33. Choice 21: Manuscript of Walpole’s Journal for 1769

Choice 21: Manuscript of Walpole’s Journal for 1769

Memoirs title page in manuscript

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“The manuscript of Walpole’s journal for 1769 came from Upton along with the manuscripts of Walpole’s first and last memoirs, fragments of his printed memoirs, and many notes ‘written flying’ for all of them. The title-page for the manuscript I am saving is, ‘Journal/of the most remarkable Events/of/the reign of King George the third,/from the beginning of the year/1769/being a Supplement/to/The memoirs of/Mr Horace Walpole/carried on by Himself.’ It continues into 1771 with scattered jottings and newspaper cuttings. The whole runs to some 70,000 words, mostly on folio sheets. How Walpole used his journals is seen by the entry for 5 March 1770: ‘The House of Commons went on the affairs of America. Lord North proposed to repeal all the late duties but that on teas. Mr. Conway was for the repeal of that also, as most men were persuaded a partial repeal would produce no content. Grenville so far agreed with the Rockingham part of the Opposition as to condemn a partial repeal, but too stiff to yield on any repeal, he went away without voting.’ This passage became in the Memoirs of George III, ‘On the 5th of March the House of Commons went upon the consideration of America. Lord North proposed to repeal all the late duties, but that on tea. Mr Conway advised the repeal of that also, most men believing that a partial repeal would produce no content. Grenville agreed in condemning as the Rockingham party did too, a partial repeal; but, too obstinate to consent to any repeal, went away without voting, and the motion passed.’

“The manuscript of Walpole’s first memoirs, which I believe he began in 1745, has the title, ‘Memoires. From the Declaration of the War with Spain,’ in 1739. The manuscript runs to about 7000 words with an epigraph that fits all the subsequent memoirs and journals, ‘Nothing extenuate nor set down aught in malice. Othello.’ Gray’s letter of 15 December 1746 shows that he knew Walpole was engaged on this undertaking. ‘Among all the little folks, my godsons and daughters,’ he wrote, ‘I cannot choose but to inquire more particularly after the health of one; I mean (without a figure) the Memoirs. Do they grow? Do they unite, and hold up their heads, and dress themselves? Do they begin to think of making their appearance in the world, that is to say, fifty years hence, to make posterity stare, and all good people cross themselves?’

Three scraps with manuscript notes

“‘The War with Spain’ has yet to be published, but when it appears readers will see that Walpole’s intention in his later memoirs was already formed. ‘I write for Posterity, not for my contemporaries,’ he announced in this earliest of his memoirs, ‘and profess speaking my opinion for their information. . . . The intention of this work being to let my Readers rather into the character of the Actors, than into the minute Events of the Drama. The Laborious two hundred years hence may draw out a journal of what month the miscarriage happened before Toulon; or on what day the Battle of Dettingen was fought.’ Horace Walpole, who lived at the center of affairs and who knew all the chief persons in them, was revealing to us not only what happened, but how it happened. Let ‘the laborious,’ the drudges of history, look up the date of Dettingen, he would show us the characters of the men who brought it about.

“He recorded in ‘Short Notes’ that ‘about this time [1751] I began to write my memoirs. At first I intended only to write the history of one year.’ Gray wrote him in October 1751, ‘I rejoice to find you apply (pardon the use of so odious a word) to the history of your own times. Speak, and spare not. Be as impartial as you can; and after all, the world will not believe you are so, though you should make as many protestations as Bishop Burnet,’ who wrote in the Preface to the History of His own Time, ‘I writ with a design . . . to lay open the good and bad of all sides and parties as clearly and impartially as I myself understood it . . . without any regard to kindred or friends, to parties or interests. For I do solemnly say this to the world, and make my humble appeal upon it to the great God of truth, that I tell the truth on all occasions, as fully and freely as upon my best inquiry I have been able to find it out.’

“Far from ending his memoirs in 1751, Walpole carried them on forty years longer. Early in 1752 he recorded, ‘I sit down to resume a task, for which I fear posterity will condemn the author, at the same time that they feel their curiosity gratified. On reviewing the first part of these Memoirs, I find the truth rigidly told.’ They were, he said, his ‘favorite labor,’ yet only Gray, Bentley, Montagu, Mme du Deffand, and probably Conway knew he was writing them. He thought a great deal of their final disposition, ending up with a memorandum to his executors written less than a year before his death. A copy of it in Miss Berry’s hand came to Farmington in the second Waller Sale. Walpole directed, ‘Not to be opened till after my will.’ the memorandum begins,

In my Library at Strawberry Hill are two wainscot chests or boxes, the larger marked with an A, the lesser with a B. I desire, that as soon as I am dead, my Executor and Executrix will cord up strongly and seal the larger box, marked A, and deliver it to the Honourable Hugh Conway Seymour, to be kept by him unopened and unsealed till the eldest son of Lady Waldegrave or whichever of her sons, being Earl of Waldegrave, shall attain the age of twenty-five years; when the said chest, with whatever it contains, shall be delivered to him for his own. And I beg that the Honourable Hugh Conway Seymour, when he shall receive the said chest, will give a promise in writing, signed by him, to Lady Waldegrave, that he or his Representatives will deliver the said chest unopened and sealed, by my Executor and Executrix, to the first son of Lady Waldegrave who shall attain the age of twenty-five years; the key of the said chest is in one of the cupboards in the Green Closet, within the Blue Breakfast Room, at Strawberry Hill, and that key, I desire, may be delivered to Laura, Lady Waldegrave, to be kept by her till her son shall receive the chest.

(Signed) Hor. Walpole, Earl of Orford.

August 19, 1796.

“These directions were carried out by his executors, Mrs Damer and her uncle Lord Frederick Campbell.

“When Chest A was opened by the sixth Earl Waldegrave in 1810 it was found to contain twenty-three folio volumes of memoirs and journals from 1746 to 1791, a total of some three million words.

Memoirs of the Last Ten Years of the Reign of George the Second was published by John Murray in 1822. I have the drawings Bentley and Müntz made for them, thanks to Mrs Hallam Murray and the good offices of John Hodgson. Walpole describes the frontispiece, ‘The Author leaning on a globe of the world between Heraclitus and Democritus, presents his book to the latter. In the Landscape is a view of the Author’s villa at Strawberry Hill near Twickenham, where the Memoirs were chiefly written.’ Richard Bentley brought out Memoirs of the Reign of King George the Third in 1845 and Journal of the Reign of King George the Third from 1771 to 1783  in 1859. The manuscripts of them from 1784 to 1791 are at Farmington and will appear for the first time in the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Memoirs.

“The memoirs have suffered from their editors who cut out passages they thought indelicate, offensive to living persons, or just plain dull, and although they said they had indicated these omissions they often failed to do so. Doran, the editor of Walpole’s Last Journals, printed newspaper cuttings Walpole pasted on the manuscript as if they were written by Walpole himself….”

Lewis then elaborates on the the deficiencies of the Doran edition and the merits of the then forthcoming Yale Edition.

“When The Memoirs of the Reign of George the Second came out in 1822 Walpole was criticized for the severity of his judgments on his contemporaries. They seem savage to us also, but we must remember that he was following the tradition of his time, when, as he wrote, ‘Similes and quotations, metaphors’ in the House of Commons ‘were fallen into disrepute,’ but ‘it was not the same with invectives. . . . Debates, where no personalities broke out, engaged too little attention.’ There was also what Virginia Woolf calls, ‘the presence of obsolete conventions inherited from an earlier and still more ferocious time.’ One of these conventions was unbridled personal abuse and the memoirs are less remarkable for their savagery than for Walpole’s uneasiness about the effect of his savagery on us. That concern is something new.”

Lewis explores the intended audience for the Memoirs, possible reactions to the text, and provides examples of some of the more interesting passages on individuals.

“…If you are annoyed and an historian you may re-examine other passages in the spirit that filled Walpole himself when he set out to prove established historians prejudiced and untrustworthy. in his Memoirs he threw off the restraint that guarded his letters. When writing Lady Ossory or Cole he wanted to keep their respect. They and others were saving his letters and one day they would be printed. That was a sobering thought. He did frequently let himself go in his letters, particularly when writing to Mason who brought out his worst side, but he usually ended by apologizing or laughing at himself and so toned down his asperities.

“Although he was under no such restraint in the Memoirs, he feared for their reception. He did not worry about his statements of fact because he knew ‘the laborious’ would verify them; the Duke of Grafton when Prime Minister said that there was no one from whom he ‘received so just accounts of the schemes of the various factions’ as from Walpole or ‘had so good means of getting the knowledge of what was passing.’ What Walpole worried about were his ‘characters.’ They had honorable precedents in Clarendon and Bishop Burnet who had also written in passion. Some of Walpole’s readers would enjoy his severity, but ‘I am aware,’ he wrote, ‘that more will be offended at the liberty I have taken in painting men as they are: and that many, from private connections of party and family, will dislike meeting such unflattered portraits of their heroes or their relations.’ He warded off criticism on this score. ‘Few men,’ he pointed out, ‘can sit for patterns of perfect virtue.’ He had taken posterity into the secret councils of the time and exposed its principal actors, yet he feared his strictures might hurt him as much as the people he was exposing and he longed for our approval of his work and himself. He was like a man who has written many letters in anger that he prudently did not send, but who on re-reading them later is torn between shame of his intemperance and admiration of his force. The Memoirs gave him a sense of power. In the library at Strawberry working secretly at night, he was settling the reputations of his more powerful political contemporaries. He could not make history, but he could write it, and posterity would learn from him how the events of his time came about.”

