A new approach to Thackeray. Although this study embraces all his work, it switches attention from his late novels, and bases the case for his imaginative vitality on the multifarious material - reviews, travel books, burlesques, Punch articles - that he turned out, mostly under severe financial stress, at the start of his writing career. Here was the breeding ground of Vanity Fair; here we find the subversive Thackeray, foe of humbug and high art, waylaying snobbery and the cant of social reformers with bravura and buffoonery - the Thackeray who, in Trollope's words, 'laughed, and ate, and drank, and threw his pearls about with miraculous profusion.'
In portraying the range and intensity of Thackeray's imagination, topics singled out include: light and painting; ballet dancers; pantomime; haute cuisine; time's ruins; and the rainbow realm of commerce. The picture of Thackeray, as man and artist, that emerges, is fresh and challenging.