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SIR ROBERT HART




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SIR ROBERT HART

rUE ROMANCE OF
^A QREAT CAREER



TOLD BY HIS NIECE

JULIET BREDON



WITH PHOTOGRAVURE PORTRAIT
AND THIRTY-TWO ILLUSTRATIONS



London : HUTCHINSON & CO.
Paternoster Row ^o m^t* 1909



c






w. ^■



Pi

i CONTENTS



PAGE

A WORD OF INTRODUCTION . . . i



CHAPTER I

EARLY YEARS ....



CHAPTER II

FIRST YEARS IN CHINA — LIFE AT NINGPO — THE
ALLIED COMMISSION AND SIR HARRY PARKES
— RESIGNATION FROM THE CONSULAR SERVICE 29

CHAPTER III

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE IMPERIAL CHINESE CUS-
TOMS — A VISIT TO SIR FREDERICK BRUCE —
THE SHERARD OSBORNE AFFAIR — APPOINTED
INSPECTOR-GENERAL 53

CHAPTER IV

ORDERED TO LIVE AT SHANGHAI — FIRST MEETING
WITH "CHINESE GORDON" — THE RECONCILIA-
TION BETWEEN GORDON AND LI HUNG CHANG
— THE TAKING OF CHANG-CHOW-FU — DISBAND-
MENT OF " THE EVER-VICTORIOUS ARMY " —
REWARDS FOR GORDON ... -77



28S:t3?



CONTENTS



CHAPTER V PAGE

ORDERED TO LIVE IN PEKING — " WHAT A BY-
STANDER SAYS " — A RETURN TO EUROPE —
MARRIAGE — CHINA ONCE AGAIN — THE BUR-
LINGAME MISSION — FIRST DECORATION — THE
"WASA" of SWEDEN AND NORWAY . . I05

CHAPTER VI

BIRTH OF A SON — THE MARGARY AFFAIR AND THE
CHEFOO CONVENTION — A SECOND VISIT TO
EUROPE— THE PARIS EXHIBITION OF 1878 . 129

CHAPTER VII

YUAN PAO HENG SUGGESTS PROHIBITION OF OPIUM
SMOKING IN CHINA — NEW BUILDINGS FOR THE
INSPECTORATE — THE FIRST INFORMAL POSTAGE
SERVICE — THE FRENCH TREATY OF 1 885 —
OFFERED POST OF BRITISH MINISTER . . 153

CHAPTER VIII

AN IMPORTANT MISSION TO HONGKONG AND MACAO
THE BEGINNING OF A PRIVATE BAND — DE-
CORATIONS, CHINESE AND FOREIGN — THE
SIKKIM-THIBET CONVENTION — FORMAL ESTAB-
LISHMENT OF THE POST OFFICE — WAR LOANS 1 79

CHAPTER IX

THE PROLOGUE TO THE SIEGE — BARRICADES AND
SCALING LADDERS — THE SIEGE PROPER — A
MESSAGE FROM THE YAMEN AND AN IMPOR-
TANT TELEGRAM — RELIEF AT LAST — NEW
QUARTERS — NEGOTIATIONS — THE CONGRESS
OF PEKING — AN IMPERIAL AUDIENCE . . 205

CHAPTER X

SOME QUIET YEARS — A CHANGE OF MASTERS — IN-
SOMNIA — A FAREWELL AUDIENCE — AN HONOUR
AND ITS ADVERTISEMENT — AH FONG AND
OTHERS — DEPARTURE FROM PEKING — " A
SMALL INSIGNIFICANT IRISHMAN " . . • 23I

vi



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

SIR ROBERT HART . . . Photogravure Frontispiece

FACING PAOE
THE CANAL : THE ROUTE BY WHICH SIR ROBERT HART

FIRST CAME TO PEKING 34

A VIEW OF OLD PEKING SHOWING CONDITION OF ROADS 64

A ROAD IN OLD PEKING DURING THE RAINY SEASON . 68

SIR ROBERT HART ABOUT 1866 88

UNDER THE PEKING CITY WALL TOWARDS TUNGCHOW —

ALONG THE GRAND CANAL I08

A PICNIC IN OLD PEKING TOWARDS YUEN MING YUEN 120

WELL NEAR THE CANAL, BRITISH LEGATION, BEFORE

1900 134

SIR ROBERT HART IN 1878 I46

OUTSIDE SIR ROBERT HART'S HOUSE BEFORE I9OO . I58

PEKING : A MESSENGER CARRYING MAILS IN THE

RAINY SEASON I60

A SECRETARY GOING TO THE INSPECTORATE OFFICES

DURING THE RAINY SEASON 162

STABLES OF SIR ROBERT HART IN THE RAINY SEASON 168

THE INSPECTORATE STREET BEFORE I9OO . . . I72

ENTRANCE TO THE INSPECTORATE OF CUSTOMS BEFORE

1900 176

vii



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



FACING PAGK

SIR ROBERT HARX's BAND IN THE EARLY 'NINETIES . 184

SIR ROBERT HART'S CHINESE BAND . . . . 186

SIR ROBERT HART'S STABLES IN 189O .... I90

SIR ROBERT HARX'S PRIVATE CART .... I96

THE IMPERIAL CHINESE POST OFFICE ENTRANCE ON A

RAINY DAY IN THE 'NINETIES .... I98

A GARDEN PARTY GIVEN BY SIR ROBERT HART TO

GOVERNOR TRUPPEL (OF KIAOCHIAO) AND PARTY . 202

LADY HART 208

SIR ROBERT HART IN HIS PRIVATE OFFICE . . . 2IO

SIR ROBERT HART AND A GROUP OF CUSTOMS PEOPLE . 2l6

SIR ROBERT HART AND MISS KATE CARL . . . 222

PEKING PEACE PROTOCOL, I901 228

A CORNER OF SIR ROBERT HART'S GARDEN : A WINTER

VIEW 234

ANOTHER WINTER VIEW OF SIR ROBERT HART's GARDEN 236

TING'RH, OR CHINBSE PAVILION, IN SIR ROBERT HART'S

GARDEN, PEKING 238

SIR ROBERT HART AND HIS STAFF (FOREIGN AND

CHINESE), PEKING, I903 24O

SIR ROBERT HART WISHING MISS ROOSEVELT " BON
VOYAGE " ON HER DEPARTURE FROM PEKING, SEP-
TEMBER 16, 1906 242

FRONT DOOR OF SIR ROBERT HART's HOUSE, PEKING . 246

FRONT VIEW OF SIR ROBERT HART'S HOUSE . . . 248



vm



A WORD OF INTRODUCTION



A WORD OF INTRODUCTION

C EVENTY-THREE years ago a little Irish
boy lay in his aunt's lap looking out on
a strange and mysterious world that his solemn
eyes had explored for scarcely ten short days,
while she, to whom the commonplaces of
everyday surroundings had lost their first
absorbing interest, was busily engaged in
braiding a watch-chain from her splendid,
Titian-red hair. These chains were the fashion
of the hour, and the old family doctor, friend
as well as physician, paused after a visit to the
boy's mother, to joke her about it : " You're
making a keepsake for your sweetheart, I see."
" No, indeed," she answered gaily with a
toss of her bonny head, " I'm making a
wedding present for this new nephew of
mine when he marries your daughter."

3



SIR ROBERT HART



It was a long-shot prophecy. The doctor
was even then a man past his first youth ;
the neighbours looked upon him as a con-
firmed bachelor ; he seemed as unlikely ever
to possess a daughter as a diamond mine.
Yet, all these improbabilities notwithstanding,
he had taken to himself the luxury of a wife
within a very few years, and soon children were
climbing on his knees. I cannot say whether
this red-haired young woman had the gift of
second sight or whether, by some subtle power
of suggestion, she willed the doctor to carry
out her prophecy. I only know that the
prophecy was startlingly fulfilled, for among
his children was one little girl who, when
she grew to womanhood, did marry the nephew
and did get the watch-chain as a wedding
gift.

