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English novelist and humanitarian, one of the greatest of the Victorian Era.
In 1871 Besant began a literary collaboration with James Rice, editor of Once a Week, producing 14 romantic novels, all hugely popular. Following Rice’s death in 1882, Besant embarked upon a solo career, becoming one of the first authors to employ a literary agent. His debut novel also became his most famous. First serialised in Belgravia in 1882, All Sorts and Conditions of Men went on to sell 250,000 copies. His story of two lovers united by their desire to improve the East End directly inspired the building of the People’s Palace on Mile End Road, opened by Queen Victoria on 14 May 1887.
Not content with such a visible testament to his literary achievements, Besant worked tirelessly for charities that aimed to help London’s poor, often funding them out of his own pocket. He was knighted for this work in 1895.
Besant wrote 32 novels in the 19 years after Rice’s death, including his own favourite, Dorothy Forster (1884). There were two excellent dystopian precursors to Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World – The Revolt of Man (1882), which depicted a world where women ruled and The Inner House (1888), which explored a world where people never aged, thanks to an elixir.
This is a fine letter on headed paper (Frognal End, Hampstead, N.W., Sept 23 1893), handwritten in black fountain pen ink to a fan
Besant writes (in part):
So kindly & appreciative a letter makes your request a command - I enclose herewith two or three lines taken from my story "For Faith and Freedom", with my autograph for you to send to your funny American friend with my compliments.
One horizontal and one vertical correspondence fold. Some handling "dings" but in good overall condition.