Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. 1993. Turkish Embassy Letters. Introduced by Anita Desai, Text edited and annotated by Malcolm Jack. William Pickering. London.
A selection of Lady Mary’s letters has been provided below. Though anthropological value can be found in all of these letters, much of it has to be searched for because Lady Mary was not writing as an anthropologist. To aid the search, I have added above each letter, or excerpt, notes referring to points of interest. However, I have not drawn attention to entirety of anthropological value. Lady Mary’s writings of Turkish culture certainly amount to a valuable piece of ethnography. Her ethnographic contributions are in three main areas: religious belief and ritual, the recording of material culture and “vie quotidienne” of early eighteenth century Turkish court life, and the status of women (see Fernea 1981). It would be interesting to compare Lady Mary’s work with modern sociological and anthropological works on Turkish culture, Islam, and veiling or the hejab (modest Islamic dress). Reading suggestions on such topics. It is also worth noting that though Lady Mary’s class and gender enables her to experience things that would not have been accessible to many other travellers, her work is largely a study of elite Turkish culture.
Surprisingly, Lady Mary’s work escapes a common criticism of early anthropological writing. Due to the fact her work is in the form of letters to friends and acquaintances, her work shows reflexive potential. Reflexivity, broadly defined, means “a turning back on oneself, a process of self-reference. In the context of social research, reflexivity at its most immediately obvious level refers to the ways in which the products of research are affected by the personnel and process of doing research…While relevant for social research in general, issues of reflexivity are particularly salient for ethnographic research in which the involvement of the researcher in the society and culture of those being studied is particularly close” (Davies 2001). Although Lady Mary would not have been aware of such a concept, she has recorded her true thoughts and feelings in her letters, which means that we can apply reflexivity to her work.
This is not the first time I have come to realise the reflexive value of the particular format of letters. I feel that the problems faced by the anthropologist Margaret E. Kenna’s in her writing of Greek Island Life: Fieldwork on Anafi are of particular relevance (Kenna 2001). Kenna carried out her fieldwork in the 1960s, in a time when the influence of the ethnographer was to be eliminated insofar as possible from the research findings. Reflexivity as a positive aspect of ethnography has been growing only since the 1970s. A large gap between the time of fieldwork and of publication meant that Kenna’s work was published in an extremely reflexivity-conscience time. The problem was overcome by including a number of sources in the book. The inclusion of 65 letters written to her parents at the time of the fieldwork and personal diary entries gives us insight into Kenna’s thought and feelings during that time. Kenna hopes that her presence in the text helps readers to “share the experience of doing fieldwork” (Kenna 2001). This is certainly the result.
Similarly, the intimate nature of Lady Mary’s letters allow us to apply modern ideas of reflexivity to her ethnography and gives us a feeling of experiencing the journey ourselves. For this reason, few of her letters have been omitted. We should appreciate the fact Lady Mary wrote prolifically and with such elegance. I am sure that you will find her letters fascinating. So I hope you have packed your sun lotion, because your journey to turkey is about to begin!
Davies, Charlotte Aull, 2001. Reflexive Ethnography. London: Routledge.
Kenna, Margaret E., 2001. Greek Island Life: Fieldwork on Anafi. Harwood Academic Publishers.
Pg. 44 LETTER XXI (Vienna, 16 January 1717)
To Lady Mar,
Lady Mary’s honest character makes her a reliable ethnographer. Note that ‘anthropophagi’ means ‘cannibals’.
…P.S. I have writ a letter to my Lady?84 that I believe she won't like, and upon cooler reflection I think I had done better to have let it alone, but I was downright peevish at all her questions, and her ridiculous imagination, that I have certainly seen abundance of wonders which I keep to myself out of mere malice. She is angry that I won't lie like other travellers. I verily believe she expects I should tell her of the anthropophagi,85 and men whose heads grow below their shoulders. However, pray say something to pacify her.
Pg. 55 LETTER XXVI (Adrianople, I April 1717)
To Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales,117
Note that ‘Adrianople’ is now called ‘Edime’ and is a city in Northwest Turkey. Constantinople is now Istanbul.
I have now, madam, passed a journey that has not been undertaken by any Christian since the time of the Greek emperors, and I shall not regret all the fatigues I have suffered in it if it gives me an opportunity of amusing your Royal Highness by an account of places utterly unknown amongst us, the emperor's ambassadors and those few English that have come hither always going on the Danube to Nicopolis. But that river was now frozen, and Mr Wortley so zealous for the service of his majesty he would not defer his journey to wait for the convenience of that passage. We crossed the deserts of Serbia, almost quite overgrown with wood, though a country naturally fertile and the inhabitants industrious. But the oppression of the peasants is…
Pg. 56 LETTER XXVI cont.
…so great, they are forced to abandon their houses and
neglect their tillage, all they have being a prey to the Janissaries, whenever
they please to seize upon it. We had a guard of 500 of them, and I was almost
in tears every day to see their insolencies in the poor villages through which
After seven days travelling through thick woods we came to Nissa, once the capital of Serbia, situate in a fine plain on the river Nissava, in a very good air and so fruitful a soil that the great plenty is hardly credible. I was certainly assured that the quantity of wine last vintage was so prodigious they were forced to dig holes in the earth to put it in, not having vessels enough in the town to hold it. The happiness of this plenty is scarce perceived by the oppressed people. I saw here a new occasion for my compassion. The wretches that had provided twenty waggons for our baggage from Belgrade hither for a certain hire, being all sent back without payment, some of their horses lamed and others killed, without any satisfaction made for them. The poor fellows came round the house weeping and tearing their hair and beards in the most pitiful manner, without getting anything but drubs from the insolent soldiers. I cannot express to your Royal Highness how much I was moved at this scene. I would have paid them the money out of my own pocket, with all my heart, but it would only have been giving so much to the aga who would have taken it from them without remorse.
