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.

17. Choice 10: Walpole’s Copy of Anecdotes of Painting in England, 4 vols., Strawberry Hill 1762-71

17.Choice 10: Walpole’s Copy of Anecdotes of Painting in England, 4 vols., Strawberry Hill 1762-71

    Anecdotes of Painting title page

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“This, the most ambitious of Walpole’s works, was based on forty notebooks compiled by George Vertue, the engraver and antiquary (1684-1756), with a view to writing the first history of painting in England. Walpole records in ‘Short Notes’ and the ‘Journal of the Printing Office’ that he bought Vertue’s notebooks and drawings from Vertue’s widow in 1758 for £100 and that in 1759 he ‘began to look over the notebooks in order to compose the lives of English painters.’ The result was Anecdotes of Painting in England, with some Account of the principal Artists; And incidental Notes on other Arts; Collected by the late Mr George Vertue; And now digested and published from his original MSS, by Mr Horace Walpole4 vols. 1762-71. ‘Mr’ was no longer ‘a Gothic abomination’ as it was in Choice 5.

“Walpole’s Preface states that owing to the paucity of native-born geniuses, England ‘has not a single volume to show on the works of its painters. This very circumstance may with reason prejudice the reader against a work, the chief business of which must be to celebrate the arts of a country which has produced so few good artists. This objection is so striking, that instead of calling it The Lives of English Painters, I have simply given it the title of Anecdotes of Painting in England. The indefatigable pains of Mr. Vertue left nothing unexplored that could illuminate his subject, and collaterally led him to many particularities that are at least amusing: I call them no more, nor would I advise any man, who is not fond of curious trifles to take the pains of turning over these leaves.’ Walpole brought his work down to the end of George II’s reign in 1760. He included ‘other arts,’ ‘Statuaries, Carvers, Architects, and Medallists,’ and closed with an ‘Essay on Modern Gardening.’

“Over thirty of Vertue’s notebooks have been printed verb. et lit. by the English Walpole Society from the originals, which are now mostly in the British Library. The originals show that Walpole’s description of them, ‘indigested’ and ‘unreadable,’ is charitable–‘chaotic’ and ‘illiterate’ would not be unjust. The Anecdotes show that Walpole was a superb editor who brought order and style out of Vertue’s incoherence.”

Lewis uses Rembrandt as an example and quotes from both Vertue’s notebooks and Walpole’s subsequent footnote appearing in the Anecdotes. 

Lewis continues, “Besides making Vertue’s notes readable, Walpole added much new material and closed the gaps in Vertue’s account. ‘From the reign of Henry III Mr Vertue could discover no records relating to the arts for several reigns,’ Walpole wrote. ‘I shall endeavour to fill this hiatus by producing an almost entire chronologic series of paintings from that time to Henry VII when Mr Vertue’s notes recommence,’ and he did so in twenty-one pages.

Anecdotes of Painting page 17 with added image and ms notes

“The first two volumes of the Anecdotes appeared in 1762, the third volume and Catalogue of Engravers in 1763; the fourth volume was printed in 1771, but was held up until 1780 because Walpole didn’t want to offend Hogarth’s widow by his strictures on the artist’s ‘Sigismonda.’ (We shall come to ‘Sigismonda’ and Mrs Hogarth in Choice 23.) All five volumes were reprinted in 1825 and 1849. I hope one day that the Lewis Walpole Library will publish another edition that will make clear the contributions of both Vertue and Walpole to their pioneer history of painting in England.”

Lewis discusses Walpole’s visits to and notes about country houses, his Aedes Walpolianae catalog of his father’s collection at Houghton, and his interest in art exhibitions. Lewis then recounts his own acquisition of Walpole’s copy of the first edition of the Anecdotes from the collection at Knowsley, his interactions with the Librarian there, and the many other Walpolian items he purchased at the sales of Lord Derby’s library.

ownership inscriptions -- HW and Knowsley

“The fourth volume of the Anecdotes ends, as I have said, with Walpole’s essay ‘On Modern Gardening.’ It is another pioneer work that was reprinted in 1975 for the tenth time. The Walpole Printing Office of Mount Vernon, New York, brought out an edition of it in 1931 for Young Books, Inc., of New York for which my wife wrote a bibliography and I wrote a Preface. I explained the appearance of the ‘Essay on Modern Gardening’ in the Anecdotes by quoting Pope’s dictum, ‘Gardening is painting.’ To Walpole and his contemporaries gardening was no longer formal beds of herbs or ‘giants, animals, coats of arms and mottoes in yew, box and holly,’ but a large-scale enterprise that dealt with landscape. Woods and rocks and water were needed to ‘improve the view’ and create the ‘romantic’ garden on a scale commensurate with the owner’s magnificence.

