Horace Walpole (1717–1797)
- Horace Walpole
- 4th Earl of Orford
Dictionary of National Biography (1885–1900)
WALPOLE, HORATIO or HORACE, fourth Earl of Orford (1717–1797), author, wit, and letter-writer, was born in Arlington Street (No. 17) on 24 Sept. 1717 (O.S.), being the fourth son of Sir Robert Walpole, first earl of Orford [q. v.], by his first wife, Catherine Shorter, eldest daughter of John Shorter of Bybrook, near Ashford in Kent. He was eleven years younger than the rest of his father's children, a circumstance which, taken in connection with his dissimilarity, both personally and mentally, to the other members of the family, has been held to lend some countenance to the contemporary suggestion, first revived by Lady Louisa Stuart (Introduction to Lord Wharncliffe's edition of the Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu), that he was the son, not of Sir Robert Walpole, but of Carr, lord Hervey, the elder brother of John, lord Hervey, the ‘Sporus’ of Pope. His attachment to his mother and his lifelong reverence for Sir Robert Walpole, of whom he was invariably the strenuous defender, added to the fact that there is nowhere the slightest hint in his writings of any suspicion on his own part as to his parentage, must be held to discredit this ancient scandal. His godmother, he tells us (Corresp. ed. Cunningham, 1857–9, vol. i. p. lxi), was his aunt, Dorothy Walpole, lady Townshend; his godfathers the Duke of Grafton and Sir Robert's younger brother, Horatio (afterwards Baron Walpole of Wolterton) [q. v.] It was probably in compliment to his uncle that he was christened Horatio; but, as he told Pinkerton (Walpoliana, i. 62), he disliked the name, and wrote himself ‘Horace’—‘an English name for an Englishman.’ He received the first elements of his education at Bexley in Kent, where he was placed under the charge of a son of Stephen Weston (1665–1742) [q. v.], bishop of Exeter. But he spent much of his boyhood in his father's house ‘next the college’ at Chelsea, a building now merged in the hospital. One of the salient events of his youthful days was his being taken, at his own request, to kiss the hand of George I, then (1 June 1727) preparing to set out on that last journey to Hanover on which he died. Of this Walpole gives an account in his ‘Reminiscences of the Courts of George I and George II’ (Corresp. vol. i. pp. xciii, xciv; see also Walpoliana, p. 25).
On 26 April 1727 he went to Eton, where his tutor was Henry Bland, the headmaster's eldest son. From his own account his abilities were not remarkable. ‘I was a blockhead, and pushed up above my parts,’ he wrote to Conway (Corresp. i. 307). But there are other evidences that his powers were by no means contemptible. Among his schoolmates were his cousins, the two Conways—Henry Seymour (afterwards Marshal Conway) [q. v.], and his elder brother Francis Seymour Conway, lord Hertford [q. v.] —Charles Hanbury-Williams [q. v.], and George Augustus Selwyn (1719–1791) [q. v.] Another contemporary and associate was William Cole (1714–1782) [q. v.], the antiquary. But his closest allies were George and Charles Montagu, the sons of Brigadier-general Edward Montagu, and these formed with Walpole what was known as the ‘Triumvirate.’ A still more important group, which consisted of Walpole, Thomas Gray (afterwards the poet), Richard West, and Thomas Ashton (1716–1775) [q. v.], was styled the ‘Quadruple Alliance;’ and this, which was a combination of a more literary and poetical character than the other, had not a little to do with Walpole's future character. The influence of Gray in particular, both upon his point of view and his method of expression, has never yet been sufficiently traced out. While at Eton (27 May 1731) he was entered at Lincoln's Inn, but he never went thither. He left Eton on 23 Sept. 1734, proceeding, after an interval of residence in London, to his father's college at Cambridge (King's), where he began in March 1735. At Cambridge he found several of the Eton set, including Cole and the Conways. West had gone to Oxford, but Gray and Ashton were at Cambridge, the one as a fellow-commoner at Peterhouse, the other at King's. Of Walpole's university studies we know little but the names of his tutors. In civil law and anatomy he attended the lectures of Francis Dickins and William Battie [q. v.] respectively; his drawing-master was Bernard Lens [q. v.], and his mathematical professor the blind Professor Saunderson [q. v.], who appears to have told him frankly that he could never learn what he was trying to teach him (Corresp. ix. 467). In the classics his success was greater, but not remarkable, and he confessed to Pinkerton (Walpoliana, i. 105) that he never was a good Greek scholar. In French and Italian he was, however, fairly proficient, and already at Cambridge had made some literary essays, one being a copy of verses in the ‘Gratulatio Academiæ Cantabrigiensis’ of 1736 addressed to Frederick, prince of Wales, on his marriage with Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha.
