14. Two Books of Swan-Marks, on Vellum

Two Books of Swan-Marks, on Vellum

 page from 49 2601 v 1                          lwl swan marks vol 2 page 1

by Susan Odell Walker, Head of Public Services, The Lewis Walpole Library

Horace Walpole kept his most highly prized books in the “Glass Closet” in his library at Strawberry Hill. Among the books kept in that special case were “two books of swan-marks, on vellum: extremely rare” (Walpole, Description, 51). These books probably date to the sixteenth century, making them among the oldest in the Lewis Walpole Library’s collection. Neither volume bears any annotations by Walpole, and where Walpole himself obtained the books is unknown. They do not appear in the manuscript catalog of the Library, but Walpole makes of point of mentioning them in both of his editions of the Description of the Villa.

The volumes were sold at the 1842 sale of the contents of Strawberry Hill on day 6, lot 8, to Boone for £8.8.0 for Lord Derby of Knowsley Hall where they remained until they appeared at a Christie’s auction on the 19th October 1953, as lots 98-99. Maggs, the dealer who had prepared the Knowsley auction catalogs, bought the volumes for Lewis at the sale. They were among a couple of large groups of books Lewis acquired at the Knowsley Hall sales, and he resisted subsequent and repeated offers from another collector to buy these two volumes from him. A.R.A Hobson wrote in 1957 about the second volume’s binding, but the contents of both remain unexplored in any detail.binding LWL swan marks vol 2

As W.S. Lewis (1969, lviii) wrote about Walpole’s library, “In the Glass Closet and E were the books that he liked best, his manuscripts and drawings and English antiquities. They had the quality that he valued above all others in his reading: They inspired visions.” Among the treasured items kept in the Glass Closet were antiquarian and genealogical manuscripts, the kinds of materials that appealed to Walpole for their historical associations. The Swan Marks books represent links to the long English tradition of prominent individuals keeping and marking mute swans, a privilege granted by the crown. The Walpole family, like many in Norfolk and the Fens, kept swans in times past, and in the second volume on page 45, row 1, position 3, is a swan mark labeled “Wallpoole.” 
LWL Swan marks v 2 Wallpoole

While Walpole doesn’t mention keeping swans himself, any visions inspired by the swan mark books would have been supported by the prospect from his window at Strawberry Hill where “Swans. . . are continually in view” (Walpole, Correspondence, 25:532).

The marking of the bills of mute swans to signify ownership of those birds found in England’s waterways dates back centuries, and the marks were registered with the crown. Swan marks books, registers, or rolls record the unique markings and owners’ names for identification. The marks themselves would have been cut or branded (MacGregor, 49) into the upper bills of the swans owned by eligible persons. The tradition of “swan upping” and annual census continues today, led by the Queen’s Swan Warden, the Swan Warden of the Worshipful Company of Vintners and that of the Worshipful Company of Dyers, although the birds are now marked with a leg band instead of cuts in the beaks.

A summary of the laws pertaining to marking and owning of swans, corresponding to those appearing in A New Law-dictionary: Containing the Interpretation and Definition of Words and Terms Used in the Law, can be found at the beginning of the second volume of swan marks in the LWL collection:

“No person may have a Swan Mark except he have land to the yearly value of five marks, and unless it be by grant of the King or his officers lawfully authorised or by prescription. Stat 22 Ed 4 c6

LWL Swan marks vol 2 laws

“Swan (cygnus) is a Noble Bird of Game: and a person may prescribe to have game of Swans within his manor as well as a Warren or Park. 7 Rep. 17 18

“A Swan is a Bird Royal, and all white Swans not mark’d, which have gained their natural Liberty, and are Swimming in an Open and common River, may be seized to the use of the King by his Prerogative. But a Subject may have a Property in white Swans not mark’d; as any man may have such Swans in his private Waters into an open and Common River he may retake them: though it is otherwise if they have gained their natural Liberty and Swim in open Rivers–without such Pursuit. Game Law par. 2 p. 152

“Stealing Swans marked and pinion’d or unmarked if kept in a Mote, Pond, or private River and reduced to Tameness, is Felony. HPC 68

“He that steals the Eggs of Swans out of their nests, shall be imprison’d a year & Day, and fined at the King’s pleasure. 11 Hen 7 C17

“Swanherd The King’s Swanherd, magister de ductus cygnorum. Pat. 16 R. 2

“No Fowl can be a Stray, but a Swan. 4 Inst. 280.” (Swan Marks, v. 2)

These passages appear in later cursive script on laid paper bound in before and after the main body of the book (49 2601 vol. 2) which otherwise consists of 67 pages of swan mark designs in black ink within stylized drawings representing swan bills, vertically oriented. Names of owners, written in secretary hand, appear above the marks. 54 pages contain designs, appearing in three rows of five designs per page. The remainder of the pages show the bill drawings without marks, presumably awaiting later additions. A comparison of the marks and names on pages 26 and 27 of this volume correspond precisely to those in the swan mark book in the collection of the British Library (Harley 3405).

