Thackeray was only 19 years old when he set out, in 1830, to see Germany for himself. He was comfortably off, just down from Cambridge, where he had strong family connections in the university and many friends among scions of the middle class and gentry. It was this class, to which he himself belonged, that he would both criticize for its failings and champion for what he thought best in its culture. It was of some importance for his attitudes and perspectives that, despite his ‘cockney’ credentials, he was not, in fact, born on British soil. He first saw the light of day in an outpost of the British Empire, Calcutta, where he was born, on 18 July 1811, as the son of a high official in the Anglo-Indian civil service. He was later to speak of Calcutta as his ‘native city’, which he hoped, one day, to revisit. His father died when he was just 5 years old, and his strong-minded mother—who soon afterwards took an old flame, Major Carmichael-Smyth, as second husband—sent him to England, to be educated first at a dreadful preparatory school, and then at a public school near Smithfield, Charterhouse, where he spent the years 1822 to 1828 learning the Latin classics under a brutal headmaster, but also making many friends, reading quietly by himself, and practising a skill at drawing in which he hoped, at one time, to perfect himself as a professional artist.