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March 02, 1958 - Image 9

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Michigan Daily, 1958-03-02
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Page Fourteen

THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

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Sunday, March 2, 1958

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

THACKERAY
'The Age of Wisdom' Paints Portrait of 19th Century Novelist

A Philosophy Instructor Turned Disc Jock
Comes to Terms with George Berkely,
Orval Faubus and Miss Monroe

THACKERAY THE AGE OF
WISDOM, 1847 - 1863. By
Gordon N. Ray. 523 pp. -
lustrated. New York: McGraw.
Hill Book Co, $8.
By VERNON NAHRGANG
Daily City Editor
THE PUBLICATION in month-
ly numbers throughout- 1847
and 1848 of Vanity Fair brought
the beginnings of literary fame
and fortune to the tall, bespec-
tacled William Makepeace Thack-
eray, then in his late thirties.
Of the two, fame was most im-
portant in mid-century London
society; a literary reputation was
an assurance of frequent invita-
tions to the many events of the
spring "season," where one met
all the important people, heard
and said all that was important,
and often furthered the position
of one's income.
This, with the appearance of
Vanity Fair, became Thackeray's
world. As a frequent contributor
to the then important Punch
magazine, he livened his social
stature with satire, wit and mild
attacks against the pompous aris-
tocracy.
In turn he drew criticism from
those who disliked his essays and
novels as well as from those to
whom he had been unkind. Once
an enemy, forever alienated-and
some, like the Times, never made
a favorable comment on anything
Thackerayean.
Dickens was another of them;
having once disagreed with
Thackeray, he became finally
anything but a friend. Although
the social paths of the two novel-
ists crossed often, their relations
remained strained.
But Thackeray's acquaintances
among men of letters were many
and his quarrel with Dickens

PORTRAITS OF A NOVELIST-"Thackeray About 1860" is the title of the study at left showing
the writer a few years before his death. At right, one of Thackeray's own drawings of himself and
his daughter Anny in 1848 illustrates the author's versatility at sketching as well as writing.

could be set aside. There were
Carlyle and Macaulay, both sound
critics and friends; 'Charlotte
Bronte, who dedicated the second
edition of Jane Eyre to Thacker-
ay; Henry Hallam; the historian
(the death of whose son, Arthur,
caused Tennyson to write In Me-
moriam) ; and Henry James, Sr.,
whom Thackeray vised on one
of his trips to America.
A MORE intimate acquaintance,
however, had the strongest af-
feet on Thackeray's personal life
and writings of the time.
He had known William Brook-
field since his school days, but
Jane Brookfield, William's wife,
for only a short time. To Thack-
eray, who lived as a widower with
his two daughters,-the childless

Mrs. Brookfield held strong at-
traction.
For several years, the triangu-
lar relationship was a difficult
one for all. Thackeray never felt
that Jane sufficiently returned
his love, Jane insisted upon re-
maining completely faithful to
her husband, whom Thackeray
didn't want to -hurt either, and
William grew more and more up-
set with the situation until. final-
ly he brought about a complete
separation between Thackeray
and the Brookfields.
The memories remained with
the novelist, however, throughout
the remainder of his life as lec-
turer, traveller and author.
The later writings, as Gordon
N. Ray shows in Thackeray: The
Age of Wisdom, reflect the novel-
ist's unrequited love. In Henry Es-

mond, Thackeray finds solace in
reversing actuality and making
his hero the object of the woman's
unreturned affection.
BUT PROF. Ray's fine biogra-
phy begins with the success of
Vanity Fair in 1847 - as the con-
cluding volume of a two-part
series that began a few years back
with Thackeray: The Uses of Ad-
versity - and then traces the la-
ter career of the "major novelist."
Advertised as the only work
authorized by the Thackeray fam-
ily, Prof. Ray's biography makes
use of many letters and papers
made available to him by the
Thackerays. Included are por-
traits of and drawings by Thack-
eray, one of those writers who
often illustrated his own works.
Prof. Ray, in assembling his
profusely annotated biography,
has quoted fluently-from Thack-
eray, his contemporaries, and a
few moderns. This is, indeed, a
critical biography of the novel-
ist and his works, although the
criticism is less Prof. Ray's than
it is the critics' of the nineteenth
century.
Thackeray: The Age of Wisdom,
like its predecessor, is one of
those careful studies in which a
man is made to live again and to
walk the tightrope of public opin-
ion with the favorable and the