On 20 Aug. 1737 Lady Walpole died, and was buried in Westminster Abbey under a eulogistic epitaph composed by her youngest son. Soon after this his father appointed him inspector of imports and exports in the custom-house, a post which he subsequently resigned, in January 1738, on receiving that of usher of the exchequer. Later in the year he came into ‘two other little patent-places,’ a comptrollership of the pipe and clerkship of the estreats, which had been held for him by a substitute. These three offices must have then been worth about 1,200l. a year, and were due of course to his father's interest as prime minister. He quitted King's College in 1739, and at the end of March in that year left England in company with Gray on the regulation grand tour. Walpole was to be paymaster, but Gray was to be independent. They made a short stay in Paris and then went to Rheims, where they remained three months to improve themselves in the language. From Rheims they went to Dijon and Lyons, where, after an excursion to Geneva, Walpole found letters from his father telling him to go on to Italy. Accordingly they crossed the Alps, travelling from Turin to Genoa, and ultimately, in the Christmas of 1739, entered Florence. Here they were welcomed by the English residents, and particularly by Mr. (afterwards Sir Horace) Mann [q. v.], the British minister-plenipotentiary, a distant relative of Walpole, and subsequently one of his most favoured correspondents. With a brief interval they resided in the Casa Ambrosio, Mann's villa on the Arno, for fifteen months. Walpole, when his first passion for antiquities had cooled, gave himself up to the pleasures of the place; Gray continued to take notes of statues and galleries and to copy music. They paid a flying visit to Rome, but they remained at Florence until May 1741, when they began their homeward journey. At Reggio a misunderstanding arose, of which the cause is obscure, and they separated. On Gray's side this was never explained; but after his death Walpole took all the blame on himself (Corresp. v. 441; Walpoliana, i. 95). Shortly afterwards he fell ill of quinsy, which might have ended seriously but for the timely advent of Joseph Spence [q. v.], who summoned a doctor from Florence. Upon his recovery Walpole returned to England, reaching Dover on 12 Sept. 1741 (O.S.) In his absence he had been returned member for Callington in Cornwall (14 May 1741).
During his stay in Italy he had addressed to his friend Ashton, now tutor to the Earl of Plymouth, an ‘Epistle from Florence’ in Dryden's manner; and he soon began to correspond regularly with Mann, to whom he had written a first letter on his return journey. He took up his residence at first with his father in Downing Street, and subsequently at No. 5 Arlington Street, to which house Sir Robert Walpole removed after his resignation and elevation to the peerage as Earl of Orford in 1742. No. 5 Arlington Street, now marked by a Society of Arts tablet, long continued to be his residence after his father's death, and here, with intervals of residence at Houghton, the family seat in Norfolk, he continued to live. He hated Norfolk and the Norfolk scenery and products. But there were some compensations for endless doing the honours to uncongenial guests in Lord Orford's great mansion in the fens. The house had a wonderful gallery of pictures, brought together by years of judicious foraging in Italy and England, and far too distinctive in character to be allowed to pass, as it eventually did, into the hands of Catherine of Russia. This collection was to Walpole not only an object of enduring interest, but a prolongation of that education as a connoisseur which the grand tour had begun. One of his cleverest jeux d'esprit, the ‘Sermon on Painting,’ was prompted by the Houghton gallery, and he occupied much of his time about 1742–3 in preparing, upon the model of the ‘Ædes Barberini’ and ‘Giustinianæ,’ an ‘Ædes Walpolianæ,’ which, besides being something more than a mere catalogue, includes an excellent introduction. It was afterwards published in 1747, and is included in vol. ii. of the ‘Works’ of 1798 (pp. 221–78).
Lord Orford died in March 1744–5, leaving his youngest son ‘the house in Arlington Street … 5,000l. in money, and 1,000l. a year from the collector's place in the custom house’ (Corresp. vol. i. p. lxiv). Any surplus of the last item was to be divided with his brother, Sir Edward Walpole. After this, the next notable thing in his uneventful career seems to have been the composition in 1746 of a prologue for Rowe's ‘Tamerlane,’ which it was the custom to play on 4 and 5 Nov., being the anniversaries of King William's birth and landing at Torbay. The subject, as may be guessed, was the ‘suppression of the late rebellion’ (1745). In the same year (1746) he contributed two papers to Nos. 2 and 5 of the ‘Museum,’ and wrote a bright little poem on some court ladies, entitled ‘The Beauties.’ In August he took a country residence at Windsor, and resumed his interrupted intercourse with Gray, who had just completed his ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.’ In 1747, however, came what must be regarded as the great event of his life—his removal to the neighbourhood of Twickenham. He took the remainder of the lease of a little house which stood on the left bank of the Thames at the corner of the upper road to Teddington. Even then it was not without a history. Originally the ‘country box’ of a retired coachman of the Earl of Bradford, it had been subsequently occupied by Colley Cibber, by Dr. Talbot, bishop of Durham, by a son of the Duke of Chandos, and lastly by Mrs. Chenevix, the toywoman of Suffolk Street, sister to Pope's Mrs. Bertrand of Bath, who sublet it to Lord John Sackville. Walpole took the remainder of Mrs. Chenevix's lease, and by 1748 had grown so attached to the place that he obtained a special act to purchase the fee simple, for which he paid 1,356l. 10s. In some old deeds he found the site described as Strawberry-Hill-Shot, and he accordingly gave the house its now historic name of Strawberry Hill.
