27. Walpole’s X

27. Walpole’s X

by Sean Silver, Associate Professor, English Language and Literature, University of Michigan

I’d like to write a bit about the letter X—one X in particular, but also the shape of the letter in general. It’s not a popular letter. It is sort of stashed away at the end of the alphabet; we mostly use it when we mean to refuse something else. We say that we “X” or “cross” something out. We “exclude” it, “ex-“ being the Greek prefix for “out,” like exile, exit, or exotic. And we use X’s in this way. John Locke used to cancel pages of his manuscript notes with a large “X,” stretching its limbs from corner to corner. Pages so marked are obsolete, or have been copied elsewhere, thereby excluded from the current pages of his thought. As I look out the window of my hotel room, which happens to be on a busy street, I count no fewer than three x’s, instructing us not to smoke, not to litter, and not to park.

It isn’t that an X isn’t elegant, in its own way. Alexander Pope loved X’s—I mean syntactically or as a rhetorical choice rather than a letter. The Greek X is pronounced Chi. It has been used to abbreviate the name of the Son of God: Chi for Christ. (This also had the virtue of reminding us, ideogrammatically, of the Cross.) But it was also, in Pope’s moment, used to name a certain kind of poetic crossing, where ideas are made to reflect one another, or to cross on the page. So begins his Rape of the Lock with a sort of puzzle or question, almost brought to a paradox by the magic of the cross-like Chi:

Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel
A well-bred lord t’ assault a gentle belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor’d,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?
In tasks so bold, can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?

 

You don’t have to squint too hard to see it. It is a kind of country-dance of ideas, a crossing or a passing on the page: the well-bred lord who assaults the gentle belle; the gentle belle who rejects the lord. If we were to put these lines on the chalkboard, which, in lectures to my undergraduates, I generally do, we draw the x that associates ideas, linking lord to lord, belle to belle. “We call this chiasmus,” I say, “for the Greek letter X”, then I spell “Chiasmus.” In case you didn’t see what Pope was up to, he does it again in the very next couplet. A bold task finds its echo in a mighty rage—which is tucked away in the opposite corner of the following line; “little men” are crossed with “soft bosoms,” in what seems to me to be a summary repetition of the chiastic pairing of lords and belles.  There is ideological work happening, here: a philosophical contrapposto or exchange.  Its figure is the letter X.

The thing about the X is that it is the simplest letter of two strokes: two bare lines made to cross. As a letter, it is almost unnecessary. Turkish, for instance, dispenses with it altogether; in Istanbul, you hail a Taksi. But as an ideogram, it seems to me to be indispensable, as a sign of emphasis or cancellation. A single line might be an accident; two lines, crossed, define a point and a plane. Something new, in short, happens when two lines are made to meet. This is precisely because it is the most primitive woven letter, where elements are not stacked, but crossed; it is for this reason that William Petty, in his Early Modern treatise on textiles, describes the crucial element of any woven good as the “little X’s” that are made on the loom. A single fiber: it might have tensile strength and possibly some other bare qualities. But with an X, other qualities begin to emerge, like elasticity, or softness. So, too, with the letter itself, which connects and complicates, or, in Petty’s moment, makes “complex.”

This brings me to a somewhat more prosaic, somewhat more tendentious chiasmus, which is suggested by a remark in an appendix in the Yale edition of Walpole’s Correspondence. The appendix refers to Horace Walpole’s letter to Horace Mann of 28 January, 1754. This letter, the editor writes, “inspired more inquiries [to the staff of the LWL] than all the other passages of the Walpolian correspondence put together.” This is a curiosity, but not a crossing; the other half of the chiasmus is this: Walpole, for this passage alone, remains among the most-cited eighteenth-century men of letters in publications on the sciences. People at the Walpole are hearing from science writers for a certain passage in Walpole’s letters; Walpole, for this passage alone, is appearing in their work as a representative of his age. What is more, the passage remains important because it, itself, names a kind of crossing; it gives a name to a species of transformative event, when we come across something we didn’t know we were looking for. It is the very passage where Walpole coins serendipity.

“Serendipity” is a word which is paradoxical in a special way that Walpole perfected. A serious word of deliberate lightness, it names moments where we find what we didn’t know we were looking for. Put more sharply: we go into the world looking for one thing, but, in the looking, find something that we could not have known to want before we started the search. It is transformative in a transformative way; we think that we are accumulating knowledge like a bag accumulates marbles or a book accumulates print: bag and book are untouched by the contact. But, in fact, we are learning learn in the way that a sculptor shapes clay, in which clay and sculptor undergo continuous change. In other words, it isn’t just that the discovery changes the search; it changes the searcher, for what we have found has transformed the way we imagine the world. This is what makes it chiastic, like a letter x. The transformation runs both directions.  “Serendipity,” therefore, names two things: we go out into the world, seeking one thing; the world, as compensation, transforms the seeker. This is the crucial crossing, the return route where the total project is altered by its accidental success.

Walpole christened “serendipity” in a 1754 letter penned to his longtime friend and correspondent Horace Mann, the British Minister of Florence. He was sending his thanks for a gift he had just received, a portrait of Bianca Cappello Walpole believed to have been painted by Vasari. It was in bespeaking a custom frame for the painting that Walpole made his discovery; the frame was to bear the arms of the Cappellos on one side, and the arms of the Medicis on the other, for the celebrated Bianca Cappello was the second wife of Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. “À propos,” Walpole writes, “in an old book of Venetian arms” (the very book which is now at the LWL[1]),

there are two coats of Capello, who from their name bear a hat, on one of them is added a flower-de-luce on a blue ball, which I am persuaded was given to the family by the Great Duke, in consideration of this alliance; the Medicis you know bore such a badge at the top of their own arms. This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity.[2]

page from "Le arme overo insegne di tutti li nobili della magnifica, & illustrisima cit à de Venetia, c'hora viuono" showing HW's mark at the Capello arms

Appearing on the same page of this book are two versions of the same coat of arms, two caps with blue balls, identical except for a tiny smudge of a fleur-de-lis in the second (and a typographical error, “Capello / Caepllo”). It is a question, in Walpole’s words, of “persuasion”: events and context have caused a detail, the merest blot of color, to bear rhetorical force, convincing him that he is witnessing the sign of a political union. Not quite satisfied with this story, Walpole adds a definition: serendipity is an “accidental sagacity,” for “no discovery of a thing you are looking for comes under this description.” It is, he suggests elsewhere, what you discover when you are “a la chasse of something very different” (31.325). Thus does “Capello’s portrait open,” writes James Lilley, “onto an interlocking, ever-expanding nexus of image, history, and text. It is as if each object in the [collection] ineluctably unfolds its own history, a history that is tied to other images, other places in the text.”[3] This perfectly captures, I think, the magic of serendipity as a fundamental principle of discovery, of where persons and things are made repeatedly to cross in an archive.

You might wonder why Walpole called this sort of discovery “serendipity,” rather than of some other, less whimsical word—and for that, any number of other studies exist, because Walpole tells us himself that the word comes from a Sherlock-Holmesian tale called “The Three Princes of Serendip.” Walpole fancied himself just such a seeker; his whimsy was, I suppose, the metric of his susceptibility to these sorts of transformative moments. It takes “sagacity” to witness a mere “accident,” but experience it as a transformative lesson.

I would like instead to wind up these remarks by sharing my own serendipitous discovery—which bears in a small way on the intellectual history of the concept itself. I had come to the Lewis Walpole Library as the Charles J. Cole Research Fellow in the summer of 2012.  My wife was six months pregnant, but we had decided to reserve this month so I could substantially complete research on the last couple of tricky objects for The Mind Is a Collection, a virtual museum of objects people used to model cognitive theories. Horace Walpole’s copy of his own play, The Mysterious Mother, was one of these objects. I was doing what you can do when you have the time, space, and resources for research: during the day, I was reading deeply in Walpole’s letters, and in the archives held at the LWL; at night, I was staying at the Root House, and reading broadly in the history of the fact, which is to say, the idea of facts, of “fact” as a concept which had to be learned. I was reading William Eamon’s Science and the Secrets of Nature, which traces a major part of this history. It was there that I ran across an early modern theory of knowledge-acquisition, in which we discover things by accident. It was commonly compared to a certain kind of hunt, but where we continually happened upon objects we didn’t know we were seeking. It is, Eamon suggested, a form of “accident”; it requires, (he suggests), “sagacity.”

To my ear, this was a clear echo of Walpole. The problem is, Eamon wasn’t quoting Walpole—he was quoting Francis Bacon, or, really, the standard translation of Bacon, which wasn’t made until nearly a century after Walpole’s coinage. How this precise formulation, how it was that Walpole, like Eamon, thought of discovery as “accident” crossing with “sagacity,” became one of the principle projects of the next year or so of my life—happily interrupted by the birth of a beautiful daughter. That story is now in print, and has become useful to people working on the serendipity concept—for it shows us some of the ideas Walpole himself was weaving together when he coined his term.

This drove me back to Walpole’s collection, and to his remarks on serendipity, as I put together the parts of what would become a piece on “The Prehistory of Serenidipity.”  But it also drove me to Walpole’s library, to the “old book of Venetian arms,” which against the odds, survived the teeth of time to find its way into Lewis’s collection of Walpole’s books. There, on page 12, are the coats of arms Walpole describes, and, in the margin, a little X, penned there to register the frisson of his discovery. This is of course the X which is the subject of these remarks. Walpole, with his joints not yet suffering from the gout that would cripple him late in life, held open that tightly bound little book, and placed a neat ideogram in the margin. You may still see it there. It is the first serendipitous discovery so-called. It reminds us that an X doesn’t just wipe things out. It also marks a spot: and not just a spot of special note, but a place where a transformation occurred, both in Walpole, but also in theories of discovery.


[1] Le arme overo insegne di tutti le nobili . . . di Venetia (Venice, 1578), p. 12, Lewis Walpole Library, Farmingham, Connecticut, call no. 49 2051. It’s probably worth pointing out at this point that Walpole commonly marked passages suggesting surprising discoveries with a marginal “x.” See, e.g., Walpole’s commonplace book, which he called his Book of Materials (1777), at the Lewis Walpole Library, pp. 6, 27, 29, etc.

[2] Walpole, Correspondence, Vol. 26, p. 307.

[3] James D. Lilley, “Studies in Uniquity: Horace Walpole’s Singular Collection,” ELH 80.1 (2013): 93-124, p. 119.

26. Choice 16: Tonton’s Snuff-Box

26. Choice 16: Tonton’s Snuff-Box

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“Walpole escaped to Paris in November 1765, after the most mortifying disappointment of his life, the failure of his friends, especially of Conway, to offer him a place in the first Rockingham Ministry which he had helped to form. He would not have accepted a place, but his pride would have been satisfied by refusing it. ‘Falsehood, interest, and ingratitude, the attendants of friendship, are familiar to me,’ he wrote Mann bitterly; but no Englishman ever went to Paris with more friendly letters of introduction to its great world or enjoyed more of a success when he got there. He wrote Gray, ‘Like Queen Eleanor in the Ballad, I sunk at Charing Cross, and have risen in the Faubourg Saint Germain‘ where he was drawn speedily into Madame du Deffand’s circle. She, whom he described to Conway as ‘an old blind débauchée of wit,’ Duchesse de Choisel, and Madame la Marquise Du Deffand [graphic] : (from the original formerly at Strawberry Hill) / M. Carmontel, del. ; W. Greatbach sculp.became infatuated with him although twenty years his senior. Forty years earlier she had been a mistress of the Regent Orléans and that gave her a certain panache even though the connection had lasted only two weeks. To her Walpole was a radiant newcomer who exorcised the devil ennui that possessed her. Before long they were meeting daily. His delight in her company and his pride in having made a Platonic conquest of the wittiest woman in Paris fused with his indignation at the ‘barbarity and injustice’ of those who ate her suppers when they could not go to a more fashionable house, who laughed at her, abused her, and tried to convert her nominal friends into enemies in what she called their ‘société infernale.’

Lewis then describes the journal Walpole kept of his five visits to Paris from 1765 to 1775, now at Harvard, cites typical entries, quotes from “the final entry in Mme du Deffand’s last journal, which she left Walpole and which is now at Farmington,” and recounts the episode of the pretend letter that Walpole sent to Rousseau supposedly from the King of Prussia which ended up destroying the friendship between Rousseau and Hume.

“When Walpole returned to England in 1766 he and Mme du Deffand began the correspondence which went on until she died fourteen years later, some 850 very long letters on each side. Walpole got her to return his letters and presumably directed Mary Berry, his literary executrix to make extracts from them as footnotes to a posthumous edition of Mme du Deffand’s letters to him, after which Miss Berry was to destroy his side of the correspondence. . . .He made four laborious trips to see and entertain her and to bring her what comfort and pleasure he could until war was declared between France and England. When her income was cut he offered to make up the loss from his own pocket, but she would not let him do it. image of round gold snuffbox with wax portrait of a dogAlthough she wanted to leave him all she had, he accepted only her manuscripts and her little black spaniel, Tonton, who was not house-broken and who bit people. She included the gold snuff-box made by the king’s jeweller with Tonton’s portrait in wax by Gosset that a friend gave her as a New Year’s present in 1778. The Chevalier Boufflers wrote verses on Voltaire and Tonton that Mme du Deffand sent to Walpole.

“Vous les trouvez tous deux charmants,
Nous les trouvons tous deux mordants;
       Voilà la ressemblance:
L’un ne mord qu ses ennemis,
Et l’autre mord tous vos amis,
        Voilà la différence.

“The manuscripts were kept in a cedar chest in the library at Strawberry until sold in 1842 to Thorpe the bookseller for £156.10s. Sir Frederick Madden of the British Museum recorded that ‘directly after the conclusion of the sale the chest was purchased by Dyce-Sombre who came down in a carriage and four accompanied by his wife, and the latter taking a fancy to these letters her wealthy husband gave Thorpe 20 guineas additional for them and carried them off.’ The lady bequeathed them to her nephew, W.R. Parker-Jervis of Staffordshire, They were resold through Sotheby’s in 1920, just four years before I began collecting Walpole. Paget Toynbee bought Mme du Deffand’s letters to Walpole for £20 and gave them to the Bodleian; Seymour de Ricci bought her letters to Voltaire and gave them to the Bibliothèque Nationale. Most of the rest went to Maggs, who in December 1933 let me have them for £50 to make me, as they said, ‘A Christmas present.’ In 1938 they retrieved for me the most interesting book in the collection, which had been bought by another dealer in 1920. This was Mme du Deffand’s “Recueil de divers ouvrages,’ over 270 pages, 4to, with 45 ‘portraits’ of her friends magnificently bound in red morocco. Walpole wrote inside the front cover Red morocco and gilt over of Recueil Des Divers Usages Image of page in book with manuscript provenance note in brown ink

that the book had been bequeathed to him by Mme du Deffand with her other manuscripts and he pasted in seven and a half pages of notes that included his ‘portrait’ of her, which is in English.

double page spread of bound manuscript in Walpole's hand

Portrait de Madame la Marquise du Deffand, 1766,
Where do Wit and Memory dwell?
Where is Fancy’s favourite cell?
Where does Judgment hold her court,

“and continues for 27 lines of conventional compliment until the close:

“Together all these Virtues dwell:
St Joseph’s convent is her cell:
Their sanctuary Du Deffand’s mind–
Censure, be dumb! She’s old and blind.

