Sketches by W.M. Thackeray, a Master of the Quick Sketch

Self portrait, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 492 Moon observer, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 211 Owl person drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 387 Flying witches, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 212 A reader, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 264 Faces, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 107 A Wayside Sketcher, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 473 Sitting for a portrait, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 432 Napper, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 194 Falling foul of the skirts, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 488 Self portrait, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 455

Rainy weather and stressed umbrellas, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 460 - BWhile searching for something or other in Flickr Commons, the wave of images included some attractive sketches of people struggling with umbrellas in a storm, elegantly attired dancers, and various other everyday happenings.  I soon discovered that they were from Thackerayana: Notes and Anecdotes, a book published in 1875. The book is tribute to William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), a writer known for the novels Vanity Fair and The Luck of Barry Lyndon (this was the foundation for Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon).

The 500+ page book highlights Thackeray’s skill as an artist — he was a master of caricature and the quick sketch — by pairing facsimiles of drawings found in the margins of books in his library with relevant writing (sometimes the text near his drawings, sometimes text relevant to the drawing).  His drawings can be charming and inventive, and the gallery above shows some of my favorites.  The images could make a fun coloring book.

[Click “Continue Reading” to see an image gallery.]

Thackeray loved to draw in the margins of his books, and the drawings in Thackerayana are facsimiles of the originals — redrawn to improve their clarity and make publication possible — so I went looking for some photos of Thackeray’s books. I found a few in a post called Thackeray in the Margins by the Graphic Arts Collection at the Princeton University Library.

Inside cover page of Thackerayana by Joseph GregoTo wrap up, here are some words from Joseph Grego, the author/compiler of Thackerayana:

In looking through the pages of odd little volumes, and on the margins and fly-leaves of some of the choicest works, presentation copies or otherwise [of Thackeray’s extensive library], it was noticed that pencil or pen-and-ink sketches, of faithful conceptions suggested by the texts, touched in most cases with remarkable neatness and decision, were abundantly dispersed through various series.

‘Thackerayana’ is issued with a sense of imperfections ; many more finished or pretentious drawings might have been offered, but the illustrations have been culled with a sense of their fitness to the subject in view. It is the intention to present Thackeray in the aspect his ambition preferred,—as a sketcher ; his pencil and pen bequeath us matter to follow his career ; we recognise that delightful gift, a facility for making rapid little pictures on the inspiration of the moment ; it is an endless source of pleasure to the person who may exercise this faculty, and treasures up the most abundant and life-like reminiscences for the delectation of others….If it was one of Thackeray’s few fanciful griefs that he was not destined for a painter of the grand order, it doubtless consoled him to find that the happier gift of embodying that abstract creation—an idea—in a few strokes of a pencil was his beyond all question ; and this graceful faculty he was accustomed to exercise so industriously, that myriad examples survive of the originality of his invention as an artist, in addition to the brilliant fancy and sterling truth to be found in his works as an author.

Reference

Thackerayana: Notes and Anecdotes, illustrated by nearly six hundred sketches by William Makepeace Thackeray, depicting humorous incidents in his school life, and favourite scenes and characters in the books of his every-day reading, by Joseph Grego, published by Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly (London), 1875. Full text of Thackerayana at Archive.org. No known copyright restrictions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *