William Makepeace Thackeray Quotes

William Makepeace Thackeray, 1811 – 1863

Born: 18 July 1811, Calcutta, British Indian Empire
Died: 24 December 1863, London, England, UK

Thackeray’s father Richmond was a secretary for the board of revenue of the East India Company at Calcutta, when William was born Richmond’s daughter by his mistress was seven, and Richmond had been married for just over nine months. After Richmond’s death, William was sent to England and educated at Charterhouse (which he later parodied as “Slaughterhouse”) in Surrey and Trinity College, Cambridge, although he never completed a degree. After traveling for a time he returned to London and studied law briefly before coming into his inheritance, which he lost most of by gambling and trying to start two newspapers, the rest was lost when the Indian banks failed. Three years later he married and began writing prolifically to make ends meet. The wrote extensively for Fraser’s Magazine, including art criticism, short fictional pieces, and two of his early novels, then began writing for the new Punch. After his third daughter died his wife went into a deep depression, ending up in an institution and outliving him by three decades. He wrote both under his own name as well as such charming pseudonyms as Charles James Yellowplush, Michael Angelo Titmarsh, and George Savage FitzBoodle. From 1847 when Vanity Fair was serialized he became a celebrity, sought out by the cream of society which he was so deftly skewering. His health, never consistently good, declined in the 1850s, and he was found fully dressed on his bed having suffered a stroke the night before. His funeral was attended by over 7,000 mourners, including his friend and rival Charles Dickens.

William Makepeace Thackeray quotes:

‘Tis misfortune that awakens ingenuity, or fortitude, or endurance, in hearts where these qualities had never come to life but for the circumstance which gave them a being.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – The History of Henry Esmond (1852)

‘Tis not the dying for a faith that’s so hard, Master Harry — every man of every nation has done that — ’tis the living up to it that is difficult, as I know to my cost.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – The History of Henry Esmond (1852)

‘Tis strange what a man may do, and a woman yet think him an angel.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – The History of Henry Esmond (1852)

A clever, ugly man every now and then is successful with the ladies, but a handsome fool is irresistible.
    William Makepeace Thackeray

A good laugh is sunshine in the house.
    William Makepeace Thackeray

A person can’t help their birth.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – Vanity Fair (1848)

A woman may possess the wisdom and chastity of Minerva, and we give no heed to her, if she has a plain face. What folly will not a pair of bright eyes make pardonable? What dullness may not red lips and sweet accents render pleasant? And so, with their usual sense of justice, ladies argue that because a woman is handsome, therefore she is a fool. O ladies, ladies! There are some of you who are neither handsome nor wise.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – Vanity Fair (1848)

All is vanity, nothing is fair.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – Vanity Fair (1848)

An evil person is like a dirty window, they never let the light shine through.
    William Makepeace Thackeray

And whenever he spoke (which he did almost always), he took care to produce the very finest and longest words of which the vocabulary gave him the use, rightly judging that it was as cheap to employ a handsome, large, and sonorous epithet, as to use a little stingy one.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – Vanity Fair (1848)

As the gambler said of his dice, to love and win is the best thing, to love and lose is the next best.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – The History of Pendennis (1850)

Attacking is the only secret. Dare and the world always yields; or if it beats you sometimes, dare it again and it will succumb.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844)

Bravery never goes out of fashion.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – The Four Georges (1860)

Despair is perfectly compatible with a good dinner, I promise you.
    William Makepeace Thackeray – Lovel the Widower (1860)

Dinner was made for eating, not for talking.
    William Makepeace Thackeray

For his part, every beauty of art or nature made him thankful as well as happy, and that the pleasure to be had in listening to fine music, as in looking at the stars in the sky, or at a beautiful landscape or picture, was a benefit for which we might thank Heaven as sincerely as for any other worldly blessing.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
Good humour may be said to be one of the very best articles of dress one can wear in society.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Sketches and Travels in London “On Tailoring — And Toilettes in General” (1856)
He had placed himself at her feet so long that the poor little woman had been accustomed to trample upon him. She didn’t wish to marry him, but she wished to keep him. She wished to give him nothing, but that he should give her all. It is a bargain not unfrequently levied in love.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
He who meanly admires mean things is a Snob.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Book of Snobs (1848)
How hard it is to make an Englishman acknowledge that he is happy!

William Makepeace Thackeray

The History of Pendennis (1850)
Humor is wit and love.

William Makepeace Thackeray
I knew all along that the prize I had set my life on was not worth the winning.

William Makepeace Thackeray
I never know whether to pity or congratulate a man on coming to his senses.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Virginians (1859)
I would rather make my name than inherit it.

William Makepeace Thackeray
If a man has committed wrong in life, I don’t know any moralist more anxious to point his errors out to the world than his own relations.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
If a man’s character is to be abused, say what you will, there’s nobody like a relation to do the business.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
If a secret history of books could be written, and the author’s private thoughts and meanings noted down alongside of his story, how many insipid volumes would become interesting, and dull tales excite the reader!

