Vanity Fair, a satirical novel of manners, was published (1847-48) in serial form without sufficient time for revisions by Thackeray. Occasionally, time sequences are not clear. Names are not always consistent; for example, Mrs. Bute Crawley is sometimes Martha, sometimes Barbara. Glorvina, sister of Peggy O'Dowd, is also called Glorvina O'Dowd, as if she were Major O'Dowd's sister. Promotion in military status may change titles, and advancement in society may change rank and title. In spite of the confusion, Vanity Fair fascinates the careful reader.
Over a hundred years ago when this book was written, readers had time to savor Thackeray's various digressions into morals, psychology, and human foibles. The modern reader may be bewildered by the rambling, and by the vast number of characters, some of whom appear only as names. However, he will have no trouble following the six main characters through changes of fortune and, in some cases, of outlook. Any curiosity aroused concerning a character will be satisfied by the time one has finished the story.
For the purposes of this study, the book has been divided into the original installments as published. This set of notes does not attempt to take the place of reading the book. It would be impossible to catch the sly irony, the tongue-in-cheek humor of Thackeray's remarks on the human race without reading Vanity Fair at sufficient leisure to realize its subtle meanings.
Of necessity, because of the length of the book, this condensation must leave out many incidents and commentaries by the author. For this reason, also, the student is urged to read Vanity Fair for himself.