Sir Walter Besant , Novelist

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Walter Besant

Birthplace: Portsmouth
Death: Died in Hampstead
Immediate Family:

Son of Walter Besant and Sarah Besant
Husband of Dame Mary Garratt BARHAM
Father of Phillip Eustace Besant; Celia Winifred Besant; Geoffery Barham Besant and Mary Alison Besant
Brother of Rev. Frank Besant

Managed by: Susan Mary Rayner (Green) (RYAN)
Last Updated:

About Sir Walter Besant , Novelist

Sir Walter Besant (14 August 1836 – 9 June 1901), was a novelist and historian who lived largely in London. His sister-in-law was Annie Besant.


The son of a merchant, he was born at Portsmouth, Hampshire and attended school at St Paul's, Southsea, Stockwell Grammar, London and King's College London. In 1855, he was admitted as a pensioner to Christ's College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1859 as 18th wrangler. After a year as Mathematical Master at Rossall School, Fleetwood, Lancashire and a year at Leamington College, he spent 6 years as professor of mathematics at the Royal College, Mauritius. A decline in health compelled him to resign, and he returned to England and settled in London in 1867. From 1868 to 1885 he held the position of Secretary to the Palestine Exploration Fund. In 1871, he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn.

In 1868 he published Studies in French Poetry. Three years later he began his collaboration with writer James Rice. Among their joint productions are Ready-money Mortiboy (1872), and the Golden Butterfly (1876), both, especially the latter, very successful. This association was ended by the death of Rice in 1882. Thereafter Besant continued to write voluminously by himself, his main novels being All in a Garden Fair (which Rudyard Kipling credited in Something of Myself with inspiring him to leave India and make a career as a writer), Dorothy Forster (his own favorite), Children of Gibeon, and All Sorts and Conditions of Men. The two latter belonged to a series in which he endeavored to arouse the public conscience to the hardship among the poorest classes of cities. In this crusade Besant had considerable success, the establishment of The People's Palace in the East of London being one result. In addition to his fiction, Besant wrote largely on the history and topography of London. His plans for this topic were left unfinished: among his books on this subject is London in the 18th Century.

Besant was a freemason, becoming Master of Marquis of Dalhousie Lodge, London in 1873. He was one of the founders of the first Masonic research lodge, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No 2076, of which he was the first treasurer from 1886.

He was treasurer of the 'Atlantic Union', an association which sought to improve social relations between Britons and Americans. He died in London on 9 June 1901, aged 64.

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Sir Walter Besant , Novelist's Timeline

August 14, 1836
Age 37
October 8, 1875
Age 39
Shepherds Bush London
April 29, 1878
Age 41
St John Nottery Hill, London, England
August 21, 1879
Age 43
Bayswater london
May 2, 1881
Age 44
Bayswater london
June 9, 1901
Age 64