31. Choice 19: Cole’s Copy of “The Castle of Otranto”

Choice 19: Cole’s Copy of “The Castle of Otranto”

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“When in March 1925 I went to London on my first Walpolian trip Chauncey Tinker, who had also just begun to collect, asked me to get him a first edition of The Castle of Otranto. ‘Any copy will do–a nice one of course’ He paused, ‘and you may have the copy Walpole gave to William Cole.’ He picked on that one because Walpole’s two letters about how he wrote the book were written to Cole, his chief antiquarian correspondent.

“Maggs had a nice copy of the first Castle of Otranto, which I asked them to put with my books and to send Tink the next one they got. I justified this greediness by thinking, ‘Tink doesn’t collect Walpole  and I do.’ Fortunately, better behaviour saved me from what would have been an agonizing mistake, for on getting back to Farmington after giving the book to Tink I found a letter from Maggs that began, ‘We think you will be interested in a copy of The Castle of Otranto that has just come in. photo of a title pge of a book with manuscript notes in a neat printed handIt is the copy Walpole gave William Cole.’ Cole wrote his name and “1765” on the title-page and below Walpole’s pseudonym, ‘Onuphrio Muralto, Canon of the Church of St Nicholas at Otranto,’ he added, ‘Wrote by the honble Horace Walpole, Esq.’ He also transcribed Walpole’s two letters to him about writing the book. In the first one Walpole wrote, ‘If you will tell me how to send it, and are partial enough to me to read a profane work in the style of former centuries, I shall convey to you a little story-book, which I published some time ago, though not boldly with my own name, but it has succeeded so well, that I do not any longer entirely keep the secret: does the title, The Castle of Otranto, tempt you?’ Two weeks later Walpole added,

I had time to write but a short note with The Castle of Otranto, as your messenger called on me at four o’clock as I was going to dine abroad. Your partiality to me and Strawberry have I hope inclined you to excuse the wildness of the story. You will even have found some traits to put you in mind of this place. When you read of the picture quitting its panel, did not you recollect the portrait of Lord Falkland all in white in my gallery? Shall I even confess to you what was the origin of this romance? I waked one morning in the beginning of last June from a dream, of which all I could recover was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle (a very natural dream for a head filled like mine with Gothic story) and that on the uppermost bannister of a great staircase I saw a gigantic hand in armour. In the evening I sat down and began to write, without knowing in the least what I intended to say or relate. The work grew on my hands, and I grew fond of it—add that I was very glad to think of anything rather than politics—In short I was so engrossed with my tale, which I completed in less than two months, that one evening I wrote from the time I had drunk my tea, about six o’clock, till half an hour after one in the morning, when my hand and fingers were so weary, that I could not hold the pen to finish the sentence, but left Matilda and Isabella talking, in the middle of a paragraph. You will laugh at my earnestness, but if I have amused you by retracing with any fidelity the manners of ancient days, I am content, and give you leave to think me as idle as you please.

“This last was also addressed to us.

“Cole transcribed verses ‘To the honourable and ingenious Author of the Castle of Otranto,’ that had appeared in the St James’s Chronicle.

Thou sweet Enchanter! at whose nod
The aery train of phantoms rise:
Who dost but wave thy potent Rod,
And marble bleeds and canvas sighs.
By thee decoy’d, with curious Fear
We tread thy Castle’s dreary Round:
Though horrid all we see, and hear,
Thy Horrors charm, while they confound.
Full well hast thou persued the Road,
The magic Road thy master laid;
And hast, with grateful skill, bestow’d
An off’ring worthy of his shade.
Again his manners he may trace,
Again his characters may see,
In soft Matild, Miranda’s grace,
And his own Prospero in Thee.

“This must have given Walpole great pleasure, for he said in the preface to the second edition of the book that Shakespeare was his model and he championed Shakespeare against Voltaire.”

Lewis continues with commentary about the decline of Shakespeare’s reputation in the eighteenth century and Walpole’s freely borrowing from the bard in the Castle of Otranto.

“The easy runner-up in this Choice is John Carter’s water-color drawing that Walpole described in ‘More Additions’ to the ’84 Description, ‘Procession in the Castle of Otranto, in water-color by John Carter.’ Carter added to this in the copy of the Description that Walpole bequeathed him and that is now at Farmington, ‘Was paid for it 20 guineas.’ On the back of the drawing Carter wrote, ‘Entry of Frederic into the Castle of Otranto, John Carter, inv. and del., 1790’ and he showed it at the Royal Academy exhibition of that year. Walpole’s willingness to pay such a large sum for a water-color drawing proves his continuing affection for the book. He chose Carter to illustrate it because Carter was an antiquarian, the author of Specimens of the Ancient Sculpture and Painting now remaining in this Kingdom, 1786, which he dedicated to Walpole. He wrote, ‘[I] first found in you a Patron. Your kind encouragement gave wings to my ambition to continue their [the Specimens’] publication, and under your Auspices, and the Public’s generous Assistance, I have been able to bring to a Conclusion the first Volume: which with Gratitude and Respect I dedicate to you, as some acknowledgment for the great obligations conferr’d on, Sir, Your very much obliged and faithful humble Servant, John Carter. Nov. 1786.’ Its frontispiece, in which Edward the Third and his family attended by warriors, courtiers, etc., makes a regal entrance into a courtyard, foreshadows Frederic’s entry into the courtyard of Otranto,'”

Lewis quotes the passage from the Castle of Otranto in which Frederic’s entry is described.

“How to get all this on a sheet of 23 by 19 inches would have daunted a lesser Goth Watercolor drawing of a busy crowd scene of people in medieval dress surrounded by gothic buildingsthan Carter, but he managed it beautifully. Frederic’s retinue that has already arrived can be seen riding and marching into the distant parts of the castle that had been inspired by King’s College Chapel and an Eleanor Cross (Carter ignored Walpole’s hint in his second preface that the Castle was Strawberry Hill). Walking beside Frederic is his beadsman telling his beads; behind may be glimpsed the fifty footguards with drums and trumpets. Immediately in front of him are men (hardly a hundred) carrying the great sword, with Frederic in full armor, visor down, lance at rest, entering on a superbly caparisoned horse. Gazing at him from a dias across the courtyard is Manfred, the villain, understandably perturbed, with Isabella, Frederic’s daughter and the heroine of the tale, and Friar Jerome who is, I think, a portrait of Horace Walpole himself. Behind Manfred are the plumes of the giant helmet that crushed, no one knew how, Isabella’s betrothed, the fifteen-year-old sickly Conrad, Manfred’s only child. In the foreground, guarded by armed men with armor and weapons, is the castle’s orchestra playing away. It includes a blind harpist, a bearded man thumping Turkish tabors, another man with a tuba, and two graceful girls, scantily clad, one of whom is playing a two-horned instrument, the other striking a triangle. Above and beyond the gate and drawbridge are towers inspired by German castles. I haven’t begun to do justice to the drawing, but I hope I’ve suggested that it is the quintessence of the Gothic Revival and deserving of serious attention.

