The Inheritance of Genius

A Thackeray Family Biography 1798-1875


In his day, William Makepeace Thackeray was one of England's premier novelists, possessed of both great cultural insight and an incisive pen. With time, however, the man himself has fallen from view. Seen today only through the window of his fiction, the author of Vanity Fair is all too readily written off as just another figure amidst the club-centred, bachelor world of mid-Victorian England that fills his writings. Working with previously unpublished family letters, journals, notebooks and diaries, John Aplin seeks to reintroduce us to W.M. Thackeray as the paterfamilias of an intimate family circle of mother, wife and daughters that defined his life and fiction. Weaving his way through over a century of the Thackeray family, Aplin details not only the author's life, but devotes equal care to following his two daughters, Annie and Minny, who long remained at the centre of cosmopolitan and literary society. Following their father's death, Minny would marry Leslie Stephen, later father of Virginia Woolf, and die at only thirty-five; Annie, encouraged in early years by her father, would herself emerge as a successful novelist, though one always living, albeit willingly, within her father's shadow. Through its careful attention to their lives, this volume provides a unique account of Thackeray's women and their place in his life. From a mother too readily written off by history as religious fanatic, to a wife institutionalised for most of their marriage, to two adult daughters never far from their father's side, it is impossible to separate the writing from the life of the man behind them. Aplin presents the first wholly new reappraisal of Thackeray's life, writing, and legacy through the lens that truly defined him - his family.
  • The Lutterworth Press; August 2010
  • ISBN 9780718842109
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: The Inheritance of Genius
  • Author: John Aplin
  • Imprint: The Lutterworth Press