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About the Book

The Vagrant Mood is a brilliantly varied and colourful collection of essays. From Kant to Raymond Chandler; from the legend of Zurbaran to the art of the detective story; from Burke to Augustus Hare, Somerset Maugham brings his inimitable mastery of the incisive character sketch to the genre of literary criticism.

About the Author

William Somerset Maugham was born in 1874 and lived in Paris until he was ten. He was educated at King’s School, Canterbury, and at Heidelberg University. He spent some time at St. Thomas’ Hospital with the idea of practising medicine, but the success of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, published in 1897, won him over to letters. Of Human Bondage, the first of his masterpieces, came out in 1915, and with the publication in 1919 of The Moon and Sixpence his reputation as a novelist was established. At the same time his fame as a successful playwright and short story writer was being consolidated with acclaimed productions of various plays and the publication of The Trembling of a Leaf, subtitled Little Stories of the South Sea Islands, in 1921, which was followed by seven more collections. His other works include travel books, essays, criticism and the autobiographical The Summing Up and A Writer’s Notebook.

In 1927 Somerset Maugham settled in the South of France and lived there until his death in 1965.



The Moon and Sixpence

Of Human Bondage

The Narrow Corner

The Razor’s Edge

Cakes and Ale

The Merry-Go-Round

The Painted Veil


Up at the Villa

Mrs Craddock

Christmas Holiday

The Magician


Liza of Lambeth

Then and Now

Collected Short Stories

Collected Short Stories Vol. 1

Collected Short Stories Vol. 2

Collected Short Stories Vol. 3

Collected Short Stories Vol. 4

Short Stories


Far Eastern Tales

More Far Eastern Tales

Travel Writing

The Gentleman in the Parlour

On a Chinese Screen

Don Fernando

Literary Criticism

Ten Novels and their Authors

Points of View


A Writer’s Notebook

The Summing Up


The Vagrant Mood


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Epub ISBN 9781407074740

Published by Vintage 2001

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Copyright © The Royal Literary Fund

W. Somerset Maugham has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work


First published in Great Britain by William Heinemann in 1952

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About the Book

About the Author

Also By W. Somerset Maugham

Title Page


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI




Three of the essays in this volume appeared in The Cornhill. One was delivered as a lecture at the Philosophical Colloquium of the University of Columbia, but I have rewritten it in the hope of making it more easily readable. Part of the final essay appeared many years ago in Life and Letters.

W. S. M.



I think I must be one of the few persons still alive who knew Augustus Hare. I had published a first novel which had had some success and he asked a common friend, a minor canon of St. Paul’s, to invite me to dinner so that we might meet. I was young, twenty-four, and shy; but he took a fancy to me, because, tongue-tied though I was, I was content to listen while he discoursed, and shortly afterwards he wrote to me from Holmhurst, his house in the country, and asked me to come down for the week-end. I became a frequent guest.

Since the kind of life he lived there is lived no longer, I think it may be not without interest to describe the daily round. Sharp at eight in the morning a maid in a rustling print dress and a cap with streamers came into your room with a cup of tea and two slices of thin bread and butter, which she placed on the night table; if it was winter a tweeny followed her, in a print dress too, but not so shiny nor so rustling, who raked out the ashes of the fire which had been lit the night before, and laid and lit another. At half-past eight the maid came in again with a small can of hot water. She emptied the basin in which you had made a pretence of washing before going to bed, put the can in the basin and covered it with a towel. While she was thus occupied the tweeny brought in a sitz-bath, laid a white mat so that water should not splash the carpet, and on it, in front of the blazing fire, placed the sitz-bath. On each side of this she set a large can of hot water and a large can of cold, the soap-dish from the washing-stand and a bath-towel. The maids retired. The sitz-bath must be unknown to the present generation. It was a round tub perhaps three feet in diameter, about eighteen inches deep, with a back that rose to your shoulder-blades when you were sitting in it. Outside it was japanned a bilious yellow and inside painted white. As there was no room for your legs, they dangled outside, and you had to be something of a contortionist to wash your feet. You could do nothing about your back but trickle water down it from your sponge. The advantage of the contraption was that as your legs and back were out of the water you had no occasion to dawdle as you do in a bath in which you can lie full length, so that though you lost the happy thoughts and fruitful reflections which you might otherwise have had, you were ready to go downstairs at nine o’clock when the breakfast bell rang.

