21. Choice 12: Walpole’s Copy of Lysons, “Environs of London,” 1792-96

21. Choice 12: Walpole’s Copy of Lysons, Environs of London, 1792-96

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“Fortunately, I realized from the first that I should collect the books Walpole owned as well as those he wrote and printed. I knew nothing about his library, but I knew that every library is a projection of the person who makes it. I also liked handling and reading the books that Walpole cared enough about to buy and annotate as he had annotated the first of his books that I saw. It was Lord Baltimore’s Coelestes et Inferi, Venice, 1771, not a tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney corner. It was with the Strawberry Hill detached pieces at Scribner’s that started my collection in 1924 and has Walpole’s note on the half-title ‘It is very questionable, whether the original Work of which the following is called a republication ever existed. At least such a poem is utterly unknown in England; nor is any book written by the last Lord Baltimore known, but a silly account of his Travels in prose, H.W.’ I wanted it, but felt that its price, $350, was beyond me. Happily, it reappeared at Sotheby’s in 1938 and was bought by Maggs for me at £12. The Depression had its compensations for collectors.

“The first book I bought from Walpole’s library came to me in December 1924 from Gabriel Wells. It is a strong candidate for this Choice, but I am making it Choice 13 for reasons I explain there. The book is an octavo in calf with Walpole’s arms on the sides. The elegant spine reads ‘Poems of Geo. 3.’ Walpole wrote on the inside of the front cover, ‘List of pieces in this volume

Rodondo, in two Cantos
Patriotism, a Mock Heroic
Bettenham’s Poems
The New Bath Guide.’

and added the authors’ names on the title-pages, ‘Mr. Dalrymple,’ ‘Richard Bentley,’ ‘Mr Christopher Anstey.’ On the title of Bentley’s Patriotism he added below the year 1765, ‘March 19th.’ In 1924 I didn’t know how important Bentley was in Walpole’s life, and that by 1765 they had parted company, but I enjoyed one of Walpole’s marginal notes, ‘Ld Wilmington said the D. of Newcastle lost an hour every morning and ran after it the rest of the day.’ When I re-read this now after more than half a century there return the witty Lord Wilmington, the fussy Duke of Newcastle, and Horace Walpole recording Wilmington’s bon mot for me.

Library at Strawberry Hill drawing by Edward Edwards

Horace Walpole’s library, showing the arrangement of books.

“He could afford to buy whatever he wanted. Space was no problem for him; when he ran out of it he built another room. His was not a large collection of books by country house standards, only some 7200 volumes as compared with Topham Beauclerk’s 30,000, but Walpole bought his books to read, as his letters and his marginalia in perhaps a third of them show. The first books we hear of, which he asked his Mama to get for him at the age of eight, are ‘the yearl of assax’ and ‘Jan Shore.'”

Lewis continues with a description of Walpole’s collecting and his own introduction to and growing knowledge of Walpole’s library, its arrangement, markings, and disposition. He recounts the origin of the Catalogue of Horace Walpole’s Library by Allen Hazen and relates an anecdote about lecturing at Cambridge. Lewis’s attention turns at last to the choice itself, but not before including a passage on Alexander Pope.

“The book I am rescuing from Strawberry Hill is Lysons, Environs of London, 4 vols., 4to, 1792-96. I considered seriously saving Pope’s copy of Homer’s Works, Amsterdam, 1707, in which Pope wrote his name three times and gave the date when he finished his translation of Homer; he also drew Twickenham Church from his garden on a fly-leaf. . . .The library has many other candidates for rescue, but I think Walpole would be pleased by my saving Lysons because he loved the histories of counties, towns, cathedrals, and great houses. ‘I am sorry I have such predilection for histories of particular counties and towns,’ he wrote in 1780, ‘there certainly does not exist a worse class of reading.’ Some years earlier he said, ‘I do not see why books of antiquities should not be made as amusing as writings on any other subject,’ and he went on collecting, annotating, and writing about them until he died.

Cover of Lyson's Environs of London owned by Walpole             

“The Environs of London was dedicated to him. He extra-illustrated and bound the four royal quartos handsomely in red morocco.

First page of Walpole's manuscript notes from volume 1

“Into each of the first three volumes he pasted four pages of ‘notes on Mr Lysons’ Environs.’ His first note tells us: ‘This work is one of the most authentic books of antiquities ever published, the Author having with indefatigable Industry personally visited every Parish and every Office of Record from which the extracts were made; and having by the amiableness of his Character been favoured by the Possessors with the sight of many original Deeds, that State the Tenures and Descents of several considerable Mansions and lands described in the Account.’ Lysons displeased Walpole in the chapter on Twickenham by mentioning several of Strawberry’s chief treasures. ‘I must tell you,’ Walpole wrote him, ‘that as I foresaw, they are a source of grievance to me, by specifying so many articles of my collection, and several that are never shown to miscellaneous customers. Nay, last week one company brought the volume with them, and besides wanting to see various invisible particulars, it made them loiter so long by referring to your text, that I thought the housekeeper with her own additional clack, would never have rid the house of them.’ This was a little hard on Lysons because most of his account of Strawberry came from the Description, but Walpole’s defense would doubtless have been that he kept nearly all copies of it out of public hands.

title page from volume 1 of Walpole's copy of Lyson's Environs of London“Lysons appears on the title-page of the Environs of London as ‘Chaplain to the Right Honourable the Earl of Orford,’ an instance of peers still having ‘domestick’ chaplains. Earls were entitled to four, but Walpole seems to be content with two. The warrant of his second, Benjamin Suckling, issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Office of Faculties, is at Farmington, signed ‘Orford,’ with Kirgate’s signature as a witness. Private Chaplaincies were handed out by peers to help youthful clergymen gain higher preferment. Lysons was an agreeable young antiquary and so a congenial appendage to Walpole’s life. His Environs has a special place in my library because it was given to me by my wife on the day we became engaged.

