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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

Letters (posthumously):

- 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

Memoirs (posthumously):

- 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).

  • Author

    Sir Horatio Walpole. Aka Horace Walpole. (1717 - 1797). British.
  • Work

    Novelist. Playwright. Historian.  Connoisseur. Author of The Castle of Otranto (1764).
  • Genres

    Romanticism. Gothic novel and drama. History.


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Baugh, Albert C. ed. A Literary History of England. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.

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.


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