“It was bought at the Strawberry Hill sale by the Rev. Horace Cholmondeley and descended to his great-grandson, the late General Sir Henry Jackson, a Dorset neighbor of Owen Morshead who brought us together. General Jackson very kindly let me have not only the drawing, but one of Walpole’s copies of Watteau mentioned in Choice 3 and his annotated copy of McArdell’s print after Walpole’s portrait by Reynolds, which is Choice 26. The three pieces hang in our side hall and are a daily reminder of the General and Owen Morshead as well as of Horace Walpole, John Carter, and Watteau.”

Lewis quotes several contemporary and subsequent reviews of the Castle of Otranto.

“The continuing success of The Castle of Otranto is one of the phenomena of English literature. There have been ninety editions of it, fifteen of them in this century including a recent one of 50,000 copies in Russia. The first of seven American editions was published in New York in 1801; later nineteenth-century editions appeared in Philadelphia and Hartford; three editions have been published in France, two in Germany, four in Italy where Bodoni of Parma printed the finest in 1791. Walpole’s copies of it and of the handsome 1795 translation in London are at Farmington in morocco bindings worthy of them. Two of the five or six printed by Bodoni on vellum are also at Farmington.

“In my Introduction to the edition published by the Oxford University Press in 1964 I quoted, as commentators on the Castle of Otranto always do, Walter Scott’s praise of the book in his 1811 edition. He called it ‘remarkable not only for the wild interest of the story, but as the first modern attempt to found a tale of amusing fiction upon the basis of the ancient romance of chivalry,’ and he conceded to Walpole the applause ‘which cannot be denied to him who can excite the passions of fear and of pity.’ I am struck by his speaking of ‘the wild interest of the story,’ for I confess, quite quietly here, I have never field any fear or pity in it; instead, I marvel how such a lucid and entertaining writer as Horace Walpole could have written so confused and clumsy a book. Gray’s and his friends’ delight in it came, I think from the novelty of the book’s setting, its pseudo-mediaeval speech, and its supernatural events. Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett had nothing like that. I am convinced by Henry James’s transitions to the supernatural, but I find Walpole’s ludicrous. Alfonso sighing and stepping out of his portrait is arresting, but when Manfred cries, ‘Lead on! I will follow thee to the gulph of Perdition,’ I do not yield to ‘the style of former centuries,’ but find Alfonso his own parody. Carter’s drawing, on the other hand, leads us into a magical courtyard with Horace Walpole as Friar Jerome watching us from the court and is welcomed by the Otranto heralds and orchestra. When Walpole was writing his letters he was talking easily to his correspondents, but when he wrote his novel he was being ‘literary.’ The Castle of Otranto must continue to be read by students as a landmark of English literature, yet it is not, I think, for others.

“The eighteenth century’s high regard for it is shown not only by the eighteen editions published then, but by contemporary illustrations of the story. There are thirty-four of them at Farmington bound in various copies of the book. Among them are two that suggest the artists failed to understand that Alfonso stepped off the canvas and down on the floor for they brought the whole picture down, frame and all. Much the best of these illustrations are four by Bertie Greatheed, aged fifteen, of Guy’s Cliff, Warwick. Walpole wrote his father,

Image of a manuscript letter in 18th century cursive hand

I have seen many drawings and prints made from my idle—I don’t know what to call it, novel or romance—not one of them approached to any one of your son’s four—a clear proof of which is, that not one of the rest satisfied the author’s ideas—It is as strictly, and upon my honour, true, that your son’s conception of some of the passions has improved them, and added more expression than I myself had formed in my own mind; for example, in the figure of the ghost in the chapel, to whose hollow sockets your son has given an air of reproachful anger, and to the whole turn of his person, dignity. Manfred in the last scene has an uncertain horror, that shows he has not yet had time to know what kind of agony he feels at what he has done. Such delineation of passions at so very youthful a period, or rather in boyhood, are indubitable indications of real genius, and cannot have issued from the instructions or corrections of a master.

“Was there any way, Walpole asked, in which he might secure the originals or copies of them? brown wash drawing of two men cringing away from a giant foot in a sandal above themThe rest of the correspondence is missing, but the drawings–which make one think of Blake–were bound by Walpole in his copy of Bodoni’s 1791 edition published in London by J. Edwards and are now at Farmington. These four drawings are far superior to the efforts of Greatheed’s older amateur contemporaries and we join Walpole in lamenting the early death of the outstanding amateur of his time.”

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

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called “Choice 19: Cole’s Copy of “The Castle of Otranto”” download or expand the link here:

N.B. a mini-conference focused on The Castle of Otranto was held at the Lewis Walpole Library on November 10, 2017 and the morning session and afternoon session are available on Yale’s YouTube channel.

28. Choice 17: Walpole’s Last Letter to Lady Ossory

28. Choice 17: Walpole’s Last Letter to Lady Ossory

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“Walpole’s first letter to Lady Ossory that has survived is dated Sept. 12, 1761, just before the coronation of George III when she was still the Duchess of Grafton. ‘If anything could make me amends, Madam, for not seeing the finest figure in the world walk at the Coronation,’ Walpole wrote, ‘it would be the letter and the découpure the I have received from your Grace: I will carry the latter to that ceremony, to prevent the handsomest peeresses from gaining any advantage in my eyes by an absence that I fear they are all wicked enough to enjoy.’  The découpure of herself and her Grafton  white silhouette on black background showing a lady facing left with a baby behind

baby daughter, who is tossing up a chubby arm behind her, is at Farmington. It was cut by Huber of Geneva, according to Walpole’s note on it, and is the runner-up in this Choice to Walpole’s last letter to her, which he dictated to Kirgate 15 January 1797, six weeks before he died.

“The letter that went through the post is not at Farmington; what I am saving is Kirgate’s copy of it on which Walpole wrote the date, the last line, and his signature, ‘O.’ 

January 15, 1797

“My dear madam,

     “You distress me infinitely by showing my idle notes, which I cannot conceive can amuse anybody. My old-fashioned breeding impels me every now and then to reply to the letters you honour me with writing, but in truth very unwillingly, for I seldom can have anything particular to say; I scarce go out of my own house, and then only to two or three very private places, where I see nobody that really knows anything, and what I learn comes from newspapers, that collect intelligence from coffee-houses; consequently what I neither believe nor report. At home I see only a few charitable elders, except about fourscore nephews and nieces of various ages, who are each brought to me about once a year, to stare at me as the Methusalem of the family, and they can only speak of their own cotemporaries, which interest me no more than if they talked of their dolls, or bats and balls. Must not the result of all this, Madam, make me a very entertaining correspondent? And can such letters be worth showing? or can I have any spirit when so old and reduced to dictate? Oh, my good Madam, dispense with me from such a task, and think how it must add to it to apprehend such letters being shown. Pray send me no more such laurels, which I desire no more than their leaves when decked with a scrap of tinsel, and stuck on Twelfth-cakes that lie on the shop-boards of pastry-cooks at Christmas: I shall be quite content with a sprig of rosemary thrown after me, when the parson of the parish commits my dust to dust. Till then, pray, Madam, accept the resignation of

                                                                                                        “Your ancient servant,                                                                                                     “O.

