The Story of My Life/Chapter I
“I hope I may be able to tell the truth always, and to see it aright, according to the eyes which God Almighty gives me.”—Thackeray.
In 1727, the year of George the First’s death, Miss Grace Naylor of Hurstmonceaux, though she was beloved, charming, and beautiful, died very mysteriously in her twenty-first year, in the immense and weird old castle of which she had been the heiress. She was affirmed to have been starved by her former governess, who lived alone with her, but the fact was never proved. Her property passed to her first cousin Francis Hare (son of her aunt Bethaia), who forthwith assumed the name of Naylor.
The new owner of Hurstmonceaux was the only child of the first marriage of that Francis Hare, who, through the influence first of the Duke of Marlborough (by whose side, then a chaplain, he had ridden on the battle-fields of Blenheim and Ramilies), and afterwards of his family connections the Pelhams and Walpoles, rose to become one of the richest and most popular pluralists of his age. Yet he had to be contented at last with the bishoprics of St. Asaph and Chichester, with each of which he held the Deanery of St. Paul’s, the Archbishopric of Canterbury having twice just escaped him.
The Bishop’s eldest son Francis was “un facheux détail de notre famille,” as the grandfather of Madame de Maintenon said of his son. He died after a life of the wildest dissipation, without leaving any children by his wife Carlotta Alston, who was his stepmother’s sister. So the property of Hurstmonceaux went to his half-brother Robert, son of the Bishop’s second marriage with Mary-Margaret Alston, heiress of the Vatche in Buckinghamshire, and of several other places besides. Sir Robert Walpole had been the godfather of Robert Hare-Naylor, and presented him with a valuable sinecure office as a christening present, and he further made the Bishop urge the Church as the profession in which father and godfather could best aid the boy’s advancement. Accordingly Robert took orders, obtained a living, and was made a Canon of Winchester. While he was still very young, his father had further secured his fortunes by marrying him to the heiress who lived nearest to his mother’s property of the Vatche, and, by the beautiful Sarah Selman (daughter of the owner of Chalfont St. Peter’s, and sister of Mrs. Lefevre), he had two sons—Francis and Robert, and an only daughter Anna Maria, afterwards Mrs. Bulkeley. In the zenith of her youth and loveliness, however, Sarah Hare died very suddenly from eating ices when overheated at a ball, and soon afterwards Robert married a second wife—the rich Henrietta Henckel, who pulled down Hurstmonceaux Castle. She did this because she was jealous of the sons of the predecessor, and wished to build a large new house, which she persuaded her husband to settle upon her own children, who were numerous, though only two daughters lived to any great age. But she was justly punished, for when Robert Hare died, it was discovered that the great house which Wyatt had built for Mrs. Hare, and which is now known as Hurstmonceaux Place, was erected upon entailed land, so that the house stripped of furniture, and the property shorn of its most valuable farms, passed to Frances Hare-Naylor, son of Miss Selman. Mrs. Henckel Hare lived on to a great age, and when “the burden of her years came on her” she repented of her avarice and injustice, and coming back to Hurstmonceaux in childish senility, would wander round and round the castle ruins in the early morning and late evening, wringing her hands and saying—“Who could have done such a wicked thing: oh! Who could have done such a wicked thing, as to pull down this beautiful old place?” Then her daughters, Caroline and Marianne, walking beside her, would say—“Oh dear mamma, it was you who did it, it was you yourself who did it, you know”—and she would despairingly resume—“Oh no, that is impossible: it could not have been me. I could not have done such a wicked thing: it could not have been me that did it.” My cousin Marcus Hare had at Abbots Kerswell a picture of Mrs. Henckel Hare, which was always surrounded with crape bows.
The second Francis Hare-Naylor and his brother Robert had a most unhappy home in their boyhood. Their stepmother ruled their weak-minded father with a rod of iron. She ostentatiously burnt the portrait of their beautiful mother. Every year she sold a farm from his paternal inheritance and spent the money in extravagance. In 1784 she parted with the ancient property of Hos Tendis, at Sculthorpe
in Norfolk, though its sale was a deathblow to the Bishop’s aged widow, Mary-Margaret Alston. Yet, while accumulating riches for herself, she prevented her husband from allowing his unfortunate elder sons more than £100 a year apiece. With this income, Robert, the younger of the two, was sent to Oriel College at Oxford, and when he unavoidably incurred debts there, the money for their repayment was stopped even from his humble pittance.
Goaded to fury by his stepmother, the eldest son, Francis, became reckless and recklessly extravagant. He raised money at an enormous rate of interest upon his prospects from the Hurstmonceaux estates, and he would have been utterly ruined, morally as well as outwardly, if he had not fallen in with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was captivated by his good looks, charmed by his boldness and wit, and who made him the hero of a living romance. By the Duchess he was introduced to her cousin, another even more beautiful Georgiana, daughter of Jonathan Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph, and his wife Anna Maria Mordaunt, niece of the famous Earl of Peterborough; and though Bishop Shipley did everything he could to separate them, meetings were perpetually connived at by the Duchess, till eventually the pair eloped in 1785. The families on both sides renounced them with fury. The Canon of Winchester never saw his son again, and I believe that Bishop Shipley never saw his daughter. Our grandparents went to Carlsruhe, and then to Italy, where in those days it was quite possible to live upon the £200 a year which was allowed them by the Duchess of Devonshire, and where their four sons—Francis, Augustus, Julius, and Marcus—were born.
