10. Doutes Historiques sur la Vie et le Regne de Richard III

King Louis XVI’s Translation of Horace Walpole’s Historic Doubts

 

by Loftus Jestin, Professor Emeritus of English, Central Connecticut State University

Among the curious artifacts at the Lewis Walpole Library, one of the truly rare and startling manuscripts is Louis XVI’s translation of Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III.

The original publication in 1768 of Horace Walpole’s attempt to exonerate the reputation of Richard III caused quite a stir. The book generated much controversy with rebuttals and vilifications by such luminaries as Hume and Gibbon, many of which Walpole answered tartly over the next twenty years or so. William Cole and Thomas Gray affirmed Walpole’s argument, as, in fact, did Voltaire. The execution of the French king on January 21st, 1793, so upset Walpole that he wrote an angry, vituperative letter eight days later of nearly a thousand words to Lady Ossory, in which he could find no terms sufficiently strong to describe the murderers: “It remained for the enlightened eighteenth century to baffle language and invent horrors that can be found in no vocabulary” [Corres., p. 177, vol. 34, 1965]. The death of this “best-natured and most inoffensive of men” [p. 176], not to forget his reputation, which was so thoroughly traduced by the revolutionary mob, seemed to him a parallel to, if not a vindication of, his assertion in Historic Doubts that Richard III was maligned and his name thoroughly blackened by Lancastrian and Tudor propagandists.

It would have heartened Walpole had he known of the French king’s translation of the book before he died in 1797. Apparently, having been purloined by the mob from the king’s cell at the Tuileries, the manuscript escaped destruction and ended up in the hands of the publisher Roussel d’Epinol, who printed it at his shop in Paris in 1800. The manuscript was then purchased by Louise Comtesse de Ponthon, who married Henry Seymour; it descended down the generations of the Seymour family until its sale in 1949 at Sotheby’s to Dr. James Hasson of Berkshire for £300, who then sold it through Maggs Bros. Ltd. in 1950 to Wilmarth S. Lewis for £350. The manuscript remains in the Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, Connecticut.

It appears from the manuscript that the king wrote out his translation in an already bound notebook of 82 octavo-sized pages, rather than on loose sheets. Written in a tiny and very neat cursive hand over each side of each leaf, the script forms a continuous, uninterrupted flow, albeit in a slightly cramped hand. There are many cross outs and corrections, especially in the early part of the text, but with far fewer emendations in the latter half, suggestive of a greater confidence, or perhaps, more alarmingly, of the need for speed, given the king’s awareness of his approaching doom.

Many years ago, Mr. Lewis told me the following anecdote, which I have not been able to confirm. Not long after his purchase of the manuscript, authorities at the Bibliothèque nationale informed him that his manuscript was only a copy of the original, which was housed there in Paris. “Not at all,” Mr. Lewis rebutted. “You have the copy. The original manuscript in the king’s hand is here in Farmington. Come and see it for yourself!” No doubt annoyed by this pesky American millionaire, the French national library sent two experts to examine the manuscript. “Quite supercilious they were, too!” Lewis testified, until they held his copy in hand, whereupon one of the men had to sit down, quite faint.  There was no question who had the original, and who the copy.

Twenty years ago or so, I used to take my graduate students on a field trip to the Lewis Walpole library to look at some the rare books there, books they had read in modern editions for my seminar on eighteenth-century literature. Pope’s own copy of Homer’s Odyssey with his pencil drawing of his grotto at his house in Twickenham on the inside of the back cover, volumes of the original publications of many seventeenth and eighteenth-century plays, Bentley’s hand-drawn illustrations for Gray’s poems, the second folio of Shakespeare’s plays, and other such treasures. When I opened for them the slip case holding Louis XVI’s manuscript translation of Historic Doubts, many of the students gasped and looked at each other bug-eyed with a wild surprise, having never seen such an astonishing rarity before.

9. Walpole’s Three “Common Place Books,” Two “Books of Materials,” “Miscellany,” and Pocket Book

Choice 4: Walpole’s Three “Common Place Books,” Two “Books of Materials,” “Miscellany,” and Pocket Book

  

“These seven manuscripts are being saved on the generous principle that permits the rescue of an entire set and not just its first volume. If the Almighty objects, ‘This is going too far!’, I’ll choose the earliest one, for which Walpole wrote a title-page, ‘Verses, Stories, Characters, Letters, etc. etc. with some particular memoirs of a certain Parcel of People. 1740.’

“The three vellum-bound folio Common Place Books were left by Walpole to the Waldegrave family and stayed at Strawberry Hill. They were kept out of the 1842 sale, but were sold the following year to Richard Bentley the publisher (not to be confused with Gray’s and Walpole’s Bentley), along with the manuscripts I talk about in Choices 1 and 15. Grandfather Bentley sold back the Common Place Books in 1865 to the widow of the seventh Earl, Frances Lady Waldegrave, who restored the splendors of Strawberry by two later brilliant marriages and her own social gusto. In 1942 when I was in London on O.S.S. business the present Lord Waldegrave sold the three Common Place Books to me. During the flight home they were in jeopardy when the wheels of my plane were locked for what seemed quite a long time over Shannon. I see the crew now in their shirts, sweating with fright despite the cols, while we circled round and round the airport and they jabbed madly with long red spanners at the entrails of the plane that had been exposed beside my seat. Fortunately  they got the wheels down and so the ‘Verses, Stories, Characters, Letters, etc., etc.’ were saved, after all.

“The manuscript title-page of the second Common Place Book is ‘Poems and other Pieces by Horace Walpole youngest Son of Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford.’ The first poem, of 81 lines, is addressed ‘To the honorable Miss Lovelace/On the Death of Lord Lovelace/Her only Brother, 1736.’ Walpole later added a note, ‘The Author’s age was 18 at Cambridge.’

“Walpole transcribed all the verses on the right-hand pages of the second Common Place Book with glosses on the opposite pages that acknowledged their indebtedness to Dryden, Addison, Pope, Virgil, and Juvenal. The unprinted verses run to hundreds of lines. They are not in my Horace Walpole’s Fugitive Verses, 1931, owing to a lapse of Paget Toynbee’s customary generosity. I called on him at his house in Bucks whenever I was in England, taking with me my latest outstanding finds to show him. He looked at them with mixed feelings–pleasure for me, but regret that they would affect the value of his work. In 1927 we talked about my plans for an edition of Walpole’s Fugitive Verses. ‘Oh,” he said, ‘wouldn’t you like to look in there!‘ and pointed to a cabinet that had, he said, his copies of the unpublished verses from the second Common Place Book. It was not until 1942 when I acquired the books that I saw how much had been kept from me. Perhaps the most notable prose piece in it was Walpole’s ‘Speech in the House of Commons for an address to the King Jan’y 17th 1751,’ one of the few speeches he made during his twenty-six years in Parliament and the only one I know of in manuscript. The motion was carried 203 to 74. Prime Minister Pelham, Pitt, and Uncle Horace Walpole voting for it.

 

“Walpole labelled his third Common Place Book ‘Political Papers.’ They were printed in the weeklies Old England, The World, The Remembrances, The Protester. The ‘papers’ are written on the right-hand pages; opposite them are voluminous notes such as, ‘Mr Pitt’s fort [sic] was language. He dealt much in creation of words, such as Vicinage, Colonize, Whiggery, Desultoriness,’ a claim not confirmed by the Oxford English Dictionary, which gives earlier uses of all of them. The forthcoming Yale Edition of Walpole’s memoirs will be enriched by this Common Place Book.

                              

“In 1759 and 1771 Walpole began what he called ‘Books of Materials‘ in two green vellum quartos and in 1986 a ‘Miscellany’ in a small red morocco notebook with silver clasps. For nearly forty years he wrote up his visits to country houses, thoughts on Shakespeare, notes for a fifth volume of the Anecdotes of Painting in England, and much besides. The first note in 1759 is on the death of Prince George of Denmark taken from the Secret History of England; the final note in the Miscellany was written in the last year of Walpole’s life. It records that Murphy’s Portugal, 1795, raises the possibility that ‘the fine Gothic church of Batalha was guilt after a design by Stephen Stephenson, and Englishman’; Walpole kept his interest in ‘Gothic’ to the end. The Miscellany’s epigraph is from Cibber’s Apology and fits all the notebooks: ‘Such remaining scraps–as may not perhaps be worth the reader’s notice: but if they are such as tempt me to write them, why may not I hope that in this wide world there may be many an idle soul no wiser than myself who may be equally tempted to read them?’ Hands across the ages.

“My seventh notebook is small enough to be carried in a pocket. Walpole kept it from 1780 to 1783. Its notes range from A Discourse of Husbandrie used in Brabant and Flanders, 1650, to George Washington’s Royalist ancestors. Walpole thought so highly of one of his own bon mots in it, ‘Man is an Aurivorious Animal,’ that he included it among his ‘Detached Pieces’ in his posthumous Works.The history of this pocket notebook is lost until it re-emerged in the Red Cross Sale at Sotheby’s in 1917. Then it passed into the R.B. Adam library in Buffalo and when that library was sold in 1926 Dr Rosenbach bought it for me. The Walpole Press at Mount Vernon, New York, brought out a facsimile of it in 1927 with notes by me that foreshadow the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, which I began six years later.”

Elsewhere in this chapter, Lewis details various pieces contained in the manuscript volumes, recounts Walpole’s amiable friendships with young ladies and dismisses “a charge … that he was a homosexual,” and relates provenance information and acquisition anecdotes. The chapter concludes with the observation, “Missing Walpoliana may be anywhere.”

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 4: Walpole’s Three “Common Place Books,” Two “Books of Materials,” “Miscellany,” and Pocket Book download or expand the link here: 

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).

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: