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The History of Henry Esmond, Esq

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  444 ratings  ·  38 reviews
William Makepeace Thackeray's novel The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852) presents the story of Henry Esmond, one of the colonels in Queen Anne's service. A sense of insecurity follows him as the illegitimate son of a Jacobite family even after his eventual acceptance by his family members. His participation in Battle of the Boyne and the Battle of Blenheim and his subs ...more
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Published July 13th 2009 by ReadHowYouWant (first published 1852)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,052)
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Marina
I came to this book having already read and enjoyed both Vanity Fair and The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes & Misfortunes, His Friends & His Greatest Enemy by the same author and was therefore quite confident in my expectations. However, this was quite a different sort of novel, in that it represents an attempt by Thackeray to write a historical novel.

We are first introduced to Henry Esmond, when he is but a child, in the final years of the reign of King James II. His own people are
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Peter
I found The History of Henry Esmond to be a very challenging and difficult read. Ultimately, it became a frustrating read, and ended with (apologies to T.S. Eliot) a profound whimper and no bang at all.

Perhaps it is because Thackeray's characters lack the presence of Dickens's creations, perhaps it is because Thackeray was unable, in my eyes, to create the intricate and incisive social commentary found in a Trollope novel. Perhaps it was that while one could sense the evolution, and even the fat
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Margaret
The History of Henry Esmond was widely considered the best historical novel of its day and often considered the best of Thackeray's novels as well; Trollope, who wrote a biography of his friend Thackeray, calls it his masterpiece. It's set just after the Glorious Revolution, during the reigns of William and Mary and then Queen Anne, and follows the life of Henry Esmond, gentleman and officer of the Duke of Marlborough's army, through his military career and his tangled family life.

The novel begi
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Carol Storm
This is a rich, complex, but ultimately unsatisfying novel about a young man of principle making his way in the corrupt and luxurious world of the 1700's English aristocracy.

Henry Esmond narrates the story of his own life, and the thing that sinks the novel is that he's always just a little too aware of his own virtue. He shows how venal, corrupt, and selfish all the other characters are, while refusing to admit he's secretly very impressed with his own demure Victorian primness. He's really Th
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Diane
I liked Books 1 & 2. Unexpected humor had been snuck in here and there. Alas, I was forced for my sanity's sake to skip over parts of Book 3.
This was no Vanity Fair.
Sherwood Smith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathan
It’s been quite a while since I read Vanity Fair, Thackeray’s best-known novel, but I was aware that Thackeray devotees generally hold Henry Esmond in higher esteem. It is a classically-structured novel, one which follows a central character through an extended portion of his or her life, illustrating a moment in history or society by refracting it through the prism of that character.

Oddly, though, much of Henry Esmond’s life seems to transpire in the spaces left among the others around him. An
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Bob
Improbable political chicanery overlaid on Thackeray's normal common sense, with entertaining portraits of Augustan authors. Describing Richard Steele: "His talk was not witty so much as charming. He never said a word that could anger anybody, and only became the more benevolent the more tipsy he grew." (p. 226) He is, as in Vanity Fair, always sympathetic to the common soldier and shocked by the brutality of war: "The wretched towns of the defenseless provinces, whose young men had been drafte ...more
Leonard Pierce
You know what? This book isn't all that great. Sorry, William Makepeace Thackeray.
Greg Deane
William Thackeray’s History of Henry Esmond, Esquire is set during the time of the reigns of William of Orange and his successor Queen Anne, where Catholics and Protestants intrigued against each other, roughly conforming to Tory and Whig Parties respectively, with the Tories plotting for a restoration of the Stuart dynasty. Thackeray’s original audience was likely to be more familiar with the events and divisions he describes than even an educated contemporary audience. So the work can be a val ...more
Thom Swennes
This narrative relates the life of the aristocratic-born Henry Esmond. As the 17th Century closes and the 18th dawns, Harry Esmond attends college, goes to jail and serves in the army. William Thackeray describes the demise of James II, reign of William and Mary and Queen Anne. Although he mentions a multitude of historical battles and incidents, pains are taken not to load (or bless) the reader with too much information. Much time and effort are spent in describing the escapades of the Duke of ...more
Donna Jo Atwood
Told as a memior of Henry, the bastard son of the Third Viscount Castlewood. He is brought up by the family (mostly by the Fourth Viscount), lives with them, etc. The family have been King's Men since the time of Charles I when the title started, so when the Glorious Revolution comes and William and Mary step in and later the Georges begin there is a strain.
Told in true Victorian style prose, the sentences curl around and twine themselves so badly in places that I had to reread several times to
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Kezia
Clever, clever WMT, setting his story against such an important period in history, and giving us a narrator like Henry Esmond. Being female, I was more sucked in by the lives and loves of Henry than I was by the battle scenes, although the battle provides much necessary context.