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 21: Manuscript of Walpole’s Journal for 1769” download or expand the link here:

N.B. The three manuscript notes shown in the image are to be found as “Political notes,” call number LWL MSS 1 Series II, Box 41, Folders 35, 36, and 28 respectively.

32. Choice 20: Walpole’s Portfolio for His Historic Doubts of the Life and Reign of Richard III

Choice 20: Walpole’s Portfolio for His Historic Doubts of the Life and Reign of Richard III

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

photo of open portfolio with mss notes

“‘It occured to me,’ Walpole wrote in the Preface to his Historic Doubts, ‘that the picture of Richard the Third, as drawn by historians, was a character formed by prejudice and invention. I did not take Shakespeare’s tragedy for a genuine representation, but I did take the story of that reign for a tragedy of imagination. Many of the crimes imputed to Richard seemed improbable; and, what was stronger, contrary to his interest.’

“‘All I mean to show,’ Walpole began, ‘is that though [Richard] may have been as execrable as we are told he was, we have little or no reason to believe so. If the propensity of habit should still incline a single man to suppose that all he has rad of Richard is true, I beg no more, than that person would be so impartial as to own that he has little or no foundation for supposing so.

“‘I will state the list of the crimes charged on Richard; I will specify the authorities on which he was accused; I will give a faithful account of the historians by whom he was accused; and will then examine the circumstances of each crime and each evidence; and lastly, show that some of the crimes were contrary to Richard’s interest, and almost all inconsistent with probability or with dates, and some of them involved in material contradictions.

Supposed Crimes of Richard the Third

1st. His murder of Edward Prince of Wales, son of Henry the Sixth.
2nd. His murder of Henry the Sixth. 
3rd. The murder of his brother George Duke of Clarence.
4th. The execution of Rivers, Gray, and Vaughan.
5th. The execution of Lord Hastings.
6th. The murder of Edward the Fifth and his brother.
7th. The murder of his own queen. 

“To which may be added, as they are thrown into the list to blacken him, his intended match with his own niece Elizabeth, the penance of Jane Shore, and his own personal deformities.’

“Walpole became convinced as a young man that Richard had been maligned by the Lancastrian and Tudor historians who reported his reign; that is, Richard was an underdog and should be championed. When two eminent antiquarians called his attention to what they believed was the coronation roll, which showed that Edward V., far from having been murdered in the Tower by his uncle Richard, had walked at his coronation, Walpole determined to clear Richard of ‘the mob-stories’ that put him ‘on a level with Jack the giant-killer.’ In his Preface he waved away possible criticism: his attempt, he said, was ‘mere matter of curiosity and speculation’ of an idle man; he was ready to yield to better reasons, but not to ‘”declamation.”‘ Unfortunately, the coronation roll turned out to be a wardrobe account of no relevance. This was disappointing, but it didn’t weaken Walpole’s desire to defend Richard.”

Lewis describes a psychoanalytical theory as to why Walpole got so excited about Richard III and quoted from “a letter to a fellow-antiquary fifteen years after Historic Doubts appeared.

Give me leave in my own behalf to say, that if I am prejudiced, as
probably I am, it is against those historians, not for Richard III. I did
apprehend originally that I should be suspected of the latter, because
when one contests popular prejudices, one is supposed to run into the
contrary extreme. I do believe Richard was a very bad man—but I could
not think him a weak one, which he must have been, had he acted in the
absurd manner imputed to him. I am aware on the other side, that in
so dark and ferocious an age, both he and others may have acted very
differently, and ventured on many steps, that would be preposterous in
a more enlightened time—but then we ought to have very good evidence
of their having done so—and such evidence is very defective indeed.

manuscript page Memoranda from catalogue of Harleian MSS vol 1Walpole’s notes for the book are at Farmington. He kept them in the Glass Closet in a portfolio I am rescuing as this Choice. The 1842 Sale Catalogue called it ‘A portfolio containing original letters, deeds, extracts, etc. on the subject of the Historic Doubts on the Life of Richard III, written by Mr Walpole.’ It named some of his correspondents and added that the portfolio contained the proof sheets of the books’ first edition, but it failed to mention Walpole’s notes on the sources he used to write the book. Boone bought the lot for Lord Derby who put it into a linen case. The letters to Walpole about the book were those that Major Milner laid out around the billiard table for me at Knowsley in 1935. He didn’t show me the other manuscripts in the portfolio, but their significance would have been lost on one unfamiliar with the immense complexities of Richard’s story. Maggs bought the lot for me at Sotheby’s in the 1954 Derby Sale. The reviewer of the sale in the Times Literary Supplement singled out the proof sheets, the only Walpolian ones I know of except those for the second edition of the Royal and Noble Authors already mentioned, but Walpole made few corrections in them and they are less interesting that other pieces in the lot.

“The portfolio is now in a case worthier of its contents, but they have yet to be studied by a fifteenth-century specialist. His task will not be light, for Walpole jotted down his notes on slips of paper and left them in a general jumble. We’ll see the same casual confusion when we come to his memoirs. Her in the portfolio is a scrap of six by four inches with 46 miscellaneous notes crowded to the martins on both sides. Next is a small card with five notes, including ‘H[enry] 7 did not reverse his Queen’s Bastardy.’ A more extensive note quotes that the late Lord Bolingbroke as saying ‘that the Ambassadors of France and Venice who were present at Richard’s coronation wrote to their respective superiors that Richard was a handsome well made Prince.’ ‘By the favour of the Duchess of Choiseul,’ Walpole wrote, ‘I have had the Depot des affaires étrangères at Versailles carefully examined by the learned and ingenious Abbé Barthelemi, and with the same truth with which I have conducted this inquiry, I must declare that no such account is to be found among the state papers of the King of France. If I discover anything that makes against my own arguments, I shall declare it with the same impartiality. It is indifferent to me on which side the truth may come out, all my aim has been to lead to the discovery of it.’

“There are twelve and a half pages of manuscript references to the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum. Walpole listed them from his printed copy of the Catalogue, which came to Farmington from the Library of Congress by exchange. So we have, most happily, not only Walpole’s notes but his annotated source for them. The list of manuscripts has his characteristic crosses and dashes and an occasional ‘See it.'”

Lewis points to evidence that Walpole went to the Museum to view the Harleian Manuscripts.

“Dodsley published twelve hundred copies of Historic Doubts in 1768 and sold them so fast he began printing a second edition of one thousand copies the following day, a remarkable sale for the time. The book is a quarto with two illustrations by Vertue. The original of one of them, Richard and his Queen in its Walpolian frame, came to Farmington from Sotheby’s in 1936. When I got the catalogue of the sale the drawing stood out as a ‘must’ for me, but wat was it worth? This was twenty years before Walpoliana shot into the stratosphere and the limit of £100 that I gave Maggs seemed extravagant, but it proved to be ample, for the drawing was knocked down to us for £2, less than half of what Miss Burdette-Coutts gave for it in 1842. The surviving collectors of the thirties look back to that time as to a lost paradise.

Historic Doubts caused a furor in the learned world when it appeared, for it is a pioneer work that challenged the traditional picture of Richard as a figure of unmitigated evil. Gray and Cole stood loyally by: Gibbon praised Walpole highly, but shared Hume’s belief that Sir Thomas More’s account of Richard was closer to the truth than Walpole’s. Gibbon’s copy, which Walpole gave to him, is at Farmington, but has, alas, no notes. Among our other eighteen presentation copies are many to Walpole’s antiquarian friends whose notes and comments in their copies will be of interest to future editors of the work, which continues to be, and doubtless always will be, controversial.

Pen and ink line drawing of a king and queen shown full length

“One of the strongest dissidents in 1768 was Dean Jeremiah Milles, President of the Society of Antiquaries, of which Walpole was a member; another was the Rev. Robert Masters. He and Milles expressed their views in Archaeologia, the Society of Antiquaries annual volume, whereupon Walpole rather foolishly resigned from the Society. He printed a Reply to Dean Milles, in six copies only, one of which is at Farmington.”

Lewis recounts Walpole’s response to the criticisms and how he, Lewis, acquired Walpole’s own first twelve volumes of Archaeologia from the Oriental Institute at Luxor, Egypt.

“Therefore Walpole’s set of Archaeologia is not the runner-up kn this Choice, nor is his copy (one of six only) of the Historic Doubts that he printed at the Press in his 1770 Works, even though at the end of it he bound in the manuscript of ‘Postscript to My Historic Doubts, written in Febr. 1793’ that was published in his 1798 Works. The Postscript begins,

It is afflictive to have lived to find in an Age called not only civilized but enlightened, in this eighteenth century, that such horrors, such unparalleled crimes have been displayed on the most conspicuous Theatre in Europe, in Paris, the rival of Athens and Rome. . . . by a Royal Duke, who has actually surpassed all the guilt imputed to Richard the 3d: and who . . . will leave it impossible to any future writer, how ever disposed to candour, to entertain one historic doubt on the abominable actions of Philip Duke of Orleans.

