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Archive of William Beckford

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The papers have been divided into ten groups (as shown in the table of contents). The correspondence includes a long series of letters from Beckford to Gregorio Franchi, in Italian, 1807-28, and a number of letters from Franchi, in Portuguese, 1804-28. Other major correspondents are Beckford's cousin Louisa Beckford; G.F. Beltz of the College of Arms; Beckford's daughter Susan and her husband Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton; Robert Hume, one of Beckford's agents; l'abbé Denis Macquin; Diogo, 5th Marqués de Marialva; Maria Anna, Marquesa de Santa Cruz, and Dr Frederick Scholl. There are two letter-books containing copies of letters from Beckford, and many drafts or copies of his letters filed with the letters of individual correspondents in MSS. Beckford c. 26-37. Included in the collection are two groups of letters, from Susan, Lady Hamilton, to her husband, containing a number of references to Beckford, and from various correspondents to the 10th Duke of Hamilton, mainly relating to Beckford's business affairs. Much of the correspondence, including that between Beckford and the Hamiltons, is in French.

The journals are mostly fragmentary, but include the long journal which Beckford kept during his visit to Portugal and Spain in 1787-8, with a later copy containing some entries missing from the original journal. The later copy was not available to Boyd Alexander for his edition of the journal (1954). The travel-writings, often based on the journals, include drafts of Dreams, waking thoughts and incidents (1783), parts of Italy, with sketches of Spain and Portugal (1834), and Recollections of an excursion to the monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha (1835). The 1783 edition of the Dreams was suppressed; the two copies in the Beckford papers, particularly the large-paper copy, contain numerous alterations for its publication in 1834 as part of Italy.

The literary papers (the prose titles listed in the index, under Beckford, Prose works) include a volume of 'Orations', c. 1774, a fair copy of The long story (or The vision), drafts of 'The dome of the setting sun', 'Fonthill foreshadowed', 'L'Esplendente', the 'Histoire de Darianoc', Epitaphs, and the Liber veritatis. A number of short literary pieces in MS. Beckford c. 48 are drafts for a continuation of The long story. There is a small fragment of the manuscript of Vathek, an English translation of part of the text by John Lettice, and several copies of the Episodes of Vathek. Many of the literary manuscripts are discussed in detail by André Parreaux, William Beckford, auteur de Vathek, 1760-1844. Étude de la création littéraire (Paris, 1960). They and the travel-writings are briefly described (with a few minor exceptions) in the Index of English literary manuscripts vol. 3, 1700-1800, Part I, compiled by Margaret M. Smith (Mansell, 1986), pp. 21-31.

Smaller groups of papers include translations from the Arabian Nights, a collection of Beckford's reading-notes, several volumes containing catalogues of his libraries and inventories of his property (including books) in 1844, music composed or collected by Beckford, and twenty-three boxes of newspaper cuttings. The miscellaneous papers include many drawings and sketches by Beckford (and a few drawings by Sir John Soane, James Wyatt and Henry Goodridge), and the manuscript of Cyrus Reddings's 'Memoirs of William Beckford', differing substantially from the published version. The last section of the papers contains a few deeds relating to Beckford's property, and two deeds relating to the marriage settlement of Susan Beckford (Lady Hamilton).

Many of the papers were originally arranged in wrappers by Beckford, each with its descriptive title or list of contents, but a number have been moved from their wrappers (possibly by Boyd Alexander, whose pencil notes are on many of the wrappers, and on some of the other leaves). Unless an item is described as bound, or sewn, it can be assumed that it consists of loose single sheets or bifolia. The contents of most of the old Hamilton Papers (HP) boxes, usually cited in publications hitherto, can be identified from Conspectus 2, or from the index.

The place of publication of works cited in the catalogue is London unless otherwise stated.

Dates

  • 1515-19th cent., n.d.

