Meet Mabel’s Mother – Frances Anna Catherine Hall-Dare (née Lambart).

A happy tip-off from Paul Frecker has led to the discovery of a fine and rare portrait of Mabel Bent’s mother, Frances Anna Catherine Hall-Dare (née Lambart) (c. 1819-1862). The photograph was taken in the studio of the celebrated portraitist Camille Silvy (Camille Silvy Collection, Album 5 (Daybook Volume 5), 1861-62, number 6506, albumen print, 20 November 1861, 38 Porchester Terrace, Bayswater, London).

Camille Silvy (1834-1910), from a French aristocratic background, established himself as one of the leading portrait photographers of his time. He moved to London in 1859 and bought Caldesi and Montecchi’s studio on Porchester Terrace. He kept daybooks with the details of each sitter, the date, and a file print, and these (with five members of the Hall-Dare family), are now in the National Portrait Gallery’s archives, London (a search on their fine site will provide more information).

Frances, born c. 1819, was the daughter of Gustavus Lambart and Anna Butler Stevenson. She married Robert Westley Hall-Dare, son of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Elizabeth Grafton, on 18 April 1839, with whom she had six children. She was born on the Lambart estates of Beau Parc, Co. Meath (see image), before residing in her first marital home at Temple House, Sligo (now a hotel – go stay!). Then, after her husband’s disgrace, trial, and one-month prison sentence, the family moved to Newtonbarry (now Bunclody, Co. Wexford); Hall-Dare subsequently bought and redeveloped Newtonbarry House as the family home, just outside the village, across the trout-brown and lovely Slaney. The family also maintained extensive properties in Essex and rented homes in London, including 49 Eaton Place, where Frances died after a long and painful illness on 2nd September 1862. She was buried in the Hall-Dare plot/vault at St Mary’s Theydon Bois, Essex, on 6 September 1862, aged just 43 (Burial record 422).

This photograph, dated 20 November 1861, was taken just 10 months before she died. (Paul Frecker’s website adds that the cause of death was, alas, cancer of the womb.) Her son, also Robert Hall-Dare, made a sad entry in his diary (private collection) a year after her death, September 1863: ‘Just a year ago on the 2nd September 1862 my dear mother was taken from this world. We were at Eaton Place, a house my Father had taken – She had been sinking for some weeks rapidly, and at last was only conscious for a few hours in the day. Before that she, when free from pain, used to talk to us much and gave me advice which I hope I may never forget.

Mabel also recalled her mother, some 40 years later:

My baby eyes first looked out on an extremely beautiful bit of this world, for I was born at Beauparc, in the county of Meath, my grandfather Gustavus Lambart’s place, which, being situated on a very high bank at a sharp curve of the River Boyne, seems as if it were upon an island looking straight down the river… So much did this view please me the first time I can remember seeing it, that, having arrived in the dark one night, the following morning about four or five o’clock my wretched mother was startled from her sleep by shrieks and shouts to find me jumping up and down as hard as I could at the window, a manifestation of my ecstasy of delight at the sight of the snow and icicles and all the wintry beauty spread before me…‘ [(Mabel V.A. Bent, ‘In the Days of My Youth: Chapters of Autobiography’, M.A.P., 10, (Mainly about People): A Popular Penny Weekly of Pleasant Gossip, Personal Portraits, and Social News, Issue 240 (17 January 1903), pp. 72-3].

The painting here shows: ‘Beauparc – Lady Lambert’s House’. Mabel Hall-Dare was born here, in County Meath, Ireland, on January 28, 1847. From a watercolour by Garrett Scanlan. (Reproduced with the artist’s permission).

Happy Wedding Anniversary, Theodore & Mabel – 2nd August 1877!

Mabel in her wedding dress; an undated studio photo, probably taken after her marriage.

We don’t yet know how, where and when the young Theodore Bent (1852-1897) first met Mabel Virginia Anna Hall-Dare (1847-1929), although Mabel in an article reveals that they met in Norway of all places (see the press cutting that follows from The Citizen of 1907).* Theodore having graduated from Oxford, Wadham, in 1875. They married near Mabel’s family seat (Co. Wexford) on 2 August 1877 (Mabel 31, Theodore 27), in the little church of Staplestown, Co. Carlow.

Staplestown church, Co. Carlow.

The officiating clerics were the Rev. Charles Lambart, uncle of the bride, assisted by the Rev. H. A. Barker and the Rev. T. Hatchell. Theodore’s residence is cited as his manor at Sutton Hall, outside Macclesfield, Cheshire. As an only son and with both parents dead, his side of the church would have been thinly populated, in contrast to his Anglo-Irish bride’s. Who gave away the flame-haired Mabel remains a mystery, her (sympathetic) brother Robert having died of typhoid in Rome in 1876, while her (unsympathetic) father, also Robert, passed on in 1866.

The Bents’ wedding notice from The York Herald (Monday, August 6th, 1877).

(The post-scriptum to this wedding has to refer to the allotted span of 19 years and 9 months the pair were to have together for their explorations of the E Med, Africa, and Arabia. Theodore died of malarial fever complications on 5 May 1897. But, nevertheless, the couple did have their world enough, and time.)

* “Visitor of Outlandish Countries: Mrs Theodore Bent, who is just off to Jerusalem, has all her life been very much of a traveller. She first met her late husband in Norway, and she accompanied him in subsequent years to Abyssinia, Mashonaland and Arabia, and other out-of-the-way parts of the world, sharing in all the dangers, discomforts, and enthusiasms of his many archaeological expeditions. Mrs Bent, who speaks several languages fluently, comes of an old family of the name of Hall-Dare, well-known in Counties Wexford and Essex.” (From the Dublin periodical The Citizen or Dublin Monthly Magazine, Saturday, December 21, 1907)

The illustrations above include a wedding notice from The York Herald (Monday, August 6th, 1877), and Mabel in her wedding dress – an undated studio photo, probably taken after her marriage to Theodore, posed in the Baker Street studios of Thomas Fall (celebrated for his studies of the pets of the rich and famous – during the 1890s he was commissioned by the Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra, to photograph her with her dogs earning the company a Royal Warrant). The other photograph is of Staplestown church, Co. Carlow, taken from the website of the ‘National Inventory of Architectural Heritage’.

‘Mrs Bent and her Camera. Photo by Russell & Sons, London, probably Spring, 1895’

‘Mrs Bent and her Camera. Photo by Russell & Sons, London, probably Spring, 1895’

First printed in ‘The Album, A Journal of Photographs of Men, Women and Events of the Day’ (Vol. 2, no.2, 8 July 1895, pp. 44-45).

Thanks to the British Library, we are delighted to show this extremely rare studio photo of Mabel standing beside her camera and tripod and attired for the wilds. We don’t expect more than a few people will have seen this since it was published in July 1895. Assuming the portrait was taken in the first half of that year, Mabel – her trademark long red hair coiled elegantly as ever – would have just reappeared from Muscat, Oman and Dhofar, and be preparing for the coming winter’s journey with her husband along the west coast of the Red Sea. That Mabel would feature in ‘The Album’ is no surprise – ever since the couple’s journey in 1891 to the ruins of Great Zimbabwe for Cecil Rhodes the Bents were celebrities.

It’s not immediately obvious which of her cameras she is displaying here; Mabel’s small apparatus of choice was her ‘Luzo’ box camera, however the protruding lens indicates another, larger model. If anyone can identify it, please write in!

Mabel’s parasol for a splint: A broken leg in the desert

This extremely rare photograph shows Mabel Bent taking tea with Moses Cotsworth and party in the Palestinian hinterland in 1900/1 (Moses Cotsworth collection, unknown photographer. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of Rare Books and Special Collections, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia).

“Dear Sir William…Thank you for sending me the flower pictures. I like them very much. Of course I know there is nothing to find in Palestine that is new. I was there the winter before last and camped out by myself 10 weeks in Moab and Haura. I had my own tents and no dragoman. This winter I only got to Jebel Usdum and arrived in Jerusalem with a broken leg, my horse having fallen on me in the wilderness of Judea. My sister Mrs. Bagenal came from Ireland and fetched me from the hospital where I was for 7 weeks. I cannot walk yet but am getting on well and my leg is quite straight and long I am thankful to say…Yours truly Mabel V.A. Bent” (Letter from Mabel to Thiselton-Dyer, 19 April 1901 (Kew Archives: Directors’ Correspondence)).

Theodore’s death in May 1897 – Jubilee year – deprived Mabel of the focus for her life: the need to be somewhere else remained, but now with whom? And why? Typical of her she made plans immediately to visit Egypt on a ‘Cook’s’ tour in the winter of 1898 and chronicled the trip, ending with a return via Athens. The journey provides the concluding episode in this volume, and the heading she gives it – ‘A lonely useless journey’ – reveals her understandable depression. It makes unhappy reading, contrasting so markedly with her opening thrill of being in Cairo on that first visit with Theodore in 1885.