William Makepeace Thackeray

The History of Pendennis (1850)
If she did not wish to lead a virtuous life, at least she desired to enjoy a character for virtue.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
If success is rare and slow, everybody knows how quick and easy ruin is.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
If you are not allowed to touch the heart sometimes in spite of syntax, and are not to be loved until you all know the difference between trimeter and trameter, may all Poetry go to the deuce, and every schoolmaster perish miserably!

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)

It is best to love wisely, no doubt: but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The History of Pendennis (1850)
It is only hope which is real, and reality is a bitterness and a deceit.

William Makepeace Thackeray
It was the women’s tribute to the war. It taxes both alike, and takes the blood of the men, and the tears of the women.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
Kindnesses are easily forgotten; but injuries! What worthy man does not keep those in mind?

William Makepeace Thackeray
Life is the soul’s nursery – its training place for the destinies of eternity.

William Makepeace Thackeray
Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of children.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
Never lose a chance of saying a kind word.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
Next to the very young, I suppose the very old are the most selfish.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Virginians (1859)
Novelty has charms that our minds can hardly withstand.

William Makepeace Thackeray
Oh, those women! They nurse and cuddle their presentiments, and make darlings of their ugliest thoughts.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
People hate as they love, unreasonably.

William Makepeace Thackeray

the narrator in The Newcomes (1855)
People who do not know how to laugh are always pompous and self-conceited.

William Makepeace Thackeray
Remember, it’s as easy to marry a rich woman as a poor woman.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The History of Pendennis (1850)
Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
She lived in her past life — these relics and remembrances of dead affection were all that was left her in the world.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)

She looks so haughty that I should have thought her a princess at the very least, with a pedigree reaching as far back as the Deluge. But this lady was no better born than many other ladies who give themselves airs; and all sensible people laughed at her absurd pretensions.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Rose and the Ring (1855)
Some cynical Frenchman has said that there are two parties to a love-transaction: the one who loves and the other who condescends to be so treated.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
Stupid people, people who do not know how to laugh, are always pompous and self-conceited.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Sketches and Travels in London “On Love, Marriage, Men and Women” (1856)
The book of female logic is blotted all over with tears, and Justice in their courts is for ever in a passion.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Virginians (1859)
The true pleasure of life is to live with your inferiors.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Newcomes (1853-1855)
The wicked are wicked, no doubt, and they go astray and they fall, and they come by their deserts: but who can tell the mischief which the very virtuous do?

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Newcomes (1853-1855)
The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The History of Henry Esmond (1852)
There are many sham diamonds in this life which pass for real, and vice versa.

William Makepeace Thackeray
This Bouillabaisse a noble dish is —
  A sort of soup or broth, or brew,
Or hotchpotch of all sorts of fishes,
  That Greenwich never could outdo.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Ballads “The Ballad of Bouillabaisse” (1855)
This I set down as a positive truth. A woman with fair opportunities, and without a positive hump, may marry whom she likes.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
Those we love can but walk down to the pier with us — the voyage we must make alone.

William Makepeace Thackeray
‘Tis misfortune that awakens ingenuity, or fortitude, or endurance, in hearts where these qualities had never come to life but for the circumstance which gave them a being.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The History of Henry Esmond (1852)
‘Tis not the dying for a faith that’s so hard, Master Harry — every man of every nation has done that — ’tis the living up to it that is difficult, as I know to my cost.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The History of Henry Esmond (1852)

‘Tis strange what a man may do, and a woman yet think him an angel.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The History of Henry Esmond (1852)
To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it; to go through intrigue spotless; to forego even ambition when the end is gained — who can say this is not greatness?

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Virginians (1859)
To see a young couple loving each other is no wonder; but to see an old couple loving each other is the best sight of all.

William Makepeace Thackeray
Under the magnetism of friendship the modest man becomes bold; the shy, confident; the lazy, active; and the impetuous, prudent and peaceful.

William Makepeace Thackeray
What a charming reconciler and peacemaker money is!

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
What money is better bestowed than that of a schoolboy’s tip? How the kindness is recalled by the recipient in after days! It blesses him that gives and him that takes.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Newcomes (1853-1855)
When I walk with you I feel as if I had a flower in my buttonhole.

William Makepeace Thackeray
When one fib becomes due as it were, you must forge another to take up the old acceptance; and so the stock of your lies in circulation inevitably multiplies, and the danger of detection increases every day.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1848)
When you look at me, when you think of me, I am in paradise.

William Makepeace Thackeray
Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.

William Makepeace Thackeray

last lines of Vanity Fair (1848)
Women like not only to conquer, but to be conquered.

William Makepeace Thackeray

The Virginians (1859)

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