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Thackeray's secondary fictional world : an aesthetic study of narrator and reader roles in the novels James, David Lewis 1970

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THACKERAY'S SECONDARY FICTIONAL WORLD: AH AESTHETIC STUDY OF NARRATOR AND READER ROLES IN THE NOVELS by DAVID LEWIS JAMES B.A., University of London, 1965 M.A., University of British. Columbia, 1967 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in the Department of ENGLISH We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA November, 1970 i In present ing th is thesis in p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements for an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the L ibrary s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e for reference and Study. I fur ther agree that permission for extensive copying of th is thes is for s c h o l a r l y purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representa t ives . It is understood that copying or p u b l i c a t i o n of th is thesis for f i n a n c i a l gain sha l l not be allowed without my wr i t ten permiss ion. Department of The Un ive rs i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada ABSTRACT Thackeray's post-1847 novels make increasing use of a complex and indecisive narrator. The clear perspectives of Thackeray's early narrators—such as the "boastful Gahagan, the cynical Yellowplush, and the sentimental Fitzboodle—are superseded by the man of many parts, who i s the mature narrator of the novels from Yanity F a i r to Denis  Duval. This many-faceted figure keeps one eye on his reader as he moves between joyous certainty and utter bewilderment regarding his own feelings and his own f i c t i o n . He i s not afrai d to be f i c k l e , and appears i n many guises:—as novelist and historian, visionary and disenchanted worldling, preacher and clown. The secondary f i c t i o n a l world i s determined by the narrator's continued changes of stance, not only towards the characters, but also towards the reader, who, too, must play many parts. In i t s focus upon Thackeray's secondary f i c t i o n a l world, this study sees Thackeray as one of a l i n e of novelists from Cervantes and Sterne to Joyce and Nabokov. These "novelists i n motley" present t h e i r f i c t i o n as an elaborate game drawing the reader into the dual process of involvement i n the main story, or primary f i c t i o n a l world, and detachment from i t . In the secondary f i c t i o n a l world, both narrator and reader see the primary i l l u s i o n as an i l l u s i o n , yet they fe e l also it's i n s t i n c t i v e truth, i t s power to quicken th e i r responses, and i t s value as a mode of self-discovery. Thus, while Thackeray's primary f i c t i o n a l world frequently suggests the neatness of conventional i i patterns found i n heroic myth., moral f a b l e , or the contemporary melodrama and fashionable novels, the secondary f i c t i o n a l world undermines these forms, even while they are being used as probes of the narrator's consciousness. These established l i t e r a r y conventions are the means through which the i n d e f i n i t e s e l f attempts d e f i n i t i o n . In Thackeray's secondary f i c t i o n a l world, the reader i s made to see himself p l a y i n g such parts as those of hero, v i l l a i n , and l o v e r , but he i s a l s o made to understand that h i s whole s e l f consists of an i n f i n i t e number of p o t e n t i a l p a r t s , none of which defines him e x c l u s i v e l y . Thackera-y's own v a c i l l a t i o n and waywardness becomes increas-i n g l y obtrusive i n h i s mature work u n t i l , i n P h i l i p and Lovel the  Widower, the p l o t and s e t t i n g are dwarfed by the vastness of the narrator, whose monologues, i n a bewildering v a r i e t y of tone, s t y l e , and viewpoint, dominate the novels. The sharp s a t i r e and detached s o c i a l observation of Yellowplush and Titmarsh give way to the i r o n i e s of a l a t e r n a r r a t o r , who i s p a i n f u l l y involved w i t h h i s creat i o n s . Thackeray's t y p i c a l novels thus purposely present no conclusive form, but, rather, a medley of loose ends and unresolved c o n f l i c t s , \.Unlike the cen t r a l i n t e l l i g e n c e of the t r a d i t i o n a l novel, the Thackerayan narrator never f i n a l l y sheds h i s i l l u s i o n s , never comes to see the t r u t h about himself, and never reaches a c l i m a c t i c moment of ultimate v i s i o n ; yet nei-fcher does he become v i c t i m of the i l l u s i o n that man can l i v e without i l l u s i o n s . He presents h i s reader not i i i with a progression of events leading to self-discovery, Taut with a revelation of the forms through which the changing s e l f "becomes manifest * i v CONTENTS Chapter Page INTRODUCTION: AUTHOR AND READER ROLES 1 I . THACKERAY AID "THACKERAY" AS ROLE-PLAYERS 13 I I . PRIMARY AND SECONDARY FICTIONAL WORLDS 34 I n t r o d u c t o r y D i s c u s s i o n . . . . 34 Thackeray's Shandean N a r r a t o r . . . . . . . . 3 7 The B a r r a t o r ' s U n i f y i n g Presence . . . . . . . 5 3 I I I . THACKERAY AND HIS NARRATORS 73 IY. ILLUSION AS PROBE: NARRATOR-CHARACTER-READER RELATIONSHIPS 103 Masks 103 Human V a r i a n t s 118 Summary 143 v Chapter Page V. ILLUSION AT WORK AND PLAT: ESMOND AMD PHILIP 147 VI. THE EXPANSIVE NOVEL: THE FUNCTION OF "UNPATTERNED" EXPERIENCE 186 Introductory Discussion . . . . 186 The Use of Romance and the Contingent World . . . . 187 Summary « . . . 222 CONCLUSION: VISION THROUGH PLAY 225 BIBLIOGRAPHY 232 v i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I wish, to acknowledge a debt to Dr. John Hulcoop f o r h i s help with and encouragement of t h i s project over the past three years. Dr. Hulcoop's enthusiasm f o r the subject never waned even though, on occasion, my own d i d . Many of the ideas developed i n t h i s study were o r i g i n a l l y sparked by h i s s t i m u l a t i n g l e c t u r e s on the novel and by our pr i v a t e d i s c u s s i o n s . Thanks also are due to my wife, Wendy, who bore the burden of typing the f i n a l d r a f t . vii BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE The e d i t i o n s of Thackeray's works and l e t t e r s used i n quotations and subsequently documented i n t e r n a l l y , are as f o l l o w s : The Works of  Wil l i a m Makepeace Thackeray, 32 v o l s . (New York: S c r i b n e r ' s 1904)5 V a n i t y F a i r , ed. Geoff r e y and Kathleen T i l l o t s o n , (Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n , 1963); The L e t t e r s and P r i v a t e Papers of W i l l i a m Makepeace  Thackeray, ed. Gordon N. Ray, 4 v o l s . (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, I945-I946). Apart from V a n i t y F a i r , which w i l l be c i t e d as VF, c i t a t i o n s of the works w i l l c o n s i s t of volume and page r e f e r e n c e s . Quotations from Thackeray's correspondence w i l l be c i t e d as L e t t e r s . The S c r i b n e r ' s e d i t i o n i n c l u d e s almost a l l the i l l u s t r a t i o n s made f o r the o r i g i n a l part i s s u e s of the novels and the s e r i a l i z e d works. Quotations have been checked against the B i o g r a p h i c a l e d i t i o n (London: Harper & Bros., 1898-99), and on l y minor v a r i a t i o n s of s p e l l i n g and punctuation were r e v e a l e d . S c r i b n e r ' s i s r e t a i n e d because the i n i t i a l i l l u s t r a t i o n s to the chapters f r e q u e n t l y make i r o n i c comment on the t e x t and make a s i g n i f i c a n t c o n t r i b u t i o n to Thackeray's secondary f i c t i o n a l world. U s e f u l accounts of the e a r l y i l l u s t r a t i o n s to Thackeray's work are provided i n Lewis M e l v i l l e ' s Some Aspects of Thackeray, pp. 124-139. v'i'ii INTRODUCTION: AUTHOR AND READER ROLES In r e a l i t y , every reader, as he reads, i s the reader of himself. The work of a writer i s only a sort of optic instrument which he offers to the reader so that he may discern i n the book what he would probably not have seen i n himself. —Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past It i s generally true that "the novelist moves cautiously from the real to the f i c t i o n a l world, and takes pains to conceal the movement.""*" However,, certain novelists, among whom are Cervantes, Sterne and Thackeray, conceal this movement, either by emphasizing the f i c t i o n a l nature of their stories, or i n giving them an inconclusiveness by recourse to a v a c i l l a t i n g or bungling narrator, who p a i n f u l l y admits his incapacity. While i n Don Quixote Part I I , The Don and Sancho Panza offer comments and c r i t i c i s m on their biographer, i n Tristram Shandy and Vanity Fair, the narrator comments upon and c r i t i c i z e s himself; he i s aware of his own inadequacies, biases, and the ultimate impossibility of t e l l i n g a clear and straightforward tale, which both he and his reader can take seriously. Thus, while the typical novelist (concealing the movement between the f i c t i o n a l and the real world) creates one coherent f i c t i o n a l world, the "novelist i n motley" ( t y p i f i e d by Cervantes, Sterne and Thackeray) through his self-conscious narrator, moves ad r o i t l y between a f i c t i o n a l world of characters and a f i c t i o n a l world where he addresses a reader who must play a variety of roles. I t i s therefore clear that the "novelist in motley" offers his reader ^David Lodge, Language of F i c t i o n ; Essays i n Cri t i c i s m and Verbal  Analysis of the English Novel (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966), p. 42. 1 2 two f i c t i o n a l worlds, and that his predominant concern i s to reveal the distance between the quasi-real world of narrator and reader and the f i c t i o n a l world of the characters. The essential factor contributing to the secondary f i c t i o n a l world i s the reader's understanding of a dimension above and beyond the simple story. It offers a kind of sub-plot on the d i f f i c u l t i e s of reading and writing a novel, and i s v i t a l l y concerned with the r e l a t i o n between i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y . For the reader who i s predominantly concerned with the sequence of the hero's adventures, the various guises and t r i c k s of the narrator w i l l inevitably seem tedious and f r u s t r a t i n g . The narrator, the reader, or even the characters may see the ineffectiveness or the flaws of the story, but the story i s not the main issue — rather, the l i g h t which f a l l s upon i t . Don Quixote i s sure that his narrator " i s no sage but some ignorant prater who set himself blindly and aimlessly to write i t £b.is story] down and l e t i t turn out anyhow."^ For the "novelist i n motley," the story i s a minor a f f a i r , and, as Sterne's incompetent narrator has i t , "digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; — they are the l i f e , the soul of reading!"^ This study attempts to show that the typical digressions and narrative anarchy of the "novelist i n motley," as employed by Thackeray, lend greater verisimilitude to h i s novels. His secondary f i c t i o n a l Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote of La Mancha, trans, with Introd. Walter Starkie (New York: lew American Library, 1 9 6 4 ) , P. 5 4 9 . •^Laurence Sterne, The L i f e and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (London: Co l l i n s , 1955)> P» 68. 3 world, i n fact, i s suggestive rather than d e f i n i t i v e , and t h i s suggestiveness i s not a structural defect hutn.an i n t r i n s i c v i r t u e . Furthermore, the contention here i s that, although the "novelist i n motley" persists i n destroying the primary i l l u s i o n of the story, his narrator's doubts, hesitations, self-contradictions and reader-interrogations, are a crucial part of the aesthetic experience presented. The reader i s offered not simply an anti-novel but a novel of broader scope than the more typic a l novel. This multiplex, or as I c a l l i t "expansive", novel attempts to show r e a l i t y i n the process of being shaped into a r t . * In t h i s process, fundamental questions are raised between narrator and reader, and the most insistent and unanswerable i s the question "Who am I?" The narrator employed by the "novelist i n motley" attempts to reconcile contradictory aspects of himself and his reader; the solemn and the impish; the l o g i c a l and the wayward; the pious and the cynical. And i f narrator and reader contain such contraries, how, i t i s constantly implied, can one t e l l an unequivocal and direct tale which c l e a r l y distinguishes heroism and v i l l a i n y , wisdom and f o l l y , or beauty and corruption? The "expansive" novel thus offers the reader that e v e r - f e r t i l e foolishness, which we can only embrace by the words "Quixotic" and "Shandean." I t i s i n the quiet dialogue between narrator and reader that the question of s e l f - d e f i n i t i o n becomes c r u c i a l . Thus after Don Quixote's advice to Sancho Panza on how to rule his island i n the sky wisely, the reader i s invited to scoff at the f o l l y of knight and 4 servant—to see them as other than his own sane and c i v i l i z e d s e l f . But The Bon's fantasy i s also the reader's and becomes a r e a l i t y through the t r i c k s and pl o t t i n g of others, u n t i l f i n a l l y , l i k e a l l plots, schemes., systems and enchantments i t dissolves " l i k e smoke into the a i r . " Yet the fantasy i s a means of self-probing for Quixote, Sancho and the reader, and the Don's conduct i n the role of governor draws wonder, amazement and admiration from a l l . Through h i s fantastic role-playing, he "carries to a high pitch both his good sense and his madness." The reader i s asked by the narrator, "who . . . would have taken him for a very wise person, whose wisdom was exceeded only by his' excellent intentions?"^" The greatest wisdom, the narrator i n p l i e s , i s to take up the role which "sane" people, securely ensconced behind their social personae, consider to be f o l l y . For i n this way the s e l f goes beyond convenient d e f i n i t i o n and re a l i z e s i t s boundless p o s s i b i l i t i e s . A reader of Don Quixote or Vanity F a i r can never be a purely passive partner i n the f i c t i o n a l enterprise. Although he usually finds l i t t l e d i f f i c u l t y i n identifying with central characters i n novels or speakers i n poetry or drama, when faced with an inconsistent, i r o n i c a l or consciously role-playing narrator, the reader i s forced into a more complex r o l e . The narrator drops h i s formal pose at frequent intervals i n order that he may suggest a r i c h l y diffuse otherness behind his ostensible r o l e . His purpose thus becomes a ta n t a l i z i n g self-revelation i n which he i s something of a confidence man and t r i c k s t e r enticing Don Quixote, p. 827 5 h i s reader to d i s c l o s e and d i s c o v e r the secret s e l v e s which l i e behind 5 the "gentle reader" facade.*;; When the n a r r a t o r ' s d i s c l o s u r e s take p l a c e , the' reader i s made d e f e n s i v e l y self-aware, and as the n a r r a t o r begins to probe the reader, s e c u r i t y and d e f i n i t i o n are l o s t . Because the Manager of V a n i t y F a i r w i l l " d e f e r e n t i a l l y . . . submit to the f a s h i o n at present p r e v a i l i n g , and only . . . h i n t at the existence of wickedness i n a l i g h t , easy, and agreeable manner, so that nobody's f i n e f e e l i n g s may be offended " (VF, 617), the reader i s f o r c e d to decide f o r h i m s e l f the extent of Mrs. Rebecca Crawley's g u i l t . The n a r r a t o r , as urbane and uncommitted commentator, o f f e r s o n l y p o s s i b i l i t i e s and l e a v e s h i s reader t o decide upon u l t i m a t e s at h i s own p e r i l ; f o r to r i s k d e f i n i t i o n and commitment i s to attempt t o remove o n e s e l f from the f l u x of time through which the changing s e l f i s r e v e a l e d . The Manager seeks to avo i d the c o n s t r i c t i o n of r o l e - p l a y i n g i n order t o avo i d d e f i n i t i o n by h i s reader. By so doing he makes p l a i n the i m p o s s i b i l i t y of f i n a l knowledge and h i s own u n w i l l i n g n e s s t o pronounce judgement. H i s r o l e i s thus that of m u l t i p l e r o l e - p l a y e r g and the common ground between n a r r a t o r and reader i s the masquerade where t r u t h l i e s i n a co n v i n c i n g performance and the s e l f i s f r e e d from the shackles of everyday r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s , and r o l e - p l a y i n g i s b l a t a n t l y acknowledged r a t h e r - t l i a n r f c a c i i ; l y i m p l i e d as i t i s i n normal 5 Cf. E r v i n g Goffman on the two needs of those who woxild renounce the c o n s t r i c t i n g t y p i c a l r o l e : "a need f o r an audience before which to t r y out one's vaunted s e l v e s , and a need f o r teammates with whom to enter i n t o c o l l u s i v e i n t i m a c i e s and backstage r e l a x a t i o n . " The P r e s e n t a t i o n of S e l f i n Everyday L i f e (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 195^J, p. 190. 6 l i f e . It i s thus with the changing selves of the narrator that the reader i s confronted rather than with a stable s e l f , ^and since he does not simply i d e n t i f y with a character or a point of view, the reader cannot rest secure i n the role of vicarious performer but must also play the part of watcher. The reward f o r the reader's acceptance of uncertainty and the discomfort of an insecure role i s a sense of self-transcendence, a going beyond the convenient tidiness of sensible, everyday p o l a r i t i e s of good and bad, wisdom and f o l l y , s e l f and other, form and content, and a release into a world of unlimited p o s s i b i l i t y . In summary, then, we can say that the s e l f contains a vast complex of dark and private impulses which w i l l only be realized i n dreams, imagination or under conditions of extreme stress. The " s e l f " of the novelist communicates with the reader only across the bridge of metaphor—or, to keep the original terms, the author adopts and the reader accepts the convention of a r o l e . Novelists who are conscious of the arbitrary nature of this role, and who consequently seek to communicate.this arbitrariness, eschew the consistency of a I am assuming here for the convenience of argument that there is; such a thing as a stable s e l f , a f e e l i n g of s e l f - i d e n t i t y i n normal l i f e . Cf. Erich Promm, Man..f or,...Himself: An.-Enquiry into ,the  Psychology, of. Ethics (New York:. Rinehart, 1947), p. 206: "We are award of the existence of a s e l f , or a core i n our personality which i s unchangeable and which persists throughout our l i f e i n spite of varying circumstances and regardless cuE'certain changes i n opinions: and feelings. It i s t h i s core which i s the r e a l i t y behind the word 'I' and on which our conviction of our own identit y i s based." Cf. also Charles Horton Cooley, Human. Nature.., and.. the .Social Order, new ed. (Hew York: Schocken Books, 1964), p» 245; "Where there i s no s e l f -feeling, no ambition of any sort, there i s no efficacy or significance. 7 unified point of view and present their world to the reader through an unstable and c o n f l i c t i n g persona who seeks to evoke from the reader an awareness of the fluctuating and incalculable s e l f . Such novelists are Cervantes, Sterne and Thackeray, and they offer their reader not the neatness of pattern and plot carefully developed and concluded, but a medley of story within story and r e f l e c t i o n upon r e f l e c t i o n . Paradigm i s s a c r i f i c e d to process and the reader i s a v i t a l partner 7 i n this process.' Communication demands at least two people who understand and observe- the rules on which i t s basis rests. Without a mutual acceptance between transmitter and receiver of the role-playing conventions involved, a break-down i n meaning occurs; the l i n e s become crossed and the message i s garbled and confused. In the diagram below, e f f i c i e n t social and a r t i s t i c role-playing corresponds to area 'B1, and area 'A' represents the normal sub-conversation that goes on i n the confused and c o n f l i c t i n g s e l f . Area 'C i s one of excessively simplified role-playing where the role i s too well-defined to allow f o r human To lose the sense of a separate, productive, r e s i s t i n g s e l f , would be to melt and merge and cease to be." This absence of s e l f - d e f i n i t i o n , l e t t i n g go of identity, so a l i e n to Western philosophy, i s the only r e a l i t y f o r expounders of Oriental philosophy such as Alan Watts and J. Krishnamurti. ^Cf. Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1 9 3 8 ) , p. 131: "We must not dwell mainly on the issue. The immediacy of experience i s then past and over. The vividness of l i f e l i e s i n the transition, with i t s forms aiming at the issue." Cf. also George W. Morgan, The Human Predicament: Dissolution and Wholeness (Providence: Brown Univ. Press, I 9 6 8 ) , p. 330: "Man i s more whole or less whole, but his wholeness i s never a s t a t i c condition to be achieved and thereafter maintained i n fixed form." 8 v a r i a b i l i t y and freedom. —mechanical communication — r i g i d role OVER-DEFINED MAN UNDEFINED MAN — n o communication — n o clear role DEFINED MAN — e f f i c i e n t communication — c l e a r role The "novelist i n motley, " while he meets his reader i n area *B,' manages to suggest the existence of the neighbouring areas which define i t . The narrator of Vanity Fair has received considerable c r i t i c a l attention, but only one study has attempted "to trace the strange mix-ture of jester and philosopher, of spectator and actor, which character-8 izes the basic narrator" of Thackeray's novels. The relationship of narrator and reader to the complex medley of s h i f t i n g forms which 9 Thackeray presents has not, however, been very thoroughly explored. In fact the highly sophisticated play between narrator and reader, which contemporary novelists such as Nabokov, Durrell and Barth make a v i t a l part of the reading experience, has been, i n Thackeray, almost t o t a l l y Q John C. KLeis, "The Narrative Persona i n the Novels of Thack-eray," Diss. Pennsylvania 1966, p. 4. o yk most penetrating discussion of "Thackeray's great subject, the relationship of the s e l f to forms" i s found i n the l a s t chapter of James Fheatley's Patterns i n Thackeray's F i c t i o n (Cambridge, Mass.: The M.I.T. Press, 1969). 9 ignored. John Loofbourow •s study of Thackeray's "allusive textures" i n Vanity Fair and Esmond attends closely to Thackeray's use of parodic form.^ Loofbourow draws an interesting comparison with Proust which i s v a l i d perhaps for Esmond but not for the se r i a l i z e d novels. Thackeray's "expansive" novels depend on collusion between a playful narrator and a patient and watchful reader. This relationship builds up the secondary f i c t i o n a l world which encloses the progressive story i n a series of illusion-breaking digressions. For Thackeray, i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y are merely different terms for the same phenomena; for today's i l l u s i o n becomes tomorrow's r e a l i t y and vice versa. Knowing that l i f e offers an incomprehensible wholeness, an inexhaustible complexity, Pendennis, who epitomizes the playful narrator, a r t f u l l y asks the reader of Ph i l i p : "Have you made up your mind on the question of seeming and being i n the world?" (XV, 186). The reader who has made up his mind w i l l have l i t t l e time for the evasive narrator of Thackeray's mature novels whose favourite qualifying phrases are "I dare say," "I wonder whether" and "I believe." The self-conscious narrator, catching himself out revealing a prejudice., turns to his reader and invites him to take an active part i n the novel: "What i s this? Am I angry because Twysden has l e f t off asking me to his vinegar and chopped hay? No. I think not. Am I hurt because Mrs. Twysden sometimes patronizes my wife, and sometimes cuts her? Perhaps" (XV, 189). ^°Thackeray and the Form of Fiction . (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1964). 10 Thackeray knows that the s e l f i s an unstable compound, subject to continuous change and made up of fluctuating memories and aspirations. Since the s e l f can expand i n f i n i t e l y i n space and time through the imagination, i t follows that any d i s t i n c t i o n between s e l f and world i s purely arbitrary. Furthermore, i f the imaginative extensions of the se l f into past and future are to be called i l l u s i o n s , then the only r e a l i t y i s the eternal now. This question of the indeterminate s e l f which pervades Thackeray's novels i s pl a i n l y articulated i n a l e t t e r to Mrs. Brookfield: But what i s memory? Memory without Hope i s but a negative idiosyncrasy and hope without memory a plant that has no root. L i f e has many such: but s t i l l I f e e l that they are too few. Death may remove or i n some way modify their poignancy: the Future alone can reconcile them with the irrevocable f i a t of yesterday: and Tomorrow I have l i t t l e doubt w i l l laugh them into melancholy scorn. Deem not that I speak l i g h t l y , or that beneath the mask of satire any doubt, any darkness any pleasure even at foreboding can mingle with the depth of my truthfulness. Passion i s but a hypocrite and a monitor (however barefaced)—Action f e b r i l e continuous action should be the pole star of our desolate being. I f t h i s i s not r e a l i t y I know not what i s — ( L e t t e r s , IV, 309-310). This study i s an attempt to suggest the depth of Thackeray's truthfulness as revealed i n the secondary f i c t i o n a l world of the novels. Both reader and narrator must put on a bewildering variety of masks i n the novels, but we are never i n doubt that these masks are mere forms through which the changing s e l f i s revealed. The mercurial narrator exists to expand the primary f i c t i o n a l world of the novels where the ostensible action takes place. He exists to broaden the novels' range, to nudge the reader, to suggest p o s s i b i l i t i e s , to break down schematism and blur moral outlines. As he t e l l s the reader the 11 s t o r y he d i s c l o s e s h i m s e l f , r e l i v e s the s t o r y with the t e l l i n g and a n t i c i p a t e s p o s s i b l e reader r e a c t i o n . He cuts h i m s e l f short i n a passage of m o r a l i z i n g , d e c l i n e s to comment on some p a r t i c u l a r l y s p i c y item of g o s s i p , adds an extraneous episode or anecdote to h i s s t o r y , takes on the r o l e of impro v i s i t ore,, repeats h i m s e l f at l e n g t h , becomes, what would be i n l i f e , a bore. He teases h i s reader with suggestions and h i n t s r e g a r d i n g what might have happened or what r e a c t i o n the reader might take. N a t u r a l l y , the n a r r a t o r i s i n c o n s i s t e n t , i n c o n c l u s i v e and h y p o c r i t i c a l , f o r h i s v i s i o n of the world changes a c c o r d i n g to the dominant mood of the w r i t i n g p r e s e n t A s he runs the gamut from omniscience to ignorance r e g a r d i n g h i s c h a r a c t e r s , they become puppets or independent people a c c o r d i n g l y . I n consequence, the reader, too must become protean and be prepared to recognize h i m s e l f i n '•unlikely" 12 p l a c e s . He must be the sentimental reader and the c y n i c a l reader; C f . D.M. Stewart, "Vanity F a i r ; L i f e i n the V o i d , " College E n g l i s h , 2.5-(0.963), 211: "The moral center of the book i s not a p r i n c i p l e t h a t can be formulated; i t i s p r e c i s e l y the e v o l v i n g s i t u a t i o n i n which conventional moral p r i n c i p l e s are r e p e a t e d l y reversed and i n v e r t e d so that one never reaches a r e s o l u t i o n . " Stewart's a r t i c l e i s an e x c e l l e n t counter-argument to many c r i t i c s of the n a r r a t o r of V a n i t y F a i r , such as G r e i g and Van Ghent, who object to h i s i n t r u s i v e n e s s , u n r e l i a b i l i t y or confusion. Stewart goes on: "Thackeray l i e s , cheats, dissembles, suppresses i n f o r m a t i o n . . . . He gives us a world that r e f l e c t s h o n e s t l y the r e a l w o r l d — w h i c h c e r t a i n l y deceives us q u i t e as o f t e n , q u i t e as b l a t a n t l y . A b e t t e r wisdom than that which condemns h i s c o n t r a d i c t i o n s would express g r a t i t u d e to Thackeray f o r making i t d i f f i c u l t a f t e r r e a d i n g V a n i t y  F a i r t o deceive o n e s e l f i n t o b e l i e v i n g he was ever q u i t e undeceived." 12 Perhaps Thackeray f i n d s h i s i d e a l reader i n the mid-twentieth century i n the r o l e of "protean man" whom Robert Jay L i f t o n sees as a modern archetype: "While he i s by no means without y e a r n i n g f o r the absolute, what he f i n d s most acceptable are images of a more 12 he must f i n d within himself such seemingly incompatible elements as moralist and hedonist, upright judge and malicious gossip, i d e a l i s t i c hero and cynical v i l l a i n . fragmentary nature than those of the ideologies of the past." "Protean Man," Dialogue, 1, No. 3 (1968), 94. Cf. Todd Andrews i n John Barth's The Floating Opera (New York: Avon Books, 1965), p. 27I: " I t i s one thing to say 'Values are only r e l a t i v e ' ; quite another, and more t h r i l l i n g , to remove the perforative adverb and assert 'There are r e l a t i v e v a l u e s i ' These at least, we have, and i f they are a l l we have, then i n no way whatsoever are they i n f e r i o r . " CHAPTER I THACKERAY AND "THACKERAY" AS ROLE-PLAYERS I t ' s the other one, i t ' s Borges,. that things happen to. . . . News of Borges reaches me through the mail, and I see his name on an academic ballot or i n a biographical dictionary. . . . I l i v e , I allow myself to l i v e , so that Borges may continue his l i t e r a t u r e and that l i t e r a t u r e j u s t i f i e s my existence. . . . I am well aware of his perverse habits of f a l s i f y i n g and exaggerating. . . . Years ago I t r i e d to free myself from him and I passed from lower-middle-class myths to playing games with time and i n f i n i t y , but those games are Borges now. . . . I do not know which of us two i s writing t h i s page. — J o r g e Luis Borges, The Maker Just so I glut My hunger both to be and know the thing I am, By contrast with the thing I am not; so, through sham And outside, I arrive at inmost r e a l , probe And prove how the nude form obtained the chequered robe. —Robert Browning, F i f i n e at the F a i r Although the strange presence, who fathers the s t o r y - t e l l e r , who i n turn fathers the characters, i s something as removed from the narrator as he i s from the h i s t o r i c a l author, there are intimate connections between man and a r t i s t . We are not dealing with a man, but neither are we dealing with a mask, when we speak loosely of "Charles Dickens," "William Makepeace Thackeray" or "Henry James." When we read David Copperfield, Vanity Fair, or The Ambassadors, we sense the ghost of the old a r t i f i c e r who i s present i n these works, but we should not confuse our sense of "him" with our sense of David Copperfield, the Manager of the F a i r or Lambert Strether. For these are masks only, although they are masks that "he" assumes to make his presence f e l t . "Thackeray" therefore i s the a r t i s t i n the work, 13 14 whereas Thackeray's remains are found i n the records that the h i s t o r i c a l figure l e f t outside of his deliberately created works of a r t . The characteristics of t h i s authorial presence are, nevertheless, c r u c i a l l y related to the h i s t o r i c a l man. In Thackeray's case, an examination of the private l i f e , with i t s multiple awareness, agonizing s e l f -consciousness and deliberate posturing, lays the ground for an evaluation of the narrator who i s to dominate the mature novels. This chapter shows some of the ways i n which the h i s t o r i c a l Thackeray attempted to define himself through a variety of convincing but c o n f l i c t i n g roles, i n his l e t t e r s , public lectures, novels and c r i t i c i s m . The portrait that emerges from his l e t t e r s i s that of a man who has no strong self-image. He i s a writer who knows the arbitrariness of l i t e r a r y and social roles, but who i s also aware of t h e i r necessity to e f f i c i e n t self-presentation. The impulsive and anarchic self frequently breaks through the conventional facade that i s essential to harmonious social relations, and this frequently causes Thackeray to apologize f o r indiscretions committed when the social rules are broken or the l i t e r a r y codes violated. His rudeness to Trollope, h i s disparagement of his former Punch colleagues, and his dubious remark through the narrator of The Virginians that Washington's courage was worthy of a better cause, lead him to l a t e r retractions i n an attempt to smooth over r u f f l e d s e n s i b i l i t i e s and mend the rules he has broken. For, though the inner s e l f be unsure and f u l l of c o n f l i c t , the presented se l f must appear secure and consistent i f the performance i s to succeed i n i t s purpose of cementing social and cultural relationships. 15 But Thackeray found a constraint i n such role-playing, where a persuasive performance i s achieved at a considerable cost to the diverse claims of the self for recognition and expression. The intensity and concentration of playing a single role, or of', stressing a s o l i t a r y part of the s e l f , puts the whole s e l f under duress. As both man and novelist, Thackeray gives expression to the contrary claims of the s e l f , and his honest acceptance of inner discord results i n h i s characteristic v a c i l l a t i o n s and contradictions. Thackeray can be severe i n censuring Sterne's lewdness or Dickens' f a i l u r e to depiot nature, but he i s always aware that f a u l t s and virtues inevitably grow side by side. Although one part of Thackeray i s c r i t i c a l , another part of him i s aware of the limitations of his criticism.^" His role i n the lecture on Sterne and Goldsmith i s b a s i c a l l y that of exposer of Sterne's false sentiment and impurity, yet he quotes at length a passage where he finds "wit, humour, pathos, a kind nature speaking, and a real sentiment." Twelve years l a t e r , i n the Roundabout Papers t he exclaims of Master Laurence Sterne, whom he r e c a l l s as an old schoolfellow, "what a genius that fellow hasI Let him have a sound flogging, and as soon as the young scamp i s out of the whipping-room give him a gold medal" (XXVI, 371} XXVII, 328). Criticism demands an appreciation of good and bad q u a l i t i e s and an attempt at a just assessment of the overall work or writer, but Thackeray's c r i t i c i s m does not rest i n judicious summary. His only 1Thus Edwin Clapp sees him as a " c r i t i c on horseback," and for this " c r i t i c - e r r a n t . . . no rules (unless they be the White Knight's) 16 certainty i s that of the momentary se l f that i s called out i n response to the work. The unstable sense of s e l f that Thackeray displays i n his c r i t i c i s m — h i s i n a b i l i t y to maintain a fixed r o l e — i s brought out most s t r i k i n g l y i n his correspondence. Many of his l e t t e r s were torn up, not sent or couched i n evasive terms or a disguised hand. Lionel Stevenson emphasizes this and points out that Thackeray i n his i n -decisiveness burnt or destroyed as many l e t t e r s to Mrs. Brookfield as 2 he sent. Conscious of his own f a i l u r e to maintain an acceptable social r o l e, Thackeray apologizes to Lady Blessington for his former indiscreet remarks on Bulwer. He l a t e r apologizes to Bulwer himself for the fun he had at the baronet 1s expense when he wrote under the pseudonym of Yellowplush (Letters, I I I , 278). Thackeray i s continually finding that the needs of the s e l f frequently upset social conventions, that wicked irreverence and sentimental devotion can only be expressed by means of various disguises, contradictions and retractions. In a book review of Dickens' The Cricket on the Hearth one can almost see Thackeray changing his mind as f i r s t one aspect of the work and then another seizes his attention. The dialogue and characters are, he complains, "no more l i k e nature than the talk of Tityrus and Meliboeus i s l i k e the real talk of Bumpkin and Hodge over a s t i l e , or are quite satisfactory as to why or how he chose, i n his own way, certain dragon-humbugs to destroy, certain moral maidens to succor." " C r i t i c on Horseback," Sewanee Review, 38(1930), 288. 2 The Showman of "Vanity Fai r" ; The L i f e of William Makepeace  Thackeray (New York: Scribner's, 1947), p. 184} p. 210; p. I78. 17 A than Florian's pastoral petits maitres, i n red heels and powder, are l i k e French peasants, with wooden shoes and a pitchfork," Later, however, Thackeray finds a l l these impossibilities "become perfectly comprehensible now, and the absurdities pleasant, almost credible," Thackeray's e a r l i e r strictures on the story's a r t i f i c i a l i t y , caricature and pantomime quality are mellowed by a recognition that we are creatures of extravagant imagination and that the child l i v e s on i n the man. Typically, he appeals to the reader: "Have you not sympathised with the distresses of many princesses described by Mother Bunch? — given a certain credence to dwarfs and ogres, singing trees, and conversation-a l animals?"^ Sig n i f i c a n t l y , one of Thackeray's favourite metaphors i n his art and i n his l e t t e r s i s that of the stage or the puppet show. He re a l i z e s that "It i s very d i f f i c u l t for l i t e r a r y men to keep their honesty, We are actors more or l e s s a l l of us we get to be public personages malgre nous" (Letters, I I I , 13). He knows that as soon as a man begins to write, his pen runs away with him, so to speak, and produces a more or l e s s beautiful fabrication which he f e e l s undermines his i n t e g r i t y as a man. The a r t i s t can only offer us what Fernandez would c a l l " s u p e r f i c i a l imitations" of the man, Thackeray's awareness of t h i s causes him to underline the a r t i f i c e i n his works i n order Stevenson's account of Thackeray's l e t t e r s at a crucial stage of his relationship with Mrs. Brookfield i s apposite here: "Not having heard from her for some days, he composed a l e t t e r i n French, giving a f l o r i d account of his anxiety, and did not post i t . Three days l a t e r he sent her a long missive, partly i n an assumed hand, with the explanation that the use of a different language or calligraphy produced a complete change i n his character." p. 179. (My i t a l i c s ) ^Thackeray's Contributions to the "Horning Chronicle," ed. 18 that we do not take them as definitive statements of Thackeray the man. He shows us a reflection in a deliberately distorted mirror, in order that we see, at the same time, the likeness to our world of the fictive world, and also i t s essential otherness. Sometimes the incongruity i t s e l f is the chief delight in our appreciation, as for instance, when Mr. Snob at one and the same time mocks and supports the adage that in a nation's hour of cri s i s a saviour will arise, that "cometh the hour, come the man": ".just as in the Pantomime^  (that microcosm) where when the Clown wants anything—a warming-pan, a pump-handle, a goose, or a lady's tippet—a fellow comes sauntering out from behind the side-scenes with the very article in question"(XXII, 4 ) . The significance of Thackeray's emphasis on the diminutive world of Vanity Fair is completely missed by Frank O'Connor, who, in his eagerness to expose the cynical worldling (who is also a Peter Pan figure for O'Connor) he sees Thackeray to be, finds that "the device of the puppet show in Vanity Fair i s merely another method of indicating that i t does not much matter whether the characters are good or bad, noble or ignoble; they must die just the same." When O'Connor says that "virtue in Thackeray's eyes i s always weak or stupid," or that "he regards instinct as weakness; selfishness, for a l l that he affects to denounce i t , as strength," he i s exactly one half rightThackeray's attitude to his "dear old mother," like Gordon N. Ray (Urbana: Univ. of I l l i n o i s Press, 1955), p. 88; p. 91. ^The Mirror on the Roadway: A Study of the Modern Novel (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1956), pp. 114-116. 19 the Manager's to Amelia, fluctuates between maudlin worship and crabbed censure of her single-mindedness (Letters, I I I , 13; 93-94)• Thackeray knew, certainly, that "virtue" had i t s weak and f o o l i s h as well as i t s admirable aspects, and "Thackeray" exploits these p o l a r i t i e s i n his work, through such ambivalent figures as Amelia, Helen Pendennis and Rachel Castlewood. The l a t t e r two "are both angelic mothers, but their beatitude i s s l i g h t l y tarnished by pronounced jealousy towards 5 their sons* love objects." The i n t r i n s i c a l l y h i s t r i o n i c and capricious character of Thackeray the man i s c a p i t a l l y exploited by Thackeray the a r t i s t . The f a c i l i t y to see a l l aspects of a question and the reluctance to draw conclusions permit him to lose himself i n a convincing performance. "I don't control my characters," he told Cordy Jeaffreson; "I am i n their hands, and they take me where they please." To Whitwell Elwin, he maintained, "I have never seen the persons I describe, nor heard the conversations I put down. I am often astonished to read i t myself when I have got i t down on p a p e r . T h i s i s an apparent confession of loss of control over his material, yet Thackeray, by surrendering himself to the mood of the moment, succeeds i n creating a variable response to a potentially s t a t i c situation. Raptures over Amelia, or grateful prayers for the beautiful Helen Pendennis are balanced by ^Lambert Snnis, Thackeray; The Sentimental Cynic (Evanston, 111.: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1950), p. 81. ^Cited i n Lewis M e l v i l l e , Vf i l l jam Makepeace Thackeray (Garden City, New York: Doubleday-Doran, 1928), p. 254. 20 sobering assessments that bring out the negative q u a l i t i e s of these seeming moral touchstones. I t i s because of hi s awareness of various opposing modes of seeing that Thackeray i s able to give such successful performances as the cynical Yellowplush, the boastful Gahagan and the sentimental Fitzboodle. I f 'Jthe man who habitually uses a pen name must . . . think of 7 himself as playing a l i t e r a r y role,"'the man who uses a wide variety Q of pen names must see himself as a constant role-player. Thus Thackeray, i n "Punch's Prize Novelists," captures the s p i r i t of Mrs. Gore's fashionable novels, Lever's r o l l i c k i n g I r i s h rogue stories, and Di s r a e l i ' s high-flown Young England mystique, not with the savagery of Augustan satire, but with the sympathy of gentle burlesque. He does not set himself apart from the subject he chooses to mock, but rather becomes the part so convincingly that the reader i s enveloped i n the mood of the o r i g i n a l and i s barely conscious of the f o l l y which i s being subtly caricatured. In Thackeray i t often seems that the role takes over and the man with a purpose almost disappears. I f we are reminded of Joyce's Publiners with i t s pastiche of romantic modes of seeing, we are not i n Thackeray's parody conscious of the b i t t e r incongruity 9 between author's view and character's view. ^Louis D. Rubin, Jr.- The T e l l e r i n the Tale (Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1967), p. 53. Q For a l i s t of some of the pseudonyms used by Thackeray, see J.Y.T. Greig, Thackeray: A Reconsideration (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1950), pp.206.* 207. 9 'The p a r a l l e l with Joyce can be further extended to their sense 21 Thackeray was, above a l l , a performer i n his l i f e as i n his letter-writing, reporting, lectures, and through various personae i n his sketches, tales and novels. Because he f a i l e d to take himself seriously, to cast himself i n a secure and convincing mold, i t i s impossible for his reader to see Thackeray as a stable compound with set views or any particular convictions, Writing to Mrs. Scott about Henry Esmond, which he considered his best novel, he declares "that i s such an old story that I forget the book—a melancholy novel wasn't i t , & a dismal imitation of the old style." Does this represent a i conclusive judgement by the author, or i s he merely entertaining the point of view of the hypothetical North B r i t i s h reviewer whom he invents on the spur of the moment to damn the book (Letters, I I I , 286; 286n)? Which of Thackeray's poems on the opening of the Great Exhibition of 18S1 represents h i s true f e e l i n g s — t h e stately ode or the humorous skit published i n Punch? These must remain open questions, for Thackeray i s not concerned with ultimate justice or f i n a l answers but with expressing the blur and complexity of his whole s e l f . Since i t i s impossible to communicate t h i s complexity without the adoption of a point of view, Thackeray makes i t plain that his medium i s an a r t i f i c i a l convention which does no more than represent the feelings of the moment. of the arbitrary nature of language. Thackeray's use of French, German and Latin phrases i n his l e t t e r s and novels, his use of cockney, Oxford, American and broken-English accents and his penchant for puns, archaisms and portmanteau words show his constant endeavour to extend the range of acceptable forms of expression. There i s a Joycean flavour for instance i n the following coinages: "simtim," " p i a n o f o r t i f i c a t i o n , " "noncents," "refugeedom," " t o l l e r o l l a r a b l e , " "dthrinckh," "deleeshus," "lickwise my stummick," "suckinstansies," "ate o'clock," "womanifesto," "individdiwidyouall," 22 For Thackeray i t was in the play-world or the dream-world that the normally constricted parts of the Self gained expression. He would draw no sharp distinction between fantasy and reality, and spoke of his fictitious characters as friends, or projected his own dreams onto real people. When asked by Mrs. Bray, with whom he was staying while lecturing in Coventry, i f he had slept well, Thackeray answered "How could I with Colonel Newcome making a fool of himself as he has done?" After meeting the Baxters in America, Thackeray kept up a continuous correspondence with Sarah Baxter to whom he played, among other roles, that of wooer. For a man who is prepared to admit that l i f e is made up of much nonsense and who seeks to delight people by marketing "a pack of cards to be sold at a l l railway stations bought by every body who loves stuff and nonsense," certitude of performance is the only reality (Letters, III, 438n; 380; 386). Thackeray frequently took on a role not as an advocate but in order to see just how much of himself he could find within i t s limits. His defence of America was not so much a matter of personal conviction and loyalties as an opposition, for the sake of argument, to John Bullishness. He writes to Sarah Baxter: "I go about praising you Americans to a l l that will hear HushI between ourselves I know some of what I say is unjust: and that I speak too favorably: but i f you could hear the vulgarity and ignorance and outrecuidance on our sidej" (Letters, III, 282). Travelling under the banner of Hew World Liberty, he catches'himself in the act of rhetorical sermonizing. Thus he writes tto Harriet Thackeray: 23 Greater nations than ours ever have been, are born i n America and Australia—and Truth w i l l be spoken and Freedom w i l l be practised, and God w i l l be worshipped among them, as they never have been with the antiquarian trammels that bind us i n the Old World. I look at t h i s , and speculate on this bright Future, as an Astronomer of a Star; and admire and worship the beautiful goodness of God. Hullo I What sort of conversation i s t h i s ? — I t seems l i k e a b i t out of a Sermon doesn't i t ? I f I had anything funny to say you should have that; but there's no Fun at home tip.vda^ y,, (Letters, I I I , 175) Reality for Thackeray i s not i n any i n t e l l e c t u a l or moral position but i n the conviction of the moment's performance, i n the surrender of the s e l f and i t s desire for preservation through d e f i n i t i o n . On the conversion of John Hungerford Pollen to Catholicism, Thackeray shows a mixture of admiration and scepticism, and he adopts Pollen's position i n order to examine and understand i t . He concludes, however, that he can only look at Catholicism " a r t i s t i c a l l y as at Paganism Mahometanism or any other ism" (Letters, III, 341). In having no one position the s e l f i s free to lose d e f i n i t i o n and rea l i z e i t s f u l f i l l m e n t i n d i v e r s i t y . The man l i k e Thackeray, whose "position" i s i n commitment to no position, i s free to become a performer and discoverer of his latent s e l f . Such a man cannot take himself seriously, and, i n his waywardness, imaginative daring and social unpredictability, has much i n common with the c h i l d . The a r t i s t does self-consciously for humanity at large what the child does unconsciously for himself—he engages men i n a play-• world of strange fancy where the normal lo g i c and restraints of adult conformity are suspended. The a r t i s t preserves men's "sanity" 24 by allowing free play to the " f o l l y " of their inner w o r l d . ^ Thackeray and the other "novelists i n motley" permit their readers to see the flimsy basis on which our normally water-tight structures of "sane" and "foolish," "true" and "false" are b u i l t . By accepting their created worlds as nonsense, these novelists show their command over r e a l i t y i n the same way that a man who claims he i s a l i a r t e l l s the truth, or one who accepts his insanity i s alone i n his sanity. The difference between chi l d and a r t i s t i s essentially one of knowledge. The novelist offers us controlled fantasy, and because he knows that he i s a deceiver, he i s able to project his self-knowledge onto narrators and characters 11 who are parts created by a writing s e l f . He can only communicate by parts, and his honesty l i e s i n not pretending that his parts are wholes. While a l l novelists are perforce role-players, the "novelist i n motley" plays the role of role-player. He seeks to communicate a sense of the f r a g i l e rationales on which our convictions rest. Truth l i e s for him i n perpetual f l u x . Just as Thackeray the man would point out to his mother the arbitrary nature of b e l i e f , so does Thackeray the novelist, through h i s narrator, emphasize the arbitrary "^Thus Freud says that the growing c h i l d "makes use of play i n order to withdraw from the pressure of c r i t i c a l reason." Freud goes on to say education demands r i g i d r e s t r i c t i o n s "along the right l i n e s of thinking, and . . . the separation of r e a l i t y from f i c t i o n , and i t i s for t h i s reason that the resistance against the pressures of thinking and r e a l i t y i s far-reaching and persistent." The Basic Writings of  Sigmund Freud, trans, and ed. with Introd. A. A. B r i l l (N4w York: Random House, 1938), p. 717. l i ' " / Cf. Rene Btiemble, Poetes ou faiseurs? (Paris: Gallimard, I966), p. 193: "-Faute d'avoir accepte sa condition de faiseur au sens 25 nature of n o v e l i s t i c convention. To his mother's c r i t i c i s m of Catholicism, Thackeray responds with* "Do you think you would not have had the same love for Catholicism [as you have for the Church of England] i f you had been bred to i t ? Indeed you would, as I fancy, i n any other creed" (Letters, I, 466). For Thackeray, "God has a responding face for every one of these myriad intelligences" (Ibid., 467), and there i s an element of absurdity i n doctrinaire adherence to any one creed. Although his l e t t e r s to his mother are at times pious, he i s also capable of scepticism: "What numbers of gates to heaven have we bu i l t ? and suppose after a l l there are no walls? But this i s a mystery" (Letters,III, 604). In a world where men are always being proved l i a r s and pretenders, the a r t i s t i s the honest l i a r , who, l i k e Arnold's C a l l i c l e s , fables but speaks truth. Our enduring passions, Thackeray realizes, are largely a matter of self-induced hypnoses. Thus he says, through the Manager of Vanity F a i r , that "one of the great conditions of anger and hatred i s , that you must t e l l and believe l i e s against the hated object, i n order . . . to be consistent" (VF, 171). Thackeray i s very aware that art, too, demands a consistency that does injustice to l i f e ' s complexity. In reply to Lewes' charge of cynicism i n Vanity F a i r , he recognizes the arbitrariness of theme and the way i n which thematic requirements inevitably d i s t o r t the wholeness of l i f e : de fabricateur, l e poete s'est degrade en faiseur, au sens d'imposteur." The"hovelist i n motley" presents himself as an honest impostor. 26 I am quite aware of the dismal roguery wh [ioh] goes a l l through the Vanity F a i r story—and God forbid that the world should be l i k e i t altogether: though I fear i t i s more l i k e i t than we l i k e to own. But my object i s to make every body engaged, engaged i n the pursuit of Vanity and I must carry my story through i n t h i s dreary minor key, (Letters, I I , 354) Time after time i n h i s novels the avowed purpose and the ostensible meaning i s undermined by h i s use of a confused or inconsistent narrator. This figure acts out the balance of contraries that Thackeray found i n l i f e and sought to include within his art, Thackeray's sympathy l i e s with the man who plays many parts and w i l l be defined or r e s t r i c t e d by no one part. His admiration for a r t i s t s and Bohemians i s closely related to their f l e x i b i l i t y i n the face of l i f e ' s complex demands. Speaking of Vanity F a i r , he declares: I l i k e Becky i n that book. Sometimes I think I have myself some of her tastes, I l i k e what are called Bohemians and fellows of that sort. I have seen a l l sorts of society, dukes and duchesses, lords and ladies, authors and actors, and painters—and taken altogether I think I l i k e painters the best and "Bohemians" generally. They are more natural and unconventional; they wear their haiTgOn their shoulders i f they wish, and dress picturesquely. Becky, l i k e Thackeray, i s a performer—one who i s equally at home i n the salon or the garret and who can take on the colour of the mood or society which envelops her. In his lectures, Thackeray finds "at certain passages a sort of emotion springs up, I begin to understand how actors f e e l affected over and over again at the same passages of the play" (Letters, I I I , I84) . Thackeray, whose narrator declares James Grant Wilson, Thackeray i n the United States, 1852-3, 1855-6 (London: Smith, Elder, 1904), I, 255. 