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Literary Allusion in The Newcomes

  • R. D. McMaster

Abstract

The opening pages of the book draw attention to its intense referentiality. It starts in the manner of Aesop: ‘Crow, who had flown away with a cheese from a dairy window...’ (p. 1). But this fable is a compound of characters and motifs from seven of Aesop’s fables (the ones pictured in the novel’s monthly cover design) and allusions to Perrault’s Red Riding Hood (in French and English, and with the familiar dialogue, ‘What Large Eyes you have got!’ transferred to a lamb and wolf), La Fontaine’s Fables, Molière’s Tartuffe, Plato’s division of bipeds into feathered and featherless, Solomon as judge, and finally Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. As he had done in the first chapter of Vanity Fair, where Jones, reading the novel in his club, declares it ‘excessively foolish, trivial, twaddling, and ultra-sentimental’ (p. 8), so here Thackeray subverts the whole fictive enterprise of this thousand page novel by having ‘the critic’ exclaim ‘What a farrago of old fables is this!’, detect plagiarism in the narrative, and condemn not only the borrowing of conventional constructions but the low tone of the borrowings: ‘scarce one of these characters he represents but is a villain’ (p. 4). Implicitly the world of emblem and high moral generality is at war with the low mimetic.

Keywords

Marriage Market Fairy Tale White Horse Nursery Rhyme Latin Grammar 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Jack P. Rawlins, Thackeray’s Novels: A Fiction that is True (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974).Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© R.D. McMaster 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. D. McMaster
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AlbertaCanada

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