“The runner-up to Lysons in this Choice is ‘Arms of the Knights of the Garter,’ which Walpole shelved in the Glass Closet. It was blazoned on vellum for Queen Elizabeth in 1573 by Sir Gilbert Dethick, Garter-King-of-Arms, and bound in red velvet. Later the monogram of Charles I was stamped on the rear cover. The book belonged in the eighteenth century to Walter Robertson, Mayor of King’s Lynn, for which Walpole sat at the end of his parliamentary career. Below Robertson’s signature Walpole wrote, ‘This book was given to me by Mr Walter Robertson Mayor of Lynn, 1762, Horace Walpole.”

After a paragraph on the Glass Closet books Lewis concludes the chapter thus:

“A third of the books that were at Strawberry Hill are still missing. Eighty percent of those recovered, some 2414 titles, are at Farmington. In the thirties and forties I got one (and a letter to or from Walpole) on the average of one every four or five days; now I do well to get four or five a year. Since their market value has increased enormously it is odd more don’t appear. We know, as I have said, that some of the books were destroyed by booksellers, but hundreds more have lost their identities through rebinding and are sitting unrecognized on learned shelves. Until quite recently most librarians lacked Walpole’s regard for provenance and discarded the bookplates and marks of earlier ownership when rebacking and rebinding their books. One of Allen Hazen’s students found over forty of Walpole’s books in the British Library that had not been identified as his. Lars Troide, a young colleague in the Yale Walpole, found the first volume of Walpole’s copy of Egerton Brydges’ Topographical Miscellanies, 1792, in the Yale stacks. It was rebound after 1842. Walpole’s bookplate and Strawberry Hill pressmarks were discarded, but his annotations brought it swiftly to Farmington in accordance with the generous practice begun by Andrew Keogh, the Yale Librarian, forty years earlier.

“Walpole wrote his memoirs and letters in the library, the walls of which were lined from floor to ceiling with books. His copies at Farmington are shelved in the same order as at Strawberry. In our North Library Press A is on the right of the door as you face it from the inside; Press M is to the left, with the books from the Round Tower and Offices between it and the door. Over the door is a water-color of the main library flanked by drawings of the river and garden. Near the books formerly in the Glass Closet and Press E is a drawing of Walpole showing him seated by them. Few are insensitive to his presence as they stand amidst his books.”

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

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 12: Walpole’s Copy of Lysons, Environs of London, 1792-96, download or expand the link here:

N.B. The Lewis Walpole Library continues to acquire books and manuscripts from Walpole’s library. While the north library Lewis describes is now the exhibition gallery, Walpole’s books are still arranged in the same order as at Strawberry, only now they reside in secure, climate-controlled stacks.

20. Horace Walpole’s annotated copy of “A Catalogue of the Portland Museum”

20. Horace Walpole’s annotated copy of A Catalogue of the Portland Museum

By Madeleine Pelling, Travel Grant Recipient, PhD Candidate, History of Art Department, University of York

 

In 1786, Horace Walpole attended a vast, thirty eight-day auction that dismantled the collection of the recently deceased Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, duchess of Portland (1715-1785). Over a lifetime of voracious collecting, the duchess had assembled a largely unrivalled collection of natural history specimens alongside art works and antiquities, including the now famous Portland Vase. Walpole’s surviving and heavily-annotated copy of the accompanying sale catalogue, titled A Catalogue of the Portland Museum, reveals a fascinating insight into Walpole’s experiences of a sale that saw one of the most significant collections of the eighteenth century dismantled forever. Formed of a twenty-six centimetre quarto, with title page, frontispiece, preface and instructions for the conditions of sale, the catalogue contained the descriptions of over four thousand lots. It was available for purchase at the site of the exhibition, as well as at the auctioneer Thomas Skinner’s offices in Aldersgate Street, London. Each copy was given a unique number upon printing, adding to the culture of exclusivity being cultivated by Skinner both prior to and during the auction. Portable, the text could be carried around by its purchaser and displayed on their person; it marked participation in a closed and fashionable community that was swiftly building around the sale and reflective of the wider relationship between consumerism and sociability.

The duchess of Portland was a member of the group of intellectual and creative women known collectively as the Bluestockings. However, unlike so many of her contemporaries like Elizabeth Montagu, Anna Barbauld, Hannah Moore or Elizabeth Carter, her activities were, during her lifetime, rarely reported in the public sphere, her portrait rarely circulated and her curatorial activities confined to a closed circle of elite friends.[1] Following her death, the main portion of her museum was removed from her home at Bulstrode Park in Buckinghamshire to London and repositioned within the urban marketplace where fictionalised narratives of her celebrity, cultivated post-mortem, helped drive the commercial success of its auction. Gossip grew in the weeks preceding the sale, which began on 24 April 1786. Topics of both public and private speculation including the reasons for the auction itself, what would be sold there, and who would buy what. As Beth Fowkes Tobin has previously revealed, “When the news soon spread that all would be sold at auction, rumors circulated about her having bankrupted herself purchasing natural history specimens and objets d’art and the need for an auction to refill the ducal coffers.”[2] In a letter to his friend Lady Ossory, Walpole captured the tone of uncertainty, as well as the wider public interest in the fate of the collection in the days after the duchess’s death;

Mr Horace Walpole (not myself) called on me yesterday morning, when no will of the Duchess of Portland has been found. He thinks the bulk of the collection will be sold, but that the Duke[3] will reserve the principal curiosities – I hope so, for I should long for some of them, and am become too poor to afford them.[4]

It was within this context that the duchess’s identity as a private collector and curator, extinguished by her death, was subsequently reinvented, positioning her instead as a curiosity to be bought and sold. As Cynthia Wall has suggested, “the first fiction of an auction is often about what is (or is not) really there; the second is about what might (or might not) be acquired.”[5] At auction, narratives of death went hand in hand with those of celebrity and desirability. Increasingly, auctions were inevitably associated with the undertaking trade.[6] Furthermore, auctioneers often doubled as cabinet and coffin makers, with their cabinets housing the goods of the dead and their coffins, the bodies; suggesting a physical as well as economic connection between death and the auction. Skinner’s trade card, made in the earlier stages of his career prior to 1786, advertises his skills as a “Sworn Appraiser Who Buys and Sells all sorts of Houshold [sic] Goods. Also Cabinet Maker & Undertaker…N. B. Coffins & Shrouds Ready Made”, revealing that he too dealt in the complex administration of both the belongings and bodies of the dead.