She wrote no more ‘Chronicles’, or at least there are no more in the archives, and on her return to London set about assembling the monograph her husband never lived to complete on his Arabian theories and researches, many of which sprang from their explorations in Mashonaland in 1891. She completed it in eighteen months: driven on by her loss, and inspired by her notebooks, she could be travelling again with Theodore.

The publication by Mabel of ‘Southern Arabia’ (1900) heralded for its surviving author a slow but inevitable decline and a melancholy sequence of years of loneliness and confusion until her death in 1929.

Still wishing to escape the English weather, Mabel opted to spend several winters in Palestine and Jerusalem. There she embroiled herself in troublesome expatriate intrigue and Anglican fundamentalism, and met Gertrude Bell, who informed her parents by letter: ‘I … met … Mrs. Theodore Bent the widow of the Ruined Cities of Mashonaland, a thin stiff little Englishwoman [sic], I don’t like her very much.’ And again two weeks later: ‘I met Mrs. Theodore Bent, but having thrown down the Salaam, as we say in my tongue, I rapidly fled, for I do not like her. She is the sort of woman the refrain of whose conversation is: “You see, I have seen things so much more interesting” or “I have seen so many of these, only bigger and older”… I wonder if Theodore Bent liked her.’

On her second solo trip to Palestine in 1900/01, Mabel joined a caravan to visit some sites referenced in the Scriptures, but inexplicably opted to go off on her own, and so doing fell off her mount and broke her leg; hence the above letter to her friend, the Director at Kew.

Now, thanks to help from Anna Cook, the researcher on Moses Cotsworth, we have more information on Mabel’s accident, as recounted by the geologist George Frederick Wright, whose caravan it was that she joined. The (lengthy) extract that follows from his autobiography has probably never seen the light of day since its publication in 1916.

“At Jerusalem we were met by my Old Andover friend, Selah Merrill, then United States consul. His experience in the survey of the country east of the Jordan, and his long residence in Jerusalem, were of great service in our subsequent excursions in Palestine. After visiting Jericho and the region around we planned, under his direction, a trip to the unfrequented south end of the Dead Sea. In this we were joined by Mrs. Theodore Bent, whose extensive travels with her husband in Ethiopia, southern Arabia, and Persia, had not only rendered her famous but fitted her in a peculiar manner to be a congenial and helpful traveling companion. She had her own tent and equipment and her own dragoman, and her presence added greatly to the interest of the trip.

“After stopping a day at Hebron, we passed along the heights till we descended to the shore of the Dead Sea at the north end of Jebel Usdum, through the Wadi Zuweirah. Here we found indications that, during the rainy season, tremendous floods of water rushed down from the heights of southern Palestine, through all the wadies. Such had been the force of the temporary torrents here, that, over a delta pushed out by the stream and covering an area of two or three square miles, frequent boulders a foot or more in diameter had been propelled a long distance over a level surface. At the time of our visit, the height of the water in the Dead Sea was such that it everywhere washed the foot of Salt Mountain (Jebel Usdum), making it impossible for us to walk along the shore…

“Near the mouth of Wadi Zuweirah, we observed a nearly complete section of the 600-foot terrace of fine material, displaying the laminae deposited by successive floods during the high level maintained by the water throughout the Glacial epoch. From these it was clear that this flooded condition continued for several thousand years. On the road along the west shore to Ain Jiddy (En-gedi) we observed (as already indicated) ten or twelve abandoned shore lines, consisting of coarse material where the shore was too steep, and the waves had been too strong to let fine sediment settle.

“From all the evidence at command it appears that, at the climax of the Glacial epoch, the water in this valley rose to an elevation of 1,400 feet above the present level of the Dead Sea, gradually declining thereafter to the 600-foot level, where it remained for a long period, at the close of which it again gradually declined to its present level, uncovering the vast sedimentary deposits which meanwhile had accumulated over the valley of the Jordan, north of Jericho.

“Our ride from Ain Jiddy to Bethlehem was notable in more respects than one. The steep climb (of 4,000 feet) up the ascent from the sea to the summit of the plateau was abrupt enough to make one’s head dizzy. But as the zigzag path brought us to higher and higher levels, the backward view towards the mountains of Moab, and towards both the north and the south end of the Dead Sea, was as enchanting as it was impressive. Across the sea, up the valley of the Arnon, we could see the heights above Aroer and Dibon, and back of El Lisan, the heights about Rabbah and Moab, and. those about Kir of Moab, while the extensive deltas coming into the Dead Sea along the whole shore south of us fully confirmed our inferences concerning their effect in encroaching upon its original evaporating area.

“After passing through the wilderness of Jeruel and past Tekoah, as we were approaching Bethlehem, a little before sundown, the men of our party wished to hurry on to get another sight of the scenes amidst which Christ was born. As Mrs. Bent was already familiar with those scenes, she preferred to come along more slowly with the caravan, and told us to go on without any concern for her safety. But soon after arriving at Bethlehem, the sheik who accompanied our party overtook us, and told us that Mrs. Bent had fallen from her horse and suffered severe injury; whereupon we all started back over the rocky pathway, to render the assistance that seemed to be needed.

“On reaching a point where two paths to Bethlehem separated, we were told by a native that he thought our party had proceeded along the other path from that we had taken, and that it would be found to have already reached its destination before us. We therefore returned to Bethlehem. But, soon after, the dragoman came in great haste, saying that Mrs. Bent had indeed fallen from her horse and broken a limb, and that he had left her unprotected in an open field to await assistance. Again, therefore, but accompanied by six strong natives with a large woolen blanket, on which to convey her, we proceeded to the place where the accident occurred. Here we found her where she had been lying for about two hours under the clear starlight. But, instead of complaining, she averred that it was providential that she had been allowed to rest so long before undertaking the painful journey made necessary by the accident; and that all the while she had been occupied with the thought that she was gazing upon the same constellations in the heavens from which the angel of the Lord had appeared to the shepherds to announce the Saviour’s birth.

“The task of giving her relief was not altogether a simple one. The surrounding rocky pastures did not yield any vegetable growth from which a splint could be made to stiffen the broken leg. An inspiration, however, came to my son, who suggested that we could take her parasol for one side and the sound limb for the other, and with the girdle of one of the men bind them together so that the journey could be effected safely. No sooner said than done. The sufferer was laid upon the blanket and slowly carried to Bethlehem by the strong arms of our native escort. From here she was conveyed by carriage to Jerusalem where we arrived between one and two o’clock in the morning, taking her to the English hospital, of which she had been a liberal patron, and where she was acquainted with all the staff; but, alas! this hospital was established exclusively for Jews, and as she was not one they refused to admit her, advising her to go down to the hospital conducted by German sisters. This, however, she flatly refused to do, declaring that rather than do that she would camp on the steps of the English hospital. At this two of the lady members of the staff, who were her special friends, vacated their room and she was provided for.

“Respecting the sequel, we would simply say that her limb was successfully set, and with cheerful confidence she assured us that she would reach London before we did and that we must be sure to call upon her there. She did indeed reach London before we left the city, but it was on the last day of our stay, and, as our tickets had been purchased for the noon train going to Plymouth, we were unable to accept her invitation to dine that evening. Some years afterwards, however, when visiting the city with Mrs. Wright, we found her at home, and had great enjoyment in repeatedly visiting her and studying the rare collections with which she had filled her house upon returning from the various expeditions in which she had accompanied her artistic husband.

“[Some time later pausing] at Rome, Florence, and Genoa, we entered France through Turin by way of the Mount Cenis tunnel, and, after a short stop in Paris, reached London, where I met again the large circle of geologists and archaeologists who had entertained me on my first visit to England… Returning to London, we engaged passage on a steamer from Southampton, just in time, as before remarked, to miss meeting Mrs. Bent, our unfortunate traveling companion in Palestine.” [From: ‘The Story of my life and work’ by Wright, G. Frederick (George Frederick), 1838-1921; Oberlin, Ohio, Bibliotheca Sacra Company, 1916 (including pages page 324 and 328/29. The link to the book is https://archive.org/stream/ ).