27 that he knows not whether Becky's tears are genuine or not, himself can draw no hard l i n e between the simulated and the " r e a l . " The whole person i s the one who makes the most of every part and knows that he contains them a l l . Such a person gives r i g i d allegiance to none; he i s guided by the winds of change l i k e the arrow of the weathercock. Thomas Carlyle finds Thackeray such a mans "There i s a great deal of talent i n him, a great deal of s e n s i b i l i t y , — i r r i t a b i l i t y , sensuality, vanity without l i m i t ; — a n d nothing, or l i t t l e , but sentimentalism and play-actorism to guide i t a l l w i t h . " ^ Thackeray has been c r i t i c i z e d for h i s excessive fondness for the domestic virtues and mawkish indulgence i n sentimentality and 14 mother-worship, but his l e t t e r s support the view that these feelings did not dominate him. We find an understanding that precludes such adoration i n t h i s l e t t e r of 1852: It gives the keenest tortures of jealousy and disappointed yearning to my dearest old mother . . . that she can't be a l l i n a l l to me, mother s i s t e r wife everything but i t mayn't b e — There's hardly a subject on wh [Ichl we don't d i f f e r . . . , EhJ who i s happy? When I was a boy at Larkbeare, I thought her an Angel & worshipped her. I see but a woman now, 0 so tender so loving so cruel. (Letters, I I I , 12-13) A perusal of Thackeray's early l e t t e r s suggests that he was well aware of his own tendency to idealize women, and that he knew his role of d u t i f u l and loving son was but a p a r t i a l expression of h i s ^Thomas Carlyle, Hew Letters of . . ., ed. Alexander Carlyle (London: John Lane, 1904), I I , 122. ^See e.g* Russell A. Fraser, "Sentimentality i n Thackeray's The Newcomeg," NCF, 4 (1949), 187-196; Mark Spilka, "A Note on Thackeray's Amelia," NCF, 10 (1955), 202-210. 28 whole s e l f . He humbly admits to his mother the idleness, extravagance and unworthiness of his nature (Letters, I, 143), but when he writes to his friend Fitzgerald his repentance occupies him only temporarily, for the very contemplation of his l i f e as "a melancholy succession of idleness & dissipation" brings out the hedonist i n him:—"I looked by chance at the opposite page after I wrote the word repentance, & do you know seeing that account of my dinners & wine drinking has quite gladdened me, & made me think there i s some chance for me after a l l " (Letters, I, 152). In another context he t e l l s Fitzgerald that "A womand:; piety somehow does not suit me i t i s so made up of exclamations—love—chastenings & so forth" (Letters, I, 158). In his novels, too, despite the pious adorations of Pendennis and Esmond for Helen and Rachel, the selfishness of mother-love i s markedly present. ¥e are given rapturous worship but also an occasional sobering assessment of the worshipped icon. Like his l a t e r narrators, Thackeray the man had an incredible f a c i l i t y for s h i f t i n g h i s ground to accord with his feelings of the moment. He praises his grandmother's "extreme warmth of heart" and "delicate benevolence," i n a l e t t e r to his mother. But he immediately turns upon himself with: "This kind of writing i s . . . better f i t t e d for 'My Grandmother' a sentimental novel than for a l e t t e r to my Grandmother's daughter; but i f I did not praise, I should^ I '• think abuse; as I am at t h i s moment writhing under the stripes of her satire, & the public expression of her wrath" (Letters, I, 273). For Thackeray, the self has no hard boundaries but rather 29 includes a l l potential roles which are realized by external stimuli. Moreover, the s e l f outgrows the selves of yesterday and must continue i n this process i f i t i s to absorb the new challenges that l i f e presents. Thackeray's work has often been attacked as snobbish and h y p o c r i t i c a l , 15 usually by c r i t i c s who are biographically oriented. J But t h i s i s a very limited c r i t i c i s m , since Thackeray accepts these q u a l i t i e s as. characteristic of a l l men. Snobbery and hypocrisy interest Thackeray because they are aspects of disguise by means of which a man seeks to define himself—they are v i t a l l y connected with the human need to i d e n t i f y with something larger than o n e s e l f — a certain class, party of country. I f we i n s i s t on defining ourselves as friend, enemy, novelist, historian, we must inevitably do so at the cost of our whole s e l f . For these are merely parts that a man might play. "I often think," he wrote to Mrs. Carmichael—Smyth in 1842, "that i n one's intercourse with men, whQlch] creates sympathies with some & antipathies with others, the party who hates you, & he who loves you, are both rig h t " (Letters, I I , 72). At other times he did not believe i n the r e a l i t y of his own past. " I t seems to me such a time ago that VF ^Vanity F a i r j was written that one may ta l k of i t as of some body elses performance," he wrote i n I848, the year i n which s e r i a l i z a t i o n of his novel finished (Letters, I I , 425)» It i s as the performances of another that Esmond, too, sees his past. Ikey Solomons, l i k e his successors, i s a role-playing narrator who has one eye on his reader as he prompts him to applaud, hiss, 15 •'See esp. Greig, Thackeray, A Reconsideration; Ennis, Thackeray; The Sentimental Cynic. 30 admire, or condemn the personages he presents. Like the wise and prudent king from whom he i s named, Ikey l i k e s to dispense his own justice and at the same time indulge his own voracious appetites. By vicarious l i v i n g he i s able, l i k e the "editor" of Moll Flanders, both to condemn immorality and enjoy i t at the same time. Ikey finds within himself performer,, spectator, and c r i t i c of criminal a c t i v i t y , and his uncertainty about h i s own centre of moral gravity leads him to see a corresponding confusion i n the world: And do not l e t us be accused of an undue propensity to use sounding words, because we compare three scoundrels i n the Tyburn Road to so many armies, and Mr. Wood to a mighty f i e l d -marshal. My dear s i r , when you have well studied the w o r l d -how supremely great the meanest thing i n t h i s world i s , and how i n f i n i t e l y mean the g r e a t e s t — I am mistaken i t you do not make a strange and proper jumble of the sublime and the ridiculous, the l o f t y and the low. I have looked at the world, for my part, and come to the conclusion that I know not which i s which. (XXIX, 194-195) Thackeray, l i k e Ikey, frequently finds his material by the working out of various potential selves contained within. He deliberately and consciously chooses to confuse the external appearance with the internal f e l t r e a l i t y . Tieck "admitted that he would act out ideas for a whole year before he actually came to believe them."^ He commits himself to a state of h a l f - b e l i e f i n the projected figure or personality found i n h i s work. Thackeray, working on the material for Esmond, writes to Mrs. Carmichael-Smyth i n 1851, that "I have been l i v i n g i n the l a s t century for weeks p a s t -Rene Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism: 1750-1950 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1 9 5 5 7 7 II» 99-100. 31 a l l day that i s — g o i n g at night as usual into the present age; u n t i l I get to fancy myself almost as familiar with one as the other" (Letters, I I , 7 6 l ) . Many people i n l i f e who must preserve a consistent front realize that consistency can only be achieved by a deliberate use of a r t i f i c e . Only by the dual process of acting and watching oneself act can one see what one i s not, and thereby understand more about what one i s . Ramon Fernandez asks us Combien connaissons-nous d'individus qui, introduisant sub-repticement dans l a conduite de leur vie des procedes que j u s t i f i e n t seules l e s l o i s de combinaison artistique cultivent un compromis entre l'imaginaire et l e r e e l , nous proposent comme actions personelles revelatrices de leur unite interieure des actes qui ne sont que d'habiles dans s u p e r f i c i e l l e s imitations? In his l i f e and his art, Thackeray w i l f u l l y confused the real and the imaginary i n order to further the process of self-knowledge. The actor i n Thackeray frequently caused him social embarrass-ment, however. Thus, he apologizes to Alfred Tennyson f o r s l i g h t i n g his friend's eulogy of Catullus. One can imagine any such fulsome praise s t i r r i n g the i iconoclast within Thackeray, and i n response to Tennyson's assertion of love of Catullus "for h i s perfection ;ih form and for his tenderness" Thackeray declared, "I do not rate him highly, I could do better myself." His chastened withdrawal of t h i s i d l e boast shows a characteristic humility and self-knowledge that make clear that the label "braggart" i s no more appropriate than that of "snob" or "hypocrite" i n defining the whole man: My dear Alfred, I woke at 2 o'clock and i n a sort of terror at a certain 17 'Messages (Paris; Gallimard, 1926), p. 90. 32 speech. I had made about Catullus. When I have dined, sometimes I believe myself to be equal to the greatest painters and poets. That delusion goes off; and then I know what a small f i d d l e mine i s and what small tunes I play upon i t . - I t was very generous of you to give me an opportunity of r e c a l l i n g a s i l l y speech: but at the tiraeJT thought I >?asr making ~ _ ~ j perfectly simple and satisfactory observation. Thus far I must unbus'm myself: though why should I be so uneasy at having made a conceited speech? It i s conceited not to wish to seem conceited. (Letters, IV, 360) Every front that a man puts on, every role that he plays, i s but a part of a larger unexplored s e l f . The snob, the hypocrite, and the conceited man f a i l to penetrate into t h i s concealed region; they are actors who perpetually play one role and are unaware that they are actors. The simulation of art, however, i s not i n i t s e l f valuable for Thackeray unless i t i s seen as a sham. We must not only believe i n the performance but also disbelieve i n i t as well—admit that i t i s a quackery. Cynicism i s a necessary adjunct to sentimental ism, as d i s b e l i e f i s to b e l i e f , and laughter to tears. Thus Thackeray only half-believes i n his pathetic plea on behalf of George III and shows contempt for those who f i n d more than a half-truth i n his performance. Speaking i n the t h i r d person of Thackeray the lecturer, he writes; When people seemed inclined to cry as he narrates the pathetic end of George I I I , he f e e l s inclined to cry out, "You great donkies, don't you know .that the Speaker i s ashamed of him-s e l f whilst he i s talking to you, and of you for being so humbugged by his stale declamation?'. How much longer i s this quackery to continue?" (Letters, I I I , 583) To engage with such a self-proclaimed deceiver and exploiter of our latent selves, the reader, or the l i s t e n e r , too, must put on the 33 motley, and recognize that he does, indeed, belong to a race of "great donkies" who delight i n humbug i n spite of their normal working "selves." CHAPTER II PRIMARY AND SECONDARY FICTIONAL WORLDS Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and i t s contents were only dreams, visions, f i c t i o n l Strange, because they are so frankly and h y s t e r i c a l l y insane-l i k e a l l dreams, —Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger" Les jeux flambent, l e sang chante, l e s os s'elargissent, l e s larmes et des f i l e t s rouges r u i s s e l l e n t , Leur r a i l l e r i e ou leur terreur dure une minute, ou des mois entiers, Ji'ai seul l a clef de cette parade sauvage, —Rimbaud, Les Illuminations Introductory Discussion Dorothy Van Ghent's alignment of Thackeray with Fielding, rather than Sterne, leads her to f i n d the narrator's comment on Becky Sharp's dream of capturing Jos Sedley for a husband, "inane and distra c t i n g , " "We f e e l , " she continues, "two orders of r e a l i t y are clumsily getting i n each other's way,"^ " It i s with the interaction and juxtaposition of these two orders of r e a l i t y , each characterized by i t s own particular doubts and certainties, that this chapter deals. My contention i s that, far from getting i n each other's way, these "two orders of r e a l i t y " complement and support each other; that, i n fact, the second order of r e a l i t y , based on the relationship between narrator and reader, expands the primary f i c t i o n a l world i n order to create a more subtle and complex whole, Jean-Paul Sartre makes j>ani. important d i s t i n c t i o n between The English Novel/Form and Function (New York: Harper and Row, 1961), p. 139. 34 35 2 primary and secondary subjectivity. Medieval s t o r y - t e l l e r s , Sartre reminds us, were intermediaries who did (or pretended to do) l i t t l e more than point to tr a d i t i o n a l s t o r i e s . The t e l l e r "invented l i t t l e : he gave them [his stories] style; he was the historian of the imaginary." When the narrator became more self-conscious, however, when he became aware of the r e l a t i v i t y of the truthfulness of his stories and the subjective nature of the character of the t e l l e r and his mode of presentation, he would draw attention to himself and h i s own contriving; he would attempt to j u s t i f y himself. "When he himself started contriving the f i c t i o n which he published, he found himself. He discovered simultaneously his almost guilty solitude and unjustifiable gratuity, the subjectivity of l i t e r a r y creation." The t e l l e r i s now no longer an anonymous bard but a writer with a hidden audience. A new relationship i s thus set up between narrator and reader, rather than between speaker and audience, and t h i s relationship gives r i s e to a secondary f i c t i o n a l world. As Sartre points out, the narrator "represented himself i n his works by means of a narrator of oral t r a d i t i o n , and at the same time he inserted into them a f i c t i t i o u s audience which represented his real p u b l i c . " 3 The figures created i n the secondary f i c t i o n a l world are therefore no more and no less real than those of the primary f i c t i o n , since they are a l l aids to communication between a real author and a real reader; i n themselves they have no independence. Slhat i s Literature? (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949), p. 138. 3 I b i d . , p. 137. 36 These f i c t i o n a l creations outside the world of the fahle cause the real reader to l i v e i n two worlds at once. The deliberate disruption of the primary f i c t i o n makes the reader aware of the contingent secondary world which i s more mimetic i n the sense that i t i s more free from pattern than the primary f i c t i o n a l world. One i s reminded of the Verfremdungseffekt of Brecht and Pirandello. Thus, the narrator of The Newcomes personates an irate c r i t i c with: "'What a farrago of old fables i s t h i s j What a dressing up i n old clothesj . . . As sure as I am just and wise, modest, learned, and r e l i g i o u s , so surely I have read something very l i k e t h i s stuff and nonsense about jackasses and foxes before'" (VII, 5 ) . We see here that this f i c t i t i o u s c r i t i c of the fable i s not performing the function of strengthening the primary i l l u s i o n by which Ernest Baker j u s t i f i e s the intrusive narrator.^" The narrator i n fact intrudes to dismiss the intruding c r i t i c as "a Solomon that s i t s i n judgment over us authors and chops up our children" (Ibid.). Thus he admits h i s authorial omniscience and implicates the reader i n the fancies of a f i c t i t i o u s author called Arthur Pendennis, and the i l l u s i o n i s broken only that another may be constructed. The reader comes out of the world of fable and into the equally f i c t i o n a l , but more mimetic, world where c r i t i c s seeking new and " r e a l i s t i c " stories castigate authors f o r t e l l i n g old and " u n r e a l i s t i c " ones. Thackeray can thus be seen to belong to a long t r a d i t i o n of t a l e - t e l l e r s , from Chaucer and Cervantes to Nabokov and Durrell, who ^The History of the English Novel, VII (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1936), p. 384. 37 r e a d i l y a d m i t t h a t t h e y a r e g i v i n g u s an i l l u s i o n o f r e a l i t y . T h e s e w r i t e r s g o o u t o f t h e i r way t o p o i n t o u t t h e a r t i f i c e o f t h e i r s t o r i e s . L o u i s D . R u b i n 'JSF-.< h a s e m p h a s i z e d t h e f a c t t h a t " i f a n o v e l i s t o s u c c e e d i n i n t e r e s t i n g u s i t i s e s s e n t i a l n o t o n l y t h a t t h e r e he c r e a t e d a n i l l u s i o n o f r e a l i t y , h u t t h a t we r e m a i n q u i t e aware t h a t i t i s a n i l l u s i o n . " F u r t h e r m o r e "by s l y l y r e m i n d i n g u s o f i t s [ i l l u s i o n ' e x i s t e n c e . . . t h e a u t h o r c a n i n t e n s i f y o u r c o n s c i o u s d e l i g h t i n o u r 5 p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n t h e a r t i s t i c p r o c e s s . " One o f t h e ways t h a t T h a c k e r a y r e m i n d s u s t h a t we a r e d e a l i n g w i t h a r t and n o t l i f e i s b y h i s use o f p a r o d y ; a n o t h e r i s b y h i s c o n t i n u a l b r e a k i n g o f t h e f i c t i o n a l s p e l l b y u s e o f t h e n a r r a t o r and t h e r e a d e r a s o b s e r v e r s o f and commentators on a s p e c t a c l e . I n t h i s way t h e p r i m a r y f i c t i o n i s a t once mocked f o r i t s u n r e a l i t y and a d m i r e d f o r i t s a r t i f i c e . The f i c t i o n c a n o n l y be s e e n and a d m i r e d f o r what i t i s , when t h e r e a d e r i s made t o s t a n d b a c k and o b s e r v e d e t a c h e d l y , r a t h e r t h a n t o i n v o l v e h i m s e l f e m o t i o n a l l y i n J h e l i v e s o f t h e c h a r a c t e r s . By a t o u c h o f e x a g g e r a t i o n i n a p o r t r a i t o r a r a t h e r t o o i n s i s t e n t sermon t h e r e a d e r i s made aware o f h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p t o t h e f i c t i o n . T h a c k e r a y ' s Shandean N a r r a t o r A l t h o u g h c r i t i c s o f t h e E n g l i s h n o v e l f r e q u e n t l y d e m o n s t r a t e T h a c k e r a y ' s d e b t t o F i e l d i n g , few, i f any, acknowledge t h e many common f e a t u r e s between T h a c k e r a y and S t e r n e . ^ B y h i s u s e o f t h e ^The T e l l e r i n t h e T a l e ( S e a t t l e : U n i v . o f W a s h i n g t o n P r e s s , 1 9 6 7 ) , p . 8; p . 9. ^See e . g . E r n e s t B a k e r , The H i s t o r y o f t h e E n g l i s h N o v e l , VII, 38 narrative persona Thackeray draws attention to the subjective nature of the recording mind. It i s i n his real i z a t i o n of this central figure that Thackeray aligns himself with Sterne and romanticism rather than Fielding and neoclassicism. Geoffrey T i l l o t s o n sees Thackeray as 7 "a Rip Van Winkle author, a F i e l d i n g redivivus." But surely the v a c i l l a t i n g and uncertain narrator, from the Manager of Vanity Fair to Pendennis of The Newcomes and Batchelor of Lovel the Widower, has more in common with the confused Tristram desperately trying to cope with chaotic r e a l i t y and f a i l i n g hopelessly! As one might expect, Thackeray's persistent v i o l a t i o n of the conventions of the novel i s intimately associated with h i s awareness of the inadequacies of art to do much more than suggest the richness and complexity of experience outside a r t . Unlike the central conscious-ness of James's or the s t o r y - t e l l e r of Conrad's novels, Thackeray's narrator i s both a novelist and an historian by turns. He i s fact-finder and honest recorder, but he i s also novelist and s l y contriver. Moreover, the style of the novels i s diverse and uneven, not merely because of the use of parodic form but because the r e a l i t y Thackeray seeks to comprehend i s multiform and indeterminate. In h i s use of the seemingly incompatible figure of novelist-historian and i n his rapid changes of narrative voice, from inspired bard to club gossip, we can see Thackeray's a f f i n i t y with Sterne rather than with F i e l d i n g , 334, 340-4-1, et passim; Arnold Kettle, An Introduction to the English  Novel (London: Hutchinson, 1951), I, 156-158; Walter Allen, The  English Novel; A Short-Critical History (London: Penguin Books, I954), p. 63; p. 172. 'Thackeray; The C r i t i c a l Heritage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968), p. 7 . i n whom a more uniform tone and a more controlled form predominate. When Tom Jones comes to the rescue of Molly Seagrim i n the mock-epic t a t t l e i n the church-yard, or when Partridge defends himself against his wife's attack for suspected i n f i d e l i t y , we are i n no doubt where we as readers or observers should stand. For the reader the only possible reaction to "one of the most bloody Battles . . . that were ever recorded i n Domestic History" i s a humorous one. We appreciate the incongruity of Mrs. Partridge i n loose cap and inadequate stays behaving l i k e an Amazonian heroine; "her face was likewise-marked with the blood of her husband; her teeth gnashed with rage; and f i r e , such 8 as sparkles from a smith's forge, darted from her eyes." In the mock-heroic d i c t i o n that describes a Dobbin or a Harry Warrington, however, the element of the genuine hero i n the characters makes our reaction much more complex. Furthermore, we are not allowed to maintain a secure and unified point of view towards the characters, nor are we reassured by the attitude of an urbane and trusty guide as we are by the narrator of Tom Jones. Both Thackeray's narrator and Fielding's enjoy their role of recorder of ludicrous heroic exploits, but i n the description of Dobbin's victory over Cuff or Rawdon's disposal of Lord Steyne we are encouraged to blend admiration with our r i d i c u l e . The narrator of Vanity F a i r has i n his mind, as he describes the encounter of schoolboys, the pretentious jargon of sports journalists and the g The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling (London; C o l l i n s , 1955), p. 78. Subsequent references, documented internally, are to this edition. 40 c h a u v i n i s t i c p r e s s r e p o r t s on E n g l i s h and F r e n c h t r o o p s i n t h e N a p o l e o n i c War, j u s t a s Homer l i e s i n t h e m i n d o f F i e l d i n g ' s n a r r a t o r . The names o f the c o m b a t a n t s — F i g s , a l i a s D o b b i n , and C u f f — a r e a l m o s t a s d e f l a t i n g a s t h e two P a r t r i d g e s i n Tom J o n e s . N e v e r t h e l e s s , n e i t h e r c o n t e s t a n t i s w h o l l y r i d i c u l o u s and t h e g r a n d i o s e i m a g e r y , u s e d t o p o r t r a y what i s a f t e r a l l p e r h a p s t h e a r c h e t y p a l n o b l e c a u s e — g i a n t k i l l i n g — f r o m D a v i d t o Tom Brown, e l e v a t e s t h e c h a r a c t e r s r a t h e r t h a n 9 d e f l a t e s them. The n a r r a t o r m o d e s t l y p r o t e s t s he c a n n o t do j u s t i c e t o t h e s c e n e , y e t a l l o w s h i s pen t o s p o r t w i t h t h e e x u b e r a n c e o f b a t t l e i m a g e r y : I t was t h e l a s t c h a r g e o f t h e G u a r d — ( t h a t i s , i_t would have b e e n , o n l y W a t e r l o o had n o t y e t t a k e n p l a c e ) — - i t was Ney's column b r e a s t i n g t h e h i l l o f L a Haye S a i n t e , b r i s t l i n g w i t h t e n t h o u s a n d b a y o n e t s , a n d crowned w i t h t w e n t y e a g l e s — i t was t h e s h o u t o f t h e b e e f - e a t i n g B r i t i s h , a s l e a p i n g down t h e h i l l t h e y r u s h e d t o h u g t h e enemy i n t h e savage arms o f b a t t l e . (JF, 49-50) The c o n t r a s t between s h i f t i n g n a r r a t o r and t h e s t a b l e n a r r a t o r i s f u r t h e r b o r n e out b y a c o m p a r i s o n o f t h e i n t e r n a l m onologues o f t h e t e l l e r o f , s a y , L o v e l t h e Widower and t h e r e a d e r - a d d r e s s i n g i n Tom J o n e s . I n F i e l d i n g t h e a p p e a l i s t o e x t e r n a l s t a n d a r d s , t o h i s t o r y , t o t h e c l a s s i c s o r t o g e n e r a l common-sense, whe r e a s i n T h a c k e r a y t h e a p p e a l i s t o t h e p u z z l i n g c o n f l i c t o f p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e . E c h o e s o f J o h n s o n r e s o u n d t h r o u g h t h e p r o s e o f F i e l d i n g a s he t a k e s 9 'Thomas Hughes, however, seems u n i m p r e s s e d b y D o b b i n ' s s c h o o l b o y h e r o i c s a n d i n c r i t i c i z i n g t h e " k i d - g l o v e " a t t i t u d e t o b o y s ' f i s t i c u f f s s a y s , "even T h a c k e r a y h a s g i v e n i n t o i t . " Tom Brown's S c h o o l d a y s , Everyman e d i t i o n (London: J.M. D e n t , 1 9 0 6 ) , p . 268. 41 delight i n arr i v i n g at general conclusions by the methods of ratio c i n a t i o n . This i s exemplified by a passage from h i s comparison of the world to a stage compared with the bachelor of Beak Street's meditations over the setting of his story: Upon the whole, then, the man of candour and of true under-standing i s never hasty to condemn. He can censure an imper-fection, or even a vice, without rage against the gui l t y party. In a word, they are the same f o l l y , the same ch i l d i s h -ness, the same ill-b r e e d i n g , and the same i l l - n a t u r e , which raise a l l the clamours and uproars both i n l i f e and on the stage, (p. 267) Here speaks one who i s surely exempt, i n his own mind, from the "clamours and uproars" of ignoble and indelicate passion. A glance at the mind of the melancholy Batchelor, who embodies i n an extreme form the despondency of the generalized narrator i n Thackeray and who, l i k e a l l Thackeray's narrators, i s prone to confession and indecisive con-clusions, reveals the d i s t i n c t i o n between what has been called monist and p l u r a l i s t posit ions : ^ Who shall be the hero of t h i s tale? Not I who write i t . I am but the Chorus of the Play. . . . There i s no high l i f e , unless, to be sure, you c a l l a baronet's widow a lady i n high l i f e ; and some ladies may be, while some certainly are not. I don't think there's a v i l l a i n i n the whole performance. There i s an abominably s e l f i s h woman, certainly; an old highway robber; an old sponger on other people's kindness; an old haunter of Bath and Cheltenham boarding-houses (about which how can I know anything, never having been i n a boarding-house at Bath or Cheltenham i n my l i f e ? ) ; an old swindler of tradesmen, tyrant of servants, bully of the poor—who, to be sure, might do duty for a v i l l a i n , but she considers herself as virtuous a woman as ever was born. (XXVIII, 197-198) W.J. Harvey, Character and the Novel (New York: Cornell Univ. Press, 1965), p. 28. 42 Doubts about the nature of his own v i s i o n pervade Batchelor's narrative. The narrator, who would perhaps l i k e to be an objective commentator or chorus, i s inextricably involved with the story and can only narrate by a process of contradictory tentative hints regarding any general truth. His i n i t i a l attempt to be accurate and rational about hi s tale i s very soon proved f u t i l e by a torrent of invective which he pours on Mrs. Baker, the mother-in-law of his rather ordinary and ineffectual hero. Unlike Fielding's narrator, Batchelor makes no unqualified statements and time after time shows his own doubts and insecurities by re-invest-igating h i s original statements of his position. As his mood changes, or as more facts are revealed to him, ultimate knowledge becomes more and more problematic. The subjunctive mood predominates here; Fielding's narrator by contrast shows a massive certainty. The two passages further i l l u s t r a t e the contrast between general certainty and s p e c i f i c doubt by their prose s t y l e . Thackeray's short jerky sentence structure, interrogatives and parentheses suggest momentary second thoughts and improvisation, whereas Fielding's measured prose leads us to a preconceived and unavoidable climax. Although Thackeray can at times write remarkably good Augustan prose, his style i s never constant i n the way that Fielding's i s . Even i n his lectures and i n the Roundabout Papers, the wayward and eccentric int e r j e c t i o n or aside frequently disturbs the rhythmic flow of h i s story or argument. As Leonard Lutwack says, Uniform style i n a novel generally depends upon the writer's settled conviction of the single, unambiguous nature of his materials and of the novel's adequacy as a vehicle for their serious presentment; Ih so far as style i s a means of shutting 43 out many possible views on a subject and directing attention to a few selected views, a uniform style has the effect of better narrowing the scope to a single, unified view of reality. A uniform style is assimilative in that i t helps to create under a single aspect of language a single vision of the multiplicity of reality; i t is a bond between author and reader, insuring that .no different adjustment to language and viewpoint will^be demanded from the reader than that established at the outset. There is:never any doubt where the narrator of Tom Jones stands vis a vis his world, and the reader knows what Fielding intends him to see. He also knows how to interpret his irony. Sterne and Thackeray, however, employ a confused narrator whose irony is predominantly pain-ful l y self-directed rather than being securely pointed at others. As we would expect, the prose style is uneven, f u l l of false starts, showing the impossibility of being true, at one and the same time, to artistic form and empirical experience. Sterne, unlike Fielding, shows us, by repeatedly jerking us out of any narrative flow, that the structure which the mind needs in order to comprehend the vicissitudes of l i f e ar£ bound to be a r t i f i c i a l and restrictive; that^in order "to make sense" of reality we inevitably distort i t . A smoothly flowing prose style i s therefore as inappropriate to express his vision as a conventional narrative. Thus Tristram indulges in repeated intrusions and qualifications: I dare say, quoth my mother But stop, dear S i r — f o r what my "Mixed and Uniform Styles in the Novel" in Perspectives on Fiction, ed. James L. Calderwood and Harold E. Toliver (New YorkT Oxford Univ. Press, 1968), p. 37. 44 mother dared to say upon the occasion—and what my father did say upon i t — w i t h her replies and his rejoinders, shall be read, perused, paraphrased,- commented, and descanted upon—or to say i t a l l i n a word, shall be thumbed over by Posterity i n a chapter a p a r t — I say, by Posterity—and care not, i f I repeat the word a g a i n — f o r what has t h i s book done more than the Legation of Moses, or the Tale of a Tub,^^hat i t may not swim down the gutter of Time along with them? We are thus shown that traditional, form i s less than adequate to give a map of the narrator's consciousness. I f Tristram i s to do justice to Mrs, Shandy's tentative r e f l e c t i o n on Corporal Trim's story of Tom's marriage to a Jewish widow, and a l l the certain and uncertain motives which led up to the marriage, then he w i l l never get "his own story" t o l d — a n d indeed he does not. In order to t e l l a story, so much must be ignored for the sake of the end, so many doubts brushed aside, so many reflections glossed over, so much injustice done to the humanness of humanity. When we are i n the world of the self-conscious narrator, we can never have more than his doubts; and f i n a l meaning and the tidiness of form must be sa c r i f i c e d to the immediacy of impression. As Robert J , Nelson puts i t , "conscious of a l l doubt, man becomes self-conscious. Not only the meaning of action but the meaning of meaning i s examined. Like Batchelor, or the Manager, or any of Thackeray's mature narrators, Tristram, i n his awareness of the impossibility of t e l l i n g 12 The Li f e and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (London: Co l l i n s , 1955)* PP» 461-62. Subsequent references, documented intern-a l l y , are to this edition. a ^ P l a y Within a Play; The Dramatist 1 s Conception of His Art: Shakespeare to Anouilh (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, I 9 5 8 ) , p.10. 45 the objective truth, honestly accepts his human li m i t a t i o n s . But Sterne i s more radical than Thackeray i n his use of the casual inter-jection or r e f l e c t i o n on material of the "story" which i s past. There i s a greater use of redoubling and an even greater immersion of the reader i n the mind of the t e l l e r — s o much so that the tale i s frequently l o s t under digressions that threaten to take over the whole book. It seems that the story w i l l never get told, and indeed, as i n l i f e i t s e l f , there i s no conceivable beginning or ending, for the story follows the labyrinthine paths of the mind rather than being concerned with bodies, with "action"—the business of getting born, getting married and dying. Thus there i s no "story" i n the usual sense, only a polymorphous con-sciousness. Tristram, showing extraordinary courage, accepts, with a candid open-ness, r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for the r e a l i t y he finds i n himself, i n others, and i n the world: we see his n o v e l i s t i c structures breaking down under the pressure of the insistent demands of a complex r e a l i t y . Tristram i s l i k e Batchelor i n t e l l i n g a story with no hero or v i l l a i n , but unlike him i n his freedom from the neurotic compulsion to condemn others for not complying with his own needs. He allows a maximum of human freedom within a minimum of moral or aesthetic form—there are no heroes or v i l l a i n s , and, i n effect, no "story." We might say, then, that Sterne's secondary world has overwhelmed his primary world, that the t e l l e r has f i n a l l y triumphed over his t a l e . The chief quality shared by Thackeray and Sterne i s the sense of intimacy and collusion between narrator and reader. Both novelists present their stories through a hesitant and v a c i l l a t i n g central 46 consciousness who frequently admits he i s merely conjecturing about his story or relyi n g on hearsay and inference. On many occasions, the narrator sadly admits his own doubts and in s e c u r i t i e s . Unlike Fielding's narrator, who shows a massive certainty and arrives at conclusions by a rational organization of f a i r l y e a s i l y comprehensible facts, Sterne's and Thackeray's st o r y - t e l l e r s are never sure of their facts and are unable to organize them into an e a s i l y assimilated whole. Thus they frequently appeal to the reader to supply his interpretation, and their stories, when they do f i n a l l y get tol d , abound i n loose-ended suggestive-; ness, i f not muddle. While Tristram Shandy's conclusion suggests that the story i s , l i k e that of Obadiah's c a l f , merely one of a cock and a b u l l , Vanity Fair offers i t s reader an ambiguous "happy ending," i n which a doting Amelia and a f o o l i s h Dobbin are united and Mrs. Rebecca Crawley re-instates herself respectably i n society. The Newcomes presents a double endings a happy union of Ethel and Clive i n fable-land for the sentimentalists a f i n a l estrangement of the lovers, by the indirect assaults of the mercantile marriage market, for the reader who would dwell with the hard facts of l i f e . The Thackerayan narrator, l i k e Sterne's Tristram, frequently seems to have l i t t l e regard for his story. Not only does he contin-u a l l y interrupt the narrative, he often openly disparages the story which ostensibly he exists to r e l a t e . Thus the narrator of The  Virginians sees that although his old and typical story i s valuable, i t i s also hackneyed. So he mercilessly exposes the f o l l y of Harry Warrington's passion for the middle-aged siren, Maria, only to fi n d 47 voider the l a s t v e i l of i l l u s i o n he strips away—himself, his reader, and the next generation. For "what i s the good of t e l l i n g the story? My gentle reader, take your story: take mine. To-morrow i t shall he Miss Fanny's, who i s just walking away with her d o l l to the schoolroom" (XII, 232). Although the narrator of Tom Jones comments f r e e l y on his story, h i s characters, and human nature i n general, he d i f f e r s from the exuberant and contradictory narrators of Sterne and Thackeray, who, i n their marvellous f a c i l i t y for changing roles, attempt to ensnare a f l u i d r e a l i t y which perpetually eludes their grasp. Fielding's narrator i s never i n doubt about the nature and purpose of his story; the actions of his characters i l l u s t r a t e indisputable moral truths, and he i s always i n command of his story's structure: I t i s our purpose i n the ensuing pages, to pursue a contrary method to the historian. When an extraordinary scene presents i t s e l f . . . we shall spare no pains nor paper to open i t at large to our reader; but i f whole years should pass without producing anything worthy his notice, we shall not be a f r a i d of a chasm i n our history, (p. 69) Although the t e l l e r takes the reader into his confidence, yet the relationship i s unequal, for the reader resigns himself to his urbane mentor with whom he feels secure. Tristram and Pendennis, by contrast, are frequently defensive, hesitant and unsure of themselves. Their digressions are usually more germane to themselves than their "stories" or any truth to nature to be extracted from them. Reader-consciousness i n Sterne 48 and Thackeray is intimate and personal. Thus Tristram apologizes: My dear friend and companion, i f you should think me somewhat sparing of my narrative on my f i r s t setting out—hear with me,—and l e t me go on, and t e l l my story my own way:—Or, i f I should seem now and then to t r i f l e upon the road,—or should sometimes put on a fool's cap with a h e l l to i t , for a moment or two as we pass along,—don't f l y o f f , — h u t rather courteously give me credit for a l i t t l e more wisdom than appears upon my outside;—and as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short do any thin g , — o n l y keep your temper, (p. 26) Although Pendennis, i n P h i l i p , t e l l s the story of a young "scapegrace" rather than his own, yet he, too, i s uncertain and open to suggestion as he abstracts his hero from h i s setting i n the novel and offers him to his reader for their mutual inspection: I have told you I l i k e P h i l i p Firmin, though i t must be confessed that the young fellow has many f a u l t s , and that his career, especially his early career, was by no means exemplary. Have I ever excused his conduct to his father, or said a word i n apology of his b r i e f and inglorious university career? I acknowledge his short-comings with that candour which my friends exhibit i n speaking of mine. Who does not see a friend's weaknesses, and i s so "blind"that he cannot perceive that enormous beam i n his neighbour's eye?_ Only a woman or two from time to time. And even they are undeceived some day. A man of the world, I write about my friends as mundane fellow creatures. Do you suppose there are many angels here? I say "again, perhaps a woman or two. But as for you and me, my good s i r , are there any signs of wings sprouting from our shoulder-blades? Be quiet. Don't pursue your snarling cynical remarks, but go on with your story. (XV, 215-216) In this internal drama, the narrator's self-excusing i s more important than his elaborate defence of his hero. He reveals his own propensity to v a c i l l a t e between i l l u s i o n and disillusionment. He knows the f o l l y of seeing erring beings as angels, yet his f i n a l self-reproof 4 9 suggests the painfulness caused by the awareness of this f o l l y . Both Tristram and Pendennis continually look beyond the world of character and neat plot to the random and fortuitous world inhabited by the reader beyond the "story." Thus, Tristram, meditating on the parson's reasons for investing his wife as midwife, says to his reader: "lay down the book, and I w i l l allow you half a day to give a probable guess at the grounds of t h i s procedure" (p. 31). Pendennis, having got his gallant but penniless hero and his sweet young heroine together, t e l l s the reader of P h i l i p to allow the routine part of the story to take care of i t s e l f while he goes about his own business. Thus both he and the reader pause from the unpleasant and routine aspects of the story: A l l I can promise about t h i s gloomy part i s , that i t shall not be a long story. You w i l l acknowledge we made very short work with the love-making, which I give you my word I consider to be the very easiest part of the novel-writer's business. As those rapturous scenes between the captain and h i s heroine are going on, a writer who knows his business may be thinking about anything else—about the ensuing chapter, or about what he i s going to have for dinner or what you w i l l . (XVI, 72) The Shandean narrator knows that there are an i n f i n i t e number of res modi considerandum and that any story he t e l l s i s arbitrary and subjective. Pendennis, The Manager, George Warrington and Batchelor punctuate their narratives with "I dare say," "perhaps," " i t seems" and " i t might have been." The subjunctive mood also predominates i n Book V, Chapter 10 of Tristram Shandy, where several speculations are offered regarding the reason for the pause i n Trim's narrative. The narrator of P h i l i p even manages to identify 50 with Dr. Brand Pirmin,the v i l l a i n of his story. For, i f Ph i l i p ' s father, who sees himself as innocent of causing his son's poverty and hardship, i s deluded, why should not his narrator, Pendennis, who sees Brand Firmin as the necessary v i l l a i n of the piece, also he deluded? Many roles await to be played and many stories to be written from a given set of facts: People there are i n our history who do not seem to me to have kindly hearts at a l l ; and yet, perhaps, i f a biography could be written from their point of view, some other novelist might show how P h i l i p and his biographer were a pair of s e l f i s h worldlingsunworthy of credit: how uncle and aunt Twysden :Jte^ 'e_most"; exemplary people, and .so. £©*r*KV ~ ^~ I--protest-pas I look back at the past portions of t h i s history, I begin to have qualms, and ask myself whether the folks of whom we have been pr a t t l i n g have had justice done to them; whether Agnes Twysden i s not a suffering martyr j u s t l y offended by Phi l i p ' s turbulent behaviour, and whether P h i l i p deserves any particular attention or kindness a t ' a l l . . . . Perhaps I do not understand the other characters Ground about him so well, and have over-looked, a number of their merits and caricatured and exaggerated their l i t t l e defects. (XVI, 443-44) Now, i t i s true that Thackeray i s less radical than Sterne; he does give us a basic narrative,line from which his digressions take wing and his page i s less studded with typographical ligatures.. However, Thackeray's use of dashes, parentheses, and convoluted sentences increases i n the la t e r novels, u n t i l i n Lovel, Batchelor's confessional narrative, we fin d such a typical passage as this address to the reader: I dare say you are beginning to suppose (what, after a l l , i s a very common case, and certainly no conjuror i s wanted to make the guess) that out of a l l this crying and sentimentality, which a soft-hearted old fool of a man poured out to a young g i r l — o u t of a l l this whimpering and pity, something which i s said to be akin to pity might arise. But i n t h i s , my good madam, you are ut t e r l y wrong. Some people have the small-pox twice; I do not, (XXVIII, 231) 51 Although he does not offer, as Tristram does, a chapter on digressions, Batchelor's tortuous pursuit of the "mallard thought" as i t crosses his path gives the reader the same sense of the t e l l e r ' s spontaneity that he finds i n Sterne 1s novel. Both Sterne and Thackeray offer their readers a dual f i c t i o n a l world: the past world of the characters and the "story"; and the world of the writing present where the randomness and immediacy of the. moment forces the "story" into the background. This duality i s emphasized when both narrators suspend their characters momentarily at the insistence of a "digressive" thought. Uncle Toby, for instance, i s l e f t "knocking out the ashes of his tobacco pipe" while Tristram chats to his reader (p. 63). Batchelor, too, keeps Miss Prior waiting at the door as he reminisces aloud to his reader, apologizing for interrupting his narrative with; You see, as I beheld her, a heap of memories struck upon me, and I could not help chattering; when of course—and you are perfectly right, only you might just as well have l e f t the observation alone, for I knew quite well what you were going to say—when I had much better have held my tongue. (XXVIII, 229) Pendennis, i n P h i l i p , leaves General Baynes "dipping his nose i n the brandy-and-water" (XVI, 140), to take time out to go behind the scenes'and chat with his s o c i a l l y aspiring lady reader. The cap and b e l l s are the insignia of the Thackerayan narrator as they are of Tristram. Each takes the maximum advantage of the clown's freedom to move adr o i t l y between sentiment and cynicism, s e l f - p i t y and self-mockery. Although i n Thackeray, the clown's gaiety 5 2 and irreverence are frequently jettisoned i n place df the preacher's somlbre address, this moral stance i s merely temporary. The black mood of world-weariness i n Vanity F a i r i s not sustained, and we detect an i r o n i c a l tone even i n such a parsonical passage as t h i s : 0 brother wearers of motleyI Are there not moments when one grows sick of grinning and tumbling, and the j i n g l i n g of cap and bells? This, dear friends and companions, i s my amiable o b j e c t — t o walk with you through the F a i r , to examine the shops and the shows there; and that we should a l l come home after the f l a r e , and the noise, and the gaiety, and be perfectly miserable i n private. (VF, l80-l8l) The Manager of Vanity Fair i s more t y p i c a l l y discovered i n the act of changing roles: protesting the innocence of his "guilty" heroine, Becky, or exposing the s e l f i s h possessiveness of h i s "sweet" heroine, Amelia. He loves to reveal the virtues of the vicious and the viciousness of the virtuous, and i n so doing involve his reader i n a game of fluctuating r o l e s . Having exposed Becky as a scheming worldling and cunning deceiver, the Manager makes a nimble volte face; I protest i t i s quite shameful i n the world to abuse a simple creature, as people of her time abused Becky, and I warn the public against believing one-tenth of the stories against her. I f every person i s to be banished from society who runs into debt and cannot pay . . . why, what a howling wilderness and intolerable dwelling Vanity Fa i r would be. (VF, 491) Since we are a l l hypocrites by social necessity and rogues by internal compulsion (though we carefully mask our roguery as virtue), how, the Manager asks his reader, can we have the temerity to c r i t i c i z e 51 Becky the arch-rogue and arch-hypocrite, who has merely climbed to the top of the ladder whither the reader himself aspires? Although i t i s broadly true that Thackeray's area of interest i s social and moral, whereas Sterne's i s i i n t e l l e c t u a l and philosophical, yet their common feature i s their use of the mercurial narrator—the confused but tenacious figure who takes his reader on a hobby-horsical roundabout, journey through the narrator's own consciousness, to the detriment of both ostensible plot and character-i z a t i o n . The narrators of Sterne and Thackeray t e l l neither a very comfortable nor a.completely satisfactory story i n which virtue i s rewarded and vice punished and everything i s f i n a l l y resolved. Instead, they offer the peculiar virtue of "Shandeism" i n which the narrator tenderly i r o n i c a l or comically alarmed, with one eye on his characters and another on his reader, never leaving anyone out of h i s sight foraamoment; leaping from one.idea to another, tangling the threads of his story only so as> . to untangle them the; more b r i l l i a n t l y l a t e r ; attentive to every inconsequence, juxtaposing incompatibilities, reconciling extremes, passing from the rational to the i r r a t i o n a l with enviable a g i l i t y of mind; always;;>subtle, always smiling, always borne up by the i n t e l l e c t u a l excitement that enables him to move e f f o r t l e s s l y through the impenetrable forest of "hypotheses" offered by the r e a l i t y he has imagined on the one hand, and on, the other by the r e a l i t y that stands across his path. The Narrator's Unifying Presence The tale i n Thackeray's novels usually gets told, even i t i f i s Henri Fluchere. Laurence Sterne; Prom Tristram to Yorick; An Interpretation of "Tristram Shandy," trans. Barbara Bray~(London: Oxford Univ. Press, 19.65),'p. 446. 54 l e f t half-open to p o s s i b i l i t y and speculation, as i n Vanity Fair, or i f the reader i s given a double ending, as i n The Newcomes. The pose of historian or editor of private papers which the narrator frequently adopts i s always overlaid by his imaginative participation i n the l i v e s of his characters, by his reflections on them, by his dialogue with imaginary readers, and by parts of his own l i f e which become mingled i n his mind with what he-has heard, read or imagined about the l i v e s he purports to record. As i n The Newcomes, the narrator t e l l s us early i n the book that he i s l i k e an archeologist following traces that human beings have l e f t and f i l l i n g i n the gaps by conjecture, so i n The Virginians he looks at the l e t t e r s of his characters: They are hints rather than descriptions—indications and outlines c h i e f l y : i t may be, that the present writer has mistaken the forms, and f i l l e d i n the colour wrongly: but, poring over the documents, I have t r i e d to imagine the situation of the writer, where he was, and by what persons surrounded. I have drawn the figures as I fancied they were; set down conversations as I think I might have heard them. (XII, 3) This admission of l i m i t a t i o n and appeal for license, however, does lead the narrator to a wanton self-indulgence which we could never allow a historian, even were that h i s t o r i a n Thomas Carlyle himself. The narrator i s l i k e the speaker of a dramatic monologue i n his need to recapitulate his own experience and try to give i t some meaning. Extraneous material, i t seems, w i l l keep breaking into the narrator's mind as he attempts to formulate his story, and while his digressions seem to throw l i g h t on the story, i n fact, they only blur the c l a r i t y of i t and reveal instead the mind of the t e l l e r . 55 Ann Y. Wilkinson, i n one of the very few studies of Vanity Fair that can he said to attempt to reconcile thefprimary and secondary f i c t i o n a l worlds, suggests that we, as readers, should f e e l that the action i n "both worlds "exists e s s e n t i a l l y i n the narrator's mind, insofar as we have to r e l y on i t s vagaries and memories and a l l i t s other movements for our point of view." I f we see the novel i n t h i s way, she goes on, i t becomes a kind of existential document . . . . It i s an'experience which takes place in the reading of the novel, with the reader involved i n half-truths, malice, and sentiment, and l e f t just as frustrated as the persona j s i n his inept attempts to get at what i s r e a l l y happening. The crucial questions for us are surely: does the narrator r e a l l y know or care "what i s r e a l l y happening," and i s he not at least as concerned with the impossibility of f i n a l and certain knowledge? I f he i s merely attempting "to get at what i s r e a l l y happening" as an historian or archaeologist would, what i s the purpose of his incessant self-revelations and of h i s continual appeal to the reader or to "authority," which may be anything from the Bible and Homer to the Arabian Hightscprhis own impression of l a s t night's opera? There are no simple answers to these questions and my purpose i n asking them i s not to agree or disagree with Ann Wilkinson, but rather to use her idea of the novel as existential document as a point of departure. The issues raised here are v i t a l to a f u l l appre-ciation both of Thackeray's constantly s h i f t i n g perspectives and of his 15 -'"The Tomeavesian Way of Knowing the World: Technique and Meaning i n Vanity F a i r , " ELH, 32 (1965), 381; 382-383. use of an eccentric narrator who i s by turns master and victim of i l l u s i o n i n a world where there can be no stable r e a l i t y . Unlike Sterne's Tristram, Thackeray's narrator pursues his random s t o r y - t e l l i n g against a background of fable, f a i r y - t a l e , or even the conventional triple-decker novel. These forms check the unrestrained f l i g h t s of imagination and provide the course i n which the primary f i c t i o n flows. Thus Harry Warrington becomes for the narrator of The Virginians not so much a h i s t o r i c a l or "actual" figure as a typical young man embodying the aspirations of hero and lover, i n a world which w i l l inevitably show their inadequacy. Young, innocent, Virginian Harry i s seen as an ideal figure i n a corrupt world; he i s the male prototype of the Jamesian American heroine. In h i s love-a f f a i r with the far from beautiful Maria Esmond who has a rather dubious past, Harry reveals himself as f o o l i s h l y i d e a l i s t i c and impractical. He i s , after a l l , a descendant of Henry Esmond the Colonel i n Queen Anne's army. With childish simplicity, Harry f a i l s to distinguish the complex and corrupt world from that of the f a i r y t a l e . "I want to do something—to distinguish myself—to be ever so great. I wish there was Giants, Maria, as I have read of i n — i n books, that I could go and fight 'em. I wish you was i n distress" (XII, 227). A s l i g h t l y ludicrous love-scene follows i n which the narrator, who has promised his reader the f i d e l i t y of a historian of the imaginary, continually shows Harry as fool and dupe to Maria's calculating worldliness. In a two-page monologue following t h i s scene, the narrator discountenances Harry's gallantry and heroics 57 by a gleeful reminiscence of Telemachus and the Sirens. Buried beneath the weight of the narrator's re f l e c t i o n s , Harry i s reduced to an ideal type as the narrator's mind struggles to reconcile real and the ideal, the truths of experience and the truths of imagination. Thackeray's narrator i s not so much a mock-historian f i l l i n g i n gaps with conjecture and supposition as a figure who uses the situation or story, to which he purports to be so f a i t h f u l , i n order to give r e i n to his own fancy. The primary world i s reduced to more aesthetically s a t i s f y i n g patterns to allow the secondary world of the narrator's consciousness to expand, and thus the immediate present of the writer and reader i s invoked, with a l l the doubts and interrogations seen i n the discussion of Lovel's narrator. After h i s imaginative re-creation of Ulysses' encounter with the Sirens, the narrator of The Virginians turns to his reader: In the l a s t sentence you see Lector Benevolus and Scriptor Doctissimus figure as tough old Ulysses and his tough old Boatswain, who do not care a quid of tobacco for any Siren at Sirens' Points but Harry Warrington i s green Telemachus, who, .surj3',~ was very "unlike-th©_ soft youth .in the > good Bishop of Cambray's twaddling story. (XII, 230) The reader i s now facetiously given two roles i n the same story; i n the primary f i c t i o n a l world he i s naive Harry Warrington snared by i l l u s i o n , while i n the secondary f i c t i o n a l world he i s the sophisticated "Lector Benevolus." But Harry, we are told, i s unlike his prototype Telemachus and i n any case the story i s dismissed as "twaddling." This story, moreover, i s one which the narrator has previously described gl e e f u l l y and at length. The reader i s asked to take roles i n a story 58 i n which he must believe and disbelieve. Moreover, the colloquialisms— "tough old Boatswain," "quid of tobacco," "twaddling story"—mix incongruously with the i r o n i c a l l y learned terms for his roles i n this strange and f a n c i f u l drama where a " r e a l " reader and a f i c t i t i o u s character l i t e r a l l y share the same boat for one moment, only to see i t capsized i n the next. The necessity constantly to undermine the r e a l i t y of whatever internal structure their consciousness impose on the external world i s characteristic of Thackeray's narrators. Thus the narrator above plays at being Ulysses only to reject the role when i t has served i t s purpose. In a sense a l l men become Ulysses, wanderers tempted from the path of rigour or duty by the seductions of the imagination. We can also say that a l l men have been "green Telemachus" ready to jump overboard for worthless prizes. The i r o n i c a l narrator i s aware that he i s only half involved i n the spectacle he describes, and he realizes the disparity between the hypothetical and the actual, the way men appear and the way they are. naturally enough there i s no formula of style or story that i s adequate for this representation of his r e a l i t y . The most he can offer us i s a medley of p o s s i b i l i t i e s , each one quickly put aside as inadequate. The Thackerayan narrator's irony shows "the struggle between the absolute and the r e l a t i v e , the simultaneous consciousness of the impossibility and the necessity of a complete account of r e a l i t y . " ^ "^Rene Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism; 1750-1950 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1955). I I , 14. Wellek speaks of the Romantic Irony of Friedrich Schlegel. 