“Far from being wounded by the last line Mme du Deffand was flattered because it proved, she said, the sincerity of what went before.

“Her ‘Portrait’ of Walpole, which he asked her to write, is the most important summary of him ever written. This translation of it is by Catherine Jestin, Librarian of the Lewis Walpole Library.

“‘No, no, I cannot do your portrait. No one knows you less than I do. You appear sometimes as I wish you were, sometimes as I fear you may not be, and perhaps never as you really are. It is obvious you are very intelligent in many ways. Everyone knows this as well as I, and you should be aware of it more than anyone.

“‘It is your character that should be portrayed, and that is why I cannot be a good judge: indifference, or at least impartiality, is essential. Yet I can vouch for your integrity. You are pincipled and courageous and pride yourself on firmness of purpose, so that when you make a decision, for better or worse, nothing can make you change your mind, often to the point of obstancy. Your friendship is warm and steadfast, but neither tender nor yielding. Fear of weakness hardens you; you try not to be ruled by emotions: you cannot refuse friends in dire need, you sacrifice your interests to theirs, but you deny them smallest favours; you are kind to everyone, and to those to whom you are indifferent, yet for your friends, even where trifles are concerned, you hardly bother to exert yourself.

“‘Your disposition is very pleasing although not too equable. Your manner is noble, easy and natural; your desire to please is without affectation. Knowledge and experience of the world have made you scorn humanity and yet you have learned to adjust; you know that outward expressions are merely insincerities; you respond with deference and good manners so that all those who do not care in the least whether you like them or not have a good opinion of you.

“‘I do not know if you have much feeling; if you do, you fight it, for you think it a weakness; you allow yourself only the loftier kind. You are thoughtful, you have absolutely no vanity although plenty of self-esteem, but your self-esteem does not blind you: it leads you to exaggerate your faults rather than to hide them. You give a good opinion of yourself only if forced to do so when comparing yourself with others. You have discernment and tact, perfect taste and faultless manners. You would have been part of the most fashionable society in centuries past; you are so now in this, and would be in those of the future. Your character derives much from your country, but your manners are equally correct everywhere.

“‘You have one weakness which is inexcusable: fear of ridicule. You sacrifice your better feelings to it and let it regulate your conduct. It makes you harken to fools who give you false impressions that your friends cannot rectify. You are too easily influenced, a tendency you recognize and which you remedy to adhering too strictly to principle; your determination never to give in is occasionally excessive, and at times when it is hardly worth the effort.

“‘You are noble and generous, you do good for the pleasure of doing so, without ostentation, without hope of reward: in short your soul is beautiful and good.

“‘Addition to the Portrait, 30 November 1766.

    “‘Only truth and simplicty please you; you distrust subtleties, you hate metaphysics; large ideas bore you, and you don’t much enjoy deep reflection, you think it of little use; your philosophy teaches you that it is better to suppress your emotions than to fight them. You want to do so by diversions, you mock everything and, new Democritus, the world is nothing for you but a stage whose actors you hiss; your bent is irony, you excel in fields that demand sensitive and  sensibility often hinders gaiety. To remedy this you seek out-of-the-ordinary ways to occupy and amuse yourself. You build exotic houses, you raise monuments to a king of brigands, you pretend to have forbearance, etc. etc. Lastly, you seem a little mad in your eccentricities which are, however a product of reason.

    “‘I cannot say anything about your dislike of friendship; it is apparently founded on some deep sorrow, but as you are only vague about this, one is led us to believe that you are afraid, or else with to establish a rule of conduct, as little without foundation as all your rules which you do not follow despite your eloquence, because your precepts are not backed up by your practices.

“‘You have friends, you are entirely devoted to them, their interests are yours; all your talk and all your reasoning against friendship to convince them that you are not, of all people in the world, the most capable of it.”

First page of manuscript index to 49 2389Second page of manuscript index to 49 2389“Another runner-up to Tonton’s snuff-box is Walpole’s copy of Gramont’s Mémoires, 1746, the copy he used when editing and printing the Strawberry Grammont in 1772. He made an index for this copy and added notes throughout it, all of which he used in the Strawberry edition, his copy of which is also at Farmington, annotated and extra-illustrated by him. He dedicated it ‘A Madame__________. L’Editeur vous consacre cette Edition, comme un monument de son Amitié, de son Admiration, & de son Respect; à Vous, dont les Graces, l’Esprit, & le Goût retracent au siecle present le siecle d Louis quatorze & les agrements de l’Auteur de ces Memoires.’ In his copy he wrote Mme du Deffand’s name after the bland her modesty insisted upon and added two charming little engravings; the upper one of three putti crowning a book with laurel, the lower of a monument embowered with flowering shrubs. No collector ever enjoyed adorning his books more than Walpole. Of the hundred copies he printed of the Grammont, twelve are at Farmington; they include presentation copies to the Duchess of Bedford, Lord Nuneham, George Montagu, Mrs Damer, and Richard Bull, who extra-illustrated his copy lavishly, as usual.

image showing inscription inside snuffbox“The single object at Farmington that brings the two friends most strongly together is not the dedication copy of the Grammont or ‘Recueil de divers ouvrages,’ but the very beautiful circular gold snuff-box made by Roucel, the king’s jeweler, that give us Tonton in his plump latter days sitting on a cushion with his right front paw uplifted appealingly. Inside the lid, his master had inscribed, ‘This box with the portrait of her dog Tonton was bequeathed by Madame la Marquise du Deffand to Mr Horace Walpole, 1780.’ but before I talk about Tonton I should speak of his predecessors.

Lewis then lists Walpole’s dogs before Tonton in order of acquisition and includes an anecdote about each: Tory, the King Charles spaniel who was dragged off by a wolf in the Alps; Patapan, the small white spaniel who featured in the title of Walpole’s work Patapan or the Little White Dog, a Tale imitated from Fontaine; and Rosette, a black and tan spaniel “Walpole believed saved his life by warning him of a chimney fire. . . .”

“Mme du Deffand’s first of 69 references to Tonton was when he, aged four months, was sitting on her shoulder while she dictated her letter. A year later she asked Walpole, even before Walpole had seen him, to take him after her death. Tonton was very pretty, she said, and Walpole would love him, but she did not add that he wasn’t house-broken and bit people. Thomas Walpole proved his friendship by bringing Tonton to England when his mistress died, a kindness that must have added much to the hardship of those four exhausting days of travel. Walpole doted on Tonton. ‘You will find that I have gotten a new idol,’ he wrote Mason, ‘in a word, a successor to Rosette and almost as great a favourite, nor is this a breach of vows and constancy, but an act of piety. In a word, my poor dear old friend Madam du Deffand had a little dog of which she was extremely fond, and the last time I saw her she made me promise if I should survive her to take charge of it. I did. It is arrived and I was going to say, it is incredible how fond I am of it, but I have no occasion to brag of my dogmanity. I dined at Richmond House t’other day, and mentioning whither I was going the Duke said, “Own the truth, shall not you call at home first and see Tonton?” He guessed rightly. He is now sitting on my paper as I write–not the Duke but Tonton.’

“At just this time Walpole wrote in his pocket notebook mentioned in Choice 4.

“‘Charade on my dog Tonton
The first part is thine, the second belongs only to the people of fashion; but the whole, tho doubly thine, belongs only to me.’

“When Tonton died Walpole wrote Lady Ossory that his death was merciful, for

“‘He was grown stone deaf, and very near equally blind, and so weak that the two last days he could not walk upstairs. Happily he had not suffered, and died close by my side without a pang or a groan. I have had the satisfaction for my dear old friend’s sake and his own,of having nursed him up by constant attention to the age of sixteen, yet always afraid of his surviving me, as it was scarce possible he could meet a third person who would study his happiness equally. I sent him to Strawberry and went thither on Sunday to see him buried behind the Chapel near Rosette.'”

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called “ 26. Choice 16: Tonton’s Snuff-Box” download or expand the link here:

25. Choice 15: Walpole’s Transcripts of His Letters to Sir Horace Mann

25. Choice 15: Walpole’s Transcripts of His Letters to Sir Horace Mann

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“The Mann correspondence is the great Andean range of the Walpolian continent, stretching from 1740 to Mann’s death in 1786. first letter from HW to Mann in first volumeEight hundred and forty-eight of the letters are from Walpole, eight hundred and eighty-seven from Mann, a total of 1735 letters. The manuscripts of nearly all are at Farmington.

“In my Introduction to these letters in the Yale Walpole I pointed out that ‘For sweep and variety and the procession of great events they are unrivalled in Walpole’s correspondence.‘ I might have gone further, I think, and said that they are unrivalled in those respects by any other correspondence of the time. Walpole was aware of their historic value. As early as 1744 he wrote Mann that being ‘entirely out of all the little circumstances of each other’s society, which are the soul of letters, we are forced to correspond as Guicciardini and Clarendon.’ Years later he exclaimed, ‘What scenes my letters to you have touched on for eight and thirty years!’; Conclusion to letter to Mann 18 Feb 1778

“and a few years later still, ‘A correspondence of near half a century is, I suppose, not to be paralleled in the annals of the Post Office!’ Towards the end he repeated that he was forced to write to posterity. ‘One cannot say, “I dined with such a person yesterday,” when the letter is to be a fortnight on the road–still less, when you know nothing of my Lord or Mr Such-an-one, whom I should mention.’ He had moments of realistic disillusion with us: ‘If our letters remain, posterity will read the catastrophes of St James’s and the Palace Pitti with equal indifference.’

“Walpole began getting his letters back in 1749 and thereafter they were brought him by friends every few years. He started transcribing them in 1754 to remove passages he didn’t want us to see, such as the account of his quarrel with Gray at Reggio and the strictures of his one-time intimate friend, Henry Fox. After a few years he let Kirgate do the copying, but resumed it for the last three years. The originals and copies were kept in separate houses and were left to different people. In a memorandum dated 21 March 1790 Walpole wrote: ‘I desire they will never suffer them to be transcribed or printed.’ This memorandum is one of the manuscripts Sir Wathen Waller and I found in the attic at Woodcote. It was sold in the second Waller Sale in 1947 and is now at Farmington.”

Lewis goes on to ponder why Walpole and Mann corresponded for so long and what became of the original letters before recounting his acquisition of the transcripts.

“Mrs Damer followed Walpole’s instructions about the ultimate disposition of the transcripts and turned them over to the Waldegrave family. The present Lord Waldegrave sold them to me in 1948. Lord Dover used them, not the originals, Red and gilt cover of bookfor his edition of Walpole’s letters to Mann, which was published by Bentley in 1833. The original worn bindings of the six volumes were removed and Paget Toynbee told me with pride that he got the ninth Earl Waldegrave to have the letters rebound in their present red morocco.

I would like, of course, to save all six volumes, but if the Collections of Letters from Horace Walpole manuscript title pagealmighty says ‘NO!’ I’ll rescue the first volume, which has 150 letters from 1741 to 1746 transcribed and annotated by Walpole throughout.

“That he had future readers of his letters in mind is clear from the Advertisement he prefixed to the first volume of the transcripts and by the epigraph he added to its title-page, ‘Posteris an aliqua cura, nescio! Plin. Epist.’ ‘Whether there will be any concern about us on the part of posterity I do now know.‘ Pliny, Letters. The late Professor Clarence Mendell of Yale kindly sent me a translation of Pliny’s letter to Tacitus in which the epigraph appears, pointing out that Walpole omitted nostri between cura and nescio. This epigraph is less confident than the other already quoted in Choice 4 from Cibber’s Apology. We can be certain, I think, of his satisfaction if he could have known that in the twentieth century his letters to and from Mann would be published in America in eleven substantial volumes with tens of thousands of footnotes and an index of over 100,000 entries to guide an ever-increasing number of delighted readers. The English friend who saw Walpole most clearly, ‘Gilly’ Williams, wrote to George Selwyn, ‘I can figure no being happier than Horry, Monstrari digito praetereuntium [to be pointed out by those passing by] has been his whole aim. For this he has wrote, printed, and built.’ For this he wrote and kept his letters.”

Manuscript of "Advertisement" in first Mann correspondence volume by Walpole          Manuscript of "Advertisement" page two in first Mann correspondence volume by Walpole

Lewis then quotes from Walpole’s Advertisement to the transcripts, which can be read in full in the online Yale Correspondence (vol. 17, p. 1-2).

“Mann’s letters to Walpole remained at Strawberry Hill until 1843 when they were acquired from Lord Waldegrave by Richard Bentley, the publisher whose grandson sold them to me with four of their original red morocco bindings from which the letters had been cut. Each volume still has a title-page in Walpole’s hand, ‘Letters/From Horatio Mann/Resident at Florence/From King George the Second/To/Horatio Walpole/youngest Son/of/Sir Robert Walpole/afterwards/Earl of Orford/’ and the numbers of the volumes. . . .

“Mann sent lavish presents to Walpole despite Walpole’s protests, Among them were the bronze bust of Caligula with silver eyes at the beginning of his madness, a small ebony trunk for perfumes with bas-reliefs in silver ‘by Benvenuto Cellini’ representing the Judgment of Paris, a marble head in alto relievo of John the Baptist ‘by Donatello,’ and a portrait ‘by Vasari’ of Bianca Cappello, mistress and wife of Francesco de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. This last particularly delighted Walpole. ‘The head,’ he wrote Mann,

“‘is painted equal to Titian, and though done, I suppose, after the clock had struck five and thirty, yet she retains a great share of beauty. I have bespoken a frame for her, with the grand ducal coronet at top, her story on a label at bottom, which Gray is to compose in Latin as short and expressive as Tacitus (one is lucky when one can bespeak and have executed such an inscription!) the Medici arms on one side, and the Capello’s on the other.'”

