William Beckford, who was fluent in seven languages and schooled in philosophy and law, who claimed to have been taught piano by Mozart but was more famous for his singing, may perhaps be best known for his career as a Gothic fabulist. He might otherwise have been best-remembered for the fact he was the son of the Lord Mayor of London, the godson of William Pitt, was richer than Croesus and at the point of his entrance to society regarded as Britain's most eligible bachelor. Instead, his spectacular hedonism and disregard for convention led to his epic fall from grace in a homosexual scandal. Following his time in luxurious exile in Europe, he returned to England as an eccentric aesthete who amassed a great library in the sprawling grandeur of Fonthill Abbey. Beckford of Fonthill is Brian Fothergill's account of a sensational life, a history of the celebrated and vilified 'Fool of Fonthill'.
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Brian Fothergill won the Royal Society of Literature W.H. Heinemann Award in 1969 for Sir William Hamilton: Envoy Extraordinary and again in 1979 for Beckford of Fonthill. He also wrote Nicholas Weisman, The Cardinal King and Mrs Jordan: Portrait of an Actress.