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]

‘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. 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.
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.

Zimbabwe: The Bents in Harare (Fort Salisbury) and around, September 1891

Part of Matabele, Mashona and Manica Land, illustrating the journey of Theodore and Mabel
Part of Matabele, Mashona and Manica Land, illustrating the journey of Theodore and Mabel from Shoshong to the Pungwe River

Harare being in the news (November 2017), here is Mabel’s sketchy account of their brief sojourn there in September 1891. Mabel and Theodore were at the ‘Nwanetsi’ river on 18 May 1891 and were soon camped by the Umfuli, some 40km due south of ‘Fort Salisbury’. Cecil Rhodes’s exploring ‘Pioneers’ (see later) had decided to halt their expedition between the kopye, called by the Mashonas ‘Harari’, and the river Makubisi, and to build their base there. The fort took its name from Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (1830-1903), then Prime Minister. Later, F. C. Selous recorded: ‘It is a matter of history that on the 11th of September 1890 the British flag was hoisted at Fort Salisbury, on the banks of the Makubisi river, and the expedition to Mashunaland thus satisfactorily brought to an end.’ The modern historian Tawse Jolie elaborates: ‘A full-dress parade was called at 10 a.m., 13th September, 1890, the seven-pounder gun fired a Royal Salute, Canon Balfour said a prayer, and the British Flag, the Union Jack, was hoisted by Lieut. Tyndale-Biscoe of the Pioneer Column.’ The site of course is now the modern capital of Zimbabwe – Harare.

Crossing a stream. The Pioneer Corps of the British South Africa Company on the way to Mashonaland
Crossing a stream. The Pioneer Corps of the British South Africa Company on the way to Mashonaland

Let’s hear from Mabel:

‘Tuesday, September 8th [1891]. We reached Fort Salisbury about 8 o’clock a.m. A man was sent on, riding, to enquire where we were to stop, for we hoped to be spared from the public outspan. We thought we should never arrive. We were half dressed and I was wrapped in a cloak. We drove all through the trading part, which is very extensive and consists of round huts, a few square houses being built, wagons and tents of all sorts, and booths and bowers grouped round a long, low, wooded hill. Then through the camp and past the fort and on to the civilian part and Dr. Harris said we were to outspan in that neighbourhood – the hospital and nuns’ dwellings being beyond. Before we had stopped, we were greeted by Dr. Harris and Captain Nesbitt and we and Mr. Swan were invited to take our meals at their mess during our stay. This invitation is of great monetary benefit to us, besides we could not get the food even if we did pay for it. Provisions are frightfully dear and scarce. Sugar 3/- a lb, milk 5/6 a tin, jam 4/6 a lb, ham 4/6 a lb, and everything is in proportion. A pair of common hinges 7/-, 1⁄4 lb of tin tacks 11/6, and 1 lb of paint 35/-. As for meat, it is very hard to get, and a worn out ox just crawled up in a wagon is really so tough that one can’t get ones teeth through it, and those we left in our camp got none…

 A plan of Fort Salisbury as Mabel and Theodore would very likely have encountered it in September 1891
A plan of Fort Salisbury as Mabel and Theodore would very likely have encountered it in September 1891

‘After breakfast we began in real earnest sorting our baggage; some for England via Cape Town; 2 to go down the Busi with us and be sent by B.S.A. wagons to Umtali’s to meet us; 3 to go to Matoko’s; 4 to be sold; 5 to take to the Mazoe River. The bucksail was made into a tent for packing, but we were very much impeded and had two give up at times on account of the ferocious wind which raged all the time of our stay and brought layers of dirt into the baggage. All our white men sought places and all found them. Mr. King is to open a store for the Co. at the Mazoe River. We stayed till Tuesday morning. We saw a great many friends. Two days I had tea with the nuns who also came several times to see us. Mr. Stokes also, and an old friend of Mr. Swan’s, Mr. Macfarlane. Mr. Swan and I had tea in both these huts. Major Browne had walked in the last 30 miles and we had visits in our tent all day. One night (Thursday) [10 September 1891] we dined at the officers’ mess. They had made the dinner table so pretty with Mr. Coope’s puggaree, yellow silk, and ostrich feathers. The fatted calf had died and was served up in 6 quite different ways: cutlets, tongue, roast, pie, and 2 others. In the dining room is a hat rack – 6 rhinoceros horns…