The story of Mrs. Hare-Naylor’s struggling life in Italy is told in “Memorials of a Quiet Life,” and how, when the Canon of Winchester died, and she hurried home with her husband to take possession of Hurstmonceaux Place, she brought only her little Augustus with her, placing him under the care of her eldest sister Anna Maria, widow of the celebrated Sir William Jones, whom he ever afterwards regarded as a second mother.
The choice of guardians which Mrs. Hare-Naylor made for the children whom she left at Bologna would be deemed a very strange one by many: but gifted, beautiful, and accomplished, our grandmother was never accustomed either to seek or to take advice: she always acted upon her own impulses, guided by her own observation. An aged Spanish Jesuit was living in Bologna, who, when his order was suppressed in Spain, had come to reside in Italy upon his little pension, and, being skilled in languages, particularly in Greek, had taken great pains to revive the love of it in Bologna. Amongst his pupils were two brothers named Tambroni, one of whom, discouraged by the difficulties he met with, complained to his sister Clotilda, who, by way of assisting him, volunteered to learn the same lessons. The old Jesuit was delighted with the girl, and spared no pains to make her a proficient. Female professors were not unknown in Bologna, and in the process of time Clotilda Tambroni succeeded to the chair of the Professor of Greek, once occupied by the famous Laura Bassi, whom she was rendered worthy to succeed by her beauty as well as by her acquirements. The compositions of Clotilda Tambroni both in Greek and Italian were published, and universally admired; her poems surprised every one by their fire and genius, and her public orations were considered unrivalled in her age. Adored by all, her reputation was always unblemished. When the French became masters of Bologna, the University was suppressed, and to avoid insult and danger, Clotilda Tambroni retired into private life and lived in great seclusion. Some time after, she received an appointment in Spain, but, just as she arrived there, accompanied by her monk-preceptor Dom Emmanuele Aponte, the French had overturned everything. The pair returned to Bologna, where Aponte would have been in the greatest distress, if his grateful pupil had not insisted upon receiving him into her own house, and not only maintained him, but devoted herself as a daughter to his wants. After the Austrians had re-established the University on the old system, Clotilde Tambroni was invited to resume her chair, but as her health and spirits were then quite broken, she declined accepting it, upon which the Government very handsomely settled a small pension upon her, sufficient to ensure her the comforts of life.
With Clotilde Tambroni and her aged friend, our grandmother Mrs. Hare-Naylor, who wrote and spoke Greek as perfectly as her native language, and who taught her children to converse in it at the family repasts, naturally found more congenial companionship than with any other members of the Bolognese society; and, when she was recalled with her husband to England, she had no hesitation in intrusting three of her sons to their care. Julius and Marcus were then only very beautiful and engaging little children, but Francis, my father, was already eleven years old, and a boy of extraordinary acquirements, in whom an almost unnatural amount of learning had been implanted and fostered by his gifted mother. The strange life which he then led at Bologna with the old monk and the beautiful sibyl (for such she is represented in her portrait) who attended him, only served to ripen the seed which had been sown already, and the great Mezzofanti, who was charmed at seeing a repetition of his own marvellous powers in one so young, voluntarily took him as a pupil and devoted much of his time to him. To the year which Francis Hare passed with Clotilde Tambroni at Bologna, in her humble rooms with their tiled floors and scanty furniture, he always felt that he owed that intense love of learning for learning’s sake which was the leading characteristic of his after life, and he always looked back upon the Tambroni as the person to whom, next to his mother, he was most deeply indebted. When he rejoined his parents at Hurstmonceaux, he continued, under his new tutor, Dr. Lehmann, to make such amazing progress as astonished all who knew him and was an intense delight to his mother.
Hurstmonceaux Place was then, and is still, a large but ugly house. It forms a massy square, with projecting circular bows at the corners, the appearance of which (due to Wyatt) produces a frightful effect outside, but is exceedingly comfortable within. The staircase, the floors, and the handsome doors, were brought from the castle. The west side of the house, decorated with some Ionic columns, is part of an older manor-house, which existed before the castle was dismantled. In this part of the building is a small old panelled hall, hung round with stags’ horns from the ancient deer-park. The house is surrounded by spacious pleasure-grounds. Facing the east front were, till a few years ago, three very fine trees, a cedar, a tulip-tree, and a huge silver fir. In my childhood it often used to be a question which of these trees should be removed, as they were crowding and spoiling each other, and it ended in their all being left, as no one could decide which was the least valuable of the three. The wind has since that time carried away the cedar. The tulip-tree was planted by our great-aunt Marianne, daughter of Mrs. Henckel Hare, and I remember that my uncle Julius used to say that its gay flowers were typical of her and her dress.
For several years our grandparents carried on a most laborious contest of dignity with poverty on their ruined estate of Hurstmonceaux, where their only daughter Anna Maria Clementina was born in 1799. Finding no congenial associates in the neighbourhood, Mrs. Hare-Naylor consoled herself by keeping up an animated correspondence with all the learned men of Europe, while her husband wrote dull plays and duller histories, which have all been published, but which few people read then and nobody reads now. The long-confirmed habits of Italian life, with its peculiar hours and utter disregard of appearances, were continued in Sussex; and it is still remembered at Hurstmonceaux how our grandmother rode on an ass to drink at the mineral springs which abound in the park, how she always wore white, and how a beautiful white doe always accompanied her in her walks, and even to church, standing, during the service, at her pew door.
