The Failure of Gothic: Problems of Disjunction in An Eighteenth-Century Literary Form

By Elizabeth R. Napier | Go to book overview
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3 Frenzy: The Castle of Otranto

People of constant curiosity have no particular object in view: their minds being totally vacant, they want something new to fill every moment: but having no suite in their ideas, the next moment is as empty as the former and wants equally to be replenished. They are like young birds in a nest, that gape and gobble, and gape again.

Memorandum in Walpole's hand, 'Autograph Diary of Admission to Strawberry Hill, 1784-1796'

'He loved mischief', Macaulay wrote of Horace Walpole: 'but he loved quiet; and he was constantly on the watch for opportunities of gratifying both his tastes at once.'1 Walpole's turbulent attitude to the 'serious' world has been remarked upon by all his biographers--cultivating an air of detachment ('Never mind the town and its filthy politics', he wrote to Montagu on 11 January 1764; 'we can go to the gallery at Strawberry . . .'),2 he kept in constant touch with political affairs, writing pamphlets and advising others on their movements. 'Give the ministers no respite', he wrote to the Duke of Richmond. 'Press them with questions and motions . . . Call for papers . . . Talk of their waste . . .13 He retreated, sick of London, to his house at Twickenham, and then printed tickets and rules so that visitors could see it. 'Je ne sais en vérité plus quel homme vous êtes', Madame du Deffand wrote to Walpole in 1768; 'le panégyriste de Richard III, et l'auteur du Château d'Otrante, doit être un être bien singulier: des rêves, ou des paradoxes historiques, voilà donc à quoi vous allez employer votre loisir . . .'4 In speaking of The Castle of Otranto to his

____________________
1
Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Review of Letters of Horace Walpole . . . to Sir Horace Mann", in the Edinburgh Review, 1 viii ( 1833), 228.
2
Walpole to George Montagu, 11 Jan. 1764, Correspondence, x. 118.
3
Walpole to the Duke of Richmond, 27 Oct. 1775, Correspondence, xli. 310-11.
4
Madame du Deffand to Walpole, 12 Jan. 1768, Correspondence, iv. 6.

-73-

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