On Modern Gardening chapter

“Modern taste, Walpole pointed out, dawned with Charles Bridgman, George II’s gardener, whose innovations included the destruction of walls for boundaries and the substitution of sunken ditches ‘that the common people called “Ha! Ha’s!”‘ Bridgman was followed by William Kent who, Walpole wrote, was ‘painter enough to taste the charms of landscape. . . . He leaped the fence and saw that all nature was a garden.’ The influence of the painters, especially Claude, Gaspart Poussin, and Salvator Rosa, was strong. ‘If we have the seed of a Claude or Gaspar amongst us,’ Walpole wrote, ‘he must come forth. If wood, water, groves, alleys, glades, can inspire poet or painter, this is the country, this is the age to inspire them.’ Walpole’s patriotism extended to England’s rocks and rills.

“The Journal of the Printing Office records that in 1785 the Press began to print the translation by the duc de Nivernais of Walpole’s ‘Essay on Modern Gardening’ in an edition of 400 copies, half of which were sent to the duke.”

Lewis concludes his Choice 10 with a quote from a note of gratitude written by a Richmond neighbor of Walpole’s for the gift of a different copy of the Anecdotes. The note ends this flattering assessment of Walpole: “‘His natural talents, his cheerfullness, the sallies of his imagination, the liveliness of his manner, the unexpected impression on the ear of those who hear and listen to him, comes on, like a shooting star, or, like Uriel, gliding on a sun beam. I never met him, but with pleasure, and never left him but with regret.'”

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 10: Walpole’s Copy of Anecdotes of Painting in England, 4 vols., Strawberry Hill 1762-71 download or expand the link here:

N.B. The copy discussed in this blog post is call number 49 2519 at the Lewis Walpole Library. It is extra-illustrated and has Walpole’s manuscript notes. Hazen explains the late appearance of volume 4, published some eleven years after the Catalogue of Engravers: “This final volume had been planned at least as early as 1763, since the Direction to the binder in the Catalogue of Engravers reads: ‘This volume should not be lettered as the fourth, but as a detached piece; another volume of the Painters being intended, which will complete the work.'” (Allen T. Hazen, A Bibliography of the Strawberry Hill Press. Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1973. p. 63.)

16. Walpole’s copy of Thomas Pennant’s “Of London” (1790)

16. Walpole’s copy of Thomas Pennant’s Of London (1790)

Title page from Walpole's copy of Thomas Pennant's "Of London"

By Stephen Clarke, Independent Scholar

Thomas Pennant (1726-98) was a naturalist, a traveller, and a writer. In addition to managing his family estate at Downing, near Holywell in North Wales, he wrote extensively on zoology, topography, and antiquities. His British Zoology led to his being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1767, while his travels in Britain resulted in his publishing two Tours of Scotland, and various accounts of his tours in England.

Walpole admired him, though he thought his works tended to be superficial, commenting that “he picks up his knowledge as he rides.” But he described him as honest and good-natured and even (“a credit to us antiquaries”) vivacious, and owned a number of his topographical works. One of these was a copy of Pennant’s Of London (1790), an anecdotal antiquarian tour of the capital. He wrote on the title page “With MSS. notes by Mr Horace Walpole,” and added some notes in ink to the text, but then provided seventeen further manuscript pages headed “Additional Notes,” which are bound in at the end of the book.

Some of the notes are purely factual, identifying names or supplying additional references, but mostly—particularly in the Additional Notes—they are anecdotal, supplementing Pennant’s text, providing information that might well otherwise have been lost. Walpole naturally expands factual information to anecdotal illustration, as in his note to Pennant’s mention of the vestments at Westminster Abbey: “three sumptuous copes are preserved in Westminster-abbey. I saw them worn by 3 Prebendaries at the funeral of George 2d. Some remain in a few other Cathedrals, as Durham &c.” Elsewhere, he provides stories that not merely illustrate the text, but provide historical background. For example, in discussing St James’s Park, Pennant mentions how King Charles II used to feed his ducks and play with his dogs amidst crowds of spectators. Walpole adds this story:

“He frequently conversed there very freely with a plain Country-Gentleman, of whom he one day inquired, what the people said of him. ‘why, answered the Gentleman, they say you waste half yr time sauntering here with yr hands in yr pockets.’ ‘well then, replied the King, the next time they say so, tell them, it is well I do, for if I did not keep my hands in my own pockets, I shoud have them in theirs.‘”

And Walpole adds this anecdote of longevity to Pennant’s account of Somerset House, in relation to the porter of Lady Henry Beauclerk:

“When his great Age was rumoured, many persons questioned him about ancient events, and particularly if he remembered the Revolution [1688]—he asked what that was? tho he had always lived in London—but having been at that time an underbutler in a private family not affected by the Change, it had not disturbed his laying the knives & forks for dinner, and he had not noticed the alteration of the Government.”