59 This i r o n i c a l awareness that today's r e a l i t y i s tomorrow's i l l u s i o n , and tomorrow's r e a l i t y i s brought about by today's i l l u s i o n , leads to the continuous monologues of the narrator and to his mercurial bent for role-playing. In fact, i t might be said that for the i r o n i s t " i l l u s i o n " and " r e a l i t y " are but different names for different ways of seeing the same thing. In the consciousness of the narrator there i s no easy d i s t i n c t i o n between romance and common sense—both are convenient f i c t i o n s f o r handling the emotional and practical d i f f i c u l t i e s of l i f e . In an e f f o r t to keep his mental equilibrium, the narrator hovers between the truths of fable, which are comfortably fantastic and can therefore be ea s i l y punctured at need, and the truths of empirical experience, which are always contradictory and open to question. Although the narrator disposes of, the "twaddling story" of Homeric epic, yet at the end of his monologue, following the seduction of Harry, he reasserts the r e a l i t y of romantic love as a persistent factor i n human experience. Harry's experience, which might be scoffed at by an outsider, i s seen to be as real to him as the narrator's or reader's: The song i s not stale to Harry Warrington, nor the voice cracked or out of tune that sings i t . But—but—Oh, dear me, Brother Boatswain! Don't you remember how pleasant the opera was when we f i r s t heard i t ? Cosi fan t u t t i was i t s name—Mozart's music. Now, I dare say, they have other words, and other music, and other singers and f i d d l e r s . . . . Well, well, Cosi fan t u t t i i s s t i l l upon the b i l l s , and they are going on singing i t over and over and over. (XII, 230) It i s within the f r e e l y moving consciousness of the narrator that the reader finds his o\m counterpart. Whether Becky or Colonel Newcome or Beatrix Esmond are "people" or puppets, whether the 60 narrator i s a novelist or a historian, depends on the extent of the reader's i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with them. Whether the figures were ever known to the narrator i n person or through their papers, or whether he conjured them up out of his imagination, we can never ultimately decide, for they are unmasked and re-masked—treated variously as persons and objects. The reader's view of them i s governed wholly by the way they appear from moment to moment i n the narrator's mind. I t i s here that the reader finds the key that he needs to make sense of the novels, just as i n l i f e i t i s i n his own mental and, i n a sense, " f i c t i o n a l " universe that he gives order and c l a r i t y to the impressions received from the world outside him. For, " i n narrative works i t i s the narrator who convinces. . . . A talking horse does not make sense, 17 but Homer makes sense of A c h i l l e s ' talking horse." 1 Since i t i s within the narrator's consciousness that the reader finds the unifying device i n the novels, he cannot expect the consistency of v i s i o n such as i s found i n the more "pure" forms of epic or romance. He i s asked to look not merely at events for their own sake, but at the way they impinge on the mind of the recorder at a particular moment. In the mind of Henry Esmond, for instance there i s a continual fluctuation between heroic and romantic ideal and the more impure compounds i n which these elements are found i n Esmond's day to day l i f e , where men are less predictable than the creative mind would l i k e them. Thus Dick Steele can t e l l young Henry that 17 Paul Goodman, The Structure of Literature (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1954), p. 76. 61 "' T i s not the dying for a f a i t h that's so hard . . . ' t i s the l i v i n g up to i t that i s d i f f i c u l t " (X, 76). And young Harry goes off he r o i c a l l y to war and, l i k e Barry Lyndon, finds a total deficiency ;of n o b i l i t y and greatness i n the corrupt and rather dull existence among the troops. Greatness and n o b i l i t y i n the mind have their r e a l i t y , but they are found i n l i f e ' s deeds to be debased, spasmodic and f l e e t i n g . Esmond leaves Rachel, asking her blessing on his knees as a knight who "longs for a dragon this instant that he may f i g h t , " but i n the battle of Cadiz, "the only blood which Mr. Esmond drew i n t h i s shameful campaign, was the knocking down an English sentinel with a half-pike." In doing t h i s he was not rescuing a beauty or a princess, but a "poor wheezy old dropsical woman, with a wart on her nose" (X, 1315 265-266). This novel i s replete with beautiful, romantic motifs, and the home of Castlewood and the wild splendour of Beatrix l i v e i n the reader's mind as they do i n Esmond's. We are made aware, however, that we l i v e not wholly i n the world of the wonderful and strange, but also i n the world of hard fact where clumsy l i f e spoils our neat and delightful aesthetic patterns. In this world f a i t h i s unstable, and kings and heroes behave l i k e men rather than gods. Failure to take into account not only the story but the narrator's various attitudes to the story w i l l almost certainly lead to a misinterpretation of Thackeray. He w i l l be found too sentimental, too cynical, too romantic or too worldly. Thackeray seeks to embrace, within the narrator's mind, a world i n which dreams come true and d i f f i c u l t i e s surmounted lead to happiness and a world of humdrum 62 r e a l i t y and money-grubbing selfishness. When J u l i e t McMaster says of The Newcomes that "we have no dramatic depiction of the marriage of Clive and Ethel, because according to the r e a l i t y of the main body of 18 the novel i t does not happen," she takes only what she needs for her argument as "the r e a l i t y of the main body of the novel," and leaves out the rest which includes the doubts, dreams, improbabilities and p o s s i b i l i t i e s that lurk i n the mind of the narrator and are as i n -tangible as the contents of the unopened closet i n Bluebeard's castle. The narrator may turn to his reader with a demand for niggardly self-scrutiny or, on the other hand, he may almost forget his reader as he indulges i n a bout of self-confession or a wild f l i g h t of imagination. In The Newcomes, the reader i s interrogated regarding his hidden desires, at the same time that he i s tempted to think of the skeletons i n his wife's closet. Immediately following t h i s , he i s treated to a fa n c i f u l escape from such sordid doubts andi questionings, while his narrator takes wing through the imagination of J.J. Ridley, who l i s t e n s enchanted to the piano playing of the feeble old Miss Cann i n the parlour on a Saturday evening. The narrator moves between the vexed r e a l i t i e s of existence and majestic visions conjured up by the music of an old piano. Thus he indulges i n a medley of confession and reader-interrogation; When you i n your turn are slumbering, up gets^ Mrs. Brown from your side, steals down •©tairj^Ii^ c l i c k s -open the secret door, and looks into her dark depository. Did •I Q "Theme and Form i n The Newcomes," NCF, 23(1968), I85 . 63 she t e l l you of that l i t t l e a f f a i r with Smith long before she knew you? Pshal who knows any one save himself alone? Who, i n showing his house to the closest and dearest, doesn't keep back the key of a closet or two? I think of a l o v e l y reader laying down the page and looking over at her unconscious husband, asleep, perhaps, after dinner. Yes, madam, a closet he hath: and you, who pry into everything, shall never have the key of i t . I think of some honest Othello pausing over th i s very-sentence i n a r a i l - r o a d carriage, and s t e a l t h i l y gazing at Desdemona opposite to him, innocently administering sandwiches to their l i t t l e boy—I am try i n g to turn off the sentence with a joke, you s e e — I f e e l i t i s growing too dreadful, too serious. (VII, 192) Having played the part of the mean scrutineer, the narrator soon loses himself i n the imagination of a young lad l i s t e n i n g to an old lady play on an "old and weazened" piano that i s "feeble and cracked as i s her voice." nevertheless the l i t t l e chamber anon swells into a cathedral, and he who l i s t e n s beholds altars lighted, priests ministering, f a i r children swinging censers, great o r i e l windows gleaming i n sunset, and seen through arched columns and avenues of twilight marble. The young fellow who hears her has been often and often to the opera and /.tire' theatres;;-"&s~ she-plays ;"Don_Juan," Zerlina comes tripping over the meadows, and Masetto after her, with a crowd of peasants and maidens: and they sing the sweetest of a l l music, and the heart beats with happiness, and kindness, and pleasure. Piano, pianissimo, the c i t y i s hushed. The towers of the great cathedral rise' i n the distance, i t s spires lighted by the broad moon. The statues i n the moonlit place cast long shadows athwart the pavement; but the fountain i n the midst i s dressed out l i k e Cinderella for the night, and sings and wears a crest of diamonds. That great sombre street a l l i n shade, can i t be the.famous Toledo?—or i s i t the Corso?— or i s i t the great street i n Madrid, the one which leads to the Escurial where the Rubens and Velasquez are? It : i s Fancy Street—Poetry Street—Imagination Street—the street where lovely ladies look from balconies, where cavaliers strike mandolins and draw swords and engage. (VII, 195-196) We see from these passages that any attempt to reduce the discordant elements cast out from the narrator's consciousness i s inapposite. By the f e r t i l e union of pragmatic doubt and visionary 64 fancy, the narrator guides his reader through the wilderness of the human psyche from painful scepticism to the most positive certainty, from c l i n i c a l i n t e l l e c t u a l probing to extravagant emotional conviction. The need to reduce the free play of the mind to a manageable "position" causes some c r i t i c s to misinterpret the narrator's function I n the novels. I t i s important to see that the narrator i s not the interpreter absolute of the action and that his visio n i s broad, contradictory and at times f a l l i b l e , because impermanent and v a c i l l a t i n g . He i s not a propagandist for any particular point of view, but a spokesman for the vast range of p o s s i b i l i t y . Sister Corona Sharp seeks to f i n d the moral centre of Vanity Fair by studying the narrator's character, and con-cludes that the clue to h i s "position" i s i n his sympathies with Lady Jane Sheepshanks. To prove her point, Sister Corona i s forced to emphasize certain aspects of the narrator's voice at the expense:: of others. " I f he i s s h i f t l e s s and irresponsible," she says, then "the novel i s defective i n meaning, merely a jest at the reader's expense." Though she accurately states that "numerous- i l l u s t r a t i o n s prove that the narrator cannot take Rebecca's fa u l t s any more seriously than Amelia's virtues, " her eagerness to determine the narr-ator's "position" and the seriousness of the book's moral meaning i s emphasized by her special plea on behalf of Lady Jane: "By presenting t h i s woman the narrator espouses the values represented by her, and i n so doing proves he i s no cynic. . . . :S-he i s an interesting example of a minor character used to highlight the major characters 19 and to f i x the position of the narrator." ' 19 '"Sympathetic Mockery: A Study of the Narrator's Character i n 65 As a moral guide and philosopher, the narrator of Vanity F a i r , we are hound to conclude, i s indeed " s h i f t l e s s and irresponsible•" He c a l l s h i s novel "a novel without a hero" yet i n Dobbin he shows us a figure.who embodies, despite h i s gaucheness^ the heroic virtues of courage, constancy, and idealism. Dobbin's heroism i s proclaimed early i n the novel when,as a youth, in defending the weak against the strong, he puts down his copy of the Arabian Nights to defeat Cuff,the school champion. Dobbin i s , moreover, one of the very few characters who remains aloof from the values of Vanity F a i r . Yet, even so, the narrator shows his own i n s t a b i l i t y and an awareness of the mixed motives which constitute even outwardly heroic deeds: I can't t e l l what his motive was. . . . Perhaps Dobbin's f o o l i s h soul revolted against that exercise of tyranny; or perhaps he had a hankering f e e l i n g of revenge i n h i s mind, and longed to measure himself against that splendid bully and tyrant, who had a l l the glory, pride, pomp, circumstance, banners f l y i n g , drums beating, guards saluting, i n the place. (VF, 48) The narrator i s , generally, only too well aware that q u a l i t i e s that we conveniently label "heroism," "tyranny," or "cowardice" are unstable compounds and not as e a s i l y t y p i f i e d i n l i f e as they are i n story. So while, for Amelia, George Osborne i s the quasi-chivalric hero, Dobbin i s an i n f e r i o r underling f i t only to carry her shawl at the Vauxhall pleasure-ground. But with George dead, and a suitably long time spent i n idol-worship of his memory, Amelia finds a new hero i n the sober and upright Dobbin. "But have^e? not a l l been misled about our heroes, and changed our opinions a hundred times?" Vanity F a i r , " ELH, 29(1962)325; 329-330 66 the narrator asks his reader, suggesting, at t h i s time, a token sympathy with his sentimental heroine. One of the narrator's primary functions i s to challenge the reader by offering him a m u l t i p l i c i t y of appearances and leaving him to find h i s own spasmodic sense of r e a l i t y . His idea of virtue i s not that of Lady Jane Sheepshanks any more than i t i s that of Becky or Amelia, Thus John K. Mathison i s nearer to the truth than Sister Corona Sharp when he points out that "Amelia i s Lady Jane Sheepshanks' idea of 20 virtue, the evangelical idea of virtue," By his use of the controlling device of the narrator, Thackeray i s able to do justice to the romance and epic forms and the "sense of f e l t l i f e " which has given the novel i t s vast scope and sense of immediacy. In Esmond, as i n his other novels, the "story" or primary f i c t i o n controls the novel's shape while the digressions, reflections and addresses to the reader provide the necessary openness and suggest a world of p o s s i b i l i t y , doubt and random mental association. In Esmond, the narrator's i n i t i a l determination to expose the sham and hypocrisy which dwell behind the august appearance of majesty i n history books, and i n the minds of men who see royalty and lo y a l t y i n ideal or heroic terms, i s betrayed by his own propensity for romance and idealism when he t e l l s his own story. He gives us a sense of a recording mind i n the present which can only give shape and s i g n i f -icance to h i s past by seeing i t i n ideal terms. Though he seeks to 2 0 "The German Sections of Vanity F a i r , " NCF, 28(1963), 236-237. 67 t e l l the t r u t h about h i s t o r i c a l f i g u r e s such as Queen Anne, Marlborough L o u i s Quatorze, Addison, or the Pretender, he can only r e v e a l h i s own inner t r u t h through a v a r i e t y of f i c t i o n a l forms. He would unmask others, but must give h i m s e l f the mask of hero, l o v e r , k n i ght, or outcast; f o r , without the form of the t y p i c a l , there would be no way of h i s making sense of the chaos of h i s experience. Through the mind of the r e c o r d i n g Esmond we are o f f e r e d moment-ar y t r u t h s of present f e e l i n g — t h e patterns are used to give experience shape but they are c o n t i n u a l l y m o d i f i e d . Esmond i s r e l u c t a n t to l e t the dream va n i s h , but he i s f o r c e d to acknowledge the p e r s i s t e n t f a i l u r e of the i d e a l v i s i o n to bear any but a f l e e t i n g r e l a t i o n to the ex i g e n c i e s of l i f e and human inconstancy. " A f t e r the i l l u m i n a t i o n , when the love-lamp i s put out . . . and by the common d a y l i g h t we l o o k at the p i c t u r e , what a daub i t l o o k s i what a clumsy e f f i g y J " (X, I48) . The moment of joy or passion e x i s t s and i s r e a l , but i t does not and cannot l a s t . I t i s to t h i s t r u t h that the Romantic poets bear witness and even the i r o n i c a l Chaucer or Byron acknowledge i t with r e l u c t a n c e . Chaucer p r e f e r s not to' know whether Criseyde gave her heart to T r o i l u s , and before he demolishes the l o v e r s * i d y l l of Haidee and Juan, Byron e c s t a t i c a l l y r e c r e a t e s t h e i r b e a u t i f u l and f r a g i l e world. I n Thackeray, too, behind the i r o n i c a l , the c l e a r - s i g h t e d and the s l i g h t l y c y n i c a l pose, the v i s i o n of the i d e a l p e r p e t u a l l y hovers. Thackeray's n a r r a t o r f l u c t u a t e s between emotional i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with r e c e i v e d forms and an awareness of t h e i r inadequacy to encompass the t o t a l i t y of h i s experience. He has the melancholy that comes with the knowledge that 68 perfect love and devout chivalry are mental constructs, i n f i n i t e l y remote from the concerns of everyday l i f e . Thus Pendennis loses his judgement over the very practical and ordinary actress, hut i t i s the narrator who i s pained by the knowledge; i n the same way, Esmond f i n a l l y r ealizes that the bewitching Beatrix i s an aspirer to wealth and rank who has only a limited concern f o r her humble adorer. Never-theless, i n Esmond's mind the dream persists. As Prank Kermode says, " f i c t i o n s , though prone to absurdity, are necessary to l i f e , and . . . they grow very i n t r i c a t e because we know so desolately that as_ and is_ 21 are not r e a l l y one." Awareness of this d i s p a r i t y results i n irony and one part of the narrator's mind always holds this i r o n i c awareness of the incompatibility between seeming and being. The narrator's mind becomes i n a sense a testing ground for ideas of being. Esmond, in maturity, must r e l i v e the ideals and aspirations of his youth, seeing himself as gallant knight or brave hero, i n order to appraise them. He must see h i s whole l i f e — e v e n h i s death-—laid out before him l i k e a map and retrace the paths of youth that he may conquer and comprehend them. The narrator, who meets his readers as equals i n the secondary world, i s both serious and not serious i n his attitude towards the primary world. At times he becomes so involved with his characters that he not only speaks to them but enters a c t i v e l y into "their" drama. Thus i n Vanity F a i r , the narrator meets his characters at 21 The Sense of an Ending: Studies i n the Theory of F i c t i o n (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967), p. 155. 69 Pumpernickel. The borderline between ironic detachment and sympathetic involvement is crossed and the narrator is temporarily on the other side of the mirror, reinforcing §n the reader's mind a recognition in that he too is involved in an illusion and that this is "only a story." we see here the impossibility of the story teller's complete detachment from his imagined world. He breaks the illusion for the reader by becoming a victim of his own deliberately created world. This emphasis on the humanity of the teller is typical of Sterne and romantic ironists who are aware of the essential polarities of "self" and "world" and their mutual dependency. While the "realistic" novelist seeks to put the reader in the position of the observing "self" who..is unaware of himself as he sees the world, the ironist sees his own subjectivity, and his reader cannot "lose himself," as we say, in the game by becoming the mask of the central consciousness. The reader must be aware of the reflecting self of the narrator interacting between an event more or less distant in time and space, and an immediately felt present. These are the dramas of primary and secondary fiction and their deliberate confusion is based on the narrator's underlying awareness that the observer needs the observed, that "self" and "world" are inextricable in the way that 22 A similarly flagrant and deliberate breach of arti s t i c decorum occurs in an English movie, The Courtneys of Curzon Street (director Herbert Wilcox: producer: Sydney Box), where a character, played by Michael Wilding, introduces himself by his fictitious film name, only to be put down by his host's suspicious reply: "Oh; how strange! I could have sworn you were Michael Wildingl" Cervantes, Tieck and Pirandello also delight in such illusion-breaking. 70 we can only know one through, the other. Thackeray, then, through the perceiving consciousness of his narrator, shows us that the physical world i s always a world seen from the outside, as a collection of things, of surfaces, conveniently plastered with l i n g u i s t i c l a b e l s . I t has no r e a l i t y beyond the perceiver. His narrator loses himself, and forces his reader to lose himself, i n an imagined character or situation that i s as r e a l , or as unreal, as that world we conveniently c a l l " r e a l i t y " which we experience through the senses. He shows that i t i s through the imagination that one discovers his " s e l f ' J ' looking through the eyes of a conventional " v i l l a i n " such as Lyndon or a conventional "hero" such as Esmond, we discover our r e a l i t y . A central characteristic of Thackeray's narrator i s "a willingness to become." He i s a man of many masks and no face, and to the bafflement of c r i t i c s , he i s neither a mirror nor a lamp. An examination of his "personality" i s not enhanced by seeing him as social or moral c r i t i c or as an author surrogate; he i s both of these and yet i s not reducible to any single r o l e . I f he i s a moral r e a l i s t , he i s also an epicurean and hedonist; i f he i s the perennial c h i l d seeking the security of the mother, he i s also the cynical club-haunting worldling. The personality of the narrator, l i k e the inner " I " of the Hindu Atman, retreats before us with the words "Neti, n e t i , Not thi s , not t h i s . " Thackeray combines the probabilities of l i f e with the marvels of fable, by establishing the core of his novel i n a subjective See Swami Nikhilanandra, trans, and ed. The Upanishads (New York: Harper and Bros., 1956), I I I , 48-49. 71 recorder, to whom imagined truths are as real as practi c a l performance. The narrator can allow his fancy free rein, yet, at the same time, sees that the cold l i g h t of day w i l l prove him a l i a r . Like Tristram Shandy, who thought a l l problems should be debated twice—once drunk and once sober—Thackeray' s narrator realizes the essential dual dependency of the mind on the f a n c i f u l and the pragmatic. The narrator of The  Virginians, for instance, does not doubt that under the influence of good Bordeaux wine there i s a point when a man's generous f a c u l t i e s are alerted and i n f u l l vigour, "when the wit brightens and breaks out i n sudden flashes; when the i n t e l l e c t s are keenest; when the pent-up words and confused thoughts get a night-rule, and rush abroad and disport themselves." This new awakening and quickening of the nobler and more uninhibited aspects leads him, says the narrator, i n a wildly i d e a l i s t i c f l i g h t , to succour the poor and rescue the oppressed, "but the moment passes, and that other glass somehow spoils the state of beatitude." Indulgence i n grandiose dreams i s followed inevitably by a correspondingly chastening awareness of the ordinary anxious and petty concerns of l i f e , when there i s a headache i n the morning; we are not going into Parliament for our native town; we are not going to shoot those French o f f i c e r s who have been speaking disrespectfully of our country; and poor Jeremy Diddler c a l l s about eleven o'clock for another half-sovereign, and we are unwell i n bed, and can't see him, and send him empty away. (XII, 402) Unlike Esmond, the typic a l narrator i n the secondary f i c t i o n a l world tends to puncture the romantic visions he conjures up. He does not deny their r e a l i t y but their durability; he does not deny their relevance to human vision, hut he i s aware that they do not give complete account of to t a l r e a l i t y . CHAPTER III THACKERAY AND HIS NARRATORS I forget who I am, i f indeed I have ever known. I become the other person. (They t r y to find out my opinion; I have no interest i n my own opinion. I am no longer someone, but several—whence the reproaches for my restlessness, my i n s t a b i l i t y , my fickleness, my inconstancy). — G i d e , Journal of "The Counterfeiters" The Ironist i s committed to the search of a more and more exterior point of view, so as to embrace a l l contradictions . . . . Beyond the Ironist's perception of a situation i s his Ironic perception of himself I r o n i c a l l y perceiving the s i t -uation. —Haakon Chevalier, The Ironic Temper; Anatole Prance and His Time As Thackeray's f i c t i o n develops, he makes increasing use of a complex narrator who i s much more aware of himself and the reader than the e a r l i e r one-dimensional narrators—such as Fitzboodle, Gahagan, and Yellowplush. This chapter traces the changing role of the narrator i n Thackeray's f i c t i o n , from the early sketches to the mature novels. The reader's role, i n the l a t e r work, becomes more subtle as he attempts to relate to a protean figure who challenges him to define either himself or others with any assurance. This post-1847 narrator, moreover, asking questions about the very nature of the i l l u s i o n he projects, entices his reader into an elaborate game that dares him to demarcate the genuine and the sham. Thackeray's e a r l i e r narrators closely identify with the masks which they present to the world. The la t e r narrators, by contrast, present an ever-expanding v i s i o n i n which limited or p a r t i a l truths 73 74 of youthful heroism or moral idealism become essential parts of a more comprehensive whole. Both the negative and positive aspects of the ideal are retained i n the novels after Vanity F a i r . Thus Barry Lyndon, looking back on the crucial accident to Nora Brady while they were gooseberry-picking sees, on r e f l e c t i o n , his own f o l l y , and seeks to desecrate the lovers' i d y l l : In the course of our diversion Nora managed to scratch her arm, and i t bled, and she screamed, and i t was mighty round and white, and I t i e d i t up, and I believe I was permitted to kiss her hand; and though i t was as big and clumsy a hand as ever you saw, yet I thought the favour the most ravishing one that was ever conferred upon me, and went home i n a rapture. (XVIII, 22) Barry seeks to discredit his own past feeling, whereas a l a t e r narrator would include the f e e l i n g of past enchantment within the moment of present enlightenment. As the narrator of Pendennis or The Virginians sees the discarded mask, he must also t r y i t on again, test out the part and rediscover the r e a l i t y of the i l l u s i o n by again becoming that part for the moment; Barry, by contrast, seeks to preserve a unified front. The result of this continual re-invigorating of once discredited forms and rejected selves i s an increasingly complex sense of identity and a blurring of the d i s t i n c t i o n between i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y . The narrator i s , thus, both outside the story and within i t — h e i s omniscient author and conjecturing historian, t e l l i n g his own story or reporting another's. The Manager of Vanity Fair purports to be giving his reader an entertainment, but we soon f i n d 75 he i s i n his own show, talking not about his puppets, but i n effect becoming one of them i n Pumpernickel. Pendennis, the narrator of The Newcomes, i s supposedly following traces and f i l l i n g i n the gaps with conjecture, but he ends by placing Laura and himself within t h i s fabulous t a l e . He i s , i n fact, the figure condemned by Norman Friedman as "the irresponsible illusion-breaking . . . garrulous omniscient author, who t e l l s a story as he perceives i t , rather than as one of h i s characters perceives i t . " I Yet, as we have seen, he also l i v e s through his characters' experiences as i f they were his own, and there i s no hard l i n e between personal and vicarious experience. Thackeray's awareness of the limitations inherent i n any one "position" l e d him to make his l a t e r narrators contradictory and v a c i l l a t i n g . The e a r l i e r narrators are victims of the spectral Thackeray's irony because they are unaware of their posturing and role-playing. Thus, Ikey Solomons, seeking to expose the Newgate school of novelists, ultimately exposes himself by ide n t i f y i n g with the rogues, and Barry Lyndon adopting the pose of gentleman reveals himself as a rogue and a braggart. These narrators are no more ir o n i s t s than are the s a t i r i c a l aspirer Yellowplush or the melancholy s e l f - j u s t i f y i n g Fitzboodle. Even Mr. Snob, who comes nearest to the central i r o n i c a l narrator from Vanity Fair onward, i s often caught out by the silent author behind him. The genuine i r o n i s t realizes that everyone, including himself, indulges i n various disguises, and that person and persona are only related, not i d e n t i c a l . "^'Point of View i n F i c t i o n : The Development of a C r i t i c a l Concept," PMLA, 70(1955), 1163. 76 Barry Lyndon, although he incorporates many of the contra-dictions and s h i f t s that we come to associate with the l a t e r narrators i s ever a victim of sa t i r e . His attitude to Nora i s ambivalent—he sees her as a j i l t , hut also as a divine creature (XVIII, 51). He i s also prone to tender recollections of past mistresses whom at other times he sees as worthless j i l t s and heartless jades. There i s a romantic within the disenchanted cynic as th i s passage shows: Oh, to see the Valdez once again, as on that day I met her f i r s t driving i n state, with her eight mules and her retinue of gentlemen, by the side of yellow Mancanares! Oh, for another drive with Hegenheim, i n the gilded sledge, over the Saxon snow I False as Schuvaloff was, 'twas better to be j i l t e d by her than to be adored by any other woman. I can't think of any one of them without tenderness. I have ringlets of a l l their hair i n my poor l i t t l e museum of recollections. Do you keep mine, you dear souls that survive the turmoils and troubles of near half a hundred years? How changed i t s colour i s now, since the day Sczotarska wore i t round her neck. (XVIII, 238) Barry acts out an imagined past and indulges the mood of s e l f - p i t y and regret, but he i s unconscious that he i s creating a f i c t i o n out of fragments of his l i f e . He i s not an i r o n i s t , and l i k e the typical 2 alazon of Greek drama he i s essential prey to the subtly aware ejlron, found here i n the spectral author and his reader. Thackeray delighted i n the use of an alazon figure as narrator of his e a r l i e r work for Fraser, the New Monthly and the Comic Almanac. In these early stories and sketches, the spectral presence of the Cf. G. G. Sedgewick, Of Irony: Especially i n Drama (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1948J, pp. 6-10; Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism; Four Essays (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1957T7 pp. 39-40. 77 author i s f e l t s i l e n t l y watching and enjoying the posturing and boasting s t o r y - t e l l e r and would-be social s a t i r i s t . I t i s i n Thackeray's work from The Book of Snobs and Vanity Fair on that the narrator combines the alazon and the eiron. In the l a t e r work, as Gordon N. Ray and John KLeis have pointed out, the s a t i r i s t modulates to the i r o n i s t . 3 Barry Lyndon, who acts l i k e a scoundrel but who looks upon him-self as a gentleman, frequently allows his reader to.catch, him out i n his disguises. The gap between the real and the ideal i s a l l too frequently revealed. Like Moll Flanders, Barry i s one who would be thought genteel, and l i k e her, he looks down on his peers as wretches, cheats, and criminals. Barry t e l l s us I never had a taste for anything but genteel company, and hate a l l descriptions of low l i f e . . . . PahJ the reminiscences of the horrid black-hole of a place i n which we soldiers were confined, of the wretched creatures with whom I was now forced to keep company, of the ploughmen, poachers, pickpockets, who had taken refuge from poverty, or the law (as, i n truth. I had done myself), i s enough to make me ashamed. (XVIII, 77) Up to this point i n the story, by his own account, Barry has cheated tradespeople, impersonated an I r i s h lord, and k i l l e d an English captain i n a duel over a g i r l who was not interested i n the I r i s h adventurer. The reader's pleasure i n the story i s to a large extent owing to Barry's unawareness of the disparity between the image he seeks to project and the one he does actually show his reader. From his spurious ancestry 3See Thackeray: The Age of Wisdom I847-I863 (New York: McGraw-H i l l , 1958), PP. 39-40; John C. K l e i s , "The Narrative Persona i n the Novels of Thackeray," Diss. Pennsylvania I966, p. 10; p. 14, 78 t o h i s s p u r i o u s g r i e v a n c e s a g a i n s t t h e w o r l d , B a r r y ' s modes o f s e l f -d e c e p t i o n a r e a p p a r e n t t o t h e r e a d e r , h u t B a r r y i s a n a c t o r who i s q u i t e i n n o c e n t o f h i s r o l e s . T h a c k e r a y l e t s him p l a y h i s p a r t s , and i f t h e r e a d e r p l a y s h i s p a r t , he w i l l see t h a t none o f t h e r o l e s d e f i n e s t h e n a r r a t o r c o m p l e t e l y . B a r r y i s s o m e t h i n g o t h e r t h a n h i s p a r t s o f r o m a n t i c l o v e r , a r i s t o c r a t i c g e n t l e m a n , f e a r l e s s f i g h t i n g man, o r e v e n o u t r i g h t r o g u e and v i l l a i n . He d e f i n e s h i m s e l f t h r o u g h t h e p r o c e s s o f p l a y i n g many p a r t s , and we f i n d t h e r e i s a se n s e o f t h e man b e y o n d what he, f o r th e moment, becomes. The G r e a t H o g g a r t y Diamond and B a r r y L y n d o n a r e n o v e l s t h a t o f f e r o n l y a p r i m a r y f i c t i o n a l w o r l d . C a t h e r i n e i s c o m p l i c a t e d b y a n a r r a t o r who i s n o t o n l y u n r e l i a b l e b u t s e l f - c o n s c i o u s . We f i n d t h e n a r r a t o r f r e q u e n t l y d i g r e s s i n g , r e m i n i s c i n g , a p p e a l i n g t o h i s r e a d e r , and p o i n t i n g p l a y f u l l y t o h i s own s t o r y . A l l t h e t r i c k s , i n f a c t , t h a t we come t o a s s o c i a t e w i t h t h e more s e a s o n e d T h a c k e r a y n a r r a t o r o f t h e n o v e l s f r o m V a n i t y F a i r t o D e n i s D u v a l , a r e d i s p l a y e d . However, t h e w a g g i s h t o n e o f many o f t h e a s i d e s seems more c a l c u l a t e d t o e x c u s e t h e c r u d i t y o f t h e main s t o r y t h a n t o enhance r e a d e r i n v o l v e m e n t and t o p l a y w i t h s e c o n d a r y i l l u s i o n . Such p a s s a g e s a s t h i s , f o r i n s t a n c e , do h o t go v e r y f a r t o w a r d s s u g g e s t i n g a n e n c l o s i n g m e n t a l w o r l d o f t h e n a r r a t o r i n w h i c h h i s r e a d e r c a n t a k e a r e w a r d i n g p a r t : R i n g , d i n g , d i n g i t h e gloomy g r e e n c u r t a i n d r o p s , t h e d r a m a t i s  p e r s o r i a e a r e d u l y d i s p o s e d o f , t h e n i m b l e c a n d l e - s n u f f e r s p u t o ut t h e l i g h t s , and t h e a u d i e n c e g o e t h p o n d e r i n g home. I f t h e c r i t i c take; t h e p a i n s t o a s k why t h e a u t h o r , who h a t h b e e n so d i f f u s e i n d e s c r i b i n g t h e e a r l y and f a b u l o u s a c t s o f M r s . C a t h e r i n e ' s e x i s t e n c e , s h o u l d so h u r r y o f f t h e 79 catastrophe where a deal of the very finest writing might have "been employed, Solomons replies that the "ordinary" narrative i s far more emphatic than any composition of his own could he, with a l l the rhetorical graces which he might employ. (XXIX, 234) The apology for writing an "immoral" and dull tale goes on for ssveral more pages, with Ikey's usual excuse that he i s writing about real criminals who are r e a l l y worthless and not deserving of our sympathy. The irony at Ikey's expense becomes a l i t t l e superfluous* His mind i s wayward and contradictory, but i t does not have the r i c h l y ambivalent fascination of the l a t e r narrators* minds. The narrators from Vanity Fair onward, l i k e Ikey Solomons, make elaborate use of parody. Ikey, however, continually emphasizes his own d i s b e l i e f i n the momentary i l l u s i o n which the parody creates. Like the l a t e r narrators, he shows us a mask, but says, i n e f f e c t , not only "this i s not I," but "this never was and never could be I." He does not suggest, as the l a t e r narrators do, an i n f i n i t e range of inner r e a l i t y . Ikey delights i n the incongruous figure of Count Maximillian Galgenstein, the a r i s t o c r a t i c seducer of Catherine Hayes who ends i n a madhouse l i s t e n i n g to the wailing of the tortured and the clanking of chains: The splendid Count came up. Ye gods, how his embroidery "glittered i n the. lampsi What a royal exhalation of musk and bergamot came from his wig, his hand&rchief, and his grand lace r u f f l e s and f r i l l s ! A broad yellow riband passed across his breast, and ended at his hip i n a shining diamond cross. . . . As Jove came down to Semele in state, i n his habits of ceremony, with a l l the grand cordons of his orders blazing about his imperial person—thus dazzling, magnificent, triumphant, the great Galgenstein descended towards Mrs.-Catherine. Her cheeks glowed red hot under her coy velvet mask, her heart thumped against the whalebone prison of her stays. . . . What 80 a rush of long-pent recollections hurst forth at the sound of that enchanting voice! As you wind up a hundred-guinea chronometer with a two-penny watch-key—as by means of a d i r t y wooden plug you set a l l the waters of Ver s a i l l e s a-raging, and splashing, and storming—in l i k e manner and by l i k e humble agents, were Mrs. Catherine's tumultuous passions set going. (XXIX, 182-183) We are here i n the region of low burlesque—the form i s distorted and tortured, but we do not feel the restraint and sympathy that the l a t e r narrators show us where we f i n d a strange and enchanting r e a l i t y within the warped i l l u s i o n . With Thackeray's narrators from Vanity Fair to Denis Duval, we sense an a b i l i t y to l i v e i n two worlds at once. The semi-satiric passages partake of the quality of the object, state, attitude or i l l u s i o n that i s being ostensibly r i d i c u l e d . Like Chaucer's and Lucian's satire they caress their object, they are, i n the words of David Worcester on those two writers, "exquisite pieces of lapidary a r t . They show us . . . grotesquerie sublimed into loveliness. Chinese painting often possessed the same quality."^ As we saw i n the preceding chapter, the narrators of The Virginians and Pendennis. mingle sympathy with r i d i c u l e i n their exposure of the ardent lovers of worldly maidens. Pendennis and Harry Warrington are b l i n d l y romantic i n their infatuations with their unsuitable partners, and they come to be aware of their own blindness. The narrators, however, turn to their readers and invite them to i d e n t i f y with that passion, which.in the cold l i g h t of day ; appears as f o l l y . The l a t e r narrators The Art of Satire (New York: Russell and Russell, I960)-, p. 65. 81 f o r c e the reader through the experience of t h i s " f o l l y " and do not permit escape by l a u g h t e r . The whalebone stays, i n Catherine, are as incongruous i n a l o v e scene as Maria's f a l s e t e e t h are, i n The  V i r g i n i a n s , but i n the f i r s t i nstance the d e t a i l i s an e s s e n t i a l p a r t of the r i d i c u l e of sentimental f a s h i o n a b l e f i c t i o n , whereas the l a t t e r d e t a i l comes to the reader a f t e r the scenes of i d y l l i c p a s s i o n have done t h e i r work. Furthermore, the l a t e r novel presents the d e t a i l through the e f f e c t t h a t i t makes on H a r r y — t h e r e i s something r i d i c u l o u s i n h i s obsession with a " f a c t " that he has r e c e i v e d through the m a l i c i o u s gossip of Madame B e r n s t e i n . In Ikey Solomons* burlesque scene, the reader's r e a c t i o n i s uncomplicated by doubt and the s h i f t s of f e e l i n g between the poles of a d o r a t i o n and r e p u l s i o n ; we are i n v i t e d to s c o f f not to p i t y . Maria and the Fotheringay, u n l i k e Catherine and Nora Brady, are f l o a t i n g f i g u r e s w i t h i n the n a r r a t o r ' s consciousness, and can be used as touchstones of romance or of r e a l i t y a c c o r d i n g to the s t o r y - t e l l e r ' s mood. They are never p u r e l y e l u c i d a t i v e ; n e i t h e r are they dummies through which the n a r r a t o r can acquire s e l f - g l o r i f i c a t i o n . Since the i r o n y of the l a t e r narrator' i s not o n l y d i r e c t e d at the subject of the s t o r y , but a l s o at h i m s e l f , the reader i s never i n the comfortable p o s i t i o n of watching a pretender u n w i t t i n g l y d i s p l a y the d i s g u i s e s . The n a r r a t o r of "The F a t a l Boots," i n c o n t r a s t , makes a b i d f o r the reader's sympathy and esteem by adopting the r o l e of p e n n i l e s s persecuted orphan and cheated gentleman by t u r n s . He i s wholly unaware of the i n c o n g r u i t y i n v o l v e d i n h i s a l t e r n a t e whining and bragging, and i s so unaware of the r e a l s i g n i f i c a n c e of h i s s t o r y 82 i n revealing the human need for s e l f - j u s t i f i c a t i o n , that he cannot see why his l y i n g , cheating, bullying and cringing should have any moral significance. He i s baffled by the l i t e r a r y man who s e l l s the story of his adventures to the booksellers: I'm blest i f J. can see anything moral i n them. I'm sure I ought to have been more lucky through l i f e , being so very wide awake. And yet here I am, without a place, or even a friend, starving upon a beggarly twenty pounds a year. (XXII, 545) Bob Stubbs, a l i a s Boots, a l i a s Lord Cornwall i s has much i n common with Barry Lyndon i n that he sees greed, wickedness, and corruption i n the world but not i n himself. While the l a t e r narrators relate the vanity and hypocrisy of the world to themselves, the e a r l i e r narrators make an a r t i f i c i a l d i v i s i o n between an innocent s e l f and a corrupt world. The reader of the l a t e r works i s thus put i n the position of having no pharmakos, or scapegoat, onto whom he can project his own g u i l t . He finds within himself—what the narrator admits i n himself—alazon, eiron, and pharmakos. Like Ikey Solomons, Mr. Snob begins his series of papers with an ostensibly moral purpose, but he shows some rea l i z a t i o n that he i s also involved i n the object lesson he sets before his reader. His avowed purpose i s to show that "Society having ordained certain customs, men are bound to obey the law of society, and conform to i t s harmless orders" (XXII, 11). Snob i s p l a i n l y a sycophant, as his paper on l i t e r a r y snobs reiterates, but he i s also aware of himself as a possible target of c r i t i c i s m . He does not shy away from s e l f -83 q u e s t i o n i n g , although he provides h i s own s e l f - f l a t t e r i n g answers. Punch s t a r e s i n the m i r r o r i n the i n i t i a l i l l u s t r a t i o n to the paper on l i t e r a r y snobs, and draws a f l a t t e r i n g l i k e n e s s of h i m s e l f , and Mr. Snob f o l l o w s h i s e d i t o r ' s l e a d throughout, but the q u e s t i o n from h i s h y p o t h e t i c a l reader does a r i s e : W i l l that t r u c u l e n t and unsparing monster who a t t a c k s the n o b i l i t y , the c l e r g y , the army, and the l a d i e s , i n d i s c r i m i n -a t e l y , h e s i t a t e when the t u r n comes to "egorger h i s own f l e s h and blood? (XXII, 90) I n common with Thackeray's l a t e r n a r r a t o r s , Mr. Snob shows an awareness of the need to mask h i s envy and m a l i c e . Snob presents h i s reader with an ingenious whitewash of l i t e r a r y v u l g a r i t y , envy, and pretence, but h i s defence, although i t diminishes the squalor of Grub! S t r e e t , shows an awareness of other views. H i s f l a t t e r y of Mr. Punch, moreover, i s f a r from gross toadyism: Suppose, f o r i n s t a n c e , I good-naturedly p o i n t out a blemish i n my f r i e n d Mr. Punch 1s person, and say, Mr. P. has a hump-back, and h i s nose and c h i n are more crooked than those f e a t u r e s i n the A p o l l o or Antinous, which we are accustomed to consider as our standards of beauty; does t h i s argue malice on my p a r t towards Mr. Punch? Not i n the l e a s t . (XXII, 91) Snob gives us q u e s t i o n and answer i t i s t r u e , and h i s b r u t a l smear leaves him with c l e a n hands i n h i s own view, but here, as throughout The Book of Snobs, under the v a r n i s h of c e r t a i n t y l u r k s the suggestion of doubt. Mr. Snob i s , perhaps, Thackeray's f i r s t d e p i c t i o n of the s e l f -doubting n a r r a t o r who. i s to become c e n t r a l to h i s mature n o v e l s . He 8 4 sees his targets as p l a i n l y as C. J . Yellowplush sees, for instance, the pretence of Bulwer to serve the public morally, but he i s less sure of. his own immunity to vanity, snobbery, and parasitism. Yellowplush, of course, does have these vices that he exposes i n others, but his keenly sardonic eye i s rarely, i f ever, turned upon himself. We get the rare aside from him, as, for example, that his master, the scheming Deuceace, who had contrived to win a fortune by marriage to either Lady G r i f f i n or her daughter, "was sure of- one? as sure as any mortal man can be i n this sublimary spear, where nothink i s suttin except unsertnty," but he l i v e s i n a predictable world generally and i s r e l a t i v e l y untroubled by i r r e s o l u t i o n (XIX, 2 4 4 ) . Snob, on the other hand, knows that "Man i s a Drama—of Wonder and Passion, and Mystery and Meanness, and Beauty and Truthfulness" (XXII, 2 2 4 ) . Though he stops himself i n the middle of such a passage of fine writing, and turns on himself his own c r i t i c a l eye, saying " l e t us stop this capital style, I should die i f I kept i t up for a column," Snob i s aware of an impenetrable inner l i f e i n h i s club—mates, as he scrutinizes the enigmatical Pawney: I see . .•. old Pawney stealing round the rooms of the Club, with glassy, meaningless eyes, and an endless greasy simper-he- fawns on everybody he meets, and shakes hands with-you, and blesses you, and betrays the most tender and astonishing interest i n your welfare. You know him to be a quack and a rogue, and he knows you know i t . But" he wriggles on his way, and leaves a track of slimy'flattery after him wherever he goes. Who can penetrate that man's mystery? What earthly good can he get from you or me? You don't know what i s working under the leering tranquil mask, You have only the dim inst i n c t i v e repulsion that warns you, you are i n the presence of a knave—beyond which fact a l l Pawney*s soul i s a secret to you. (XXII, 2 2 5 ) 85 In a recent study of the n a r r a t o r ' s character as the clue to the ambivalence of V a n i t y F a i r , Bernard J . P a r i s uses the p s y c h o l o g i c a l s t u d i e s of Karen Horney to diagnose what he c o n s i d e r s t o be Thackeray's n e u r o s i s . P a r i s maintains that "the implied author . . . i s not i n 5 harmony wit h h i m s e l f because he i s t r o u b l e d by n e u r o t i c c o n f l i c t s . " Although the post -1847 n a r r a t o r s Thackeray uses are c l o s e r to what might, f o r want of a b e t t e r phrase, be c a l l e d h i s "moral norms," we have to remember that Thackeray i s not and cannot be h i s n a r r a t o r . A confused n a r r a t o r does not n e c e s s a r i l y imply a confused Thackeray, any more than a confused T r i s t r a m means a confused Sterne. When P a r i s concludes that "the r e a l t r o u b l e with the n a r r a t i v e technique of much V i c t o r i a n f i c t i o n . . . i s that the author as i n t e r p r e t e r u s u a l l y does not know what he i s t a l k i n g about," he shows h i s impatience with the i r r a t i o n a l and u n p r e d i c t a b l e . L i k e the anomalous works of Erasmus, Burton and Browne, Thackeray's novels t h r i v e on the c o n f l i c t s of c a r e f u l l y juxtaposed t r u t h s . Thackeray's f a i l u r e to i n t e r p r e t h i s s t o r y or to present h i s theme co h e r e n t l y i s not due to n e u r o t i c c o n f l i c t s or f a u l t y technique, but i s a d e l i b e r a t e device which allows him to r e v e a l h i s v i s i o n of l i f e ' s precariousness and i n s t a b i l i t y . Thackeray's n a r r a t o r s develop from the u n r e l i a b l e and c o n s i s t e n t to the r e l i a b l e and i n c o n s i s t e n t . The n a r r a t o r of the mature novels embraces the n a i v e t y of Barry Lyndon and the s o p h i s t i c a t i o n of Ikey Solomons, the romanticism of F i t z b o o d l e and the wide-awake v a l e t i s m of Yellowplush. He can no longer t e l l a p l a i n unvarnished t a l e about ^"The Psychic S t r u c t u r e of V a n i t y F a i r , " VS, 10(1967), 390. 6 I b i d . , p. 410. 86 rogues and dupes because he sees himself as an amalgam of such ea s i l y i d e n t i f i a b l e figures; he i s Deuceace, Brough, the Earl of Crabs, Mr. Pigeon and Sam Titmarsh as occasion demands, but he goes beyond their immediate social scene to f i n d within himself the truths of history, legend, and romance. Amelia and Becky, Laura and Blanche, Rachel and Beatrix are projections of dove and serpent that the mature narrator discovers i n himself. He sees them as heroines, fools, or v i l l a i n e s s e s according to his domination by the domestic, mundane, or c h i v a l r i c mood. Pendennis i s saved from bad marriages as much by the worldly Major as by the unworldly Helen. Mrs. Pendennis would continue to spoil her son by lavishing on him an ever-increasing approval i f i t were not for the checks of the Major. Helen, the narrator reminds us, i s always s a c r i f i c i n g herself with just a l i t t l e too much insistence, for Arthur's good, and her suspicions of Pendennis' relationship with Fanny Bolton suggest the angel i s not above jealousy and malice when her own preserves are threatened. In the story he t e l l s us, the narrator offers us only his own visions of saints and heroes which are based on a complex blend of the worldly and prudential with the ephemeral and romantic. So even George Warrington, the honourable, good and generous alter-ego of Pendennis, i s as tainted with s e l f -interest as Helen: For ours, as the reader has possibly already discovered, i s a Se l f i s h Story, and almost every person, according to his nature, more or less generous than George, and according to the way of the world as i t seems to us, i s occupied about Number One. So Warrington s e l f i s h l y devoted himself to 87 Helen, who s e l f i s h l y devoted herself to Pen, who s e l f i s h l y devoted himself to himself. (VI, 77) The narrator here sees his story as a moral tale hut this moment of disenchantment i s not a f i n a l assessment, and his i r o n i c a l v i s i o n does not permit him to take one side exclusively and to deride the other. Just as the narrator's i d o l a t r y of Helen leads to a recognition that the q u a l i t i e s he finds i n her are largely projections of fancy, so his indulgence i n the vicarious experience of youthful passion has i t s obverse side. Before he punctures his own i l l u s i o n , the narrator sees Emily Costigan i n the prime and fulness of her beauty as follows: Her forhead was vast, and her black hair waved over i t with a natural r i p p l e , and was confined i n shining and voluminous braids at the back of a neck such as you see on the shoulders of the Louvre Venus—that delight of gods and men. Her syes, when she l i f t e d them up to gaze on you, and ere she dropped the i r purple deep-fringed l i d s , shone with tenderness and mystery unfathomable. Love and Genius seemed to look out from them and then r e t i r e coyly. . . . She never laughed (indeed her teeth were not good), but a smile of endless tenderness and sweetness played round her beautiful l i p s , and i n the dimples of her cheeks and her lovely chin. **er nose defied description i n those days. Her ears were l i k e two l i t t l e pearl s h e l l s . (IV, 58) We are again i n the realm of burlesque, but the passage, unlike Ikey Solomons' on Catherine as romance heroine, barely touches on bathos. The large feet and imperfect teeth hardly disturb the narrator's soar-ing vein once the f i t i s on him; there are no whalebone stays to shatter the fa n c i f u l picture. However unworthy the subject.may be, and however t r i t e the phraseology he employs, the narrator cannot, 88 and does not wish to, discredit his own feelings. The use of the theatrical setting i n Pendennis* romance with the Fotheringay prefigures a similar use of the unreal and deliberately pompous and melodramatic setting of George Warrington's play i n The Virginians. Tears are aroused i n the sentimental Theodosia there, as they are i n Bows i n Pendennis. The narrator partakes of the passions before he discredits them, before he lays aside the mask. In the novels after 1847, Thackeray's burlesque pertains more to irony than invective-satire. The targets are used not as a means of s e l f - g l o r i f i c a t i o n on the r ^ r r a t o r ' . s part--but as a means of exploration through i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . The " r e a l " Fotheringay, Helen Pendennis or Blanche Amory, i s l e s s important than the visions which they excite i n the observer 1s mind. AB John Loafbourow says of Esmond, and his observation can be applied equally to the l a t e r novels, "expressive metaphors no longer depend on parodic textures; they can evoke universal perceptions, aspects of human experience so fundamental 7 that they cannot be discounted as unreal." The narrator makes this e x p l i c i t after "The Stranger" has played before an e l e c t r i f i e d audience: Nobody ever talked so. I f we meet id i o t s i n l i f e , as w i l l happen, i t i s a great mercy that they do not use such absurdly fine words. The Stranger's t a l k i s sham, l i k e the book he reads, and the hair he wears, and the bank he s i t s on, and the diamond r i n g he makes play with—but, i n the midst of the balderdash, there runs that r e a l i t y of love, children, and forgiveness of wrong, which w i l l be listened to wherever i t i s preached, and sets a l l the world sympathising. (IV, 59) Thackeray and the Form of F i c t i o n (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1964), p. 168. 