Lewis goes on to quote Walpole telling Mann about the arms and serendipity. For more on serendipity, see Sean Silver’s post elsewhere in this blog. Lewis then turns his attention to Thomas Patch.

“Mann is seen at Farmington through the eyes of Thomas Patch who spent the last twenty-seven years of his life at Florence painting visiting Englishmen and romantic landscapes for grand tourists. Our collection of him started in 1939 when William Randolph Hearst began selling his vast collections that were stored in two New York warehouses, each of which covered a city block. Perhaps a tenth of one percent of them was offered by Parish, Watson and Co. of 57th Street. When I asked them if Hearst had anything from Strawberry Hill they said they had no idea and invited me to come and see for myself. I wandered through six floors crowded with Spanish choir stalls, porphyry jars and Etruscan vases, French cabinets and English chests. I was ready to give up on the sixth floor, but my guide urged me on for one more, which was the attic. Against its walls leaned a fragment of a Tiepolo ceiling, a Messonier battle scene, and Frederick Remington cowboys. Among them was a large conversation piece with ‘Hogarth’ on its ample frame. Thanks to Francis Watson, the expert on Thomas Patch, I knew better. I was certain that the chief figure in the picture before me was Mann from its resemblance to a small portrait of him by John Astley that Mann sent Walpole and that was reproduced in Cunningham’s edition of Walpole’s letters. He was older in the Hearst picture, more rugose, but with the same broken nose and air of a capable

A gathering at the Casa Manetti, Florence, showing a group of men in eighteenth-century dress, by Thomas Patch

“esthete. The case for the figure being Mann was settled by his vice-regal chair with the royal crown and supporters. I urged my guide to send a photograph of it to Francis Watson at the Wallace Collection in London for his opinion and after Francis confirmed Patch as the artist a zero was chopped off the Hogarth price, and the remainder was divided by five, and the picture was the first of five Patches to come to Farmington. A year later Astley’s portrait of Mann emerged from hiding and arrived with the companion portrait of his twin brother Galfridus that Mann had also sent Walpole.

Portrait of Sir Horace Mann, eighteenth-century bewigged gentleman facing right, wearing a red coat                       Portrait of Galfridus Mann, eighteenth-century bewigged gentleman facing left, wearing a brown coat

“When ‘dear Gal’ died Walpole had Bentley design his tomb, the drawing for which is at Farmington.

“Mann appears in two other Patches at Farmington, the very large conversation piece that we shall come to in our Print Room and another that was painted for Lord Beauchamp, Lord Hertford’s heir and Walpole’s first cousin once removed. Walpole saw and admired the picture.

A party at Sir Horace Mann's in Florence showing a group of men in eighteenth-century dress

“Mann is seated at the right listening to a comical Dutch singer whom he is trying out for one of his musical entertainments. The Dutchman is singing eagerly while Patch himself bursts into the room from the left bowed under a basket filled with the Vocabulario della Crusca and distracting nearly all of the auditors. Beauchamp, very tall and elegant in the center of the picture, has turned to regard the disturbance with amused superiority. We shall come to the fourth Patch at Farmington when we get to Henry Bunbury and Hogarth. A fifth one is a riverscape that I got to show the sort of thing Patch painted for the Grand Tourist trade.

Landscape showing a bridge and tower with blue mountains in the distance, painted by Thomas Patch

“An ancient round tower looms beyond a bridge over which peasants and an ox-cart are passing; a shepherd and his modest flock are resting on the bank; in the distance are blue mountains. It is a scene to bring back smiling Italy to northern travellers at home. Walpole asked Mann to send him two Patches of the Arno and Florence, which he kept in his town house and bequeathed to his great-nephew, Lord Cholmondeley at Houghton, where they still are, a lovely pair. Title page from Fra Bartolommeo by Thomas PatchOne marvels at Patch’s versatility, for he was also an engraver, the author of a sumptuous folio with twenty-six engravings after Masaccio that he dedicated to Mann and of twenty-four prints after Fra Bartolommeo that he ‘dedicated to the Honourable HORACE WALPOLE, an intelligent promoter of the Arts,’ an honor no doubt inspired by Mann.

“It is pleasant to have the two friends brought together in this way by Patch, whose pictures, like Mann’s letters to Walpole are now held in higher esteem than ever before.

“When on 15 July 1777 Walpole asked Mann to return his letters, he added, ‘I should like to have them all together, for they are a kind of history.’ readers of the Memoirs will be especially grateful to them because they add ‘the touches of nature’ that the Memoirs lack.”

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called  25. Choice 15: Walpole’s Transcripts of His Letters to Sir Horace Mann” download or expand the link here:

N.B. The project files for the editorial work on the Mann letters that was undertaken for The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence are in the Lewis Walpole Library’s archives and have been rehoused this summer. files from the Mann volumes of the "Yale Edition" project    contents of one box of files from the Mann volumes of the "Yale Edition" project

24. Choice 14: Walpole’s Chattertoniana

24. Choice 14: Walpole’s Chattertoniana

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“Coming back on the Olympic in 1925, I met Dr Edward Clark Streeter, to whom I later dedicated my Collector’s Progress. He had been at Yale twenty years ahead of me, had formed a fine library of medical history, and was then making his notable collection of weights. After I held forth on Walpole he looked at me quizzically and asked, ‘But what about the Marvellous Boy?’ He was quoting Wordsworth,

“‘Chatterton, the marvellous boy,
“The sleepless soul that perished in his pride.’

“This was the youthful genius, Thomas Chatterton, who committed suicide in his eighteenth year, a victim of opium as well as of pride and whose brief life fills twenty columns in the Dictionary of National Biography, as compared to Boswell’s sixteen and Walpole’s eleven. While we walked the decks of the Olympic I explained to Ned Streeter that I couldn’t collect Walpole if I wasn’t convinced he was innocent of Chatterton’s death and Ned accepted his innocence when I finished.

“The Choice in this chapter is Walpole’s collection in four volumes of sixteen pieces dealing with Chatterton. To appreciate them one must know the boy’s story and how he, a precocious adolescent in Bristol, the son of a poor schoolmaster, secured a special place in English literature.

“In 1776 Chatterton, aged sixteen, sent Walpole ‘The Ryse of Peyncteynge yn Englande, wrote bie T. Rowleie, 1469, for Mastre Canynge.’ Rowley was a fifteenth-century monk of Bristol invented by Chatterton who allegedly composed a treatise on ‘peyncteynge,’ that might, Chatterton wrote Walpole, be ‘of service to you in any future edition of your truly entertaining Anecdotes of Painting.’ He added ten explanatory notes to ‘The Ryse of Peyncteynge.’ The first of them was on Rowley whose ‘Merit as a biographer, historiographer, is great, as a poet still greater . . . and the person under whose patronage [his pieces] may appear to the world, will lay the Englishman, the antiquary, and the poet under an eternal obligation.’ This was a hook well baited for Horace Walpole who sent Chatterton ‘a thousand thanks’ for his ‘very curious and kind letter’ and went so far as to say he would ‘not be sorry to print’ a specimen of Rowley’s poems. What pleased Walpole most in Chatterton’s letter was the confirmation of the conjecture in Anecdotes of Painting that ‘oil painting was known here much earlier than had been supposed, ‘ but before long Walpole began to suspect, with the aid of Mason and Gray, that the examples of the fifteenth-century manuscripts that Chatterton had sent him were forgeries.

page from Chatterton's poems with Walpole manuscript note

 

“It was odd that Rowley wrote in eighteenth-century rhymed couplets.

“Meanwhile, Chatterton disclosed to Walpole his age and the condition in life. The letter in which he did so has been almost entirely cut away. Walpole’s recollection of it nine years later was that Chatterton described himself in it as ‘a clerk or apprentice to an attorney, [that he] had a taste and turn for more elegant studies,’ and hoped Walpole would assist him with his ‘interest in emerging out of so dull a profession,’ The learned antiquary turned out to be an ambitious youth. Walpole sent him an avuncular letter to which Chatterton returned, according to Walpole, ‘a rather peevish answer’ in which he said ‘he could not contest with a person of my learning (a compliment by not means  due to me, and which I certainly had not assumed, having consulted abler judges), maintained the genuineness of the poems and demanded to have them returned, as they were the property of another gentleman. . . .’

     When I received this letter, I was going to Paris in a day or two, and either forgot his request of the poems, or perhaps not having time to have them copied, deferred complying till my return, which was to be in six weeks. . . .
      Soon after my return from France, I received another letter from Chatterton, the style of which was singularly impertinent. He demanded his poems roughly; and added, that I should not have dared to use him so ill, if he had not acquainted me with the narrowness of his circumstances.
     My heart did not accuse me of insolence to him. I wrote an answer expostulating with him on his injustice, and renewing good advice–but upon second thoughts, reflecting that so wrong-headed a young man, of whom I knew nothing, and whom I had never seen, might be absurd enough to print my letter, I flung it into the fire; and wrapping up both his poems and letters, without taking a copy of either, for which I am now sorry, I returned all to him, and thought no more of him or them, till about a year and half after, when [a gap in all printed versions].
     Dining at the Royal Academy, Dr Goldsmith drew the attention of the company with an account of a marvellous treasure of ancient poems lately discovered at Bristol, and expressed enthusiastic belief in them, for which he was laughed at by Dr Johnson, who was present. I soon found this was the trouvaille of my friend Chatterton; and I told Dr Goldsmith that this novelty was none to me, who might, if I had pleased, have had the honour of ushering the great discovery to the learned world. You may imagine, Sir, we did not at all agree in the measure of our faith; but though his credulity diverted me, my mirth was soon dashed, for on asking about Chatterton, he told me he had been in London, and had destroyed himself. I heartily wished then that I had been the dupe of all the poor young man had written to me, for who would not have his understanding imposed on to save a fellow being from the utmost wretchedness, despair and suicide!—and a poor young man not eighteen—and of such miraculous talents—for, dear Sir, if I wanted credulity on one hand, it is ample on the other.

“Seven years after Chatterton’s death an article on him in the Monthly Review for April 1777 stated that he had applied to Walpole, but ‘met with no encouragement from that learned and ingenious gentleman, who suspected his veracity.’ A month later in the same magazine George Catcott of Bristol went a step further. Chatterton, said Catcott, ‘Applied . . . to that learned antiquary, Mr Horace Walpole, but met with little or no encouragement from him; soon after which, in a fit of despair, as it is supposed, he put an end to his unhappy life.’ ‘This,’ comments E. H. W. Meyerstein, in his Life of Chatterton, 1930, ‘was a perfectly monstrous accusation, considering that Walpole never saw Chatterton, whose application to him was made over a year before he came to London and seventeen months before his death.’ The accusation was repeated a year later by the editor of Chatterton’s Miscellanies in Prose and Verse. These statements fastened the responsibility for Chatterton’s death on Walpole in many minds. . . .

“In 1933 I found out that sixteen pieces of Walpole’s collection of Chattertoniana bound in four volumes were in the Mercantile Library in New York; a seventeenth piece was (and is) in the British Museum. The Mercantile Library, a lending library of contemporary books, acquired the four volumes in 1868. I of course hurried to see them. Only the first volume was in its Strawberry covers with Walpole’s arms on the sides, but all the pieces had his notes and formed a major Walpolian recovery.

Manuscript title page for vol 1 of Chattertoniana                                               Title page to first item in Walpole's Chattertoniana

“The first volume has a title page written by Walpole on a fly-leaf: ‘Collection/of/Pieces/relating to/Rowley/and/Chatterton;/containing,/the supposed poems/of Rowley; the acknowledged works/of/Chatterton; by/Mr Walpole himself./’ The first piece is ‘Poems, supposed to have been written at Bristol by Thomas Rowley, and others in the fifteenth century The Greatest Part Now First Published From the Most Authentic Copies, with An Engraved Specimen of One of The MSS to Which are added A Preface An Introductory Account of The Several Pieces and A Glossary,’  1777. . . .The second piece in this volume is Miscellanies in Prose and Verse; by Thomas Chatterton, the supposed author of the poems published under the names of Rowley, Canning, etc. . . . The third piece in the first volume is Walpole’s Letter to the Editor of the Miscellanies of Thomas Chatterton, Strawberry Hill, 1779.

Print and newspaper letter in vol 1 of Walpole's Chattertoniana                Title page to first item in Walpole's Chattertoniana

After ‘Letter’ he wrote ‘From Mr Horace Walpole.’ He made a dozen annotations in ink, and pasted the relevant newspaper cuttings and a romantic view of ‘Monument to the Memory of Chatterton.’ If the Almighty allows me to rescue only one of the four volumes this is the one I shall choose without hesitation. . . .

A page from the MSS and letters that belonged to Thomas Tyrwhitt                  Chatterton manuscript poem Happiness in Tyrwhitt ms vol

“The runner-up in this Choice is a collection of manuscripts and letters that belonged to Thomas Tyrwhitt. Among them are six pages in Chatterton’s hand, including his poem ‘Happiness’ and several drawings and inscriptions inspired by the documents and monuments in St Mary Redcliff, Bristol. ‘Happiness’ concludes:

Content is happiness, as sages say-
But what’s content? The trifle of a day.
Then, friend let inclination be thy guide,
Nor be by superstition led aside.
The saint and sinner, fool and wise attain
An equal share of easiness and pain.

“Chatterton’s handwriting is so mature it is easy to see why it was mistaken for that of an older man. As his manuscripts are chiefly in the British Museum and the Bristol Library, we are fortunate at Farmington to have these pages that bring us into the most vexed chapter of Walpole’s life.”

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called  24. Choice 14: Walpole’s Chattertoniana” download or expand the link here:

23. Choice 13: “Tracts of the Reign of George 3”

23. Choice 13: “Tracts of the Reign of George 3”

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

Cover of Tracts of Geo 3, in calf with Walpole's arms                      title page of the Tracts of George 3

“That is the title Walpole gave these 59 volumes. By ‘tract’ he meant the second definition of the word in the OED, ‘A book or written work treating of some particular topic; a treatise.’ He collected 335 of them for this collection; 224 in fifty-four octavo volumes, five with 111 tracts in quarto. All are bound in calf with Walpole’s arms on the sides and elaborately tooled spines labelled ‘Tracts of Geo. 3.‘ The earlier volumes have title-pages printed at the Strawberry Hill Press, ‘A Collection of the most remarkable TRACTS/Published/in the REIGN/of/King George the third,’ and all have a ‘List of Pieces in this Volume’ written on the inside of the front covers in Walpole’s clearest hand. He frequently added the month below the year on the title-page and the names of anonymous authors; throughout are his crosses, short dashes, exclamation points, and, rarely, an asterisk. I bought the collection from the estate of Sir Leicester Harmsworth in 1938.

inside front cover of Tracts of George 3 volume 39 showing list of contents in Walpole's hand

“Its variety appears in volume 39:

“Williams, John. An Account of some remarkable ancient ruins, lately discovered in the Highlands, 1777.

