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NOTE TO THE
The lectures on “ The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century” were first delivered in May, June, and July, 1851, at Willis's Rooms in London. They were remarkably successful from the beginning, and the contemporary comment upon them, preserved in many letters and memoirs, is plentiful, and uncommonly interesting in that it gives pictures of Thackeray as he impressed so many acute observers. From audiences that included Carlyle, Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Harriet Martineau, Caroline Fox, Fanny Kemble, Monckton Milnes, and many more whose impressions are worth knowing, it is natural that valuable testimony should survive; and no event of Thackeray's life has been so well described, from Mrs. Kemble's account of his nervousness before his appearance, to Miss Brontë's of the admirable delivery and quiet power that succeeded when he had once faced his hearers. The success of the experiment, which he made with a sense of effort and a reluctance that never quite left him, was convincing to him as to others; and the lectures were repeated at Oxford and Cambridge and in Edinburgh, and led to his decision to go to America the next year. After their delivery there, of which again there are contemporary accounts almost without number, besides the unusually full story in Thackeray's published letters, they were published in a volume in 1853, as “A Series of Lectures delivered in England, Scotland, and the United States."
The lectures on “ The Four Georges ” were delivered first in America, on Thackeray's second visit there in 1855,- were written, indeed, primarily with a view to that journey, though not in the sense assumed by some disturbed English minds at the time. They were repeated in Oxford the next year, and in many other places in England, and in the second half of 1860 they were printed in the Cornhill Magazine; but they did not appear in book form until 1861.
The lecture on Charity and Humour, as explained in the note on its first page, was first delivered in New York for the benefit of a charity, after the course on the Humourists in 1852. In the collected edition it was not printed with the other lectures, but was included in the volume of Miscellaneous Essays added in 1886. It has seemed best to restore it here to its original associations.
Of the two Reviews included with the lectures in this volume, that of Cruikshank's work appeared in the Westminster in 1840, and that of Leech's in the Quarterly in 1854. Both were reprinted in the 1869 edition.
The frontispiece to this volume is a drawing by Mr. George T. Tobin from the portrait of Thackeray published in the Illustrated London News at the time of his death.