Image of Thomas Skinner’s Trade Card, date unknown.

Fig. 1 Thomas Skinner’s Trade Card, date unknown. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Coinciding with the increase in shopping as habitual Georgian behavior, was the explosion in the production and availability in print media; at the auction, these two aspects of urban life combined in the form of the catalogue to drive profit and reposition previously private property as public inheritance. The sale, which was preceded by a public exhibition, took place in the duchess’s townhouse in Privy Gardens, Whitehall and was widely reported in daily newspapers and periodicals alike. As early as  11 February 1786, the Morning Post intrigued its readers with promises of a “most copious and splendid collection” which, the paper touted, contained amongst its legions of specimens “insects”, “corallines”, “petrifactions”, “snuff boxes”, “pictures and prints”, “old china” and Greek and Roman sculptures including the head of Jupiter Serapis and the widely celebrated Barberini, later Portland, vase.[7] The sale text functioned as a point of contact between the duchess post-death and a culturally literate consumer community; one whose perceptions of celebrity and buying habits were informed by the catalogue and other printed ephemera associated with the sale. The sociability and adaptability of the catalogue, which was subjected to processes of marginal annotation and extra-illustration, enabled the creation of a fiction that proposed the duchess as both the purveyor of commodity and as commodity herself. The objects, spaces and assemblages of her museum were rearranged and laid out in the text for a paying public, reflecting back to the consumer notions of celebrity; of a duchess ubiquitous throughout and, yet, tantalizingly obscured.

Image of Fig. 2  Charles Grignion after E. F. Burney, frontispiece to A Catalogue of the Portland Museum, London 1786.  Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Fig. 2 Charles Grignion after E. F. Burney, frontispiece to “A Catalogue of the Portland Museum,” London 1786. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

The frontispiece of the Catalogue is the only surviving visual record of the collection prior to its dismantling at auction and was engraved by Charles Grignion after the artist Edward Francis Burney. Its absence from many of the surviving copies of the text (it is unusually preserved in Walpole’s) suggests its agency as a separately collectible item which could be removed and treasured, shared and traded by any catalogue owner. Far from an accurate representation of the collection as it would have appeared in Whitehall following the duchess’s death, it serves instead as an advertisement. It is rich in its texturing; layers of objects and materials are piled before the viewer’s eyes, with shells creeping out of exposed drawers, corallines perched atop cabinets and ornate porcelain gathered on the floor amongst leather-bound albums. Tobin has previously suggested that historians, “mistakenly assuming” that Burney’s illustration depicted the true aesthetic arrangement of the museum, “have portrayed the duchess’s collection as being in a constant state of disorder.”[8]

On 25 April 1786, The Morning Herald advertised “A Portrait of the late Dutchess Dowager of Portland, from a Marble Bust, executed by Rysbrack.”[9]  Sold by the print maker George Humphrey at a cost of 1s 6d, this engraving was produced in quarto, matching the size and shape of the catalogue suggesting that, despite being made and sold separately from the sale text, it was intended to speak to and even be inserted inside it (as Walpole did).[10] This image was quickly circulated amongst those interested in the sale – despite the fact that the bust itself was sculpted in 1727 and depicted the duchess at the age of twelve, it served to inform an eager public previously unfamiliar with her appearance.

Image of Fig. 3 – Rysbrack’s bust of the duchess of Portland, engraved by Humphreys and inserted into Walpole’s copy of the Catalogue

Fig. 3 – Rysbrack’s bust of the duchess of Portland, engraved by Humphreys and inserted into Walpole’s copy of the Catalogue

 

Walpole’s surviving copy can be read as an interactive, rather than static text – through marginal annotation and extra-illustration, he incorporated his own voice into that of the printed catalogue, revealing his experience within the unfolding action. Bound in his extra-illustrated volume between marbled boards, Walpole’s copy of the catalogue is arranged alongside additional texts and handwritten notes, augmenting the original both textually and physically. A handwritten account of the duchess’s life and collecting, written over four sides of a quarto and functioning as a personalised preface, was inserted into the catalogue by Walpole and later published by W. S. Lewis as The Duchess of Portland’s Museum. In it, he gives a survey of the types of objects collected: “At first her Taste was chiefly confined to Shells, Japan & old China, particularly of the blue & white with a brown Edge, of which last sort She formed a large Closet at Bulstrode.”

Image of Fig. 3 – Rysbrack’s bust of the duchess of Portland, engraved by Humphreys and inserted into Walpole’s copy of the Catalogue

Fig. 4 – Page from Walpole’s handwritten account of the duchess of Portland and her museum, inserted into the front of the Catalogue.

Elsewhere, he condemns her methods of acquiring art works, and her apparent lack of financial restraint, describing how “Prints of Hollar, to compleat his work, She bought at any price. On the death or Sr Luke Schaub the Duchess began to buy pictures, which She did not understand, & there & in other instances paid extravagantly, as well as for other articles to her taste. Latterly She went deeply into natural history, & her Collection in that Walk was supposed to have cost her fifteen thousand pounds.” Certainly, Walpole’s vocabulary in depicting the duchess’s collecting practices is one concerned with monetary value and the duchess’s own seemingly insatiable lust for objects whose real, artistic or historical worth which, according to Walpole, she did not know.

After the sale, he wrote; “The Collection was accordingly sold in May & June 1786, in a Sale of thirty-eight days …the Produce of the Auction was Ten thousand nine hundred sixty five pounds ten shillings & six pence.” Continuing, he noted “the disproportion between the large Sum which the Duchess had expended, and the produce of the Sale was not near so great as it seemed. Several of the most valuable articles in her Collection were not exposed for Sale.” Here, his choice of “exposed” touches on contemporary anxieties about the public and potentially embarrassing, revealing nature of the auction.

