A bookplate without a book…

The Hall-Dare family bookplate (ungummed paper, 7.4 cm x 11.4 cm), circa 1830. © 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.)

(For the background to the extended Hall-Dare family (in 1912), see Sir Bernard Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland (1912, London, pp. 165-6.)

Detail from a portrait believed to be of Mabel Bent’s paternal great-grandfather – Robert Westley Hall (born c. 1750, d. 1834). He was the son of the Rev. R. Westley Hall (brother-in-law of John Wesley). (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.

The memorial to Robert Westley Hall (d. 1834) in Barking Church, Mabel Bent’s great-grandfather ((c) Bob Speel).

The mortal remains of Mabel’s grandfather rest in the family vault in St Mary’s Church, Theydon Bois, Essex. There is a memorial bust to her great-grandfather (Robert Westley Hall, died April 13, 1834) by the sculptor Patrick Macdowell in St Margaret’s Church, Barking, Essex.

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.

In the Government Gazette (India) for Thursday, 8 April 1824, we find Hall-Dare listed as a founding Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. 

But, to return to our theme, a bookplate without book… is still a book lost…