The pages of notes bound in at the end of the book are arranged by streets, and one of the pages is headed “Notices from my MSS. collections for anecdotes of the streets of London”, while the last two pages are devoted to London’s Clubs. These notes are not tied to Pennant’s text, but are used by Walpole to expand it. He records the ownership of houses and their histories, as of a property in Albemarle Street, “let to a Whig Club in 1764, called Wildman’s… After which it was as remarkable for a Club set up by Ladies of the first rank for both men & women & called, the Ladies Club, which tho grievously censured soon died of innocent insipidity”.

Page headed "Additional Notes," in manuscript from HW's copy of Pennant's Of London

An account headed “Cheapside” begins with a note of its displays of chintzes and oriental porcelain, but veers off to anecdotes of Queen Caroline visiting one of the India warehouses there, and then on to members of the Court attending theatrical events; and from there to the limited number of entertainments that ladies could attend unaccompanied, and then again on to Vauxhall and Ranelagh and London’s other pleasure gardens.

The interest of the notes lies in the way they fill out the historical record. Walpole aptly summarized his motive in annotation with this final note: “These slight notices may explain many passages in the poems & pamphlets of the Time, which without such a key might be very obscure or unintelligible; & to later times, if such trifling notes shoud happen to last, woud represent some striking manners of the Age.” But more than that, in their flow and variety and diversity they suggest something of Walpole as conversationalist, entertaining his company with an apparently boundless flow of anecdote.

15. Walpole’s Two Chief Copies of His “Description of Strawberry Hill,” Printed there in 1774 and 1784

15. Choices 8 and 9: Walpole’s Two Chief Copies of His Description of Strawberry Hill, Printed there in 1774 and 1784

                 Description of the Villa title page

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole Youngest Son of Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford, at Strawberry Hill near Twickenham, with an inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Curiosities, Etc. first appeared in 1774, a small quarto in an edition of 100 copies with six more on large paper, four of which are at Farmington, with ten of the smaller sizse. The second edition of 200 copies was printed in 1784, a large quarto with twenty-seven plates.

“The importance of the Description in Walpolian studies cannot be exaggerated. Choice 8 is Walpole’s copiously annotated copy of the first edition. His notes are on almost every page and there are fifty additional pages of drawings and text.

page of text heavily annotated in manuscript

“Most of the notes report objects acquired after 1774; nearly all of them were used in the 1784 edition. An exception tells how in the Little Library in the Cottage ‘three of the antique sepulchral earthen lamps and some of the vases on the mantel were broken in 1777 when an own fell down the chimney.’ Besides the scores of marginal notes in Choice 8 Walpole added ten pages that he printed in the 1784 edition. They include ‘Explanation of the different coats of arms about the house at Strawberry Hill.’ ‘Collections [56 of them] from which were purchased many of the Curiosities at Strawberry Hill,’ a ‘List of the books printed at Strawberry Hill,’ and a list of ‘Works of Genius at Strawberry Hill by Persons of rank and Gentlemen not Artists,’ that will appear in Choice 11.

Manuscript list of Works of Genius         Manuscript list of Principal Curiosities 

“There are also sixty-seven ‘Principal Curiosities’; among which were the silver bell designated by Benvenuto Cellini, ‘a bronze bust of Caligula with silver eyes at the beginning of his madness,’ ‘Callot’s Pocket Book’ which we met in choice 2, and a clock that the Description tells us was of ‘silver gilt, richly chased, engraved, and ornamented with fleurs des lys, little beads, etc. On the top sits a lion holding the arms of England, which are also on the sides. This was a present from Henry 8th to Anne Boleyn; and since, from Lady Elizabeth Germaine to Mr. Walpole. On the weights are the initial letters of Henry and Anne, within true lovers knots; at top, Dieu et mon Droit; at bottom The most happy.–One of the weights, agreeably to the indelicacy of that monarch’s gallantry, is in a shape very comfortable to the last motto.’ The clock, which is now at Windsor, has been a source of not altogether merriment since 1533. The drawing I value most in Choice 8 is Walpole’s own crude sketch, ‘Front of Strawberry hill to the garden as it was in 1747 before it was altered,’ the only view we have of it at that time.”

Walpole sketch of Strawberry Hill before and after

Lewis’s chapter, like the Descriptions themselves, covers the history of the house, its interiors and contents, and it provides details of graphic, printed, and manuscript additions to Walpole’s collection. Walpole, his friends, visitors, and subsequent writers are included. The chapter concludes with an account of the Strawberry Hill Sale of 1842.