Augustus was already in his chair at the head of the table, laid for the hearty meal he was soon to partake of. In front of him was the great family Bible and a large Prayer Book bound in black leather. Seated, he looked solemn and even imposing. Standing, however, because he had a long body and short legs, he lost something of his impressiveness and indeed looked a trifle ridiculous. The guests took their seats and the servants trooped in. A row of chairs had been placed for them in front of the sideboard, on which, besides a noble ham and a brace of cold pheasants, various good things to eat were kept hot in silver entrée dishes by the thin blue flames of methylated spirit. Augustus read a prayer. He had a strident, somewhat metallic voice and he read in a tone that seemed to suggest that he was not one to stand any nonsense from the deity. Sometimes it happened that a guest was a minute or two late; he opened the door very cautiously and slunk in on tiptoe, with the air of one who seeks to make himself invisible. Augustus did not look up; he paused in the middle of a sentence and remained silent till the late-comer had seated himself, and then proceeded from where he had left off. The air was heavy with reproof. But that was all: Augustus made no reference afterwards to the sluggard’s tardiness. When he had read a certain number of prayers Augustus closed the book and opened the Bible. He read the passages marked for the day, and having finished, uttered the words: ‘Let us pray.’ This was the signal for us all to kneel, the guests on hassocks and the servants on the Turkey carpet, and we recited in chorus the Lord’s Prayer. Then we scrambled to our feet, the cook and the maids scuttled out of the room; in a moment the parlour-maid brought in tea and coffee, removed Bible and Prayer Book, and put the tea-kettle and coffee-pot in their place.

I was accustomed to family prayers and I noticed that some of the prayers Augustus read sounded strangely in my ears. Then I discovered that he had neatly inked out many lines in the Prayer Book he read from. I asked him why.

‘I’ve crossed out all the passages in glorification of God,’ he said. ‘God is certainly a gentleman, and no gentleman cares to be praised to his face. It is tactless, impertinent and vulgar. I think all that fulsome adulation must be highly offensive to him.’

At the time this notion seemed odd to me and even comic, but since then I have come to think that there was some sense in it.

After breakfast Augustus retired to his study to write the autobiography on which he was then engaged. He neither smoked himself, nor allowed smoking in the house, so that such of his guests as hankered for the first pipe of the day had to go out of doors, which was pleasant enough in summer when you could sit down with a book in the garden, but not so pleasant in winter when you had to seek shelter in the stables.

Luncheon, a substantial meal of eggs or macaroni, joint, if there were no left-overs from the night before, with vegetables and a sweet, was at one, and after a decent interval Augustus, in a dark town suit, black boots, a stiff collar and a bowler hat, took his guests for a walk in the grounds. The property was small, rather less than forty acres, but by planning and planting he had given it something of the air of a park in a great country house. As you walked along he pointed out the improvements he had made, the resemblance he had achieved here to the garden of a Tuscan villa, the spacious view he had contrived there, and the wooded walks he had designed. I could not but observe that notwithstanding his objection to treating God with fulsome adulation, he accepted the compliments of his guests with a good deal of complacency. The promenade ended with a visit to the Hospice. This was a cottage he had arranged for the entertainment of gentle-women in reduced circumstances. He invited them for a month at a time, supplied them with their travelling expenses, farm and garden produce and groceries. He enquired if they were comfortable and had everything they wanted. No duchess, bringing calves-foot jelly and half a pound of tea to a cottager on the estate, could have combined condescension with beneficence with a more delicate sense of the difference that exists between the conferring of favours and the accepting of them.