“Walpole’s letters to Lady Ossory outnumber all others except those to Mann. There are 450 of them and they are the best, I think, he ever wrote. She was for him the ideal correspondent because, buried in the country with her kind but dull husband, she longed for news of the great world she had lost when divorced by Grafton for crim. con. with Ossory, and Walpole compassionately sent her the news in his most carefully composed and humourous style. If he kept her letters, they were returned to her on his death, as his will directed letters from living persons should be, but Vernon Smith couldn’t find them in 1848 when he brought out his edition of Walpole’s letters to her and I have found only one. While trying to identify Walpole’s letters at Farmington to and from unknown correspondents, I discovered one of a few lines in a large flowery hand that had been at Upton. Walpole (a paper-saver) wrote some notes for his Memoirs on the back of it and I filed it with them. That it was from Lady Ossory is proved by comparison with a letter of hers to George Selwyn in the Society of Antiquaries. Walpole’s use of her letter as scrap paper suggests that he did not keep her letters and that their destruction occurred more than a century before the fire in the muniment room at Euston, the Duke of Grafton’s house, where her letters would have gone on her death had they survived.”

Lewis then provides a biographical sketch of Lady Ossory, born Anne Liddell, married at eighteen to the Duke of Grafton with whom she had a daughter and two sons. Lewis recounts her estrangement from her husband and affair with Lord Ossory, to whom Walpole had commended her attention, her divorce from Grafton and exclusion from Court, and tells of the birth of her daughter Lady Anne Fitzpatrick and two further daughters and of her seclusion in the country. She died in 1804.

“Walpole sent her all the latest chit-chat, who was in, who out, who was marrying whom and how much was being settled on the young people, who was giving balls, who was dying. He amused her with accounts of the new books and plays, of Mr Herschel’s new planet, Captain Cook’s new islands, and Sir Joseph Banks’s new birds and beasts. He wrote verses for her and her youngest Ossory daughters. It can be imagined what Walpole’s letters meant to her. She showed them about and praised them to the skies. He scolded her for it; she would spoil everything by making him self-conscious. ‘You distress me infinitely by showing my idle notes,’ his last letter to her began, and there is no doubt he meant it. Posterity was in the back of his mind, but he didn’t want her talking about it. I think he was more in love with her than with any other woman in his life. In one of his early letters to her he might be thinking of her as a successor to the Grifona who had contributed to his education as a young man in Florence.

“Where, I wondered, were the originals of his letters? They were first printed in 1848, by Vernon Smith, Lord Lyveden, after which they vanished. . . .

“My first move was a failure. The current Lord Lyveden, the great-grandson of the letters’ first editor, was the most obvious person to approach, but no one, not even the Peerage, knew what had become of him. His sister did not answer my letter. the Peerage showed several collaterals and there was always Somerset House and its wills, but I had become skeptical of wills and collaterals as a means of finding missing family papers. Then English friends persuaded me to use the ‘Agony Column’ of the Times. I had heard that its ‘Personals,’ ‘Come home, I love you, Alice,’ really meant, ‘It is safe to land the opium at Hull on Tuesday, ‘ and believed that it was not the place for the Yale Walpole; but, No, I was assured, ‘everybody’ used the Personal Column.

“R. W. Chapman and Dudley Massey helped me with my advertisement: ‘HORACE WALPOLE. Mr W. S. Lewis, Brown’s Hotel, Dover Street, W.1., is anxious to secure information of the whereabouts of letters to and from Horace Walpole for use in the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence.’ This appeared for three consecutive days with prompt results. I heard from owners of old laces and second-hand Rolls-Royces; two young women offered their companionship. A lady in Belgrave Square wrote that she had hundreds of Walpole’s letters, but they turned out to be the printed volumes of the 1848 edition. I was about to cross off the Agony Column as another failure when this letter arrived:

“Bishop’s Lydeard House

“Taunton

“Aug. 4 1935

“Dear Sir,

“I notice an advertisement in The Times for correspondence of Horace Walpole. I have thirty years between him and his cousin Lady Ossory–these were all published by my grandfather the Rt Honble Vernon Smith, the first Lord Lyveden: so it is possible they may be of no use to you.

“Yrs faithfully,

“R. Vernon

“Lady Ossory was not Walpole’s cousin, but that was a small error. I called Mr Vernon on the telephone because we were sailing soon and there was no time for the gavotte of correspondence. Were these the originals of Wapole’s letters, I asked with the Belgrave Square lady in mind, or was he referring to the edition of them his grandfather published in 1848? These were the manuscripts, Vernon replied; at least they were written in ink on paper. That sounded like manuscript, all right. Might I go down that afternoon to see them? No, he was just about to have a week’s yachting at Cowes.”

Lewis recounts the later visit to the Vernons at Bishop’s Lydeard House and subsequent acquisition of the letters for a year. He brought the letters to America and had them repaired and photostated. Fifty of the letters, he discovered, were unpublished.

“On Lady Ossory’s death the letters went to her son by the Duke of Grafton, the little boy who pounded on her door and called for his mamma while she was with Lord Ossory. His son, the 5th Duke, turned them over to Vernon Smith, who published 400 of them. A generation saw the letters lying about unwanted in the library and took them. They had been copied by a clerk at Bentley’s for £16 (Mrs Vernon kindly gave me the Account of Publication and Sale of the book). The clerk’s heart was not in his work, for he overlooked fifty lettes. Thirty of them were written in 1778 when Walpole was at the height of his epistolary powers. We read of Dr Franklin and General Washington and the hatefulness of a war in which Englishmen fought Englishmen, but world events remain where they belong in an intimate correspondence, in the background. Of more concern to Walpole and Lady Ossory was the news brought to him one day when, as he was about to set off on a visit, the postman handed him a letter that told of the imminent death of Lord Ossory’s sister, Lady Holland. ‘It was,’ Walpole wrote Lady Ossory, ‘one of those moments in which nothing is left to us but resignation and silence. . . .Life seems to me as if we were dancing on a sunny plain on the edge of a gloomy forest when we pass in a moment from glare to gloom and darkness.’

“And a month later:

I have fallen into a taste that I never had in my life, that of music. The swan, you know, Madam, is drawing towards its end, when it thinks of warbling. . . . I am quite enchanted with Mr Gammon, the Duke of Grafton’s brother-in-law. It is the most melodious voice I ever heard. . . . I was strolling in the gardens [of Hampton Court] in the evening with my nieces, who joined Lady Schaub and Lady Fitzroy, and the former asked Mr Gammon to sing. His taste is equal to his voice, and his deep notes, the part I prefer, are calculated for the solemnity of Purcell’s music, and for what I love particularly, his mad songs and the songs of sailors. It was moonlight and late, and very hot, and the lofty façade of the palace, and the trimmed yews and canal, made me fancy myself of a party in Grammont’s time–so you don’t wonder that by the help of imagination I never passed an evening more deliciously. When by the aid of some historic vision and local circumstance I can romance myself into pleasure, I know nothing transports me so much. . . . I sometimes dream, that one day or another somebody will stroll about poor Strawberry and talk of Lady Ossory–but alas! I am no poet, and my castle is of paper, and my castle and my attachments and I shall soon vanish and be forgotten together!”

