THACKERAY, William Makepeace (1811-1863) (Palace Green)
Plaque erected in 1887 by (Royal) Society of Arts at 2 Palace Green, Kensington, London, W8 4QB, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Journalism and Publishing, Literature
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY NOVELIST LIVED HERE. BORN 1811. DIED 1863.
At 2 Palace Green just west of Kensington Gardens, a chocolate coloured plaque of 1887 plaque marks the last, and favourite, home of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.
‘THE REDDEST HOUSE IN ALL THE TOWN’
Thackeray bought the house in May 1860 with money ‘made out of the inkstand’. His most successful, and famous, book – Vanity Fair (1847–8) – had appeared nearly 15 years earlier.
The structure of the house, then dilapidated, was completely rebuilt at a cost of over £8,000. The work, undertaken by the architect Frederick Hering with the assistance of Thackeray himself, resulted in a handsome red-brick building in the neo-Georgian style. It was described by Thackeray in 1861 as ‘the reddest house in all the town’.
Despite the disapproval of friends and family – who suggested he name the house ‘Vanity Fair’ on account of its lavishness – the novelist was delighted with his new home, moving in during March 1862, shortly after giving up the editorship of the Cornhill Magazine. Here, Thackeray spent his days relaxing, and overseeing the furnishing and decorating of what had become ‘his principal pleasure’. He wrote, ‘it is one of the nicest houses I have ever seen’, and had ‘a strong idea that in the next world I shan't be a bit better off’.
Thackeray’s last works, written from the study in the house, included The Adventures of Philip (1861–2) and Denis Duval (1864). Thackeray died at number 2 on Christmas Eve 1863. The house, which was altered in the 1880s, is now the Israeli Embassy.
There are two other official plaques to Thackeray in London: one is very nearby at 16 Young Street, and the other can be found in Chelsea at 36 Onslow Square. The revised blue plaque guidelines now recommend that an individual should only be awarded one plaque.