Horace Walpole

Walpole, Horace, 4th earl of Orford

Horace Walpole, 4th earl of Orford, 1717–97, English author; youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, he toured the Continent with his friend Thomas Gray from 1739 to 1741, when the two quarreled and parted. He was elected to Parliament in 1741 and served until 1767, confining himself largely to the role of spectator and defender of his father's memory. In 1747 he acquired a country house, Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham, where he built a pseudo-Gothic castle, which became the showplace of England. He was reconciled with Gray in 1745 and later published his friend's Pindaric odes, as well as many first editions of his own works from the private printing press he started at Strawberry Hill in 1757. Walpole's literary reputation rests primarily on his letters, which have great charm and polish and are invaluable pictures of Georgian England. More than 3,000 of his correspondences are extant and cover a period extending from 1732 to 1797. Among his more famous correspondents are Gray, Sir Horace Mann, Thomas Chatterton, and Mme Du Deffand. Walpole succeeded to the earldom of Orford in 1791. Besides his enthusiasm for medieval architecture and trappings, he anticipated the romanticism of the 19th cent. with his Gothic romance The Castle of Otranto (1765). His other important works include Historic Doubts on Richard III (1768), an attempt to rehabilitate the character of Richard; Anecdotes of Painting in England (4 vol., 1762–71); and posthumous works, Reminiscences (1798) and memoirs of the reigns of George II (1822) and George III (1845, 1859).

See Yale edition of the letters ed. by W. S. Lewis (vol. 1–48; 1937–83).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Horace Walpole: Selected full-text books and articles

Horace Walpole By Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis Pantheon books, 1961
Horace Walpole By Dorothy Margaret Stuart Macmillan, 1927
FREE! The Castle of Otranto By Horace Walpole John B. Alden, 1889
FREE! Reminiscences By Horace Walpole J. Sharpe, 1819
Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre, and Cultural Conflict, 1764-1832 By James Watt Cambridge University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Origins: Horace Walpole and The Castle of Otranto"
The Failure of Gothic: Problems of Disjunction in an Eighteenth-Century Literary Form By Elizabeth R. Napier Clarendon Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Frenzy: Castle of Otranto"
The Gothic By Fred Botting D.S. Brewer, 2001
Librarian’s tip: "Horace Walpole's The Mysterious Mother and the Impossibility of Female Desire" begins on p. 23
Dissenters and Mavericks: Writings about India in English, 1765-2000 By Margery Sabin Oxford University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Anti-Imperialist Wit in Horace Walpole's Letters"
The English Spirit: Essays in History and Literature By A. L. Rowse Macmillan & Co. Ltd, 1944
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XXVIII "Horace Walpole and George Montagu"
Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide By Douglass H. Thomson; Jack G. Voller; Frederick S. Frank Greenwood Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Horace Walpole (1717-1797)" begins on p. 437
The Columbia History of the British Novel By John Bender; Deirdre David; Michael Seidel; John J. Richetti Columbia University Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Horace Walpole begins on p. 220
The Oxford Companion to British History By John Cannon Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Walpole, Horace, 4th Earl of Orford" begins on p. 963
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