 

This research was conducted thanks to Lewis Walpole Library’s Travel Grant Award and would not have been possible without the kind and generous support of its staff. This short article is born from part of my ongoing doctoral thesis, entitled ‘Bluestocking Antiquarianism: Collecting, Craft and Conversation in the Duchess of Portland’s Museum’.

[1] For more on public perceptions of the bluestockings, see Elizabeth Eger, Bluestockings: Women of Reason from Enlightenment to Romanticism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

[2] Beth Fowkes Tobin, “Virtuoso or Naturalist? Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, Duchess of Portland”, in Women and Curiosity in Early Modern England and France, Line Cottegnies, Sandrine Parageau and John J. Thompson  eds., (Brill Books: Boston, 2016); 216-232, 217. See also Fowkes Tobin, The Duchess’s Shells (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 220-221.

[3] William Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738-1809), was the duchess’s eldest son.

[4] Horace Walpole to Lady Ossory, 23 July 1793, The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937-1983), 33: 484.

[5] Cynthia Wall, “The English Auction: Narratives of Dismantlings”,  Eighteenth-Century Studies 31, 1 (Fall, 1997): 1-25, 14.

[6] Troy Bickham, Savages within the Empire: Representations of American Indians in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), 45.

[7]  11 May, 1786. The Morning Post.

[8] Tobin, The Duchess’s Shells, 55.

[9] 25 April 1786, The Morning Herald.

[10] Tobin, The Duchess’s Shells, 230-231.

18. Strawberry Hill Theatricals

18. Strawberry Hill Theatricals 

By Judith Hawley, Royal Holloway, University of London

Horace Walpole maintained a lifelong interest in the theatre and is associated with leading theatrical personalities such as Kitty Clive and David Garrick. He also wrote for and about the stage. Best known in this connection is his tragedy, The Mysterious Mother (written 1768, soon to be performed as a staged reading https://walpole.library.yale.edu/event/staged-reading-horace-walpoles-play-mysterious-mother-1768).

This notorious play whose scandalous subject matter made it unperformable in his lifetime has perhaps caused his other contributions to theatrical culture to be overlooked. Not only did he write an afterpiece, Nature Will Prevail (1778) that was frequently performed in the eighteenth century, he contributed various prologues and epilogues for performances by friends by theatrical friends. Moreover, he was a serious critic of the state of the contemporary stage, writing a stinging Letter to David Garrick, Esq; On Opening the Theatre. In which, with great Freedom, he is told how he ought to behave (London: I. Pottinger, 1769) and the more measured Thoughts On Tragedy In Three Letters To Robert Jephson, Esq. and Thoughts on Comedy (1775, 1776) both published in The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford (London: G.G. and J. Robinson, and J. Edwards, 1798). The aim of all these works is to reform the stage by encouraging original and experimental writing. One of his implications is that this kind of writing is more likely to come from amateurs of his class than professional playwrights who churn out formulaic works from commercial motives. He knew whereof he spoke. He amassed a library of eighty volumes of plays in two series. One series – ‘Theatre of the Reign of George the 3d’ (Hazen 1810) – comprising 58 volumes with an additional volume of prologues, epilogues and newspaper clippings, contains plays dated 1760-95. The other, known as ‘A collection of plays’ (Hazen 1818), is in 23 volumes and contains plays dated 1730-60. Each volume contained multiple works and his collection ran to over 700 plays. The volumes in Hazen 1818 each had a contents page written by Walpole and many bear his notes and markings in pen.  The ‘Theatre of the Reign of George the 3d’ was more systematically annotated by Walpole with information such as the date of first performance and authorship; many were tagged with gossipy anecdotes (see Hazen, vol. II, pp. 98-143, 145-56).

One play in this vast collection stands out because it is annotated in a substantially different way. The sixth item in volume five of Hazen 1818 is The Devil to Pay; or, the Wives Metamorphosed (1731). It is heavily scored in pencil throughout. This three-act ballad opera by Charles Coffey (d. 1745) and John Mottley (1692-1750) was adapted from Thomas Jevon’s Devil of a Wife (1686). The plot contains Shakespearean elements in the form of the taming of a shrewish wife and the humiliation of a puritanical character who tries to ban Christmas revels.  The termagant, Lady Loverule, is encouraged by her hypocritical non-conformist parson, Ananias, to persecute her pleasure-loving husband and servants.  At the same time, a drunken cobbler, Jobson, abuses his lovely wife, Nell (played, when it opened at Drury Lane in 1731, by Miss Raftor, i.e. Kitty Clive). By means of magic, the two wives are swapped with the result that Jobson whips Lady Loverule into submission.  Sir John Loverule, delighted that his wife has been tamed, pays Jobson to take back Nell on condition that he ceases beating her. This nasty comedy was further adapted by Theophilus Cibber who reduced it to one act in 1748 by stripping out the non-conformist sub-plot and various minor characters. Hazen suggests that the pencil markings make the text correspond with the one-act version: ‘the text has been marked in pencil for extensive cutting, as shortened by Theophilus Cibber.’ (Hazen, II, p. 147) We can tell that Walpole knew this play as he alluded to it several times in his correspondence (Correspondence, 12: 150; 13: 167; 18: 51). But did he mark these cuts, and if so, why did he depart so much from his usual practice?

A further mystery resides in the fact that the cuts do not entirely coincide with Cibber’s one-act version. For example, pages 22-34 are crossed out thus omitting all of act one scenes four and five and act two scene one. Cibber’s version retains I.iv in which the doctor conjures up his spirits to effect the wife-swap, but cuts the other two scenes in the first of which Lord Loverule complains about his wife to some old friends and in the second, the servants torment Ananias.