‘Constable, our cook at Zimbabwe, was engaged by Dr. Harris for the civilian mess. He is abominable to us. Instead of coming forward like an honest man and counting on out our enamelled iron and kitchen things, we have to wring them out of him cup by cup. When we ask for things he says they are gone to the auctioneer but the list shows the contrary. The last day he kept out of the way and on Tuesday morning, though we were up at dawn, he had already cleared out. I suppose when we get back tomorrow evening that there will be a row. The auction is for Saturday. Besides our own affairs, there has been on last Saturday the First Annual Dinner on Occupation Day. Theodore was invited. The Pioneers hate Dr. Harris and Major Tye. The Chairman, Mr. Bird, made the rudest of speeches, which Dr. Harris ably responded to and most pluckily. The Pioneers had many grievances but some must have been trivial indeed. One of them was that a notice was put up at Zimbabwe forbidding anyone to remove antiquities. No such notice was put up, yet more than once it was complained of and one man said he had seen it. They managed to make Dr. Harris tell a lie for the pleasure of confounding him. When he said he had had official news from Cape Town that Mr. Rhodes was coming to Tuli, they told him it was a lie for he was coming by the Pungwe, they having concealed the news from Tuesday to Saturday on purpose…

‘Saturday 19th [September, 1891]. Our sale took place this morning but we do not know the result quite yet. Some of the things seem to have gone high enough: whisky £2 a bottle and brandy £3. We afterwards were quite satisfied. Some people certainly got good bargains, but then so did we: A [quart] of spirits of wine £1.10; 1 doz. 1⁄2 [bottles] champagne £1.5….’

Rhodes’s marshals

The much put-upon ‘Dr Harris’ is Rhodes’s local top man, Dr Frederick Rutherfoord Harris (1856-1920). Qualifying in Edinburgh he had moved to Kimberley ten years before Mabel meets him. His rise in Rhodes’s service was rapid. He has been described as a ‘coarse, ambitious adventurer…[who] came to be regarded as a loudmouthed braggart and born intriguer whose penchant for mischief-making caused Rhodes endless trouble.’ He is back in England by 1905, where he was ‘associated with some few finance Cos…and entered the arena of British politics in 1900 as Conservative M.P. for the Monmouth Burghs…Dr. Harris is a keen dog fancier, and is very popular in South Wales, where he spends most of his time.’ (1905)

Much conspicuous by his absence from Mabel’s pages is Dr Leander Starr Jameson (1853-1917). His exploits for Rhodes, his patron, are legion, none more so than the infamous ‘Raid’ of December 1895, and he was by Rhodes’s side when he died in 1902. By September 1891 Rhodes had appointed him as his deputy in Mashonaland and he arrived a few days after the Bents had left Fort Salisbury. Rhodes himself and his party arrived at the mouth of the Pungwe on 26 September 1891, and headed west to Fort Salisbury as Theodore and Mabel were about to move east – they missed crossing paths when the Bents made their detour north. Earlier, however, they did encounter another of Rhodes’s great marshals and later philanthropist, Alfred Beit (1853-1906). Born in Hamburg to a well-to-do family, he arrived in Kimberley in 1875 to deal in diamonds and within a few years had become Rhodes’s colleague and ally and one of the four principal founders of De Beers. Diamonds and gold provided the capital on which Rhodes’s associates thrived, but the Barberton fields in the eastern Transvaal (as mentioned by Mabel) promised much but delivered little. Beit died soon after Rhodes and left his fortune as the Beit Trust which focused on educational projects in Zimbabwe.

A little more in the way of background

Under the concession negotiated by Charles Rudd (13 October 1888) for rights from Chief Lobengula to develop the territory of ‘Mashonaland’, Cecil Rhodes, via his British South Africa Company, quickly assembled in 1890 a small armed force (‘The Pioneer Column’) to annex the lands. The force assembled in May on one of Rhodes’s farms outside Kimberley and by 28 June they were at Macloutsie camp. Headed overall by Col. E. G. Pennefather and Sir John Willoughby the troopers mainly comprised well-connected young adventurers, given promises of grants of land by Rhodes. The contingent crossed the Tuli River and headed roughly north, over 600km of difficult terrain, towards Mount Hampden. Here they established a base (12 September 1890) that became known as Fort Salisbury, then Salisbury, and now Harare, capital of modern Zimbabwe.

