HORACE WALPOLE, British novelist and politician born (d. 1797) A politician, writer, architectural innovator and cousin of Lord Nelson, his Letters are highly readable, and give a vivid picture of the more intellectual part of the aristocracy of his period.
Walpole’s sexual orientation has been the subject of speculation. Biographers such as Lewis, Fothergill and Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer have interpreted him as asexual (don’t they always?). He never married, engaging in a succession of unconsummated flirtations with unmarriageable women, and counted among his close friends a number of women such as Anne Seymour Damer and Mary Berry named by a number of sources as Lesbian. Many contemporaries described him as effeminate (one political opponent called him “a hermaphrodite horse”). The architectural historian Timothy Mowl, in his biography Horace Walpole: The Great Outsider offers the theory that Walpole was openly homosexual, and infers that he had an affair with Thomas Gray, dropping him during their Grand Tour in favor of Lord Lincoln (later the 2nd Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne). His Gothic castle, Strawberry Hill, was decorated by the tres Gay John Chute, the spiritual father of two centuries of Gay interior designers. Walpole spent most of his life hopelessly in love with his heterosexual friend, Henry Seymour Conway, to whom he addressed beautiful love letters. Ironically, when he died, he left Strawberry Hill to Conway’s daughter, Mrs. Damer, without ever having known that she was one of the most celebrated Lesbians of the 18th century.