Horace Walpole and a Case of Antiquarian Eccentricity

Stephen Clarke, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Liverpool

The Lewis Walpole Library has added an obscure and curious item to its collections. It is an anonymous pamphlet of fourteen pages containing two poems, titled on what appears to be a half-title The Origin of Language, and Idea of a Perfect Government. Two Poetical Epistles, to Thamyris. Online searches of the holdings at Yale, Harvard, the Bodleian, and the British Library reveal only electronic links, and actual copies appear to be restricted to the Library of Congress and the Royal Danish Library. The electronic copies suggest that the pamphlet is complete, and what looks like a half-title is in fact the title page. It is 17.5 x 10.cm. in size and a small octavo in format, consisting of two sections of four leaves each, with a final blank leaf. It is in a badly worn but contemporary or near-contemporary half binding, the front board detached and the marbled boards worn. On the remains of the spine is the gilt lettering “E. of Buchan on Language.”

There is a stipple-engraved profile of Buchan after Tassie dated 1797 that has been inserted after the title page, and on the front pastedown  a bookseller’s price of 12/- and a small printed cutting advertising the sale of the Buchan Papers. This describes 2,700 original papers addressed to the Earl of Buchan, including his diary, being sold by the autograph collector William Upcott, with a hand-written date 16 January 1836, the year in which Upcott printed a private catalog of his manuscripts. On the front endleaf is the Bibliotheca Heberiana stamp, and there is also a small circular label 1077 at the foot of the front board: this copy was lot 1077 on the fifth day of Part 1 of the Heber sale, 15 April 1834, where it is described as “Buchan (Earl of) on the Origin of Language and Idea of Perfect Government, in two Poetic Epistles, portraits inserted, 1785”. It would appear that Buchan never published it, but rather had a few copies printed for private circulation.

Its interest to the Lewis Walpole Library lies in two inscriptions which the cataloger of the Heber library did not trouble to mention: at the head of the title page is written “Honble. Horace Walpole from the Author”, and beneath the printed title Walpole has added the words “by the Earl of Buchan.”

title page of book with printed text: The origin of language, and Idea of a perfect government. : Two poetic epistles, to Thamyris. with annotation in manuscript: Honble Horace Walpole from the Author | By the Earl of Buchan

The Earl of Buchan, The Origin of Language, and Idea of a Perfect Government. Two Poetical Epistles, to Thamyris (privately printed, ?1785), title page inscribed by Buchan and Horace Walpole. 496 B85 785. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University,

David Steuart Erskine, eleventh Earl of Buchan (1742–1829) was an antiquary, a radical Whig, and an eccentric, with an apparently somewhat overbearing manner. From 1747 Lord Cardross, he became Earl of Buchan on his father’s death in 1767. In the 1760s he supported John Wilkes, in the 1770s he supported the cause of American independence, and in the 1790s he corresponded with Christopher Wyvill on parliamentary reform.  But he was also an antiquary with a strong interest in Scottish history. He had been elected to the Society of Antiquaries in London and the Royal Society in 1764, and in 1780 founded the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, into which he enrolled Walpole, though he subsequently became disenchanted with that body and resigned in 1790. He bought the estate on the Borders where Dryburgh Abbey stands and adorned the grounds with a classical temple dedicated to the poets Thomson and Burns. He was painted in 1764 by Reynolds, and Walpole pasted Finlayson’s mezzotint of that portrait and an engraving by Buchan of Icolmkill Cathedral (the abbey of Iona) into his Collection of Prints engraved by various persons of quality.

Mezzotint half-length portrait of a man facing quarter turn to the right with his head turned to the left, looking over his shoulder. He wears a doublet with slashed sleeves and a lace-trimmed collar.

J. Finlayson after Reynolds Lord Cardross, 1765 mezzotint inscribed by Walpole as Earl of Buchan bound into Walpole’s Collection of Prints engraved by various persons of quality (Strawberry Hill, 1774) Folio 49 3588 v. 1 Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University,

But there was always a whiff of the self-important and the absurd about him: Emma Vincent Macleod’s ODNB article on him notes that “The story of how in 1819 he tried to storm Sir Walter Scott’s sick-room to reassure him that he would personally supervise all the arrangements for Scott’s funeral at Dryburgh has been told many times as evidence of his propensity for the ridiculous.”