After four days journey from this place over the mountains we came to Sofia, situated in a large beautiful plain on the river Isca, and surrounded with distant mountains. 'Tis hardly possible to see a more agreeable landscape. The city itself is very large and extremely populous. Here are hot baths, very famous for their medicinal virtues. Four days' journey from hence we arrived at Philippopolis, 118 after having passed the ridges between the mountains of Haemus and Rhodophe, which are always covered with snow. This town is situated on a rising ground near the river Hebrus and is almost wholly inhabited by Greeks. Here are still some ancient Christian churches. They have a bishop and several of the richest Greeks live here, but…
Pg. 57 LETTER XXVI cont.
…they are forced to conceal their wealth with great care, the appearance of poverty, which includes part of its inconveniences, being all their security against feeling it in earnest. The country from hence to Adrianople is the finest in the world. Vines grow wild on all the hills and the perpetual spring they enjoy makes everything look gay and flourishing. But this climate, as happy as it seems, can never be preferred to England with all its snows and frosts, while we are blessed with an easy government under a king who makes his own happiness consist in the liberty of his people and chooses rather to be looked upon as their father than their master.
This theme would carry me very far and I am sensible I have
already tired out your Royal Highness' patience, but my letter is in your hands
and you may make it as short as you please by throwing it into the fire when
you are weary of reading it.
I am, madam, with the greatest respect etc.
LETTER XXVII (Adrianople, 1 April 1717)
This letter contains detailed descriptions of Turkish baths and the women in the baths. The letter is certainly of anthropological value.
I am now got into a new world, where everything I see appears to me a change of scene, and I write to your ladyship with some content of mind, hoping at least that you will find the charm of novelty in my letters, and no longer reproach me that I tell you nothing extraordinary. I won't trouble you with a relation of our tedious journey, but I must not omit what I saw remarkable at Sofia, one of the most beautiful towns in the Turkish empire, and famous for its hot baths, that are resorted to both for diversion and health. I stopped here one day on purpose to see them. Designing to go incognito I hired a Turkish coach. These voitures are not at all like ours, but much more convenient for the country, the heat being so great that glasses would be very troublesome. They are made a good deal in the manner of the Dutch coaches, having wooden lattices painted and gilded, the
Pg. 58 LETTER XXVI cont.
Note that a bagnio is a bathing house.
….inside being also painted with baskets and nosegays intermixed commonly with little poetical mottos. covered all over with scarlet cloth, lined with silk, and very often richly embroidered and fringed. This covering entirely hides the persons in them, but may be thrown back at pleasure and the ladies peep through the lattices. They hold four people very conveniently, seated on cushions, but not raised.
In one of these covered waggons, I went to the bagnio120 about ten o'clock. It was already full of women. It is built of stone in the shape of a dome, with no windows but in the roof, which gives light enough. There was five of these domes joined together, the outmost being less than the rest and serving only as a hall, where the portress stood at the door. Ladies of quality generally give this woman the value of a crown or ten shillings and I did not forget that ceremony. The next room is a very large one paved with marble, and all round it raised two sofas of marble one above another. There were four fountains of cold water in this room, falling first into marble basins, and then running on the floor in little channels made for that purpose, which carried the streams into the next room, something less than this, with the same sort of marble sofas, but so hot with steams of sulphur proceeding from the baths joining to it, 'twas impossible to stay there with one's clothes on. The two other domes were the hot baths, one of which had cocks of cold water turning into it to temper it to what degree of warmth the bathers have a mind to.
I was in my travelling habit, which is a riding dress, and certainly appeared very extraordinary to them. Yet there was not one of them that showed the least surprise or impertinent curiosity, but received me with all the obliging civility possible. I know no European court where the ladies would have behaved themselves in so polite a manner to a stranger. I believe, in the whole, there were two hundred women, and yet none of those disdainful smiles or satirical whispers that never fail in our assemblies when anybody appears that is not dressed exactly i fashion. They repeated over and over to me; 'Güzelle, pek güzelle', which is nothing but 'charming, very charming'. The….
Pg. 59 LETTER XXVI cont.
Lady Mary notes that the nakedness removes all distinction of rank. She compares the bagnio with a coffee house, noting its importance as a place for discussion.
….first sofas were covered with cushions and rich carpets,
on which sat the ladies, and on the second their slaves behind them, but without
any distinction of rank by their dress, all being in the state of nature, that
is, in plain English, stark naked, without any beauty or defect concealed. Yet
there was not the least wanton smile or immodest gesture amongst them. They
walked and moved with the same majestic grace which Milton describes of our
general mother.121 There were many amongst them as exactly proportioned as ever
any goddess was drawn by the pencil of Guido122 or Titian, and most of their
skins shiningly white, only adorned by their beautiful hair divided into many
tresses, hanging on their shoulders, braided either with pearl or ribbon, perfectly
representing the figures of the Graces.
I was here convinced of the truth of a reflection I had often made, that if it was the fashion to go naked, the face would be hardly observed. I perceived that the ladies with finest skins and most delicate shapes had the greatest share of my admiration, though their faces were sometimes less beautiful than those of their companions. To tell you the truth, I had wickedness enough to wish secretly that Mr Gervase123 could have been there invisible. I fancy it would have very much improved his art to see so many fine women naked, in different postures, some in conversation, some working, others drinking coffee or sherbet, and many negligently lying on their cushions while their slaves (generally pretty girls of seventeen or eighteen) were employed in braiding their hair in several pretty manners. In short, 'tis the women's coffee house, where all the news of the town is told, scandal invented etc. They generally take this diversion once a week, and stay there at least four or five hours, without getting cold by immediate coming out of the hot bath into the cool room, which was very surprising to me. The lady that seemed the most considerable amongst them entreated me to sit by her and would fain have undressed me for the bath. I excused myself with some difficulty, they being however all so earnest in persuading me, I was a last forced to open my shirt, and show them my stays, which satisfied them very well, for I saw they….
