Horace Walpole, wilful and effete son of Britain's first and most down-to-earth of Prime Ministers, made an unexpectedly powerful impression on his times, and his influence has lasted. Strawberry Hill, his frail castle-villa, became the resort of princes and inspired a century of Gothic revivalism. His novel, The Castle of Otranto, never yet out of print, engendered whole libraries of Gothic fantasy. When he returned to politics he plotted the removal of a government and astutely manoeuvred his inept friend Conway almost to 10 Downing Street. Denied Cabinet office by his reputation as a pervert, he took revenge in the seductive, tendentious memoirs that have since blackened the leading Whig dynasty in all later histories.
Until now the image of Horace Walpole has been distorted. Earlier this century, Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis, a rich American scholar, collected virtually all Walpole's surviving letters and papers and edited them in 48 impressive volumes. But Lewis was a conventional man of his times and could not bring himself to recognize Walpole's homosexuality and its implications. He missed, and encouraged visiting scholars to miss, the true motivation behind his hero's life.
This is the first study of Horace Walpole to give a complete and convincing picture of the whole man. It is the first to show that, despite his aristocratic connections, Walpole was a sexual and social outsider whose talents as an intriguer and 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 judgement, friendships and emotions for the rest of his life.
This book will initiate a radical revision of eighteenth-century politics, architecture and literature.