Upon the return of Lehmann to Germany in 1802, Francis Hare was sent to the tutorship of Dr. Brown, and eminent professor in Marischal College at Aberdeen, where he remained for two years, working with the utmost enthusiasm. He seems to have shrunk at this time from any friendships with boys of his own age, except with Harry Temple (afterwards celebrated as Lord Palmerston), who had been his earliest acquaintance in England, and with whom he long continued to be intimate. Meanwhile his mother formed the design of leaving to her children a perfect series of large finished water-colour drawings, representing all the different parts of Hurstmonceaux Castle, interior as well as exterior, before its destruction. She never relaxed her labour and care till the whole were finished, but the minute application, for so long a period, seriously affected her health and produced disease of the optic nerve, which ended in total blindness. She removed to Weimar, where the friendship of the Grand Duchess and the society of Goethe, Schiller, and the other learned men who formed the brilliantly intellectual circle of the little court did all that was possible to mitigate her affliction. But her health continued to fail, and her favourite son Francis was summoned to her side, arriving in time to accompany her to Lausanne, where she expired, full of faith, hope, and resignation, on Easter Sunday, 1806.
After his wife’s death, Mr. Hare-Naylor could never bear to return to Hurstmonceaux, and sold the remnant of his ancestral estate for £60,000, to the great sorrow of his children. They were almost more distressed, however, by his second marriage to a Mrs. Mealey, a left-handed connection of the Shipley family—the Mrs. Hare-Naylor of my own childhood, who was less and less liked by her stepsons as years went on. She became the mother of three children, Georgiana, Gustavus, and Reginald—my half aunt and uncles. In 1815, Mr. Hare-Naylor died at Tours, and was buried at Hurstmonceaux.
The breaking up of their home, the loss of their beloved mother, and still more their father’s second marriage, made the four Hare brothers turn henceforward for all that they sought of sympathy or affection to their Shipley relations. The house of their mother’s eldest sister, Lady Jones, was henceforward the only home they knew. Little Anna Hare was adopted by Lady Jones, and lived entirely with her till her early death in 1813: Augustus was educated at her expense and passed his holidays at her house of Worting, her care and anxiety for his welfare proving that she considered him scarcely less her child than Anna; and Francis and Julius looked up to her in everything, and consulted her on all points, finding in her “a second mother, a monitress wise and loving, both in encouragement and reproof.” While Augustus was pursuing his education at Winchester and New College, and Marcus was acting as midshipman and lieutenant in various ships on foreign service; and while Julius (who already, during his residence with his mother at Weimar, had imbibed that passion for Germany and German literature which characterised his after life) was carrying off prizes at Tunbridge, the Charter House, and Trinity College, Cambridge; Francis, after his mother’s death, was singularly left to his own devices. Mr. Hare-Naylor was too apathetic, and his stepmother did not dare to interfere with him: Lady Jones was bewildered by him. After leaving Aberdeen he studied vigorously, even furiously, with a Mr. Michell at Buckland. From time to time he went abroad, travelling where he pleased and seeing whom he pleased. At the Universities of Leipsic and Göttingen the report which Lehmann gave of his extraordinary abilities procured him an enthusiastic reception, and he soon formed intimacies with the most distinguished professors of both seats of learning. At the little court of Weimar he was adored. Yet the vagaries of his character led him with equal ardour to seek the friendship and share the follies of Count Calotkin, of whom he wrote as “the Lord Chesterfield of the time, who had had more princesses in love with him and perhaps more children on the throne than there are weeks in the year.” At twenty, he had not only all the knowledge, but more than all the experiences, of most men of forty. Such training was not a good preparation for his late entrance at an English University. The pupil of Mezzofanti and Lehmann also went to Christ Church at Oxford knowing far too much. He was so far ahead of his companions, and felt such a profound contempt for the learning of Oxford compared with that to which he had been accustomed at the Italian and German universities, that he neglected the Oxford course of study altogether, and did little except hunt whilst he was at college. In spite of this, he was so naturally talented, that he could not help adding, in spite of himself, to his vast store of information. Jackson, Dean of Christ Church in his time, used to say that “Francis Hare was the only rolling stone he knew that ever gathered any moss.” That which he did gather was always made the most of for his favourite brother Julius, for whose instruction he was never weary of writing essays, and in whose progress he took the greatest interest and delight. But through all the changes of life the tie between each of the four brothers continued undiminished—“the most brotherly of brothers,” their common friend Landor always used to call them.
After leaving Oxford, my father lived principally at his rooms in the Albany. Old Dr. Wellesley used often to tell me stories of these pleasant chambers (the end house in the court), and of the parties which used to meet in them, including all that was most refined and intellectual in the young life of London. For, in his conversational powers, Francis Hare had the reputation of being perfectly unrivalled, and it was thus, not in writing, that his vast amount of information on all possible subjects became known to his contemporaries. In 1811, Lady Jones writes of him “at Stowe” as “keeping all the talk to himself, which does not please the old Marquis much.”
Francis Hare sold his father’s fine library at Christie’s soon after his death, yet almost immediately began to form a new collection of books, which soon surrounded all the walls of his Albany chambers. But his half-sister Mrs. Maurice remembered going to visit him at the Albany, and her surprise at not seeing his books. “Oh, Francis, what have you done with your library?” she exclaimed. “Look under the sofa and you will see it,” he replied. She looked, and saw a pile of Sir William Jones’s works: he had again sold all the rest. And through life it was always the same. He never could resist collecting valuable books, and then either sold them, or had them packed up, left them behind, and forgot all about them. Three of his collections of books have been sold within my remembrance, one at Newbury in July 1858; one at Florence in the spring of 1859; and one at Sotheby & Wilkinson’s rooms in the following November.
Careful as to his personal appearance, Francis Hare was always dressed in the height of the fashion. It is remembered how he would retire and change his dress three times in the course of a single ball! In everything he followed the foibles of the day. “Francis leads a rambling life of pleasure and idleness,” wrote his cousin Anna Maria Dashwood; “he must have read, but who can tell at what time?—for wherever there is dissipation, there is Francis in its wake and its most ardent pursuer. Yet, in spite of this, let any subject be named in society, and Francis will know more of it than nineteen out of twenty.”
In 1816-17, Francis Hare kept horses and resided much at Melton Mowbray, losing an immense amount of money there. After this time he lived almost entirely upon the Continent. Lord Desart, Lord Bristol and Count d’Orsay were his constant companions and friends, so that it is not to be wondered at that attractions of the less reputable kind enchained him to Florence and Rome. He had, however, a really good friend in John Nicholas Fazakerley, with whom his intimacy was never broken, and in 1814, whilst watching his dying father at Tours, he began a friendship with Walter Savage Landor, with whom he ever afterwards kept up an affectionate correspondence. Other friends of whom he saw much in the next few years were Lady Oxford (then separated from her husband, and living entirely abroad) and her four daughters. In the romantic interference of Lady Oxford in behalf of Caroline Murat, queen of Naples, and in the extraordinary adventures of her daughters, my father took the deepest interest, and he was always ready to help or advise them. On one occasion, when they arrived suddenly in Florence, he gave a ball in their honour, the brilliancy of which I have heard described by the older Florentine residents of my own time. Twice every week, even in his bachelor days, he was accustomed to give large dinner-parties, and he then first acquired that character of hospitality for which he was afterwards famous at Rome and Pisa. Spa was one of the places which attracted him most at this period of his life, and he frequently passed part of the summer there. It was on one of these occasions (1816) that he proceeded to Holland and visited Amsterdam. “I am delighted and disgusted with this mercantile capital,” he wrote to his brother Augustus. “Magnificent establishments and penurious economy—ostentatious generosity and niggardly suspicion—constitute the centrifugal and centripetal focus of Holland’s mechanism. The rage for roots still continues. The gardener at the Hortus Medicus showed me an Amaryllis (alas! it does not flower till October), for which King Lewis paid one thousand guelders (a guelder is about 2 francs and 2 sous). Here, in the sanctuary of Calvinism, organs are everywhere introduced—though the more orthodox, or puerile, discipline of Scotland has rejected their intrusion. But, in return, the sternness of republican demeanour refuses the outward token of submission—even to Almighty power: a Dutchman always remains in church with his hat unmoved from his head.”
The year 1818 was chiefly passed by Francis Hare in Bavaria, where he became very intimate with the King and Prince Eugene. The latter gave him the miniature of himself which I still have at Holmhurst. For the next seven years he was almost entirely in Italy—chiefly at Florence or Pisa. Sometimes Lord Dudley was with him, often he lived for months in the constant society of Count d’Orsay and Lady Blessington. He was fêted and invited everywhere. “On disait de M. Hare,” said one who knew him intimately, “non seulement qu’il était original, mais qu’il était original sans copie.” “In these years at Florence,” said the same person, “there were many ladies who were aspirants for his hand, he was si aimable, pas dans le sens vulgaire, mais il avait tant d’empressement pour tout la sexe feminin.” His aunts Lady Jones and her sister Louisa Shipley constantly implored him to return to England and settle there, but in vain: he was too much accustomed to a roving life. Occasionally he wrote for Reviews, but I have never been able to trace the articles. He had an immense correspondence, and his letters were very amusing, when their recipients could read his almost impossible hand. We find Count d’Orsay writing, apropos of a debt which he was paying—“Employez cette somme à prendre un maître d’écriture: si vous saviez quel service vous renderiez à vos amis!”
The English family of which Francis Hare saw most at Florence was that of Lady Paul, who had brought her four daughters to spend several years in Italy, partly for the sake of completing their education, partly to escape with dignity from the discords of a most uncongenial home. To the close of her life Frances Eleanor, first wife of Sir John Dean Paul of Rodborough, was one of those rare individuals who are never seen without being loved, and who never fail to have a good influence over those with whom they are thrown in contact. That she was as attractive as she was good is still shown in a lovely portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Landor adored her, and rejoiced to bring his friend Francis Hare into her society. The daughters were clever, lively and animated; but the mother was the great attraction to the house.
