Whoever the people were who invented the said thick curtains and dark brown wainscoting – let me thank them from all my heart!

Despite the bright sun which heats up the courts and halls of Christchurch College, we have been able to get into the right frame of mind to read, discuss, enjoy and do justice to The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole’s “Gothic Story”.

On Monday – yes, I know, I’m a bit behind with my diary – I went to a bookshop because my “The Monk” had turned into “Melmoth the Wanderer” on the train to Oxford (in other words: I left my copy in the little net thingy attached to the seat in front of you). Up I went to the third floor where the shop directory said the ‘Classics’ were to be found. And true enough, the shelves were chock-a-block with classics. They had “The Monk” in various editions and I picked a nice (not quite blood) red one. While I was at it I thought I’d look up the others as well, you know, Maturin, Shelley, Stoker – and working my way through most of the alphabet I finally landed at the “W”.

I was delighted to see that there was a little plaque there – you know the things which are attached to the shelves for the more important writers – for the right Hon. Horace Walpole, diverted Earl of Orford. But, imagine my horror, not a single edition of the Book. At that moment, the nice shop assistant – probably thankful for my visit to his solitary post (you see I’m getting in the mood) – passed by and asked if I needed help. So I asked him about the plaque and the empty portion of shelf. He looked and after all found a copy of “Otranto” – not completely inappropriately – in between the Yeats. “Well, there is at least one. I don’t know if it’s the one you were looking for, it’s called the ‘Castle of Otranto’.” I told him that it was his only novel and that he was rather known for his letters and memoirs. He seemed a bit worried so I told him that the novel was not well-known, generally. I did not tell him that it was the first Gothic novel, that Walpole also wrote the first Gothic drama, that he was the youngest son of Britain’s first Prime Minister, that he converted his cottage in Twickenham into a gothic castle and that I was very excited about going to Strawberry Hill the next morning. Taciturn. You know.

Well, I bought both The Monk and Otranto and we parted on very amiable terms having shared in the gladness that, anyway, Walpole did have his very own plaque.