William Beckford: a Bibliography
Published August 2008
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Patrons of architecture in the Georgian era rarely came in more exotic form than William Beckford. Among the very rich, it was perhaps not unusual to inherit a palatial mansion and to build follies in its grounds; but to have built a folly of a scale as vast as Fonthill Abbey, and to have lived in it and demolished the inherited mansion, is exceptional. And Beckford was exceptional in a variety of ways. Author of the Oriental Gothic romance of Vathek and of the scandalous Episodes of Vathek, impassioned collector (some twenty of his paintings are now in the National Gallery), shunned by Society and creator of a landscape garden around his Abbey that was arguably as influential as the Abbey itself, he rounded off his career in a form of retirement in Bath, only to build there a second tower which, if not as fabled as his first, has at least proved more long lasting.
Until now, the standard Beckford bibliography was a fine 1930 study by Guy Chapman that considered only lifetime editions of Beckford’s works. What we now have is a staggering 6,000 entries over some 380 pages, compiled by Jon Millington and published by the Beckford Society. It records contemporary reviews along with modern scholarship, posthumous editions, assessments of Beckford, accounts of the sales and varying fortunes of his collections and references to his life, varied achievements and the fortunes of his reputation, gathered together from a huge diversity of sources. Its range and depth are quite exceptional and this bibliography will be indispensable for anyone studying Beckford as well as guiding readers simply wanting more information or further reading. They too will put it down well rewarded.