Defoe says that “people who boast of their ancestors are like potatoes, in that their best part is in underground.” Still I will explain that Lady Paul was the daughter of John Simpson of Bradley in the county of Durham, and his wife Lady Anne Lyon, second daughter of the 8th Earl of Strathmore, who
quartered the royal arms and claimed royal descent from Robert II. king of Scotland, grandson of the famous Robert Bruce: the king’s youngest daughter Lady Jane Stuart having married Sir John Lyon, first Baron Kinghorn, and the king’s grand-daughter Elizabeth Graham (through Euphemia Stuart, Countess of Strathern) having married his son Sir John Lyon of Glamis. Eight barons and eight earls of Kinghorn and Strathmore (which title was added 1677) lived in Glamis Castle before Lady Anne was born. The family history had been of the most eventful kind. The widow of John, 6th Lord Glamis, was burnt as a witch on the Castle Hill at Edinburgh, for attempting to poison King James V., and her second husband, Archibald Campbell, was dashed to pieces while trying to escape down the rocks which form the foundation of the castle. Her son, the 7th Lord Glamis, was spared, and restored to his honours upon the confession of the accusers of the family that the whole story was a forgery, after it had already cost the lives of two innocent persons. John, 8th Lord of Glamis, was killed in a border fray with the followers of the Earl of Crawford: John, 5th Earl, fell in rebellion at the battle of Sheriffmuir: Charles, 6th Earl, was killed in a quarrel. The haunted castle of Glamis itself, the most picturesque building in Scotland, girdled with quaint pepper-box turrets, is full of the most romantic interest. A winding stair in the thickness of the wall leads to the principal apartments. The weird chamber is still shown in which, as Shakespeare narrates, Duncan, king of Scotland, was murdered by Macbeth, the “thane of Glamis.” In the depth of the walls is another chamber more ghastly still, with a secret, transmitted from the fourteenth century, which is always known to three persons. When one of the triumvirate dies, the survivors are compelled by a terrible oath to elect a successor. Every succeeding Lady Strathmore, Fatima-like, has spent her time in tapping at the walls, taking up the boards, and otherwise attempting to discover the secret chamber, but all have failed. One tradition of the place says that “Old Beardie” sits for ever in that chamber playing with dice and drinking punch at a stone table, and that at midnight a second and more terrible person joins him.
More fearful than these traditions were the scenes through which Lady Anne had lived and in which she herself bore a share. Nothing is more extraordinary than the history of her eldest brother’s widow, Mary-Eleanor Bowes, 9th Countess of Strathmore, who, in her second marriage with Mr. Stoney, underwent sufferings which have scarcely ever been surpassed, and whose marvellous escapes and adventures are still the subject of a hundred story-books.
The vicissitudes of her eventful life, and her own charm and cleverness, combined to make Lady Anne Simpson one of the most interesting women of her age, and her society was eagerly sought and appreciated. Both her daughters had married young, and in her solitude, she took the eldest daughter of Lady Paul to live with her and brought her up as her own child. In her house, Anne Paul saw all the most remarkable Englishmen of the time. She was provided with the best masters, and in her home life she had generally the companionship of the daughters of her mother’s sister Lady Liddell, afterwards Lady Ravensworth, infinitely preferring their companionship to that of her own brothers and sisters. Lady Anne Simpson resided chiefly at a house belonging to Colonel Jolliffe at Merstham in Surrey, where the persons she wished to see could frequently come down to her from London. The royal dukes, sons of George III., constantly visited her in this way, and delighted in the society of the pretty old lady, who had so much to tell, and who always told it in the most interesting way.
It was a severe trial for Anne Paul, when, in her twentieth year (1821), she lost her grandmother, and had to return to her father’s house. Not only did the blank left by the affection she had received cause her constant suffering, but the change from being mistress of a considerable house and establishment to becoming an insignificant unit in a large party of brothers and sisters was most disagreeable, and she felt it bitterly.
Very welcome therefore was the change when Lady Paul determined to go abroad with her daughters, and the society of Florence, in which Anne Paul’s great musical talents made her a general favourite, Was the more delightful from being contrasted with the confinement of Sir John Paul’s house over his bank in the Strand. During her Italian travels also, Anne Paul made three friends whose intimacy influenced all her after life. These were our cousin, the clever widowed Anna Maria Dashwood, daughter of Dean Shipley; Walter Savage Landor; and Francis Hare; and the two first united in desiring the same thing—her marriage with the last.
Meantime, two other marriages occupied the attention of the Paul family. One of Lady Paul’s objects in coming abroad had been the hope of breaking through an attachment which her third daughter Maria had formed for Charles Bankhead, an exceedingly handsome and fascinating, but penniless young attaché, with whom she had fallen in love at first sight, declaring that nothing should ever induce her to marry anyone else. Unfortunately, the first place to which Lady Paul took her daughters was Geneva, and Mr. Bankhead, finding out where they were, came thither (from Frankfort, where he was attaché) dressed in a long cloak and with false hair and beard. In this disguise, he climbed up and looked into a room where Maria Paul was writing, with her face towards the window. She recognised him at once, but thought it was his double, and fainted away. On her recovery, finding her family still inexorable, she one day, when her mother and sisters were out, tried to make away with herself. Her room faced the stairs, and as Prince Lardoria, an old friend of the family, was coming up, she threw open the door and exclaimed—“Je meurs, Prince, je meurs, je me suis empoisonné.”—“Oh Miladi, Miladi,” screamed the Prince, but Miladi was not there, so he rushed into the kitchen, and seizing a large bottle of oil, dashed upstairs with it, and, throwing Maria Paul on the ground, poured the contents of it down her throat. After this, Lady Paul looked upon the marriage as inevitable, and sent Maria to England to her aunt Lady Ravensworth, from whose house she was married to Charles Bankhead, neither her mother or sisters being present. Shortly afterwards that Mr. Bankhead was appointed minister in Mexico and his wife accompanying him thither, remained there for many years, and had many extraordinary adventures, especially during a great earthquake, in which she was saved by her presence of mind in swinging up on the door, while “the cathedral dropped like a wave on the sea” and the town was laid in ruins.
