William Beckford's Fonthill

Architecture, Landscape and the Arts

Robert J. Gemmett

An examination of William Beckford's building, landscaping and collecting that led to the remarkable public interest in Fonthill Abbey.
Date Published :
April 2016
Publisher :
Fonthill Media
Illustration :
Color and B&W
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781781554838
Pages : 336
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock


Vilified publicly as a pedophile, William Beckford sought refuge in his Fonthill estate where he amassed works of art fit for a king. He resided initially in a magnificent house called Fonthill Splendens, but then ordered it demolished to fund a work of art on a grand scale called Fonthill Abbey. Four public sales in 1801 and 1807 provided accessibility to Splendens and thousands came to examine the opulent offerings. Then the new structure with its extravagant Gothic interior, extraordinary possessions and scenic landscaping effects began to draw obsessive attention. This interest reached a pitch in 1822 when the entire estate was offered for sale, developing into a ‘Fonthill fever’ with over 7,000 people gravitating to Beckford’s ‘Holy Sepulchre’. The book examines Beckford’s building, landscaping and collecting habits that led to this remarkable public interest. It identifies, too, the anonymous author of a series of articles in the Morning Chronicle that provide the sights and sounds when the auctioneer raised his hammer to disperse the riches of Fonthill. The building collapsed in 1825, but contemporary drawings and engraved ‘views’ have continued to keep it alive as an indelible icon of the Romantic period.

About The Author

Robert J. Gemmett , Professor Emeritus of English, State University of New York, lives in Rye, New Hampshire. He is the author of 'William Beckford and Beckford’s Fonthill the Rise of a Romantic Icon'. His most recent work is a new edition of 'The Consummate Collector William Beckford’s Letters to His Bookseller'. He has also published editions of 'Biographical Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters', 'Dreams, Waking Thoughts and Incidents', 'Vathek', the 1786 and 1787 Editions, 'The Episodes of Vathek', 'Modern Novel Writing' and 'Azemia'.

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