Besant, Sir Walter (bĭzăntˈ) [key], 1836–1901, English novelist and humanitarian, grad. Christ's College, Cambridge, 1859. He taught at the Royal College of Mauritius from 1861 to 1867. After his return to England he devoted himself to writing and to various causes, among them the improvement of the copyright laws. His first novels (in collaboration with James Rice) won immediate popularity. Romantic and somewhat florid in style, they include The Golden Butterfly (1876) and Ready-Money Mortiboy (1872). Many of Besant's novels, written after the collaboration with Rice, dealt with social problems; among them were All Sorts and Conditions of Men (1882) and Children of Gibeon (1886). Besant was one of the most widely read novelists of the late 19th cent. He was knighted in 1895.
See his autobiography (1902, repr. 1971).
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