While Maria Paul’s marriage was pending, her youngest sister Jane had also become engaged, without the will of her parents, to Edward, only son of the attainted Lord Edward Fitz Gerald, son of the first Duke of Leinster. His mother was that famous Pamela, once the beautiful and fascinating little fairy produced at eight years old by the Chevalier de Grave as the companion of Mademoiselle d’Orleans; over whose birth a mystery has always prevailed; whose name Madame de Genlis declared to be Sims, but whom her royal companions called Seymour. To her daughter Jane’s engagement Lady Paul rather withheld than refused her consent, and it was hoped that during their travels abroad the intimacy might be broken off. It had begun by Jane Paul, in a ball-room, hearing a peculiarly hearty and ringing laugh from a man she could not see, and in her high spirits imprudently saying—“I will marry the man who can laugh in that way and no one else,”—a remark which was repeated to Edward Fitz Gerald, who insisted upon being immediately introduced. Jane Paul was covered with confusion, but as she was exceedingly pretty, this only added to her attractions, and the adventure led to a proposal, and eventually, through the friendship and intercession of Francis Hare, to a marriage.
Already, in 1826, we find Count d’Orsay writing to Francis Hare in August—“Quel diable vous possede de rester à Florence, sans Pauls, sans rien enfin, excepté un rhume imaginaire pour excuse?” But it was not till the following year that Miss Paul began to believe he was seriously paying court to her. They had long corresponded, and his clever letters are most indescribably eccentric. They became more eccentric still in 1828, when, before making a formal proposal, he expended two sheets in proving to her how hateful the word must always had been and always would be to his nature. She evidently accepted this exordium very amiably, for on receiving her answer, he sent his banker’s book to Sir John Paul, begging him to examine and see if, after all his extravagancies, he still possessed at least “fifteen hundred a year, clear of every possible deduction and charge, to spend withal, that is, four pounds a day,” and to consider, if the examination proved satisfactory, that he begged to propose for the hand of his eldest daughter! Equally strange was his announcement of his engagement to his brother Augustus at Rome, casually observing, in the midst of antiquarian queries about the temples—“Apropos of columns, I am going to rest my old age on a column. Anne Paul and I are to be married on the 28th of April,”—and proceeding at once, as if he had said nothing unusual—“Have you made acquaintance yet with my excellent friend Luigi Vescovali,” &c. At the same time Mrs. Dashwood wrote to Miss Paul that Francis had “too much feeling in principle to marry without feeling that he could make the woman who was sincerely attached to him happy,” and that “though he has a great many faults, still, when one considers the sort of wild education he had, that he has been a sort of pet pupil of the famous or infamous Lord Bristol, one feels very certain that he must have a more than uncommonly large amount of original goodness (not sin, though it is the fashion to say so much on that head) to save him from having many more.”
It was just before the marriage that “Victoire” (often afterwards mentioned in these volumes) came to live with Miss Paul. She had lost her parents in childhood, and had been brought up by her grandmother, who, while she was still very young, “pour assurer son avenir,” sent her to England to be with Madame Girardôt, who kept a famous shop for ladies’ dress in Albemarle Street. Three days after her arrival, Lady Paul came there to ask Madame Girardôt to recommend a maid for her daughter, who was going to be married, and Victoire was suggested, but she begged to remain where she was for some weeks, as she felt so lonely in a strange country, and did not like to leave the young Frenchwomen with whom she was at work. During this time Miss Paul often came to see her, and they became great friends. At last a day was fixed on which Victoire was summoned to the house “seulement pour voir,” and then she first saw Lady Paul. Miss Paul insisted that when her mother asked Victoire her age, she should say twenty-two at least, as Lady Paul objected to her having any maid under twenty-eight. “Therefore,” said Victoire, “when Miladi asked ‘Quelle age avez vous?’ j’ai répondu ‘Vingt-deux ans, mais je suis devenu toute rouge, oh comme je suis devenu rouge’—et Miladi a répondu avec son doux sourire—‘Ah vous n’avez pas l’habitude des mensonges?’—Oh comme cà m’a tellement frappé.”
My father was married to Anne Frances Paul at the church in the Strand on the 28th of April 1828. “Oh comme il y avait du monde!” Said Victoire, when she described the ceremony to me. A few days afterwards a breakfast was given at the Star and Garter at Richmond, at which all the relations on both sides were present, Maria Leycester, the future bride of Augustus Hare, being also amongst the guests.
Soon after, the newly-married pair left for Holland, where they began the fine collection of old glass for which Mrs. Hare was afterwards almost famous, and then to Dresden and Carlsbad. In the autumn they returned to England, and took a London house—5 Gloucester Place, where my sister Caroline was born in 1829. The house was chiefly furnished by the contents of my father’s old rooms at the Albany.
“Victoire” has given many notes of my father’s character at this time. “M. Hare était sevère, mais il était juste. Il ne pardonnait une fois—deux fois, et puis il ne pardonnait plus, il faudrait s’en aller; il ne voudrait plus de celui qui l’avait offensé. C’était ainsi avec François, son valet à Gloucester Place, qui l’accompagnait partout et qui avait tout sous la main. Un jour M. Hare me priait, avec cette intonation de courtoisie qu’il avait, que je mettrais son linge dans les tiroirs. ‘Mais, très volontiers, monsieur,’ j’ai dit. Il avait beaucoup des choses—des chemises, des foulards, de tout. Eh bien! quelques jours après il me dit—‘Il me manque quelques foulards—deux foulards de cette espèce’—en tirant une de sa poche, parcequ’il faisait attention à tout. ‘Ah, monsiuer,’ j’ai dit, ‘c’est très probable, en sortant peut-être dans la ville.’ ‘Non,’ il me dit, ‘ce n’est pas ça—je suis volé, et c’est François qui les a pris, et ça n’est pas la première fois,’ ainsi enfin il faut que je le renvoie.” It was not till long after that Victoire found out that my father had known for years that François had been robbing him, and yet had retained him in his service. He said that it was always his plan to weigh the good qualities of any of his dependants against their defects. If the defects outweighed the virtues, “il faudrait les renvoyer de suite—si non, il faudrait les laisser aller.” When he was in his “colère” he never allowed his wife to come near him—“il avait peur de lui faire aucun mal.”