     After long plotting the death of his Sovereign, a victim as holy as, and infinitely superior in sense and many virtues to Henry 6th, Orleans has dragged that sovereign to the block, and purchased his execution in public, as in public he voted for it.

page of manuscript writing in small neat hand  and some corrections“‘That sovereign’ provided the runner-up in this Choice. When Mme du Deffand received her copy of the book from Walpole she was extasiée, yet not as much as she wished to be because she had no English. She failed to find a translator and died twenty years before the first French translation appeared in 1800. Walpole did not live to see it either, and so missed what I think might have meant more to him than anything else in his life. This was the knowledge that he had indirectly eased the last weeks of the translator as he revised his manuscript while waiting for the mob to come and drag him away to the guillotine. For the first French translator of Historic Doubts of the Life and Reign of Richard III was Louis XVI, and his much worked over manuscript is now at Farmington.

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 20: Walpole’s Portfolio for His Historic Doubts of the Life and Reign of Richard III” download or expand the link here:

N.B. For more details about the French translation by Louis XVI, see blog post 10. Doutes Historiques sur la Vie et le Regne de Richard III

 

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31. Choice 19: Cole’s Copy of “The Castle of Otranto”

Choice 19: Cole’s Copy of “The Castle of Otranto”

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“When in March 1925 I went to London on my first Walpolian trip Chauncey Tinker, who had also just begun to collect, asked me to get him a first edition of The Castle of Otranto. ‘Any copy will do–a nice one of course’ He paused, ‘and you may have the copy Walpole gave to William Cole.’ He picked on that one because Walpole’s two letters about how he wrote the book were written to Cole, his chief antiquarian correspondent.

“Maggs had a nice copy of the first Castle of Otranto, which I asked them to put with my books and to send Tink the next one they got. I justified this greediness by thinking, ‘Tink doesn’t collect Walpole  and I do.’ Fortunately, better behaviour saved me from what would have been an agonizing mistake, for on getting back to Farmington after giving the book to Tink I found a letter from Maggs that began, ‘We think you will be interested in a copy of The Castle of Otranto that has just come in. photo of a title pge of a book with manuscript notes in a neat printed handIt is the copy Walpole gave William Cole.’ Cole wrote his name and “1765” on the title-page and below Walpole’s pseudonym, ‘Onuphrio Muralto, Canon of the Church of St Nicholas at Otranto,’ he added, ‘Wrote by the honble Horace Walpole, Esq.’ He also transcribed Walpole’s two letters to him about writing the book. In the first one Walpole wrote, ‘If you will tell me how to send it, and are partial enough to me to read a profane work in the style of former centuries, I shall convey to you a little story-book, which I published some time ago, though not boldly with my own name, but it has succeeded so well, that I do not any longer entirely keep the secret: does the title, The Castle of Otranto, tempt you?’ Two weeks later Walpole added,

I had time to write but a short note with The Castle of Otranto, as your messenger called on me at four o’clock as I was going to dine abroad. Your partiality to me and Strawberry have I hope inclined you to excuse the wildness of the story. You will even have found some traits to put you in mind of this place. When you read of the picture quitting its panel, did not you recollect the portrait of Lord Falkland all in white in my gallery? Shall I even confess to you what was the origin of this romance? I waked one morning in the beginning of last June from a dream, of which all I could recover was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle (a very natural dream for a head filled like mine with Gothic story) and that on the uppermost bannister of a great staircase I saw a gigantic hand in armour. In the evening I sat down and began to write, without knowing in the least what I intended to say or relate. The work grew on my hands, and I grew fond of it—add that I was very glad to think of anything rather than politics—In short I was so engrossed with my tale, which I completed in less than two months, that one evening I wrote from the time I had drunk my tea, about six o’clock, till half an hour after one in the morning, when my hand and fingers were so weary, that I could not hold the pen to finish the sentence, but left Matilda and Isabella talking, in the middle of a paragraph. You will laugh at my earnestness, but if I have amused you by retracing with any fidelity the manners of ancient days, I am content, and give you leave to think me as idle as you please.

“This last was also addressed to us.

“Cole transcribed verses ‘To the honourable and ingenious Author of the Castle of Otranto,’ that had appeared in the St James’s Chronicle.

Thou sweet Enchanter! at whose nod
The aery train of phantoms rise:
Who dost but wave thy potent Rod,
And marble bleeds and canvas sighs.
By thee decoy’d, with curious Fear
We tread thy Castle’s dreary Round:
Though horrid all we see, and hear,
Thy Horrors charm, while they confound.
Full well hast thou persued the Road,
The magic Road thy master laid;
And hast, with grateful skill, bestow’d
An off’ring worthy of his shade.
Again his manners he may trace,
Again his characters may see,
In soft Matild, Miranda’s grace,
And his own Prospero in Thee.

“This must have given Walpole great pleasure, for he said in the preface to the second edition of the book that Shakespeare was his model and he championed Shakespeare against Voltaire.”

Lewis continues with commentary about the decline of Shakespeare’s reputation in the eighteenth century and Walpole’s freely borrowing from the bard in the Castle of Otranto.

“The easy runner-up in this Choice is John Carter’s water-color drawing that Walpole described in ‘More Additions’ to the ’84 Description, ‘Procession in the Castle of Otranto, in water-color by John Carter.’ Carter added to this in the copy of the Description that Walpole bequeathed him and that is now at Farmington, ‘Was paid for it 20 guineas.’ On the back of the drawing Carter wrote, ‘Entry of Frederic into the Castle of Otranto, John Carter, inv. and del., 1790’ and he showed it at the Royal Academy exhibition of that year. Walpole’s willingness to pay such a large sum for a water-color drawing proves his continuing affection for the book. He chose Carter to illustrate it because Carter was an antiquarian, the author of Specimens of the Ancient Sculpture and Painting now remaining in this Kingdom, 1786, which he dedicated to Walpole. He wrote, ‘[I] first found in you a Patron. Your kind encouragement gave wings to my ambition to continue their [the Specimens’] publication, and under your Auspices, and the Public’s generous Assistance, I have been able to bring to a Conclusion the first Volume: which with Gratitude and Respect I dedicate to you, as some acknowledgment for the great obligations conferr’d on, Sir, Your very much obliged and faithful humble Servant, John Carter. Nov. 1786.’ Its frontispiece, in which Edward the Third and his family attended by warriors, courtiers, etc., makes a regal entrance into a courtyard, foreshadows Frederic’s entry into the courtyard of Otranto,'”

Lewis quotes the passage from the Castle of Otranto in which Frederic’s entry is described.

“How to get all this on a sheet of 23 by 19 inches would have daunted a lesser Goth Watercolor drawing of a busy crowd scene of people in medieval dress surrounded by gothic buildingsthan Carter, but he managed it beautifully. Frederic’s retinue that has already arrived can be seen riding and marching into the distant parts of the castle that had been inspired by King’s College Chapel and an Eleanor Cross (Carter ignored Walpole’s hint in his second preface that the Castle was Strawberry Hill). Walking beside Frederic is his beadsman telling his beads; behind may be glimpsed the fifty footguards with drums and trumpets. Immediately in front of him are men (hardly a hundred) carrying the great sword, with Frederic in full armor, visor down, lance at rest, entering on a superbly caparisoned horse. Gazing at him from a dias across the courtyard is Manfred, the villain, understandably perturbed, with Isabella, Frederic’s daughter and the heroine of the tale, and Friar Jerome who is, I think, a portrait of Horace Walpole himself. Behind Manfred are the plumes of the giant helmet that crushed, no one knew how, Isabella’s betrothed, the fifteen-year-old sickly Conrad, Manfred’s only child. In the foreground, guarded by armed men with armor and weapons, is the castle’s orchestra playing away. It includes a blind harpist, a bearded man thumping Turkish tabors, another man with a tuba, and two graceful girls, scantily clad, one of whom is playing a two-horned instrument, the other striking a triangle. Above and beyond the gate and drawbridge are towers inspired by German castles. I haven’t begun to do justice to the drawing, but I hope I’ve suggested that it is the quintessence of the Gothic Revival and deserving of serious attention.

“It was bought at the Strawberry Hill sale by the Rev. Horace Cholmondeley and descended to his great-grandson, the late General Sir Henry Jackson, a Dorset neighbor of Owen Morshead who brought us together. General Jackson very kindly let me have not only the drawing, but one of Walpole’s copies of Watteau mentioned in Choice 3 and his annotated copy of McArdell’s print after Walpole’s portrait by Reynolds, which is Choice 26. The three pieces hang in our side hall and are a daily reminder of the General and Owen Morshead as well as of Horace Walpole, John Carter, and Watteau.”

Lewis quotes several contemporary and subsequent reviews of the Castle of Otranto.

“The continuing success of The Castle of Otranto is one of the phenomena of English literature. There have been ninety editions of it, fifteen of them in this century including a recent one of 50,000 copies in Russia. The first of seven American editions was published in New York in 1801; later nineteenth-century editions appeared in Philadelphia and Hartford; three editions have been published in France, two in Germany, four in Italy where Bodoni of Parma printed the finest in 1791. Walpole’s copies of it and of the handsome 1795 translation in London are at Farmington in morocco bindings worthy of them. Two of the five or six printed by Bodoni on vellum are also at Farmington.