Strawberry Hill and its development thenceforth remained for many years his chief occupation in life. Standing originally in some five acres, he speedily extended his territory by fresh purchases to fourteen acres, which he assiduously planted and cultivated, until it ‘sprouted away like any chaste nymph in the Metamorphoses.’ Then he began gradually to enlarge and alter the structure itself. ‘I am going to build a little Gothic castle at Strawberry Hill,’ he says in January 1750 (Corresp. ii. 190). Accordingly, in 1753–4, he constructed a grand parlour or refectory with a library above it, and to these in 1760–1761 he added a picture gallery and cloister, a round-tower and a cabinet or tribune. A great north bedchamber followed in 1770, and other minor additions succeeded these. Having gothicised the place to his heart's content with battlements and arches and painted glass (‘lean windows fattened with rich saints’), he proceeded, or rather continued, to stock it with all the objects most dear to the connoisseur and virtuoso, pictures and statues, books and engravings, enamels by Petitot and Zincke, miniatures by Cooper and the Olivers, old china, snuff-boxes, gems, coins, seal-rings, filigree, cut-paper, and nicknacks of all sorts, which gave it the aspect partly of a museum and partly of a curiosity shop. Finally, after making a tentative catalogue in 1760 of the drawings and pictures in one of the rooms (the Holbein chamber), he printed in 1774 a quarto ‘Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole … at Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham, with an Inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Curiosities, &c.’ Fresh acquisitions obliged him to add several appendices to this, which was reprinted definitively in 1784, accompanied by engravings. In this form it was reproduced in his posthumous ‘Works’ (ii. 393–516).
The catalogues of 1774 and 1784 were printed at his own Officina Arbuteana or private press at Strawberry. This he set on foot in July 1757, in a cottage near his house, taking for his sole manager and operator an Irish printer named William Robinson. His first issue was the ‘Odes’ of Gray, which he set up for the Dodsleys in 1757. These in due course were followed by a number of works of varying importance. Of those from his own pen, the chief (in addition to the catalogues above mentioned) were ‘A Catalogue of the Royal and Noble Authors of England,’ 2 vols. 1758; ‘Fugitive Pieces in Verse and Prose,’ 1758; ‘Anecdotes of Painting in England’ (from Vertue's MSS.), 4 vols. 1762–1771 ; ‘A Catalogue of Engravers who have been born or resided in England,’ 1763; ‘The Mysterious Mother, a Tragedy,’ 1768; ‘Miscellaneous Antiquities,’ Nos. 1 and 2, 1772; ‘A Letter to the Editor of the Miscellanies of Thomas Chatterton,’ 1779; ‘Hieroglyphic Tales,’ 1785; ‘Essay on Modern Gardening’ (with a French version by the Duc de Nivernais), 1785; and a translation of Voiture's ‘Histoire d'Alcidalis et de Zelide,’ 1789. Besides these, he printed Hentzer's ‘Journey into England,’ 1757; Whitworth's ‘Account of Russia in 1710,’ 1758; Spence's ‘Parallel’ (between Hill the tailor and the librarian Magliabecchi), 1758; Lord Cornbury's comedy of ‘The Mistakes,’ 1758; Lucan's ‘Pharsalia,’ with Bentley's notes, 1760; Countess Temple's ‘Poems,’ 1764; ‘The Life of Lord Herbert of Cherbury,’ 1764; Hénault's ‘Cornélie,’ 1768; Hoyland's ‘Poems,’ 1769; ‘Seven Original Letters of Edward VI,’ 1772; Grammont's ‘Memoirs,’ 1772; Fitzpatrick's ‘Dorinda, a Town Eclogue,’ 1775; Lady Craven's comedy of ‘The Sleep-walker,’ 1778; Hannah More's ‘Bishop Bonner's Ghost,’ 1789, and a number of minor pieces, single sheets, labels, and so forth. All the earlier of these books were printed by his first printer, Robinson. But Robinson was dismissed in 1759, and, after an interval of occasional hands, was succeeded by Thomas Kirgate, who continued to perform his duties until Walpole's death.
