William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair
  • Vanity Fair

  • William Makepeace Thackeray

    Stephen Fry narrates this BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of the famous Victorian comic novel.

    Orphan Becky Sharp and wealthy Amelia Sedley are best friends at Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies. On leaving school, ambitious, social-climbing Becky looks for a rich man to support her, while the sweet-natured Amelia meets her old friend Dobbin, who is instantly captivated.

    Becky takes a job in the service of Sir Pitt Crawley, and uses her charm to hook his dashing son. However, marriage to Captain Rawdon of the Guards does not provide the fortune she seeks. Meanwhile, Amelia rejects the faithful Dobbin and becomes engaged to the handsome George Osborne – but destiny has some shocks in store for her, too.

    As time goes by, the girls' fortunes rise and fall. War, financial disaster and the ruin of her reputation leave the resourceful Beckyundaunted, but Amelia finds it harder to bear fate's blows. It will be many years before their story is played out, and their futures finally decided...

    William Makepeace Thackeray's classic satire of passion and ambition, first published in 1847 and 1848, is a deliciously ironic portrait of English society and its mores. This engaging 2004 radio production, published for the first time on audio, features a distinguished cast including Emma Fielding as Becky Sharp, Katy Cavanagh as Amelia and Toby Jones as Jos Sedley.

    Duration: 5 hours approx

William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1811, but was sent to England at the age of six. After his education at Charterhouse and Trinity College, Cambridge, having gambled away much of his fortune at university, he settled in Paris and tried a career as a painter. It was here that he met nineteen-year-old Isabella Shawe, upon whom he based many of his virtuous but weak heroines, and whom he married in 1836, before returning to London with her a year later. He was a novelist and journalist, writing prolifically for numerous periodicals and magazines - Vanity Fair was first published as a twenty-part serial in Punch in 1847-8 - and becoming editor of the newly established Cornhill Magazine in 1860. Thackeray, who had a penchant for eating and drinking heavily and led a generally unhealthy lifestyle, died suddenly of a stroke in 1863.