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William Thomas Beckford

William Thomas Beckford (September 29, 1759-May 2,1844) was an English novelist, art critic, travel writer and politician.

He was born in Fonthill,Wiltshire, in the manor house owned by his father, former Lord Mayor of London William Beckford. From him, William junior inherited, at the age of eleven, a large fortune which allowed him to indulge his interest in art and architecture, not to mention writing. Three years later he married the fourth Earl of Aboyne's daughter, Lady Margaret Gordon. Having studied under Sir William Chambers and Alexander Cozens, he travelled in Italy in 1782 and promptly wrote a book on the subject: Dreams, Waking Thoughts and Incidents (1783). Shortly afterwards came his best-known work, the fantasy novel Vathek, an Arabian Tale (1786). In 1793 he visited Portugal, where he lived for a while.

The opportunity of purchasing the complete library of Edward Gibbon gave Beckford the basis of his own library, and James Wyatt built Fonthill Abbey, in which this and the owner's art collection would be housed; it was completed in 1807. He entered parliament as member for Wells and later for Hindon, but mostly lived in seclusion, spending most of his father's wealth without adding to it, so that the great house he had built became a ruin. In 1822 he sold it and moved to Bath, where he built Lansdown Tower.

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