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 17: Walpole’s Last Letter to Lady Ossory” download or expand the link here:

27. Walpole’s X

27. Walpole’s X

by Sean Silver, Associate Professor, English Language and Literature, University of Michigan

I’d like to write a bit about the letter X—one X in particular, but also the shape of the letter in general. It’s not a popular letter. It is sort of stashed away at the end of the alphabet; we mostly use it when we mean to refuse something else. We say that we “X” or “cross” something out. We “exclude” it, “ex-“ being the Greek prefix for “out,” like exile, exit, or exotic. And we use X’s in this way. John Locke used to cancel pages of his manuscript notes with a large “X,” stretching its limbs from corner to corner. Pages so marked are obsolete, or have been copied elsewhere, thereby excluded from the current pages of his thought. As I look out the window of my hotel room, which happens to be on a busy street, I count no fewer than three x’s, instructing us not to smoke, not to litter, and not to park.

It isn’t that an X isn’t elegant, in its own way. Alexander Pope loved X’s—I mean syntactically or as a rhetorical choice rather than a letter. The Greek X is pronounced Chi. It has been used to abbreviate the name of the Son of God: Chi for Christ. (This also had the virtue of reminding us, ideogrammatically, of the Cross.) But it was also, in Pope’s moment, used to name a certain kind of poetic crossing, where ideas are made to reflect one another, or to cross on the page. So begins his Rape of the Lock with a sort of puzzle or question, almost brought to a paradox by the magic of the cross-like Chi:

Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel
A well-bred lord t’ assault a gentle belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor’d,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?
In tasks so bold, can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?

 

You don’t have to squint too hard to see it. It is a kind of country-dance of ideas, a crossing or a passing on the page: the well-bred lord who assaults the gentle belle; the gentle belle who rejects the lord. If we were to put these lines on the chalkboard, which, in lectures to my undergraduates, I generally do, we draw the x that associates ideas, linking lord to lord, belle to belle. “We call this chiasmus,” I say, “for the Greek letter X”, then I spell “Chiasmus.” In case you didn’t see what Pope was up to, he does it again in the very next couplet. A bold task finds its echo in a mighty rage—which is tucked away in the opposite corner of the following line; “little men” are crossed with “soft bosoms,” in what seems to me to be a summary repetition of the chiastic pairing of lords and belles.  There is ideological work happening, here: a philosophical contrapposto or exchange.  Its figure is the letter X.

The thing about the X is that it is the simplest letter of two strokes: two bare lines made to cross. As a letter, it is almost unnecessary. Turkish, for instance, dispenses with it altogether; in Istanbul, you hail a Taksi. But as an ideogram, it seems to me to be indispensable, as a sign of emphasis or cancellation. A single line might be an accident; two lines, crossed, define a point and a plane. Something new, in short, happens when two lines are made to meet. This is precisely because it is the most primitive woven letter, where elements are not stacked, but crossed; it is for this reason that William Petty, in his Early Modern treatise on textiles, describes the crucial element of any woven good as the “little X’s” that are made on the loom. A single fiber: it might have tensile strength and possibly some other bare qualities. But with an X, other qualities begin to emerge, like elasticity, or softness. So, too, with the letter itself, which connects and complicates, or, in Petty’s moment, makes “complex.”

This brings me to a somewhat more prosaic, somewhat more tendentious chiasmus, which is suggested by a remark in an appendix in the Yale edition of Walpole’s Correspondence. The appendix refers to Horace Walpole’s letter to Horace Mann of 28 January, 1754. This letter, the editor writes, “inspired more inquiries [to the staff of the LWL] than all the other passages of the Walpolian correspondence put together.” This is a curiosity, but not a crossing; the other half of the chiasmus is this: Walpole, for this passage alone, remains among the most-cited eighteenth-century men of letters in publications on the sciences. People at the Walpole are hearing from science writers for a certain passage in Walpole’s letters; Walpole, for this passage alone, is appearing in their work as a representative of his age. What is more, the passage remains important because it, itself, names a kind of crossing; it gives a name to a species of transformative event, when we come across something we didn’t know we were looking for. It is the very passage where Walpole coins serendipity.

“Serendipity” is a word which is paradoxical in a special way that Walpole perfected. A serious word of deliberate lightness, it names moments where we find what we didn’t know we were looking for. Put more sharply: we go into the world looking for one thing, but, in the looking, find something that we could not have known to want before we started the search. It is transformative in a transformative way; we think that we are accumulating knowledge like a bag accumulates marbles or a book accumulates print: bag and book are untouched by the contact. But, in fact, we are learning learn in the way that a sculptor shapes clay, in which clay and sculptor undergo continuous change. In other words, it isn’t just that the discovery changes the search; it changes the searcher, for what we have found has transformed the way we imagine the world. This is what makes it chiastic, like a letter x. The transformation runs both directions.  “Serendipity,” therefore, names two things: we go out into the world, seeking one thing; the world, as compensation, transforms the seeker. This is the crucial crossing, the return route where the total project is altered by its accidental success.

Walpole christened “serendipity” in a 1754 letter penned to his longtime friend and correspondent Horace Mann, the British Minister of Florence. He was sending his thanks for a gift he had just received, a portrait of Bianca Cappello Walpole believed to have been painted by Vasari. It was in bespeaking a custom frame for the painting that Walpole made his discovery; the frame was to bear the arms of the Cappellos on one side, and the arms of the Medicis on the other, for the celebrated Bianca Cappello was the second wife of Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. “À propos,” Walpole writes, “in an old book of Venetian arms” (the very book which is now at the LWL[1]),

there are two coats of Capello, who from their name bear a hat, on one of them is added a flower-de-luce on a blue ball, which I am persuaded was given to the family by the Great Duke, in consideration of this alliance; the Medicis you know bore such a badge at the top of their own arms. This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity.[2]

page from "Le arme overo insegne di tutti li nobili della magnifica, & illustrisima cit à de Venetia, c'hora viuono" showing HW's mark at the Capello arms

Appearing on the same page of this book are two versions of the same coat of arms, two caps with blue balls, identical except for a tiny smudge of a fleur-de-lis in the second (and a typographical error, “Capello / Caepllo”). It is a question, in Walpole’s words, of “persuasion”: events and context have caused a detail, the merest blot of color, to bear rhetorical force, convincing him that he is witnessing the sign of a political union. Not quite satisfied with this story, Walpole adds a definition: serendipity is an “accidental sagacity,” for “no discovery of a thing you are looking for comes under this description.” It is, he suggests elsewhere, what you discover when you are “a la chasse of something very different” (31.325). Thus does “Capello’s portrait open,” writes James Lilley, “onto an interlocking, ever-expanding nexus of image, history, and text. It is as if each object in the [collection] ineluctably unfolds its own history, a history that is tied to other images, other places in the text.”[3] This perfectly captures, I think, the magic of serendipity as a fundamental principle of discovery, of where persons and things are made repeatedly to cross in an archive.