Additional thanks also go to Anna Cook and the Moses Cotsworth Facebook Page

Postscript: On her stretcher journey to eventual hospitalisation in Jerusalem, Mabel would have shut her eyes and been transported back four years to the last time she was rescued, terribly sick with malaria, east of Aden. Also stretchered to Aden, her husband never survives the ordeal, dying in London a few days after arriving home in 1897. Here are the memories she must have relived in the form of some lines from Mabel’s own diary:

‘I felt quite unable to move or stir but on we must go; we had no water and what we had had the day before was like porter. I could not ride, of course, so they said they would carry me. I was dressed up in a skirt and a jacket, my shoes and stockings, a handkerchief tied on my hair, which was put back by one hairpiece and became a hot wet mat, not to be fought with for many a day to come! Of course I could not use my pith helmet lying down. I lay outside, while my bed was strengthened in various ways with tent pegs and the tent poles tied to it and an awning of blanket made. I dreaded very much the roughness of the road and the unevenness of step of my bearers, but off they set at a rapid pace and kept perfect step all the time. They changed from shoulder to shoulder without my feeling it…

‘Sometimes I passed or was passed by the camels, which seemed to be winding about over rocks and hills, but I went over these ways too. The last time we passed I thought it very unlike Theodore never to give me a look but stare straight before him, but then I did not know of his miserable condition. There was a delightful sea wind which came over my head, stronger and stronger, and just seemed to keep me alive. They carried me headfirst. I did not think they would be pleased if I constantly asked how far we were off still, so I only said civil things, but right glad was I, at last, after 15 or 16 miles to find myself in the thick of a rushing, roaring rabble rout of men, women and children, not a thing I really like in general but now it told of the end of my weary journey.’ [From ‘The Travel Chronicles of Mrs. J. Theodore Bent, Volume lll: Southern Arabia and Persia’, page 322. Oxford, Archaeopress, 2010]

Many happy returns Theodore – born 30 March 1852

 

Theodore in early 1889 in Bahrain (detail from Southern Arabia 1900)

The trouble with travel is that you miss your birthdays – just look where Theodore was on 30 March for these breathless years: 1884 = Kéa (Cyclades); 1885 = Kárpathos (Dodecanese); 1886 = Sámos; 1887 = Thássos; 1888 = Patara (Antalya province, Turkey); 1889 = Kurd-i-Bala, Iran; 1890 = Mersin area, Turkey; 1891 = en route for ‘Great Zimbabwe’; 1892 = UK; 1893 = Aksum area, Ethiopia; 1894 = Aden, Yemen; 1895 = UK; 1896 = returning from Athens to UK; 1897 (his 45th and last) = Aden, Yemen.

As an example of what he was up to, we have this extract from his notes of 30 March 1889, written up and presented a couple of years later. Taken from Theodore and Mabel’s cavalcade through Iran, south-north, we have Persia with all her fascination; it is written in his best, jaunty style: illustrative, informative, energetic, engaged and engaging. Classic Bent.

Map detailing the Bents’ great ride through Persia in 1889 (© Glyn Griffiths)

“Certainly, Persia, off the main line of route, is as different as possible from the Persia that the ordinary traveller sees. For two days after leaving Nejifabad we passed through villages nestling in fertility. Each village is, or rather was, protected by its mud fort, built on a hill, around which the cottages cluster – cottages which dazzle the eye with their continuity of mud domes and brown walls. Wapusht looked like a nest of cottage beehives stuck together. Within, the houses were comfortable enough, and bore every appearance of prosperity, for here they are off the routes which soldiers and governors of provinces pass over, and when free from Government extortions Persia prospers.

“On ascending to higher ground we came across a cold and barren district; the howling wind from the snow mountains made us again love those furs which we had considered unnecessary burdens when leaving Ispahan. These sudden changes of temperature are the bane of the Persian traveller, and woe to those who are not provided with artificial warmth. On reaching Kurd-i-Bala [March 30, 1899. The settlement is near modern Varposht, n-w of Najafabad], the first of the manna villages, we found ourselves in Armenian society. Of late years the Armenians in Persia, by foreign intervention, have had their condition greatly ameliorated, and if this state of things is allowed to continue they are likely once more to become the most prosperous of the Shah’s subjects. I was glad enough to warm myself by taking a brisk walk on reaching our destination, and accepted gladly the offices of the Karapiet, the Reis or headman of the village, and our host, who volunteered to take me up the mountain side and show me the manna shrub.

“In the fields around the village the Armenian women were tilling the ground. On their heads they wore tall head-dresses, with flat crowns and silver chains dangling therefrom – very uncomfortable gear for purposes of husbandry – and beneath their bright red skirts peeped drawers with embroidered edges. Armenian women hide only the lower part of the face, deeming it unseemly that the mouth should be shown to members of the opposite sex.

“Kurd-i-Bala is a great village for manna, the ‘gez-angebeen’, as the Persians call it. About twenty minutes’ walk brought us to a gorge in the mountains where acres of the shrub grow. The ‘gez’ tree is a low and parasol-shaped plant of the Tamarisk tribe, never reaching more than 3ft. in height; its leaves are small and sombre in colour, and it has all over it long prickly thorns. On these leaves there comes a small insect, which is red at first, like a harvest bug; later on it turns into a sort of louse, and finally becomes a tiny moth, which, before it flies off, produces a thin white thread, about half an inch long, which hangs on the bushes. This is the manna collectors shake off on to trays, which are put below for the purpose, and the material thus collected they call ‘gez’. They say the insect appears fifteen days before the hot weather begins, and disappears fifteen days before the cold season sets in. Every third day during a term of forty days about August they collect this species of honey from the trees, which forms itself into a white gelatinous mass, and the leaves become covered again with surprising rapidity.

“Karapiet was very proud of his speciality and quite enthusiastic when he described the acres of whiteness this spot presented in the summer time. He said that if you go to sleep under a ‘gez’ tree you will wake up with a coating over you as of snow; if there is a high wind it will certainly be blown to some distance; but the connecting link between this manna and that consumed by the Israelites is lost, if ever there was one. As for the Arabic word manna, it is only known in Persia amongst the druggists, and does not apply to the sweet honey of the ‘gez’ tree, but to certain exudations from the oak and other milky exudations from shrubs which are largely made use of in the Persian pharmacopœia. The villagers evidently drive a highly satisfactory trade in this line, and furthermore, they put the ‘gez’ tree to another use, making tooth-brushes thereof, something resembling the orris-root tooth-brushes one sees in Turkey. A small branch, about six inches long, is frayed at one end, and this is used to scrub with; it is reckoned particularly beneficial and is supposed to produce that ivory whiteness for which Persian teeth are so justly celebrated.” (From: J. Theodore Bent, Village Life in Persia, ‘The New Review’, 5:29 (1891/Oct.): 355-359)

Happy birthday Theodore!

[The photograph shows Theodore in early 1889 in Bahrain; and the map (© Glyn Griffiths) details the Bents’ great ride through Persia in 1889]

 

 

‘A traveller without a map……’

New interactive maps just posted on our site!

As Theodore and Mabel were wont to say, ‘A traveller without a map is like, er,….lost’. From Aksum to Zimbabwe, wherever they set out to explore, they always insisted on taking the latest maps with them; or commissioning special ones for their routes; or going so far as to take their own cartographers along with them (e.g. Imam Sharif’s map of the Bents’ expedition to the Wadi Hadramaut in 1894). Mabel later, in a short autobiographical article recalled: ‘In one of my investigations of the library at home I came upon a book that I made up my mind to examine. It had a delightful title “The Atlas of Undiscovered Countries”. It was firmly fixed, and to get at it I had to exert all my strength and become very hot, tugging out the great folios that were on each side, and then to my disgust I found my prize was only a false wooden book to support the upper shelf. Years after I exclaimed, ‘Now I have really an atlas of undiscovered countries of my own’, when I eagerly unpacked a map in eight sheets (that my husband had had made at Stanford’s, of Southern Arabia, when we were first thinking of exploring that part of the world) and found two or three of the sheets blank save for latitude and longitude marks. I am glad to say that the blank is not so large now…’

We are glad, too, to say that our website now has a series of interactive Google maps detailing the 20 years of the Bents’ expeditions. The most recent one added is labelled ‘The Bents’ Greatest Hits’ and shows the sites where the Bents made their most significant researches or discoveries in the 1880s and ’90s – from Aksum to Zimbabwe; the map also features a separate layer picking out significant locations for the Bents in England and Ireland. The pins are augmented with texts, photos, etc., and are very well worth a few minutes of your busy day – to transport you back to the late 19th century and days of solar topees, slow steamers, gin and quinine, leather portmanteaux, assorted adventures, and nights under unrecognisable stars…

Imam Sharif’s map of the Bents’ expedition to the Wadi Hadramaut, 1894. From Theodore Bent’s 1894 paper for the Royal Geographical Society. Image © The Bent Archive
Imam Sharif’s map of the Bents’ expedition to the Wadi Hadramaut, 1894. From Theodore Bent’s 1894 paper for the Royal Geographical Society. Image © The Bent Archive

Many happy returns Mabel on your birthday today (28 January 2018)!

‘It was splendid being up there’ – Mabel climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza on her birthday – Wednesday 28 January 1885.

Some Pyramid scalers in 1885 (the year of Mabel’s ascent), by J. Pascal Sébah. Obviously clambering all over them was the thing to do back then; it is not recommended today.

In January 1885, before leaving for a tour of the Dodecanese, Theodore and Mable made a tourist trip to Egypt, taking in, of course, the Pyramids: the Great Pyramid (also known as the ‘Pyramid of Cheops’ and constructed around 2500 BCE), and the smaller Khafre and Menkaure Pyramids. The Sphinx squats in the complex’s eastern quarter.