unfavorable brought to bear pro.
portionally on his reincarnation,
'DAY, however, Thackeray's
position in literature has
slipped from that of a few years
back. Prof. Ray concedes that
Vanity Fair and Henry Esmond
remain the only really popular
works, while Pendernnis, the most
popular of Thackeray's time and
the work that assured him of his
place in society, has lost its at-
traction.
The reasons for this seem clear
to Prof. Ray. For one, Thackeray's
novels, like his Punch writings,
are closely allied with the con-
temporary English social setting.
The satire and mock characters
tend to lose meaning as time
moves on.
For another, the author's habit
of stepping out of his role as nar-
rator to deliver some exhortation
or erstwhile comment on any-
thing in particular seems to in-
explicably irritate modern read-
ers. Prof. Ray suggests:,
The reflective passages in
Thackeray's later fiction, how-
ever excellent in themselves,
are often deplored as irrelevant;
but when one regards them as
imitations in "the other har-
mony of prose" of those Hora-
'tion odes in which a general
proposition is illustrated by ex-
amples, they seem not merely
acceptable but delightful.
IF POSTERITY is hard on
Thackeray, it must at least be
said that the emminent Victorian
tried and tried, hard for success.
Motivated in part to provide for
the future of his daughters, he
worked at writing and even lec-
turing to raise his income annual-
ly.
His. lectures, a collection titled
English Humorists of the Eight-
eenth -'Century, were presented
throughout England and in many
cities in America. They drew
mixed audiences as they drew
mixed criticism, but the final
judgement in Prof. Ray's mind
at least is that Thackeray cer-.
tainly arranged the facts to fit
his presentation.
Henry Esmond naturally fol-
lowed the lectures as an histori-
cal novel set in the eighteenth
century. The success of Esmond,
however, is laid by Prof. Ray to
the living characters in the old
setting.
Thus Thackeray: The Age of
Wisdom becomes a handbook for
the study of Thackeray and his
writings, a very readable, authen-
tic handbook that has much to
say about a major novelist.

togetherness in the business
world.
"I am a team man, without a
problem I can name.
I am a team man, acooperation
is my game...
Togetherness, the life we bless,
Mom and me and Sis and
Brother ..
What difference does it make
that we can't stand each oth-
er?J
I am a team man and will be
until the day I die.
Astride my beam man, I'll greet
the great coach in the sky.
For Him I'll have one question,
to me He wouldn't lie.
When I humbly ask Him, dear
Father, who am I?"
Such a song, forces the inquir-
er to question Winter, "Why
didn't you stay in philosophy
where you could criticize the
team man, the disc jockey, or the
show business personality from
safer ground?"
GUESS what you want to
know," he answered, "is why
does a guy split himself up like

ence and I don't want to convert
anybody to anything."
"Ii the 30's," Winter said, "they
protested to gain adherence. To-
day's protestor can't do :this be-
cause we can't really protest,
things which are not concrete or
immediate dangers." Winter feels
mass advertising, organization
men and togetherness are not
dangerous in the ordinary sense.
"These exist in a different con-
text, and must be criticized in
other ways."
Thus the explanation for his
songs. He sings them himself
which is his closest resemblance
to Tom Lehrer, he can carry a
tune. While a few of his album
selections are trivial and barely
funny, others have a humorous,
biting punch which convey a
thought provoking significance.
IN A dialogue-between Boris Ish-
{toff, noted Hollywood producer,
and his big star, Rock Quarry, we
hear the producer berating his
star for not breaking into the
scandal magazine, Hotstuff.
"You are not hot stuff, you are
not even cold stuff. You are no
stuff at all," wails Ishtoff. "You