“In my Introduction to the edition published by the Oxford University Press in 1964 I quoted, as commentators on the Castle of Otranto always do, Walter Scott’s praise of the book in his 1811 edition. He called it ‘remarkable not only for the wild interest of the story, but as the first modern attempt to found a tale of amusing fiction upon the basis of the ancient romance of chivalry,’ and he conceded to Walpole the applause ‘which cannot be denied to him who can excite the passions of fear and of pity.’ I am struck by his speaking of ‘the wild interest of the story,’ for I confess, quite quietly here, I have never field any fear or pity in it; instead, I marvel how such a lucid and entertaining writer as Horace Walpole could have written so confused and clumsy a book. Gray’s and his friends’ delight in it came, I think from the novelty of the book’s setting, its pseudo-mediaeval speech, and its supernatural events. Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett had nothing like that. I am convinced by Henry James’s transitions to the supernatural, but I find Walpole’s ludicrous. Alfonso sighing and stepping out of his portrait is arresting, but when Manfred cries, ‘Lead on! I will follow thee to the gulph of Perdition,’ I do not yield to ‘the style of former centuries,’ but find Alfonso his own parody. Carter’s drawing, on the other hand, leads us into a magical courtyard with Horace Walpole as Friar Jerome watching us from the court and is welcomed by the Otranto heralds and orchestra. When Walpole was writing his letters he was talking easily to his correspondents, but when he wrote his novel he was being ‘literary.’ The Castle of Otranto must continue to be read by students as a landmark of English literature, yet it is not, I think, for others.

“The eighteenth century’s high regard for it is shown not only by the eighteen editions published then, but by contemporary illustrations of the story. There are thirty-four of them at Farmington bound in various copies of the book. Among them are two that suggest the artists failed to understand that Alfonso stepped off the canvas and down on the floor for they brought the whole picture down, frame and all. Much the best of these illustrations are four by Bertie Greatheed, aged fifteen, of Guy’s Cliff, Warwick. Walpole wrote his father,

Image of a manuscript letter in 18th century cursive hand

I have seen many drawings and prints made from my idle—I don’t know what to call it, novel or romance—not one of them approached to any one of your son’s four—a clear proof of which is, that not one of the rest satisfied the author’s ideas—It is as strictly, and upon my honour, true, that your son’s conception of some of the passions has improved them, and added more expression than I myself had formed in my own mind; for example, in the figure of the ghost in the chapel, to whose hollow sockets your son has given an air of reproachful anger, and to the whole turn of his person, dignity. Manfred in the last scene has an uncertain horror, that shows he has not yet had time to know what kind of agony he feels at what he has done. Such delineation of passions at so very youthful a period, or rather in boyhood, are indubitable indications of real genius, and cannot have issued from the instructions or corrections of a master.

“Was there any way, Walpole asked, in which he might secure the originals or copies of them? brown wash drawing of two men cringing away from a giant foot in a sandal above themThe rest of the correspondence is missing, but the drawings–which make one think of Blake–were bound by Walpole in his copy of Bodoni’s 1791 edition published in London by J. Edwards and are now at Farmington. These four drawings are far superior to the efforts of Greatheed’s older amateur contemporaries and we join Walpole in lamenting the early death of the outstanding amateur of his time.”

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 19: Cole’s Copy of “The Castle of Otranto”” download or expand the link here:

N.B. a mini-conference focused on The Castle of Otranto was held at the Lewis Walpole Library on November 10, 2017 and the morning session and afternoon session are available on Yale’s YouTube channel.

30. Choice 18: Mary Berry’s Sketch Book

Choice 18: Mary Berry’s Sketch Book

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

Walpole wrote Lady Ossory, 11 October 1788:

“If I have picked up no recent anecdotes on our common, I have made a much more, to me, precious acquisition. It is the acquaintance of two young ladies of the name of Berry, whom I first saw last winter, and who accidentally took a house here with their father for this season. Their story is singular enough to entertain you. The grandfather, a Scot, had a large estate in his own country; £5000 a year, it is said; and a circumstance I shall tell you, makes it probable. The eldest son married for love a woman with no fortune. The old man was enraged and would not see him. The wife died and left these two young ladies. Their grandfather wished for an heir male, and pressed the widower to remarry, but could not prevail—the son declaring he would consecrate himself to his daughters and their education. The old man did not break with him again, but much worse, totally disinherited him, and left all to his second son, who very handsomely gave up £800 a year to his elder brother. Mr Berry has since carried his daughters for two or three years to France and Italy, and they are returned the best informed and the most perfect creatures I ever saw at their age. They are exceedingly sensible, entirely natural and unaffected, frank, and being qualified to talk on any subject, nothing is so easy and agreeable as their conversation, nor more apposite than their answers and observations. The eldest, I discovered by chance, understands Latin, and is a perfect Frenchwoman in her language. The younger draws charmingly, and has copied admirably Lady Di’s gypsies, which I lent her, though the first time of her attempting colours.

“They are of pleasing figures; Mary, the eldest, sweet, with fine dark eyes, that are very lively when she speaks, with a symmetry of face that is the more interesting from being pale. Agnes, the younger, has an agreeable sensible countenance, hardly to be called handsome, but almost. She is less animated than Mary but seems out of deference to her sister to speak seldomer, for they dote on each other, and Mary is always praising her sister’s talents. I must even tell you, Madam, that they dress within the bounds of fashion, though fashionably; but without the excrescences and balconies with which modern hoydens overwhelm and barricado their persons. In short, good sense, information, simplicity and ease characterize the Berrys—and this is not particularly mine, who am apt to be prejudiced, but the universal voice of all that know them. The first night I met them, I would not be acquainted with them, having heard so much in their praise, that I concluded they would be all pretensions. The second time, in a very small company, I sat next to Mary, and found her an angel, inside and out. Now, I don’t know which I like best, except Mary’s face, which is formed for a sentimental novel but is ten times fitter for a fifty times better thing, genteel comedy.

“This delightful family comes to me almost every Sunday evening, as our region is too proclamatory to play at cards on the seventh day — I do not care a straw for cards, but I do disapprove of this partiality to the youngest child of the week, while the other poor six days are treated as if they had no souls to be saved.

“I forgot to tell you that Mr Berry is a little merry man with a round face, and you would not suspect him of so much feeling and attachment. I make no excuse for such minute details, for if your Ladyship insists on hearing the humours of my district, you must for once indulge me in sending you two pearls that I found in my path.

“The Berrys were aged twenty-four and twenty-three when they met Walpole. He was seventy. Pinkerton reports a rumour, which Macaulay, Thackeray, and Cunningham later spread, that before his death Walpole offered marriage to both Berrys in succession; but what actually took place is made clear by Charles Fulke Greville in his Journal of the Reign of Queen Victoria, 1832-1852. He called on Miss Berry one day in 1843 ‘and found her in great indignation at [T. Crofton] Croker’s recent article in the “Quarterly” upon the series just published of Lord Orford’s letters to Mann, angry on his account and on her own. Croker says, what has been often reported, that Lord Orford offered to marry Mary Berry, and on her refusal, to marry Agnes. She says it is altogether false. Walpole never thought of marrying Agnes, and what passed with regard to herself was this: The Duchess of Gloucester was very jealous of his intimacy with the Berrys, though she treated them with civility. At last her natural impetuosity broke out, and she said to him, “Do you mean to marry Miss Berry or do you not?” To which he replied, “That is as Miss Berry herself pleases”; and that, as I understood her, is all that passed about it.’ ‘Let me repeat to both,’ Walpole wrote 26 February 1791, ‘that distance of place and time can make no alteration in my friendship; It grew from esteem for your characters and understandings and tempers, and became affection from your good-natured attentions to me, where there is so vast a disproportion in our ages.’ It was a thoroughly common-sensical relationship on both sides. Walpole and the Berrys delighted in each other’s company, and that was that.”

Lewis describes the kind of content Walpole’s letters to the Berrys included: “The subjects he wrote about to the Berrys are much the same as those in his other intimate correspondences–great names and events and entertaining trivialities–but to the Berrys there is more neighbourhood gossip and more of his own hopes and fears.”

“When the Berrys returned from their long European sojourn in 1791, they moved into Little Strawberry Hill pencil sketch of house amidst trees and shrubberyand were the old man’s constant companions until he died six years later. This ideal arrangement for both sides developed a somewhat disturbed undercurrent. The young women were not free from restlessness and Mary had to conduct her furtive love-affair with General O’Hara, which came to naught, in fear of Walpole’s discovering it. I acquired four of Mrs. Damer’s small notebooks, 1791-97, in the second Waller Sale. They are addressed to Mary Berry although not by name. The sort of thing Mrs Damer wrote is:

“I love your dignity as much as my own and enter into every word you said about him this morn–you understand me–You looked so low, so uncomfortable and so tired tonight, that tho’ it is late I cannot go to bed in peace without telling you how much I felt and regretted it–for tho’ I can seldom have the comfort of relieving, I must ever share your disquiets–perhaps, nay, very likely, it proceeded from nothing particular. I know too well the numberless, nameless things that smart, and agonize a mind ‘too painfully alive all o’er.’ I know that there is but one relief, which is the sympathizing bosom of some kindred being–that being exists both to you and to me, and tho’ not always mutually within our reach–let us bless God . . . suffer, and be thankful.

