[ Augustus Hare, author. ] Autograph Letter Signed to Sir Richard Harington, with copies of two others, apologising for publishing an anecdote regarding Harington's relation Dean Smith of Christ Church. With autograph drafts of two Harington letters.

Augustus Hare [ Augustus John Cuthbert Hare ] (1834-1903), English author; Sir Richard Harington (1835-1911) of Ridlington, 11th Baronet [ Samuel Smith (1765-1841), Dean of Christ Church, Oxford ]
Publication details: 
Hare autograph letter: The Athenaeum, Pall Mall, S.W. [ London ]; 9 February 1897. Hare copy letters: Holmhurst, St. Leonard's on Sea; 10 and 11 December 1896. Harington's two draft letters: Whitbourne Court, Worcester; 8 and 12 February 1897.
SKU: 19546

Four items, in good condition, lightly aged and worn. An interesting correspondence, casting light on the proprieties of Victorian biographical writing. Hare's 'The Story of my Life' was published in six volumes between 1896 and 1900, and was described by the original DNB as ‘a long, tedious, and indiscreet autobiography’. The Oxford DNB remarks that 'By the late twentieth century, however, Hare was undergoing something of a revival. A society of enthusiasts and collectors of his works was formed: a one-volume condensed edition of his autobiography was edited by A. Miller and J. Papp in 1995, and it and the original proved a useful source for those interested in country-house life in the later nineteenth century.' The 'defamatory' passage that is the subject of the complaint by Harington and the family of Dean Smith in the present correspondence is paraphrased by Harington in Item Four below. ONE: Manuscript 'Copies' (presumably by Henry Smith or a member of his family, see Item Three) of two letters from Hare [to Henry Smith]. Both from Holmhurst, St Leonards on Sea [the first on cancelled letterhead of the Shire Hall, Worcester]; 10 and 11 December 1896. On the same bifolium. Totalling 4pp., 12mo. In the letter of 10 December he states that he is 'sorry to learn from you that anyone has been pained by anything in the “Story of my Life” | The story you mention was told me (as quoted from a letter to my mother) by a lady who was intimate with your family. She was certainly unconscious of doing anything unkind in repeating a well known & popular anecdote which I have since often heard at dinner tables both in Oxfordshire & Yorkshire – so often that I imagined everyone considered it historic'. He continues with his defence, pointing out that the anecdote is responsible for 'the well known nick name [of Dean Smith] – so familiar still at Ch Ch'.' As he is 'unwilling to cause the slightest pain, the passage shall certainly be omitted henceforth'. In a postscript he writes: 'My publishers are in no sense responsible for my books as I pay for them entirely. I alone am to blame if there is blame.' Letter of 11 December begins: 'On looking again at yr. letter today, it strikes me in quite a different light. It is possible that you thought that I, or my readers, or the readers of the story where it has appeared elsewhere, or the many who say they heard Dr. Smith narrate it, regarded the story as true! - that never occurred to me before! As far as I know it has been universally regarded as such a story as an elderly lover of anecdote would tell against himself, evolving it from his own imagination, with a very considerable sense of humour & no idea of any serious construction being placed upon it – and certainly with little idea of who would be the first to place such a construction. From what I have heard he was always himself amused by the soubriquet which arose from the story. Besides regretting anything that has given you pain, I regret that I did not insert the words “wholly imaginary” - “told this wholly & [sic] imaginary story against himself”'. TWO: Hare [to Harington]. 5pp., 12mo. He begins by thanking him for his 'very kind letter', and expresses sorrow 'for any pain your uncle has felt through the “Story of my Life”.' He explains that 'the earlier volumes' of the book were written seventeen years before, and that it had been 'printed some years – though with no intention of publication till long after my death; an arrangement which, last year, circumstances induced me to alter'. Publication has allowed him to 'correct errors – the story of Alexander the Great for instance, which I had already been made aware that I had most stupidly spoilt.' When he agreed to publication he had 'no idea of the possibility of a son & daughters of Dean Smith being alive: indeed the latter seemed to me quite old ladies when I saw them above thirty years ago'. He recalls that after he took his degree he lived 'much at Oxford with my cousin Canon Stanley', and that he 'often heard the story, which was an especial favourite with him', and that when he 'went to Doncaster, I was taken to see the ladies, because of their (supposed) connection with the story'. He has 'expunged' the anecdote from 'the second edition (not out yet)'. He has been assured by '[s]everal young men' to whom he has mentioned Harington's uncle's letter that 'they have heard it before – always, of course, as an old gentlemans story told in obliviousness of the construction which his hearers might place upon it'. He ends by claiming to be well acquainted with Harington's son: 'I think he would let me say that he was a friend of mine'. Both of the autograph drafts of Harington's letters to Hare are signed with initials. THREE: Draft of Harington to Hare. 8 February 1897. 4pp., 12mo. With deletions and emendations. Begins: Dear Sir, | My Uncle Henry Smith has shown me the correspondence which passed between himself & you last December with reference to the defamatory anecdote which you related in your autobiography touching my grandfather, Dr Gaisford's predecessor as Dean of Ch. Ch.' He accepts Hare's 'assurance that the story was inserted without any intention of giving the pain & annoyance which it undoubtedly has to his descendants & that it will be omitted in future editions but I must protest against your speaking of it or the sobriquet which you have attached to him as familiar still at Ch Ch.' He points out that he is himself 'an old Student of Ch Ch. of within a month or two exactly the same University standing as yourself, & Oxford has been the home of my boyhood since 1842.' Hare's story was 'perfectly well known' in Harington's time, 'but told not of Dr Smith but of another man – an old gentleman nearly in his dotage himself quite as incapable of such an act as my grandfather, but of whom it was told in <?> of his imbecility.' He boasts of 'an unbroken succession of descendants of my grandfather at Ch Ch or living in Oxford, for more than 70 years down to my son Edward whom you have met in County & know. My Father was a Ch Ch man, my father in law an old Student of Ch Ch.' He presents further information repudiating the anecdote, before pointing out how Hare has lost the point of 'the Alexander the Coppersmith story of Dean Gaisford'. FOUR: Draft of Harington to Hare. 12 February 1897. 4pp., 12mo. With extensive deletions and emendations. Continuing in the same vein, with reference to his 'undergraduate days', and with biographical information relating to Smith's family. He recounts the anecdote as it was 'really told in the thirties' and 'associated with no name in particular': 'Two men went out in a boat – one fell overboard & was drowned. The survivor called upon the mother of the drowned man & said Madam I have something important to communicate. As your son & I were out in a boat he unfortunately fell overboard. He clung to the side of the boat & would have upset it had I not had the presence of mind to hit him on the hand with the stretcher. Failing this we should both have perished. As it is your son was drowned, & I have escaped to bring you the news.' The letter concludes: 'Thank you much for the manner in which you received my letter. I had the pleasure of showing yours to Mr William Rose Smith the present head of the family, who happened to be on a visit here when it arrived and he was much pleased with it'. From the Harington family papers.