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Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill - Book Review

By Edited Jul 16, 2015 0 1

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill was published to coincide with a major restoration programme at Strawberry Hill and an exhibition held at the V&A Museum, London, during 2010.

The 356-page book features contributions by leading historians including Peter Sabor, Eleanor Hughes, Ruth Mack, Michael Snodin, Stephen Clarke, Bet McLeod, Lisa Ford, Kevin Rogers, Michael Peover, George E. Haggerty, Alicia Weisberg-Roberts, Stephen Lloyd and Julia Marciara Alexander.  the publication is edited by Michael Snodin assisted by Cynthia Roman, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Paintings, Lewis Walpole Library. 

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill
Credit: Lewis Walpole Library Yale University, Yale Centre for British Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, Yale University Press, New Haven and London

Horace Walpole - An Extraordinary Collector

Horace Walpole (1717-1797), son of British Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, grew up in a privileged position, mixing with the best of Georgian political and literary society. Through his letters and writings he became one of the best-known political and social commentators of the 18th Century.

Walpole collected everything, including paintings, watercolours, prints, drawings, antiquities, rare books and manuscripts, arms and armour, furniture and ceramics, historical relics and objet d'art.

He designed and built, or rather redesigned and extended, an existing property in which to display the collections. Walpole added towers and battlements to his 'little gothic castle' and displayed his remarkable collections in its ornate interiors. Strawberry Hill, on the banks of the River Thames, at Twickenham, became one of Britain's finest examples of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture. 

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill - The Layout of the Book

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill examines Walpole's collections and how they relate to the creation of political and cultural histories, real or imagined. Together they present a scholarly, yet highly readable, collection of fascinating essays.

The first part of the publication is divided into nineteen chapters, each containing contributions focusing on specific aspects of Walpole's life, or specific rooms, such as The Great North Bedchamber at Strawberry Hill, depicted by watercolourist John Carter in 1788.

Items originally displayed in the house are examined in detail; Bet McLeod examines Walpole's collection of ceramics and how they were displayed around the house. She describes in detail a Chinese Goldfish Tub. The hard-paste porcelain tub, which has cobalt decoration and lead glaze, was immortalised in a poem by Thomas Gray in 1847. The poem, entitled 'Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes', says:

“Twas on a lofty vase's side,

Where China's gayest art had dy'd

The azure flowers, that blow;

Demurest of the tabby kind,

The pensive Selima reclin'd,

Gazed on the lake below."

The second part of the publication is the exhibition catalogue, providing a complete record of the V&A's display. The catalogue is divided into seventeen sections, each investigating the contents and layout of specific rooms/collections at Strawberry Hill. Roman has provided a detailed description of each item, together with its provenance, and original notes by Walpole. The results of recent research is also supplied.

Strawberry Hill: Essential Guide
Amazon Price: $101.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 16, 2015)

Michael Snodin - Editor

Michael Snodin, Senior Research Fellow in the Research Department at the V&A, is  the author of several publications including:

  • Funeral Monuments in Post-Reformation England (2000)

  • Design and the Decorative Arts: Britain 1500-1900 (with John Styles, V&A 2001)

  • Exploring Architecture (with Eleanor Gawne, V&A 2004)

  • Baroque: Magnificence & Style (with Nigel Llewellyn, V&A 2009)

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill is published by The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University; Yale Center for British Art; Victoria and Albert Museum, in association with Yale University Press. It is available in hardback format and priced at £40.00 – ISBN: 978-0300125740 from the V&A, Yale University Press, and all good book stores.


Related Articles

If you're interested in Georgian art and society in general the following articles may be of interest:

Introducing Strawberry Hill



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