BL Harley 3405 ff. 18v-19

BL Harley 3405

LWL 49 2601 v 2 26-27

LWL 49 2601 vol. 2

The first, and smaller Walpole volume (49 2601 vol. 1) includes 30 pages of swan marks in black ink on orange-colored stylized drawings of bills, oriented horizontally, five to a page. There are four pages of manuscript waste bound at the front and back of the volume.

mss binding waste

The first page of swan marks in volume 1 begins with one labeled Rex and one Regina. Subsequent designs are labeled with the names of other notable owners, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Abbot of Waltham, and more, as well as secular individuals.

LWL swan marks vol 1 page 1 page spread LWL swan marks vol 1

A few of the relatively many extant examples of swan mark books are ones that can be found in collections of the British Library, The National Archives (UK), the Royal Society Archives, the Norfolk Record Office, the Bodleian Library, Chetham’s Library, and at the Society of Antiquaries of London. The Society of Antiquaries also holds N.F. Ticehurst’s archive on the history of swan marks.

Interest in books of swan marks and the tradition of swan upping predates Walpole and has continued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to today. Articles, observations, and inquiries about swan marks and swan upping in journals like  Archaeologia and Notes & Queries, as well as in local history publications, are now joined by web pages, blog posts, and images on Pinterest boards.

Bibliography

Bromehead, J.M. “Memoir on the Regulations Anciently Prescribed in Regard to Swans,” in Memoirs Illustrative of the History and Antiquities of the County and City of Lincoln: Communicated to the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Held at Lincoln, July, 1848, with a General Report of the Proceedings of the Meeting, and a Catalogue of the Museum Formed on that Occasion, Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 296-305. Lincolnshire: Office of the Institute, 1850.

Hobson, A.R.A. “Note 291. Bindings with the Device of a Pelican in its Piety.” Book Collector. Winter 1967. 16: 509-10.

Jacob, Giles, and John Holt. A New Law-Dictionary: Containing the Interpretation and Definition of Words and Terms Used in the Law …. London: Printed by H. Lintot (Assignee of Edward Sayer, Esq.), for R. Ware, A. Ward, J. and P. Knapton, 1744.

Lewis, Wilmarth Sheldon. “Horace Walpole’s Library.” In A Catalogue of Horace Walpole’s Library, by Allen T. Hazen. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969.

MacGregor Arthur. “Swan Rolls and beak markings. Husbandry, Exploitation and Regulation of Cygnus olor in England, c. 1100-1900”. Anthropozoologica, 22: 39-68.

Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.“Memoir on the Regulations Anciently Prescribed in regard to Swans.” In Memoirs Illustrative of the History and Antiquities of the County and City of Lincoln: Communicated to the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Held at Lincoln, July, 1848, with a General Report of the Proceedings of the Meeting, and a Catalogue of the Museum Formed on that Occasion, 296-310. Lincolnshire: Office of the Institute, 1850.

Walpole, Horace. A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole, Youngest Son of Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford, At Strawberry-hill, Near Twickenham: With an Inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Curiosities, &c. Strawberry Hill: Printed by Thomas Kirgate, 1774-[1786].

———. “Letter to Horace Mann, Thursday, 30 September 1784.” The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, edited by Wilmarth S. Lewis. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937-1983. 25.

11. Designs by Mr. R. Bentley, for Six Poems by Mr. T. Gray

Choice 6: Bentley’s Designs for Gray’s Poems

             

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“‘Short Notes’ records, ‘This year [1753] published a fine edition of poems by Mr T. Gray with prints from designs by Mr R. Bentley.’ He might have added that the fine edition had an ‘Explanation of the Prints’ by himself. A sample is:

“Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat,

Frontispiece.

 “The cat standing on the brim of the tub, and endeavouring to catch a gold fish. Two cariatides of a river god stopping his hears to her cries, and Destiny cutting the nine threads of life, are on each side. Above, is a cat’s head between two expiring lamps, and over that, two mouse-traps, between an mandarin-cat sitting before a Chinese pagoda, and angling for gold fish into a china jar; and another cat drawing up a net. At the bottom are mice enjoying themselves on the prospect of the cat’s death; a lyre and pallet.

