Queering Horace Walpole.
What does it mean to talk about sexuality in the eighteenth century? What can historians of sexuality accomplish without the keyhole testimonies that prove our subjects had sex with members of their own gender? Scholars often, for obvious reasons, ignore the nagging sense that such keyhole testimonies are themselves often suspect; for how many interior British rooms have such capacious keyholes, such well-placed chinks, or such useful wallpaper tears that proved to be so useful in sodomy sodomy
Noncoital carnal copulation. Sodomy is a crime in some jurisdictions. Some sodomy laws, particularly in Middle Eastern countries and those jurisdictions observing Shari'ah law, provide penalties as severe as life imprisonment for homosexual intercourse, even if the trials or at least the versions of those trials produced for public consumption? (1) It is convenient for historians and literary scholars to let such accounts stand--they make dull historical observations come alive--but to ignore the questionable nature of such "facts" must surely undermine the historical claims that are being made. Does it matter that proof itself is often fabricated? Can we believe someone who testifies to have seen certain activities when the accusation of sodomy so often masked a different concern or less concrete transgression, often political or religious? I think it does matter, and I think that what is marshaled as proof in such cases often proves very little. Instead of looking for a concrete account of same-sex sexual behavior sexual behavior A person's sexual practices–ie, whether he/she engages in heterosexual or homosexual activity. See Sex life, Sexual life. , I think we are forced to look elsewhere in almost every case. That is why the circumstantial case often becomes the more revealing one.
In this essay I am going to consider the eighteenth-century man of letters Horace Walpole (1717-96, see Figure 1) in these terms. Aside from a few indiscreet and wildly suggestive early letters, Walpole never confesses the kind of infatuation that his friend Thomas Gray reveals in his own letters to his young protege, Charles-Victor de Bonstettin. (2) Walpole's letters are full of love, to be sure, to Gray and other intimate male friends, as well as to a number of female relatives and friends. I propose to look at these letters closely to decide whether there is any basis for talking about these friendships in erotic terms. I also want us to look at the man Horace Walpole in the broadest way possible. What were his obsessions? How did he spend his time? Who were his friends? What did they talk about? I think that if I approach these questions without a preconception pre·con·cep·tion
An opinion or conception formed in advance of adequate knowledge or experience, especially a prejudice or bias.
Noun 1. that Walpole was identifiable by his sexuality, the complexity of the man will emerge more clearly. I also think it will then be more readily apparent why it makes perfect sense to label Walpole as queer.
Why, you might ask, does this work need to be done, when Timothy Mowl has already written a thoroughgoing thor·ough·go·ing
1. Very thorough; complete: thoroughgoing research.
2. Unmitigated; unqualified: a thoroughgoing villain. queering of Walpole and his set? Mowl says, for instance, "If Horace behaved often in ways that would be described today as 'camp' and some of his friends acted like 'screaming queens,' this needs to be said; the 'gay' world is anything but politically correct politically correct Politically sensitive adjective Referring to language reflecting awareness and sensitivity to another person's physical, mental, cultural, or other disadvantages or deviations from a norm; a person is not mentally retarded, but in private." (3) Mowl feels that his position as architectural historian gives him special insight into the working of the gay world; he expatiates on the "homosexual activity and internecine in·ter·nec·ine
1. Of or relating to struggle within a nation, organization, or group.
2. Mutually destructive; ruinous or fatal to both sides.
3. Characterized by bloodshed or carnage. conflict" prevalent in his field, and he insists that the "enchanted en·chant
tr.v. en·chant·ed, en·chant·ing, en·chants
1. To cast a spell over; bewitch.
2. To attract and delight; entrance. See Synonyms at charm. castle of Strawberry Hill should be conceived of not only as an exercise in public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most , but as a large Gothick 'closet' to which Horace Walpole could sometimes retire when he wished to express his true persona with intimate friends." (4) Now this is exactly the kind of queering I would prefer to avoid. Of course, it would be easy to embrace Walpole as a gay brother and to interpret details of his life in terms of twenty-first-century gay culture (or a misunderstanding of that culture, as Mowl's book reveals). But I would rather look at what is there and consider it in its own terms. Walpole is far too interesting a figure for us to caricature him as a twentieth-century homosexual. I think it is possible to learn far more about the history of sexuality if a figure such as Walpole, who had quite a lot to say on the subject after all, is allowed to speak for himself. He writes on 24 January 1740:
The farther I travel, the less I wonder at anything: a few days reconcile one to a new spot, or an unseen custom; and men are so much the same everywhere, that one scarce perceives any change of situation. The same weaknesses, the same passions that in England plunge men into elections, drinking, whoring, exist here, and show themselves in the shapes of Jesuits, cicisbeos, and Corydon ardebat Alexin's [Virgil, Ecl. Ii 105]. The most remarkable thing I have observed since I came abroad, is, that there are no people so obviously mad as the English. The French, the Italians, have great follies, great faults; but then they are so national, that they cease to be striking. In England, tempers vary so excessively, that almost every one's faults are peculiar to himself. I take this diversity to proceed partly from our climate, partly from our government: the first is changeable, and makes us queer; the latter permits our queernesses to operate as they please. If one could avoid contracting this queerness, it must certainly be the most entertaining to live in England, where such a variety of incidents continually amuse. The incidents of a week in London would furnish all Italy with news for a twelvemonth. (5)
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The "queernesses" that Walpole discusses here--the queerness of the English, the queerness that climate and government conspire con·spire
v. con·spired, con·spir·ing, con·spires
1. To plan together secretly to commit an illegal or wrongful act or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action.