Pg. 60 LETTER XXVI cont.
….believed I was so locked up in that machine, that it was not in my own power to open it, which contrivance they attributed to my husband. I was charmed with their civility and beauty, and should have been very glad to pass more time with them, but Mr Wortley resolving to pursue his journey the next morning early I was in haste to see the ruins of Justinian's124 church, which did not afford me so agreeable a prospect as I had left, being little more than a heap of stones.
Adieu, madam, I am sure I have now entertained you with an account of such a sight as you never saw in your life, and what no book of travels could inform you of, as 'tis no less than death for a man to be found in one of these places.
LETTER XXVIII (Adrianople, I April 1717)
To the Abbé Conti,125
Lady Mary notes that not much is known of Turkish people’s manners and religion.
You see that I am very exact in keeping the promise you engaged me to make but I know not whether your curiosity will be satisfied with the accounts I shall give you, though I can assure you that the desire I have to oblige you to the utmost of my power has made me very diligent in my enquiries and observations. 'Tis certain we have but very imperfect relations of the manners and religion of these people, this part of the world being seldom visited but by merchants, who mind little but their own affairs, or travellers who make too short a stay to be able to report anything exactly of their own knowledge. The Turks are too proud to converse familiarly with merchants etc., who can only pick up some confused informations, which are generally false, and can give no better account of the ways here, than a French refugee lodging in a garret in Greek Street,126 could write of the court of England. The journey we have made from Belgrade hither by land cannot possibly passed by any out of a public character. The desert woods of Serbia are the common refuge of thieves who rob fifty company, that we had need of all our guards to secure us, and….
Pg. 61 LETTER XXVIII Cont.
Lady Mary writes of the terrible events in Belgrade. Social positions are also described. At the end of this page she starts to talk about information she has been given on religion and morals.
the villages so poor that only force could exort from them necessary provisions. Indeed the Janissaries had no mercy on their poverty, killing all the poultry and sheep they could find without asking who they belonged to, while the wretched owners durst not put in their claim for fear of being beaten. Lambs just fallen, geese and turkeys big with egg all massacred without distinction! I fancied I heard the complaints of Moelibeus for the hope of his flock.127 When the pashas travel 'tis yet worse. Those oppressors are not content with eating all that is to be eaten belonging to the peasants; after they have crammed themselves and their numerous retinue they have the impudence to exact what they call teeth money, a contribution for the use of their teeth, worn with doing them the honour of devouring their meat. This is a literal, known truth, however extravagant it seems; and such is the natural corruption of a military government, their religion not allowing of this barbarity any more than our does.
I had the advantage of lodging three weeks at Belgrade, with a principal effendi, that is to say a scholar. This set of men are equally capable of preferments in the law or the church, those two sciences being cast into one, and a lawyer and a priest being the same word. They are the only men really considerable in the empire; all the profitable employments and church revenues are in their hands. The Grand Signor, though general heir to his people, never presumes to touch their lands or money, which go in an uninterrupted succession to their children. 'Tis true they lose this privilege by accepting a place at court, or the title of pasha, but there are few examples of such fools among them. You may easily judge of the power of these men who have engrossed all the learning and almost all the wealth of the empire. 'Tis they that are the real authors, though the soldiers are the actors of revolutions. They deposed the late Sultan Mustafa;128 and their power is so well known 'tis the emperor's, interest to flatter them.
This is a long digression. I was going to tell you that an intimate daily conversation with the effendi Achmed Bey gave me opportunity of knowing their religion and morals in a….
Pg. 62 LETTER XXVIII Cont.
There is a discussion of religion and morals. This is certainly an important letter. Lady Mary tries to understand the religion of the people of Turkey, from a native point of view. Other world religions are brought in and there is even a glimpse of theory: “the natural inclination of mankind to make mysteries and novelties”. She notes the difference between what the effendis believe (Deism) and what they say to others. Also note wine drinking and social structure – who can and who can’t.
….more particular manner than perhaps any Christian ever did. I explained to him the difference between the religion of England and Rome, and he was pleased to hear there were Christians that did not worship images or adore the Virgin Mary. The ridicule of transubstantiation appeared very strong to him. Upon comparing our creeds together I am convinced that if our friend Dr Clarke129 had free liberty of preaching here it would be very easy to persuade the generality to Christianity, whose notions are already little different from his. Mr Whiston130 would make a very good apostle here. I don't doubt but his zeal will be much fired if you communicate this account to him, but tell him, he must first have the gift of tongues before he can possibly be of any use.
Mohanimedism is divided into as many sects as Christianity, and the first institution as much neglected and obscured by interpretations. I cannot here forbear reflecting on the natural inclination of mankind, to make mysteries and novelties. The Zeidi, Kudi, jabari131 etc. put me in mind of the Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, etc., and are equally zealous against one another. But the most prevailing opinion if you search into the secret of the effendis is plain deism but this is kept from the people who are amused with a thousand different notions, according to the different interest of their preachers' There are very few amongst them (Achmed Bey denied there were any) so absurd as to set up for wit by declaring they believe no God at all. And Sir Paul Rycaut132 is mistaken, as he commonly is, in calling the sect muserin (i.e. the secret with us) atheists, they being deists, whose impiety consists in making a jest of their prophet. Achmed Bey did not own to me that he was of this opinion but made no scruple of deviating from some part of Mohammed's law by drinking wine with the same freedom we did. When I asked him how he came to allow himself that liberty he made answer that all the creatures of God were good and designed for the use of man; however, that the prohibition of wine was a very wise maxim and meant for the common people, being the source of all disorders amongst them, but that the prophet never designed to confine those that knew how to….