Extent

17.6 Linear metres (176 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

English, Italian and French

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Beckford a. 1, fol. 1].
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Beckford a. 1-4, b. 1-8, c. 1-89, d. 1-29, e. 1-5, f. 1-5, g. 1-2; Arch. H b. 1, c. 1, d. 4, e. 7-22, 49, 54, 180, f. 1; Bywater N.5.5; Douce A subt. 46 (1-3), HH.249; Mason JJ.29; Vet. A5 e. 5420/1-4, F1 e. 10; 1. Δ 806; 12 Θ 1172-3; 256 e. 14941-3

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12741

Overview

Papers of William Beckford (1760-1844), author

Biographical / Historical

William Beckford (1760-1844) was the author of the oriental tale Vathek and of several volumes of travel-writings, the builder of Fonthill Abbey, and an important collector of paintings, objets d'art and books. Fonthill has almost disappeared, most of his collections and his library have been dispersed, but his writings and this substantial collection of his papers remain.

Other Finding Aids

Conspectus of entry numbers for Beckford's manuscripts ('BeW') in the Index of English literary manuscripts, vol.3, 1700-1800, Part I, compiled by Margaret M. Smith (Mansell, 1986), and Bodleian shelfmarks. (Numbers omitted here refer to items in other locations).
  1. BeW 1 = MS. Beckford d. 21, fols. 54-67
  2. BeW 2 = MS. Beckford c. 50, fol. 98
  3. BeW 3 = MS. Beckford c. 50, fol. 35
  4. BeW 4 = MS. Beckford c. 50, fol. 97
  5. BeW 5 = MS. Beckford c. 21, fols. 275-7
  6. BeW 7 = MS. Beckford c. 62/1, fols. 59-60, 61-6, 67-72
  7. BeW 8 = MS. Beckford c. 50, fol. 84
  8. BeW 9 = MS. Beckford d. 21, fol. 58 (another draft, c. 23, fol. 88)
  9. BeW 10 = MS. Beckford c. 50, fols. 91-2
  10. BeW 12 = MS. Beckford c. 50, fols. 86-7
  11. BeW 13 = MS. Beckford c. 50, fols. 88-90
  12. BeW 14 = MS. Beckford c. 50, fols. 46-56
  13. BeW 15 = MS. Beckford d. 2, fol. 27; c. 85, fols. 89-91
  14. BeW 16 = MS. Beckford c. 18, fol. 8v
  15. BeW 17 = MS. Beckford c. 45
  16. BeW 18 = MS. Beckford d. 21, fols. 3-5
  17. BeW 19 = MS. Beckford d. 9, fols. 1-14
  18. BeW 20 = MS. Beckford d. 9, fols. 15-32
  19. BeW 21 = MS. Beckford d. 9, fols. 33, 47-54
  20. BeW 22 = MS. Beckford d. 4
  21. BeW 23 = MS. Beckford d. 2
  22. BeW 24 = MS. Beckford d. 14
  23. BeW 25 = MS. Beckford d. 13
  24. BeW 26 = MS. Beckford d. 15, fols. i-34
  25. BeW 27 = MS. Beckford d. 19, fols. 1-6
  26. BeW 28 = MS. Beckford d. 16/1-2
  27. BeW 29 = MS. Beckford d. 17
  28. BeW 30 = MS. Beckford d. 19, fol. 7
  29. BeW 31 = MS. Beckford d. 19, fols. 8-11
  30. BeW 32 = MS. Beckford d. 18
  31. BeW 33 = MS. Beckford d. 15, fols. 36-66
  32. BeW 34 = MS. Beckford d. 11
  33. BeW 35 = MS. Beckford d. 10, fols. 1-16
  34. BeW 36 = MS. Beckford d. 10, fols. 17-32