“Junus, pseud. A serious letter to the public, on the late transaction between Lord North and the Duke of Gordon, 1778.

“Burke, Edmund. Two letters from Mr Burke to gentlemen in the city of Bristol, 1778. Dated ‘May’ by Walpole and with one identification by him.

“Burgoyne, General John. The substance of General Burgoyne’s speeches, 1778. A few marginal markings by Walpole.

“[Ticknell, Richard]. Anticipation: containing the substance of His M—-y’s most gracious speech, 1778. Among Walpole’s many notes is, ‘Ch. Fox said “he has anticipated many things I have intended to say, but I shall say them never-the-less.”‘

“[Bryant, Jacob]. A farther illustration of the Analysis [of Mythology], 1778. Author identified by Walpole and numerous marginal markings by him.

“[Gibbon, Edward]. A vindication of some passages in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the History, 1779. Dated ‘Jan. 14’ by Walpole with one note and numerous markings by him.

“[Walpole, Horace]. A letter to the editor of the Miscellanies of Thomas Chatterton, Strawberry Hill, 1779. One correction in manuscript by Walpole. Above the ‘List of Pieces’ in volume 39 he inked a large asterisk to mark the volume’s special interest. This is the volume of the ‘Tracts of Geo. 3’ I am taking if the Almighty says I can’t have the entire collection.

“Also at Farmington is the collection of earlier tracts from 1613 to 1760 that Walpole began to collect about 1740. There are 662 pieces in 88 volumes, 8vo. Walpole listed the pieces in each volume, but made only a few marginalia.”

Lewis comments on Walpole and Ranby’s Narrative of the Last Illness of the Right Honourable the Earl of Orford, 1745, and then recounts the provenance of the pre-1760 tracts which he acquired through Quaritch in 1938.

“Walpole made three other collections of pieces printed from 1760 to 1796: ‘The Chronicle of Geo. 3,’ ‘Poems of Geo. 3,’ and ‘Theatre of Geo. 3.’ All are similarly bound in full calf with his arms on the sides. ‘The Chronicle of Geo. 3’ in 36 volumes is a set of the London Chronicle from 1760 to 1796 that came to Farmington from Lord Derby’s sale. It is disappointing because it has no marginalia; doubtless Walpole had another set that he annotated and cut up. Next to it at Strawberry stood ‘Poems of Geo. 3’ in 22 volumes containing 244 pieces with special title-pages printed at the Strawberry Hill Press for the earliest volumes. This collection was given to Harvard in 1924, a most enviable gift.

“My acquaintance with ‘The Theatre of Geo. 3’ began in March 1925 when I walked into Pickering and Chatto’s for the first time and asked if they had any books from Walpole’s library. The man who greeted me was Mr Charles Massey, a survivor of the old-time bookseller. ‘We have,’ he said, ‘Many plays from Walpole’s library,’ and then, when he saw the effect of his words, he called out: ‘Dudley, Watson! Fetch up two or three of the Walpole plays,’ and they did so.

…”Mr Massey explained to me that it would take time to ‘look out’ all the plays and suggested that I come back in a week. When I returned there were 130 of the plays waiting for me on a long table. They had been bought by Maggs at Sotheby’s in 1914, Mr Massey explained to me. Maggs offered them in two or three catalogues and then broke them up, having Rivière rebind the plays by Sheridan and Goldsmith and putting a few other plays back into their original Walpolian bindings. They sold the rest, over 500 plays, to Pickering and Chatto, who put each play into a brown manila wrapper with acid, I was to discover years later, that defaced the title-pages. Mr Massey stood deferentially beside me while I went through the collection, play by play. Walpole had written the month the play appeared below the year on the title-page and occasionally pasted in a newspaper cutting.

“Dudley and Watson also brought up twenty-four of the tattered remains of the original covers that were hanging from them. The spines were lettered, ‘Theatre of Geo. 3.’ Walpole wrote ‘List of pieces in this Volume’ inside the front cover of each.

Inside front cover of one of Walpole's volumes of plays

“It occurred to me–or possibly to Mr Massey–that it would be a pious act of restitution to put the plays back as nearly as possible into the original covers. There had been 59 volumes when the set was sold in 1914, but only 40 of the original covers remained; the rest had been sold off by Maggs with single plays. Accordingly, some of the 130 plays had to go into different covers. This sorting and arranging went on for days, while Mr Massey, who suffered cruelly from asthma, stood by my side and talked about books and book-collecting. It was one of the pleasantest experiences of my collecting life.”

Lewis continues with more details of his experiences with Mr. Massey and the staff of Pickering and Chatto, the discovery of the whereabouts of more plays, and the process of authenticating them and matching them to their original volumes.

Volume of Walpole's plays, showing their disbound state

…”When I was convinced that the play had been in the ‘Theatre of Geo. 3′ I pulled off the manila wrapper and found that the stitching coincided precisely with the stitching in the other plays originally in the volume, and that, final proof, faint remains of the original binding still clung to the plays’ narrow spines.

“Shortly after the Brick Row cache appeared, I wrote to Pickering & Chatto for a list of the plays they had sold before I appeared in 1925. Their list (in Watson’s find hand) contains 64 plays, 37 of which I marked with an H. At the top  of the list I wrote: ‘H-Hopeless.’ These were plays that had been sold to American libraries, the Folger Shakespears Library in Washington, and the University of Michigan, chiefly. Of these 37 ‘hopeless’ plays, 33 are now at Farmington.”

front page of a play from Walpole's collection that Lewis acquired from Folger Shakespeare Library

Lewis then recounts how he acquired the plays from the institutional collections which held them. He concludes:

“There are now 390 of the 553 plays in the ‘Theatre of Geo. 3‘ at Farmington and 35 known elsewhere (20 at Harvard); 135 are still untraced. Forty-eight of the fifty-seven covers are at Farmington, seven at Harvard, two are untraced. The plays at Farmington have been shelved by my librarian, Mrs Catherine Jestin. Most of the Bayntun bindings had to be taken apart to restore the plays to their original order. Eight of the volumes are complete and at the end of the set is volume 58, the Prologues and Epilogues given me by Mrs Percival Merritt in memory of her husband. The plays stand above the unbroken collection of 220 pre-1760 plays in nineteen volumes that came from Lord Derby at Knowsley in 1954. Somehow, the broken ‘Theatre of Geo. 3,’ which is held together by red string, does not suffer by comparison. The hard covers put on by Yale, Michigan, and the Library of Congress preserve the plays’ history. It is the corner of the library where I enjoy sitting most; the plays are at my right, the tracts are at my back, and across the room to the left are the 36 volumes of the London Chronicle standing next to the books from the Glass Closet. About eighty percent of Walpole’s collections of plays, tracts, and poems that he made from 1760 to 1796 have been reunited at Farmington for the benefit of scholars as long as the collection survives.”

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 13: “Tracts of the Reign of George 3,” download or expand the link here:

N.B. The collection is now housed in protective boxes and shelved in secure climate-controlled stacks.

49 1608 Tracts of George 3

49 1810 Theatre of Geo 3

22. Mortarboarding Horace Walpole – or Who moved the Gates?

22. Mortarboarding Horace Walpole – or Who moved the Gates?

By Nicholas J.S. Knowles, Independent Scholar

An amusing little homage to Horace Walpole as the indubitable high priest of the picturesque imagination can be found in the Lewis Walpole library in the form of a print, The Temple at Strawberry Hill, depicting a solitary capped and gowned scholar seated in the garden, absorbed in reading a book (Figure 1).

A view of the front of the temple at Horace Walpole's home Strawberry Hill includes the circular garden and the ornamental urns planted with small trees leading to the temple's entrance. To the left the doors of the large iron gates are closed. A man sits reading in a bench in the middle of the image, beside the circular garden in front of the temple.

Figure 1 Temple at Strawberry Hill. Thomas Rowlandson. (Lewis Walpole Library)

wrapper label for sketches from nature

Figure 2 Wrapper label for Sketches from Nature 1822 (Beinecke Library, Yale)

The Lewis Walpole Library impression, signed in the plate Rowlandson del 1822 and lettered drawn & etched by Rowlandson, Stadler aquatinta [i] is one of seventeen plates from Thomas Rowlandson’s Sketches from Nature, a collection of views of beauty spots in England, mostly in the West Country but including several taken along the Thames, that make up one of Rowlandson’s most engaging exercises in the picturesque. The series was first published in parts in 1809 by Thomas Tegg [ii]; an advertisement in Jacksons Oxford Journal for 23 Sept 1809 [iii] tells us: “Rowlandsons Sketch book / or, Choice Views from Nature. This day is published in Royal 4to. Containing four beautiful Views from drawings, made on the spot by T.Rowlandson. Esq price in colours to imitate drawings, 2s.6d. No 1. (to be continued every fortnight) The whole intended to assist the young artist, in the various branches of this delightful and fascinating science. All the prints will be etched by T.Rowlandson Esq. from original drawings, by himself, during a tour made in various counties of England in the summers of the years 1803-4-5-6-7 and 8.”

Rowlandson’s frequent presence in the vicinity of the upper Thames as he made his scenic tours is borne out by numerous (enough for a whole exhibition [iv]) surviving drawings of the area from the period, including several relating to Strawberry Hill and one of which, the well known North Entrance of Strawberry Hill, is also in the LWL collection. Whether designing The Temple at Strawberry Hill print actually involved a

Fragment from Rowlandson's Grotesque Borders for Rooms & Halls, Thomas Rowlandson Collection (GC112), Graphic Arts Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Figure 3 Fragment from sheet 14 of
Grotesque Borders for Rooms and Halls, Thomas Rowlandson Collection (GC112), Graphic Arts Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

visit to Strawberry Hill at all by Rowlandson is moot, as discussion in this blogpost will show, but the appearance of the print in the same year as the first appearance of Rowlandson & Combe’s bestselling parody, Dr Syntax in search of the Picturesque (first published in parts in Ackermann’s Poetical Magazine), is a definite and affectionate nod to Walpole as the figurehead of the picturesque tradition and underlines of his continuing aesthetic reputation as the progenitor of Gothicism after his death in 1797.

An earlier droll comment by Rowlandson on the raging fashion for the Gothick can be found in one of the twenty-four sheets of Ackermann’s Grotesque Borders for Rooms and halls) (Figure 3), a series of comic friezes intended for decorating rooms, full of topical jokes and allusions [v].

The Gothick revival continued apace in the early 1800’s with William Porden’s extravagantly gothic Eaton Hall (extravagantly built at a cost of over £100,000 between 1803 and 1812 for the 2nd Earl Grosvenor), which was even to be visited by Doctor Syntax himself in a sequel; Dr Syntax’s Second Tour in Search of Consolation (1820). Rowlandson depicts the Reverend Doctor in one of Eaton Hall’s ornate chambers, engaged in a dialogue with his guide on the relative merits of the gothic and the classical styles.  Syntax proves to be a good Walpolean disciple, advocating Gothic as the appropriate style for the stately homes of old families, in words that assert its chivalric connotations and bring Horace himself to mind:

“The new rais’d structure should dispense

The style of old magnificence:

The grandeur of a former age

Should still the wond’ring eye engage,

And the last Heir be proud to raise

A mansion as of former days.

The last successor claims the praise,

For virtue in these later days,

And walls bedeck’d with traceries;

Windows with rainbow colour’s bright,

With many a fancied symbol dight;

And when he views the turret rise

In bold irregularities;

He feels what no Corinthian pile

Would tell, though of the richest style,

That warriors, statesmen, learned sages,

Had borne his name in former ages,

While he, by ev’ry virtue known,

Does honour to it in his own.” [vi]

Portrait of Horace Walpole in his Library

Figure 4 Portrait of Horace Walpole in his Library 1755-59
(image Lewis Walpole Library)

In the Temple at Strawberry Hill print, Rowlandson upholds the fictionalising, idealising Walpolean fancy; he shows two of the sights of Strawberry Hill, the ‘Chapel in the Woods’ (Figure 8) and the ‘Garden Gate’ (now lost), which in reality were some distance apart, placed in artificial but harmonious proximity, adds a high-backed gothic chair from Walpole’s collection; and furthermore inserts a young hermit-scholar lost in sublime contemplation – surely intended to be read as a teasing reference to Horace Walpole himself as the genius loci – and who also serves neatly to place the viewer in the picture as well. That the slight figure is intended for Walpole is hinted by the characteristic cross legged pose, seen in the 1750’s drawing of Horace Walpole in his Library by Johann Heinrich Müntz (Figure 4).

A likely basis for the print, in reverse and with some small variations, is a drawing by Rowlandson of the same scene, now in the Courtauld Institute in London, (Figure 5) [vii].

Garden and entrance to a Neo-Gothic house - Strawberry Hill, 1809 (circa), Thomas Rowlandson (1757 - 1827). Accession number D.1952.RW.3600. © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

Figure 5 Garden and entrance to a Neo-Gothic house – Strawberry Hill, © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

In the drawing, the similarly posed figure of a reader has not been guyed with a mortarboard and gown, but rather has short, natural hair and the knee stockings of the Müntz portrait. He sits serenely absorbed amidst Rowlandson’s swirling rococo penmanship, the lush vegetation flowing into the gothic ornament. Richard Jeffree suggests the drawing is itself fictional iv;  a pastiche based on two prints that are among the illustrations to Walpole’s own guide to Strawberry Hill (for which see the Birthday Blog post #15; Walpole’s Two Chief Copies of his “Description of Strawberry Hill,” Printed there in 1774 and 1784). Firstly, a print etched by John Godfrey after a drawing by William Pars of the tiny ‘temple’, whose design Walpole had based closely on the perpendicular gothic Chantry Chapel in the chancel of Salisbury Cathedral; “The Chapel in the south-west corner of the wood, is built of brick, with a beautiful front of Portland stone, executed by Mr. Gaysere of Westminster, and taken from the tomb of Edmund Audley bishop of Salisbury, in that cathedral” [viii].

