The rogue in English literary tradition

From the introduction to a 1968 edition of Thackeray's Vanity Fair (1848), by J. I. M. Stewart:

It is not, of course, that [Becky Sharp] exists in a moral vacuum. We are moral beings as we regard her, and from the first we feel a play of sympathy and repulsion at work. But the rogue who has only his wits to rely on, and who practises successfully and with elan upon folly, has always held in literary tradition a licence which must spring ultimately from our deep racial respect for the cunning which has seen us through our struggle with so many powerful, dangerous and disagreeable creatures.

Han Solo is a contemporary example of a rogue, although of course he's less morally ambiguous than Becky Sharp. He's a smuggler and outlaw who's recruited to a noble cause.

When I first came across this passage, I assumed Stewart was talking in poetic terms about England's struggles with Spain under the Hapsburgs and France under Louis XIV and Napoleon. On reflection, though, he's probably talking about lions, tigers, and bears.