  35. BeW 37 = MS. Beckford c. 47, fols. 13-14
  36. Bew 38 = MS. Beckford c. 47, fols. 15-18
  37. Bew 39 = MS. Beckford c. 48, fols. 20-3
  38. Bew 40 = MS. Beckford d. 20
  39. Bew 41 = MS. Beckford d. 12
  40. Bew 42 = MS. Beckford d. 23, pp. xvii, 1-209
  41. Bew 43 = MS. Beckford d. 21, fols. 13-28
  42. Bew 44 = MS. Beckford c. 48, fol. 50
  43. Bew 45 = MS. Beckford d. 21, fols. 7-10
  44. Bew 46 = MS. Beckford d. 9, fols. 44v-6
  45. Bew 47 = MSS. Beckford c. 40-1
  46. Bew 48 = MS. Beckford c. 42, fols. 13-15
  47. Bew 49 = MS. Beckford c. 42, fols. 16-23
  48. Bew 50 = MS. Beckford c. 42, fols. 24-33
  49. Bew 51 = MS. Beckford c. 42, fols. 38-43
  50. Bew 52 = MS. Beckford c. 44
  51. Bew 53 = MS. Beckford d. 6
  52. Bew 55 = MS. Beckford d. 22, fols. 5-99
  53. Bew 56 = MS. Beckford d. 22, fols. 1-4
  54. Bew 57 = MS. Beckford c. 47, fols. 19-26
  55. Bew 58 = MS. Beckford c. 48, fols. 30-42
  56. Bew 60 = MS. Beckford d. 7, fols. 11-122
  57. Bew 61 = MS. Beckford c. 47, fols. 3-9
  58. Bew 62 = MS. Beckford c. 47, fols. 27-8
  59. Bew 63 = MS. Beckford c. 49
  60. Bew 64 = MS. Beckford c. 47, fols. 29-31
  61. Bew 65 = MS. Beckford c. 46
  62. Bew 66 = MS. Beckford c. 48, fols. 3-10
  63. Bew 67 = MS. Beckford c. 48, fols. 12-19
  64. Bew 68 = MS. Beckford d. 12, fol. 92
  65. Bew 69 = MS. Beckford c. 28, fol. 131
  66. Bew 70 = MS. Beckford c. 28, fols. 134-7
  67. Bew 71 = MS. Beckford c. 28, fols. 122-7; e. 1, pp. 12-23
  68. Bew 72 = MS. Beckford c. 18
  69. Bew 73 = MSS. Beckford c. 51-4, d. 23-6
  70. Bew 74 = MS. Beckford c. 50, fols. 3-12
  71. Bew 75 = MS. Beckford e. 3
  72. Bew 76 = MS. Beckford d. 3
  73. Bew 77 = MS. Beckford f. 1
  74. Bew 78 = MS. Beckford e. 2
  75. Bew 79 = MS. Beckford d. 8
  76. Bew 80 = MS. Beckford c. 43
  77. Bew 81 = MS. Beckford d. 5
  78. Bew 82 = MS. Beckford d. 7, fols. 1-10
  79. Bew 84 = MSS. Beckford b. 6-7, c. 63-83
  80. Bew 85 = (Bodl., MS. Eng. misc. e. 1236)
  81. Bew 86 = MS. Beckford c. 55, fols. 218-19 (and draft, c. 84, fol. 70)
  82. Bew 87 = MS. Beckford c. 57
  83. Bew 88 = MS. Beckford c. 56
Conspectus of Hamilton Papers ('HP') numbers and Bodleian shelf-marks. The HP numbers are often cited in Roman figures (eg. VIII.4, here listed as 8/4). When an item is noted as 'dispersed', the contents can usually be found in MS. Beckford c. 14 (Beckford's draft letters) or in MSS. Beckford c. 26-37 (general correspondence), all of which are included in the index below.
  1. HP 1/1 = MS. Beckford c. 25
  2. HP 1/2 = MS. Beckford d. 1
  3. HP 1/3 = MS. Beckford e. 1
  4. HP 1/4 = mainly MS. Beckford c. 14
  5. HP 1/5 = mainly MS. Beckford c. 14
  6. HP 1/6 = mainly MS. Beckford c. 14
  7. HP 1/7 = mainly MSS. Beckford c. 20-1
  8. HP 1/8 = MS. Beckford c. 36