View of the Chapel in the Garden at Strawberry Hill, uncolored print

Figure 6 View of the Chapel in the Garden (Lewis Walpole Library)

Godfrey’s print (Figure 6) shows the same four plants on pedestals flanking the entrance to the chapel that are found in Rowlandson’s versions, as well as the two tall trees with distinctive foliage either side, definitely “hanging down poetical” [ix] and the semi-circular lawn in front.

Garden gate print from the "Description of the Villa"

Figure 7 The Garden Gate. Description of Strawberry Hill 1774 (Lewis Walpole Library)

The second component of Rowlandson’s image, the Garden Gate, was also based on a 13th century tomb, described by Walpole as “The piers of the Garden-gates are of artificial stone, and taken from the tomb of William de Luda bishop of Ely, in that Cathedral[x] and illustrated in Walpole’s description by a print by Thomas Morris after a drawing by Edward Edwards (Figure 7).

The design for the gates is mentioned originally in a letter by Walpole to Henry Cole in a sally almost as contrived as the artificial stone from which they were to be made: “Imprimis then, here are the directions for Mr Essex for the piers of my gates. Bishop Luda must not be offended at my converting his tomb into a gateway. Many a saint and confessor, I doubt, will be glad soon to be passed through, as it will at least secure his being passed over[xi]. In the ‘Plan of the Estate’ made about c1790, posted into HW’s extra-illustrated copy of the 1784 Description, the ‘Gothic Gate’ is marked as being located on the southeast boundary, some distance from the chapel. Mainly on the strength of Rowlandson’s drawing, WS Lewis suggests that the gate might have been subsequently moved to a position near the chapel [xii].  However Rowlandson was seldom concerned with exact topographical niceties and it is surely more likely that he transposed it by a stroke of his pen than that Walpole did so with a team of workmen – especially if Rowlandson invented his whole scene from Walpole’s prints in the first place. As can be seen from many other drawings by Rowlandson of known locations, the play of pattern and composition are more important in his depiction of places than precision. This is well illustrated by two very different images of Strawberry Hill  by him taken from more or less the same vantage point and shown below in Figure 10. Rowlandson freely takes liberties with the road and building elements to create the movement and composition he wants.

Color Photo of the Chapel in the Woods at Strawberry Hill

Figure 8 The Chapel in the woods today (Trip Advisor)

While it is of course also perfectly possible that elements of Rowlandson’s sketch of The Temple were actually drawn from life, the similarity of various aspects of the design, in particular, the façade, the window tracery, the half open door, and the curious patterning of the foliage, support the idea that it is based on prints in Walpole’s Description rather than being taken direct [xiii]. This would be entirely unsurprising – there are numerous other examples of Rowlandson using another print as the source for a background; for example, for several of the series of twelve comic prints of Oxford and Cambridge that Rowlandson made for Ackerman between 1809 & 1811, he simply copies prints of Oxford Colleges taken from the Oxford Almanack [xiv] and populates them with lively figures cavorting in the foreground. (This is taken to its logical conclusion in Ackermann’s massive Microcosm of London (1808-1810) where Rowlandson provides the figures for over 130 backgrounds provided by Pugin and others).

hand-colored etching of "Monastic Fare"

Figure 9 Monastic Fare (Lewis Walpole Library)

The scholar figure in The Temple is clearly fanciful; Rowlandson’s other drawings of Strawberry Hill have similarly invented figures appropriate to the spirit to Walpole’s creation. In North Entrance of Strawberry Hill [with Procession], also in the LWL, a procession of nuns and monks are introduced amidst the stream of carriages and pedestrians. Given that Rowlandson’s views on monasticism are very typically represented by prints such as The Holy Friar  (1807) or Monastic Fare (Figure 9), just two of a steady output of anti-clerical satirical prints made throughout his life, and monks are almost invariably depicted by him for comic effect, the procession can happily be read as a jeu d’esprit playing along to Walpole’s medieval fantasy. That said, it is not impossible that Rowlandson actually encountered real monks in the vicinity ─ a significant number of refugee monks and nuns from both English Catholic and French orders had fled to England in the previous decade to escape repression, especially after the September massacres of 1792 [xv]. Walpole himself subscribed to a fund for their relief (though “much against my will and practice”) [xvi]. And in the sketch of Strawberry Hill with a Procession of Monks which, by its loose and rapid pen work, of all Rowlandson’s drawings of Strawberry Hill is most suggestive of a drawing actually made on the spot (Figure 10a), there is indeed a band of monks; forming a dejected crocodile trudging up the road on the left. The second view, from the V&A, shows Rowlandson’s carefree editing of the elements to create his own composition.

Drawing by Rowlandson "SStrawberry Hill with a procession of monks"

Figure 10a. [Strawberry Hill With a Procession of Monks]. Private Collection
Image from Lowell Libson 2016. Catalogue entry #24 in Jefferee 1992 iv

Drawing by Rowlandson [Strawberry Hill from the West]

Figure 10b. [Strawberry Hill from the West], Victoria & Albert Museum London DYCE.79. Catalogue entry #25 in Jefferee 1992 iv

Figures 10a & b Two views of Strawberry Hill

The drawing of the chapel in the Woodward is not the only drawing by Rowlandson of Strawberry Hill that is almost certainly fictive. Another illustration from Walpole’s Description, a print of the Tribune by Thomas Morris, is highly plausible as the source for Rowlandson’s drawing of Nuns at Prayer in the Tribune at Strawberry Hill (Figure 11) in which a group of pretty young nuns kneel in ardent supplication before an altar flanked by large candlesticks. This should be read in particular as mischievous ─ nuns appear almost invariable with an erotic charge in Rowlandson prints of the period, ranging from the mildly titillating , such as this 1811 Tegg satire of a visit to a nunnery, to the out and out pornographic; such as this illustration to a Fable by La Fontaine, (undated, but probably made between 1800 and 1810). One cannot fault Rowlandson’s Walpolean sensibilities here however, since Walpole himself wrote of the Tribune that he intended “a cabinet, that is to have all the air of a Catholic chapel – bar consecration!” [xvii]

Nuns at Prayer Rowlandson

Figure 11a Nuns at Prayer. Private Collection

Figure 11b The cabinet at Strawberry Hill, by Edward Edwards, (Lewis Walpole Library), Folio 49 3582 fol.55 .From Horace Walpole’s extra-illustrated copy of A Description of the Villa…at Strawberry-Hill (Strawberry Hill, 1784, fol.55)

Figures 11a & b The Tribune at Strawberry Hill

By rather a biting irony, both Walpole and Rowlandson’s visions of the chapel proved to be truly visionary – in 1923 Strawberry Hill was bought by the Catholic Education Council for use as a Catholic Teacher Training College and the Vincentian fathers subsequently consecrated the Tribune room as a chapel.[xviii] The joke is definitely on Rowlandson. Would this fate have pleased the shade of Walpole one wonders? Certainly he would be delighted to see his “paper buildings” lasting into another age to become a revered ancient monument in their own right,  but his enthusiasm for the architecture, ornaments and ‘relicks’ of the old Catholic Church seems to have belied a dislike of its priggishness  and of religious enthusiasm in general; “For the Catholic religion, I think it very consumptive. With a little patience, if Whitfleld, Wesley, my lady Huntingdon, and that rogue Madan live, I do not doubt but we shall have something very like it here. And yet I had rather live at the end of a tawdry religion, than at the beginning; which is always more stern and hypocrite”[xix]Elsewhere his put down of Catholic bigotry and its excesses is mordant: ‘You know I have ever been averse to toleration of an intolerant religion” going on to observe tartly how religions encourage and feed off the conflict they generate “for modes of religion are but graver fashions: nor will anything but contradiction keep fashion up[xx] The designer of a Catholic closet does not come over as a closet Catholic.

Can other references to Walpole be found in Rowlandson’s work? While antiquaries and connoisseurs, always ancient and invariably grotesque, sporadically feature as the butt of caricatures throughout Rowlandson career – from the Chamber of Taste (1786); to Modern Antiques; (1811) to or  The Antiquaries Last Will and Testament (1816) – yet none of the depictions appear particularly slanted at the elegant Walpole.

Gillray print "Tales of Wonder"

Figure 12 Tales Of Wonder!
James Gillray on Lewis Mark’s The Monk . (Lewis Walpole Library)

But there is, apart from the Strawberry Hill drawings and print, one other, slightly surprising place where one can find Rowlandson burning the Walpolean flame, albeit with somewhat fishy oil. The author of the Castle of Otranto and the Mysterious Mother (LWL Birthday Blog #19) , stands of course as progenitor of The Gothic Novel, which, besides its many legitimate literary heirs, Vathek, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, Frankenstein, etc, also begat an entire bastard genre of cheap and popular ‘tales of sensation’.

The downmarket publisher Thomas Tegg, for whom Rowlandson made over 200 large caricatures between 1807 and 1815 ─and who published the 1809 edition of Sketches from Nature ─ also in the same period published a successful series of inexpensive chap books for the burgeoning mass market for such fare. Printed advertisement--page of text within a border. Headed "Teggs New Pamphlets"Figure 13 Wrapper for Castle of the Appennines with advertisement for Tegg’s New Pamphlets (Author’s Collection)Tegg’s New Pamphlets came loose stitched in a duodecimo paper wrapper; the advertisement printed on the front (Figure 13) lists nineteen such works and shows that at least fourteen of them are gothic or exotic tales (the rest are popular songs – and a book on fortune telling). At least eight of them include frontispieces and title page vignettes etched by the prolific Rowlandson [xxi].  Compared to his illustrations to Smollett or Fielding from the 1790’s they are slight works, but nonetheless helped to carry the thrills of Walpole’s Gothic sensationalism out to a wider audience. Rowlandson enters wholeheartedly into their world of high melodrama and preposterous terror ridden plots of lost heirs, lost parents; imprisoned maidens, decayed noble families, cloisters, ghosts and banditti, choosing lurid scenes and  illustrating them vigorously and with exemplary accuracy to their parody-defying text (Figures 14a & b), to make a cracking sixpennyworth of illustrated schlock.

Castle of the Appennines title page spread

Figure 14a The Castle of the Appennines, c1808 (AC)

Figure 14a. p14: … the sigh was repeated, when a door opened opposite to that by which he had entered, now was made visible by a gentle bluish light, which shone through the dungeon. Appalled and in anxious expectation, he fixed his eyes on it; it slowly opened and a tall figure enveloped in a travelling cloak entered the vault and walked with solemn steps to the centre….

“Tell me,” said Alberto, “who thou art, and whither do you lead me?”

The stranger, without answering, slowly unfolded the cloak, and discovered to the astonished Alberto the form of his beloved father. His face was pallid, and wore the yellow hue of the grave; in his side appeared a ghastly wound, from which issued streams of blood; with a mournful smile he surveyed his son, and in hollow accents thus addressed him :-

“Alberto, your savage uncle Cavigni inflicted this wound, having, under a false pretence, decoyed me from the castle. In a cavern near the west end of the forest you will find my remains; till you pay them due honour I can never rest. Your Emily is still in the power of the Murderer; be quick! Rescue her, and revenge me!”

p18: “You have no doubt heard” said she “of your father’s sudden departure from his castle, in consequence of intelligence he received at a late hour of the night. …. For several hours we travelled through the gloom of night, when, as we emerged from a thicket through which we had been passing, the cabriolet was stopped by a band of ruffians, who bore torches in their hands. Petrified with surprise, the Marchese inquired what they wanted, and commanded them to let him proceed without obstruction. Vain were my cries, vain supplication and resistance; the remorseless villains dragged the Marchese from the carriage and plunged their daggers into his body. Horror struck at the agonizing sight, I sank into insensibility, from which I recovered only to the appalling sense of the miseries which surrounded me. ”

Book "Female Intrepidity, or the Heroic Maiden", c1808 (AC) title page spread

Figure 14b. Female Intrepidity, or the Heroic Maiden, c1808 (AC)

Figure 14b. p6: Maud, petrified at the spirit of Judaism which she thought prevailed in the soul of the babe, wildly seized the knife and was going to stab her infant to the heart, when ‘suddenly the door flew open; her husband rushed into the room, and wrenching the knife from the vengeful mother’s hands, at the same time exclaimed, “Is this the careful mother? Heavens! what a sight I have returned to witness!” “Quit your hold !” exclaimed Maud, in a fiend-like voice. p21: When they separated that night Maud endeavoured to read, as she found herself not inclined to sleep. After perusing several pages she happened to raise her eyes, when to her great astonishment, she saw a female form seated opposite her. Maud composedly trimmed the lamp, and then held it up to view her unknown companion. She seemed an emaciated female of the middling size, a long thin nose, which nearly met her chin, a pair of small eyes, which were almost hid under a high forehead; her dress appeared as if she had stripped a coffin of its shroud; in one bony hand she held a crutch, while the other was placed on the table, which displayed long fingers with hideous sharp nails. “Do you forget me, Maud?” said the hag…”

Figures 14a & b Gothic chap books illustrations by Rowlandson with relevant excerpts

Rowlandson’s drawings of Strawberry Hill, together with the tales of sensation, show a playful engagement with Walpole’s visual and aesthetic legacy. The fanciful invention of both Walpole and Rowlandson is celebrated par excellence in The Temple at Strawberry Hill, a print  that still invites the modern reader,  even as it would have the 18 viewer, a gripping gothic novel in hand, to contemplate Walpole’s beautiful fictions of an imaginary past ─ with or without their tongue in cheek.

_____________________________________

[i] There are three separate impressions of the Temple at Strawberry Hill at Yale, all from the 1822 edition; a second detached copy is in the Beinecke Library Francis Harvey Album https://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3958773. The Yale Center for British Art has a full set of Sketches from Nature. [ND497.R78 S54 1822+ Oversize]. The 1822 edition was originally issued in a wrapper with a title page in letterpress – Yale also has a very rare surviving example of the wrapper label, found in volume 14 of Frances Harvey album along with the title page. (Figure 2)

[ii] A plain impression of the first state of the plate from my own collection shows a date of 1809 in the plate and Tegg’s imprint additionally below; the removal of the imprint in the later impressions implies a different publisher for the 1822 edition. Some of the copper printing plates for Sketches from Nature may have been owned by Rowlandson himself – one of them is listed by name in lot 449 of the catalogue for the 1828 Sotheby sale of Rowlandson’s studio & collection and survives to this day.

[iii] Payne, Matthew & Payne, James Regarding Thomas Rowlandson Hogarth Press, London, 2012.