The doctor's daughter was an aunt of mine,
and her romantic marriage, by tying our two
families together, gave me some slight claim
on her husband's affection. Propinquity after-
wards ripened what opportunity had begun ;

4



THE ROMANCE OF A GREAT CAREER

we lived long side by side in a far-away
corner of the world, and from the formal
relationship of uncle and niece soon slipped
into that still better and warmer companion-
ship of friend and friend.

For me the friendship has ever been, is,
and always will be, a thing to take pride in,
a thing to treasure. Nor will you wonder
when 1 confess that he of whom I speak is
none other than the great Sir Robert Hart,
the man whose life has been as useful as
varied, as romantic as successful.

The story of it can be but imperfectly
written now. There are many shoals in the
form of diplomatic indiscretions to steer clear
of ; there is much weighing and sifting of
political motives for serious historians to do,
but the time has not come for that. Much
of the romance of his long career in China
lies over and above such things, and of the
romantic and personal side I here set down
what I have gathered from one and from
another — chiefly from those who have had

5



SIR ROBERT HART



the opportunity to collect their information
at first hand, who either knew him sooner
than I or were themselves concerned in
the events described — in the hope that some
readers may sufficiently enjoy the romance of
a great career to forgive any imperfections in
the telling for the sake of the story itself



CHAPTER I



EARLY YEARS



CHAPTER I

O OBERT HART began his romantic life
^ in simple circumstances. He was born
on the 20th day of February 1835, in a little
white house with green shutters on Dungannon
Street, in the small Irish town of Portadown,
County Armagh, and was the eldest of twelve
children. His mother, a daughter of Mr. John
Edgar, of Ballybreagh, must have been a delight-
ful woman, all tenderness and charity, judging
from the way her children's affections became en-
twined around her. His father, Henry Hart,
was a man of forceful and picturesque character,
of a somewhat antique strain, and a Wesleyan
to the core. The household, therefore, grew
up under the bracing influence of uncompro-
mising doctrines ; it was no unusual thing for
one member to ask another at table, " What

9



SIR ROBERT HART



have you been doing for God to-day ? " and so
rigidly was Sunday observed that, had the
family owned any Turners, I am sure they
would have been covered up on Saturday
nights, just as they were in Ruskin's home.

When the young Robert was only twelve
months old the Harts moved to Miltown, on
the banks of beautiful Lough Neagh, remaining
there barely a year. Then they moved again —
this time to Hillsborough, where he attended
his first school. It came about in this way.
One afternoon he was called into the parlour by
his father. Two visitors — not by any means
an everyday occurrence in Miltown — were
within. One was a stoutish man with sandy
hair, the other a very long person like a
knitting-needle. The stout man called the boy
to him, passed his hand carefully over the
bumps of his head, and then, turning to the
father, said, " From what I gather of this
child's talents from my examination of his
cranial cerebration, my brother's system of
education is exactly the one calculated to de-

lO



THE ROMANCE OF A GREAT CAREER

velop them." The men were two brothers
named Arnold, who proposed to open a little
school in Hillsborough and were tramping
the country in search of pupils.

At the impressionable age of six or there-
abouts an aunt fired the boy's imagination
with stories of the departed glories of the
Hart family. She used to tell him how their
ancestor, Captain van Hardt, came over from
Holland with King William, fought at the
Battle of the Boyne and greatly distinguished
himself ; how afterwards, in recognition of his
gallant services, the King gave him the town-
ship of Kilmoriarty as a reward ; how the
gallant captain settled himself down there,
kept his horses, ate well, drank deep, and
left the place so burdened with debt that one
of his descendants was obliged to sell it.

" When I'm a man," the little fellow would
say solemnly after hearing these things, " I'll
buy back Kilmoriarty — and I'll get a title
too." Of course she laughed at him quietly,
thinking to herself how time and circumstances

II



SIR ROBERT HART



would separate the lad from the goodly com-
pany of his ambitions. Yet, after all, he
saw clearer than she ; he never wavered in the
serious purpose formed before he reached his
teens, and he actually did buy back Kilmoriarty
when it came on the market years afterwards.
As for a title, he gained a knighthood, a grand
cross and a baronetcy — thus fulfilling the
second part of his promise grandly.

