Horace Walpole and His Legacies: Tercentenary Lectures
The word 'greenth' is unusual. This lecture in our Walpole and His Legacies series will show how it was coined to describe a particularly English landscape, linking our environment with a sense of national pride. Join the conversation via #WalpoleLegacies.
In 1753 Horace Walpole coined the word greenth. Dictionaries tell us that it means ‘green vegetation’, but it means much more, and in this lecture I’m going to explore some of the ways in which green stuff mattered to Walpole and his contemporaries. Merging green and growth, Walpole’s greenth signals not just greenery, but the urge to see in the growth of the green an account of the natural; in adding an Old English suffix, Walpole signals, too, that greenth is not only natural, but naturally English. If this sounds like a celebration of easy and untroubled pleasure, of a simple communion with nature, I’m going to suggest that it offers us something more complex, that the celebration of greenery and growth—much like our modern economy’s hoped for, but rarely glimpsed, green shoots of recovery—is the stuff of political fantasy, national pride, and suspicion of foreigners both living and dead.
Image credit: Cliveden near Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, in A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole (1784). Reproduced courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
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