Henry Esmond Author:William Thackeray Introduction by G. Robert Stange — The History of Henry Esmond is a historical novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, originally published in 1852. The book tells the story of the early life of Henry Esmond, a colonel in the service of Queen Anne of England. A typical example of Victorian historical novels, Thackeray's work of historical fiction t... more »ells its tale against the backdrop of late 17th- and early 18th-century England ? specifically, major events surrounding the English Restoration ? and utilizes characters both real (but dramatized) and imagined.
Using sporadically the first and third persons, Henry Esmond relates his own history in memoir fashion. The novel opens on Henry as a boy ? the supposedly illegitimate (and eventually orphaned) son of George, the third Viscount Castlewood, and cousin of the Jacobite fourth viscount, Francis, and his wife, the Lady Castlewood. These successors to the Castlewood estate and peerage, following the death of Henry's father, foster the boy, and he remains with them throughout his youth and early adulthood. As he comes of age he joins the unsuccessful campaign to restore James Francis Edward Stuart to the English throne, but eventually comes to accept the Protestant future of England. He falls in love with his cousin (daughter of his patron, Castlewood), Beatrix, but eventually marries his foster-mother (also his cousin, and Beatrix's mother), Rachel, Lady Castlewood. The novel closes on the couple's emigration to Virginia in 1718.