I’m in the middle of reading The Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume 1 on my Kindle and I just have to say part of the fun of these letters is names. No, not funny names but names I have come across in other settings. Like The Duke of Suffolk and the Howard family, both players in Wolf Hall. Walpole is writing in the late 1730s and early 1740s so Suffolk and the Howards are descendants from Henry VIII’s time. And then imagine my delight as I am reading along and Walpole mentions Lord Grantham! I thought Lord Grantham was made up for Downton Abbey! Guess not. Grantham doesn’t get mentioned very often but when he does I can’t help but giggle. Lord Sackville, an ancestor of Vita Sackville-West, appears too.
Walpole also has much criticism for Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, an aristocrat and writer famous for her letters. Walpole finds her shabby, uncouth and not so witty as her reputation led him to believe. He meets her while staying in Italy and is somewhat distressed that his mother likes her quite a lot so he ends up seeing more of her than he’d like. I wonder though if he disparages her because he feels a bit threatened?
Walpole’s father is Sir Robert Walpole often considered the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. Horace, who enters parliament in 1741, includes lots of information in his letters on the wheelings and dealings of government and what turns out to be the end of his father’s career as Prime Minister. The politics are not quite so brutal as during Henry VIII’s time which is a relief. If you jump across the pond though and watch some fictional politics on the new Netflix TV show House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey, it’s remarkably similar if slower moving due to the lack of cell phones and television.
It is all rather amusing how these things echo across history and through fiction and nonfiction. And it is rather delightful that they have happened to serendipitously converge in my reading (and TV viewing) at the moment. I love when this happens!