Walpole’s connection with him began in about 1778 and lasted until 1792. The first surviving letter, of 24 December 1778, consists of Walpole answering Buchan’s queries on Scottish royal portraits.[i] The next, of 1 December 1781, opens with Walpole’s declaration that he is “truly sensible of and grateful for your Lordship’s benevolent remembrance of me, and shall receive with great respect and pleasure the collection your Lordship had been pleased to order to be sent to me.” That collection did not include The Origin of Language, and Idea of a Perfect Government, as those two poems are both in their headings addressed “To Thamyris, on my Birth-Day, 1785.” The only publication of Buchan’s that featured in the sale of Walpole’s library at Strawberry Hill in 1842 was Buchan’s Discourse… at a meeting for the purpose of promoting the institution of a Society for the investigation of the history of Scotland, and its antiquities, November 14, 1780 (Edinburgh, ?1781), the meeting from which the Scottish Society of Antiquities was founded.[ii]

Buchan’s earnest antiquarian enquiries of Walpole (Buchan’s letters have not been traced) and Walpole’s attempts to answer or deflect them form the substance of his replies. One can sense Walpole’s attempt to distance himself in the opening paragraph of his letter of 23 September 1785:

Your Lordship is too condescending when you incline to keep up a correspondence with one who can expect to maintain it but a short time, and whose intervals of health are resigned to idleness, not dedicated, as they have sometimes been, to literary pursuits… Your Lordship’s zeal for illuminating your country and countrymen is laudable… but a man who touches the verge of his sixty-eighth year, ought to know that he is unfit to contribute to the amusement of more active minds. This consideration, my Lord, makes me much decline correspondence: having nothing new to communicate, I perceive that I fill my letters with apologies for having nothing to say.[iii]

So the letters proceed, with Walpole complaining of his being gout-ridden and superannuated while fielding Buchan’s continued enquiries on Scottish antiquities and engraved Scottish portraits. As early as 1782 Walpole told Lady Ossory that Buchan “tells me a vast deal about our Antiquarian Society at Edinburgh, and generally asks me many questions about past ages”, and again that “he will extract from me whatever in the course of my antiquarian dips, I have picked up about Scottish kings and queens, for whom in truth I never cared a straw. I have tried everything but being rude to break off the intercourse”.[iv] The concluding letter, of 29 November 1792, has Walpole firmly refusing to provide Buchan with a drawing of the Countess of Lenox’s jewel, which Walpole recorded in his Description of Strawberry Hill as “a golden heart set with jewels, and ornamented with emblematic figures enamelled, and Scottish mottoes; made by order of the Lady Margaret Douglas, mother of Henry Lord Darnley, in memory of her husband Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lenox and Regent of Scotland, murdered by the papists.” He insisted that it was too valuable and too delicate, and that he never let it out of his hands. Buchan annotated the letter “I did not indeed advert to the fiddle-faddle business of copying the jewel, but thought Lord Orford might wish to communicate its likeness, though in one point of view only, to the Antiquaries, for his own honour and glory!”[v] There is no further surviving correspondence.

As for the two poems, they do nothing to call into question Buchan’s reputation for eccentricity. Both are addressed to Thamyris, the Thracian singer who in Greek mythology was noted for his love of Hyacinth (and so is claimed to be the first male to have loved another male), and for having challenged the Nine Muses to a competition, which he inevitably lost. The first poem, The Origin of Language, after an opening lament on the political discord of the times, seeks to explain the inception of language in mimetic terms:

But know that language Reason taught to grow

From simple sounds, as Man began to know

His hopes and fears, His pleasures, and his pains,

How Fire consumes, How food his Frame maintains…

Buchan associates the sound S with the hissing of fire extinguished in water, the labial BA for no clear reason as expressing life, ABA as God, and BA. S as life extinguished, or death. The Idea of a Perfect Government is scarcely less extraordinary: a heavenly muse reveals to the poet a constitutional model consisting of Senate, nobility and King. The corruption of elections is to be avoided by the Senate being elected by rotation, with one seventh retiring every year, and potential senators being subject to veto by one fifth of the voters, and dismissal for abuse. Nobles were to “hold Patent of Rank and of superior mould” from the Senate, while the figure of Prince, Father, or King, would be responsible for enforcing laws, but could not issue pardons without consent of Senate and Nobles. As for religion, it would be divorced from the State, and all theological strife would miraculously disappear as:

In every City Temples let there be,

Where Men of ev’ry faith in each degree,

With Heav’nly Music and Seraphic praise,

To the same GOD ador’d in various ways.