2. to make so evident--are certainly not associated primarily with sexuality or sexual object choice, sodomy, or even the more familiar pederasty The criminal offense of unnatural copulation between men.
The term pederasty is usually defined as anal intercourse of a man with a boy. Pederasty is a form of Sodomy. . The sexual excesses that he lists here--"drinking, whoring ... in the shapes of Jesuits, cicisbeos, and Corydon ardebat Alexin's"--include the fact of same-sex passion, and indeed Walpole's argument suggests that this is something one would be likely to encounter anywhere. Still, the rhetoric of the passage works subtly to make a connection between English queerness and this suggestive Latin articulation. It is almost as if English queerness develops on this ground of transgressive same-sex erotics. Of course, the Italian setting allowed many English gentlemen to experience the delights of same-sex love. (6) Walpole acknowledges that and builds his argument about queerness from there. At the very least, it is fair to say that this discussion of English queerness is predicated on the suggestion of Italian same-sex love. English peculiarity, then, here called queerness, emerges from this bold articulation. Indeed, Walpole seems to be marking himself as queer, or as someone in grave danger Grave Danger is the name of the last two episodes in the of the popular American crime drama , which is set in Las Vegas, Nevada. This two parter was directed by Quentin Tarantino and was aired on May 19, 2005. of contracting queerness, and it is surely worth the trouble of literary historians to consider more carefully of what this queerness consists.
In a sense, this detached but sensitive quality informs Walpole's friendships, as well. It appears as Walpole urges Gray to accept Richard Bentley's designs for the title page to his poems (see Figure 2): "The head I give up. The title I think will be wrong, and not answer your purpose, for as the drawings are evidently calculated for the poems, why will the improper disposition of the word Designs before Poems, make the edition less yours? I am as little convinced that there is any affectation af·fec·ta·tion
1. A show, pretense, or display.
a. Behavior that is assumed rather than natural; artificiality.
b. A particular habit, as of speech or dress, adopted to give a false impression. in leaving out the Mr before your names; it is a barbarous addition; the other is simple and classic, a rank I cannot help thinking is due to both the poet and the painter" (14:65 [20 February 1753]). It is similarly evident as he pleads with William Cole William Cole may refer to:
1. Of or associated with letters or the writing of letters.
2. Being in the form of a letter: epistolary exchanges.
3. language that both dramatizes his deeply felt concern and gives it form. He performs these friendships, in other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , in a way that letters make possible. Whatever "truth" there might be in these letters, it is in them rather than beyond or behind them.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Often Walpole's interlocutors are inspired to respond in kind. His cousin Henry Cousin Henry is a novel by Anthony Trollope in 1879. The story deals with the trouble arising from the indecision of a squire, Indefer Jones, in choosing an heir to his estate.
Of all Trollope's shorter novels, this one has been called one of his most experimental. Seymour Conway (1719-95), for instance, writes at times even more intense effusions than Walpole himself. The correspondence begins when "Harry" is living in London, preparing for his military career, and "Horry" is an undergraduate at King's College Cambridge. Conway writes to Walpole to ask advice about a masquerade: "My resolution of going to the masquerade incog In`cog´
adv. 1. Incognito.
Depend upon it - he'll remain incog.
- Addison. . which was but in embryo in an incipient or undeveloped state; in conception, but not yet executed.
See also: Embryo last time I saw you is now come to perfection Adv. 1. to perfection - in every detail; "the new house suited them to a T"
just right, to a T, to the letter , and in pursuance to it I have borrowed a sachee, and I will take care not to want anything that will help disguise and adorn me, and now, my dear Horry, this is one of the many times in which I find myself in want of your good company, that you might employ to my improvement and instruction those female airs and coquetries which you have so often practised for my diversion" (37:2 [25 January 1737]).
At the end of this letter he talks about an interview with a young woman: "more nasty ideas than [Jonathan] Swift himself could have inspired me with crowded into my mind, expelled in the twinkling of an eye all the twinklings of a two year's passion, and left there in its room a strong garrison of anti-venereal thoughts which I much question if I shall ever be able to dislodge, so that I am at present, without a compliment, Yours, my dear Horry, much more than hers, Strephon II" (37:3 [25 January 1737]). This is schoolboy fun, or almost, but it also gives an interesting insight into young Horry's mode of entertainment. Conway portrays himself as in need of Walpole's instruction on gender matters, and then he interposes Walpole into an erotic affair that scares or appalls him. In any case, Conway makes it clear that his cousin Horace stands as an alternative (an erotic alternative, the context of this letter would suggest) to the nasty implications of his female friend's sexual aggression.
