WALPOLE, Horace
(b. 1717, London, d. 1797, London)

Biography

English aristocrat, amateur architect, the youngest son of the prime minister Sir Robert Walpole. He was an art historian, man of letters, antiquarian, and politician. He was famous in his day for his medieval horror tale The Castle of Otranto, which initiated the vogue for Gothic romances. He is remembered today as perhaps the most assiduous letter writer in the English language.

The most absorbing interests of his life were his friendships and a small villa that he acquired at Twickenham in 1747 and transformed into a pseudo-Gothic showplace known as Strawberry Hill. Over the years he added cloisters, turrets, and battlements, filled the interior with pictures and curios, and amassed a valuable library. The house was open to tourists and became widely known in Walpole's own lifetime. He established a private press on the grounds, where he printed his own works and those of his friends, notably Gray's Odes of 1757. Strawberry Hill was the stimulus for the Gothic Revival in English domestic architecture.