89 We can thus conclude that Thackeray's l a t e r narrators have a greater power to become what they burlesque than the more clea r l y defined early narrators. The narrators of Vanity Fair and Pendennis partake of the moods of fashionable writing, mock-heroic, and pastoral myth, at the same time that they mock them. Similarly, the conventions of the theatre are exposed as sham, yet commended for th e i r a b i l i t y to express human fe e l i n g . The narrators have moved a long way from the social unmaskers, Fitzboodle and Yellowplush, who knew what was real and what was sham, and the rather naive role-players, Barry Lyndon and Ikey Solomons,who were easy targets for reader irony. The mature novels have a much more erudite and responsive narrator who has no position to maintain, apart from t e l l i n g a loosely structured moral story. The narrator here t r i e s to probe behind s u p e r f i c i a l facts to discover the truer facts of f e e l i n g . The facts needed for narrative frequently elude the narrator's grasp, and although narrative art i s the art of story t e l l i n g , yet "the more l i t e r a t e and sensitive a man i s , the more he feels creative pressures which drive him to seek beauty 8 or truth>at the expense of fact." The l a t e r narrators f i n d that truths can only be revealed 9 through the deliberate acceptance of the shams of Art.-' Thackeray's ^Robert Scholes and Robert Kellogg, The Nature of Narrative (New York:- Oxford Univ. Press, I966)., p. 258. 9 In a l e t t e r to David Masson complaining of Dickens' use of caricature, Thackeray maintains "that the Art of Novels i s to represent Nature: to convey as strongly as possible the sentiment of r e a l i t y — i n a tragedy or/poem or a l o f t y drama you aim at producing different emotions; the figures moving, and th e i r words sounding, heroically; but i n a drawing-room drama a coat i s a coat and a poker a poker; and must be nothing else according to my ethics, not an narrators, i n the post-1847 novels, apparently know better than the writer of the Pendennis preface that a "MAN",- such as Tom Jones, i s no more than a convenient f i c t i o n . When Batchelor, i n Lovel the  Widower, keeps Miss Prior waiting while he prepares his reader to meet her, or when the narrator of Pendennis begins Chapter VIII, "Once upon a time, then, there was a ;young gentleman of Cambridge University," the f i c t i o n a l nature of our narrative i s impressed upon us. The l a t e r narrators want their readers to be aware that they are i n the land of make-believe and to enjoy not only the story but the ingenuity of the s t o r y - t e l l e r . They impress upon the i r readers tha$ "almost every story we read demands that we accept as fact something that we know to be nonsense: that good people always win, especially i n love; that murders are . . . solved by l o g i c . " These conventions, that Frye c a l l s "the maddened ethics of fairyland," which have l i t t l e or no connection with "the normal behaviour of adult people,"'^ are not only accepted, but delighted i n , by Thackeray's l a t e r narrators. Whereas the e a r l i e r Thackerayan narrator i s frequently con-temptuous of the spectator's need for dramatic pabulum, the l a t e r narrator g l e e f u l l y exploits this human need. Saintsbury points out Thackeray's unsparing mockery of theatrical sham i n Flore et Zephyr and other early work,"*'''" and The Paris Sketch Book of Mr. M.A. Titmarsh embroidered tunic, nor a great red-hot instrument l i k e the Pantomime weapon."—Letters, I I , 772-773. This opinion, of course, i s constantly belied by Thackeray's blending of stage and novel conventions. 1 0Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination (Toronto: CBC Publications, 1963), p. 35. 1 1 A Consideration of Thackeray (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 91 exposes French drama and melodrama with a c a v a l i e r d i s d a i n f o r the hallowed conventions of the stage and the needs of the audience: A f t e r having seen most of the grand dramas which have been produced at P a r i s f o r the l a s t half-dozen years, and t h i n k i n g over a l l that one has s e e n , — t h e f i c t i t i o u s murders, rapes, a d u l t e r i e s , and other crimes, by which one has been i n t e r e s t e d and e x c i t e d , — a man may take leave to be h e a r t i l y ashamed of the manner i n which he has spent h i s time; and of the hideous k i n d of mental i n t o x i c a t i o n i n which he has permitted h i m s e l f to i n d u l g e . Titmarsh f i n d s "such t r a g e d i e s are not as good as a r e a l , downright execution," yet "the h o r r o r s of the p l a y act as a piquant sauce to the supper" (XVII, 369). For him r e a l i t y i s found only i n the s o l i d molecular u n i v e r s e , and the p l a y i s a p e t t y and unimportant concern. While Thackeray the man enjoyed the absurd and exaggerated aspects of the stage, and Thackeray the w r i t e r d e l i g h t e d to expose them to r i d i c u l e at considerable l e n g t h , h i s n a r r a t o r , Titmarsh, 12 stands a l o o f from the c a r n i v a l . Titmarsh pokes fun at the lower c l a s s e s ' r e c e p t i o n of the Boulevard dramatists where "you see v e r y f a t o l d men c r y i n g l i k e babies; and, l i k e babies, sucking enormous s t i c k s of b a r l e y - s u g a r . A c t o r s and audience enter warmly i n t o the i l l u s i o n of the p i e c e " (XVTI, 383). Titmarsh i s pleased not to be part of the sensation-hungry c h i l d - l i k e audience, f o r he cannot, and i s u n w i l l i n g to, share i n i l l u s i o n , f e e l i n g t h a t he has h i s own 1931), p. 21. 12 Cf. the account LhyMajor Frank Dwyer of Thackeray's comic t u r n i l l u s t r a t i n g the absurd aspects of French t h e a t r e . Thackeray impersonates the p r o t a g o n i s t of "some drama or opera . . . who comes on/stage with a p i r o u e t t e , and waving h i s hand i n a m a j e s t i c manner to a chorus, r e p r e s e n t i n g Jews i n e x i l e at Babylon, says 'Chantez nous une chanson de Jerusalem^ "• L e t t e r s , I I , 67n, 92 superior r e a l i t y . The l a t e r narrators, by contrast, manage to project their feelings onto even the most tawdry stage trappings, as we have seen in Pendennis, and even while r e a l i z i n g the trumpery nature of the "props" or the a r t i f i c i a l i t y and arbitrariness of their own story-t e l l i n g convention, they are able to involve themselves i n a f i c t i o n a l and counterfeit world. The introspective nature of the l a t e r narrators and the apparently elusive hold which they retain on their ostensible subject, frequently leaves the reader f e e l i n g he i s dealing with an impostor. The narrator begins to partake of the colour of whatever mood takes his fancy, and to point disconcertingly to h i s avowed subject with some disdain as an "old" story about which we need not trouble ourselves overmuch. As a s t o r y - t e l l e r he becomes something of a f a i l u r e i n the manner of Tristram. "The s t o r y - t e l l e r i s often faced with the choice of being either a bore or a charlatan. The great st o r y - t e l l e r s inevitably choose the l a t t e r . " ^ 3 Once the narrator has indulged ,or "thrown o f f " the l y r i c a l passages, he shows the same, disdain towards ; 'them as to the story i t s e l f . The narrator sprinkles his story not only with apologies for the story, but with, gestures of self-renunciation, metaphorical shruggings of the shoulders and grimaces to his reader that suggest not only the impossibility of t e l l i n g a coherent story, but the f u t i l i t y even of attempting communication. Part of the elusive charm of the narrator i s due to the fact that we can never be sure of him; neither i s he sure whether he i s the part he plays even 1 3The Nature of Narrative, p. 258. 93 after he has played i t . The l a t e r narrators seek to contain contradictions by avoiding commitment to any one point of view, and to give themselves a th i r d dimension by becoming ir o n i c watchers of their changing selves. Whereas Barry Lyndon sees himself as a hero i n Frederick of Prussia's army yet also confesses to the baseness i n the looting, murder and pillage of c i v i l i a n homes, Esmond, i n maturity, sees his.heroic and c h i v a l r i c past as a part played with conviction at the time, but not involving his whole nature. Esmond sees the reverse side of Addison's celebration of B r i t i s h v i c t o r i e s ; he knows that mean motives and base acts l i e behind the triumphs bruited i n heroic couplets. Yet, when the f i t i s on, Esmond can s t i l l give himself up to a glamorous vi s i o n of the mercenary Beatrix. She inspired him to f e e l heroically and to perform what seemed great deeds, and he enjoys r e c a l l i n g and entering into the visions of past glories which are made part of his present r e a l i t y . Joseph E. Baker notices that both Thackeray and St. Augustine "recognize the r e a l i t y of delight even when i t i s ephemeral, or i n f e r i o r , " and that Thackeray "contemplates l i f e with something of that poetic f e e l i n g which makes Platonism so charming, that love for the beauties i t recognizes to be t r a n s i t o r y . " ^ Barry Lyndon, Ikey Solomons, Yellowplush, Gahagan, and Titmarsh are too concerned with appearing as integrated personalities to be able to mirror the nuances of the changing s e l f . They offer us engaging 1 4 " V a n i t y Fair and the Ce l e s t i a l City," NCF, 1 0 ( 1 9 5 5 ) , 9 5 . incongruities and a series of biases, based upon an almost total lack of introspection. By standing back from the society they seek to r e f l e c t , the early narrators give a sharply s a t i r i c a l picture. The l a t e r narrators, however, enter into t h i s society of Vanity Pair and see themselves reflected through others. They no longer laugh with the certainty of superiority and they experience some pain through this process of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . A.R. Thompson says that to perceive irony one must be detached, but "to f e e l i t one must be pained for a person or ideal gone amiss. . . . Someone or something we cherish i s c r u e l l y made 15 game of; we see the joke but are hurt by i t . " ' Barry Lyndon sees no irony, Ikey Solomons sees i t but does not f e e l i t , but Esmond both sees and feels irony. The knowledge that one i s both l a t e n t l y the same and yet patently different from the world outside oneself leads to doubts about the s t a b i l i t y of one's own personality. One becomes nothing but a series of parts of "characters." But i f this i r o n i c a l awareness i s painful, i t can also be l i b e r a t i n g , for one i s then free to take on whatever role the mood of the moment suggests. The e a r l i e r narrators who t e l l " s t o r i e s " — r a t h e r than giving "sketches" or "papers" on contemporary l i f e — h a v e a more or less fixed part to play. Barry Lyndon i s an Irishman, Ikey Solomons a Jew, Yellowplush i s a footman and even Titmarsh, i n The Great Hoggarty  Diamond, plays the role of an ingenu at the mercy of the rapacious world. Mr. Snob has more f l e x i b i l i t y , since "snob" becomes a v i r t u a l 15 ^The Dry Mock: A Study of Irony i n Drama (Berkeley; Univ. of Ca l i f o r n i a Press, 19487, p. 15. synonym for "pretender," but he has no narrative thread and no opportun-i t y to i d e n t i f y with familiar puppets. The l a t e r narrators make use of a story which i s b a s i c a l l y an "old" story and i s ostensibly not their own, but the story of a "scapegrace," whose adventures i n the world consist of r e s i s t i n g the lures of ogling females and the lures of g l i t t e r i n g gold. Upon this simple theme the l a t e r narrators work their own strange and enchanting medley. The reader i s taken into the world of theatre, of f a i r y - t a l e , of exotic legend, of c l a s s i c a l myth and fable, and into the uncomfortable world of speculation and perplex-i t y which occupies the forefront of the narrator's mind. The narrator of the mature novels i s so complex and ephemeral i n h i s moods that i t i s impossible to do much more than suggest the flavour of his qui c k s i l v e r - l i k e presence. This d i f f i c u l t y of defin-i t i o n i s experienced by Laurence Brander who finds that the narrator of the Pendennis series i s a charming Victorian gentleman of moderate means, happily married and almost uxorious, with h i s whole l i f e based on his family and his writing. He i s Thackeray himself, plus what Thackeray would have l i k e d for himself. To some of us i n . g London today, he might be the image of one of our friends. Almost any fixed description can be contradicted, for the narrator i s more l i k e a sensitive ear that picks up suggestions of rhythms of his story, and beats them out as i f they were heart beats heard through a stethoscope. The normal rhythms of l i f e become distorted and exaggerated, and beneath the urbanity that Brander finds, the narrator Thackeray (London: Longmans, Green, 1959), P» 29. 96 reveals an i n f i n i t e variety and a vast range of imaginative potential. He partakes of the respectable worldly middle-class values only super-f i c i a l l y , for beneath his suave exterior i s revealed a figure who i s at once erudite, grotesque, impish and c h i l d - l i k e i n h i s response to love and danger. Apart from Sterne, i t i s perhaps i n Rabelais that the mature narrator finds his nearest counterpart, John Cowper Powys maintains that "what Rabelais has the power of communicating to us i s the renewal of that physiological energy which alone makes i t possible to 17 enjoy this monstrous world," Though Pendennis, the Manager, Esmond, and the rest, lack the essential vulgarity of Rabelais, they are, l i k e him, b r i l l a n t and sly improvisors who treat their imitations with both love and contempt, Esmond, i t i s true, i s more melancholy and restrained than the typical narrator, yet even he gives a sense of abounding concern for discovering the ideal i n unlikely places, "Rabelais' entire e f f o r t i s directed toward playing with things and with the m u l t i p l i c i t y of their possible aspects; upon tempting the reader out of his customary and definite way of regarding things, 18 by showing him phenomena i n utter confusion." The element of gleeful exaggeration, which has such a l i b e r a t i n g effect on the reader, i s often paralleled by an almost cruel act by the protagonist. 17 'Cited by Jacques Le Clercq i n The Complete Works of Rabelais, trans. Jacques Le Clercq (New York: Random House, 1944)j P» x x v i i . 18 Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality i n Western Literature, trans. Willard Trask (New York: Doubleday, I957), p. 242. This, too, has the effect of appealing to the reader's destructive or demonic urge. He see that Pantagruel, chasing the town b u l l i e s who eject a student with cause, "would have drowned them, had they not burrowed into the earth l i k e moles and l a i n i n hiding a good two 19 miles under the r i v e r . " y P h i l i p Pirmin acts as just such a scourge of the mendacious p o l i t i c i a n Woolcomb, when at Ph i l i p ' s instigation, Yellow Jack and his donkey cart make a travesty of Woolcomb's campaign Exuberance and cruelty j u s t i f y themselves i n t h i s passage; Plying their whips, the post boys galloped towards Yellow Jack and his vehicle. . . . Just as Yellow Jack wheeled nimbly round one side of the Ringwood statue, Wool comb's horses were a l l huddled together and plunging i n confusion beside i t , the forewheel came i n abrupt c o l l i s i o n with the stonework of the statue r a i l i n g : and then we saw the vehicle turn over altogether, one of the wheelers down with i t s r i d e r , and the leaders kicking, plunging, lashing out right and l e f t , wild and maddened with fear. . . . This accident, t h i s c o l l i s i o n , this injury, perhaps death of Woolcomb and his lawyer, arose out of our fine joke about the Man and the Brother. (XVI, 474-475) For the mature narrator i n Thackeray's work a beautiful l i e has more value than any reported or purely "objective" truth. Just as Chaucer i r o n i c a l l y states that he w i l l swear his narrative i s as true as the story of Sir Launcelot, so Thackeray, again l i k e Rabelais, through h i s insidious narrator craves reader indulgence for his preposterous story. He offers to join his reader i n hurling scorn on stories containing the happy ending of the c i r c u l a t i n g l i b r a r y novel, while at the same time presenting him with just such a novel. Rabelai declares that " i t has never occurred to me to l i e or to make false The Complete Works of Rabelais, p. l80. 98 representation. I speak l i k e St. John i n the Apocalypse Quod vidimus 20 testamur, we relate what we have seen." We are here blatantly asked to believe that the creator of Gargantua never says the thing which i s not. Mr. Roundabout does not ask us to give credence to absurdities, so much as he maintains that we cannot l i v e without them, for a l i e once set going, having the breath of l i f e breathed into i t by the father of l y i n g , and ordered to run i t s diabolical l i t t l e course, l i v e s with a prodigious v i t a l i t y . You say, "Magna est Veritas et praevalebit." PshaJ Great l i e s are as great as great truths, and prevail constantly, and day after day. (XXVII, 156) Thus, the l a t e r narrator of Thackeray's novels agrees with the narrator of Middlemarch that "signs are small measurable things but inter-21 pretations are i l l i m i t a b l e , " and i t i s with the interpretations that he i s fascinated. Gossip and scandal, t y p i f i e d i n the figure of Tom 22 Eaves, form the mainstay of the mature novels, and Mr. Roundabout i s i r o n i c a l towards worthy Mrs. Candour on their supposed pact to be s t r i c t l y accurate and t r u t h - t e l l i n g about their neighbours: We w i l l range the f i e l d s of science, dear madam, and communicate to each other the pleasing results of our studies. We w i l l , i f you please, examine the infinitesimal wonders of nature through the microscope. . . . We w i l l take refuge i n cards, and play at "beggar my neighbour," not abuse my neighbour. (XXVII, 159) ? 0 Ibid., pp. 162-163. 21 Works of George E l i o t , Library ed. (London: Blackwood, 1901), VII, 16. 22 For an interesting assessment of Vanity Fair as a product of Thackeray's narrators develop from the acute social observer of the middle-class scene to the ubiquitous narrator of the post-1847 period. Although the s a t i r i s t i s never completely absent from the mature novels, the sting has gone from his s t r i c t u r e s . It can be said that after Vanity F a i r , Thackeray discovered h i s natural metier and real vocation as a novelist rather than a hack-journalist. He became sympathetically involved with his creations and his narrators learn that they cannot separate themselves a r b i t r a r i l y from the mean-ness, viciousness and f o l l y that they discover i n t h e i r external environment. Lionel Stevenson suggests prudential reasons for the decline of his s a t i r i c a l sketches: " I f he was to make a l i v i n g by his novels, he knew he had to humor the complacent i l l u s i o n s and 23 fetishes of his public." However true i t may be, this statement ignores the fact that the same t r a i t s of moral and social satire remain i n his work right up to the end, but, after about I847, a pervasive irony envelops the would-be s a t i r i s t and moralist. The narrator becomes more and more aware that he himself contains as many complacent i l l u s i o n s as he detects i n his fellows. This self-conscious stance makes him change at w i l l from shovel-hat to cap-and-bells, and see himself reflected i n the social scene. This awareness of the narrator of his own changing roles leads to a constantly changing point of view and a concomitant the narrator's conjecture see Ann Y. Wilkinson, "The Tomeavesian Way of Knowing the World: Technique and Meaning i n Vanity Fair," ELH, 32(1965), 370-387. 23 The Showman of "Vanity F a i r " : The L i f e of Will jam Makepeace  Thackeray (New York: Scribner's, 1947), p. 293. 100 increasing disruption of the novel's form. C r i t i c a l opinion i s s t i l l mainly hostile to the l a t e r and more digressive novels, which, i t i s true, do not offer the v i t a l i t y of character of Vanity Fair or even Pendennis. However, i n an age sensitive to irony, few c r i t i c s would support the verdict of G.U. E l l i s on Lovel the Widower that i t i s no novel. Without a knowledge of Thackeray's l i f e , i t i s p r a c t i c a l l y meaningless. There are at least three "stories" i n i t . . . and characters so jumbled together and yet so unrelated that without the clue of his own l i f e the book must seem some puzzling allegory. Lionel Stevenson's c r i t i c i s m of Ph i l i p ' s "lack of integrated structure . . . disguised by a tissue of discursive comment," i s merely an echo of James Oliphant's comment i n 1899 that "Thackeray's narrative power i s . . . constantly interrupted by his tendency to moral d i s q u i s i t i o n . " The same questions of the sham and the true occupy the narrators from the early to the l a t e r work, but the smooth, confident flow of the early columnist gives way to the unrestrained probing of the narrators of the chief novels. Thus, i n reviewing French fashionable novels i n I84O, Titmarsh says sedately, I have often thought that, i n respect of sham and real h i s t o r i e s , a similar fact may be noticed; the sham story appearing a great deal more agreeable, l i f e - l i k e , and 2^Thackeray (London: Duckworth, 1933), p. 133. 25 ' The Showman of."Vanity F a i r , " p. 371; Victorian Novelists (New York: A.M.S. Press, I899), p. 57. 101 natural than the true one; and a l l who, from laziness as well as pri n c i p l e , are inclined to follow the easy and comfortable study of novels, may console themselves with the notion that they are studying matters quite as important as history, and that their favourite duodecimos are as instructive as the biggest quartos i n the world. (XVII, 114) L i t t l e of the doubts, imprecations to the reader, exclamations and rhetorical questioning of the l a t e r narrators appears i n the style i t s e l f . The phrases are long and their rhythm i s confident and measured. Apart from the style, however, there i s something familiar and re-assuring i n the very nature of such eccentrics as Yellowplush, Lyndon and Fitzboodle, whereas the l a t e r narrators are unsettling and bizarre i n their bewildering protean aspects. The l a t e r Thackeray does not assume a s o l i d r e a l i t y beyond that which hi s narrator can see. As visio n becomes more v o l a t i l e , moreover, not only do character types begin to break down, but reader-interpretation becomes more d i f f i c u l t and more c r u c i a l . Solomons i s unsure about rogues and heroes, but, because he seeks to appear as consistent and unified i n his outlook, the irony i s directed against him. Pendennis, the Manager, Esmond, and the narrator of The Virginians, invite the reader into a world of multiple perspectives i n which the ultimate perspective of perspectives l i e s somewhere i n the shared experience of reader and narrator. How we fe e l about Becky Sharp or Beatrix, Lord Castlewood or Colonel Dobbin, depends to a large extent on our mood of the moment, whether we are under their spell or whether we have moved outside their sphere of influence. The narrator's own temporary position complicates the 102 reader's response, for often when the narrator sees Amelia as a heroine or Maria as an object of pity, the reader's response may be the opposite. He i s , at times, not only an unsure guide, but also an unreliable f i l t e r between Thackeray and the reader. When he declares that he would give a l l of Mr. Lee's conservatories for a kiss from Amelia, the narrator becomes his sentimental reader. But he can also become his cynical reader—the counterpart of Jones at the club who would write "twaddle" i n the margins of the tender passages of Vanity  F a i r . The real reader i s thus a marginal commentator on his elusive narrator, and he includes within himself both the sentimental and cynical reader. Irony thrives on such contradictions, and i n using the nimble sprite to t e l l his story, Thackeray draws his reader into a macabre game where the reader can see himself playing a variety of incongruous roles which, strangely enough, seem to be "him," yet are also nothing but frivolous i l l u s i o n . CHAPTER IV ILLUSION AS PROBE: NARRATOR-CHARACTER-READER RELATIONSHIPS "Stop, Don Quixote. Look and y o u ' l l see that those you are knocking over and k i l l i n g are not r e a l Moors, hut only l i t t l e pasteboard f i g u r e s I" — C e r v a n t e s , Don Quixote " I t was the mask engaged your mind, And a f t e r set your heart to beat, Not what's behind." —W. B. Yeats, "The Mask" Sometimes I wonder whether these pages r e c o r d the a c t i o n s of r e a l human beings; or whether t h i s i s not simply the s t o r y of a few inanimate o b j e c t s which p r e c i p i t a t e d drama around them. —Lawrence D u r r e l l , J u s t i n e Masks C r i t i c s of the novel i n general and of Thackeray's novels i n p a r t i c u l a r are r e l u c t a n t to accept the n o v e l i s t ' s d e l i b e r a t e emphasis on the a r t i f i c i a l i t y of a r t . The overt dehumanization of character, so t y p i c a l of the Thackerayan n a r r a t o r as he moves between two d i s -t i n c t f i c t i o n a l worlds, i s glossed over by many c r i t i c s of the n o v e l s . Thus G e o f f r e y T i l l o t s o n f e e l s i t necessary to make an elaborate apology f o r the c o n t i n u a l r e f e r e n c e s i n V a n i t y F a i r to the puppets which the Manager d i s p l a y s : I t was only because of h i s modesty tha t he c a l l e d them puppets. And even the word puppets may have c a r r i e d a more human connotation f o r him than f o r us, who t h i n k of puppets as small d o l l - l i k e t h i n g s . Puppets f o r Thackeray may have meant the pygmies we f i n d i n the drawings of the day. . . . The l a s t 103 104 sentence of V a n i t y F a i r may have been meant to set the show-man at a d i s t a n c e from men, i r o n i c a l l y s j e n as c h i l d r e n , r a t h e r than to stand him c l o s e to d o l l s . T h i s chapter maintains t h a t , on the contrary, Thackeray's n a r r a t o r means p r e c i s e l y what he says. The n a r r a t o r i n V a n i t y F a i r and the other s e r i a l i z e d novels d e l i b e r a t e l y and p r o v o c a t i v e l y draws h i s reader's a t t e n t i o n to the f a c t that he i s i n v o l v e d i n an imaginative experience, that a novel i s a r t and not l i f e , Thackeray i s not a f r a i d to d e s t r o y the primary i l l u s i o n momentarily, by having the Manager r e f e r to h i s puppets, i n order to c o n s t r u c t a f u r t h e r , more s p e c u l a t i v e and i n c o m p l e t e — a n d hence more l i f e - l i k e — i l l u s i o n . The secondary f i c t i o n a l world where n a r r a t o r and reader meet r e f l e c t s not o n l y the i r o n i e s of l i f e but the i r o n i e s of a r t . I t , thus, c o n t r a s t s with the f i c t i o n a l worlds of Ford, Conrad, or James. The worlds of Dowell, Marlow, or S t r e t h e r are p a r a l l e l e d by those of t h e i r readers who are prepared to accept Ashburnham, Lord Jim, or Chad ITewsome, as " r e a l men." These characters are the means by which t h e i r n a r r a t o r s explore t h e i r own consciousness, but the reader i s asked, and i s w i l l i n g , to accept them as " r e a l . " Pantagruel, Don Quixote and Becky Sharp, on the other hand, although they perform analogous f u n c t i o n s f o r t h e i r n a r r a t o r s , while they are " r e a l " i n one f i c t i o n a l world, must be seen as f i c t i o n s i n the secondary world. T h i s world i s n e i t h e r the world of the characters nor that of the a c t u a l world of e a t i n g , s l e e p i n g , w r i t i n g l e t t e r s and a t t e n d i n g ^"Thackeray the N o v e l i s t (Cambridge; Cambridge Univ. Press, 1954), pp. 116-117. 105 classes. I t i s a world half way between these which seems f u l l of p o s s i b i l i t i e s and fun. In this world the narrator sees himself as an exploiter of i l l u s i o n and the reader here, i f he i s w i l l i n g to play the game, w i l l put on many disguises. I t i s a less serious world than either the primary world or the actual world because both narrator and reader know that they are playing games. The narrator draws the reader's attention to himself as a reader of the novel and there i s a personal f e e l i n g of collusion and dialogue. The pleasure the reader gains from this quasi-personal contact with h i s s t o r y - t e l l e r i s comparable to that of a member of a theatre audience who goes into the dressing-room between the acts, or the c h i l d who after the puppet-show i n s i s t s on seeing and handling the no-longer-animated rags and sticks which captured h i s imagination during the show. The novelist who admits us into the dressing-room, so to speak, does not undermine his art, any more than the conjurer who shows how a t r i c k i s performed spoils the t r i c k . We know with one part of ourselves that he i s not r e a l l y sawing a woman i n half or smashing our watch with his hammer, but that he i s a deceiver and we are w i l l i n g l y deceived. Knowledge does not necessarily i n h i b i t b e l i e f which ought l o g i c a l l y to be undermined by an awareness of the f a c t s . Greig complains that Thackeray "indulged so often i n a kind of f i c t i o n a l ventriloquism." Thackeray merely i n s i s t s that f i c t i o n i s f i c t i o n and that h i s reader must be at least partly aware that he i s inside the realm of a r t . When Greig notices "how often he JThackerayj i s tempted to interpose between himself and h i s readers a supposed 106 n a r r a t o r — a sort of dummy on h i s knee, into whose mouth he can project 2 his own voice s l i g h t l y muffled," he i s merely accepting that t h i s i s a work of a r t . And art deals with dummies i n the form of painted heads, marhie "bodies, Elizabethan boys pretending to be women, poets pretending to be i n love with ravishing maidens, and novelists creating f i c t i t i o u s worlds out of words. To see the a r t i s t i n h i s studio, the boy rehears-ing his part out of costume, the novelist standing back and pointing to his novel does not destroy the work for us, but adds, rather, another dimension—the dimension of knowledge that we. are mysteriously involved with the world of symbols and their excellent dumb discourse. Thackeray's characters do not so much resemble f l e s h and blood people we might meet i n the world as the masks of the t r a v e l l i n g theatres of the early I t a l i a n theatre and i t s successors i n pantomim©s and vaudeville. Costigan and M. de Florae are successfully portrayed through t y p i c a l e c c e n t r i c i t i e s of speech and action associated with I r i s h Paddies and French noblemen. The figures of the commedia d e l l ' arte whose masks "were not po e t i c a l l y realized characters but pawns i n the plot . . . tended to assume a stereotyped habit and name, more significant, r e a l l y , than anything he might do." 3 A glance at the vast number of characters i n any of the novels shows that Thackeray, too, r e l i e s heavily on the use of the descriptive l a b e l . 2 Thackeray; A Reconsideration (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1950), p. 181. ^Winifred Smith, The Commedia D e l l ' Arte (Hew York: Benjamin Blom, 1964), p. 6. 107 When Becky Sharp, Lord Steyne, Lady Bareacres or S i r P i t t Crawley move through V a n i t y F a i r , or when Dr. Brand F i r m i n , Dr. Goodenough or Walsingham-Hely appear i n P h i l i p , the reader needs l i t t l e i n t r o d u c t i o n , and expects cunning, wickedness, decency, or t h e i r o pposites, a c c o r d i n g to the worn emblem. Such f i g u r e s as Blanche Amory or Ringwood Twysden represent more su b t l e v i c e s of h y p o c r i s y and s o p h i s t i c a t e d chicanery, but we know them as s u r e l y by t h e i r names as we know the e s s e n t i a l s about Dobbin and George Warrington by t h e i r s . N a t u r a l l y , since a novel i s never pure a l l e g o r y , dumb f i d e l i t y and k n i g h t l y v a l o u r are not the sole q u a l i t i e s of the l a t t e r . Nevertheless, Thackeray's n a r r a t o r s depend on the reader q u i c k l y i d e n t i f y i n g the dominant t r a i t s of t h e i r c h a r a c t e r s , i n order, subsequently, to d i s t u r b h i s equanimity. The t y p i c a l n a r r a t o r i s an i r o n i c observer who has much i n common with the Zanni of the commedia. His i s the watching b r i e f of the e i r o n who enjoys a l l o w i n g the other masks who are alazona to act out t h e i r more a c t i v e and p o s i t i v e r o l e s . I n the commedia, the "Zanni . . . o f t e n spoke the p r o l o g or e p i l o g to the comedy," and h i s speeches express t r a d i t i o n a l complaints, passions, serenades and sonnets of l o v e that belong to no one f i r m l y d e f i n e d c h a r a c t e r . "They merely express i n c o h e r e n t l y enough, sentiments and opinions appropriate to the c l e v e r e s t , the most plain-spoken, the most s a t i r i c a l and the most c y n i c a l of the I t a l i a n Masks, f o r whom the insensate r a p t u r e s of a l o v e r are only food f o r m i r t h . " Although Pendennis, the Manager, and the successive n a r r a t o r s of Thackeray's novels are as l i a b l e to i d e n t i f y with the mask as to d e l i g h t i n unmasking, t h i s d e s c r i p t i o n 108 of the Zanni's function has obvious p a r a l l e l s with the Thackerayan narrator: The Zanni . . . was a Mask, or rather an i n f i n i t e variety of Masks. Always of humble station, usually the servant or confidant of a principal character, sometimes a rascal, sometimes a dunce, oftenest a complex mixture of the two, almost always the chief plot-weaver,—his main function was to rouse laughter, to entertain at a l l c o s t s . . . . . « . . . . . . « • . . . . . rg.e imitated different voices and led on h i s impatient dupes )< to their own confounding. . . . S t i l l more remarkable he was able i n h i s own person to play several parts, even on occasion simultaneously. Thackeray's narrators, although they never quite allow their readers to observe detachedly the splendid spectacle of human f o l l y and vanity, take delight i n a grotesquely exaggerated pageant of pretence, hypocrisy and v i c e . Vanity Fair, Pendennis, The Newcomes, The Virginians and P h i l i p deal with the perennial themes of love versus fortune and friendship versus duty, but with a freshness and abandonment on the part of the narrator which makes the moral themes subservient to the narrator's eccentric personality. The commedia d e l l ' arte also used these themes, "and twisted them to suit i t s purpose of merrymaking; shameless old men and s t i l l more shameless young people attempt to get their w i l l s through a series of out-5 landish maskings and t r i c k s . " I f Thackeray's narrator i s something of a Zanni, yet he never 4 I b i d . , p. 14: pp. 9 -13. Cf. The Book of Snobs (XXII, 4 ) , on the Pantomime as microcosm. m Ibid., p. 16. 109 u t t e r l y relinquishes sympathy for knaves and f o o l s . I t i s through the narrator's perspective that we should see the vices of the gaudy Lord Steyne, the cunning Becky, the pseudo-amorous Blanche Amory and the treacherous Ringwood Twysden, and i n their glorious f o l l i e s the reader should recognize his own. In Thackeray, laughter at others' f o l l y i s never completely comfortable. Would the reader after a l l refuse an i n v i t a t i o n to Lord Steyne's party? I f he did so on moral grounds, could he be quite free from the smug hypocrisy of f e e l i n g his own superiority? I t i s this sense of involvement that the narrator induces i n the reader which makes laughter less comfortable than the belly-laugh of vaudeville and pantomi&e. The spice of pain which A.R. Thompson finds endemic i n the ironic mode creates i n the reader a suggestion of uneasiness. This reaction i s not evoked by pure comedy or farce and seems somewhat removed from the scurrilous t r i c k s of the commedia. For while "comedy builds up a psychic pressure i n one direction, then suddenly releases i t by offering something unexpected i n another, , . . irony involves the contrast but not the playfulness; i t s effect i s the emotional discord we f e e l when something i s both funny and painful." Self-recognition, then, i s as essential to the reader as to his narrator 0 Self-discovery on the part of a central character i s perhaps the most hard-worked theme i n the novel since Jane Austen. In Thackeray's novels, however, i t i s the narrator and reader who come to ^The Dry Mock; A Study of Irony i n Drama (Berkeley: Univ. of Ca l i f o r n i a Press, 194&"), p. 11. 110 recognize themselves in a l l the characters. 3ecky, Philip, and Harry Harrington remain largely -unchanged at the end of their stories—they are merely catalysts in an experiment performed between narrator and reader. If i t is true, as Darley in Durrell's Justine maintains, that "to every one we turn a different face of the prism" of our character, then the corollary holds that from everyone we observe we receive a different aspect of our own character. He need others in fact in order that we may discover ourselves. Emma Woodhouse and Lambert Strether are, in their different ways, rewarded for clearing the motes from their own eyes. Mr. Khightley and Chad Hewsome, we might gather, would mean different things to different people i f we could only, see them from the point of view of say Miss Bates and Gloriani. Their reality then would be made up, not only from what they thought themselves to be from moment to moment, but from the contradictions that every observer of, or meditator on, their character perceived in them from moment to moment—an impossible situation for a novel which must assume some tangibility of character. Thackeray's novels present us with conveniently labelled characters who behave in conveniently consistent ways; i t is narrator and reader who provide the variables. If the narrator gives us scapegraces for heroes, he also gives us frequently an active and a passive heroine betwixt whom his alleg-iance sways. He can not find stability in Amelia, Laura and Rachel by rejecting the bad girls, Becky, Blanche and Beatrix, because each Justine (London: Paber, 1957), P« H9« I l l needs the other for her own d e f i n i t i o n , and even the constant, dom-esticated and devoted heroines have their subtle tyrannies and obstinate prejudices. A.E. Dyson notes two very significant points about Becky. F i r s t l y , the narrator refers to her consistently as "our l i t t l e schemer," and speaks of her "very much as one might speak of a naughty but not wholly unsympathetic c h i l d . " Secondly, Dyson notes that "though she employs hypocrisy, she i s never taken i n by i t herself. . . . ghe i s able . . . to laugh at herself exactly as though she were someone g else." The f i r s t observation suggests the f r i e n d l y diminution of the ironic narrator's own particular faults,which Goethe sees as charact-e r i s t i c of the ir o n i c mode: I f we do not indulge i n the common habit of unloading our errors on circumstances or on other people, there w i l l at l a s t arise . . . a kind of Irony within and with ourselves whereby we treat our fa u l t s and errors i n a playful s p i r i t — a s i f they were naughty children who would perhaps not be so dear to us, were they not a f f l i c t e d with such naughtiness. By making Becky a masked figure, or, as he himself c a l l s her, a puppet "uncommonly f l e x i b l e i n the joints, and l i v e l y on the wire" (VF, 6 ) , the Manager i s enabled to treat his vice-figure p l a y f u l l y and affectionately without any danger of her becoming too threatening g The Crazy Fabric; Essays i n Irony (London; Macmillan, I965), p. 80} p. 88. Becky's detachment from her part i s perhaps less apparent when her schemes collapse with the uprising of the Curzon Street menage. 9 <As cited by G. G. Sedgewick, Of Irony: Especially i n Drama, p. 16. 112 to his own necessary sense of his own values. The vicious and destructive impulses within him are minimized to the point where they can he seen and manipulated with security, and he feels toward them a benevolence and paternity. On the other hand, as the leading figure i n the Manager's drama, Becky i s endowed with a great deal of her l i t e r a r y sire's own awareness. She i s perhaps the only character i n Vanity Fair who i s aware that she i s playing the world at i t s own game. The daughter of an a r t i s t and an opera dancer, Becky continues to work her spell i n the haut monde, winning over not only the wealthy Crawleys but also Lord Steyne and Lady G r i z z e l . She i s at her most b r i l l a n t i n the charade scene, and would cast her own husband as a Master of Ceremonies at a f a i r booth. Lord Steyne thinks of Becky as "an accomplished l i t t l e devil . . . a splendid actress and manager" (VF, 506). Becky herself, doing the social round of fine dinner parties i n impeccable houses of the great c i r c l e s of London fashion, thinks "how much gayer i t would be to wear spangles and trowsers, and dance before a booth at a f a i r " (VF, 487). The narrator t e l l s us "she was an a r t i s t herself, as she said very t r u l y " (VF, 488). She i s the only figure, apart from the narrator, able to see the masks worn by herself and others, and she thus emerges superior to her surroundings, controlling them by her knowledge. The mask that knows i t i s a mask begins to move into f i c t i o n of another dimension. There i s an uncanny obstinacy about such a figure who seems to enter our l i v e s with her, own particular v i t a l i t y . We f e e l i n a similar position to Darley who finds the hand 113 of Cohen who "had become merely an h i s t o r i c figure" influencing him: "And yet here he was, obstinately trying to i n s i s t on his identity, trying to walk back into our l i v e s at another point i n the circum-ference." Despite her a b i l i t y to transcend the mask, however, Becky's "freedom" i s i l l u s o r y . Dyson i n s i s t s that Becky could have been a good woman on five thousand pounds a year, at least as the world judges, but he i s wrong as far as can be predicted from the evidence.^ Becky's role i s that of aspirer and intriguer within whatever social rank fortune may give her. Although the narrator suggests that she could be a good woman i n other circumstances, we know that she can be no other than Becky Sharp—consummate actress, hard bargainer and perfect hypocrite. In spite of Thackeray's l e t t e r to Lewes defending Becky as no worse than many other comfortable middle-class people (Letters, I I , 353-354), wes know that she i s nothing more than a functional character who suggests an aspect of human aspiration i n a milieu that i s purely social and purely worldly. Becky i s an archrogue i n a rogues' gallery! We have here a world which, as Joseph Baker says, i s "a picture of l i f e as i t would be without the s p i r i t u a l . To take t h i s 12 for 'man as he i s ' constitutes a profound misunderstanding." In ^ J u s t i n e , p. 104. 1 1The Crazy Fabric, p. 89. 1 2 " V a n i t y Fair and the C e l e s t i a l City," NCF, 10(1955), 93. 114 any case, to take a picture for anything more than a representation also constitutes a profound misunderstanding. Becky's l i v e l i n e s s and f l e x i b i l i t y , then, come from her surroundings rather than ours. As Hugh Kenner says: "From Moll Flanders (1722) to Bleak House (1852) and Lucky Jim (1954), novel after novel has demonstrated how rogues ( i n t e l l i g i b l e , l i k e a l l f i c t i o n a l characters, because automated) are q u a l i f i e d denizens of an i n t e l l i g i b l e because automated world."'*"3 Becky's naturalism, therefore, i s r e s t r i c t e d to the realm of Vanity Fair both i n the novel and i n the imaginative carrying-over i n the mind of the reader. She i s s t i l l a mask or puppet however l i v e l y "she may be on the wire, and l i k e a l l automated creatures she needs the manipulation of author and reader to bring her into being. How-ever, since she has the function within the novel of being " l i k e Jonson's Vol pone . . . a f i t t i n g scourge for the world which created h e r , " ^ she i s endowed with more s p i r i t and ingenuity than her fellow masks. While we are watching Becky play her clever game with society on our behalf, she has tremendous v i t a l i t y , but outside the world of the Crawleys, the Osbornes and the Sedleys she has no existence corporeal or visionary. Beoky cannot l i v e i n the world of the Jarndyces, or the Woodhouses, or i n the world of the supermarket and the drive-in bank. * 3The Counterfeiters: An H i s t o r i c a l Comedy (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana Univ. Press, I 9 6 8 ) , ' p . I 4 8 . 'The Crazy Fabric, p. 85. 115 It i s because Thackeray makes Becky play the social game so exquisitely well that we attribute to her superior knowledge over her fellow characters. J . H i l l i s M i l l e r says that society cannot be anything but a system of conventional rules, exchanges, and substitutions which are l i k e metaphors. As long as a man takes the metaphor as r e a l i t y he i s deluded. When he sees through the metaphor and takes r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for l i v i n g according to i t , he^is s t i l l caught i n a play, but now he sees the game as a game. The reader of Vanity Fair sees that he i s playing a game, and Becky within the novel sees that she i s playing a game of pretending she i s more virtuous, more wealthy, and more concerned with the welfare of others, than she r e a l l y i s . Both Becky and the reader, i n their different realms, thus r i s e superior to their environment and are not, deluded. The Thackerayan narrator i s more of a conscious entertainer and role-player than an exhaustive analyst of situations. His allegiance i s to the mask primarily and he acknowledges that the r e a l i t y of personality i s intangible. His talent i s more h i s t r i o n i c than s c i e n t i f i c . He knows that a l l conclusions are temporary and to believe otherwise i s to become an unwilling victim of i l l u s i o n . Pendennis, Batchelor, and their fellow narrators do not seek conclus-ions i n the i r ephemeral worlds, for they are never sure about their own vision; they have only consciousness and no stable character, 15 The Form of Victorian F i c t i o n : Thackeray, Dickens, Trollope, George E l i o t , Meredith, and Hardy (Notre Dame, Indiana: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1968), pp. 109-110. 116 and they are always i n danger of l o s i n g themselves i n parts played hy others. The attempt to establish central control of a s e l f which i s being pulled i n various directions at times leads the narrators to adopt a purely impersonal stance. Batchelor's recourse to tabulation of mysterious questions that arise from his story suggests the similar use of objective documentation i n Ulysses, where Stephen and Bloom make their way to Bloom's lodging, while the narrator seeks to track down the minutiae of their motives, actions and reactions to each other. Batchelor, l i k e the narrator of Ulysses, uses semi-legal jargon or c i v i l service o f f i c i a l e s e i n a desperate attempt at object-i v i t y . In both novels, the effect i s of an omniscient author drawing attention to his own power over h i s characters and complete knowledge of their most intimate and fortuitous thoughts. The characters are temporarily reduced to workable puppets, while the narrators catechize themselves self-consciously as they elect to t e l l the whole truth about their characters. Batchelor poses these questions to himself and his reader: 1. Why did Mrs. Prior, at the lodgings, persist i n c a l l i n g the theatre at which her daughter danced the academy? 2. What were the special reasons why Mrs. Lovel should be very gracious with her son, and give him 150 L. as soon as he asked for the money? 3. Why was Fred Lovel*s heart nearly broken? And 4. Who was his consoler? (XXVIII, 223) Joyce, more exhaustive, uses his o f f i c i a l narrator to sum up and explain the many clues to the book's narrative and symbolic meaning that he has scattered throughout the previous 800 pages. The effect of both 117 passages i s nevertheless to emphasize authorial power and reader collusion i n an elaborate game with make-believe characters. In both Lovel the Widower and Ulysses, the narrator a r t f u l l y selects his questions i n order to further the reader's response to the narrative. He i s both c l a r i f y i n g the narrative past and preparing for the narrative future. Both narrators, moreover, by thei r deliberate and straight-faced adoption of legal and s c i e n t i f i c phraseology poke fun at the mask of impersonality which they have chosen. The ostensible desire for objective report frequently verges on the incomprehensible or the ludicrous. Thus Stephen, revived by a cup of cocoa, i s enticed by Bloom to sing a jocular song about a Jew; Bid the host encourage h i s guest to chant i n a modulated voice a strange legend on an a l l i e d theme? Reassuringly, their place where none could hear them ta l k being secluded, reassured, the decocted beverages, allowing for subsolid residual sediment of a mechanical mixture, water^glus sugar plus cream plus cocoa, having been consumed. And Batchelor, answers the question of Mrs. Lovel's generosity to her son i n this way: The reason why Emma, widow of the late Adolphus Lo e f f e l , of Whitechapel Road, sugar-baker, was so pa r t i c u l a r l y gracious to her son, Adolphus Frederick Lovel, Esq., of St. Boniface College, Oxbridge, and principal partner i n the house of Loeffel aforesaid, an infant, was that she, Emma, was about to contract a second marriage with the Rev. Samuel Bonnington. (XXVIII, 223) Ulysses (London: Bodley Head, I960), p. 808. 