How one has enjoyed things

Dinah Birch

  • Anny: A Life of Anne Thackeray Ritchie by Henrietta Garnett
    Chatto, 322 pp, £18.99, January 2004, ISBN 0 7011 7129 4

When Thackeray died in 1863 his eldest daughter, Anny, who was 26, was left not just with a famous name and a sum of money but with an established place in London literary life. Affectionate and needy, Thackeray had nurtured Anny’s talents, and used her as his amanuensis. Before his death she had begun to publish work of her own, including a vigorous novel, The Story of Elizabeth. Thackeray’s endorsement was the ground of an indestructible self-belief. Anny never quite outgrew a submissive dedication to his memory, but his death meant liberation. Her breezy assumption that there would always be enough money, with a little left over, caused her friends and family much bother. She was also a publisher’s nightmare: the genial George Smith ruefully recalled that her manuscripts were ‘a medley of pieces of paper of all shapes and sizes, written here and there and fastened together with a needle and thread’. These disorderly ways were the product of a conviction that she need not distract herself with life’s smallnesses. As Thackeray’s heir, it was her business to observe, to think and to write.

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