William (Thomas) Beckford(1760-1844), Writer and slave owner
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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