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The dandy of Strawberry Hill

A celebrity of the 18th century, Horace Walpole divided polite society. Now the re-opening of his home and a show at the V&A will restore his reputation, says Duncan Fallowell

By Duncan Fallowell   February 2010

A touch of paganism in the boudoir: an ornate gallery designed by Thomas Pitt between 1759 and 1762 at Strawberry Hill

At the end of 1764 literature’s first horror story, The Castle of Otranto, was published in London under disguise. It was an immediate success, despite its fatuousness, and has never since been out of print. It didn’t take long before its author was obliged bashfully to step forward: Horace Walpole, man of fashion, antiquarian, member of the House of Commons, unwavering bachelor and youngest of the five children of Sir Robert Walpole.

Otranto established a genre, the gothic novel,…

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