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Horace Walpole

Timothy Mowl
Date Published
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Horace Walpole, famous for his novel The Castle of Otranto and his gothick castle-villa, Strawberry Hill, has been oddly shielded by his previous admirers. The most famous of these was W. S. Lewis, a rich American scholar, who collected virtually all of Walpole’s surviving letters and papers and edited them in forty-eight impressive volumes. He was however a conventional man of his times and could not bring himself to acknowledge Walpole’s homosexuality and its implications. R. W. Ketton-Cremer, who wrote what was otherwise a very good biography of Walpole, was similarly evasive.

Timothy Mowl’s study of Horace Walpole is the first to give a complete and convincing picture of the whole man. It is the first to show that, despite his aristocratic connections (he was the youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister) Horace Walpole was a sexual and social outsider whose talents as a publicist were used to serve his own agenda. Also revealed for the first time is Walpole’s passionate affair with the 9th Earl of Lincoln. The ending of that relationship, and Walpole’s subsequent resentment of Lincoln’s relatives, affected his judgment, friendships and emotions for the rest of his life.

This book provides an honest and radical reassessment of one of the most influential men of taste of the eighteenth-century, and is reissued to coincide with a major Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition dedicated to Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill.

‘This is a lively, provocative and hugely entertaining book. Whatever one makes of Dr Mowl’s interpretation of Walpole’s career, it is always intelligently argued, and presented with a polemical vigour and sense of style which are worthy of his subject’s own.’ John Adamson, Sunday Review

‘. . . he is lively and convincing on the gradual accretions to Strawberry Hill, and often shrewd on the character of his subject . . .’ Pat Rogers, Times Literary Supplement

‘In general, Mowl writes delightfully, and there are witticisms that Horry (Horace Walpole) himself would relish.’ Bevis Hillier, The Spectator

‘In this vivid and entertaining biography, Horace Walpole is properly outed.’ Duncan Sprott, Gay Times

‘. . .he presents the most credible picture of the man and his achievement to date.’ Martin Postle, Apollo

‘This wicked, enjoyable book should provoke wide debate.’ David Watkin, Evening Standard


Timothy Mowl is an architectural and landscape historian based at the University of Bristol. His many books include the following being reissued in Faber Finds: Stylistic Cold Wars: Betjeman versus Pevsner, Horace Walpole and William Beckford. He is currently researching and writing a nationwide series of the historic landscapes and gardens of England.

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