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

From a Gothic Villa to a Gothic Pineapple?

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

 MS

Farmington, Lewis Walpole Library, Quarto 498 P77 MS.

Secondary Sources

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

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

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

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

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

The Fantasy

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

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

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

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

“How much time do you want?”

“At least a year.”

“A year!” His voice was terrible.

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

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

___________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography:

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

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

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

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

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