Conway's later account of this masquerade is equally entertaining, and again he goes out of his way to suggest his desire for his cousin as witness to his own masquerade: "in short there was nothing wanting to complete the entertainment but the company of King George King George has referred to many kings throughout history. When used, by Americans, without further reference it most often means George III of the United Kingdom, against whom the Whigs of the American Revolution rebelled. and Horry Walpole; to anybody else I dare not, and to you I hope I need not, tell which I most wanted Most Wanted may refer to:
With Horace Mann (Sir Horatio Mann, 1706-86, the British diplomatic representative in Florence 1738-86), Walpole shared personal and familial detail that makes their eight-volume correspondence concerning eighteenth-century political intrigue even more rich and complex than it would otherwise be. Nothing is more entertaining than reading Walpole and Mann talking about the Pretender and his family, exiled in Rome, in a series of code names and numbers that are as playful as they are transparent. For instance, Mann tells Walpole about his latest commission and his discoveries:
I have been obliged by this post to answer 94 [Duke of Newcastle]'s letter with the whole family's [Lord Justice's] entreaties to acquaint them with what their advocate 202 [Mr. Mann] had heard or could gather about 2 [Pretender's eldest son]'s affairs or intentions in general which in substance is much the same he told me. He had wrote to you with the addition of one circumstance only that 21 miny [French minister] at 77 [Rome] endeavoured to keep up spirits with the pleasing hopes of the match [between the French and the English Jacobites] and they say had let drop some expression as if little 582 [French army] who lives in a snug lodging near 130 [England] would employ his utmost endeavours to bring it about at a proper time when little expected, which they seem to fix for some time after 16 [Parliament] comes to town, who they say will speak his mind very freely and make more bustle than is imagined. (17:160-1 [15 October 1741])
It would be unfair to say that this is all a game to Mann--his political role was semi-serious at least--but nevertheless it seems that he is having fun with numbers here. He enjoys writing in code and seems to know that Walpole will enjoy reading it. These two men met in Florence when Walpole was traveling with Gray in 1740. They enjoyed each other's company immensely and cemented a friendship over the relatively short time they spent together. It is their correspondence that deepens the intimacy and keeps it alive until Mann's death in 1786. How it is kept alive is apparent in this silly posturing about the political movements of the Pretender and his family. I do not mean for a moment to suggest that the movements of the Pretender were unimportant in the 1740s. Rather, I mean to suggest that however serious the matters at hand become, the report of what is going on remains a game that these two Horaces share.
Mann also aided and abetted Walpole, the Collector. We all know that Walpole was an inveterate inveterate /in·vet·er·ate/ (-vet´er-at) confirmed and chronic; long-established and difficult to cure.
1. Firmly and long established; deep-rooted.
2. collector, but what did he collect? He collected books, artifacts, architectural bits, Chinoiserie chinoiserie (shēnwäzrē`), decorative work produced under the influence of Chinese art, applied particularly to the more fanciful and extravagant manifestations. , porcelain, enamels, and other things that suggest a sharply honed (if not to say precious) taste. Mann and Walpole shared a queer take on personal experience, fussing over the details of a find, rolling their eyes in mock frustration at the demands of a dealer, or waxing poetic about a prize possession. Here is Walpole enthusing, for instance, over a bust of Caligula that Mann sent from Herculaneum (see Figure 3):
You will wonder at another letter so soon, but do not be alarmed. It is yourself you must wonder at; you have occasioned this hors d'oeuvre. Lady Holland is just arrived, and has brought me--oh! brought me, only the finest little bust that ever my eyes beheld. I gaze on it from morning to night, and if it was possible for me, to part with it, I would send it you back, as the only return, my dear Sir, that I can ever make you worthy of such a present. It is more a portrait than any picture I ever saw. The sculptor evidently studied nothing but the countenance. The hair and ears seem neglected, to heighten the expression of the eyes, which are absolutely alive, and have a wild melancholy in them, that one forebodes might ripen to madness. In short, I do not know whether it is not more exquisite in its kind than my eagle. At least this little Caligula is far superior to my great Vespasian, which was allowed to be the fourth or fifth bust in Rome. I shall make a solemn dedication of it in my Pantheon Chapel, and inscribe the donor's name. I assure you it is not bronze, whatever you may have thought, but flesh; the muscles play as I turn it round. It is my reigning favourite, and though I have some very fine things in my collection, I am fonder of none; not of the eagle, or my Cowley in enamel. It arrived to comfort me the very day I heard from Paris that I had no success at the sale of Monsieur Julian's cabinet, where everything sold as extravagantly as if the auction had been here. (22:522-3 [30 May 1767])
Walpole's attention to the beauty of the piece--the specifically masculine beauty--and especially to the movement of the muscles beneath its surface merely suggests that he could pay close attention to a figure such as this. His giddy enthusiasm for the masculine form is an aesthetic response, to be sure. But it is also a physical response. Walpole is enthralled en·thrall