You might wonder why Walpole called this sort of discovery “serendipity,” rather than of some other, less whimsical word—and for that, any number of other studies exist, because Walpole tells us himself that the word comes from a Sherlock-Holmesian tale called “The Three Princes of Serendip.” Walpole fancied himself just such a seeker; his whimsy was, I suppose, the metric of his susceptibility to these sorts of transformative moments. It takes “sagacity” to witness a mere “accident,” but experience it as a transformative lesson.

I would like instead to wind up these remarks by sharing my own serendipitous discovery—which bears in a small way on the intellectual history of the concept itself. I had come to the Lewis Walpole Library as the Charles J. Cole Research Fellow in the summer of 2012.  My wife was six months pregnant, but we had decided to reserve this month so I could substantially complete research on the last couple of tricky objects for The Mind Is a Collection, a virtual museum of objects people used to model cognitive theories. Horace Walpole’s copy of his own play, The Mysterious Mother, was one of these objects. I was doing what you can do when you have the time, space, and resources for research: during the day, I was reading deeply in Walpole’s letters, and in the archives held at the LWL; at night, I was staying at the Root House, and reading broadly in the history of the fact, which is to say, the idea of facts, of “fact” as a concept which had to be learned. I was reading William Eamon’s Science and the Secrets of Nature, which traces a major part of this history. It was there that I ran across an early modern theory of knowledge-acquisition, in which we discover things by accident. It was commonly compared to a certain kind of hunt, but where we continually happened upon objects we didn’t know we were seeking. It is, Eamon suggested, a form of “accident”; it requires, (he suggests), “sagacity.”

To my ear, this was a clear echo of Walpole. The problem is, Eamon wasn’t quoting Walpole—he was quoting Francis Bacon, or, really, the standard translation of Bacon, which wasn’t made until nearly a century after Walpole’s coinage. How this precise formulation, how it was that Walpole, like Eamon, thought of discovery as “accident” crossing with “sagacity,” became one of the principle projects of the next year or so of my life—happily interrupted by the birth of a beautiful daughter. That story is now in print, and has become useful to people working on the serendipity concept—for it shows us some of the ideas Walpole himself was weaving together when he coined his term.

This drove me back to Walpole’s collection, and to his remarks on serendipity, as I put together the parts of what would become a piece on “The Prehistory of Serenidipity.”  But it also drove me to Walpole’s library, to the “old book of Venetian arms,” which against the odds, survived the teeth of time to find its way into Lewis’s collection of Walpole’s books. There, on page 12, are the coats of arms Walpole describes, and, in the margin, a little X, penned there to register the frisson of his discovery. This is of course the X which is the subject of these remarks. Walpole, with his joints not yet suffering from the gout that would cripple him late in life, held open that tightly bound little book, and placed a neat ideogram in the margin. You may still see it there. It is the first serendipitous discovery so-called. It reminds us that an X doesn’t just wipe things out. It also marks a spot: and not just a spot of special note, but a place where a transformation occurred, both in Walpole, but also in theories of discovery.


[1] Le arme overo insegne di tutti le nobili . . . di Venetia (Venice, 1578), p. 12, Lewis Walpole Library, Farmingham, Connecticut, call no. 49 2051. It’s probably worth pointing out at this point that Walpole commonly marked passages suggesting surprising discoveries with a marginal “x.” See, e.g., Walpole’s commonplace book, which he called his Book of Materials (1777), at the Lewis Walpole Library, pp. 6, 27, 29, etc.

[2] Walpole, Correspondence, Vol. 26, p. 307.

[3] James D. Lilley, “Studies in Uniquity: Horace Walpole’s Singular Collection,” ELH 80.1 (2013): 93-124, p. 119.

26. Choice 16: Tonton’s Snuff-Box

26. Choice 16: Tonton’s Snuff-Box

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“Walpole escaped to Paris in November 1765, after the most mortifying disappointment of his life, the failure of his friends, especially of Conway, to offer him a place in the first Rockingham Ministry which he had helped to form. He would not have accepted a place, but his pride would have been satisfied by refusing it. ‘Falsehood, interest, and ingratitude, the attendants of friendship, are familiar to me,’ he wrote Mann bitterly; but no Englishman ever went to Paris with more friendly letters of introduction to its great world or enjoyed more of a success when he got there. He wrote Gray, ‘Like Queen Eleanor in the Ballad, I sunk at Charing Cross, and have risen in the Faubourg Saint Germain‘ where he was drawn speedily into Madame du Deffand’s circle. She, whom he described to Conway as ‘an old blind débauchée of wit,’ Duchesse de Choisel, and Madame la Marquise Du Deffand [graphic] : (from the original formerly at Strawberry Hill) / M. Carmontel, del. ; W. Greatbach sculp.became infatuated with him although twenty years his senior. Forty years earlier she had been a mistress of the Regent Orléans and that gave her a certain panache even though the connection had lasted only two weeks. To her Walpole was a radiant newcomer who exorcised the devil ennui that possessed her. Before long they were meeting daily. His delight in her company and his pride in having made a Platonic conquest of the wittiest woman in Paris fused with his indignation at the ‘barbarity and injustice’ of those who ate her suppers when they could not go to a more fashionable house, who laughed at her, abused her, and tried to convert her nominal friends into enemies in what she called their ‘société infernale.’

Lewis then describes the journal Walpole kept of his five visits to Paris from 1765 to 1775, now at Harvard, cites typical entries, quotes from “the final entry in Mme du Deffand’s last journal, which she left Walpole and which is now at Farmington,” and recounts the episode of the pretend letter that Walpole sent to Rousseau supposedly from the King of Prussia which ended up destroying the friendship between Rousseau and Hume.

“When Walpole returned to England in 1766 he and Mme du Deffand began the correspondence which went on until she died fourteen years later, some 850 very long letters on each side. Walpole got her to return his letters and presumably directed Mary Berry, his literary executrix to make extracts from them as footnotes to a posthumous edition of Mme du Deffand’s letters to him, after which Miss Berry was to destroy his side of the correspondence. . . .He made four laborious trips to see and entertain her and to bring her what comfort and pleasure he could until war was declared between France and England. When her income was cut he offered to make up the loss from his own pocket, but she would not let him do it. image of round gold snuffbox with wax portrait of a dogAlthough she wanted to leave him all she had, he accepted only her manuscripts and her little black spaniel, Tonton, who was not house-broken and who bit people. She included the gold snuff-box made by the king’s jeweller with Tonton’s portrait in wax by Gosset that a friend gave her as a New Year’s present in 1778. The Chevalier Boufflers wrote verses on Voltaire and Tonton that Mme du Deffand sent to Walpole.

“Vous les trouvez tous deux charmants,
Nous les trouvons tous deux mordants;
       Voilà la ressemblance:
L’un ne mord qu ses ennemis,
Et l’autre mord tous vos amis,
        Voilà la différence.

