[The following passage comes from the Project Gutenberg online edition of Trollope's Thackeray prepared by Barbara Tozier, Bill Tozier, Lisa Reigel, and the Project Gutenberg proofreading team. The decorated initial 'H' is based on a Thackeray illustration for Vanity Fair. — George P. Landow]

decorated initial 'H' based on a Thackeray's illustration

e was always idle, and only on some occasions, when the spirit moved him thoroughly, did he do his best even in after life. But with drawing,—or rather without it,—he did wonderfully well even when he did his worst. He did illustrate his own books, and everyone knows how incorrect were his delineations. But as illustrations they were excellent. How often have I wished that characters of my own creating might be sketched as faultily, if with the same appreciation of the intended purpose. Let anyone look at the "plates," as they are called in Vanity Fair, and compare each with the scenes and the characters intended to be displayed, and there see whether the artist,—if we may call him so,—has not managed to convey in the picture the exact feeling which he has described in the text. I have a little sketch of his, in which a cannon-ball is supposed to have just carried off the head of an aide-de-camp,—messenger I had perhaps better say, lest I might affront military feelings,—who is kneeling on the field of battle and delivering a despatch to Marlboroughon horseback. The graceful ease with which the duke receives the message though the messenger's head be gone, and the soldier-like precision with which the headless hero finishes his last effort of military obedience, may not have been portrayed with well-drawn figures, but no finished illustration ever told its story better. Dickens has informed us that he first met Thackeray in 1835, on which occasion the young artist aspirant, looking no doubt after profitable employment, "proposed to become the illustrator of my earliest book." It is singular that such should have been the first interview between the two great novelists. We may presume that the offer was rejected.


Trollope, Anthony. Thackeray. “English Men of Letters series.” London: Macmillan, 1879. Web. Project Gutenberg. E-text prepared by Barbara Tozier, Bill Tozier, Lisa Reigel. 4 August 2013

Last modified 4 August 2013