[iv] Jeffree, Richard; Mr Rowlandson’s Richmond. Thomas Rowlandson’s drawings of Richmond upon Thames, Museum Of Richmond 1992.

[v] Detail from the copy in Princeton University Library [GA 2014.00795]

[vi] Combe, William The second tour of Dr. Syntax in search of Consolation : a poem . Ackermann, London 1820.

[vii] Witt, bequest; D.1952.RW.3600. Also illustrated #143 p207 in  John Hayes, Rowlandson Watercolours and Drawings, London 1972.  Hayes dates the drawing as c1815 but the 1809 print would necessarily place it earlier. A second version of the drawing in the Art Institute of Chicago is probably not by Rowlandson; for example, the trees do not “hang poetic” enough for a Rowlandson.

[viii] Walpole, Horace. A description of the villa of Horace Walpole, youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford at Strawberry-Hill, near Twickenham with an inventory of the furniture, pictures, curiosities. Strawberry Hill, 1774.

[ix] 2. Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, Yale Edition: To BENTLEY, 19 December 1753 (Vol35 p157): “Walpole telling him [Mr Ashe , a nurseryman at Twickenham; he had served Pope] he would have his trees planted irregularly, he said, ‘Yes, Sir, I understand: you would have them hang down somewhat poetical’.”

[x] P.G. Lindley: The Tomb of William de Luda: An Architectural Model at Ely Cathedral.  Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. Volume: 73 (1984)

[xi] HWC: To COLE, 15 July 1769 (Vol1 p178)

[xii] Ibid: The footnote on i.p178 of the Yale edition takes the Rowlandson drawing as evidence that the gate was subsequently moved to the chapel.

[xiii] On the 24th day of the 1842 sale of the Strawberry Hill contents, Lot 85 under ‘The Chapel in the Grounds’ is described as “A very fine ancient Stained Glass Window, in Seventeen Compartments”. The window depicted in both Parr and Rowlandson’s prints, which has distinctive asymmetric compartments, was presumably replaced after the sale with what we see now. However both Parr and Rowlandson’s prints show twenty three compartments rather than the seventeen described in the catalogue, consistent with Rowlandsons having made a copy of the print rather than looking at the real window.

[xiv] Petter, Helen Mary. The Oxford Almanacks OUP 1974.

[xv] Moutray, Tonya J. –Refugee Nuns, the French Revolution, and British Literature and Culture, Routledge Abingdon 2016

[xvi] HWC: To HANNAH MORE, 23 March 1793. (Vol31 p383)

[xvii] HWC: To MANN, 8 July 1759 (Vol21 p306)Letter CCXXXVIII July 8 1759 p400 Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford to Sir Horace Man, Vol 2, Edited by Lord Dover, Dearborn New York 1833

[xviii] Young, Robert A History of Roman Catholicism in Strawberry Hill. The newsletter of the Strawberry Hill Residents’ Association. December 2010 in Bulletin no 144.

[xix] HWC: To COLE 19 December 1767 (Vol1 p124)

[xxi] HWC: To MANN, 8 November 1784  (Vol 25 p541)

[xx1] Gothic and exotic chapbooks for Tegg illustrated by Rowlandson include The Irish Assassin, The Castle of the Black Isles, Female Intrepidity, The School For Friends, The Iron Chest, The History of the Young King of the Black Islands, Sindbad The Sailor, The History of the Nourreddin, The history of Agib. Another chapbook The Complete Fortune Teller,  uses an image by Rowlandson recycled by Tegg in a chapbook edition of Breslaw’s last Legacy, a book of magic tricks. A different hand (probably George Cruikshank and others)  illustrated  other Tegg Pamphlet titles named on the advertisement, viz: The foundling of the Lake, Vancenza, The Enchanted Ring, The Daemon of Venice,  The Fatal Vows,   The Solemn Warning, Itanoka the Noble Minded Negro.

21. Choice 12: Walpole’s Copy of Lysons, “Environs of London,” 1792-96

21. Choice 12: Walpole’s Copy of Lysons, Environs of London, 1792-96

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“Fortunately, I realized from the first that I should collect the books Walpole owned as well as those he wrote and printed. I knew nothing about his library, but I knew that every library is a projection of the person who makes it. I also liked handling and reading the books that Walpole cared enough about to buy and annotate as he had annotated the first of his books that I saw. It was Lord Baltimore’s Coelestes et Inferi, Venice, 1771, not a tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney corner. It was with the Strawberry Hill detached pieces at Scribner’s that started my collection in 1924 and has Walpole’s note on the half-title ‘It is very questionable, whether the original Work of which the following is called a republication ever existed. At least such a poem is utterly unknown in England; nor is any book written by the last Lord Baltimore known, but a silly account of his Travels in prose, H.W.’ I wanted it, but felt that its price, $350, was beyond me. Happily, it reappeared at Sotheby’s in 1938 and was bought by Maggs for me at £12. The Depression had its compensations for collectors.

“The first book I bought from Walpole’s library came to me in December 1924 from Gabriel Wells. It is a strong candidate for this Choice, but I am making it Choice 13 for reasons I explain there. The book is an octavo in calf with Walpole’s arms on the sides. The elegant spine reads ‘Poems of Geo. 3.’ Walpole wrote on the inside of the front cover, ‘List of pieces in this volume

Rodondo, in two Cantos
Patriotism, a Mock Heroic
Bettenham’s Poems
The New Bath Guide.’

and added the authors’ names on the title-pages, ‘Mr. Dalrymple,’ ‘Richard Bentley,’ ‘Mr Christopher Anstey.’ On the title of Bentley’s Patriotism he added below the year 1765, ‘March 19th.’ In 1924 I didn’t know how important Bentley was in Walpole’s life, and that by 1765 they had parted company, but I enjoyed one of Walpole’s marginal notes, ‘Ld Wilmington said the D. of Newcastle lost an hour every morning and ran after it the rest of the day.’ When I re-read this now after more than half a century there return the witty Lord Wilmington, the fussy Duke of Newcastle, and Horace Walpole recording Wilmington’s bon mot for me.

Library at Strawberry Hill drawing by Edward Edwards

Horace Walpole’s library, showing the arrangement of books.

“He could afford to buy whatever he wanted. Space was no problem for him; when he ran out of it he built another room. His was not a large collection of books by country house standards, only some 7200 volumes as compared with Topham Beauclerk’s 30,000, but Walpole bought his books to read, as his letters and his marginalia in perhaps a third of them show. The first books we hear of, which he asked his Mama to get for him at the age of eight, are ‘the yearl of assax’ and ‘Jan Shore.'”

Lewis continues with a description of Walpole’s collecting and his own introduction to and growing knowledge of Walpole’s library, its arrangement, markings, and disposition. He recounts the origin of the Catalogue of Horace Walpole’s Library by Allen Hazen and relates an anecdote about lecturing at Cambridge. Lewis’s attention turns at last to the choice itself, but not before including a passage on Alexander Pope.

“The book I am rescuing from Strawberry Hill is Lysons, Environs of London, 4 vols., 4to, 1792-96. I considered seriously saving Pope’s copy of Homer’s Works, Amsterdam, 1707, in which Pope wrote his name three times and gave the date when he finished his translation of Homer; he also drew Twickenham Church from his garden on a fly-leaf. . . .The library has many other candidates for rescue, but I think Walpole would be pleased by my saving Lysons because he loved the histories of counties, towns, cathedrals, and great houses. ‘I am sorry I have such predilection for histories of particular counties and towns,’ he wrote in 1780, ‘there certainly does not exist a worse class of reading.’ Some years earlier he said, ‘I do not see why books of antiquities should not be made as amusing as writings on any other subject,’ and he went on collecting, annotating, and writing about them until he died.

Cover of Lyson's Environs of London owned by Walpole             

“The Environs of London was dedicated to him. He extra-illustrated and bound the four royal quartos handsomely in red morocco.

First page of Walpole's manuscript notes from volume 1

“Into each of the first three volumes he pasted four pages of ‘notes on Mr Lysons’ Environs.’ His first note tells us: ‘This work is one of the most authentic books of antiquities ever published, the Author having with indefatigable Industry personally visited every Parish and every Office of Record from which the extracts were made; and having by the amiableness of his Character been favoured by the Possessors with the sight of many original Deeds, that State the Tenures and Descents of several considerable Mansions and lands described in the Account.’ Lysons displeased Walpole in the chapter on Twickenham by mentioning several of Strawberry’s chief treasures. ‘I must tell you,’ Walpole wrote him, ‘that as I foresaw, they are a source of grievance to me, by specifying so many articles of my collection, and several that are never shown to miscellaneous customers. Nay, last week one company brought the volume with them, and besides wanting to see various invisible particulars, it made them loiter so long by referring to your text, that I thought the housekeeper with her own additional clack, would never have rid the house of them.’ This was a little hard on Lysons because most of his account of Strawberry came from the Description, but Walpole’s defense would doubtless have been that he kept nearly all copies of it out of public hands.

title page from volume 1 of Walpole's copy of Lyson's Environs of London“Lysons appears on the title-page of the Environs of London as ‘Chaplain to the Right Honourable the Earl of Orford,’ an instance of peers still having ‘domestick’ chaplains. Earls were entitled to four, but Walpole seems to be content with two. The warrant of his second, Benjamin Suckling, issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Office of Faculties, is at Farmington, signed ‘Orford,’ with Kirgate’s signature as a witness. Private Chaplaincies were handed out by peers to help youthful clergymen gain higher preferment. Lysons was an agreeable young antiquary and so a congenial appendage to Walpole’s life. His Environs has a special place in my library because it was given to me by my wife on the day we became engaged.

“The runner-up to Lysons in this Choice is ‘Arms of the Knights of the Garter,’ which Walpole shelved in the Glass Closet. It was blazoned on vellum for Queen Elizabeth in 1573 by Sir Gilbert Dethick, Garter-King-of-Arms, and bound in red velvet. Later the monogram of Charles I was stamped on the rear cover. The book belonged in the eighteenth century to Walter Robertson, Mayor of King’s Lynn, for which Walpole sat at the end of his parliamentary career. Below Robertson’s signature Walpole wrote, ‘This book was given to me by Mr Walter Robertson Mayor of Lynn, 1762, Horace Walpole.”

After a paragraph on the Glass Closet books Lewis concludes the chapter thus:

“A third of the books that were at Strawberry Hill are still missing. Eighty percent of those recovered, some 2414 titles, are at Farmington. In the thirties and forties I got one (and a letter to or from Walpole) on the average of one every four or five days; now I do well to get four or five a year. Since their market value has increased enormously it is odd more don’t appear. We know, as I have said, that some of the books were destroyed by booksellers, but hundreds more have lost their identities through rebinding and are sitting unrecognized on learned shelves. Until quite recently most librarians lacked Walpole’s regard for provenance and discarded the bookplates and marks of earlier ownership when rebacking and rebinding their books. One of Allen Hazen’s students found over forty of Walpole’s books in the British Library that had not been identified as his. Lars Troide, a young colleague in the Yale Walpole, found the first volume of Walpole’s copy of Egerton Brydges’ Topographical Miscellanies, 1792, in the Yale stacks. It was rebound after 1842. Walpole’s bookplate and Strawberry Hill pressmarks were discarded, but his annotations brought it swiftly to Farmington in accordance with the generous practice begun by Andrew Keogh, the Yale Librarian, forty years earlier.

“Walpole wrote his memoirs and letters in the library, the walls of which were lined from floor to ceiling with books. His copies at Farmington are shelved in the same order as at Strawberry. In our North Library Press A is on the right of the door as you face it from the inside; Press M is to the left, with the books from the Round Tower and Offices between it and the door. Over the door is a water-color of the main library flanked by drawings of the river and garden. Near the books formerly in the Glass Closet and Press E is a drawing of Walpole showing him seated by them. Few are insensitive to his presence as they stand amidst his books.”

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 12: Walpole’s Copy of Lysons, Environs of London, 1792-96, download or expand the link here:

N.B. The Lewis Walpole Library continues to acquire books and manuscripts from Walpole’s library. While the north library Lewis describes is now the exhibition gallery, Walpole’s books are still arranged in the same order as at Strawberry, only now they reside in secure, climate-controlled stacks.

20. Horace Walpole’s annotated copy of “A Catalogue of the Portland Museum”

20. Horace Walpole’s annotated copy of A Catalogue of the Portland Museum

By Madeleine Pelling, Travel Grant Recipient, PhD Candidate, History of Art Department, University of York

 

In 1786, Horace Walpole attended a vast, thirty eight-day auction that dismantled the collection of the recently deceased Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, duchess of Portland (1715-1785). Over a lifetime of voracious collecting, the duchess had assembled a largely unrivalled collection of natural history specimens alongside art works and antiquities, including the now famous Portland Vase. Walpole’s surviving and heavily-annotated copy of the accompanying sale catalogue, titled A Catalogue of the Portland Museum, reveals a fascinating insight into Walpole’s experiences of a sale that saw one of the most significant collections of the eighteenth century dismantled forever. Formed of a twenty-six centimetre quarto, with title page, frontispiece, preface and instructions for the conditions of sale, the catalogue contained the descriptions of over four thousand lots. It was available for purchase at the site of the exhibition, as well as at the auctioneer Thomas Skinner’s offices in Aldersgate Street, London. Each copy was given a unique number upon printing, adding to the culture of exclusivity being cultivated by Skinner both prior to and during the auction. Portable, the text could be carried around by its purchaser and displayed on their person; it marked participation in a closed and fashionable community that was swiftly building around the sale and reflective of the wider relationship between consumerism and sociability.

