|Fonthill Abbey, in Wiltshire, may well remain William Beckford's most famous creation alongside his Oriental tale Vathek. Now a mere fragment, the Abbey lives on in critical and popular memory through numerous engravings, drawings, sketches and paintings, as well as through the wide array of guidebooks which were published, as a result of popular demand, in the early decades of the 19th century.||
Beckford employed one of the best architects of the time, James Wyatt, to realise his architectural visions. Eager to see the monumental building finished as soon as possible, Beckford agreed to have it built in a fragile compo-cement. The tower collapsed once, in a gale - Beckford simply had it rebuilt. When it collapsed again, in 1825, Beckford had already sold the estate. The Abbey had a short life.
page will attempt to present resources on Fonthill Abbey, ranging from
mere images to entire works published in facsimile. First in line is
an 1822 guidebook to the Abbey (A New Guide to Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire,
the Seat of William Beckford, Esq., London 1822, xii+60 pages) which
you will find if you click here.
A different guidebook, John Rutter's A Description to Fonthill Abbey
(Shaftesbury 1822, xii+74 pages), is available in facsimile if you
click here. John
Rutter's Delineations of Fonthill Abbey(1823), the largest of
all the guidebooks, is available here.
remember that these resources are graphic-intensive, so it is advisable
to have a good connection to the Internet.
William Hazlitt's damning review of the Fonthill sale (1824) is found here.
"Lines written on Fonthill Abbey", by William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850), is found here.
John Jefferson's long poem, "Fonthill" (1824), is found here.
chapter from W. P. Frith, My Autobiography and Remininiscences,
London, 1887, "The Fonthill Story" - outlining a bizarre
visit to Fonthill - is found here.