After that it was time to go back to tea. This was a copious repast of scones, muffins or crumpets, bread and butter, jam, plain cake and currant cake. The better part of an hour was spent over this, and Augustus talked of his early life, his travels and his many friends. At six he went to his study to write letters and we met again when the second bell called us down to dinner. We were waited on by maids in black uniforms, white caps and aprons, and were given soup, fish, poultry or game, sweet and savoury; sherry with the soup and fish, claret with the game, and port with the nuts and fruit. After dinner we returned to the drawing-room. Sometimes Augustus read aloud to us, sometimes we played an intolerably tedious game called Halma, or, if he thought the company worthy, he told us his famous stories. The clock struck ten and Augustus rose from his chair by the fire. We marched out into the hall, where candles in silver candle-sticks were waiting for us, lit them and walked upstairs to our respective bedrooms. There was a can of hot water in the basin and a fire blazed in the hearth. It was difficult to read by the light of a single candle, but it was enchanting to lie in a four-poster and watch the glow of the fire till the sleep of youth descended upon you.

Such was a day in one of the smaller country houses at the end of the nineteenth century, and such, more or less, throughout the land was the day in hundreds upon hundreds of houses belonging to persons who, without being rich, were well enough off to live in the great comfort which they looked upon as the way in which gentlefolk should live. Augustus was houseproud, and nothing pleased him more than to show guests the relics of a ‘wealthy past’, with which Holmhurst was filled. It was a rambling house of no architectural merit, with wide corridors and low ceilings, but by adding another room or two, building archways in the garden, decorating it here and there with urns and statues, among which was one of Queen Anne and her four satellites which had once stood in front of St. Paul’s, Augustus had managed to give the place an air. It might have been the dower-house on the estate of a great nobleman, which, if there was no dowager to inhabit it, might be appropriately lent to an aunt who was the relict of a former ambassador to the Ottoman court.


Augustus was profoundly conscious of the fact that he was the representative of an ancient county family, the Hares of Hurstmonceux, connected, though distantly, with members of the aristocracy; and though its fortunes were fallen, his sense of the consequence this gave him remained unabated. He was like an exiled king, surrounded with such objects of departed grandeur as he has saved from the wreck, who is hail-fellow-well-met with the rag-tag and bobtail his altered circumstances force him to frequent, but who is alert to watch for the bobs and bows that his graciousness might induce ill-conditioned persons to omit.

Though Augustus was apt to mention with a deprecating smile that he was descended from a younger son of King Edward I, the family fortunes were founded by Francis Hare, a clever parson who had the good luck to be Sir Robert Walpole’s tutor at King’s College, Cambridge. Walpole’s advancement, as we know, was furthered by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and it may be surmised that it was by her influence that Francis Hare was appointed Chaplain-General to the forces in the Low Countries. He rode by the side of the great general at the battles of Blenheim and Ramillies. With such powerful friends it is not surprising that his merits did not go unrewarded. He was made Dean of Worcester and then of St. Paul’s; and the second of these lucrative offices he continued to hold when he was created first Bishop of St. Asaph’s and then Bishop of Chichester. He made two very profitable marriages. By his first wife, Bethaia Naylor, he had a son, Francis, who inherited the vast and romantic castle of Hurstmonceux and a handsome estate, and then added the name of Naylor to that of Hare. By his second wife, a great heiress, he had a son Robert, whose godfather, Sir Robert Walpole, as a christening present bestowed on him the sinecure office of sweepership of Gravesend, worth £400 a year. This he held to the day of his death. Sir Robert took sufficient interest in his old tutor’s son to advise that he should adopt the Church as his profession, since he could thus best provide for his future. Robert took orders and was given first a living and then a canonry at Winchester. The bishop was a prudent man and while Robert was still very young arranged a marriage for him with the heiress of a property close to that of his own wife. By her he had two sons, Francis and Robert, and soon after her death he married another heiress. His elder brother died childless and the Canon of Winchester inherited Hurstmonceux Castle. The bishop must have been well satisfied with his son’s station in life.