From the care of the phrenologist brothers
Arnold, Robert Hart was taken over to a
Wesleyan school in Taunton, England, by
his father. This journey gave him his first
sight of the sea and his first acquaintance with
the mysteries of a steamer. The latter took
firm hold of his imagination ; he long re-
membered the name of the particular vessel
on which they crossed, the Shamrock^ and
many years later he was destined to meet her
again under the strangest circumstances.

In England he stayed only a year, just
long enough to make his first friend and learn
his first Latin. The friend he lost, but

12



THE ROMANCE OF A GREAT CAREER

recovered after an interval of forty years ;
the Latin he kept, added to, and enjoyed all
his life long.

When the summer holidays came, one of
the tutors, a North of Ireland man himself,
agreed to accompany the lad back to Belfast ;
but in the end he was prevented from starting,
and the Governor of the school allowed the
eleven-year-old child to travel alone. He
managed the train journey safely as far as
Liverpool, betook himself to a hotel, and called,
with a comical man-of-the-world air, for re-
freshment. Tea, cold chicken and buns were
brought him by the landlady and her maids,
who stood round in a circle watching the
young traveller eat. His serious ways and
his solemn air of responsibility touched their
women's hearts so much that when the time
came for him to sail they took him down to
the dock and put him on board his ship,

Henry Hart met his son at Belfast, and was
so angry at finding he had been allowed to
travel alone that he vowed the lad should

13



SIR ROBERT HART



never go back to Taunton, and therefore sent
him to the Wesleyan Connexional School in
Dublin instead. Here his quaint, merry little
face, his ready laugh, and above all his willing-
ness to perform any trickery that they sug-
gested, made him a favourite among the boys
at once. To the masters he must have been
something of a trial, I imagine, with his habit
of asking the why and wherefore of rules and
regulations and his refusal to submit to them
without a logical answer. One day, for in-
stance, when a certain master spoke somewhat
sourly and irritably to him, Robert Hart then
and there took it upon himself to deliver him a
lecture which, in its calm reasoning, was most
disconcerting.

*' It is wonderful the way you treat us boys,**
he said, "just as if you were our superior; just
as if you were not a little dust and water like
the rest of us. One would think from your
manners you were our master, whereas you are
really our servant. It is we who give you
your livelihood — and yet you behave to us in

14



THE ROMANCE OF A GREAT CAREER

this high-handed manner." That tirade natu-
rally made a pretty row in the school, but the
obdurate young orator melted under the coax-
ings and cajolings of the Governor's gentle and
distressed wife, and duly apologized.

The slightest of excuses served to turn him
suddenly from a clever, scatter-brained imp of
mischief into a serious student. It happened
that the whole school met on an equahty in
one subject — Scripture History, The head of
that class, therefore, enjoyed a peculiar prestige
among his fellows, and it was clearly under-
stood that a certain Freckleton, a senior and
the good boy of the school, should hold this
pleasant leadership. What was more natural,
since he was destined to '* wag his head in a
pulpit " ^ But Robert Hart could not see the
matter in this light. Some spirit of contra-
dictoriness rising in him, he thought a little
dispute for first place in Scripture would add
spice to a naughty boy's school life and both
amuse and amaze. So on Sundays, while the
rest of the boys were otherwise occupied, he

IS



SIR ROBERT HART



would walk up and down the ball alley secretly
studying Scripture.

When the examination day came the whole
school was assembled ; questions flew back
and forth. Now one boy, now another dropped
out of the game ; at last only Freckleton and
Hart were left, the big boy prodigiously ner-
vous, rubbing his hands on his knees, the
small one aggravatingly cool and collected.
At last the examiner called for a list of the
Kings of Israel. Freckleton stumbled. The
question passed to Hart, and, while the boys sat
tense with excitement, he answered fluently and
correctly. The first place was his, and a hearty
cheer greeted his unexpected success.

