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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

Walpole’s Dimunitions

5th December 2017, 18:15 to 19:15, Elvet Riverside 141, Fiona Robertson (Durham University)

Despite being an important figure in his own time, Horace Walpole suffered put-downs from later writers and thinkers. Why? Find out at this free public lecture from our series Horace Walpole and his Legacies. Join the conversation via #WalpoleLegacies.

Reviewing Walpole’s letters to George Montagu for the Edinburgh Review in 1818, William Hazlitt wrote: ‘In one word, every thing about him was in little; and the smaller the object, and the less its importance, the higher did his estimation and his praises of it ascend.’ This lecture examines the various ways and contexts in which Walpole’s reputation was diminished in the generations following his own; and links these to an aesthetic of dimunition and inconsequentiality in his writings, buildings, and styles of design and collecting. According to his published description of Strawberry Hill, it was a ‘small capricious house’, ‘a paper fabric and an assemblage of curious trifles, made by an insignificant man’. The lecture draws together the various elements of Walpole’s style, across disciplines, by examining a determined courtship of, and resistance to, dimunition and dissolution.

Image credit: Strawberry Hill House in Autumn, reproduced courtesy of Strawberry Hill House Gardens.

Contact fiona.robertson@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.


Full Lecture List