by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Ambition Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[George] was a little wild: how many young men are; and don't girls like a rake better than a milksop? He hadn't sown his wild oats as yet, but he would soon: [...] his allowance, with Amelia's settlement, would enable them to take a snug place in the country somewhere, in a good sporting neighbourhood; and he would hunt a little, and farm a little; and they would be very happy. As for remaining in the army as a married man, that was impossible [...] He didn't care for himself--not he; but his dear little girl should take the place in society to which, as his wife, she was entitled: and to these proposals you may be sure she acceded, as she would to any other from the same author. Holding this kind of conversation, and building numberless castles in the air (which Amelia adorned with all sorts of flower-gardens, rustic walks, country churches, Sunday schools, and the like; while George had his mind's eye directed to the stables, the kennel, and the cellar), this young pair passed away a couple of hours very pleasantly; (13.29-30)
And by comparison, here are Amelia's dreams, her "castles in the air." Pretty close to Becky's, right? Although of course the difference is that Amelia really is a purely romantic idealist, and her ambitions for George have no basis in reality at all. Becky understands everyone, particularly herself. Amelia meanwhile is totally deluded about life in general, and George and herself in particular.
"A pretty boy, indeed. Haven't I heard of your doings, sir, with Lord Tarquin, Captain Crawley of the Guards, the Honourable Mr. Deuceace and that set. Have a care sir, have a care."
The old gentleman [Mr. Osborne] pronounced these aristocratic names with the greatest gusto. Whenever he met a great man he grovelled before him, and my-lorded him as only a free-born Briton can do. He came home and looked out his history in the Peerage: he introduced his name into his daily conversation; he bragged about his Lordship to his daughters. He fell down prostrate and basked in him as a Neapolitan beggar does in the sun. [...] "You shan't want, sir. The British merchant's son shan't want, sir. My guineas are as good as theirs, George, my boy; and I don't grudge 'em. Call on Mr. Chopper as you go through the City to-morrow; he'll have something for you. I don't grudge money when I know you're in good society, because I know that good society can never go wrong. There's no pride in me. I was a humbly born man--but you have had advantages. Make a good use of 'em. Mix with the young nobility. There's many of 'em who can't spend a dollar to your guinea, my boy. (13.59-63)
Almost every sentence here is an ironic joke. Deuceace's name says as much as we need to know about his favorite pastime, and we already know all about Captain Crawley and his gambling and dueling. These are the exemplars of "good society" that Osborne worships like the sun because they can "never go wrong." Um, OK, right. But of course, it makes sense that if these are the true nobility, George should be able to buy himself into their company without a problem. In a way, Osborne's ambition is a pretty easy one to fulfill, if this is the kind of gentleman he wants his son to become.
Rebecca gave way to some very sincere and touching regrets that a piece of marvellous good fortune should have been so near her, and she actually obliged to decline it. In this natural emotion every properly regulated mind will certainly share. What good mother is there that would not commiserate a penniless spinster, who might have been my lady, and have shared four thousand a year? What well-bred young person is there in all Vanity Fair, who will not feel for a hard-working, ingenious, meritorious girl, who gets such an honourable, advantageous, provoking offer, just at the very moment when it is out of her power to accept it? I am sure our friend Becky's disappointment deserves and will command every sympathy [...] surely, surely we may respect the agonies of a young woman who has lost the opportunity of becoming a baronet's wife. (15.44-47)
Don't you wonder what Becky would have done as Sir Pitt's wife? She's about as good an estate manager as young Pitt will become. Maybe she could really have become an excellent country lady. It's hard not to feel betrayed as a reader that this piece of wish-fulfillment will never happen.