“The Preface of the 1784 Description tells us that ‘. . . the following account of pictures and rarities is given with the view to their future dispersion . . . The several purchasers will find a history of their purchases; nor do the virtuosos dislike to refer to such a catalogue for authentic certificates of their curiosities. The following collection was made out of the spoils of many renowned cabinets; as Dr Mead’s, Lady Elizabeth Germaine’s, Lord Oxford’s, the Duchess of Portland’s, and of about forty more of celebrity. Such well attested descent is the genealogy of the objects vertu–not so noble as those of the peerage, but on a par with those of race-horses. It is all three, especially the pedigrees of peers and rarities, the line is often continued by many insignificant names,’ a classic description of ‘provenance,’ Walpole’s copies at Farmington of Lady Elizabeth Germain’s, Lord Oxford’s, and the Duchess of Portland’s sale catalogues, in which he noted his purchases and what he paid for them, illustrate the importance he gave ‘provenance.’ In the Duchess of Portland’s catalogue he pasted a four-page account of her that I printed for the Grolier Club in 1934.

“The fifty pages of drawings and manuscripts at the back of the ’74 copy I am saving begin with Sir Edward Walpole’s verses and drawings mentioned in Choice 3 and continue with sketches by Thomas Walpole, Horace’s favorite Wolterton cousin. There are caricatures of the Dukes of Cumberland and Newcastle by Walpole’s kinsman Lord Townshend, ‘the father of English caricature,’ and sketches by Lady Diana Beauclerk (whom we come to in Choice 11), by Mrs. Damer and other talented persons of quality. Finally, there is a printed title-page, the only one known, Catalogue of Pictures and Drawings in the Holbein-chamber at Strawberry Hill, wich is followed by plans that show where the pictures hung in the room.”

plan of the pictures on the chimney side of the Gallery at Strawberry Hill

Choice 9, Walpole’s extra-illustrated 1784 Description inlaid to elephant folio with his arms on the sides, was mentioned in Choice 4 because it contained the mezzotint of the Ladies Waldegrave. Choice 9 has two dozen water-color drawings of Strawberry by the ‘topographical’ artists who are at last coming into their own. Paul Sandby, Edward Edwards, J.C. Barrow, John Carter, William Pars, and J.H. Müntz.”

Sandby South Front of Strawberry Hill watercolor drawingBarrow View from Holbein Chamber watercolor drawing

“There are twenty-seven copies of the ’84 Description at Farmington.* The second in importance to Choice 9 is Richard Bull’s copy, which I owe to H.M. Hake who was then Director of the National Portrait Gallery. It was his friendly practice on visits to country houses for purposes of probate to report whatever he knew would interest me. Bull’s copy of the Description with two other books from Strawberry Hill turned up in Nottinghamshire, and thanks to Hake’s intervention the new owners were happy to let me have them.Decorated title page to Bull's copy of the Description

“Many of the drawings in Bull’s Description  are finer than those in Choice 9, for Bull employed John Carter, one of the best topographical artists. Carter’s own set of the drawings is at the Huntington; a few of them are in Choice 9.”

Carter's watercolor of the Library at Strawberry Hill

*As of autumn 2017, the LWL now holds 31 copies of the 1784 edition of the Description.

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

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choices 8 and 9: Walpole’s Two Chief Copies of His Description of Strawberry Hill, Printed there in 1774 and 1784 download or expand the link here:

N.B. Choice 8, Walpole’s heavily annotated 1774 edition bears the call number 49 2523 at the Lewis Walpole Library. It is sometimes referred to as the Spencer copy because it had been sold in 1919 for the Spencer Collection at the New York Public Library from which Lewis acquired it by exchange. It appears in A.T. Hazen’s Bibliography of the Strawberry Hill Press (1973 ed.) as no. 22, copy 3 and as catalogue number 2523 in A.T. Hazen’s Catalogue of Horace Walpole’s Library (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969). Choice 9, Walpole’s copiously extra-illustrated 1784 edition of the Description has the call number Folio 49 3892 and appears in Hazen, A.T. Bibliography of the Strawberry Hill Press (1973 ed.) as no. 30, copy 12 and as catalogue number 3582 in A.T. Hazen’s Catalogue of Horace Walpole’s Library (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969). The call number for the copy that belonged to Richard Bull is Folio 33 30 copy 11. It, too, appears in Hazen’s Bibliography and Catalogue. 

13. Journal of the Printing Office

Choice 7: The Journal of the Printing Office

                   

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“The Journal of the first private press in England is a small quarto bound in green vellum with gilt tooling, a very special notebook for a very special use. Walpole wrote his name and ‘1757’ on the inside cover. Below the date he added, ‘Archbishop Parker kept in his house a Painter, Engraver, and Printer,’ and pasted a cutting from the Craftsman of 20 February 1731, that describes the printing press set up in St James’s House for the entertainment of the Duke of Cumberland, aged ten. These were exalted precedents for his own press at Strawberry Hill, which was to become more celebrated than either of them. He also pasted before the first leaf of the journal an impression of Maittaire’s Annales Typographici, 1719, with the portraits of Gutenberg, Faust, Coster, Aldus, and Froben engraved by Houbraken. At the end are pasted business letters and bills relating to the press. Mrs. Damer took the Journal in 1797. It was sold in the first Waller Sale in 1921, edited by Paget Toynbee, and published by the Clarendon Press in 1923. I bought it in 1933 from Maggs. Among the twenty-six choices it ranks high.

