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Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole Horace Walpole[2†]

Horace Walpole, born as Horatio Walpole on September 24, 1717, in London, England, was an English writer, art historian, man of letters, antiquarian, and Whig politician[1†][2†]. He is best known for his novel “The Castle of Otranto” (1764), which is recognized as the first Gothic novel in the English language and one of the earliest literary horror stories[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Horace Walpole, originally named Horatio Walpole, was born on September 24, 1717, in London, England[1†][2†]. He was the youngest son of British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole and his wife, Catherine[1†][2†][3†][4†]. His early education took place in Bexley[1†][3†][5†], and he later attended Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge[1†][2†][6†][4†].

During his time at Eton, Walpole formed a schoolboy confederacy, the “Triumvirate”, with Charles Lyttelton and George Montagu[1†][2†]. Another group of friends, dubbed the “Quadruple Alliance”, included Walpole, Thomas Gray, Richard West, and Thomas Ashton[1†][2†]. These relationships played a significant role in his early life.

In 1739, Walpole embarked on a grand tour of France and Italy with his Eton schoolmate, the poet Thomas Gray[1†][2†][6†]. However, the two quarreled and parted ways during the tour[1†][2†][4†]. Despite this, they were later reconciled, and Walpole remained an enthusiastic admirer of Gray’s poetry throughout his life[1†].

At Cambridge, Walpole came under the influence of Conyers Middleton, an unorthodox theologian[1†][2†]. Walpole adopted Middleton’s sceptical attitude towards some essential Christian doctrines, which he maintained for the rest of his life[1†][2†]. This included a hatred of superstition and bigotry, even though he was a nominal Anglican[1†][2†].

Walpole’s early years and education significantly influenced his later life and career, shaping his literary output and his contributions to art history and politics[1†][2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Horace Walpole’s career was multifaceted, encompassing writing, art history, letters, antiquarian research, and politics[1†][2†]. After returning to England in 1741 from his grand tour of France and Italy, Walpole entered Parliament[1†][2†]. His parliamentary career was undistinguished, although he attended debates regularly until 1768[1†]. In 1791, he inherited the peerage from a nephew, a grandson of Robert Walpole[1†][2†].

One of the most absorbing interests of his life was a small villa that he acquired at Twickenham in 1747 and transformed into a pseudo-Gothic showplace known as Strawberry Hill[1†][2†]. Over the years, he added cloisters, turrets, and battlements, filled the interior with pictures and curios, and amassed a valuable library[1†][2†]. The house was open to tourists and became widely known in Walpole’s own lifetime[1†][2†]. He established a private press on the grounds, where he printed his own works and those of his friends, notably Gray’s Odes of 1757[1†][2†]. Strawberry Hill was the stimulus for the Gothic Revival style in English domestic architecture[1†][2†].

Walpole’s literary output was extremely varied. His most famous work, “The Castle of Otranto” (1764), is recognized as the first Gothic novel in the English language and one of the earliest literary horror stories[1†][2†][7†][8†]. He published it under a pseudonym, and it succeeded in restoring the element of romance to contemporary fiction[1†][2†].

In addition to his novel, Walpole is widely recognized as one of England’s first art historians[1†][7†]. He wrote the first history of English art, “Anecdotes of Painting”, in 1762[1†][8†]. His literary reputation rests not only on his pioneering Gothic novel but also on his letters, which offer significant social and political insights[1†][2†]. They have been published by Yale University Press in 48 volumes[1†][2†]. In 2017, a volume of Walpole’s selected letters was published[1†][2†].

Walpole’s career achievements significantly influenced literary genres, architectural styles, and art history. His legacy continues to be studied and celebrated today[1†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Horace Walpole’s literary output was extremely varied, and he is known for several significant works[2†][1†]. Here are some of his main works:

Walpole also established a private press at his residence, Strawberry Hill, where he printed his own works and those of his friends[2†][1†]. Notably, he printed Thomas Gray’s “Odes” in 1757[2†][1†].

