Beckford Book Group

The Beckford Book Group

Join us at the Tower for our new quarterly book group exploring writings (loosely) related to the work of William Beckford.  You don’t need to have read the book, just be interested in enjoying an evening of talks from experts, interesting discussions, tea, coffee (maybe wine).


In Ruins

by Christopher Woodward

Thursday 16 March, 7pm

£5 per person


For our first Beckford Book Group of 2017 we will be reading ‘In Ruins’ by Christopher Woodward.

‘In Ruins’ is an exploration of humanity’s fascination with ruins; from the art and poetry they inspire, to the tourism they attract, from the waves of follies built in the eighteenth century, to the iconic appearance of the shattered Statue of Liberty in ‘Planet of the Apes’.

Beckford himself was a builder of follies, a visitor of ruins, and, in the case of Fonthill Abbey, an observer of the toppling of his architectural dream.

At the Beckford Book Group you can, as always, look forward to lively discussion, drinks, nibbles and our now-traditional themed cupcakes.

The Rivals

by Richard Sheridan

Thursday 8 June, 7pm

£5 per person


To coincide with this year’s Royal Crescent at 250 anniversary and in the spirit of the Herschel Museum of Astronomy’s Jubilate exhibition, for our June Book Group we will be reading ‘The Rivals’ by Richard Sheridan. Sheridan famously eloped with his wife, Elizabeth Linley, from the Royal Crescent in 1772.

This will be the Book Group’s first play, and hopefully an evening of amateur theatrics as we read through scenes!

As usual, you can expect drinks, nibbles, and the now-traditional themed book group cupcakes!

Previous Texts:

December 2016: Skeleton Hill by Peter Lovesey – Changing tone completely, for our Christmas 2016 book group we read Peter Lovesey’s Skeleton Hill which follows the fictional Head of Bath CID, Peter Diamond, through his investigation into the discovery of a fresh corpse outside Beckford’s Tower. We had fun discussing such a local book, and how our knowledge of its setting enhanced our reading, while enjoying skeleton hill cupcakes (with suitably gory centres) and crime scene rocky road.

September 2016: The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century by Jeremy Black – The British Abroad is a comprehensive exploration of the tradition of the Grand Tour which was an important part of the life of every eighteenth century gentleman, especially Beckford. We talked about the aspects of the book that surprised us, about the modern equivalent of the Grand Tour (if there even is one) and about Beckford’s travels in Europe between nibbles of ‘suitcase cakes’.

June 2016: The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag – The Volcano Lover is a fictional interpretation of the lives of Sir William Hamilton, Catherine Hamilton (Sir William’s first wife), Emma Hamilton (his infamous second wife), and Admiral Nelson (Sir William’s cousin, William Beckford, also makes a few cameos). We discussed our interpretations of the text and our thoughts on Sontag’s writing style, compared parts of the dialogue in the book with the letters on which they was based, handled actual pieces of Vesuvius and nibbled on ‘volcano cakes’.

March 2016: The Sugar Barons by Matthew Parker – The Sugar Barons is an exploration of the families (including the Beckford’s) who made their fortunes on the sugar plantations of the West Indies. We discussed our thoughts on not only the text but the difficult history behind it. One of our most interesting Book Groups so far.

December 2015: A Christmas Carol – A very festive discussion of this supernatural classic. We shared our thoughts and ideas on the text and its many interpretatons and shared some Christmassy nibbles.

September 2015: Vathek – In Beckford’s birthday month we dicussed his gothic novel, reportedly written after his notorious 3-day long 21st birthday party in 1781. We discussed our interpretations of the text and its author and were lucky enough to view, and handle, some of the many editions from history – including an 1816 version from Beckford’s own collection.

June 2015: Fantastical Journeys and Imaginary Travels – We asked everyone to bring along their favourite piece of fictional travel writing and journeyed with Harold Fry on his Unlikely Pilgramage to the centre of the Earth via Discworld, Lilliput and London Below with  little help from Robinson Crusoe.

February 2015: Tall Tales of Travel and Adventure – After discussing some of Beckford’s travel writing, everyone shared their favourite pieces, including Bryson, Dickens, Mishra and Nairn.

September 2014: Frankenstein – A talk by our curator, Dr Amy Frost, followed by a group discussion on this classic text.


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