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When the first edition of Thackeray's English Humourists appeared in 1853, the foot-notes appended to the text were a source of various comment from readers and reviewers. There was nothing to show whose hand had supplied them, for it was easy to see that they were not written by the master himself. In the essay on Thackeray, in the volume called Characters and Criticisms, Edinburgh, 1865, by James Hannay, we find the following statement on page 55:
Toward the close of 1852, ‘ Esmond' appeared, and Thackeray sailed for America.” To which Hannay appended the following foot-note: “He recalled the present writer from a tour of Scotland in October, and placed the MS. of the · Humourists' in his hands to edit and annotate during his absence.” Thus, as Hannay's work is now inseparably associated with Thackeray's Lectures, and as the annotations were at the lecturer's own particular request, it may be well to give some brief account of the editor's life.
James Hannay was born at Dumfries, on the seventeenth of February, 1827. His father was a business man who wrote a now forgotten novel. Young Hannay entered the navy in 1840, and served in the blockade of Alexandria. With his love of reading and a literary life, the career of an officer in the navy began to grow more and more distasteful, and in 1845 he was tried before a court-martial and expelled from the service. No disgrace attaches to Hannay for this misfortune, for the affair at the time was generally believed to be the result of some personal hatred, and the court's decision was finally set aside. But Hannay had had enough of the navy, and from 1846 he worked for the press, doing what chance literary work he could. In reporting for the papers, his excellent
memory served him well, and he employed leisure hours at the library of the British Museum. He became acquainted with Thackeray in 1848, and began to make headway rapidly in literary circles. Besides publishing novels of naval life, which at the time had some vogue, he delivered lectures on literary themes, Satires and Satirists, published 1854. He learned Greek by himself, and had an unquenchable intellectual curiosity. He stood for Parliament as a Tory in 1857, and was defeated.
As a newspaper editor, novelist, lecturer, and general author, he became a well-known literary figure about 1860. 1868 he was made consul at Brest, which post he exchanged for that of Barcelona. He was married twice, in 1853, the year when his notes * to the Humourists appeared in print: his wife died in 1865. Then in 1868 he was married again, his second wife dying two years later.
He himself expired very sud
* In Melville's Bibliography (Life, II, 301) he says,
The Notes were written by Mr. George Hodder."
This is, of course, a mistake,
denly on the ninth of January, 1873, in a suburb of Barcelona.
[The article on Hannay in the Dictionary of National Biography, from which all the facts in the above brief sketch are taken, was written by his son David Hannay, a journalist, who has published a number of books. ]
OF THACKERAY'S TRIP TO AMERICA AND OF THE
From the New York Tribune, * Nov. 20, 1852. The opening lecture of Mr. THACKERAY's course before the Mercantile Library Association was delivered last evening. The spacious church (Rev. Mr. Chapin's) was filled to the extent of its capacity at an early hour, by an audience comprising a large proportion of young men, and an unusual number of the distinguished literary and professional celebrities of New York. The fashionable circles were fully represented by an imposing array of ladies. Mr. Thackeray stood on an elevated platform in front of the pulpit. *** In personal appearance, which in respect to the curiosity of the public we may be permitted to allude to, Mr.
* An editorial in the New York Times for the same day speaks of the matter of this first lecture in the most glowing terms; his manner, however, did not greatly impress the Times. His voice, which one paper called “a superb tenor," the Times thought rather light; and the relations between his hands and his pockets took up nearly a paragraph in the editorial. The Boston correspondent of the Times differed totally from Thackeray's estimate of Swift.
Thackeray is a fine, well-proportioned specimen of a stalwart Englishman--over six feet in stature—with an expression of quiet intelligence—and the self-possessed bearing of a man of the world, rather than the scholastic appearance of the occupant of the library. His intellectual head, which bears many silvery traces of the touch of time, is carried erectly, not without an air of reserve, some would say of defiance. In his elocution we were happily disappointed. The English journals have not done Mr. Thackeray justice in that respect. His manner, without any oratorical pretensions, is admirably adapted to the lecture-room. As a medium of instruction, it is far more grateful to the hearer than the more impassioned style, which is often adopted by our popular lecturers. The calm flow of his speech is so transparent that the sense shines through it without subjecting the mind's eye to a too severe trial. His voice is rich, deep, flexible, and equally expressive of emotion and thought in its intonations—the words are delivered with that clean finish which so often distinguishes the cultivated Englishman--his emphasis is pregnant with meaning-and, without any apparent effort, his ringing tones fill the ear of the most remote listener. Mr. Thackeray uses no gesture, except occasionally a convulsive clinching of the fist, or an emphatic thrusting of the hand into his pocket or under his coat. In short, his delivery was that of a well-bred gentleman, reading with marked force and propriety to a large circle in the drawing-room.
The composition of his lecture was masterly. Graphic, terse, pointed, epigrammatic, abounding in