tr.v. en·thralled, en·thrall·ing, en·thralls
1. To hold spellbound; captivate: The magic show enthralled the audience.
2. To enslave. by this image, and it brings him pleasure. His "favourites" are at least distinctive. He assembled around himself these figures of beauty that please him and that reflect his taste at its most evocative. His world is a very special world, which he knows and celebrates.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
Walpole and Mann list among their topics of interest a number of scandalous accounts of sodomitical Sod`om`it´ic`al
a. 1. Pertaining to, or of the nature of, sodomy. contemporaries, who for one reason or another make their way into this lively correspondence. The infamous Baron Stosch (1691-1757), for instance, a connoisseur who was on the periphery of Mann's Florentine circle, plays an important role. W. S. Lewis, Warren Hunting Smith, and George L. Lam, editors of Walpole's correspondence, discuss Stosch this way: 'There was a rival British agent at Florence, the sinister Baron Stosch. This Prussian art-collector, a notorious homosexual, had been expelled from Rome and was forced to settle at Florence where the British government paid him to write weekly dispatches about the latest intelligence from Rome concerning the Pretender. Stosch's reports, written in French, were signed 'John Walton'; they are now with Mann's dispatches in the Public Record Office in London. Through connections in the Roman underworld, Stosch seems to have procured better intelligence than Mann did" (17:xxxiii). Stosch's "homosexuality" is invoked here in order to enhance his sinister quality; but although Mann complains about Stosch's triumphs in the world of art dealing, he never mentions sexual preference or transgressive sexual behavior. Stosch is a colleague, a rival, and a friend. Perhaps Mann never mentions his sexual preference because he simply takes if for granted.
Thomas Patch's caricatures of Mann and other members of the British Florentine world open the possibility of a queer reading that assumes an easy familiarity among these giddy transplanted British and German gentlemen. Patch (1708-82) is ruthless in his depiction of the quirkiness of his subjects, and the whole effect is ludicrous, comic, and bizarre. Anyone who has seen these works, at the Lewis Walpole Library in the Treasure House in Farmington or elsewhere, knows what a fascinating view into eighteenth-century society they offer. Patch's technique is unmistakable, for example, in a picture called "Golden Asses" (see Figure 4). Here the assembled British worthies are in various extravagant postures.
The title of this painting comes from Niccolo Machiavelli. Patch himself rides the golden ass at the right of the picture. "Standing in a brocaded suit of persimmon persimmon: see ebony.
Either of two trees of the genus Diospyros in the ebony family, and their globular, edible fruits. The native American persimmon (D. and gold at the center left is Sir Horace Mann ... The letter he extends may have come from Horace Walpole." (7)
Eventually Patch was oddly exiled, as Mann explains: "He left Rome many years ago on account of some indiscretion about religion, but nevertheless brought the strongest letters of recommendation hither from the unprejudiced un·prej·u·diced
Free from prejudice; impartial. See Synonyms at fair1.
free from bias; impartial
Adj. 1. prelate PRELATE. The name of an ecclesiastical officer. There are two orders of prelates; the first is composed of bishops, and the second, of abbots, generals of orders, deans, &c. , Piccolomini, then governor of Rome and since cardinal" (23:275-6 [22 February 1771]). Lewis, Smith, and Lam suggest what this indiscretion may have been: "His quarrels with the Inquisition began in 1751, and on 22 October 1755 he was ordered to leave the Papal States Papal States, Ital. Lo Stato della Chiesa, from 754 to 1870 an independent territory under the temporal rule of the popes, also called the States of the Church and the Pontifical States. The territory varied in size at different times; in 1859 it included c. within twenty-four hours for an unspecified offense rumoured to be concerned with 'his Tivloli girl' and 'his boy'" (23:275n9). (8) The editors are purposely vague because they hope to pass quietly over the sexual transgression implicit in this account. F. J. B. Watson actually says that the bishop was evasive as to the reason for Patch's dismissal, but he adds that "the Bishop's letter ends as vaguely as it had begun and hints at some unnamable crime so gross that the Bishop's conscience forbad for·bad
A past tense of forbid. him to allow its perpetrator A term commonly used by law enforcement officers to designate a person who actually commits a crime. to remain in his domains." (9) Patch, who was suspected variously of buggery The criminal offense of anal or oral copulation by penetration of the male organ into the anus or mouth of another person of either sex or copulation between members of either sex with an animal.
