A bookplate without a book…

The Hall-Dare family bookplate, circa 1830. (c) The Bent Archive

We all know that books attract to us like iron filings to a magnet, and that, mysteriously, over the decades, the poles reverse, and they fall away, mostly unmissed. Their residue? – more than likely some brown envelope stuffed with futureless bookplates.

Here is one, it came to the Bent Archive the  other day (late November 2019) after a casual search online. It is the bookplate of Robert Westley Hall-Dare (1789-1836), the 1st, the explorer Mabel Bent’s grandfather. (Tradition had it that the eldest boy would subsequently have the same name, thus RWHD II (1817-1866) was Mabel’s father; RWHD III, her brother (1840-1876); RWHD IV, her nephew (1866-1939); and RWHD V (fifth and last, 1899-1972) her great-nephew. Pedants will have spotted ‘Westly’ for ‘Westley’ – it’s no typo; early family members were flexible.)

Detail from a portrait believed to be of Robert Westley Hall-Dare (1789–1836), Mabel Bent’s grandfather. (c) Private Collection (artist unknown).

There was substantial wealth in the Hall-Dare family – rich estates in distant sugar-lands and not-so-distant Essex. Eton and Oxford boys, the Hall-Dares had lots of books, and bookplates for them. For their coat-of-arms, assembled from various matrimonial alliances (Dare, Hall, Westley/ Westly, Eaton, King, Grafton, Mildmay, et al.), we have only to turn to page 263 of Burke’s 1884 edition (London) of The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; comprising a registry of armorial bearings from the earliest to the present time.

No doubt there will be those now in candlelit studies, ticking grandfather clocks, cigars, brandy glasses on green-baize tables, who will be waiting for a description. Here it is in full:

“Dare (Hall-Dare, Newtownbarry, co. Wexford, and Theydon Bois, Co. Essex). Quarterly, 1st and 4th, az. a lion ramp. ar. betw. three lozenges or, each charged with an increscent gu. in chief a cross crosslet gold, for Dare; 2nd and 3rd, sa. on a chev. engr. betw. three battle-axes erect or, as many eagles displ. of the field, for Hall. Crests — For Dare: A demi lion ramp. az. bezantée, charged on the shoulder with a cross crosslet or, and holding betw. the paws a lozenge charged with an increscent as in the arms; for Hall: A horse’s head couped sa. semée of mullets or, armed ppr. bridled ar. on the head two ostrich feathers of the first and third, and holding in the mouth a battle-axe or. Motto — Loyauté sans tache.”

The motto is archaic French; nothing to do with troubling Victorian moustaches: Fairbairn (Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 1905, part II, page 47) gives us “Loyalty without spot” – unblemished loyalty, large words to live up to, or not.

A bookplate without book… is still a book lost…