“Twenty years earlier Mrs Damer had been the subject of ‘A Sapphick Epistle’ that made her partiality to her own sex clear. Strephon was perfectly safe with her, but Chloe was not.”

Lewis recounts Anne Damer’s husband’s suicide and her attitude towards Walpole, and he outlines the jealousy of Lady Mary Churchill and the Duchess of Gloucester towards the Berry sisters.

“The object I am saving in this Choice is aoval pencil drawing of young lady facing left with a scarf over her head, in a gold frame modest one, Mary Berry’s sketch book. We have at Farmington only two other objects that belonged  to a black lace parasol that came from her relations the Munro Ferguson family of Raith and a beautiful gold repeating watch that was made for Walpole in 1741 and given by him to her, as is noted on its back. We also have a miniature of her when young that I keep with them, but they are not as close to her as her rather shabby sketch book. It is oblong, covered with striped Italian paper in green, red, and low, and on it she wrote

 

MB

1790

Pisa

rectangular sketchbook covered in paper with horizontal pattern in red green & yellow

“Inside is her bookticket, a cluster of strawberry blossoms, leaves, and fruit between her name and Inter Folio Fructus. I bought it from Sotheran in 1923. Mary Berry's bookplate cluster of strawberries & flowersThe first drawing is a street, “Pisa 1791.” landscape sketch of a street in Pisa with buildings on either side of a street leading into the distanceMiss Berry was happier with buildings than with trees, which she drew with spectacular unsuccess. Village churches were her forte and there are two views of Goodwood that delighted Walpole because of his affection for the Richmonds–his large correspondence with whom has so unfortunately disappeared. Miss Berry’s sketch book is markedly inferior to Agnes’s, which is also at Farmington, but one feels it is closer to Walpole. ‘You are learning perspective to take views; I am glad,’ he wrote Mary, ‘can one have too many resources in one’s self? Internal armour is more necessary to your sex than weapons to ours. You have neither professions nor politics nor ways of getting money like men, in any of which, whether successful or not, they are employed. Scandal and cards you will both always hate and despise as much as you do now; and though I shall not flatter Mary so much as to suppose she will ever equal the extraordinary talent of Agnes in painting, yet as Mary like the scriptural Martha is occupied in many things, she is quite in the right to add the pencil to her other amusements.’

pencil landscape sketch showing the south front of Goodwood, a country house in Sussex England

“Our chief interest in Miss Berry’s later life is what she did for Walpole’s reputation. It was not forgotten that she had been the closest friend of his declining years and, allegedly, might have been his wife. She was at the center of the talk that began when his will was read. It was said that he had left too much to the Duchess of Gloucester, too little to Kirgate, and nothing at all, Pinkerton objected, to Pinkerton; he was blamed for the death of Chatterton; he had been hateful to Mme du Deffand; J.W. Croker and Lord Liverpool agreed that he was ‘as bad a man as ever lived’ because he had, they said, poisoned history at its source. Byron came to his rescue with equal extravagance in the Preface to Marino Faliero, 1821: ‘It is the fashion to underrate Horace Walpole; firstly, because he was a nobleman, and secondly, because he was a gentleman, but to say nothing of the composition of his incomparable letters, and of the Castle of Otranto, he is the “Ultimus Romanorum,” the father . . . of the first romance and of the last tragedy in our language, and surely worthy of a higher place than any living writer, be he who may.’

“Twelve years later in 1833 came Macaulay’s attach on Walpole in the Edinburgh Review. Macaulay, rising thirty-three, boasted to his sister, ‘I have laid it on Walpole so unsparingly that I shall not be surprised if Miss Berry should cut me.’ Two or three weeks later, however, he is off to Miss Berry’s soirée. ‘I do not know whether I told you that she resented my article on Horace Walpole so much that Sir Stratford Canning advised me not to go near her . . . You know that in Vivian Grey she is called Miss Otranto. I always expected that my article would put her into a passion, and I was not mistaken; but she has come round again, and sent me a most pressing and kind invitation the other day.’

“Macaulay’s essay has had more influence on Walpole’s reputation than all other comments on him combined. It is a caricature, but as in all good caricatures the victim is recognizable. Although every page contains untrue statements, there does emerge a distorted likeness. Miss Berry answered it seven years later in Bentley’s edition of Walpole’s Letters. Macaulay’s picture of Walpole’s character, she said, was ‘entirely and offensively unlike the original.’ She dismissed the untrue charges one by one, ending with the most serious, Walpole’s alleged coldness of heart. She had decided to publish his letters to her and her sister to give proof ‘that the warmth of his feelings, and his capacity for sincere affection, continued unenfeebled by age.’

“There is no record of Macaulay and Miss berry dining amicably after her defence, but there is at Farmington a statement not without interest written by George Bentley, the son of Miss Berry’s publisher. It was given me by our hostess at Upton, Mrs Richard Bentley. ‘Miss Berry,’ George Bentley wrote, ‘had inoculated [the first Richard Bentley] with a feeling of affection for Walpole’s character, and he could never bear to hear him ill spoken of . . . It was his great wish that his letters should be collected and chronologically arranged.

“‘Macaulay was consulted on the subject. His character of Walpole is so well known, but Macaulay’s opinion had modified in his later days as he confessed to Miss Berry, and as Miss Berry told my father.'”

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 18: Mary Berry’s Sketch Book” download or expand the link here:

N.B. According to the catalog record, the Damer notebooks represent a “Manuscript, in a single hand, of a collection of excerpts of letters, in four volumes, from Mary Berry to Damer, transcribed and edited by Damer.”

29. Horace Walpole and Macaroni Fashion Fads

29. Horace Walpole and Macaroni Fashion Fads

by Peter McNeil, Distinguished Professor of Design History, University of Technology Sydney
Distinguished Professor, ‘FiDiPro’, Aalto University/
Professor of Fashion Studies, Stockholm University

Scholarly and also popular awareness of the ‘macaroni man’ has gained momentum among not just those interested in the fashion culture of the eighteenth century but the general public more widely. In an era that is questioning both gender binaries and boundaries, the ambiguity, playfulness and whimsy of macaroni men is just too powerful to ignore. Variously mocked as libidinous or sexually inept, ‘amphibious’ (a term used by Pope in the Dunciad – meaning ‘leading two lives’) or even ‘neuter’, he was an important masculine figure between the better known types of the French fop and the Regency English Dandy. The increasing attention to him reflects the growth of inter-disciplinary research into masculinity, consumer practices, print culture and sartorial fashions, as well as the new, keener interest in specific episodes of men’s dress, hitherto a somewhat neglected topic. Studying the macaroni over the past twenty years, including on two visits to the Lewis Walpole Library, I have woven together dress, biography, historical events and art spanning genres from the scurrilous caricature to respectful portrait. Celebrities hailed or mocked as different as the politician Charles James Fox, the painter Richard Cosway, the freed slave Julius ‘Soubise’ and the white collar criminal Reverend Dodd demand such an approach. Indeed it is possibly the eccentric amalgam of fashion-forward men from different social groups and milieux, often with startling life stories, that attracted the eye and pen of Horace Walpole more than 200 years ago, then much later the notations crafted by W.S. Lewis and his research team in Farmington, Connecticut working on Walpole’s Letters in the inter and post-war years of the twentieth century. The circle around W.S. Lewis including Sir Francis Watson did much to investigate the cultural meanings of eighteenth-century men’s dress in the 1960s, a time when the study was barely on the academic radar in the USA or UK [i] . Dress and fashionability was clearly of interest to Lewis, being the subject of many entries in the card catalogue, topic of many incursions in the annotated Letters of Walpole and referred to in the work of other associated authors such as Lars E. Troide.

Researchers now resist reading the macaroni as simply illustrative of something occurring in eighteenth-century life, for example, a particular world-view such as aristocratic excess or anxiety concerning war and the role of militia. Several reasons can be advanced for this shift. The first is the changing attitude towards the interpretation of caricature prints as complex visual artefacts; the second is the reassessment of dress fashion as an area of serious research within cultural history. Being fashionable or looking in turn at fashionable people is part of a complex power relationship that still fascinates today. Over the course of the eighteenth century fashion contributed to new ideas of self, personality, celebrity and spectatorship, all of which was both subject for and in turn amplified by the greatly increased incidence of satirical and other prints sold by canny print-seller entrepreneurs.