Apart from the history of Strawberry and its press, Walpole's life from 1747, when he came to Twickenham, has little incident. In 1747–9 his zeal for his father's memory involved him in some party pamphleteering, the interest of which has now evaporated. In the November of the last-mentioned year he was robbed in Hyde Park by the ‘gentleman highwayman,’ James Maclaine [q. v.], and narrowly escaped being shot through the head (World, No. 103; Corresp. ii. 218–230). In 1753 he contributed a number of papers to the ‘World’ of the fabulist Edward Moore (1712–1757) [q. v.], one of which was a futile plea for that bankrupt Belisarius, Theodore of Corsica, to whom he subsequently erected a memorial tablet in St. Anne's churchyard, Soho; and in the same year he was instrumental in putting forth the famous edition of Gray's ‘Poems,’ with the designs of the younger Bentley, the originals of which were long preserved at Strawberry. In 1754 he became member for Castle Rising in Norfolk, a seat which he vacated three years later for that of Lynn. About the same time he interested himself, but vainly, to save the unfortunate Admiral Byng. But his chief distraction, in addition to his house and press, was authorship. Most of his productions have been enumerated above. But a few either preceded the establishment of the press or were independent of it. One of the former class was a clever little skit, on the model of Montesquieu, entitled ‘A Letter from Xo Ho, a Chinese Philosopher at London, to his Friend Lien Chi, at Peking,’ 1757, an effort which to some extent anticipated the famous ‘Citizen of the World’ of Goldsmith. Another jeu d'esprit, three years later, was ‘The Parish Register of Twickenham,’ a list in octosyllabics of the local notables, afterwards included in vol. iv. of his ‘Works.’ To 1761 belongs ‘The Garland,’ a complimentary poem on George III, first published in the ‘Quarterly’ for 1852 (No. clxxx). But his most important effort was issued in December 1764. This was the ‘Gothic romance’ of ‘The Castle of Otranto,’ further described on its title-page as ‘Translated by William Marshal, Gent., from the original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, Canon of the church of St. Nicholas at Otranto.’ The introduction gave a critical account of the supposed black-letter original, the existence of which at first seems to have been taken for granted, even by Gray at Cambridge. Its success was considerable. In a second edition, which was speedily called for, Walpole dropped the mask and disclosed his intention in a clever preface. He had sought to blend the ancient and modern romance; to combine supernatural machinery and every-day characters. His account of the inception and progress of the idea as given to his friend Cole (Corresp. iv. 328) is extremely interesting; but his book is more interesting still, for he had hit upon a new vein in romance, a vein which was to be worked by a crowd of writers from Clara Reeve [q. v.] to Sir Walter—and after. With the ‘Castle of Otranto’ tentatively and inexpertly, but unmistakably, began the modern romantic revival.
By the time the ‘Castle of Otranto’ was in its second edition, Walpole had carried out a long-cherished project and started for Paris. This he did in September 1765. He saw much of cultivated French society, especially its great ladies, of whom his letters contain vivacious accounts (cf. Corresp. iv. 465–73). But the most notable incident of this visit to France, and the pretext of later ones, was the friendship he formed with the blind and brilliant Madame du Deffand, then nearing seventy, whose attraction to the mixture of independence, effeminacy, and real genius which made up Walpole's character speedily grew into a species of infatuation. He had no sooner quitted Paris than she wrote to him, and thenceforward until her death her letters, dictated to her faithful secretary, Wiart, continued, except when Walpole was actually visiting her (and she sometimes wrote to him even then), to reach him regularly. He went to Paris to see her in 1767, and again in 1775. Her attachment lasted five years later, until 1780, when she died painlessly at eighty-four. She left Walpole her manuscripts and her books. Many of her letters are included in the selection published in 1810, and eight hundred of the originals were sold at the Strawberry Hill sale of 1842. Walpole's own letters, which he had prevailed upon her to return to him, though extant in 1810, have not been printed; and those received subsequently to 1774, a few belonging to 1780 excepted, were burnt by her at Walpole's desire. Good Frenchman though he was, he no doubt felt apprehensive lest his compositions in a foreign tongue should, in a foreign land, fall into unsympathetic keeping.
One of his jeux d'esprit while at Paris in 1765 had been a mock letter from Frederick the Great to the self-tormentor Rousseau, offering him an asylum in his dominions. Touched up by Helvétius and others, this missive gave great delight to the anti-Rousseau party, and, passing to England, helped to embitter the well-known quarrel between Rousseau and David Hume (1711–1776) [q. v.] Three years later Walpole was himself the victim of spurious documents. In March 1769 Thomas Chatterton [q. v.], then at Bristol, sent to him, as author of the ‘Anecdotes of Painting,’ some fragments of prose and verse, hinting that he could supply others bearing on the subject of art in England. Walpole was drawn, and replied encouragingly. Chatterton rejoined by partly revealing his condition, and Walpole, consulting Gray and Mason, was advised that he was being imposed upon. Private inquiries at Bath brought no satisfactory account of Chatterton, and he accordingly wrote him a fatherly letter of counsel, in which he added that doubts had been thrown upon the genuineness of the documents. He appears to have neglected or forgotten Chatterton's subsequent communications, until upon receipt of one more imperative than the rest (24 July), demanding the return of the papers, he snapped up both letters and poems in a pet, enclosed them in a cover without comment, and thought no more of the matter until Goldsmith told him at the Royal Academy dinner, a year and a half later, that Chatterton had destroyed himself—an announcement which seems to have filled him with genuine concern. He might no doubt have acted more benevolently or more considerately. But he had been misled at the outset, and it is idle to make him responsible for Chatterton's untimely end because he failed to show himself an ideal patron. His own account of the circumstances, printed, as already stated, at his private press, is to be found in vol. iv. pp. 205–45 of his ‘Works’ (see also Wilson's Chatterton, 1869).
