Walpole, the youngest son of England's longest-ruling Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, attended Eton and Cambridge. After his schooling, he traveled on the Continent for two years with Thomas Gray, returning to take a seat in Parliament in 1741. In 1747, Walpole bought a house near Twickenham outside London, which, over the course of his life, he turned into a fantastic neo-Gothic castle called Strawberry Hill. There he housed one of the most extensive and eclectic collections of art in England, and set up a small private press, publishing works by Gray, Joseph Spence, Hannah More, and others.
Walpole is best known for writing the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (1765).