Buggery is historically referred to as a "crime against nature. , poisoning a nun, and speaking against the Pope, himself said that "he could not imagine what it was he was banished for, if not a thing that only he and his boy knew," for "the truth the world shall never know." (10) Whatever the crime in Rome was, Patch found a warm welcome from Mann, and he spent a great deal of his time with Mann and his friends: "though he does not live at my house," Mann tells Walpole in 1771, "he is never out of it a whole day" (23:275 [22 February 1771]).
[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]
Brian Fotheringill, in his study of Walpole's circle, quotes Hester Lynch (Thrale) Piozzi, who describes Mann this way: "I call these Fellows 'Finger-twirlers,' meaning a decent word for Sodomites: old Sir Horace Mann and Mr. James the Painter had such an odd way of twirling Twirling is any of several artforms, hobbies, or sport and recreational activities accomplished by spinning or rotating the twirled object either for exercise, or in a rhythmic, or otherwise artful manner. their Fingers in Discourse--I see Seutonius tells us the same thing of one of the Roman emperors." (11) Whether or not Piozzi is basing her observation on anything more than hearsay hearsay: see evidence. or superficial mannerisms, we can hardly avoid the connection between "morphology" and sexual "propensity," as Piozzi calls William Beckford's pederasty. (12) Walpole is connected to this world by implication and perhaps by interest. These are not his friends by accident, after all.
Walpole's circle, his interests, his obsessions, his attitudes, and his taste all suggest that he is part of the sodomitical circle in spirit as well as affection. That is impossible to determine, but it is not unreasonable. The letters perform a sexuality all their own. This literary excess--dramatizing friendship and various forms of personal intimacy, listing desires and outlining plans, celebrating history, and collecting materials--suggests that Walpole fixes himself in this way rather than in any other.
If Mowl makes Walpole too outrageous a homosexual and if Lewis, Fothergill, and other biographers such as Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer all make him an asexual asexual /asex·u·al/ (a-sek´shoo-al) having no sex; not sexual; not pertaining to sex.
1. Having no evident sex or sex organs; sexless.
2. "bachelor" of some unimaginable kind, then all these outpourings of personality may help us to see a man who does not fit any of the identities his biographers would like to create for him. He may have been a friend of finger-twirlers, or indeed a finger-twirler himself (see Figure 5). But for all of Piozzi's perspicacity, that does not mean his transgressive desires were expressed anywhere but in his personality. George Hardinge (1743-1816) wrote an account of Walpole's "effeminacy Effeminacy
Gainsborough painting depicting princely lad with sissyish overtones. [Br. Art.: Misc.]
Fauntleroy, Little Lord
title-inheriting, yellow-curled sissy in velvet. [Am. Lit. ," which included a reference to John Chute (1701-76) and George Montagu (1713-80): "There was a degree of quaintness in Mr Walpole's wit, but it was not unbecoming in him for it seemed a part of his nature. Some of his friends were as effeminate ef·fem·i·nate
1. Having qualities or characteristics more often associated with women than men. See Synonyms at female.
2. Characterized by weakness and excessive refinement. in appearance and in manner as himself and were as witty. Of these I remember two, Mr Chute and Mr George Montagu. But others had effeminacy alone to recommend them. In his taste for architecture and virtu there was both whim and foppery fop·per·y
n. pl. fop·per·ies
1. Foolish quality or action.
2. The dress or manner of a fop. , but still with fancy and with genius." (13) One can only imagine what Hardinge means by italicizing him and nature, but we might be forgiven for imagining that he was trying to evoke something akin to our understanding of sexuality: what Michel Foucault calls a "sexual subjectivity," a sensibilite (Bonstettin's word for Gray).
Perhaps the most telling example of this kind of friendship is that which Walpole developed with Chute and his companion Francis Whithead (1720-51)--the Chuteheds, Walpole calls them. They appear in the correspondence as benign and helpful friends and delightful companions from the time of Walpole's visit to Italy (1740). Chute plays a special role in Walpole's life. He lived at his family's estate in Hampshire, the Vyne, a country house of grand propositions, and he participated in and enabled many of Walpole's schemes.
Walpole's letters to Chute show him not only at his most droll droll
adj. droll·er, droll·est
Amusingly odd or whimsically comical.
[French drôle, buffoon, droll, from Old French drolle and self-satisfied but also at his most posturing, all of which he uses as a gesture of closeness between friends. Here is a typical effusion effusion /ef·fu·sion/ (e-fu´zhun)
1. escape of a fluid into a part; exudation or transudation.
2. effused material; an exudate or transudate. that combines personal style and architectural detail, as so often in the correspondence with Chute. Whether or not it is marked as effeminate depends, to a certain extent, on how Walpole's voice comes through his writing. Walpole is responding to Chute's design for a cloister cloister, unroofed space forming part of a religious establishment and surrounded by the various buildings or by enclosing walls. Generally, it is provided on all sides with a vaulted passageway consisting of continuous colonnades or arcades opening onto a court. at Strawberry Hill: "Well, how delightful! how the deuce did you contrive con·trive
v. con·trived, con·triv·ing, con·trives
1. To plan with cleverness or ingenuity; devise: contrive ways to amuse the children.
2. to get such proportion? you will certainly have all the women with short legs come to you to design high-heeled shoes for them. The cloister, instead of a wine-cellar, has the air of a college" (35:110 [4 November 1759]).
