William Thomas Beckford (1760-1844) was an English novelist, art critic, travel writer and politician. Having studied under Sir William Chambers and Alexander Cozens, he travelled to Italy in 1782 and promptly wrote a book on the subject: Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents; in a Series of Letters from Various Parts of Europe (1783). Shortly afterwards came his best-known work, the Gothic novel The History of the Caliph Vathek (1786), written originally in French and, as he was accustomed to boast, at a single sitting of three days and two nights. There is reason, however, to believe that this was a flight of imagination. It is an impressive work, full of fantastic and magnificent conceptions, rising occasionally to sublimity. 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 manners.