“The manuscripts were kept in a cedar chest in the library at Strawberry until sold in 1842 to Thorpe the bookseller for £156.10s. Sir Frederick Madden of the British Museum recorded that ‘directly after the conclusion of the sale the chest was purchased by Dyce-Sombre who came down in a carriage and four accompanied by his wife, and the latter taking a fancy to these letters her wealthy husband gave Thorpe 20 guineas additional for them and carried them off.’ The lady bequeathed them to her nephew, W.R. Parker-Jervis of Staffordshire, They were resold through Sotheby’s in 1920, just four years before I began collecting Walpole. Paget Toynbee bought Mme du Deffand’s letters to Walpole for £20 and gave them to the Bodleian; Seymour de Ricci bought her letters to Voltaire and gave them to the Bibliothèque Nationale. Most of the rest went to Maggs, who in December 1933 let me have them for £50 to make me, as they said, ‘A Christmas present.’ In 1938 they retrieved for me the most interesting book in the collection, which had been bought by another dealer in 1920. This was Mme du Deffand’s “Recueil de divers ouvrages,’ over 270 pages, 4to, with 45 ‘portraits’ of her friends magnificently bound in red morocco. Walpole wrote inside the front cover Red morocco and gilt over of Recueil Des Divers Usages Image of page in book with manuscript provenance note in brown ink

that the book had been bequeathed to him by Mme du Deffand with her other manuscripts and he pasted in seven and a half pages of notes that included his ‘portrait’ of her, which is in English.

double page spread of bound manuscript in Walpole's hand

Portrait de Madame la Marquise du Deffand, 1766,
Where do Wit and Memory dwell?
Where is Fancy’s favourite cell?
Where does Judgment hold her court,

“and continues for 27 lines of conventional compliment until the close:

“Together all these Virtues dwell:
St Joseph’s convent is her cell:
Their sanctuary Du Deffand’s mind–
Censure, be dumb! She’s old and blind.

“Far from being wounded by the last line Mme du Deffand was flattered because it proved, she said, the sincerity of what went before.

“Her ‘Portrait’ of Walpole, which he asked her to write, is the most important summary of him ever written. This translation of it is by Catherine Jestin, Librarian of the Lewis Walpole Library.

“‘No, no, I cannot do your portrait. No one knows you less than I do. You appear sometimes as I wish you were, sometimes as I fear you may not be, and perhaps never as you really are. It is obvious you are very intelligent in many ways. Everyone knows this as well as I, and you should be aware of it more than anyone.

“‘It is your character that should be portrayed, and that is why I cannot be a good judge: indifference, or at least impartiality, is essential. Yet I can vouch for your integrity. You are pincipled and courageous and pride yourself on firmness of purpose, so that when you make a decision, for better or worse, nothing can make you change your mind, often to the point of obstancy. Your friendship is warm and steadfast, but neither tender nor yielding. Fear of weakness hardens you; you try not to be ruled by emotions: you cannot refuse friends in dire need, you sacrifice your interests to theirs, but you deny them smallest favours; you are kind to everyone, and to those to whom you are indifferent, yet for your friends, even where trifles are concerned, you hardly bother to exert yourself.

“‘Your disposition is very pleasing although not too equable. Your manner is noble, easy and natural; your desire to please is without affectation. Knowledge and experience of the world have made you scorn humanity and yet you have learned to adjust; you know that outward expressions are merely insincerities; you respond with deference and good manners so that all those who do not care in the least whether you like them or not have a good opinion of you.

“‘I do not know if you have much feeling; if you do, you fight it, for you think it a weakness; you allow yourself only the loftier kind. You are thoughtful, you have absolutely no vanity although plenty of self-esteem, but your self-esteem does not blind you: it leads you to exaggerate your faults rather than to hide them. You give a good opinion of yourself only if forced to do so when comparing yourself with others. You have discernment and tact, perfect taste and faultless manners. You would have been part of the most fashionable society in centuries past; you are so now in this, and would be in those of the future. Your character derives much from your country, but your manners are equally correct everywhere.

“‘You have one weakness which is inexcusable: fear of ridicule. You sacrifice your better feelings to it and let it regulate your conduct. It makes you harken to fools who give you false impressions that your friends cannot rectify. You are too easily influenced, a tendency you recognize and which you remedy to adhering too strictly to principle; your determination never to give in is occasionally excessive, and at times when it is hardly worth the effort.

“‘You are noble and generous, you do good for the pleasure of doing so, without ostentation, without hope of reward: in short your soul is beautiful and good.

“‘Addition to the Portrait, 30 November 1766.

    “‘Only truth and simplicty please you; you distrust subtleties, you hate metaphysics; large ideas bore you, and you don’t much enjoy deep reflection, you think it of little use; your philosophy teaches you that it is better to suppress your emotions than to fight them. You want to do so by diversions, you mock everything and, new Democritus, the world is nothing for you but a stage whose actors you hiss; your bent is irony, you excel in fields that demand sensitive and  sensibility often hinders gaiety. To remedy this you seek out-of-the-ordinary ways to occupy and amuse yourself. You build exotic houses, you raise monuments to a king of brigands, you pretend to have forbearance, etc. etc. Lastly, you seem a little mad in your eccentricities which are, however a product of reason.

    “‘I cannot say anything about your dislike of friendship; it is apparently founded on some deep sorrow, but as you are only vague about this, one is led us to believe that you are afraid, or else with to establish a rule of conduct, as little without foundation as all your rules which you do not follow despite your eloquence, because your precepts are not backed up by your practices.

“‘You have friends, you are entirely devoted to them, their interests are yours; all your talk and all your reasoning against friendship to convince them that you are not, of all people in the world, the most capable of it.”

First page of manuscript index to 49 2389Second page of manuscript index to 49 2389“Another runner-up to Tonton’s snuff-box is Walpole’s copy of Gramont’s Mémoires, 1746, the copy he used when editing and printing the Strawberry Grammont in 1772. He made an index for this copy and added notes throughout it, all of which he used in the Strawberry edition, his copy of which is also at Farmington, annotated and extra-illustrated by him. He dedicated it ‘A Madame__________. L’Editeur vous consacre cette Edition, comme un monument de son Amitié, de son Admiration, & de son Respect; à Vous, dont les Graces, l’Esprit, & le Goût retracent au siecle present le siecle d Louis quatorze & les agrements de l’Auteur de ces Memoires.’ In his copy he wrote Mme du Deffand’s name after the bland her modesty insisted upon and added two charming little engravings; the upper one of three putti crowning a book with laurel, the lower of a monument embowered with flowering shrubs. No collector ever enjoyed adorning his books more than Walpole. Of the hundred copies he printed of the Grammont, twelve are at Farmington; they include presentation copies to the Duchess of Bedford, Lord Nuneham, George Montagu, Mrs Damer, and Richard Bull, who extra-illustrated his copy lavishly, as usual.

image showing inscription inside snuffbox“The single object at Farmington that brings the two friends most strongly together is not the dedication copy of the Grammont or ‘Recueil de divers ouvrages,’ but the very beautiful circular gold snuff-box made by Roucel, the king’s jeweler, that give us Tonton in his plump latter days sitting on a cushion with his right front paw uplifted appealingly. Inside the lid, his master had inscribed, ‘This box with the portrait of her dog Tonton was bequeathed by Madame la Marquise du Deffand to Mr Horace Walpole, 1780.’ but before I talk about Tonton I should speak of his predecessors.

