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During the late 1760s and 1770s Gilpin travelled extensively in the summer holidays and applied these principles to the landscapes he saw, committing his thoughts and spontaneous sketches to notebooks.Gilpin's tour journals circulated in manuscript to friends, such as the poet William Mason, and a wider circle including Thomas Gray, Horace Walpole and King George III.
He was succeeded at Cheam by his son, another William Gilpin.
William Gilpin died at Boldre, Hampshire, on 5 April 1804 and was buried there on 13 April.
Many of these picturesque tourists were intent on sketching, or at least discussing what they saw in terms of landscape painting.
Gilpin's works were the ideal companions for this new generation of travellers; they were written specifically for that market and never intended as comprehensive travel guides.
In the same work he criticises John Dyer's description of the view from Grongar Hill for describing a distant object in too much detail.
Such passages were easy pickings for satirists such as Jane Austen, as she demonstrated in Northanger Abbey and many of her other novels and works.
Gilpin was born in Cumberland, the son of Captain John Bernard Gilpin, a soldier and amateur artist.
From an early age he was an enthusiastic sketcher and collector of prints, but while his brother Sawrey Gilpin became a professional painter, William opted for a career in the church, graduating from Queen's College, Oxford in 1748.
Some extra help from the artist, perhaps in the form of a carefully placed tree, was usually required.
In contrast to other contemporary travel writers, such as Thomas Pennant, Gilpin included little history, and few facts or anecdotes.