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The History of Henry Esmond (Penguin Classics) Paperback


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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • ISBN-10: 0141439165
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141439167
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,319,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta in 1811, but sent to England at the age of six. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1833 he settled in Paris, after a major financial loss, and tried a career as a painter. It was here he met nineteen-year-old Isabella Shawe, upon whom he based many of his virtuous but weak heroines, and whom he married in 1836. A year later they settled in London, where Thackeray turned seriously to journalism.

His writing for periodicals included The Yellowplush Correspondence, which appeared first in Fraser's Magazine and then in 1841 in book form. Around this time personal and domestic pressures caused the already helpless Isabella to subside into a state of complete and permanent mental collapse and the subsequent breakdown of the marriage formed a central part of Thackeray's consciousness. His early work centred around rogues and villains, most famously in The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844; revised as The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. in 1856), and in his masterpiece, Vanity Fair, which appeared in monthly parts in 1847-8 and which most clearly reveals his socially satirical edge. The Book of Snobs, which originally appeared as a series in Punch, also attacks Victorian society with vicious wit. Thackeray's later novels include The History of Pendennis, (1848-50); The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852); The Newcomes (1853-5); The Virginians, (1857-9), which is a sequel to Henry Esmond; and The Adventures of Philip (1860-62). He also wrote a series of lectures, The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century (1853), and numerous reviews, articles and sketches, usually in the comic vein. From 1860 to 1862 he also edited the Cornhill magazine. Thackeray died suddenly on Christmas Eve, 1863.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DB on 7 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
I grabbed this at random when I was off for a longish business trip and was happy enough for it's not bad. Not a patch on "Vanity Fair" of course - the characters aren't as well developed, and the conceit that the reader is already supposed to know the story is a tad irritating. But there's plenty of humour and the perspective of a Jacobite sympathiser at the time of Marlborough is unusual and interesting as is the love triangle between the three main protagonists. It was suffiiciently enjoyable that I'm planning to read the sequel "The Virginians".
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on 25 Mar. 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is a little-known masterpiece. It is one of the greatest historical novels, giving a brilliant and hilarious interpretation of the failure of the Jacobite rising.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 16 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A Masterpiece 29 July 2000
By David Snyder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although for some reason forgotten by the US public, "The History of Henry Esmond" is one of the finest books ever written in English language. May be it has lost its luster because it offers no excess of blood-spilling and sexual adventures, but instead finds its way to describe the deepest and most vulnerable chambers of the human heart. I have read a handful of books, be it in English, French, German or Russian, that described the human strengths and weaknesses while tying them to a character one can relate to with such skill. People who do not like it, it seems, are just shamed by the morals offered in such a book, and are quick to forget it. I read "Henry Esmond" when I was a young boy, and now, half a century later, it hasn't lost a beat.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
All the good ones seem to be out of print 8 July 2003
By Maggie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The History of Henry Esmond begins with the sweet Lady Castlewood stumbling upon the lonely abandoned Henry as she tours her new home. Her husband has inherited the estate and his illegitimate 11-year old cousin Henry, is fearful of the reception he will receive from the new owners. Will they throw him out? Treat him like a servant? When they instead embrace him into their family (which includes their daughter Beatrix and son Frank) he is overjoyed. What he slowly begins to realize (as he first becomes their almost-son, and later the de facto head of the household) is that this blessing is more complex than it first appears.
Throughout the book, Henry longs for a family, and although he is a part of the Castlewood's, he is also always an outsider. They come to rely on him because they know he will sacrifice more for them then any real son or brother ever would. With every page, the Castlewood family becomes increasingly complex - some relationships are strengthened and some are slowly destroyed in such subtle ways that when a catastrophe comes, it seems inevitable, and at the same time, surprising. True motives are hidden and twisted and everybody longs for a kind of love not given. Through it all, we have Henry's narration (although he speaks of himself in the third person), which casts a lonely and reflective tone over all the events. A beautiful book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Esmond 3 Jun. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the minds of some, justifiably the finest novel in the English language. The neglect this novel has suffered is appalling. Requirement: a mind for detail, a sympathy for history, an artistic sensibility. Read it at least twice. Only one reader in a thousand will remember the button reference on the last line. A pity that this book should be out-of-print. Pater thought it a perfect work of fiction. Trollope thought it was unsurpassed.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Esmond 3 Jun. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the minds of some, justifiably the finest novel in the English language. The neglect this novel has suffered is appalling. Requirement: a mind for detail, a sympathy for history, an artistic sensibility. Read it at least twice. Only one reader in a thousand will remember the button reference on the last line. A pity that this book should be out-of-print. Pater thought it a perfect work of fiction. Trollope thought it was unsurpassed.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
One of the Greatest Historical Novels Ever Written -- Drama, Romance, Humor, Satire 22 Jan. 2011
By Reader from Washington, DC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I first read this book when I was twelve years old and re-read it every ten years. It is one of the greatest historical novels ever written. On the surface it is a memoir of Henry Esmond, an illegitimate son of a nobleman, who survives a turbulent era in which religious and political factions fight for control of England around 1700.

But the book is much more than that. It is a complex and romantic family drama in which the illegitimate son, Henry Esmond, plays a key role in preserving the rest of his father's family from various dangers that stalk them in a dissolute uppper-class society where no nobleman's money or wife is safe from his debauched fellow aristocrats.

Henry falls in love with two of his beautiful female relatives, and must make a painful choice in the end between the two women. He is also faced with a major moral dilemma when a secret about his own birth tilts the balance of power within his father's family.

The book faithfully mimics the language and style of the early 18th century, but is very readable. It has a lot of humor and satire -- duels and love affairs are interrupted by gentle mockery of upper-class pretensions and vices.

Henry Esmond is a very likeable hero, an orphaned bastard of a commoner and a nobleman, who struggles to find a place for himself in a society with rigid class barriers and who sees the society around him with the eyes of both his commoner mother and his arrogant father. By the close of the novel he has to make a choice--whether to continue dealing with the hypocrisy and corruption of the British upper classes of that era and their deadly political games or flee to the American colonies. He must also choose which woman he will finally give his heart to.
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