Rebecca Sharp is the main protagonist of William Makepeace Thackeray's 1847–48 novel[note 1] Vanity Fair. She is presented as a cynical social climber who uses her charms to fascinate and seduce upper-class men. This is in contrast with the clinging, dependent Amelia Sedley, her friend whom she befriends at school. Becky then uses Amelia as a stepping stone to gain social position. Sharp functions as a picara—a picaresque heroine—or by being a social outsider who is able to expose the manners of the upper gentry to ridicule. The book—and Sharp's career—begins in a traditional manner of Victorian fiction, that of a young orphan with no source of income (Sharp) having to make her own way in the world. Thackeray twisted the Victorian tradition, however, and quickly turned her into a young woman who knew what she wanted from life—fine clothes, money and a social position—and knew how to get them. The route was to be by marriage, and the novel follows Sharp's efforts at snaring a wealthy, but simple, husband, and being outdone by fate in her attempt. Eventually, she achieves her aims, but her husband catches her with a member of the aristocracy.
It is possible that Thackeray's model for the Becky Sharp character was the 18th-century French courtesan, Madame du Barry. Sharp has been portrayed on stage and in films multiple times between 1911 and 2004 and has been the subject of much scholarly debate on issues ranging from 19th-century social history, Victorian fashions, female psychology and gendered fiction.
Thackeray wished to demonstrate the impossibility of Victorian England's closely held belief that it was impossible for women to create a fashionable self-image.[note 2] Set in high regency society  at the time of the Waterloo Campaign, it is a "vast satirical panorama of materialist society" and an early work of the realist school. A comic and semi-historical novel Vanity Fair brought its author immediate renown on its publication in 1847. Amelia Sedley is strictly the book's heroine, but she is outshone by Sharp throughout the book; a "dull and colourless foil", she all has all the positive traits that Sharp lacks and which, however, bring her none of the benefits that Sharp experiences. Structurally, Amelia and Rebecca are joint-main characters; but as John Frazee points out, readers instinctively identify the latter as the sole protagonist due to her energy and forcefulness, while Amelia's colourlessness pushes her into the background. The book traces their respective paths in life from the finishing school where they first meet, through their marriages, to their respective middle age.
Sharp is never socially acceptable to those she associates with for much of the book, who are at least middle- if not upperclass. She is "notoriously immoral"—indeed, according to one commentator, she is the "embodiment of moral transgression"—with a "ruthless determination...but unfailing good temper". Her energy repeatedly creates a "whirlwind" around her. Sharp "manages to cheat, steal and lie without getting caught by the agents of social, moral and economic order who pursue her"; this she achieves with her ability to create herself into something she naturally is not. This makes her "dangerous", in contemporary eyes, says Montz, and Sharp plays many such discrete roles throughout the book. However, each time she does reinvent herself in order to overcome the next adversity, her previous reputation always catches up with her. Jennifer Hedgecock has commented that:
Becky’s reputation inevitably catches up to her in each new setting and circle of aristocratic friends, yet her sense of humour and carefree attitude allow her to proceed with new plans. Becky, in fact, is the only high-spirited character in Vanity Fair, creating her own rules and showing that culture’s harsh moral invectives can be frivolous and ineffective when rumours about her character fail to discourage Becky from hatching new schemes to marry gullible men for economic security and respectability.
Origins, appearance and personality
Becky Sharp was born in Soho, the daughter of an impoverished English artist and a French "opera-girl"—possibly a prostitute—and is thus of Half-French ancestry.[note 3] She appears to love her father: Thackeray tells how, as a girl, she would sit with him as "and heard the talk of many of his wild companions—often but ill-suited for a girl to hear", and when he dies Sharp misses both his companionship and the freedom that she had living with him.
Sharp is "flamboyant coquette" with bright green eyes. She is waiflike and attractive without being neccesarilly beautiful; she is a picara. She has both a talent for, and enjoyment of, acting, and is also an excellent mimic  She has been described as "ever-adaptable" with a will to live and a vitality. However, she is also a duplicitous trickster,—"an outlaw, female insubordination personified", says Meade—with an aggressive streak in her, who, however, never loses her feminniity. She also has, says the Narrator, "wit, cleverness and flippancy", and a gift for "fun and mimicry".
