Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford

Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford

Infobox Person
name = Horace Walpole

image_size = frameless
caption = Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds 1756
National Portrait Gallery, collection London .
birth_date = birth date|1717|9|24|df=y
birth_place = London, England, UK
death_date = death date and age|1797|3|2|1717|9|24|df=y
death_place = Berkeley Square, London, England, UK
occupation = Author, Politician
spouse =
parents = Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter
children =

Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (24 September, 1717 – 2 March, 1797), more commonly known as Horace Walpole, was a politician, writer, architectural innovator and cousin of Lord Nelson. His "Letters" are highly readable, and give a vivid picture of the more intellectual part of the aristocracy of his period.


He was born in London, the youngest son of British Prime Minister Robert Walpole. Like his father, he was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge.

After university, Walpole went on the Grand Tour with the poet Thomas Gray, but they quarrelled, and Walpole returned to England in 1741 and entered Parliament. He was never politically ambitious, but remained an MP after the death of his father in 1745.

His lasting architectural creation is Strawberry Hill, the home he built in Twickenham, south-west London in which he revived the Gothic style many decades before his Victorian successors. This fanciful concoction of neo-Gothic began a new architectural trend. [cite book
last = Verberckmoes
first = Johan
title = Geschiedenis van de Britse eilanden
publisher = Uitgeverij Acco Leuven
date = 2007
location = Leuven
pages = 77
isbn = 978 90 334 6549 9


Following his father's politics, he was a devotee of King George II and Queen Caroline, siding with them against their son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, about whom Walpole wrote spitefully in his memoirs.

Walpole was a frequent visitor to Boyle Farm, Thames Ditton, to meet both the Boyle-Walsinghams and Lord Hertford.

His father was created Earl of Orford in 1742. Horace's elder brother, the 2nd Earl of Orford (c.1701–1751), passed the title on to his son, the 3rd Earl of Orford (1730–1791). When the 3rd Earl died unmarried, Horace Walpole became the 4th Earl of Orford. When Horace Walpole died in 1797 the title became extinct.


Strawberry Hill had its own printing press which supported Horace Walpole's intensive literary activity. [Verberckmoes, p.77]

In 1764, he published his Gothic novel, "The Castle of Otranto", setting a literary trend to go with the architecture. From 1762 on, he published his "Anecdotes of Painting in England", based on George Vertue's manuscript notes. His memoirs of the Georgian social and political scene, though heavily biased, are a useful primary source for historians.

In one of the numerous letters, from 28 January 1754, he coined the word serendipity which he said was derived from a "silly fairy tale" he had read, The Three Princes of Serendip. The oft-quoted epigram, "This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel," is from a letter of Walpole's to Anne, Countess of Ossory, on 16 August, 1776. The original, fuller version was in what he wrote to Sir Horace Mann on 31 December, 1769: "I have often said, and oftener think, that this world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel – a solution of why Democritus laughed and Heraclitus wept."

In "Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III", Walpole defended Richard III against the common belief that he murdered the Princes in the Tower. In this he has been followed by other writers, such as Josephine Tey and Valerie Anand.

The Orford Walpoles were not related to the popular Twentieth century novelist, Hugh Walpole (1884–1941).

Personal life

Walpole's sexual orientation has been the subject of speculation. He never married, engaging in a succession of unconsummated flirtations with unmarriageable women, and counted among his close friends a number of women such as Anne Seymour Damer and Mary Berry named by a number of sources as lesbian.Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Sapphick Epistle, 1778", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 December 1999, updated 23 February 2003 Retrieved on 2007-08-16] Many contemporaries described him as effeminate (one political opponent called him "a hermaphrodite horse"). [Paul Langford, "Walpole, Horatio , fourth earl of Orford (1717–1797)", "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2005 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/28596 accessed 19 Aug 2007] ] The architectural historian Timothy Mowl, in his biography "Horace Walpole: The Great Outsider" offers the theory that Walpole was openly homosexual, and infers that he had an affair with Thomas Gray, dropping him during their Grand Tour in favour of Lord Lincoln (later the 2nd Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne). ["Horace Walpole: The Great Outsider", Timothy Mowl, John Murray, 1998, ISBN 0719556198] [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3724/is_199609/ai_n8739134 Who's Horry now?] , Bevis Hillier, "The Spectator", September 14, 1996] Nevertheless, there is no explicit evidence despite Walpole's extensive correspondence, and previous biographers such as Lewis, Fothergill and Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer have interpreted him as asexual. [Queering Horace Walpole, George E Haggerty, SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 46.3 (2006) 543-562, Johns Hopkins University Press]

Formal styles from birth to death

*Mr. Horace Walpole (1717-1741)
*Mr. Horace Walpole, MP (1741-1742)
*The Hon. Horace Walpole, MP (1742-1768)
*The Hon. Horace Walpole (1768-1791)
*The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Orford (1791-1797)

His beloved Cat

*When Walpole's cat Selma died, Thomas Gray wrote a poem .

His Legacy at Eton

*Walpole lends his name to a boarding house (Also known as MNF) at his alma mater, Eton College


ee also


External links

* [http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=4587 The Literary Encyclopedia.]
*gutenberg author| id=Horace+Walpole | name=Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford
** [http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/4609 The Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume 1]
** [http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/4610 The Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume 2]
** [http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/4773 The Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume 3]
** [http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/4919 The Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume 4]
** [http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/12073 Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume I]
** [http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/12074 Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume II]
** [http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/696 The Castle of Otranto]
* [http://www.friendsofstrawberryhill.org The Friends of Strawberry Hill]
* [http://www.twickenham-museum.org.uk/detail.asp?ContentID=140 The Twickenham Museum - Horace Walpole]
* cite web |publisher= Victoria and Albert Museum
url= http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/furniture/stories/walpole/index.html
title= The Walpole Cabinet
accessdate= 2007-08-12

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