In May 1767 he had resigned his seat in parliament, and in the following year produced two of his most ambitious works—the ‘Historic Doubts on Richard the Third,’ and the sombre and powerful but unpleasant tragedy of the ‘Mysterious Mother,’ already mentioned as one of the issues from the Strawberry Hill press. From 1769, however, the year of his last communication to Chatterton, until his death some eight-and-twenty years later, his life is comparatively barren of incident. It was passed pleasantly enough between his books and prints and correspondence, but, as he says himself, ‘will not do to relate.’ ‘Loo at Princess Amelie's [at Gunnersbury House], loo at Lady Hertford's, are the capital events of my history, and a Sunday alone, at Strawberry, my chief entertainment’ (Corresp. vi. 287). With being an author, he declared, he had done. Nevertheless, in 1773 he wrote a little fairy comedy called ‘Nature will prevail,’ which five years later was acted at the Haymarket with considerable success. He also printed various occasional pieces at the Strawberry Hill press, the more important of which have been enumerated; and he added to Strawberry itself in 1776–8 a special closet to contain a series of drawings in soot-water which his neighbour at Little Marble Hill, Lady Di Beauclerk, had made to illustrate the ‘Mysterious Mother.’ But the more notable events of his history between 1769 and 1797 are his succession in 1791 to the earldom of Orford at the death of the third earl, his elder brother's son, and his friendship with two charming sisters, Agnes and Mary Berry [q. v.], whose acquaintance he first made formally in 1789, nine years after the death of Madame du Deffand. Travelled, accomplished, extremely amiable, and a little French, their companionship became almost a necessity of his existence. In 1791 they established themselves with their father close to him in a house called Little Strawberry, which had formerly been occupied by an earlier friend, the actress Kitty Clive. It was even reported that rather than risk losing the solace of their society he would, at one time, have married the elder sister, Mary. But this was probably no more than a passing thought, begotten of vexation at some temporary separation. His ‘two Straw-Berries,’ his ‘Amours,’ his ‘dear Both,’ as he playfully called them, continued to delight him with their company until his death, which took place on 2 March 1797 at 40 (now 11) Berkeley Square, to which he had moved in October 1779 from Arlington Street. He left the sisters each 4,000l. for their lives, together with Little Strawberry and its furniture. Strawberry Hill itself passed to Mrs. Damer, the daughter of his friend General Conway, together with 2,000l. a year to keep it in repair. After living in it for some time she resigned it to the Countess Dowager of Waldegrave, in whom the remainder in fee was vested. It subsequently passed to George, seventh earl of Waldegrave, who sold its contents by auction in 1842. When he died four years later he left it to Frances, Countess of Waldegrave [q. v.]
Walpole was, above all, a wit, a virtuoso, and a man of quality. As a politician he scarcely counts, and it is difficult to believe that, apart from the fortunes of his father and friends, he took any genuine interest in public affairs. His critical taste was good, and as a connoisseur he would be rated far higher now than he was in those early Victorian days when the treasures of Strawberry were brought to the hammer, and the mirth of the Philistine was excited by the odd mingling of articles of real value with a good many trivial curiosities which, it is only fair to add, were often rather presents he had accepted than objects of art he had chosen himself. As a literary man he was always, and professed to be, an amateur, but the ‘Castle of Otranto,’ the ‘Mysterious Mother,’ the ‘World’ essays, the ‘Historic Doubts,’ and the ‘Anecdotes of Painting’ all show a literary capacity which only required some stronger stimulus than dilettantism to produce enduring results. If his more serious efforts, however, generally stopped short at elegant facility, his personal qualities secured him exceptional excellence as a chroniqueur and letter-writer. The posthumous ‘Memoirs’ of the reigns of George II and George III, published by Lord Holland and Sir Denis le Marchant in 1822 and 1845 respectively, the ‘Journal of the Reign of George III (1771–83),’ published by Dr. Doran in 1859, and the ‘Reminiscences’ written in 1788 for the Misses Berry, and first published in folio in 1805, in spite of some prejudice and bias, are not only important contributions to history, but contributions which contain many graphic portraits of his contemporaries. It is as a letter-writer, however, that he attains his highest point. In the vast and still incomplete correspondence which occupies Mr. Peter Cunningham's nine volumes (1857–1859), it is not too much to say that there is scarcely a dull page. In these epistles to Mann, to Montagu, to Mason, to Conway, to Lady Hervey, to Lady Ossory, to Hannah More, to the Misses Berry, and a host of others (see list in Corresp. vol. ix. p. xlvi), almost every element of wit and humour, variety and charm, is present. For gossip, anecdote, epigram, description, illustration, playfulness, pungency, novelty, surprise, there is nothing quite like them in English, and Byron did not overpraise them when he called them ‘incomparable.’
