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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Writing to the Moment: Walpole’s Letters

10th October 2017, 18:15 to 19:15, Elvet Riverside 141, Stephen Regan (Durham University)

Why read letters that were written over two hundred and fifty years ago? What are the special qualities of the letter as a form of writing, and what special insights into social and cultural history do letters afford? Come to this free public lecture to answer these questions and more, by looking at one of the most prominent letter writers of the eighteenth century, Horace Walpole. Join the conversation via #WalpoleLegacies.

As the son of the first British Prime Minister, Horace Walpole was uniquely placed as an observer of eighteenth-century politics, but he was also a novelist and an art historian who perceived the possibilities of the letter as a work of art. Acknowledged by Sir Walter Scott as ‘the best letter writer in the English language’, Walpole was both a prolific correspondent and an impeccable stylist. His letters are magnificently diverse in subject matter, ranging from dogs and divorces, gambling and highwaymen, to gothic architecture, international politics, and the contemporary craze for hot-air ballooning.

This opening lecture in the Durham University series of Tercentenary Lectures: Horace Walpole and His Legacies will show how Walpole’s correspondence challenges our assumptions about the nature and function of letter writing. Walpole’s letters will be seen as acts of writing that embrace their own contradictory status: private and introspective, but also public and effusive, spontaneous and improvised, but also refashioned and curated for posterity.

Image credit: Letter from Horace Walpole to Hannah More (1788). Reproduced courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

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Research in English At Durham (READ) blog showcasing the the literary research emerging from the Department of English Studies


We host a large number of conferences, lectures and seminars each year, many of them open to the public. Find out more on our Events page.


Many of our public lectures, seminars and conferences are recorded, and can be listened to as podcasts.

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Next Event

  • 29th January 2021
  • Title TBC
  • Online (Zoom)
  • Dr Hannah-Rose Murray (University of Edinburgh)