Thackeray Lecturing at New York, by Eyre Crowe (1824-1910). Source: Crowe, frontispiece. Added by Jacqueline Banerjee. [Click on the image to enlarge it.] The sketch is undated, but it could be on the occasion reported at length in the New York Tribune of Wednesday 6 August 1856. At any rate, this gives us an idea of the kind of historical material he spoke about (here, George II and his court), and his delivery:

Mr Thackeray's lecture last night, of which we endeavour to give an outline, produced, as far as we could gather, a more generally favourable impression than his last. The material being a degree less heavy, the lecture was a degree more interesting. Mr Thackeray seemed more in his element, and amused his audience with many racy bon mots and pleasant sallies. As a Court picture, Mr Thackeray's lecture on George II will rank, we believe, among the most classic specimens of their kind, being precisely such a picture as a general but refined audience takes delight in.

There are hints that Thackeray dealt with his subject rather superficially: "Without possessing any high claim to intellectual eminence, Mr Thackeray's lecture was attractive principally by its graceful wit and elegance of diction. It was relieved from heaviness by occasional fine touches of satire, and from all dogmatical stiffness by its easy serenity." What bothered the reporter was Thackeray's focus on the king rather than his age: "If the lecture does not rank beyond the merit of an exquisitely-drawn picture of a king, we have no right to find fault with Mr Thackeray, but rather with the narrow limit within which he confined his intellect..... We would rather Mr Thackeray had lectured on the times of George II, and left out the king, than lectured on George II, and left out the times...." However, it seems to have gone down well with his audience: "During the delivery the eminent lecturer was frequently interrupted by an applause which would have been even warmer in manifestation but for a certain restriction imposed by the place. At the passage referring to Queen Victoria especially, the response rose into enthusiasm."

Related Material


Crowe, Eyre. With Thackeray in America. New York: Scribner's, 1893. Internet Archive. Web. 22 February 2018.

"Mr Thackeray's Lecture in New York." Trove. Web. 22 February 2018.

Last modified 27 June 2020