What does Horace Walpole and his archive tell us about the macaronis? Dictionaries note that the first recorded use of the term ‘macaroni’ occurred in the voluminous correspondence of Walpole, although this is not strictly true. Similar words had been used as names of characters in Garrick’s plays as early as 1757. Walpole’s trenchant eye did, however, provide the first detailed surviving impression of this phenomenon when it appeared amongst the aristocracy in London. It was something new. In February 1764 Walpole observed gambling losses amongst the sons of foreign visitors (Lewis’ team thought them to be Modenese men) at the ‘Maccaroni club, which is composed of all the travelled young men who wear long curls and spying-glasses’. This youth fashion was for shorter suit jackets which showed more of the rear (leading to moral condemnation at many times in history), striped or coloured silk stockings, red-heeled, slipper-like and thin-soled shoes, some with rosettes (thus alluding to the French court and only suited for city life), small, impractical tricorn hats, often carried not worn (known as ‘Nivernais’ or ‘Nivernois’ after the French Ambassador in London – the translator of Walpole’s essay on gardening into French), very large floral corsages at the bosom, a hanger-sword, pocket-watch and seals hanging from the waist, sometimes with a dummy watch (fausse-montre) for symmetry, canes, parasols (normally used by women in England at this date), and other luxury accessories such as steel buttons and shoe buckles, metal or enamel snuff and patch boxes and many types of magnifying glasses. The colours preferred were pastels from yellow to orange but also buff and blue, small spotted or chevron textiles (not the larger woven florals of earlier periods) and high quality silk, velvet or woollen broadcloth (the latter being plain and never printed).

uncolored etching showing from the rear a man with a bag wig

(M. Darly, The St. James Macaroni, 12 August 1772. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University)

Particular attention was paid to embroidered and trimmed waistcoats which were once described as having all the ‘debris of a magazin de mode’. Profligate gaming, associated with continental and specifically French manners, was strongly associated with the macaroni type. Gaming was highly fashionable and losses had reached epidemic proportions; Charles James Fox’s stakes of £3000 and total gambling debts of £140, 000 were public knowledge, mentioned in macaroni ditties and satires. Walpole, listing the things in the world that were best worth finding, included the longitude, the philosopher’s stone, the certificate of the Duchess of Kingston’s first marriage, the missing books of Livy, ‘and all that Charles Fox had lost’. Gaming and expenditure on fashion were a good fit, as the idea emerged that the endless cycle of fashion change would weaken men’s natural reserve as well as resources and lead to a type of fiscal and moral exhaustion.

A particular type of dress was associated with the inveterate gambler. The English made a ritual of their dress at the private clubs. Walpole noted:

They began by pulling off their embroidered clothes, and put on frieze great coats, or turned their coats inside outwards for luck. They put on pieces of leather, such as are worn by footmen when they clean the knives, to save their laced ruffles; and, to guard their eyes from the light, and to prevent tumbling their hair, wore high-crowned hats with broad brims, and adorned with flowers and ribbons.[ii]

uncolored etching showing men seated around a gaming table

(The macaroni cauldron, To be had with many other Macaronies pubd. by MDarly (39) Strand. [London]: Pubd. accordg. to act March 9, 1772, by MDarly, 39 Strand, [1772]. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University)

Uncolored etching showing mean seated by a table

The candle is lighted, we cannot blow out c1640 (British Museum)

Men spent such long hours at the table that an engraving depicted a special cap with a wide rim, worn to protect weary eyes from bright candlelight, possibly to deter cheating. Darly’s engraving The Macaroni Cauldron shows the caps mirroring and protecting the shapes of the high toupee wigs . The way in which the men are placed around the table is reminiscent of seventeenth-century English prints of the gathering around Martin Luther, as in The candle is lighted, we cannot blow out c1640 (British Museum).[iii]. This was not ultimately the guise that came to be associated in the public mind with the macaroni; instead, the fine clothing that they were protecting beneath comprised their fashionable dress. A play review described ‘the Nabob sitting at his table in his gambling dress, the silk night gown, straw bonnet, &c. which the virtuous gentlemen of Almack’s use when at play’.[iv] 

Walpole made further reference to macaronis in his Letters of 1764. In May he referred to a ‘young rich Mr Crewe‘ as ‘a Maccarone’ [sic]; in June he described a party without heating at which ‘All the beauties were disappointed, and all the macaronies afraid of getting the toothache.’[v] In November he indicated that macaroni dress was a style of the very young, when he observed at the Opera: ‘You see I am not likely, like my brother Cholmondeley… to totter into a solitaire at threescore.’[vi] Distinctive macaroni colour schemes for various seasons, probably copied from the vibrant combinations used in French and Italian silks and velvets, were indicated: ‘If I went to Almack’s and decked out my wrinkles in pink and green like Lord Harrington, I might still be in vogue.’[vii]

Mezzotint of man in profile facing right

(Daniel Gardner (painter), V. Green, (printmaker), George Simon Harcourt, Viscount Nuneham, 1772 [later 2nd Earl of Harcourt of Stanton], mezzotint, 32 x 22.7 cm. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Horace Walpole’s own copy).

The key to the macaroni was excess. Walpole characterised the macaroni as sporting massive nosegays or corsages: ‘Lord Nuneham’s garden is the quintessence of nosegays: I wonder some macaroni does not offer ten thousand pounds for it – but indeed the flowers come in their natural season, and take care to bring their perfumes along with them’.[viii] To the Countess of Upper Ossory he wrote that Nuneham (George Simon Harcourt, Viscount Nuneham) had a ‘flower-garden that would keep all Maccaronia in nosegays’.[ix] Walpole owned a copy of the elegant 1772 portrait by Daniel Gardner of Viscount Nuneham, which is respectful, not scurrilous, and indicates the mannerism of macaroni hair with its long tail andhigh toupee at the front.

Apart from the towering source of the annotated Letters, the Lewis Walpole Library is perhaps the most fruitful space in which to study macaroni materials.  It is an invaluable source for studying unseparated macaroni prints in the editions published by the Darly’s, many hand coloured, which were interwoven with other topical themes and jokes. Walpole’s personal scrapbook of 280 etchings, prints and drawings assembled by him between 1776 and 1782 includes an undated sketch, likely by Bunbury, in which a finely dressed macaroni is tailed by a child beggar.[x]

drawing on dark orange paper of a man facing right with a child behind holding out a cap

(‘THIS CLUB was instituted and kept at ALMACKS and called the MACCARONI [sic] society’, pen and ink drawing on tracing paper, in ‘Etchings by Henry William Bunbury, Esq. and After His Designs’; album collected by Horace Walpole, 2 vol. fol. 49/3563./v.1.2, at p. 2. LLWL 765 0 85dr. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University)

Bunbury, or another hand, noted beneath the sketch: ‘THIS CLUB was instituted and kept at ALMACKS and called the MACCARONI [sic] society.’[xi] Walpole linked Almack’s with the macaroni several other times in his correspondence; there were ‘Macaronis lolling out of windows at Almack’s like carpets to be dusted’.[xii] Furthermore, The Macaroni and Theatrical Magazine also referred to Almack’s, describing: ‘a compound dish of vermicelli and other pastes, which, unknown in England until then, was imported by our Connoscenti [sic] in eating, as an improvement to their subscription table at Almack’s’.[xiii] Walpole’s description of the macaroni club was designed to amuse his correspondents who were familiar with the ambience of these Whig establishments, notorious for gaming, feasting and carousing. The Edwardian biographer of the macaroni Walter Stanhope noted that macaroni was ‘always placed on the table at their dinners’; he had access to his papers but did not otherwise note the source of this claim.[xiv]  Almacks was later known as the ‘Scavoir Vivre’, an expression which occurs in comic journals of the period that include macaroni men.[xv]

References to macaroni in terms of luxury, fashion or folly, can be found in letters dated 1772 and 1773, and the connection in Walpole’s mind with the extravagant Whig circle around Charles James Fox was confirmed in July 1773. The macaroni became metaphor for problems with the currency and a general draining of the economy:

Ireland is drained and has not a shilling. The explosion of the Scotch banks has reduced them almost as low, and sunk their flourishing manufactures to low water ebb. The Maccaronis [sic] are at their ne plus ultra: Charles Fox is already so like Julius Caesar, that he owes an hundred thousand pounds… What is England now? – A sink of Indian wealth, filled by nabobs and emptied by Maccaronis! A senate sold and despised! A country over-run by horse-races! A gaming, robbing, wrangling, railing nation, without principles, genius, character or allies; the over-grown shadow of what it was!.[xvi]

Etching of a full figure of a man facing front with tents and a palm tree behind

(Unknown, Robert, Lord Clive Baron de Plassey Chevalier de l’order du Bain, vainqueur de la fameuse journée de plassey, et cidevant Gouverneur général de tous les établissements de la Compagnie angloise aux judes orientales. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University)

Walpole, as usual, exaggerated; he continued; ‘Lord bless me, I run on like a political barber – I must go back to my shop…’[xvii] An example of the Oriental richness and luxury that Walpole refers to may be seen in the engraving Robert Clive, Lord Clive Baron de Plassey… Gouverneur général de tour les établissements de la Compagnie angloise aux judes orientales. This plate is a good example of the incredibly varied and rich collection of loose prints, possibly once clipped from another source, acquired by W S Lewis from dealers in London, New York and elsewhere. Clive of India’s rich court dress matches the elaborate rococo frame, suggesting general richness and luxury with a palm tree and campaign tents indicating the foreign location.