Of Walpole's person and character a good contemporary account is given in Pinkerton's ‘Walpoliana’ (vol. i. pp. xl–xlv) and the ‘Anecdotes,’ &c., of L. M. Hawkins (1822, pp. 105–6). There are many portraits of him, the most interesting of which are by J. G. Eckhardt and Sir Thomas Lawrence. The former, which hung in the blue bedchamber at Strawberry, represents him in manhood; the other in old age. There are also likenesses by Müntz, Hone (National Portrait Gallery, London), Zincke, Hogarth (at ten), Reynolds (1757), Rosalba, Falconet, Dance, and others. Walpole's ‘Works,’ edited by Mary Berry, under the name of her father, Robert Berry, were published in 1798 in 5 vols. 4to, with 150 illustrations. Of the ‘Royal and Noble Authors’ an enlarged edition was prepared by Thomas Park, in 5 vols. (London, 1806, 8vo). The standard edition of Walpole's ‘Anecdotes of Painting’ was edited by Ralph N. Wornum in 1849 (3 vols.). The ‘Memoirs of the Reign of George III’ were re-edited by Mr. G. F. Russell Barker in 1894 (4 vols.). Peter Cunningham's collected edition of Walpole's ‘Letters’ (1857–9, 9 vols.) embodied many separately published volumes of his correspondence with respectively George Montagu (London, 1818, 8vo), William Cole (1818, 4to), Sir Horace Mann (1833, 8vo, and 1843–4, 8vo), with the Misses Berry (1840), with the Countess of Ossory (1848), and with William Mason (1850), besides his ‘Private Correspondence’ (1820, 4 vols.).
[The authorities for his life are his own Short Notes (Corresp. vol. i. pp. lxi–lxxvii) and Reminiscences (ib. vol. i. pp. xci–cxiv); Warburton's Memoirs of Horace Walpole, 1851, 2 vols.; Seeley's Horace Walpole and his World, 1884; and Horace Walpole, by the present writer, 2nd edit. 1893, which last contains an Appendix of Books printed at the Strawberry Hill press. There is also an article on the press by Mr. H. B. Wheatley in Bibliographica, May 1896. See also Robins's Catalogue of the Classic Contents of Strawberry Hill, 1842; Cobbett's Memorials of Twickenham, 1872, pp. 294–327; Macaulay's Essay, Edinburgh Rev., October 1833; Hayward's Strawberry Hill, Quarterly, October 1876; Heneage Jesse's Memoirs of George III, 1867; Miss Berry's Journals, &c., 1865; Lady Mary Coke's Letters and Journals, 1889–92; and Notes and Queries (especially the contributions of Mrs. Paget Toynbee).]
Encyclopædia Britannica 11th edition (1911)
WALPOLE, HORATIO or Horace (1717-1797), English politician and man of letters, 4th earl of Orford—a title to which he only succeeded at the end of his life, and by which he is little known—was born in Arlington Street, London, on the 24th of September 1717. He was the youngest of the five children of the 1st earl of Orford (Sir Robert Walpole) by Catherine Shorter, but by some of the scandal-mongers of a later age, Carr, Lord Hervey, half-brother of John, Lord Hervey, afterwards second earl of Bristol, has been called his father. If this rumour be correct, no such suspicion ever entered into the mind of Horace Walpole. To his mother he erected a monument, with an inscription couched in terms of sincere affection, in the chapel of Henry VII. in Westminster Abbey, and from the beginning to the end of his public life his sarcasms never spared the Newcastles and the Hardwickes, who had shown, as he thought, lukewarmness in support of his father's ministry. On the 26th of April 1727 he was sent to Eton, where he formed what was known as the "Quadruple Alliance" with Thomas Gray, Richard West and Thomas Ashton, and became very intimate with Henry Seymour Conway, George Augustus Selwyn and the two Montagus, and in 1735 matriculated at King's College, Cambridge. Two years (1739-1741) were spent in Gray's company in the recognized grand tour of France and Italy. They stopped a few weeks in Paris, and lingered for three months at Rheims, on the pretence of learning the French language. Henry Seymour Conway, whose mother was a sister of Lady Walpole, shared their society in the French city. The other two members of this little circle next proceeded to Florence, where Walpole rested for more than a year in the villa of Horace Mann, the British envoy-extraordinary for forty-six years to the court of Tuscany. Mann's family had long been on terms of the closest intimacy with his guests, and they continued correspondents until 1786. As they never met again, their friendship, unlike most of Walpole's attachments, remained unbroken. After a short visit to Rome (March-June 1740), and after a further sojourn at Florence, Walpole and Gray parted in resentment at Reggio.
