3 March 2004
THACKERAY, William Makepeace. Autograph manuscript, n.d. [before 27 April 1843], the suppressed original dedication of The Irish Sketch Book, one page, large 4to; with a related letter signed by Gordon N. Ray, editor of the Harvard Edition of Thackeray's Letters, 27 November 1940; in a red morocco folder.
A suppressed dedication of 'veiled annoyance and disgust', addressed, as was the published version, to the Irish novelist and editor of the Dublin University Magazine, Charles Lever, confessing that the Sketch Book contains 'much of w[hi]ch the Editor of the Dublin University Magazine will not approve', and paying tribute to Lever's hospitality in Dublin. Thackeray goes on in a peculiarly ironic vein to note the popularity of Lever's novels Harry Lorrequer (1839) and Tom Burke of Ours throughout the country, contrasting the universal praise for these with the bitter divisions in Ireland on political matters: 'You have found a happy neutral ground whither you lead [political patriots] to repose between their quarrels, and where you keep a nation in good humour'. The irony implicit in this contrasting of fictional bonhomie and political strife comes much closer to the surface in Thackeray's last paragraph: 'if those visionary red-coats of your's could teach a little of their hearty good will & charity to certain substantial Irishmen in black would the reverend & learned gentlemen, think you, be any the worse for novel-reading?'.
As Gordon N. Ray notes, 'This dedication throws valuable light on Thackeray's attitude towards both Lever and Ireland, much more than the rather insipid dedication to Lever that now stands at the head of the Irish Sketch Book. The whole tone is one of veiled annoyance and disgust, and it is not difficult to see why Thackeray decided not to print it'. The revised dedication reproduces some of the language of this version, but in an abbreviated form which mitigates much of its bitterness. The revised dedication to the Irish Sketch Book is signed with Thackeray's own name -- the first occasion in print on which he dispenses with a pseudonym.
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