The duchess of Portland was a member of the group of intellectual and creative women known collectively as the Bluestockings. However, unlike so many of her contemporaries like Elizabeth Montagu, Anna Barbauld, Hannah Moore or Elizabeth Carter, her activities were, during her lifetime, rarely reported in the public sphere, her portrait rarely circulated and her curatorial activities confined to a closed circle of elite friends.[1] Following her death, the main portion of her museum was removed from her home at Bulstrode Park in Buckinghamshire to London and repositioned within the urban marketplace where fictionalised narratives of her celebrity, cultivated post-mortem, helped drive the commercial success of its auction. Gossip grew in the weeks preceding the sale, which began on 24 April 1786. Topics of both public and private speculation including the reasons for the auction itself, what would be sold there, and who would buy what. As Beth Fowkes Tobin has previously revealed, “When the news soon spread that all would be sold at auction, rumors circulated about her having bankrupted herself purchasing natural history specimens and objets d’art and the need for an auction to refill the ducal coffers.”[2] In a letter to his friend Lady Ossory, Walpole captured the tone of uncertainty, as well as the wider public interest in the fate of the collection in the days after the duchess’s death;

Mr Horace Walpole (not myself) called on me yesterday morning, when no will of the Duchess of Portland has been found. He thinks the bulk of the collection will be sold, but that the Duke[3] will reserve the principal curiosities – I hope so, for I should long for some of them, and am become too poor to afford them.[4]

It was within this context that the duchess’s identity as a private collector and curator, extinguished by her death, was subsequently reinvented, positioning her instead as a curiosity to be bought and sold. As Cynthia Wall has suggested, “the first fiction of an auction is often about what is (or is not) really there; the second is about what might (or might not) be acquired.”[5] At auction, narratives of death went hand in hand with those of celebrity and desirability. Increasingly, auctions were inevitably associated with the undertaking trade.[6] Furthermore, auctioneers often doubled as cabinet and coffin makers, with their cabinets housing the goods of the dead and their coffins, the bodies; suggesting a physical as well as economic connection between death and the auction. Skinner’s trade card, made in the earlier stages of his career prior to 1786, advertises his skills as a “Sworn Appraiser Who Buys and Sells all sorts of Houshold [sic] Goods. Also Cabinet Maker & Undertaker…N. B. Coffins & Shrouds Ready Made”, revealing that he too dealt in the complex administration of both the belongings and bodies of the dead.

Image of Thomas Skinner’s Trade Card, date unknown.

Fig. 1 Thomas Skinner’s Trade Card, date unknown. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Coinciding with the increase in shopping as habitual Georgian behavior, was the explosion in the production and availability in print media; at the auction, these two aspects of urban life combined in the form of the catalogue to drive profit and reposition previously private property as public inheritance. The sale, which was preceded by a public exhibition, took place in the duchess’s townhouse in Privy Gardens, Whitehall and was widely reported in daily newspapers and periodicals alike. As early as  11 February 1786, the Morning Post intrigued its readers with promises of a “most copious and splendid collection” which, the paper touted, contained amongst its legions of specimens “insects”, “corallines”, “petrifactions”, “snuff boxes”, “pictures and prints”, “old china” and Greek and Roman sculptures including the head of Jupiter Serapis and the widely celebrated Barberini, later Portland, vase.[7] The sale text functioned as a point of contact between the duchess post-death and a culturally literate consumer community; one whose perceptions of celebrity and buying habits were informed by the catalogue and other printed ephemera associated with the sale. The sociability and adaptability of the catalogue, which was subjected to processes of marginal annotation and extra-illustration, enabled the creation of a fiction that proposed the duchess as both the purveyor of commodity and as commodity herself. The objects, spaces and assemblages of her museum were rearranged and laid out in the text for a paying public, reflecting back to the consumer notions of celebrity; of a duchess ubiquitous throughout and, yet, tantalizingly obscured.

Image of Fig. 2 Charles Grignion after E. F. Burney, frontispiece to A Catalogue of the Portland Museum, London 1786. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Fig. 2 Charles Grignion after E. F. Burney, frontispiece to “A Catalogue of the Portland Museum,” London 1786. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

The frontispiece of the Catalogue is the only surviving visual record of the collection prior to its dismantling at auction and was engraved by Charles Grignion after the artist Edward Francis Burney. Its absence from many of the surviving copies of the text (it is unusually preserved in Walpole’s) suggests its agency as a separately collectible item which could be removed and treasured, shared and traded by any catalogue owner. Far from an accurate representation of the collection as it would have appeared in Whitehall following the duchess’s death, it serves instead as an advertisement. It is rich in its texturing; layers of objects and materials are piled before the viewer’s eyes, with shells creeping out of exposed drawers, corallines perched atop cabinets and ornate porcelain gathered on the floor amongst leather-bound albums. Tobin has previously suggested that historians, “mistakenly assuming” that Burney’s illustration depicted the true aesthetic arrangement of the museum, “have portrayed the duchess’s collection as being in a constant state of disorder.”[8]

On 25 April 1786, The Morning Herald advertised “A Portrait of the late Dutchess Dowager of Portland, from a Marble Bust, executed by Rysbrack.”[9]  Sold by the print maker George Humphrey at a cost of 1s 6d, this engraving was produced in quarto, matching the size and shape of the catalogue suggesting that, despite being made and sold separately from the sale text, it was intended to speak to and even be inserted inside it (as Walpole did).[10] This image was quickly circulated amongst those interested in the sale – despite the fact that the bust itself was sculpted in 1727 and depicted the duchess at the age of twelve, it served to inform an eager public previously unfamiliar with her appearance.

Image of Fig. 3 – Rysbrack’s bust of the duchess of Portland, engraved by Humphreys and inserted into Walpole’s copy of the Catalogue

Fig. 3 – Rysbrack’s bust of the duchess of Portland, engraved by Humphreys and inserted into Walpole’s copy of the Catalogue

 

Walpole’s surviving copy can be read as an interactive, rather than static text – through marginal annotation and extra-illustration, he incorporated his own voice into that of the printed catalogue, revealing his experience within the unfolding action. Bound in his extra-illustrated volume between marbled boards, Walpole’s copy of the catalogue is arranged alongside additional texts and handwritten notes, augmenting the original both textually and physically. A handwritten account of the duchess’s life and collecting, written over four sides of a quarto and functioning as a personalised preface, was inserted into the catalogue by Walpole and later published by W. S. Lewis as The Duchess of Portland’s Museum. In it, he gives a survey of the types of objects collected: “At first her Taste was chiefly confined to Shells, Japan & old China, particularly of the blue & white with a brown Edge, of which last sort She formed a large Closet at Bulstrode.”

Image of Fig. 3 – Rysbrack’s bust of the duchess of Portland, engraved by Humphreys and inserted into Walpole’s copy of the Catalogue

Fig. 4 – Page from Walpole’s handwritten account of the duchess of Portland and her museum, inserted into the front of the Catalogue.

Elsewhere, he condemns her methods of acquiring art works, and her apparent lack of financial restraint, describing how “Prints of Hollar, to compleat his work, She bought at any price. On the death or Sr Luke Schaub the Duchess began to buy pictures, which She did not understand, & there & in other instances paid extravagantly, as well as for other articles to her taste. Latterly She went deeply into natural history, & her Collection in that Walk was supposed to have cost her fifteen thousand pounds.” Certainly, Walpole’s vocabulary in depicting the duchess’s collecting practices is one concerned with monetary value and the duchess’s own seemingly insatiable lust for objects whose real, artistic or historical worth which, according to Walpole, she did not know.

After the sale, he wrote; “The Collection was accordingly sold in May & June 1786, in a Sale of thirty-eight days …the Produce of the Auction was Ten thousand nine hundred sixty five pounds ten shillings & six pence.” Continuing, he noted “the disproportion between the large Sum which the Duchess had expended, and the produce of the Sale was not near so great as it seemed. Several of the most valuable articles in her Collection were not exposed for Sale.” Here, his choice of “exposed” touches on contemporary anxieties about the public and potentially embarrassing, revealing nature of the auction.

 

This research was conducted thanks to Lewis Walpole Library’s Travel Grant Award and would not have been possible without the kind and generous support of its staff. This short article is born from part of my ongoing doctoral thesis, entitled ‘Bluestocking Antiquarianism: Collecting, Craft and Conversation in the Duchess of Portland’s Museum’.

[1] For more on public perceptions of the bluestockings, see Elizabeth Eger, Bluestockings: Women of Reason from Enlightenment to Romanticism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

[2] Beth Fowkes Tobin, “Virtuoso or Naturalist? Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, Duchess of Portland”, in Women and Curiosity in Early Modern England and France, Line Cottegnies, Sandrine Parageau and John J. Thompson  eds., (Brill Books: Boston, 2016); 216-232, 217. See also Fowkes Tobin, The Duchess’s Shells (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 220-221.

[3] William Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738-1809), was the duchess’s eldest son.

[4] Horace Walpole to Lady Ossory, 23 July 1793, The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937-1983), 33: 484.

[5] Cynthia Wall, “The English Auction: Narratives of Dismantlings”,  Eighteenth-Century Studies 31, 1 (Fall, 1997): 1-25, 14.

[6] Troy Bickham, Savages within the Empire: Representations of American Indians in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), 45.

[7]  11 May, 1786. The Morning Post.

[8] Tobin, The Duchess’s Shells, 55.

[9] 25 April 1786, The Morning Herald.

[10] Tobin, The Duchess’s Shells, 230-231.

19. Choice 11: Lady Diana Beauclerk’s Drawings for “The Mysterious Mother”

19. Choice 11: Lady Diana Beauclerk’s Drawings for “The Mysterious Mother”

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“Before 1962 when I was asked, ‘What would you most like to find?’ I answered promptly, ‘Lady Diana Beauclerk’s drawings for The Mysteriouos Mother.’ After praising Gibbon’s recently published Decline and Fall, Walpole asked Mason, ‘Do I know nothing superior to Mr Gibbon? Yes . . . I talk of great original genius. Lady Di Beauclerk has made seven large drawings in soot-water for scenes of my Mysterious Mother. Oh! such drawings! Guido’s grace, Albano’s children, Poussin’s expression, Salvator’s boldness in landscape and Andrea Sacchi’s simplicity of composition might perhaps have equalled them had they wrought all together very fine.’ High praise, but not a bit too high for Lady Di’s drawings. He wrote Mann, ‘Lady Di Beauclerk has drawn seven scenes of [The Mysterious Mother] that would be fully worthy of the best of Shakespeare’s plays–such drawings that Salvator Rosa and Guido could not surpass their expression and beauty. I have built a closet on purpose for them here at Strawberry Hill. It is called the Beauclerk Closet; and whoever sees the drawings, allows that no description comes up to their merit–and then, they do not shock and disgust like their original, the tragedy.’ Walpole described the Beauclerk Closet in an Appendix to the ’74 Description and bound the manuscript of it in Choice 8.

“‘[The Closet] is a hexagon, built in 1776, and designed by Mr Essex, architect, of Cambridge, who drew the ceiling, door, window, and surbase. . . . The closet is hung with Indian blue damask, and was built on purpose to receive seven incomparable drawings of Lady Diana Beauclerk for Mr Walpole’s tragedy of the Mysterious Mother. The beauty and grace of the figures and of the children are inimitable; the expression of the passions most masterly, particularly in the devotion of the countess with the porter,

“‘of Benedict in the scene with Martin,

“‘and the tenderness, despair, and resolution of the countess in the last scene; in which is a new stroke of double passion in Edmund, whose right hand is clenched and ready to strike with anger, the left hand relents.

“‘In the scene of the children, some are evidently vulgar, the others children of rank; and the first child, that pretends to look down and does leer upwards, is charming.’

“A writing-table of ‘Clay’s ware’ in the Closet contained ‘the play of The Mysterious Mother, to explain the drawings, bound in blue leather and gilt,’ a modest description of a beautiful book that is now at Farmington. Walpole wrote in it, ‘This copy to be kept in the Beauclerc Closet to explain Lady Di Beauclerc’s Drawings. H.W.’

                       

“Where, I used to wonder, had these drawings got to? They were bought at the Strawberry Hill sale by Lord Portarlington, but his descendant to whom I wrote knew nothing about them. Then one morning in 1962 I walked into the back office of Pickering and Chatto’s shop in London where the proprietor, Dudley Massey, an old friend from 1925, as I tell in Choice 13, was expecting me. The drawings were turned over on his desk and were switched round so that Walpole’s notes on their backs were upside down. I stared at them, transfixed in the doorway, for I recognized them immediately. When I asked without moving, ‘What do you want for them?’ Dudley dropped a land mine. To my question at lunch, ‘Where did I go wrong?’ he answered promptly, ‘You asked the price too quickly,’ adding truthfully, ‘You would have given even more.’ One of the seven drawings is still missing, but those that Walpole described are now at Farmington.

The Mysterious Mother, A Tragedy is set in the dawn of the Reformation; the scene is a castle, of course. There are two villainous friars, a faithful friend, a faithful porter, damsels, orphans, mutes. The plot turns on a double incest. Sixteen years before the play begins its chief character, the Countess of Narbonne, took the place of a girl she knew her son was about to seduce and now sixteen years later she fails to stop him from marrying their daughter. Byron called the play ‘a tragedy of the highest order, and not a puling love-play,’ and I agree with those who rank it above The Castle of Otranto as a work of art. Walpole tried to forestall possible criticism; but the subject, he said, was ‘so truly tragic in the two essential springs of terror and pity’ that he had to write it. To palliate the countess’s crime, and to raise her character he bestowed upon her, he tells us, ‘every ornament of sense, unbigoted piety, and interesting contrition.’ Although he protested that the subject was too ‘horrid’ for the stage, he hoped to see it acted; unfortunately, no one was up to playing the Countess and she has yet to be performed.*

“Walpole kept nearly all fifty copies of the play he printed at the Press. Those he gave away were eagerly read; five transcripts are at Farmington. In thirteen years he let Dodsley publish the play in London to forestall a pirated edition. Four more editions of it appeared before 1800, after which there was none until Chiswick Press brought it out in 1925 with The Castle of Otranto and and introduction by Montague Summers. The Mysterious Mother is known today only to student of eighteenth-century tragedy, a small audience.

“Seven copies of the Strawberry edition are at Farmington. On the most interesting one Walpole wrote, ‘With MSS alterations by Mr. Mason.’ In his ‘Postscript to the Alterations’ Mason wrote that they were ‘To make the foregoing scenes proper to appear upon the stage.’ Walpole thanked him with deepest gratitude, which he repeated years later, but what he really thought of the alterations is shown in his note written on Mason’s letter to him of 8 May 1769 (now at Farmington) that accompanied Mason’s alterations: ‘N.B. I did not adopt these alterations because they would totally have destroyed my object, which was to exhibit a character whose sincere penitence was not degratded by superstitious bigotry.’ Mason’s copy of the play was the Walpole item bought by Maggs in the Milnes Gaskell Sale of 1924. A dozen years later I discovered the new owner who obligingly took me to Messrs Robinsons’ in Pall Mall for me to see it. As he dropped me off at Brown’s Hotel afterwards he said, ‘I don’t care much about this book, but you want it so badly I think I’ll keep it.’ When death, the ally of collectors, took him away members of his family kindly turned the book over to me. Two of my letters to their relative, written on the Yale Walpole letter-head, were inside. They show that I had not yet learned to perform sedately the English gavotte of letter-writing, a clumsiness that has frustrated countless American scholars.