                      

“Walpole set up his press to be independent of the London bookseller-publishers: he would print what he pleased in as many copies as he pleased and dispose of them as he saw fit, giving away most of them, but selling Gray’s Odes, Bentley’s edition of Lucan, and the Rev. Mr Hoyland’s Poems for the benefit of their authors. He also printed Joseph Spence’s Parallel of Magliabecci and Mr Hill, a tailor of Buckingham, to raise a little sum of money for the latter poor man. Six hundred copies were sold in a fortnight, and it was reprinted in London. ‘I am turned printer,’ he wrote Mann, ‘and have converted a little cottage here into a printing-office–My abbey is a perfect college or academy–I keep a painter in the house and a printer–not to mention Mr Bentley who is an academy himself. I send you two copies (one for Dr Cocchi) of a very honourable opening of my press–two amazing odes of Mr Gray–They are Greek, they are Pindaric, they are sublime–consequently I fear a little obscure–the second particularly by the confinement of the measure and the nature of prophetic vision is mysterious; I could not persuade him to add more notes; he says “whatever wants to be explained don’t deserve to be.”‘

“The opening of the Press was described to Chute: ‘On Monday next the Officina Arbuteana opens in form. The Stationers’ Company, that is Mr Dodsley, Mr Tonson, etc. are summoned to meet here on Sunday night. And with what do you think we open?    Cedite, Romani Impressores–with nothing under Graii Carmina. I found him in town last week: he had brought his two Odes to be printed. I snatched them out of Dodsley’s hands, and they are to be the first-fruits of my press.’ Two thousand copies of the Odes, ‘The Bard,’ and ‘Progress of Poesy,’ were printed by the Press and were published by Dodsley, who, as I have said, paid Gray £42 for the copyright.

“The Press had several printers before Thomas Kirgate arrived in 1765. He stayed to the end, becoming Walpole’s secretary as well, taking his dictation when he couldn’t write, and annotating his books in a hand so similar to Walpole’s that it has misled many since. We shall come to him frequently.

“The Press’s authors range from Lucan to Hannah More, whose ‘Bishop Bonner’s Ghost‘ closed its list of books in 1789. Among its other publications are letters of Edward VI, a translation by Bentley of Paul Hentzner’s Journey to England in 1598, the first appearance of Lord Herbert of Cherbury‘s autobiography, Count Gramont’s  Mémoires (discussed in Choice 18), and Charles Lord Whitworth’s Account of Russia . . . in . . . 1710. Fourteen of the Press’s thirty-four books are by Walpole himself; seven others have his Prefaces. Chief among his own books are A Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors2 vols, Fugitive Pieces in Verse and Prose, Anecdotes of Painting in England and A Catalogue of Engravers5 vols, in two editions. The Mysterious Mother, a tragedy, and A Description of Strawberry Hill in two editions. Walpole’s copies of the last three are in Choices of their own.

Lewis continues the chapter with details about Walpole’s own texts published at the Press, and introduces the Miscellaneous Antiquities, an occasional monographic series that ran to two numbers during Walpole’s lifetime.*

“The runner-up to the Journal in this Choice is Walpole’s collection of ‘Detached Pieces’ that he pasted into a quarto notebook with marbled paper covers. Its spine has a label, one of the Press’s rarest productions, ‘Loose Pieces Printed at Strawberry-Hill.’ on a fly-leaf Walpole wrote, ‘This book is unique as there is no other compleat Set of all the Pieces preserved. H.W.,’ but it lacks the title-page to Bentley’s Designs for Strawberry Hill. Walpole showed his affection for this collection by printing a special title-page for it. ‘A/Collection/of all the/Loose Pieces/printed at Strawberry Hill.’ This is followed by the south front of Strawberry after Paul Sandby and a print of Kirgate annotated by Walpole. I owe this supreme collection of ‘Detached Pieces’ to the good offices of John Carter and John Hayward who in 1952 encouraged its then owner, the Dowager Marchioness of Crewe, who had inherited it from her father Lord Rosebery, to let the collection go to Farmington. Their petition came at a time when repairs were needed in the owner’s bathroom and were effected by letting the Detached Pieces cross the Atlantic, and instance of domestic benefit conferred by a collector.”

Lewis’s then discusses not only other pieces printed by the Press, but also Allen T. Hazen’s Bibliography of the Strawberry Hill Press. Lewis concludes with a look at the subject of Thomas Kirgate, his complaints, and the reprints and extra-illustrated copies he produced for sale both before and after Walpole’s death.