Walpole enjoyed speckling his correspondence with the new term; even the Summer arrives  ‘à la Maccaroni three months too late’.[xviii] A decade later, in 1777 in his copy of Mason’s Heroic Epistle, Walpole mocked the word macaroni, stating that its very novelty was a symbol of what we might now call the fashion system:

Maccaroni is synonimous [sic] to Beau, Fop, Cox-comb, Petit Maître, &c. for Fashion having no foundation in Sense, or in the flower of sense, Taste, deals in forms & names, by altering which it thinks it invents. Maccaroni was a name adopted by or given to the young Men of fashion who returned from their Travels in the present reign, and is supposed to have been derived from the Italian paste of that denomination… The Chiefs of the Maccaronis [sic] became known beyond the limits of their fantastic Dominion by their excessive gaming…[xix]

Walpole very much liked attending and observing the behaviour at masquerade balls. The masquerade is central to the story of macaroni men – and women.  The masquerade complicated the visual logic of dress; it was a real and a fictive event at the same time, at which participants might wear ‘costume’ – imagined or fancy dress – or ‘real’ costume, that is, high fashion, that nonetheless might be suitable only for the space of this event.  Fashion here filled a theatrical role that in turn spilled over into the street if such clothes were worn in other settings. As Mrs Delany, writing to Mrs Port in March 1775 noted: ‘Nothing is talked of now so much as the ladies’ enormous dresses, more suited to the stage or a masquerade than for any civil or sober societies… It would be some consolation if their manners did not too much correspond with the lightness of their dress’.[xx] Writing to Sir William Hamilton, Walpole noted:

If you were to come over, you would find us a general masquerade.  The Macaronies, not content with producing new fashions every day – and who are great reformers, are going to restore the Vandyck dress, in concert with the Macaronesses – As my thighs would not make a figure in breeches from my navel to my instep, I shall wait till the dress of the Druids is revived, which will be more suitable to my age.[xxi]

Many engravings of masquerade scenes indicate that as well as wearing dominoes and fancy dress, many men attended masquerades wearing their own fashionable clothing. Thus, rather than wearing costume, they went as ‘themselves’. This is generally how they were caricatured, rather than appearing in a domino or fancy dress.

Colored Mezzotint showing men and women seated around a table

(William Humphrey, print-maker, The Pantheon in Oxford Street, Edwards delint.; Humphry fecit.[London], Printed for R. Eynon, near the Royal Exchange, Publish’d according to act of Parliament, Jany. 20, 1772, mezzotint. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University).

Pronunciation is also a part of the ‘lost history’ of fashion. The perceptive Walpole wrote to Horace Mann of it thus: ‘Not only the fashions in dress and manners change, but the ways of thinking, nay, of speaking an pronouncing [sic]’[xxii] Plays, joke books and ditties indicate some of the affectations of the macaroni: cowcumber (cucumber), Jarsey (Jersey), charrit (chariot), gould (gold), bal-cõny (bãl-cony) and Lunnon (London).[xxiii] Walpole understood that fashion is a type of constellation of behaviours criss-crossing the clothing itself, the body envelope or posture, gesture, speech and also confidence – or not. He could be arch about figures such as David Garrick (at one stage his rural neighbour) being not quite up to his standards (even though Garrick had the most stylish furnishings and interior by Chippendale) and had a keen eye for the appearance of young men. I gain the sense that Walpole, the ‘voluptuary of gossip’, was fonder and gentler in his descriptions of men’s fashion than women’s. He was very interested in dress, collecting materials and commencing a type of antiquarian study of it. His views on the fashion of men would also have been informed by his awareness of the medieval literary tradition of the folly but also charm of young men’s fashions and the earlier classical traditions. But a complete study of Walpole’s attitude to dress fashions is yet to be written.

Decoding caricatures in the past required a forensic and patient mind. Many women were involved with this work. In 1905 ‘George Paston’, actually Miss Emily Morse Symonds, an unmarried feminist (who also wrote on the eighteenth-century flower artist Mrs Delaney) included a lengthy and perceptive discussion on the topic of the macaroni in her Social Caricature in the Eighteenth Century.[xxiv] This, along with M. Dorothy George’s detailed catalogue of the holdings of the British Museum, as well as George’s richly-illustrated social history studies of Georgian life, provided the main references to the macaroni until historians of dress and costume began to take some interest in them in the 1970s and 1980s.[xxv]  Dorothy George was married to an artist, and she worked for British Intelligence in World War I. Her particular and meticulous approach to her cataloguing of the prints was therefore well matched with her previous career.[xxvi] Parts of her work find a mirror in the role of the major Horace Walpole collector, Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis, in being made Chief of the Central Intelligence Division in Washington during World War II, setting up a ‘pre-computer’ cross-referencing system for the CIA. As George Haggerty notes, it is startling to think that the way in which governments gather information about people and places emerged from nascent eighteenth-century print studies.[xxvii] Next time we look at a fashion caricature, we are also looking at an artefact that not only created the taste for biting cartoons and satires in our press and on our smartphones, but helped shape classification and judgments that still reverberate today.

 The Lewis Walpole Library provided a haven for my macaroni research over the past twenty years. From the facilities of a converted squash court to the elegant purpose-built library, the institution has always been remarkable in my view for the connection of an extraordinary collection or printed and other materials – W S Lewis’s ‘train to the eighteenth century’ to its idyllic country town setting, a specialist library peopled by friendly, expert professionals. I remember the groundsman driving me in his pick-up truck from a bus stop at a fixed time near West Hartford around 1995, bemused taxi drivers who had never met an Australian – let alone one without a car in this well-to-do area – and the noise of the old porch door grating on the pavers in the Root House (the scholar’s residence, now renovated and very smart). At that time the visiting researchers used the pink monogrammed towels from Mrs Lewis’ vast linen closet and drank coffee from one of her potted services. Gloves were not necessary in the library (as Mr Lewis had specified) and there was often a lunchtime nap in the summer heat for the researchers after croquet. They were different times. But the Lewis Walpole Library retains its extraordinary collections, its bucolic air and many of the same staff still work there. I am grateful to them all.

Peter McNeil’s Pretty Gentlemen’: Macaroni Men and the Eighteenth-Century Fashion World is published with Yale University Press in 2018. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Lewis Walpole Library in 2007-8. His first visit there was undertaken around 1997.

[i] Here F.J.B. Watson’s work on Thomas Patch is relevant. The LWL holds special printings and annotated extra-illustrated copies of his articles sent to W.S. Lewis. LWL Quarto 75 P27 S940 Extra Ill.

[ii] Cit. in Trevelyan, Early History of Charles James Fox, 483-484.

[iii] Sheila O’Connell, The Popular Print in England 1550-1850 (London: British Museum, 1999), 132.

[iv] London Magazine, cited in O’Quinn, Staging Governance, 67.

[v] Walpole to Lord Hertford, 8 June 1764, Lewis, Correspondence, vol. 38, 401.

[vi] Walpole to Lord Hertford, 25 Nov 1764, Lewis, Correspondence, vol. 38, 470.

[vii] Walpole to the Countess of Upper Ossory, 19 Feb 1774, Lewis, Correspondence, vol. 32, 191.

[viii] Walpole to Rev. William Mason, 3 September 1773, Lewis, Correspondence, vol. 28, 105.

[ix] 9 August 1773, Lewis, Correspondence, vol. 32, 136.

[x] Etchings by Henry William Bunbury, Esq. and After His Designs: Horace Walpole’s scrapbook collection of 280 etchings, prints and drawings in the Lewis Walpole Library’, 2 vol. fol. 49/3563./v.1.2, at p. 2], prepared by Walpole c1776-1782 LLWL 765 0 85dr.). The Walpole Bunbury album includes St James’s Macaroni (BM 4712); The Fish-Street Macaroni (BM 4713); The Houndsditch Macaroni (BM 4715); The Full-Blown Macaroni (BM 4714) and The Sleepy Macaroni (BM 4649).

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Walpole to Lord Harcourt, 27 July 1773, Lewis, Correspondence, vol. 35, 458.

[xiii] Cited in Stephens and Hawkins, Catalogue, 826.

[xiv]  A.M.W. Stirling, Annals of a Yorkshire House from the Papers of a Macaroni & his Kindred. 2 vols. (London: John Lane, 1911), 323.

[xv] Bon Ton, November 1791, 357.

[xvi] Walpole to Horace Mann, 13 July 1773, Lewis Correspondence, vol. 23, 498-499.

[xvii] Walpole to Horace Mann, 13 July 1773, Lewis, Correspondence, vol. 23, 499.

[xviii] Walpole to the Countess of Upper Ossory, 29 September 1777, Lewis, Correspondence, vol. 32, 382.

[xix] Paget Toynbee (ed), Satirical Poems Published anonymously by William Mason with Notes by Horace Walpole, now first printed from his manuscript (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), 69-70; see also Lewis, Correspondence, vol. 10, 139, note 11.

[xx] Paston, Social Caricature, 22.

[xxi] Walpole to Sir William Hamilton, 22 February 1774, in Lewis, Correspndence, vol. 35, 419.

[xxii] LWL card. cat., typed and dated 30 March 1949.

[xxiii] Stirling, Annals, 322.

[xxiv] George Paston [pseudonym of Miss E. M. Symonds], Social Caricature in the Eighteenth Century (London: Methuen and Co., 1905).

[xxv] M. Dorothy George, London Life in the Eighteenth Century (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966 [1925]); England in Johnson’s Day (London: Methuen and Co. 1928); Hogarth to Cruikshank: Social Change in Graphical Satire (London: Allen Lane/Penguin Press, 1967).

[xxvi] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[xxvii] George E. Haggerty, ‘Walpoliana’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 34, no. 2 (2001): 232-233.

