Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Haweis, Hugh Reginaldlocked

  • Elizabeth Baigent

Hugh Reginald Haweis (1838–1901)

by Barraud, pubd 1888

Haweis, Hugh Reginald (1838–1901), author and Church of England clergyman, born on 3 April 1838, at Egham, Surrey, was grandson of Thomas Haweis, the friend and trustee of Lady Huntingdon, and was son of John Oliver Willyams Haweis (1809–1891), Church of England clergyman, and his wife, Mary. His father matriculated in 1823 at Queen's College, Oxford, graduating BA in 1828 and proceeding MA in 1831. From 1846 he was morning preacher at the Magdalen Hospital in London, and from 1874 to 1886 rector of Slaugham, Sussex. In 1883 he was made Heathfield prebendary of Chichester Cathedral. He was the author in 1844 of Sketches of the Reformation.

Hugh Reginald, the eldest son in a family of four children, showed great musical sensibility and aptitude for violin playing from early years, but poor health prevented systematic education. He suffered from hip disease, and when he was twelve Sir Benjamin Brodie, the surgeon and anatomist who had written on the hip, pronounced his case hopeless. He was taken to his grandmother's house at 54 Brunswick Square, Brighton, and recovered, although his growth had been badly stunted (he was scarcely 5 feet tall) and he was left with a club foot and continued to suffer periodically from pain in his hip. At Brighton he practised the violin assiduously, receiving instruction from several masters including Antonio Oury, the distinguished violinist and professor at the Royal Academy of Music. He also gained orchestral experience and wrote for the Brighton papers.

By the age of sixteen Haweis was so much stronger that he was sent to a tutor to prepare for matriculation at Cambridge. In 1856 he matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, his paternal grandfather's college, and quickly became a notoriety. He was the principal violinist of the Cambridge Musical Society, formed a quartet society, read German poetry and philosophy, started a short-lived magazine called The Lion, and wrote voluminously for several newspapers. He made the acquaintance of a French violinist, J. G. R. R. Venua, who interested him in violin-making, a subject upon which he began researches. After graduating BA in 1860 (he proceeded MA in 1864) he travelled for his health. His father had wished him to avoid Italy, but he fell in with Signor Li Calsi, a professional musician whom he knew at Brighton, and the pair went to Genoa, and thence to join Garibaldi at Capua. Haweis survived the war unscathed. He met King Victor Emmanuel and was present at the peace celebrations in Milan. He described his part in the war of independence in The Argosy in 1870.

Before leaving Italy Haweis decided to seek orders in the English church, and in 1861 he passed the Cambridge examination in theology and was ordained deacon in London that year, becoming priest in 1862. He was curate of St Peter, Bethnal Green (1861–3). In east London he threw himself enthusiastically into parish work. He was a close friend of John Richard Green, who was in sole charge of Holy Trinity, Hoxton, and Green greatly influenced his views on social questions. From 1864 to 1866 he was curate to St James-the-Less, Westminster, and then to St Peter, Stepney. In 1866 he was appointed perpetual curate of St James, Westmoreland Street, Marylebone. He found the church nearly empty and in need of immediate repair. By his energy, ability, and somewhat sensational methods he quickly filled his church, and kept it full and fashionable for thirty-five years until his death.

Haweis was a powerful preacher. His theatrical manner and vanity (he always preached in a black gown) frequently exposed him to charges of charlatanry and obscured his genuine spiritual gifts: but he was sincere and untiring in his efforts. He organized in his church 'Sunday evenings for the people', at which orchestral music, oratorio performances, and even exhibitions of sacred pictures were made 'to form portions of the ordinary church services'. His aim was to provide edifying entertainment and simultaneously keep his followers from the entertainments of the public house. His success encouraged him to use St James's Hall, Regent Street, for Sunday morning services of a similarly unconventional character, and he received numerous invitations to preach elsewhere. Haweis's theology was controversial as well as his style. He explicitly and repeatedly repudiated the doctrine of eternal damnation and was an outspoken advocate of the compatibility of spiritualism and Christianity. He attended séances and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. His unconventional style filled his churches and lecture halls, although it stood in the way of church preferment.

An energetic advocate of the provision of wholesome recreations for townspeople, he was an early promoter of the Sunday opening of museums and picture galleries. He interested himself in the provision of open spaces in London and in the laying out as gardens of disused churchyards.

Haweis continued to write prolifically, not least because he needed money. His lecturing fees often failed to cover his expenses, and invitations to fashionable social gatherings involved him in considerable expense. He wrote much for magazines, The Times, the Pall Mall Gazette, and The Echo. His musical books included Music and Morals (1871), My Musical Life (1884), and Old Violins (1898). As musical critic to Truth and the Pall Mall Gazette Haweis helped to introduce Wagner's works to English audiences. His best work was on music, although his theological writings were more numerous. They included works which reflected on current debates, such as Thoughts for the Times (1872) and a historical survey of the origins of Christianity, which he published in 1886–7 in five volumes as Christ and Christianity. He also published many sermons, edited the work of others, and wrote books on popular themes.

