|THE BOOK OF SNOBS (1848) by William Makepeace Thackeray is a masterpiece of British Victorian satire that spares no one, exposing every strata of society to the sublime ridicule that only the author of VANITY FAIR could dole out. |
The term "snob" was popularized in unmatched fashion through the publication of this classic, part-fiction, part-essay expos, and wholly a detail-rich portrait of its time.
Thackeray's father worked for the East India Company, and Thackeray was born in Bombay. When his father died when the boy was 4, his mother remarried, and he was raised in England. He attended the Charterhouse School, where he was brutally tormented by his schoolmates, one of whom smashed his nose beyond repair--a deformity that embarrassed him all his life. He went to Cambridge, but left before he took a degree to travel in Germany, where he met Goethe. He studied art in Paris, read for the law but loathed it and never practiced, lost his inheritance through his own carelessness, and finally turned to writing fiction. He began as a satirist but, with the publication of VANITY FAIR (1847-48), his fourth novel, he became wealthy and successful and settled down to write fiction in earnest. He was married in 1836, but his wife was institutionalized with mental problems. In his heyday, Thackeray was often compared to Dickens, who was a greater popular and financial success but whose melodrama, sentimentality, and failure to adhere to strict realism Thackeray frequently criticized. Largely due to VANITY FAIR and a handful of other great novels, Thackeray is regarded as one of the finest writers of the Victorian era. He died of a cerebral hemmorhage at his newly completed home in Bayswater, at the age of 52.