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William (Thomas) Beckford

(1760-1844), Writer and slave owner

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue Entry

Sitter in 3 portraits
William Thomas Beckfords family made their vast wealth through owning sugar plantations in the West Indies. He inherited this fortune in 1781 and celebrated by throwing a lavish party. He was described as 'England’s wealthiest son.' He lived a privileged life - he was privately educated, trained in music, undertook the Grand Tour, wrote books and collected art. In 1784 he was accused of homosexuality and attacked in the press. The affair led to social exclusion and he was to spend much of his life either exiled abroad or at his home, Fonthill Abbey. His extravagance together with falling sugar prices led to the sale of some of his Jamaica plantations, his art collection and Fonthill.

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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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