The bishop’s descendants, however, seem to have inherited little of his worldly wisdom, for from that time the fortunes of the family began to decline. The first step was taken by the canon’s second wife. She dismantled the castle and from it took the floors, doors and chimney-pieces for a large new house called Hurstmonceux Place which she built in another part of the park. The canon’s eldest son, Francis Hare-Naylor, the grandfather of our Augustus, was a good-looking ne’er-do-well, bold, witty and extravagant; he seems to have got himself periodically arrested for debt and in order to extricate himself from his difficulties was obliged to raise money on his prospects from the Hurstmonceux estates. He had taken the fancy of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who introduced him to her cousin Georgiana, daughter of Jonathan Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph. The pair eloped, whereupon their respective families ‘renounced them with fury’ and neither the Bishop of St. Asaph nor the Canon of Winchester ever saw them again. They went abroad and lived on the two hundred pounds a year which the Duchess allowed them. They had four sons, Francis, Augustus, Julius and Marcus. When Francis Hare-Naylor, the husband of Georgiana Shipley, eventually succeeded his father he sold the remnants of his ancestral estates for sixty thousand pounds. On his death, in 1815, his eldest son Francis Hare, for since he no longer owned Hurstmonceux he abandoned the additional name of Naylor, came into possession of what remained of the family fortunes, and proceeded to live a life of pleasure till his circumstances obliged him, like many another spendthrift at that time, to take up his residence on the Continent. But he was apparently still well enough off to give large dinner parties twice a week. He kept good company and counted Count D’Orsay and Lady Blessington, Lord Desart, Lord Bristol, Lord Dudley among his more intimate friends. In 1828 he married Anne, a daughter of Sir John Paul, the banker, and by her had a daughter and three sons. The youngest of these, born in 1834, was the Augustus who is the subject of this essay.

Though the Hurstmonceux estates had been sold the family had retained the advowson of the rich living. The incumbent was the Reverend Robert Hare, the younger son of Francis Hare-Naylor, and it was understood that he should be succeeded by the Reverend Augustus Hare, one of Francis Hare’s three brothers. Of Marcus, the youngest of the three, I have been able to discover nothing except that he married a daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley, had a ‘place’ at Torquay, complained when he was staying at Hurstmonceux Rectory that the water with which the tea was made was never on the boil, and died in 1845. Julius was a Fellow of Trinity and a very learned man. With his brother Augustus he was the author of a book called Guesses at Truth, which in its day was popular with the devout. When the Reverend Robert Hare died his nephew the Reverend Augustus Hare did not wish to leave the parish of Alton Barnes, to which he had been appointed, and persuaded his brother Julius to accept the living of Hurstmonceux in his place. It was a wrench to Julius to leave Cambridge, but he had too great a sense of duty to allow a valuable piece of property to go out of the family and so consented to the sacrifice. He eventually became Archdeacon of Lewes.

The Reverend Augustus Hare married Maria, daughter of the Reverend Oswald Leicester, Rector of Stoke-upon-Terne. He died in Rome, whither he had gone for his health, in 1834, the year in which our Augustus was born. It was after him that my hero was named and the widow, Mrs. Augustus Hare, was his godmother. Francis and Anne Hare, the child’s parents, found it none too easy to live in the style suitable to their position and at the same time support a family, and they were very much annoyed when their last son was born. Maria Hare was childless, and on her return to England after burying her husband it occurred to her that they might be willing to let her adopt her godson. She wrote to her sister-in-law and shortly afterwards received from her the following letter:

‘My dear Maria, how very kind of you. Yes, certainly the baby shall be sent as soon as it is weaned; if anyone else would like one, would you kindly remember that we have others.’