Pg. 63 LETTER XXVIII Cont.
Lady Mary recognises that she can’t trust religious translations from Greek priests who “would not fail to falsify it with the extremity of malice”. She talks with respect and an open mind about Turkish religion. Then talks about the “particular” religion of the Arnounts – natives of Arnawatluk (Ancient Macedonia).
….use it with moderation. However, scandal ought to be
avoided he never drank it in public. This is the general way of thinking amongst
them, and very few forbear drinking wine that are able to afford it.
He assured me that if I understood Arabic I should be very well pleased with reading the Alcoran, which is so far from the we charge it with that 'tis the purest morality delivery in the very best language. I have since heard impartial speak of it in the same manner, and I don't doubt but translations are from copies got from the Greek would not fail to falsify it with the extremity of malice. No body of men ever were more ignorant or more corrupt. Yet they differ so little from the Romish Church that I confess there is nothing gives me a greater abhorrence of the cruelty of your clergy than the barbarous persecutions of them, whenever they have been their masters for no other reason than not acknowledging the Pope. The dissenting in that one article has got them the titles of heretics, schismatics, and, what is worse, the same treatment.
I found at Philippopolis a sect of Christians that call themselves Paulines.133 They show an old church where, they say, St Paul preached, and he is their favourite saint, after the same manner as St Peter is at Rome; neither do they forget to give him the same preference over the rest of the apostles.
But of all the religions I have seen the Amounts seem to me the most particular. They are natives of Amawutluk,134 the ancient Macedonia, and still retain the courage and hardiness, though they have lost the name of Macedonians, being the best Militia in the Turkish empire, and the only check upon the Janissaries. They are foot soldiers; we had a guard of them relieved in every considerable town we passed. They are all clothed and armed at their own expense, generally lusty young fellows dressed in clean white coarse cloth, carrying guns of a prodigious length, which they run with upon their shoulders, as if they did not feel the weight of them, the leader singing a sort of rude tune, not unpleasant, and the rest making up the chorus. These people living between Christians and Mohanimedans, and….
Pg. 64 LETTER XXVIII Cont.
This is an interesting page.
….not being skilled in controversy, declare that they are utterly unable to judge which religion is best, but to be certain of not entirely rejecting the truth they very prudently follow both and go to the mosque on Fridays and to the church on Sundays, saying for their excuse that at the day of judgement they are sure of protection from the true prophet; but which that is, they are not able to determine in this world. I believe there is no other race of mankind who have so modest an opinion of their own capacity. These are the remarks I have made on the diversity of religions I have seen. I don't ask your pardon for the liberty I have taken in speaking of the Roman. I know you equally condemn the quackery of all churches as much as you revere the sacred truths, in which we both agree.
You will expect I should say something to you of the antiquities of this country, but there are few remains of ancient Greece. We passed near the piece of an arch which is commonly called Trajan's Gate, 135 as supposing he made it to shut up the passage over the mountains between Sofia and Philippopolis, but I rather believe it the remains of some triumphal arch (though I could not see any inscription), for if that passage had been shut up there are many others that would serve for the march of an army. And notwithstanding the story of Baldwin, Earl of Flanders, being overthrown in these straits136 after he had won Constantinople, I don't fancy the Germans would find themselves stopped by them. 'Tis true the road is now made, with great industry, as commodious as possible for the march of the Turkish army. There is not one ditch or puddle between this place and Belgrade that has not a large strong bridge of planks built over it; but the precipices are not so terrible as I had heard them represented. At the foot of these mountains we lay at the little village of Kiskoi, wholly inhabited by Christians, as all the peasants of Bulgaria are. Their houses are nothing but little huts, raised of dirt baked in the sun and they leave them and fly into the mountains some months before the march of the Turkish army, who would else entirely ruin them by driving away their whole flocks. This precaution secures them in a sort of plenty, for vast tracts of land lying in common they have liberty of….
Pg. 65 LETTER XXVIII Cont.
Lady Mary notes that she is writing maybe more than is worth telling. She is noting everything – this is a valuable anthropological practice.
….sowing what they please, and are generally very industrious husbandmen. I drank here several sorts of delicious wine. The women dress themselves in a great variety of coloured glass beads and are not ugly, but of tawny complexions. I have now told you all that is worth telling you, and perhaps more, relating to my journey. When I am at Constantinople I'll try to pick up some curiosities and then you shall hear again from etc.
LETTER XXIX (Adrianople, I April 1717)
To Lady Bristol,
Talking about a Turkish wedding ceremony. Bur she didn’t see it – it was a few days before she arrived. But she states that on this occasion, Turkish Ladies show their magnificence. She discusses events of weddings – e.g. bride conducted to her husbands’ house in great splendour. Very interesting letter.
As I never can forget the smallest of your ladyship's commands, my first business here has been to enquire after the stuffs you ordered me to look for, without being able to find what you would like. The difference of the dress here and at Lon n is so great, the same sort of things are not proper for caftans and manteaus.137 However, I will not give over my search but renew it again at Constantinople, though I have reason to believe there is nothing finer than what is to be found here, being the present the residence of the court.
