William Thomas Beckford (1 October 1760 – 2 May 1844), usually known as William Beckford, was an English novelist, a profligate and consummately knowledgeable art collector and patron of works of decorative art, a critic, travel writer and sometime politician, reputed at one stage in his life to be the richest commoner in England. His parents were William Beckford and Maria Hamilton, daughter of Hon. George Hamilton (MP). He was Member of Parliament for Wells from 1784 to 1790, for Hindon from 1790 to 1795 and 1806 to 1820. He is remembered as the author of the Gothic novel Vathek, the builder of the remarkable lost Fonthill Abbey and Lansdown Tower ("Beckford's Tower"), Bath, and especially for his art collection.
Shall I tell you my dreams?—To give an account of my time is doing, I assure you, but little better. Never did there exist a more ideal being. A frequent mist hovers before my eyes, and, through its medium, I see objects so faint and hazy, that both their colours and forms are apt to delude me. This is a rare confession, say the wise, for a traveller to make: pretty accounts will such a one give of outlandish countries: his correspondents must reap great benefit, no doubt, from such purblind observations. But stop, my good friends; patience a moment!—I really have not the vanity of pretending to make a single remark, during the whole of my journey: if—be contented with my visionary way of gazing, I am perfectly pleased; and shall write away as freely as Mr. A., Mr. B., Mr. C., and a million others whose letters are the admiration of the politest circles.
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