Thursday, August 8, 2013

William Thackeray, The History of Pendennis

"One fine morning in the full London season, Major Arthur Pendennis came over from his lodgings, according to his custom, to breakfast at a certain Club in Pall Mall, of which he was a chief ornament." The master raconteur, William Makepeace Thackeray, so begins his irreverent, piquant, comical lengthy novel: The History of Pendennis.

The reader soon finds that the book isn't an ordinary history book but a fictional work about the trials and tribulations and love misadventures of Arthur Pendennis.

Not to be read in one hour (but in many, as Don quijote is) this lighthearted novel is highly entertaining. Just as Cervantes is Spain's premier novelist, so is Thackeray for England.

For those who revel in the English language, this book is a treat. We find character descriptions that not even Fielding, Swift, or Dickens ever achieved. Mrs. Pendennis tranquil beauty shines in full splendor througout the narrative. The amourous incidents are legion and always told tongue-in-cheek, and with such piquancy that one can only burst in loud laughter.

But not everything is banter and giddiness, for there's plenty of solemnity and wisdom, too. Aphorisms abound: "It is best to love wisely, no doubt; but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all."

Since Thackeray is one of the inventors of the novel, he writes before such contemporary techniques as unobstrusive narrators: "As novelists are supposed to know everything, even the secrets of female hearts, which the owners themselves do not perhaps know, we may state that at eleven years of age Mademoiselle Betsi, as Miss amory was then called, had felt tender emotions towards a young Savoyard organ-grinder at ..."

But allowances given, the language is fresh and exciting. Of the three masterpieces Thackeray wrote: Vanity Fair, Pendennis, and Henry Esmond, my favorite without a doubt is Pendennis.

The book is out of print, but there are plenty of used copies. Get one! Or, you can download it since Google has digitized it.

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's bestseller and indispensable writing manual:


Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse

The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers

Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
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Lindsey Vonn

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