Saturday, September 24, 2011


William Beckford

William Beckford (1760-1844) was, at one time, the richest commoner in England.

In 1779, William Beckford, aged 19, met his cousin William Courtenay, aged 11.

Beckford fell in love with Courtenay.

Beckford and Courtenay were close friends for almost 6 years.

William Courtenay (known as Kitty)

At one point the Beckford family owned around 1600 African slaves in Jamaica.

William Beckford defended the slave trade.

The Beckford wealth came from sugar plantations, and slavery.

The Beckford family was also involved in money lending. (BBC: The Beckford's and Slavery)

Wikipedia describes William Beckford as an art collector, travel writer and sometime politician, reputed to be the richest commoner in England.

Beckford's Fonthill Abbey - a pretty big erection.

William Beckford was the author of the Gothic novel Vathek and the builder of Fonthill Abbey.

He was briefly trained in music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

He married Lady Margaret Gordon, daughter of the fourth Earl of Aboyne.

His bisexuality was revealed when his letters to the Hon William Courtenay, later 9th Earl of Devon, were intercepted by the boy's uncle.

Courtenay was described as being gay and being the most beautiful boy in England.[1]

Eventually, William Beckford's erection collapsed. And his wealth declined.

William Beckford "built the loftiest domestic residence in the world" and had "a virtual harem of boys." (William Beckford: The Fool of Fonthill - History and Literature. by Rictor Norton)

In 1781, "Beckford wanted an Oriental spectacle that would completely ravish the senses of his guests, not least so that he could enjoy a sexual tryst with a thirteen year old boy, William Courtenay, and Louisa Beckford, his own cousin’s wife."

(The Virtual Infernal: Philippe de Loutherbourg, William Beckford.)

Louisa reportedly enjoyed orgiastic 'iniquities' and 'sacrifices,' on 'young victims panting on the altar,' and on spectre raisings and demonic rituals (Parreaux 382; Mowl, William Beckford 111).

In 1784, a visitor to Beckford's home reported some "strange goings on" in Courtenay's bedroom.

Beckford was reportedly in bed with Courtenay.

Beckford moved abroad, living mainly in Portugal.

In Beckford's "thinly veiled fantasy-autobiography", The History of the Caliph Vathek, published in 1786, Beckford is Vathek and Cortnenay is Prince Gulchenrouz, who sometimes wears the dresses of Princess Nouronihar.

Beckford's mother is Princess Carathis, a witch who casts evil spells.

Vathek murders both Nouronihar and Gulchenrouz.

Gulchenrouz goes to heaven where his is surrounded by beautiful boys.

Vathek sacrifices fifty boys, "stripped and presented to the admiration of the spectators."

They are thrown over a cliff, but are rescued by a genie who takes them to join Gulchenrouz.

Vathek ends up in hell. (William Beckford: The Fool of Fonthill - Gay History and Literature)

Website for this image -William Beckford’s oriental-gothic novel Vathek (1786). "In exchange for secret knowledge and limitless wealth, the caliph ruler, Vathek , agrees to sacrifice fifty boys to the ‘Giaour’, an Islamic version of the devil. The Giaour appears to Vathek in the form of a monstrous Indian traveller, a person who confounds masculinity/femininity, human/supernatural."

When he returned to England, Beckford had "a harem of boy-servants for diversion, some picked up in England."

The boy's names were:

pale Ambrose, infamous Poupee, horrid Ghoul, insipid Mme Bion, cadaverous Nicobuse, the portentous dwarf, frigid Silence, Miss Long, Miss Butterfly, Countess Pox, Mr Prudent Well-Sealed-up, The Monkey, and The Turk.

There were rumours of orgies.

Beckford, at his Fonthill Abbey, built a tower nearly 300 feet high.

Guests of honour at the grand opening, in 1800, were Admiral Lord Nelson and his mistress Emma Hamilton.

In Portugal, Beckford had fallen in love with Gregório Franchi, a chorister at the court of Queen Maria I.

Beckford brought Franchi back to England.

Beckford asked Franchi to "go to see an angel called Saunders who is a tight-rope walker at the Circus Royal and the certain captivator of every bugger's soul. Ah!"

Franchi was asked to visit Sauders's father, and to make "a proposition for a journey to foreign parts, and even a life-annuity - all this is possible."

Beckford's letters to Franchi refer to visits to London; in 1810 he found a "little rogue" on Hounslow Heath. (William Beckford: The Fool of Fonthill - Gay History and Literature)

Rictor Norton, in 'William Beckford's Gay Scrapbooks' refers to Beckford's interest in gay activities in Britain.

Beckford kept press cuttings referring to the following:

In 1828 a Mr Seymour and his servant Mr Macklin were discovered having sexual relations in the master's dressing room.

"A certain English Marquis" left the country amidst "strange circumstances connected with his early propensities."

In 1826 a boy of sixteen, said to be the second son of an Irish Peer, was charged with having made indecent proposals to a sentry on duty at Knightsbridge Barracks.

In 1825 Rev William Hayes, of St Paul's, was "found in a disgusting situation with a boy in a lane leading to a wharf in Upper Thames-street."

In 1825, John Grossett Muirhead of St George's, Hanover Square took three boys, one aged 14 and one aged 21, to an oyster shop, where he showed them pornography and fondled them.

Muirhead was a member of the Society for the Suppression of Vice and a Director of the Auxiliary Bible Society of St George's in the Fields.

In 1816, John Attwood Eglerton was hanged after being accused of committing sodomy with a stable boy. Eglerton was a waiter with a wife and children.

William Beckford's father was Lord Mayor of London.

William Beckford's mother, connected by marriage to the Dukes of Hamilton, was a 'stern Calvinist'.



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CS said...

Kenneth Clark's "Gothic Revival" gives additional details about Beckford and Fonthill Abbey.

The Abbey was built in great haste and the contractor saved both time and money by omitting to provide foundations for the tower, which collapsed twice. The first time, during construction. Beckford's expressed great regret at having been unable to witness the spectacle.

Thanks, Anon, for the link to the story about Tony Blair showing his true allegiance.

Anonymous said...

Rape of the Sabine Women-the importance of family values in maintaining society and culture. Informative blog piece, thank you, Aangirfan.

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Anonymous said...

I like the harem boy named Frigid Silence. Sounds more like how some of my friends describe their wives.

nobody said...

Hullo Aang,

And his cousin's wife piled in did she? Sacrifices, altars, and demonic rituals. Sure. And what with his wanderings, he reminds me ever so slightly of Crowley. Certainly with a tower to rival the great cathedrals we're not a million miles away from 'I am my own God' are we?

There's nothing new under the sun is there?

greencrow said...

1760 to 1884... Hmmm so the guy lived for 124 years? Interesting.


Anon said...

Date corrected. Many thanks.

- Aangirfan

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