Sadly, what Walpole made of this farrago is unrecorded.


[i] The letters quoted from Walpole to Buchan are all in W.S. Lewis ed., the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1937–83), 15, between pages 138 and 234 and at 343–44.

[ii] Allen T. Hazen, A Catalogue of Horace Walpole’s Library (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1969), 2, 29. The pamphlet was bound into volume 42 of the Tracts of the Reign of George the 3rd that Walpole compiled.

[iii] Correspondence, 15, 185–88.

[iv] Letters of Walpole to Lady Ossory of 3 and 10 November 1782, Correspondence, 33, 359–64 at 3363 and 367–71 at 368.

[v] Correspondence, 15, 233–34, note 1 and heading to letter.

Deconstructing an Extra-Illustrated Book

Jane Wessel, Assistant Professor of English, US Naval Academy

Almost as soon as extra-illustration became popular in the late eighteenth century, people began worrying about what it would mean for the integrity of books. Extra-illustration was the practice by which readers would add materials – usually prints, but also sometimes playbills, manuscripts, and other ephemera – to their books before having them bound. Would readers searching for prints to insert into their books destroy other books to find them? In 1903, J.M Bulloch wrote sentimentally of James Granger, whose Biographical History of England (1769) set off the trend, “little did Granger, as he led his blameless life in Oxfordshire, at war with no man, dream of the turmoil that he was to raise and the vista of annihilation that his admirable enthusiasm was indirectly to create, for by a curious irony his desire to record the existence of certain prints has led to the destruction of thousands of books.”[1] But Granger did dream of this future “turmoil”: in a letter written on December 30, 1769, Granger worried that “Iconomania, a new Disease prevails much in London. One Symptom of it, in which it differs from all other Kinds of Madness is, that it delights in maiming of old Books.”[2] This sort of panicked language of “maiming” and “annihilation” frequently accompanied discussions of extra-illustration.

Even if some old books were destroyed in the process, though, the resulting extra-illustrated books are treasure-troves for scholars. Extra-illustrated books have preserved many manuscript letters and other ephemeral materials within the durable codex. Some of these materials might otherwise have been lost. These books also give 21st-century scholars insight into how 18th- and 19th-century readers interacted with their books: what they thought worth collecting and saving, how they imagined the relationship between image and text. As a theatre historian, I am particularly interested in how readers augmented the biographies of their favorite actors and actresses. These books are evidence of early fan communities and show how theatre fans celebrated their favorite performers. These unique, modified books that so worried 19th-century bibliophiles are now objects of great scholarly interest.

During my most recent visit to the Lewis Walpole Library, I encountered a book that flips the narrative: an extra-illustrated book that was pulled apart for the material it enclosed. Why would a later collector deconstruct the unique extra-illustrated book he paid so much to acquire? What might this tell us about how later collectors valued and thought about extra-illustration?

When Wilmarth Lewis – collector and founder of the Lewis Walpole Library – bought an extra-illustrated copy of Thomas Moore’s Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1825) at auction in 1954, he knew even before he bid on it that he would be destroying the book. The story about Lewis’s purchase, his motivations, and how he treated the book upon acquisition is a fascinating one and can reveal a great deal about what he valued as a collector.