The child in due course was ‘sent over to England with a little green carpet-bag containing two little white night-shirts and a red coral necklace.’

Maria Hare’s father, the Reverend Oswald Leicester, belonged to a family of great antiquity, which claimed direct descent from Gunnora, Duchess of Normandy, grandmother of William the Conqueror. He belonged thus to the same class as the Bertrams of Mansfield Park and Mr. Darcy of Pemberley. The Reverend Oswald Leicester was a sincere Christian, but he had a very proper notion of what befitted an English gentleman. He would have agreed with Lady Catherine de Bourgh that Elizabeth Bennet was not the sort of person Mr. Darcy should marry. Reginald Heber, the hymn-writer, afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, was Rector of Hodnet, which was only two miles from Maria Leicester’s home, and she spent long periods with him and his wife. Reginald Heber had a curate called Martin Stow and since we are told nothing about his antecedents we must conclude that he was not ‘a gentleman born’. Maria Leicester and Martin Stow fell in love with one another, but her father would not hear of his daughter’s union with ‘a mere country curate’, and she was too dutiful a daughter to marry without his consent. When Reginald Heber was appointed to the bishopric of Calcutta he offered his Indian chaplaincy to Martin Stow, who accepted it in the hope that this preferment would induce the Reverend Oswald Leicester to look upon his suit with favour. His hope was frustrated, Maria and Martin met and parted, and a few months later the sad news was brought her that Mr. Stow had died of fever. Now, the Reverend Augustus Hare was a cousin of Mrs. Heber’s and a friend of Martin Stow. He was the confidant of the lovers. His was a willing ear when they needed to pour out their troubles. On hearing of Martin Stow’s death Maria Leicester wrote to Augustus Hare as follows:

‘I must write a few lines, although I feel it almost needless to do so, for Augustus Hare knows all my feelings too well to doubt what they must be now . . . it is to you I turn as the sharer, the fellow sufferer in my grief . . . I know that if you can you will come here. When we have once met it will be a comfort to mourn together.’

They met, they corresponded, and, as Maria wrote in her Journal, ‘unconsciously and imperceptibly the feelings of esteem and friendship,’ with which she had regarded Augustus, ‘assumed a new character, and something of the tenderness and beauty attending a warmer interest’ took their place. Two years after the death of Martin Stow Augustus asked her to marry him and she agreed. ‘Secure in the affection of Augustus,’ she wrote again in her Journal, ‘I feel no longer a blank in life, and everything takes a new and bright colouring.’ But it was not till a year later that she received her father’s consent to the engagement. It may be surmised that he gave it because he thought it would be for the happiness of his daughter, thirty-one years old by this time, an age then at which a maiden, as Mr. Wordsworth somewhat ungallantly put it, was withering on the stalk; but also because he thought an alliance between the Hares of Hurstmonceux, descended from a younger son of King Edward I, and the Leicesters of Toft, descended from Gunnora, Duchess of Normandy, could not but be regarded as suitable. Moreover, with the rich living of Hurstmonceux to fall to Augustus on the death of his Uncle Robert, Maria would be able to live in the style appropriate to a gentleman’s daughter. Though both families were sincerely imbued with the conviction that this life was merely a post-inn, as it were, in which they sojourned for a brief space on their way to their heavenly home, they saw no reason why they should not make their temporary abode as comfortable as possible.

After the death of her husband Maria Hare spent some months with Julius, her brother-in-law, at Hurstmonceux and then took a house near-by, called Lime, which remained her home for twenty-five years. When she adopted the little Augustus, her godson, it was with the idea that he should be brought up to take Holy Orders and in due course succeed his Uncle Julius as Rector of Hurstmonceux. She started to train him in virtue from the beginning. When he was only eighteen months old she wrote in her Journal: ‘Augustus has grown much more obedient, and is ready to give his food and playthings to others.’ His religious education was her constant care and when he was three, by which time he could read and was learning German, she took pains to explain to him the mystery of the Trinity. When he was four his playthings were taken away from him and banished to the loft, so that he should learn that there were more serious things in life than toys. He had no companions of his own age. There was a poor woman who lived close to the gate of Lime whom Maria Hare often visited to relieve her necessities and by her pious exhortations persuade her to accept her lot as a special blessing of Providence. This woman had a little boy, whom Augustus longed to play with, and once did in a hayfield, but he was so severely punished for it that he never did again. To Mrs. Hare (Miss Leicester of Toft as was) it was not only a duty, it was a labour of love to visit the poor, but it was out of the question to allow a gentleman’s son to play with a working-man’s.