She is, says Bloom, "famously a bad woman, selfish and endlessly designing, rarely bothered by a concern for truth, morals, or the good of the community." E. M. Forster described Sharp as being "on the make"; for example, when she first sees Amelia's brother Jos, who is a revenue collector for the East India Company in Calcutta, she immediately asks Amelia whether he is very rich, because, "they say all Indian Nabobs are enormously rich".[note 4] She is obsessed by money; unlike Amelia, who thinks that £2,000 (equivalent to £135,950 in 2016) will last her a lifetime, whereas Sharp thinks that nothing less than £5,000 (equivalent to £339,876 in 2016) a year would be sufficient. Sharp's selfishness is highlighted when her husband is preparing to leave on the Waterloo campaign, she is more concerned that he has protected her income in case he is killed than over the risk to his life. Likewise, her subsequent attempt at appearing sorrowful at his departure is unrealistic to both her husband and the reader. The only time the reader sees her crying for real, rather than for an ulterior motive, is when she discovers that she could have married Crawley and that he inherited a fortune, rather than, as she did, his son, whose fortunes were far less prosperous. "Her financial gains are always achieved through the exploitation of the affections of others", wrote Knoepflmacher; Sharp understood, very early on, that sentiment is a profitable commodity and one to be used and disposed of when circumstances demanded it.
Sharp knows what an English lady should look like, and her impersonation is impeccable: "dressed in white, with bare shoulders as white as snow—the picture of youth, unprotected innocence and humble virgin simplicity". She understands the power that a fashionable appearance brings; "and revels in it", says Montz; thus she deliberately stages tableaux and parlour games in order to take centre stage, and as an excuse to dress even more flamboyantly Her English companions consider her obsession with fashionable clothes the product of her French blood. Clothes, though, for Sharp, are an essential tool; they enable her to blend in with her upper-class associates. Sharp's "desire for fashion and worldliness" is in tune with the snobbish affectations—which she emulates—and hypocrisy of Victorian England, which she identifies immediately She is, however, sufficiently socially adaptable as to be able to blend in with the Bohemians she later meets in Germany.
Educated at Miss Pinkerton's Academy, Sharp was an orphan. With no parents to guide her, either towards a good marriage or a career, she set out on her own to take what she could get from life. Her opening scene has her leaving the academy in a coach and throwing her copy of Johnson's Dictionary—given her by Miss Pinkerton—out of the window as she goes. At this point, hers is a traditional Burneyean entrance to the adult world. She starts on her career with the degenerate English gentry, and moves in with Sir Pitt Crawley and his wife as a companion to Mrs Crawley. Sharp was not satisfied, and saw herself as capable of far greater things: "in her imagination...the princess de jure is only the governess de facto". Sharp ends up in a relationship with Crawley. He has been described by Roger B. Henkle as "rascally, wenching, brawling...drinks to all hours with Horrocks the Butler and smells of the stables". She uses her education, however, and makes herself indispensable to Crawley by doing his accounts and other assorted paperwork that he is by now unable to do. Partly because of his reliance on her, he proposes marriage. She soon, however, realises the limitations of Crawley's position, and moves out.[note 5]
She successfully inserts herself in the British ruling class with almost nobody noticing. When she first meets Mr Sedley, she tells him her story, of her penniless orphanhood and he gives her gifts; the only character who ever sees through her well-to-do English facade is Old Dobbin, who says to himself, "what a humbug that woman is!" Sharpe's debut is at the 15 June Brussels Ball which celebrates the departure of the army once again to France, where the exiled Napoleon has returned to France and raised an army. The Ball is the perfect opportunity for Sharp to dress up in her finest, offset against the glamour of a military campaign and the presence of an entire officer corp. Compared to Amelia Sedley—whose own appearance there is described as being an abject failure—Sharp's "debut was, on the contrary, very brilliant. She arrived very late. Her face was radiant; her dress perfection". However, she had no means of transport, and eventually only manages to travel by simpering to the owner of the only carriage available and flattering him over "the courage he does not possess". In Brussels, everyone is panicking due to the proximity of Napoleon's army and the unexpected arrival of the French King, Louis XVIII of France into Brussels exile, although Sharp's main interest is in humiliating her Amelia at the Ball over the—in Sharp's eyes—poor quality gown.