The christening of Caroline was celebrated with great festivities, but it was like a fairy story, in that the old aunt Louisa Shipley, who was expected to make her nephew Francis her heir, then took an offence—something about being godmother, which was never quite got over. The poor little babe itself was very pretty and terrible precocious, and before she was a year old she died of water on the brain. Victoire, who doated upon her, held her in her arms for the last four-and-twenty hours, and there she died. Mrs. Hare was very much blamed for having neglected her child for society, yet, when she was dead, says Victoire, “Madame Hare avait tellement chagrin, que Lady paul qui venait tous les jours, priait M. Hare de l’ammener tout de suite. Nous sommes allés à Bruxelles, parceque là M. FitzGerald avait une maison,—mais de là, nous sommes retournés bien vite en Angleterre à cause de la grossesse de Madame Hare, parceque M. Hare ne voulut pas que son fils soit né à l’étranger, parcequ’il disait, que, étant le troisième, il perdrait ses droits de l’héritage. C’est selon la loi anglaise—et c’était vraiment temps, car, de suite en arrivant à Londres, François naquit.”
The family finally left Gloucester Place and went abroad in consequence of Lady jones’s death. After that they never had a settled home again. When the household in London was broken up, Victoire was to have left. She had long been engaged to be married to Félix Ackermann, who had been a soldier, and was in receipt of a pension for his services in the Moscow campaign. But, when it came to the parting, “Monsieur et Madame” would not let her go, saying that they could not let her travel, until they could find a family to send her with. “It was an excuse,” said Victoire, “for I waited two years, and the family was never found. Then I had to consigner all the things, then I could not leave Madame—and so it went on for two years more, till, when the family were at Pisa, Félix insisted that I should come to a decision. Then M. Hare sent for Félix, who had been acting as a courier for some time, and begged him to come to Florence to go with us as a courier to Baden. Félix arrived on the Jeudi Saint. M. Hare came in soon after (it was in my little room) and talked to him as if they were old friends. He brought a bottle of champagne, and poured out glasses for us all, and faisait clinquer les verres. On the Monday we all left for Milan, and there I was married to Félix, and, after the season at Baden, Félix and I were to return to Paris, but when the time came M. Hare would not let us.”
“Wherever,” said Victoire, “M. Hare était en passage—soit à Florence, soit à Rome, n’importe où, il faudrait toujours des diners, et des fêtes, pour recevoir M. Hare, surtout dans les ambassade, pas seulement dans l’ambassade d’Angleterre, mais dans celles de France, d’Allemagne, etc. Et quand M. Hare ne voyageait plus, et qu’il était établi dans quelque ville, il donnait à son tour des diners à lui.”
“Il s’occupait toujours à lire,—pas des romans, mais des anciens livres, dans lesquelles il fouillait toujours. Quand nous voyageons c’était la première chose, et il emporta énormément des livres dans la voiture avec lui. . . . Quand il y’avait une personne qui lui avait été recommandée, il fallait toujours lui faire voir tout ce qu’il avait, soit à Rome, soit à Bologne,—et comme il savait un peu de tout, son avis était demandé pour la valeur des tableaux, et n’importe de quoi.”
On first going abroad, my father had taken his wife to make acquaintance with his old friends Lady Blessington and Count d’Orsay, with whom they afterwards had frequent meetings. Lady Blessington thus describes to Landor her first impressions of Mrs. Hare:—
“Paris, Feb. 1829.—Among the partial gleams of sunshine which have illumined our winter, a fortnight’s sojourn which Francis Hare and his excellent wife made here, is remebered with most pleasure. She is indeed a treasure—well-informed, clever, sensible, well-mannered, kind, lady-like, and, above all, truly feminine; the having chosen such a woman reflects credit and distinction on our friend, and the community with her has had a visible effect on him, as, without losing any of his gaiety, it has become softened down to a more mellow tone, and he appears not only a more happy man, but more deserving of happiness than before.”
My second brother, William Robert, was born September 20, 1831, at the Bagni di Lucca, where the family was spending the summer. Mrs. Louisa Shipley meanwhile never ceased to urge their return to England.
“Jan. 25, 1831.—I am glad to hear so good an account of my two little great-nephews, but I should be still more glad to see them. I do hope the next may be a girl. If Francis liked England for the sake of being with old friends, he might live here very comfortably, but if he will live as those who can afford to make a show, for one year of parade in England he must be a banished man for many years. I wish he would be as ‘domestic’ at home as he is abroad!”
