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Dancing Senator

Pat Rogers, 7 November 1985

Memoirs of King George II: Vols I, II and III 
by Horace Walpole, edited by John Brooke.
Yale, 248 pp., £65, June 1985, 0 300 03197 1
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... With the irrelevant tidiness of an obsessive, Horace Walpole started his main series of memoirs in January 1751 – by one reckoning, the exact mid-point of the century. Actually he had already made one abortive stab with Memoirs from the Declaration of the War with Spain’, begun in 1746, now first published by John Brooke as an appendix to his edition ...

Seizing the Senses

Derek Jarrett, 17 February 2000

Edmund Burke. Vol. I: 1730-84 
by F.P. Lock.
Oxford, 564 pp., £75, January 1999, 0 19 820676 3
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... Lieutenant of Ireland. In July 1761, shortly before he went to Dublin with Hamilton, Burke met Horace Walpole, who was later to become one of his fiercest critics. ‘He is a sensible man,’ Walpole remarked, ‘but has not worn off his authorism yet, and thinks there is nothing so charming as writers, and to be ...

Proper Ghosts

Dinah Birch: ‘The Monk’, 16 June 2016

The Monk 
by Matthew Lewis.
Oxford, 357 pp., £8.99, January 2016, 978 0 19 870445 4
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... the 1790s. William Beckford wrote the Orientally-inspired Vathek (1786) when he was 21. Like Horace Walpole, author of the pioneering Gothic extravaganza The Castle of Otranto (1764), Beckford combined an interest in literature with a determination to revive a Gothic style of architecture; his grandiose Fonthill Abbey, like ...

A Scene of Furniture

Rosemary Hill: Hogarth, 4 February 1999

Hogarth: A Life and a World 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 794 pp., £14.99, September 1998, 0 571 19376 5
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... tea bowls, fans, massive antiquities and tiny tables. It was ‘reserved to Hogarth’, as Horace Walpole said, ‘to write a scene of furniture’. In his comic pictures things are often disordered, broken or overbalancing; the world of polite taste makeshift, the abrupt descent into the madhouse or the gutter imminent. This was the audience for ...

Bad Medicine

Frank McLynn, 23 July 1992

The Malaria Capers 
by Robert Desowitz.
Norton, 288 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 9780393030136
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... barrels of their sailing ships; the word malaria’, like ‘serendipity’, was first used by Horace Walpole, who wrote from Rome in 1740 of ‘a horrid thing that comes to Rome every summer and kills one’; dinosaurs are usually thought to have become extinct as a result of the Ice Age or the impact of a comet, but Desowitz speculates that the ...

On the rise

J.M. Roberts, 16 September 1982

Choiseul. Vol. 1: Father and Son 1719-1754 
by Rohan Butler.
Oxford, 1133 pp., £48, January 1981, 0 19 822509 1
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... A man of whom Horace Walpole remarked that ‘gallantry without delicacy was his constant pursuit,’ who brought about the overthrow of the Jesuits, who ran French foreign policy throughout the disastrous Seven Years War, and who overspent his (wife’s) means on a scale spectacular even among the French nobility of his age, would seem hard to forget ...

As God Intended

Rosemary Hill: Capability Brown, 5 January 2012

The Omnipotent Magician: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown 1716-83 
by Jane Brown.
Chatto, 384 pp., £20, March 2011, 978 0 7011 8212 0
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... object of suspicion. Over the following years, as he repositioned himself more securely in Robert Walpole’s England, he and Burlington, ‘the architect Earl’, with the gardener William Kent formed the heart of a coterie that made landscape design into an art form with rules, conventions and, for those with eyes to see, quite distinct meanings. Pope’s ...


Hugh Honour, 13 November 1997

A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800 
compiled by John Ingamells.
Yale, 1070 pp., £50, May 1997, 0 300 07165 5
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... in Venice (Consul Smith, who promoted the careers of Canaletto and other artists), Florence (Horace Mann, whose letters to Horace Walpole are famous) and Naples (Sir William Hamilton). There were political refugees, notably Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, and his brother, the Cardinal Duke of York (who ...

At the Courtauld

Esther Chadwick: Jonathan Richardson, 10 September 2015

... and close friends. They weren’t for sale, and they weren’t preparatory studies for paintings. Horace Walpole, who said that Richardson ‘drew nothing well below the head’, thought he produced a self-portrait a day; in reality it was more like every week or two. (A total of 55 are known today; 16 are exhibited here, as well as four more depicting ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton, 20 September 2001

Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... aged parchment, strangely intent on fooling connoisseurs of medieval literature such as Horace Walpole, author of the earliest Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, and publishers such as James Dodsley, who had done a great deal to popularise antiquarian poetry. At the same time, Chatterton was innocently eager for their applause. In this ...


Linda Colley, 9 July 1992

The Republican Virago: The Life and Times of Catharine Macaulay 
by Bridget Hill.
Oxford, 263 pp., £30, March 1992, 0 19 812978 5
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... go wrong. Her history volumes were denounced as excessively partisan even by committed Whigs like Horace Walpole. Sales fell. And in 1774 she foolishly left London for Bath, living (chastely) with a radical and increasingly senile clergyman who fell embarrassingly in love with her. Obsessed with what remains an unknown illness, she fell under the ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: London 1753, 25 September 2003

... Hospital and right by the waterworks. It was immensely popular. ‘Everybody goes there,’ Horace Walpole reported. ‘You can’t set your foot without treading on a Prince, or Duke of Cumberland.’ These colourful pleasures are shown in black and white, for this is an exhibition dominated by engravings. Reynolds’s portrait of Garrick being ...

Enlightenment Erotica

David Nokes, 4 August 1988

Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America 
by Peter Wagner.
Secker, 498 pp., £30, March 1988, 0 436 56051 8
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’Tis Nature’s Fault: Unauthorised Sexuality during the Enlightenment 
edited by Robert Purks Maccubin.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 34539 1
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The New Eighteenth Century: Theory, Politics, English Literature 
edited by Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown.
Methuen, 320 pp., £28, February 1988, 0 416 01631 6
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... than the norm for the age’. As Rousseau extends his list to include Burke, Smollett, Cleland and Horace Walpole, his real target becomes clear. It is the ‘prudery and cowardice’ of Augustan scholars who have formed a conspiracy of silence about these matters. Time and again he repeats the charge of prudery and cowardice, each time with a more ...

Unpranked Lyre

John Mullan: The Laziness of Thomas Gray, 13 December 2001

Thomas Gray: A Life 
by Robert Mack.
Yale, 718 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 300 08499 4
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... about the Elegy is that Gray actually finished it. Even he was surprised. When he sent a copy to Horace Walpole he told his friend to ‘look upon it in the light of a thing with an end to it; a merit that most of my writings have wanted and are like to want’. Johnson would probably have detected the complacency of a writer who liked to think of ...


Rosemary Hill: Love and madness in 18th century London, 7 October 2004

Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the 18th Century 
by John Brewer.
HarperCollins, 340 pp., £20, March 2004, 9780002571340
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... dedicated, feel uneasy.The age of sensibility was not particularly concerned with authenticity. Horace Walpole, who took a great interest in the Ray murder, was ‘agog’ but thought the facts more unlikely than fiction. ‘Can you believe such a tale?’ the author of The Castle of Otranto wrote to Lady Ossory. ‘How could poor Miss Wray have ...

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