1818 v.5:6, pp. 22-23

A volume which fairly recently found its way back to Strawberry Hill sheds some light on this mystery.  An octavo volume with half calf binding and worn marbled paper boards lettered ‘PLAYS’ on its spine reveals who annotated Walpole’s copy of The Devil to Pay and why.  The volume is listed as ‘Collection of seven play scripts’ and described in the exhibition catalogue, Anne Damer: Sculpture and Society, ed. Michael Snodin (Twickenham: Strawberry Hill Trust, 2014), p. 18. (I am grateful to Michael Snodin for drawing it to my attention and to Nick Dolan for allowing me to view and photograph it.) It collects together the prompt books Anne Seymour Damer used in her private theatricals. A prompt book is the copy of the script marked up for the use of the prompter during the performance; it includes cuts to the text and details such as cues, entrances and exits as the prompter had duties which overlapped with those of the modern stage manager. Private theatricals – amateur performances staged in private houses for an invited audience – were extremely popular in the second half of the eighteenth century, especially in Walpole’s circle. His niece, the sculptress Anne Damer was a keen participant in the theatricals staged at Richmond House in 1787 and 1788. The LWL holds copies of the playbills, prologues and epilogues for these performances.

[Folio 35 89B Copy 1]

After she inherited responsibility for Strawberry Hill House, she continued to stage performances there. Two performances are known from playbills held at LWL: in 1800 Damer and her friends staged The Old Maid (1761) by Arthur Murphy and Henry Fielding’s The Intriguing Chambermaid (1733).

[767 P69B R532 1788]

The following year, they performed Fashionable Friends, the satirical comedy written by her dear friend, Mary Berry and Lovers’ Quarrels.

[Quarto 33 30 Copy 6]

Damer’s prompt book does not seem to tally with the repertoire as recorded on these playbills. It comprises an unmarked copy of Colley Cibber’s Richard III; two copies of Susannah Centlivre’s The Wonder: a Woman Keeps a Secret (1714), one marked up for performance; Sir John Vanbrugh’s The Mistake (1705), marked up for performance; Henry Fielding’s The Intriguing Chamber Maid (1733) (also prepared for performance) and two copies of The Devil to Pay in the one-act version, both marked up but with some differences between them. There are recorded performances of some of the texts: The Wonder was performed at Richmond House in 1788; The Intriguing Chamber Maid was on the bill with The Old Maid at Strawberry Hill in 1800 (though there is no prompt copy of the latter in this volume). Others are puzzling. There is no record of a performance of Richard III associated with Damer and the text is not annotated. It doesn’t seem as if Damer produced The Mistake but actually Lover’s Quarrels is based on Vanbrugh’s five-act comedy: Thomas King (1730-1805) reduced it to the two-act farce Like Master Like Man in 1766 and it was later performed under the title Lover’s Quarrels: or Like Master Like Man. Damer’s cuts to The Mistake, which include deletions in pen and the cancellation of scenes by sticking pages together with sealing wax, are thus comparable to the pencil markings on Walpole’s copy of The Devil to Pay.

So, the Strawberry Hill prompt book provides evidence that Damer edited longer versions of a play to create a performance script. It is possible that she scanned the shelves of Walpole’s library looking for a play that might work for her troupe. Perhaps she tried to adapt the three-act Devil to Pay herself, then decided to work with the one-act version. Perhaps they didn’t have enough copies of the script so had to mark up this one.  Further mysteries remain. The first is the date of performance: in the absence of a playbill, we cannot date this performance with certainty, but there is a Dramatis Personae which provides some clues.

[The Devil to Pay, copy 2 in Collection of Seven Play Scripts. Courtesy of Strawberry Hill Trust]

Dramatis Personae

Sir John Loverule = Mr Mercer

[The Music Master in Fashionable Friends and Don Carlos in Lover’s Quarrels (1801)]

Jobson = Mr North

Conjuror [i.e. Doctor] = Earl of Mt Edgcumbe

[Clerimont in The Old Maid and Valentine in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Sir Dudley Dorimont in Fashionable Friends and Sancho in Lover’s Quarrels (1801)]

Butler = Mr Campbell

[Slap and Security in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); John in Fashionable Friends and Lopez in Lover’s Quarrels (1801)]

Cook = Mr Burn

[Mr Harlow in The Old Maid and Goodall in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Lapierre in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

Coachman = Mr Berry

[Captain Cape in The Old Maid and Oldcastle in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Sir Valentine Vapour in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

Lady Loverule = Mrs Burn

[Mrs Harlow in The Old Maid and Mrs Highman in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Mrs Racket in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

Nell = Miss A Berry

[Trifle in The Old Maid and Charlotte in Intriguing Chambermaid (1800); Miss Racket in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

Lucy = Mrs Damer

[Lettice in Intriguing Chambermaid and the Epilogue (1800); Lady Selina Vapour in Fashionable Friends and Jacintha in Lover’s Quarrels (1801)]

Lettice = Lady Eliz. Cole

[Trimming in Fashionable Friends (1801)]

I suggest The Devil to Pay was staged in 1798-99, after she had taken charge of the house and before the performances detailed on the surviving playbills. Why not after then? In 1802, Damer and some of the company, perhaps buoyed by their success at Strawberry, engaged in two ambitious schemes which went disastrously wrong. Damer, Mr Campbell and Richard Edgcumbe, 2nd Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and many other friends who had engaged in private theatricals for years, formed the Pic Nic Society, a subscription theatre-and-supper club which briefly occupied the Tottenham Street Theatre in London.  The managers of the patent theatres saw it as a direct threat to their revenues so mounted a press campaign that brought an end to the Pic Nic within a year. The furore also affected the other ambitious project that came from ‘the Theatre Strawberry’: Mary Berry’s Fashionable Friends was staged at Drury Lane in May 1802 but, because ‘the pit-filling public’ believed it to be ‘the production of some one of a certain Pic-nic Club then existing … they indignantly determined to stifle in it birth, and come to the first night determined to damn, without hearing it.’ (Preface to Fashionable Friends in Mary Berry, A comparative view of social life in England and France … To which are now first added, the lives of the Marquise Du Deffand and of Rachel lady Russell–Fashionable friends, a comedy, &c., by the same author, a new ed. (London: R. Bentley, 1844).)