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 7: The Journal of the Printing Office download or expand the link here:

*Lewis resumed the series in 1928, and the Lewis Walpole Library took it up again starting in 2004. Of particular interest for this post, the eighteenth volume is The Strawberry Hill Press & Its Printing House: An Account and an Iconography by Stephen Clarke. (New Haven, Conn.: The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University, 2011).

12. Horace Walpole and His Collection of Miniatures by Jean-Étienne Liotard

Horace Walpole and His Collection of Miniatures by Jean-Étienne Liotard

by Christine Rheo Brandner
PhD student, History of Art, Yale University

LWL Liotard self portrait miniature recto       LWL Liotard self portrait miniature verso

Jean-Étienne Liotard, Self-Portrait, c. 1765-67. Gouache on vellum, in a black wooden frame, 4.1 x 3.8 cm. Lewis Walpole Library, lwlpr33241a+b.
Roethlisberger and Loche, no. 445, ill. 656.

Among its many treasures, the Lewis Walpole Library houses a minute self-portrait of the Swiss artist Jean–Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) in gouache on vellum. The miniature originally belonged to Horace Walpole and was acquired by W.S. Lewis in 1954. The simple wooden frame was sealed on the reverse side with paper backing carrying an inscription in Walpole’s hand: “Liotard / by / Himself. / A / legacy / to/ Mr Horace Walpole / from Mrs M. Delany / 1788.” A later hand then added the following lines around the edges: “Purchased for me by Mr. Forster at Strawberry Hill. 10th May 1842. R. R. Preston.” The object underwent conservation in 2012; the paper backing was carefully removed and the glass and frame cleaned. The painting now appears wonderfully fresh and pristine.

Jean-Étienne Liotard, who is little known today, was famous throughout Europe during his lifetime for his exotic appearance. Born in Geneva and originally trained in Paris as a miniature painter, Liotard’s fortunes took a decisive turn in 1738 when he accepted an invitation by a group of English gentlemen, among them the Hon. William Ponsonby (Viscount Duncannon and later 2nd Earl of Bessborough) and John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, to accompany them on their grand tour to Constantinople. The young tourists eventually returned home, but Liotard decided to stay on and attached himself to the household of the British ambassador to the Sublime Porte Everard Fawkener. He soon became the favorite portrait painter for expatriate communities in the Ottoman capital. Liotard’s work included black and red chalk drawings on paper recording intimate scenes of Europeans in oriental dress, who adopted the customs of their host country by sitting cross legged on cushions and drinking coffee, as well as more imposing paintings, such as a life size oil portrait of Richard Pococke, pioneer archaeologist of the Middle East.

European travelers to the Levant commonly adopted local costumes, including caftans and turbans, but upon returning to Europe, they shaved their beards and shed their oriental dress. (Gullström et al., 187.) Not so Liotard, who had taken a liking to the loose Turkish garments and continued to wear them throughout the rest of his life. In 1743, when the artist arrived in Vienna, he caused an immediate sensation with his oriental robes, large fur hat, and the long beard he had grown according to local custom while in Moldova at the court of prince Constantin Mavrocordato. He attracted the attention of Empress Maria-Theresa and soon received prestigious commissions at the imperial court.

In 1748, Liotard traveled on to Paris where he exhibited his beard and costume at the opera in order to stimulate interest in his person, and thus to enhance his business as a portraitist. In fact, some of Liotard’s critics claimed that his success depended entirely on his sartorial performance rather than on his talents as a painter. Madame Pompadour, royal mistress and powerful patron of the arts, commissioned Liotard to paint her but was less than pleased with the artist’s unflattering depiction. According to J.A. Dulaure, author of a treatise on the history of facial hair, the marquise curtly rejected Liotard’s portrait with the words: “Votre barbe fait tout votre mérite.” (Roethlisberger and Loche, Sources, 102.) While the anecdote most likely belongs to the realm of fantasy, Liotard’s self–staging as peintre turc continued to create excitement wherever he went.

In 1753, Horace Walpole described Liotard’s arrival in England in a letter to Horace Mann, pointing out the artist’s exotic looks: “From having lived in Constantinople he wears a Turkish habit and a beard down to his girdle: this and his extravagant prices, which he has raised even beyond what he asked at Paris, will probably get him as much money as he covets for he is avaricious beyond imagination.” (Walpole, Correspondence, 20:362.) It was no coincidence that Walpole should take notice of the artist’s debut in London in 1753, for the association between the two men had begun the previous year, when Walpole commissioned two portraits from the artist while he was still working in Paris. Charles Churchill, Walpole’s brother-in-law, acted as an intermediary in the complex negotiations between Liotard and two of Walpole’s favorite French dramatists, Crébillon the Younger and Pierre de Marivaux. Both agreed to sit for Liotard, but in the end Crébillon refused to give up his portrait to Walpole unless he received a copy of the original. (Walpole, Correspondence, 20:324f.) Faced with the doubling of the already exorbitant fee of sixteen guineas demanded by Liotard for his work, Walpole grudgingly admitted defeat. The miniature of Marivaux, however, was personally delivered to Walpole by Liotard and safely deposited in the cabinet of rosewood that contained his collection of enamels and miniatures. (Walpole, Description, 56.) The miniature is lost today, but Walpole recounted the story of its delivery to Horace Mann, giving particular attention to his first impression of the portrait: “Marivaux’s picture […] gives one a very different idea from what one conceives of the author of Marianne, though it is reckoned extremely like: the countenance is a mixture of buffoon and villain.” (Walpole, Correspondence, 20:362.) This short description opens a small window into Walpole’s use of such miniatures; he apparently submitted them to close inspection in order to draw conclusions about the character of the models based on their physiognomic features.