  9. HP 1/9 = MS. Beckford c. 29
  10. HP 1/10 = MS. Beckford c. 35
  11. HP 1/11 = MS. Beckford c. 33
  12. HP 1/12 = MS. Beckford c. 14
  13. HP 1/13 = MS. Beckford c. 32
  14. HP [2/1-13 not used]
  15. HP 2/14 = MS. Beckford c. 35
  16. HP 2/15 = MS. Beckford c. 31
  17. HP 2/16[A] = MS. Beckford d. 10
  18. HP 2/16[B] = MS. Beckford c. 28
  19. HP 2/17 = MS. Beckford c. 16
  20. HP 2/18 = MS. Beckford c. 37
  21. HP 2/19 = MS. Beckford c. 29
  22. HP 2/20 = MS. Beckford c. 31
  23. HP 2/21 = MS. Beckford c. 31
  24. HP 2/22 = MS. Beckford c. 26
  25. HP 2/23 = MS. Beckford c. 32
  26. HP 2/24 = MSS. Beckford c. 17-18
  27. HP 2/25 = MS. Beckford c. 35
  28. HP 2/26 = MS. Beckford c. 15
  29. HP 2/27 = MS. Beckford c. 43
  30. HP [2/28 not part of Beckford donation]
  31. HP 3/1 = MS. Beckford c. 27
  32. HP 3/2 = MS. Beckford c. 23
  33. HP 3/3 = MS. Beckford c. 26
  34. HP 3/4 = dispersed
  35. HP 3/5 = MS. Beckford c. 84, or dispersed
  36. HP 3/6 = MS. Beckford c. 32
  37. HP 3/7 = MS. Beckford c. 84, fol. 151
  38. HP 3/8 = MS. Beckford d. 28
  39. HP 3/9 = MSS. Beckford c. 19, c. 34
  40. HP 3/10 = MS. Beckford c. 19
  41. HP 3/11 = MS. Beckford c. 27
  42. HP 3/12 = MS. Beckford c. 36
  43. HP 3/13 = MSS. Beckford a. 2-3
  44. HP 4/1 = dispersed
  45. HP 4/2 = MSS. Beckford c. 26-9
  46. HP 4/3 = MSS. Beckford c. 29-33
  47. HP 4/4 = MSS. Beckford c. 34-7
  48. HP 4/5 = MS. Beckford b. 8, fols. 19-32
  49. HP 4/6 = MS. Beckford d. 7, fols. 1-10
  50. HP 4/7 = MS. Beckford e. 2, f. 1
  51. HP 4/8 = MS. Beckford c. 24, c. 26
  52. HP [4/9] = dispersed
  53. HP 5/1[A] = MS. Beckford d. 6
  54. HP 5/1[B] = MS. Beckford c. 44
  55. HP 5/2 = MS. Beckford d. 7
  56. HP 5/3a = MS. Beckford d. 14
  57. HP 5/3b = MS. Beckford d. 13
  58. HP 5/3c = MS. Beckford d. 15
  59. HP 5/4 = MSS. Beckford d. 16-17, d. 19, fols. 1-6
  60. HP 5/5 = MSS. Beckford d. 18, d. 19, fols. 7-11
  61. HP 5/6 = MS. Beckford d. 22
  62. HP 6/1 = MS. Beckford d. 4
  63. HP 6/2 = MS. Beckford c. 42, d. 2
  64. HP 6/3 = MSS. Beckford c. 50, fols. 84-98, d. 21, fols. 54-67
  65. HP 6/4a = not found
  66. HP 6/4b = MS. Beckford d. 20
  67. HP 6/4c = MS. Beckford c. 47, fols. 29-31
  68. HP 6/5 = MS. Beckford c. 46
  69. HP 6/6 = MS. Beckford d. 3
  70. HP 6/7 = MS. Beckford d. 8
  71. HP 6/8 = MS. Beckford c. 84
  72. HP 6/9 = MSS. Beckford a. 1-3, b.8, c. 84
  73. HP 6/10 = MS. Beckford c. 84
  74. HP 6/11 = MS. Beckford e. 4
  75. HP 6/12 = MS. Beckford c. 35
  76. HP 6/13 = MS. Beckford c. 22
  77. HP 7/1 = MS. Beckford c. 36
  78. HP 7/2 = dispersed
  79. HP 7/3 = MS. Beckford c. 38
  80. HP 7/4 = MS. Beckford c. 38
  81. HP [7/5] = dispersed
  82. HP 7/6 = MSS. Beckford c. 30, c. 39
  83. HP 7/7 = MS. Beckford c. 16