118 The exhaustiveness and f i n a l lack of c l a r i t y , due to the clutter of insig n i f i c a n t det a i l and circumlocutory devices, suggest the d i f f i c u l t y of communication on the part of scrupulous narrators. I f the reader does not see his narrator as very stupid i n th i s thoroughness, he w i l l consider him engagingly wicked and fun-loving, even i f the fun, i n Ulysses at least, tends to "become enervating to the point of boredom. The role of the objective reporter can thus be interpreted as another narrative mask, and i t i s one which, by reminding the reader that he i s i n a f i c t i o n a l world, deliberately reduces the characters to objects at the mercy of a scrupulously omniscient narrator. In t h i s predominantly c l i n i c a l mood, no d e t a i l i s allowed to escape, and the puppets are temporarily reduced to silence. The narrator occupies the centre of the stage as he lays before his reader the vastness of his researches. There i s an inhumanity about such a narrator's meticulous ob j e c t i v i t y . He attempts to efface himself as well as his characters. In Thackeray's novels this point of stasis i s rarely reached, for h i s narrators are essentially h i s t r i o n i c and r e f l e c t i v e rather than a n a l y t i c a l l y exhaustive. They are interested i n the changing mood and the play of p o s s i b i l i t y , and their stories r e l y upon doubt and suggestiveness. Human Variants In l i f e , as i n novels, we f i n d i t convenient to label our surrounding r e a l i t y , but while objects passively accept their labels, people persist, i n defying them and surprising us. The Thackerayan 119 narrator seeks to allow his characters maximum f l e x i b i l i t y within their conventionally narrow range. I f he could hear the c r i t i c i s m frequently hurled at him for not knowing his characters or for t e l l i n g l i e s about them maliciously, he would not take offence, f o r he makes no pretence to more truthfulness or l e s s malice than his neighbour. I t does not come as a shock to him to learn that he has been wholly mis-reading Dr. Brand Firmin's character any more than he i s shocked to learn that Moliere has been unfair to Tartuffe. Allowing for the nature of a l l human f r a i l t y , including his own, the typical narrator i s never faced with a sudden traumatic r e a l i z a t i o n of his own prejudices. Thus, he i s impervious to such shocks as that suffered by Nicholas, the narrator of Anthony Powell's The Acceptance World, who discovers that h i s own image of h i s shy and awkward schoolfellow Widmerpool, i s not. held by Widmerpool's business associates. Nicholas i s s i m i l a r l y shattered to discover that his current mistress, Joan, has i n the past had a l o v e - a f f a i r with the paunchy and boyish Spaulding whose mind and body spelt repulsion to the narrator. Being an observer who i s only an occasional actor i n his own f i c t i o n , the typical Thackerayan narrator does not have to present a consistent front to h i s reader. Since his characters are t i e d to their parts i n a f a i r l y simple narrative, he himself can afford to be random and f l o a t i n g . Before examining the relationship of reader and extraneous narrator to the masks of the primary i l l u s i o n , I w i l l b r i e f l y deal with the character-narrator who i s , i n some respects, l e s s disinterested. Whether the narrator has a personal part i n h i s story or not, whether 120 he i s t e l l i n g his own story or presenting a wholly or partly invented story, he uses his characters as sounding-hoards for his own se l f -scrutiny. Usually the characters f a l l into some f a i r l y conventional pattern involving a hero and a number of v i l l a i n s . Legend, fable and B i b l i c a l and Greek myth l i e readily to hand, for appropriate use i n the narrator's process of self-discovery. Never are the characters of value i n and for themselves but only as they r e f l e c t different aspects of the narrator's psyche. The narrator's own bias and prejudices are plain to see, yet because he sees them himself, he cannot e a s i l y be typed or characterized. He i s always on the point of shedding his own skin, as i t were, and putting himself i n the position of his reader or an observer. Two examples should make clear the method by which the narrator's f l e e t i n g consciousness and generalized awareness enable him to elude c l a s s i f i c a t i o n . George Warrington, i n The Virginians, t e l l s how his mother opposed his love-match with the impecunious and untit l e d Theodosia Lambert, daughter of the honest Christian gentleman, Colonel Lambert. George refuses to condemn his mother for c a l l i n g down the wrath of God on his head and cutting him off from his inheritance, because i n her he sees personified a l l human aspiration with i t s f a c i l i t y for s e l f - j u s t i f i c a t i o n . He becomes by her action not simply an outcast and cheated elder son s a c r i f i c i n g himself for love's sake, but part of a vast human procession struggling with conviction towards some i l l u s o r y goal. His own wrongs and sufferings, his own part i n the mock-drama of Pyramus and Thisbe, are momentarily forgotten as George's 121 mind moves "beyond his own present situation and dwarfs i t to i n s i g -nificance . When our pride, our avarice, our interest, our desire to dom-ineer, are worked upon, are we not for ever pestering heaven to decide i n their favour? In our great American [quarrel, did we not on "both sides appeal to the skies as to the justice of our causes, sing Te Deum for victory, and boldly express our confidence that the right should prevail? Was America right because she was victorious? Then I suppose Poland was wrong because she was defeated?—How am I wandering into this digression about Poland, America, and what not, and a l l the while thinking of a l i t t l e woman now no more, who appealed to heaven and confronted i t with a thousand texts out of i t s own book, because her son wanted to make a marriage not of her l i k i n g ! We appeal, we imprecate, we go down on our knees, we demand blessings, we shriek out f o r sentence according to law; the great course of the great world moves on; we pant and strive and struggle; we hate; we rage; we weep passionate tears; we reconcile; we race and win; we race and lose; we pass away, and other l i t t l e strugglers succeed; our days are spent; our night comes, and another morning r i s e s , which shines on us no more. (XIV, 191-192) Where George Warrington loses both himself and h i s character i n an Olympian digression on human aspiration, Charles Batchelor's wandering consciousness moves more nimbly and less majestically i n realms of particulars and personalities. In Lovel the Widower, as i n Barry Lyndon and Henry Esmond, the reader must interpolate between the utterances of the narrators what he knows of their own biases. These novels have something akin to the dramatic monologue where the action takes place i n the narrator's mind. By keeping the action there, the author presents a consciousness which has i t s own bias and character, i t s own earnest desire for s e l f - a r t i c u l a t i o n . These narrators, i n varying degrees, are more interested i n s e l f - j u s t i f i c a t i o n 122 t h a n i n t e l l i n g a s t o r y w h i c h g i v e s them o p p o r t u n i t y f o r i m a g i n a t i v e d i g r e s s i o n . Thus C h a r l e s B a t c h e l o r r e d u c e s L o v e l ' s m o t h e r - i n - l a w t o a n o g r e - f i g u r e on whom he c a n v e n t h i s w r a t h and d i s p l a y t o u s h i s own f u r i o u s p r e j u d i c e s , y e t h i s f r e q u e n t mockery o f h i s own s t o r y and h i s d e n i a l o f i t s r e s e m b l a n c e t o a n y t h i n g i n l i f e show a f e a r t h a t he might be g i v i n g h i m s e l f away. B a t c h e l o r , i n h i s p a s s i o n a t e h a t r e d f o r M r s . B a k e r and h i s f o o l i s h l o v e f o r E l i z a b e t h P r i o r , i s i n f i n i t e l y more aware t h a n B a r r y L y n d o n . He i n d u l g e s t h e s e p a s s i o n s b u t one p a r t o f h i m r e m a i n s b e h i n d a s w a t c h e r . I f he h a s t o c a s t one a s a v i l l a i n e s s and t h e o t h e r a s a h e r o i n e he w i l l do so, b u t he does n o t a c c e p t t h e permanence o f e i t h e r l a b e l . F o r M r s . B a k e r , "who, t o be s u r e , m i g h t do d u t y f o r a v i l l a i n , b u t she c o n s i d e r s h e r s e l f a s v i r t u o u s a woman a s e v e r was b o r n " ( X X V I I I , 198), i s l i t t l e more t h a n a mask i n t h e drama. H e r f u n c t i o n i s t o p r o v i d e a n o u t l e t f o r h i s own m a l i c e , a n d he i s n o t i n t e r e s t e d i n h e r a s a p e r s o n a l i t y i n h e r own r i g h t . I n h i s a w a r e n e s s o f t h e m a n y - s i d e d n e s s o f p e r s o n a l i t y , B a t c h e l o r f r e q u e n t l y g i v e s t h e r e a d e r t h e se n s e o f t h e n a r r a t o r ' s own t r a n s c e n d e n c e o v e r h i s own l i m i t a t i o n s . I t i s , however, t h e t r a n s c e n d e n c e o f knowledge r a t h e r t h a n a d e m o n s t r a t i o n o f h i s c a p a c i t y o r d e s i r e f o r a c t u a l c h a n g e . I n t h i s he goes b e y o n d t h e n o r m a l a w a r e n e s s o f t h e s p e a k e r o f t h e d r a m a t i c monologue, a n d c e r t a i n l y b e y o n d t h e awareness o f a B a r r y L y n d o n o r H e n r y Esmond. He s u c c e e d s i n t a k i n g on what would be t h e r e a d e r ' s p a r t i n a d r a m a t i c monologue. R o b e r t Langbaum makes i t c l e a r t h a t t h e r e a d e r i s i n v o l v e d 123 with the speaker of the dramatic monologue for the sake of experien-cing his l i f e , and i t i s "because the speaker himself i s so much particularized, because his characterization through contradictory q u a l i t i e s renders inapplicable the publicly recognized categories of 17 character, that we f i n d i n him a pole for sympathy," Batchelor, l i k e Clamence i n Camus' The F a l l , goes beyond such a speaker i n giving words not only to his own thoughts but his reader's. Speaker and reader seem at times to change places and the reader knows that i f he mentally supplies the deficiency i n his narrator he i s at the same time supplying h i s own deficiency. Batchelor openly c a l l s himself the muff of his story, then suggests to his reader that even he might be a muff i n one context or. another; But i s many a respectable man of our acquaintance much better? and do muffs know that they are what they are, or, knowing i t , are they unhappy? Bo g i r l s decline to marry one i f he i s rich? Bo we refuse to dine with one? I listened to one at Church . l a s t Sunday, with a l l the women crying and sobbing; and, oh dear mel how f i n e l y he preachedI Don't we give him great credit for wisdom and eloquence i n the House of Commons? Don't we give him important commands i n the army? Can you, or can you not, point out one who has been made a peer? Doesn't your wife c a l l one i n the moment any of the children are i l l ? Don't we read h i s dear poems, or even novels? Yes; perhaps even t h i s one i s read and written by—Well? Quid  rides? Do you mean that I am painting a portrait which hangs before me every morning i n the looking-glass when I am shaving? Apres? Do you suppose that I suppose that I have not i n f i r m i t i e s l i k e my neighbours? Am I weak? It i s notorious to a l l my friends there i s a certain dish I cam'jtj r e s i s t ; no, not i f I have already eaten twice too much at The Poetry of Experience; The Dramatic Monologue i n Modern  Literary Tradition -(new York: Norton, 1963), P» 204. 124 dinner. So, dear s i r , or madam, have you your weakness—your i r r e s i s t i b l e dish of temptation? (or i f you don't know i t , your friends do). (XXVIII, 198) The typical narrator i s one who has come to terms with his own prejudices and romantic predilections; he i s able to enjoy his own f o l l i e s and phobias and act them out through people he shapes to f i t his own world, who are pl a i n l y puppet-figures or functional characters i n his drama. He i s what Stephen Pepper would c a l l the "normal man" i n that he has come to terms with his own abnormalities. "Only a normal man," says Pepper, "with a well integrated and r e l a t i v e l y free emotional l i f e , can perceive normality. Moreover, he alone can also perceive abnormality. He perceives i t not only because he can contrast i t against the background of his own normality, but because i n himself he has the impulses which have become exaggerated i n the abnormal man and he resonates to the impulses and d i r e c t l y feels their 18 exaggeration." The narrator r e a l i z e s , moreover, that he i s dependant on his puppets to express his own c o n f l i c t s . He needs hero, v i l l a i n , saint and rogue to make his internal c o n f l i c t s come a l i v e . Although he knows that "we are no heroes nor angels; neither are we fiends from abodes unmentionable, black assassins, treacherous Iagos, familiar with stabbing and poison" (XXVIII, 199), he has to give l i f e and interest to his story, and "you know, my dear madam, a l l good women i n novels are i n s i p i d " (p. 201). The un-named narrator, Pendennis, the Manager, 18 The Basis of Criticism i n the Arts (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 196377 p. 108. 125 and, to a lesser degree, Batchelor and George Warrington, see them-selves painted larger than l i f e i n the characters of their stories. They are pure examples of what G.G. Sedgewick c a l l s "the Irony of Detachment or S p i r i t u a l Freedom." This i s "the attitude of mind held by a philosophic observer when he abstracts himself from the contra-dictions of l i f e and views them a l l impartially, himself perhaps 19 included i n the i r o n i c v i s i o n . " In submitting to the novelist's design, the reader permits his complex and indeterminate s e l f to be simplified and c r y s t a l l i z e d . He i s re-created anew by his author. He becomes,- as Walker Gibson says, "the 'mock reader'—.whose mask and costume the individual takes on i n order to experience the language." Gibson points out that i n the phenomena we c a l l the reading experience, there i s a spectral part assigned which we must take i f we are to experience a work f u l l y . We must not allow our "normal" s e l f to enter the part, for i t w i l l drag i n the extraneous and unnecessary controls which are useful only i n our day-to-day l i f e , but must be put aside i f we are to become a "mock-reader." If the "real author" i s to be regarded as to a great degree d i s t r a c t i n g and mysterious, l o s t i n history, i t seems equally true that the "real reader," l o s t i n today's history, i s no less mysterious and sometimes irrelevant. The fact i s that every time we open the pages of another piece of writing, we are embarked on a new adventure i n which we become a new person—a person as controlled and definable and as remote from the chaotic s e l f of d a i l y l i f e as the lover i n the 'Of Irony: Especially i n Drama (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1948), p. 13. 126 sonnet. Subject to the degree our l i t e r a r y s e n s i b i l i t y , we are created by the language. The "mock-reader" i s naturally a multiform creation capable of becoming many parts within an individual work. He w i l l agree, disagree, or withhold judgement on both the narrator's pronouncements on the characters, and those of the characters upon themselves and each other. In a Thackeray novel, he w i l l have to take many shapes as, for example, a young lady reader of fashionable novels, a g u i l t y husband, an ignorant parent, a fellow clubman, a humble worshipper or a sentimental mother. Hot only does he become these parts but he also puts on the masks of the characters. This does not mean that he necessarily comes to understand how they f e e l , but he comes to appreciate them for what they are—masks, parts i n a drama that i s archetypal and inclusive, for i t transcends particular variations of time, place and person. But the "mock-reader" i s not only required to put on the masks; he must also take them off, and see just how far these borrowed robes " f i t " him, or how well they "become" him. To do this he must look into the mirror which i s held partly by the narrator and partly by himself. The reader of Thackeray discovers that "the world i s a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the r e f l e c t i o n of his own face" (VP, 19)• Thackeray's primary f i c t i o n displays., with a constantly lurking parody and irony—perhaps seen to best advantage i n the i n i t i a l i l l u s t r a t i o n s to the chapters—myths of innocence, heroic myths and love myths. The secondary f i c t i o n a l world both contains and undermines 20 "Authors, Speakers, Readers, and Mock Readers," College English, 11(1950), 266; 265. 127 these myths within the created consciousness of the "mock-reader." Maud Bodkin says that the a r t i s t performs for the community "the function of objectifying i n imaginative form experience potentially common to a l l , but exceptionally deep and v i v i d , and revealing a certain tension and ideal reconcilement of opposite forces present i n 21 actual l i f e . " Thackeray i s l e s s interested i n expressing this "ideal reconcilement" than i n the process of applying the ready-made paradigm to random and elusive experience. The narrator, l i k e his reader, contains both primitive c h i l d and sophisticated adult. He i s torn between the magical world of art and the threatening and less reassuring world where action and decisions are demanded. The reader i s made to see that beneath the practical adult s e l f which he shows to the world there l i e s a delighted and imaginative c h i l d who i s devoted to i l l u s i o n . Thus Pendennis addresses his reader, the text emerging from the Good Fairy's magic wand, as she rides away to her Bower of B l i s s i n her resplendent coach: You know—i-all good boys and g i r l s at ^ Christmas know—that, before the l a s t scene of the pantomiHfe, when the Good Fairy ascends i n a blaze of glory, and Harlequin and Columbine take hands, having danced through a l l their t r i c k s and troubles and tumbles, there i s a dark, b r i e f , seemingly meaningless penultimate scene, i n which the performers appear to grope about perplexed. (XVI, 448) But just as Hansel and Gretel's or Cinderella's f i n a l ordeals are Archetypal Patterns i n Poetry: Psychological Studies of  Imagination (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1934), P« 327. 128 resolved in a happy ending, so this pantomime is preparing to satisfy the longings of the spectator. It is after this climax that the reader i s left face to face with the narrator, with the effect of a child who watches the trappings of pantomime swept away leaving him alone in the cheerless and unassuring world of his own vulnerable reality: I t e l l you the house will be empty and you will be in the cold ai r . When the boxes have got their nightgowns on, and you are a l l gone, and I have turned off the gas, and am in the empty theatre alone in the darkness, I promise you I shall not be merry. Never mind! We can make jokes though we are ever so sad. We can jump over head and heels, though I declare the pit is half emptied already, and the last orange-woman has slunk away. Encore un pirouette, Columbine! Saute, Arlequin, mon ami! (XVI, 449) While the reader is in the primary fictional world, the characters speak wholly for him, for he identifies with them in the same way that the child identified with the pantomime. When he retreats into the secondary fictional world, however, he sees that he has been in a world of masks, which, although they were psychic probes that opened up ways of self-discovery through role-playing, now are sadly realized to be inadequate or temporary. The reader is thus forced back upon himself; he is interested in the fictional characters purely as modes of self-exploration. Henri Bergson says that "what has . . . interested us [in a dramaTj is not so much what we have been told about others as the glimpse we have caught of ourselves—a whole host of ghostly feelings, emotions and 22 events that would fain have come into real existence." The characters 22 "The Individual and the Type," in A Modern Book of Esthetics, ed. Melvin Rader (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, i960) , p. 84. 129 i n a drama, an epic or a novel have no r e a l i t y i n themselves, but we invest them with our r e a l i t y . Thackeray, however, takes pleasure i n l e t t i n g his reader see that he i s involved with an insubstantial pageant which w i l l fade and leave not a raok behind. There i s a common c r i t i c a l preference for "round" characters rather than " f l a t " ones, and the creation of the former i n the novel i s frequently f e l t to be an a r t i s t i c triumph. Characters who are rounded must seem to have some kind of existence outside the scheme of the novels that embody them. As Geoffrey T i l l o t s o n puts i t , "Unless the personages are made flesh., how can they seem to be tempted as we are, how can we f e e l with or for them?" T i l l o t s o n finds t h i s roundness i n Thackeray's Barry Lyndon. To him "Lyndon seems an actual person . . II i s so credible that the reader goes i n awe of him." He goes on to say that "Lyndon i s apparently an actual man," and of Becky Sharp 23 he claims, "I saw her at an evening party the other day." A willingness to become emotionally involved i n the r e a l i t y of a f i c t i t i o u s character i s an essential aspect of the a r t i s t i c experience, but there are dangers i n becoming too much l i k e Don Quixote confronted by the puppets. Vfhen characters, who are painted with commendable regard for techniques analogous to the trompe 1'oeil painters, are taken as real people, c r i t i c a l perspectives cease to be operative. One part of the reader must sympathize with T i l l o t s o n ' s view 23 Thackeray the Novelist (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1954), p. 118; p. 119} P. 121} p. 122. 130 of the characters of Barry and Becky, hut another should realize that these "round" characters are l i t t l e more than cleverly animated types. Barry i s a rogue and boaster type to whom the reader must mentally play the part of eiron, and Becky i s a clever worldly aspirer i n whom the reader should recognize himself. Furthermore, neither Barry nor Becky has much i n common with the more rounded and seemingly "free" characters that we frequently meet i n Lawrence or Tolstoy. Anna, Karenin, and Skrebensky do not have the driving monomania of the Thackerayan v i l l a i n s and rogues, and they are, consequently, less threatening and compelling since, l i k e the reader, they are made up of many c o n f l i c t i n g parts p u l l i n g i n different directions. When T i l l o t s o n says that "Barry Lyndon i s . . . t e r r i f y i n g because he i s as credibly a man as Hamlet or Othello," the boundaries between art and l i f e seem to have been confused for l i t t l e purpose.^ In l i f e we may meet, on occasion, boastful rogues and jealous husbands,' i f not v a c i l l a t i n g princes whose father's s p i r i t s reveal the true nature of their v i l l a i n o u s uncles, but the r e a l i t y of these figures i s confined to their setting. For the average adult i n the greater part of his waking l i f e , people are not t e r r i f y i n g , and their c r e d i b i l i t y consists i n the variety of their environment and responses to i t , rather than i n their predilection f o r a particular course. Hamlet and Othello may show some degree of f l e x i b i l i t y , but their r e a l i t y for us l i e s i n their "untruth to l i f e " — i n their violent rages, their incredible obsessions, 2 4 I b i d . , p. 243. 131 and unlikely idealisms. I f we met Barry Lyndon, a Hamlet or an Othello tomorrow, we would surely say he was behaving "incredibly," i f not "incredibly badly." F i c t i o n a l characters allow the reader to invest them with h i s own problems and aspirations. This happens whether the characters are "round" or " f l a t , " l i f e - l i k e or grotesquely incredible and blatantly schematic. I f the characters are " f l a t " l i k e Giant Despair, Mr. Micawber or Jos Sedley, their range of movement w i l l tend to be more res t r i c t e d and the burden they carry on the reader's behalf more uniform than that of more "round?1 characters such as Tertius Lydgate, Ursula Brangwen or Bloom. The reactions of the f i r s t group to any given situation would be more predictable than those of the second group who are more l i k e ourselves i n having a seemingly wider range of freedom and choice. But, of course, the l a t t e r must remain as associated i n our minds with their f i c t i v e environment as the former, and ultimately we may f e e l that Vanity Fair i s just as real as Joyce's Dublin. We may conveniently say that the primary world of Thackeray's novels has a predominant quality of comedy, while i n the secondary world, irony, with i t s painful sense of reader involvement, i s the dominant mode. Bergson says that "comedy depicts characters we have come across and shall meet again. I t takes note of s i m i l a r i t i e s . I t 25 aims at placing types before our eyes." y I f the reader of Thackeray's novels looks to l i f e rather than to art for the framework within which to see the characters, he w i l l not only conclude that Thackeray's 25 > l !The Individual and The Type," i n A Modern Book of Esthetics, P. 85. 132 view of the world is jaundiced, hut, more important, he will miss much of the exuberance and wit with which his author plays with accepted forms. The primary world of the novels gives us the traditional happy ending of comedy, while the secondary world leaves reader and narrator facing each other in an empty theatre as we have seen in Philip, or shutting up the box of puppets.as in Vanity Fair, or day-dreaming over the fable of The Newcomes. There i s , in the conclusion of the secondary fiction, a sense of inconclusiveness and suspension from the comic entertainment which has been presented. This sense of return to the world of contingency after the footlights have been dimmed JyTjy.so shown in Pendennis and Lovel the Widower. In Esmond and The Virginians, a mature narrator looks back on the theatre, as i t were, of his own l i f e , and commends God for uniting him with an angelic wife. Although the narrators are here within their own fiction, the reader does not take either Henry Esmond's or George Warrington's wife-worship too seriously. After reaching what he calls the summit of his domestic f e l i c i t y , George has already confessed to boredom, and the editor of his journals regrets three pages torn from the MS. book which were about to t e l l us of the period follox*ing the consummation of his , . 26 happiness. 26 Saintsbury misses the ironic juxtaposition of the two fictional worlds, the necessarily typical and positive seen through the eyes of a dubious and conflict-ridden narrator, when he says "I am not sure that the three pages torn out of Sir George Warrington's notebook are quite legitimate or artistic."A,Consideration of Thackeray (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1931), p. 233. 133 Through, his juxtaposition of the two f i c t i o n a l worlds, Thackeray does justice to the reader's demands for the neatness of form and the incompleteness which a sense of l i f e necessarily requires. He gives us, what Barbara Hardy finds i n Sons and Lovers, examples of "categorical 27 form blurred by truthfulness." Horthrop Prye points out that " a l l l i f e l i k e characters, whether i n drama or f i c t i o n , owe their consistency to the appropriateness of the stock type which belongs to their dramatic 28 function." In his primary f i c t i o n a l world, Thackeray offers us stock-types, who, although they seem l i f e l i k e to an exceptional degree while we are under their s p e l l , are p l a i n l y puppet-figures set i n motion by the narrator. The narrator, however carried away he becomes at times by his own v i r t u o s i t y i n creating an i l l u s i o n , nearly always returns his:reader to the theatre, the puppet-show or the world of fable. I l l u s i o n , t h e a t r i c a l i t y and f i c t i o n a l a r t i f i c e s are deliberately contrasted with a world of greyness and unanswered questions. The conclusion of Lovel i s typi c a l ; We may hear of LOVEL MARRIED some other day, but here i s an end of LOVEL THE WIDOWER. Valete et plaudits, you good people, who have witnessed the l i t t l e , comedy. Down with the curtain; cover up the boxes; pop out the gas-lights. Hoi cab. Take us home, and l e t us have some tea^ and go to bed. Good-night, my l i t t l e players. We have been merry together, and we part with soft hearts and somewhat rueful countenances, don't we? (XXVIII, 370) 27 'The Appropriate Form (London; The Athlone Press, 1964), p. 136. 28 Anatomy of Criticism; Four Essays (Princeton; Princeton Univ. Press, 1957), P. 172. 134 Like Prospero at the end of The Tempest or Chaucer at the end of Troilus and Crisejde, the narrator emphasizes the i l l u s o r y nature of this world he has presented, hut at the same time shares with his reader : an affection for the f i c t i v e creatures who have acted out the dreams and desires of them both. This sense of joint-participation by reader and narrator i n a shared experience runs a l l through the secondary f i c t i o n a l world of the novels. Through an unashamed adoption of the conventional character type and tr a d i t i o n a l story, narrator and reader are enabled to conduct researches into the nature of the s e l f . I l l u s i o n has i t s own r e a l i t y , for the s e l f can invest a l l parts with i t s own being, can become hero, v i l l a i n , saint and sinner, can see at one and the same time the d e s i r a b i l i t y and the impossibility of happy endings and the banishment of v i l l a i n s . Lionel T r i l l i n g points out that "love, morality, honor, esteem . . . are the components of a created r e a l i t y . I f we are to c a l l art an i l l u s i o n then we must c a l l most of the a c t i v i t i e s and 2Q satisfactions of the ego i l l u s i o n s . " y By accepting the i l l u s i o n frankly as an i l l u s i o n , the reader can experiment with possible modes of being. He does not simply escape into a fantasy world, he does not i n Freud's terms forsake a r e a l i t y principle for a pleasure principle, but extends his own range of tolerance by extending the boundaries of the s e l f . y"Freud and Literature," i n Criticism, ed. Mark Schorer et a l . (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1948), p. 176. 135 T h i s s t r e t c h i n g o f t h e s e l f , t h r o u g h v i c a r i o u s e x p e r i e n c e , t o embrace " o t h e r " ways o f b e i n g i s open o n l y t o t h e r e a d e r who l e a v e s b e h i n d t h e w o r l d o f " n o r m a l i t y " and "common s e n s e . " The r e a d e r o f a T h a c k e r a y n o v e l , o f a n y n o v e l , must be p r e p a r e d t o t r a v e l i n t o s t r a n g e and unknown r e a l m s where he w i l l meet f i g u r e s l i k e B a r n e s Newcome, E m i l y C o s t i g a n , and O l d L a d y Kew who w i l l have s c a n t s i m i l a r i t y t o anyone he i s l i k e l y t o meet i n l i f e . Y e t , however f a n t a s t i c t h e s e f i g u r e s may be, compared t o t h o s e o f o u r n o r m a l w o r l d s , t h e y have i n a way more r e a l i t y and power o v e r o u r s u b c o n s c i o u s . We c a n d i s m i s s them f r o m o u r t h o u g h t s , r i d i c u l e them a s f i c t i o n s , b u t t h e y s u b t l y m o d i f y o u r way o f s e e i n g , t h e y r e a c h out f r o m t h e page and t o u c h o u r l i v e s i n ways t h a t our f r i e n d s a n d a c q u a i n t a n c e s f r e q u e n t l y f a i l t o d o . R e a l p e o p l e a r e t o o b u s y l i v i n g t h e i r own l i v e s , b u t f i c t i o n a l c h a r a c t e r s l i e q u i e t l y w a i t i n g f o r u s t o r e c o g n i z e them and u n r e a l i z e d a r e a s o f o u r s e l v e s t h r o u g h t h e i r a g e n c y . When I am immersed i n a p l a y o r n o v e l , I c a n l i v e o u t f a n t a s i e s a b o u t my f u t u r e p o s s i b i l i t i e s o f e x i s t e n c e w h i l e a t t h e same t i m e I work t h r o u g h , e x i s t e n t i a l l y and c r e a t i v e l y , p a s t modes o f l i f e w h i c h I h a v g n e v e r c o n f r o n t e d b e f o r e i n t h e i r dynamic i m p a c t on my l i f e . The r e l a t i o n s h i p - o f t h e r e a d e r t o T h a c k e r a y ' s c h a r a c t e r s must be complex and v a r i e d . When t h e r e a d e r i s immersed i n t h e p r i m a r y f i c t i o n a l w o r l d he i s c o n f r o n t e d ' w i t h v a r i o u s s y m b o l i c f i g u r e s whose r e a l i t y c o n s i s t s i n t h e i r p l a y i n g a c a t e g o r i c a l p a r t i n a f a i r l y " ^ A d r i a n V a n Kaam and K a t h l e e n H e a l y , The Demon and The Dove; - P e r s o n a l i t y Growth T h r o u g h L i t e r a t u r e ( [ P i t t s b u r g h ] : Duquesne U n i v . P r e s s , |l967] ) , p . 132. consistent pattern. Under the influence of the narrator's doubts, qua l i f i c a t i o n s and speculations i n the secondary f i c t i o n a l world, however, the reader finds these characters more elusive, and, as i n his ordinary l i f e , hard and fast categories no longer apply. The pattern becomes random and incomplete, open to a variety of interpretations. One part of the reader i s quite prepared for Becky as v i l l a i n e s s to commit a l l manner of malicious deeds and he w i l l cheerfully s a c r i f i c e Lord Steyne to the embraces of Old Nick, but another part needs to j u s t i f y Becky and allow for Steyne's humanity. Prank Kermode says of the novel genre that "nowhere else, perhaps, are we so conscious of the dissidence between inherited forms and our own r e a l i t y . " 3 ^ Thackeray's novels, while sounding this dissident note, make us aware that our sense of our own r e a l i t y depends to a considerable degree on our perpetual adoption and v i o l a t i o n of these inherited forms. In his attitude towards the characters of the novels, the reader's guide i s the narrator's tone, which i s not usually consistent. In Chapter X of The Newcomes for instance, Pendennis t e l l s the story of Ethel's youth according to the story Clive Newcome told him. Yet he then introduces a p a r a l l e l f a i r y story involving King, Queen, Princess, and Prince Prettyman, the scapegrace hero who escapes parental tyranny to go and sow his wild oats., The digression i n favour of the f o l l i e s of youth i s extended to include Prince Hal, the Prince Regent, Lord Vfarwick, and Tom Jones. The theme of rebel youth i s tangentially related to Ethel's s p i r i t e d resistance to the 3 1The Sense of an Ending: Studies i n the Theory of F i c t i o n (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967), p. 130. 137 cruel and stupid values of the aspiring Newcomes. He have not so much Clive's thoughts about the youthful Ethel as Pendennis 1 own outburst i n favour of youthful prodigality. By Chapter XLV, Pendennis i s much les s sure of his youthful heroine. Although he would l i k e to blame Old Lady Kew en t i r e l y for the attempted match with Lord Parintosh, he cannot e a s i l y exonerate Ethel: I hope there was a good excuse for the queen of t h i s history, and that i t was her wicked domineering old prime minister who led her wrong. Otherwise, I say, we would have another dynasty. Oh, to think of a generous nature, and the world, and nothing but the world to occupy i t I (VIII, 348) These perplexing s h i f t s of viewpoint are an i n t r i n s i c part of the i r o n i s t ' s method, for " a l l i r o n i s t s l i k e to baffle us, to test our 32 mental and moral a g i l i t y as we read." The neatness Of categories of character and of theme tend to become blurred under the open-minded-ness, and at times perverse-mindedness, of the narrator of Thackeray's novels. One part of Pendennis would have Ethel as the traditional comic heroine overcoming, what Prye would c a l l , the "humorous blocking characters" of her p a r e n t s . O n the other hand, he invests her with his own sense of the way things happen i n l i f e , and realizes she may not f i t the part assigned; For a heroine of a story, be she ever so clever, handsome, and sarcastic, I don't think for my part, at t h i s present stage of 32 T t i e Crazy Fabric, p. 113. ^Anatomy of Criticism, p. 172. 138 the t a l e , Miss Ethel Newcome occupies a very d i g n i f i e d position. . . . A g i r l of great beauty, high temper, and strong natural i n t e l l e c t , who submits to be dragged hither and thither i n an old grandmother's leash, and i n pursuit of a husband who w i l l run away from the couple, such a person, I say, i s i n a very awkward position as a heroine; and I declare i f I had another ready to my hand (and unless there were extenuating circum-stances), Ethel should be deposed at t h i s very sentence. But a novelist must go on with h i s heroine, as a man with h i s wife, f o r better or worse, and to the end. For how many years have the Spaniards borne with their gracious queen, not because she was f a u l t l e s s , but because she was there. (VIII, 342-343) Pendennis gives us the sense that issues i n l i f e are so much more complex, shapeless and subject to fluctuating mood and point of view than those of art, that i f he i s to write a novel that i s true to l i f e i t w i l l be a makeshift and imperfect a f f a i r . Though he appeals at times to the i d e a l i s t within h i s reader, here he appeals to the iconoclast • Since the mature Thackerayan narrator finds ironies not only i n his subject matter but i n the very act of writing, i t follows that his, and consequently his reader's, view of the characters w i l l fluctuate between conviction and doubt of their f i d e l i t y to an ideal pattern and conviction and doubt that he i s t e l l i n g the truth about his friends' innermost r e a l i t y . For the i r o n i s t " i s deeply concerned with both aspects of the contradictions he perceives; and t h i s concern leads to an ambivalence of attitude to one side and to the o t h e r — t o both at once." And the i r o n i s t , being "not sure which i s and which merely seems," 3 4 attempts an inclusiveness that i s bound to ^Andrew H. Wright, "Irony and F i c t i o n , " The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 12 (1953), 113. 139 "be inconclusive, characterized by open questions and loose ends. The narrator i s never quite sure about the conduct and motives of his characters, and though he would apparently l i k e to t e l l a simple story about heroic youth overthrowing parental tyranny and worldly scheming, he i s sceptical about the neatness of such ideal patterns. In a novel, reader, author, narrator and characters are caught 35 up i n a "dance of confrontations, role-playings, and clashes of w i l l . " ' The reader allows various aspects of his " r e a l " self to be drawn into an "unreal" world. Thus, Thackeray's reader i s told not to trust h i s children, his wife or even himself; he i s asked to wait while the narrator prepares to introduce him to Miss Prior; he i s asked whether he would attend social functions i n places he knows do not exist, i f he were invited; he i s advised not to t e l l his old boring jokes to his family, and warned that i f he does he can only expect hypocritical responses. The reader i s thus put on a similar footing to the f i c t i o n a l characters, and in fact becomes partly f i c t i o n a l . Luckily, the reader can withdraw himself at w i l l from t h i s world and see that he has been nothing but an actor i n a theatre which he then beholds empty as the characters dissolve into thin a i r . While under the f i c t i o n a l s p e l l , the way the reader feels about the characters i s analogous to the way he fee l s about people outside the book. He projects personal f e e l i n g into them and sees them as more or less wicked, heroic, or beautiful because he has these feelings 35 'The Form of Victorian F i c t i o n : Thackeray, Dickens, Trollope, George E l i o t , Meredith, and Hardy (Notre Dame, Indiana: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1968), p. 45* 140 inside himself and they need to he expressed by becoming affixed to another rather than f l o a t i n g f r e e l y within h i s subconscious. As Darley i n Justine i s told, "the love you now feel for Justine i s not a different love for a different object but the same love you fe e l for Melissa trying to work i t s e l f out through the medium of Justine," 3^ so the reader of Pendennis i s told You have an in s t i n c t within you which inclines you to attach yourself to some one: you meet Somebody: you hear Somebody constantly praised: you walk, or ride, or waltz, or talk, or s i t i n the same pew at church with Somebody: you meet again, and again, and— . . .Or, the a f f a i r i s broken off, and then, poor dear wounded heart! why then you meet Somebody Else, and twine your young affections round number two. I t i s your nature so to do. . Do you suppose i t i s a l l for the man's sake that you love, and not a b i t for your own? (vT, 26) The reader's feelings about the characters i n the novels are shown to be based not on their v a l u e — f o r they are i n t r i n s i c a l l y valueless—but on the reader's need to find an object onto whom he may project love, hatred or a sense of beauty. Potential heroines such a Laura Bell and Theodosia Lambert, and v i l l a i n s l i k e Dr. Pirmin and Barnes Newcome, detach themselves less from their functional emblems than others, but the bias of their narrator i s made plain in each case. The narrator of P h i l i p i s well-aware that i n choosing to write a story with P h i l i p as nominal hero, he neglects many other alternative stories, some of which might' paint P h i l i p i n an unfavour-able l i g h t , or cast him even i n the role of v i l l a i n . Although the reader i s , so-to speak, imprisoned within the st o r y - t e l l e r ' s Justine, p. 130. 141 consciousness, this consciousness has the capacity to expand beyond the bounds of "story" and become aware of i t s own subjectivity. The narrator comes to f i n d for example, i n Proust's words, "the purely subjective nature of the phenomena that we c a l l love, or how i t creates, so to speak, a fresh, t h i r d , a supplementary person, d i s t i n c t from the person whom the world knows by the same name, a person most of whose 37 constituent elements are derived from ourselves." 1 Knowing that he i s offering us a supplementary person who i s a mere convenience derived from hi s own desire for self-expression, the narrator repeatedly stresses the a r t i f i c e of h i s story and i t s purely arbitrary nature. The characters become mere pawns used to evoke a vicarious response from the reader who should recognize that, though i t i s an old and t r i t e story he i s involved in,, i t i s also his story. I t i s de te fabula. Although t h i s seeming abjuration of the characters should tend to diminish the reader's sense of their substantiality, and although the narrator frequently shows more concern with the ramifications of his own t r a i n of thought than with the fortunes of h i s characters, the characters persist i n disavowing their unreality because they are predominantly ideal constructs, symbols whose counterparts are embedded within the reader's psyche. Thackeray, as h i s i l l u s t r a t i o n s frequently emphasize, i s happy to work with tra d i t i o n a l symbol and myth such as the serpent i n the garden, Cupid and Psyche or St. George. These tradi t i o n a l images offer s t a b i l i t y 37 'Remembrance of Things Past, trans. C.K. Scott Moncrieff (London: Chatto and Windus, 1941), I I I , 56. 142 and a sense of continuity. Against t h i s s t a t i c background, Thackeray's narrator indulges f r e e l y i n following his own fluctuating moods, probing into his own consciousness and his reader's rather than the particular minds of his characters. When J.W. Dodds claims that "stroke by stroke, i n conversation and description, Thackeray brings out the subtle differences which make individuals of his people," one must surely demur. I t i s the generic consciousness that Thackeray reveals rather than individual variants, which are accounted for by hints and suggestions or the narrator's admission that he can never r e a l l y know the darker depths of an individual's heart. In Pendennis, for instance, the hero, as the i l l u s t r a t i o n s on the t i t l e pages of the f i r s t two volumes make clear, must choose either the worldly expediency of a p o l i t i c a l career and Blanche Amory or the domestic f e l i c i t y of a humble home and Laura B e l l . .While Arthur and Blanche play Cupid and Psyche to each other, write romantic poetry and indulge i n pretty dreams, Laura remains the constant s i s t e r , the saint and good angel, sound as the b e l l of her name. Pen has to choose Laura's genuine love rather than the blanched,pretendedly pure love of the convict's daughter who appears i n many disguises and stands predominantly for affectation and i n s t a b i l i t y . The dice i s heavily loaded against the false heroine whose role i s that of seducer of the hero away from the pl a i n and simple Laura. The i n i t i a l i l l u s t r a t i o n to chapter LXXII shows Pen Thackeray: A C r i t i c a l P ortrait , p. 196. 143 as harlequin offering a love l e t t e r to a masked and gowned lady. Differences there are and must he between the parts, but their " i n d i v i d u a l i t y " i s p l a i n l y dictated, and happily accepted by the reader as being dictated, by the needs of the plot. Summary In the primary world of Thackeray's novels, then, we are faced not with individuals but with types whom we enjoy not f o r the sense they give us of being complex l i k e ourselves, but. because of their simplicity and p r e d i c t a b i l i t y . We enjoy them a l l the more perhaps f o r not being l i k e f l e s h and blood, for we are not disturbed by their absurdity, wickedness and f o l l y , which have a comic i n e v i t a b i l i t y . The secondary f i c t i o n a l world asks us to r e f l e c t on the convention and supply l i f e to the drama by our own experience. When Mark Spilka i s outraged by the unreality of a d o l l - l i k e figure such as Amelia, he ignores the fact that the convention being parodied demands a sweet heroine. Knowing t h i s figure as an ideal type, and knowing, moreover, that Thackeray i s aware that she i s a dream figure whose r e a l i t y depends upon the convictions of the moment, i t i s f u t i l e to complain that 39 "the woman scarcely exists i n her own right." ' The fate of Thackeray's "heroes," " v i l l a i n s " and "lovers," as we have seen, does not correspond to their suggested parts i n their respective novels. Becky and Barnes end respectably and prosperously, 3 9Mark Spilka, "A Note on Thackeray's Amelia," NCF, 10(1955), 206. 144 while the triumphs of Esmond, Dobbin and George Warrington are ambivalent. Dr. Pirmin and Lady Baker refuse to accept the part of v i l l a i n i n which their hesitant narrator would see them. Lovers are united either i n fable-land, as i n The Newcomes, or equivocally, as i n Vanity- F a i r , Esmond, The Virginians, and P h i l i p . Ideal constructs i n the novels are continually reduced to their human context with emphasis on the di s p a r i t i e s between aspiration and f u l f i l l m e n t , desire and capacity, and the c o n f l i c t i n g demands of the truths of f e e l i n g and f a c t . The uncertainty of the narrator's capacity to distinguish with any degree of permanence between the ideal and the l i v e d " r e a l i t y " drives him to the retreat of the play world where each role i s an expression of the moment's truth, and i s self-contained and gives temporary sa t i s f a c t i o n . William Dobbin, Henry Esmond, Henry and George Warrington, Arthur Pendennis, and Clive Newcome are thus potential heroes, who, on occasion, do act heroic a l l y . Whether they are " r e a l " people to their narrators or whether they merely act out \the~ir narrator's own heroic fantasies as puppet figures—and they do both as occasion demands— they do duty for epic hero and c h i v a l r i c lover, although they may also be at times, rogue, scapegrace, muff, hypocrite, snob and spooney. Thackeray's f i c t i o n moves within the conventions of popular melodrama, fashionable f i c t i o n , epic, and c h i v a l r i c romance. From these worlds he draws a variety of stage and l i t e r a r y types such as Altamont, Lightfoot, S i r Francis Clavering, Amelia Sedley, Blanche Amory, Dr. Brand Firmin, Beatrix Esmond, George Osborn^ George Warrington and Henry Esmond. The world of f a i r y - t a l e l i e s behind the bourgeois worlds of the other novels from Vanity Fair to Lovel the  Widower, It i s also i n s i s t e n t l y present in the fragment Denis Duval, whose nominal hero i s at various times seen as Adam, Romeo and Humpty Dumpty, Many of the novels have a wicked f a i r y who wields her power through the spell of money and family influence. Young Henry Esmond has an unjust stepmother and an aunt who resembles a wicked tragedy queen. Caroline Brandon in P h i l i p i s seen by the narrator as an injured Cinderella whose Prince Charming proves f a l s e , while Agnes and Blanche Twysden appear on another occasion as the hypocritical ugly sisters who.fail to recognize the true worth of the poor Cinderella, Mrs. Lovel, u n t i l she becomes s o c i a l l y and f i n a n c i a l l y i n f l u e n t i a l . In chapter XXII of The Virginians, Theodosia Lambert becomes for the narrator a runaway Princess while Harry Warrington i s her knight i n shining armour ready to overcome ogres and dragons before besiebging the fortress where hi s beloved i s imprisoned. I t i s plain, then, that Thackeray i s not primarily concerned with placing before his reader the inner consciousness of individual characters, but with the fragments of many conventions as they pass through the narrator's mind. The kind of participation the novel t y p i c a l l y induces, according to Ian Watt, "makes us fe e l that we are i n contact not with l i t e r a t u r e but with the raw materials of l i f e i t s e l f as they are momentarily reflected i n the minds of the protagonists." 4^ I f t h i s i s so, then the Thackerayan protagonist i s ^The Rise of the Hovel; Studies i n Defoe, Richardson and  Fielding (Berkeley; Univ. of Ca l i f o r n i a Press, 1964), p. 193. 146 atypical; but then so are the protagonists of novels such as Tom Jones, 01iver Twist, The Egoist, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and much of.Ulysses. A more, inclusive statement was made by R.L. Stevenson i n 1883, when he said, " A l l representative art, which can be said to l i v e , i s both r e a l i s t i c and ideal; and the realism about which we quarrel i s a matter purely of externals." Stevenson, attacking the doctrine of naturalism as "a mere whim of veering fashion," declares that i t "has made us turn our back upon the larger, more various, and more romantic art of yore."4'*' Watt's phrase "the raw materials of l i f e i t s e l f " i s clear i n nothing except that i t i s !'not . . . l i t e r a t u r e . " The p o s s i b i l i t y that l i t e r a t u r e may give a perceiving mind the tools whereby i t i s able to organize and make coherent the raw materials of l i f e seems to pass unnoticed here. The mind of the Thackerayan narrator, at any rate, expresses i t s e l f by showing the tools of art at work upon these intractable raw materials. 4 ^ C i t e d by Miriam A l l o t t , ed., Novelists on the Hovel (London: Routledge and Paul, ["1959"] ), p. 72. CHAPTER V ILLUSION AT WORK AND PLAY: HENRY ESMOND AND PHILIP There i s a time when the romance of l i f e Should he shut up, and closed with double clasp. —Landor, Last F r u i t Off An Old Tree . . . wherein was something f i n i t e and sad, for the human soul at i t s maximum wants a sense of the i n f i n i t e . —D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow Now my dear fellow I must once for a l l t e l l you I have not one Idea of the truth of any of my speculations—I shall never be a Reasoner because I do not care to be i n the right, when re t i r e d from bickering and i n a proper philosophical temper— —Kea t s , Letters Clearly, Henry Esmond d i f f e r s in aim, tone and method from the se r i a l i z e d novels. Conceived and published as a unified whole, i t combines the influence of Thackeray's research into eighteenth-century history with a mood of personal despondency brought on by his a f f a i r with Mrs. Brookfield. I t bears the mark of meticulous scholarship within i t s sedate and pensive mood. I t " i s much too grave and sad" for part publication, Thackeray declared (Letters. I l l , 24). This novel, which Thackeray saw as h i s finest achievement, was written while the author was secluded from h i s family, who were for once not allowed to share i n the creative process: "Esmond did not seem to be part of our l i v e s , as Pendennis had been," Anne Thackeray regretted (X, v ) . Her father himself termed Esmond "a book of cutthroat melancholy" and said that i t was "as dreary and du l l as i f i t were true" (Letters, I I , 807; III, 100). 147 148 Moreover, Esmond was the only Thackeray novel to he published without i l l u s t r a t i o n s , and the ori g i n a l binding and typography were imitations of eighteenth-century book-making.^" Even l a t e r editions of the novel were sparingly i l l u s t r a t e d and lacked the characteristic i n i t i a l drawings of the author. In Esmond there are fewer addresses to the reader than i n the typical Thackeray novel, and when the narrator does speak to his reader i t i s usually not to the novel-reader of the nineteenth century but to Esmond's own descendants. The generalized comments, the improvised characters, the witty anecdotes that draw the reader and dare him to make a judgement or pronounce conclusively on the truth, are, i f not relinquished, d r a s t i c a l l y reduced. When such passages do occur, they are usually worked into the story or given out as the reflections of young Esmond—as i n this axiomatic declaration to Esmond's grandchildren, provoked by an account of the Colonel's slavery to Beatrix: And who does not know how ruthlessly women w i l l tyrannize when they are l e t to domineer? and who does not know how useless advice is? I could give good counsel to my descendants, but I know th e y ' l l follow their own way, for a l l their grandfather's sermon. A man gets his own experience about women, and w i l l take nobody's hearsay; nor, indeed, i s the young fellow worth a f i g that would. 'Tis I that am i n love with my mistress, not my old grandmother that counsels me: ' t i s I that have fixed the value of the thing I would have, and know the price I would pay for i t . It may be worthless to you, but ' t i s a l l my l i f e to me. Had Esmond possessed the Great Mogul's crown and a l l his For facsimile of original t i t l e page, see Scribners ed. X, x i ; for description of f i r s t edition, see Van Duzer, A Thackeray  Library (Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1965), pp. 56-57, 149 diamonds, or a l l the Duke of Marlborough's money, or a l l the ingots sunk at Vigo, he would have given them a l l for t h i s woman. A fool he was, i f you w i l l ; but so i s a sovereign a f o o l , that w i l l give half a p r i n c i p a l i t y for a l i t t l e crystal as big as a pigeon's egg, and called a diamond; so i s a wealthy nobleman a f o o l , that w i l l face danger or death, and spend half his l i f e , and a l l his t r a n q u i l l i t y , caballing f o r a blue riband; so i s a Dutch merchant a f o o l , that hath been known to pay ten thousand crowns for a t u l i p . There's some particular prize we a l l of us value, and that every man of s p i r i t w i l l venture his l i f e f o r . (XI, 158-159) The l o c a l h i s t o r i c a l references that accumulate in this passage are calculated to demonstrate the f i n a l proposition, which i s not only the particular point of the address but the controlling theme of the novel. Never does Esmond allow his imagination, i n such a "digressive" passage, to take wing, to activate the scene of the Great Mogul, the ljutch merchant, or the sovereign, casting away their riches for worthless ends. Esmond has reached a point of vantage i n his maturity, and looking back on his past he i s able to draw general conclusions about mankind. There i s a marked absence of i r r e s o l u t i o n or misgiving i n his tone. He moves straight to his settled opinion, pausing only long enough to gather the necessary evidence. Furthermore, the images of riches are related to a pattern that runs throughout the novel. Beatrix i s always a "prize" or a highly prized "object" and associated with r i c h and precious jewels, or lustrous crowns. Esmond, himself, gives h i s cousin the family diamonds on the news of her engagement to Lord Hamilton. Beatrix i s s a t i s f i e d , f i n a l l y , with nothing l e s s than the Pretender's crown. The point to be stressed i s that t h i s seemingly digressive passage 150 has a v i t a l r e l a t i o n to the novel's paramount theme: the incalculable value of individual idealism i n contrast to worldly acquisition. It i s of course, triumphantly asserted i n Esmond's dual abdication of his legal claim to Castlewood. A typical device employed by Thackeray in his major novels i s to have a f r i e n d l y but detached t e l l e r comment on a youthful scapegrace-hero's progress, from passion for worldly sirens to a f i n a l r e a l i z a t i o n of the genuine humble virtue near at hand. Thus, ultimately, Blanche Amory i s superseded by Laura B e l l , Agnes Twysden by Charlotte Baynes, and Beatrix i s replaced i n Esmond's affections by Rachel. However, the distinguishing feature i n Esmond's case—leaving aside for the moment that he t e l l s his own story, i s an epic hero rather than a scapegrace, and marries an older woman—is that Beatrix i s not discredited u n t i l the f i n a l chapter, and, l i k e Mary Crawford i n Mansfield Park, her v i t a l i t y dominates the novel. Beatrix i s much more the a l t e r ego of Esmond than are Maria, Blanche, or Agnes of their heroes. Esmond's passion for Beatrix i s psychically far deeper than the domestic warmth and s i l e n t guardian-ship that he feels for Rachel. The reader, too, admires her f i e r y s p i r i t as inevitably as he does Becky Sharp's. Becky's successful amoral campaign i s compared to that of Napoleon, and Beatrix, too, i n her scorn of the world, her s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y , her self-knowledge (including that of her own necessary hypocrisy), sees her struggle i n m i l i t a r y terms: 151 "I have been long enough Prank's humble servant. Why am I not a man? I have ten times his brains, and had I worn the — well, don't l e t your ladyship be frightened—had I worn a sword and periwig instead of th i s mantle and commode to which nature has condemned me—(though 'tis/pretty stuff, t o o — Cousin Esmond! you w i l l go to the Exchange tomorrow, and get the exact counterpart of this ribbon, s i r ; do you hear?)