Greenth (Public lecture, 14st November)


Cliveden near Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, in A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole (1784). Reproduced courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

What does the word ‘greenth’ mean? The next lecture in our Walpole and His Legacies series will show how a word coined by Walpole unlocks wider ideas about attitudes towards nature both in the eighteenth century and our own time. Join Stephen Bending (University of Southampton) at 18.15 on 14th November, in Elvet Riverside 141.

In 1753 Horace Walpole coined the word greenth. Dictionaries tell us that it means ‘green vegetation’, but it means much more, and in this lecture I’m going to explore some of the ways in which green stuff mattered to Walpole and his contemporaries.

Merging green and growth, Walpole’s greenth signals not just greenery, but the urge to see in the growth of the green an account of the natural; in adding an Old English suffix, Walpole signals, too, that greenth is not only natural, but naturally English. If this sounds like a celebration of easy and untroubled pleasure, of a simple communion with nature, I’m going to suggest that it offers us something more complex, that the celebration of greenery and growth—much like our modern economy’s hoped for, but rarely glimpsed, green shoots of recovery—is the stuff of political fantasy, national pride, and suspicion of foreigners both living and dead.

All members of the public are warmly welcome to this lecture series, looking at one of the most influential writers and thinkers of the eighteenth century. Booking is not required. Join the conversation online via #WalpoleLegacies, and find this event on Facebook.

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