“Walpole published the book through Robert Dodsley in London to help his two friends. In the absence of his correspondence with Dodsley about the book we don’t know the terms of its publication apart from Dodsley’s payment of £42 to Gray for the copyright of his poems. Designs of Mr R Bentley for Six Poems by Mr T. Gray finally appeared in 1753, a royal quarto of thirty-six pages so cut that it looks like a small folio. The price was high, half a guinea, the equivalent today of what–fifty dollars? Dr. Johnson in his chapter on Gray in Lives of the Poets annoyed the poet and his friends by saying that the poems were printed on one side of each leaf ‘That they might in some form or other make out a book,’ but Bentley’s Designs went through three editions in 1753 and four more from 1765 to 1789. In our own day it has been hailed as a landmark of English book illustration by Osbert Sitwell and Kenneth Clark who called it ‘the most graceful monument to the Gothic Rococo.’

“Both Bentley’s original drawings and Walpole’s copy of the printed book are at Farmington. I am saving the book of drawings. Walpole noted in it. ‘These are the original drawings by Mr Bentley from which Grignion and Müller engraved the plates. Hor. Walpole.’ He pasted the drawings where the prints were to be. His usual binding was plain calf, but he had this book bound in red morocco with elaborate gilt tooling, a beautiful book. William Beckford paid eight guineas for it in the Strawberry Hill sale through his bookseller, Bohn, as we know from their correspondence about the sale at Farmington. Bohn reported that the drawings are so like engravings he had to look pretty carefully to satisfy himself that they are not engravings, an uncertainty shared by all then and since. After the Beckford Sale in 1882 they went to the ardent Walpolian Laurence Currie and came to me from Maggs in 1933.

“The publication of the Designs did not proceed smoothly. Gray objected to numbering the stanzas and the numbers were removed; he insisted that ‘Mr’ be put before his and Bentley’s names for fear that their omission would make him appear as ‘a classic.’ Walpole saw no ‘affectation in leaving out the Mr before your names; it is a barbarous addition. . . . Without ranging myself among classics, I assure you, were I to print anything with my name, it should be plain Horace Walpole; Mr is one of the Gothicisms I abominate,’ but Gray insisted on having it. Although he disliked Walpole’s ‘Explanation of the Prints,’ he conceded, ‘If you think it necessary to print these explanations for the use of people that have no eyes, I could be glad they were a little altered.’ Gray, always the candid friend with Walpole, wrote that he, Gray, would ‘revise the press, for you know you can’t.’ He became seriously alarmed when Dodsley, to make the book look more for its money, had Eccardt’s portrait of Gray at Strawberry Hill engraved for the frontispiece. On hearing this the poet wrote Walpole, ‘Sure you are out of your wits! this I know, if you suffer my head to be printed, you infallibly will put me out of mine. I conjure you immediately to put a stop to any such design. Who is at the expense of engraving it I know not, but if it be Dodsley, I will make up the loss to him. The thing as it was, I know, will make me ridiculous enough, but to appear in proper person at the head of my works, consisting of half a dozen ballads in thirty pages, would be worse than the pillory. I do assure you, if I had received such a frontispiece without any warning, I believe it would have given me a palsy.’ The print appears in only a few copies, including Walpole’s own. He lettered ‘Thomas Gray’ neatly on it and below the print, ‘Eccardt pinx, Müller Inv. In the collection of Mr H. Walpole.’

“With the removal of Gray’s portrait the frontispiece became Bentley’s illustration for the ‘Elegy’ that shows the poet musing by the babbling brook. There has been some speculation on the poet’s identity, whether he was Gray, Richard West, or just anybody. Comparison of Bentley’s original drawing with Müller’s print of it shows that the musing figure was originally Gray, adenoids and all, and that Müller’s figure, in compliance with Gray’s wishes, is nobody in particular. Walpole’s annotations in his printed copy of the book point out Gray’s indebtedness in the poems to Richard III, As You Like It, La Bruyère, and the Spectator. Walpole also noted that the Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes belonged to himself and that the authority for Chancellor Hatton’s dancing in ‘A Long Story’ is found in Anthony Bacon’s papers, vol. I, p. 56. Walpole bound in an excellent sketch by Gray of Stoke House in A Long Story opposite Bentley’s drawing of it and when we put these two drawings beside Grignion’s engraving of Bentley’s drawing we have Stoke House from start to finish.”

