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Department of English Studies

Horace Walpole and His Legacies: Tercentenary Lectures

Horace Walpole (1717-1797) was a man of remarkably diverse talents: novelist, art historian, dramatist, designer, collector, man of letters, and politician.

Today he is most famous for writing the first novel to call itself 'A Gothic Story', The Castle of Otranto, and for creating the neo-Gothic Strawberry Hill house in London. However, Walpole’s legacy can be traced across many fields that give a flavour of the culture and politics of the eighteenth century. Join us at this series of free public lectures to discover more; participate online by tweeting #WalpoleLegacies.

All lectures are on Tuesdays, 18.15–19.15, in Elvet Riverside Room 141. There is no need to book. The convenor is Professor Fiona Robertson.

Next Lecture

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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