[FIGURE 5 OMITTED]
Walpole's friendship with Chute is one of the wonderful features of the whole correspondence, and Chute's death brings one of the most touching of Walpole's laments:
This fatal year puts to the proof the nerves of my friendship! I was disappointed of seeing you when I had set my heart on it--and now I have lost Mr Chute! It is a heavy blow; but such strokes reconcile one's self to parting with this pretty vision, life! What is it, when one has no longer those to whom one speaks as confidentially as to one's own soul?... Mr Chute and I agreed invariably in our principles; he was my counsel in my affairs, was my oracle in taste, the standard to whom I submitted my trifles, and the genius that presided over poor Strawberry! His sense decided me in everything, his wit and quickness illuminated everything--I saw him oftener than any man; to him in every difficulty I had recourse, and him I loved to have here, as our friendship was so entire, and we knew one another so entirely, that he alone never was the least constraint to me. We passed many hours together without saying a syllable to each other, for we were both above ceremony. I left him without excusing myself, read or wrote before him, as if he were not present--Alas! alas!--and how self presides even in our grief! I am lamenting myself, not him!-- no, I am lamenting my other self. Half is gone; the other remains solitary. Age and sense will make me bear my affliction with submission and composure--but forever--that little forever that remains, I shall miss him. My first thought will always be, I will go talk to Mr Chute on this--the second, alas! I cannot--and therefore judge how my life is poisoned! I shall only seem to be staying behind one that is set out a little before me. (24:209-10 [27 May 1776])
This very touching account of the loss Walpole feels in his fifties on the death of this close personal friend rivals the kinds of things both Walpole and Gray said when Richard West died in 1742, when Walpole was twenty-five. The comparison is just: Chute was energetic, intelligent, and witty enough to be a match for the indomitable in·dom·i·ta·ble
Incapable of being overcome, subdued, or vanquished; unconquerable.
[Late Latin indomit Walpole. "I am lamenting my other self': this is intimate praise and deeply felt loss, and this loss echoes through the Strawberry Hill that Chute helped to design and decorate.
Strawberry Hill was a part playful and part serious accomplishment that had a profound effect on eighteenth-century architectural history (see Figure 6). Walpole, Chute, and Bentley, the artist and illustrator Walpole sponsored and encouraged, formed the "Committee of Taste" that worked to make Strawberry Hill a Gothic gem. As others have noted, taste became a code for a certain mode of shared sensibility that was often understood to suggest something about sexual predilection or at least qualified masculinity. (14) The work of turning the simple farmhouse on the Thames into a Gothic castle was engaging on a number of levels. The simple construction held a fascination for Walpole. Writing to Cole, who was planning to visit in the summer of 1762, he says: "I should name the earliest day possible; but besides having some visits to make, I think it will be more pleasant to you a few weeks hence (I mean any time in July) when the works with which I am finishing my house will be more advanced, and the noisy part, as laying floors, and fixing wainscots, at an end, and which now make me in a deplorable litter" (1:11-2 [20 May 1762]). The next year he writes to Montagu on the continued building going on about the place: "I am going to Strawberry for a few days pour faire me paques. The gallery advances rapidly. The ceiling is Harry VII's chapel in propria persona in propria persona adj. acting on one's own behalf, generally used to identify a person who is acting as his/her own attorney in a lawsuit. The popular abbreviation is "in pro per. : the canopies are all placed. I think three months will quite complete it" (10:53 [25 March 1763]).
Later that year, Walpole could write again to Montagu about it nearing completion:
Gilders, carvers, upholsterers, and picture-cleaners are labouring at their several forges, and I do not love to trust a hammer or a brush without my own supervisal ... Well! but I begin to be ashamed of my magnificence; Strawberry is growing sumptuous in its latter day; it will scarce be any longer like the fruit of its name, or the modesty of its ancient demeanour, both which seem to have been in Spenser's prophetic eye, when he sung of-- --the blushing strawberries, Which lurk, close-shrouded from high- looking eyes, Shewing that sweetness low and hidden lies. In truth, my collection was too great already to be lodged humbly; it has extended my walls, and pomp followed. It was a neat little house, it now will be a comfortable one, and except one fine apartment, does not deviate from its simplicity. Adieu! I know nothing about the world, care nothing about the world, and am only Strawberry's and, Yours sincerely, H. Walpole. (10:84-5 [1 July 1763])
A passage like this allows us to see how the enthusiasm for works at the house turns into self-reflection; and then that reflection develops into a wonderful literary reference (not by Spenser at all); and then the literary reference develops into a kind of true confession. (15) This is a wonderful example of the ways wit and taste work together in Walpole's imagination, especially when he is dealing with Strawberry.