Rhodes, the great puppet master, had plans for Theodore, too, with his agents working behind the scenes to persuade him and Mabel to explore/excavate the monument known as ‘Great Zimbabwe’ and have it written up as being ‘Phoenician’ (or at least non-African) in origin. After exploring the Great Zimbabwe ruins in the summer of 1891, Theodore’s party made its way north to Fort Salisbury, before detouring to explore some gold workings, deliver tribute to a nearby chief, and then descend, via the Pungwe valley, to the sea at Beira for their voyage home to England, via Lisbon.

Mabel was seeing the ‘capital’ of course in its very early months. Jan Morris provides a snapshot: ‘Until 1891 it had been a bachelor community and half its citizens indulged in African mistresses. Since then many white women had arrived, and the town had acquired a streaky veneer of decorum…The social centre of the colony was Government House, a pleasant rambling bungalow in the Indian manner…There were Fred Selous…Mother Patrick, the saintly young superior of the Dominican Sisters…Major ‘Maori’ Browne…ill-explained aristocrats like Lord George Deerhurst, who ran a butcher’s shop on Pioneer Street, or the Vicomte de la Panouse, popularly known as the Count…’ Theodore and Mabel encounter most of these characters at one time or another on their year-long adventure.

Before the Pungwe (late October 1891) and the journey home, the Bents enjoy a few days’ rest at Umtali with the companionship of a trio of celebrity British nurses recently arrived there (also courtesy of Rhodes’s benevolence) – Rosanna Blennerhassett, Lucy Sleeman, and Beryl Welby. Two of the three compile later a popular account of their adventures; they recall the Bents’ brief sojourn and Theodore’s latest thoughts on the monuments: ‘He was fresh from those strange Mashonaland ruins which have given rise to so much conjecture. Mr. Bent supposed them to be extremely ancient. He told us that, without consulting the archives at Lisbon, he could not give a decided opinion on their origin. At that time he seemed to believe them to be the ruins of a temple and fortress. There, he thought, weird rights had been solemnised and fierce battles fought… Mr. Selous differed entirely from this view. He believes the ruins to be comparatively modern, and the remains of native work… [He] is probably the best authority on the subject, knowing Africa as thoroughly as he does, and being able to converse with the native as easily as with an Englishman, whilst Mr. Bent could neither speak nor understand the language. But Mr. Bent appeared certain that the Portuguese only could throw light on the problem. He said that the Portuguese had certainly been all over the country, and that a Portuguese archaeologist who would devote himself to the subject would find the archives, of Lisbon, and very likely of other old cities, rich in most interesting materials.’

It is easy to see the nurses preferring Selous to Theodore. Frederick Courtenay Selous (1851-1917) fits this casual aside here as a rhinoceros might a garden shed: RGS Founder’s-medal-winner (1893), big game hunter, trail blazer, road builder, cartographer, diplomat, emissary, naturalist, writer. Legend has it that he was the one to break the news to Rhodes of the death, by an explosion of alcohol, of his brother Herbert. Born in 1851, Selous – ‘well over medium height, with fair pointed beard and massive thighs and legs, it was his fine blue eyes, which were extraordinarily clear and limpid, that most attracted attention.’ – first began to haunt Mashonaland when he was twenty. His subsequent reputation brought him to Rhodes’s attention and after having been involved in the ‘negotiations’ to acquire Mashona territories, he was recruited (and well incentivized) to guide the Pioneers to a site near modern Harare (Fort Salisbury), which was to become Rhodesia’s capital – a site that Selous himself had singled out from his previous explorations in the area. Press reports did not exaggerate when they wrote that Selous had ‘done more than any other man to bring Mashonaland into notice, and is credited, together with Cecil Rhodes, with having contributed most to the creation of Rhodesia’. Of his exploits, Selous himself opined that: ‘Such undertakings as the expedition to and occupation of Mashonaland cannot but foster the love of adventure and enterprise, and tend to keep our national spirit young and vigorous’, and that the ‘opening up of Mashunaland seems like a dream, and I have played a not unimportant in it all, I am pleased to say. The road to Mashunaland is now being called the ‘Selous Road,’ and I hope the name will endure, though I don’t suppose it will.’ Selous did very well out of Rhodes, who rewarded him with a large cash payment, 8,500 prime Mashonaland hectares, and 100 De Beers shares. By June 1892 the adventurer can write to his mother that ‘I can live on the £330 a year which my de Beers shares produce.’ By 1900, surprisingly, he had retired to a fine home in semi-rural England (Worplesdon, Surrey), but with the coming of the First World War, at the age of sixty-four, he joined the ‘Legion of Frontiersmen’ as captain and left to serve in East Africa. The big game hunter fell himself to a German sniper’s bullet to the head on 4 January 1917 on the edge of the Rufiji River. His grave is close by, in the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, topped with stone and brass. There would be no Mashonaland routes taken by Theodore and Mabel that were unknown to F. C. Selous. His beautifully bound books, in their original editions, were extremely popular in his day. (A rumour he did little to refute was that he was the model for Haggard’s Alan Quartermain; Theodore being another, by the way.)