The visit to the Pyramids coincided with Mabel’s 38th birthday (she was born at Beauparc, Co. Meath, on 28 January 1847) and she went to tea as guests of Frederick and Jessie Head (the wealthy daughter of Australian magnate John D. Mclean) at their stylish home, Mena House, below the Pyramids. (Their house still forms part of the Mena Hotel, the Heads buying their home in 1883, a year after their wedding in Wells, Somerset). Mabel does not record whether Frederick was much out of breath after their visit, or feeling unwell, but in any event within a few months he is dead, and poor Jessie (far from actually poor) sold up to another wealthy couple, the Locke-Kings, who turned the house into a fancy hotel – and it remains one to this day.

Mabel, of course, logs the event in her ‘Chronicle’ for the day. We may assume from her reference to ‘steps’ ‘3 or 4 feet high’ that it was the Great Pyramid she felt moved to attempt. Possibly just because it was there:

[Thursday] Jan. 29th [1885]. I had such a great many birthday treats yesterday, one in particular that I shall never forget unless extreme old age robs me of my memory… A little after 5 we set off for the Pyramids with the gun lent by the porter and enough cartridges for a whole battle. We saw the Pyramids against the sunset sky, a very plain one – all the colours of the rainbow fading and blending one into the other and very few tiny specks of cloud. The simplicity of it suited the Pyramids so well.

… After dinner we went out in the bright moonlight and Theodore… went to visit the Sphinx but I preferred to go up the Pyramid, as I had not done it on Monday… I scrambled up all alone. At first it was very hard and I had to crawl, putting one knee up first, as the steps are 3 or 4 feet high, regardless of bruised knees or shins and I felt quite convinced I must have very little stockings left but I am in a position to send a testimonial to the stocking maker. I did not feel a bit frightened or giddy or obliged to keep my face to the Pyramid but looked up and down. My companions were quite out of sight and it felt odd to be alone with the Pyramid and the moon. I shouted up several times ‘Are you near the top?’ ‘Oh! Not nearly’ came down. Then ‘Am I half way up?’ ‘No Mem’ came up. So I gave up asking. It seemed so long and I wondered how it could be possible to get down… I did not get at all breathless.

I wondered if ‘Fair Rhodope who as the story tells’ sat on the top of the Pyramid,  delighting all beholders, was a poor creature whose clothes had got torn off in the ascent and who could not get down. I thought of the dangers and difficulties in ‘Murray’ and ‘Baedeker’ and determined to read about them and tremble tomorrow, and I banished scornfully a very passing thought of the silk elbows of the only smart frock I have with me, and joyfully and proudly reached the summit, a strangely dressed figure – Hat, silk and velvet brocade body, white lace fichu over it and a blue cloth petticoat with a wide scarlet band, which I quite vainly tried to conceal by tying a black lace scarf round it; the skirt had been discarded before starting.

It was splendid being up there and I think it very very unlikely that any other person has been up by moonlight on his birthday before. I wished for a fire escape! Mr. Head and I came down together, sitting and slipping, sometimes having to put two hands together and jump and were glad indeed to reach the bottom safely … We had some tea and got home after a most delightful evening at 1 o’clock.

The Head’s residence below the Pyramids, where the Bents had tea, Mina House. Today a boutique hotel on a larger scale; the original house constituting the modern hotel’s dining areas.

For those needing a reference to Mabel’s ‘Fair Rhodope’, we must turn to the lines of Thomas Moore:

‘Fair Rhodope, as story tells,/ The bright unearthly nymph, who dwells/ ‘Mid sunless gold and jewels hid,/ The Lady of the Pyramid!’ (1827, ‘The Epicurean’).

Mabel’s lines are from the Egyptian entries in her ‘Travel Chronicles’, Vol. 2, pages 11-13 (Archaeopress, Oxford, 2012).

The photographs include one of some Pyramid scalers in 1885 (the year of Mabel’s ascent), by J. Pascal Sébah. Obviously clambering all over them was the thing to do back then; it is not recommended today.

The other photo is of the Head’s residence below the Pyramids, where the Bents had tea, Mina House. Today a boutique hotel on a larger scale; the original house constituting the modern hotel’s dining areas.

Papers say: Lost Oil Portrait Of Theodore Bent Discovered! Now Read On….

(Or, more accurately really, the knowledge that there is a portrait of Theodore that has been lost, has been discovered.)

Here at the Bent Archive, snippets of biographical information about Theodore and Mabel turn up all the time. On one of our regular trawls through the Irish newspapers, the following few lines from the Dublin Daily Express (1 August 1898) came to light after lying on the sea floor for some 120 years:

‘Miss J. D. S. Aldworth, an Irish artist who is rising to distinction in London, has had the honour of submitting to her Highness the Duchess of York the pastel painting which she presented to be sold for the benefit of the Princess Mary Village Houses. Miss Aldworth studied first in London, and subsequently in Paris, under M. R. L. Fleury… and has exhibited in the Royal Academy, the Institute of Painters, the Royal Hibernian Academy, and other shows. Miss Aldworth. who belongs to a well-known Cork family, is a successful portrait painter in oils and pastels, and adds another name to the long roll of talented Irish artists. Amongst the best portraits in oils we may mention that of the late Theodore Bent, F.R.G.S., F.S.A.’

Now, to us, this is of more interest than the Antikythera Mechanism (retrieved from the deep but a few sea miles from where Theodore dug on Antiparos in 1883/4)! For we now know there is a missing portrait of Theodore to be tracked down. Did Theodore own it? Was it left to Mabel’s sisters and nieces on her death in 1929? All this is to be found out and published.

Two sidetracks can be pointed to.

What of the artist? Jane Dorothea Sophia Aldworth was born on 15 April 1861, the daughter of Colonel Robert Aldworth and Olivia Catherine Morton – a distinguished family from Co. Cork. After training in France, Jane returned to London and Dublin (inter alia) to paint and sculpt. A society artist, Jane, of course, found time for Cheltenham, and the Cheltenham Chronicle for Tuesday 21 September 1880 notes the Aldworths arriving at 38 Lansdown Crescent: ‘Col. and Mrs. Aldworth, Miss J. D. S Aldworth, Mr. St. Letter B. Aldworth. Mr. J. J O. Aldworth…’ By 1894/5 Jane had a London base at 37 Seymour Street, and featured her work in a catalogue of the 12th exhibition of the Institute of Painters in Oil Colours (it seems her picture of Theodore was not exhibited). In 1898 we have the article reference in the Dublin Daily Express quoted above. In 1905/6 she exhibited a piece (and offered it for sale at £5.5.0) called ‘The Spirit of the Rose’ at the Royal Hibernian Academy Annual Exhibition.

The Cheltenham Looker-On of Saturday 23 February 1907 has a dismissive view of one of Jane’s pictures on show at the Cheltenham and County Fine Art Society:

‘Amongst other painters who have contributed works of more or less merit, which want of space prevents us from criticising at length, are the following :- A. M. Bryant, A. K. Meadows, Sydney Scott, Rose Willis, W. W. Stephens, Col. Penrose Thaekwell, T. Mesham [and] J. D. S. Aldworth.’

Perhaps, in the end, Jane is better remembered for her charity work than her art. The next we hear of her is a letter in the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser (Saturday 28 October 1911): [To the Editor.] Sir, In response to my letter last winter asking for gifts of books, toys, dolls, etc., to send to the Church of England Waifs and Strays and Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, many of your readers kindly interested their young friends, and were able to send several hundred toys, thus bringing joy to many young hearts. I hope this winter we may enlist further sympathy and make a still larger collection. Toy cupboards might now be turned out in anticipation of Christmas, last year’s Christmas cards made into scrap books, dolls re-dressed, etc., and so many less fortunate little brothers and sisters would be enabled to have share in our Christmas cheer. I shall be grateful for all contributions of toys, new and old. They should sent in not later than Saturday, December 3rd. — Yours, etc., J. D. S. Aldworth. Claremont, Dorking.

Jane Aldworth died on 8 June 1913 at age 52, unmarried.

But what of this missing oil painting of Theodore Bent? Suffice it to say, it would be wonderful to locate and exhibit it – pride of place in the RGS Gallery, London. There are few likenesses of Theodore, Mabel’s efforts as expedition photographer were, frankly, undistinguished, and very few have survived because of technical difficulties. Sadly, a large number of her glass slides used for Theodore’s lectures were thrown away in the early 1950s, as being too damaged or faded to make further use of – today they could perhaps have been restored.

Jane’s missing portrait has a date referenced above of 1898, with Theodore having died in May the year before. So when did Theodore pose for Jane? Mabel used a fine studio photograph of her husband for the frontispiece of her account of the couple’s Arabian explorations, Southern Arabia, published in 1900. In all likelihood, this photograph of Theodore, and Jane’s portrait, were executed in the mid 1890s, when Theodore was in his early 40s.

