Monday, December 14, 2009

Horace Walpole's Cabinet of Curiosities

Monday, December 14, 2009

Loretta reports:

Since Horace Walpole, (1717-1797), 4th Earl of Orford, was of the 18th C, and my stories are not, I never took much notice of him.  He wrote what’s generally considered the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, which I read in college.  I knew he lived in the Gothic house called Strawberry Hill, and I’d recognize pictures of it, but that’s all I knew.  Now, though, I know a little more.  I’m back from a trip to the Yale Center for British Art, where they’re showing a collection of about 300 out of the umpty bazillion objects he collected in his lifetime.  In his day, you could see them at Strawberry Hill.  You wrote to him for a ticket and you had to follow his Rules, which struck me as reasonable and generous. 

At Yale, you don’t need a ticket.  Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill--running through 3 January 2010--is free.  If you go on 17 or 20 December, you can get a docent-led tour.

The trouble with shows like this is, (a) one may not take photos and (b) one can’t take notes on everything.  I preferred to gawk at all the great stuff.  Yet even without intensive notes, I’ve got far too much to say than will fit in a digestible post.  This time around I’ll mention only a couple of the many fascinating items.

One was the meticulous catalog of the house contents, which his clerk kept.  Among the books listed in the collection was Dutch Method of Extinguishing Accidental Fires.  Don’t know why that one struck me but it did.

Among the many, many beautiful objects was this cabinet.

Here’s a closeup.  And some information.

The illustration at right is of the room it was in, called the “Tribune.”  For beautiful colored photos and illustrations of the rooms, spend a little time at the Friends of Strawberry Hill site.

I’ll say more about Horace Walpole and his house in the next few days.  Meanwhile, if you’re intrigued, but don’t expect to be near New Haven CT before January, you might want to look at Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill.


Margaret Porter said...

Great stuff, Loretta.
And Horace was just a marvellous old gossip and busybody--one reason I love reading his letters!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Ooh, I so want to see this exhibit.

Loretta Chase said...

Margaret, he turned out to be a fascinating fellow--enough to lure me to reading his letters, too, though, really, it's not my time period--but how can one resist? Elizabeth, I want to see it again! And yes, I succumbed to temptation and bought the book...because I'm weak. Look for more on Strawberry Hill and Walpole tomorrow.

Vanessa Kelly said...

It's so great that Strawberry Hill is being restored. I love that it started out as a coachman's house, and that Walpole built it from there. He had quite a vision.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

To be honest, I didn't think that Strawberry HIll was still in existence. How fantastic that it is, and that it's being restored!
Looking forward to more details from the exhibition....

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