Lewis continues the chapter by discussing the friendship between Gray and Walpole, including their experiences during their Grand Tour travels and afterwards, and their quarrels and reconciliations. He notes, “Bentley’s Designs for Gray’s Poemswas inspired by Walpole’s eagerness to help his friends who he believed were geniuses.”

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 6: Bentley’s Designs for Gray’s Poems download or expand the link here:

9. Walpole’s Three “Common Place Books,” Two “Books of Materials,” “Miscellany,” and Pocket Book

Choice 4: Walpole’s Three “Common Place Books,” Two “Books of Materials,” “Miscellany,” and Pocket Book

  

“These seven manuscripts are being saved on the generous principle that permits the rescue of an entire set and not just its first volume. If the Almighty objects, ‘This is going too far!’, I’ll choose the earliest one, for which Walpole wrote a title-page, ‘Verses, Stories, Characters, Letters, etc. etc. with some particular memoirs of a certain Parcel of People. 1740.’

“The three vellum-bound folio Common Place Books were left by Walpole to the Waldegrave family and stayed at Strawberry Hill. They were kept out of the 1842 sale, but were sold the following year to Richard Bentley the publisher (not to be confused with Gray’s and Walpole’s Bentley), along with the manuscripts I talk about in Choices 1 and 15. Grandfather Bentley sold back the Common Place Books in 1865 to the widow of the seventh Earl, Frances Lady Waldegrave, who restored the splendors of Strawberry by two later brilliant marriages and her own social gusto. In 1942 when I was in London on O.S.S. business the present Lord Waldegrave sold the three Common Place Books to me. During the flight home they were in jeopardy when the wheels of my plane were locked for what seemed quite a long time over Shannon. I see the crew now in their shirts, sweating with fright despite the cols, while we circled round and round the airport and they jabbed madly with long red spanners at the entrails of the plane that had been exposed beside my seat. Fortunately  they got the wheels down and so the ‘Verses, Stories, Characters, Letters, etc., etc.’ were saved, after all.

“The manuscript title-page of the second Common Place Book is ‘Poems and other Pieces by Horace Walpole youngest Son of Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford.’ The first poem, of 81 lines, is addressed ‘To the honorable Miss Lovelace/On the Death of Lord Lovelace/Her only Brother, 1736.’ Walpole later added a note, ‘The Author’s age was 18 at Cambridge.’

“Walpole transcribed all the verses on the right-hand pages of the second Common Place Book with glosses on the opposite pages that acknowledged their indebtedness to Dryden, Addison, Pope, Virgil, and Juvenal. The unprinted verses run to hundreds of lines. They are not in my Horace Walpole’s Fugitive Verses, 1931, owing to a lapse of Paget Toynbee’s customary generosity. I called on him at his house in Bucks whenever I was in England, taking with me my latest outstanding finds to show him. He looked at them with mixed feelings–pleasure for me, but regret that they would affect the value of his work. In 1927 we talked about my plans for an edition of Walpole’s Fugitive Verses. ‘Oh,” he said, ‘wouldn’t you like to look in there!‘ and pointed to a cabinet that had, he said, his copies of the unpublished verses from the second Common Place Book. It was not until 1942 when I acquired the books that I saw how much had been kept from me. Perhaps the most notable prose piece in it was Walpole’s ‘Speech in the House of Commons for an address to the King Jan’y 17th 1751,’ one of the few speeches he made during his twenty-six years in Parliament and the only one I know of in manuscript. The motion was carried 203 to 74. Prime Minister Pelham, Pitt, and Uncle Horace Walpole voting for it.

 

“Walpole labelled his third Common Place Book ‘Political Papers.’ They were printed in the weeklies Old England, The World, The Remembrances, The Protester. The ‘papers’ are written on the right-hand pages; opposite them are voluminous notes such as, ‘Mr Pitt’s fort [sic] was language. He dealt much in creation of words, such as Vicinage, Colonize, Whiggery, Desultoriness,’ a claim not confirmed by the Oxford English Dictionary, which gives earlier uses of all of them. The forthcoming Yale Edition of Walpole’s memoirs will be enriched by this Common Place Book.

                              

“In 1759 and 1771 Walpole began what he called ‘Books of Materials‘ in two green vellum quartos and in 1986 a ‘Miscellany’ in a small red morocco notebook with silver clasps. For nearly forty years he wrote up his visits to country houses, thoughts on Shakespeare, notes for a fifth volume of the Anecdotes of Painting in England, and much besides. The first note in 1759 is on the death of Prince George of Denmark taken from the Secret History of England; the final note in the Miscellany was written in the last year of Walpole’s life. It records that Murphy’s Portugal, 1795, raises the possibility that ‘the fine Gothic church of Batalha was guilt after a design by Stephen Stephenson, and Englishman’; Walpole kept his interest in ‘Gothic’ to the end. The Miscellany’s epigraph is from Cibber’s Apology and fits all the notebooks: ‘Such remaining scraps–as may not perhaps be worth the reader’s notice: but if they are such as tempt me to write them, why may not I hope that in this wide world there may be many an idle soul no wiser than myself who may be equally tempted to read them?’ Hands across the ages.

“My seventh notebook is small enough to be carried in a pocket. Walpole kept it from 1780 to 1783. Its notes range from A Discourse of Husbandrie used in Brabant and Flanders, 1650, to George Washington’s Royalist ancestors. Walpole thought so highly of one of his own bon mots in it, ‘Man is an Aurivorious Animal,’ that he included it among his ‘Detached Pieces’ in his posthumous Works.The history of this pocket notebook is lost until it re-emerged in the Red Cross Sale at Sotheby’s in 1917. Then it passed into the R.B. Adam library in Buffalo and when that library was sold in 1926 Dr Rosenbach bought it for me. The Walpole Press at Mount Vernon, New York, brought out a facsimile of it in 1927 with notes by me that foreshadow the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, which I began six years later.”

Elsewhere in this chapter, Lewis details various pieces contained in the manuscript volumes, recounts Walpole’s amiable friendships with young ladies and dismisses “a charge … that he was a homosexual,” and relates provenance information and acquisition anecdotes. The chapter concludes with the observation, “Missing Walpoliana may be anywhere.”

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 4: Walpole’s Three “Common Place Books,” Two “Books of Materials,” “Miscellany,” and Pocket Book download or expand the link here: 

8. J.H. Müntz’s designs for Dickie Bateman’s Grove House, Old Windsor

J.H. Müntz’s designs for Dickie Bateman’s Grove House, Old Windsormuntz drawings of r bateman's room

by Matthew Reeve, Associate Professor and Queen’s National Scholar, Department of Art History & Art Conservation, Queen’s University

In one of Horace Walpole’s clever commentaries on the new Gothic style, he described the transformation of Dickie Bateman’s villa at Old Windsor in two characteristically witty turns of phrase: “[I] converted Dicky Bateman from a Chinese to a Goth…I preached so effectively that every pagoda took the veil”; and that Bateman’s house had “changed its religion […] I converted it from Chinese to Gothic”. Walpole positions himself as a teacher and Bateman as a disciple whom he convinced to change his tastes from Chinoiserie (“the fashion of the instant”) to the Gothic, the style “of the elect”.[1]

“The elect” was not a socio-economic category, but a tongue-in-cheek reference to Walpole’s own circle of friends and associates and their shared Gothic idiom. Walpole’s allegory of stylistic change as national and religious conversion was based in part on the fact that he provided the conduit for two of his closest designers in the Strawberry Committee—Richard Bentley (1708-82) and Johann Heinrich Müntz (1727-98)—to design Gothic additions to the Priory. Rebuilt and expanded in the fashionable mode of Strawberry Hill and by its designers, from Walpole’s perspective at least, Bateman’s works at Old Windsor served to reinforce his role as arbiter of the Gothic taste and Strawberry Hill as its paradigm. Plans to renovate the house began in 1758, coinciding with Walpole’s visit in that year.[2]

The three drawings at the Lewis Walpole Library are for Bateman’s new dining room and are dated to 1761. They are now part of LWL Folio 75 M92 761, the Library’s stunning oversized portfolio of Müntz’s works. They are important testaments to Bateman’s architectural patronage and they provide vital visual testimony of the eighteenth-century history of the house of which precious little now survives.[3] Another part of the house is probably also preserved at the Lewis Walpole Library—Richard Bentley’s drawing of a cloister very likely relates to the original cloister at Old Windsor that connected the house to Müntz’s dining room (49 3585c). Although aspects of the ornament of the dining room is common to Müntz’s other drawings—particularly the screen of St Alban’s Abbey that he favoured—the octagonal form is unprecedented in Walpole’s oeuvre.

Walpole’s account of Bateman’s Old Windsor demands nuancing. Framing himself as the reigning doyen of the Gothic taste, he carefully sidelines Dicky Bateman, a senior man of taste, who in fact built some of the most significant statements of the Gothic and Chinese taste in the 1730s through 1750s at Shobdon Church and Court in Herefordshire, the early building works at Old Windsor, and in a series of garden and “interior design” commissions for aristocratic patrons. His role as an arbiter of the modern styles and of Chinoiserie in particular was celebrated in Robert Levrac-Tournières’s 1741 portrait (now Birmingham Art Gallery) and Walpole’s description of him as “the founder of the Sharadwagi [Chinese] style”.[4] A member of the homoerotic circle around Lord Hervey, Stephen Fox, and others, Bateman was a leading man of taste in London when Walpole returned from the Grand Tour and one of the models Walpole emulated in the early 1740s and 1750s. Emulation of Bateman undoubtedly informed Walpole’s thwarted attempt to acquire the White House at Old Windsor directly beside Bateman in 1746 (then owned by their mutual friend Sir Charles Hanbury Williams), prior to purchasing Strawberry Hill.[5] Old Windsor was, as Walpole hoped Strawberry Hill would be, a cause célèbre of London society from the 1730s through 1760s. But it was also a building that visitors understood to elide Bateman’s queer persona with the its fussy, hybrid style. Described as “fribble” or “fribblish”, the house was considered an architectural projection of the outrageously effeminate character Mr Fribble from David Garrick’s 1747 Miss in Her Teens, who was, in turn, apparently based on Bateman himself or on Walpole.[6]

[1] Yale Correspondence vol. 37, 359; Yale Correspondence vol. 10, 43.

[2] Yale Correspondence vol. 14, 102.

[3] The fullest account of the house is now Matthew M. Reeve, “Dickie Bateman and the Gothicization of Old Windsor: Architecture and Sexuality in the Circle of Horace Walpole”, Architectural History 56 (2013), 99-133.

[4] Yale Correspondence vol. 35, 359.

[5] Yale Correspondence vol. 9, 39 to Montagu 2 Aug 1746; T. Eustace Harwood, Windsor Old and New, 319–20.

[6] On the reception of Old Windsor, see Reeve, “Dickie Bateman”, 118-24.

Bibliography

Harwood, T. Eustace. Windsor Old and New, (London: 1929).

Lewis, W. S. (ed.). The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, 48 vols
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937–83).

Reeve, Matthew. “Dickie Bateman and the Gothicization of Old Windsor: Architecture and Sexuality in the Circle of Horace Walpole”, Architectural History 56 (2013), 99-133.

4. Fore-Edge Paintings in The Castle of Otranto

Strawberry Hill and The Castle of Otranto: Fore-Edge Paintings at the Lewis Walpole Library

Dale Townshend, Professor of Gothic Literature, Manchester Metropolitan University

One of the greatest privileges of researching at the Lewis Walpole Library must surely be the opportunity to work alongside staff who have such a deep knowledge of, and palpable passion for, the collections that they oversee. Indeed, how thrilled I was when, systematically working my way through the catalogue’s unmatched holdings in eighteenth-century editions of The Castle of Otranto (1765), the obliging and ever-helpful Library Services Assistant Kristen McDonald introduced me to a number of crucial items that would otherwise have escaped my attention: three luxury, apparently unique eighteenth-century editions of Walpole’s fiction that include fore-edge paintings—detailed, decorative scenes painted on the edge of the book opposite to the spine and gilded over so as to render them invisible when the book is closed. Rather like the ghosts that populate the volumes of Gothic fiction that arose in Otranto’s wake, fore-edge paintings are invisible to the uninitiated and unbelieving eye. Instead, they reveal themselves only when they are known to be there, and even then, only when they are looked at awry, the pages of the book bent or folded over by the reader so as to show up their secret, spectral inscriptions. In all likelihood added to bound editions of Otranto subsequent to purchase, these fore-edge paintings were expensive, luxury embellishments to copies of the text that were probably intended as collectors’ items or gifts. Together, all three images have been indispensible to my current research on the relationship between Gothic architecture and Gothic fiction, poetry, and drama in the period 1760 to 1840, particularly for the insight that they yield into the ways in which the late eighteenth century perceived the relationship between Walpole’s fiction and his home at Strawberry Hill: as Walpole in the guise of the translator William Marshal teasingly suggested in the Preface to the first edition of The Castle of Otranto, ‘the scene is undoubtedly laid in some real castle’ (viii), a detail that, following his disclosure of authorship a few months later, pointed readers directly to his own ‘little Gothic castle’ at Twickenham.