Lewis then lists Walpole’s dogs before Tonton in order of acquisition and includes an anecdote about each: Tory, the King Charles spaniel who was dragged off by a wolf in the Alps; Patapan, the small white spaniel who featured in the title of Walpole’s work Patapan or the Little White Dog, a Tale imitated from Fontaine; and Rosette, a black and tan spaniel “Walpole believed saved his life by warning him of a chimney fire. . . .”

“Mme du Deffand’s first of 69 references to Tonton was when he, aged four months, was sitting on her shoulder while she dictated her letter. A year later she asked Walpole, even before Walpole had seen him, to take him after her death. Tonton was very pretty, she said, and Walpole would love him, but she did not add that he wasn’t house-broken and bit people. Thomas Walpole proved his friendship by bringing Tonton to England when his mistress died, a kindness that must have added much to the hardship of those four exhausting days of travel. Walpole doted on Tonton. ‘You will find that I have gotten a new idol,’ he wrote Mason, ‘in a word, a successor to Rosette and almost as great a favourite, nor is this a breach of vows and constancy, but an act of piety. In a word, my poor dear old friend Madam du Deffand had a little dog of which she was extremely fond, and the last time I saw her she made me promise if I should survive her to take charge of it. I did. It is arrived and I was going to say, it is incredible how fond I am of it, but I have no occasion to brag of my dogmanity. I dined at Richmond House t’other day, and mentioning whither I was going the Duke said, “Own the truth, shall not you call at home first and see Tonton?” He guessed rightly. He is now sitting on my paper as I write–not the Duke but Tonton.’

“At just this time Walpole wrote in his pocket notebook mentioned in Choice 4.

“‘Charade on my dog Tonton
The first part is thine, the second belongs only to the people of fashion; but the whole, tho doubly thine, belongs only to me.’

“When Tonton died Walpole wrote Lady Ossory that his death was merciful, for

“‘He was grown stone deaf, and very near equally blind, and so weak that the two last days he could not walk upstairs. Happily he had not suffered, and died close by my side without a pang or a groan. I have had the satisfaction for my dear old friend’s sake and his own,of having nursed him up by constant attention to the age of sixteen, yet always afraid of his surviving me, as it was scarce possible he could meet a third person who would study his happiness equally. I sent him to Strawberry and went thither on Sunday to see him buried behind the Chapel near Rosette.'”

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

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called “ 26. Choice 16: Tonton’s Snuff-Box” download or expand the link here:

25. Choice 15: Walpole’s Transcripts of His Letters to Sir Horace Mann

25. Choice 15: Walpole’s Transcripts of His Letters to Sir Horace Mann

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“The Mann correspondence is the great Andean range of the Walpolian continent, stretching from 1740 to Mann’s death in 1786. first letter from HW to Mann in first volumeEight hundred and forty-eight of the letters are from Walpole, eight hundred and eighty-seven from Mann, a total of 1735 letters. The manuscripts of nearly all are at Farmington.

“In my Introduction to these letters in the Yale Walpole I pointed out that ‘For sweep and variety and the procession of great events they are unrivalled in Walpole’s correspondence.‘ I might have gone further, I think, and said that they are unrivalled in those respects by any other correspondence of the time. Walpole was aware of their historic value. As early as 1744 he wrote Mann that being ‘entirely out of all the little circumstances of each other’s society, which are the soul of letters, we are forced to correspond as Guicciardini and Clarendon.’ Years later he exclaimed, ‘What scenes my letters to you have touched on for eight and thirty years!’; Conclusion to letter to Mann 18 Feb 1778

“and a few years later still, ‘A correspondence of near half a century is, I suppose, not to be paralleled in the annals of the Post Office!’ Towards the end he repeated that he was forced to write to posterity. ‘One cannot say, “I dined with such a person yesterday,” when the letter is to be a fortnight on the road–still less, when you know nothing of my Lord or Mr Such-an-one, whom I should mention.’ He had moments of realistic disillusion with us: ‘If our letters remain, posterity will read the catastrophes of St James’s and the Palace Pitti with equal indifference.’

“Walpole began getting his letters back in 1749 and thereafter they were brought him by friends every few years. He started transcribing them in 1754 to remove passages he didn’t want us to see, such as the account of his quarrel with Gray at Reggio and the strictures of his one-time intimate friend, Henry Fox. After a few years he let Kirgate do the copying, but resumed it for the last three years. The originals and copies were kept in separate houses and were left to different people. In a memorandum dated 21 March 1790 Walpole wrote: ‘I desire they will never suffer them to be transcribed or printed.’ This memorandum is one of the manuscripts Sir Wathen Waller and I found in the attic at Woodcote. It was sold in the second Waller Sale in 1947 and is now at Farmington.”

Lewis goes on to ponder why Walpole and Mann corresponded for so long and what became of the original letters before recounting his acquisition of the transcripts.

“Mrs Damer followed Walpole’s instructions about the ultimate disposition of the transcripts and turned them over to the Waldegrave family. The present Lord Waldegrave sold them to me in 1948. Lord Dover used them, not the originals, Red and gilt cover of bookfor his edition of Walpole’s letters to Mann, which was published by Bentley in 1833. The original worn bindings of the six volumes were removed and Paget Toynbee told me with pride that he got the ninth Earl Waldegrave to have the letters rebound in their present red morocco.

I would like, of course, to save all six volumes, but if the Collections of Letters from Horace Walpole manuscript title pagealmighty says ‘NO!’ I’ll rescue the first volume, which has 150 letters from 1741 to 1746 transcribed and annotated by Walpole throughout.

“That he had future readers of his letters in mind is clear from the Advertisement he prefixed to the first volume of the transcripts and by the epigraph he added to its title-page, ‘Posteris an aliqua cura, nescio! Plin. Epist.’ ‘Whether there will be any concern about us on the part of posterity I do now know.‘ Pliny, Letters. The late Professor Clarence Mendell of Yale kindly sent me a translation of Pliny’s letter to Tacitus in which the epigraph appears, pointing out that Walpole omitted nostri between cura and nescio. This epigraph is less confident than the other already quoted in Choice 4 from Cibber’s Apology. We can be certain, I think, of his satisfaction if he could have known that in the twentieth century his letters to and from Mann would be published in America in eleven substantial volumes with tens of thousands of footnotes and an index of over 100,000 entries to guide an ever-increasing number of delighted readers. The English friend who saw Walpole most clearly, ‘Gilly’ Williams, wrote to George Selwyn, ‘I can figure no being happier than Horry, Monstrari digito praetereuntium [to be pointed out by those passing by] has been his whole aim. For this he has wrote, printed, and built.’ For this he wrote and kept his letters.”

Manuscript of "Advertisement" in first Mann correspondence volume by Walpole          Manuscript of "Advertisement" page two in first Mann correspondence volume by Walpole

Lewis then quotes from Walpole’s Advertisement to the transcripts, which can be read in full in the online Yale Correspondence (vol. 17, p. 1-2).

