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:

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

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

                 Description of the Villa title page

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

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

page of text heavily annotated in manuscript

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

Manuscript list of Works of Genius         Manuscript list of Principal Curiosities 

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

Walpole sketch of Strawberry Hill before and after

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carter's watercolor of the Library at Strawberry Hill

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

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

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

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

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)