Alice Green Hoffman had many friends. Most of what we know about them comes from Alice’s unpublished autobiography or from their having married famous husbands.The four we know the best are featured here: Helen Benedict Hastings, Edna Ryle, Lillie De Hegermann-Lindencrone and Princess Victor Duleep Singh.
Helen Benedict Hastings (1871-1936)
Alice entitles a chapter of her autobiography “Helen” and makes references to her in other sections as well.[ii] When Alice and Helen met at a lunch with Kitty Butterfield, a mutual friend, Alice’s interest in things French was already apparent. She had the habit of sprinkling French words in her English. Years later, Helen admits thinking Alice was affected and made it her responsibility to rid her of affectations. Teasingly, Helen says doing so was a difficult job, like “sawing logs.”
Born in 1871, Helen was nine years younger than Alice. Helen’s mother seems to have had early doubts about the influence of this older single woman on her daughter and expressed reluctance to have Alice join the family on its yacht. Nonetheless, Alice was persistent and describes times spent at Indian Harbor with the Benedicts at a yacht club that still exists in Greenwich, Connecticut.
One reason Mrs. Benedict may have been especially protective was that her daughter Helen and son Fred had hearing disabilities. But, Mrs. Benedict need not have worried about Alice’s friendship with them because their disabilities seem to have brought out Alice’s strengths. She would position herself between Helen and Fred on social occasions and at theatrical performances to serve as translator for them both. In her autobiography, Alice says, “...I don’t know anything more touching than to sit between her and her brother Fred... & see their eyes turn to me whenever they missed anything on the stage.” When Helen began to use an ear trumpet, Alice would read into the trumpet to share books with her.
As time went by, ear trumpets continued to shrink so that by 1890 or so many ear trumpets were around 25 cm (12”) long and collapsed into shorter sections for ease in carrying them. This photo shows a three-section hard- rubber ear trumpet collapsed to 17.8 cm (7”) (c. 1890.)[iv]
Alice expresses disapproval of the Benedicts’ seeming lack of concern for their children’s hearing loss. They had two other daughters, Martha and Louise, so the demands of a large family may explain what Alice perceived as a lack of attention to Helen and Fred. Later, when Helen’s disability was creating “dreadful noises in her head,” we learn she was seeing hearing specialists.
Alice admired how Helen, despite her disability, maintained her sense of humor. Alice could always make Helen laugh and was charmed not only by Helen’s “incomparable wit” but also by her amazing musical abilities, her love of the outdoors and spirit of adventure. In the late 1800s, Alice and Helen travelled together to Paris and rented a place at 55 Champs-Elysees. Alice remembers, “When we were in Paris, Helen used to drive the Coach to Versailles.... Of course I sat beside her, for she depended on me to be her ears....”
In 1900, Helen Benedict married Architect Thomas Hastings.
Helen helped him when he was designing a residence for the Benedicts. Some time before they married, Helen had typhoid fever and was still struggling with the aftereffects. The family seemed to put a lot of stress on her, worsening her fragile physical and emotional condition. Her parents had offered and then withdrew the offer to have the couple live in the Benedict home Hastings had designed. It seems, instead, they provided an exceptionally large dowry (see marriage notice below).
The family was hoping that Helen, once married, would abandon her friendship with Alice. However, their friendship continued. Alice stood by Helen and was a source of strength for her. To Alice’s delight, the newly married couple went to Paris for their honeymoon, staying in a private suite she elaborately prepared for them in her home, which was then at 29 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne.
Thomas Hastings, five years earlier, had established the firm of Carrère and Hastings with John Merven Carrère. Early on they achieved such architectural accomplishments as the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida, now part of Flagler College; Hotel Alcazar, which became the Lightner Museum; and, probably his most famous building, the New York Public Library.
Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida, designed by Carrère and Hastings[viii]
In recognition of his architectural reputation, Thomas Hastings was appointed to the Jury of Architects at the Paris Exposition of 1900. Although Alice seemed to like “Tommy” and was pleased he and Helen were celebrating their honeymoon at her home, she once again shows her protective side, expressing some disappointment that he had his career utmost in mind even during his honeymoon. Regarding the Paris Exposition, Alice says, “...he could have dispensed with that honour to have had a little more time with his bride.”
Later, after Carrère’s death, Thomas Hastings went on to design such famous places as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery and the Henry Clay Frick House, now a museum, on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Thomas and Helen were married 29 years. He died of complications of an appendectomy October 22, 1929. Helen outlived him by nine years, dying in 1936. Interestingly, this is around the time Alice would leave Paris and move, more or less, permanently to Pine Knoll Shores.
The only friend to visit Alice in Pine Knoll Shores was Edna Ryle, whose maiden name we do not know. Edna is somewhat of a mystery to us. She was married to Ernest Ryle. Edna and Ernest owned a fishing and hunting camp in Canada where Alice spent happy summer days after her divorce in 1910. The camp, which later burned down, was in the woods, and in addition to offering lodging, provided guides. Alice discovered how much she loved the wild outdoors during her stay with Edna and Ernest in Canada, an experience that influenced her attraction to Bogue Banks five years later.
Unfortunately, she could not duplicate that experience when Edna came to Bogue Banks. At the time, Alice either was still renting a cottage from John Royall or just bought it. She was remodeling. The weather, unfortunately, turned cold. Alice’s fireplaces were not well vented, and the construction noise was annoying.
The only other details we learn from Alice’s autobiography are that Edna was present when Alice attended an auction to buy property in Jamaica, Long Island, and, later, that Alice imported Arabica coffee beans from the Esperanza plantation in the Chiapas region of Mexico because her friends Ernest and Edna Ryle had an interest in the Esperanza Plantation.
