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Catherine: a Story   By: (1811-1863)

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by William Makepeace Thackeray

[Catherine, A Story by Ikey Solomons, Esq., Junior.]



1. Introducing to the reader the chief personages of this narrative.

2. In which are depicted the pleasures of a sentimental attachment.

3. In which a narcotic is administered, and a great deal of genteel society depicted.

4. In which Mrs. Catherine becomes an honest woman again.

5. Contains Mr. Brock's autobiography, and other matter.

6. The adventures of the ambassador, Mr. MacShane.

7. Which embraces a period of seven years.

8. Enumerates the accomplishments of Master Thomas Billings introduces Brock as Doctor Wood and announces the execution of Ensign MacShane.

9. Interview between Count Galgenstein and Master Thomas Billings, when he informs the Count of his parentage.

10. Showing how Galgenstein and Mrs. Cat recognise each other in Marylebone Gardens and how the Count drives her home in his carrige.

11. Of some domestic quarrels, and the consequence thereof.

12. Treats of love, and prepares for death.

13. Being a preparation for the end.

Chapter the Last.

Another Last Chapter.


The story of "Catherine," which appeared in Fraser's Magazine in 1839 40, was written by Mr. Thackeray, under the name of Ikey Solomons, Jun., to counteract the injurious influence of some popular fictions of that day, which made heroes of highwaymen and burglars, and created a false sympathy for the vicious and criminal.

With this purpose, the author chose for the subject of his story a woman named Catherine Hayes, who was burned at Tyburn, in 1726, for the deliberate murder of her husband, under very revolting circumstances. Mr. Thackeray's aim obviously was to describe the career of this wretched woman and her associates with such fidelity to truth as to exhibit the danger and folly of investing such persons with heroic and romantic qualities.

CHAPTER I. Introducing to the reader the chief personages of this narrative.

At that famous period of history, when the seventeenth century (after a deal of quarrelling, king killing, reforming, republicanising, restoring, re restoring, play writing, sermon writing, Oliver Cromwellising, Stuartising, and Orangising, to be sure) had sunk into its grave, giving place to the lusty eighteenth; when Mr. Isaac Newton was a tutor of Trinity, and Mr. Joseph Addison Commissioner of Appeals; when the presiding genius that watched over the destinies of the French nation had played out all the best cards in his hand, and his adversaries began to pour in their trumps; when there were two kings in Spain employed perpetually in running away from one another; when there was a queen in England, with such rogues for Ministers as have never been seen, no, not in our own day; and a General, of whom it may be severely argued, whether he was the meanest miser or the greatest hero in the world; when Mrs. Masham had not yet put Madam Marlborough's nose out of joint; when people had their ears cut off for writing very meek political pamphlets; and very large full bottomed wigs were just beginning to be worn with powder; and the face of Louis the Great, as his was handed in to him behind the bed curtains, was, when issuing thence, observed to look longer, older, and more dismal daily....

About the year One thousand seven hundred and five, that is, in the glorious reign of Queen Anne, there existed certain characters, and befell a series of adventures, which, since they are strictly in accordance with the present fashionable style and taste; since they have been already partly described in the "Newgate Calendar;" since they are (as shall be seen anon) agreeably low, delightfully disgusting, and at the same time eminently pleasing and pathetic, may properly be set down here.

And though it may be said, with some considerable show of reason, that agreeably low and delightfully disgusting characters have already been treated, both copiously and ably, by some eminent writers of the present (and, indeed, of future) ages; though to tread in the footsteps of the immortal FAGIN requires a genius of inordinate stride, and to go a robbing after the late though deathless TURPIN, the renowned JACK SHEPPARD, or the embryo DUVAL, may be impossible, and not an infringement, but a wasteful indication of ill will towards the eighth commandment; though it may, on the one hand, be asserted that only vain coxcombs would dare to write on subjects already described by men really and deservedly eminent; on the other hand, that these subjects have been described so fully, that nothing more can be said about them; on the third hand (allowing, for the sake of argument, three hands to one figure of speech), that the public has heard so much of them, as to be quite tired of rogues, thieves, cutthroats, and Newgate altogether; though all these objections may be urged, and each is excellent, yet we intend to take a few more pages from the "Old Bailey Calendar," to bless the public with one more draught from the Stone Jug:[] yet awhile to listen, hurdle mounted, and riding down the Oxford Road, to the bland conversation of Jack Ketch, and to hang with him round the neck of his patient, at the end of our and his history... Continue reading book >>

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