It is hard to choose which story young people should read first among the great novels of this keen satirist and warm hearted hero lover. Henry Esmond was called by the author a "novel without a hero" but Becky Sharp is one of the greatest, though not the most lovely, portraits in all fiction.
If the champions of "Unity" were wise, they would take Esmond as a battle-horse, for it is certain that, great as are its parts, the whole is greater than almost any one of them--which is certainly not the case with Pendennis. And it is further certain that, of these parts, the personages of the hero and the heroine stand out commandingly, which is certainly not the case with Pendennis, again. The unity, however, is of a peculiar kind: and differs from the ordinary non-classical "Unity of Interest" which Thackeray almost invariably exhibits. It is rather a Unity of Temper, which is also present (as the all-pervading motto Vanitas Vanitatum almost necessitates) in all the books, but here reaches a transcendence not elsewhere attained. The brooding spirit of Ecclesiastes here covers, as it were, with the shadow of one of its wings the joys and sorrows, the failures and successes of a private family and their friends, with the other the fates of E
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