The Grand Signor's eldest daughter was married some few days before I came and upon that occasion the Turkish ladies display all their magnificence. The bride was conducted to her husband's house in very great splendour. She is widow of the late Vizier, who was killed at Peterwardein,138 though that ought rather to be called a contract than a marriage, not ever having lived with him. However, the greatest part of his wealth is hers. He had the permission of visiting her in the seraglio, and, being one of the handsomest men in the Empire, had very much engaged her affections. When she saw this second husband, who is at least fifty, she could not forbear bursting into tears. He is a man of merit, and the declared favourite of the Sultan (which they call musahib )139 but that is not enough to make him pleasing in the eyes of a girl of thirteen.
Pg. 66 LETTER XXIX Cont.
Description of means of social control - Absolute power and harsh punishments.
The government here is entirely in the hands of the army and
the Grand Signor with all his absolute power as much a slave as any of his subjects,
and trembles at a janissary's frown. Here is indeed a much greater appearance
of subjection than amongst us. A minister of state is not spoke to but upon
the knee; should a reflection on his conduct be dropped in a coffee house (for
they have spies everywhere) the house would be razed to the ground, and perhaps
the whole company put to the torture. No huzzaing mobs, senseless pamphlets
and tavern disputes about politics
A consequential ill that freedom draws;
A bad effect, but from a noble cause.140
None of our harmless calling names! But when a minister here displeases the people in three hours time he is dragged even from his master's arms. They cut off his hands, head and feet, and throw them before the palace gate with all the respect in the world, while the Sultan (to whom they all profess an unlimited adoration) sits trembling in his apartment, and dare neither defend nor revenge his favourite. This is the blessed condition of the most absolute monarch upon earth, who owns no law but his will.
I cannot help wishing, in the loyalty of my heart, that the parliament would send hither a ship load of your passive obedient men,141 that they might see arbitrary government in its clearest, strongest light, where 'tis hard to judge whether the prince, people or ministers are most miserable. I could make many reflections on this subject but I know, madam, your own good sense has already furnished you with better than I am capable of.
I went yesterday with the French Ambassadress142 to see the Grand Signor in his passage to the mosque. He was preceded by a numerous guard of Janissaries with vast white feathers on their heads, as also by the sipahis and bostcis (these are foot and horse guards) and the royal gardeners, which are a very considerable body of men, dressed in different habits of fine lively colours so that, at a distance, they appeared like a parterre of tulips.143 After them the Aga of the Janissaries in a robe of purple velvet….
Pg. 67 LETTER XXIX Cont.
…lined with silver tissue, his horse led by two slaves richly dressed. Next him the Kilar Aga (your ladyship knows this is the chief guardian of the seraglio ladies) in a deep yellow cloth (which suited very well to his black face) lined with sables and last his sublimity himself, in green lined with the fur of a back muscovite fox, which is supposed worth a thousand pounds sterling, mounted on a fine horse with furniture embroidered with jewels. Six more horses richly furnished were led after him and two of his principal courtiers bore one his gold and the other his silver coffee pot, on a staff. Another carried a silver stool on his head for him to sit on. It would be too tedious to tell your ladyship the various dresses and turbans by which their rank is distinguished, but they were all extremely rich and gay to the number of some thousands that, perhaps there cannot be seen a more beautiful procession. The Sultan appeared to us a handsome man of about forty, with a very graceful air but with something severe in his countenance, his eyes very full and black. He happened to stop under the window where we stood, and, I suppose being told who we were, looked upon us very attentively, that we had full leisure to consider him and the French Ambassadress agreed with me as to his good mein.
I see that lady very often; she is young and her conversation would be a great relief to me if I could persuade her to live without those forms and ceremonies that make life formal and tiresome. But she is so delighted with her guards, her twenty four footmen, gentlemen ushers, etc., that she would rather die than make me a visit without them, not to reckon a coachful of attending damsels y'cleped144 maids of honour. What vexes me is that as long as she will visit with this troublesome equipage I am obliged to do the same. However, our mutual interest makes us much together. I went with her the other day all round the town in an open gilt chariot, with our joint train of attendants, preceded by our guards, who might have summoned the people to see what they had never seen, nor ever would see again; two young Christian ambassadresses never yet having been in this country at the same time, nor I believe ever will again. Your ladyship may easily imagine that we drew a vast…
Pg. 68 LETTER XXIX Cont.
Power and punishment.
….crowd of spectators, but all silent as death. If any of them had taken the liberties of our mob upon any strange sight our Janissaries had made no scruple of falling on them with their scimitars, without danger for so doing, being above the law. Yet these people have some good qualities; they are very zealous and faithful where they serve, and look upon it as their business to fight for you on all occasions, of which I had a very pleasant instance in a village on this side Philippopolis, where we were met by our domestic guard. I happened to bespeak pigeons for my supper, upon which one of my Janissaries went immediately to the cadi (the chief civil officer of the town) and ordered him to send in some dozens. The poor man answered that he had already sent about but could get none. My janissary, in the height of his zeal for my service immediately locked him up prisoner in his room, telling him he deserved death for his impudence in offering to excuse his not obeying my command but out of respect to me he would not punish him but by my order and accordingly came very gravely to me to ask what should be done to him adding, by way of compliment, that if I pleased he would bring me his head. This may give some idea of the unlimited power of these fellows, who are all sworn brothers, and bound to revenge the injuries done to one another, whether at Cairo, Aleppo or any part of the world and this inviolable league makes them so powerful the greatest man at court never speaks to them but in a flattering tone, and in Asia any man that is rich is forced to enrol himself a janissary to secure his estate. But I have already said enough and I dare swear, dear madam, that by this time, 'tis a very comfortable reflection to you that there is no possibility of your receiving such a tedious letter but once in six months. 'Tis that consideration has given me the assurance to entertain you so long and will, I hope, plead the excuse of, dear madam, etc.
