The whole usages of Virginia were indeed finely modeled after the English customs. It was a loyal colony. The Virginians boasted that King Charles II had been king in Virginia before he had been king in England. English king and English church were alike faithfully honored there. The resident gentry were allied to good English families. They held their heads above the Dutch traders of New York, and the money getting roundheads of Pennsylvania and New England. Never were people less republican than those of the Great Province who were soon to be foremost in a memorable revolt against the British Crown.

Download The Virginians Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Here the Englishman Thackeray shows that he understands the culture of the loyalist high church tories of the Old Dominion. The ancestors of the tidewater gentry of the James River and the Potomac fought for the king during the English Civil War while most of their roundhead cousins in New England had fought for Cromwell and his parliamentary rebels. This made their rebellion against the king all the more remarkable, and Thackery and his educated readers were no doubt aware of the irony. The tidewater gentry were a colonial extension of the English gentry as the author of The Virginian treats with at length in the relations between the English branch and the Virginia branch of the family. In the story, the elder branch of the family which had turned down a Marquisate from the king and removed to Virginia considered themselves above the younger branch of the family who still lived as titled nobility in the family house in England. Needless to say, the English branch did not share this opinion.

I never know whether to pity or congratulate a man on coming to his senses.

Here is one of those pithy and knowing remarks for which Thackeray is justly admired. This one is reminiscent of those that pepper Vanity Fair and reveals our author to be world-wise. The sentiment expressed is similar to that expressed by the author of Ecclesiastes when he writes that with an increase in knowledge comes an increase of sorrow. Seeing the world as it actually is and not as we might have imagined or hoped it to be when we were younger can be traumatic and disappointing for anyone. This is why most choose to hang on to the comforting illusions that they have received from...

(The entire section is 601 words.)