We are thrilled to announce our keynote speaker – full details below:
‘I love her as my own child’: Inheritance, Extra-Illustration, and Queer Familial Intimacies at Strawberry Hill – Dr Freya Gowrley, University of Bristol
This paper will explore Anne Seymour Damer’s inheritance of Horace Walpole’s home Strawberry Hill following his death in 1797. Scholarship on the house to date has tended to focus on the design and decoration of Walpole’s gothic-revival edifice; the homosocial and homoerotically-inclined cultures of the house; and the infamous sale of 1842 that saw the dispersal of the house’s contents. Contrastingly, little research has been conducted on either the significance of Damer’s acquisition of the property, or her relationship with the house more broadly. Using one of Damer’s few surviving ego-documents, her extra-illustrated copy of Walpole’s published catalogue of his home, A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole (1784), the paper delineates her inheritance not only of the property, but of the practice of extra-illustration, both of which were firmly associated with, and inherited from, Walpole. Establishing the adapted text as a space that both reflected and constructed Damer’s relationship with Strawberry Hill, the paper will analyse the volume as an object that reveals the emotional and social lives of those involved in its production. In so doing, it will reveal Damer’s relationship with her friends and her mother, as well as her self-fashioning as a sculptor at a time when such pursuits drew the ire of the satirists’ pen. Finally, the paper will present Damer’s inheritance of Strawberry Hill as part of Walpole’s attempt at creating a queer familial legacy for his home, thereby situating this transaction in relation to interconnected contexts of familial ownership and loss, emotion and materiality. By approaching this material through a close reading of Damer’s Description, the paper will accordingly make room to explore the broader ‘queernesses’ of Walpole’s home. As such, it will highlight the productive intersections of a number gendered, sexual, canonical, and aesthetic othernesses, attention to which I will argue is central for a better understanding of the country house more broadly going forward.
Dr Freya Gowrley is Lecturer in History of Art & Liberal Arts at the University of Bristol. Her research examines visual and material culture in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain and North America, focusing on the sites of the home, the collaged object, and the body. Her work appears in Word & Image, British Art Studies, the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Journal 18, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction, among other outlets. She has held short-term research fellowships at institutions including Yale Center for British Art, the Winterthur Museum, the Huntington Library, the Harry Ransom Center, the University of St Andrews, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. Her monograph Domestic Space in Britain, 1750-1840: Materiality, Sociability and Emotion is forthcoming from Bloomsbury in 2022.