On March 13, 1839, she wrote in her Journal: ‘My little Augustus is now five years old. Strong personal identity, reference of everything to himself, greediness of pleasure and possession, are I fear prominent features in his disposition. May I be taught how best to correct his sinful propensities with judgment, and to draw him out of self to live for others.’

Notwithstanding everything, however, Augustus was sometimes naughty. Then he was sent upstairs ‘to prepare’, which, I take it, means to take down his knicker-bockers and bare his little bottom, and Uncle Julius was bidden to come from his rectory to beat him. This he did with a riding-whip. Mrs. Hare was afraid of over-indulging the child and he only had to express a wish to have it refused. On one occasion she took him to visit the curate’s wife and someone gave him a lollypop, which he ate, but when they got home the smell of peppermint betrayed him and he was given a large dose of rhubarb and soda with a forcing spoon to teach him in future to avoid carnal indulgence.

Meanwhile Maria Hare had made the acquaintance of the Misses Maurice, Priscilla and Esther, sisters of Frederick Maurice, the evangelist. They kept a school at Reading, but every year came to stay at Lime for a period. They were intensely, even aggressively, religious and they acquired a great influence over Mrs. Hare. One of its results was that she adopted more stringent measures so to form the character of Augustus that he might become a worthy minister of Christ. Till then he had had roast mutton and rice pudding every day for dinner. An occasion came when he was told that a delicious pudding was to be served. It was talked of till his mouth watered. It was placed on the table and he was just about to eat the helping he had been given when it was snatched away from him and he was told to get up and take it to some poor person in the village. Mrs. Hare wrote in her Journal: ‘Augustus would, I believe, always do a thing if reasoned with about it, but the necessity of obedience without reasoning is especially necessary in such a disposition as his. The will is the thing that needs being brought in subjection.’ And again: ‘Now it seems to be an excellent discipline whereby daily some self-denial and command may be acquired in overcoming the repugnance to doing from duty that which has in itself no attraction.’

Mrs. Hare in this sentence did not express herself with her usual clarity. I think she must have meant that if Augustus, aged then five, was forced to do every day something he didn’t want to do, he would eventually want to do it.

Once a year Maria took Augustus to stay with her parents at Stoke. They went in their own chariot, spending the night at post-inns, and even after the railway was built they continued to go in their chariot placed on a truck. When at last they came to use ordinary railway carriages they still had post-horses to meet them at a station near London, because Mrs. Hare would not have it known that she did anything so excessively improper as to enter London in a railway carriage.

Mrs. Leicester, Maria’s step-mother, was severe but kind to Augustus. If he made a noise at home he was at once punished, but at Stoke Mrs. Leicester would say; ‘Never mind the child, Maria, it is only innocent play.’ She knew her duty as a clergyman’s wife. She taught in the village school and when she thought it necessary to chastise her pupils, would take a book from the table and on using it say to the offender: ‘You don’t suppose I’m going to hurt my fingers in boxing your ears,’ and then: ‘Now we mustn’t let the other ear be jealous,’ upon which she soundly smacked it. The curates came to luncheon at the Rectory on Sundays, but they were not expected to talk, and if they ventured on a remark were snubbed. After they had eaten their cold veal they were called upon to give Mrs. Leicester an account of what they had been doing during the week, and if they had not done what she wished they were harshly chidden. They were obliged to come in by the back door, except Mr. Egerton, who was allowed to come in by the front door because he was a gentleman born. When Augustus told me this story, I, being young, was shocked.

