This passage appears in the author's Modern Leaders: Beings a Series of Biographical Sketches, which Sheldon & Company (N.Y.) published in 1872. Scanning, basic HTML conversion, and proofreading were carried out by George P. Landow, who added links to materials in VW, added the subtitles, and changed titles of books from McCarthy's quotation marks to text with emphasis. The decorated initial "T" is based upon one of Thackeray's own illustrations for Vanity Fair.]

decoratd initial 'I'Thackeray could draw and has drawn English gentlemen and gentlewomen; but has he ever drawn a high-minded, self-forgetting man or woman devoted to some, to any, great object, or cause, or purpose of any kind in life — absorbed by it and faithful to it? Is it true that even in London society men are wholly given up to dining, and paying visits, and making and spending money? Is it true that all men, even in London society, pass their lives in a purposeless, drifting way, making good resolves and not carrying them out; doing good things now and then out of easy, generous impulse; loving lightly, and recovering from love quickly? Are there in London society, on the one hand, no passions; on the other hand, no simple, strong, consistent, unselfish, high-minded lives ? Assuredly there are; but Thackeray, the greatest painter of English society England has ever had, chose, for some reason or another, to ignore them. Only when he comes to speak of artists, more especially of painters, does he ever hint that he is aware of the existence of men whose lives are consistent, steadfast, and unselfish. Surely this is a great omission. [p. 163]


McCarthy, Justin. Modern Leaders: Beings a Series of Biographical Sketches. N. Y.: Sheldon & Company, 1872.

Overview W. M. Thackeray

Last modified 30 March 2006