Friday, June 03, 2005

A Bit About Walpole

Those of you who haven’t yet probed back in time to the early works of gothic and mystery literature might be enticed to do so if you come to know something of the authors’ lives. That, more than forced readings of their stodgy prose, is primarily what got me interested. I had to read some of Poe, for instance, when I was in high school -- and didn’t much enjoy it because I was a slow reader, I was under pressure, and the stories unbearably bored me. Much later, however, I “rediscovered” Poe, as it were, after hearing of his South Carolina connections. I found his personal life interesting, which piqued my curiosity about his writings. It was then, upon applying myself to his legacy (for the first time), that I began to appreciate his contributions to the mystery genre.

Horace Walpole (1717-1797) was another early gothic author who deserves a revisit by modern readers. Did you know he was the fourth Earl of Oxford, and his father served as prime minister of England? The younger Walpole was a member of Parliament for 27 years, but he isn’t remembered for his government tenure. He’s known instead for his thousands of pointed, intellectual letters, published posthumously, and for his volumes on art history.

And of course, students of gothic literature -- if they know of him at all -- know of Walpole through his dark novel The Castle of Otranto. Published in 1764, Otranto predated Poe’s landmark detective stories (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” et al) by about 80 years.


Post a Comment

<< Home