History of Pendennis

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William Maginn (1793—1842) writer and poet


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A novel by Thackeray, published in numbers 1848–50.

A Bildungsroman in which the main character, Arthur Pendennis, is the only son of a devoted and unworldly widow, Helen. As a very young man he falls in love with an actress, Emily Costigan (‘Miss Fotheringay’), and is only rescued from an unsuitable marriage by the tactful intervention of his uncle, Major Pendennis, who persuades her disreputable old father, Captain Costigan, that Arthur has no money of his own. Pendennis then goes to the university of Oxbridge, where he runs up bills and has to be rescued by a loan from Helen's adopted daughter, Laura Bell. Helen hopes that Laura and her son will marry, but Pendennis's next entanglement is with Blanche Amory, an affected and hard‐hearted girl, the daughter of the rich, vulgar Lady Clavering by her first husband. Major Pendennis encourages a match between his nephew and Blanche, although he is secretly aware that Blanche's father is an escaped convict who is still alive and is blackmailing Sir Francis Clavering.

Pendennis goes to London and is supposed to be reading for the bar. He shares chambers with George Warrington, who starts him on a literary career by introducing him to Captain Shandon, a debt‐ridden Irish journalist who is editing a new magazine, the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’, from prison. Pendennis has a mild flirtation with a working‐class girl, Fanny Bolton, and, when he falls ill, Fanny nurses him devotedly. Helen Pendennis jumps to the false conclusion that Fanny is Pendennis's mistress, and treats the girl very unkindly. Pendennis is so indignant that he threatens to marry Fanny, but is dissuaded by Warrington. Fanny soon finds consolation with Sam Huxter, a medical student, but Blanche is harder to shake off. After the exposure of the existence of her villainous father, Pendennis feels obliged to go through with an engagement to her. Fortunately Blanche decides in favour of Harry Foker, heir to a brewing fortune, and Pendennis and Laura finally marry, after Helen's death.

Subjects: Literature.

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William Makepeace Thackeray (1811—1863) novelist

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