His cabinet also contained a miniature of “Liotard the painter, in Turkish dress, in enamel, by himself; given to Mr. Walpole by his sister Lady Mary Churchill.” (Walpole Description, 60.) In a watercolor of the cabinet by John Carter, the miniature can be seen on the inside of the right door.

The Cabinet of Miniatures and Enamels [John Carter] (in Folio 33 30 copy 11)

John Carter, Disposition of the Miniatures in the Rosewood Cabinet in the Tribune, n.d. Watercolor, 32.6 x 27.5 cm, mounted. Lewis Walpole Library, LWL folio 33 30, copy 11, on fol. 161r.

It is unclear when the gift was made, but it is conceivable that Lady Mary purchased the miniature shortly after Liotard’s arrival in London. The enamel is inscribed on the back, identifying the artist and the date of creation: ‘‘Liotard / by Himself / 1753.’’ The portrait displays the exquisite finish Liotard was famous for, showing the artist in an oriental caftan of bright red silk, a white undergarment with embroidered flowers, wearing his usual red cap and sporting his trademark beard.

https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/421436/a-self-portrait

Jean-Étienne Liotard, Self-Portrait in Profile, 1753. Enamel, 6.1 x 4.6 cm. The Royal Collection, London, RCIN 421436. Roethlisberger and Loche, no. 262, ill. 391.

Miniature portraits were composite artifacts that were manufactured from a variety of materials such as diamonds and other precious stones; many were encased in a locket to enhance tactility and control visibility. Walpole’s rosewood cabinet was itself a hybrid object, not only because it emulated the precious setting of the miniatures it sheltered, but also because it housed his portraits of famous men, valued for the moral example they embodied, together with objects of sentimental value for the owner. Walpole’s description of the cabinet lists miniature portraits of his siblings and parents among the pieces on display, including “two lockets in the shape of hearts, with hair of Sir Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter, set with diamonds.” (Walpole, Description, 57.)

Enamel miniatures were intimate objects that could be held in one’s hands, and they were often worn on the body of their owners as jewelry. (Pointon, Miniature Portraits.) In order to facilitate the affective engagement with the depicted individual, the sitters were often represented en face so as to directly address the beholder. While the practice of the private exchange of miniatures and their visual display on the body continued throughout the eighteenth century, these small portraits were beginning to be cherished by collectors for their aesthetic rather than sentimental value. Unlike miniature objects of intense private significance, Liotard’s Self–Portrait of 1753 does not invite a passionate engagement or emotional reaction from the beholder. The stark profile standing out against a gleaming white background presents the artist as an object for the viewer’s detached reflection on the character and the merits of the sitter. Liotard’s features are foregrounded by a detailed depiction chosen to instill heightened interest in his exoticism. However, the exquisite finish of the enamel self–portrait also speaks to the technical ability of the artist and displays his skills and talent.

Today Liotard is best known for his larger portraits in pastel, but in the eighteenth century he was a celebrated miniaturist who employed a variety of techniques available at the time. Apart from enamel, Liotard also mastered the technique of gouache on vellum. His small self–portrait in the Lewis Walpole Library is painted in this traditional method that originally emerged from the workshops of book illuminators in the early sixteenth century; the English miniaturists Nicholas Hilliard (1547–1619), and Peter Oliver (ca. 1594–1647) were pioneers of this genre. In contrast to the polished appearance of enamel work, vellum gives a velvety finish more akin to Liotard’s preferred medium of pastel. In the Lewis Walpole Library self-portrait, a minute sheet of vellum measuring only 4.1 by 3.8 centimeters sits in a deep wooden frame and is protected by glass. The square shape of the object, despite its small dimensions, is thus reminiscent of the common format of a large size portrait. The artist shows himself with his distinct red bonnet, a loose blue caftan, and a yellow undershirt in keeping with his usual Turkish attire. The white ruffled collar, however, is part of the traditional dress of his hometown of Geneva. The most striking feature of the painting is denoted by its absence — Liotard portrays himself without a beard, a detail duly noted by Walpole in his Description: “In the glass case near the window: A small head in water–colours of Liotard, without his beard, by himself; a legacy from Mrs. Delany.” (Walpole Description, 94.) According to this entry, the miniature was in Walpole’s possession as early as 1784 when the Description was published. The statement on the back of the frame, however, mentions the year 1788, the date of Mary Delany’s death. It is therefore likely that Walpole only added the inscription to memorialize his dear friend after her passing.

