Walpole, Horace

Horace Walpole
24 September 1717 - 2 March 1797

When it comes to Gothic fiction, Walpole (later in his life the Earl of Orford) is The Man—his clumsy and over-the-top (at least to most modern readers) melodramatic thriller The Castle of Otranto, published on Christmas Eve in 1764 (the year in which James Watt perfected the steam engine, thus laying the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution), more-or-less began the Gothic as we know it. Initally accepted rather favorably, Otranto was villified by the press once it was revealed, in the second edition, that the work was not in fact a translation of an old manuscript but the contemporary creation of the politically and socially well-connected son of a Prime Minister. Walpole's drama The Mysterious Mother, never performed in his lifetime, dealt with another topic that would attract much (scandalized) attention in the Romantic period: incest.

Biographical essay
[Paul Baines, U Liverpool; Literary Encyclopedia]
Biographical overview (PDF)
[Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Collection
Biographical overview
You cannot afford to miss a discussion of Horace Walpole that begins, almost aptly, with an excerpt from a Monty Python skit. [Thomas Christensen]
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Lewis Walpole Library
The Library—a collection of Horace Walpole stuff (editions, MSS, etc) and materials related to British culture in the Georgian period—sounds fascinating, though the website is largely descriptive, offering no access to any of the textual holdings, although many digital images from the collection are now available. [Yale U]
"Lewis Walpole Library brings 'treasure' to BAC"
"BAC" being the British Arts Center at Yale U; this brief article from the Yale Herald (Yale's undergraduate newspaper) discusses, in interesting terms, a 1999 exhibit of materials from the Lewis Walpole Library. [Bidisha Banerjee, Yale Herald Online]
Brief biographical note
Biographical note
Brief biographical note
[Gothic Labyrinth]
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Brief biographical note
[Keith Parkins]
Brief biographical note
Brief biographical note
Emphasizes issues of sexuality and sexual orientation in Walpole's life and work. [George Haggerty, glbtq]
Brief biographical note
[Twickenham Museum]
Biographical note
Brief biographical note a LitGothic etext
[John W. Cousins, A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910]
The Friends of Strawberry Hill this link opens a new window
Self-described as "dedicated to promoting this fragile and unique house to the wider world, and to help it survive into the future." Great resource for info about Wapole's classic architectural creation.
"Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill"
Brief note on Walpole and Alexander Pope and Strawberry Hill [Alexander Pope in Twickenham, Anthony Beckles Willson]
Strawberry Hill
[Norton Topics, W. W. Norton]
Strawberry Hill
Nice image of Horace's famous place of residence [Jonathan Oakes]
Walpole's Cabinet
A brief note regarding one of Horace's favorite furniture pieces; also provides some context for understanding Walpole's antiquarian and cultural interests. [Victoria & Albert Museum]
Walpole Hyper-Concordance
Part of the The Victorian Literary Studies Archive, this concordance allows you to search the etext of Otranto.
[National Portrait Gallery, London]
Image of Walpole
[Queen Charlotte Exhibit, UVa]

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The Castle of Otranto [1764]
The title-page of the first edition of this work originally read as follows: The Castle of Otranto, A Story. Translated by William Marshal, Gent. From the Original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, Canon of the Church of St. Nicholas at Otranto." For the second edition the subtitle became "A Gothic Story" and the pose of a translator/source was dropped.
- at The World Wide School (Table of Contents)
- at Project Gutenberg (224K)
- at U Adelaide Library
- at Bibliomania

Otranto resources:
- Overview [Paul Baines, U Liverpool]
- Study notes [Robert Harris]
- Brief discussion[W. W. Norton]
- a late 1970s short film based loosely on the novel
In Czech, with Japanese subtitles at this website. Plot summary at IMDB.com....

Not directly Gothic, but Walpole was a prodigious writer of letters, corresponding with many of the most important cultural and political figures of his time, and there are some nuggets worth mining for. There are volumes of letters available at Project Gutenberg, each as an individual file:
Volume I
Volume II
Volume III
Volume IV

"Maddalena; or The Fate of the Florentines"
- at HorrorMasters [PDF]

The Mysterious Mother [1768]
Walpole's drama on that popular yet disturbing theme oddly common in the Romantic period: incest. Wapole gives us a multiple incest scenario: the Countess knowingly seduces her son on the night of her husband's death; her son, Edmund, thinks he's having sex with one of his mother's maids, so he's pretty much guiltless. This tryst makes the Countess pregnant, and she gives birth to Adeliza, with whom Edmund, not knowing she is the Countess' daughter (let alone not knowing that she is also his own daughter and his half-sister), falls in love. They marry, and only then does the Countess, who's been laboring under a load of guilt for 16 years, reveal all. Layer onto this a plot involving the wicked and duplicitious monk Benedict, and you're in deep Gothic waters. Unlike Otranto this work is utterly devoid of supernaturalism, but with a family romance like that as the subject, who needs ghosts? Perhaps not surprisingly, the play was never performed in Walpole's lifetime.
- at GoogleBooks [efacsimile of 1791 edition]
-- Brief review of a 2001 Scottish production of the play.

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For another inexpensive version of Walpole's magnum opus, you may want to consider this volume — another of those treasures edited by E. F. Bleiler and published by Dover — which features, in addition to Walpole's Castle, William Beckford's bizzare Oriental quasi-gothic tale Vathek, John Polidori's The Vampyre, and the fragmentary novel by Lord Byron said to be Polidori's inspiration/source. That's a lot of Gothic for your money, and this is a book which everyone interested in Gothic literature should own:

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Then there's this collection of little-known Walpole texts, Hieroglyphic Tales published by Mercury House.

Essays and Reviews:
"The Gothic Phenomenon In The Castle Of Otranto: A Critical Essay"
by Clifford J. Kurkowski
A useful essay that begins with an overview of "Gothic" before moving to a consideration of the "Gothicness" of Walpole's novel.

"Horace Walpole."