As for how he may have looked in Jane Aldworth’s portrait, let’s stretch our imaginations and look at details from the photograph referred to above and a detail of a fine painting of Theodore’s uncle, Sir John Bent (1793–1857), erstwhile brewer and Mayor of Liverpool. The oil painting of Sir John was done in 1855 by Philip Westcott (1815–1878) and hangs today in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Looking for a resemblance (and bearing in mind an age difference of some 20 years), can we see family similarities in the eyes and brows? If Jane had painted Theodore at 65, not 45, might he have looked like the portrait of Sir John? But the missing picture, when we find it, will look like the studio photograph published by Mabel in her book of 1900.

So, if you see an unattributed oil painting at auction that has the eyes (though younger) of this sitter – buy it! It is this lost painting of Theodore Bent! Or, of course, if you own it now, or have any further information on Jane Aldworth – do let us know. Jane’s likeness of Theodore may be no oil painting, but we would love to see it!

‘My dear People’ – A Hall-Dare Photograph Album

‘Mrs Bent and her Camera. Photo by Russell & Sons, London, probably Spring, 1895’ (see No. 25 below)

THERE is a letter of Mabel’s (from a collection now in the RGS, London) dated Friday, 24 February 1893, from Aksum in ‘Abyssinia’, which begins ‘My dear People’ and signs off ‘Best love to you all, Your very loving Mabel’. It starts, alarmingly, ‘Don’t be anxious about us…’

Mabel’s letter to her family, 24 Feb 1893, written during the couple’s risky tour to Aksum and Ethiopia that year. Theodore published his adventures as ‘The Sacred City of the Ethiopians’ (1893).

What follows here on our site, a new leaf being added now and then, represents a virtual photo album of the many correspondents of Mabel’s, her closest Anglo-Irish family connections, to whom she wrote many, many hundreds of letters during her nearly twenty years of travelling with Theodore. You might like to meet them!

The prominent mid-19th century Hall-Dare family developed their wealth principally from the second half of the 19th century, primarily in Essex, as a result of the alliances of several influential families – Dare, Hall, Westley, Eaton, King, Grafton, Mildmay, and others. Between them they owned a portfolio of land and grand houses that gradually found its way into the merged family of the Hall-Dares by the early 19th century: Theydon Manor, Fitzwalters, Wyfields, Cranbrook, East Hall, Wennington Hall, Ilford Lodge, and several others. None of these residences remain in any significant manner. Two churches dedicated to St Mary contain memorials to the family: St Mary’s, Theydon Bois, Essex and St Mary’s, Bunclody, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

The early families’ combined wealth and influence (several members were MPs, Justices, Sheriffs, etc.) derived from agriculture, trade, property, and, it has to be said, plantation ownership, particularly in what is now British Guiana. A key family member was Robert Westley Hall (d. 1836), who, returning from British Guiana, married the heiress Elizabeth Grafton Dare in 1815, and, in 1823, changed his name to Hall-Dare. The couple had eleven children, who went on to be the beneficiaries of the many Essex estates, most of which now (2018) have been dispersed. There may well have been issues between father and his first two sons: the main residence was left not to Robert’s eldest boy (also Robert (1817-1866), and the eldest was after this always christened Robert Westley) but to his second son, Henry (1825-1908). The eldest boy promptly sold most of his share of the estates and took himself off to Ireland, where he married into an aristocratic family and can be said to have settled. There are many, many descendants from the eleven children of Robert and Elizabeth mentioned previously; perhaps the main seat of the family today might be thought of as being Newtonbarry House, Bunclody, Co. Wexford, although there does no longer seem to be a current Robert Westley Hall-Dare.

Most of the photographs to follow (from the Bent Archive Collection) are examples of the new carte de visite format developed by André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri (1819–1889). Two of the photographs to come are actually from the Disdéri Studio itself.

The rare albumen print below of Mabel’s mother, Frances Anna Catherine Hall-Dare (née Lambart), is from the studio of the eminent court photographer Camille Silvy (1834-1910). Coming from a French aristocratic background, Silvy established himself as one of the leading portrait photographers in London. He moved to London in 1859 and bought Caldesi and Montecchi’s studio on Porchester Terrace. He kept daybooks with the details of each sitter, the date, and a file print, and these, with five members of the Hall-Dare family, are now in the National Portrait Gallery’s archives, London.

Do visit regularly (sign up to our blog posts if you like!) to see new additions to our album of Mabel’s relatives, and please let us know if you have any faces to add (info@tambent.com).

Several excellent websites exist for those interested in Mabel’s side of the family, the Hall-Dares; Lord Belmont’s site; Paul Frecker’s collections; and the National Portrait Gallery’s Hall-Dare portraits by Camille Silvy:

We do hope you will find the album that follows both interesting and diverting.

Best wishes

The Bent Archive

PS. Many of the photographs on our website are from the Bent Archive Collection; please contact us for reproduction requests (info@tambent.com).

No. 0. A rare ‘cdv’ of Mabel V(irginia) A(nna) Hall Dare (1847-1929), showing the only known signature in maiden form.

A studio portrait of Mabel taken when she was around 25 or so in Florence (in the 1860s or ’70s). Mabel and her siblings travelled frequently on the continent most long, unhurried summers, until their various marriages obliged them otherwise. The portrait (a ‘carte de visite’) of Mabel was shot in the celebrated society studios of Luigi Montabone in Florence, perhaps taken at the same time as the likenesses of her sisters Olivia and Frances below (nos. 9 & 10). Mabel has added her name – Mabel V(irginia) A(nna) Hall Dare, her only traced signature in maiden form. It is a strikingly lovely and reflective portrait: the black Irish lace trim to her dress might, from respect, be for her mother (d. 1862 ) or father (d. 1866); the starry jet (?) earring she wants us to notice, the locket we cannot read; and her trademark long, red hair plaited and coiled – with a flourish surely meant for the Ufizzi.

No. 1 – Mabel Virginia Anna Hall-Dare (1847-1929), later Mrs. J. Theodore Bent, aged 19.

SITTER: Mabel Virginia Anna Hall-Dare (1847-1929), later Mrs. J. Theodore Bent. The date is October 1866 and Mabel is just 19, the setting most likely the garden of Newtonbarry House, Co. Wexford, the family home, then as now. From this genteel, Anglo-Irish estate, Mabel was to travel just over a decade later, as Mrs. J. Theodore Bent, to remote and unrecorded corners of the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, and Arabia, marking her out as one of the most well-known woman travellers of her era. Although Mabel is in mourning black for her father, Robert Westley Hall-Dare, who died in April of that year, the expression on her powerful face, her famous red hair tucked away, is enigmatic. She holds up to the camera what looks like the ace of spades or clubs, as if making some sort of statement to her father. The recently deceased Hall-Dare was anything but an ideal father, dying in the up-scale asylum for distressed gentry that was Ticehurst House Hospital at Ticehurst, East Sussex.
DATE: October 1866.
STUDIO: Detail from a private family photograph.

No. 2 – Mabel Bent in her wedding gown (1877?).

SITTER: Mabel Virginia Anna Bent (née Hall-Dare) (1847-1929), in her wedding dress. Mabel Virginia Anna Hall-Dare was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart. She married James Theodore Bent on 2nd August 1877 in Staplestown church, Co. Carlow, Ireland.
DATE: Presumably around the time of her marriage, 2 August 1877.
STUDIO: T. Fall, 9 Baker Street, Portman Square, London. Fall set up as a portrait photographer in the 1850s in Bedale, Yorkshire. In the late 1860s he moved to London to work for the established studio of Elliott and Fry in Baker Street, and from there founded his own business in 1875, also in Baker Street. He began to specialise in photographing dogs and was commissioned by the Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra, to photograph her with her dogs earning the company a Royal Warrant. Fall died In 1900.

No. 3 – Mabel Hall-Dare (later Bent) holding her niece Hilda (1870s?).

SITTER: Mabel Virginia Anna Bent (née Hall-Dare) (1847-1929), later Mrs J T Bent, holding her niece Hilda. Hilda Mary Hall-Dare was the daughter of Mabel’s brother, Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton. Hilda married James Erskine Wise Booth, son of George Booth and Georgiana Susanna Arabel Barton, on 30 December 1890. She died on 3 August 1953. Hilda and James had three children: Lt.-Col. Arthur Ronald Booth (1891–1954); Evelyn Mary Booth (b. 1897); Brigadier John Roberts Booth (1901–1971).
DATE: Late 1860s (?)
STUDIO: M. Allen and Co., 12 Westland Row, Dublin.

No. 4 – Mabel Hall-Dare (later Bent) as a young woman (1860s).SITTER: Mabel Virginia Anna Hall-Dare (1847-1929), later Mrs. J. Theodore Bent, as a young woman.  Very aware of her fine red hair, a lock falls casually over her left shoulder, escaping from an otherwise carefully managed coiffure. The photograph is from the collection of Turtle Bunbury and reproduced with permission (Turtle’s great-aunt, Veronica Hall-Dare, is a distant relative of Mabel’s brother Robert, via his heir, also Robert (see below)).
DATE: Late 1860s (?)
STUDIO: Unknown.