—I would have made our name talked about." (XI, I64) Unlike the typic a l hero, Esmond knows—and even knew at the time 'of the a c t i o n — t h a t he i s , i n common-sense terms, f o o l i s h to love such a wayward, headstrong and petulant creature, but he loves her, for most part of the novel, i n spite of this knowledge: Whilst Esmond was under the domination of th i s passion, he remembers many a talk he had with his intimates,, who used to r a l l y Our Knight of the Rueful Countenance at his devotion, whereof he made no disguise, to Beatrix; and i t was with rep l i e s such as the above [[See pp. 148-93 N E me^ his friends' s a t i r e . "Granted, I am a f o o l , " says he, "and no better than you; but you are no better than I . You have your f o l l y you labour for; give me the charity of mine. What f l a t t e r i e s do . you, Mr. St. John, stoop to whisper i n the ears of a queen's favourite? What nights of labour doth not the l a z i e s t man i n the world endure, foregoing his bottle, and his boon companions, foregoing Lais, i n whose lap he would l i k e to be yawning that he may prepare a speech f u l l of l i e s , to cajole three-hundred, stupid country-gentlemen i n the House of Commons, and get the hiccupping cheers of the October Club!" (XI, 159) Although Esmond i s no naive hero of the Harry Warrington stamp, he appreciates the q u a l i t i e s of Beatrix and admires "the indomitable courage and majestic calm with which she bore" the death of her fiance, the Duke of Hamilton, the summit of her worldly ambition (XI, 230). Even as Beatrix's star i s setting f o r him, Esmond s t i l l finds i n her something great and noble; "Beatrix's 152 nature was d i f f e r e n t to that tender parent's; she seemed to accept her g r i e f , and to defy i t " (XI, 230). Esmond i s moving between the two f i x e d extremes: from amoral B e a t r i x to moral Rachel, yet the g l o r y of the f i r s t seems to remain i n h i s memory. At no time before her f i n a l d e f e c t i o n does Esmond f a i l to recognize B e a t r i x ' s amoral worth: Not t h a t we should judge proud s p i r i t s otherwise than c h a r i t a b l y . "Pis nature hath fashioned some f o r ambition and dominion, as i t hath formed others f o r obedience and gentle submission. The l e o p a r d f o l l o w s h i s nature as the lamb does, and a c t s a f t e r l e o p a r d law; she can n e i t h e r h e l p her beauty, nor her courage, nor her c r u e l t y ; nor a s i n g l e spot i n her s h i n i n g coat; nor the conquering s p i r i t which impels her; nor the shot which br i n g s her down.' (XI, 230) I f B e a t r i x i s a f a l l e n s t a r , Rachel, by c o n t r a s t , i s a f i x e d one. Esmond's v i s i o n of h i s " d i v i n e m i s t r e s s " remains constant. Rachel, i n t h i s i d y l l i c passage, seems to hover over the whole of human ex i s t e n c e from Eden to apocalypse: They walked out, hand-in-hand, through the o l d court, and to the terrace-walk, where the grass was g l i s t e n i n g with dew, and the b i r d s i n the green woods above were s i n g i n g t h e i r d e l i c i o u s choruses under the b l u s h i n g morning sky. How w e l l a l l t h i n g s were rememberedJ The ancient towers and gables of the h a l l d a r k l i n g against the east, the purple shadows on the green slopes, the quaint devices and carvings of the d i a l , the forest-crowned h e i g h t s , the f a i r yellow p l a i n c h e e r f u l with crops and corn, the s h i n i n g r i v e r r o l l i n g through i t towards the p e a r l y h i l l s beyond; a l l these were before us, a l o n g with a thousand b e a u t i f u l memories of our youth, b e a u t i f u l and sad, but as r e a l and v i v i d i n our minds as that f a i r and always-remembered scene our eyes beheld once more. We f o r g e t nothing. The memory sleeps, but wakens again; I o f t e n t h i n k how i t s h a l l be when, a f t e r the l a s t sleep of death, the r e v e i l l e e s h a l l arouse us f o r ever, and the past i n one f l a s h of s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s rush back, l i k e the s o u l -r e v i v i f i e d . (XI, 237) 153 The t i m e l e s s q u a l i t y of Rachel's i n f l u e n c e on Esmond i s a l s o s t r e s s e d by her r e f u s a l to age throughout the n o v e l . Speaking of her daughter she d e c l a r e s , "¥e are l i k e s i s t e r s , and she the e l d e s t s i s t e r , somehow" (XI, 109). Returning from B r u x e l l e s , Esmond f i n d s that h i s "dear m i s t r e s s , b l u s h i n g as he looked at her, with her b e a u t i f u l f a i r h a i r , and an elegant dress, a c c o r d i n g to the mode, appeared to have the shape and complexion of a g i r l of twenty" (XI, 111). Doctor A t t e r b u r y found that Rachel "looked so charming and young," that he spoke of her beauty to the Prince (XI, 309). On another occasion, mother and daughter "made a ve r y p r e t t y p i c t u r e together, and looked l i k e a p a i r of s i s t e r s — t h e sweet simple matron seeming younger than her years, and her daughter, i f not o l d e r , yet somehow, from a commanding manner and grace which she possessed above most women, her mother's s u p e r i o r and p r o t e c t r e s s " (XI, 157). On Esmond's r e t u r n to Castlewood, B e a t r i x "was o l d e r , p a l e r , and more majestic, than i n the year before; her mother seemed the youngest of the two" (XI, 238). Thus, although i n many ways Esmond's movement from the w o r l d l y shrew to the humble and d i v i n e l y a f f e c t i o n a t e maternal f i g u r e i s a t y p i c a l device of Thackeray, Esmond's attachment to and e v a l u a t i o n of these opposites i s d i s t i n c t l y d i f f e r e n t . Esmond seeks h i s f u l f i l l m e n t i n each c o n c u r r e n t l y r a t h e r than s e q u e n t i a l l y , and, as a moral creature h i m s e l f , he attempts to do the i m p o s s i b l e — t o b u i l d an essence from two incompatible h a l v e s . Before he f i n a l l y r e s i g n s h i m s e l f to Rachel, he s u f f e r s an acute sense of l o s s and weariness at the double d e f e c t i o n of h i s i d e a l s of lo v e and k i n g s h i p . Before t r e a t i n g t h i s l o s s 154 more f u l l y , however, i t i s important, to examine further the d i s t i n c -t i v e l y different q u a l i t i e s of the narrative mode i n Esmond compared with the typical novel. The narrator of Esmond i s r e f l e c t i v e rather than reflexive l i k e the typical Thackerayan narrator; he reveals for his descendants his golden past, hut does not e l i c i t consciousness of his ephemeral writing present. He seldom turns on himself an i r o n i c a l eye, seldom has second thoughts, and never exposes himself as jester, f o o l , or hypocrite. Esmond's history i s , i n fa c t , so far removed from his writing present that he writes i t quasi-posthumously; "To the very l a s t hour of his l i f e , Esmond remembered the lady as she then spoke and looked" (X, 8 ) . While Pendennis entertains the ideal world of romance and f a i r y - t a l e i n order subsequently to expose i t s i n s t a b i l -i t y , Esmond i s ever reluctant to jettison the ideals which Beatrix, Holt, and the Pretender once held for him. Thus, young Castlewood, paying his respects to the Duchess of Marlborough, looks to Esmond "l i k e a prince out of a f a i r y t a l e " and of Beatrix's planned costume for King James the Third's coronation, he declares "never a princess i n the land would have become ermine better" (XI, 33j 221). The ideal forms of love and kingship are i n d e l i b l y impressed on Esmond's consciousness and when the human r e a l i t y t r a g i c a l l y f a i l s to f i t these forms, as i t does i n the case of the Pretender, Esmond's reaction i s one of weariness and despair. The worldly Pendennis, acknowledging the nature of human weakness—including his own and his reader's—would draw a discreet curtain over the scene that evokes 155 i n Esmond such a fever of discontent* In t h i s Macbeth-like soliloquy, Esmond reveals not merely personal jealousy of the Pretender (Esmond had become hardened to this experience after Beatrix's a f f a i r s with Blandford and Hamilton), but self-doubt combined with a savagery at the betrayal of noble ideals by the shallow and callous figures who ought to uphold them: "I have done the deed," thought he, sleepless, and look-ing out into the night; "he i s here, and I have brought him; he and Beatrix are sleeping under the same roof now. Whom did I mean to serve i n bringing him? Was i t the Prince? was i t Henry Esmond? Had I not best have joined the manly creed of Addison yonder, tha"t scouts the old doctrine of right divine, that boldly declares that Parliament and people con-secrate the Sovereign, not bishops, nor genealogies, nor o i l s , nor coronations." The eager gaze of the young Prince, watching every movement of Beatrix, haunted Esmond and pursued, him. The Prince's figure appeared before him in'-His" feverish, dreams many times that night. He wished the deed undone for which he had laboured so. (XI, 268) Where the typical narrator, quite at home i n a world of flux and ambiguous ideals, delights to reveal the disparity between human aspiration and human achievement, Esmond i s always pained i n witness-ing the betrayal of noble causes. Although he espouses the cause of King James the Third, Esmond b i t t e r l y records the Prince's feckless conduct and blind ignorance of his kingly duties: "He l e t his chances s l i p by as he lay i n the lap of opera-girls, or snivelled at the knees of priests asking pardon; and the blood of heroes, and the devotedness of honest hearts, and endurance, courage, f i d e l i t y , were a l l spent for him i n vain" (XI, 127). Esmond frequently exposes the private r e a l i t y behind the 156 outward form of such public worthies as Marlborough, Addison, Steele, and Dr. Johnson. Even King William whom "no man admired . . . more; a hero and a conqueror, the bravest, justest, wisest of men" i s denounced as a butcher and tyrant, for "'twas by the sword he conquered" (XI, 126-127). Esmond's dispute with Addison concerning the l a t t e r ' s epic on the battle of Blenheim i s based .on the fact that poets t e l l the truth neither about the horrors of war nor the corruption of leaders. Epics are concerned not with men but with heroes; "We must paint our great Duke . . . not as a man, which no doubt he i s , with weaknesses l i k e the rest of us, but as a hero," declares Addison (XI, 44). Although Esmond i s clear-sighted enough to note the incongruity between the public image and the facts as vouchsafed to Marlborough's intimates, when he deals with his own private l i f e , namely his love of Beatrix and of Rachel, he i s seldom capable of consistent detachment. Beatrix remains throughout the memoir Esmond's "enchantress" or h i s "charmer;" Rachel i s always his "dear mistress." Rational assessment i s , therefore, inadequate to account for the effect of these women upon him. Beatrix and Rachel remain for Esmond ideal creatures, even though Beatrix's image ultimately becomes tarnished and Rachel's changes from that of perfect mother to perfect wife. The r e a l i s t i n Esmond knows that Beatrix i s hard-hearted, mercenary, and s o c i a l l y aspiring, but i t i s the ideal v i s i o n which dominates his view of her. He i s too passionately involved to be amused by the incongruity of his bifurcated vision; he i s devoted to an image, to an icon kept sacred i n h i s memory irrespective of any worldly or factual knowledge that may attempt to shatter i t . Beatrix i s the prize which Esmond 157 seeks to win by noble and gallant action both i n Webb's regiment and i n the intrigue to restore the crown to "The King over the Water." Esmond i s not a f e r v i d believer i n either of these public causes: "Esmond thought an English king out of St. Germains was better and f i t t e r than a German prince from Herrenhausen, and that i f he f a i l e d to s a t i s f y the nation, some other Englishman might be found to take his place" (XI, 136). Esmond i s as aware, i n h i s rational moments, of the foolishness of his pursuit of Beatrix as he i s of the f o l l y of simple-minded s e l f - s a c r i f i c e f o r the worldly gain of others, yet he cannot dismiss Beatrix as unworthy; t h i s , he makes clear to Rachel: "What l i t t l e reputation I have won, I swear I cared for i t because I thought Beatrix would be pleased with i t . What care I to be a colonel or a general? Think you ' t w i l l matter a few score years hence, what our f o o l i s h honours to-day are? I would have had a l i t t l e fame, that she might wear i t i n her hat. I f I had anything better, I would endow her with i t . I f she wants my l i f e , I would give i t her. I f she marries another, I w i l l say God bless him. I make no boast nor no complaint. I think my f i d e l i t y i s f o l l y , perhaps. But so i t i s . I cannot help myself. I love her. You are a thousand times better: the fondest, the f a i r e s t , the dearest of women. Sure, my dear lady, I see a l l Beatrix's f a u l t s as well as you do. But she i s my fate. 'Tis endurable. I shall not die for want of having her. I think I should be no happier i f I won her. Que voulez-vous? as my Lady of Chelsey would say. Je 1'aime." (XI, 107-108) Esmond contrasts with Prank Castlewood i n being no simple i d e a l i s t , no naive zealot. While the uxorious Prank becomes dominated by the rather unattractive Clotilda—"my poor Prank was weak, as perhaps a l l our race hath been, and led by women" (XI, 334)—Esmond retains, at least i n h i s passion f o r Beatrix, a knowledge of his own foolishness and his beloved's unworthiness. His devotion i s the more exceptional, more moving, and more heroic because of t h i s knowledge. Honours, whether won i n the Duke's, the King's, or the Pretender's service, are useless to Esmond i f they f a i l to advance h i s suit with Beatrix. Typically enough, Esmond renounces h i s t i t l e i n favour of Prank, for honours of rank and t i t l e mean as l i t t l e to him as those won on the b a t t l e f i e l d . Honour for Esmond l i e s i n s e l f - s a c r i f i c e for the only cause he p r i z e s — t h e conquest of Beatrix. He i s not lured by "the twopenny crown" (XI, 260 ) of the Castlewood e n t a i l . Young Prank, to whom the t i t l e means so much, who b l i n d l y worships h i s wife and who "was ready to fight without much thinking" f o r the Jacobite cause (XI, 254), does not suffer as Esmond does at human defection from the i d e a l . Esmond knows that, though h i s f i d e l i t y i s f o l l y , he cannot help himself. Nevertheless his T o l l y " i s precious to him; he can never laugh at h i s feverish and insane passion, even i n retrospect. Although, after Oudenarde, his name was sent into.the Gazette for promotion, and this "made his heart beat to think that certain eyes at home, the brightest i n the world, might read the page on which his humble services were recorded," yet "his mind was made up steadily to keep out of their dangerous influence, and to l e t time and absence conquer that passion he had s t i l l lurking about him" (XI, 81). This determination does not cool Esmond's ardour, however, and before long he i s back,"pleased at the l i t t l e share of reputation which his good fortune [at the battle of Wynendaelj had won him, yet i t was c h i e f l y precious to him . . . because i t pleased his mistress, and, above a l l , because Beatrix valued i t " (XI, 104). Esmond values neither fame nor t i t l e that does not enhance his suit with Beatrix, his splendid private f o l l y that, l i k e young Hareel»s adolescent, passion for Gilberte i n Proust's novel, remains locked i n the memory and burnished with time. Esmond's intimate relationship to his own story, naturally enough precludes him from the self-conscious and reader-conscious addresses that we associate with the typical Thackerayan narrator. Esmond, t e l l i n g his own story, i s not free to stand outside the i l l u s i o n and see i t s ephemeral nature; he i s "historian" and not a novelist gently mocking a sentimental or cynical reader. In fact Esmond i s very rarely conscious of a reader, and his soliloquies, though they do occasionally sound the discursive and f a n c i f u l note of the s e r i a l i z e d novels, contribute to the unifying theme of the novel—the ultimate value of romantic idealism, and the heroic nature of i t s pursuit i n the face of the tangible and the l o g i c a l . Esmond does not merely end with a marriage and the prospect of eternal union, but with the affirmation that "love v i n c i t omnia; i s immeasurably above a l l ambition, more precious than wealth, more noble than name" (XI, 333). This i s no sudden revelation for Esmond, whose whole l i f e has consisted of the repudiation of ambition, wealth and name, and whose passion f o r Beatrix i s extinguished only by her feckless betrayal of the noble cause to which the Castlewoods are devoted: She came up to Esmond and hissed out a word or two:—"If I 160 did not love you before, cousin," says she, "think how I love you now." I f words could stab, no doubt she would have k i l l e d Esmond; she looked at him as i f she could. But her keen words gave no wound to Mr. Esmond; his heart was too hard. As he looked at her, he wondered that he could ever have loved her. His love of ten years was over; i t f e l l down dead on the spot, at the Kensington Tavern, where Frank brought him the note out of "Eikon Ba s i l i k e . " (XI, .329-330) The emotional intensity of such a climactic passage i s not q u a l i f i e d by any f r i e n d l y farewells to the reader or any promise to the senti-mental reader that his hero w i l l ultimately be rewarded. In some degree t h i s i s indeed the death of Esmond's passion: Beatrix has e f f e c t i v e l y stabbed him, and although the f i n a l r e a l i z a t i o n of Rachel's worth has been prepared for throughout, the reader i s pained by the hero's f i n a l repudiation of Beatrix. Esmond has moved towards an awareness that not only does hi s i d o l have feet of clay, but that i t s golden splendour emanated from his own ideal v i s i o n . Although i t i s true that Esmond had reached this sad conclu-sion much e a r l i e r i n h i s l i f e , yet the process by which he achieved this knowledge was rational rather than emotional. Returning to the court, flushed with the dearly-won triumph of Wynendael, Henry meticulously characterizes Beatrix's defects, yet stubbornly defends his v i s i o n . In this self-catechism, he approaches the detachment of the more typical narrator of the s e r i a l i z e d novels: What i s the meaning of f i d e l i t y i n love, and whence the b i r t h of i t ? 'Tis a state of mind that men f a l l into, and depending on the man rather than the woman. We love being i n love, that's the truth-on't; I f we had not met Joan we should have met Kate, and adored her. We know our mistresses are no 161 better than many other women, nor no pr e t t i e r , nor no wiser, nor no w i t t i e r , 'Tis not for these reasons we love a woman, or for any special quality or charm I know of5 we might as well demand that a lady should be the t a l l e s t woman i n the world, l i k e the Shropshire Giantess, as that she should be a paragon in-any other character, before we began to love her, Esmond's mistress had a thousand fa u l t s beside; her charms; he knew both perfectly well! She was imperious, she was light-minded, she was f l i g h t y , she was f a l s e , she had no reverence i n her character; she was i n everything, even i n beauty, the contrast of her mother, who was the most devoted and the least s e l f i s h of women, Well, from the very f i r s t moment he saw her on the s t a i r s at Walcote, Esmond knew he loved Beatrix, There might be better women—he wanted that one. He cared for none other. Was i t - because she was gloriously beautiful? Beautiful as she was,he had heard people say a score of times in their company that Beatrix's mother .looked as young, and was the handsomer of the two. Why did her voice t h r i l l i n his ear so? She could not sing near so well as N i c o l i n i or Mrs. Tofts; nay, she.sang out of tune . . . and yet to see her dazzled Esmond; he would shut his eyes, and the thought of her dazzled him a l l the same. ( x i , 104-105) Esmond's eye-closing i s ambivalent here; i t i s due not only to the painful b r i l l i a n c e of Beatrix but also to h i s need to maintain the ideal, even i n the face of i t s sensible and rational contrary. Where Pendennis and his successive narrators would smile at such connivance with their cloud-cuckoo visions, Esmond determinedly clings to the timeless. The "thousand f a u l t s " of Beatrix, which the s o l i l o q u i z i n g Esmond begins gaily to enumerate, become l o s t i n the culminating transcendent radiance. The tone of the monologue, too, as i t moves from the general to the particular, drops i t s jaunty playful note and takes on a persistently personal one: "Esmond knew he loved Beatrix," "There might be better women—he wanted that one," "and yet to see her dazzled Esmond." It i s clear, at this time, that Esmond s t i l l prefers to l e t his mental image dominate his rational sense; his 162 culminating disgust with his false King and his false Queen s t i l l needs the f i n a l evidence concealed (and never overtly discussed) i n the "Eikon Basilike." The t i t l e of the volume i t s e l f alludes both to the serpentine charm of Beatrix and the false image of the "King" which Esmond and the other branch of the Castlewood family had indeed worshipped as an icon, Esmond i s , throughout his memoirs, possessed by a series of romantic images. As a small boy he i s introduced to the reader, s i g n i f i c a n t l y , i n the portrait gallery of Castlewood. His inviolable image of Rachel, who never seems to age to Esmond throughout his adolescence, early manhood, and adult l i f e , remains untarnished to the end. In t h i s , Rachel's image contrasts with that of Beatrix, for, ultimately, the mother replaces the discredited daughter as the focus of Esmond's idealism. Rachel's image precedes her daughter's and ultimately remains longer with him; i t dazzles but does not dominate Esmond u n t i l Beatrix's star i s dimmed. Esmond looks up at Rachel " i n a sort of delight and wonder, for she had come upon him as a (D.ea certe, and appeared the most charming object he had ever looked on. Her golden hair was shining i n the gold of the sun; her complexion was of a dazzling bloom; her l i p s smiling, and her eyes beaming with a kindness which made Henry Esmond's heart to beat with surprise" (X, 7). Rachel appears, thus, as a divine messenger, and has much of the qual i t y of a Pra Angelico "Annunciation." She i s s t i f f and b r i l l i a n t , bearing a sacred message from the heavens. Esmond i s transfixed by the visionary Rachel, but the divine creature returns to him "with a 163 l o o k of i n f i n i t e p i t y and tenderness i n her eyes," and the boy "who had never looked upon so much beauty before, f e l t as i f the touch of a s u p e r i o r b e i n g or angel smote him down to the ground" (X, 75 8). T h i s impression made by the "charming o b j e c t " and " s u p e r i o r being" i s never completely e f f a c e d from Esmond's memory, but almost immediately t h i s j o y f u l and sublime p i c t u r e i s superseded by that of B e a t r i x , whose f a t h e r c a l l s her " T r i x . " (The name, indeed, i s as p e r f e c t l y evocative of character as Thackeray's "Becky Sharp.") B e a t r i x "looked at Henry Esmond solemnly, w i t h a p a i r of l a r g e eyes, and then a smile shone over her f a c e , which was as. b e a u t i f u l as that o f a cherub" (X, 9 ) , The mixture of the p l a y f u l and th.e.divine i n B e a t r i x i s f o r most of tHe-novel t o haunt and t o r t u r e the hero, before he r e a l i z e s , with i n f i n i t e r e g r e t , that the p r i z e i s not worth the winning. U l t i m a t e l y the "cherub," the "madcap g i r l , " so arch, so b r i l l i a n t , so b e a u t i f u l , i s r e p l a c e d i n Esmond's esteem by "the angel," the " s u p e r i o r being." There i s , however, a submerged aspect of Esmond that has a good deal i n common w i t h the me r c u r i a l n a r r a t o r of the s e r i a l i z e d n o v e l s . Despite Esmond's a l l e g i a n c e to the i d e a l (the s t a t i c p o r t r a i t , the Castlewood past that remains " f i x e d on the memory") (X, 11), the Esmond who i s entranced by B e a t r i x i s aman who despises cant and admires the impulsive. Though the reader misses the d e l i g h t f u l , w i t t y i m p r o v i s a t i o n s of a Pendennis, Esmond does remove h i m s e l f from the s t o r y to address h i s descendants and even, o c c a s i o n a l l y , h i s rea d e r . The v i t a l i t y of the nove l , on the whole, stems from the 164 character of Beatrix with her b r i l l i a n t s a l l i e s , petulant behavior, subtle mimicry and amoral adherence to self-advancement i n court c i r c l e s . But a considerable r e l i e f from Esmond's humble devotion i s attained not only by his evocative pictures of the past, but also by hi s occasional informality and self-consciousness i n the writing present. Only rarely does Esmond see himself with irony and detachment, but a passage such as t h i s , which i n the se r i a l i z e d works would claim an impish i l l u s t r a t i o n , catches the narrator taking time out from his melancholy epic to indulge i n l i g h t and f a n c i f u l speculation: From the loss of a tooth to that of a mistress there's no pang that i s not bearable. The apprehension i s much more cruel than the certainty; and we make, up our mind to the misfortune when ' t i s irremediable, part with : the tormentor, and mumble our crust on t'other side of the jaws. I think Colonel Esmond was relieved when a ducal coach-and-six came and whisked his charmer away out of his reach, and placed her i n a higher sphere." As you have seen the nymph i n "the opera-machine go up to the clouds at the end of the piece where Mars, Bacchus, Apollo, and a l l the divine company of Olympians are seated, and quaver out her l a s t song as a goddess: so when th i s portentgusf elevation was accomplished i n the Esmond family, I am not sure that every one of us did not treat the divine Beatrix with special honours; at least, the saucy l i t t l e beauty carried her head with a toss of supreme authority, and assumed a touch-me-not a i r , which a l l her friends very good-humouredly bowed to. ( X I , 189-190) Here the epic simile i s inverted to mock-epic as Beatrix i s seen as "the nymph i n the opera-machine." The stately tone and often s t i l t e d d i c t i o n of the bulk of the novel gives place to the i r o n i c a l : "divine company of Olympians," "portentouselevation," "divine Beatrix," and the col l o q u i a l : "mumble our crust on t'other side of the jaws," 165 "saucy l i t t l e beauty," "touch-me-not a i r . " The tooth-drawing analogy i t s e l f e f f e c t i v e l y deflates the image of the loss of the d i v i n i t y , and we have, f i n a l l y , the hall-mark of the reflexive narrator dis-played i n the qualifying phrase "I am not sure that." Esmond's l i n k with the more typical narrator i s made stronger when he follows the above passage by the anecdote concerning Colonel Esmond's old army acquaintance. For: honest Tom Trett, who had sold his company, married a wife, and turned merchant i n the c i t y , was dreadfully gloomy for a long time, though l i v i n g i n a fine house on the r i v e r , and carrying on a great trade to a l l appearance. At length Esmond saw his friend's name i n the Gazette as a bankrupt; and a week after this circumstance my bankrupt walks into Mr. Esmond's lodging with a face perfectly radiant with good-humour, and as j o l l y and careless as when they had sailed from Southampton ten years before for Vigo. "This bankruptcy," says Tom, "has been hanging over my head these three years; the thought hath prevented my sleeping, and I have looked at poor Polly's head on t'other pillow, and then towards my razor on the table, and thought to put an end to myself, and so give my woes the s l i p . But now we are bankrupts: Tom Trett pays as many s h i l l i n g s i n the pound as he can; his wife has a l i t t l e cottage at Fulham, and her fortune secured to herself. I am afra i d neither of b a i l i f f nor of creditor: and for the l a s t six nights have slept easy." So i t was that when Fortune shook her wings and l e f t him, honest Tom cuddled himself up i n his ragged virtue and f e l l asleep. (XI, 190-191) Tom Trett, who plays no further part i n the memoir, i s merely an i l l u s t r a t i v e figure, conjured out of the a i r , to emphasize Esmond's point that the simplest remedy for loss—whether of money or l o v e — i s that of speedy acceptance. The purely i l l u s t r a t i v e anecdote, such as the above, i s , admittedly, rare i n Esmond, and the deliberately i n f l a t e d similes and huge digressions, characteristic of the other novels, seldom 166 interrupt the single-minded s t o r y - t e l l e r . Nevertheless, there are occasional generalized and speculative comments that are subordinate to the narrator's purpose. Thus, r e g r e t f u l l y considering Rachel's over-protectiveness of her son as a cause of Prank's prodigality, Esmond concludesr 'Twas this mistake i n his early training, very l i k e l y , that set him so eager upon pleasure when he had i t i n his power; nor i s he the f i r s t lad that has been spoiled by the over-careful fondness of women. No training i s so useful for children, great and small, as the company of their betters i n rank or natural parts; i n whose society they lose the overweening sense of their own importance, which stay-at-home people very commonly learn. (XI, 151) Esmond generalizes on the value of "training" and contact with their "betters" f o r children, and goes on to compare Prank's secretive conversion to Roman Catholicism with the action of "a prodigal that's sending i n a schedule of his debts to his friends, [andj never puts a l l down, and, you may be sure, the rogue keeps back some immense swinging b i l l , that he doesn't dare to own" (XI, 151). Esmond i s here engaging i n the familiar practice of the Thackerayan narrator, by unveiling the young scapegrace hero, but i n Esmond there i s less delight i n the process, and generalized comment, which would be material enough for a two-page "digression" were the subject Harry Warrington or P h i l i p , i s a l l the narrator allows himself. Thus, i t i s seen that Esmond, unlike the typical narrator, seeks a personal intensity of v i s i o n through fixed images; the impressions of Beatrix, Rachel, Prank Castlewood, and the house of Castlewood i t s e l f are engraved on his memory. He reviews hi s past as i f he were r e c a l l i n g and arranging, a series of b r i l l i a n t portrait and landscape paintings and f i l l i n g t heir i n t e r s t i c e s with narrative. The dominant motif, or at least the most enduring, i s that of Rachel, the "angel," "dearest mistress," "dearest saint," and "purest soul" i n whose service Esmond undertakes his knightly duties: "Years ago, a boy on that very bed, when she had blessed him and called him her Knight, he had made a vow to be f a i t h f u l and never desert her dear service. Had he kept that fond boyish promise? Yes, before heaven; yes, praise be to God! His l i f e had been hers; his blood, his fortune, his name, his whole heart ever since had been hers and her children's" (XI, 234)• Esmond's v i s i o n of himself as f a i t h f u l , knight kneeling before h i s lady i s a c h i v a l r i c motif which would have been used iron-i c a l l y by Pendennis or the Manager t e l l i n g of Harry Warrington's or Dobbin's service on behalf of their rather ordinary and considerably less worthy ladies. But i n Esmond, chivalry triumphs and the epic hero, although on occasion he does see himself as the Knight of the Woeful Countenance, triumphs over adversity and wins his lady. The essential difference between Esmond and the typical Thackeray novel l i e s i n the narrator's distance from the narrative; their underlying moral values are not dis s i m i l a r . Despite a variance of method and purpose, Esmond and P h i l i p t e l l stories of innocent youths who somehow maintain their i n t e g r i t y i n a scheming world, to be ultimately rewarded, either materially or s p i r i t u a l l y , i n a reassuring domestic partnership. The v i l l a i n o u s seducers—the Pretender and Dr. Pirmin—are f i n a l l y banished and discredited and.a benign dea 168 ex machina assures both heroes of a happy ending. P h i l i p ' s beneficent f a i r y , however, i s s©;en i r o n i c a l l y i n the l a s t chapter ( i n fact "she" turns out to be "the Black Prince," Woolcomh, who unknowingly sets off a chain of circumstance that causes an inheritance to f a l l on the hero), whereas Esmond marries his guardian angel. The proximity of Esmond to his own narrative ensures that h i s moments of comparative detachment w i l l be rare and that he w i l l l i v e into his story to a larger extent than Pendennis. Thus Esmond i s aware that his biassed view of Marlborough and his partisanship concerning ¥ebb are based on "a revengeful wish to wipe off an old injury" (X, 98)• Had the Duke recognized the bashful young lieutenant Esmond, his story would have been different: A word of kindness or acknowledgement, or a single glance of approbation, might have changed Esmond's opinion of the great man; and instead of a s a t i r e , which his pen cannot help writing, who knows but that the humble historian might have taken the other side of panegyric? We have but to change the point of view, and the greatest action looks mean; as we turn the perspective-glass, and a giant appears a pigmy. You may describe, but who can t e l l whether your sight i s clear or not, or your means of information accurate? Had the great man said ,but a word of kindness to the small one (as he would have stepped out of h i s g i l t chariot to shake hands with Lazarus in rags and sores, i f he thought Lazarus could have been of any service to him), no doubt Esmond would have fought for him with pen and sword to the utmost of his might; but my l o r d the l i o n did not want master mouse at this moment, and so Muscipulus went off and nibbled i n opposition. (XI, 27-28) I t i s spontaneous, s e l f - c r i t i c a l and freely inventive passages l i k e this that are more i n keeping with the typical novels,with their assumption of multiple perspective. Esmond, who usually seeks a 169 unified perspective, does not go to the f i n a l position of renouncing the p o s s i b i l i t y of a l l ultimate knowledge. Keats developing the Byronic notion that knowledge i s sorrow goes on to maintain that "'Sorrow i s Wisdom'—and further f o r aught we can know for certaintyl 2 •Wisdom i s f o l l y . ' " This f i n a l p o s s i b i l i t y i s never recognized by Esmond, whose search i s complete i n the crowning happiness of his union with Rachel: And then the tender matron, as beautiful i n her autumn, and as pure as virgins i n their spring, with blushes of love and "eyes of meek surrender," yielded to my respectful importunity, and consented to share my home. Let the l a s t words I write ' thank her, and bless her who hath blessed i t . (XI, 334) The i r o n i c v i s i o n of a Pendennis would be out of place here, for the i n t r i n s i c value of Esmond's ideal model of perfection has remained steadfast from the dea certe apparition i n the f i r s t chapter. The image of Rachel, remembered to his very l a s t hour, reappears contin-u a l l y i n Esmond's thoughts as pellu c i d as on the f i r s t occasion, when the boy was enraptured by "the rings on her f a i r hands, the very scent of her robe, the beam of her eyes l i g h t i n g up with surprise and kindness, her l i p s blooming i n a smile, the sun making a golden halo round her hair" (X, 8). Esmond i s not a novel i n which the central character learns ultimate wisdom through the shedding of i l l u s i o n s . The narrator learns to modify h i s various idealisms through contact with experience, 2 The Letters of John Keats, ed. Maurice Buxton Porman, 2 vols. (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1§31), I, 154. but be re-experiences them i n a l l their vividness i n the writing present, and, as we have seen, ardent romanticism i s ever waiting to envelop even the mature Henry Esmond. John Loofbourow finds that Esmond's rediscovery of Rachel's humanity when he returns to Castle-wood after her husband's death i s the beginning of Esmond's matura-tio n . At t h i s moment, Esmond sees Rachel as a woman and not a div-i n i t y . "This recognition of r e a l i t y , " says Loofbourow, "preludes a re c o n c i l i a t i o n scene i n which, for the f i r s t time, Rachel, and Esmond meet as responsive adults.""^ But at the end of the novel Rachel i s again being worshipped by Esmond, her devoted servant. The fantasy motifs of the novel are, according to Loofbourow, "discredited by r e a l i s t i c data," 4 yet the novel ends on a fantasy motif. The joys of marriage and children only are emphasized, and an i d y l l i c conclu-sion i n a trans-Atlantic Eden of sweet sunshine and happily working negroes suggests that Esmond, l i k e most of humankind, cannot bear very much r e a l i t y . Esmond i s exceptional among Thackeray's novels i n having a greater unity of theme, form and s t y l e . The narrator seeks security i n the coherence of aesthetically consistent patterns, but he lacks the imaginative recklessness of the typical Thackerayan narrator who always knows with half his mind that he i s dealing with puppets rather than people. Since he knows that he i s involved with a world "^Thackeray and the Form of F i c t i o n (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press), pp. 137-135. 4 I b i d . , p. 168. 171 of i l l u s i o n , the more typical narrator, such as Pendennis, Batchelor, or the Manager, does not have the mania for s e l f - j u s t i f i c a t i o n that Esmond persistently indulges. Esmond t r i e s to write what might he described as a Bildungsroman, i n which the shedding of i l l u s i o n s i s a process of maturation. The other narrators cheerfully accept that not only children, but adults too, need their i l l u s i o n s , and these narrators present their readers not with a growing-up process, but a perpetual flux where there i s no hard l i n e between i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y . It follows from this that the serialized novels present a narrator who i s reluctant to draw a d i s t i n c t i o n between himself and others, for, as the opening i l l u s t r a t i o n to Vanity Fair makes clear, he sees himself reflected i n the world he observes. Esmond i s , i n any sense of the word, the hero of his own story, whereas the se r i a l i z e d novels are novels without heroes. Pendennis and the other biographers are content to t e l l plebeian stories which exclude the world of high seriousness, the fate of empires and the f a l l of kings; epic i s replaced by mock-epic. .'When narrators rea l i z e that there i s a hero within every man, then they see the impropriety of conventional categorization. Pendennis' ir o n i c appraisal of his "hero^1 P h i l i p , on the l a t t e r ' s f a i l u r e to see his father's d u p l i c i t y , makes th i s clear: As for supposing that his own father, to cover h i s own character, would l i e away his son's—such a piece of arti f i c e , was quite beyond Phi l i p ' s comprehension, who had been a l l his l i f e slow i n appreciating roguery, or recognizing that there i s meanness and double-dealing i n the world. When he once comes to under-stand the fact; when he once comprehends that Tartuffe i s a humbug and swelling Bufo i s a toady; then my friend becomes 172 as absurdly indignant and mistrustful as before he was admiring and confiding. Ah, P h i l i p ; Tartuffe has a number of good, respectable q u a l i t i e s ; and Bufo, though an underground odious animal, may have a precious jewel i n h i s head. 'Tis you are cynical. J. see the good q u a l i t i e s i n these rascals whom you spurn. I see. I shrug my shoulders. I smile: and you c a l l me cynic. (XVI, 133) The narrator here finds virtue i n unlikely places because he i s w i l l i n g to allow for the maximum p o s s i b i l i t y , whereas the hero i s impatient with half-truths and vague uncertainties. Esmond i s unlike the other narrators, i n short, because he i s not an i r o n i s t . For the i r o n i s t "never becomes absorbed i n his subject because he stands outside and apart from i t . . . . He wanders far a f i e l d , with his eye and mind open to a l l things; but while he watches them he also watches himself." 5 Before giving detailed consideration of Pendennis, the historian of Philip's adventures, i t i s appropriate to look at a narrator who neither sees himself as a hero t e l l i n g his own tale as Esmond does, nor as a novelist-cum-historian i n the manner of Pendennis. The i n i t i a l narrator of The Virginians i s a nineteenth-century figure recreating the l i v e s of the Harringtons and Esmonds of the previous century from l e t t e r s and his own conjecture about what might have happened based upon those l e t t e r s . Ultimately, however, he includes within his story a transcription of the journal of George Warrington himself. George, i n t e l l i n g his own story, i s more akin 'Haakon M. Chevalier, The Ironic Temper: Anatole France and  His Time (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1932), p. 28. 173 to the uxorious Pendennis than the c h i v a l r i c Esmond. He i s a perpetual i r o n i s t , both of h i s own and o t h e r s ' romantic p r e d i s p o s i t i o n s . Although he i s l i k e Esmond i n h i s need to r e c o r d h i s l i f e f o r p o s t e r i t y , he i s much more a k i n to the p l a y f u l l y i r o n i c Pendennis, i n s o f a r as he seeks to i n v o l v e h i s reader i n the drama he r e c r e a t e s . With h i s s o f t , k i n d and devout w i f e , Theodosia, on one hand, and h i s f i e r c e , c y n i c a l and w o r l d l y o l d aunt, Madame B e a t r i x B e r n s t e i n , on the other, George r e t i r e s to the n e u t r a l ground where he can enjoy what amounts to a contest between an angel of l i g h t and the scourge of God on the a s p i r i n g Castlewoods. George Warrington of The V i r g i n i a n s i s i n the c e n t r a l t r a d i t i o n of the Thackerayan n a r r a t o r . He a p p r e c i a t e s the v i r t u e s and the f o l l i e s of youth and age and i s able to see h i m s e l f as one who, although he d e l i g h t s to unmask others, yet knows that he h i m s e l f needs to wear a v a r i e t y o f masks. George knows that the s e l f i s never f u l l y r e v e a l e d and can never be completely explored; f o r much remains hidden or, para-d o x i c a l l y , open to q u e s t i o n . Thus, when h i s devoted wife confesses her s c h o o l g i r l attachment f o r G r i g g the mercer, George pays a s p e c i a l v i s i t to the mature G r i g g and f i n d s him to be "a l i t t l e bandy-legged wretch i n a blue camlet coat, with h i s r e d h a i r t i e d with a d i r t y r i b b o n , " and he congratulates h i m s e l f on h i s g e n e r o s i t y i n not r e p r o a c h i n g h i s w i f e . He r e a l i z e s that h i s wife i s as b l i n d e d to what he sees to be the t r u t h as he i s to her s u s c e p t i b i l i t y f o r Grigg's l o v e l y eyes. He knows that we b e l i e v e what we want to b e l i e v e and that though the masks w i l l change, the mask of the moment ±s our r e a l i t y . He concludes " i f our wives saw us as we are, I thought, would they love us as they do? Are we as much 174 mistaken i n them, as they i n us? I l o o k i n t o one candid f a c e at l e a s t , and t h i n k i t has never deceived me" (XIV, 236) George Warrington, however, l i k e Esmond, i s an autohiographer and not a n o v e l i s t or puppeteer. Thus, he i s never completely f r e e to see i l l u s i o n as i l l u s i o n . Although he l i v e s more i n t o the l i v e s of others than Esmond, l i k e Esmond he has h i s own unshakeable a l l e g i a n c e , at the time of w r i t i n g , to a romantic image. Theodosia i s George's Rachel and, though he i s l e s s p o s i t i v e than Esmond, as we can see from the q u e s t i o n i n g above, he adopts Theodosia as symbol of constancy and a reward f o r h i s own endurance of danger, poverty and pa r e n t a l h o s t i l i t y . On the subject of h i s wife, George i s g e n e r a l l y r e l u c t a n t to b r i n g i r o n y and doubts i n t o p l a y . We can perhaps see i n her a mother-s u b s t i t u t e s i m i l a r to Rachel, f o r both George and h i s grandfather were deprived of maternal a f f e c t i o n as c h i l d r e n . Having t h i s personal stake i n the s t o r y thus r e s t r i c t s the f r e e -dom of the n a r r a t o r to see hi m s e l f as r o l e - p l a y e r i n c e r t a i n areas. I n t h e i r r e c o l l e c t i o n of the past, George Warrington and Henry Esmond are not completely f r e e to d i s c o v e r the t r u t h about themselves; they have c e r t a i n cherished i d e a l s which prevent them from being t r a v e l l e r s without baggage. But where Esmond searches f o r h i s l o s t mother's grave, George has the advantage of having known and been r e j e c t e d by Madam Esmond. On r e f l e c t i o n , he i s able to gain i n knowledge and mat u r i t y . George sees t h e i r d i f f e r e n c e s as due to haughty r i v a l r y , but a l s o he sees h i s p r i d e as the governing p r i n c i p l e of h i s l i f e : When I commit a wrong, and know i t subsequently, I love to 175 ask pardon; "but ' t i s as a s a t i s f a c t i o n ' to my own p r i d e , and to myself I am a p o l o g i z i n g f o r having been wanting to myself. And hence, I t h i n k (out of regard to that personage of ego), I scarce ever could degrade myself to do a meanness. How do men f e e l " whose, whole.. JLiyes . (and many..men'.a 1 i v e s are) l i e s , schemes, and subterfuges? What so r t of company do they keep when they are alone? D a i l y i n l i f e I watch men whose every smile i s an a r t i f i c e , and every wink i s an h y p o c r i s y . Doth such a f e l l o w wear a mask i n h i s own p r i v a c y , and to h i s own conscience? (XIV, 288) Thus George o b j e c t i f i e s h i s own s i t u a t i o n v i s a v i s h i s mother i n order to probe behind the masks of o t h e r s . George goes on to point out that he a c t s i n a C h r i s t i a n way not so much through c o n v i c t i o n but out of h i s duty to h i s own ego. T h i s a b i l i t y to s p l i t the s e l f i n t o an a c t i n g and a watching part i s t y p i c a l of the Thackerayan n a r r a t o r , and an awareness that others.do not o f t e n have t h i s a b i l i t y to unmask themselves i n t h i s way i s what gives the n a r r a t o r h i s power and s u p e r i o r i t y over h i s c h a r a c t e r s . George's " p r i d e " above i s the spur to self-knowledge found i n the t y p i c a l l y r e f l e x i v e n a r r a t o r . The n a r r a t o r of P h i l i p , who can i d e n t i f y with the necessary v i l l a i n s of h i s s t o r y and accuse h i m s e l f of exaggerating t h e i r d e f e c t s , suggests a v a s t area of uncharted i n n e r l i f e i n h i s char-a c t e r s . T h i s awareness of p o s s i b i l i t y i s i n o p p o s i t i o n , however, to the needs of a r t . The reader needs the i l l u s i o n that there i s one s t o r y and i f that s t o r y t e l l s of a metaphorical journey from Jerusalem to J e r i c h o i t needs a robber, a high p r i e s t , and a L e v i t e as well as a Good Samaritan. Thus P h i l i p ' s f a t h e r , Dr. Brand Pirmin, i s a s s o c i -ated with H e l l and the Twysdens are d e v i l ' s d i s c i p l e s , while Dr. Goodenough and the L i t t l e S i s t e r o f f e r succour and sympathy to the 176 d i s t r e s s e d v i c t i m . These are the parts assigned "by the very nature of the story, but the mature nar r a t o r of Thackeray's novels sees beyond the concepts of "story" and "character," f o r he f i n d s a l l s t o r i e s and characters w i t h i n himself, s t r u g g l i n g f o r expression, and he takes up the part of cynic, s e n t i m e n t a l i s t , innocent b e l i e v e r and hard-headed w o r l d l i n g by turns. The mature narrator has a transcendental consciousness that i s aware of multivalent nuances. John Bayley points out that "'Charac-t e r ' . . . i s what other people have, 'consciousness' i s ourselves." Thackeray's l a t e r n a r r a t o r s ^ a f t e r presenting the reader w i t h the paradigmal story and character, proceed to b l u r i t s o u t l i n e s so that the reader begins to read into the o r i g i n a l sketch doubts and ambi-g u i t i e s , p o s s i b i l i t i e s which seem i n part the product..of h i s own speculations, and i n part the suggestions of h i s ever f e r t i l e story-t e l l e r and stage-manager. He shows the reader that he l i v e s i n a world of p o l i t e and convenient f i c t i o n s which he i s accustomed to take f o r r e a l i t y . He shows us, i n the words of Frank Kermode, that "we are . . . equipped f o r coexistence with [chaos] . . . only by our 7 f i c t i v e powers." "We believe what we wish to believe" says the narrator of P h i l i p (XVI, 470). The l a s t chapter of the novel, which 6 ' The Characters of Love• A Study i n the L i t e r a t u r e of  P e r s o n a l i t y (London; Constable, I960) , p. 33 . 7 The Sense of an Ending; Studies i n the Theory of F i c t i o n (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, I967), p. 64. 