William Beckford’s Fonthill: Architecture, Landscape and the Arts

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William Beckford’s Fonthill: Architecture, Landscape and the Arts

Product no.: 978-1-78155-483-8
Cover price £40.00
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  • An extraordinary insight into the world of England’s wealthiest recluse
  • Includes an array of images of the Fonthill buildings, landscape design and acclaimed art collections
  • An indispensable study of Beckford’s greatest collection – Fonthill Abbey, its imposing building, surrounding landscape and lush interiors
  • Extends Gemmett’s previous study of the Fonthill phase of Beckford as an amateur architect, landscape designer and influential art collector

Vilified publicly as a paedophile, 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’.

William Beckford’s Fonthill: Architecture, Landscape and the Arts examines Beckford’s building, landscaping and collecting habits that led to this remarkable public interest. 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.


Robert J. Gemmett, Professor Emeritus of the State University of New York, is an acknowledged expert on the life and works of William Beckford. He is the author of William Beckford, a critical study of his literary works, and Beckford’s Fonthill: The Rise of a Romantic Icon. He has also published editions of Beckford’s Biographical Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters, Dreams, Waking Thoughts and Incidents, Modern Novel Writing and Azemia and edited the third volume of Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons, devoted to Beckford’s book sales.

Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: hardback
Extent: 228 pages
Illustrations: 93 colour illustrations

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