Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
820
BESANT—BESKOW

overlooking the Doubs at the bend, were constructed prior to 1870. The newer works enclose an area more suited to the needs of modern warfare: the chain of detached forts along the ridges of the left bank has a total length of 7½ m., and the centre of this chain is supported by numerous forts and batteries lying between it and the citadel. On the other bank Fort Chaudanne is now the innermost of several forts facing towards the south-west, and the foremost of these works connects the fortifications of the left bank with another chain of detached forts on the right bank. The latter completely encloses a large area of ground in a semicircle of which Besançon itself is the centre, and the whole of the newer works taken together form an irregular ellipse of which the major axis, lying north-east by south-west, is formed by the Doubs.

Besançon is a place of great antiquity. Under the name of Vesontio it was, in the time of Julius Caesar, the chief town of the Sequani, and in 58 B.C. was occupied by that general. It was a rich and prosperous place under the Roman emperors, and Marcus Aurelius promoted it to the rank of a colonia as Colonia Victrix Sequanorum. During the succeeding centuries it was several times destroyed and rebuilt. The archbishopric dates from the close of the 2nd century, and the archbishops gradually acquired considerable temporal power. As the capital of the free county of Burgundy, or Franche-Comté, it was united with the German kingdom when Frederick I. married Beatrix, daughter of Renaud III., count of Upper Burgundy. In 1184 Frederick made it a free imperial city, and about the same time the archbishop obtained the dignity of a prince of the Empire. It afterwards became detached from the German kingdom, and during the 14th century came into the possession of the dukes of Burgundy, from whom it passed to the emperor Maximilian I., and his grandson Charles V. Cardinal Granvella, who was a native of the city, became archbishop in 1584, and founded a university which existed until the French Revolution. After the abdication of Charles V. it came into the possession of Spain, although it remained formally a portion of the Empire until its cession at the peace of Westphalia in 1648. During the 17th century it was attacked several times by the French, to whom it was definitely ceded by the peace of Nijmwegen in 1678. It was then fortified by the engineer Vauban. Until 1789 it was the seat of a parlement. In 1814 it was invested and bombarded by the Austrians, and was an important position during the Franco-German War of 1870-71.

See A. Castan, Besançon et ses environs (Besançon, 1887); A. Guénard, Besançon, description historique (Besançon, 1860).

BESANT, SIR WALTER (1836-1901), English author, was born at Portsmouth, on the 14th of August 1836, third son of William Besant of that town. He was educated at King’s College, London, and Christ’s College, Cambridge, of which he was a scholar. He graduated in 1859 as 18th wrangler, and from 1861 to 1867 was senior professor of the Royal College, Mauritius. From 1868 to 1885 he acted as secretary to the Palestine Exploration Fund. In 1884 he was mainly instrumental in establishing the Society of Authors, a trade-union of writers designed for the protection of literary property, which has rendered great assistance to inexperienced authors by explaining the principles of literary profit. Of this society he was chairman from its foundation in 1884 till 1892. He married Mary, daughter of Mr Eustace Foster-Barham of Bridgwater, and was knighted in 1895. He died at Hampstead, on the 9th of June 1901. Sir Walter Besant practised many branches of literary art with success, but he is most widely known for his long succession of novels, many of which have enjoyed remarkable popularity. His first stories were written in collaboration with James Rice (q.v.). Two at least of these, The Golden Butterfly (1876) and Ready-Money Mortiboy (1872), are among the most vigorous and most characteristic of his works. Though not without exaggeration and eccentricity, attributable to the influence of Dickens, they are full of rich humour, shrewd observation and sound common-sense, and contain characters which have taken their place in the long gallery of British fiction. After Rice’s death, Sir Walter Besant wrote alone, and in All Sorts and Conditions of Men (1882) produced a stirring story of East End life in London, which set on foot the movement that culminated in the establishment of the People’s Palace in the Mile End Road. Though not himself a pioneer in the effort made by Canon Barnett and others to alleviate the social evils of the East End by the personal contact of educated men and women of a superior social class, his books rendered immense service to the movement by popularizing it. His sympathy with the poor was shown in another attempt to stir public opinion, this time against the evils of the sweating system, in The Children of Gibeon (1886).

Other popular novels by him were Dorothy Forster (1884), Armorel of Lyonesse (1890), and Beyond the Dreams of Avarice (1895). He also wrote critical and biographical works, including The French Humorists (1873), Rabelais (1879), and lives of Coligny, Whittington, Captain Cook and Richard Jefferies. Besant undertook a series of important historical and archaeological volumes, dealing with the associations and development of the various districts of London—of which the most important was A Survey of London, unfortunately left unfinished, which was intended to do for modern London what Stow did for the Elizabethan city. Other books on London (1892), Westminster (1895) and South London (1899) showed that his mind was full of his subject. No man of his time evinced a keener interest in the professional side of literary work, and the improved conditions of the literary career in England were largely due to his energetic and capable exposition of the commercial value of authorship and to the unselfish efforts which Sir Walter constantly made on behalf of his fellow-workers in the field of letters.

See also Autobiography of Sir Walter Besant (1902), with a prefatory note by S.S. Sprigge; the preface to the library edition (1887) of Ready-Money Mortiboy contains a history of the literary partnership of Besant and Rice.

BESENVAL DE BRONSTATT, PIERRE VICTOR, Baron de (1722-1794), French soldier, was born at Soleure. He was the son of Jean Victor Besenval, colonel of the regiment of Swiss guards in the pay of France, who was charged in 1707 by Louis XIV. with a mission to Sweden, to reconcile Charles XII. with the tsar Peter the Great, and to unite them in alliance with France against England. Pierre Victor served at first as aide-de-camp to Marshal Broglie during the campaign of 1748 in Bohemia, then as aide-de-camp to the duke of Orleans during the Seven Years’ War. He then became commander of the Swiss Guards. When the Revolution began Besenval remained firmly attached to the court, and he was given command of the troops which the king had concentrated on Paris in July 1789—a movement which led to the taking of the Bastille on the 14th of July. Besenval showed incompetence in the crisis, and attempted to flee. He was arrested, tried by the tribunal of the Châtelet, but acquitted. He then fell into obscurity and died in Paris in 1794. Besenval de Bronstatt is principally known as the author of Mémoires, which were published in 1805-1807 by the vicomte T.A. de Ségur, in which are reported many scandalous tales, true or false, of the court of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette. The authenticity of these memoirs is not absolutely established.

BESKOW, BERNHARD VON, Baron (1796-1868), Swedish dramatist and historian, son of a Stockholm merchant, was born on the 19th of April 1796. His vocation for literature was assisted by his tutor, the poet Johan Magnus Stjernstolpe (1777-1831), whose works he edited. He entered the civil service in 1814, was ennobled in 1826 and received the title of baron in 1843. He held high appointments at court, and was, from 1834 onwards, perpetual secretary of the Swedish academy, using his great influence with tact and generosity. His poetry is over-decorated, and his plays are grandiose historical poems in dramatic form. Among them are “Erik XIV.” (2 parts, 1826); and four pieces collected (1836-1838) as Dramatiska Studier, the most famous of which is the tragedy of “Thorkel Knutsson.” His works include many academical memoirs, volumes of poems, philosophy and a valuable historical study,