Augustus John Cuthbert Hare (1834-1903) A member of a well-connected ‘county’ family, Augustus Hare regarded himself as a ‘gentleman’ in a very particular sense, and would make much of his status in advancing his social and literary careers. His striking watercolours of Mediterranean and other landscapes complemented and extended his work as a travel writer.
Augustus Hare was born at the Villa Strozzi, Rome, on 13 March 1834, the youngest child of Francis George Hare of Herstmonceux, Sussex. A year later, in August 1835, he was adopted by his aunt and godmother, Maria, the widow of his uncle, Augustus William Hare. He received his early education from the Rev Robert Kilvert at Hardenhuish rectory, Wiltshire, and while there befriended Kilvert’s son, Francis, now remembered as a diarist. Ill health terminated his schooling at Harrow after a year, from 1847 to 1848, and he then studied under private tutors until he went up to Oxford, to University College, in 1853.
On graduating in 1857, Hare spent a year in Italy, returning to England to write his first guide books, anonymously authoring Murray’s Handbook to Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire (1861) before putting his name to Winter at Mentone (1862).
His extended travels on the Continent between 1863 and 1870, enabled him to write such volumes as Walks in Rome (2 vols, 1871) and Cities of Northern and Central Italy (1876).
In the same period, Hare began a career as a biographer with a pious memoir of his adoptive mother, Memorials of a Quiet Life (2 vols, 1872-76). This proved extremely popular, and Thomas Carlyle told Hare that he had wept over its pages. As a result of this success, he obtained his ideal commission, to write the Life and Letters of Frances, Baroness Bunsen (2 vols, 1879). His research for this project enabled him to visit the Crown Princess Victoria who then introduced him to her sister Sophie, Queen of Sweden, and other members of the European Royal Families. He was even employed to conduct the young Swedish Crown Prince Gustave around the sights of Rome.
Living from 1870 in Sussex, at St Leonards-on-Sea, Hare continued to accept innumerable invitations to country houses in order to further his social standing. In this period, he wrote a number of popular ghost stories and further biographies, including an autobiography, The Story of My Life (a useful abridged edition by Malcolm Barnes appearing in 1952).
An exhibition of his watercolours took place at the Leicester Galleries, London, in July 1902. He died at home on 22 January 1903.
Further reading: Elizabeth Baigent, ‘Hare, Augustus John Cuthbert (1834-1903)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol 25, pages 244-245; Malcolm Barnes, Augustus Hare, London: Allen & Unwin, 1985