  84. HP 7/8 = MSS. Beckford b. 5, c. 61-2, f. 3-5
  85. HP 8/1 = MS. Beckford d. 12
  86. HP 8/2a = MS. Beckford d. 11
  87. HP 8/2b = MS. Beckford c. 48, fols. 1-26
  88. HP 8/2c = MS. Beckford c. 48, fols. 27-44
  89. HP 8/2d = MS. Beckford c. 48, fols. 45-85
  90. HP 8/3 = MS. Beckford c. 50
  91. HP 8/4 = MS. Beckford d. 23, pp. xvii, 1-209
  92. HP 8/5a = MS. Beckford d. 9
  93. HP 8/5b = MS. Beckford d. 21, fols. 1-12
  94. HP 8/5c = MS. Beckford c. 47, fols. 1-9, 19-20
  95. HP 8/5d = MS. Beckford c. 47, fols. 11-18
  96. HP 8/5e = MS. Beckford d. 23, pp.iii-xii
  97. HP 8/5f = MS. Beckford d. 21, fols. 13-28
  98. HP 8/6 = dispersed
  99. HP 8/7 = MSS. Beckford c. 12-13
  100. HP 8/8 = MS. Beckford c. 45
  101. HP 9/1 = MSS. Beckford c. 3-9
  102. HP 9/2 = MS. Beckford c. 87
  103. HP 10/1 = MSS. Beckford c. 1-11
  104. HP 10/2 = MSS. Beckford c. 1-11
  105. HP 11/1 = MSS. Beckford c. 12-13
  106. HP 11/2 = MS. Beckford c. 87
  107. HP 11/3 = MSS. Beckford d. 23-6
  108. HP 11/4 = MS. Beckford c. 84, fols. 91-6
  109. HP 11/5 = MSS. Beckford c. 51-4, d. 20, d. 23-6
  110. HP 11/6 = MS. Beckford g. 2
  111. HP 12-15 = MSS. Beckford b. 6-7, c. 63-83
  112. HP 16 = MSS. Beckford b. 1, c. 40-1
  113. HP 17 = MSS. Beckford c. 49, c. 84, fols. 198-203, c. 85-6, d. 27, e. 3, e. 5, f. 2
  114. HP 18/1 = MS. Beckford c. 88
  115. HP 18/2 = MSS. Beckford c. 29, c. 34
  116. HP 18/3 = MS. Beckford c. 33
  117. HP 18/4 = MS. Beckford c. 89
  118. HP 18/5 = MS. Beckford c. 30
  119. HP 18/6 = MS. Beckford c. 36
  120. HP 18/7 = MS. Beckford c. 36
  121. HP 18/8 = MS. Beckford c. 30
  122. HP 18/9 = MS. Beckford c. 39
  123. HP 18/10 = MS. Beckford c. 39
  124. HP 18/11 = MS. Beckford c. 39
  125. HP 18/12-13 = MS. Beckford c. 30
  126. HP 18/14 = MS. Beckford c. 59
  127. HP 18/15 = MS. Beckford c. 37
  128. HP 18/16 = dispersed
  129. HP 19 = MSS. Beckford c. 55-7
  130. HP 20/1 = MS. Beckford c. 28
  131. HP 20/2 = MS. Beckford c. 26
  132. HP 20/3 = MS. Beckford c. 35
  133. HP 20/4 = dispersed
  134. HP 20/5 = MS. Beckford c. 84, or dispersed
  135. HP 20/6 = MS. Beckford c. 33
  136. HP 20/7 = MS. Beckford d. 1
  137. HP 20/8 = MS. Beckford c. 17
  138. HP 20/9 = MS. Beckford c. 18
  139. HP 20/10 = MS. Beckford c. 87
  140. HP 21 = MSS. Beckford c. 1-11
  141. HP 22/1 = MS. Beckford c. 43
  142. HP 22/2 = MS. Beckford d. 5
  143. HP 22/3 = MS. Beckford c. 31
  144. HP 22/4 = MS. Beckford c. 26
  145. HP 22/5 = dispersed
  146. HP 22/6 = MS. Beckford c. 14
  147. HP 22/7 = dispersed
  148. HP 22/8 = MS. Beckford c. 14
  149. HP 22/9 = MS. Beckford c. 14
  150. HP 22/10 = MS. Beckford c. 57
  151. HP 23 = MS. Beckford b. 2
  152. HP [24] = MSS. Beckford c. 88-9, d. 29
  153. HP [25] = MSS. Beckford b. 3-4, c. 60
  154. HP [26] = MS. Beckford a. 4