No. 5Robert Westley Hall-Dare (Mabel’s brother).

SITTER: Robert Westley Hall-Dare (1840–1876); Mabel’s brother. Robert was born on 8 June 1840. He was the son of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart/Lambert. He married Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton, daughter of Henry Newton and Elizabeth Jane Doyne, on 27 October 1863. He died on 18 March 1876 at age 35 of typhoid in Rome, while on extended holiday. The couple had 6 children: Hilda Mary Hall-Dare (d. 3 Aug 1953); Elizabeth Frances Hall-Dare (d. 6 Feb 1956); Evelyn Una Hall-Dare (dates unknown at present); John Marmaduke Hall-Dare (b. 23 Sep 1865 – 1866); Robert Westley Hall-Dare (b. 14 Oct 1866 – 20 Feb 1939); Arthur Mildmay Hall-Dare (b. 11 Oct 1867 – 31 May 1941). Robert held the office of Deputy Lieutenant for County Wexford. He held the office of Justice of the Peace for County Carlow; the office of Justice of the Peace for County Wexford; the office of High Sheriff of County Carlow in 1868; the office of High Sheriff of County Wexford in 1872. He lived at Theydon Bois, Essex, England and Newtownbarry House, Bunclody, County Wexford, Ireland.
DATE: 1874; two years before his death.
STUDIO: Disdéri, 8 Boulevard des Italiens, Paris. Disdéri perfected the photographic visiting card. Robert and his wife Caroline had a base in Paris in the 1870s.

No. 6Robert Westley Hall-Dare as a boy (Mabel’s brother).

SITTER: Robert Westley Hall-Dare (1840–1876); Mabel’s brother. Robert was born on 8 June 1840. He was the son of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart/Lambert. He married Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton, daughter of Henry Newton and Elizabeth Jane Doyne, on 27 October 1863. He died on 18 March 1876 at age 35 of typhoid in Rome, while on extended holiday. The couple had 6 children: Hilda Mary Hall-Dare (d. 3 Aug 1953); Elizabeth Frances Hall-Dare (d. 6 Feb 1956); Evelyn Una Hall-Dare (dates unknown at present); John Marmaduke Hall-Dare (b. 23 Sep 1865 – 1866); Robert Westley Hall-Dare (b. 14 Oct 1866 – 20 Feb 1939); Arthur Mildmay Hall-Dare (b. 11 Oct 1867 – 31 May 1941). Robert held the office of Deputy Lieutenant for County Wexford. He held the office of Justice of the Peace for County Carlow; the office of Justice of the Peace for County Wexford; the office of High Sheriff of County Carlow in 1868; the office of High Sheriff of County Wexford in 1872. He lived at Theydon Bois, Essex, England and Newtownbarry House, Bunclody, County Wexford, Ireland.
DATE: mid 1850s?
STUDIO: Unknown, as is the location, but possibly the Hall-Dare estates in Essex. The image is from a group photograph including sister Ethel and aunt Elizabeth Catherine Hall-Dare. The children are dressed as if ready for a game of battledore.

No. 7Caroline Susan Henrietta Hall-Dare, née Newton (Mabel’s sister-in-law).

SITTER: Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton (b. 11 May 1842) was the daughter of Henry Newton and Elizabeth Jane Doyne. She was Mabel’s sister-in-law. She married Mabel’s brother, Robert Westley Hall-Dare, son of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart, on 27 October 1863. (For their children see No. 4 above.)
DATE: 1870s ?
STUDIO: Disdéri, 8 Boulevard des Italiens, Paris. Disdéri perfected the photographic visiting card. Robert and his wife Caroline had a base in Paris in the 1870s.

No. 8 – Caroline Susan Henrietta Hall-Dare, née Newton (Mabel’s sister-in-law).

SITTER: Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton (b. 11 May 1842) was the daughter of Henry Newton and Elizabeth Jane Doyne. She was Mabel’s sister-in-law. She married Mabel’s brother, Robert Westley Hall-Dare, son of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart, on 27 October 1863. (For their children see No. 4 above.)
DATE:  1870s (?)
STUDIO: Scott & Son, Devonshire Street, Carlisle, UK.

No. 9Olivia Frances Grafton Hall-Dare (later Johnston) (Mabel’s sister).

SITTER: Olivia Frances Grafton Hall-Dare (1843-1926) was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart. She married the Reverend Richard Johnston (died 27 November 1906) in July 1883. They had no children (?). Olivia died in 1926. She was Richard’s second wife. He married, firstly, Augusta Sophia Hamilton in 1844. She was known to the family as Iva.
DATE: 1860s or 70s (?).
STUDIO: Montabone, via dei Banchi 3, Florence https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luigi_Montabone

No. 10Frances Maria Hall-Dare (later Hobson) (Mabel’s sister).

SITTER: Frances Maria Hall-Dare (b. 1852) was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart. She married Reverend Edward Waller Hobson on 11 June 1891. They had no children. Frances Maria Hall-Dare (b. 1852) was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart. She married Reverend Edward Waller Hobson on 11 June 1891. They had no children.
DATE: 1860s or 70s (?)
STUDIO: Montabone, via dei Banchi 3, Florence https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luigi_Montabone

No. 11Frances Maria Hall-Dare (later Hobson) (Mabel’s sister).

SITTER: Frances Maria Hall-Dare (b. 1852) was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart. She married Reverend Edward Waller Hobson on 11 June 1891. They had no children. Frances Maria Hall-Dare (b. 1852) was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart. She married Reverend Edward Waller Hobson on 11 June 1891. They had no children.
DATE: 1860s or 70s (?)
STUDIO: C. Hawkins, Brighton School of Photography.

No. 12 – Ethel Constance Mary Hall-Dare (Mabel’s sister).

SITTER: Ethel Constance Mary Hall-Dare (Mabel’s sister) (10 Oct. 1848-1930). Ethel Constance Mary Hall-Dare (1848-1930) was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart. She married Lieutenant Beauchamp Frederick Bagenal, son of Philip Bagenal and Georgiana Thomasina Boyd, on 5 July 1870. She lived at Benekerry, Carlow, County Carlow, Ireland. The couple had 5 children (Mabel’s nephews and nieces): Mary Verena Bagenal (1871-1889); Beauchamp Walter Bagenal (1873-1952); Major Charles James Bagenal (1877-1955); Violet Ethel Bagenal (1882-1932); Kathleen Prudence Eirene Bagenal (1886-1974).
DATE: October 1866.
STUDIO: Detail from a family photograph.

No. 13 – Ethel Constance Mary Hall-Dare as a girl (Mabel’s sister).

SITTER: Ethel Constance Mary Hall-Dare (Mabel’s sister) (1848-1930). Ethel Constance Mary Hall-Dare (1848-1930) was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Frances Anne Catharine Lambart. She married Lieutenant Beauchamp Frederick Bagenal, son of Philip Bagenal and Georgiana Thomasina Boyd, on 5 July 1870. She lived at Benekerry, Carlow, County Carlow, Ireland. The couple had 5 children (Mabel’s nephews and nieces): Mary Verena Bagenal (1871-1889); Beauchamp Walter Bagenal (1873-1952); Major Charles James Bagenal (1877-1955); Violet Ethel Bagenal (1882-1932); Kathleen Prudence Eirene Bagenal (1886-1974).
DATE: mid 1850s.
STUDIO: Unknown, as is the location, but possibly the Hall-Dare estates in Essex. The image is from a group photograph including brother Robert and aunt Elizabeth Catherine Hall-Dare. The children are dressed as if ready for a game of battledore.

No. 14Lieutenant Beauchamp Frederick Bagenal. The husband of Mabel’s sister Ethel, thus her brother-in-law.

SITTER: Lieutenant Beauchamp Frederick Bagenal (1846–1930). The husband of Mabel’s sister Ethel, thus her brother-in-law. Lieutenant Beauchamp Frederick Bagenal (1846–1930) was born on 10 September 1846. He was the son of Philip Bagenal and Georgiana Thomasina Boyd. He married Mabel’s sister Ethel Constance Mary Hall-Dare (1848-1930) on 5 July 1870. He died on 7 January 1930 at age 83. He was educated at Cheltenham College, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. He was educated at Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Berkshire, England. He gained the rank of Lieutenant in the 45th Regiment. He fought in the Abyssinian Campaign in 1868. He held the office of High Sheriff in 1872; the office of Deputy Lieutenant; the office of Justice of the Peace. He was a volunteer under Garibaldi. He lived at Benekerry, Carlow, County Carlow, Ireland. The couple had 5 children (Mabel’s nephews and nieces): Mary Verena Bagenal (1871-1889); Beauchamp Walter Bagenal (1873-1952); Major Charles James Bagenal (1877-1955); Violet Ethel Bagenal (1882-1932); Kathleen Prudence Eirene Bagenal (1886-1974).
DATE: 1870s or 80s (?).
STUDIO: TL. Werner, 15 Leinster Street, Dublin.