Jos wants to propose to Sharp, but he loses his nerve and subsequently disappears—escaping back to Calcutta—and by the time he eventually does, comments Knoepflmacher, "both Becky Sharp and our attitude toward her have moved on". Meanwhile, for Sharp, "he has become her last straw, not her first". Rawdon and Sharp have secretly wed and have a son, also named Rawdon, but his role in her life is more in the manner of being a prop for Sharp to demonstrate her marital bliss. She makes her sitting room a salon—with "ice and coffee...the best there is in London"—where she can be surrounded by admirers, among whom she ranks men of a "small but elite crowd". It is no surprise, suggests Frazee, that Sharp eventually meets the King—who had been regent, now George IV—and in his "high presence Mrs Rawdon passed her examination, and as it were, took her degree in reputation" from him: the King, suggests Thackeray, had created the very conditions which allowed Sharp to flourish.
When her husband is arrested and held for a £100 debt, she writes to him from bed, insisting that she is doing everything in her power to release her "pauvre prisonnier". When he finally returns, only to find her—In flagrante delicto—with Lord Steyne, he complains that she has not left him even £100 to take with him. Sharp was not sleeping with Steyne, however; rather, she reckoned that she needed what she calls a "moral sheepdog", and that that was to be Steyne. Rowdon was mistaken: she was further ingratiating herself with him in an attempt at reaching the pinnacle of English society.
Sharpe finishes her days self-styling herself the Lady Crawley, a demi-mondaine living in penury in Curzon Street.[note 6] Lisa Jadwin has described the book as ending "on a note of malignant irresolution". Sharp's fate is to some degree ambiguous, and it is possible that Thackeray pastiches the classic Victorian novel's denoument in which the heroine makes a "death-in-life renunciation of worldly pleasures"—or the guise of one.
Amanda Sedley's husband, George Osborne, wants to seduce Sharp: he too fails to see through Sharp's projected image—"blinded by Becky's constructed self". Sharp clearly has sexual misadventures", but Thackeray never makes the connection between Sharp's sexual relationships and rise in social status explicit. For Sharp, sexuality and femininity are primarily tools with which to improve her social and financial position in both the short- and long-term. She is unmotivated, says Claudia Nelson, "by either heart or libido". Sharp herself comments, early in the book that "she never had been a girl...she had been a woman since she was eight years old." Any capacity for love she does possess is narcissistic, and similarly, she puts her financial and social advancement before motherhood.
Victorian literature during this period was still somewhat orientated towards "young ladies literature" where the readership was morally sensitive. Thackeray took a degree of risk in presenting a character such as Sharp, says Michael Schmidt, but he remained within boundaries, and whilst he was satirical, he broke no taboos. Sharp, then, was a new phenomena in Victorian fiction, which until Vanity Fair knew only of insipid heroines bound by convention or Tobias Smollett's grotesques. Amelia herself was one of the former, but Sharp was an original creation. Sharp has been called a "love to hate her and hate to love her" character, and this was radically different from previous representations of young women in literature. Thackeray has been described as "radical", in not only making his heroine(s) female but in making one of them both conventionally wicked in character but also sympathetic to the audience.
Sharp, in how she intrudes her life into that of others has been compared by one scholar to other Victorian literary characters. Both Joseph Conrad's Mr Vladmir in The Secret Agent, and in a comic rather than serious setting, Trollope's Mr Slope in Barchester Towers play similar roles. In a modern sense what made her dangerous to contemporary eyes was her ambition; women did not, in nineteenth-century England, climb the social ladder—at least, not obviously. The fact that Sharp survives in spite of her moral ambiguity indicates that Thackeray believed society was no longer able to cure wrongdoing; she was, says Hughes, "a measure of how debased society had come". Sharp's machinations can only work within the world of Vanity Fair—and Victorian society more broadly—because vanity and artificiality make it susceptible to her. Another plot device favoured by Victorian writers was that of children playing adult roles in society, and vice versa,[note 7] and Sharp's comment that she had not been a girl since she was eight years' old has led to her being identified as one such "child-woman".