Pg. 69 LETTER XXX (Adrianople, 1 April 1717)
To Lady Mar,
Description of Lady Mary in Turkish dress.
I wish to God, dear sister, that you were as regular in letting me pleasure of knowing what passes on your side of the as I am careful in endeavouring to amuse you by the t of all I see that I think you care to hear of. You content yourself with telling me over and over that the town is very dull. it may possibly be dull to you when every day does not present you with something new, but for me that am in arrear at least two months news, all that seems very stale with you would be fresh and sweet here. Pray let me into more particulars. I will try to awaken your gratitude by giving you a full and true relation of the novelties of this place, none of which would surprise you more than a sight of my person, as I am now in my Turkish habit, though I believe you would be of my opinion that 'tis admirably becoming. I intend to send you my picture. In the meantime accept of it here.
The first piece of my dress is a pair of drawers, very full, that reach to my shoes, and conceal the legs more modestly than your petticoats. They are of a thin rose colour damask, brocaded with silver flowers, my shoes of white kid leather embroidered with gold. Over this hangs my smock of a fine white silk gauze, edged with embroidery. This smock has wide sleeves hanging half way down the arm and is closed at the neck with a diamond button; but the shape and colour of the bosom is very well to be distinguished through it. The entari is a waistcoat made close to the shape, of white and gold damask with very long sleeves falling back and fringed with deep gold fringe, and should have diamond or pearl buttons. My caftan of the same stuff with my drawers, is a robe exactly fitted to my shape and reaching to my feet, with very long straight-falling sleeves. Over this is the girdle of about four fingers broad which….
Pg. 70 LETTER XXX Cont.
Continued description – very interesting!
…all that can afford have entirely of diamonds or other precious stones; those that will not be at that expense have it of exquisite embroidery on satin, but it must be fastened before with a clasp of diamonds. The cuppe is a loose robe they throw off, or put on, according to the weather, being of a rich brocade (mine is green and gold) either lined with ermine or sables. The sleeves reach very little below the shoulders. The headdress is composed of a cap, called kalpak which is in winter of fine velvet embroidered with pearls or diamonds and in summer of a light shining silver stuff. This is fixed on one side of the head, hanging a little way down with a gold tassel, and bound on either with a circle of diamonds (as I have seen several) or a rich embroidered handkerchief. On the other side of the head the hair is laid flat and here the ladies are at liberty to show their fancies, some putting flowers, others a plume of heron's feathers and, in short, what they please; but the most general fashion is a large bouquet of jewels made like natural flowers; that is, the buds of pearl, the roses of different coloured rubies, the jessamines of diamonds, the jonquils of topazes, etc, so well set and enamelled 'tis hard to imagine anything of that kind so beautiful. The hair hangs at its full length behind, divided into tresses braided with pearl or ribbon, which is always in great quantity.
I never saw in my life so many fine heads of hair. I have counted a hundred and ten of these tresses of one lady, all natural. But, it must be owned that every beauty is more common here than with us. 'Tis surprising to see a young woman that is not very handsome. They have naturally the most beautiful complexions in the world and generally large black eyes. I can assure you with great truth that the court of England, though I believe it the fairest in Christendom, cannot show so many beauties as are under our protection here. They generally shape their eyebrows and both Greeks and Turks have a custom of putting round their eyes on the inside a black tincture that, at a distance, or by candlelight, adds very much to the blackness of them. I fancy many of our ladies would be overjoyed to know this secret, but ’tis too visible by day. They dye their nails rose colour; I own I cannot enough accustom myself to this fashion to find any beauty in it…
Pg. 71 LETTER XXX Cont.
Interesting line: “Turkish ladies don’t commit one sin the less for not being Christians”. Note that no women are permitted to go in the streets without two muslins – one covers the face but not the eyes and the other covers the whole head. Shapes are also concealed. This is important as it disguises them - and therefore there is no distinguishing the great lady from her slave and it is impossible for a jealous husband to know his wife when he meets her and no man dare touch or fellow a woman in the street. This, Lady Mary claims, is freedom! Claims that there are few faithful wives.
…As to their morality or good conduct, I can say, like Harles just as 'tis with you,145 and the Turkish ladies one sin the less for not being Christians. Now that acquainted with their ways I cannot forbear the exemplary discretion or extreme stupidity of all the writers that have given accounts of them. 'Tis very easy to see they have more liberty than we have, no woman, of what rank so ever being permitted to go in the streets without two muslins, one that covers her face all but her eyes and another that hides the whole dress of her head, and hangs half way down her back and their shapes are also wholly concealed by a thing they call aferace which no woman of any sort appears without. This has straight sleeves that reaches to their fingers ends and it laps all round them, not unlike a riding hood. In winter 'tis of cloth and in summer plain stuff or silk. You may guess then how effectually this disguises them, that there is no distinguishing the great lady from her slave and 'tis impossible for the most jealous husband to know his wife when he meets her, and no man dare either touch or follow a woman in the street.
This perpetual masquerade gives them entire liberty of following their inclinations without danger of discovery. The most usual method of intrigue is to send an appointment to the lover to meet the lady at a Jew’s shop, which are as notoriously convenient as our Indian houses, and yet, even those that don't make use of them do not scruple to go to buy pennyworths and tumble over rich goods, which are chiefly to be found amongst that sort of people. The great ladies seldom let their gallants know who they are, and 'tis so difficult to find it out that they can very seldom guess at her name they have corresponded with above half a year together. You may easily imagine the number of faithful wives very small in a country where they have nothing to fear from their lovers' indiscretion, since we see so many that have the courage to expose themselves to that in this world, and all the threatened punishment of the next, which is never preached to the Turkish damsels. Neither have they much to apprehend from the resentment of their husbands,…
Pg. 72 LETTER XXX Cont.
