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Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
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Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray



BEFORE THE CURTAIN


As the manager of the Performance sits before the curtain on the
boards and looks into the Fair, a feeling of profound melancholy
comes over him in his survey of the bustling place. There is a great
quantity of eating and drinking, making love and jilting, laughing
and the contrary, smoking, cheating, fighting, dancing and fiddling;
there are bullies pushing about, bucks ogling the women, knaves
picking pockets, policemen on the look-out, quacks (OTHER quacks,
plague take them!) bawling in front of their booths, and yokels
looking up at the tinselled dancers and poor old rouged tumblers,
while the light-fingered folk are operating upon their pockets
behind. Yes, this is VANITY FAIR; not a moral place certainly; nor a
merry one, though very noisy. Look at the faces of the actors and
buffoons when they come off from their business; and Tom Fool
washing the paint off his cheeks before he sits down to dinner with
his wife and the little Jack Puddings behind the canvas. The
curtain will be up presently, and he will be turning over head and
heels, and crying, "How are you?"

A man with a reflective turn of mind, walking through an exhibition
of this sort, will not be oppressed, I take it, by his own or other
people's hilarity. An episode of humour or kindness touches and
amuses him here and there--a pretty child looking at a gingerbread
stall; a pretty girl blushing whilst her lover talks to her and