On May 7, 1954, Lewis wrote to his agent Kenneth Maggs, asking him to bid on Lot 266 in the May 25 Sotheby’s sale. Lot 266 was part of the property of the late Lady Wavertree, the great great granddaughter of the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and this particular item was described in the auction catalogue as:

266 Moore (T) Memoirs of the Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, First Edition, 1 vol., 4to, inlaid to folio size and Extended to 4 Vol. by the insertion of about 160 engraved portraits and coloured caricatures, autograph letters from Samuel Johnson, Horace Walpole, David Garrick, Lord Chesterfield, Warren Hastings and others, and the Holograph Draft of Sheridan’s Comic Opera: The Foresters, with specially printed titles and printed transcripts of the more important letters, green levant morocco, gilt line panelled sides and backs, in 4 morocco slip-cases, in a wire-fronted cabinet with reading-desk top. (Sotheby 45) [3]

four large leather-bound books lying in two piles of two each on a light colored table with a chair and card catalog behind

Thomas Moore, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), 4 vols., 53 Sh52 M78, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Lewis was undoubtedly interested in these volumes primarily for the one autograph letter written by Horace Walpole bound in rather than for what the unique volumes might reveal about how a particular reader interacted with the Sheridan biography. Nor was Lewis alone in this. A contemporary collector, Donald F. Hyde – whose collection now resides in the Houghton Library’s Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson – was similarly eyeing this lot for one manuscript letter bound into the books. Hyde, of course, wanted the Johnson letter. When Lewis wrote to Maggs asking him to bid on the lot, he noted “this morning I talked with Mr. Donald Hyde on the telephone about it and he will not bid on it because I have assured him that I shall turn the Johnson letter over to him if I get the lot.” From the start, then, Lewis knew he would be removing at least one letter from the books.


typescript carbon copy of a letter from W.S. Lewis to Mr. Maggs dated 7 May 1954

Wilmarth Lewis to Kenneth Maggs, May 7, 1954, Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis Papers, Series I. Correspondence, LWL MSS 20 Box 88, Folder 4, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Lewis wasn’t sure what the volumes would be valued at, and so he initially suggested bidding £200 or £300. When Maggs suggested that they would likely sell for higher, Lewis replied “yes, please exceed £300 if you find you have to. Because of my promise to Mr. Hyde I am under even stronger compulsion than usual! This lot is a ‘must’ for me.”[4] Maggs successfully bought the lot for Lewis, but at a much higher price than Lewis anticipated: £580. Maggs assured him, however, “I feel sure that these volumes will give you considerable pleasure.”[5] Lewis called the price “hair-raising,” but consoled himself that “there are compensations for it.”[6] Eager to get the Johnson letter to Hyde as quickly as possible, and fearing that the heavy volumes would need to be sent by freight, Lewis asked Maggs to cut out the Johnson letter and send it separately: “It would not be possible to send the volume with the Johnson letter on by parcel post? I am rather anxious to get that sooner than freight would mean. Or, better still, since I am going to cut it out of the volume and give it to Mr. Hyde perhaps you could cut it out for me – I am sure you would do it better – and send it to me by air, registered and insured for £100.”[7] Maggs didn’t receive this letter in time, however, and the Johnson letter traveled with the rest of the lot via “bulk post.”

Correspondence between Lewis and Hyde reveals that as soon as he received the volumes, Lewis cut out the Johnson letter and sent it to Hyde, who was “very pleased with it,” calling it a “notable addition to our library.”[8] Hyde, in turn, sent Lewis $200 for the letter, which Lewis graciously accepted. In his final letter to Hyde on the subject, Lewis writes that “the extra-illustrations turn out to be well above the sort of thing that was usually done, and, altogether, I am feeling better about my purchase.”[9] In a draft of that letter, however, he writes, “the Sheridaniana turn out to be rather important, and I can reduce the swelling still further by turning them over to the Yale Library.” Lewis’s phrasing is curious: what exactly did he mean by “swelling”? At first I assumed that he was referring to the literal size of the volumes, which he elsewhere referred to as “super-colossal.”[10] Because he makes the comment in a note thanking Hyde for the $200 he sent, it’s also possible that he was referring to the “swelling” of the cost from his initial estimate of £300 to the £580 he ultimately paid.