“In my Mellon Lectures Horace Walpole, 1960, I wrote of The Mysterious Mother, ‘the twentieth century has been initiated into the mysteries of the unconscious and needs no gloss on The Mysterious Mother, but one point should perhaps be noted for what it may be worth. When Walpole came to arrange his works for posthumous publication he printed his “Epitaph on Lady Walpole,” with its praise of her sensibility, charity, and unbigoted piety, immediately after The Mysterious Mother.'”

Lewis goes on to discuss other drawings by Lady Diana Beauclerk in the Lewis Walpole Library collection as well as the ebony Beauclerk cabinet. This is followed by a brief biographical sketch, including notes about her abusive husband, and a consideration of talented women and other amateurs. Lewis concludes his Choice 11 with “The discovery of talent in persons of quality whose gifts were generally unrecognized gave Walpole, the champion of the neglected, great pleasure. His gallery of well-born geniuses was assembled to do justice to their talents. At its head was Lady Di who had suffered so cruelly and had borne her lot with such fortitude and dignity.”

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 11: Lady Diana Beauclerk’s Drawings for “The Mysterious Mother” download or expand the link here:

*N.B. The Lewis Walpole Library is staging an on-book reading of an abridged version of The Mysterious Mother on May 2, 2018, 5:30 pm, Yale Center for British Art Lecture Hall, 1080 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT. Open to the public.

 

18. Strawberry Hill Theatricals

18. Strawberry Hill Theatricals 

By Judith Hawley, Royal Holloway, University of London

Horace Walpole maintained a lifelong interest in the theatre and is associated with leading theatrical personalities such as Kitty Clive and David Garrick. He also wrote for and about the stage. Best known in this connection is his tragedy, The Mysterious Mother (written 1768, soon to be performed as a staged reading https://walpole.library.yale.edu/event/staged-reading-horace-walpoles-play-mysterious-mother-1768).

This notorious play whose scandalous subject matter made it unperformable in his lifetime has perhaps caused his other contributions to theatrical culture to be overlooked. Not only did he write an afterpiece, Nature Will Prevail (1778) that was frequently performed in the eighteenth century, he contributed various prologues and epilogues for performances by friends by theatrical friends. Moreover, he was a serious critic of the state of the contemporary stage, writing a stinging Letter to David Garrick, Esq; On Opening the Theatre. In which, with great Freedom, he is told how he ought to behave (London: I. Pottinger, 1769) and the more measured Thoughts On Tragedy In Three Letters To Robert Jephson, Esq. and Thoughts on Comedy (1775, 1776) both published in The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford (London: G.G. and J. Robinson, and J. Edwards, 1798). The aim of all these works is to reform the stage by encouraging original and experimental writing. One of his implications is that this kind of writing is more likely to come from amateurs of his class than professional playwrights who churn out formulaic works from commercial motives. He knew whereof he spoke. He amassed a library of eighty volumes of plays in two series. One series – ‘Theatre of the Reign of George the 3d’ (Hazen 1810) – comprising 58 volumes with an additional volume of prologues, epilogues and newspaper clippings, contains plays dated 1760-95. The other, known as ‘A collection of plays’ (Hazen 1818), is in 23 volumes and contains plays dated 1730-60. Each volume contained multiple works and his collection ran to over 700 plays. The volumes in Hazen 1818 each had a contents page written by Walpole and many bear his notes and markings in pen.  The ‘Theatre of the Reign of George the 3d’ was more systematically annotated by Walpole with information such as the date of first performance and authorship; many were tagged with gossipy anecdotes (see Hazen, vol. II, pp. 98-143, 145-56).

One play in this vast collection stands out because it is annotated in a substantially different way. The sixth item in volume five of Hazen 1818 is The Devil to Pay; or, the Wives Metamorphosed (1731). It is heavily scored in pencil throughout. This three-act ballad opera by Charles Coffey (d. 1745) and John Mottley (1692-1750) was adapted from Thomas Jevon’s Devil of a Wife (1686). The plot contains Shakespearean elements in the form of the taming of a shrewish wife and the humiliation of a puritanical character who tries to ban Christmas revels.  The termagant, Lady Loverule, is encouraged by her hypocritical non-conformist parson, Ananias, to persecute her pleasure-loving husband and servants.  At the same time, a drunken cobbler, Jobson, abuses his lovely wife, Nell (played, when it opened at Drury Lane in 1731, by Miss Raftor, i.e. Kitty Clive). By means of magic, the two wives are swapped with the result that Jobson whips Lady Loverule into submission.  Sir John Loverule, delighted that his wife has been tamed, pays Jobson to take back Nell on condition that he ceases beating her. This nasty comedy was further adapted by Theophilus Cibber who reduced it to one act in 1748 by stripping out the non-conformist sub-plot and various minor characters. Hazen suggests that the pencil markings make the text correspond with the one-act version: ‘the text has been marked in pencil for extensive cutting, as shortened by Theophilus Cibber.’ (Hazen, II, p. 147) We can tell that Walpole knew this play as he alluded to it several times in his correspondence (Correspondence, 12: 150; 13: 167; 18: 51). But did he mark these cuts, and if so, why did he depart so much from his usual practice?

A further mystery resides in the fact that the cuts do not entirely coincide with Cibber’s one-act version. For example, pages 22-34 are crossed out thus omitting all of act one scenes four and five and act two scene one. Cibber’s version retains I.iv in which the doctor conjures up his spirits to effect the wife-swap, but cuts the other two scenes in the first of which Lord Loverule complains about his wife to some old friends and in the second, the servants torment Ananias.

1818 v.5:6, pp. 22-23

A volume which fairly recently found its way back to Strawberry Hill sheds some light on this mystery.  An octavo volume with half calf binding and worn marbled paper boards lettered ‘PLAYS’ on its spine reveals who annotated Walpole’s copy of The Devil to Pay and why.  The volume is listed as ‘Collection of seven play scripts’ and described in the exhibition catalogue, Anne Damer: Sculpture and Society, ed. Michael Snodin (Twickenham: Strawberry Hill Trust, 2014), p. 18. (I am grateful to Michael Snodin for drawing it to my attention and to Nick Dolan for allowing me to view and photograph it.) It collects together the prompt books Anne Seymour Damer used in her private theatricals. A prompt book is the copy of the script marked up for the use of the prompter during the performance; it includes cuts to the text and details such as cues, entrances and exits as the prompter had duties which overlapped with those of the modern stage manager. Private theatricals – amateur performances staged in private houses for an invited audience – were extremely popular in the second half of the eighteenth century, especially in Walpole’s circle. His niece, the sculptress Anne Damer was a keen participant in the theatricals staged at Richmond House in 1787 and 1788. The LWL holds copies of the playbills, prologues and epilogues for these performances.

[Folio 35 89B Copy 1]

After she inherited responsibility for Strawberry Hill House, she continued to stage performances there. Two performances are known from playbills held at LWL: in 1800 Damer and her friends staged The Old Maid (1761) by Arthur Murphy and Henry Fielding’s The Intriguing Chambermaid (1733).

[767 P69B R532 1788]

The following year, they performed Fashionable Friends, the satirical comedy written by her dear friend, Mary Berry and Lovers’ Quarrels.

[Quarto 33 30 Copy 6]

Damer’s prompt book does not seem to tally with the repertoire as recorded on these playbills. It comprises an unmarked copy of Colley Cibber’s Richard III; two copies of Susannah Centlivre’s The Wonder: a Woman Keeps a Secret (1714), one marked up for performance; Sir John Vanbrugh’s The Mistake (1705), marked up for performance; Henry Fielding’s The Intriguing Chamber Maid (1733) (also prepared for performance) and two copies of The Devil to Pay in the one-act version, both marked up but with some differences between them. There are recorded performances of some of the texts: The Wonder was performed at Richmond House in 1788; The Intriguing Chamber Maid was on the bill with The Old Maid at Strawberry Hill in 1800 (though there is no prompt copy of the latter in this volume). Others are puzzling. There is no record of a performance of Richard III associated with Damer and the text is not annotated. It doesn’t seem as if Damer produced The Mistake but actually Lover’s Quarrels is based on Vanbrugh’s five-act comedy: Thomas King (1730-1805) reduced it to the two-act farce Like Master Like Man in 1766 and it was later performed under the title Lover’s Quarrels: or Like Master Like Man. Damer’s cuts to The Mistake, which include deletions in pen and the cancellation of scenes by sticking pages together with sealing wax, are thus comparable to the pencil markings on Walpole’s copy of The Devil to Pay.

So, the Strawberry Hill prompt book provides evidence that Damer edited longer versions of a play to create a performance script. It is possible that she scanned the shelves of Walpole’s library looking for a play that might work for her troupe. Perhaps she tried to adapt the three-act Devil to Pay herself, then decided to work with the one-act version. Perhaps they didn’t have enough copies of the script so had to mark up this one.  Further mysteries remain. The first is the date of performance: in the absence of a playbill, we cannot date this performance with certainty, but there is a Dramatis Personae which provides some clues.

[The Devil to Pay, copy 2 in Collection of Seven Play Scripts. Courtesy of Strawberry Hill Trust]

Dramatis Personae

Sir John Loverule = Mr Mercer

[The Music Master in Fashionable Friends and Don Carlos in Lover’s Quarrels (1801)]

Jobson = Mr North

Conjuror [i.e. Doctor] = Earl of Mt Edgcumbe

[Clerimont in The Old Maid and Valentine in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Sir Dudley Dorimont in Fashionable Friends and Sancho in Lover’s Quarrels (1801)]

Butler = Mr Campbell

[Slap and Security in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); John in Fashionable Friends and Lopez in Lover’s Quarrels (1801)]

Cook = Mr Burn

[Mr Harlow in The Old Maid and Goodall in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Lapierre in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

Coachman = Mr Berry

[Captain Cape in The Old Maid and Oldcastle in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Sir Valentine Vapour in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

Lady Loverule = Mrs Burn

[Mrs Harlow in The Old Maid and Mrs Highman in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Mrs Racket in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

Nell = Miss A Berry

[Trifle in The Old Maid and Charlotte in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Miss Racket in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

Lucy = Mrs Damer

[Lettice in Intriguing Chambermaid and the Epilogue (1800); Lady Selina Vapour in Fashionable Friends and Jacintha in Lover’s Quarrels (1801)]

Lettice = Lady Eliz. Cole

[Trimming in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

I suggest The Devil to Pay was staged in 1798-99, after she had taken charge of the house and before the performances detailed on the surviving playbills. Why not after then? In 1802, Damer and some of the company, perhaps buoyed by their success at Strawberry, engaged in two ambitious schemes which went disastrously wrong. Damer, Mr Campbell and Richard Edgcumbe, 2nd Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and many other friends who had engaged in private theatricals for years, formed the Pic Nic Society, a subscription theatre-and-supper club which briefly occupied the Tottenham Street Theatre in London.  The managers of the patent theatres saw it as a direct threat to their revenues so mounted a press campaign that brought an end to the Pic Nic within a year. The furore also affected the other ambitious project that came from ‘the Theatre Strawberry’: Mary Berry’s Fashionable Friends was staged at Drury Lane in May 1802 but, because ‘the pit-filling public’ believed it to be ‘the production of some one of a certain Pic-nic Club then existing … they indignantly determined to stifle in it birth, and come to the first night determined to damn, without hearing it.’ (Preface to Fashionable Friends in Mary Berry, A comparative view of social life in England and France … To which are now first added, the lives of the Marquise Du Deffand and of Rachel lady Russell–Fashionable friends, a comedy, &c., by the same author, a new ed. (London: R. Bentley, 1844).)

Horace Walpole was intimately involved in theatrical culture as a fan and patron of actors, as a critic, playwright and collector. He eagerly transmitted gossip about both the professional stage and the private theatricals staged by numerous members of his circle. His library and house then fostered the theatrical activities of his beloved Damer and the Berrys. There is one final oddity about his copy of The Devil to Pay which demands explanation. There is a series of tiny deletions which is particularly intriguing. Among the revellers who celebrate Christmas in the home of Sir John Loverule is a character who does not appear in the Dramatis Personae: ‘the blind Fidler’. He appears in only one scene: act I, scene ii. The first reference to him occurs when the Butler wishes he were there so they could rejoice that the Lady has gone out (i.ii.5). Shortly after, he enters with Jobson and some neighbours and the Butler calls on ‘blind Will’ to strike up the music so they can sing a catch (I.ii.9-10). His only line is spoken when Lady Loverule breaks up the party and ‘Beats the Fiddle about the blind Man’s Head.’ (I.ii.15) The poor fellow exclaims ‘O Murder, Murder! I am a dark Man, which way shall I get hence? Oh Heav’n! she has broke my Fiddle, and undone me and my Wife and Children.’ Sir John pays him some compensation and sends him on his way.

1818 v.5:6, p. 15

He does not play a major role in the action, but the annotator pays a disproportionate amount of attention to him, striking out references to his blindness albeit very faintly on three of the four occasions on which it is mentioned.

1818 v.5:6, p. 5

1818 v.5:6, p. 9

These deletions are clearer in Damer’s prompt book, and particularly emphatic in the second copy (this copy includes the Dramatis Personae reproduced above so I think it is the actual performance text).

[The Devil to Pay, copy 2, p. 4 in Collection of Seven Play Scripts. Courtesy of Strawberry Hill Trust.]

[The Devil to Pay, copy 2, p. 5 in Collection of Seven Play Scripts. Courtesy of Strawberry Hill Trust.]

[The Devil to Pay, copy 2, p. 7, in Collection of Seven Play Scripts. Courtesy of Strawberry Hill Trust.]

As well as deleting references to his blindness, the fiddler’s speech is deleted altogether. Why? Walpole’s letter to Horace Mann dated 20 August 1776 perhaps provides the answer. ‘On Thursday Mr Damer [who had amassed huge gambling debts] supped at the Bedford Arms in Covent Garden, with four common women, a blind fiddler and no other man. At three in the morning he dismissed his seraglio, bidding each receive her guinea at the bar, and ordering Orpheus to come up again in half an hour. When he returned, he found a dead silence and smelt gunpowder.’ The blind fiddler was to report John Damer’s suicide. (Correspondence 24:234-35.)

I am grateful to the staff of the LWL and to Nick Dolan at Strawberry Hill who made this research possible. Images from Anne Damer’s prompt book are reproduced with permission of the Strawberry Hill Trust.