Whether a heroine or an anti-heroine, it was the first major novel to have a governess as its main character. They had always been in the background, but Sharp was the first time a governess' ambitions to break out of her limited society were placed centre stage. Sharp's orphan status reflected a common theme in writers of the period; as Kathryn Hughes notes, for Emily Morton from Amy Herbert, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Jane Fairfax from Emma, their positions as orphans are central to the books' subsequent plots. Similarly central are their roles as governesses, but whereas for Emily and the two Janes it symbolised class distinctions and the gap between the governess and her employers, for Sharp it was a means of role reversal. Unlike Jane Eyre, however, Sharp is aware of the ways of the world from a very young age. Henkle suggests that Sharp, with her carefree and radical approach to social barriers, is symbolic of the change that Victorian society was undergoing in the mid-19th century. There was greater fluidity than ever before as a result of the massively increased wealth among the middle class as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and this fluidity allowed the courtesan to flourish in the Regency era.[note 8]
The events portrayed in Vanity Fair are described by a narrator, but the narrator is uninterested in Sharp's thoughts, only her acts. For example, when she goes to bed wondering whether Jos will call on her the next morning, the very next sentence informs us that he did. What Sharp thought, in the meantime, is deemed irrelevant to the reader's enjoyment and understanding of the novel. However, although the Narrator repeatedly draws attention to Sharp's immoralities, he does recognise that her behaviour reflects the hypocrisy of the world—"that has, perhaps, no particular objection to vice, but an insuperable repugnance to hearing vice called by its proper name". Wrote Montz, "Becky Sharp is artificial because she chooses to be so: the reader never sees any sign that there is a real Becky beneath the facade of the performer, the flirtatious lover, the good wife, the social climber, the capricious friend". Such women as Sharp, wrote Frazee, contributed "nearly as much to the pungent flavour of the period as did the regent himself".
Margaret Atwood has praised Sharp as a character, writing how she "makes no pretensions to goodness. She is wicked, she enjoys being wicked, and she does it out of vanity and her own profit, tricking and deluding English society in the process". She compares Sharp to Edith Wharton's Undine Spragg in The Custom of the Country: both live on their wits "and use men as ambulatory bank accounts", although the latter did not have the spirit or sense of humour that Sharp is portrayed with. More personally, suggests Henkle, to Thackeray himself she represented the power of the artist and the writer. Her entire career, says F. M. Salter, is "one supreme irony", and Patricia Marks suggested that, although a rounded character, it remained the case that "Becky is nothing without her finery", and compared with whom, the other characters appear "tattered".
Thackeray personally disapproved of Sharp's behaviour, and contemporaries word have understood how, from Sharp's actions, she was a bad woman. However, their judgement would be based as much on actual expectations of real social morality as on what they read in Thackeray's pages. More, that they thought she was bad need not have meant they were necessarily unsympathetic. Thackeray himself compared Sharp's career as "resembling the slitherings of a mermaid", and Harold Bloom says that she is enough of a character to make her fundamentally likeable, to the extent that "any reader who does not like Becky is almost certainly not very likeable herself or himself". Poet Dorothy Parker—herself orphaned at age nine—"strongly identified" with Sharp, and effectively treating her as a role model. Marion Meade, in her biography of Parker, says Sharp became an alter ego, and that it was from her that Parker learnt "the rules of the game". To Eva M. Dadlez, too, Sharp is a character to be admired, particularly her intelligence—which is better than any of the other characters—her overcoming a difficult childhood, and ultimately "her talent to survive disasters". She also notes that Sharp looks better when the general unprincipled foolishness of the rest of the cast is taken into account.
Thackeray's character had made a strong impression on contemporaries. Elizabeth Browning's protagonist of Aurora Leigh (1856), Marian Erle is a similar character to Sharp. In 1872 The Spectator reviewed Anthony Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds and made an unfavourable comparison between Trollope's main female lead, Lady Eustace, with Becky Sharp. The reviewer wrote how "we had supposed that in Lady Eustace we were to have Mr Trollope's equivalent for Thackeray's 'Becky Sharp’, but we hardly think that we have got it; or if we have, Mr Trollope's equivalent for Thackeray's 'Becky Sharp' is but a poor one." Henry James called Sharp an "epic governess" of literature. In 1848, writing in The Spectator, R. S. Rintoul wrote
Rebecca Crawley (formerly Sharp) is the principal person in the book, with whom nearly all the others are connected: and a very wonderfully drawn picture she is, as a woman scheming for self-advancement, without either heart or principle, yet with a constitutional vivacity and a readiness to please, that saves her from the contempt or disgust she deserves. As a creation or character, we know not where Rebecca can be matched in pose fiction.
