Horace Walpole. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Horace Walpole. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Horace Walpole, born September 24, 1717, was a man of letters. Historian, politician and writer, he had plenty of qualities to be admired. However, as Arunabha Sengupta relates, he was not really enamoured of cricket.

Horace Walpole. The author of the gothic novel The Castle of Otranto. And also his Letters with their political and social insights.

Son of the first British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, he was the 4th Earl of Orford. In Twickenham, he built the Strawberry Hill House, in Gothic style, and it had its own printing press to support his literary endeavours.

From 1741 to 1754, he also served as a Whig Member of the Parliament for Callington, Cornwall. In these 13 years, he never visited Callington. From 1754 to 1768 he remained a Member of the Parliament in other capacities, for Castle Rising and King’s Lynn.

Apart from his major work, The Castle of Otranto, he also published Some Anecdotes of Painting in England, The Mysterious Mother, Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of Richard III, On Modern Gardening, A Description of the Villa of Mr. Horace Walpole and Hieroglyphic Tales

Among his works, Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III, published in 1768, was specifically important. In it, Walpole defended Richard III against the popular belief that he murdered the young Princes in the Tower of London. A couple of centuries later, this theme was continued by Josephine Tey in her book The Daughter of Time, perhaps the most significant detective novel ever written.

But coming back to Walpole, this versatile man was not very enamoured of the noble game. In fact, he neatly damned cricket with faint praise in a letter he penned to George Montague in 1736.

Walpole wrote: “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.”

We do feel disappointed and a tad sorry for the man.

Towards his last years, Walpole was horrified by the French Revolution. After he heard of the execution of King Louis XVI he sent a letter to Lady Ossory voicing:

“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.’”

Perhaps with a cultivated love for cricket, he could have gained some equanimity in spite of the horrors that he had to witness in his lifetime.