No. 15 – Hilda Mary Hall-Dare (later Booth) (Mabel’s niece).

SITTER: Hilda Mary Hall-Dare (later Booth), died on 3 August 1953 (Mabel’s niece). Hilda Mary Hall-Dare was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton. She married James Erskine Wise Booth, son of George Booth and Georgiana Susanna Arabel Barton, on 30 December 1890. She died on 3 August 1953. Hilda and James had three children: Lt.-Col. Arthur Ronald Booth (b. 6 Oct 1891 – d. 25 Aug 1954); Evelyn Mary Booth (b. 30 Oct 1897); Brigadier John Roberts Booth (b. 5 Jan 1901 – d. 2 Jun 1971).
DATE: Late 1860s(?)
STUDIO: Lambert, Artist in Photography, Dublin Street, Carlow, Ireland.

No. 16 – Hilda Mary Hall-Dare (later Booth) (Mabel’s niece).

SITTER: Hilda Mary Hall-Dare (later Booth), died on 3 August 1953 (Mabel’s niece). Hilda Mary Hall-Dare was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton. She married James Erskine Wise Booth, son of George Booth and Georgiana Susanna Arabel Barton, on 30 December 1890. She died on 3 August 1953. Hilda and James had three children: Lt.-Col. Arthur Ronald Booth (b. 6 Oct 1891 – d. 25 Aug 1954); Evelyn Mary Booth (b. 30 Oct 1897); Brigadier John Roberts Booth (b. 5 Jan 1901 – d. 2 Jun 1971).
DATE: Late 1870s(?)
STUDIO: W. Clayton Browne, Sandbrook, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

No. 17 – Hilda Mary Hall-Dare (later Booth) (Mabel’s niece).

SITTER: Hilda Mary Hall-Dare (later Booth), died on 3 August 1953 (Mabel’s niece). Hilda Mary Hall-Dare was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton. She married James Erskine Wise Booth, son of George Booth and Georgiana Susanna Arabel Barton, on 30 December 1890. She died on 3 August 1953. Hilda and James had three children: Lt.-Col. Arthur Ronald Booth (b. 6 Oct 1891 – d. 25 Aug 1954); Evelyn Mary Booth (b. 30 Oct 1897); Brigadier John Roberts Booth (b. 5 Jan 1901 – d. 2 Jun 1971).
DATE: 1880s(?)
STUDIO: Julius Schaar, Dusseldorf and Trier, Germany. http://wiki-de.genealogy.net/Schaar_(D%C3%BCsseldorf)/Fotostudio

No. 18Olivia Francis Lambart (d. 29 July 1893) and Miss Anson. Olivia was Mabel’s much-loved ‘Aunt Loodleloo’. The Ansons were Hall-Dare family friends.

SITTER: Olivia Francis Lambart was the daughter of Gustavus Lambart (Mabel’s grandfather) and Anna Butler Stevenson (Mabel’s grandmother). She died on 29 July 1893, unmarried. Her sister Frances Anne Catharine Lambart married Robert Westley Hall-Dare.
DATE: October 1866.
STUDIO: Detail from a private family photograph.

No. 19 – Alice Mary Hall-Dare, née Tupper (wife of Mabel’s Uncle Henry, and known as ‘Aunt Alice’).

SITTER: Alice Mary Tupper (died May 1915) was known as ‘Aunt Alice’ to Mabel Bent and her family. She was the daughter of Daniel Tupper and Anna Maria Le Marchant [pers. comm. Kelly McDonald]. She married Mabel Bent’s uncle Henry Hall-Dare (8 Feb 1825 – Sep 1908)Hall-Dare (8 Feb 1825 – Sep 1908) on 24 May 1882. Alice was Henry’s second wife. Henry gained the rank of captain in the 23rd Regiment (Royal Welsh Fusiliers). He was also Under-Treasurer of the Inner Temple. He died in September 1908 at age 83.
DATE: Around 1882?
STUDIO: Durrant & Son, Torquay.

No. 20 – Alice Mary Hall-Dare, née Tupper (wife of Mabel’s Uncle Henry, and known as ‘Aunt Alice’).

SITTER: Alice Mary Tupper (died May 1915) was known as ‘Aunt Alice’ to Mabel Bent and her family. She was the daughter of Daniel Tupper and Anna Maria Le Marchant [pers. comm. Kelly McDonald]. (?). She married Mabel Bent’s uncle Henry Hall-Dare (8 Feb 1825 – Sep 1908) on 24 May 1882. Alice was Henry’s second wife. Henry gained the rank of captain in the 23rd Regiment (Royal Welsh Fusiliers). He was also Under-Treasurer of the Inner Temple. He died in September 1908 at age 83.
DATE: Later in life.
STUDIO: Fratelli Vianelli, Venice.

No. 21 – Arthur Mildmay Hall-Dare (1867–1941). Mabel’s nephew, the son of Mabel’s brother Robert.

SITTER: Arthur Mildmay Hall-Dare was born on 11 October 1867. Mabel’s nephew, he was the son of Mabel’s brother Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton. He was educated at Eton College, Windsor, Berkshire, England. He married Edith Clare Fitzherbert, daughter of Henry Gorry Fitzherbert and Mary Emily Vansittart, on 8 July 1897. He lived at Cliff, Rathfarnham, County Dublin, Ireland and Dangan, Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland. The couple had three children: Irene Clare Hall-Dare (b. 4 Aug 1898); Lt.-Col. Derrick Arthur Hall-Dare (b. 4 Dec 1900 – d. Jan 1985); Ena Mildred Hall-Dare (b. 29 Aug 1905). He died on 31 May 1941 at age 73.
DATE: mid 1870s (?)
STUDIO: M. Allen and Co., 12 Westland Row, Dublin.

No. 22 – Robert Westley Hall-Dare (1866–1939). Mabel’s nephew, the son and heir of Mabel’s brother Robert.

SITTER: Robert Westley Hall-Dare was born on 14 October 1866. He was the son of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Caroline Susan Henrietta Newton. He married Helen Gordon, daughter of John Taylor Gordon and Margaret Watson, on 6 April 1896. He died on 20 February 1939 at age 72. He was educated at Malvern and Eton College, Windsor, Berkshire, England. He gained the rank of Captain in the 9th Brigade North Irish Division, Royal Artillery. He gained the rank of Captain in the Derry Artillery (Militia). He held the office of High Sheriff of County Wexford in 1891; the office of High Sheriff of County Carlow in 1896; the office of Justice of the Peace for County Wexford; the office of Justice of the Peace for County Carlow; the office of Deputy Lieutenant for County Wexford. He lived at Newtownbarry, County Wexford, Ireland and East Hall, Wennington, Essex, England.
DATE: Early 1870s.
STUDIO: Francis C. Earl, Malvern and Worcester.

No. 23 – Elizabeth Catherine Hall-Dare (Mabel’s Aunt).

SITTER: Elizabeth Catherine Hall-Dare, Mabel’s aunt, was the daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Elizabeth Grafton. She married Reverend John Thomas Richardson Fussell, son of Thomas Fussell and Sarah (?), on 29 May 1855 at St. George’s, Hanover Square, London. Their children were Henry Davies Fussell (b. 1857, d. 11 Jun 1889) and Dorothy Evelyn Chetwoode Fussell (b. 17 Apr 1878, d. 13 Sep 1965). Elizabeth died on 11 April 1882.
DATE: mid 1850s?
STUDIO: Unknown, as is the location, but possibly the Hall-Dare estates in Essex; the image is from a group photograph including brother Robert and aunt Elizabeth Catherine Hall-Dare. The children are dressed as if ready for a game of battledore.

No. 24 – Frances Anna Catherine Hall-Dare (Mabel’s mother)

SITTER: Frances Anna Catherine Hall-Dare (née Lambart) was born c. 1819, the daughter of Gustavus Lambart and Anna Butler Stevenson. She married Robert Westley Hall-Dare, son of Robert Westley Hall-Dare and Elizabeth Grafton, on 18 April 1839, withwhom she had six children. She was born on the Lambart estates of Beau Parc, Co. Meath, residing at the Temple House, Sligo, then Newtonbarry House, Co. Wexford, and 49 Eaton Place, London, where she died after a long and painful illness on 2nd September 1862. She is buried in the Hall-Dare plot/vault at St Mary’s Theydon Bois, Essex, on 6 September 1862, aged just 43 (Burial record 422).
DATE: 20 November 1861 (ten months before her death).
STUDIO: Camille Silvy Collection, Album 5 (Daybook Volume 5), 1861-62, number 6506, albumen print. Sitting at the photographer’s studio, 38 Porchester Terrace, Bayswater, London.

[Four other Silvy portraits (shown below) can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery’s Silvy pages.]

