Write to Horace

Inspired by the prolific writings of Horace Walpole, we invited people to ‘Write to Horace’ about how their community had come together to make a difference during the first national lockdown in 2020.

Horace Walpole, man of letters, started writing at the age of seven and continuing this passion well into his 70s. He wrote over 7000 letters during his lifetime, as well as the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto and an account of his collection, A Description of the Villa. He even had a private printing press built in the grounds of Strawberry Hill House, the first in England. Walpole’s letters, which describe the people he met, his local community and his thoughts about the world around him, captured the spirit, issues and wit of the age.

Over 250 people of all ages were inspired to ‘Write to Horace’ and through these letters shared their unique observations and experiences of the time. These letters culminated in a Digital Library of Letters and ‘Lockdown Letters to Horace: An Art Installation’ created and curated by local artists Charmaine Stimson, Judith North, and Kate Proudman.

“I am writing, I am building – both works that will outlast the memory of battles and heroes!…”

Horace Walpole, 1761

Lockdown Letters to Horace: An Art Installation
Curated by Charmaine Stimson, Judith North, and Kate Proudman

The artists created a series of responses to the letters, using film, sound and installation. The artworks explored the testimony of the letters themselves and the many contradictions evident: highly individual letters spoke loudly of a collective experience and carefully handwritten messages were all delivered and received digitally due to lockdown. In addition, for many, lockdown brought huge emotional and financial distress. Whilst there are hints of the negative, the work, based on letters many of which were written by children, reflect a largely positive view of lockdown.

Judith North, Kate Proudman and Charmaine Stimson are artists who live and work locally. They studied Fine Art together at the John Cass School of Art in London and are co-founders of One Paved Court gallery, an artist-led space in Richmond.

Watch highlights from the installation.

‘You will do me the justice to own that I had always rather have seen your writing than have shown you mine’

Horace Walpole To Thomas Gray, February 1768

Write to Horace: Digital Library of Letters

All of the letters sent to us whether by post or email have now been collated into a digital catalogue of letters. A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to write a Lockdown Letter to Horace!

Library of Letters

Watch our Write to Horace film, introduced by Richard E.Grant.

‘Good letters are like pearls: they are admirable in themselves, but their value is infinitely enhanced when there is a string of them’

Lytton Strachey on Horace Walpole’s Letters, 1919

This project was only made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

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Strawberry Hill House is internationally famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture.