11. Designs by Mr. R. Bentley, for Six Poems by Mr. T. Gray

Choice 6: Bentley’s Designs for Gray’s Poems

             

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

“‘Short Notes’ records, ‘This year [1753] published a fine edition of poems by Mr T. Gray with prints from designs by Mr R. Bentley.’ He might have added that the fine edition had an ‘Explanation of the Prints’ by himself. A sample is:

“Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat,

Frontispiece.

 “The cat standing on the brim of the tub, and endeavouring to catch a gold fish. Two cariatides of a river god stopping his hears to her cries, and Destiny cutting the nine threads of life, are on each side. Above, is a cat’s head between two expiring lamps, and over that, two mouse-traps, between an mandarin-cat sitting before a Chinese pagoda, and angling for gold fish into a china jar; and another cat drawing up a net. At the bottom are mice enjoying themselves on the prospect of the cat’s death; a lyre and pallet.

“Walpole published the book through Robert Dodsley in London to help his two friends. In the absence of his correspondence with Dodsley about the book we don’t know the terms of its publication apart from Dodsley’s payment of £42 to Gray for the copyright of his poems. Designs of Mr R Bentley for Six Poems by Mr T. Gray finally appeared in 1753, a royal quarto of thirty-six pages so cut that it looks like a small folio. The price was high, half a guinea, the equivalent today of what–fifty dollars? Dr. Johnson in his chapter on Gray in Lives of the Poets annoyed the poet and his friends by saying that the poems were printed on one side of each leaf ‘That they might in some form or other make out a book,’ but Bentley’s Designs went through three editions in 1753 and four more from 1765 to 1789. In our own day it has been hailed as a landmark of English book illustration by Osbert Sitwell and Kenneth Clark who called it ‘the most graceful monument to the Gothic Rococo.’

“Both Bentley’s original drawings and Walpole’s copy of the printed book are at Farmington. I am saving the book of drawings. Walpole noted in it. ‘These are the original drawings by Mr Bentley from which Grignion and Müller engraved the plates. Hor. Walpole.’ He pasted the drawings where the prints were to be. His usual binding was plain calf, but he had this book bound in red morocco with elaborate gilt tooling, a beautiful book. William Beckford paid eight guineas for it in the Strawberry Hill sale through his bookseller, Bohn, as we know from their correspondence about the sale at Farmington. Bohn reported that the drawings are so like engravings he had to look pretty carefully to satisfy himself that they are not engravings, an uncertainty shared by all then and since. After the Beckford Sale in 1882 they went to the ardent Walpolian Laurence Currie and came to me from Maggs in 1933.

“The publication of the Designs did not proceed smoothly. Gray objected to numbering the stanzas and the numbers were removed; he insisted that ‘Mr’ be put before his and Bentley’s names for fear that their omission would make him appear as ‘a classic.’ Walpole saw no ‘affectation in leaving out the Mr before your names; it is a barbarous addition. . . . Without ranging myself among classics, I assure you, were I to print anything with my name, it should be plain Horace Walpole; Mr is one of the Gothicisms I abominate,’ but Gray insisted on having it. Although he disliked Walpole’s ‘Explanation of the Prints,’ he conceded, ‘If you think it necessary to print these explanations for the use of people that have no eyes, I could be glad they were a little altered.’ Gray, always the candid friend with Walpole, wrote that he, Gray, would ‘revise the press, for you know you can’t.’ He became seriously alarmed when Dodsley, to make the book look more for its money, had Eccardt’s portrait of Gray at Strawberry Hill engraved for the frontispiece. On hearing this the poet wrote Walpole, ‘Sure you are out of your wits! this I know, if you suffer my head to be printed, you infallibly will put me out of mine. I conjure you immediately to put a stop to any such design. Who is at the expense of engraving it I know not, but if it be Dodsley, I will make up the loss to him. The thing as it was, I know, will make me ridiculous enough, but to appear in proper person at the head of my works, consisting of half a dozen ballads in thirty pages, would be worse than the pillory. I do assure you, if I had received such a frontispiece without any warning, I believe it would have given me a palsy.’ The print appears in only a few copies, including Walpole’s own. He lettered ‘Thomas Gray’ neatly on it and below the print, ‘Eccardt pinx, Müller Inv. In the collection of Mr H. Walpole.’

“With the removal of Gray’s portrait the frontispiece became Bentley’s illustration for the ‘Elegy’ that shows the poet musing by the babbling brook. There has been some speculation on the poet’s identity, whether he was Gray, Richard West, or just anybody. Comparison of Bentley’s original drawing with Müller’s print of it shows that the musing figure was originally Gray, adenoids and all, and that Müller’s figure, in compliance with Gray’s wishes, is nobody in particular. Walpole’s annotations in his printed copy of the book point out Gray’s indebtedness in the poems to Richard III, As You Like It, La Bruyère, and the Spectator. Walpole also noted that the Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes belonged to himself and that the authority for Chancellor Hatton’s dancing in ‘A Long Story’ is found in Anthony Bacon’s papers, vol. I, p. 56. Walpole bound in an excellent sketch by Gray of Stoke House in A Long Story opposite Bentley’s drawing of it and when we put these two drawings beside Grignion’s engraving of Bentley’s drawing we have Stoke House from start to finish.”

Lewis continues the chapter by discussing the friendship between Gray and Walpole, including their experiences during their Grand Tour travels and afterwards, and their quarrels and reconciliations. He notes, “Bentley’s Designs for Gray’s Poemswas inspired by Walpole’s eagerness to help his friends who he believed were geniuses.”

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

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called Choice 6: Bentley’s Designs for Gray’s Poems download or expand the link here:

7. The Ladies Waldegrave (Lady Elizabeth Laura, Lady Charlotte Maria & Lady Anne Horatia, daughters to James late Earl of Waldegrave Knight of the Garter)

Choice 3: Walpole’s Mezzotint of The Ladies Waldegrave

[Lady Elizabeth Laura, Lady Charlotte Maria & Lady Anne Horatia, daughters to James late Earl of Waldegrave Knight of the Garter]

By Wilmarth S. Lewis

To begin his Choice 3 in Rescuing Horace Walpole, Lewis details Horace Walpole’s relationship with his brother Edward before turning his attention to Edward’s mistress and children.

“Edward had four children by his mistress, Dorothy Clement, who Horace said was ‘a milliner’s apprentice at Durham.’ The children were Laura, Maria, Edward, and Charlotte. They appear together in a most attractive conversation piece by Slaughter that is now in the Minneapolis Art Museum. When they were ill Uncle Horace took them to Strawberry Hill and looked after them, an instance of his ‘great disposition’ to Edward’s children. Laura married a Keppel who became Bishop of Exeter. Maria’s first husband was the second Earl Waldegrave; her second husband, whom she married secretly without her Uncle Horace’s approval, was George III’s younger brother, the Duke of Gloucester. Charlotte married the fifth Earl of Dysart. Walpole reported the death of the younger Edward to Horace Mann: ‘My brother has lost his son, and it is no misfortune, though he was but three and thirty, and had very good parts; but he was sunk into such a habit of drinking and gaming, that the first ruined his constitution, and the latter would have ruined his father.’

“Maria, the beauty of the family, was her Uncle Horace’s favorite. He boasted to Horace Mann of how he brought about her marriage to Lord Waldegrave who was twenty-one years her senior. ‘A month ago,’ Horace wrote, ‘I was told that he liked her. . . . I jumbled them together, and he has already proposed. For character and credit he is the first match in England–for beauty, I think she is. She has not a fault in her face or person, and the detail is charming. A warm complexion tending to brown, fine eyes, brown  hair, fine teeth, and infinite wit, and vivacity. . . . My brother has luckily been tractable, and left the whole management to me.’ A pastel of her, very beautiful in her coronation robes, has appeared since I wrote this chapter. It hangs in the center of the new library at Farmington next to her father. Horace’s affectionate concern for Maria extended to her three Waldegrave daughters, Elizabeth Laura who married her cousin the fourth Earl Waldegrave, Charlotte Maria, Duchess of Grafton, and Anna Horatia, who married her cousin Lord Hugh Seymour Conway after the death of her first betrothed, the Duke of Ancaster. These three are ‘The Ladies Waldegrave’ of Reynolds’s conversation piece that shows them sewing at their work table. The original picture is now in the National Gallery of Scotland; Reynolds’s bill for it, 300 guineas, is at Farmington and so is Walpole’s copy of Valentine Green’s mezzotint of it, a proof before letters. It is what I have chosen to save from all the objects relating to Edward and his family at Farmington. Walpole pasted it into his copy of the 1784 Description of Strawberry Hill saved in Choice 9. That copy was acquired in 1919 for £1650 by Sabin and Co. of Bond Street. They removed the mezzotint of The Ladies Waldegrave and held it for 2000 guineas because they said it is ‘the finest English mezzotint in existence.’ The book itself came to Farmington in 1927 at a greatly reduced figure. During the next eleven years I would stop in at Sabin’s to pay my wistful respects to the print. Its price wilted during the Depression and I was not surprised when on the day war was declared my cabled offer of $500 was promptly accepted. The beautiful print sailed safely through the newly laid German mine fields to Farmington where it hangs beside drawings of Strawberry Hill that were formerly with it in the book. Drawings of Charlotte, Horatia, and Elizabeth Laura are also at Farmington along with a lock of the latter’s hair, braided, in a gold case.”

Lewis moves on to address the other members of the family and their portraits and correspondence now at the Library.

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 3: Walpole’s Mezzotint of The Ladies Waldegrave download or expand the link here: 

N.B. The identity of the woman in the pastel portrait Lewis describes above has since been reassigned. It is now thought to be a portrait of Maria Walpole (1725?-1801) illegitimate daughter of Sir Robert Walpole, prime minister and his mistress Maria Skerrett; the daughter later became the wife of Colonel Charles Churchill.

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.

 

3. Short notes of the life of Horatio Walpole, youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole, Earl of Orford, and of Catherine Shorter, his first wife, 1746-1779.

Choice 1: The Manuscript of “Short Notes of the Life of Horatio Walpole”  

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

“The full title Walpole gave this 7000-word manuscript is, ‘Short Notes of the Life of Horatio Walpole youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford and of Catherine Shorter, his first wife.’ He probably began writing it about 1746 and continued, off and on, until 1779. It begins: ‘I was born in Arlington Street near St James’s London Sept. 24, 1717, O.S. My godfathers were Charles Fitzroy Duke of Grafton, and my Uncle Horatio Walpole; my godmother, my Aunt, Dorothy Lady Viscountess Townshend. I was inoculated for the smallpox in 1724,’ an event reported in the London Journal of 10 October 1724, because it meant that the Prime Minister was endorsing the new practice.

“‘Short Notes’ was among the Walpole manuscripts sold by the sixth Earl Waldegrave’s executor in 1843 to the publisher, Richard Bentley (1794-1871). Most of it was printed rather apologetically for the first time in Bentley’s edition of Walpole’s letters to Horace Mann, 1844. The unknown editor deleted passages that give Walpole’s income, when he began and ended each year of his memoirs, a row with his Uncle Horace over money, how he got Lord Waldegrave to marry his niece Maria Walpole, and how he took care of his nephew Lord Orford during his fits of insanity. The full text was printed first in the Yale Walpole with 361 footnotes, some of them quite long. ‘Short Notes’ is the most important Walpole manuscript I know of.

“The story of how I got it begins with the start of the Yale Walpole in July 1933, when my wife and I went to Paris to learn from Seymour de Ricci how to find all the letters to and from Walpole in existence. De Ricci was the King of Provenance with 30,000 sale catalogues in his flat and a fabulous memory for owners, dealers, and auctions. My first question was, Where are William Cole’s letters to Walpole? because we had started with Walpole’s letters to him. De Ricci answered promptly that they had been bought at the Strawberry Hill Sale in 1842 by the publisher Henry Colburn and that I should get in touch with the grandson of his partner Richard Bentley of the same name who lived at The Mere, Upton, Slough, Bucks.

“Fortunately I followed his advice; fortunately, too, I kept Mr Bentley’s letters to me, and fortunately, for a third time, I was able to recover five of my letters to him when they were sold at Sotheby’s in 1975. They have refreshed and corrected my memory of one of the most helpful and delightful people I have ever met in Walpoleshire and show the importance of having both sides of a correspondence.”

Lewis goes on to chronicle his meetings and correspondence with Bentley and the search for the letters of key Walpole correspondents hidden away in Bentley’s home. He concludes:

“When we got to London in 1937 Robin Flower, Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum and one of the greatest early friends of the Yale Walpole, told me of the Walpole manuscripts that he found at Upton when he went down to appraise the library for tax purposes. The letters were not in libraries one to six, but in a remote passageway, a collection of Walpole’s manuscripts that corresponds in importance to the Boswelliana found in the croquet box at Malahide Castle. There were about a hundred unpublished letters, including those to John Chute, Walpole’s first history, The War with Spain1739, his Journal for 1769, the last memoirs from 1783-1791, Sir Robert Walpole’s last words, and many notes for the earlier memoirs written on scraps of paper. There were also Walpole’s Hieroglyphic Tales with two unprinted ones, ‘An abstract of the Kings and Queens of England,’ the draft for Walpole’s ‘Account of my Conduct relative to My Places,’ ‘The History of Madame du Barry, Mistress of Louis Quinze,’ and out-topping all in importance, the “Short Notes” of his life. Did Mr Bentley know they were there and was he waiting for me to pursue the quest at Upton further? That is not, I think, impossible. In any event, Mrs Bentley’s trustees let me have all the manuscripts, thanks to her friendly offices and those of John Hodgson, he who had knocked down to me in his sale room my first Walpole letters to Pinkerton; but the Upton saga was not finished. Peter Cunningham’s correspondence with the first Bentley about his edition of Walpole’s letters turned up and so did Miss Berry’s letters to Bentley about her books and much besides, all of which Mrs. Bentley gave me.

“Walpole’s letters to Mason are still missing; promising leads in Yorkshire and Wales came to nothing. I hope they may yet appear, but if I had to choose between them and the ‘Short Notes’ I would choose the ‘Short Notes’ without hesitation.”

Bibliography:

Walpole, Horace. Short notes of the life of Horatio Walpole. 1746-1779.

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 1: Manuscript of “Short Notes of the Life of Horatio Walpole” download or expand the link here:

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)

Welcome to the Lewis Walpole Library’s blog HORACE WALPOLE AT 300

Welcome to the Lewis Walpole Library’s blog HORACE WALPOLE AT 300.

In this year 2017-2018, the Lewis Walpole Library, a department of Yale University Library, is celebrating the life, works, and collections of Horace Walpole through a variety of programming including lectures, seminars, an exhibition, conference, dramatic reading, and more.

This year-long blog will feature items from the Lewis Walpole Library’s collection associated with Walpole. Each week, a new blog post will look at something that Walpole either owned, wrote, had printed at his house in Twickenham called Strawberry Hill, or in some way was closely connected with him. Alternating with entries by current Lewis Walpole Library staff and former Fellows will be chapters from W.S. Lewis’s Rescuing Horace Walpole, reproduced here with permission of the Yale University Press.

As noted in the dustjacket blurb of Rescuing Horace Walpole, “Leslie Stephen wrote, ‘The very large segment of the eighteenth century is simply a synonym for the works of Horace Walpole.’ In the early 1920’s Wilmarth S. Lewis began to collect not only Walpole’s own writings, but the publications of his private press at Strawberry Hill, books from his library, and pictures, prints, and drawings he owned. Today the Lewis Walpole Library, in Farmington, Connecticut, is one of the most extraordinary collections of eighteenth-century books, papers, and works of art to be found anywhere in the world.”

WSL and HW

W.S. (“Lefty”) Lewis, Yale ’18, in his autobiography One Man’s Education, described the beginnings of his collecting of Horace Walpole, “…in London Walpoliana were everywhere, lying about unwanted, the books that Walpole wrote and printed, and unique items, which Lefty later called ‘Bits of the True Cross’: presentation copies of the Strawberry Hill Press and books from Walpole’s library. The harvest was ready and Lefty reaped and gathered it in.”

As Lewis wrote about the 250th anniversary of Walpole’s birth, “There will be celebrations throughout Walpoleshire–bonfires and dancing on the green….Walpole would be pleased, embarrassed, and not at all surprised by these tributes to his memory.” We hope Walpole would feel the same about this current tribute to Walpole at 300.

–Susan Walker, Head of Public Services, the Lewis Walpole Library