177 bears the i n i t i a l i l l u s t r a t i o n of a beneficent f a i r y waving'a magic wand, i s c a l l e d "The Realms of B l i s s . " The reader needs the s e c u r i t y of a happy ending and the n a r r a t o r gives i t to him, at the same time o v e r p l a y i n g h i s part that we may be sure to recognize i t as only one among many d i s g u i s e s . In the same way, Pendennis disposes of one of h i s supernumerary c h a r a c t e r s whose f u n c t i o n has been to r i v a l h i s hero. C-ood-by, Monsieur B i c k e r t o n . Except, mayhap, i n the f i n a l group, round the FAIRY CHARIOT (when, I promise you, there w i l l be such a blaze of g l o r y that he w i l l ! be i n v i s i b l e ) , we s h a l l never see the l i t t l e s p i t e f u l envious creature more. Let him pop down h i s appointed trap-door; and, q u i c k f i d d l e s ! l e t the b r i s k music j i g on (XVI, 450). In t h e i r exuberance and marvellous f a c i l i t y f o r changing r o l e s , the n a r r a t o r s of the l a t e r novels have something of the t r i c k s i n e s s of the medieval V i c e f i g u r e . Though they are more s e l f - a s s u r e d and have d e f i n i t e s e l f - i n t e r e s t beneath t h e i r d i s g u i s e s , Webster's t o o l v i l -l a i n s , Flamineo and Bosola, have some of the same rapport with t h e i r audience. I t i s perhaps the d e l i g h t of having power by knowing more than the " c h a r a c t e r s " and being, i n a sense, outside the drama that gives these f i g u r e s , t h e i r uncanny q u a l i t y of b e i n g , l i k e us, somewhat removed from the drama. Yet, as reader or s p e c t a t o r we almost f e e l we have a stake i n the p l a y or novel and are c o m p l i c i t l y r e s p o n s i b l e f o r i t s outcome. The sense of c o l l u s i o n with the audience i s . more, than a s o l i l o q u y i n the Iago manner. The reader i s f o r c e d to sympathize and mock at the same time. Thus, i n t h i s passage, Pendennis r e v e a l s 178 h o r r o r s to Laura while he i n v i t e s h i s reader to mock at her stereo-typed r e a c t i o n : My dear c r e a t u r e , wrath i s no answer. You c a l l me h e a r t l e s s and c y n i c , f o r saying men are f a l s e and wicked. Have you never heard to what l e n g t h s some "bankrupts w i l l go? To appease the wolves who chase them i n the winter f o r e s t , have you not read how some t r a v e l l e r s w i l l cast a l l t h e i r pro-v i s i o n s out of the sledge? then, when a l l the p r o v i s i o n s are gone, don't you know that they w i l l f l i n g out perhaps the s i s t e r , perhaps the mother, perhaps the baby, the l i t t l e dear tender innocent? Don't you see him tumbling among the howling pack, and the wolves gnashing, gnawing, cr a s h i n g , gobbling him up i n the snow? 0 h o r r o r — h o r r o r I (XVI, 132-133) Pendennis' gruesome metaphor causes Laura to draw her c h i l d r e n to her, but the reader applauds such extempore h i s t r i o n i c s . However out of place t h i s passage may be i n the sequence of the st o r y , i t i s an e x t r a o r d i n a r y performance by the n a r r a t o r , and gives the reader the pleasure of se e i n g i t s e s s e n t i a l t h e a t r i c a l i t y . pendennis, i n P h i l i p , compels h i s reader to see h i m s e l f as a novel-reader who needs to p l a y the game of " l e t ' s pretend." But s i n c e the n a r r a t o r , too, i s i n v o l v e d i n t h i s game, the reader i s not exposed as a f o o l or dupe, but r a t h e r has a sense of c o l l u s i o n and intimacy w i t h h i s n a r r a t o r . . . . Suppose there be h o l i d a y s , i s there not work-time too? Suppose today i s feast-day; may not t e a r s and repentance come tomorrow? Such times are i n store f o r Master P h i l , and so please l e t him have r e s t and comfort f o r a chapter or two. (xv, 247) T h i s p l e a to the reader on behalf of a p r o d i g a l son suggests a freedom 179 i n t h i s novel's form which i s p l a i n l y not there i n f a c t . As a friend of P h i l i p and as a novelist, the narrator knows the outcome of the "adventures of Ph i l i p on his way through the world," hut as an eager spectator who i s i n collusion with a reader with whom he i s at present identifying, the narrator i s subject to the suspense of his own story. In P h i l i p one finds the indispensable components of Thackeray's secondary f i c t i o n a l world generously displayed: f i r s t l y , a dynamic and buoyant narrator who moves a d r o i t l y i n and out of his story, and secondly, a confounding of absolute values. Unlike Esmond, Pendennis never very seriously entertains h i s hero's ideal v isions. He admits that "Charlotte, you see, i s not so exceedingly handsome as to cause other women to perjure themselves by protesting that she i s not great things after a l l . " After admitting to her good manners and gentle disposition, the narrator begins to hedge by questioning h i s reader: "Is she not grateful, t r u t h f u l , unconscious of s e l f , e a s i l y pleased that and interested i n others? Is she very witty? I never said so—though^ ' she appreciated some men's wit. . .1 cannot doubt" (XVI, 245)• The reader would, presumably, agree with t h i s assessment, but he i s continu-a l l y required to modify or question previous assumptions. Even such seemingly positive eulogies on h i s hero's happy poverty as th i s , are not without ambiguity: As P h i l i p walks away at midnight, (walks away? i s turned out of doors; or surely he would have gone on talking t i l l dawn,) with the r a i n beating i n his face, and f i f t y or a hundred pounds for a l l his fortune i n his pocket, I think there goes one of the happiest of men—the happiest and ri c h e s t . For i s 180 he not possessor of a treasure which he could not buy, or would not s e l l , for a l l the wealth of the world? (XVI, 2 4 6 ) The proposition is suitably put in the interrogative mood. The "treasure" is the amiable but rather undistinguished Charlotte, but attached to that precious creature, the reader knows is the inflexible termagant of a mother-in-law, Mrs. Baynes. Luckily, too, for Philip a further windfall from "fortune" helps eke out his modest competence. Where Esmond underwrites myth and romance, Pendennis f i r s t entertains then gently deflates them. The mature Esmond, looking back, sees the vision of himself and Rachel walking in the Paradise garden of Castlewood, in picturesque: terms. Nothing disturbs the intensity of the dream. Pendennis, by contrast, breaks off from a similarly harmonious lovers' union with an acknowledgement to an elderly female reader who may look askance at such t r i v i a l dalliance by her narrator: Through the vast cathedral aisles the organ notes peal gloriously. Ruby and topaz and amethyst blaze from the great church windows. Under the t a l l arcades the young people went together. Hand in hand they passed, and thought no i l l . Bo gentle readers begin to tire of this spectacle of b i l l i n g and cooing? I have tried to describe Mr. Philip's love affairs with as few words and in as modest phrases as may be—omitting the raptures, the passionate vows, the reams of correspondence, and the usual commonplaces of his situa-tion. And yet, my dear madam, though you and I may be past the age of b i l l i n g and cooing, though.your ringlets, which I remember a lovely auburn, are now-—well—are now a rich purple and green black, and my brow may be as bald as a cannon-ball 5 I say, though we are old, we are not too old to forget. We may not care about the pantomime much now, but we like to take the young folks, and see thefi ;;rejoicing. Prom 181 the window where I write, I can look down into the garden of a certain square. In that garden I can at this moment see a young lady of my acquaintance pacing up and down. They are talking some such tal k as Milton imagines our f i r s t parents engaged i n : and yonder garden i s a paradise to my young friends. Did they choose to look outside the r a i l i n g s of the square, or at any other objects than each other's noses, they might see—the tax gatherer we w i l l say—with his book, knocking at one door, the doctor's brougham at a second, a hatchment over the window of a t h i r d mansion. (XVI, 250-251) The reader and narrator, l i k e the mature Esmond, l i v e through a vicar-ious experience of young love, but the romantic image i s , here, subor-dinated to a worldly perspective which contains the i d y l l . The "rap-tures" and "passionate vows" are somewhat incongruous in the world of the tax-gatherer and the doctor. ¥e see what we want to see, implies Pendennis,who himself essays the broadest possible perspective. He seeks to include the richness and the glory, experienced by the happy couple, within the mundane and the commonplace. Pendennis moves from the majestic b r i l l i a n c e of the cathedral setting which almost vies with Esmond's splendid view of Castlewood (though we miss the haunting movements of the black rooks and plashing fountains) to an examina-tion of h i s present position v i s a v i s his reader. The emphasis changes from past to present: "your r i n g l e t s . . .are now—well—are now a r i c h purple and green black," "though we are old, we are not too old to forget," "we may not care about the pantomime much now," "from the window where I write," and " i n that garden I can at t h i s moment see . . . ." Where Esmond sees time as s t a t i c , Pendennis emphasizes i t s passing. The juxtaposition of the young lovers i n the garden with 182 the narrator and reader past their prime accentuates the passing of time. Furthermore, i t provides the essentially ironic perspective of Thackeray's secondary f i c t i o n a l world—a perspective which i s much less prevalent i n Esmond. Although the reader i s invited to scoff at P h i l i p and Charlott he cannot do so with impunity. The reader knows more than the lovers, i t i s true; l i k e the narrator, he sees them "talking some such talk as Milton imagines our f i r s t parents engaged in?" he knows that "did they chopseto look outside the r a i l i n g s of the square," they would see how f r a g i l e was their enclosed world. The scene i s , moreover, a "pantomime to the spectator rather than a "paradise," and the situation one where "the usual commonplaces" are uttered. But, i f the lovers are a l i t t l e ridiculous from our elevated position above the garden—and they a r e — the jaded reader and narrator are equally so, or, from the pii)nt of view of the lovers, perhaps more so. The dyed hair of the lady reader and the brow "as bald as a cannon-ball" of the narrator denote the price to be paid for the wisdom of experience. As Keats has i t , for a l l we can say to the contrary wisdom i s , at times, f o l l y . I f the reader chooses to disassociate himself from the lady with dyed hair, he must s t i l l face the fact that he i s a novel-reader who i s getting his experience vi c a r i o u s l y through P h i l i p and Charlotte. Both Esmond and P h i l i p end on a b l i s s f u l note. But the reward of P h i l i p are arbitrary and dealt out p l a y f u l l y by his narrator: "And was the tawny Woolcomb the f a i r y who was to rescue P h i l i p from grief, 183 debt, and poverty? Yes. And the o l d postchaise of the l a t e Lord Ringwood was the f a i r y c h a r i o t " (XVI, 478). Esmond's reward i s not simply t h a t of the g i r l and the f o r t u n e . In f a c t , h i s g a i n i s to l o s e both h i s i n h e r i t e d fortune and h i s i l l u s i o n s concerning B e a t r i x and the Pretender. Thus, we see the d i f f e r e n t impulse t h a t actuates the n o v e l s . The reader of Esmond i s o f f e r e d a c u l m i n a t i n g v i s i o n of a b e t t e r world i n V i r g i n i a where diamonds are turned i n t o ploughs and a gold button i s worth more than any jewel (XI, 335)• The mature Pendennis o f f e r s no such c o n s o l a t i o n : f o r him and h i s reader i t i s merely the end of the s t o r y , the game i s over and, come what may: "The n i g h t w i l l f a l l : the s t o r i e s must end: and the best f r i e n d s - . must p a r t " (XVI, 481). P l a y f u l n e s s and parody, r a t h e r than earnest a n a l y s i s of motive or f i d e l i t y to an i d e a l , predominate i n P h i l i p , and a concomi-tant v a r i e t y of mood and s t y l e p r e v a i l s throughout. The moral t a l e of the Good Samaritan i s t r e a t e d e n i g m a t i c a l l y by Pendennis, who d e l i b e r a t e l y d i s t a n c e s the s t o r y to allow the reader's doubts and s p e c u l a t i o n s to come i n t o p l a y . I t i s n a r r a t i v e d i s t a n c e r a t h e r than the u n d e r l y i n g f a b l e which d i s t i n g u i s h e s these two n o v e l s . Both heroes are marked with the s u s p i c i o n of i l l e g i t i m a c y , both are deceived by t h e i r parents and, as has been shown, both have to choose between w o r l d l y and unworldly women. In each work, Thackeray conjures Utopian dreams, but while Esmond humbles h i m s e l f before the v i s i o n a r y experience of B e a t r i x , the P r i n c e , or Rachel, and i s t r a n s f i x e d by the whole 184 aura of Castlewood, Pendennis i s an improvisatore i n the manner of the Byron of Bon Juan. We do f i n d i n P h i l i p solemn moments, such as that of P h i l i p o f f e r i n g up prayers of thanks f o r the r e m i s s i o n of h i s poverty, and the n a r r a t o r develops h i s own sermon out of the occasion, but t h i s consecrated mood i s d i s p e r s e d as b r i e f l y as i t i s induced; Pendennis moves a d r o i t l y from the sanctimonious to the mundane, where he exposes h i s w i f e ' s c h a r i t a b l e h y p o c r i s y on P h i l i p ' s b e h a l f (XVI, 318-320). The v i t a l q u e s t i o n f o r us concerns the value of the r o l e -p l a y i n g n a r r a t o r who c o n s t a n t l y d i s s i m u l a t e s , who r e t r e a t s behind l a y e r s of i r o n y and ambiguity, and who o b s t i n a t e l y r e f u s e s to t e l l a p l a i n unvarnished t a l e . P l a y f u l n e s s i s a l l v e r y w e l l , but what u l t i -mate purpose, apart from sharpening h i s reader's w i t s and extending h i s sense of the m u l t i v a l e n c y of l i f e , does i t achieve? The main f u n c t i o n of the deceptive n a r r a t o r , and of the ambivalence of the secondary f i c t i o n a l world which he inaugurates, i s to undermine the f o r m a l l y s t r u c t u r e d world of the primary f i c t i o n . The e s s e n t i a l d i s -t i n c t i o n between Esmond and P h i l i p , then, i s not that they are cast i n d i f f e r e n t eras, nor the d i f f e r e n c e between memoir and biography, nor, n e c e s s a r i l y , due t o t h e i r separate methods of p u b l i c a t i o n ; t h e i r v i t a l element of divergence l i e s i n t h e i r d i s t i n c t use of the n a r r a -t i v e f i l t e r . No clouds cross Esmond's f i n a l , or, f o r t h a t matter, h i s preceding, v i s i o n of Rachel. Pendennis, on the other hand, i s ever aware of the p r o b a b i l i t y of other p e r s p e c t i v e s . The seeds of doubt 185 are sown, f o r instance, i n such a p r o t e s t on b e h a l f of h i s d i v i n e m i s t r e s s as t h i s ; My wife humbugged that wretched Member of Parliament i n a way which makes me shudder, when I t h i n k of what h y p o c r i s y the sex i s capable. Those a r t s and d i s s i m u l a t i o n s w i t h which she wheedles others, suppose she e x e r c i s e them on me? H o r r i -ble thought! No, a n g e l ! To others thou mayest be a coaxing h y p o c r i t e ; to me thou a r t a l l candour. Other men may have been humbugged by other women; but I am not to be taken i n by that s o r t of t h i n g ; and thou a r t a l l candour! (XVI, 320) The reader may wonder whether Pendennis i s being hoodwinked, or whether he i s d e l i b e r a t e l y c l o s i n g h i s eyes to the p o s s i b i l i t y that h i s wife could deceive him, or whether he i s aware of t h i s p o s s i b i l i t y , but wishes to deceive, h i s reader i n t o b e l i e v i n g that he (Pendennis) i s a dupe. These qu e s t i o n s can never be c o n c l u s i v e l y r e s o l v e d , f o r Thackeray expects h i s reader to be aware of a l l these p o s s i b i l i t i e s . I t i s t h i s awareness that makes up the reader's part i n the secondary f i c t i o n a l world. CHAPTER VI THE EXPANSIVE NOVEL; THE FUNCTION OF "UNPATTERNED" EXPERIENCE Fo r g i v e t h i s o u t b u r s t ! I can hear my readers p r o t e s t i n g : "Hey what's a l l t h i s about? Are we going to l e t an ass l e c t u r e us i n philosophy?" Yes, I dare say I had best r e t u r n to my s t o r y . — A p u l e i u s , The Golden Ass Nothing i s so easy as i m p r o v i s a t i o n , the running on and on of i n v e n t i o n . — H e n r y James, The A r t of the Novel I n t r o d u c t o r y D i s c u s s i o n Thackeray's secondary f i c t i o n a l world pushes the f r o n t i e r s of the novel i n t o the t e r r i t o r i e s of the c o n f e s s i o n and the dramatic monologue. The term "expansive" a p p l i e s here t o novels whose n a r r a t o r s r e l y on t h e i r readers to take part i n a dialogue without end. The ex-pansive novel i s not merely one t h a t i s e x c e p t i o n a l l y bulky or one whose time-scheme n e c e s s a r i l y extends over a l o n g p e r i o d ; i n my terms, i t i s a novel that f o l l o w s the expanding mental world of a n a r r a t o r seeking to grapple w i t h dynamic experience. I t records the f l u c t u a t i o n s between doubt and c e r t a i n t y and does not move towards any p r e s c r i b e d goal or u l t i m a t e v i s i o n . The expansive novel suggests the i n t r a c t a b i l i t y of l i f e i t s e l f . Despite i t s a r t i s t i c dangers, the i n s t a l l m e n t system of novel p u b l i c a t i o n o f f e r e d unique advantages i n f l u i d i t y and openness, and i n the gradual f a m i l i a r i t y which grew up over an extended p e r i o d between the n a r r a t o r and the reader. In the works of Dickens, Thackeray, 186 187 George E l i o t , Meredith., and T r o l l o p e , the s t o r y - t e l l e r g ossips c a s u a l l y to h i s reader about the c h a r a c t e r s as mutual acquaintances who l e a d , or have l e d , independent l i v e s . When the n a r r a t o r dramatizes h i m s e l f as a character, however, and more e s p e c i a l l y , when h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p to the reader becomes of more concern to him than h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p to h i s c h a r a c t e r s , the k i n d of novel which i s here termed "expansive" i s born. The Use of Romance and the Contingent World The n a r r a t o r of the expansive novel knows, and intends h i s reader to know, that any r e a c t i o n to h i s s t o r y i s based on s e l f - r e c o g -n i t i o n i n a world of i l l u s i o n . The n a r r a t o r seems as conscious of h i s reader as he i s of h i m s e l f , and the s t o r y f r e q u e n t l y seems a j o i n t pro-duction of t h e i r common need to r e c o n c i l e the hard f a c t s of l i f e with the convenient a b s t r a c t i o n s of a r t . Reader and n a r r a t o r b r i n g t h e i r own complex humanity with a l l i t s passions and p r e j u d i c e s to the theatre of puppets or the novel of t i d y ends where l o v e and v i r t u e are rewarded, and v i c e i s punished and dismissed. Pact and a b s t r a c t i o n run p a r a l l e l i n t h i s secondary f i c t i o n a l world which superimposes on the neatness and c e r t a i n t y of r e c e i v e d forms a sense of l i f e ' s randomness and incon-c l U s i v e n e s s . F r e q u e n t l y Thackeray's n a r r a t o r challenges h i s reader to comment upon the primary i l l u s i o n i n which both are engaged. Thus Pendennis addresses the h y p o t h e t i c a l parent—whom the reader must become—who 188 would hide the s o r d i d r e a l i t i e s of existence from her c h i l d r e n , and b u i l d a b e a u t i f u l card house i n the midst of l i f e ' s storms: Now, how w i l l you have the story? Worthy mammas of f a m i l i e s — i f you do not l i k e to have your daughters t o l d t h a t bad hus-bands w i l l make bad wives*, that marriages begun i n i n d i f f e r e n c e make homes unhappy; that men whom g i r l s are brought to swear to l o v e and honour are sometimes f a l s e , s e l f i s h , and c r u e l ; and that women f o r g e t the oaths which they have been made to s w e a r — i f you w i l l not hear of t h i s , l a d i e s , c l o s e the book, and send f o r some other. Banish the newspaper out of your houses, and shut your eyes to the t r u t h , the awful t r u t h , of l i f e and s i n . I s the world made of Jen n i e s and Jessamies; and pass i o n the p l a y of school-boys and s c h o o l - g i r l s , s c r i b b l i n g v a l e n t i n e s and i n t e r c h a n g i n g l o l l i p o p s ? I s l i f e a l l over when Jenny and Jessamy are married; and are there no subsequent t r i a l s , griefs., wars, b i t t e r heart pangs, d r e a d f u l temptations, d e f e a t s , remorses, s u f f e r i n g s to bear, and dangers to over-come? (IX, 77-78) Barnes Newcome's w i f e - b u l l y i n g becomes an occasion f o r a homily on the dangers of mercenary marriage d i s g u i s e d as romance. The n a r r a t o r suggests the pa r e n t a l reader would p r e f e r to keep s o r d i d r e a l i t i e s hidden, j u s t as Barnes would keep h i s conduct to Lady C l a r a hidden. But the reader scores over the n a r r a t o r when he catches him i n the next breath s h i e l d i n g h i m s e l f from the unpleasant f a c t s and dreaming of other f a t e s f o r Lady C l a r a : I fancy a b e t t e r l o t f o r you than that to which f a t e handed you over. I fanc y there need have been no d e c e i t i n your fond simple l i t t l e heart could i t but have been given i n t o other keeping . . . . Suppose a l i t t l e p l a n t , v e r y f r a i l and d e l i c a t e from the f i r s t , but that might have bloomed sweetly and borne f a i r f lowers, had i t r e c e i v e d warm s h e l t e r and k i n d l y n u r t u r e . (IX, 83) A f t e r t h i s the reader must r e t u r n Pendennis to h i s own q u e s t i o n — " I s 189 the world made of J e n n i e s and Jessamies?" The Newcomes can he seen as a c a u t i o n a r y t a l e i n which man's p u r s u i t of m a t e r i a l i s m causes unhappiness. But since the whole novel i s an i l l u s i o n , a mere dream as the l a s t pages suggest, and since the c h a r a c t e r s are manipulated puppets a c t i n g i n a p r e d i c t a b l e and systemat-i z e d f a s h i o n , the reader must l o o k to the n a r r a t o r ' s consciousness f o r the r a t i o n a l e of the "book. Within that consciousness the reader i s drawn i n t o a p l a y world; he i s r e p e a t e d l y addressed as a reader who apparently knows he i s r e a d i n g a novel and not a biography of some people c a l l e d Newcome, whose f r i e n d Arthur Pendennis seeks to w r i t e t h e i r h i s t o r y . Moral theme and h i s t o r i c a l v e r a c i t y give p l a c e , t h e r e -f o r e , to a medley of i l l u s i o n - m a k i n g and i l l u s i o n - b r e a k i n g which allows "Thackeray" to be Pendennis, Pendennis to be a n o v e l i s t , h i s t o r i a n , biographer, preacher, philosopher, wise parent, romantic dreamer, c y n i c a l w o r l d l i n g , outraged f r i e n d , uxorious husband, and spinner of o l d t a l e s . Thus s e l f - c o n t r a d i c t i o n i s no more a problem f o r Pendennis as n o v e l i s t -h i s t o r i a n than i t was f o r him i n h i s part of r e a l i s t - d r e a m e r above: I have of l a t e had to recount p o r t i o n s of my dear o l d f r i e n d ' s h i s t o r y which must needs be t o l d , and over which the w r i t e r does not l i k e to d w e l l . I f Thomas Hewcome's opulence was un-pleasant to d e s c r i b e , and to c o n t r a s t with the b r i g h t good-ness and s i m p l i c i t y I remembered i n former days, how much more p a i n f u l i s that part of h i s s t o r y to which we are now come p e r f o r c e , and which the acute reader of novels has, no doubt, l o n g foreseen. Yes, s i r or madam, you are q u i t e r i g h t i n the o p i n i o n which you have h e l d a l l a l o n g r e g a r d i n g that Bundlecund Banking Company . . . . I d i s d a i n , f o r the most par t , the t r i c k s and s u r p r i s e s of the n o v e l i s t ' s a r t . Knowing, from the v e r y beginning of our s t o r y , what was the issue of t h i s Bundlecund Banking concern, I have scarce had patience 190 to keep my counsel about i t ; and whenever I have had occasion to mention the company, have s c a r c e l y been able to r e f r a i n from breaking out i n t o f i e r c e d i a t r i b e s against that compli-cated, enormous, outrageous- swindle. (IX, 293) Surely Pendennis' suppression of h i s n a t u r a l anger at h i s f r i e n d ' s mal-treatment i s e x a c t l y due to h i s a l l e g i a n c e to "the t r i c k s and s u r p r i s e s of the n o v e l i s t ' s a r t . " For here we have the c l a s s i c device of p e r i -p e t i a i n which the reader i s made aware of h i s own worst f e a r s — n a m e l y that noble v i r t u e , i n the person of Colonel Newcome, has been defeated and h u m i l i a t e d by c l e v e r and corrupt mercenary i n t e r e s t s . The n a r r a t o r here permits h i s reader to dwell i n the realm of i l l u s i o n while a l s o g i v i n g him the sense of c o m p l i c i t y i n the s t o r y -t e l l e r ' s s u p e r i o r knowledge. I t i s as i f Henry James had i n t e r s p e r s e d h i s c r i t i c a l p refaces throughout h i s novels and inv o l v e d h i s reader i n the s t o r y not only of what Chad Newsome meant, at v a r i o u s times, to Lambert S t r e t h e r , but what the s t o r y of the s t o r y meant to "Henry James." Wayne Booth, indeed, d e c l a r e s that "the whole process of James's t r a n s -formations from germ to f i n i s h e d s u b j e c t i s almost as f u l l of suspense as the f i n i s h e d t a l e s themselves."''" By ena b l i n g the reader to share the "author's" confidence as he cre a t e s h i s s t o r y , Thackeray gives the s t o r y - t e l l e r a new dimension of v e r i s i m i l i t u d e . Like Henry Esmond, or l i k e any man r e c a l l i n g h i s own past, we are at once c r e a t o r , a c t o r and "^The R h e t o r i c of F i c t i o n (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, I96I), p. 4 9 ' The novel i n which commentary and c r i t i c i s m outweighs the osten-s i b l e subject has at l a s t been w r i t t e n i n Nabokov's Pale F i r e . 191 s p e c t a t o r of bur own drama. Although we are actors- only by i d e n t i f i -c a t i o n and c r e a t o r s o n l y by i m p l i c a t i o n , the sense of being i n v o l v e d i n a l l three e s s e n t i a l aspects of a work of a r t remains. Perhaps the "sense of l i f e , " which has been f o r so many readers and c r i t i c s the novel's r a i s o n d'etre, i s enhanced by t h i s f e e l i n g of confusion and i n c l u s i v e n e s s . For, i n l i f e , we are a l l s p e c t a t o r s of and a c t o r s i n someone e l s e ' s drama, and they cast us i n convenient r o l e s which we u n w i t t i n g l y p l a y f o r them. Furthermore, we are a l l imaginative r e -cr e a t o r s of our own pa s t s i n which other people assume formal p a r t s . We see Pendennis, i n The Newcomes, c o n v e n t i o n a l l y a r r a n g i n g and adapting h i s knowledge to f i t the requirements of the novel reader, r e p r e s s i n g h i s n a t u r a l f e e l i n g s f o r the sake of h i s a r t ; yet i n v i t i n g h i s reader to share a u t h o r i a l power and s u p e r i o r i t y , which h i s normal r o l e as reader should p r e c l u d e . When Pendennis asks h i s reader how he would l i k e the s t o r y to go h i s q u e s t i o n i s o b v i o u s l y r h e t o r i c a l . Even i f we as readers f e e l a response coming to our l i p s we are powerless to e.ffect a change i n the novel's sequence. But Pendennis, l i k e the speaker of the dramatic mono-logue, assumes a response i n a reader he creates f o r h i s own conven-i e n c e . T h i s created reader e i t h e r r e j e c t s h i s n a r r a t o r ' s demand f o r the hard f a c t s of l i f e and ceases to read, or he repud i a t e s the address to the i l l u s i o n - s e e k e r and reads on i n t a c i t agreement wit h h i s supposedly i c o n o c l a s t i c n a r r a t o r . When Pendennis h i m s e l f f a l l s v i c t i m to h i s dream of a p o s s i b l y b e t t e r l o t f o r Lady C l a r a , the wary reader p a r t i a l l y w i th-192 holds h i s consent; the fancy i s p r e t t y hut i t i s not i n keeping with the r e a l i t i e s of what we might c a l l "Newcome F a i r . " But, on the other hand, Newcome F a i r can only he d e f i n e d by a r e c o g n i t i o n of a contra r y s t a t e . T h i s f l u c t u a t i o n between f a c t and fancy i n the mind of the nar-r a t o r makes up the d i a l e c t i c of The Newcomes i n which the f a b l e of New-come F a i r v i e s with the f a b l e of F a i r y l a n d . The s t o r y moves towards two c o n c l u s i o n s , which s a t i s f y both the i l l u s i o n - s e e k i n g reader and the reader who would dwell with the hard f a c t s of Newcome F a i r , where Barnes i s rewarded and C l i v e and E t h e l are estranged by the i n d i r e c t a s s a u l t s of m e r c a n t i l e marriage markets. Pendennis, as n a r r a t o r , i s caught between the claims of two r e a l i t i e s . He must pay homage to the noble o l d Colonel who, with Laura, i s h i s touchstone of goodness, but he must a l s o allow f o r the nature of h i s own and h i s reader's knowledge of human v a r i a n c e , u n p r e d i c t a b i l i t y and c o n t r a r i n e s s . Although i n the primary world he can l o o k through Newcome F a i r to an i n f i n i t e l y b e t t e r world, and p e r s o n i f y v i r t u e i n young and o l d through h i s wife and the Co l o n e l , yet he must allow f o r the humdrum grey world where dragons and angels impinge only remotely. Pendennis knows that "men must l i v e t h e i r l i v e s ; and are per-f o r c e s e l f i s h . . . . Some say the world i s h e a r t l e s s : he who says so e i t h e r p rates commonplaces (the most l i k e l y and c h a r i t a b l e suggestion), or i s h e a r t l e s s h i m s e l f " (IX, 343-344). The heart may be a r a g and bone shop, but i t i s f o r Pendennis the b a s i s of r e a l i t y to which he must r e t u r n c o n t i n u a l l y . We would have many f r i e n d s , Pendennis says, but we 193 cannot permit t h e i r i n e v i t a b l e demands on our own p r i v a c y . How many persons would you have to deplore your death; or whose death would you wish to deplore? Could our h e a r t s l e t i n such a harem of dear f r i e n d s h i p s , the mere changes and recurrences of g r i e f and mourning would be i n t o l e r a b l e , and tax our l i v e s beyond t h e i r v a l u e . In a word, we c a r r y on our own a f f a i r s ; are pinched by our own shoes. (IX, 344) The p r a c t i c a l r e a l i t y i s emphasized by the images of paying taxes, c a r r y i n g burdens, pushing and s t r u g g l i n g , and wearing of shoes that p i n c h . In Thackeray's novels the secondary f i c t i o n a l world, with i t s open qu e s t i o n s , f r e e - r a n g i n g comment and sense of the sheer randomness of l i f e , f r e q u e n t l y overwhelms the more t i g h t l y - s t r u c t u r e d primary i l l u s i o n . A powerful and p a i n f u l sense of the vast t o t a l i t y of present existence with, i t s n i g g l i n g cares, c o n f l i c t i n g demands and l a c k of coherent or purposive design weighs down upon the reader. But the sec-ondary i l l u s i o n i s a l s o a world f u l l of p o t e n t i a l , of untrodden paths and e x c i t i n g p o s s i b i l i t y . The s t r u c t u r e d primary i l l u s i o n i s l i k e a map which i s u s e f u l but outdated, f o r i t does no more than h i n t at the paths which l i e before the reader and n a r r a t o r . Barbara Hardy says th a t "the t r u t h f u l n e s s and r e a d a b i l i t y of f i c t i o n depends on characters and language a c t i n g i n the i n t e r e s t of l o c a l v i t a l i t y as well as . . . theme." The Appropriate Form (London: The Athlone Press, I964), p. 84. C f . Graham Hough, An Essay on C r i t i c i s m (London: Duckworth, I966), p. 21: "Such works as Orlando F u r i o s o and T r i s t r a m Shandy f u n c t i o n by c o n t i n u a l l y a r o u s i n g i n t e r e s t r a t h e r than by the e x p e c t a t i o n of a com-p l e t e d form." 194 I t i s through t h e i r t r u t h f u l n e s s to the process of f i n d i n g out that Thackeray's mature n a r r a t o r s secure our a l l e g i a n c e and sympathy. Although Pendennis, as we have seen, i s eager to descend, as i t were, i n t o the market-place of the world which i s symbolic of the f o u l r a g and bone shop of h i s own heart, yet he a l s o f i n d s the appeal of the i d e a l e q u a l l y i n s i s t e n t . H i s hero, C l i v e , i s t o r n between two m i s t r e s s e s — t h a t of p a i n t i n g symbolized by J . J . R i d l e y and that of the sweet and s o f t Rosey who i s made a v a i l a b l e to him through the C o l o n e l ' s bounty. O l i v e ' s movement between the humdrum world of the market and the i d e a l world of a r t f o r c e f u l l y i l l u s t r a t e s the c o n f l i c t w i t h i n the n a r r a t o r ' s own heart, and that warring d u a l i t y which i s found even i n the Colonel who f o r a l l h i s noble and s a i n t l y q u a l i t i e s i s s t i l l a Newcome and a s p e c u l a t o r i n the money market. ¥hile on another occa-s i o n , Pendennis w i l l l a y before h i s reader the brute f a c t s of existence and human s e l f i s h n e s s , here he pleads f o r the beauty and s a n c t i t y of the world of a r t . The p a l e t t e on h i s arm was a great s h i e l d p ainted of many co l o u r s : he c a r r i e d h i s m a u l - s t i c k and a sheaf of brushes along with i t , the weapons of h i s g l o r i o u s but harmless war. With these he achieves conquests, wherein none are wounded save the envious . . . . Occupied over that c o n s o l i n g work, i d l e thoughts cannot gain the mastery over him; s e l f i s h wishes or d e s i r e s are kept at bay. A r t i s t r u t h : and t r u t h i s r e l -i g i o n ; and i t s study and p r a c t i c e a d a i l y work of pious duty. What are the world's s t r u g g l e s , brawls, successes, to that calm r e c l u s e pursuing h i s c a l l i n g ? See, t w i n k l i n g i n the dark-ness round h i s chamber, numberless b e a u t i f u l t r o p h i e s of the g r a c e f u l v i c t o r i e s which he has won—sweet flower s of fancy re a r e d by h i m — k i n d shapes of beauty which he has devised and moulded. (IX, 232) 195 I n h i s d i v e r s i o n a r y addresses to h i s reader we can see how the n a r r a t o r uses h i s s t o r y and c h a r a c t e r s as a means f o r e x p r e s s i n g h i s own sense of the complex nature of r e a l i t y . The above passage i s Pen-dennis' v i s i o n r a t h e r than anything to do with the C l i v e llewcome pres-ented i n the primary f i c t i o n a l world. In the mood of worshipper of beauty and h e r o i c defender of a r t against the t h r e a t e n i n g barbarism of the market-place, Pendennis the n o v e l i s t i s able to b u i l d a secure but f r a g i l e world where the shoe of w o r l d l y concerns does not pinch; a world where "flowers of fancy" can be r e a r e d — a realm of pure mind. But as a h i s t o r i a n of the r e a l i t i e s of Hewcome P a i r , Pendennis must include the world of struggle where men are p e r f o r c e s e l f i s h even i n t h e i r f r i e n d s h i p s , and i n f l u e n c e d more by the r e a l i t i e s of the l e d g e r than the marvels of the brush. In t h i s r e s p e c t , Colonel Newcome r e f u s e s to p l a y - t h e ' p a r t "assigned" him. by. Pendennis—he i s , despite h i s .virtue's.,''" a the world with h i s own strong p r e j u d i c e s . The Thackerayan n a r r a t o r of the mature novels knows that man cannot l i v e without i l l u s i o n . Man f i n d s h i s i l l u s i o n s i n the world of a r t and i n h i s manipulation of " f a c t s " i n the world of pragmatic r e a l i t y . When John Loofbourow d e c l a r e s of Amelia and Dobbin, at the end of V a n i t y F a i r , that " t h e i r w i l f u l evasions of r e a l i t y have robbed them of a f u l l r e l a t i o n s h i p , but t h e i r meagre f r u i t i o n i s b e t t e r than glamorous s t e r i l i t y , " 3 he assumes that there i s a r e a l i t y to be evaded. I f Amelia Thackeray and the Form of F i c t i o n ( P r i n c e t o n : P r i n c e t o n Univ. Press, 1964), p. 31. 196 and Dobbin are deluded they are so no more than any of the other char-acters, and a "meagre f r u i t i o n " i s perhaps no more than we are offered in any of the novels. Reality f o r the Thackerayan narrator i s the being aware of i l l u s i o n . Some glimpses of this are vouchsafed to Amelia and Dobbin, but they, l i k e their narrator and reader, cannot l i v e long with-out dreams of a better world. The narrator thus shows that i l l u s i o n belongs to the ordinary man i n the street as much as to the most fabulous a r t i f i c e r . Both are caught i n the human predicament of the need to assert absolutes, while at the same time they must l i v e i n the world of relative values. As Pendennis narrating the adventures of P h i l i p points out, men are- a l l s t o r y - t e l l e r s i n one or another sense of the word, whether they pro-fess to be historians or entertainers, whether they set out to t e l l truth or l i e s , to be honest or dishonest. Of the Twysden,- si s t e r s , he says, Agnes might have told stories about Blanche, i f she chose—as you may about me, and I about you. Not quite true stories, but stories with enough a l l o y of l i e s to make them serviceable coins stories such as we hear da i l y i n the world; stories such as we read i n the most learned and conscientious history-books, which are tol d by the most respectable persons, and perfectly authentic u n t i l contradicted. It i s only our h i s t o r i e s that can't be contradicted (unless, to be sure, novelists contradict themselves, as sometimes they w i l l ) . What we say about people's virtues, f a i l i n g s , characters, you may be sure: i s a l l true. And I defy any man to assert that my opinion of the Twysden family i s malicious, or unkind, or unfounded i n any particular. (XV, 200) Pendennis, naturally enough, not only contradicts himself frequently, 197 but d e l i g h t s i n so doing and i n i n v o l v i n g h i s reader with him. H i s a s s e r t i o n of f a i r n e s s to the Twysdens i s s u f f i c i e n t to put the reader on h i s guard to take Pendennis*s a s s e r t i o n s with care and s c e p t i c i s m . In the i n t e r e s t of i d e a l t r u t h , which demands c e r t a i n t y and b l a c k and white c a t e g o r i e s , Pen i s prepared to t e l l a l o c a l l i e — s o at any r a t e runs the i m p l i c a t i o n ; Pen i s a s t o r y - t e l l e r who admits he i s d r e s s i n g up the " f a c t s " j he knows that a r t i s more concerned with imaginative than f a c t u a l t r u t h , and that l i e s or i l l u s i o n s are the a r t i s t ' s b u s iness. Awareness of r e l a t i v e values, however, tends to be a disadvan-tage f o r the man who would t e l l a c l e a r and coherent s t o r y . For the sake of the scheme of h i s s t o r y he must put aside the o b s t i n a t e quest-i o n i n g of p r o b a b i l i t i e s and h i s own l a c k of c e r t a i n knowledge. Pendennis knows—to the detriment of h i s " s t o r y " — t h a t there may w e l l be- other v e r s i o n s of the Twysden character, and that to a considerable degree a man sees i n the world what he wishes to see,, f o r I f you were a bachelor, say, with a good f o r t u n e , or a widower who wanted c o n s o l a t i o n , or a l a d y g i v i n g v e r y good p a r t i e s and belonging to the monde, you would f i n d them agreeable people. I f you were a l i t t l e Treasury c l e r k , or a young b a r r i s t e r with no p r a c t i c e , or a lady, o l d or young, not q u i t e of the monde, your o p i n i o n of them would not be so f a v o u r a b l e . (XV, 200-201) The i m p l i c a t i o n here i s that the Twysden g i r l s would r e a c t a c c o r d i n g to the company they were i n , but Pendennis as we know has h i s ( a r t i s t i c ) axe to g r i n d , and the reader f o r the sake of the s t o r y w i l l accept that t h i s i s a s t o r y "with enough a l l o y of l i e s to m a k e [ i t ] s e r v i c e a b l e c o i n . " 198 I n the world of V a n i t y F a i r , which i s the world of the t y p i c a l Thackeray novel, h y p o c r i s y i s an e s s e n t i a l mask. T h i s i s the world i n which the i r o n i c v i s i o n of the n a r r a t o r t h r i v e s , f o r he i s not only an unmasker but one who pretends to take the mask at i t s own v a l u a t i o n , while a l l the time he knows b e t t e r . For i r o n y i s a pretence . . . the purpose of which i s mockery or decep-t i o n of one s o r t or another; and i t s f o r c e d e r i v e s from one of the keenest and o l d e s t and l e a s t t r a n s i e n t p l e a s u r e s of the r e f l e c t i v e human mind— t h e pleasure i n c o n t r a s t i n g Appearance with R e a l i t y . While the c h a r a c t e r s seek to deceive themselves or others by wearing a mask, the n a r r a t o r seeks to f i n d h i m s e l f by removing t h e i r masks. He i s thus, i n p a r t , h i s own t a r g e t , f o r he sees h i m s e l f i n both the mater-i a l i s t and the dreamer, i n Becky and i n Dobbin, i n the Twysdens and i n J . J . R i d l e y . I t takes one pretender to understand another, and i t i s the n a r r a t o r ' s triumph that he knows he i s p r e t e n d i n g . The reader l i k e -wise i s a pretender and i f he i s to l e a r n from'his n a r r a t o r he must see not o n l y the h y p o c r i t e s of the F a i r but h i m s e l f as a pretender. For Thackeray " i s the master of a mood and a moment," and "does not so 5 much d e f l a t e romance as egg i t on." Despite the mock-Arcadian scenes of Queen's Crawley i n V a n i t y F a i r , the mock-Edenic scenes i n The V i r g i n - i ans, and a c o n s i s t e n t d e l i g h t i n p l a y i n g with p a s t o r a l legends, seen 4 0 f Irony; E s p e c i a l l y i n Drama (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1948), p. 5. 'Edwin Clapp, " C r i t i c on Horseback," Sewanee Review, 38 (1930), 296, 199 i n the o v e r r i d i n g metaphor of sheep-shearing w i t h r e f e r e n c e to the marriage market, the Thackerayan n a r r a t o r becomes i n v o l v e d i n t h i s Arcadian world, as i n a l l the other mental worlds, h i m s e l f . He does not stand back from the myth i n order to expose i t s f a l l a c y i n the l i g h t of the pushing and shoving of workaday V a n i t y F a i r , but adopts the con-ventions of both as h i s own. He f i n d s w i t h i n h i m s e l f the values of an i d y l l i c l o v e world and a f i e r c e l y competitive mercenary s o c i e t y . He .can see h i m s e l f i n the wolves and the lamb. Although Pendennis f e e l s an a t t r a c t i o n towards the o l d s t o r y which he debunks, yet he has sympathy f o r the Twysden. f a m i l y that martyrs i t s e l f f o r the cause of re s p e c t a b l e appearance. He gives them as much sympathetic understanding as he can, from h i s own p o s i t i o n of the i r o n i c observer who must keep one f o o t outside the s t o r y . Thus he removes h i m s e l f from P h i l i p ' s p o s i t i o n of j i l t e d l o v e r i n order to comprehend the Twysden p o s i t i o n * T h i s I can vouch f o r Miss Twysden, Mrs. Twysden, and a l l the r e s t of the f a m i l y : — t h a t i f they, what you c a l l , j i l ' t e d P h i l i p , they d i d so without the s l i g h t e s t h e s i t a t i o n or n o t i o n tha t they were doing a d i r t y a c t i o n . T h e i r a c t i o n s never were d i r t y or mean; they were necessary, I t e l l you, and calmly proper. (XV, 284) T h i s i s not simply an i r o n i c comment at the expense of the Twysdens, but the n a r r a t o r ' s attempt to t i p the balance of judgement back i n t h e i r favour, at t h i s moment. Does Pendennis merely pretend sympathy with the Twysden p o i n t of view or has he a genuine a p p r e c i a t i o n ;of 200 t h e i r s e n s i b l e , and not unheroic, conduct a c c o r d i n g to the r u l e s of V a n i t y F a i r ? H i s l a t e r outburst on the almost u n i v e r s a l p r a c t i c e of resp e c t a b l e p r o s t i t u t i o n among the mi d d l e - c l a s s e s suggests he i s an opponent of Twysden v a l u e s , but then he a l s o makes i t p l a i n that he i s adopting the r o l e of clergyman ad d r e s s i n g h i s "dear brother and s i s t e r s i n n e r s " as he preaches against Babylon. The answer s u r e l y i s that the n a r r a t o r e x t r a c t s the maximum p o s s i b l e e f f e c t from whatever point of view he chooses to take, whatever r o l e commands him at a p a r t i c u l a r moment. He cannot have a f i x e d p o i n t of view, but i s always l o o k i n g at hims e l f , seeing that without c o n t r a r i e s there i s no p r o g r e s s i o n . I t i s the reader's ta s k to be nimble-witted and not to be caught t a k i n g the mask f o r the f a c e , f o r the Thackerayan n a r r a t o r , l i k e h i s ancestors the Zanni, l i k e A r l e c c h i n o of the commedia d e l l ' a r t e , and A r l e q u i n of l a t e r date, i s e s s e n t i a l l y f a c e l e s s . A g i l i t y and the c a p a c i t y to e n t e r -t a i n remain the e s s e n t i a l s of the Thackerayan n a r r a t o r as of the Zanni: A b i l i t y to move q u i c k l y was the f i r s t r e q u i s i t e of the clown; on t h i s he had to depend f o r the e f f e c t i v e n e s s of h i s i n s t a n - • taneous maskings and unmaskings, and the appearances and d i s -appearances that so m y s t i f i e d slow-witted o l d Pantolone and Gratiano p r o p o r t i o n a t e l y d e l i g h t e d the audience. I f the Twysdens are a r c h - p r e t e n d e r s — a n d they a r e — t h e y are i d e a l m a t e r i a l f o r the unmasking n a r r a t o r . Yet Pendennis i n p u t t i n g W i n i f r e d Smith, The Commedia D e l l ' A r t e (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1964), p. 12. t 201 on the mask of Agnes Twysden, the outwardly pure, gentle and p l a i n -d e a l i n g maiden, does not simply expose t h i s d i s g u i s e as f a l s e . He shows that P h i l i p ' s f e e l i n g f o r Agnes i s drawn out of him by the f a l s e mask, but the f e e l i n g i s r e a l or seems to b e — a n d who can make the d i s -t i n c t i o n ? When pretence so i n f l u e n c e s a c t i o n and f e e l i n g , how j u s t i f i e d are we i n d i s m i s s i n g i t as mere worthlessness and sham? Such a judge-ment i m p l i e s a knowledge of hard and f a s t d i s t i n c t i o n s , and such a knowledge i s denied the n a r r a t o r , who i s a perpetual experimenter and examiner of d i f f e r e n t "positions!' Pendennis shows that we are a l l i n e v i t a b l y both d e c e i v e r s and deceived, f o r i f we w i l l i n g l y accept as golden the c o i n of l o v e , which we know with one part of o u r s e l v e s to be brass, we must expect perpetual disenchantment. To the l o v e r at the moment of acceptance, the c o i n i s golden, and as such i t l i v e s i n h i s mind a f t e r d e v a l u a t i o n , so to speak. Thus Pendennis shares i n P h i l i p ' s r e j e c t i o n by the Twysdens, and shares h i s f e e l i n g of i n c r e d u l i t y , hurt pr i d e and p a i n . Since t h i s i s u n i v e r s a l human experience, he i n v i t e s the reader to share i n these moments of disenchantment; I t could not be; ahl no, i t never could be, that Agnes the pure and gentle was p r i v y to t h i s c o n s p i r a c y . But then, how v e r y — v e r y o f t e n of l a t e she had been from home . . . . Yes; eyes were somehow averted that used to l o o k i n t o h i s very f r a n k l y , a glove somehow had grown over a l i t t l e r h a n d l w h i ' c h Vbnce. used to l i e v e r y comfortably i n h i s broad palm . . . . AhJ f i e n d s and t o r t u r e s i a gentleman may cease to l o v e , but does he l i k e a woman to cease to l o v e him? People c a r r y on ever so l o n g f o r f e a r of that d e c l a r a t i o n that a l l i s over. Ho c o n f e s s i o n i s more dismal to make. The sun of love has s e t . We s i t i n the dark. I mean you, dear madam, and Corydon, or I and A m a r y l l i s ; uncomfortably, with nothing more to say 202 to one another* with the night dew f a l l i n g , and a r i s k of catching cold, drearily contemplating the fading west . . . . Sink, f i r e of lovel Rise, gentle moon, and mists of c h i l l y evening. And, my good Madam Amaryllis, l e t us go home to some tea and a f i r e . (XV, 372-373). Here as elsewhere, however, the narrator makes i t quite clear that he w i l l not be caught out acting any one part for long. As a nimbie-witted entertainer, he i s prepared to take whatever position yields him another part i n his expansive repertoire. Since humility i s endless and we learn only by a continual renunciation of convenient parts, the narrator and his reader must l e t the sun set on today's role of lover, or man of virtue, or whatever mask they place between them-selves and the world. Pendennis and Madam Amaryllis return home to the humble domestic scene from which we can assume that a l l their golden ladders, a l l their dreams, hopes, new images w i l l start out again. V i r -tue for the Thackerayan narrator consists i n a surrender of self to the process of enchantment and disenchantment. He seeks, l i k e Browning's narrator i n F i f i n e at the Fair, not a glorious heaven, but the earthly goal of wisdom where mimes and mummers perform, and whereby came discovery there was just Enough and not too much of hate, love, greed and l u s t , Could one discerningly but hold the balance, s h i f t The weight from scale to scale, do j u s t i c e to the d r i f t Of nature, and explain the glories by the shames Mixed up i n man. 'Fifine at the Fair (London: Smith, Elder, -I872), p. 134. 203 P e n d e n n i s ' p r o b l e m i n P h i l i p i s t o do j u s t i c e t o t h e d r i f t o f n a t u r e , y e t a t t h e same ti m e t o p r e s e n t a c o h e r e n t work o f a r t , a n d i t i s on t h e s e c o n f l i c t i n g c l a i m s t h a t T h a c k e r a y ' s n o v e l s , w i t h t h e i r two f i c t i o n a l w o r l d s , a r e b u i l t . C a r l Grabo p o i n t s out t h a t " t h e more t h e i m a g i n a t i o n i s hampered by o b l i g a t i o n s o f one k i n d a n d a n o t h e r — t o h i s t o r i c a l f a c t , t o a n e t h i c a l p u r p o s e , t o t h e l i n e a m e n t s o f a h a c t u a l m o d e l — t h e l e s s v i t a l , t h e l e s s ' r e a l ' i n t h e s e n s e t r u e t o a r t , w i l l Q t h e r e s u l t b e . " P e n d e n n i s s e e s t h e d a n g e r s o f a l l e g i a n c e t o b o t h " h i s t o r i c a l f a c t " a n d " e t h i c a l purpose," e a c h o f w h i c h t e m p t s t h e r e a d e r t o r e l y on some a u t h o r i t y w h i c h i s e x t e r n a l t o h i m s e l f , r a t h e r t h a n coming down t o t h e f o u l r a g and bone shop o f h i s own h e a r t . He s e e s " t h e c h a r a c t e r o f i n f a l l i b l e h i s t o r i a n " (XV, 201), a s j u s t a n o t h e r r o l e t h a t he must t e m p o r a r i l y p l a y . When i t comes t o a c h o i c e o f d e v o t i o n t o a n i d e a l o f b e a u t y , t r u t h , o r g o o d n e s s , P e n d e n n i s c h o o s e s b e a u t y — f o r t h e o t h e r s have a m b i v a l e n t and r e l a t i v e : q u a l i t i e s . A s i n The Newcomes, so i n P h i l i p J . J . R i d l e y p e r s o n i f i e s t h e h a ppy and d i s i n t e r e s t e d - a r t i s t : I n c e r t a i n m i n d s , a r t i s dominant and s u p e r i o r t o a l l b e s i d e — s t r o n g e r t h a n l o v e , s t r o n g e r t h a n h a t e , o r c a r e , o r p e n u r y . . . . L o v e may f r o w n and be f a l s e , b u t t h e o t h e r m i s t r e s s n e v e r w i l l . She i s a l w a y s t r u e : a l w a y s new; . . . I wonder a r e men o f o t h e r t r a d e s so enamoured o f t h e i r s ; w h e t h e r l a w y e r s c l i n g t o t h e l a s t t o t h e i r d a r l i n g r e p o r t s ; o r w r i t e r s p r e f e r t h e i r d e s k s and i n k s t a n d s t o s o c i e t y , t o f r i e n d s h i p , t o d e a r i d l e n e s s ? I have s e e n no men i n l i f e l o v i n g t h e i r p r o f e s s i o n so much a s p a i n t e r s , e x c e p t , p e r h a p s , a c t o r s , who when n o t e ngaged t h e m s e l v e s , a l w a y s go t o t h e p l a y . (XV, 240) The T e c h n i q u e o f t h e H o v e l (New York; S c r i b n e r ' s , 1928), p . 203. 204 And i t is as actor that Pen invites his reader to join him in the intriguing game of, masking and unmasking, disguise and recognition, for in acting, as in painting, we find "there is the excitement of the game, and the gallant delight in winning i t " (XV, 240). The reader of Thackeray's novels who ignores the narrator's challenge to unravel the various changes of role and of moral stance which he adopts, and who himself refuses to become the part assigned him, inevitably misses the sheer delight of the novels. Vladimir Nabokov, in Speak Memory, points out that "competition in chess problems is not really between White and Black but between the composer and the hypothetical solver (just as in a first-rate work of fiction the real clash is not between the characters . 9 but between the author and the world.)"' So, in Thackeray's novels, i t is not Amelia and Becky, Laura and Blanche, Rachel and Beatrix, but the narrator and the reader who oppose each other in friendly rivalry. By a fruitful contact with the narrator, the reader discovers within himself a range of possibility that was previously hidden. When he is asked for instance i f he would have accepted an invitation to Lord Steyne's party, knowing the man as he is presented in Vanity Fair, the reader does not answer—for the question i s not relevant to his world. But i f he plays the game of illusion according to the narrator's rules, a half-conscious idealist in the reader says "No,",, while a slumbering cynic says "Yes!1. This is the mode of self-discovery through 'Cited in Page Stegner, Escape into Aesthetics: The Art of Vlad- imir Nabokov (New York: The Dial Press, I966), p. 23« Cf.. Robert Scholes, The Fabulators (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, I967), p. 108: "The ideal reader, in his structure-building, is probably much like a good chess player, who is always thinking ahead many moves and holding alternative possibilities in mind as structures which the game may actually assume." 205 i l l u s i o n on which the mature novels are b u i l t , and we can say of Thackeray, as has been said of Moliere, that he "actually t e l l s us through his irony that i n becoming something you think you are not, you become yourself.""*"^ The process of self-masking and unmasking gives the narrator hi s greatest opportunity and gives his reader the greatest s a t i s f a c t i o n . Pendennis w i l l on occasion f l a t t e r h i s reader, but expect him to see through t h i s f l a t t e r y . Thus he t e l l s the reader that P h i l i p enjoyed playing the l o r d and being idle and self-indulgent, and "I dare say P h i l i p l i k e d f l a t t e r y . I own that he was a l i t t l e weak i n this respect, and that you and I, my dear s i r , are, of course, far his superiors" (XV, 243). Later he turns on the reader who would p l a c i d l y accept his own innocence and not ide n t i f y himself with the Twysdens who, with P h i l i p ' s father, are the ostensible v i l l a i n s of the piece. I f the reader would understand the Twysdens,, he must f i r s t f i n d the Twysden i n himself, for does he not at some periods l i v e by the rules of Vanity Fair? I f he sees himself as virtuous and t o t a l l y opposed to the Twysdens, then, unknowingly, he shares the quali t y of hypocrisy with them; for,the price of virtue i s hypocrisy: I f somebody or some Body of savans would write the history of the harm that has been done i n the world by people who believe them-selves to be virtuous, what a queer, edifying book i t would be, and how poor oppressed rogues might look upi Who burn the Protestants?—the virtuous Catholics, to be sure. Who roast the Catholics—the virtuous Reformers. Who thinks I am a dangerous character, and avoids me at the club?—the virtuous Squaretoes. Who scorns? who persecutes? who doesn't forgive?—the virtuous Mrs. Grundy. (XV, 275) Robert J . Nelson, Play Within a Play: The Dramatist's Conception  of His Art, Shakespeare to Anouilh (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1958), p. 67. 206 Pendennis p l a i n l y shows that the censure of others inevitably rebounds upon the head of the censor. The process of self-expansion by role-playing i n the reader and narrator i s brought about only by a kind of self-transcendent humility. This stems from the method of Socratic irony which reaches i t s f u l l flowering only by an abrogation on the ironist's part of any concealed "position" or any hiding behind pretence of ignorance, i n order to demolish one's victim by a sudden display of mental or moral superiority. The Thackerayan narrator and his reader discover themselves i n their "victims". They adopt the false positions of the characters, not to expose them as vain and foo l i s h , but as a mode of self-exploration. The Thackerayan narrator.'frequently shows his own awareness that he i s not only partly guilty, but also incapable of judging others, since he hasvnot a god-like a c c e s s i b i l i t y to a l l the facts. His humility i s seen i n his lack of certainty and his willingness to contradict himself. A reluctance to condemn others categorically and absolutely i s typical of the mature narrator. Innocence and guilt are relative i n his world; Becky Sharp, Mrs. MacKenzie, Br. Pirmin and Lady Baker proclaim their own innocence of malice or shady dealing, and who w i l l cast the f i r s t stone and say they are guilty, malicious, s e l f i s h , unreliable and hypocritical? Pendennis confesses that being young and very green, I had a l i t t l e mischievous pleasure i n i n f u r i a t i n g Squaretoes, and causing him to pronounce that I was "a dangerous man." Now, I am ready to say that Nero was a monarch with many elegant accomplishments, and considerable natural amiability of disposition. I praise and admire success wherever I meet i t . I make allowance for f a u l t s and short-comings especially i n my superiors; and fee l that, did we know a l l , we should judge them very d i f f e r e n t l y . People don't believe me, perhaps, quite so-, much as formerly. But I don't offend: I trust I don't offend. Have I said anything painful? 