5 Things Horace Walpole Disliked

Horace Walpole by John Giles Eccardt in 1755. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Horace Walpole was an English historian, man of letters, politician, and writer. He had plenty of things that he liked, such as his extraordinary Strawberry Hill House. It was a Gothic Revival villa in Twickenham, London, that he began building in 1749. However, as much as Walpole may have liked Strawberry Hill, there were five things Walpole did not like (or in some cases detested). They included the city of Bath, cricket, gout, princes and princesses, and the French Revolution.

While many people reveled in the spa city of Bath and described it as charming and relaxing, Walpole was not among them. On 2 October of 1766, he traveled there and wrote to the British Field Marshall and statesman who was his cousin, Henry Seymour Conway, about his distaste for the place:

“I arrived [in Bath] yesterday at noon, and bore my journey perfectly well, except that I had the headache all yesterday; but it is gone to-day, or at least made way for a little giddiness which the water gave me this morning at first. If it does not do me good very soon, I shall leave it; for I dislike the place exceedingly, and am disappointed in it. Their new buildings that are so admired, look like a collection of little hospitals; the rest is detestable; and all crammed together, and surrounded with perpendicular hills that have no beauty. The river is paltry enough to be the Seine or Tiber. Oh! how unlike my lovely Thames!”[1]

Another thing that did not strike Walpole’s fancy was the bat-and-ball game that was played on a field between two teams of eleven players called cricket. It was so popular in England that in the mid 1700s, large crowds flocked to the Artillery Grounds in Finsbury to watch matches. Walpole was not among the flocking spectators, and, in fact, once wrote of the game:

“I can’t say I am sorry I was never quite a schoolboy: an expedition against bargemen, or a match at cricket, may be very pretty things to recollect; but, thank my stars, I can remember things that are very near as pretty.”[2]

Gout in Its Podagra Form by James Gillray. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Gout was another thing that Walpole did not like. It was an illness that had afflicted his father, and Walpole’s first attack was around 1755, when he was 38. Walpole eventually traveled to France hoping to find a cure, and although that did not happen, he did become acquainted with several interesting society figures, including the Marquise du Deffand, who became mistress to Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, the regent of Louis XV.

As the disease progressed, Walpole often complained of gout’s debilitating and chronic effect. In his later years, he became fixated on gout, and regularly noted in letters to friends, his problems with gout and those who also suffered from gout. One example of his typical gout complaints were addressed in a letter to his friend Sir Horace Mann, who did not believe gout was curable. The letter was dated 16 November 1778:

“I think I luckily wrote to you just as I was seized with the gout … I am sure I have not been able to write since, for I am confined to my bed; and have been above this fortnight with the gout in every hand, elbow, knee, and foot belonging to me, and not one of the eight is yet recovered. This is so terrible a state to suffer, and so tiresome to hear from anybody else, that I shall say a little upon it as possible. There is no danger in it: in every other light it is deplorable.”[3]

Princesse de Lamballe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Gout was not the only thing Walpole did not care for because he also once wrote that he had “no particular penchant for sterling princes or princesses, much less for those of the French plate.”[4] This comment was sent to the Earl of Stafford in July of 1787 and was in reference to the sumptuous dinner held to honor the Princesse de Lamballe by the Duke of Queensberry. Walpole also noted that he had never seen the Princesse, “not even in France.”[5]

Although Walpole may have disliked French princes and princesses, he disliked the French Revolution even more. In fact, people said he was horrified by it and demonstrated his horror by his liberal praise of Edmund Burke for having written “Reflections on the Revolution in France” first published in 1790. Of Burke’s book he stated:

“Every page shows how sincerely he is in earnest — a wondrous merit in a political pamphlet — All other party writers act zeal for the public, but it never seems to flow from the heart.”[6]

Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” Courtesy of Wikipedia.

To further demonstrate his feelings against the French Revolution, he wrote a letter to the divorcee Lady Ossory (Anne FitzPatrick) blistering with indignation after he learned that Louis XVI had been executed. The letter was dated 29 January 1793:

“Indeed, Madam, I write unwillingly; there is not a word left in my Dictionary that can express what I feel. Savages, barbarians, &c., were terms for poor ignorant Indians and Blacks and Hyaenas, or, with some superlative epithets, for Spaniards in Peru and Mexico, for Inquisitors, or for Enthusiasts of every breed in religious wars. It remained for the enlightened eighteenth century to baffle language and invent horrors that can be found in no vocabulary. What tongue could be prepared to paint a Nation that should avow Atheism, profess Assassination, and practice Massacres on Massacres for four years together: and who, as if they had destroyed God as well as their King, and established Incredulity by law, give no symptoms of repentance! These Monsters talk of settling a Constitution—it may be a brief one, and couched in one Law, “‘Thou shalt reverse every Precept of Morality and Justice, and do all the Wrong thou canst to all Mankind.'”[7]


  • [1] Walpole, Horace, The Letters of Horace Walpole, [ed. by John Wright], 1842, p. 488.
  • [2] Steel, A.G., and Hon. R.H. Lyttleton, Cricket, 1888, p. 10.
  • [3] Walpole, Horace, The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, Vol. 2, 1844. p. 81.
  • [4] Walpole, Horace, The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, Vol. 9, 1861, p. 102.
  • [5] Ibid.
  • [6] The Gentleman’s Magazine, 1848, p. 242.
  • [7] Ketton-Cremer, R.W., Horace Walpole: A Biography. 1964. p. 305–306.

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