He has nicknames for the house, of course. To Montagu he calls it his "Abbey" and signs himself "The Abbot of Strawberry" (10:127 [18 June 1764]); to his cousin Harry he writes more elaborately: "I give myself the airs, in my nutshell, of an old baron, and am tempted almost to say with an old Earl of Norfolk, who was a very free speaker at least, if he was not an excellent poet,
When I am in my Castle of Bungey Situate upon the river of Waveney, I ne care for the King of Cockney." (37:406 [23 September 1755])
Writing to George Nichol, who has just been to see the house in 1790 and who wrote a flattering letter in response, Walpole downplays the house and his own devotion to it: "now, at near seventy-four, I have neither the presumption to look forwards to duration, nor the vanity to imagine that old age, additionally enfeebled by between thirty and forty years of gout, is fit for anything but repose. My best wisdom has consisted in forming a baby-house full of play-things for my second childhood, and I fear they do me more honour, especially as they amused you, than what Pope so well has called--the rattles of the Man or Boy" (42:285 [6 July 1790]).
As Ketton-Cremer has said:
The early seventeen-fifties were halcyon days at Strawberry Hill. The Committee of Taste worked together harmoniously and with enjoyment; expert visitors, like Gray and Montagu, and the inexpert throngs of the world of fashion were equally enraptured; in cathedrals and castes and ancient folios lay unexplored treasures of Gothic to be plundered. It was all gay and exciting; and Walpole was a happy man as he watched the rise of his battlements and the ever-increasing beauty of the trees and shrubs he had planted, while the sun glittered on the Thames and splashed the colours of his painted glass about the rooms. (16)
This love of plunder TO PLUNDER. The capture of personal property on land by a public enemy, with a view of making it his own. The property so captured is called plunder. See Booty; Prize. animates Walpole's letter when he writes from various places around the country. Writing to Bentley, for instance, after traveling in Worcestershire, Walpole sends a long and architecturally detailed travelogue. When writing to Bentley, he uses their mutual love of Strawberry Hill as a touchstone:
From Worcester I went to see Malvern Abbey. It is situated half-way up an immense mountain of that name: the mountain is very long, in shape like the prints of a whale's back: towards the larger end lies the town. Nothing remains but a beautiful gateway and the church, which is very large ... The greatest curiosity, at least what I had never seen before, was, the whole floor and far up the sides of the church has been, if I may call it so, wainscoted with red and yellow tiles, extremely polished, and diversified with coats of arms, and inscriptions, and mosaic. I have since found the same in Gloucester, and have been so fortunate as to purchase from the sexton about a dozen, which think what an acquisition for Strawberry! (35:151 [September 1753])
[FIGURE 6 OMITTED]
Walpole's attachment to his home is evident here, and he does not even have to explain to his friend what he has in mind. Walpole assumes a commitment in Bentley almost equivalent to his own, and this is one of the things that make his demands on Bentley so understandable. He would demand the same of himself. He makes the project a kind of game, one that engages all his friends and gives them a common cause. "Mr. Chute and I are come hither for a day or two," he writes Mann from Strawberry Hill, "to inspect the progress of a Gothic staircase, which is so pretty and so small, that I am inclined to wrap it up and send it you in my letter. As my castle is so diminutive, I give myself a Burlingtonair, and say, that Chiswick is a model of Grecian architecture, Strawberry Hill is to be so of Gothic" (20:361-2 [4 March 1753], see Figure 7). Chute, Bentley, and Walpole conspired to make this small house something grand. The result was an important chapter in the history of taste.
Walpole is a rich, complex eighteenth-century figure. He does not fit into the neatly structured categories we have for defining sexual identity. Neither a sodomite SODOMITE. One who his been guilty of sodomy. Formerly such offender was punished with great severity, and was deprived of the power of making a will. nor a pederast ped·er·ast
A man who has sexual relations, especially anal intercourse, with a boy.
peder·as , he does not fit into eighteenth-century categories, either. Is he then a "finger-twirler" in Piozzi's terms? Perhaps, but what the letters reveal is a bitchy bitch·y
adj. bitch·i·er, bitch·i·est Slang
1. Malicious, spiteful, or overbearing.
2. In a bad mood; irritable or cranky. , playful, arrogant, self-satisfied, intriguing, acquisitive, loving, and devoted friend who loves deeply and long and devotes himself to his house and his collections with the same kind of energy he puts into friends and (sometimes) politics. This is the person who emerges so vividly and richly in the letters that he himself preserved for posterity: isn't it enough? Readers have always imagined that there would emerge a lurid "truth" behind the letters--many early twentieth-century readers imagined that a complete and uncensored edition of the letters would reveal unmentionable delights. But everything in these letters is mentionable; indeed, everything is mentioned. If we try to pin Walpole down with one identity or another, something else in the letters will always emerge to make us feel that we are limiting or distorting him in some way. If he loved Lord Lincoln early in his life, and he loved Mary Berry later in life; if he collected Chinoiserie as well as Gothic antiques; if he could gossip with Mann, plan architectural details with Bentley, and decorate with Chute; if he could moan about gout with Cole and his servants with Montagu; and if he could spend a lifetime supporting his cousin Harry and defending him in public; and if all of this is preserved in his letters: then our real work has just begun.