Lillie De Hegermann-Lindencrone (1844-1928)
Reproduced for the portrait painted in 1880 by B.C. Porter and reprinted with The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life)[ix]
But, back to earlier years and to Lillie De Hegermann-Lindencrone, who being 18 years older than Alice was often referred to as Mrs. or Mme. Hegermann-Lindencrone. She served as Alice’s hostess in Stockholm and Copenhagen, introducing her in royal circles, and then continuing to befriend her in France.
Lillie was a Greenough, a wealthy family from Cambridge, Massachusetts. She grew up living with her grandfather Judge Fay in what is now the Fay House at Radcliff College.
Fay House [x]
Lillie was a talented singer and, at 15, went to London with her mother to study voice. At 17, she married Charles Moulton, an American banker who resided in Paris. There she began her contacts with ruling families, being a guest at the court of Napoleon III. Charles Moulton died shortly after returning to the states. A few years later, Lillie married M. de Hegermann-Lindencrone, who at the time was a Danish minister to the U.S. He later represented Demark in Stockholm, Rome, Paris and Berlin as well as in Washington, D.C. Lillie’s book of letters, The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, documents her experiences year by year.
An online bio of her says: “She was, by her own description, a friend and favourite of a number of contemporary royal houses, being intimate with Christian IX of Denmark and his queen Louise of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel); Umberto I of Italy and his queen Margherita of Savoy, Oscar II of Sweden and his queen Sofia of Nassau; and the many offspring and relations of these families. She was also acquainted with many of the famous composers of her day, including Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, and Gioacchino Rossini.”[xi] To that illustrious list, we could add famous writers such as Ibsen and Longfellow.
Alice met Mme. Lillie Hegermann-Lindencrone in Newport in the summer of 1893. Lillie was well known as a singer.[xii] Inviting Alice to sing at one of her social gatherings made Alice so eager to please that she sent for her Parisian accompanist. Alice admits her French songs did not go over well, but she must have in other ways made a positive impression.
At the time, Mme. Hegermann-Lindencrone ‘s husband was the Danish ambassador to Sweden, and they invited Alice to join them in Stockholm for the winter. It was during this visit, when Alice was 31 years old, that she became a guest of European royal families.
It seems Mme. Hegermann-Lindencrone’s purpose was not only to introduce Alice to Stockholm and Copenhagen but also to find her an appropriate husband. Through Mme. Hegermann-Lindencrone’s influence, Alice had several offers of marriage—from an Italian prince, from the cousin of the Belgian minister’s wife, from a Frenchman who became an ambassador in Washington, D.C., and others equally connected. However, Alice states in her autobiography that neither titles nor “a marriage of convenience...had the smallest appeal for me.... My liberty has always seemed more precious....”
Lady Anne Blanche Coventry (1874-1956)—Princess Victor Duleep Singh
Lady Anne, youngest daughter of the ninth Earl of Coventry[xiii]
Even before Alice had met the Hegermann-Lindencrones, she had royal friends—most notably Lady Blanche Coventry who married Prince Victor Duleep Singh in 1898. The Prince was the eldest son of a wealthy maharaja who had been exiled from India to England. Queen Victoria had favored his family until he decided to revert to his Sikhi faith. Doing so caused the British government to renege on commitments to him, and his children lost their property inheritance, including their palace at Elveden.
The Editor of East Meets West: Prince & Princess Victor Duleep Singh states: “The marriage of Prince Victor Albert Jay Duleep Singh, godson of Queen Victoria, to Lady Anne Blanche Coventry in the fashionable St Peter's church, Eaton Square, London, in 1898 was as controversial as it was unusual. Eyebrows were raised all around and not only because the groom was bankrupt. It was also the first time a Sikh prince - or an Indian one - had married an English noblewoman.”
Prince Victor Duleep Singh[xiv]
Prince Victor had been a big spender who was deeply in debt. He had an annual allowance from the British government, but his debts in the late 1890s greatly exceeded that allowance.
Despite his situation, the wedding was “a lavish affair,” according to author Peter Bance’s book Sovereign, Squire and Rebel as quoted in East Meets West: “Invitations had been sent to every family of note. The ceremony was held at St Peter's, Eaton Square, where so many fashionable weddings of the day took place. The church was besieged by sightseers and those interested in the Coventry family and that of the prince.”
When the couple returned from their honeymoon, Queen Victoria invited them to a ball and then to a private audience at Buckingham Palace where she proclaimed they were never to have any children, “effectively ending the lineage of the exile for the security of the British empire and that they must leave England and live abroad.”
They became exiles in Paris, where Alice met the princess through a common interest in racehorses. Lady Anne Blanche Coventry had been “a skilled horsewoman” and quite well liked in England.
Lady Anne’s home
Living in Paris as Princess Victor Duleep Singh, she was an attractive friend, who influenced Alice’s purchase of at least three racehorses.
Prince and Princess
This friendship seems to have ended around the breakout of World War II. The Prince died in 1918, and the Princess moved back to England. Alice left Paris temporarily and bought property on Bogue Banks in North Carolina.
[ii] Autobiography of Alice Hoffman from East Carolina University Joyner Library Special Collections. Unless others noted, information about Alice’s experiences with her friends comes from her autobiography.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, 1875-1912.
Lillie DeHegermann-Lindencrone, Release Date: November 4, 2004, updated November 4, 2004. EBook #13955, ISO-8859-1.
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net
“Several publications documenting her career as a singer were released, including one by Samuel Frizzell.”
xiii East Meets West: Prince and Princess Duleep Singh, http://theesotericcuriosa.blogspot.com/2009/11/east-meets-west-prince-princess-victor.html