Horace Walpole was intimately involved in theatrical culture as a fan and patron of actors, as a critic, playwright and collector. He eagerly transmitted gossip about both the professional stage and the private theatricals staged by numerous members of his circle. His library and house then fostered the theatrical activities of his beloved Damer and the Berrys. There is one final oddity about his copy of The Devil to Pay which demands explanation. There is a series of tiny deletions which is particularly intriguing. Among the revellers who celebrate Christmas in the home of Sir John Loverule is a character who does not appear in the Dramatis Personae: ‘the blind Fidler’. He appears in only one scene: act I, scene ii. The first reference to him occurs when the Butler wishes he were there so they could rejoice that the Lady has gone out (i.ii.5). Shortly after, he enters with Jobson and some neighbours and the Butler calls on ‘blind Will’ to strike up the music so they can sing a catch (I.ii.9-10). His only line is spoken when Lady Loverule breaks up the party and ‘Beats the Fiddle about the blind Man’s Head.’ (I.ii.15) The poor fellow exclaims ‘O Murder, Murder! I am a dark Man, which way shall I get hence? Oh Heav’n! she has broke my Fiddle, and undone me and my Wife and Children.’ Sir John pays him some compensation and sends him on his way.

1818 v.5:6, p. 15

He does not play a major role in the action, but the annotator pays a disproportionate amount of attention to him, striking out references to his blindness albeit very faintly on three of the four occasions on which it is mentioned.

1818 v.5:6, p. 5

1818 v.5:6, p. 9

These deletions are clearer in Damer’s prompt book, and particularly emphatic in the second copy (this copy includes the Dramatis Personae reproduced above so I think it is the actual performance text).

[The Devil to Pay, copy 2, p. 4 in Collection of Seven Play Scripts. Courtesy of Strawberry Hill Trust.]

[The Devil to Pay, copy 2, p. 5 in Collection of Seven Play Scripts. Courtesy of Strawberry Hill Trust.]

[The Devil to Pay, copy 2, p. 7, in Collection of Seven Play Scripts. Courtesy of Strawberry Hill Trust.]

As well as deleting references to his blindness, the fiddler’s speech is deleted altogether. Why? Walpole’s letter to Horace Mann dated 20 August 1776 perhaps provides the answer. ‘On Thursday Mr Damer [who had amassed huge gambling debts] supped at the Bedford Arms in Covent Garden, with four common women, a blind fiddler and no other man. At three in the morning he dismissed his seraglio, bidding each receive her guinea at the bar, and ordering Orpheus to come up again in half an hour. When he returned, he found a dead silence and smelt gunpowder.’ The blind fiddler was to report John Damer’s suicide. (Correspondence 24:234-35.)

I am grateful to the staff of the LWL and to Nick Dolan at Strawberry Hill who made this research possible. Images from Anne Damer’s prompt book are reproduced with permission of the Strawberry Hill Trust.

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

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

                 Description of the Villa title page

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

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

page of text heavily annotated in manuscript

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

Manuscript list of Works of Genius         Manuscript list of Principal Curiosities 

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

Walpole sketch of Strawberry Hill before and after

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carter's watercolor of the Library at Strawberry Hill

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

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

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

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

13. Journal of the Printing Office

Choice 7: The Journal of the Printing Office

                   

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

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

                      

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 7: The Journal of the Printing Office download or expand the link here:

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

6. Coffer on Stand

The Boulle Coffer on Stand in the Collection of the Lewis Walpole Library

by Susan Walker, Head of Public Services

The coffer on stand by André Charles Boulle, now in the collection of the Lewis Walpole Library, first appeared in Horace Walpole’s 1774 A Description of the Villa in the Round Drawing Room as “A trunk of tortoiseshell and bronze; by Boul, on a frame of the same; a small jar of Seve china under it.”

It is possible that Walpole saw and purchased the piece during one of his trips to Paris. In the list of his shipments of 1766 are “Two large cases H.W. from Poirier’s with clock, secrétaire, coffre and table. Two red leather chairs.”  The LWL’s Boulle coffer on stand is a very tempting candidate for that “coffre and table.”

By the time it appeared as lot 25 on day 23 of the Strawberry Hill sale in 1842, the piece was described with a bit more detail and enthusiasm by the auctioneer George Robins as “A remarkably fine Old Boule Coffer, a splendid specimen of this work, at an early period, the front elaborately finished with tortoiseshell ground work, massive or-molu mountings, masque handles, chased rosette corners, and lined with blue silk, on a pedestal en-suite, with richly worked boule back and stand for porcelain.”

It was bought by the dealer Owen of New Bond Street for £44.2.0. Was he buying for a collector? The piece reappeared as the Property of Sir Herbert Ogilvy, Baldovan House, Dundee, at a Sotheby’s auction on 9-10 November 1922 for £100. By the time it came to auction, its association with Walpole, Strawberry Hill, and the display of porcelain had transformed into a thing of family legend: “This coffer, with its stand, was Lot 25 in the Twenty-third Day’s sale of the contents of Strawberry Hill (May 20, 1842, Catalogue, p. 230). It was purchased at the sale by the present owner’s great-grandfather, the first Baron de Mauley; there has always been a tradition in the family that on the stand below the coffer reposed the famous bowl of goldfish in which Horace Walpole’s cat was drowned—a melancholy event commemorated by Thomas Gray in his poem ‘On the Death of a Favourite Cat.’” (Sotheby, 1922). The coffer on stand was bought in, so Ogilvy tried again through Sotheby’s on 6 December 1935, when it was bought by a purchaser named Seymour for £15. It has been suggested that “Seymour” may have been a dealer operating at auction under the assumed name of a famous family of collectors of French furniture at the time.

In January 1939, just shy of a century after the 1842 Strawberry Hill sale, W.S. Lewis purchased the coffer on stand from owner W.P. Wilson of Sennicots, Chichester, through the London dealer Ifan Kyrle Fletcher. Lewis, in his quest for Walpole correspondence for his Yale Edition, placed ads in the Times (London) personal column. He received an answer to one from Wilson in January of 1937, informing him of his ownership of the Boulle coffer on stand. Mr. Wilson had the piece photographed in May of that year, and in December 1938, Fletcher wrote to Lewis to say he had been in touch with the owner who was willing to sell it for £160. The deal was done, and the piece shipped to Farmington. The piece was bequeathed along with the collection, buildings, and property to Yale University on Lewis’s death in 1979.