After this little victory the Governor of the
school remarked to him :

" Now you see what you can do when you
try, Hart ; why don't you try ? "

Why not, indeed ? Here was a new idea.
He accepted it as a challenge, took it up
eagerly, and from that day on devoted himself
to study with an enthusiasm as thorough as

16



THE ROMANCE OF A GREAT CAREER

sudden. Everything there was to study, he
studied — even stole fifteen minutes from his
lunch hour to work at Hebrew — till the boys
laughingly nicknamed him the " Stewpot " and
the " Consequential Butt."

The result was that at fifteen he was ready
to leave the school the first boy of the College
class, and his parents were puzzled what to do
with him next. His father considered it un-
wise to send such a young lad away to Trinity
College, Dublin, where he would be among
companions far older than himself ; and the end
of the matter was that he went to the newly
founded Queen's College at Belfast instead,
because that was nearer Hillsborough and the
family circle.

He passed the entrance examinations easily,
and of the twelve scholarships offered he
carried off the twelfth — nothing, however, to
what he was to do later. The second year
there were seven scholarships, and he got the
seventh ; the third there were five, and he got
the first. He heard the news of this last

17 c



SIR ROBERT HART



triumph one afternoon in a little second-hand
book-store where the collegians often gathered.
It was a gloomy day wrapped in a grey blanket
of rain, and he was not feeling particularly con-
fident — his besetting sin from the first was
modesty — when suddenly a fellow-student
rushed up and said, *' Congratulations, Hart.
You've come out first."

*' What," retorted Hart, astonished, " is the
list published already } " They told him
where it was to be seen, and he hurried oft
to look for himself. Quite likely they were
playing a joke on him, he thought. But it
was no joke after all ; his name stood before
all the others — though he could scarcely be-
lieve his own eyes, and did not write home
about it till next day, for fear that the good
luck might turn to bad in the night.

Unfortunately these successes left him little
time for the sports which should be a boy's
most profitable form of idling. He ran no
races after he left Taunton, where he was
known for the fleetest pair of heels in the



THE ROMANCE OF A GREAT CAREER

school ; he played no games, neither cricket
nor football, not even bowls or rounders — but
these amusements he probably missed the less
as they were not popular at Belfast, the College
being new and without muscular traditions,
and the students chiefly young men of narrow
means and broad ambitions.

On the rare occasions when he had time for
recreation, he either made a few friends in the
world of books — Emerson's " Essays " in-
fluenced him most — or tried his own hand at
literature. Once he even went so far as to
write a poem and send it to a Belfast news-
paper, signing it " C'est Moi." It was printed,
and, being short of money at the time, he wrote
his father that his first published writing had
appeared, and received from his proud parent
£io by way of encouragement.

But his literary success was short-lived.
When he tried the same editor with another
efiiision signed with the same pen-name, the
unfeeling man actually printed in his columns :
" ' C'est Moi's ' last is not worth the paper it is

19



SIR ROBERT HART



written on." Alas ! for the prophet in his own
country. Years afterwards he got another
criticism just as harsh from another Irish paper.
It was a review of his book " These from the
Land of Sinim," and the Irish reviewer for
some unknown reason rated the book
thoroughly, declared its opinions were ridicu-
lous, its English neither forcible nor elegant,
and concluded with the biting remark, " We
hear that the writer has also composed poems
which were lost in the Peking Siege, thank
God."

In 1853 Hart was ready to pass his final
Degree Examinations. They were held in
Dublin, where the three newly established
Irish Colleges — Cork, Galway and Belfast —
took them together. Belfast had been for-
tunate the year before in carrying off several
" firsts," and the men were anxious to do as
well as, or even better than, on the previous
occasion. So they arranged amongst them-
selves that each should cram some particular
subject and try for honours in it.

