Horace Walpole

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The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel.

Horatio Walpole (1717-09-241797-03-02), 4th Earl of Orford, more commonly known as Horace Walpole, was a British politician and writer, noted for his collected letters and for having written the first Gothic horror novel, The Castle of Otranto (1765).


  • Harry Vane, Pulteney's toad-eater.
    • Letter to Sir Horace Mann, 1742.
  • Our supreme governors, the mob.
  • My aversion to them...springs from the perniciousness of that sect to society—I hate Papists, as a man, not as a Protestant. If Papists were only enemies to the religion of other men, I should overlook their errors. As they are foes to liberty, I cannot forgive them.
    • Memoirs from the Declaration of the War with Spain (1746)
  • If a passion for freedom is not in vogue, patriots may sound the alarm till they are weary. The Act of Habeas Corpus, by which prisoners may insist on being brought to trial within a limited time, is the corner stone of our liberty.
    • "Memoirs of the year 1758".
    • Horace Walpole, Memoirs of King George II. Volume III (Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 10-11.
  • Instead of the glorious and ever-memorable year 1759, as the newspapers call it, I call it this ever-warm and victorious year. We have not had more conquest than fine weather: one would think we had plundered East and West Indies of sunshine. Our bells are worn threadbare with ringing for victories. I believe it will require ten votes of the House of Commons before people believe it is the Duke of Devonshire that has done this, and not Mr. Pitt.
  • The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel.
    • Letter to Sir Horace Mann (1769-12-31)
    • A favourite saying of Walpole's, often repeated in his letters, this may be derived from the similar statement by Jean de La Bruyère: "Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think."
  • It was easier to conquer it [the East] than to know what to do with it.
  • A careless song, with a little nonsense in it now and then, does not misbecome a monarch.
    • Letter to Sir Horace Mann, 1774. Derived from an proverb of unknown authorship: "A little nonsense now and then / Is relished by the wisest men".
  • The way to ensure summer in England is to have it framed and glazed in a comfortable room.
  • The next Augustan age will dawn on the other side of the Atlantic. There will, perhaps, be a Thucydides at Boston, a Xenophon at New York, and, in time, a Virgil at Mexico, and a Newton at Peru. At last, some curious traveller from Lima will visit England and give a description of the ruins of St Paul’s, like the editions of Balbec and Palmyra.
  • To act with common sense, according to the moment, is the best wisdom I know; and the best philosophy, to do one's duties, take the world as it comes, submit respectfully to one's lot, bless the goodness that has given us so much happiness with it, whatever it is, and despise affectation.
  • The whole nation hitherto has been void of wit and humour, and even incapable of relishing it.
    • On Scotland; Letter to Sir Horace Mann, 1778. Compare: "It requires a surgical operation to get a joke well into a Scotch understanding", Sydney Smith, Lady Holland's Memoir, vol. i. p. 15.
  • Prognostics do not always prove prophecies, — at least the wisest prophets make sure of the event first.
  • Allen of Bath procured them the same honours from thence; and for some weeks it rained gold boxes: Chester, Worcester, Norwich, Bedford, Salisbury, Yarmouth, Tewkesbury, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Stirling, and other populous and chief towns following the example. Exeter, with singular affection, sent boxes of heart of oak.
    • "The sending of boxes to William Pitt in 1757" in Memoirs of the Reign of King George II (London, 1846–47), Vol. II, p. 202.


  • Men are often capable of greater things than they perform. They are sent into the world with bills of credit, and seldom draw to their full extent.

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