William Beckford

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Beckford, William,

1760–1844, English author. A wealthy dilettante, Beckford had a great desire to ascend to the nobility. Unfortunately his erratic and strange behavior often worked against his ambitions. About 1796 he built in Wiltshire an extravagant Gothic castle, Fonthill Abbey, where he lived in mysterious seclusion and earned himself the reputation of an eccentric. Although not deeply interested in politics, he served in the House of Commons from 1784 to 1794 and from 1806 to 1820. Beckford is chiefly remembered today for the Gothic romance Vathek, a bizarre tale about the adventures of the shockingly cruel Caliph Vathek. The book was written in French but was first published (1786) in English translation. He was also the author of several books of travel and two burlesques on the sentimental novels of his day, The Elegant Enthusiast (1796) and Azemia (1797).


See biography by P. Summers (1966).

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William Beckford was sent to Westminster School in London at the age of ten.
But even this vogue, easily identifiable in William Beckford, Byron, Thomas Moore, and Goethe, cannot be simply detached from the interest taken in Gothic tales, pseudo-medieval idylls, visions of barbaric splendor and cruelty .
It is interesting that in the last of these lists he combined people from his own era like William Beckford, William Bankes, and Lord Byron, with Alexander the Great, the Emperor Hadrian, and William Shakespeare.
There, as a guest of the eccentric millionaire William Beckford, he was commissioned to produce five watercolour views of the famously Romantic building.
William Beckford (1759-1844) on the other hand, was basically bizarre.
Fancy exile, I found out, since he stayed with the unmarried William Beckford, a British millionaire and author of the justly forgotten Gothic novel Vathek.
The eccentric collector William Beckford (1760-1844) was known as `England's wealthiest son'.
What did Jane Austen know about the ideas that worried such writers as William Beckford, William Godwin, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, and Sydney Smith?
Mirella Billi's essay, "Il viaggio esotico-artistico di William Beckford," deals with a wealthy young Englishman of a later generation, embarking on his Grand Tour in 1780.
Shaffer explores the role of William Beckford in Romantic period representations of hell and Satan.
Our quotation is from William Beckford, Vathek, ed.
Outstanding amongst these, in terms of their reshaping of literary history, are Elinor Shaffer's study of William Beckford, who, as a proto-Romantic writer and a patron of the visual arts, helped to transform Milton's Satan to 'the Romantic figure of the damned soul', and Annette Cafarelli's essay on Radcliffe (the only female here represented), who is rightly seen as a popularizer of Miltonic themes and motifs, and thus as a more successful mediator between 'high' and 'low' culture than her male contemporaries, the Romantic poets.