Custodial History

On Beckford's death in 1844, the papers passed to his daughter, Lady Hamilton. They remained in the possession of the Dukes of Hamilton until 1977, although most of them had been for many years in the custody of Boyd Alexander. In 1977 the Duke of Hamilton sold the papers at Sotheby's (6 July 1977, lot 272), where they were bought by B.H. Blackwell Ltd. Blackwell's deposited the papers in the Bodleian from October 1977 until December 1979, when they took them back into their own custody.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In July 1984, Blackwell's gave the entire collection to the Bodleian 'in memory of the late Sir Basil Blackwell, his father Benjamin, and his elder son Richard, the first three chairmen of the firm' (see Bodleian Library Record, 12, no. 1 (1985), pp. 73-5).

Related Materials

The Bodleian has two other small collections of papers relating to Beckford, as well as a few scattered letters and papers, including:
  1. A commonplace book containing Beckford's notes on periodicals read, 1793-1811 (MS. Eng. misc. e. 1236).
  2. Two letter-books containing copies of letters from Thomas Wildman (one of Beckford's solicitors) to agents and others in Jamaica, 1787-94, 1794-5 (MSS. Eng. lett. c. 499-500).
  3. Copies of Wildman's letters to Beckford, 1794-5 (MS. Eng. lett. c. 501).
  4. An agreement for the purchase by Beckford of a house in Lisbon, 1793 (MS. Portuguese c. 1).
  5. Boyd Alexander's working papers relating to Beckford (MSS. Eng. lett. c. 687-95 etc.).
  6. Transcripts of letters from Beckford to Samuel Henley, 1782-97 (MS. Eng. lett. c. 11).
  7. Papers of John Britton relating to Fonthill Abbey (MS. Eng. misc. d. 222).
  8. Transcripts of Beckford letters, with notebooks and correspondence of John Hodgkin relating to Beckford (MSS. Eng. lett. d. 36; Eng. misc. d. 224-5, e. 198).
  9. About thirty books from Beckford's library, most of them containing his reading-notes. The books are listed in Section K. Beckford's copy of Samuel Rogers, Italy (London, 1823) with two leaves of reading-notes, was among the papers given by Blackwell's, and is now [pr.bk]Arch. H e. 54.
Items 1-5, and most of the printed books, were bequeathed by Boyd Alexander in 1980 (see Bodleian Library Record, 10 (1978-82), p. 267). Items 6-8 were bequeathed, with some printed books, by John Hodgkin in 1930 (see Bodleian Quarterly Record, 6 (1929-31), p. 222).
Title
Catalogue of the archive of William Beckford, 1772-1857
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by T. D. Rogers
Date
1987, EAD version 2017
Language of description
English
Sponsor
Conversion to EAD supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Contact:
Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom