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

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

             

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

“Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat,

Frontispiece.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 6: Bentley’s Designs for Gray’s Poems download or expand the link here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Yale Correspondence vol. 14, 102.

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

[4] Yale Correspondence vol. 35, 359.

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

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

Bibliography

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

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

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

7. The Ladies Waldegrave (Lady Elizabeth Laura, Lady Charlotte Maria & Lady Anne Horatia, daughters to James late Earl of Waldegrave Knight of the Garter)

Choice 3: Walpole’s Mezzotint of The Ladies Waldegrave

[Lady Elizabeth Laura, Lady Charlotte Maria & Lady Anne Horatia, daughters to James late Earl of Waldegrave Knight of the Garter]

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

To begin his Choice 3 in Rescuing Horace Walpole, Lewis details Horace Walpole’s relationship with his brother Edward before turning his attention to Edward’s mistress and children.

“Edward had four children by his mistress, Dorothy Clement, who Horace said was ‘a milliner’s apprentice at Durham.’ The children were Laura, Maria, Edward, and Charlotte. They appear together in a most attractive conversation piece by Slaughter that is now in the Minneapolis Art Museum. When they were ill Uncle Horace took them to Strawberry Hill and looked after them, an instance of his ‘great disposition’ to Edward’s children. Laura married a Keppel who became Bishop of Exeter. Maria’s first husband was the second Earl Waldegrave; her second husband, whom she married secretly without her Uncle Horace’s approval, was George III’s younger brother, the Duke of Gloucester. Charlotte married the fifth Earl of Dysart. Walpole reported the death of the younger Edward to Horace Mann: ‘My brother has lost his son, and it is no misfortune, though he was but three and thirty, and had very good parts; but he was sunk into such a habit of drinking and gaming, that the first ruined his constitution, and the latter would have ruined his father.’

“Maria, the beauty of the family, was her Uncle Horace’s favorite. He boasted to Horace Mann of how he brought about her marriage to Lord Waldegrave who was twenty-one years her senior. ‘A month ago,’ Horace wrote, ‘I was told that he liked her. . . . I jumbled them together, and he has already proposed. For character and credit he is the first match in England–for beauty, I think she is. She has not a fault in her face or person, and the detail is charming. A warm complexion tending to brown, fine eyes, brown  hair, fine teeth, and infinite wit, and vivacity. . . . My brother has luckily been tractable, and left the whole management to me.’ A pastel of her, very beautiful in her coronation robes, has appeared since I wrote this chapter. It hangs in the center of the new library at Farmington next to her father. Horace’s affectionate concern for Maria extended to her three Waldegrave daughters, Elizabeth Laura who married her cousin the fourth Earl Waldegrave, Charlotte Maria, Duchess of Grafton, and Anna Horatia, who married her cousin Lord Hugh Seymour Conway after the death of her first betrothed, the Duke of Ancaster. These three are ‘The Ladies Waldegrave’ of Reynolds’s conversation piece that shows them sewing at their work table. The original picture is now in the National Gallery of Scotland; Reynolds’s bill for it, 300 guineas, is at Farmington and so is Walpole’s copy of Valentine Green’s mezzotint of it, a proof before letters. It is what I have chosen to save from all the objects relating to Edward and his family at Farmington. Walpole pasted it into his copy of the 1784 Description of Strawberry Hill saved in Choice 9. That copy was acquired in 1919 for £1650 by Sabin and Co. of Bond Street. They removed the mezzotint of The Ladies Waldegrave and held it for 2000 guineas because they said it is ‘the finest English mezzotint in existence.’ The book itself came to Farmington in 1927 at a greatly reduced figure. During the next eleven years I would stop in at Sabin’s to pay my wistful respects to the print. Its price wilted during the Depression and I was not surprised when on the day war was declared my cabled offer of $500 was promptly accepted. The beautiful print sailed safely through the newly laid German mine fields to Farmington where it hangs beside drawings of Strawberry Hill that were formerly with it in the book. Drawings of Charlotte, Horatia, and Elizabeth Laura are also at Farmington along with a lock of the latter’s hair, braided, in a gold case.”

Lewis moves on to address the other members of the family and their portraits and correspondence now at the Library.

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 3: Walpole’s Mezzotint of The Ladies Waldegrave download or expand the link here: 

N.B. The identity of the woman in the pastel portrait Lewis describes above has since been reassigned. It is now thought to be a portrait of Maria Walpole (1725?-1801) illegitimate daughter of Sir Robert Walpole, prime minister and his mistress Maria Skerrett; the daughter later became the wife of Colonel Charles Churchill.

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

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

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

The Fantasy

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

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

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

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

“How much time do you want?”

“At least a year.”

“A year!” His voice was terrible.

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

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

___________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography:

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

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

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

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

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