Typescript carbon copy of letter from Wilmarth Lewis to Donald Hyde, June 26, 1954

Wilmarth Lewis to Donald Hyde, June 26, 1954. Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis Papers, Series I. Correspondence, LWL MSS 20 Box 67, Folder 5, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Typescript carbon copy of draft of letter from Wilmarth Lewis to Donald Hyde, June 26, 1954

draft of letter from Wilmarth Lewis to Donald Hyde, June 26, 1954 on obverse. Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis Papers, Series I. Correspondence, LWL MSS 20 Box 67, Folder 5, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

The unsent draft provides some insight into how Lewis handled the books after sending Hyde the Johnson letter: he continued to cut out manuscript letters. Lewis notes that he will turn original manuscript letters over to the Yale Library. And indeed, he did just that. While the extra-illustrated volumes still contain the engraved portraits and caricatures that were originally inserted, the vast majority of manuscripts are removed, with a stub of paper left where the cut was made. Luckily because the extra-illustrator also inserted transcripts of most of the manuscripts, we still have evidence in the books of what was once there. Lewis, moreover, was fastidious about indicating what he removed and where it went, adding pencil notes about this on the transcripts or on the stubs. Except for the Johnson letter, most of the manuscripts were either “given to Yale” (the main campus) or “removed for Farmington” (his own collection, which would eventually become part of Yale’s collections).

double-page spread of volume open to show stub in gutter.

The stub of paper remains where a manuscript letter from Longman & Co. to C.B. Sheridan was removed. Across from the removed manuscript, the extra-illustrator included a transcript of the letter, on which Lewis has noted “given to Yale.”


If the additional materials in typical extra-illustrated books are evidence of how readers and collectors interacted with their books, so too are Lewis’s removals. Part of what makes these volumes so fascinating is that we have clear evidence of what Lewis did with the books after purchasing them. He clearly indicates through his pencil markings what he removes and where it goes. He may have seen the letters as valuable objects that should be housed in manuscript collections outside of the codex. The portraits and caricatures, meanwhile, he left be. Lewis seems to have been perfectly comfortable deconstructing the volumes, enacting the same sort of destruction that extra-illustration’s detractors feared. But a more positive way of looking at this is that Lewis’s removals add another layer of reader interaction to an already interactive reading process.

This blog post is related to a larger project I’m working on about extra-illustrated books and theatrical fan communities. I’m grateful to the Lewis Walpole Library for awarding me a two-week travel grant and to everyone at the LWL for their support during my time there. Special thanks to Sue Walker for first pointing me towards these extra-illustrated Sheridan volumes and Scott Poglitsch for working with me to learn more about their provenance.


[1]  J.M. Bulloch, The Art of Extra-Illustration (London: Anthony Treherne & Co., LTD., 1903), 14.

[2]  James Granger facsimile letter in Charles John Smith, Historical and Literary Curiosities, Consisting of Fac-Similes of Original Documents …. (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1852), Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University, 63 852 Sm5.

[3] Catalogue of Valuable Printed Books Music, Autograph Letters, Literary Manuscripts and Historical Documents Comprising The Property of Sydney A Spence, Esq. The Property of the Most Hon. The Marquess of Bath, the Property of the Dowager Lady Aberconway, the Property of the Late Paul Hirsch, Esq., and The HIghly Important Sheridan Collection the Property of the Late Lady Wavertree, C.B.E., Sotheby’s Auction Catalogue, May 24-5, 1954, page 45. Lewis Walpole Library Sales and Auction Catalog Collection, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University, Series 2. Sotheby’s, 1901–2008 125 L979, Box 198, Folder 12.

[4] Wilmarth Lewis to Kenneth Maggs, May 14, 1954, Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis Papers, Series I. Correspondence, LWL MSS 20 Box 88, Folder 4, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

[5]  Kenneth Maggs to Wilmarth Lewis, May 26, 1954.

[6]  Lewis to Maggs, May 29, 1954.

[7]  Lewis to Maggs, May 29, 1954.

[8] Donald Hyde to Wilmarth Lewis, June 24, 1954, Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis Papers, Series I. Correspondence, LWL MSS 20 Box 67, Folder 5, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

[9] Lewis to Hyde, June 26, 1954.[10] Lewis to Hyde, June 22, 1954.

