The New International Encyclopædia/Besant, Sir Walter
BESANT, be-zānt′, Sir Walter (1836-1901). An English novelist and critic. He was born in Portsmouth, August 14, 1836, the son of William Besant. He was educated at King's College, London, and at Christ's College, Cambridge, and was appointed senior professor in the Royal College of Mauritius (1801-67). Returning to London on account of ill health, he formed a successful literary partnership with James Rice. They produced together many excellent novels, beginning with Ready Money Mortiboy (1872), and ending with The Seamy Side (1881). After the death of Rice (1882), Besant wrote a large number of novels, of which the most notable is All Sorts and Conditions of Men (1882), dealing with the social conditions in the East Side of London. This novel presented so clear a picture of the real life and limited opportunities of the common people of East London as to lead to the establishment of the People's Palace as a reality. The work gave an impetus to many other attempts at social reform, and assisted its author to an abiding-place among the social reformers of his generation. Among his other novels are Dorothy Foster, Children of Gibeon, Armorel of Lyonesse, The City of Refuge, and The Orange Girl. Besant also did an immense amount of miscellaneous writing. He founded the Society of Authors, becoming its first chairman (1884-85), and the editor (1890) of the Author, an official organ of the society. In 1895 he was knighted. He died at Hampstead, June 10, 1901. (See People's Palace.) Consult Autobiography (New York, 1902).