In the summer of 1832 all the family went to Baden-Baden, to meet Lady Paul and her daughter Eleanor, Sir John, the FitzGeralds, and the Bankheads. All the branches of Mrs. Hare’s family lived in different houses, but they met daily for dinner, and were very merry. Before the autumn, my fahter returned to Italy, to the Villa Cittadella near Lucca, which was taken for two months for Mrs. Hare’s confinement, and there, on the 9th of October, my sister was born. She received the names of “Anne Frances Maria Louisa.” “Do you mean your πολυώνυμος daughter to rival Venus in all her other qualities as well as in the multitude of her names? or has your motive been rather to recommend her to a greater number of patron saints?” wrote my uncle Julius on hearing of her birth. Just before this, Mrs. Shelley (widow of the poet and one of her most intimate friends) had written to Mrs. Hare:—
“Your accounts of your child (Francis) give me very great pleasure. Dear little fellow, what an amusement and delight he must be to you. You do indeed understand a Paradisaical life. Well do I remeber the dear Lucca baths, where we spent morning and evening in riding about the country—the most prolific place in the world for all manner of reptiles. Take care of yourself, dearest friend. . . . Choose Naples for your winter residence. Naples, with its climate, its scenery, its opera, its galleries, its natural and ancient wonders, surpasses every other place in the world. Go thither, and live on the Chiaja. Happy one, how I envy you. Percy is in brilliant health and promises better and better.
“Have you plenty of storms at dear beautiful Lucca? Almost every day when I was there, vast white clouds peeped out from above the hills—rising higher and higher till they overshadowed us, and spent themselves in rain and tempest: the thunder, re-echoed again and again by the hills, is indescribably terrific. . . . Love me, and return to us—Ah! return to us! for it is all very stupid and unaimiable without you. For are not you—
After a pleasant winter at Naples, my father and his family went to pass the summer of 1833 at Castellamare. “C’était à Castellamare” (says a note by Madame Victoire) “que Madame Hare apprit la mort de Lady Paul. Elle était sur le balcon, quand elle la lut dans le journal. J’étais dans une partie de la maison très éloignée, mais j’ai entendu un cri si fort, si aigu, que je suis arrivée de suite, et je trouvais Madame Hare toute étendue sur la parquet. J’appellais—‘Au secours, au secours,’ et Félix, qui était très fort, prenait Madame Hare dans ses bras, et l’apportait à mettre sur son lit, et nous l’avons donné tant des choses, mais elle n’est pas revenue, et elle restait pendant deux heures en cet état. Quand M. Hare est entré, il pensait que c’était à cause de sa grossesse. Il s’est agenouillé tout en pleurs à coté de son lit. Il demandait si je lui avais donné des lettres. ‘Mais, non, monsieur; je ne l’ai pas donné qu’un journal.’ On cherchait longtemps ce journal, parcequ’elle l’avait laissé tomber du balcon, mais quand il était trouvé, monsieur s’est aperçu tout de suite de ce qu’elle avait.” The death of Lady Paul was very sudden; her sister Lady Ravensworth first heard of it when calling to inquire at the door in the Strand in her carriage. After expressing her sympathy in the loss of such a mother, Mrs. Louisa Shipley at this time wrote to Mrs. Hare:—
“I will now venture to call your attention to the blessings you possess in your husband and children, and more particularly to the occupation of your thoughts in the education of the latter. They are now at an age when it depends on a mother to lay the foundation of principles which they will carry with them through life. The responsibility is great, and if you feel it such, there cannot be a better means of withdrawing your mind from unavailing sorrow, than the hope of seeing them beloved and respected, and feeling that your own watchfulness of their early years, has, by the blessing of God, caused them to be so. Truth is the cornerstone of all virtues: never let a child think it can deceive you; they are cunning little creatures, and reason before they can speak; secure this, and the chief part of your work is done, and so ends my sermon.”
It was in the summer of 1833, following upon her mother’s death, that a plan was first arranged by which my aunt Eleanor Paul became an inmate of my father’s household—the kind and excellent aunt whose devotion in all times of trouble was afterwards such a blessing to her sister and her children. Neither at first or ever afterwards was the residence of Eleanor Paul any expense in her sister’s household: quite the contrary, as she had a handsome allowance from her father, and afterwards inherited a considerable fortune from an aunt.
In the autumn of 1833 my father rented the beautiful Villa Strozzi at Rome, then standing in large gardens of its own facing the grounds of the noble old Villa Negroni, which occupied the slope of the Viminal Hill looking towards the Esquiline. Here on the 13th of March 1834 I was born—the youngest child of the family, and a most unwelcome addition to the population of this troublesome world, as both my father and Mrs. Hare were greatly annoyed at the birth of another child, and beyond measure disgusted that it was another son.
- Epitaph at Hurstmonceaux.
- Principal of New Inn Hall, and afterwards Rector of Hurstmonceaux.
- The 4th Earl of Crawford.
- In her marriage contract (of 1792) with Lord Edward Fitz Gerald, Pamela was described as the daughter of Guillaume de Brixey and Mary Sims, aged nineteen, and born at Fogo in Newfoundland. In Madame de Genlis’s Memoirs, it is said that one Parker Forth, acting for the Duke of Orleans, found, at Christ Church in Hampshire, one Nancy Sims, a native of Fogo, and took her to Paris to live with Madame de Genlis, and teach her royal pupils English. An Englishman named Sims was certainly living at Fogo at the end of the last century, and his daughter Mary sailed for Bristol with an infant of a year old, in a ship commanded by a Frenchman named Brixey and was never heard of again.
- Edward Fox Fitz Gerald died Jan. 25, 186: his widow lived afterwards at Heavitree near Exeter, where she died Nov. 2, 1891.
- I have dwelt upon the first connection of Madame Victoire Ackermann with our family, not only because her name frequently occurs again in these Memoirs, but because they are indebted to notes left by her for much of their most striking material. I have never known any person more intellectually interesting, for the class to which she belonged, that Victoire. Without the slightest exaggeration, and with unswerving rectitude of intention, her conversation was always charming and original, and she possessed the rare art of narration in the utmost perfection.
- Francis Hare and his father had both been born abroad