Selous, it seems, avoided the Bents that September in camp Salisbury. As ever, he had things to do. Such was the food crisis (alluded to by Mabel in her diary) that Selous was given the task of guiding in the relief column in. One morning Theodore (as he relates in his great book ‘The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland’, page 283) espies the legendary figure ‘hurriedly dispatched to bring up the waggons at any cost. A few weeks later we heard that they had arrived, and the danger which had threatened the infant Fort Salisbury was averted’.

PS: Mabel writes home to Co. Wexford from Harare, September 1891

…and, by chance, we have a letter home to Co. Wexford, from Mabel. It is headed ‘Umfouli R[iver], September 5th 1891, finished 9th [September] at Fort Salisbury’

My dearest Faneen & L[oodleloo], Iva & E[thel]

I was in the midst of a letter but implored the cart to wait while I shut it up as I knew it was long since you had news. I wonder if you saw the telegram I sent from Fort Victoria in answer to one to report progress.

Well I will go on where I left off. We dined sitting on our bedding and soon went to bed, pretty tired. The days very hot and the nights sometimes dreadfully cold. It is rather hard on one not having some servant but we had no means of getting one. We meant to take a B.S.A.[C.] man as interpreter, but he was ill and we waited 2 days then took our head man, Meredith, who can talk Zulu, and one of our 9 [local men] could understand him, so we got on very well. We can say a few things now ourselves; so the wagons were in command of Alfred, no. 1 driver. Constable, cook, a black, leader [and] no. 2 driver of our wagon, and O’Leary, a man who is having a passage given; he feeding himself (not really though). He has been with us since May, digging at Z[imbabwe].

Since Fort V[ictoria], where a leader and driver left, we have been short of a leader and hoped to get one from Major Browne, who would have been glad to save his food and pay, as he has lost so many oxen, but he is so much behind and we can’t [wait?], so we get on without. A leader is the lowest. He puts on the break [sic], drags the oxen into the right path, for they have no other guide, and takes it in turns with the other leader to go and herd the oxen when grazing. 2 naked [local men], or rather with 2 little skin aprons apiece, drive the donkeys and horses.

We shall be so sorry to have to sell the latter at Fort Salisbury. No one can catch them so well as I, particularly mine, which races away, but they always come to get bread. We have been to some new large unknown ruins, Matindela, and discovered others of which we could find no name. We must sell the horses if we go down the P[ungwe River], because one bite of the tsetse fly would kill them at once and we shall get at least £350 for them. The donkeys do not die till the beginning of the rainy season.

We hear dreadful accounts of how the porters forsake you in the worst place if you do not comply with exorbitant demands. But we have 7 donkeys. It is about 400 miles. At Fort S[alisbury] we shall sell the wagons for little and the oxen for much and divide our clothes, sell some and carry what is absolutely necessary for the steamer from Beira to the Cape, and buy there, for the clothes, etc., we send down won’t be there in time to meet us.

September 8th [1891] We arrived this morning sending a rider on to ask where we were to outspan, for we are very privileged persons, so we are quite away from the public outspan, which is like a dirty farmyard and between the military and civilian quarters. We arrived neatly dressed and were met by invitations to luncheon and breakfast. Very nice not to have to wait till ours was unpacked. There is very little food here: jam 3/6 a pot, and milk – but you can’t buy it – 4/6; ham 4/6 a lb. We have more ruins to see, but our plans are not made till this afternoon. The camp is on half rations.

We have now settled to go down the Busi, and the latter part, each in our own canoe. We are going first to Matoko’s, then to Makori’s; and to Matoko’s we are to be the bearers of the £40 of presents annually given, so are sure of a very good reception. We are to take a trooper with us and Meredith and Alfred, a driver, as personal cook, a very nice fellow, 10 donkeys and 2 of the Makalankas we have had for more than a month, besides other carriers.

