Mabel alone – after Theodore’s death

This page is respectfully dedicated to Pat Hodgson (née Reed, 1928-2007), Cambridge history graduate, author, and pioneer picture researcher, who for twenty-five years or so was fascinated by Theodore and Mabel Bent (probably following in their footsteps on her frequent holidays to Greece), and eventually embarking on a biography of them which, sadly, never came to fruition. Her manuscript is in the care of the Bent Archive, and what stands out, particularly in early days when research meant letters and delays and long trips to remote repositories, were Pat’s ‘discoveries’ of an album of Theodore’s watercolours in Harare, folders of correspondence and memos in the India and Foreign Office, details of Mabel’s eccentric behaviour in Palestine in the first decade of the 20th century, including her intrigues, her bookshop, and her involvement with the British-Israelites, and making a good case that the widowed Mabel, as a tribute to her dead partner, may have buried the clay stamp seal the couple acquired in the Wadi Hadramaut in Bethel, near Jerusalem, thus instigating the ‘Mystery of the Bethel Seal’, a mystery that remains… A tribute to Pat appears in the 2008 Girton College Annual Review, pages 130-1.

The heading of Mabel’s final Chronicle of 1898 reads ‘A lonely useless journey’, suggesting that even if she were not recalling it with bitterness at some later point, then she was well into the trip, alone in her hotel room, when she took out her notebook and began to write. The downbeat tone of the Chronicle continues on (Friday) 11 March 1898 when Mabel leaves Egypt for Athens, arriving there on 13 March. Her diary peters out after four days. Her last chronicled words, after fifteen years of note-taking and with her dead husband clear in her thoughts, are extremely touching in their understatement: ‘Of course I have not neglected the antiquities either’.

However, her (possible) trip along the Nile in 1889/1900 may have seen her back to her old self and ready for adventures new!

Morning Post – Monday 24 May 1897 : “Mrs. Theodore Bent wishes to thank her friends very much for their many kind letters of sympathy. Having been so recently ill herself, she is unable as yet to make any other acknowledgement. She is at present out of town.”

More will be added here in due course – meanwhile click on the links to get an idea!


The publication of her classic monograph ‘Southern Arabia’ (1900)

A schedule of her journeys to Palestine in the 1900s and adventures there

Her controversial interfering in Jerusalem (see reference below to Charlotte Hussey).

The notorious ‘Bethel Seal’ incident. Did Mabel ‘plant’ her ceramic seal from the Hadramaut as a token of remembrance for Theodore in the early 1900s and sparking an unsolved mystery?

The publication of her two obscure volumes ‘A Patience Pocket Book’ (1904) & ‘Anglo-Saxons from Palestine: or, the Imperial mystery of the lost tribes’ (1908)

Her unfolding obsession with the curious British Israelites, as illustrate in this ‘press release’ she penned for the Belfast Evening Telegraph (Monday, May 25, 1914): “Mrs. Theodore Bent, who lately returned from her annual visit to the Holy Land, is now settled in town for the season, and is, as usual, much occupied with her social and philanthropic duties… Mrs. Bent recently organised a sale of work in connection with the society of the ‘British Israelites’, in which she is keenly interested, and a two-days’ conference, of which she attended this month. A good many people are interested in this society, and in the alleged connection between the English people and the ‘Lost Tribes’. It is all really a close study of the history depicted in the Old Testament, and those who pursue the connection referred to prove very earnest students indeed in their efforts to substantiate its truth, and their society has the Earl of Dysart for its patron, and Mr. Douglas Onslow for its president.” (Eight weeks later the world was at war and Mabel’s activities were curtailed; she was obliged to remain in the UK.)

Her publication of a series of wall-maps of Palestine in 1912.

Her involvement in the so-called ‘Garden Tomb’ in Jerusalem and the small pamphlet by A. W. Crawley-Boevey (revised and enlarged by Mabel and Miss Hussey), published by the Committee of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (1920s). Charlotte Hussey was Mabel’s friend in Jerusalem and a main protagonist in the sad affair involving the Consul John Dickson (1847-1906), over which questions were asked in the House of Commons in November 1902 by the MP for West Yorkshire, James Yoxall. Gertrude Bell’s diary hints that Mabel was also very active in Jerusalem again in February in 1905.

Mabel’s bookshop and stays at the Pension Hughes/Hughes’ Hotel, and later the Grand New Hotel, near Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate, in the early 1900s, perhaps from where she caused some controversy among the expat community and British consular officials.

(For a glimpse of Jerusalem at the time of Mabel’s regular annual trips (on and off for almost twenty years from 1900), see the album presented by Dublin’s Representative Church Body Library.)

Mabel Bent’s 1921 Census Record – her sister and brother-in-law are with her, as well as her secretary and two domestic staff members (UK, Open Government Licence).

Links with family and friends in Ireland and elsewhere and her busy two decades attending charitable and social events while residing at her London home, 13 Great Cumberland Place, where she was at the time of the 1921 census.


Her final years, her stroke/incapacitation a few years before her death in July 1929, and obituaries.

Her legacy