1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Horace Walpole

Robert Southey, in Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807) 3:438.



HORACE WALPOLE, EARL OF ORFORD, was the youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole, Earl of Orford. His talents were various and elegant, and, directing them to such objects as writers by profession have neither the means nor the leisure to investigate, he did honour and service to the cause of Literature as a volunteer, at a time when others of his rank were engaged in the transitory politicks of the day.

His poems were of course either written for amusement, or as baits for praise, very pleasing to the palates for which they were designed: and his object, which was to be paid in kind, was seldom missed. The scarcity of the copies made them valuable to Collectors: Doctor Johnson's remark upon Lord Chesterfield, however, did not hold good in respect to Lord Orford; but when a man prints at a private press, and distributes his works among friends, he cannot be said to measure his strength fairly with his contemporaries. Pride, or modesty, which are so alike, that they are often mistaken for each other, would have ever prevented this noble authour from such competition. — When Chatterton addressed him with the indignation of slighted genius, and the ignorance of rustick youth, he fancied the sacred character of his rank was injured, and he treated the boy with silent contempt. Chatterton's feelings on the subject were those of anger and resentment, not of despair; but to this treatment the world most unjustly imputed the remote cause of Chatterton's death.

Lord Orford made a considerable collection of antiquities and curiosities, at his Villa near London; and, differing from most connoisseurs (so called seemingly a "non cognosendo") he knew the value, the merit, and the history of all the various articles in his collection, and they served as notes to illustrate his conversation, which was at once lively and instructive.