‘Don’t be so silly,’ he said when I expressed my indignation, ‘it was perfectly natural. Mr. Egerton was a nephew of Lord Bridgewater. The others were nobodies. It would have been very impertinent of them to ring the frontdoor bell.’

‘D’you mean to say that if they happened to come to the Rectory together, one would have gone to the front door and the other to the back?’

‘Of course.’

‘I don’t think it speaks very well for Mr. Egerton.’

‘I dare say you don’t,’ Augustus answered tartly. ‘A gentleman knows his place and he takes it without giving it a second thought.’

Mrs. Leicester ruled the maids as strictly as she ruled the curates. When annoyed with them she had no hesitation in boxing their ears, which, such were the manners of the time, they never thought of resenting. The washing was done every three weeks and it was a rule of the house that it must begin at one in the morning. The ladies’-maids, who were expected to do the fine muslins, had to be at the wash-tubs at three. If one was late the housekeeper reported it to Mrs. Leicester, who gave her a good scolding. But Mrs. Leicester had a lighter side. Maria Hare thought it sinful to read fiction and in the evenings read Miss Strickland’s Queens of England to her parents. Pickwick was coming out then in monthly numbers and Mrs. Leicester took them in. She read them in her dressing-room, behind closed doors, with her maid on the watch against intruders, and when she had finished a number she tore it up into little pieces which she threw in the waste-paper basket.

When Augustus was nine Mrs. Hare, on the insistence of the Misses Maurice, sent him to a preparatory school, and in the summer holidays, after the usual visit to Stoke, she took him for a tour of the English lakes. Uncle Julius accompanied them, and Maria, wishing to give Esther Maurice a rest after her arduous work at Reading, invited her to join the party. It was a dangerous kindness. Julius Hare proposed to Esther Maurice and was accepted. Maria Hare shed bitter tears when they told her of their engagement. Esther shed bitter tears and Julius ‘sobbed and cried for days’. Ever since her husband’s death Julius had been Maria’s constant companion. He came to dinner at Lime every evening at six, leaving at eight, and Maria constantly drove up to the Rectory in the afternoon. Julius ‘consulted her on every subject, and he thought every day a blank when they had no meeting.’ Doubtless, since the Prayer Book and the laws of England forbade her to feel any warmer emotion for him, her affection remained strictly that of a sister-in-law for her brother-in-law, but she would have been more than human if she had welcomed the notion of another woman, a protégée of her own, becoming the mistress of Hurstmonceux Rectory. But however distasteful such a prospect was, she had a more serious objection to the marriage. Mr. Maurice was a scholar and a clergyman, but he was not a gentleman born, and the manners of the Misses Maurice, high-minded and worthy as they were, were not the sort of manners she was accustomed to. They were not ladies. Martin Stow perhaps was not a gentleman born, but her dear dead Augustus had been the first to admit his excellence and nobility of character. She loved him, but she had accepted her father’s decision that he was not the sort of person it was proper for her to marry.

