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Recollections of the late William Beckford of Fonthill, Wilts and Lansdown, Bath   By:

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Transcribed from the 1893 edition by David Price, email


The Manuscript of the following Letters, written by my Father, has been in my possession fifty years. He intended to publish it at the time of Mr. Beckford's death, in 1844, but delayed the execution of the work, and sixteen years afterwards was himself called to enter on the higher life of the spiritual world.

Mr. Beckford and my Father were kindred spirits, conversant with the same authors, had visited the same countries, and were both gifted with extraordinary memories. Mr. Beckford said that he had never met with a man possessed of such a memory as my Father; and many a time has my Father told me that he never met a man who possessed such a memory as Mr. Beckford.

If my Father had published the Reminiscences himself I think that much misconception in the public mind respecting the character of Mr. Beckford would have been prevented. For instance, I remember, when a child, being warned that this great man was an infidel. When he showed my Father the sarcophagus in which his body was to be placed, he remarked, "There shall I lie, Lansdown, until the trump of God shall rouse me on the Resurrection morn."


8 Lower East Hayes, Bath; July, 1893.


Bath, August 21, 1838.

MY DEAR CHARLOTTE, I have this day seen such an astonishing assemblage of works of art, so numerous and of so surprisingly rare a description that I am literally what Lord Byron calls "Dazzled and drunk with beauty." I feel so bewildered from beholding the rapid succession of some of the very finest productions of the great masters that the attempt to describe them seems an impossible task; however, I will make an effort.

The collection of which I speak is that of Mr. Beckford, at his house in Lansdown crescent. Besides all this I have this day been introduced to that extraordinary man, the author of "Vathek" and "Italy," the builder of Fonthill, the contemporary of the mighty and departed dead, the pupil of Mozart; in fact, to the formidable and inaccessible Vathek himself! I have many times passed the house, and longed to see its contents, and often have I wondered how a building with so plain and unostentatious an exterior could suit the reception of the works it contains, and the residence of so magnificent a personage.

I first called by appointment on his ingenious architect, Mr. Goodridge (to whom I am indebted for this distinguished favour), and he accompanied me to the house, which we reached at half past twelve o'clock. We were shown upstairs, passing many fine family pictures, and were ushered into the neat library, where Mr. Beckford was waiting to receive us. I confess I did at first feel somewhat embarrassed, but a lovely spaniel ran playfully towards us, licking our hands in the most affectionate and hospitable manner; "You are welcome" was the silent language. I assure you I judge much, and often truly, of the character of individuals from the deportment of their favourite dogs. I often find them exactly indicative of their master's disposition. When you are attacked by snarling, waspish curs is it at all wonderful if you find them an echo of the proprietor? But this beautiful animal reassured me, and gave me instantly a favourable idea of its master. My astonishment was great at the spaciousness of the room, which had in length a magnificent and palatial effect, nor did I immediately discover the cause of its apparent grandeur. It opens into the gallery built over the arch connecting the two houses, at the end of which an immense mirror reflects the two apartments. The effect is most illusive, nor should I have guessed the truth had I not seen the reflection of my own figure in the glass.

The library, which is the whole length of the first house, cannot be much less than fifty feet long... Continue reading book >>

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