Several exquisite characters - and some unflattering cameo appearances by real people including Jonathan Swift - populate the novel, perhaps none more memorable than the imperious Beatrix. Besides Trix, Thackeray's women
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Jessica
It took me six months to read Henry Esmond. A friend of mine claims that Thackeray has three genres--social, biographical, and historical. This is one of the historical novels, and it gets so overwhelmed in the history that the plot vanishes. For example, it was fun that Richard Steele and Joseph Addison are characters. It was not fun to read a (very) extended chapter of Spectator pastiche, attributed to Henry Esmond. It was fun that Henry Esmond served under the Duke of Marlborough. It was not ...more
Surreysmum
[These notes were made in 1983:]. I found this a rather difficult novel to get through, partly because I was compelled to do so, of course, but I am not a great lover (admirer, yes - lover, no) of Thackeray's style. And Henry Esmond, hero/narrator, is a curious creature, far more sentimental in his actions than in his narrative, and finally unknowable, I think. The flashback technique - a lot of important information at the beginning, where it is useless - was very interesting, and, of course, T ...more
Audrey
It's not bad, but I have no trouble understanding why this novel is no longer in print. It loses a lot of its interest if you don't have any frame of reference for obscure literary figures of the 18th century or knowledge of 18th century British history. It turns out there was a whole war I'd never even heard of. I felt throughout more or less the way I would imagine Thackeray himself would feel if he watched Forrest Gump: You can tell the things that are going on are supposed to have some sort ...more
Shirin
It had three parts which were like this: 1.dislike; 2.meh; 3.when is it going to finish these nonsense political ramblings about England of 18th century?
Lucy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
DoctorM
Oddly, it was Richard Brookhiser who recommended this. I heard him one long-ago Sunday on BookNotes--- an interview where he recommended "Henry Esmond" as a great political novel. I'll agree with that--- this is a wonderful story about the end of a political age. We watch Henry try to negotiate the change between Stuart England--- the age of William and Mary and Queen Anne ---and the new world of the Hanoverians, between a world of patrimony and blood loyalties and one where money alone has begu ...more
Judy
Apr 27, 2008 Judy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys long and complicated 19th-century novels
This is one of my all-time favourite novels, which I've read several times over the years. I loved Thackeray's style, with his blend of satire and melancholy, as much as ever, but this time round I noticed more than I have done in the past how hard he is on women, especially on beautiful "bad girl" Beatrix.
At times the historical events are quite hard to follow, so I was glad that the edition I was reading has footnotes and other material to explain the background. I also got hold of an old edi
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Brandon Kendall
what i find fantastic about this author is that he lived in the 19th century but wrote using 17th century prose and stories.. He does a very good job of making it really feel like a 17th century story. Very fine attention to detail this story follows the life and struggles of Henry Esmond a mismatch of heritage, lineage and family fortune lands Henry in a lesser role in the social caste but he accepts it humbly and still rises to glory and greatness through his own merits.
Rachel
There were good bits in this - the picture of a marriage going bad was done very well, I thought. But there was also a lot that was dull - particularly Esmond's experience in the War of the Spanish Succession, about which I knew nothing and now have no desire to know any more. All in all I think it went on too long.
Lauren
After passing over finishing this book to read three other books, I think it may be time to give up the fight. The writing style was annoying. And Thackeray needed a better editor. He keeps repeating the same thing over and over. So far, it is just boring. I do still hope to finish it some day, but not now.
Cindy
Astute observations of the institution of marriage, history, politics, and "great" men along with fluid prose, but what a cop-out of an ending! Disturbing, even - and almost entirely at odds with the rest of the book. But then again, considering what happened to Becky Sharp (of Vanity Fair fame)...
Suzanne
I thought this book was hard to follow at times. I did find one quote that I liked on page 101, "To see a young couple loving each other is no wonder; but to see an old couple loving each other is the best sight of all."
Stephanie
Interesting, but no Vanity Fair, and the ending... I don't know. There are a lot of other books I'd read first. Sorry for the shoddy review, but this didn't stick with me, although I enjoyed it most of the way through.
Peter
Many Victorians considered this to be Thackeray's masterpiece, but it's very hard to understand why. There are a couple of memorable characters, but its insights now seem very humdrum.
Eleanor
The only enjoyable characters are the 'wicked' ones like Miss Beatrix and we don't spend enough time with them. The story is boring -- no wonder it hasn't been made into a film.
Ange
Anthony Trollope in the autobio. praised this book highly, along with Pride & Prejudice and Ivanhoe. It is clearly an excellent novel, but it won't be one of my favorites.
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3953
Thackeray, an only child, was born in Calcutta, India, where his father, Richmond Thackeray (1 September 1781 – 13 September 1815), held the high rank of secretary to the board of revenue in the British East India Company. His mother, Anne Becher (1792–1864) was the second daughter of Harriet and John Harman Becher and was also a secretary (writer) for the East India Company.

William had been sent
...more
More about William Makepeace Thackeray...
Vanity Fair Barry Lyndon The Rose and the Ring The Book of Snobs The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes & Misfortunes, His Friends & His Greatest Enemy

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“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.” 75 likes
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