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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Horace Walpole and His Legacies: Tercentenary Lectures

Composers of Architecture: Walpole and Beckford

24th October 2017, 18:15 to 19:15, Elvet Riverside Room 141, Marion Harney (University of Bath)

Horace Walpole and William Beckford were two highly original architects and writers. Wander through the built world of the eighteenth century at this free public lecture, part of the series Horace Walpole and his Legacies. Join the conversation via #WalpoleLegacies.

Horace Walpole and William Beckford share a page in English architectural and literary history. Both created highly original Gothic buildings and novels; Walpole the renowned Strawberry Hill and the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto; Beckford, Fonthill Abbey and Vathek. Innovative constructs of the imagination they represent autobiographical expressions of the complex psychology of their unorthodox creators. This paper explores the significant influence on Beckford of Walpole’s architectural and associative concepts of Gothic as a means of self-expression and self-dramatization facilitated through the creation of a sequence of dynamic spatial spaces, theatrical contexts and visual and sensory experience that provoke and stimulate the imagination. Walpole’s aesthetic legacy is explored through the synergies between Walpole and Beckford as composers of architecture and Romantic interior design as a means of expressing their personality, antiquarian motives, and the display of collections, scenic effects and architectural taste.

Image credit: A cross section of Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire, England from John Rutter's Delineations of Fonthill (1823), via Wikimedia Commons.

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