Leslie Mitchell

Slaves to Fortune

William Beckford: First Prime Minister of the London Empire

By

Yale University Press 290pp £22.50 order from our bookshop

Eighteenth-century writers were agreed that William Beckford was quite a chap, even if they could not agree on what sort of chap he was. One asserted: ‘There was a singularity in the whole of this man’s life which would justify ample speculation. The different characters he affected to possess, to reconcile with each other, and sometimes even to blend in one motley mass, would furnish a most curious subject for the biographer.’ It is curious, but welcome, therefore, that Perry Gauci should have produced the first biography of this major figure in over two hundred years.

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