We are invited to take all our meals at the mess – a very substantial money saving now. If it weren’t that we are permitted to draw rations we could not get enough food – no milk or meat. So now our men have a good opportunity of seeing that ‘Wilful waste makes woeful want’.

Dr. Harris, who is head here now, is much pleased with Mr. Swan’s beautifully made maps. Well you see that we are doing well, but alas! When the oxen came in this evening one has lung sickness, so we don’t mean to let that be known and hope to sell the others tomorrow. At the mouth of the Busi we shall go down to the Cape to see the library there and call in Lisbon on the way and hope to be home the beginning of December.

There are no ladies here, but one or two traders’ wives and the nuns. How wonderful it is how the Jesuits get in everywhere…

The rest of the letter is missing, but Mabel used to sign off as ‘Your most loving Mabel’, so let’s do that here.

Notes

The ‘Mr. Swan’ referred to is the Bents’ particular friend Robert McNair Wilson Swan (1858-1904). The Swan brothers were mining emery in the Cyclades in 1883/4 when the Bents met them. He contributed an odd section in Bent’s Zimbabwe monograph on the subject of measurements and other data relating to the ruins, and not much taken into account today. He died, a rather sad figure it seems, in the Far East.

(Swan, Robert McNair Wilson, 1858-1904)

Sister: Ethel Constance Mary Bagenal (née Hall-Dare, d. 1930). She had married Lieutenant Beauchamp Frederick Bagenal in 1870 and the couple had 5 children. Their family residences  at Bagenalstown and Benekerry (Co. Carlow) were very close to the Hall-Dares at Newtonbarry (now Bunclody) (Co. Wexford).

Sister: Olivia (Iva) Frances Grafton Johnston (née Hall-Dare, d. 1926) lived in Bournemouth (Theydon Lodge, Boscombe) on the south coast of England. Called Iva by her family she was the third wife of the Reverend Richard Johnston (1816-1906) from Kilmore, Co. Armagh (d. 1906). They married in 1883 when he was nearly 70 and Olivia was about 40. The couple moved later to Bath after Richard’s retirement from his Kilmore parish church.

Sister: Frances Maria Hobson (née Hall-Dare), known to one and all as Faneen (b. 1852) married the Reverend Edward Waller Hobson (b. 1851) on 11 June 1891. (He played rugby for Ireland in his youth and went on to have a successful career in the Church of Ireland.) During the writing of this letter the couple were based at Moy, Co. Tyrone (1881-1895); the rectory of St James’ all but abuts the church. All Mabel’s letters were meant for circulation among her sisters and other relatives.

Aunt: Olivia Frances Lambart (‘Loodleloo’), sister of Mabel’s mother, Frances Anne Catharine Hall-Dare (née Lambart, d. 1862). A spinster, Loodleloo was in effect the children’s guardian following the death of both their parents (their father Robert Westley Hall-Dare (b. 1817) having died in April 1866). She died on 9 July 1898, a heavy blow for Mabel (and her sisters), just fourteen months after the death of Theodore in May 1897.

For details of Mabel’s family, see Hall-Dare at http://www.thepeerage.com/i1692.htm#s22714

For more on Mabel’s letters, see http://tambent.com/mabels-letters/ and the collection in the Royal Geographical Society, London (https://rgs.koha-ptfs.co.uk/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=330)

All Mabel’s quotes are from ‘The Travel Chronicles of Mrs. J. Theodore Bent. Volume II: The African Journeys‘ (2012, Archaeopress, Oxford).

For any other reference or explanation, please contact info@tambent.com

The images are:

1) Detail of Map: ‘Part of Matabele, Mashona and Manica Land, illustrating the journey of Theodore Bent, Esq. from Shoshong to the Pungwe River.’ (Fort Salisbury (Harare) is roughly at Lat. 18/Long. 31) From ‘Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society’, Vol. 14, No. 5 (May 1892), facing page 298. Private collection.

2) ‘Crossing a stream. The Pioneer Corps of the British South Africa Company on the way to Mashonaland’. Cover illustration (detail) from The Graphic, 25 October 1890. Private collection.

3) A plan of Fort Salisbury as Mabel and Theodore would very likely have encountered it in September 1891.