Reading Horace Walpole

by Neil Guthrie, FSA, FSAScot, Co-editor The Scriblerian and the Kit-Cats

set of 48 books, some with cream dust jackets and some with navy spines

The author’s set of the Yale edition of Horace Walpole’s correspondence

Before the onset of Covid, I bought a full set of the Yale edition of Walpole’s correspondence.

It belonged to Ralph Brown, who worked as a junior editor on the Montagu volumes and dutifully acquired each volume as it was published, right to the end in 1983.

Manuscript inscription To Ralph Brown from W.S. Lewis, New Haven,

Manuscript inscription “To Ralph Brown, / from / W.S. Lewis / New Haven, 1 October 1937”

The set includes the scarce prospectus for the project, and volume 1 is inscribed ‘To Ralph Brown, / from / W.S. Lewis / New Haven, 1 October 1937’.

Prospectus for The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence

Prospectus for “The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence”

Brown went on from Walpole and Montagu to a distinguished career as a law professor. My suspicion, judging by the tightness of the binding of the later volumes, is that he may not actually have read all 48. I did do that, and I’m pleased to say that two articles have resulted from the undertaking.

The first appeared recently in The Book Collector and tells the story of the purchase and the difficulties of getting the books delivered from the bookseller in New Haven to me in Toronto.[1] This was not an easy (or inexpensive) process. The original plan was for me to drive to New Haven one week-end, but then the pandemic closed the Canada-US border to non-commercial vehicles. I managed to find an art shipper managed to do it, and the 48 volumes found their way onto purpose-built shelves in my study.

I took notes as I read, not with any specific objective in mind beyond the pleasure of the letters and the interesting facts, opinions, and anecdotes they revealed. My previous scholarly work has been on Jacobitism, so I was naturally interested to be reminded of Walpole’s never complimentary remarks about the exiled Stuarts, especially in the correspondence with Sir Horace Mann. I also became reacquainted with Walpole himself, and in much more detail than I previously knew him. Having read Matthew Reeve’s study of gothic architecture and sexuality in Walpole’s circle, I looked for clues to Walpole’s sexual identity or orientation, knowing full well that the record, while extensive, would be partial by design and by circumstance.[2] No smoking guns, as George Haggerty has observed.[3]

What intrigued me was not so much what Walpole and his correspondents expressed about their own sexual and romantic affairs as how Walpole reacted to other men we can usefully describe as queer. In particular, the combination of almost visceral distaste and fascination that resulted from his indirect dealings with the bisexual libertine Baron Philipp von Stosch, and his feigned lack of interest in the flamboyant Cardinal Prince Henry Benedict (Duke of York in the Jacobite peerage, the younger of the Old Pretender’s two sons) suggested the second article, which is forthcoming in Eighteenth-Century Life.[4]

reproduction of Macardell mezzotint portrait of Walpole

Horace Walpole, from a mezzotint by James Macardell after the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

I suggest there that Walpole’s strong reactions to both men, which he concealed even from Mann, reveal anxieties that do not surface (or at least not as much) in his interactions with less outré queer men like Mann and John Chute. It is as though Walpole felt safe with his intimates as long as they kept largely to themselves, but was alarmed that parallels might be drawn between him and the very out Stosch and Cardinal York. I am conscious that much of the material from the correspondence will be well known to readers of Walpole, and I did not find a smoking gun that had been overlooked by Haggerty or others; but I think the focus on the Prince and the Baron adds nuance to our understanding of Horace Walpole and the eighteenth-century sexualities, identities, and queer cultures he navigated over the course of his life and letter-writing.

I aired my ideas about Walpole, Cardinal York and Stosch at a Lewis Walpole virtual coffee earlier this year. Susan Walker was very helpful in providing answers to queries and scans of manuscript material at Farmington, which I hope to visit again soon.

[1] “Reading Horace Walpole: A Pandemic Project”, The Book Collector 72:1 (spring 2023), 81-5.

[2] Gothic Architecture and Sexuality in the Circle of Horace Walpole (University Park, Penn.: Penn State University Press, 2020).

[3] “Queer Feelings: Love and Loss in the Letters of Horace Walpole”, Humanities 10 (2021), 108.