The earliest of these in the library’s holdings occurs in a copy of the third edition of The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story that was published by John Murray in London in 1769 (LWL Call Number 24 17 769). The image provides a visual interpretation of the dark, labyrinthine recesses beneath the eponymous Castle, the space through which Manfred pursues the imperiled heroine Isabella. With its vaulted ceilings and rounded, heavy columns, the architecture of the scene represents what the eighteenth century designated as ‘Saxon Gothic’, the early Gothic style that Thomas Warton in the second, revised edition of his influential Observations on the Fairy Queen of Spenser (1762) described as consisting of ‘round arches, round-headed windows, and round massy pillars, with a sort of regular capital and base’ (vol. 2, 186). As W. S. Lewis would observe in his seminal article ‘The Genesis of Strawberry Hill’ (1934), however, the subterraneous passages of Walpole’s text remain a ‘fiction’, textual details, that is, that are entirely without precedent or anchorage in the ‘real’ architecture of Strawberry Hill (90).

fore-edge painting with arches

By contrast, the fore-edge painting included in a copy of the fourth edition of The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story that was printed for J. Dodsley in London in 1782 (LWL Call Number: 24 17 782 Copy 3) is somewhat more determined in its attempts at tying the architecture of the fiction back to Walpole’s own home.

Fore-edge painting 3

Though it is not architecturally precise, the image approximates a view of Strawberry Hill as seen from the River Thames. While drawing a clear visual link between Otranto and the famed house of its author, this fore-edge painting also anticipates the claim that Walpole himself would advance in the Preface to the second edition of A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole (1784), namely that Strawberry Hill was, at once, ‘a very proper habitation of’ and ‘the scene that inspired’ the author of The Castle of Otranto (iv).

The third fore-edge painting in the Library’s holdings is to be found in a copy of the sixth edition of The Castle of Otranto that was published by Bodoni in Parma, Italy, for J. Edwards in 1791 (Call Number 24 17 791P Copy 15). On the one hand, the building depicted here appears not to be Strawberry Hill at all, but rather a whimsical, Revivalist Gothic fusion of ecclesiastical and castellated architectural details that recall a similar mixture of architectural styles and purposes in The Castle of Otranto. On the other, it may represent a version of Strawberry Hill as seen from the South, a building that, itself, was as much ecclesiastical as fortified, but opened up and flattened out, here, into a two-dimensional strip.

fore-edge painting looking like Strawberry Hill

When taken together, these images intensify the ruse with which Walpole in The Castle of Otranto was clearly engaged: not only the mystery concerning the text’s oneiric and purportedly ancient ‘Gothic’ origins, but also, as he put it in that famous letter from Strawberry Hill to William Cole in March 1765, the extent to which the architecture of the fiction included ‘some traits’ that would ‘put you in mind of this place’ (Correspondence, vol. 1, 88).

Bibliography

Lewis, W. S. ‘The Genesis of Strawberry Hill’, Metropolitan Museum Studies vol. 5,
no. 1 (August 1934): 57–92.

Lewis, W. S. (ed.). The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, 48 vols
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937–83).

Walpole, Horace. A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole, Youngest Son of
Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford, at Strawberry-Hill Near Twickenham, Middlesex. With an Inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Curiosities, &c (Strawberry-Hill: Printed by Thomas Kirgate, 1784).

Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (London: Thomas Lowndes, 1765).

Warton, Thomas. Observations on the Fairy Queen of Spenser, 2nd edition, 2 vols
(London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley; and J. Fletcher, Oxford).

2. Pedigree showing descent of Lord and Lady Pomfret from King Edward I, circa 1750

From a Gothic Villa to a Gothic Pineapple?

by Peter N. Lindfield, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Stirling

Horace Walpole (1717–97), son of Sir Robert Walpole, first Earl of Orford and Britain’s first ‘Prime Minister’, was a prolific Georgian letter writer, art historian, aesthetician and wholehearted supporter of what he termed ‘venerable barbarism’ (HW Corr. 20, 372)—Gothic design. Creating his own ancestral seat in the Gothic style from 1748, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, Walpole was at the forefront of a select antiquarian subset of the broader mid-Georgian movement to domesticate medieval architecture and architectural forms and to make them fit for polite Georgian society. The Lewis Walpole Library (LWL), given its peerless collection of Walpole’s printed and manuscript material, together with objects and furniture from Strawberry Hill, is a fundamental research library for anyone working upon Walpole, his villa, the Gothic Revival, and almost any aspect of eighteenth-century life that Walpole engaged with.

The LWL has numerous other cognate gems, not least the Pomfret Pedigree (Quarto 498 P77 MS) —a pedigree tracing the lineage of Henrietta Maria, Countess of Pomfret, and her husband, the Earl of Pomfret, back to the two wives of Edward I. Made in 1750 in the style of a richly illuminated manuscript, with a pineapple plant—a derivative of the family name—supporting their ancestors’ arms, the document illustrates how Gothic design was

interpreted and harnessed by competing Gothicists. Courtesy of this manuscript, which Walpole knew and wrote about to Sir Horace Mann on 1 September 1750 (HW Corr. 20, 180–81), the Countess emerges as an even more connoisseurial supporter of the medieval beyond the creation of a Gothic cabinet (c.1752–53) for the family seat at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire, and her London town house, Pomfret Castle, Arlington Street, London (1755–61) (Lindfield, 2014). The LWL collection is quite remarkable and replete with equally important manuscripts that propel our understanding and examination of Britain’s Georgian architectural, intellectual, social, and material past.

Bibliography

 MS

Farmington, Lewis Walpole Library, Quarto 498 P77 MS.

Secondary Sources

Lindfield, Peter N. ‘The Countess of Pomfret’s Gothic Revival Furniture’. The Georgian Group Journal XXII, 2014: 77–94.

Walpole, Horace. The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, edited by W.S. Lewis et al. 48 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1937–83.

1. Drawings and designs by Richd. Bentley, only son of Dr. Bentley, Master of Trinity-College, Cambridge

Choice 5*: Richard Bentley’s Drawings for Strawberry Hill

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

W.S. Lewis wrote Rescuing Horace Walpole in 1978, the result of a fantasy he described in the beginning of that book:

The Fantasy

Two years ago the Almighty called me into His office and said, ‘I am going to destroy every object in your house except one, and you have twenty minutes to choose it.”

I replied, “Lord, I don’t need twenty seconds. I’ll take Bentley’s Drawings and Designs for Strawberry Hill.”

The Almighty nodded solemnly. “For that answer you may save twenty-five more objects.” After a pause He added, “You seem a little dazed, but I know you’re not very good at arithmetic.” In a louder voice He explained, “Twenty-five and one make twenty-six, and what I’m telling you is you may save twenty-six objects.” He paused to see if I understood. Then he continued, “I don’t care what they are–books, manuscripts, pictures, furniture–anything you like.”

I managed to say, “Sir, I hope I may have more time to choose them.”

“How much time do you want?”

“At least a year.”

“A year!” His voice was terrible.

“I think, Sir, I can make the choices fairly quickly, but I would like to write them up as I go along.”

And that’s the end of the fantasy and the beginning of this book.

___________________

Lewis began his chapter on Richard Bentley’s Drawings for Strawberry Hill by reminding us that “This is the book that the Almighty agreed is the most important object in my house.” Lewis purchased the album of drawings in May,1926.

“The drawings are pasted in a calf-bound folio scrapbook with gray leaves. Walpole probably did the pasting himself; certainly he had the title-page printed at the Strawberry Hill Press, the sole copy known.”

“It is mentioned in the first Common Place Book…’I have a large book of [Bentley’s] drawings,’ Walpole wrote, ‘and his original designs for Mr Gray’s poems…. He drew the ceiling of the Library at Strawberry Hill, designed the lanthorn, staircase, north front, and most of the chimney-pieces there; and other ornaments.” Walpole annotated many of the drawings, stating if they were not executed; Bentley initialed a few and gave some dimensions. Thirty of the drawings are for Strawberry Hill, fifty are for other buildings and objects.” (p.53)

“Why do I value Bentley’s drawings and designs for Strawberry Hill so highly? It is because of their primary importance in the Gothic Revival and the light they throw on Walpole himself.” (p. 57)

Click here to read Lewis’s entire chapter on Richard Bentley’s Drawings for Strawberry Hill.

Mentioned in: first Common Place Book(49 2616 I)

Bibliography:

Bentley, Richard. Drawings and designs by Richd. Bentley, only son of Dr. Bentley, Master of Trinity-College, Cambridge. [Strawberry Hill, ca. 1760]

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

To see the cover, title page, “Fantasy” and “Problem” from Rescuing Horace Walpole, download or expand the link here: 

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called “Choice 5*: Richard Bentley’s Drawings for Strawberry Hill,” download or expand the link here: 

*Lewis explains in his preface, “The order in which the Choices of Rescuing Horace Walpole will appear follows Walpole’s life more or less chronologically and is not the order of my preference for them.” (p. 11)