The extraordinary versatility which has been noted as characterizing Thackeray’s decade of probation is illustrated once more in The Irish Sketch Book. Nor need we pause to inquire whether this versatility was the restlessness of unsuccessful tentative, the unquiet persistence which tries all doors before it finds one that gives access to the whole house. The two volumes differed from any “of their predecessors in more ways than one. They gave much maro extensive handling to a single subject than he had before attempted. They were much the most serious : for though there is plenty of Thackeray’s lightest touch there is no mere burlesque. Indeed, the resemblance of The Paris Sketch Book and The Irish Sketch Book is merely verbal and titular. For the first time, and necessarily, the author was bound to unity of subject in a work of very considerable substance.The tour which provided this subject occupied the
summer and autumn of 1842 : and the record of it was published next year. By the time that it was begun,Mrs. Thackeray’s case, if not quite pronounced hopeless, was nearly so, and Thackeray’s mind must have been settling towards that hardest of all makings-up…
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