G.H.LEWES, from ‘Thackeray’s New Novel’,
To those who look beyond the passing hour, and see something more in literature than the occupation of a languid leisure, Esmond will have many sources of interest. One of these may be the purely biographical one of representing a new phase in Thackeray’s growth. Tracing the evolution of his genius from the wild and random sketches which preceded Vanity Fair, we perceive an advancing growth, both as a moralist and as an artist. In Vanity Fair the mocking mephistophelic spirit was painfully obtrusive; to laugh at the world-to tear away its many masks-to raise the crown even from Cæsar’s head, that we might note the baldness which the laurels covered-to make love and devotion themselves ridiculous, seemed his dominant purpose; and had it not been for the unmistakeable kindliness, the love of generosity, and the sympathy with truth which brightened those mocking pages, all that has been ignorantly or maliciously said of Thackeray’s ‘heartlessness’ would have had its evidence.