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Emily and Ellen Hall, Ravensworth

Taken from ‘Two Victorian Ladies: More pages from the journals of Emily and Ellen Hall’, A. R. Mills, 1969, London, Frederick Muller Ltd.

. . . . It was the Kershaws who introduced Emily and Ellen to Augustus Hare and his mother, not really his mother, as she herself told the girls, but his aunt, the widow of Augustus W. Hare, who had brought him up almost from the cradle. The Hares had once met Ellen, with brother charles, and had never forgotten a small kindness the Halls had been able to perform for them; Mrs. Hare, “a plain but kindly looking old lady” says Emily, was pleased to see her again and was soon talking intimately about the troubles of their journey to Rome, vicissitudes far more enervating than those encountered by the Kershaws or Emily and Ellen and described even more vividly than Augustus relates in his memoirs. At Ficulle they had found no carriages, although they had been promised, and the diligence was full. Rooms at the “miserable little inn” were 10 francs so they resolved to remain at the station until the following day; towards midnight the price fell to 5 francs and Mrs. Hare took a room while Augustus sat on the luggage all night at the station, a simple measure against thievery as much as anything. It was rainy and cold, and there were no doors that could be closed, and no buffet; by morning Augustus was not in the best of spirits. They left at 1 p.m. in pouring rain and thunder and lightning, and at every change of horses the postillions demanded more money. “They would go off into furies of rage if they did not get what they wanted,” relates Ellen. “In the most dreary spot in some desolate plain, without a dwelling in sight, they would suddenly stop and steadily refuse to proceed one step unless then and there a certain number of francs were handed out to them. Mr. Hare told us they never gave in to them; he would calmly assure them that they had better go on, for if they waited beyond a certain time he would give them nothing . . . There was always the most frightful scene at the inns – shouting and screaming, rushing up to them with the most furious looks and gestures. They would refuse to bring out any horses and declare that they had none in order to make him pay more, but as he never would they were compelled to find some . . . Even in Rome their troubles did not end, for a porter at the inn, taking four boxes off their carriage, demanded 10 francs: because they refused he rushed upstairs after them, howling and screaming and storming – they calmly seated themselves and assured him that they should send for the master of the house to turn him out. This they did and gave him two francs . . .”

The prominent-nosed Augustus was, thought Emily, friendly enough, but she did not care for his looks and found his “most unpleasant voice” somewhat jarring, but he was always organising sketching parties and hunts for marble specimens and the girls weren’t ungrateful.

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Christmas was not a happy time for Emily. . . . She tried to throw off her melancholy by taking up her sketching again, even visiting a resident artist, Mr. Strutt, for lessons. She wasn’t particularly impressed with her new teacher, “but he taught Mr. Hare and if I can do as well as him I shall be satisfied.”

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During their sojourn in Rome in 1863 the girls had come to know Henry Alford, the Dean of Canterbury, who had given them an open invitation to visit him in England. In mid-july they fulfilled the invitation. . . .

. . . A great talker was the Dean, and always an entertaining one. He had a story of Augustus Hare that seems to have escaped the girls in Rome. One afternoon Augustus and his “mother”, returning from an exploration in search of marble fragments, put their finds in the collapsed hood of their hired carriage. Arriving at their rooms the driver overcharged them so grossly that Augustus lost his temper and ran off. That evening he visited his real mother and a sister, also living in Rome, and learned of their startling experience that afternoon when, driving through a shower, they had put up the hood of their cab and been bombarded with stones.

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. . . The Eternal City had its own world, with its own intrigues and discussion points. One of them concerned the itinerant Mr. Augustus Hare, who when Emily and Ellen renewed his acquaintance had just succeeded in selling his drawings – “Mrs. McClintock bought some poor rubbish from him,” writes Ellen, “and I wonder where she intends putting it when she gets it home.”