20



THE ROMANCE OF A GREAT CAREER

Young Hart, with his character compounded
of energy and ambition, agreed to take two
as his share. One was English, the other
Logic, which he had studied under the famous
Dr. McCosh, which he delighted in, and which
undoubtedly developed his natural talent for
getting directly at the point of an intricate
matter. He worked eighteen hours a day
during the last three weeks before the Litera-
ture Examination, and when it came he did
well — at least, so he supposed.

The rule was that only those in each class
who had shown marked ability and knowledge
of their subject at the " pass " examination
should be recommended for re-examination for
honours. But to his surprise, when the list
was read out, Hart's name was not even
amongst the successful candidates. The Belfast
students were thoroughly angry. They felt
the honour of the College was at stake ; he
had not done his share in upholding it, and
they did not hesitate to tell him so. Hart
listened to their reproaches and answered never



SIR ROBERT HART



a word, but quietly went on, in the week that
intervened between the pass examination and
the final, with his preparations for the latter.
The ability to do so showed courage and
character — and he had both in an unusual
degree.

The very night before the "final" his
reward came. Some one hurried up his stairs
and burst into his little sitting-room. It was
the Professor — the famous George Lillie Craik
— who had set the papers for the Literature
class.

" I come to apologize to you for a mis-
take," he said very kindly, "and to explain
why you have not been chosen for re-exami-
nation. The truth is you answered so well
at the ' pass ' that I wrote your name on the
first sheet, and nobody else's — as nobody came
near you. Unfortunately this page, almost
blank, was mislaid, and that is how it happened
that you, who should have been chosen before
all the rest, were overlooked. Now I want
to ask you to come up for re-examination to-

22



THE ROMANCE OF A GREAT CAREER

morrow, and, at the same time, wish you the
best of luck."

Robert Hart went — and won. He received
a gold medal and ^15 for this subject, a gold
medal and £ 1 5 also for Logic and Metaphysics,
and sufficient honour and glory besides to turn
a less well-balanced head.

Meanwhile the choice of a future career
naturally filled the young man's thoughts. First
he seriously debated whether he should become
a doctor, but gave up the idea when he found
he came home from every operation imagining
himself a sufferer from the disease he had just
seen treated. Next there was some talk of
putting him into a lawyer's office — talk which
came to nothing ; and finally a lecture he
heard on China at seventeen almost decided
him to become a missionary to the heathen,
but he soon abandoned this plan like the
others.

After taking his B.A. he went instead to
spend a post-graduate year at Belfast, and read
for a Master's degree — this in spite of the fact

23



SIR ROBERT HART



that he was worn out with the strain of eighteen
hours' work a day, and used to see authors
creeping in through the keyhole and wake in
the night to find illuminated letters dancing a
witches' dance around his bed.

Then, just at the critical moment of his life
— in the spring of 1854 — the British Foreign
Office gave a nomination for the Consular
Service in China to each of the three Irish
Queen's Colleges, Belfast, Cork and Galway.
He immediately abandoned all idea of read-
ing for a fellowship, and applied. So did
thirty-six others. A competitive examination
was announced, but when the College authori-
ties saw Hart's name among the rest, they
gave the nomination to him, without exami-
nation.

Two months later he presented himself at
the Foreign Office in London and saw the
Under-Secretary of State, Mr. (afterwards Lord)
Hammond, who gave him some parting advice.
" When you reach Hongkong," said he, " never
venture into the sun without an umbrella, and

24



THE ROMANCE OF A GREAT CAREER

never go snipe shooting without top boots
pulled up well over the thighs." As no snipe
have ever been seen on Hongkong, the last
bit of counsel was as absurd as the first was
sensible.

He actually started for China in May 1854.
It is not easy to imagine in these feverish days
of travel what that journey must have meant to
a young Irish lad brought up in a small town —
a lad to whom even London probably seemed
very far away. But the mothers of other sons
can give a pretty shrewd guess at how the
mere thought of it must have terrified those he
was leaving behind. " Will he come back a
heathen ^ " one might ask, and another — but
never aloud — " Will he come at all .? "

But, whatever they felt, none would have
selfishly held him back ; on the contrary, they
were all encouragement, and the last thing his
father did was to put into the young man's


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