207 Plague on my blunders! I r e c a l l the expression. I regret i t . I contradict i t f l a t . (XV, 218) Thus humility turns to sycophancy, but this role, too, i s only for the moment. It i s the opening of the doors to p o s s i b i l i t y rather than the a r r i v a l at a f i n a l destination. This opening of the door to p o s s i b i l i t i e s accounts for the feel i n g of the expansiveness of l i f e that we receive from Thackeray's novels. In novels which are dominated by r i g i d schemes, the suggestion of l i f e going on beyond the selected details i s usually absent,or, i f present, as i n The Ambassadors or The Marble Faun, awkwardly intrusive. The open questions of the nature of the small domestic object manufactured by the Newsomes, or whether Donatello had ass's ears or not, draw attention to themselves and to the i r authors' ingenuity. But when the Manager of Vanity F a i r , recounting the fantastic prodigality of the legendary Steyne family, declares of a huge sum of money won by the Marquis from "Egalite Orleans that " i t forms no part of our scheme to t e l l what became of the remainder," the reader's sense of an imperfectly com-prehended l i f e going on beyond the world of the novel i s enhanced (VF», 452). The eccentric narrator of a Thackeray novel suggests to the reader the mystery of a world of p o s s i b i l i t y outside the range of his knowledge. He does t h i s by constant shif t s of point of view, by reliance on such gossips and unreliable sources of "information" as Tom Eaves, and by allowing f o r the subjective nature of himself and h i s characters, who, though he may see them as v i l l a i n s , see themselves as virtuous martyrs. The reader of Thackeray's novels must complete the paradigms of art for himself. He i s for ever subject to the narrator's appeal and 208 f l a t t e r y , and both, h i s own and the narrator's temporary "position" depend on the interpretation the reader himself chooses to put on his narrator's words. What i s the reader, for instance, to make of the narrator's opinion of Amelia's feelings towards Dobbin while they journey together on the Rhine? The "story" demands that an honest gentle-man and a sweet heroine realize and express love for each other, but the narrator i s by no means sure that Amelia i s not a s i l l y l i t t l e fool and that Dobbin i s not rather ridiculous. And even though " i t was on this very tour that I, the present writer of a history of which every word i s true, had the pleasure to see them f i r s t , and to make their acquain-tance" (VP., 602), yet f i n a l knowledge eludes the narrator. However much narrator and reader may desire a love-scene, a happy ending, the expression of a beautiful and eternal passion which w i l l triumph over the petty det a i l s of l i f e , they are disappointed. The narrator returns the reader to his own experience to complete the pattern: "Perhaps i t was the happiest time of both th e i r l i v e s indeed, i f they did but know i t — a n d who does? Which of us can point out and say that was the culmination— that was the summit of human joy" (VF, 602)? The expansive novel imitates l i f e i n i t s uncertainty and inconclusiveness; furthermore, i t not only casts doubt on our aspirations for a better world - j-it also denies the certainty of our knowledge i n th i s world. There i s only one certainty i n the perspectives of the secondary f i c t i o n a l world and that i s that l i f e must end for individuals. It i s i n contrast to this surrounding darkness that the gay and exuberant world of Vanity Pair exists. The deaths of old Miss Crawley, Old Lady Kew, and Madame Bernstein provide occasion for the narrator to put off 209 h i s motley and don solemn b l a c k as he preaches a sermon on l i f e ' s v a n i t i e s . But v e r y soon the b u s t l e of the P a i r resumes and weeds and c r o c o d i l e t e a r s are f o r g o t t e n . Pious and l y i n g epitaphs are a l l t h a t remain to mock the noble a s p i r a t i o n s of those who remain a l i v e and the ignoble con-duct of those who have d i e d . Although i n the scheme of the novels these semi-serious scenes of m e d i t a t i o n on death do not seem v e r y c r u c i a l or even very memorable, they have an intense l o c a l e f f e c t . L i k e the gossip and the s p e c u l a t i o n , and the anecdote conjured, as i t were, from m i d - a i r , these f u n e r e a l impromptus t h i c k e n the texture of the novels and l e a d the reader back i n t o h i s own consciousness. Thus, i n the Sedley s i c k room, the n a r r a t o r turns to h i s reader, f o r g e t t i n g f o r a moment Mr. Sedley, to meditate on the second-floor a r c h i n the w e l l of the s t a i r c a s e . —What a memento of L i f e , Death, and V a n i t y i t i s — t h a t arch and s t a i r — i f you choose: to c o n s i d e r i t . . . . . The doctor w i l l come up to us too f o r the l a s t time there, my f r i e n d i n motley. The nurse w i l l l o o k i n at the c u r t a i n s , and you take no n o t i c e — a n d then she w i l l f l i n g open the windows f o r a l i t t l e , and l e t i n the a i r . Then they w i l l p u l l down a l l the f r o n t b l i n d s of the house and l i v e i n the back r o o m s —then they w i l l send f o r the lawyer and other men i n black, &c.—Your comedy and mine w i l l have been played then, and we s h a l l be removed, 0 how f a r , from the trum-pets, and the shouting, and the posture-making. I f we are gen-t l e f o l k s they w i l l put hatchments over our l a t e domicile, with g i l t cherubim, and mottoes s t a t i n g that there i s "Quiet i n Hea-ven." Your son w i l l new f u r n i s h the house, or perhaps l e t i t , and go i n t o a more modern quarter; your name w i l l be among the "Members Deceased," i n the l i s t s of your clubs next year. (VP, 584-585) A m e d i t a t i o n such as the above, which goes on f o r several pages i n a book c a l l e d " Vanity F a i r " might persuade us that we had at l a s t reached the n a r r a t o r ' s c e n t r a l p o s i t i o n , were i t not f o r h i s e q u a l l y c o n v i n c i n g a b i l i t y to become worldling,comedian, i n s i d i o u s c y n i c or 210 frivolous entertainer. Thackeray's narrator i s l i k e Dryden's Zimri, hut i s not disgraced hy the fact that he " i n the course of one revolving moon/ Was chymist, f i d d l e r , statesman, and buffoon." "Vanity Pair" was not the book's original t i t l e , and i n Thackeray's novel, i n contrast to Bunyan's allegory, the emphasis i s as much on the f e s t i v i t i e s of l i f e as on i t s vanit i e s . John A. Lester, J r . claims of such scenes as the above, that "by virtue of his.peculiar/ detachment, the timeless wisdom of his comment on events and character, Thackeray can touch the inter-mittent scene with magic. It becomes a delicate balance of scene and summary, of the voices and actions of people plus an acceleration of tempo which reveals their meaning and consequence." Although;the inter-mittent scene " s a c r i f i c e s . . . the actuality" of the dramatic scene, Lester claims that i t helped Thackeray gain what he preferred to dramatic actuality, which was, "a coalescence of characteristic speech and action with the long-range moral perspective of the social preacher." ^ I feel that such scenes have as much "dramatic actuality" as any within the primary f i c t i o n a l world, and that far from offering us "by virtue of his peculiar detachment, the timeless wisdom of his comment," Thackeray's momentary existence i s that of a very mortal man creating an elegy out of his own haphazard meditations on death. Lester thinks of a stable narrator, a "Thackeray" who i s a wise old man figure who seeks to convey eternal truths. He lays special emphasis on the bewildering variety of scenes which he sees as "devices for avoiding "Thackeray's Narrative Technique," HI LA, 69 (I954), 405-406. 211 12 dramatic enactment of the story." These "devices" are not so bewildering when we see that we are offered a map of consciousness unrolled extempor-aneously, improvised for the moment from the threads of the story as they occur within the narrator's mind. In the secondary fictional world we have "dramatic enactment" of a very different kind, but i t is as dramatic, in i t s own way, as the world of the "story". There is an untidiness, an unfixedness, and a rich sense of the unexpected and the absurd in the narrator's monologues. For the narrator is a part-player who, like the fool, has license to contradict himself, and to run the gamut from wisdom to follyjand even to muddle the reader's sense of which is which. This freedom, his delight, is the reader's problem—the problem of whether to accept the parts for their own sake, or whether to try to add them up and see i f they make a whole. The problem of deciding whether or not he should reject the parts as false because they do not cohere with his own design, involves him in a situation analogous to that of actual l i f e , where he must either ignore the data of raw experience or impose his own system-making compulsion upon them. The narrator's presentation of many points of view from the out-rageous and unorthodox to the subtle and invitingly conventional, involves the reader in a constant mental shuffling and re-shuffling of previously accepted ideas. Thackeray, though he touches the grotesque chiefly in his illustrations, delights to play with the reader's expectations, and to confound his propensity for seeing only the better and nobler side of himself. Sometimes, indeed, i t is difficult to know where the hypothetical 12 x Ibid 212 reader i s h i t by h i s s u b t l e a n t a g o n i s t . The n a r r a t o r who c o n s i s t e n t l y "plays the f o o l " l o s e s h i s advantage, i f the reader does not know how s e r i o u s l y to take him. I t i s p o s s i b l e that the reader may become l o s t i n the l a y e r s of c o n t r a d i c t i o n of t h i s passage, f o r example, from The  V i r g i n i a n s , f o l l o w i n g the n a r r a t o r ' s advocacy of wif e - b e a t i n g : Women w i l l be pleased w i t h these remarks, because they have such a t a s t e f o r humour and understand i r o n y ; and I should not be sur-p r i s e d i f young Grubstreet, who corresponds with three penny pap-e r s and d e s c r i b e s the persons and con v e r s a t i o n of gentlemen whom he meets at h i s " c l u b s , " w i l l say, "I t o l d you s o l He advocates the t h r a s h i n g of women! He has no n o b i l i t y of s o u l ! He has no he a r t ! " Nor have I, my eminent young Grubstreet.' any more than you have e a r s . Dear ladies.' I assure you I am on l y j o k i n g i n the above r e m a r k s , — I do not advocate the t h r a s h i n g of your sex at a l l , — a n d , as you can't understand the commonest b i t of fun, beg leave f l a t l y to t e l l you, that I consider your sex i s a hun-dred times more l o v i n g and f a i t h f u l than ours. ( X I I I , 4 6 ) The n a r r a t o r i s p l a i n l y not i n t e r e s t e d i n the idea as an idea but as a means of aro u s i n g the anger and h o s t i l i t y of h i s r i v a l , G rubstreet. Women, who are supposed to understand i r o n y , have; f i n a l l y to be c a j o l e d and f l a t t e r e d , because they are too s t u p i d to see the joke. By p l a y i n g not only the f o o l , but the w i l d and u n c i v i l i z e d man, the n a r r a t o r exposes the needs of the "dear l a d i e s " to be f l a t t e r e d and reassured. The r e a l reader must be able to see hi m s e l f i n both Grubstreet's p l a t i t u d e s and the f e a r s of the l a d i e s — i f he does not, the game i s played to no e f f e c t , f o r i t i s a s o l i t a r y one played by the n a r r a t o r . The n a r r a t i v e element of the l a t e r Thackeray novels becomes i n c r e a s i n g l y dwarfed by the sheer p e r s o n a l i t y of the expansive n a r r a t o r . T h i s i s the reverse process to that demonstrated by Henry James' novels, i n which we f i n d the "gradual d e s u b s t a n t i a t i o n of the n a r r a t i v e f i g u r e on the w a l l t i l l he i s a mere 213 g h o s t . J o h n 1. Dodds, who finds in Lovel a "dull . . . plot" and "colourless characterizations," maintains that i t "was a literary indiscretion, and those who love Thackeray will not want to linger long here." He feels that in i t "Thackeray is shadow-boxing with him-self, that he knew he was being a bore." 1 4 Modern criticism may well find in the windings of the narrator's self-consciousness, with his wild accusations and justifications of himself and others, much to linger on. John KLeis finds that "the work prefigures the modern narrative techniques that we find in later works like The Sacred Fount, 15 The Good Soldier and the novels of Conrad and Joyce." ' We can certainly say that, through Batchelor, the reader comes to re-experience the process by which men manipulate chaotic and mysterious experience into coherent and aesthetically pleasing designs. Unlike the typical Ford or Conrad novel, however, we find in Thackeray's novels a sense of unlimited l i f e that has somehow managed to escape the neat design of art. The "story" becomes increasingly more shadowy as the personality of the narrator takes command. Lord Jim and Edward Ashburnham are symbols who dominate the minds of Marlow: and Dowell. For the Thackerayan narrator, figures such as Harry Warrington, Philip and Lovel do not become obsessive to the same degree. We do not ^ P h y l l i s Bentley. Some Observations on the Art of Narrative (New York: Macmillan, 1947), P. 36. 1 4Thackeray: A Critical Portrait (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1941), p. 231. 15 '"The Narrative Persona in the Novels of Thackeray," Biss. Pennsylvania 1966, p. 294. 214 have several viewpoints on a character, hut differing moods in which various characters become dominant for a fleeting moment. The reader is not challenged to ask himself what the vital significance of Philip, Harry or Lovel may be, for we see them through the vision of an ex-pansive narrator who is more concerned with momentary self-expression than ultimate self-revelation. He seeks not the "truth" about his heroes, but the truth of the moment's experience, which passes and refuses to be held within a rigid framework. Henry James rightly said that "experience is never limited, and i t is never complete, i t is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the 16 mind" This can only be suggested by an expansive novel with an ex-pansive narrator, or in a novel where the "design" is muted, and a sense of the open-ness of l i f e retained. Batchelor, with his perpetual making and remaking of his own experiences, is perhaps the epitome of the Thackerayan narrator. He, i f any of the narrators, suggests that "humanity is immense, and reality 17 has a myriad forms." 1 When his self-esteem is most deeply shattered by his failure to impress Elizabeth Prior with his) gallantry, and by his humiliation in being rejected in favour of Edward Dencher, the physician, he is forced to appear calm and unmoved, for his passion had remained unexpressed. The night after his rejection he dreams of the past, and "The Art of Fiction," in Partial Portraits (London: Macmillan, 1888), p. 388. 1 7 I b i a , pp. 387-388. 215 sees h i m s e l f s i t t i n g amid the r u i n of h i s own happiness. A multitude of responses to the f a c t of h i s "tragedy" suggest themselves. Th i s i s not j u s t the saddest s t o r y , i t i s the most r i d i c u l o u s , the most incomprehen-s i b l e , the most u n r e a l , the most o r d i n a r y and d u l l . The f a c t of r e j e c t -i o n i s turned round i n B a t c h e l o r ' s mind, and becomes a b r i l l i a n t and many-faceted treasure on which h i s imagination can p l a y . One part of him, indeed, i s not r e a l l y i n t e r e s t e d i n the r a t h e r prim and no longer yo u t h f u l woman. Batchelor's response to the " f a c t s " i s complex: Would you know who i s the s o l i t a r i e s t man on earth? That man am I . Was that c u t l e t which I ate at breakfast anon, was that lamb which f r i s k e d on the mead l a s t week (beyond yon w a l l where the unconscious cucumber l a y basking which was to form h i s s a u c e ) — I say, was that lamb made so tender, tha t I might eat him? And my h e a r t , then? Poor heart i wert thou so s o f t l y c o n s t i t u t e d o n l y that women might stab thee? So I am a Muff, am I? And she w i l l always wear a l o c k of h i s "dear h a i r , " w i l l she? Hal haj The men on the omnibus looked askance as they saw me laugh. They thought i t was from Hanwell, not Putney, I was escaping. Escape? Who can escape? . . . I took another omnibus and went back to Putney . . . . I t i s s a i d that ghosts l o i t e r about t h e i r former haunts a good deal when they are f i r s t dead; . . . But suppose they r e t u r n and f i n d noho&y t a l k i n g of them at a l l ? Or suppose, Hamlet (Pere, and Royal Dane) comes .back and f i n d s C laudius and Gertrude v e r y comfortable over a piece of c o l d meat, or what not? Is the l a t e gentleman's present p o s i t i o n as a ghost a v e r y pleasant one? Crow, Cocks! Quick, Sundawn! Open, Trap-door! A l l o n s : i t ' s best to pop underground ag a i n . So I am a Muff am I? . . . Why, b l e s s my s o u l ! what i s L i z z y h e r s e l f — o n l y an o r d i n a r y woman—freckled c e r t a i n l y — i n c o r r i g i b l y d u l l , and without a s c i n t i l l a t i o n of humour; and you mean to say, Charles B a t c h e l o r , th a t your heart once beat about that woman? (XXVIII, 346-347) We see here the attempt of the mind to a s s i m i l a t e f a c t s that are p a i n f u l and damaging to the ego or self-image which has been b u i l t up as a w a l l between the s e l f and the world. Batchelor indulges i n a v a r i e t y of c o n t r a d i c t o r y s u p p o s i t i o n s : he i s "the s o l i t a r i e s t man" but a l s o , by extension, a tender lamb; he i s an escaped maniac, a muff, 216 and Hamlet senior's ghost. F i n a l l y , he i s p l a i n Charles Batchelor i n love with a pla i n and common-place woman. He moves from extreme s e l f -p i t y to the most scathing self-contempt while h i s consciousness returns i n a parabola to his immediate predicament, v i a h i s r e c o l l e c t i o n of yesterday's pleasant and painful events and a personal variation on the theme of the returning ghost of Hamlet. This constant fluctuation of the mind under stress i s emphasized by the continual self-questioning, the bouts of manic laughter, and way-ward improvisation. The prose rhythm frequently suggests a wild f l i g h t of imagination which becomes suddenly checked byyan abrupt r e a l i z a t i o n of the painful immediate situation. The fluency of his picture of the f r i s k i n g lamb i s cut off short by staccato mutterings: "And my heart, then?" Poor heart I . . . So I am a Muff, am I? And she w i l l always wear a lock of his 'dear hair,' w i l l she? Hal Hal" Batchelor then l e t s his mind swing into a further re c o l l e c t i o n , only to bring himself to a s t a n d s t i l l over the word "escape." He toys for a moment with t h i s word as i f not f u l l y comprehending i t as he does with the other key words "muff" and "heart." I f Batchelor's story had been read by Lovel or by Elizabeth, they would have surely concluded that they were reading the diary of a madman. But for the novel-reader, who finds h i s own counterpart i n the narrator, there i s a sense of immediate and personal truth i n such a passage which catches the evanescence of authentic experience. The question of truth to "fact" i s no longer pertinent, for the "facts" become l o s t i n the cross-weaving of impressions within "the chamber of consciousness." The reader i s never forced into the position of the poet Shade who asks 217 his perverse commentator and c r i t i c Kihbote, " 'How can you know that 18 a l l this intimate stuff about your rather appalling king is true? 1 " For Batchelor, like Kinbote, actually writes his own "novel," and in the act of writing becomes obsessed with his "own" subject, or his own interpretations, at the expense of his supposed or claimed subject, hovel's re-marriage, like Shade's poem, is valuable for the narrator only insofar as i t enables him to tap his own sub-conscious, to un-leash the demons that lurk within, struggling perpetually for expression. As a work of literature becomes more steeped in irony so does the ostensible subject become more di f f i c u l t to locate, and reader partici-pation correspondingly increases. In irony and burlesque "reading has become a game of wits. The reader's creative participation is essential 19 to the author's design." In Thackeray's novels the secondary fictional world of narrator and reader increasingly threatens to engulf the primary fictional world. In Lovel the Widower, as Lionel Stevenson disparagingly says, "lacking an adequate plot, he |_Thackeray[] had fallen back on his old device of a seffli-fictitious narrator, who had but a small part in the action and yet kept himself interminably in the fore-ground." In Batchelor, in other words, we have another Tristram, an ancestor of Dowell, Marlow and Proust-Marcel. Stevenson complains that Philip's lack of integrated structure was disguised by a tissue of discursive comment. Repetition and t r i v i a l detail clogged i t s movement, with only an occasional dramatic scene to Vladimir Nabokov, Pale ^ire (New York: Putnam's, 1962), p. 214. 19 'David Worcester, The Art of Satire (New York: Russell and Russell, 1940), p. 31. 218 cut through the s l u g g i s h flow . . . . I n previous novels the author's musings had been kept subordinate to the n a r r a t i v e , but i n P h i l i p they too o f t e n seemed to be predominant." The i r o n i c a l awareness of the a r b i t r a r y nature of n a r r a t i v e , of p l o t , and of form, make any " i n t e g r a t e d s t r u c t u r e " impossible f o r Batchelor and Pendennis. Furthermore, the knowledge of t h e i r own and t h e i r reader's s u b j e c t i v i t y compel these confused and h i g h l y s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n a r r a t o r s to f o l l o w the t r u t h s of immediate experience and the tortuous windings of t h e i r own minds. T h i s c l i n g i n g to the immediate i n v o l v e s them i n the " r e p e t i t i o n and t r i v i a l d e t a i l " which i n e v i t a b l y clogs the movement of the s t o r y and reduces i t to a s l u g g i s h f l o w . Henry James, who uses the same metaphor of the stream, not f o r the ".story" but f o r the freedom of imaginative i m p r o v i s a t i o n which he sought to contain w i t h i n the form of The Aspern Papers, suggests h i s aim of g i v i n g the f e e l i n g of l i f e i n t h i s passage: To improvise with extreme freedom and yet at the same time without the p o s s i b i l i t y of ravage, without the h i n t of a f l o o d : to keep the stream, i n a word, on something l i k e i d e a l terms with i t s e l f : that was here my d e f i n i t e business . . . to depend on an imagination working f r e e l y , working ( c a l l i t ) with extravagances by which law i t wouldn't be th i n k a b l e ^ except as f r e e and wouldn't be amusing except as c o n t r o l l e d . So appropriate i s James's statement, he might almost be r e f e r r i n g to Thackeray's problem of keeping h i s f a s c i n a t i o n with the d i g r e s s i v e n a r r a t o r w i t h i n the bounds of n a r r a t i v e . H a l t e r A l l e n says that V a n i t y The Showman of "Vanity Fair".; The L i f e of W i l l jam Makepeace  Thackeray~XHew York: S c r i b h e r ' s , 1947), p. 365? p. 371. 21 The A r t of the Novel: C r i t i c a l P r e f a c e s , with I n t r o d . , P.. P. Blackmur (New York: S c r i b n e r ' s , 1948), p. 172. 219 22 F a i r i s "an extended conversation, a monologue." I f l i f e i s capable, 23 as James says elsewhere, of n o t h i n g but s p l e n d i d waste, where b e t t e r can we f i n d the counterpart of t h i s " l i f e " than i n the looseness of chatty c o n v e r s a t i o n and the d i g r e s s i o n s and c o n t r a d i c t i o n s of the mono-logue i n which the mind moves between doubts and mutually e x c l u s i v e c e r t a i n t i e s ? Perhaps s c e p t i c i s m i s indeed the mind's n a t u r a l d w e l l i n g p l a c e , i n s p i t e of the c e r t a i n t i e s , c o n v i c t i o n s , or conclusive argu-ments that may be expressed i n speech or w r i t i n g . Although i t s e i z e s upon s o l i d , or seemingly s o l i d , c e r t a i n t i e s w i t h a l a c r i t y , the mind more normally dwells i n the hollows between c e r t a i n t i e s . And while the mind l u r k s there, the i r o n i c a l awareness of perpetual f l u x i s the o n l y p o s s i b l e response t o the s p l e n d i d waste that l i f e o f f e r s . The s t y l e of the mature Thackerayan n a r r a t o r ' s address to h i s reader has something of the casualness, frankness, and u n c e r t a i n t y of o r d i n a r y c o n v e r s a t i o n . I t i s thus both u n l i k e the p o l i s h e d and s l i g h t l y bookish dialogue of novels by Jane Austen, Henry James or Ivy Compton-Burnett, and more c o n t r o l l e d and s e l f - c o n s c i o u s than the meandering r e v e l a t i o n s of the stream of consciousness monologue. Of I v y Compton--Bum e t t ' s n o v e l i s t i c dialogue, N a t h a l i e Sarraute says, the speeches "are here, one f e e l s , what they are i n r e a l i t y : the r e s u l t a n t of numerous, entangled movements that have come up from the d e p t h s . " 2 4 22 The E n g l i s h Novel; A Short C r i t i c a l H i s t o r y (London: Penguin Books, 1958), p. 175. 2 3 T h e A r t o f the Novel, p. 120. 24 , The Age of S u s p i c i o n , t r a n s . Maria J o l a s (New York: George B r a z i l l e r , 196377 P» H 6 . 220 But these speeches are far too pithy, compact and grammatical for ordinary speech which, " i s concerned mainly with putting into words what i s loosely called the stream of consciousness: the daydreaming, remembering, worrying, associating, brooding and mooning that continually 25 flows through the mind." ' The monologues of the mature Thackerayan narrator seem to catch at thoughts as they f l y , but they also control them and give them rhetorical d i r e c t i o n . At i t s most t y p i c a l , the narrator's monologue combines the drive and enthusiam of a public speech with the informality of a private confession. This mixture of the personal idiosyncratic association and the speaker's sense of public performance i s well i l l u s t r a t e d i n t h i s half-monologue, half suggested dialogue between Mr. Roundabout and young Walter, i n which the topic overriding and "controlling" the digression i s the question of the r e a l i t y of i l l u s i o n ; and whether the senses become less susceptible in age to the spells that entrance the young: Bo not suppose I am going, siout est mos, to indulge in moral-i t i e s about buffoons, paint, motley, and mountebanking. Nay, Prime Ministers rehearse their jokes; Opposition leaders pre-pare and polish them; Tabernacle preachers must arrange them in their minds before they utter them. A l l I mean i s , that I would l i k e to know any one of these performers thoroughly, and out of his uniform; that preacher, and why i n his travels this and that point struck him. . . . I would only say that, at a certain time of l i f e certain things cease to interest: but about some things when we cease to care, what w i l l be the use of l i f e , sight, hearing? Poems are written, and we cease to admire. Lady Jones invites us, and we yawn; she ceases to invite us, and we are resigned. The l a s t time I saw a ballet at the opera—oh! i t i s many years ago—I f e l l asleep in the s t a l l s , wagging my head i n insane dreams, and I hope affording amusement to the company, while the feet of fi v e hundred nymphs were cutting f l i e f l a c s on the stage at a Northrop Prye, The Well-Tempered C r i t i c (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana Univ. Press, 1963), p. 20. 221. few paces' distance. Ah! I remember a different state of things! (XXVII, 86-87) We see at work here what Gordon Ray describes as the "naturalness 26 and informality" of the mature style, and i t s meandering course suggests the a l e r t but undisciplined mind more bent on seizing the next impression than following a l o g i c a l t r a i n of thought. Mr. Roundabout seeks to expose the f r a i l t y of i l l u s i o n , but at the same time reveals i t s strength and his own s u s c e p t i b i l i t y . His mind does not control his "subject" but allows the wandering l i g h t s , which are loosely i n orbit around the central nucleus of the "subject", to r e f l e c t upon i t . The digressive narrator of the l a t e r novels and the Roundabout Papers seeks to comprehend an i n f i n i t e universe, and his own fumbling f o r words ("all I mean i s , " "I would only say that") indicates that the narrator i s over-whelmed by the vastness of p o s s i b i l i t y , and i s prepared to retreat from whatever position he for the moment elects to adopt. The reader, who temporarily becomes young Walter, the boy naively delighted by pantomime, i s given the part of opposing the disenchanted exposer of the f o l l i e s of i l l u s i o n . When the i r a s c i b l e old man reveals, not his own superiority to the sordid trappings and subterfuges of stage i l l u s i o n , so much as his present s u s c e p t i b i l i t y to the i l l u s i o n s he experienced i n h i s youth— i l l u s i o n s which have become his r e a l i t y — t h e reader smiles and has his moment/of superiority. But the reader's superiority i s only a temporary state, for he too can be carried away, not by argument, but by sheer Thackeray: The Uses of Adversity I 8 I I - I 8 4 6 (New York: McGraw H i l l , 1955), P. 4 0 1 . 2 2 2 v e r b a l l u x u r i a n c e when the Roundabout Pegasus impels both: n a r r a t o r and reader i n t o realms where the moment's i l l u s i o n r e i g n s sufprlsme>. Thackeray's reader must: r e a l i z e v i t a l p a r t s of a complex whole. And, as i n o r d i n -ary conversation, many of the p a r t s w i l l seem opaque and f l a t i n i s o l a t i o n , but on t h e i r presence the r h e t o r i c a l and l u c i d depend f o r t h e i r convic-t i o n , s i nce the n a r r a t o r ' s mind moves not s t r a i g h t towards a goal, but c y c l i c a l l y through c o n t r a r i e s expressed i n a p p r o p r i a t e l y c o l l o q u i a l or r h e t o r i c a l language. Sy h i s r e f u s a l to submit to the needs of h i s p u b l i c f o r the s e c u r i t y of neat endings, such as Dickens provides i n the r e v i s e d Great E x p e c t a t i o n s , or George E l i o t i n Adam Bede and The M i l l on the  F l o s s , Thackeray shows a d i s t i n c t l y modern tendency. But Thackeray, un-l i k e James, V i r g i n i a Woolf, or E.M. F o r s t e r , does not subscribe to the modern myth, "that anyone's d i s t u r b i n g , expanding experience can ever be ordered f i n a l l y , f i n a l l y made sense of, f i n a l l y l i m i t e d , and hence 27 transcended." Summary Joyce, Proust and Faulkner leave i n t h e i r wake a swarm of c r i t i c s who p i c k up the pieces and assemble v a s t s t r u c t u r e s which i n some way p a r a l l e l those of the n o v e l i s t s . Thackeray, l i k e Tolstoy, whom he so f r u i t f u l l y i n f l u e n c e d , i s not e a s i l y subjected to systematic 2 8 c r i t i c a l s c r u t i n y . He does not leave a t r a i l of symbols f o r h i s 27 'Alan Friedman, The Turn of the Novel (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1 9 6 6 ) , p. 1 8 7 . 2 8 For the i n f l u e n c e of Thackeray on T o l s t o y , see John Bayley, T o l s t o y and the Novel (London: Chatto and Hindus, 1966), pp. 155; 1 6 3 . 223 reader to follow, nor does he give undue emphasis to formal properties such as caves, mosques, towers, lighthouses, or labyrinthine c i t i e s . When the sea appears i n hi s novels, as i t does i n The Newcomes, i t i s there to be enjoyed for i t s own sake. I t i s at Brighton that we see humanity at i t s most various, and Brighton with i t s p a v i l l i o n i s half-way back to Arthur Pendennis' own youth when the twanging coach-horn l e f t for London and the Prince Regent gave colour and dash to pre-Victorian England, We know that nothing appears i n novels entirely "for i t s own sake," but when the sense of freedom and unpredictability of l i f e as i t seems to a perceiving consciousness, who i s not a part of the pattern but a creator of patterns, i s sought, the "irrelevant" or "digressive" or "intrusive" anecdote i s as valuable as the more patently functional or i l l u s t r a t i v e one. Thackeray presents reader and c r i t i c with peculiar d i f f i c u l t i e s . Furthermore, when the t e l l e r ' s consciousness overlays the tale to the extent that i t does i n P h i l i p or Lovel, the novel, as we normally conceive the genre, begins to disintegrate. I f i t i s the narrative or story which must be the primary focus of the reader's attention, the l a t e r Thackeray novel's w i l l prove a disappointment. Martin Schutze, censuring advocates of the " i r r a t i o n a l form-type" such as Tieck and Strich, points out that " i t i s an i l l u s i o n to seek i n f i n i t y i n poor and fragmentary form." Despite a l l th e i r complexity and suggestiveness, Thackeray's novels re t a i n the firmness of a basic paradigm which, though i t i s never obtrusive or r i g i d l y controlling, gives a sense of the conti-nuity of l i f e and l i t e r a t u r e . For " a l l structure i s based on the repe-224 29 t i t i o n of.fundamental units i n a m u l t i p l i c i t y of d e t a i l . " ' Thus, under-l y i n g the multiple view-point of the narrator, we have i n Becky and Amelia wicked and virtuous heroines who meet their respective "unhappy" and "happy" ends, i n Henry Esmond an Aeneas who marries h i s Bido, i n P h i l i p a man who f a l l s among thieves and whose good Samaritans are Br. Goodenough and the L i t t l e S i s t e r , The narrator, we may say, i s less a. supporter of such purely formal systems than one who uses them i n order to prove th e i r inadequacy. These old stories provide reader and narrator with a common frame of reference which has the human f a m i l i a r i t y of a symbolism handled by generations. But since they are variously inadequate and even inappro-priate to explain the inconstant human elements, they must of necessity be undermined by the ir o n i c interpreter. The reader thus has no sure resting place i n the novels, for the ir o n i c v i s i o n eschews completeness. 'Academic Illu s i o n s i n the F i e l d of Letters and the Arts, new ed. (Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, I962), p. 212s p. 219. This i s true even i f the "fundamental units" are merely the episodes of our reading experience. Cf. Graham Hough, An Essay on Criticism, pp. 20-23. CONCLUSION: VISION THROUGH PLAY Two things of opposite natures seem to depend On one another, as a man depends On a woman, day on night, the imagined On the r e a l . This i s the origin of change. —Wallace Stevens, "Notes Toward a Supreme F i c t i o n " Every novelist has the defects of his virtues. In reading an i r o n i c a l novelist such as Thackeray, the reader must renounce his need for an ultimate commitment to an ethical i d e a l . He cannot even commit himself temporarily to such cultural myths as the wisdom of so c i a l integration which George E l i o t propounds, or D.H. Lawrence's reliance on the power of remote ancestral knowledge transmitted through the i n s t i n c t s . Nor does Thackeray offer us a commitment to a moment of personal revelation or s o c i a l communion which we f i n d i n Joyce, V i r g i n i a Woolf and E.M. Forster. Thackeray's sole alignment seems to he with a policy of non-alignment. For some readers Thackeray may well appear aesthetically careless and morally oonfused. But for the reader who i s patient, who i s prepared to l e t Thackeray lead him, and who seeks nothing extraneous to the novel and himself through which to understand his author, f o r that reader Thackeray can provide his own kind of revelation. Much of the suspicion and disfavour which Thackeray suffered i n his day, and s t i l l to some extent suffers from i n ours, can he attributed to his f a i l u r e to subscribe absolutely to the human need for certainty and passionate loyalty. The i r o n i s t , who alienates himself from himself i n order to see the nature of his needs, prejudices, and enthusiasms, can never be a partisan with a programme; he offers us the paradox of a rea l wholeness (or whole r e a l i t y ) which i s incomplete because r e a l i t y 225 .226 i s incomplete. To the i r o n i s t every position which the s e l f adopts implies an antagonistic position which might have been adopted with equal certitude. He knows that "doubt and trusts subtend each other; they cohere i n the unity that i s the whole man."1 The price of this "wholeness" i s uncertainty; the attempt to be inclusive inevitably leads to being inconclusive. Thackeray offers his reader not a v i s i o n of the world trans-formed but v i s i o n of man i n the process of transforming himself by f l u c t u -ation between changing r e a l i t i e s . He does not deny the truth of the visionary, as we have seen i n h i s recreation of the moods of Pendennis and J.J. Ridley as they appear to the narrator, but he denies i t s permanence. Wholeness (that i s health) i s achieved paradoxically by s p l i t t i n g the self into an actor and a spectator, each learning from and dependent upon the other. The play or pantomime, with i t s emphasis on a r t i f i c i a l i t y and the human need to experiment and learn through play, thus becomes Thackeray's dominant metaphor. Seeing the play purely as a play enables the spectator to have a v i s i o n of himself as a continual part-player. Thackeray's reader, i n short, detaches himself from i l l u s i o n i n order to have knowledge of h i s i l l u s i o n s . Colin Wilson says that " i n some sense, every work of f i c t i o n that has ever been written i s somehow obscurely concerned with the problem of 2 how men should l i v e . " A d i a l e c t i c between good and evilj-. or desirable George W. Morgan, The Human Predicament: Dissolution and Wholeness (Providence: Brown Univ. Press, 1968), p. 321. 2 The Strength to Dream: Literature and the Imagination (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1962), p. 205. '227 and undesirable or le s s desirable attitudes, runs through the novels of Thackeray as i t does through those of, for example, Jane Austen, Dickens, and V i r g i n i a Woolf. But although Thackeray supports such moral positives as the value of tact, intelligence and good breeding, the necessity f o r benevolence and charity, and the need for s e n s i t i v i t y to others, he has the courage, honesty, and humility to admit to the negatives which define these values. Moreover, i n both absolutes he finds the seeds of i t s opposition. In short, he offers no system either e x p l i c i t or impli c i t on which men can re l y . The problem of how men should l i v e i s resolved i n Thackeray's philosophy by each one for himself, as he watches himself from moment to moment quietly, closely, without praising or blaming,in a s p i r i t of eternal vigilance. Thackeray's d i a l e c t i c i s not merely one of moral opposites, where Becky i s opposed by Amelia, Blanche by Laura, and so forth; i t i s also a c o n f l i c t that takes place within the reader who becomes at once protagonist and observer. It i s a process of self-exploration whereby the adult discovers the child within, and enthusiastic participation i s balanced by s e l f - c r i t i c a l analysis. The reader must become both Young Walter and Mr. Roundabout. Thackeray's own "Fireside Pantomime," The Rose and The Ring, i s thus appropriately designed by him "for great and small children" (XXIV, 197). I f the chi l d i s a natural role-player who learns i n s t i n c t i v e l y through dramatic play, then the adult must recover some of th i s l o s t power to learn by becoming a c h i l d . Thackeray offers us no simple c h i l d - l i k e adults such as Mr. Dick or Joe Gargery, but he takes the s p i r i t of play into the sophisticated and deadly earnest world of the 228 salon and gaming table. If roles seem more important to him than goals, this does not imply that his world has no meaning, that it':.i-s entirely frivolous or ultimately escapist. On the contrary, his play-world is highly serious: i t disturbs our hallowed conventions of novels and morals and lets the anarchist, the child, and the dreamer within us come into our stern and repressive consciousness. Like the mysterious Juggler of the Tarot Pack, the Dreamer is con-tinually doing the apparently impossible, capsizing our solemn ultimates of birth and death, manipulating space and time with a breathtaking impudence, riding roughshod across a l l our most treasured and assured convictions. With the Dreamer you never know where you are. At one moment he chills by an inhuman cruelty, at another uplifts with a sheer grandeur of spiritual vision; he irritates us by t r i v i a l i t i e s , silences us with an unreachable wisdom, charms us by his subtlety and wit, and often enough disgusts us with his coarse and bestial fantasies. The child-at-play within the reader can, like the dreamer when he is recognized, enrich immensely the compulsive planner and organiser who is the essentially, sane and respectable adult in the reader. When the adult listens to the babble of the child within he becomes aware that " l i f e ' s nonsense pierces us with strange relation." 4 Creative artists from Blake and Wordsworth to Van Gogh and Picasso have paid tribute to the unselfconscious visionary power of children. In Thackeray, l i t t l e Miles Warrington, young Rawdon, and young Walter display a fresh-ness and honesty which shocks, startles, and waylays social conventions which are accepted and inviolable rules to the adult. Preud points out that "under the influence of alcohol the adul.t again becomes a child who Alan McGlashan, The Savage and Beautiful Country (London: Chatto and Windus, 1966), p. 147• 4 Wallace Stevens, "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction," in Transport to  Summer (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1947), p. 120. 229 derives pleasure from the free disposal of his mental stream without 5 being r e s t r i c t e d by the pressure of l o g i c . " Most works of art also contain t h i s a b i l i t y to liberate the imaginative and undisciplined ch i l d within the reader or spectator. Thackeray, however, evokes the eternal watcher as well as the c h i l d within the reader—the watcher who protects the child-at-piay and who sees the complex self indulging i n various forms of child's play. Thackeray does not seek to disparage his reader when he has the Manager of Vanity F a i r say: "Come, children, l e t us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play i s played out" (VF, 666). Thus, for Thackeray, the only r e a l i t y i s a process of continual self-renewal where the self reveals i t s e l f through the play of i l l u s i o n . Only the c h i l d i s naturally at home i n the world of i l l u s i o n , but only the adult i s capable of seeing the i l l u s i o n for what i t i s . For th i s ultimate v i s i o n to take place, adult and c h i l d must come together i n the person of the reader. The role of the narrator and reader thus necessitates a double projection: into the primary and into the secondary f i c t i o n a l world of the novels. In the primary i l l u s i o n the reader i s actor and believes i n his role l i k e a child, and i n the secondary i l -l usion he i s an adult watcher. Ultimately, the novels do not lead any-where except back to the reader's own consciousness? hence, their provocatively open form. The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, trans, and ed. with Introd. A.A. B r i l l , The Modern Library (New York: Random House, 1938), pp. 718-719. 230 The secondary f i c t i o n a l world i n the l a t e r novels i n c r e a s i n g l y predominates over the primary, as the n a r r a t o r focuses upon him s e l f r a t h e r than h i s " s t o r y . " In L o v e l , i n f a c t , the nominal hero i s l i t t l e more than a supernumerary f i g u r e . Batchelor attempts, i n j e s t and earnest, to e x t r a c t a maximum of t r u t h from a most commonplace and t r i v i a l i n c i d e n t . The legendary world of Edenic and Greek myth i s compounded with Batchelor ' s own f a b r i c a t e d past a f t e r he i s r e j e c t e d by the s p i n s t e r who could "never' have more than a f i l i a l regard f o r the k i n d o l d gentleman." Batchelor c o n t i n u a l l y r e - e v a l u a t e s h i s p o s i t i o n i n t h i s scene which suggests a complex and indeterminate r e a l i t y : There were the t r e e s — t h e r e were the b i r d s s i n g i n g — t h e r e was the bench on which we used to s i t — t h e same but how d i f f e r e n t ! The t r e e s had a d i f f e r e n t f o l i a g e , e x q u i s i t e amaranthines the b i r d s sang a song p a r a d i s i a c a l : the bench was a bank of roses and f r e s h f l o w e r s , which young love twined i n f r a g r a n t c h a p l e t s around the statue of G l o r v i n a . Roses and f r e s h flowers? Rheu-matisms and f l a n n e l - w a i s t c o a t s , you s i l l y o l d man! F o l i a g e and song? 0 namby-pamby d r i v e l l e r ! A s t a t u e ? — a d o l l , thou twad-d l i n g o l d d u l l a r d ! a d o l l with carmine cheeks, and a heart s t u f f e d with bran. (XXVIII, 348) Whether Glorvina,. i s a woman, a d o l l , a statue, or a phantom of the mind i s never c l e a r : B a t c h e l o r ' s r a v i n g s have no c e r t a i n t y beyond h i s own ambiguous dreams. The incongruent p e r s p e c t i v e s of the secondary f i c t i o n a l world, which i s made up of such c o n t r a d i c t i o n s and changes of stance, r e s i s t the i m p o s i t i o n of any r e d u c t i v e p a t t e r n . Thus, George Levine has r e s e r v a t i o n s about James Wheatley's recent study of Thackeray which, he f i n d s , too neat to suggest "the sprawling d i s o r d e r and redundance 231 of so much of Thackeray's . . . f i c t i o n . " Thackeray, finding absolute certainty to be unattainable, has constant recourse to alternation and ambiguity. Sprawl, disorder, and redundance are thus essential con-stituents of his world view, and the secondary f i c t i o n a l world, with i t s fragmented but dynamic perspectives, f a i t h f u l l y captures this v i s i o n . Since, for Thackeray, change i s the only r e a l i t y , then such questions as Becky's innocence or g u i l t i n her-liaison with Lord Steyne, and the contents of the pages torn from George Warrington's manuscript revelations about h i s wife, are v i t a l to his reader. In the context of the reader's experience within the novel, these are, l i t e r a l l y , v i t a l questions because any answers he may f e e l temporarily convinced about giving are always subject to endless r e v i s i o n . Review of Patterns i n Thackeray's F i c t i o n , Novelt A Forum  on F i c t i o n , 3(Spring 1970), 268. BIBLIOGRAPHY A. PRIMARY SOURCES 1 - ffORKS OF THACKERAY Thackeray, W i l l i a m Makepeace. A C o l l e c t i o n of L e t t e r s of Thackeray. New Yorki S c r i b n e r ' s , I887. . The L e t t e r s and P r i v a t e Papers of W i l l i a m Makepeace Thackeray, ed. Gordon N. Ray. 4 v o l s . Cambridge, Mass.! Harvard Univ. Press, 1945-1946. . Thackeray's C o n t r i b u t i o n s to the "Morning C h r o n i c l e , " ed. Gordon N. Ray. Urbana: Univ. of I l l i n o i s Press, 1955* . V a n i t y F a i r ; A Novel Without a Hero, ed. wit h I n t r o d . and notes by G e o f f r e y and Kathleen T i l l o t s o n . Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n , 1963. . Works. 32 v o l s . New York: S c r i b n e r ' s , 1904. 2. OTHER WORKS Apuleiu s . The Transformation of Lu c i u s , Otherwise Known as the Golden  Ass, t r a n s . Robert Graves. New York: F a r r a r , Straus and Giroux, 1951. Barth, John. The F l o a t i n g Opera. New York: Avon Books, 1965, Borges, Jorge L u i s . Dreamtigers, t r a n s , from E l Haoedor (The Maker) M i l d r e d Boyer and Har o l d Morland. A u s t i n , Texas: Univ. of Texas, I964. The Brontes. The Brontes: T h e i r L i v e s , F r i e n d s h i p s and Correspondence, ed. T . J . Wise and J.A. Symington. 4 v o l s . Oxford: Shakespeare Head Press, 1932. Browning, Robert. The P o e t i c a l Works of Robert Browning. 2 v o l s . London: Smith, E l d e r , I9O6. Burton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. f l o y d D e l l and Paul Jordan-Smith. New York: Tudor P u b l i s h i n g Co., 1955* 232 233 Byron, Gordon George. The P o e t i c a l Works of Lord Byron. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1945. Camus, A l b e r t . The F a l l , t r a n s . J u s t i n O'Brien. New York: A l f r e d Knopf, 1956. C a r l y l e , Thomas. New L e t t e r s of Thomas C a r l y l e , ed. Alexander C a r l y l e . 2 v o l s . London: John Lane, 1904. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de. Don Quixote of La Mancha, t r a n s , with I n t r o d . Walter S t a r k i e . Signet C l a s s i c s . New York; New American L i b r a r y , 1964. Clough, Arthur Hugh. The Correspondence of Arthur Hugh Clough, ed. F r e d e r i c k L. Mulhauser. 2 v o l s . Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1957. Dryden, John. The P o e t i c a l Works of John Dryden. The Globe E d i t i o n . London: Macmillan, 1894* D u r r e l l , Lawrence. J u s t i n e . London: Faber and Faber, 1957. E l i o t , George. Works of George E l i o t . 10 v o l s . London: W i l l i a m Blackwood, 1901. F i e l d i n g , Henry. The H i s t o r y of Tom Jones, A Foundling. London: C o l l i n s , 1955. Gide, Andre. The C o u n t e r f e i t e r s , with J o u r n a l of "The C o u n t e r f e i t e r s , " t r a n s . Dorothy Bussy and J u s t i n O'Brien. New York: A l f r e d Knopf, 1951. F i r s t French e d i t i o n 1927. James, Henry. The Ambassadors, ed. with Afterword R.W. ..Stallman. New York: New American L i b r a r y , i960. Joyce, James. U l y s s e s . London: The Bodley Head, i960. Keats, John. The L e t t e r s of John Keats, ed. Maurice Buxton Forman, 2 v o l s . London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1931. Nabokov, V l a d i m i r . Pale F i r e . New York: Putnam's, 1962. P i r a n d e l l o , L u i g i . " S i x Characters i n Search of an Author," i n Naked Masks ed. E r i c Bentley, New York: Dutton & Co., 1952. Proust, M a r cel. Remembrance of Things Past, t r a n s . C.K. Scott M o n c r i e f f and Stephen Hudson. 12 v o l s . London: Chatto and Windus, 1941. 234 R a b e l a i s . The Complete Works of R a b e l a i s , t r a n s . Jacques Le Clerq.. New York: Random House, 1944. Rimbaud, Ar t h u r . OEuvres completes. P a r i s : G a l l i m a r d , 1954. Sterne, Laurence. The L i f e and Opinions of T r i s t r a m Shandy, Gentleman^ London: C o l l i n s , 1955* Stevens, Wallace. Transport to Summer. New York: A l f r e d Knopf, 1947. T r o l l o p e , Anthony. An Autobiography. New ed. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1950. . The L e t t e r s of Anthony T r o l l o p e , ed. Bradford Booth. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1951. Wordsworth, W i l l i a m . The P o e t i c a l Works of W i l l i a m Wordsworth, ed. Thos. A. Hutchinson. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1907. Yeats, W.B. C o l l e c t e d Poems. London: Macmillan, 1963. B. SECONDARY SOURCES 1. WORKS SPECIFICALLY ON THACKERAY Baker, Joseph E. "Vanity F a i r and the C e l e s t i a l C i t y . " NCF, 10(1955), 89-98. B l o d g e t t , H a r r i e t . "Necessary Presence: The R h e t o r i c of the N a r r a t o r of V a n i t y F a i r . " NCF, 22(1967), 211-223. Brander, Laurence. Thackeray. W r i t e r s and T h e i r Work S e r i e s p u b l i s h e d f o r The B r i t i s h C o u n c i l and The N a t i o n a l Book League. London: Longmans, Green, 1959* Clapp, Edwin R. " C r i t i c on Horseback." Sewanee Review, 38(1930), 286-300. C r a i g , George Armour. "On the S t y l e of V a n i t y F a i r , " i n S t y l e i n Prose F i c t i o n , ed. H a r o l d C. M a r t i n . E n g l i s h I n s t i t u t e Essays 1958. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1959. Dodds, John W. Thackeray: A C r i t i c a l P o r t r a i t . New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1941. E l l i s , G.U. Thackeray. London: Duckworth, 1933. 235 Ennis, Lambert. Thackeray; The Sentimental Cynic. Evanston, I l l i n o i s ; Northwestern Univ. Press, 1956. Praser, R u s s e l l A. " S e n t i m e n t a l i t y i n Thackeray's The Newcomes." NCF, 4(1949), 187-196. G r e i g , J.Y.T. Thackeray: A R e c o n s i d e r a t i o n . London: Oxford Univ. Pr e s s , 1950. Hannah, Donald. "'The Author's Own Candles': The S i g n i f i c a n c e of the I l l u s t r a t i o n s to V a n i t y F a i r , " i n Renaissance and Modern Essays . . . , ed. G.R. Hibbard. London: Routledge and K. P a u l , 1966. K l e i s , John C. "The N a r r a t i v e Persona i n the Novels of Thackeray," D i s s . Pennsylvania 1966. L e s t e r , John A., J r . "Thackeray's N a r r a t i v e Technique." PMLA, 69(1954), 392-409. Levine, George. Review of Patterns i n Thackeray's F i c t i o n , by James H. Wheatley. Novel: A Forum on F i c t i o n , 3(Spring 1970), 266-268. Loofbourow, John. Thackeray and the Form of F i c t i o n . P r i n c e t o n : P r i n c e t o n Univ. Press, 1964. Loomis, Chauncey Chester. "Thackeray the S a t i r i s t . " D i s s . P r i n c e t o n 1964. McMaster, J u l i e t . "Theme and Form i n The Newcomes." NCF, 23(1968), 177-188. Mathison, John K. "The German Sections of V a n i t y F a i r . " NCF, 18(1963), 235-246. M e l v i l l e , Lewis [Lewis S. Benjamin]. Some Aspects of Thackeray. Boston: L i t t l e , Brown, 1911. P a r i s , Bernard J . "The P s y c h i c S t r u c t u r e of V a n i t y Fair.'"VS., 10(1967), 389-410. Ray, Gordon N. The Bu r i e d L i f e ; A Study of the R e l a t i o n Between Thackeray's F i c t i o n and His Personal H i s t o r y . London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1952. . Thackeray: The Age of Wisdom 1847-1863. New York: McGraw H i l l , 1958. . Thackeray: The Uses of A d v e r s i t y I 8 I I - I 8 4 6 . 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Thompson, Leslie M. "Becky Sharp and the Virtues of Sin." VN (Spring 1967), 31 -33. T i l l o t s o n , Geoffrey. Thackeray the Novelist. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1954* , and Donald Hawes, eds. Thackeray: The C r i t i c a l Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, i960. Trollope, Anthony. Thackeray. New York: Harper, n.d. Van Duzer, Henry Sayre. A Thackeray Library, facsimile rept. with new Introd. Lionel Stevenson. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1965. O r i g i n a l l y published 1919. Wheatley, James H. Patterns i n Thackeray'3 F i c t i o n . Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, I969. Wilkinson, Ann Y. "The Tomeavesian Way of Knowing the World: Technique 237 and Meaning i n Vanity F a i r , " ELH, 32(1965), 370-387. Wilson, James Grant. Thackeray i n the United States, 1852-3; I855-6. 2 v o l s . London: Smith, Elder, 1904. ~* ~~ Worth, George J . "The Unity of Henry Esmond." NCF, 15(1961), 345-353. 2. 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