Israel at Vanity Fair: Jews and Judaism in the Writings of W. M. Thackeray

The book seeks, for the first time in any language, to combine Thackeray's many depictions of, and comments on, Jews and Judaism, from Old Testament times to his own present, into a coherent, chronologically ordered narrative. Texts and early versions that have not found their way into the collected editions are considered alongside well-known passages from Barry Lyndon, Vanity Fair, The Newcomes and Rebecca and Rowena. Since Thackeray illustrated many of his own works, graphic illustrations are as carefully chronicled and considered as narrative ones. The writings and drawings examined are set in a fourfold context: Thackeray's own life, psychological make-up, and developing art and opinions; the social history of Britain and its Jews; British and European literary and graphic conventions, traditions, and stereotypes; and the interplay of prejudice or animus with an essential British fair-mindedness that strives to present as truthful a picture as the author's limited perspectives, or satiric and humorous purposes, will allow. The book constitutes a substantial addition to the existing body of studies devoted to the image of Jews and Judaism in the work of influential non-Jewish writers and artists.