The Lewis Walpole Library’s piece is thought to date from the first quarter of the eighteenth century and have been made by master ébéniste André-Charles Boulle or one of his sons. Boulle popularized this use of foliate and arabesque tortoiseshell and brass marquetry which came to be named after him (Boulle, boullework, or buhl). Most of the surface decoration on the LWL’s coffer is brass, with the tortoiseshell inlaid into it, a combination referred to as contre partie marquetry. Each such piece has a mate with the opposite treatment of the veneers. Thus, the mate to the LWL’s coffer, displaying première partie marquetry of tortoiseshell with inlaid brass, is in the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection.

The ormolu or gilt bronze mounts bear the crown c stamp (or poinçon c coronné), a tax stamp used from 1745-1749 that indicates the piece was either on the market or having such work done as having the mounts regilded during those years.

A remarkable survival of Boulle’s production, the LWL’s Boulle coffer on stand, unlike so many pieces made of oak with ebony, tortoiseshell, and metal marquetry veneers, had undergone very little intervention in the twentieth century. Only once sent to the Yale University Art Gallery for structural stabilization, the piece retained original materials and thus was an important document with evidence of the practices of the eighteenth-century French workshop. In 2006, the Library was awarded a generous grant from The Getty Foundation for treatment and research related to the conservation of the piece.

A team composed of Head of Public Services Susan Walker, then-Head of Research at the Victoria & Albert Museum Carolyn Sargentson, and conservator Yannick Chastang, collaborated on decisions involving all aspects of the piece’s treatment. Through face-to-face meetings and email correspondence, the trio reached agreement on the work to be performed. They agreed that the piece should be taken back to its appearance in the earliest image found—the photograph taken in Chichester in 1937.

One question that arose was whether to re-engrave the early replacement brass in the center front.

The decision was made not to attempt any engraving as it appeared without it in the early photo and there was a risk of damage to the piece if attempted.

Another question was whether to reproduce an escutcheon on the drawer that appeared in the 1937 photo but had subsequently been lost.

A replica was made based on the design shown in the photo, but it is not consistent with any known Boulle mount.

Finally, a long debate centered on whether to install any decorative element on the top of the plinth on the stand. There were many different examples found on similar pieces, but no description or any surviving evidence in the photo or on the plinth itself led to a convincing solution, nor would any have allowed for the display of a piece of porcelain, so the decision was made to leave the plinth unadorned.

 

 

 

Arlen Heginbotham, Assistant Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the J. Paul Getty Museum, led the examination and research carried out at the Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute where the piece underwent scientific analysis for materials identification. The red marquetry at the back panel of the stand revealed vermilion, red lead, and lead white, while the surprising discovery of the use of carbon black and natural vermilion pigments under the tortoise shell on the front of the coffer indicated the shell there would appear nearly black. The coffer on stand’s appearance now reflects the period materials discovered during its examination and, with the use of appropriate black coloring under the shell, the black and gold Walpole favored for frames and other furniture at Strawberry Hill. During treatment, tucked underneath the later red silk fabric lining the coffer, a small fragment of the early blue silk lining was discovered, consistent with the 1842 Sale description, and confirming the link to Walpole.

The Boulle coffer on stand from Horace Walpole’s collection at Strawberry Hill is now on view in the Lewis Walpole Library’s Reading Room.

Bibliography

Robins, George, A Catalogue of the Classic Contents of Strawberry Hill Collected by Horace Walpole, April 25th 1842 and 23 following days. (London: Smith and Robins, 1842)

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

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

5. Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter

Choice 2: Sir Robert and Lady Walpole by Eccardt and Wootton in a Grinling Gibbons Frame

Double portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, and Lady Walpole

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“This frame hung in the Blue Bedchamber, as we learn from Walpole’s Description of Strawberry Hill: ‘In a frame of black and gold carved by Gibbons, Sir Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter; small whole lengths; by Eccardt, after Zinke: the hounds and view of Houghton by Wootton. Sir Robert is sitting; by him, on a table, is the purse of the chancellor of the exchequer, leaning against busts of George 1st and 2d to denote his being first minister to those kings: by Lady Walpole are flowers, shells, a pallet and pencils, to mark her lover of the arts.’ William Cole, Horace Walpole’s contemporary at Eton and Cambridge and his chief antiquarian correspondent, noted in his ‘Account of Some Pictures at Strawberry Hill’ now in the British Library, ‘under the table stands a flower pot, and by Lady Walpole a grotto of shells. I remember when I was a school-boy at Eton, calling on Mr. Walpole at Chelsea, where Sir Robert, his father, then lived, I found him learning to draw, with Mr Lens the painter with him; and he then showed me a most beautiful grotto of shell work in the garden, on the banks of the Thames, designed by his mother: probably this alludes to that grotto. The frame of this picture cost £30, being most exquisitely carved, painted black, and gilt, having all sorts of flowers, fruits, birds, and at top figures of boys.’

“In his Anecdotes of Painting in England Walpole calls Gibbons (1648-1721) ‘An original genius’ who was ‘a citizen of nature….There is no instance of a man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers, and chained together the various productions of the elements with a free disorder natural to each species.’ How did the frame get to Strawberry Hill? I have been saying for years that it was originally around a mirror at Houghton, Sir Robert’s house in Norfolk, and that Walpole admired it so much his father gave it to him, a plausible explanation, but I can’t prove it. In Aedes Walpolianae, 1747, Walpole’s catalogue raisonné of his father’s great collection of pictures at Houghton, he speaks of Gibbons’s carvings there, but doesn’t mention the frame. Walpole’s copy at Farmington of A Description of Strawberry Hill ‘with such prices as I can recollect’ says nothing about the £30 or where the frame came from, but we know that it was bought at the Strawberry Hill sale in 1842 by Lord Lansdowne and that it was No. 77 in Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, until 1930 when it was sold at Christie’s and given me by my wife.”

Lewis continues in the chapter to talk about Walpole’s family, including his half-sister Mary, whose portrait also now hangs at the Lewis Walpole Library. He concludes with a mention of an illegitimate daughter of Horace’s father’s, Catherine Daye whom Horace brought to live at Strawberry Hill. “I like to think of her and her kindly younger brother visiting the Blue Bedchamber to pay their respects to their father’s portrait in the Grinling Gibbons frame.”

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 2: Sir Robert and Lady Walpole by Eccardt and Wootton in a Grinling Gibbons Frame download or expand the link here:

N.B. A high-quality fascimile of the painting and frame now hangs in the Blue Bedchamber at Strawberry Hill. Please click or tap here for details about the project to create the facsimile and install it at the house.

The original painting in its frame can be found hanging at the west end of the Reading Room at the Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington.

 

4. Fore-Edge Paintings in The Castle of Otranto

Strawberry Hill and The Castle of Otranto: Fore-Edge Paintings at the Lewis Walpole Library

Dale Townshend, Professor of Gothic Literature, Manchester Metropolitan University

One of the greatest privileges of researching at the Lewis Walpole Library must surely be the opportunity to work alongside staff who have such a deep knowledge of, and palpable passion for, the collections that they oversee. Indeed, how thrilled I was when, systematically working my way through the catalogue’s unmatched holdings in eighteenth-century editions of The Castle of Otranto (1765), the obliging and ever-helpful Library Services Assistant Kristen McDonald introduced me to a number of crucial items that would otherwise have escaped my attention: three luxury, apparently unique eighteenth-century editions of Walpole’s fiction that include fore-edge paintings—detailed, decorative scenes painted on the edge of the book opposite to the spine and gilded over so as to render them invisible when the book is closed. Rather like the ghosts that populate the volumes of Gothic fiction that arose in Otranto’s wake, fore-edge paintings are invisible to the uninitiated and unbelieving eye. Instead, they reveal themselves only when they are known to be there, and even then, only when they are looked at awry, the pages of the book bent or folded over by the reader so as to show up their secret, spectral inscriptions. In all likelihood added to bound editions of Otranto subsequent to purchase, these fore-edge paintings were expensive, luxury embellishments to copies of the text that were probably intended as collectors’ items or gifts. Together, all three images have been indispensible to my current research on the relationship between Gothic architecture and Gothic fiction, poetry, and drama in the period 1760 to 1840, particularly for the insight that they yield into the ways in which the late eighteenth century perceived the relationship between Walpole’s fiction and his home at Strawberry Hill: as Walpole in the guise of the translator William Marshal teasingly suggested in the Preface to the first edition of The Castle of Otranto, ‘the scene is undoubtedly laid in some real castle’ (viii), a detail that, following his disclosure of authorship a few months later, pointed readers directly to his own ‘little Gothic castle’ at Twickenham.

The earliest of these in the library’s holdings occurs in a copy of the third edition of The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story that was published by John Murray in London in 1769 (LWL Call Number 24 17 769). The image provides a visual interpretation of the dark, labyrinthine recesses beneath the eponymous Castle, the space through which Manfred pursues the imperiled heroine Isabella. With its vaulted ceilings and rounded, heavy columns, the architecture of the scene represents what the eighteenth century designated as ‘Saxon Gothic’, the early Gothic style that Thomas Warton in the second, revised edition of his influential Observations on the Fairy Queen of Spenser (1762) described as consisting of ‘round arches, round-headed windows, and round massy pillars, with a sort of regular capital and base’ (vol. 2, 186). As W. S. Lewis would observe in his seminal article ‘The Genesis of Strawberry Hill’ (1934), however, the subterraneous passages of Walpole’s text remain a ‘fiction’, textual details, that is, that are entirely without precedent or anchorage in the ‘real’ architecture of Strawberry Hill (90).

fore-edge painting with arches

By contrast, the fore-edge painting included in a copy of the fourth edition of The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story that was printed for J. Dodsley in London in 1782 (LWL Call Number: 24 17 782 Copy 3) is somewhat more determined in its attempts at tying the architecture of the fiction back to Walpole’s own home.

Fore-edge painting 3

Though it is not architecturally precise, the image approximates a view of Strawberry Hill as seen from the River Thames. While drawing a clear visual link between Otranto and the famed house of its author, this fore-edge painting also anticipates the claim that Walpole himself would advance in the Preface to the second edition of A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole (1784), namely that Strawberry Hill was, at once, ‘a very proper habitation of’ and ‘the scene that inspired’ the author of The Castle of Otranto (iv).

The third fore-edge painting in the Library’s holdings is to be found in a copy of the sixth edition of The Castle of Otranto that was published by Bodoni in Parma, Italy, for J. Edwards in 1791 (Call Number 24 17 791P Copy 15). On the one hand, the building depicted here appears not to be Strawberry Hill at all, but rather a whimsical, Revivalist Gothic fusion of ecclesiastical and castellated architectural details that recall a similar mixture of architectural styles and purposes in The Castle of Otranto. On the other, it may represent a version of Strawberry Hill as seen from the South, a building that, itself, was as much ecclesiastical as fortified, but opened up and flattened out, here, into a two-dimensional strip.

fore-edge painting looking like Strawberry Hill

When taken together, these images intensify the ruse with which Walpole in The Castle of Otranto was clearly engaged: not only the mystery concerning the text’s oneiric and purportedly ancient ‘Gothic’ origins, but also, as he put it in that famous letter from Strawberry Hill to William Cole in March 1765, the extent to which the architecture of the fiction included ‘some traits’ that would ‘put you in mind of this place’ (Correspondence, vol. 1, 88).

Bibliography

Lewis, W. S. ‘The Genesis of Strawberry Hill’, Metropolitan Museum Studies vol. 5,
no. 1 (August 1934): 57–92.

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

Walpole, Horace. A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole, Youngest Son of
Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford, at Strawberry-Hill Near Twickenham, Middlesex. With an Inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Curiosities, &c (Strawberry-Hill: Printed by Thomas Kirgate, 1784).

Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (London: Thomas Lowndes, 1765).

Warton, Thomas. Observations on the Fairy Queen of Spenser, 2nd edition, 2 vols
(London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley; and J. Fletcher, Oxford).

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)