This is a big year for famous 200th birthdays: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s just passed, and William Makepeace Thackeray’s is coming up soon (July 18th). As a Victorian author, Thackeray was rivaled only by Charles Dickens in popularity, and like Dickens he crossed the Atlantic to travel through America on a well-attended (and profitable) national tour. Providence was among his stops, and this is his assessment of the city, offered in a letter to a friend in December of 1855:
“Providence is as jolly a place as Boston almost. There is always a knot of pleasant folks, fogeyfied, respectable, fond of literature with whom it is jolly to consort, and I shall remember Lawyer Ames and a nice old University Library and a half-dozen fellows with kindness always.”*
* The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray, edited by Gordon Ray, (Cambridge: Harvard UP,1945-6), p. 530 (letter # 1192).