Note the importance of the women having their own money. So far, Lady Mary’s declaration of the freedom of Turkish women is her interpretation – she has not asked whether the women feel free. Also interesting is how many wives a man can have. In the style of a good anthropologist Lady Mary notes difference between the ideal system and what really happens.
… those ladies that are rich having all their money in their own hands, which they take with them upon a divorce with an addition which he is obliged to give them. Upon the whole, I look upon the Turkish women as the only free people in the empire. The very Divan146 pays respect to them and the Grand Signor himself, when a pasha is executed, never violates the privileges of the harem (or women's apartment) which remains unsearched entire to the widow. They are queens of their slaves, which the husband has no permission so much as to look upon, except it be an old woman or two that his lady chooses. 'Tis true, their law permits them four wives, but there is no instance of a man of quality that makes use of this liberty, or of a woman of rank that would suffer it. When a husband happens to be inconstant, as those things will happen, he keeps his mistress in a house apart and visits her as privately as he can, just as 'tis with you. Amongst all the great men here, I only know the tefterdar (ie treasurer) that keeps a number of she-slaves for his own use (that is, on his own side of the house, for a slave once given to serve a lady is entirely at her disposal) and he is spoke of as a libertine, or what we should call a rake, and his wife won't see him, though she continues to live in his house.
Thus you see, dear sister, the manners of mankind do not differ so widely as our voyage writers would make us believe. Perhaps it would be more entertaining to add a few surprising customs of my own invention, but nothing seems to me so agreeable as truth, and I believe nothing so acceptable to you. 1, conclude with repeating the great truth of my being, dear sister etc.
LETTER XXXI (Adrianople, I April 1717)
To Alexander Pope,
I dare say you expect at least something very new in this letter, after I have gone a journey not undertaken by any Christian for some hundred years. The most remarkable accident that….
Pg. 73 LETTER XXXI Cont.
Most considerable Turks divert themselves – under trees – a set party – sit and drink and a slave sings or plays an instrument.
….happened to me was my being very near overturned into the Hebrus;147 and, if I had much regard for the glories that one's name death I should certainly be sorry for having missed the romantic conclusion of swimming down the same river in which the musical head of Orpheus repeated verses so many ages since:148
Caput a cervice revulsum,
Gurgite cum medio, portans Oeagrius Hebrus
Volveret, Euridicen, vox ipsa, et frigida lingua,
Ah! Miseram Euridicen! anima fugiente vocabat,
Euridicen toto referebant flumine ripae149
Who knows but some of your bright wits might have found it a subject affording many poetical turns and have told the world, in an heroic elegy that:
As equal were our souls, so equal were our fates?
I despair of ever hearing so many fine things said of me, as
so extraordinary a death would have given occasion for.
I am at this present moment writing in a house situated on the banks of the Hebrus, which runs under my chamber window. My garden is full of tall cypress trees upon the branches of which several couple of true turtles150 are saying soft things to one another from morning till night. How naturally do boughs and vows come into my head at this minute! And must not you confess, to my praise, that 'tis more than an ordinary discretion that can resist the wicked suggestions of poetry in a place where truth for once furnishes all the ideas of pastoral? The summer is already far advanced in this part of the world and for some miles round Adrianople the whole ground is laid out in gardens, and the banks of the rivers set with rows of fruit tress, under which all the most considerable Turks divert themselves every evening, not with walking, that is not one of their pleasures, but a set party of them choose out a green spot where the shade is very thick and there they spread a carpet on which they sit drinking their coffee and generally attended by some slave with a fine voice, or that plays on some instrument. Every twenty paces you may see one of these little companies listening to the dashing of….
Pg. 74 LETTER XXXI Cont.
The gardeners are the only happy race of country people in Turkey. They have little houses in their gardens and women take a liberty not permitted in the town; they go unveiled.
….the river, and this taste is so universal that the very gardeners are not without it. I have often seen them and their children sitting on the banks of the river and playing on a rural instrument, perfectly answering the description of the ancient fistula,151 being composed of unequal reeds with a simple but agreeable softness in the sound. Mr Addison152 might here make the experiment he speaks of in his travels, there not being one instrument of music among the Greek or Roman statues that is not to be found in the hands of the people of this country. The young lads generally divert themselves with making garlands for their favourite lambs, which I have often seen painted and adorned with flowers, lying at their feet, while they sung or played. It is not that they ever read romances, but these are the ancient amusements here, and as natural to them as cudgel playing and football to our British swains; the softness and warmth of the climate forbidding all rough exercises, which were never so much as heard of amongst them, and naturally inspiring a laziness and aversion to labour which the great plenty indulges. These gardeners are the only happy race of country people in Turkey. They furnish all the city with fruit and herbs, and seem to live very easily. They are most of them Greeks and have little houses in the midst of their gardens, where their wives and daughters take a liberty not permitted in the town; I mean to go unveiled. These wenches are very neat and handsome, and pass their time at their looms, under the shade of their trees.
I no longer look upon Theocritus153 as a romantic writer; he has only given a plain image of the way of life amongst the peasants of his country, which before oppression had reduced them to want were, I suppose, all employed as the better sort of them are now. I don't doubt had he been born a Briton his Idylliums had been filled with descriptions of threshing and churning, both which are unknown here, the corn being all trode out by oxen and butter (I speak it with sorrow) unheard of.
I read over your Homer154 here with an infinite pleasure, and find several little passages explained that I did not before….
Pg. 75 LETTER XXXI Cont.
