Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Fairoaks. Pen’s family home, based upon Larkbeare, a real house near the town of Ottery St. Mary, in southern England’s Devon County, where William Makepeace Thackeray’s mother and stepfather lived. To its female inhabitants, Pen’s mother and her ward, Laura Bell, Fairoaks is quite sufficient. When an urban observer notes its shortcomings, Laura almost boasts that it supports, not pheasants, but nine hens, a rooster, a pig, and an old dog. Near the end of the novel, Laura holds Fairoaks out as a haven to be returned to, although she admits temptation can enter even there.

Clavering Park

Clavering Park. Village near Ottery St. Mary in which Pen appears to seduce a lower-class girl, setting off gossip that flashes throughout the village to reach the ears of his mother. Based on the real village of Escot Park, Clavering Park is typical rural village, parochial and insular. The narrator points out that the village is prettier from a distance; its Anglican church has lost members to the New Church, while a ribbon factory has opened on the banks of its river.


Clavering. Ancestral home to the Clavering family that at first appears as a romantic prospect to the young Pen, as he plays in its grounds. After the scion of the family reopens the house, its ludicrous allegorical depictions of Clavering ancestors are scathingly described, and the chief memory of Sir Frank about its hallowed halls is that his father caned him there. The house’s old trappings and...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Betsky, Seymour. “Society in Thackeray and Trollope.” In From Dickens to Hardy, edited by Boris Ford. New York: Penguin Books, 1982. Suggests that Thackeray writes of his own social milieu, which includes the evils of self-interest and snobbery, and that he observes with a cool, detached eye.

Lester, John A., Jr. “Thackeray’s Narrative Technique.” PMLA 69 (1954): 392-409. Discusses Thackeray’s doublings backward and forward in time as he reveals the story, and his variation of telling the story in his own words and then presenting it in dramatic scenes.

Loofbourow, John. “Neoclassical Conventions: Vanity Fair, Pendennis, The Newcomes.” In Thackeray and the Form of Fiction. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1964. Asserts that Thackeray experimented with hybridizations of neoclassical conventions where chivalry is combined with mock-epic, pastoral with romance, and sentimentality with satire as part of The History of Pendennis’ sustained narrative.

Ray, Gordon Norton. The Buried Life: A Study of the Relation Between Thackeray and His Personal History. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952. Suggests the original persons upon whom Thackeray modeled his fictitious characters. Especially relevant for The History of Pendennis, Thackeray’s most autobiographical novel.

Wagenknecht, Edward. “Counter-blast: W. M. Thackeray.” In Cavalcade of the English Novel. 1943. Reprint. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965. Discusses the parallels in the works of Charles Dickens and Thackeray. Also analyzes Thackeray’s career, his technique and point of view, and his shortcomings as a novelist.