The marriage took place. Mrs. Julius Hare, now Aunt Esther to Augustus, was a deeply religious woman, but of a harsh and domineering character. ‘She looked upon pleasure as a sin and if she felt that the affection for somebody drew her from the thorny path of self-sacrifice she tore that affection from her heart.’ To such of the poor as accepted her absolute authority she was kind, generous and considerate; and to ‘her husband, to whom her severe creed taught her to show the same inflexible obedience she exacted from others, she was utterly devoted.’ For his soul’s good she set herself to subdue the little Augustus. Since she was determined that her marriage should make no difference in the habits of the two families, and Julius had dined every night at Lime, she insisted that Maria Hare and Augustus should dine every night at the Rectory. In winter it was often impossible for them to go home after dinner and they passed the night at the Rectory. Augustus was a delicate boy and suffered badly from chilblains so that there were often large open sores on his hands and feet. Aunt Esther put him to bed in an unfurnished damp room with a deal trestle to sleep on, a straw palliasse and a single blanket. The servants were not allowed to bring him hot water and in the morning he had to break the ice in the pitcher with a brass candlestick or, if that had been taken away, with his wounded hands. Still for the good of his soul, because the smell of sauerkraut made him sick he was made to eat it. Sunday was a day of respite. Owing to her religious duties Maria Hare did not go to the Rectory, but Aunt Esther, fearing that Maria would indulge him, persuaded her to let Augustus be locked up in the vestry between services with a sandwich for his dinner. He had a cat to which he was devoted, and when Aunt Esther discovered this she insisted that it should be given up to her. Augustus wept, but Maria Hare said he must be taught to give up his own way and pleasures to others. With tears he took it to the Rectory and Aunt Esther had it hanged.

It is almost inconceivable that a pious, God-fearing woman could have treated a child of twelve with such inhumanity. I have wondered whether her behaviour to him, besides her determination to train him in the way of virtue and self-sacrifice, was not occasioned also by a desire, of which she may well have been unconscious, to give the adopted mother who adored him a needful lesson. Maria Hare had been very good to Esther Maurice, but had there not been something in her manner which never let the humble friend forget that Mrs. Hare was her benefactress and that there was a great gulf fixed between a young woman, of the highest principles certainly, but of humble origins, and Maria Leicester of Toft, the widow of a Hare of Hurstmonceux? Is it not possible that Esther Maurice, like Charlotte Brontë in her situation as a governess, saw slights when only kindness was intended, and in a dozen little ways felt that the subservience of her position was never entirely absent from Maria’s mind? When she became Mrs. Julius Hare did it never cross her mind that it could only do dear Maria good to suffer? And she did suffer. But she accepted her distress at the miseries inflicted on the boy as a fiery trial that must be patiently endured.

I shall pass over the next few years of Augustus’s life. On leaving his preparatory school, he went to Harrow, but owing to illness only stayed there for a year and until he was old enough to go to Oxford lived with tutors. He took his degree in 1857 and then started on the main business of his life. This was to paint in water-colours, see sights and mix in high society. He made his first sketch from nature when he was seven. Maria Hare drew well, and as she could not but look upon this accomplishment as harmless, she fostered Augustus’s inclinations and gave him useful lessons. She would look at a drawing carefully and then say: ‘And what does this line mean?’ ‘Oh, I thought it looked well.’ ‘Then, if you don’t know exactly what it means, take it out at once.’ This was sound advice. As Maria Hare deprecated colour, he was allowed to use only pencil and sepia, and it was not till he was grown up that she permitted him to paint in water-colour. He made endless sketches. The walls of Holmhurst were papered with the best of them in handsome frames and he had albums full of them. At this distance of time I cannot judge of their quality. Years later Maria Hare showed some of them to Ruskin, who examined them very carefully and at last pointed out one as the least bad of a very poor collection. Augustus had an eye for the picturesque and as I look back I have a suspicion that the critic was unduly severe. They were painted in the style of the mid-nineteenth century, and if they are still in existence might be found now to have a certain period charm.


When Augustus was only fourteen, at a tutor’s at Lyncombe, he was already an indefatigable sight-seer. To visit an ancient house or a fine church he would often walk twenty-five miles a day. So that he should not be led astray Mrs. Hare sent him back to his tutor’s with only five shillings in his pocket and he went on these excursions without a penny to buy himself a piece of bread. Many a time he sank down by the wayside, faint with hunger, and was glad to accept food from the ‘common working people’ he met on the road. But neither his delight in painting the picturesque nor his passion for sights was as important to him as to get into society. In this endeavour he started with certain advantages. Through his parents he was connected with a number of noble and county families, and through his adopted mother with several more. However distant the relationship he counted all their members as his cousins.