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The Virginians by William Makepeace Thackeray


The Virginians (1857–59), is set partly in America and partly in England in the latter half of the 18th century and is concerned mostly with the vicissitudes in the lives of two brothers, George and Henry Warrington, who are the grandsons of Henry Esmond, the hero of his earlier novel.


The Virginians: A Tale of the Last Century (1857-59) is a historical novel by William Makepeace Thackeray which forms a sequel to his Henry Esmond and is also loosely linked to Pendennis. It tells the story of Henry Esmond's twin grandsons, George and Henry Warrington. Henry's romantic entanglements with an older woman lead up to his taking a commission in the British army and fighting under the command of General Wolfe at the capture of Quebec. On the outbreak of the American War of Independence he takes the revolutionary side. George, who is also a British officer, thereupon resigns his commission rather than take up arms against his brother.

The Virginians was issued by Thackeray's publishers, Bradbury and Evans, in 24 monthly parts, the first one appearing on November 1, 1857. It was illustrated by the author himself. The print-run of 20,000 for the first number proved to be too optimistic, and was progressively reduced to 13,000 for the last seven. Thackeray was originally to have been paid £300 per number, but the disappointing sales resulted in this being reduced to £250. Critical reception of the book was on the whole favourable, and the novel has continued to be considered one of the standard works of 19th century fiction, though many critics have held that the novel's virtues do not include tight plotting. Anthony Trollope's opinion was typical:

There is not a page of it vacant or dull. But he who takes it up to read as a whole, will find that it is the work of a desultory writer, to whom it is not infrequently difficult to remember the incidents of his own narrative.

The Virginians was first published in book form in 1858-59 by Bradbury and Evans in two volumes, and almost simultaneously by the Leipzig firm of Bernhard Tauchnitz in four. Notable later reprints include its appearance as volume 15 of The Oxford Thackeray in 1908 with an introduction by George Saintsbury, and the 1911 Everyman's Library edition in two volumes.

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Tags: Henry, commission, George, Virginians, British, Esmond, fighting, under