“Mann’s letters to Walpole remained at Strawberry Hill until 1843 when they were acquired from Lord Waldegrave by Richard Bentley, the publisher whose grandson sold them to me with four of their original red morocco bindings from which the letters had been cut. Each volume still has a title-page in Walpole’s hand, ‘Letters/From Horatio Mann/Resident at Florence/From King George the Second/To/Horatio Walpole/youngest Son/of/Sir Robert Walpole/afterwards/Earl of Orford/’ and the numbers of the volumes. . . .

“Mann sent lavish presents to Walpole despite Walpole’s protests, Among them were the bronze bust of Caligula with silver eyes at the beginning of his madness, a small ebony trunk for perfumes with bas-reliefs in silver ‘by Benvenuto Cellini’ representing the Judgment of Paris, a marble head in alto relievo of John the Baptist ‘by Donatello,’ and a portrait ‘by Vasari’ of Bianca Cappello, mistress and wife of Francesco de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. This last particularly delighted Walpole. ‘The head,’ he wrote Mann,

“‘is painted equal to Titian, and though done, I suppose, after the clock had struck five and thirty, yet she retains a great share of beauty. I have bespoken a frame for her, with the grand ducal coronet at top, her story on a label at bottom, which Gray is to compose in Latin as short and expressive as Tacitus (one is lucky when one can bespeak and have executed such an inscription!) the Medici arms on one side, and the Capello’s on the other.'”

Lewis goes on to quote Walpole telling Mann about the arms and serendipity. For more on serendipity, see Sean Silver’s post elsewhere in this blog. Lewis then turns his attention to Thomas Patch.

“Mann is seen at Farmington through the eyes of Thomas Patch who spent the last twenty-seven years of his life at Florence painting visiting Englishmen and romantic landscapes for grand tourists. Our collection of him started in 1939 when William Randolph Hearst began selling his vast collections that were stored in two New York warehouses, each of which covered a city block. Perhaps a tenth of one percent of them was offered by Parish, Watson and Co. of 57th Street. When I asked them if Hearst had anything from Strawberry Hill they said they had no idea and invited me to come and see for myself. I wandered through six floors crowded with Spanish choir stalls, porphyry jars and Etruscan vases, French cabinets and English chests. I was ready to give up on the sixth floor, but my guide urged me on for one more, which was the attic. Against its walls leaned a fragment of a Tiepolo ceiling, a Messonier battle scene, and Frederick Remington cowboys. Among them was a large conversation piece with ‘Hogarth’ on its ample frame. Thanks to Francis Watson, the expert on Thomas Patch, I knew better. I was certain that the chief figure in the picture before me was Mann from its resemblance to a small portrait of him by John Astley that Mann sent Walpole and that was reproduced in Cunningham’s edition of Walpole’s letters. He was older in the Hearst picture, more rugose, but with the same broken nose and air of a capable

A gathering at the Casa Manetti, Florence, showing a group of men in eighteenth-century dress, by Thomas Patch

“esthete. The case for the figure being Mann was settled by his vice-regal chair with the royal crown and supporters. I urged my guide to send a photograph of it to Francis Watson at the Wallace Collection in London for his opinion and after Francis confirmed Patch as the artist a zero was chopped off the Hogarth price, and the remainder was divided by five, and the picture was the first of five Patches to come to Farmington. A year later Astley’s portrait of Mann emerged from hiding and arrived with the companion portrait of his twin brother Galfridus that Mann had also sent Walpole.

Portrait of Sir Horace Mann, eighteenth-century bewigged gentleman facing right, wearing a red coat                       Portrait of Galfridus Mann, eighteenth-century bewigged gentleman facing left, wearing a brown coat

“When ‘dear Gal’ died Walpole had Bentley design his tomb, the drawing for which is at Farmington.

“Mann appears in two other Patches at Farmington, the very large conversation piece that we shall come to in our Print Room and another that was painted for Lord Beauchamp, Lord Hertford’s heir and Walpole’s first cousin once removed. Walpole saw and admired the picture.

A party at Sir Horace Mann's in Florence showing a group of men in eighteenth-century dress

“Mann is seated at the right listening to a comical Dutch singer whom he is trying out for one of his musical entertainments. The Dutchman is singing eagerly while Patch himself bursts into the room from the left bowed under a basket filled with the Vocabulario della Crusca and distracting nearly all of the auditors. Beauchamp, very tall and elegant in the center of the picture, has turned to regard the disturbance with amused superiority. We shall come to the fourth Patch at Farmington when we get to Henry Bunbury and Hogarth. A fifth one is a riverscape that I got to show the sort of thing Patch painted for the Grand Tourist trade.

Landscape showing a bridge and tower with blue mountains in the distance, painted by Thomas Patch

“An ancient round tower looms beyond a bridge over which peasants and an ox-cart are passing; a shepherd and his modest flock are resting on the bank; in the distance are blue mountains. It is a scene to bring back smiling Italy to northern travellers at home. Walpole asked Mann to send him two Patches of the Arno and Florence, which he kept in his town house and bequeathed to his great-nephew, Lord Cholmondeley at Houghton, where they still are, a lovely pair. Title page from Fra Bartolommeo by Thomas PatchOne marvels at Patch’s versatility, for he was also an engraver, the author of a sumptuous folio with twenty-six engravings after Masaccio that he dedicated to Mann and of twenty-four prints after Fra Bartolommeo that he ‘dedicated to the Honourable HORACE WALPOLE, an intelligent promoter of the Arts,’ an honor no doubt inspired by Mann.

“It is pleasant to have the two friends brought together in this way by Patch, whose pictures, like Mann’s letters to Walpole are now held in higher esteem than ever before.

“When on 15 July 1777 Walpole asked Mann to return his letters, he added, ‘I should like to have them all together, for they are a kind of history.’ readers of the Memoirs will be especially grateful to them because they add ‘the touches of nature’ that the Memoirs lack.”

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

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called  25. Choice 15: Walpole’s Transcripts of His Letters to Sir Horace Mann” download or expand the link here:

N.B. The project files for the editorial work on the Mann letters that was undertaken for The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence are in the Lewis Walpole Library’s archives and have been rehoused this summer. files from the Mann volumes of the "Yale Edition" project    contents of one box of files from the Mann volumes of the "Yale Edition" project

24. Choice 14: Walpole’s Chattertoniana

24. Choice 14: Walpole’s Chattertoniana

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

page from Chatterton's poems with Walpole manuscript note

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

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

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

“Its variety appears in volume 39:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volume of Walpole's plays, showing their disbound state

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

49 1608 Tracts of George 3

49 1810 Theatre of Geo 3

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.)

14. Two Books of Swan-Marks, on Vellum

Two Books of Swan-Marks, on Vellum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LWL Swan marks vol 2 laws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BL Harley 3405 ff. 18v-19

BL Harley 3405

LWL 49 2601 v 2 26-27

LWL 49 2601 vol. 2

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

mss binding waste

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).