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.