A Thackeray Family Biography 1798-1919: Two Volume Set

By John Aplin

A two-volume biography of William Makepeace Thackeray and his family, including research that sheds light on the lives of his daughters Minny and Annie.

ISBN: 9780718892265


This two volume biographical study, published in anticipation of the bicentenary of the birth of William Makepeace Thackeray in 1811, details not only the author’s life, but also the cosmopolitan and literary worlds inhabited by his two daughters, Minny and Annie.

When Thackeray died in 1863, the two sisters were forced to find their own way in the world. 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.

Drawing extensively on the letters, diaries, journals and notebooks of the Thackerays and their circle, Aplin sheds light on this remarkable man’s family, and the effect that his life, death and legacy had on those closest to him. The first biography of the Thackeray family circle since that of Gordon Ray in 1958, Aplin’s two-part study incorporates significant new documentary evidence, some of it never previously seen by Thackeray scholars, and includes the fullest and frankest examination of the lives of Thackeray’s two daughters yet published.

Illustrated with portraits, group photographs, and original sketches by the Thackerays, this biography is a wholly new reappraisal of Thackeray’s life, writing, and legacy through the lens that truly defined him – his family. It will appeal not just to those interested in Thackeray and the Victorians, but also to readers of biography, women’s studies and memoirs, and to followers of Viriginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 652

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Formerly Head of the Department of Performing Arts at Brunel University, John Aplin has been pursuing independent and extensive research on the Thackeray family since 2001. In 2006 he published A True Affection: Anne Thackeray Ritchie and the Tennysons. The two volumes of his biography of the Thackerays – The Inheritance of Genius and Memory and Legacy – are also available separately from The Lutterworth Press.


Volume I: The Inheritance of Genius

List of Illustrations
Prelude and Acknowledgements

1. Scenes of All Sorts (1798-1839)
2. Not Yet Actors in the Play (1839-1846)
3. Our Street (1847-1852)
4. A Little Rain of Dollars (1852-1855)
5. Towards the Unknown Ocean (1855-1862)
6. Here is Night and Rest (1860-1863)
7. All This Endless Year (1863-1865)
8. A Woman’s Cares and Joys (1865-1867)
9. A Great Enormous Half Grown Place (1867-1868)
10. The Shabby Tide of Progress (1869-1873)
11. The Inscrutable Design (1873-1875)

Thackeray and Ritchie Family Tree
Abbreviations and Sources
Select Bibliography

Volume II: Memory and Legacy

List of Illustrations
Prelude and Acknowledgements

1. This Something Come into my Life (1875-1877)
2. Shadows of the Past (1877-1881)
3. After All a Lifetime (1882-1885)
4. The Lights of the Hills (1886-1889)
5. My Little Dream of an Edition (1890-1893)
6. That History Has Lasted On (1894-1895)
7. That Divided Life (1896-1899)
8. The Continuance of Love (1900-1909)
9. Such a Little Time for Me (1910-1914)
10. The End of a Long Day’s Work (1915-1919)

Thackeray and Ritchie Family Tree
Abbreviations and Sources
Select Bibliography


The Inheritance of Genius

Memory and Legacy

Endorsements and Reviews

Thanks to a meticulous research of extensive manuscript collections of Anne Thackeray Ritchie papers, including her letters, diaries, journals and notebooks, kept in various locations in Britain and the United States, as well as other related manuscripts and published collections, Professor Aplin adds a great deal of information to Thackeray family biographies published earlier … John Aplin’s Memory and Legacy: A Thackeray Biography, 1876-1919, is a feast for Victorianists and readers looking for biographies of Victorians. Aplin has sympathetically and minutely portrayed the fruitful and fulfilled life of Annie Thackeray Ritchie in a book that is as knowledgeable as it is compelling. The Lutterworth Press publication is a timely and valuable addition to both Thackeray and Victorian studies.
Dr Andrzej Diniejko, on Victorian Web

This book was a treat from beginning to end … All in all this is an absorbing read, and will appeal to a very wide readership, not only those who enjoy literary biography and have a particular interest in Thackeray, but to anyone interested in social and family history.
Mandy Jenkinson, www.newbooksmag.com

… delightful original sketches by William Makepeace Thackeray and his two daughters … a great deal of new material … essential reading for anyone interested in Virginia Woolf and her Victorian heritage and background.
Hilary Newman, in The Virginia Woolf Bulletin

He thoroughly grasps the complicated intermarriages of the Ritchies and their friends, and he is strong on allusions to the Bible and to hymns.
Charlotte Mitchell, in The Times Literary Supplement

Thackeray has been blessed with exceptional biographers and critics … To this illustrious body of work may now be added John Aplin’s five-volume edition of the Thackeray family letters and his two-volume family biography, both of which constitute a major contribution to Thackeray scholarship, packed as they are with fresh material and incisive commentary … John Aplin has done a fine job of showing how that love and wit bound together not only Thackeray’s daughters and their families, but a much larger extended family, whose members will only grow with the publication of these marvellous volumes.
Edward Short, in The Weekly Standard, Vol 17, No 8

Anyone who has read Gordon Ray’s two-volume biography of Thackeray will be familiar with the outline of events in the first six chapters of this book; those who have not, will not appreciate the amount of data provided here for the first time. A chief reason for the new details is the shift Aplin has applied to the biographical task – from Thackeray the literary master to Thackeray the pater familias … Aplin gives the most detailed account to date of Thackeray’s last days and death, and carries the story forward twelve more years, through the death of his mother, Minny’s marriage to Leslie Stephen, the birth of their daughter, Laura; Annie’s first books, and the early development of Annie’s friendship with her future husband, Richmond Ritchie … It is good to see this family with its generosity, tolerance, and emotional connections explored so thoroughly.
Peter Shillingsburg, in Notes and Queries, Vol 58, No 4

In documenting the lives of the Thackeray family, Aplin draws on a rich trove of primary sources, including diaries, letters and journals as well as previously unpublished papers and photographs that belong to the Thackeray family. He puts these materials to good use, painting a compelling portrait of Thackeray as a paterfamilias who juggled the demands of his public and private lives … The real success of Aplin’s work lies in the focus on the author’s familial relationships with the three central women in his life: his mother and his two daughters … Aplin succeeds in bringing his first volume to a graceful conclusion … The Inheritance of Genius is a fine first volume that provides readers with a valuable reassessment both of Thackeray and the family that his public persona eclipsed.
Kristi N. Embry, in Studies in The Victorian Novel, Dec 2011

The chief value of this biography for Thackeray scholars lies in its thorough exploration and accessible presentation of a hitherto undocumented research archive. … Although Aplin does not directly address the issue of gender difference, the biography sheds light on the customary role of the female dependant (either wife or daughter) of the ‘great man’ within nineteenth-century biographical discourse, a role requiring both self-effacement and a surrogate form of self-assertion.
Richard Salmon, in Journal of Historical Biography, Vol 9, Spring 2011

There can be no doubt that both collections by Aplin will enhance scholar’s understanding of Thackeray but their greatest contribution will be to researchers of Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s life.
Clare Horrocks, in Journal of Victorian Culture, Vol. 17 (2)

John Aplin has succeeded in resituating Thackeray the public author within a domestic, private history of daughters, cousins and generations. … Aplin writes well, balancing a sense of drama with a judicious use of evidence to make this family history compelling and readable.
Judith L. Fisher, Trinity University, in English Studies, Vol 94, No 5