British author
Born 1884 Died 1941

Hugh Seymour Walpole was born at Auckland in New Zealand on the 13th March 1884, where his father George Henry Somerset Walpole, an Anglican clergyman, was canon at the local St Mary's Cathedral. Hugh spent some time in America when his father was employed at the General Theological Seminary of New York City, but returned to England in 1892 to be educated at a series of boarding-schools. He began with Newham House in Truro, followed by Marlow in Buckinghamshire, and then in 1896 went to King's School, Canterbury, before ending up at Bede College in Durham in 1898 where his father had became principal. In 1902 he went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he read history and graduated in 1906.

His father wanted his son to follow him into the church, but a brief period spent as a lay missioner at the Mersey Mission to Seamen in Liverpool convinced everyone that his talents lay elsewhere. He then became tutor to the children of the popular novelist Elizabeth von Arnim and spent a year teaching French at Epsom College in Surrey.

It could be said that Hugh Walpole had writing in his blood, as he was related on his father's side to the novelist Horace Walpole and on his mother's side to Richard Harris Barham, the author of The Ingoldsby Legends. In his youth he edited a family magazine which he called the Social Weekly or Monthly as appropriate, and is said to have written a novel at the age of twelve about Guy Fawkes for the entertainment of the family cook.

After giving up teaching as a career he moved to London in 1909 and wrote book reviews for the Standard while working on his first novel, The Wooden Horse which appeared in 1910. However it was his third novel, Mr Perrin and Mr Traill, an account of two feuding schoolmasters, that established his reputation, which was further enhanced by The Prelude to Adventure, the story of a Cambridge under­graduate who commits a murder, was later described by Carl Jung as "a psychological masterpiece", and Fortitude, the most successful of his early novels.

When World War I arrived he was rejected for military service because of his poor eyesight and so went to Russia with his friend Arthur Ransome where he became a Red Cross sanitar and was awarded the George Cross for bravery after rescuing a wounded man under fire. He ran the Anglo-Russian Propaganda Bureau in Petrograd for a time and experienced at first hand some of the early events of the Russian Revolution. His Russian experiences formed the basis of his novels The Dark Forest (1916) and The Secret City (1919) both of which were well received, especially the latter which was the inaugural winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

After the war he settled at Piccadilly in London, and wrote Jeremy, the first of what was to be a trilogy of children's books, describing the adventures of eight-year-old Jeremy Cole, resident of the imaginary town of Polchester in Glebeshire. (And which were said to have been responsible for the increased popularity of the name Jeremy afterwards.)

In 1923 he took a short holiday in the Lake District, and was so taken by the area that he bought a home at Brackenburn Lodge overlooking Derwentwater which he referred to as his "little paradise on Catbells" and where he lived for the remainder of his life. The Cumbrian landscape became the inspiration for his best- known work, The Herries Chronicle, a family saga comprising Rogue Herries (1930), Judith Paris (1931), The Fortress (1932) and Vanessa (1933), which recounted the history of the Herries family from the eighteenth century until the mid-1930s. He also wrote a number of macabre psychological horror novels such as Portrait of a Man with Red Hair (1925) and The Killer and The Slain (1942) and tried his hand at non-fiction producing critical studies of the works of Joseph Conrad in 1916 and Anthony Trollope in 1928, two plays, and a number of autobiographical works.

In his day Walpole was a very successful writer on both sides of the Atlantic, being recognised by the award of a CBE in 1918 and a knighthood in 1937. He went on a series of five extensive and lucrative lecture tours in the United States between the years 1919 and 1936, which were said to have been the most popular since those of Charles Dickens. Walpole also spent some time Hollywood in the years 1934–1935 when he worked on the screenplays for the MGM productions of David Copperfield (1935) and Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) and even played a bit part in the former.

In later life he began work on a new series of Herries novels, which would extend the saga back into the reign of Elizabeth I, the first of which was The Bright Pavilion (1940), but by this time he was suffering from diabetes and heart congestion. He was working on the next novel in the sequence, Katherine Christian, when he died of a heart attack at his home at Brackenburn on the 1st June 1941 after taking part in a parade at nearby Keswick. He was buried at St John's church, Keswick where his grave can be seen to this day, at the corner of the terrace on the south side of the church, marked by a Celtic cross.

Hugh Walpole never married for the simple reason that he was homosexual. When he lived in London he joined in with the 'fast set' around Noel Coward, but after moving to the Lake District he settled down, and from 1926 onwards his companion was a former policeman Harold Cheevers who doubled up as his chauffeur.

Despite being amongst the well-regarded novelists of his day; Rogue Herries was described by one critic as "the best novel published in English since 'Jude the Obscure', and attracting the praise of both J.B. Priestley and Arnold Bennett, Walpole is not that well known today. This is partly because he was lampooned by W. Somerset Maugham in his Cakes and Ale (1930) as a literary opportunist named 'Alroy Kear', a portrait which coloured later views of his work (Walpole was subjected to a "particularly venomous attack" in his obituary in The Times) but mainly because he "lost credit with critics especially as modernism flourished" according to Elizabeth Steele.

Although Hugh Walpole's work remains in copyright in the United Kingdom (at least until 2011) the law on copyright varies and Project Guttenberg does contain copies of some of his earlier works; see ole%2C%20Hugh%2C%20Sir%2C%201884-1941



The Herries Chronicle

Other Herries Novels

The Jeremy triology

Other Novels

Short Story Collections




'Sir Hugh Walpole'

Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Hugh Walpole's Weird Tales
Hugh Walpole
Time Magazine Monday, Jun. 11, 1923 He Wrote His First Novel for the Family Cook,9171,736119,00.html
Elizabeth Steele, ‘Walpole, Sir Hugh Seymour (1884–1941)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

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