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William M. Thackeray
by [?]

Here are also the graves of Madame Tietjens; of Charles Mathews, the actor; and of Admiral Sir John Ross, the Arctic explorer.

“And just down the hill aways another big man is buried. I knew him well; he used to come and visit us often. The last time I saw him I said as he was going away, ‘Come again, sir; you are always welcome!’

“‘Thank you, Mr. First Gravedigger,’ says he; ‘I will come again before long, and make you an extended visit.’ In less than a year the hearse brought him. That’s his grave–push that ivy away and you can read the inscription. Did you ever hear of him?”

It was a plain, heavy slab placed horizontally, and the ivy had so run over it that the white of the marble was nearly obscured. But I made out this inscription:

Born July 18, 1811
Died Dec. 24, 1863
Died Dec. 18, 1864, aged 72–his mother
by her first marriage

The unpoetic exactness of that pedigree gave me a slight chill. But here they sleep–mother and son in one grave. She who gave him his first caress also gave him his last; and when he was found dead in his bed, his mother, who lived under the same roof, was the first one called. He was the child of her girlhood–she was scarcely twenty when she bore him. In life they were never separated, and in death they are not divided. It is as both desired.

Thackeray was born in India, and was brought to England on the death of his father, when he was six years of age. On the way from Calcutta the ship touched at the Island of Saint Helena. A servant took the lad ashore and they walked up the rocky heights to Longwood, and there, pacing back and forth in a garden, they saw a short, stout man.

“Lookee, lad, lookee quick–that’s him! He eats three sheep every day and all the children he can get!”

“And that’s all I had to do with the Battle of Waterloo,” said “Old Thack,” forty years after. But you will never believe it after reading those masterly touches concerning the battle, in “Vanity Fair.”

Young Thackeray was sent to the Charterhouse School, where he was considered rather a dull boy. He was big and good-natured, and read novels when he should have studied arithmetic. This tendency to “play off” stuck to him at Cambridge–where he did not remain long enough to get a degree, but to the relief of his tutors went off on a tour through Europe.

Travel as a means of education is a very seductive bit of sophistry. Invalids whom the doctors can not cure, and scholars whom teachers can not teach, are often advised to take “a change.” Still there is reason in it.

In England Thackeray was intent on law; at Paris he received a strong bent toward art; but when he reached Weimar and was introduced at the Court of Letters and came into the living presence of Goethe, he caught the infection and made a plan for translating Schiller.

Schiller dead was considered in Germany a greater man than Goethe living, as if it were an offense to live and a virtue to die. And young William Makepeace wrote home to his mother that Schiller was the greatest man that ever lived and that he was going to translate his books and give them to England.

No doubt there are certain people born with a tendency to infectiousness in regard to certain diseases; so there are those who catch the literary mania on slight exposure.

“I’ve got it,” said Thackeray, and so he had.

He went back to England and made groggy efforts at Blackstone, and Somebody’s Digest, and What’s-His-Name’s Compendium, but all the time he scribbled and sketched.

The young man had come into possession of a goodly fortune from his father’s estate–enough to yield him an income of over two thousand dollars a year. But bad investments and signing security for friends took the money the way that money usually goes when held by a man who has not earned it.