HORACE WALPOLE 1717 -
xxxxxHorace Walpole, son of the statesman Robert Walpole, was a member of parliament for over 25 years, but his interest really lay in printing, publishing and the arts. He is best known for his spooky tale The Castle of Otranto of 1764, a so-
xxxxxHorace Walpole, youngest son of the British statesman Robert Walpole, was a novelist and prolific letter writer, but he also served as a Whig Member of Parliament for over 25 years. He is best known for his spooky tale entitled The Castle of Otranto, published in 1764, and for Strawberry Hill, his villa-
xxxxxHe was born in London and educated at Eton College, and it was here that he met his life-
xxxxxIt was in 1764 that he gained immediate success with his highly popular novel The Castle of Otranto. Set in Italy, this melodrama tells of the trials and tribulations of the beautiful and innocent Isabella in her struggle against the villainous Manfred and the powers of darkness. This was the first of the so-
xxxxxAnd gothic, too, in its inspiration and execution was the weird and wonderful fantasy "castle" that Walpole made out of a modest villa he bought at Twickenham in 1747 (illustrated) -
xxxxxBut quite apart from his hair-
Walpole: detail, by the German-
xxxxxThe young poet Thomas Chatterton (1752-
xxxxxA contemporary English poet who was known to Horace Walpole was Thomas Chatterton (1752-
xxxxxIn 1766, at the age of 14, he was apprenticed to a solicitor, but he continued to spend all his spare time studying medieval manuscripts. From that time onwards he began producing a series of poems in Middle English, claiming that he had found them in the church of St Mary Redcliffe. Purporting to be written by a 15th century monk named Thomas Rowley, they seemed genuine enough. Indeed, when, in 1769, Chatterton sent several of these poems to Walpole he was at first taken in. It was only later, after being advised that they were fabricated, that he rejected them and curtly advised him to stick to his present job!
xxxxxHowever, the following year, at the age of 17, Chatterton threw in his apprenticeship and came to London. Here, for a matter of months, he churned out articles, satirical poems and stories for a number of periodicals. Unable to make a living, however, he came near to starvation. Eventually, depressed by his failure as a writer, he poisoned himself by taking arsenic.
xxxxxIronically enough, after his death the Rowley poems, written to deceive, gained him recognition for their rhythm, sensitivity and, above all, their romantic imagination. As such, they broke away from the literary conventions of the 18th century, and gave further impetus to the growing romantic movement. His untimely death, the manner of it, and the talent thereby denied, evoked widespread sympathy and concern, particularly in the literary world, where he was seen by some as a poet of genius. Praise was forthcoming from the English poets Wordsworth, Byron, Scott and Rossetti, whilst Coleridge, Shelley and Keats wrote tributes to his memory.
xxxxxFor many years after his death, controversy raged over the authenticity of the Rowley poems. It was not, in fact, until 1871 that an expert in Old and Middle English Literature, W.W. Skeat, provided convincing proof that they were forgeries. It was also discovered that the name Rowley was actually taken from a memorial in St. John's Church in Bristol.
xxxxxIncidentally, in 1835 the French poet, novelist and dramatist Alfred de Vigny wrote Chatterton, a romantic drama based loosely on the life of the English poet, and this was later used for the production of an opera by the Neapolitan composer Ruggero Leoncavallo (later famous for his opera Pagliacci in 1892). ……
xxxxx…… The painting above, The Death of Chatterton, was the major work of the English Pre-
xxxxx…… The English poet Francis Thompson, remembered especially for his ode The Hound of Heaven, published in 1893, came near to taking his own life sometime in the mid-