On this day in 1844, William Makepeace Thackeray completes The Luck of Barry Lyndon: A Romance of the Last Century, which is published in Fraser’s Magazine.
Thackeray was born in Calcutta in 1811. As a young man, he attended Cambridge but left without a degree, then drifted through a variety of professions. He tried studying law, then decided to become a painter. While studying art in Paris, he met his future wife, a penniless Irish girl named Isabella, with whom he had two children. After his marriage, Thackeray returned to England and applied himself to a career in journalism. His satiric sketches were very popular. Like his contemporary and acquaintance Charles Dickens, he observed everyday life and characters closely in his journalistic writings and turned them into absurd characters in his fiction.
Barry Lyndon, like several of Thackeray’s other satirical novels, follows the career of an unscrupulous character as he makes his way in the world by hoodwinking others. Barry Lyndon–born Redmond Barry–is an Irish rogue who flees his home after killing a man in a duel. He changes his name, marries a rich widow, cheats and defrauds those around him, but gets his just desserts. The novel was published in two volumes in 1852 and revised in 1856.
Thackeray wrote many other stories, novels, and sketches for humor magazines, but his best-known work remains Vanity Fair, the story of the manipulations of the wily Becky Sharp in London during the Napoleonic Wars. Thackeray died in London in 1863.