Truth to tell, Emily and Ellen had never really taken to Augustus. There was always something vaguely dissatisfying in his behaviour. For example, at the beginning of a sketching party to the Temple of Bacchus he put Miss Buchanan into a carriage, followed her in and left the girls to “shift for ourselves”. But it was a Miss Fanshawe who really damned Hare in their eyes. It seems that four or five years earlier Miss Fanshawe, whose aunt had been taken seriously ill, found herself alone in Menton and was befriended by the Hares.

Augustus paid her “the most marked attention, would sit beside her listening to her reading and saying she had the sweetest voice he had ever heard.” Apparently he also made a point of referring to her being so young and he being so old; at the same time holding her hand. Not unnaturally Miss Fanshawe deduced that Mr. Hare was about to propose, but after travelling together for some weeks and arriving in Paris to discover Miss Fanshawe’s aunt had made a successful recovery, Mr. Hare immediately lost interest. Poor Miss Fanshamwe conjectured that his attention had been aroused only because he knew she would have inherited a generous legacy from her aunt, and was thrown into awful doubts about herself, so much so that she suffered a brain fever. Now, having re-encountered each other in Rome, he had again made certain overtures, which she had firmly repulsed and which resulted in Augustus becoming enraged and preone to “insulting her at almost every opportunity”. How exactly Miss Fanshawe was insulted isn’t revealed, but the bounds of Victorian propriety, especially fragile Victorian ladies’ propriety, were easily exceeded and there’s no reason to believe that Mr. Hare’s offence constituted no more tham his ignoring her.

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It was at Canevari’s Studio that the girls re-encountered Augustus Hare, also having his portrait “taken”. Emily took the opportunity to look over a portfolio of Hare’s sketches and, to Augustus’ amusement, pronounced them carelessly done. “And he now puts artist’s prices on them – two guineas for the usual octavo size! Friends of Mr. Fisher refused to buy any and we would not either . . .” But with genuine feeling for a fellow artist she adds, “In this was Mr. Hare will never improve . . . he is very clever and can do better.”

Augustus was soon to offend again. Apparently he had got wind of Miss Fanshawe’s story and wrote to her enclosing a paper “which he orders her to sign . . . declaring that he has never behaved toward her other that with the affectionate respect of a nephew.” The following day Miss Fanshawe received two more letters and returned them unopened. Emily was convinced that Augustus was mad.

Not long afterwards she and Ellen were involved a little more intimately in the Hare-Fanshawe imbroglio. Augustus’ aunt falling unwell, Ellen sent her a jar of marmelade, which resulted in an excessively polite letter of thanks from Augustus and, when his aunt was better, an invitation to Ellen to accompany her on a carriage outing. During the excursion Mrs. Hare declared how sorry she was about the unfortunate atmosphere existing between her nephew and Miss Fanshawe, and when Ellen alluded to that poor lady’s nervous breakdown Mrs. Hare declared that rather than a brain fever she was probably suffering from monomania. Ellen attributed the remark to Augustus.

Later, Augustus himself came to visit the girls in the Via Frattina, informing them that he and his aunt felt so strongly about Miss Fanshawe that they had written a card informing visitors that their maid was forbidden to speak of her on pain of instant dismissal – “instant dismissal to a servant of thirty-five years standing whom they would be at their wits end to replace,” laughs Ellen – and placed it in a prominent position at the foot of the stairs leading to Miss Fanshawe’s apartment. Ellen was appalled, and Emily, who had received Augustus with the flexibility of a poker, mentioned something about chivalry and manly feeling toward an unprotected woman. Mr. Hare, “with a perfectly indescribable smile of wounded honesty,” replied that what he had done was unavoidable, though he did, in fact, feel very sorry for Miss Fanshawe. “Oh humbug!” said Ellen when he had left. “What an idiot!” seconded Emily.

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[In August 1868] . . . The Harrisons [close family friends of the girls’] were closely following the prosecution of Augustus Hare for a libellous implication that his sister had been poisoned by his brother, Francis. Charles Harrison was acting as his solicitor and played a prominent part in helping Hare present his defence, but Augustus lost the case.

[Esmerelda and Francis Hare both died in 1868]

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