Beckford
 
References

1 In his Bibliography of William Beckford of Fonthill (London, 1930) Guy Chapman refers to another lost work, Glory be to the Father, dated 11th Oct 1839.

2 24/9/1787. Alexander, The Journal of William Beckford in Portugal & Spain: 1787-1788, London 1954.

3 Eric Darton: W~B~ & Music: 2, His Teachers? Beckford Tower Trust Newsletter 1984. Other in the series are WB & Music BTTN 1983, WB & Music: 3, The Organ 1985, WB & Music: 4, The Harpsichord & Organ, 1988. WB & Music: 5 The Fonthill Abbey Organ? Beckford Journal 1996, WB & Music: 6, B~ & Mozart 1997, WB & Music: 7, The Singers, 1999.

4 Lansdown, Recollections of the late William Beckford, 1893 (rep 1969) quoted in Mowl, Composing for Mozart, Murray 1998.

5 The true figures are hard to arrive at. Mowl claims that ‘the Alderman had an income that fluctuated between £30,000 and £100,000 in ready money.’ However Boyd Alexander (in England’s Wealthiest Son, London 1962) doubts Beckford’s income was ever larger than the £45,000 of 1800, due to exceptional sugar prices, and which undoubtedly stimulated his tower-building tendencies. Alexander feels that the average was probably around £27,000, enough to ‘jog along on’ to be sure, and that both father and son encouraged exaggerated rumours of their wealth. At all events, by 1822 Beckford was £187,000 in debt, due to the Abbey, litigation over his plantations, and declining in sugar prices. His assets were quantified as £212,500, but in fact he realised £300,000 from the sale of Fonthill alone before moving to Bath and starting a new tower.

6 Horace Walpole claimed the number was 30. I observed a Beckford running for Jamaica in the 1996 Olympics and wondered if this was a distant echo of the Alderman’s virility?

7 Such a theory has recently been advanced [Observer 14/3/99] to explain the behaviour of Andy Warhol, whose character was in some ways similar to Beckford’s.

8 Anger ran in the family. Beckford’s grandfather was Speaker of the Jamaican Assembly and was only saved from the rope by parliamentary privilege when he stabbed a judge in the Assembly. His father had been Governor of Jamaica but died in a brawl in 1711. Given the latter’s proximity to the governorship of Captain Morgan it’s possible that the origins of the family fortune were piracy as much as sugar.

9 Eventually Franchi entered Beckford’s service and, despite marrying and conceiving a son in Portugal, he was a faithful servant-companion to Beckford, who even procured him a Portuguese knighthood, and eventually gave him a substantial annuity. Prior to Franchi’s death in 1828 an estrangement seems to have occurred.

10 Casanova, Histoire de ma vie, Vol 3, chapter 9. c1790. ed Trask, Longman 1967.

11 Fiske, English Theatre Music in the 18thC.

12 In private correspondence Beckford nicknamed this ‘giddy but remarkable woman’ Rancissima [extremely smelly]. She is remembered, if at all, for Craven Cottage, a cottage ornée she built beside the Thames, now under one end of the Fulham Football ground. John Franceschina has researched her other plays.

13 In a purportedly-contemporaneous letter to his enamoured cousin Louisa, Beckford cites the dates as 15th/16th, but Guy Chapman in his Bibliography of William Beckford of Fonthill (London 1930) quotes a letter by Horace Walpole about the production dated the 14th which plainly shows that it had occurred the previous day. Chapman considers that Beckford’s letter was probably written or rewritten in 1835

14 In his Bibliography (op cit) Chapman points out that the coat of arms on the title page bears the motto libertas et natale solum which had been his father’s, whereas when he was building the Abbey, after 1798, he adopted the motto of the previous owners of Fonthill De Dieu tout.

15 The Hamiltons were related to Beckford through his mother. The first Lady Hamilton was a confidante of Beckford’s during his early infatuation with ‘Kitty’ Courtenay and he visited them in Naples in 1780.

16 Prophetically, given the events that were to follow in less than two years, the book concludes ‘Thus the Caliph Vathek, who, for the sake of empty pomp and forbidden power, had sullied himself with a thousand crimes, became ao prey to grief without end, and remorse without mitigation.’

17 If my surmise about the dating and genesis of the grottoes is correct and the incised date of 1794 in the west bank grotto indicates a second phase of picturesque building, then given my argument that the scale of both west and east bank grottoes indicates that they were built for children, I suggest that Beckford may have been a fonder and more attentive father than history allows. For in 1794 both his daughters would have been under 10, and he could have built these follies for them to play in just as, I argue, the east bank grottos may well have been built for him at a similar age.

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