Besant, Walter, 1836-1901

Alternative names
Birth 1836-08-14
Death 1901-06-09

Biographical notes:

English novelist.

From the description of Note : to Wilson, 1891 March 6. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 63936605

From the description of Autograph clipped from a letter : [n.p., n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270621664

British author.

From the description of The luck of the "Susan Bell" / by Walter Besant. [ca. 1868-1901] (University of Arizona). WorldCat record id: 29305316

Walter Besant (1836-1901) was an English author and social critic. He was born in Portsea August 14, 1836, the fifth child of a family with six sons and four daughters. His parents were William Besant, a merchant, and Sarah Ediss Besant, the daughter of an architect. Besant spent three terms at King's College, London, and graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1859. After his graduation, Besant worked briefly but unsuccessfully as a journalist, then accepted a mathematics teaching position at Leamington College, followed by a senior professorship at Royal College on the island of Mauritius from 1861 to 1867. Besant returned to London to pursue his literary career, and published his first book, Studies in Early French Poetry, in 1868, followed by several articles on French literature and social topics. Encouraged by his success, Besant continued to write while he supported himself as secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund, a position which he held until the huge success of All sorts and conditions of men established his literary career in 1882. A prolific writer, Besant published sometimes three or four novels a year, and his most successful collaborations were with James Rice, the editor of "Once a Week." From 1872 until Rice's death in 1882 the two published more than a dozen novels and collected editions of long stories that brought them commercial and critical acclaim. After Rice's death, Besant continued writing the East End working-class romances upon which his reputation was made. During the final period of his career, from 1887 until his death in 1901, the quality of Besant's novels suffered, but he continued to pursue his interests in various social reforms in both his fiction and nonfiction writing. One work in particular, Fifty Years Ago (A Picture of Society in this Country as it was when the Queen Ascended the Throne), was published in 1888 as an historical retrospective of the year Queen Victoria began her reign. Another work, The Queen's Reign and its Commemoration, was published in 1897, and echoes Besant's familiar themes of social reform and the vast improvements that had taken place since Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837. In 1895, Besant was knighted, largely due to his East End writings and his efforts on behalf of social reform.

From the description of Sir Walter Besant manuscript, 1895. (University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 427876724

English author.

From the description of Papers of Sir Walter Besant [manuscript], 1888-1922 bulk 1888-1901). (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647830897

Sir Walter Besant was a popular and prolific English author and social activist. After a distinguished career at Cambridge, he tried several different careers before finding success as an author of essays and fiction. A long and successful collaboration with James Rice resulted in a dozen novels, and Besant also wrote successful novels and non-fiction on his own. He is perhaps best remembered for the East End novels, which raised awareness of living conditions among the poor. He also wrote biographies and history, and was working on an ambitious survey of London when he died.

From the description of Walter Besant letters, 1889-1892. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 62589818


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