Friday, 22 April 2016

Original Source: The Modest Augustus Hare

How can you approach a written source which has been produced by a person who thinks so much of himself that he devotes six large volumes to his own wonderful life?  The answer is:  with caution.  Augustus Hare (1834-1903) wrote a number of books, concerning travel, notable upper crust families he was connected to, plus the copious volume devoted to himself.  A pertinent comment about his character was written by the New York Times (sourced, I must admit, from Wikipedia):   ‘Mr Hare's ghosts are rather more interesting than his lords or his middle-class people.’  This comment was inspired by the habit of Hare to intersperse a large number of supernatural anecdotes amongst his writings about the upper-middle classes in his autobiography.  This has to be borne in mind when anyone considers his version of the Glamis legends, though he was undoubtedly one of the major propagators of supernatural stories concerning this castle.

   As well as being a writer, Hare also enjoyed performing as a raconteur among a wide circle of friends, and the subject he enjoyed speaking about particularly was ghost stories.  This naturally leads to the suspicion that he at least expanded some of his tales, because every good speaker needs a large fund of stories to tell.  Hare’s multi-volume autobiography, The Story of My Life, was published between 1896 and 1900.  I admit that I have not tackled reading the whole six books, bearing in mind the comment of S.E. Fryer, who tersely states of this work in The Dictionary of National Biography, that it is  ‘ a long, tedious, and indiscreet autobiography, [which] owed its vogue to its “stories” of society.’  So, with that in mind, we can look at his opinions about Glamis Castle.

   Hare was distantly related to the Bowes-Lyon family and his work gives important information relating to Glamis.  Apparently he was the great-great-grandson of Lady Anne Simpson, daughter of the 8th Earl of Strathmore.  Whether that gave his unique access to the inner circle of the Strathmores is dubious, but his stories possibly galvanised the Victorian view of the mysteries of this extraordinary building.

 In the fifth volume of his life story, Hare tells of his visit to  Glamis Castle, entered under the date of [Friday] 26th October 1877.  The writer came to Glamis from Hutton, arriving in the evening, meeting Mr Waldegrave Leslie and Lady Rothes at the station:

As we drove up to the haunted castle at night, its many turrets looked most eerie and weird against the moonlit sky, and its windows blazed with red light. The abundance of young life inside takes off the solemn effect ... only Lord Strathmore himself has an ever sad look.  The Bishop of Brechin, who was a great friend of the house, felt this strange sadness so deeply that he went to Lord Strathmore, and... said how, having heard of the strange secret which oppressed him, he could not help entreating him to make use of his services as an ecclesiastic, if he could in any way, by any means, be of use to him.  Lord Strathmore was deeply moved, though he said that he thanked him, but that in his most unfortunate position no one could ever help him.  He has built a wing to the castle, in which all the children and all the servants sleep.  The servants will not sleep in the house, and the children are not allowed to do so.

   Augustus goes on to mention the 'Secret Room' which he thought may be entered through a painted panel in the chapel, though others believed it was entered through Lord Strathmore's study and occupied the space above the crypt.     

   The author back back at Glamis again on 13th August 1879, leaving on 24th August, though nothing ghostly is reported on this occasion.

   The alleged pained attitude of the earl will be considered in the next post.

Hare again.

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