No. 25 – ‘Mrs Bent and her Camera. Photo by Russell & Sons, London, probably Spring, 1895’

SITTER: Mabel Virginia Anna Bent (née Hall-Dare, 1847-1929). An illustration first printed in ‘The Album, A Journal of Photographs of Men, Women and Events of the Day’ (Vol. 2, no.2, 8 July 1895, pp. 44-45). This is an extremely rare studio photo of Mabel standing beside her camera and tripod and attired for the wilds; very few people will have seen this since it was published in July 1895. Assuming the portrait was taken in the first half of that year, Mabel – her trademark long red hair coiled elegantly as ever – would have just reappeared from Muscat, Oman and Dhofar, and be preparing for the coming winter’s journey with her husband along the west coast of the Red Sea. That Mabel would feature in ‘The Album’ is no surprise – ever since the couple’s journey in 1891 to the ruins of Great Zimbabwe for Cecil Rhodes the Bents were celebrities. It’s not immediately obvious which of her cameras she is displaying here; Mabel’s small apparatus of choice was her ‘Luzo’ box camera, however the protruding lens indicates another, larger model. If anyone can identify it, please write in.
DATE: Presumably April-June 1895.
STUDIO: James Russell and Sons were a firm of portrait photographers with their principal studio at Littlehampton and others at Chichester, Worthing, Bognor and Petworth. They also advertised themselves as landscape photographers and exhibited views at the International Exhibition, London, in 1862. It is almost certain that the portrait was taken in the Baker Street studio (17 Baker Street, Portman Square, London W.), the premises they operated from between 1889-1908. The manager then was John Lemmon Russell.

‘My baby eyes first looked out on an extremely beautiful bit of this world…’

A typical word-portrait of Mabel Bent reads mostly along the lines of this one, from the ‘Anglo-African Who’s Who’ (Wills and Barrett (eds), 1905):

‘BENT, Mrs. Mabel Virginia Anna, of 13, Great Cumberland Place, W., and of the Ladies’ Empire Club, is a daughter of Robert Westley Hall-Dare, D.L., of Theydon Bois, Wennington Hall, Essex, and Newtownbarry House, Co. Wexford. She was married Aug. 2, 1877, to the late Theodore Bent, of Baildon House, Yorks. Mrs. Bent accompanied her husband in all his explorations, and took part in the excavations with which he was associated in the Greek and Turkish Islands, Asia Minor, Abyssinia, the Great Zimbabye (Mashonaland), Persia, and elsewhere. She is the authoress of ‘Southern Arabia, Soudan, and Sokotra,’ compiled from her own and Mr. Theodore Bent’s notes.’

Mabel Virginia Anna Bent. Reproduced from ‘Hearth and Home’, 2 November 1893. From the Studio of H.S. Mendelssohn, South Kensington (private collection).

But we are lucky that there exists a very rare autobiographical snapshot of her earliest years – appearing in the gossipy rag ‘Mainly about People’. A lengthy extract here conjures her up [ed note: Mabel Virginia Anna Hall-Dare was born (January 1847) and raised among the minor Anglo-Irish aristocracy]:

‘My baby eyes first looked out on an extremely beautiful bit of this world, for I was born at Beauparc, in the county of Meath, my grandfather Gustavus Lambart’s place, which, being situated on a very high bank at a sharp curve of the River Boyne, seems as if it were upon an island looking straight down the river. The right bank is high and wooded, and the left has a narrow grassy flat between the water and a low craggy cliff, above which you see away over tree-studded fields to a ruined castle with woods beyond; and my eyes, which have since been so much exercised in seeking for archaeological sites where to make excavations, must also have fallen on the wonderful ancient tumulus of New Grange. So much did this view please me the first time I can remember seeing it, that, having arrived in the dark one night, the following morning about four or five o’clock my wretched mother was startled from her sleep by shrieks and shouts to find me jumping up and down as hard as I could at the window, a manifestation of my ecstasy of delight at the sight of the snow and icicles and all the wintry beauty spread before me.

‘Beauparc – Lady Lambert’s House’. Mabel Hall-Dare was born here, in County Meath, Ireland, in January 1847. From a watercolour by Garrett Scanlan. (Reproduced with the artist’s permission)

‘Although I certainly had no inkling of the fate that awaited me, being a ‘Thursday’s bairn who has far to go’, no child was ever fonder of reading and poring over maps and lists and pictures of traveller’s requisites than I was… I was also a most determined dweller in tents, for I used to pull my bed to pieces and hang up my top sheet by the nail of a picture, making a good hole that it should hold well, and then, arranging my bedding to suit my fancy, imagine I was sleeping on the ground. It was not comfortable, but there was something very nice about it. In one of my investigations of the library at home I came upon a book that I made up my mind to examine. It had a delightful title ‘The Atlas of Undiscovered Countries’. It was firmly fixed, and to get at it I had to exert all my strength and become very hot, tugging out the great folios that were on each side, and then to my disgust I found my prize was only a false wooden book to support the upper shelf. Years after I exclaimed, ‘Now I have really an atlas of undiscovered countries of my own’, when I eagerly unpacked a map in eight sheets (that my husband had had made at Stanford’s, of Southern Arabia, when we were first thinking of exploring that part of the world) and found two or three of the sheets blank save for latitude and longitude marks. I am glad to say that the blank is not so large now…

‘Some very strange things have been written in the way of description of the dress I wore when travelling in outlandish places – just a shooting dress. The accounts are such that my friends refuse to believe in my photographs, as they in no way tally with what they have read. One paper had it that I wore a spiked helmet, whereas what goes by the name of my pith helmet is of rather a large mushroom shape. All this is very amusing to me. A statement which delighted the whole of my family was one that ‘Mrs. Theodore Bent is never tired of expatiating on the sagacity of the horse, and its superiority in this respect to the mule or the camel’. Against whose attacks have I had to defend the ‘noble animal’. The first intimation of this came to me suddenly when I opened a magazine in a boatful of strangers in Aden Harbour. My husband, who had landed first to seek a dwelling on our return from Dhofar, had sent my mail (some months’ accumulation) on board. I nearly went into hysterics, tears rolled down my cheeks, the various coloured fellow-passengers stared, but I could not control my mirth nor explain the cause of its sudden outburst. After all, in a residence of a week or ten days at Aden, which has been my unfortunate fate seven or eight times, one is glad of anything to cheer one up. On this occasion we were so lucky as to be able to hire an unlet shop, where we set up our camp in dust that never could be swept up, and by night slept in the surrounding dens, alive with bugs, and those horrid ‘fish moths’, which are rather like earwigs, and eat cloth, linen, paper, ivory – in fact, everything but metal. Our servants cooked at various fires in the inner yard according to their religion, and spread their beds on the floor of the shop at night. Neither window shutters nor doors could be kept open or shut for lack of fastening, and slammed and banged to and fro incessantly. What we could not help we tried not to heed, and only rejoiced that we were masters of our own kitchen and could feed as we pleased much better than in the hotels. I really was once taken for a man, and caused a terrible commotion as I entered a Turkish bath filled with ladies about whose costume there is nothing to tell. I had on a tight fitting ulster and a hat, and the waist and the hat and the long coat made me really look very like a Persian man…

‘My youth was spent partly in England, but mostly in Ireland, my father having property in both countries, and we were often taken abroad for a summer or a winter. This is certainly the best way of learning languages, of which I was fortunately always very fond. It was a great help when it was necessary for me to look up references in various tongues and in old manuscripts. I have often been in places where I have heard no English at all. It would have astonished me very much in the days of my youth if I had been told that I should ever abide for some time in the Republic of San Marino and become a citizen of it. The diploma was sent after my husband had written a history of the Republic (‘A Freak of Freedom’), and he received a letter subsequently from a friend beginning, ‘Dear Sir and Fellow Citizen,’ congratulating him, and reminding him that ‘no matter at what distance he might lie from the Republic, he would be under her protection.’

‘It was lucky that I was so well used to riding, as I have had so much of it on horses, donkeys, mules, camels, and even elephants. I do not mind camel-riding at all, and really like it when I trot. However, no matter what I do abroad, when necessity compels, in the way of blacking boots, cobbling them, covering umbrellas, or mending their ribs, washing clothes, soldering cooking-pots, or ‘washing up’ (which last I hate), I try to live it down in after life, and when I am at home to enjoy the privileges of civilisation, to wear dresses of whatever length fashion desires of me, and hats that will pass in a crowd. I cannot understand the feeling which makes people wish to disguise themselves as travellers when at home. Certainly I have been granted some of the wishes that I made in the days of my youth!’ (Mabel Virginia Anna Bent)

[All taken from ‘The Dodecanese: Further Travels Among the Insular Greeks Selected Writings of J. Theodore & Mabel V.A. Bent, 1885-1888. Archaeopress, Oxford, 2015. Extract transcribed from: Mabel V.A. Bent, ‘In the Days of My Youth: Chapters of Autobiography’, M.A.P., 10, Issue 240 (17 January 1903), pp. 72-3 (M.A.P. [Mainly about People]: A Popular Penny Weekly of Pleasant Gossip, Personal Portraits, and Social News, Editor: T.P. O’Connor)]