In the 21st-century, Sharp's character has been used in diverse ways. For example, it has been the subject of a book on business ethics, and conversely a work of fiction by Sarra Manning transposes her life and adventures onto a contemporary woman.
According to Oscar Wilde, he once asked a female friend of Thackery's whether Sharp had any real-life basis. Apparently, he says, the character was purely fictional, although her general character was suggested to Thackeray by a governess in Kensington Square, who was a companion to a wealthy but irascible elderly woman.
In an unpublished 1911 essay, novelist Charles Reade used the accepted image of Sharp to illustrate Madame du Barry's assertion that the most foolish woman can trick a man, by using the education that he has paid for her to have against him. Says Reade, that had she known of Thackeray's creation, du Barry would have asserted "the wisest of the sex is a Becky Sharp".  It has in turn been suggested that du Barry was a direct model for Thackery's Sharp, with both women being "careless beauties cursed with ambition beyond reason, who venture into activities beyond morals". Another possible model for Sharp from the same era suggested Andrew Lang, may be Jeanne de Valois, notorious for her involvement in the affair of the Diamond Necklace. Like de Valois, Sharp had a childhood of financial hardship, and Sharp's later boast of how she was related to the French noble family of de Montmorency could have been based on de Valois' own claims to have French royal blood in her veins.
Gordon Ray has noted that the character of Sharp had no single source; rather, it was the combination of aspects of different women that Thackeray had observed and read about. Other possible models for the Sharp character have been suggested as Mary Anne Clarke and Harriette Wilson, two of the most well known English courtesans of the Regency era. Clarke was originally Mistress of the Regent's brother, the Duke of York, and in 1809 had been at the centre of a scandal in which she acknowledged selling officers' commissions with the duke's knowledge; the latter was Commander-in-chief and subsequently resigned. She attempted to publish her memoirs on the matter; they were suppressed, but she received a £10,000 payment and an annuity from the King. Harriette Wilson—decsribed by Walter Scott as having "lived with half the gay world at hack and manger"—also published her memoirs. She too had profited from her liaisons with important society men, and had become mistress to the Earl of Craven at the age of 15; her memoirs went through over 30 editions in their year of publication. Says Frazee, "these two most celebrated courtesans of the Regency provided Thackeray with material which, when added to that he acquired from first-hand knowledge of women like Becky and from his reading of fiction" enabled him to create a realistic Regency courtesan in Sharp.
In 1899, Langdon Mitchell's production toured the United States with Minnie Maddern Fiske as Sharp, a role Fiske received critical praise for. The following year his production was plagiarised by Gertrude Coghlan's Delcher & Hennessy theatre company, with herself in the lead role, until Mitchell sued. The first film version of Vanity Fair was released in 1915. This was a silent movie directed by Charles Brabin and also starring Fiske in the main role. Another silent version was made and released in Britan seven years later. This was directed by Walter Courtney Rowden and starred Kyrie Bellew. The following year saw another silent production released by Samuel Goldwyn; this was directed by Hugo Ballin and starred his wife, Mabel as Sharp. The film is now considered lost. The first spoken word release was Chester M. Franklin's 1932 film of Vanity Fair had Sharp played by Myrna Loy; her marriage scene was filmed in Boston's Louisburg Square, representing Russell Square in London.
Andrew Davies' wrote the screenplay of a BBC television drama of Vanity Fair which was screened in 1998; Natasha Little played Rebecca Sharp. Little won the Best Actress in a Drama Series category in the following year's Biarritz International Television Festival as well as a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role as well.[note 9] Olivia Cooke played Sharp in a 2018 television series, screened on ITV over seven episodes.
- The novel was first published in 12 separate parts over the course of the year.
- Amy Montz has commented how, in Victorian England, "fashion was deemed dangerous because it was both artistic and sexually aware" and, to men, hinted at "secret initiations and rites".
- Although to the English in the novel, her English ancestry is invisible; to them, she is wholly a Frenchwoman.
- Thackeray had himself been born in Calcutta. Later, he suggests that Jo Sedleys income is around £4,800 annually: "hardly the 'enormity' that the British public, including Becky Sharp, had come to associate with the nabob".
