Author Information At the Circulating Library
Author: Dora Hort (1828–1898)
Alternate Name(s): Hart (maiden name); Mrs. Alfred Hort (familiar name)
Biography: Dorothea "Dora" Catherine Hort was born in 1828 in Montreal, Canada, the youngest daughter of Benjamin Hart (1779–1855) and Harriot Judith Hart. Her parents both belonged to wealthy Jewish merchant families. She grew up between Montreal and New York society. In her early twenties, she accompanied her sister, five children, and a nurse on an arduous journey from New York to San Francisco through Nicaragua—a journey she recounted years later in her book Via Nicaragua (1887). In San Francisco, she met and married Alfred Waley Hort (born 1817) on 18 April 1857. Alfred and his brother Abraham were the eldest sons of the English-New Zealand Jewish merchant Abraham Hort (1787–1869): the large London family moved to Sidney then Wellington, established the first synagogue in New Zealand, and traded widely within the south Pacific (Alfred's station was Tahiti). (One of Alfred's sisters married the Wellington merchant Nathaniel William Levin; another sister married Sir Francis Dillon Bell.) The couple traveled from California to Tahiti—this journey became the basis for her travel book Tahiti: The Garden of the Pacific (1891) (dedicated to her nephew William Hort Levin). Alfred and Dora moved to London by 1871. Back in Europe, Hort wrote three novels: Hena: A Tahitian Tale (1866) about a half-caste girl in love with an Englishman; Lillian St. Clair (1886) a romance; and Tiari: A Tahitian Romance (1893) about a half French, half Tahitian woman who marries an Englishman. Reviewers appreciated the descriptions of the exotic locations but found the storytelling lacking. The couple had no children and spent their later years in Nice where Alfred died in 1897 and Dora died a year later.
References: British Census (1871); DCB (Benjamin Hart); DNZB (Nathaniel William Levin); The Encyclopedia of New Zealand (1966); Morning Post (23 February 1897, 9 February 1898); Sidney Morning Herald (4 August 1857)