Right of Reply: Andrew Davies

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The writer defends his adaptation of `Vanity Fair' against Philip Hensher's recent criticisms

IT'S A pity that Philip Hensher seems to know so little about either television or Vanity Fair. First, seven million is a remarkably good audience for a classic serial. Vanity Fair was never intended to be a ball-crushing ratings-chaser (though if it had been on ITV, I think the advertisers would have been rather thrilled with the audience profile).

As for his specific comments: Becky Sharp's kleptomania is a running joke through the novel, though you have to be a close reader to spot it - it's one of those "subtle" bits which Hensher talks about but apparently doesn't notice. So we got her hair right and her accent wrong, did we? Wrong on both counts. Becky is the child of a drunken drawing master and a chorus girl and grew up in Soho. Her accent indicates the gap between her starting-point and her aspirations, as the accents of Mr and Mrs Sedley and Mr Osborne indicate their insecure nouveau-riche status. (I'm amused by the way everyone identifies Becky' s accent as South London - there are so many amateur Professor Higginses about these days.) But her hair should be sandy at the opening of the novel (Thackeray keeps changing its colour) and Natasha Little is, strictly speaking, too beautiful for Becky. It just so happened that the best actress to audition was the prettiest. Funny no one complains about that.

The rest of the article consists of vague sneers and misquotes (though it was nice to hear from Queenie Leavis - that was a rave from the grave). I shouldn't complain, I guess. Such shabby hackery abounded in Thackeray's time. And it gave you the chance to print a nice big sexy photograph of Natasha as Becky. I don't begrudge your hitching your rickety wagon to our star.