The style of the miniature and the artist’s appearance closely correspond to a series of self–portraits painted around 1768 while Liotard was stationed at Geneva. (Roethlisberger and Loche, Sources, no. 440-444, ill. 647-651.) The most notable difference to the full size Geneva portraits, which represent the artist directly looking at the beholder, is the miniature’s profile view of the head. Just like the enamel in Walpole’s possession, the vellum portrait invites close observation of the artist’s distinctive features. In contrast to the enamel miniature with its convex surface extending towards the viewer, however, Liotard’s watercolor portrait produces a sense of distance even if studied in close proximity. Paradoxically, it is precisely this fundamental and insurmountable distance that produces an immediate effect of presence. The miniature offers a surprising experience for beholders who, in fact, loose all sense of scale, drawn in by the exquisitely rendered details of the face. Despite its minute size, it gives a lively impression of the artist’s character, the slight smile playing around his lips hinting at a stoic disposition obtained by a life of adventurous experiences. Liotard’s eye, focused on a distant object, speaks of a professional ethos that aims at representing nature as closely as possible.

It is quite conceivable, considering Liotard’s business acumen, that he painted a number of such small-scale self–portraits to have them available for his clients, many of whom would have cherished a likeness of the famous peintre turc. Mrs. Delany, the original owner of the miniature, described a visit to Liotard’s studio in 1772, in a letter dated April 11: “Here is Miss Foley come to carry me off to Lestart’s [sic], where she is to sit for her picture. Just returned, not quite satisfied. The picture is like, but not favourably so; another sitting I hope will improve it. Lestart is a great artist in his way, but not a portrait painter, in my poor opinion.” (Paston, Memoir, 208.) In her will from Februrary 22, 1778, Mrs. Delany bequeathed another of Liotard’s self–portraits to her friend and benefactor the Duchess of Portland, this one a pastel of apparently bigger dimensions because it was kept in a “large square shagreen case.” (Ibid., 483.) Surprisingly, despite her low opinion of Liotard as a portraitist, Mary Delany nevertheless possessed at least two of his self–portraits.

Walpole’s own assessment of Liotard’s merits as a portraitist shows a similar ambivalence towards the artist’s works. On the one hand Walpole clearly cherished and collected Liotard’s portraits for their detailed depiction of the sitters, but on the other hand he deemed them stiff and ‘‘too like to please those who sat to him.” (Walpole Anecdotes, vol. 4, 195.) The miniature self–portrait at the Lewis Walpole Library seems to confirm Walpole’s opinion: it shows the artist represented with unflinching realism, without an attempt to idealize or improve the features of his face according to preconceived notions of artistic greatness and male pride. It is the humble representation of an artist whose life and work continue to fascinate us today because he defied the norms of social conduct and artistic style of his time with an independence of mind that marks him as a figure of the Enlightenment, as well as of modernity.

Bibliography:

Coombs, Katherine, “Horace Walpole and the Collecting of Miniatures”, in Snodin, Michael, and Cynthia Roman (eds.), Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill, 182-199. Exhibition organized by the Lewis Walpole Library, the Yale Center for British Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. On view at the Yale Center for British Art from 15 Oct. 2009 – 3 Jan. 2010, and at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 6 March – 4 July 2010. (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 2010).

Gullström Beatrice, et al. (eds.), Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789), Exhibition organized by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and the National Galleries of Scotland. On view at the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh 4 July – 13 Sept. 2015, and at the Royal Academy, London 24 Oct. 2015 – 31 Jan. 2016. (London: The Royal Academy, 2015).

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

Paston, George, Mrs. Delany (Mary Granville, A Memoir 1700-1788. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. (London: Grant Richards, 1900).

Pointon Marcia, “‘Surrounded with Brilliants’: Miniature Portraits in Eighteenth-Century England”, in The Art Bulletin, vol. 83, no. 1 (March 2001), 48–71.

Roethlisberger, Marcel and Rene Loche, Liotard: Catalogue sources et cor- respondance, avec la collaboration de Bodo Hofstetter et de Hans Boeckh pour les miniatures. 2. vols. (Doornspijk: Davaco Publishers, 2008).

Walpole, Horace, A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole, Youngest Son of
Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford, at Strawberry-Hill Near Twickenham, Middlesex. With an Inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Curiosities, &c. (Strawberry-Hill: Printed by Thomas Kirgate, 1774).

Walpole Horace, Anecdotes of Painting in England, vol. 4. (London: J. Dodsley, 1782).

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: