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

 

.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

24. Choice 14: Walpole’s Chattertoniana

24. Choice 14: Walpole’s Chattertoniana

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

page from Chatterton's poems with Walpole manuscript note

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

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

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

“Its variety appears in volume 39:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volume of Walpole's plays, showing their disbound state

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

49 1608 Tracts of George 3

49 1810 Theatre of Geo 3

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

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

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

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

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

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

Library at Strawberry Hill drawing by Edward Edwards

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

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

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

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

Cover of Lyson's Environs of London owned by Walpole             

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

First page of Walpole's manuscript notes from volume 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7]  11 May, 1786. The Morning Post.

[8] Tobin, The Duchess’s Shells, 55.

[9] 25 April 1786, The Morning Herald.

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

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

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

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

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

“‘of Benedict in the scene with Martin,

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

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

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

                       

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

18. Strawberry Hill Theatricals

18. Strawberry Hill Theatricals 

By Judith Hawley, Royal Holloway, University of London

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Folio 35 89B Copy 1]

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

[767 P69B R532 1788]

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

[Quarto 33 30 Copy 6]

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

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

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

Dramatis Personae

Sir John Loverule = Mr Mercer

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

Jobson = Mr North

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

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

Butler = Mr Campbell

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

Cook = Mr Burn

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

Coachman = Mr Berry

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

Lady Loverule = Mrs Burn

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

Nell = Miss A Berry

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

Lucy = Mrs Damer

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

Lettice = Lady Eliz. Cole

[Trimming in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

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

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

1818 v.5:6, p. 15

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

1818 v.5:6, p. 5

1818 v.5:6, p. 9

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

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

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

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

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

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