MS Fr 167 (54). Bequest of Susan Dwight Bliss, 1967.