NOT AL,--his songs express a
bitterness toward, expressions
of our contemporary culture.
"Fallout," a lilting waltz about
the courtship of two grotesque
mutations, "is simply an expres-
sion of my own anxiety over the
testing and possible destructive
use of nuclear energy."
His tunes sometimes get quite
obscure. "Tired Blood," for ex-
ampje, is a satire on the miracle
remedy'which blames the woes of
mankind on tired blood. His ref-
erences go back to Abelard and
Adam and Eve.
"They could have prevented
mankind's fall,
Simply by sipping some .
Paul Winter's life is-fascinating
for he does exactly what he
wants to do. It's refreshing for
the college student to know of at
least one person who, instead of
just going to the Bell when he got
sick of an assignment, dropped
the whole business and took up an
entirely new occupation.
IT IS ALSO good to know there
is at least one person in the
commercial world who is keenly
aware of what is going on about
him and will speak out in protest,
even if in an offbeat mariner.
Nothing escapes his dislike,
even the Actors Studio. "I'm com-
pelled to turn a critical ear to-
ward my environment."
He cited the plays of Tennessee
Williams as an example. "I con-
sider the man insignificant so I
write a funny song about him and
the institution."
"They even put profundity in
Miss Monroe's brassiere."
HIS SONGS characterize his
need to perform and protest,
not in the hope of effecting re-
form, rather to show that he is
aware of what to him and others

THE DJ-"With his happy radio
juke box reality," a line from P
profession.
are existing problems. His object
in recording the songs is to enter-
tain and make money on the deal.
Winter believes that even the
Madison Avenue boys can laugh
at themselves. He pointed to an
enlarged "Peanuts" cartoon on
the wall of the broadcasting stu-
dio. Linus is listening to the radio

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-Daily-Norman Jacobs
HE SPECIALIZES ...
in satire

WITH SONGS ...
to make you thimk.

U

EAS

this? It's not an easy question to
answer because it is a vital- one.
"In the first place," he began,
"I am- a performer, and the per-
former is not necessarily a dis-
criminating person. I enjoy the
work I do - delivering commer-
cials, playing records."
"On the other hand," he con-
tinued, "because of my back-
ground I'm compelled to turn a
critical ear toward my environ-
ment."
He gave as an example his mo-
tivation for writing "Team Man."
"There is too much suspicion of
the lonely man thinking for him-
self. The emphasis is on group
thinking." Winter finds this a ba-
sic violation of "what you might
call the democratic spirit, the
notion of self respect and indi-
vidualism." Winter differentiates
his kind of. protest from the so-
cvial protest. of the '30's. "I'mr pro-
testing points of view and not ide-
ologies. The protestor 20 years
ago fought against unemployment
and bread lines. I protest for the
entertainment of my limited audi-

donate thousands to cerebral pal-
sy, buy station wagons for Girl.
Scout troops, send money month-
ly to your aged mother. But not
one cent for scandal."
"But chief, I can't do it,"
whines his anguished star.
"Rock Quarry, you are sick,
sick, ill, and you are through. Now
you'll never know what it's like
to be really loved."
"It occurred to me," Winter
commented, "that there is a kind
of confusion between love and
publicity. There is an under-
ground invitation to reveal your-
self and you will be loved. It
doesn't matter what you reveal as
long as it brings revelation."
There is in all of us the inclin-
ation to give ourselves up and
bare ourselves to gain approval,
to deny private needs and pri-
vate lives."
So, he writes a clever piece
about it. Sometimes, Winter says,
"I feel like an itinerant preacher
and want to shout my feelings
from a soapbox." Instead he per-
forms.

J-
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