Read Die Geschichte des Henry Esmond, Esq., eines Obersten im Dienste Ihrer Majestät Königin Anne by William Makepeace Thackeray Free Online
Book Title: Die Geschichte des Henry Esmond, Esq., eines Obersten im Dienste Ihrer Majestät Königin Anne|
The author of the book: William Makepeace Thackeray
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Reader ratings: 4.4
Edition: Rütten & Loening
Date of issue: 1978
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 719 KB
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I came to this book having already read and enjoyed both Vanity Fair and The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes & Misfortunes, His Friends & His Greatest Enemy by the same author and was therefore quite confident in my expectations. However, this was quite a different sort of novel, in that it represents an attempt by Thackeray to write a historical novel.
We are first introduced to Henry Esmond, when he is but a child, in the final years of the reign of King James II. His own people are active participants in the events that led to King James’s dethronement and exile, and suffer the consequences for their beliefs and actions. But Henry goes on to have a fairly happy adolescence with his new adoptive family until circumstances thrust him into adulthood rather violently and abruptly.
From that point foreword the political events and intrigues of the time, even England’s foreign adventures, are brought to the forefront and become entwined with Henry’s personal history. And it is where I, as a reader, begin to have issues with the novel. It is Thackeray’s assumption, that his reader is familiar with this period of England’s history, and therefore provides no background information regarding either the events at home or the military campaigns on the continent. A lot of paper is spent describing the military action in detail, real historical figures make their appearance and then soon disappear, and it wasn’t long before I was left wondering whether I should invest in a good history book since Wikipedia was proving inadequate - for some aspects of the narration, at least. Thackeray didn’t help matters by referring to certain historical personages, who appear in the story, by different monikers at different times.
He added further to the confusion with his choice of narrator. He could have chosen a third person omniscient narrator, but no, why make things simple? It’s made apparent quite early that the third person narrator is in fact a much older and wiser version of Henry Esmond, who has no scruples switching from third to first person in order to give us his own opinion and commentary on the events he has just related. Only the older and wiser Esmond holds completely different political views to the young Esmond who is experiencing the events. To be quite honest, I want to trust neither of them. I’d rather read an informed history book on the matter, and form my own opinions.
Aside from the broader political events, that I suspect were Thackeray’s main concern in writing the novel, there is also the more narrow personal story, that is not without its issues. I couldn’t see any of the fictional characters, as well rounded. To me they were all caricatures, and some were more successful than others. The most enjoyable one was the vain and silly step mother who worked because she was quite funny. I didn’t mind the one-dimensional beautiful and ambitious cousin who is, in effect, a paler version of Vanity Fair's Becky Sharp. But Henry Esmond? Even Esther Summerson in Bleak House was less of an annoyingly goody-two-shoes character than he was. I’m usually happy to accept ‘good’ characters but at some point even my credulity was stretched to breaking point. There is another pivotal character in the story, and that is Lady Castlewood, who stood in the role of adopted mother to Henry since his twelfth year and to whom I’m completely unable to reconcile myself. She is shown to switch from love to rejection of Henry at two different points in the story, but at no point are we given an explanation that is believable or even acceptable to our modern way of thinking. With regard to the second rejection, a motive is subsequently hinted at, that to me, today can only be regarded as repulsive. Subsequent events in the story though indicate that this might have been less objectionable in Thackeray’s time.
On the plus side I enjoyed the sense of time and place evoked especially by those parts of the novel set in England, and was interested in seeing the author’s view of historical figures such as the Pretender or John Donne. I would not recommend this to anyone outside Thackeray completists, or people with a specific interest in that period of English history. At the same time I certainly wouldn’t want to put off anyone who is considering it, because although I was often annoyed, I was never bored.
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Read information about the authorThackeray, an only child, was born in Calcutta, India, where his father, Richmond Thackeray (1 September 1781 – 13 September 1815), held the high rank of secretary to the board of revenue in the British East India Company. His mother, Anne Becher (1792–1864) was the second daughter of Harriet and John Harman Becher and was also a secretary (writer) for the East India Company.
William had been sent to England earlier, at the age of five, with a short stopover at St. Helena where the imprisoned Napoleon was pointed out to him. He was educated at schools in Southampton and Chiswick and then at Charterhouse School.
See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_...