William Beckford: Composing For Mozart by Timothy Mowl - review by Bevis Hillier

Bevis Hillier

Do Not Despise the Dilettante

William Beckford: Composing For Mozart


John Murray 324pp £22 order from our bookshop

Until the biographers began raking over his private life, William Beckford was best known for two flamboyant feats: writing a wild Gothick novel, Vathek, and building Fonthill Abbey, in Wiltshire, of which the tower collapsed just before Beckford was due to give Nelson and Lady Hamilton a guided tour. 

Timothy Mowl makes some large claims for Beckford in this excellent new biography, and most of them are justified. He 'gave the nineteenth century a hefty push into that exhilarating collapse of taste and style which it has taken England another hundred years to absorb'. He put English historicism 'on

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