- Sharp describes Crawley caustically in a letter to Amelia: "Sir Pitt is not what we silly girls, when we used to read Cecilia at Chiswick, imagined a baronet must have been. Anything, indeed, less like Lord Orville cannot be imagined. Fancy an old, stumpy, short, vulgar, and very dirty man, in old clothes and shabby old gaiters, who smokes a horrid pipe, and cooks his own horrid supper in a saucepan. He speaks with a country accent, and swore a great deal at the old charwoman."
- This is an example, says Rosemarie Bodenheimer, of how the Victorian novelist used London location to indicate the class status of their characters. Their middle-class readership would recognize from her Curzon Street address that her fortunes were on the wane; meanwhile, the fact that Miss Crawley has a house in Park Lane indicates her affluence, while the Sedleys—now in economic decline—have to move first to the middle-class Russell Square and then, eventually to suburban Fulham ("entirely off the social map", comments Bodenheimer).
- Other examples are Weena, from H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, a woman who appears as "doll-like" as a girl; in T. F. Anstey's novel Vice Versa, a boy and his father accidentally swap bodies; and the eponymous heroine of George Knight's Sapphira of the Stage in 1896.
- Courtesans during the Regency, said Frazee, "could attain a social position rivalling women more legitimately associated with the great men of the period. She might have a box at the opera, whence young men of position would make pilgrimages from the universities to receive an introduction", while R. J. White said that these boxes were the equivalent of "shop windows for their charms". Courtesans held annual balls known as "the Ball of the Fashionable Impures" or the "Cyprians’ Ball" in the Argyle Rooms. Frazee suggests that, to the mid-Victorian reader, "the Regency courtesan must have seemed...a characteristic embodiment of a radically different worls".
- Natasha Little also went on to play the role of Lady Jane Crawley in Mira Nair's 2004 film.
- Underwood 2010, p. 70.
- Montz 2015, p. 103.
- Montz 2015, p. 108.
- Hughes 1993, p. 1.
- Ousby 1996, p. 404.
- Henkle 1980, p. 18.
- Bloom 2004, p. 1.
- Neil 2004, p. 188.
- Moran 2006, p. 145.
- Neil 2004, p. 189.
- Frazee 1998, p. 242 n.2.
- Beckson 1982, p. 128 n.1.
- Heiler 2010, p. 59.
- Schmidt 2014, p. 307.
- Montz 2015, p. 110.
- Hedgecock 2008, p. 8.
- de Monbron 2015, p. 12.
- Montz 2015, p. 121 n.3.
- Nelson 2012, p. 122.
- Hedgecock 2008, p. 141.
- Wicks 1989, p. 101.
- Henkle 1980, p. 88.
- Knoepflmacher 1973, p. 69.
- Bloom 2004, p. 2.
- Meade 1988, p. 33.
- Frazee 1998, p. 236.
- Forster 1927, p. 56.
- Kent 2015, p. 60.
- Knoepflmacher 1973, p. 72—73.
- Knoepflmacher 1973, p. 73.
- Knoepflmacher 1973, p. 72.
- Knoepflmacher 1973, p. 76.
- Elam 1993, p. 49.
- Montz 2015, p. 109.
- Showalter 1995, p. 93.
- Henkle 1980, p. 89.
- Siebenschuh 1987, p. 133.
- Moler 1972, p. 176.
- Moler 1972, p. 171.
- Henkle 1980, p. 86.
- Frazee 1998, p. 235.
- Montz 2015, p. 111.
- Knoepflmacher 1973, p. 6.
- Brantlinger 1990, p. 77.
- Hedgecock 2008, p. 106.
- Frazee 1998, p. 232.
- Knoepflmacher 1973, p. 60.
- Knoepflmacher 1973, p. 75.
- Frazee 1998, p. 237.
- Brown 2004, p. 75.
- Bodenheimer 2011, p. 142.
- Booth 1993, p. 35.
- Booth 1993, p. 13.
- Nelson 2012, p. 135.
- Nelson 2012, p. 3.
- Hedgecock 2008, p. 206.
- Schmidt 2014, p. 295.
- Frazee 1998, p. 228.
- Knoepflmacher 1973, p. 25.
- Hughes 1993, p. 7.
- Heiler 2010, p. 60.
- Nelson 2012, p. 123.
- Nelson 2012, p. 7.
- Hughes 1993, pp. 7–8.
- Moya 2010, p. 77.
