William Beckford of Somerley

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Drawn on the Spot, & painted by George Robertson. John Boydell excudit 1778. Engraved by Thomas Vivares. A VIEW IN THE ISLAND OF JAMAICA, of Roaring River Estate belonging to William Beckford Esq.r near Savannah la Marr, to whom this Plate is Dedicated by his most Obliged Servant, JOHN BOYDELL. Published 25 March 1778 by John Boydell Engraver in Cheapside London.

William Beckford of Somerley (?–1799) was a Jamaican slave-owner and writer.


The illegitimate son of Richard Beckford, who was the brother of Alderman Beckford, and cousin of famed author and collector William Thomas Beckford, he was part of an influential slave-holding family. He inherited four sugarcane plantations, for which he traveled to Jamaica to personally supervise. He eventually lost his holdings and returned to England in 1777 as a debtor with an intention of remaking his fortune and reputation.[1] In 1790, whilst imprisoned in the Fleet Prison for debt, he published A Descriptive Account of the Island of Jamaica, a two-volume description of contemporary life in Jamaica from a planter's point of view.[2][3]

Beckford brought to Jamaica the artist George Robertson, who produced what have been described as "the most aesthetically ambitious views of Jamaica published in the eighteenth century."[4]



  1. ^ Korte & Pirker 2011, p. 74.
  2. ^ Casid 2005, p. 60.
  3. ^ Quilley, 'Pastoral Plantations', p. [1]
  4. ^ "Aestheticizing the Landscape of Sugar". John Carter Brown Library. Retrieved 13 January 2016.


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