"The world is a comedy to those that
think, a tragedy to those who feel."
- Letter to Sir Horace Mann, 1770.
Born of a great prime minister, and educated
at Eton and Cambridge, Horace Walpole went through life
in comfort and luxury. At Eton, Walpole met Thomas Gray,
and formed a lasting friendship with the soon-to-be renowned
English poet. After traveling France and Italy, in 1747,
he settled at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. He turned this
estate into a Gothic castle filled with manuscripts, books,
and artifacts In 1757, he set up a private printing press
at his estate. In 1758, Walpole published his first book,
Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors. In 1780 he published
Anectodes of Painting in England. Walpole's most prestigious
and well-known work, The Castle of Otranto, was published
in 1764. Before dying in London in 1797, Walpole privately
printed The Mysterious Mother and succeeded to the
family title of Earl of Orford. Walpole's The Castle
of Otranto (1764) officially began the Gothic literature
movement. Set in Walpole's very own Strawberry Hill, Otranto
thrilled and mystified readers (readers who could no longer
stand the stifling principles of reason) with its Gothic
setting and its superstitious and supernatural subject matter.
What could have inspired such a story in such an age of
restraint? Thomas Gray sent Walpole his poem, "Elegy
Written in a Country Churchyard." Walpole enjoyed it
immensely and urged Gray to publish it. In addition, Walpole
had a dream in June of 1764. He envisioned a giant armored
hand at the top of the staircase of a Gothic castle. When
he woke he began to write a novel that would inspire the
Romantic movement and begin the English Gothic revival.
Otranto would influence two great Gothic writers, Clara
Reeve and Ann Radcliffe.
The Castle of Otranto (1764)
Anecdotes of Painting in England (1762-80)
Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors (1758)
The Mysterious Mother (1768)
Noyes, Russell. English
Romantic Poetry and Prose. New York: Oxford University