The Newcomes: Memoirs of a Most Respectable Family by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Newcomes is Thackeray's most essentially 'Victorian' novel, generous in its proportions, sharp in its criticism of the moral convolutions of the age, and encyclopaedic in its reference. Set in the 1830s and 1840s, a period of rapid change and of political and economic development, the novel considers the fortunes and misfortunes of a 'most respectable' extended middle-class family. The action moves from London to Brighton, from England to France, from the political ambitions of an older generation in the industrial North to the painterly pretensions of a younger generation in Italy. At its centre is Thomas Newcome, a retired Colonel in the Indian Army who finds the snobberies and hypocrisies of early Victorian England disconcerting. In a world of men on the make, of social mobility, and of the buying and selling of women in an aristocratic marriage market, it is the Colonel's distinctive but old-fashioned gentlemanliness that stands out from a self-seeking society. The most observant and witty among Thackeray's studies of his culture, The Newcomes is also among his most complex and allusive novels, and this edition provides particularly detailed notes which clarify his many references.