[FIGURE 7 OMITTED]
(1) I discuss this issue at length in an article entitled "Keyhole Testimony: Witnessing Sodomy in the Eighteenth Century," ECent 44, 2-3 (Summer/Fall 2003): 167-82.
(2) For a discussion of this relationship, see my Men in Love: Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Columbia Univ. Press, 1999), p. 114.
(3) Timothy Mowl, Horace Walpole, The Great Outsider (London: John Murray, 1996), p. 7.
(5) Horace Walpole to Richard West, Florence, 24 January 1740, in Horace Walpole's Correspondence with Thomas Gray, Richard West, and Thomas Ashton, ed. W. S. Lewis, George L. Lam, and Charles H. Bennett, vols. 13-4 of The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence, ed. Lewis, 48 vols. (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press; London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1939-83, 1948), p. 199. In what follows, I will cite a number of volumes in this edition. All are edited by Lewis in collaboration with additional editors. Vol. 1 is also edited by A. Dayle Wallace; vol. 10 by Ralph S. Brown; vol. 14 by Lam and Bennett; vols. 17, 20, and 22-4 by Warren Hunting Smith and Lam; vol. 35 by Wallace and Robert A. Smith; vol. 37 by Lars E. Troide, Edwine M. Martz, and Robert A. Smith; and vol. 42 by John Riley. Subsequent references to these volumes of Walpole's correspondence are noted parenthetically par·en·thet·i·cal
adj. also par·en·thet·ic
1. Set off within or as if within parentheses; qualifying or explanatory: a parenthetical remark.
2. Using or containing parentheses. in the text by volume number, page number, and date.
(6) See, for instance, Jeremy Black, Italy and the Grand Tour (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 2003), pp. 124, 130, and 182. See also Andrew Wilton and Ilaria Bignamini, eds., Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century (London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 1996).
(7) Treasure House at Farmington website: http://www.library.yale.edu/Walpole/BAC/Golden_asses-Z.htm
(8) In this note, Lewis, Warren Hunting Smith, and Lam cite F. J. B. Watson, "Thomas Patch (1725-1782): Notes on His Life, Together with a Catalogue of His Known Works," Walpole Society 28 (1939-40): 15-31, 18-22.
(9) Watson, p. 18
(10) As told to Virepoyl, another Roman dealer; see Watson, p. 21.
(11) Brian Fothergill, The Strawberry Hill Set: Horace Walpole and His Circle (London and Boston: Faber and Faber Faber and Faber, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. , 1983), p. 50. See also Mowl, p. 58.
(12) On the implications of "sexual morphology," see David M. Halperin, "How to Do the History of Male Homosexuality," GLQ GLQ Gauss-Legendre Quadrature (numerical method) 6, 1 (2000): 87-123.
(13) Walpole, 35:648, Appendix 4. A note reads, "Extract in an unknown hand, labeled 'Letter (to Nichols) from George Hardinge, Esq.' ... printed from a photostat in the possession of F. C. Holland, West Horsley, Surrey. Printed in Nichols, Lit. Anec. Viii, 525-6; where it is followed (pp. 525-70) by five paragraphs which are ... printed from Nichols's printed text" (35:648).
(14) See, for instance, Jody Greene, "Arbitrary Tastes and Commonsense Pleasures: Accounting for Taste in Cleland, Hume, and Burke," in Launching Fanny Hill: Essays on the Novel and Its Influences, ed. Patsy S. Fowler and Alan Jackson (New York: AMS AMS - Andrew Message System Press, 2003), pp. 221-65.
(15) These lines are in fact from Phineas Fletcher's poem "Purple Island," lines 5-7 in canto IV (The Poems of Phineas Fletcher, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, 4 vols. [London: The Fuller Worthies' Library, 1869], pp. 35-353, 109).
(16) Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, Horace Walpole: A Biography (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1964), p. 125.
George E. Haggerty is Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside The University of California, Riverside, commonly known as UCR or UC Riverside, is a public research university and one of ten campuses of the University of California system. . His recent books include Unnatural Affections: Women and Fiction in the Later 18th Century (1998); Men in Love: Masculinity and Sexuality in the 18th Century (1999); and Queer Gothic (2006). In addition, he co-edited Professions of Desire: Lesbian and Gay Studies in Literature for the Modern Language Association (1995), and The Blackwell Companion to LGBT/Q Studies (2007).