[4] “Horace Walpole, the Prince, and the Baron”, forthcoming in Eighteenth-Century Life.

Coast to Coast

by Teanu Reid, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University, Departments of African American Studies and History

Scholars of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in the British Caribbean may be surprised to learn that the Lewis Walpole Library has several documents related to the Royal Africa Company, commercial records of enslavers, and plantation surveillance.

Title page for The Importance of Effectively Supporting the Royal African Company of England Impartially Considered...

The Importance of Effectively Supporting the Royal African Company of England Impartially Considered… London, Printed by E. Say; Sold by J. Roberts, 1745 The Lewis Walpole Library 49 2146 v.1

A few documents of note include The Importance of Effectually Supporting the Royal African Company of England, 1745 and The African Trade, the Great Pillar and Support of the British Plantation Trade, 1745 (bound together in LWL 49 2146.1). These pamphlets provide details about the company forts and castles on the continent of Africa, along with details of the activities of other European powers. They argue for the essentialness of the Atlantic slave trade over other commercial routes, including trade to East India.

page for pamphlet entitled The African Trade, the Great Pillar and Support of the British Plantation Trade in America

The African Trade, the Great Pillar and Support of the British Plantation Trade in America…
London, Printed for J. Robinson, 1745
The Lewis Walpole Library 49 2146 v.1

title page of pamphlet entitled "A Short View of the Dispute..."

A Short View of the Dispute between the Merchants of London, Bristol, and Leverpool, and the Advocates of a New Joint-Stock Company Concerning the Regulation of the African Trade London, 1750 The Lewis Walpole Library 49 2146 v.1


Additionally, various documents at the Lewis Walpole Library chronicle the complaints of Caribbean planters or English merchants, who felt cheated by duties or other imperial policies. A Short View of the Dispute between the Merchants of London, Bristol, and Leverpool, and the Advocates of a New Joint-Stock Company explicitly focused on the disagreements between merchants, planters, and corporations as related to the shipment of enslaved people from Africa to the Caribbean.


A plan of a coffee plantation with areas numbered 1 through 40, and the key engraved below: "Reference to the plan."

Thomas Conder, 1746 or 1747-1831
Plan of a regular coffee plantation, Decr. 1st, 1791, engraving.
The Lewis Walpole Library

Finally, prints like the Plan of a Regular Coffee Plantation by Thomas Conder,1791, and A Negro Market in the West Indies, 1806, depict how slave owners and other white colonists believed they could control and monitor enslaved black people laboring on Caribbean islands.

a colorful scene of bustling activity with both black and white people interacting, some seated and some standing, in an open space surrounded by low houses and hills beyond. offered, evidently for sale by some of the black figures, are fish, fowl, fruit, a pig, and other items.

Cardon, Anthony, 1772-1813
A Negro market in the West Indies.
London, Printed by Motte, 1806
The Lewis Walpole Library

While documents like An Account of Runaway Slaves: Killed, Taken, and Surrendered (on the island of Dominica), 1816, show the consequences whites inflicted onto enslaved Africans who attempted to escape inhumane servitude.

letterpress document that includes the following sections:no. 1. Runaway slaves, killed, and by whom no. 2 Runaway slaves taken by the Loyal Dominica Rangers, by the militia or volunteers sent against the runaways ... no. 3. Runaway slaves surrendered to the Loyal Dominica Rangers. no. 4 Slaves taken up by managers of palntations, by constables, &c in towns ... no. 5 Slaves, stated by Mr. Bruce, the Governor's secretary, to have surrendered to the Governor, and pardened by him; and restored to their owner.

Great Britain. Colonial Office.
An account of runaway slaves : killed, taken, and surrendered, between the 10th day of May 1813, the date of Governor Ainslie’s proclamation, and the 22nd day of November 1814, the day of his departure from Dominica.
London: House of Commons, 1816
The Lewis Walpole Library
File 652 G786 816

Indeed, a one or two-month fellowship at the Lewis Walpole Library could prove crucial for scholars of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in the British Caribbean.


Teanu Reid held a Lewis Walpole Library Summer Fellowship for Yale Graduate Students in 2021.