THACKERAY, William Makepeace (1811-1863) (Young Street)
Plaque erected in 1905 by London County Council at 16 Young Street, Kensington, London, W8 5EH, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Journalism and Publishing, Literature
W.M. THACKERAY 1811-1863 Novelist Lived Here
The novelist William Makepeace Thackeray lived at 16 Young Street in Kensington from 1846 until 1854, and during this time published his most famous work, Vanity Fair.
It was at 16 Young Street – then numbered 13 – that the author resumed family life after his wife Isabella became mentally ill. She was confined in a private asylum from 1842 and died in 1893.
His two surviving daughters, Anne (1837–1914) and Minny (1840–75), who had lived for a while with their grandmother in Paris, were brought by Thackeray in autumn 1846 to live with him in Young Street, his home since the previous August. Three servants and a small black cat completed the household.
Thackeray credited the happy reunion with inspiring him to complete the novel that made (and perpetuated) his name: Vanity Fair, published serially between January 1847 and July 1848. The novel had – remarkably – been turned down by five publishers.
Thackeray also wrote The History of Pendennis (1848–50) and The History of Henry Esmond (1852) at Young Street – the latter he dictated in the first-floor bedroom ‘while whiffing his cigar’.
The house, a yellow-brick detached building which dates from a semi-rural Kensington of 1815, cost Thackeray £65 a year in rent. Its projecting segmental bays reminded him of a feudal castle: ‘I’ll have a flagstaff put over the coping of the wall, and I’ll hoist a standard up when I’m at home!’, he quipped.
He left the address in 1854 for Onslow Square, where is he also commemorated with a plaque. A third plaque to the author can be found the other side of Kensington High Street at 2 Palace Green. Thackeray is unusual in being awarded three separate plaques and it is now the policy to only award one per person.