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William (Thomas) Beckford

(1760-1844), Writer; owner of enslaved people

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue Entry

Sitter in 3 portraits
Novelist, collector and patron of the arts, William Beckford was the son of a famous Lord Mayor of London and heir to a West Indian slave trade fortune that made him one of the richest men in England. At the height of his wealth, Beckford owned fourteen plantations across Jamaica. Declining sugar prices and his own financial mismanagement meant that by the time of the abolition of the slave trade in 1833 he owned just four, receiving compensation for the 660 enslaved Africans who worked them. Beckford was also known for his Oriental-Gothic horror novel Vathek, which he wrote aged 22, and for his extravagant lifestyle and Gothic residence Fonthill Abbey, with its 300 foot tower, which he built on his estate near Salisbury.

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William (Thomas) Beckford, by J. Singleton, published by  John Sewell, after  P. Sauvage - NPG D14872

William (Thomas) Beckford

by J. Singleton, published by John Sewell, after P. Sauvage
stipple engraving, published 1 October 1797
NPG D14872

William (Thomas) Beckford, by Frederick Bromley, published by  Henry Graves & Co, after  Sir Joshua Reynolds - NPG D691

William (Thomas) Beckford

by Frederick Bromley, published by Henry Graves & Co, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
mezzotint, published 1862 (1782)
NPG D691

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