Search for the name, locality, period or a feature of a locality. You'll then be taken to a map showing results.

Mr Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole (1717–1797) was an influential English writer, politician, and art historian, best known for his role in the literary and cultural circles of 18th-century England. Born on September 24, 1717, into a prominent political and aristocratic family, Walpole was the youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. His mother, Catherine Shorter, came from a wealthy and influential family, providing Horace with a privileged upbringing.

Walpole received his education at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge, but he left Cambridge without completing his degree. Despite not pursuing a formal education, Walpole displayed a keen interest in literature, art, and antiquarian pursuits. He embarked on the Grand Tour, a customary journey for young aristocrats, visiting various European countries and immersing himself in the cultural and artistic heritage of the continent.

In 1741, Walpole entered politics as the Member of Parliament for Callington, a seat he held until 1754. Although he wasn't particularly active in parliamentary affairs, he maintained a keen interest in political events and continued to be associated with the Whig party. Walpole's political career was not as illustrious as his father's, but his literary and cultural contributions would leave a lasting impact.

Horace Walpole created his ‘castle' at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham from 1747 until his death in 1797. The gothic house and naturalistic garden were planned together both for their integrated views and for the contrasts between the two creations. Both are extensively documented in the 48 volumes of his letters. Walpole could be seen as the first ‘garden historian' for his ‘History of the Modern Taste in Gardening' in which he coined the often repeated description of William Kent ‘He leapt the fence and saw all nature was a garden.' He expanded the naturalistic style promoted by Alexander Pope, also in Twickenham, which was popularised by Kent, combining this with an asymmetrical house which he proclaimed to be the epitome of Englishness. Where Pope's shell temple to his mother had been discreetly hidden from more than a passing gaze, Walpole's opulent shell bench sat overlooking the Thames. He largely planned his own planting, and exchanged plants with his friends. The garden was exposed to public viewing from the river, but this gave him a borrowed landscape that extended to the foot of Richmond Hill. His carefully chosen correspondents included the Revd. William Mason.

Horace Walpole is most renowned for his authorship of "The Castle of Otranto," published in 1764. Often considered the first Gothic novel, it combines elements of romance and supernatural horror, setting the stage for a genre that would gain immense popularity in subsequent years. The novel's success led to the establishment of Walpole as a significant literary figure of his time.

In addition to his literary pursuits, Walpole was a passionate art collector and an avid antiquarian. His residence, Strawberry Hill House, located in Twickenham, became a showcase for his extensive collection of art, antiquities, and curiosities. Walpole's efforts in the restoration and decoration of Strawberry Hill House contributed to the Gothic Revival movement in architecture.

One of Walpole's notable works is "Anecdotes of Painting in England," a seminal text in the field of art history. Published between 1762 and 1771, it highlighted the history of English painters and their works. His role as a cultural historian and collector significantly influenced the development of art scholarship in England.

Horace Walpole's literary and cultural impact extended beyond his own works. His correspondence, including the famous "Letters," offers valuable insights into the social, political, and cultural landscape of 18th-century England. These letters provide a rich source of information on his contemporaries, including literary figures, artists, and politicians.

Horace Walpole passed away on March 2, 1797, leaving behind a multifaceted legacy that continues to be explored and appreciated by scholars and enthusiasts alike. His contributions to literature, art history, and the Gothic genre have secured his place as a key figure in the cultural history of 18th-century England.


  1. Lewis, W. S. (1972). Horace Walpole: A Biography. Methuen.
  2. Holmes, R. (1999). The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. HarperCollins.
  3. Walpole, H. (1764). The Castle of Otranto. Dover Publications.
  4. Walpole, H. (1983). Horace Walpole's Correspondence. Yale University Press.

Walpole, Horace, (1995), The History of the Modern Taste in Gardening, (Ursus Press, New York)

The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondance, (1937-83), (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Brownell, Morris, (2001), The Prime Minister of Taste. A Portrait of Horace Walpole (Yale University Press, New Haven and London)

ed. Snodin, Michael, (2009) Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill, (Yale Centre for British Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, in association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London)

Chalcraft, Anna and Viscardi, Judith, (2007), Strawberry Hill. Horace Walpole's Gothic Castle, (Frances Lincoln).

Associated Places