Walpole, Horace, 4th earl of Orford

Walpole, Horace, 4th earl of Orford
orig. Horatio Walpole

born Sept. 24, 1717, London, Eng.
died March 2, 1797, London

English writer, connoisseur, and collector.

The son of prime minister Robert Walpole, he had an undistinguished career in Parliament. In 1747 he acquired a small villa at Twickenham that he transformed into a pseudo-Gothic showplace called Strawberry Hill; it was the stimulus for the Gothic Revival in English domestic architecture. His literary output was extremely varied. He became famous for his medieval horror tale The Castle of Otranto (1765), the first Gothic novel in English. He is especially remembered for his private correspondence of more than 3,000 letters, most addressed to Horace Mann, a British diplomat. Intended for posthumous publication, they constitute a survey of the history, manners, and taste of his age.

Horace Walpole, detail of an oil painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1757; in the City of Birmingham ...

By courtesy of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

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▪ British author
original name  Horatio Walpole  
born Sept. 24, 1717, London
died March 2, 1797
 English writer, connoisseur, and collector who was famous in his day for his medieval horror tale The Castle of Otranto, which initiated the vogue for Gothic romances. He is remembered today as perhaps the most assiduous letter writer in the English language.

      The youngest son of the prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, he was educated at Eton and at King's College, Cambridge. In 1739 he embarked with his Eton schoolmate, the poet Thomas Gray (later to write “An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard”), on a grand tour of France and Italy, in the midst of which they quarrelled and separated. They were later reconciled, and Walpole remained throughout his life an enthusiastic admirer of Gray's poetry. On his return to England in 1741, Walpole entered Parliament, where his career was undistinguished, although he attended debates regularly until 1768. In 1791 he inherited the peerage from a nephew, a grandson of Robert Walpole. He remained unmarried, and on his death the earldom became extinct.

      The most absorbing interests of his life were his friendships and a small villa that he acquired at Twickenham in 1747 and transformed into a pseudo-Gothic showplace known as Strawberry Hill. Over the years he added cloisters, turrets, and battlements, filled the interior with pictures and curios, and amassed a valuable library. The house was open to tourists and became widely known in Walpole's own lifetime. He established a private press on the grounds, where he printed his own works and those of his friends, notably Gray's Odes of 1757. Strawberry Hill was the stimulus for the Gothic revival in English domestic architecture.

      Walpole's literary output was extremely varied. The Castle of Otranto (1765), which was first published anonymously, succeeded in restoring the element of romance to contemporary fiction. In it he furnished the machinery for a genre of fiction wherein the wildest fancies found refuge. He also wrote The Mysterious Mother (1768), a tragedy with the theme of incest; amateur historical speculations such as Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third (1768); and a genuine contribution to art history, Anecdotes of Painting in England, 4 vol. (1762–71).

      His most important works were intended for posthumous publication. His private correspondence of some 4,000 letters constitutes a survey of the history, manners, and taste of his age. Walpole revered the letters of Mme de Sévigné (1626–96) and, following her example, consciously cultivated letter writing as an art. His most substantial correspondence was with Horace Mann, a British diplomat whom Walpole met on his grand tour and with whom he maintained contact for 45 years, although the two never met again. Walpole's correspondence, edited by W.S. Lewis and others, was published in 48 volumes (1937–83).

      Walpole also left Memoirs (first published 1822–59) of the reigns of George II and III, a record of political events of his time.

Additional Reading
R.W. Ketton-Cremer, Horace Walpole: A Biography, 3rd. ed. (1966), provides the fullest examination of Walpole's life.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Walpole — /wawl pohl , wol /, n. 1. Horace, 4th Earl of Orford /awr feuhrd/, (Horatio Walpole), 1717 97, English novelist and essayist (son of Sir Robert Walpole). 2. Sir Hugh Seymour, 1884 1941, English novelist, born in New Zealand. 3. Sir Robert, 1st… …   Universalium

  • Horace — /hawr is, hor /, n. 1. (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) 65 8 B.C., Roman poet and satirist. 2. a male given name. * * * I orig. Quintus Horatius Flaccus born December 65, Venusia died Nov. 27, 8 BC, Rome Latin lyric poet and satirist. The son of a… …   Universalium

  • Walpole — [wôl′pōl, wäl′pōl] 1. Horace 4th Earl of Orford (born Horatio Walpole) 1717 97; Eng. writer 2. Sir Robert 1st Earl of Orford 1676 1745; Eng. statesman: prime minister (1721 42): father of Horace …   English World dictionary

  • Horatio Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford — (12 June 1723 ndash; 24 February 1809) was a British Whig politician.Walpole was the eldest son and heir of Horatio Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole. In 1747, he was elected as Member of Parliament for King s Lynn and held the seat until 1757 when he… …   Wikipedia

  • Walpole — Wal•pole [[t]ˈwɔlˌpoʊl, ˈwɒl [/t]] n. 1) big Horace, 4th Earl of Orford (Horatio Walpole), 1717–97, English author (son of Sir Robert Walpole) 2) big Sir Hugh Seymour, 1884–1941, English novelist, born in New Zealand 3) big Sir Robert, 1st Earl… …   From formal English to slang

  • Walpole — /ˈwɔlpoʊl/ (say wawlpohl) noun 1. Horace (4th Earl of Orford), 1717–97, English Gothic author. 2. Sir Robert (1st Earl of Orford), 1676–1745, British Whig statesman; prime minister 1721–42 …  

  • Horace Walpole — Horace Walpole. Horatio Walpole, IV conde de Orford, conocido comúnmente como Horace Walpole, (24 de septiembre de 1717 – 2 de marzo de 1797), político, escritor e innovador arquitecto británico. Fue primo del marino Horacio Nelson (Lord Nelson) …   Wikipedia Español

  • Orford — may refer to: Places Orford, Cheshire, a suburb of Warrington, England Orford, Suffolk, England, the location of: Orford Castle Orford Ness Orford, Quebec, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada Mont Orford, a ski resort in Quebec, Canada… …   Wikipedia

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