William Beckford’s life was an adventurous story. He(1760-1844) was the rebellious and extravagant heir of an enormous fortune.
His grandfather was a wealthy (= ricco) plantation owner(= possessore di piantagioni) in Jamaica, who possessed 24 where 1200 slaves (= schiavi) worked. William’s father was born in Jamaica, educated in England and, after a successful commercial career in London, became Lord Mayor and also a member of Parliament.
Unfortunately when he died when young William was only nearly 11 years old; he was educated at home by a private tutor, with whom he travelled a lot on the Continent. Already at the age of 22 he showed a strong inclination towards literature writing an oriental romance, Vathek ( 1781), first in French: he said he wrote it in three days and two nights, but most critics think that this was just a flight of imagination (= volo della fantasia). His other principal writings are Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters (1780), a satirical work, and Letters from Italy with Sketches of Spain and Portugal (1835), full of brilliant descriptions of scenes and good manners. In the period in which he lived he was mainly famous for his eccentric extravagances as a builder and collector. His houses were first, the huge and elaborate neo-Gothic mansion Fonthill Abbey, where he lived and stored (= immagazzinò) his extensive art collections; then, in Bath, he had Lansdown Tower built. Member of the Parliament, he rarely attended the sessions, and he dissipated his fortune of £100,000 a year: only £80,000 of his capital remaining at his death, at the age of 84.