- Frazee 1998, p. 231.
- White 1963, p. 79.
- Cohn 1978, p. 21.
- Atwood 2009, p. 130.
- Showalter 1995, p. 92.
- Salter 1971, p. 157.
- Marks 1996, p. 82.
- Underwood 2010, p. 69.
- Cardwell 2005, p. 133.
- Meade 1988, p. 19.
- Pettit 2000, p. 123.
- Day 2004, p. xiv.
- Meade 1988, p. 32.
- Dadlez 1997, p. 94.
- Smalley 1969, p. 372.
- El-Rayess 2014, p. 79.
- Frazee 1998, p. 227.
- Slegers 2018, pp. 25–26.
- Cunningham 2018.
- Beckson 1982, p. 187.
- Reade 2006, p. 1.
- Scott 1974, p. 240.
- Lang 1904, p. 44.
- Frazee 1998, p. 226.
- Frazee 1998, p. 233.
- Frazee 1998, p. 234.
- Clark 1941, p. 200.
- AFI 2017.
- BFI 2018.
- PAD 2017.
- Goodman 2003, p. 47.
- Cardwell 2005, pp. 132–133.
- Saner 2018.
- AFI (2017). "Vanity Fair (1915)". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2018-10-27. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
- Atwood, M. (2009). Curious Pursuits: Occasional Writing. London: Virago. ISBN 978-1-84408-150-9.
- Beckson, K. (1982). Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s: An Anthology of British Poetry and Prose. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-61373-435-3.
- BFI (2018). "Vanity Fair (1922)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2018-10-27. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
- Bloom, H. (2004). "Introduction". In Bloom H. The Victorian Novel. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing. pp. 1–46. ISBN 978-0-79107-678-1.
- Bodenheimer, R. (2011). "London in the Victorian Novel". In Manley, L. The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of London. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 142–159. ISBN 978-0-52189-752-5.
- Booth, A (1993). Famous Last Words: Changes in Gender and Narrative Closure. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0-81391-437-4.
- Brantlinger, P. (1990). Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-80146-702-8.
- Brown, J. P. (2004). "Class and Money". In Bloom, H. The Victorian Novel. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing. pp. 69–90. ISBN 978-0-79107-678-1.
- Cardwell, S. (2005). Andrew Davies. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-71906-492-0.
- Clark, B. H. (1941). America's Lost Plays: Monte Cristo, by C. Fechter. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. OCLC 7043711.
- Cohn, D. (1978). Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-10156-9.
- Cunningham, A. (10 September 2018). "Thackeray's bold Becky Sharp gets a thoroughly modern makeover". Irish Independent. OCLC 1035156580. Archived from the original on 2018-10-27. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
- Dadlez, E. M. (1997). What's Hecuba to Him?: Fictional Events and Actual Emotions. Philadelphia: Penn State Press. ISBN 978-0-271-03981-7.
- Elam, D. (1993). "White Narratorlogy: Gender and Reference in Wilkie Collin's The Woman in White". In Davis, L. Virginal Sexuality and Textuality in Victorian Literature. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. pp. 49 64. ISBN 978-0-79141-284-8.
- Day, B. (2004). Dorothy Parker in Her Own Words. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58979-071-1.
- de Monbron, F. (2015). "Introduction". In Langille É. Fougeret de Monbron, 'Margot la ravaudeuse'. Cambridge: MHRA. pp. 1 12. ISBN 978-1-78188-189-7.
- El-Rayess, M. (2014). Henry James and the Culture of Consumption. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-10703-905-6.
- Forster, E. M. (1927). Aspects of the Novel. London: Arnold &co. OCLC 799138510.
- Frazee, J. P. (1998). "The Creation of Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair". Dickens Studies Annual. 27: 227–244. OCLC 490893253.
- Goodman, P. S. (2003). The Garden Squares of Boston. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England. ISBN 978-1-58465-298-4.
- Hedgecock, J. (2008). The Femme Fatale in Victorian Literature: The Danger and the Sexual Threat. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press. ISBN 978-1-60497-518-5.
- Heiler, L. (2010). "Against Censorship: Literature, TRansgression and Taboo from a Diachronic Perspective". In Horlacher, S.; Glomb, S.; Heiler, L. Taboo and Transgression in British Literature from the Renaissance to the Present. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 49 74. ISBN 978-0-23010-599-7.