Walpole in after years took the blame of this quarrel on himself, and it is generally believed that it arose from his laying too much stress on his superiority in position. In 1744 the two friends were nominally reconciled, but the breach was not cemented.
Walpole came back to England on the 12th of September 1741. He had been returned to parliament on the 14th of May 1741 for the Cornish borough of Callington, over which his elder brother, through his marriage with the heiress of the Rolles, exercised supreme influence. He represented three constituencies in succession, Callington 1741-1754, the family borough of Castle Rising from 1734 to 1757, and the more important constituency of King's Lynn, for which his father had long sat in parliament, from the latter date until 1768. In that year he retired, probably because his success in political life had not equalled his expectations, but he continued until the end of his days to follow and to chronicle the acts and the speeches of both houses of parliament. Through his father's influence he had obtained three lucrative sinecures in the exchequer, and for many years (1745–1784) he enjoyed a share, estimated at about £1500 a year, of a second family perquisite, the collectorship of customs. These resources, with a house in Arlington Street, which was left to him by his father, enabled him, a bachelor all his days, to gratify his tastes. He acquired in 1747 the lease and in the next year purchased the reversion of the charmingly situated villa of Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham, on the banks of the Thames. Six years later he began a series of alterations in the Gothic style, not completed for nearly a quarter of a century later, under which the original cottage became transformed into a building without parallel in Europe. On the 25th of June 1757 he established a printing-press there, which he called "Officina Arbuteana," and many of the first editions of his own works were struck off within its walls. Through Walpole's influence Dodsley published in 1753 the clever, if eccentric, designs of Richard Bentley (the youngest child of the great scholar, and for some time a protégé of Horace Walpole) for the poems of Gray. The first work printed at Strawberry Hill was two odes of Gray (8th of August 1757), and among the reprints were the Life of Lord, Herbert of Cherbury, Memoirs of Grammont, Hentzner's Journey into England, and Lord Whitworth's Account of Russia. The rooms of this whimsical edifice were crowded with curiosities of every description, and the house and its contents were shown, by tickets to admit four persons, between 12 and 3 from May to October, but only one parly was admitted on each day, and the owner, although enamoured of notoriety, simulated discontent at this limited intrusion into his privacy. Walpole paid several visits to Paris, where he made the acquaintance of Madame du Deffand (q.v.) in 1765, and they corresponded until her death in 1780. His nephew, the reckless 3rd earl, died on the 5th of December 1791, and Horace succeeded to the peerage, but he never took his place in the House of Lords, and sometimes signed his name as "the uncle of the late earl of Orford." All his life long he was a victim of the gout, but he Uved to extreme old age, and died unmarried, in Berkeley Square, London, to which he had removed in October 1779, on the 2nd of March 1797. He was buried privately at Houghton. The family estate descended to the earl of Cholmondeley, whose ancestor had married Horace Walpole's younger sister. All Walpole's printed books and manuscripts were left to Robert Berry (d. 19th of May 1817) and his two daughters, Mary (1763–1852) and Agnes (1764–1852), and Mary Berry edited the five volumes of Walpole's works which were published in 1798. Their friendship had been very dear to the declining days of Walpole, who, it has even been said, wished to marry Mary Berry, By his will each of the ladies obtained a pecuniary legacy of /14000, and for their lives the house and garden, formerly the abode of his friend Kitty Clive, which adjoined Strawberry Hill. Strawberry Hill went to Mrs Anne Damer, daughter of his Ufelong friend General Conway, for her life, but it was entailed on his niece the countess dowager of Waldegrave and her heirs. The collections of Strawberry Hill, which he had spent nearly fifty years in amassing, were dispersed under the hammer of George Robins in 1842. They ate described in a catalogue of that date, and in a series of articles in the Gentleman's Magazine for that year.
The pen was ever in Horace Walpole's hands, and his entire compositions would fill many volumes. His two works of imagination, the romance of the Castle of Otranto (1764) and the tragedy of the Mysterious Mother (1768), are now all but forgotten The Castle of Otranto, purporting to be a story translated by William Marshal, gent, from the original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, canon of the church of St Nicholas at Otranto, was often reprinted in England, and was translated into both French and Italian by Sir Walter Scott it was lauded to the skies for its power in raising the passions of fear and pity, but from Hazhtt it met with intense condemnation, its real importance, however, lies in the fact that it started the romantic revival. The Mysterious Mother, a tragedy too horrible for representation on any stage, was never intended for performance in public, and only fifty copies of it were printed at Strawberry Hill. By Byron, who, Uke Horace Walpole, affected extreme liberalism, and like him never forgot that he was born within the purple, this tragedy was pronounced "of the highest order." Several of Walpole's antiquarian works merit high praise. The volume of Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third (1760), one of the earliest attempts to rehabilitate a character previously stamped with infamy, showed acuteness and research. These doubts provoked several answers, which are criticized in a supplement edited by Dr E. C. Hawtrey for the Philobiblon Society (1854). A work of more lasting reputation, which has retained its vitality for more than a century, is entitled Anecdotes of Painting in England, with some Account of the Principal Artists; collected by George Vertue, and now digested and published from his original manuscripts by Horace Walpole (4 vols., 1762–1771). Its value to art students and to admirers of biographical literature demanded its frequent reproduction, and it was reedited with additions by the Rev. James Dallaway in five volumes (1826–1828), and then again was revised and edited by R. N . Wornum in 1849. A cognate volume, also based on the materials of Vertue, is entitled the Catalogue of Engravers Born and Resident in England (1763), which, Uke its more famous predecessor, often passed through the press. On the Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors of England (1758) Walpole spent many hours of toilsome research. The best edition is that which appeared in five volumes, in 1806, under the competent editorship of Thomas Park, who carefully verified and diligently augmented the labours of the original author. As a senator himself, or as a private person following at a distance the combats of St Stephen's, Walpole recorded in a diary the chief incidents in English politics. For twenty-seven years he studied, a silent spectator for the most part, the characters of the chief personages who trod the stage of politics, and when he quitted the scene he retained the acquaintance of many of the chief actors. If he was sometimes prejudiced, he rarely distorted the acts of those whom he disliked; and his prejudices, which lie on the surface, were mainly against those whom he considered traitors to his father These diaries extend from 1750 to 1783, and cover a period of momentous importance in the annals of the national history. The Memoirs of the Last Ten Years of the Reign of George II. was edited by Lord Holland (1846); its successor. Memoirs of the Reign of King George III., was published under the editorial care of Sir Denis Le Marchant (4 vols., 1845), and re-edited in 1894 by Mr G. F. Russell Barker; the last volumes of the series, Journal of the Reign of George III. from 1771 to 1783 were edited and illustrated by John Doran (2 vols., 1859), and were edited with an introduction by A. F. Steuart (London, 1909). To these works should be added the Reminiscences (2 vols., 1819), which Walpole wrote in 1788 for the gratification of the Misses Berry. These labours would in themselves have rendered the name of Horace Walpole famous for all time, but his delightful Letters are the crowning glory of his life. His correspondents were numerous and widespread, but the chief of them were William Cole (1714-1782), the clerical antiquary of Milton; Robert Jephson, the dramatist; William Mason, the poet. Lord Hertford during his embassy in Paris; the countess of Ossory; Lord Harcourt; George Montagu, his friend at Eton; Henry Seymour Conway (1721-1795) and Sir Horace Mann. With most of these friends he quarrelled, but the friendship of ihc last two, in the former case through genuine liking, and in the latter through his fortunate absence from England, was never interrupted. The Letters were published at different dates, but the standard collection is that by Mrs Paget Toynbee (1903-1905), and to it should be added the volumes of the letters addressed to Walpole by his old friend Madame du Deffand (4 vols., 1810). Dr Doran's publication, Mann and Manners at the Court of Florence (1876), is founded on the epistles sent in return to Walpole by the envoy-extraordinary Other works relating to him are Horace Walpole and his World, by L B Seeley (1S84); Horace Walpole, a memoir by Austin Dobson (1S90 and 1893); Horace Walpole and the Strawberry LI ill Press, by M. A . Havens (1901). Walpole has been called " the best letter-writer in the English language"; and few indeed are the names which can compare with his. In these compositions his very foibles are penned for our amusement, and his love of trifles—for, in the words of another Horace, he was ever "nescio quid meditans nugarum et totus in illis"— ministers to our instruction. To these friends he communicated every fashionable scandal, every social event, and the details of every political struggle in English life. The politicians and the courtiers of his day were more akin to his character than were the chief authors of his age, and the weakness of his intellectual perceptions stands out most prominently in his estimates of such writers as Johnson and Goldsmith, Gibbon and Hume. On many occasions he displayed great liberality of disposition, and he bitterly deplored for the rest of his days his neglect of the unhappy Chatterton. Chatterton wrote to Walpole in 1769, sending some prose and verse fragments and offering to place information on English art in Walpole's hands. Encouraged by a kindly reply, Chatterton appealed for help. Walpole made inquiries and came to the conclusion that he was an imposter. He finally returned the manuscripts in his possession, and took no notice of subsequent letters from Chatterton.
Abundant information about Horace Walpole will be found in the Memoirs of him and of his contemporaries edited by Eliot Warburton (1851). J. H. Jesse's George Selwyti and his Contemporaries (4 vols., 1843-1844) and the extracts from the journals and correspondence of Miss Berry (3 vols., 1866); and it would be unpardonable to omit mention of Macaulay's sketch of Walpole's life and character.
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