Walpole, Horace. (1717 - 1797).
L i f e
- born Horatio Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford, a son of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole
- a politician, Member of Parliament, devotee of King George II x but: politically unambitious
- an architectural innovator: began a new neo-Gothic architectural trend with his mock castle at Strawberry Hill (near Twickenham outside London) filled with an extraordinary eclectic collection of art and a small press
- a connoisseur, antiquarian, art historian, and a figure of considerable cultural importance
- coined the term ‘serendipity’, i.e. something interesting or pleasant happening by chance, for English from a Persian fairy tale
W o r k
The Castle of Otranto (1764):
- a Gothic novel
- supposedly a ‘translation’ of the manuscript of a medieval Italian tale of improbable catastrophes
> originally accepted favourably x but: vilified by the press when revealed to be no translation but a contemporary creation of the politically and socially well-connected author
The Mysterious Mother (1768):
- a Gothic drama, concerned with incest
- the mother seduces her ignorant son and gives birth to a daughter whom the son marries, not aware who her parents are
> unperformed in his lifetime
Anecdotes of Painting in England (1762 - 1780):
- art history in 4 volumes
> still a prime source for the study of the early pictorial arts in Britain
Historic Doubts on Richard III (1768):
- attempted to rehabilitate the character of Richard III
- a prodigious writer of highly readable and intellectually challenging letters
- corresponded with many of the most important cultural and political figures of his time
- one of the most brilliant writers of the Deistic school: freely admitted his scepticism about immortality and his distaste for priests and churches
- a detailed portrayal of the Georgian social and political scene
> still a useful primary source for historians x but: a heavily biased one
(Painting: Joshua Reynolds. 1756. Source: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorSir Horatio Walpole. Aka Horace Walpole. (1717 - 1797). British.
WorkNovelist. Playwright. Historian. Connoisseur. Author of The Castle of Otranto (1764).
GenresRomanticism. Gothic novel and drama. History.
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Coote, Stephen. The Penguin Short History of English Literature. London: Penguin, 1993.
Sampson, George. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946.
Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.
"This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel."
Horace Walpole in a letter from 1776.