Haweis's chief success was achieved as a popular lecturer in England and the colonies, as well as in America, on musical and religious themes. In 1885 he gave the Lowell lectures in Boston, USA. During the Chicago Exposition in 1893 he was an Anglican delegate to the Parliament of Religions, and in the following year he visited the Pacific coast, preaching to crowded congregations in Trinity Church, San Francisco. Thence he toured through Canada, the south sea islands, Australia, and New Zealand, lecturing and preaching. He described his American and colonial experiences in Travel and Talk (2 vols., 1896).

Haweis was short, with olive skin and hazel eyes, and long black hair. Described by his future wife in her journal as vivacious and with a reputation for lack of ceremony extending to flirtatiousness, he retained to old age his capacity to attract and inspire.

In 1867 Haweis married Mary Eliza (1848–1898), elder daughter of Thomas Musgrave Joy (1812–1866), portrait painter, and his wife, Eliza. As Mary Haweis she became a distinguished artist and book illustrator. They were at first a devoted couple in their private life, and each helped the other in their writing and publishing, he with his experience of editors and publishers, she with her talent for illustration. Their first child died in infancy but they had three surviving children, a girl and two boys. After D. G. Rossetti's death in 1882 the Haweis family occupied the poet's house, the Tudor House, renamed the Queen's House, in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. Haweis died suddenly of heart seizure on 29 January 1901 at 15 Bulstrode Street. His body was cremated at Woking, and the remains interred beside his wife in the churchyard of St Peter's Church, Boughton Monchelsea, Kent, her family graveyard.

Haweis's public reputation survived unchallenged until the publication in 1967 of a biography of his wife by Bea Howe. Written with the help of the brothers Stephen and Lionel Haweis, to the former of whom it is dedicated, and relying extensively on Mary Haweis's letters and journals, the book portrays the dark side of Haweis. His and Mary Haweis's once happy and mutually supportive marriage began to break down in the 1880s. Haweis, who had always been attractive to women, began to take an interest in a parishioner, Miss Emmeline Souter, which made his wife unhappy and which exposed him to gossip. Mary Haweis, who had been unable to understand why her husband was so short of money and why the household depended so heavily on her own earnings, discovered the answer when her husband's mistress and their six-year-old illegitimate child arrived at the family home in 1894 when her husband was away on a preaching tour. His erratic, deceitful, and unreasonable behaviour had already forced a rift between Mary Haweis and her daughter Hugolin, though his efforts to embitter her relations with her sons failed. He was aided by his sisters, 'those interfering and rude women' as Mary Haweis called them in a letter to Lionel of 31 March 1897 (Howe, 261). He grew increasingly jealous of her popularity as a writer and particularly her involvement in social movements, such as women's suffrage, in which he played no part. Such jealousies were especially apparent as his own popularity grew uneven and it became clear to him that preferment in the church would elude him. Despite her increasingly frenetic writing and journalism, his imprudent spending obliged them in 1897 to move from Queen's House, in Chelsea, which Mary loved, to the dingy house in Devonshire Street which she loathed. Exhausted, Mary Haweis finally died on 24 November 1898. Her husband spent her last days trying unsuccessfully to persuade her to alter the terms of her will, under which she left everything to her son Stephen rather than to him. Legal wrangling surrounding the will continued until his death in 1901, by which time he had managed to deprive Stephen, a minor in his legal guardianship, of much of his inheritance. He destroyed many of his wife's letters and journals, which she had expressly left to Stephen, not least because they showed him in an unflattering light. Howe attributes Haweis's behaviour less to malice than to mental instability, and perhaps most of all to an unlimited capacity for self-deception. Certainly he regarded himself as the aggrieved party in the marriage and insisted until the end on his affection for his wife. He seems to have died a lonely, frustrated, and sad figure, having at his best put unstinting effort into his music, preaching, and family life.



  • Boston PL, corresp.
  • University of British Columbia, corresp. and MSS
  • Hove Central Library, letters to Lord Wolseley and Lady Wolseley
  • LPL, corresp. with A.C. Tait


  • F. H. Lewis, oils, 1913, NPG
  • Ape [C. Pellegrini], watercolour caricature, NPG; repro. in VF (22 Sept 1888)
  • Barraud, print, NPG; repro. in Men and Women of the Day, 1 (1888) [see illus.]
  • W. & D. Downey, photograph, woodburytype, NPG; repro. in W. Downey and D. Downey, The cabinet portrait gallery, 4 (1893)
  • F. Moscheles, oils
  • G. J. Stoddart, stipple, BM
  • etching, repro. in Howe, Arbiter of elegance, facing p. 249
  • woodcut (after photograph by Mayall), NPG; repro. in Harper's Magazine (1888)

Wealth at Death

£1302: resworn probate, Sept 1901, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)
J. Venn & J. A. Venn, , 2 pts in 10 vols. (1922–54); repr. in 2 vols. (1974–8)
J. Foster, ed., , 4 vols. (1887–8), later edn (1891); , 4 vols. (1891–2); 8 vol. repr. (1968) and (2000)