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The Luck of Barry Lyndon

William Makepeace Thackeray

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The Luck of Barry Lyndon was first published as a serial in Fraser’s Magazine, then later as a complete volume entitled The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq.—a title Thackeray disliked, but that was selected by his publisher. Thackeray had great difficulty composing the novel, and found himself frequently frustrated in his attempts to get Barry out of yet another jam. Ultimately he was displeased with his work, and considered it one of his lesser novels.

Despite Thackeray’s neglect, Barry Lyndon is a bright satire filled with many genuinely funny moments. Barry is the quintessential unreliable narrator, and through his outrageous boasts and tall tales he becomes not just the target of the satire, but its very agent as well. Fortunately modern critics have viewed Barry Lyndon in a much more favorable light than Thackeray’s contemporaries, and even Thackeray himself: today it’s considered by some critics as one of his finest works.

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