- Henkle, R. B. (1980). Comedy and Culture: England 1820-1900. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-40085-792-0.
- Hughes, K. (1993). The Victorian Governess. London: A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-85285-002-9.
- Kent, E. (2015). Corporate Character: Representing Imperial Power in British India, 1786-1901. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-1-44261-702-5.
- Knoepflmacher, U. C. (1973). Laughter and Despair: Readings in Ten Novels of the Victorian Era (1st ppbk ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-52002-352-9.
- Lang, A. (1904). Historical Mysteries. London: Smith, Elder, & Co. OCLC 561760716.
- Marks, P. (1996). ""mon Pauvre Prisonnier": Becky Sharp and the Triumph of Napoleon". Studies in the Novel. 28: 76–92. OCLC 664601687.
- Meade, M. (1988). Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?. London: Random House. ISBN 978-1-10146-219-5.
- Moler, K. L. (1972). "Evelina in Vanity Fair: Becky Sharp and Her Patrician Heroes". Nineteenth-Century Fiction. 27: 171–181. OCLC 311095510.
- Montz, A. L. (2015). "William Makepeace Thackery's Fashionable Humbugs: Consuming National Distinctions of Dress in Vanity Fair". In Joslin, K.; Wardrop, D. Crossings in Text and Textile. Lebanon, NH: University of New Hampshire Press. pp. 103–124. ISBN 978-1-61168-642-5.
- Moran, M. (2006). Victorian Literature and Culture. London: A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-44116-987-7.
- Moya, A. (2010). "The Politics of Re-presenting "Vanity Fair": Mira Nair's Becky Sharp / Las políticas de la re-presentación en La feria de las vanidades: Becky Sharp en la producción de Mira Nair". Atlantis. 32: 73–87. OCLC 5791861729.
- Neil, S. D. (2004). "London by Gaslight". In Bloom, H. The Victorian Novel. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing. pp. 171–200. ISBN 978-0-79107-678-1.
- Nelson, C. (2012). Precocious Children and Childish Adults: Age Inversion in Victorian Literature. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press. ISBN 978-1-42140-534-6.
- Ousby, I. (1996). The Cambridge Paperback Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-52143-627-4.
- PAD (2017). "Vanity Fair / Hugo Ballin [motion picture]". Library of Cogress. Performing Arts Dtabase. Archived from the original on 2018-10-27. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
- Pettit, R. S. (2000). A Gendered Collision: Sentimentalism and Modernism in Dorothy Parker's Poetry and Fiction. Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 978-0-83863-818-7.
- Reade, C. (2006). "Androgynism; or, Woman Playing at Man". In Bauer, H. Women & Cross Dressing 1800-19. London: Routledge. pp. 1–44. ISBN 978-1-13435-109-1.
- Salter, F. M. (1971). The Art of Writing. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing. ISBN 978-1-57383-292-2.
- Saner, E. (2 September 2018). "Vanity Fair review – this adaptation fizzes with all the energy of its social-climbing heroine". The Guardian. OCLC 302341888. Archived from the original on 2018-10-27. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
- Schmidt, M. (12 May 2014). The Novel: A Biography. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-67472-473-0.
- Scott, O. J. (1974). Robespierre: The Voice of Virtue (1st ed.). New York, NY: Mason and Lipscomb. ISBN 978-1-41281-822-3.
- Slegers, R. (2018). Adam Smith’s Moral Sentiments in Vanity Fair: Lessons in Business from Becky Sharp. Cham: Springer. ISBN 978-3-31998-730-9.
- Showalter, E. (1995). Bell, M., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 87–98. ISBN 978-0-52148-513-5.
- Siebenschuh, W. R. (1987). "Johnson's Lives and Modern Students". In Wheeler, D. Domestick Privacies Samuel Johnson and the Art of Biography. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 133–151. ISBN 9780813116129.
- Smalley, D. (1969). Anthony Trollope: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge. OCLC 710014131.
- Underwood, D. (2010). Journalism and the Novel: Truth and Fiction, 1700-2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-52118-754-1.
- White, R. J. (1963). Life in Regency England. London: B.T. Batsford. OCLC 930214577.
- Wicks, U. (1989). Picaresque Narrative, Picaresque Fictions: A Theory and Research Guide. London: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-31324-934-1.