By Clyde De L. Ryals
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Additional resources for A World of Possibilities: Romantic Irony in Victorian Literature (Studies in Victorian Life and Literature)
The answer is of course yes, but for the actors in Vanity Fair, no matter how much they may think otherwise, there is no alter native. For they are victims of fate—or of the drama, as it were. As the Manager of the Performance says, they are puppets offer Vanity Fair: Transcendental Buffoonery 43 ing a "singular performance" (p. 6). The "famous little Becky Puppet," "the Amelia Doll,' "the Dobbin Figure," "the richlydressed figure of the Wicked Nobleman" (p. 6)—all are at the mercy of the author-manager: their life is in him, and when he chooses, they must inevitably retire from the stage.
He refuses to include certain matter because of the offense it might offer to his readers' sensibilities, speaking of incidents "hardly fit to be ex plained" (p. 130) and so "pass[ed] over with that lightness and delicacy which the world demands" (p. 617), of language "which it would do no good to repeat in this place" (p. 158), and of curses which "no compositor in Messrs. Bradbury and Evans's [Thackeray's publishers'] establishment would venture to print were they written down" (p. 273). Adding to the curious mixture of the fictional and the real is the narrator's treatment of history.
Adding to the curious mixture of the fictional and the real is the narrator's treatment of history. The story takes place over the period 1813-30, and Thackeray was at pains to depict as accu rately as possible the historical events and period coloring. He has his fictional characters encountering historical personages under perfectly credible circumstances—for example, Lord Steyne and Philippe Egalite (p. 452), Becky and King George IV (p. 459). Almost no detail is amiss in the historical framework: in the Waterloo episode we can easily believe that "Napoleon is flinging his last stake, and poor little Emmy Sedley's happiness forms, somehow, part of it" (p.