(1836-1901) UK writer and social reformer. He wrote several bestselling novels in collaboration with James Rice (1844-1882), with whom he also produced – at first anonymously – The Case of Mr Lucraft and Other Tales (coll 1876). In the striking title story a young man leases his healthy appetite to an aged hedonist, accepting the unpleasant side-effects of the old man's sybaritic indulgence. Also included are four light-hearted Ghost Stories and the didactic novella "Titania's Farewell", in which the Fairies leave England in protest against modern social trends. WB collaborated with Walter Herries Pollock on the novella "Sir Jocelyn's Cap" (1884-1885; reprinted in Uncle Jack, etc. coll 1886 by WB), whose method and style anticipate the works of F Anstey. His most important solo fantasy was The Doubts of Dives (1889; reprinted in Verbena Camellia Stephanotis coll 1892), in which a bored socialite exchanges bodies (see Identity Exchange) with a poor friend who thinks that wealth will allow his literary talent to blossom; their respective fiancées find the swap disconcerting. Besant's interest in such experiments was further extrapolated in the dual-personality novel The Ivory Gate (1892). [BS]
other works: The Charm and Other Drawing-Room Plays (coll 1896) with Pollock.
Sir Walter Besant