Walpole’s works had a significant impact on literature, particularly in the genre of Gothic fiction[2†][1†]. His unique style and innovative ideas continue to be recognized and studied today[2†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Horace Walpole’s work, particularly his novel “The Castle of Otranto”, is often credited with founding the horror story as a legitimate literary form[10†]. This novel, published under a pseudonym in 1764, is considered the first Gothic novel in the English language[10†][1†]. It restored the element of romance to contemporary fiction[10†][1†].

Walpole’s love for the decorative profusion and allusive richness of the Gothic style is evident in his works[10†][11†]. His intuitively imaginative response to Gothic was played out not only in “The Castle of Otranto” but also in his play “The Mysterious Mother” (1768) and his ‘castle’ at Strawberry Hill[10†][11†].

His writings, including his memoirs and over 3,000 letters, provide valuable insights into the intellectual and aristocratic culture of his day[10†][12†]. However, some of Walpole’s writings garnered criticism from politicians and historians[10†][12†].

Walpole’s contribution to literature extends beyond his own works. His establishment of a private press at Strawberry Hill, where he printed his own works and those of his friends, notably Thomas Gray’s “Odes” in 1757, stimulated the Gothic Revival style in English domestic architecture[10†][1†].

Walpole’s influence on literature, particularly in the genre of Gothic fiction, continues to be recognized and studied today[10†][1†].

Personal Life

Horace Walpole never married[2†][1†][13†]. He had a number of close friendships with women, such as Anne Seymour Damer and Mary Berry, who were named by a number of sources as lesbian[2†]. There were also rumors of romantic infatuations with men, including Lord Lincoln, poets Thomas Gray and Richard West, and British General Henry Seymour Conway[2†][13†].

Walpole lived with his close friend Thomas Gray for several years[2†]. His relationships and personal choices provide glimpses into the complexities of his character and the societal norms of the era[2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Horace Walpole’s legacy is multifaceted, encompassing literature, art, architecture, and politics[2†][1†][8†][4†]. As an author, he is best known for “The Castle of Otranto,” the first Gothic novel in the English language and one of the earliest literary horror stories[2†][1†]. His letters, which are of significant social and political interest, have been published by Yale University Press in 48 volumes[2†].

As an art historian and antiquarian, Walpole was a pioneer of the Gothic taste[2†][8†]. He formed an exceptional collection at Strawberry Hill, the ‘little Gothic castle’ which he designed in Twickenham[2†][8†]. This house, filled with pictures and curios, and its vast collection of treasures, became widely known in Walpole’s own lifetime[2†][14†]. Strawberry Hill was the stimulus for the Gothic Revival style in English domestic architecture[2†][4†].

Walpole’s influence extended to his political career as well. The youngest son of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, Horace Walpole served in Parliament for several years[2†][1†]. Although his political career was undistinguished, his contributions to literature and art have ensured his place in history[2†][1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Horace Walpole: English author [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Horace Walpole [website] - link
  3. SciHi Blog - Horace Walpole and the Rise of the Gothic Novel [website] - link
  4. New World Encyclopedia - Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford [website] - link
  5. Bioraphy Base - Horace Walpole Biography [website] - link
  6. Britannica Kids - Horace Walpole [website] - link
  7. Encyclopedia.com - Walpole, Horace (1717 - 1797) [website] - link
  8. National Portrait Gallery - Horace Walpole - Person [website] - link
  9. Oxford Reference - Lord Orford Horace Walpole [website] - link
  10. Britannica - The Castle of Otranto: novel by Walpole [website] - link
  11. Cambridge University Press - The Cambridge History of the Gothic - Chapter: Horace Walpole and the Gothic (1.5) [website] - link
  12. GradeSaver - Horace Walpole Biography [website] - link
  13. National Museums Liverpool - Horace Walpole [website] - link
  14. Strawberry Hill House & Garden - HOUSE [website] - link
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