Past Events

Collecting & Imagination: Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill


  • 5 December 2003
  • 10:00 – 7:00 pm
  • Public Study Room, Paul Mellon Centre

Over more than fifty years of activity, Horace Walpole - antiquarian, writer and gossip - amassed an extraordinary collection embracing antiquities, rare books and manuscripts, pictures, prints and drawings, furniture, ceramics, armour and curiosities. These he arranged with fastidious care and an idiosyncratic eye in Strawberry Hill, his little plaything house at Twickenham.

A monument of the Gothic Revival, the house and its collections were created largely, as Walpole said, 'to realise my dreams'. Whilst Walpole's collecting and his furnishing of Strawberry Hill reflected, to some degree, contemporary aristocratic tastes, his particular interest in portraits, miniatures and other items with historical associations represents a new, original kind of programmatic collecting, an attempt to assemble the visual materials of English history and arrange them in rooms that sought to enshrine narratives and spark the imagination. The sale of Strawberry Hill's contents, lasting 24 days in 1842, was one of the most celebrated in auction history; it excited enormous popular interest and polarized the opinion of connoisseurs, scholars and the public concerning the importance or triviaJity of the col- lection and Walpole's status as its creator.

This conference aims to examine the myths and realities of Walpole's originality and achievements as a collector.