28. Choice 17: Walpole’s Last Letter to Lady Ossory

28. Choice 17: Walpole’s Last Letter to Lady Ossory

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“Walpole’s first letter to Lady Ossory that has survived is dated Sept. 12, 1761, just before the coronation of George III when she was still the Duchess of Grafton. ‘If anything could make me amends, Madam, for not seeing the finest figure in the world walk at the Coronation,’ Walpole wrote, ‘it would be the letter and the découpure the I have received from your Grace: I will carry the latter to that ceremony, to prevent the handsomest peeresses from gaining any advantage in my eyes by an absence that I fear they are all wicked enough to enjoy.’  The découpure of herself and her Grafton  white silhouette on black background showing a lady facing left with a baby behind

baby daughter, who is tossing up a chubby arm behind her, is at Farmington. It was cut by Huber of Geneva, according to Walpole’s note on it, and is the runner-up in this Choice to Walpole’s last letter to her, which he dictated to Kirgate 15 January 1797, six weeks before he died.

“The letter that went through the post is not at Farmington; what I am saving is Kirgate’s copy of it on which Walpole wrote the date, the last line, and his signature, ‘O.’ 

January 15, 1797

“My dear madam,

     “You distress me infinitely by showing my idle notes, which I cannot conceive can amuse anybody. My old-fashioned breeding impels me every now and then to reply to the letters you honour me with writing, but in truth very unwillingly, for I seldom can have anything particular to say; I scarce go out of my own house, and then only to two or three very private places, where I see nobody that really knows anything, and what I learn comes from newspapers, that collect intelligence from coffee-houses; consequently what I neither believe nor report. At home I see only a few charitable elders, except about fourscore nephews and nieces of various ages, who are each brought to me about once a year, to stare at me as the Methusalem of the family, and they can only speak of their own cotemporaries, which interest me no more than if they talked of their dolls, or bats and balls. Must not the result of all this, Madam, make me a very entertaining correspondent? And can such letters be worth showing? or can I have any spirit when so old and reduced to dictate? Oh, my good Madam, dispense with me from such a task, and think how it must add to it to apprehend such letters being shown. Pray send me no more such laurels, which I desire no more than their leaves when decked with a scrap of tinsel, and stuck on Twelfth-cakes that lie on the shop-boards of pastry-cooks at Christmas: I shall be quite content with a sprig of rosemary thrown after me, when the parson of the parish commits my dust to dust. Till then, pray, Madam, accept the resignation of

                                                                                                        “Your ancient servant,                                                                                                     “O.

“Walpole’s letters to Lady Ossory outnumber all others except those to Mann. There are 450 of them and they are the best, I think, he ever wrote. She was for him the ideal correspondent because, buried in the country with her kind but dull husband, she longed for news of the great world she had lost when divorced by Grafton for crim. con. with Ossory, and Walpole compassionately sent her the news in his most carefully composed and humourous style. If he kept her letters, they were returned to her on his death, as his will directed letters from living persons should be, but Vernon Smith couldn’t find them in 1848 when he brought out his edition of Walpole’s letters to her and I have found only one. While trying to identify Walpole’s letters at Farmington to and from unknown correspondents, I discovered one of a few lines in a large flowery hand that had been at Upton. Walpole (a paper-saver) wrote some notes for his Memoirs on the back of it and I filed it with them. That it was from Lady Ossory is proved by comparison with a letter of hers to George Selwyn in the Society of Antiquaries. Walpole’s use of her letter as scrap paper suggests that he did not keep her letters and that their destruction occurred more than a century before the fire in the muniment room at Euston, the Duke of Grafton’s house, where her letters would have gone on her death had they survived.”

Lewis then provides a biographical sketch of Lady Ossory, born Anne Liddell, married at eighteen to the Duke of Grafton with whom she had a daughter and two sons. Lewis recounts her estrangement from her husband and affair with Lord Ossory, to whom Walpole had commended her attention, her divorce from Grafton and exclusion from Court, and tells of the birth of her daughter Lady Anne Fitzpatrick and two further daughters and of her seclusion in the country. She died in 1804.

“Walpole sent her all the latest chit-chat, who was in, who out, who was marrying whom and how much was being settled on the young people, who was giving balls, who was dying. He amused her with accounts of the new books and plays, of Mr Herschel’s new planet, Captain Cook’s new islands, and Sir Joseph Banks’s new birds and beasts. He wrote verses for her and her youngest Ossory daughters. It can be imagined what Walpole’s letters meant to her. She showed them about and praised them to the skies. He scolded her for it; she would spoil everything by making him self-conscious. ‘You distress me infinitely by showing my idle notes,’ his last letter to her began, and there is no doubt he meant it. Posterity was in the back of his mind, but he didn’t want her talking about it. I think he was more in love with her than with any other woman in his life. In one of his early letters to her he might be thinking of her as a successor to the Grifona who had contributed to his education as a young man in Florence.

“Where, I wondered, were the originals of his letters? They were first printed in 1848, by Vernon Smith, Lord Lyveden, after which they vanished. . . .

“My first move was a failure. The current Lord Lyveden, the great-grandson of the letters’ first editor, was the most obvious person to approach, but no one, not even the Peerage, knew what had become of him. His sister did not answer my letter. the Peerage showed several collaterals and there was always Somerset House and its wills, but I had become skeptical of wills and collaterals as a means of finding missing family papers. Then English friends persuaded me to use the ‘Agony Column’ of the Times. I had heard that its ‘Personals,’ ‘Come home, I love you, Alice,’ really meant, ‘It is safe to land the opium at Hull on Tuesday, ‘ and believed that it was not the place for the Yale Walpole; but, No, I was assured, ‘everybody’ used the Personal Column.

“R. W. Chapman and Dudley Massey helped me with my advertisement: ‘HORACE WALPOLE. Mr W. S. Lewis, Brown’s Hotel, Dover Street, W.1., is anxious to secure information of the whereabouts of letters to and from Horace Walpole for use in the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence.’ This appeared for three consecutive days with prompt results. I heard from owners of old laces and second-hand Rolls-Royces; two young women offered their companionship. A lady in Belgrave Square wrote that she had hundreds of Walpole’s letters, but they turned out to be the printed volumes of the 1848 edition. I was about to cross off the Agony Column as another failure when this letter arrived:

“Bishop’s Lydeard House

“Taunton

“Aug. 4 1935

“Dear Sir,

“I notice an advertisement in The Times for correspondence of Horace Walpole. I have thirty years between him and his cousin Lady Ossory–these were all published by my grandfather the Rt Honble Vernon Smith, the first Lord Lyveden: so it is possible they may be of no use to you.

“Yrs faithfully,

“R. Vernon

“Lady Ossory was not Walpole’s cousin, but that was a small error. I called Mr Vernon on the telephone because we were sailing soon and there was no time for the gavotte of correspondence. Were these the originals of Wapole’s letters, I asked with the Belgrave Square lady in mind, or was he referring to the edition of them his grandfather published in 1848? These were the manuscripts, Vernon replied; at least they were written in ink on paper. That sounded like manuscript, all right. Might I go down that afternoon to see them? No, he was just about to have a week’s yachting at Cowes.”

Lewis recounts the later visit to the Vernons at Bishop’s Lydeard House and subsequent acquisition of the letters for a year. He brought the letters to America and had them repaired and photostated. Fifty of the letters, he discovered, were unpublished.

“On Lady Ossory’s death the letters went to her son by the Duke of Grafton, the little boy who pounded on her door and called for his mamma while she was with Lord Ossory. His son, the 5th Duke, turned them over to Vernon Smith, who published 400 of them. A generation saw the letters lying about unwanted in the library and took them. They had been copied by a clerk at Bentley’s for £16 (Mrs Vernon kindly gave me the Account of Publication and Sale of the book). The clerk’s heart was not in his work, for he overlooked fifty lettes. Thirty of them were written in 1778 when Walpole was at the height of his epistolary powers. We read of Dr Franklin and General Washington and the hatefulness of a war in which Englishmen fought Englishmen, but world events remain where they belong in an intimate correspondence, in the background. Of more concern to Walpole and Lady Ossory was the news brought to him one day when, as he was about to set off on a visit, the postman handed him a letter that told of the imminent death of Lord Ossory’s sister, Lady Holland. ‘It was,’ Walpole wrote Lady Ossory, ‘one of those moments in which nothing is left to us but resignation and silence. . . .Life seems to me as if we were dancing on a sunny plain on the edge of a gloomy forest when we pass in a moment from glare to gloom and darkness.’

“And a month later:

I have fallen into a taste that I never had in my life, that of music. The swan, you know, Madam, is drawing towards its end, when it thinks of warbling. . . . I am quite enchanted with Mr Gammon, the Duke of Grafton’s brother-in-law. It is the most melodious voice I ever heard. . . . I was strolling in the gardens [of Hampton Court] in the evening with my nieces, who joined Lady Schaub and Lady Fitzroy, and the former asked Mr Gammon to sing. His taste is equal to his voice, and his deep notes, the part I prefer, are calculated for the solemnity of Purcell’s music, and for what I love particularly, his mad songs and the songs of sailors. It was moonlight and late, and very hot, and the lofty façade of the palace, and the trimmed yews and canal, made me fancy myself of a party in Grammont’s time–so you don’t wonder that by the help of imagination I never passed an evening more deliciously. When by the aid of some historic vision and local circumstance I can romance myself into pleasure, I know nothing transports me so much. . . . I sometimes dream, that one day or another somebody will stroll about poor Strawberry and talk of Lady Ossory–but alas! I am no poet, and my castle is of paper, and my castle and my attachments and I shall soon vanish and be forgotten together!”

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 17: Walpole’s Last Letter to Lady Ossory” download or expand the link here:

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: