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Walpole, Horace, 4th earl of Orford

Horace Walpole, 4th earl of Orford, 1717–97, English author; youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, he toured the Continent with his friend Thomas Gray from 1739 to 1741, when the two quarreled and parted. He was elected to Parliament in 1741 and served until 1767, confining himself largely to the role of spectator and defender of his father's memory. In 1747 he acquired a country house, Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham, where he built a pseudo-Gothic castle, which became the showplace of England. He was reconciled with Gray in 1745 and later published his friend's Pindaric odes, as well as many first editions of his own works from the private printing press he started at Strawberry Hill in 1757. Walpole's literary reputation rests primarily on his letters, which have great charm and polish and are invaluable pictures of Georgian England. More than 3,000 of his correspondences are extant and cover a period extending from 1732 to 1797. Among his more famous correspondents are Gray, Sir Horace Mann, Thomas Chatterton, and Mme Du Deffand. Walpole succeeded to the earldom of Orford in 1791. Besides his enthusiasm for medieval architecture and trappings, he anticipated the romanticism of the 19th cent. with his Gothic romance The Castle of Otranto (1765). His other important works include Historic Doubts on Richard III (1768), an attempt to rehabilitate the character of Richard; Anecdotes of Painting in England (4 vol., 1762–71); and posthumous works, Reminiscences (1798) and memoirs of the reigns of George II (1822) and George III (1845, 1859).

See Yale edition of the letters ed. by W. S. Lewis (vol. 1–48; 1937–83).

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Walpole, Horace, 4th earl of Orford

Walpole, Horace, 4th earl of Orford (1717–97). The youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole, Horace Walpole became the most gifted letter-writer in English history. When he entered Parliament in 1741 his father's long administration was tottering to its fall. Though he remained in the Commons until 1768 he made no mark and his preferred role was that of observer. The places and pensions provided by his father afforded him a comfortable bachelor existence and he lavished great attention on the Gothic villa at Strawberry Hill (Twickenham) which he purchased in 1748 and where he installed his private printing press. Much of his time was devoted to correspondence with his many friends and acquaintances. But he also wrote substantial works. The Castle of Otranto (1764) was an early example of the Gothick horror novel and Historic Doubts on Richard III (1768) fathered a minor academic industry. His Memoirs of the reigns of George II and George III were greatly used by 19th-cent. historians, but Walpole had much spite, lurid suspicions, and a taste for melodrama, which he worked into his narrative. Above all, he was chiefly responsible for the story that George III aimed at autocracy, a legend which poisoned the wells of scholarship for decades. Walpole succeeded to the peerage at the age of 74, but never took his seat in the Lords.

J. A. Cannon

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Walpole, Horace, 4th Earl of Orford

Walpole, Horace, 4th Earl of Orford (1717–97) English writer. The Gothicization of his house near London represents a milestone in architectural taste; his bizarre novel The Castle of Otranto (1764) established a parallel fashion for the Gothic in literature. Walpole's lasting reputation, however, rests on his letters, which provide a portrait of life in Georgian England.

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