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, William was part of the influential Beckford family. He inherited four sugarcane plantations, which he personally supervised, but lost his holdings, returning 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] Beckford's slavery-derived fortune also enabled him to host "the most sumptuous banquets since Henry VIII" and hire Mozart as his son's piano teacher.[5]




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