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ILLIAM BECKFORD, the author of

Vathek,” was born in 1759. He was the son of the well-known and patriotic Lord

Mayor Beckford, the friend of the Earl of Chatham. His father died when he was eleven years

of age, leaving him property which accumulated during his minority to an annual income of one hundred and ten thousand pounds, and this in addition to a million in ready money.

His education was partially superintended by his father's old friend, the Earl of Chatham, whose son, William Pitt, he excelled in elocutionary powers. At the age of eighteen he published his " Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters, a work of considerable power and humour, and real knowledge of the subject, which satirises some English artists under feigned names, and may even now be read with pleasure.

In 1780 he made a tour to the Continent, which formed the subject of a series of letters picturesque and poetical, since published under the title of Italy, with Sketches of Spain and Portugal.” On his return to England, Mr. Beckford sat for the borough of Hindon in

several parliaments. He afterwards went to Portugal, and purchasing an estate at Cintra—that “glorious Eden” of the south-he built himself a palace for a residence.

“ There thou, too, Vathek ! England's wealthiest son,
Once formed thy paradise, as not aware
When wanton Wealth her mightiest deeds hath done,-
Meek Peace voluptuous lures was ever wont to shun.
Here didst thou dwell, here schemes of pleasure plan
Beneath yon mountain's ever-beauteous brow;
But now, as if a thing unblest by man,
Thy fairy dwelling is as lone as thou :
Here giant weeds a passage scarce allow
To halls deserted, portals gaping wide;
Fresh lessons to the thinking bosom, how
Vain are the plesaunces on earth supplied,

Swept into wrecks anon by Time's ungentle tide." “ Recollections of an Excursion to the Monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha,” was published in 1835. The excursion was made in June 1794, at the desire of the Prince Regent of Portugal. Mr. Beckford describes the wonderful ancient ecclesiastical edifice of Alcobaça, with its princely monks, its paintings, and antique tombs and fountains, as only a mind of the highest imagination could do. The kitchen, whither he and his friends were conducted by the Abbot, to witness the preparations made to regale them, must have been worthy of an eastern sultan. * Through the centre of the immense and nobly-groined hall, not less than sixty feet in diameter, ran a brisk rivulet of the clearest water, containing every sort and size of the finest river fish. On one side loads of game and venison were heaped up; on the other vegetables and fruits in endless variety. Beyond a long line of stores extended a row of ovens, and close to them billocks of wheaten flour whiter than snow, rocks of sugar, jars of the purest oil, and pastry in vast abundance, which a numerous tribe of lay brothers and their attendants were rolling out and puffing up into a hundred different shapes, singing all the while as blithely as larks in a cornfield." This magnificent monastery was plundered and burnt by the French troops under Massena, in 1811.

“Vathek,” the fourth and last edition of which was published in 1834, by Bentley, is unquestionably Beckford's great work, the one for which he will always hold a high rank amongst romantic and imaginative writers. The first edition of this work in French was printed in 1786. It was written at the age of twenty-two, at one sitting, as Beckford himself told Cyrus Redding. Day and night he kept to his work, only stopping occasionally for refreshment, and as might have been expected, such protracted application brought on a fit of illness.

“ Vathek,” says Lord Byron, “ bears such marks of originality, that those who have visited the East will have some difficulty in believing it to be more than a translation." In his own preface, Mr.

“ J'ai preparé quelques épisodes ; ils sont indiqués à la page 200,* comme faisant suite à Vathek; peut-être parâitront-ils un jour.” But they have not appeared yet. Beckford at his house in Park Lane, in his eightieth year, read them to Cyrus Redding, in the twilight of a gloomy spring day, and without spectacles; but Mr. Redding does not appear to have considered these episodes important. He (Mr. Redding) mentions the fact, that Beckford gave strict orders for the purchase of a certain Eastern book, enti

Beckford says,

* We have given the titles of these Episodes; the only part ever written.

tled “Abdallah : les Aventures du Fils de Hanif, envoyé par le Sultan des Indes a la Découverte de l'Isle de Borico où est la Fontaine merveilleuse dont l'eau fait rajeunir.” “ There was nothing in ‘Vathek,' says

Mr. Redding, “that might not have been found in 'Abdallah,' which is supposed to be from an Arabic MS. found in Batavia. The time in which the events of the history occur is the reign of Chah-Jehan. The Hindoo mythology is commingled in it with that of the Arabs. Genius and Ginne, the Divs and Peris, the mountain Kaf, and the empire of Ginnistan ; in fact Indian and Mohammedan notions intermingled, seemed to explain the source, which, from happening to be in the hands of young Beckford at the moment, supplied the images and terms which were requisite in order to render the Eastern illusion in ‘Vathek' complete. The two kinds of Genii called Dives, or Divs and Peris masculine, and Perises and Dives feminine, according to the Mohammedan doctors, inhabited the earth before the creation of Adam. Dazzial and bis ass, Lutfallah, Gian's sword, Ronschau and similar names or objects on which elaborate notes have been written, may all be found in the work in question."

Byron praises “ Vathek” for its correctness of costume, beauty of description, and power of imagination. “As an Eastern tale,” he says, “even Rasselas must bow before it ; his Happy Valley will not bear a comparison with the Hall of Eblis."

As might be expected, the aim of the fortune-favoured author of “ Vathek" appears to have been to realize through his surroundings the dreams and fictions of his fancy; yet he does not seem to have brought himself in bondage to his entourage, for, in 1822, he sold Fonthill Abbey, and left for Bath, taking with him his most precious valuables, and glad of the change.

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