University of Virginia Library

Previous Attributions

By the start of the twentieth century only one signed letter and one critical review in the Morning Chronicle – a review of R. H. Horne's New Spirit of the Age – had been positively attributed to Thackeray. In 1934 Harold Gulliver pointed out one other certain attribution ("The Poetical Works of Horace Smith") and, largely on stylistic grounds, attributed a handful of other book reviews: a Beau


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Brummell biography; Disraeli's Coningsby; a biography of Lord Chancellor Eldon; and literary reviews entitled "The Discipline of Life" and "Early Travels in Palestine." In 1942 C. L. Cline found a letter externally supporting Gulliver's attribution of the Coningsby review to Thackeray.

In 1945-46 Gordon Ray, in the course of collecting and editing Thackeray's letters and private papers, developed and published his own attribution list of thirty-five Morning Chronicle articles purportedly written by Thackeray during the years 1844– 1846 and 1848 (Ray, Letters 2:845–846). Ray accepted Gulliver's Beau Brummell and Conningsby attributions but rejected without comment Gulliver's other suggestions. Approximately ten years later Ray reprinted those same thirty-five articles, along with introductory comments and notes, in his volume William Makepeace Thackeray: Contributions to the Morning Chronicle. Ray's attributions have been generally accepted by Thackeray scholars. The articles on Ray's list are included in toto in Edgar Harden's authoritative 1996 Checklist bibliography of Thackeray's periodical contributions.

Even including Thackeray letters that have come to light since the 1950s, only eight of Ray's thirty-five proposed Thackeray Morning Chronicle attributions are now validated by external evidence: the April 2, 1844, review of Horne's New Spirit of the Age; the May 13, 1844, review of Disraeli's Coningsby; the May 13, 1845, review of Disraeli's Sybil; a March 21, 1846, review of the Life and Correspondence of David Hume; an August 20, 1846, review of Moore's History of Ireland; a September 21, 1846, review of Horace Smith's Poetical Works; and two short reports on the Chartist movement from March 1848. Two other attributions – the March 16, 1844, review of Venedey's Ireland and the August 2, 1844, review of George Smythe's Historic Fancies– are less firmly supported by references in Thackeray's diary and letters that establish he was reading the works in question shortly prior to the published review. Additionally, an indirect cross-reference in Thackeray's review of Disraeli's Sybil strongly suggests that Thackeray also wrote the April 3, 1845, review of Lever's St. Patrick's Eve. Lastly, a consistent Thackeray critique against "sentimental works ... investigating questions of greater social or political interest" gives considerable weight to the argument that the "Christmas Books" reviews of December 24, 26, and 31, 1845, are also by Thackeray. Thus, fourteen of Ray's Thackeray Morning Chronicle attributions have explicitly argued and reasonably firm support.

As to the remaining twenty-one Thackeray attributions, Ray argues that "the echoes of Thackeray's acknowledged writings are so numerous, the parallels to his familiar opinions so obvious, and his stylistic peculiarities so manifest, that no doubt as to the authorship of these articles remains, even without specific evidence" (Ray, Contributions xii-xiii). In support of this argument, but without providing any rationales or explanations, Ray lists in a footnote some of the places in Thackeray's works where he finds relevant "echoes" or "parallels"; these references support some of the fourteen previously mentioned articles as well as ten additional articles. The attribution of the remaining eleven articles is asserted without any supporting citations or commentary (see table 1). In light of the uncertainty generally and properly associated with attributions based on purely internal evidence, one needs to remember the tenuous nature of most of Ray's attributions.