Princesses of great ladies pass time at looms – surrounded by maids. Dancing is also noted.
….entirely comprehend the beauty of, many of the customs
and dress then in fashion being yet retained and I don't wonder to find more
remains here of an age so distant than it is be found in any other country,
the Turks not taking that pains to introduce their own manners as has been generally
practised by other nations that imagine themselves more polite.155 It would
be too tedious to you to point out all the passages that relate to the present
customs, but I can assure you that the princesses and great ladies pass their
time at their looms embroidering veils and robes, surrounded by their maids,
which are always very numerous, in the same manner as we find Andromache156
and Helen described. The description of the belt of Menelaus157 exactly resembles
those that are now worn by the great men, fastened before with broad golden
clasps, and embroidered round with rich work. The snowy veil that Helen throws
over her face is still fashionable, and I never see half a dozen of old bashaws158
(as I do very often) with their reverend beards sitting basking in the sun but
I recollect good King Priam and his counsellors.159 Their manner of dancing
is certainly the same that Diana is sung to have danced on the banks by Eurotas.160
The great lady still leads the dance and is followed by a troop of young girls
who imitate her steps and, if she sings, make up the chorus. The tunes are extreme
gay and lively, yet with something in them wonderfull soft. The steps are varied
according to the pleasure of her that leads the dance, but always in exact time,
and infinitely more agreeable than any of our dances, at least in my opinion.
I sometimes make one in the train but am not skilful enough to lead. These are
Grecian dances, the Turkish being very different.
I should have told you in the first place that the Eastern manners give a great light into many scripture passages that appear odd to us, their phrases being commonly what we should call scripture language. The vulgar Turk is very different from what is spoke at court, or amongst the people of figure, who always mix so much Arabic and Persian in their discourse that it may very well be called another language. And 'tis as ridiculous to make use of the expressions commonly used in speaking to a….
Pg. 76 LETTER XXXI Cont.
Turkish verse addressed to the Sultana.
….great man or lady, as it would be to talk broad Yorkshire or Somersetshire in the drawing room. Besides this distinction they have what they call the sublime, that is, a style proper for poetry, and which is exact scripture style. I believe you would be pleased to see a genuine example of this, and I am very glad I have it in my power to satisfy your curiosity by sending you a faithful copy of the verses that Ibrahim Pasha, the reigning favourite, has made for the young princess his contracted wife, whom he is not yet permitted to visit without witnesses, though she is gone home to his house. He is a man of wit and learning and whether or no he is capable of writing good verse himself you may be sure that, on such an occasion, he would not want the assistance of the best poets in the empire. Thus the verses may be looked upon as a sample of their finest poetry, and I don't doubt you'll be of my mind that it is most wonderfully resembling The Song of Solomon,161 which was also addressed to a.royal bride.
Turkish verses addressed to the Sultana, eldest daughter of
Sultan Achmed III162
The nightingale now wanders in the vines;
Her passion is to seek roses.
I went down to admire the beauty of the vines;
The sweetness of your charms has ravished my soul.
Your eyes are black and lovely,
But wild and disdainful as those of a stag.
The wished possession is delayed from day to day;
The cruel Sultan Achmed will not permit me to see those cheeks, more vermilion than roses.
I dare not snatch one of your kisses;
The sweetness of your charms has ravish'd my soul.
Your eyes are black and lovely,
But wild and disdainful as those of a stag.
Pg. 77 LETTER XXXI Cont.
The wretched Pasha Ibrahim sighs in these verses;
One dart from your eyes has pierc'd thro' my heart.
Ah! when will the hour of possession arrive?
Must I yet wait a long time?
The sweetness of your charms has ravished my soul.
Ah! Sultana! stag-eyed, an angel amongst angels!
I desire and, my desire remains unsatisfied.
Can you take delight to prey upon my heart?
My cries pierce the heavens,
My eyes are without sleep,
Turn to me, Sultana, let me gaze on thy beauty.
Adieu, I go down to the grave.
If you call me, I return.
My heart is hot as sulphur; sigh, and it will flame.
Crown of my life! fair light of my eyes, my Sultana, my
I rub my face against the earth: I am drown'd in scalding tears,
Have you no compassion? Will you not turn to look upon me?
I have taken abundance of pains to get these verses in a literal translation, and if you were acquainted with my interpreters, I might spare myself the trouble of assuring you that they have received no poetical touches from their hands. In my opinion, allowing for the inevitable faults of a prose translation into a language so very different, there is a good deal of beauty in them. The epithet of stag-eyed, though the sound is not very agreeable in English, pleases me extremely and is, I think, a very lively image of the fire and indifference in his mistress' eyes. Monsieur Boileau163 has very justly observed we are never to judge of the elevation of an expression in an ancient author by the sound it carries with us, which may be extremely fine with them, at the same time it looks low or uncouth to us. You are so well acquainted with….
Pg. 78 LETTER XXXI Cont.
….Homer, you cannot but have observed the same thing, and you must have the same indulgence for all Oriental poetry. The repetitions at the end of the two first stanzas are meant for a sort of chorus, and agreeable to the ancient manner of writing, The music of the verses apparently changes in the third stanza where the burden is altered, and I think he very artfully seems more passionate at the conclusion, as 'tis natural for people to warrn themselves by their own discourse, especially on a subject in which one is deeply concerned and is far more touching than our modern custom of concluding a song of passion with a turn which is inconsistent with it. The first verse is a description of the season of the year, all the country being now full of nightingales, whose amours with roses is an Arabian fable,164 as well know here as any part of Ovid amongst us, and is much the same as if an English poem should begin by saying: 'Now Philomela sings'. Or what if I turned the whole into the style of English poetry to see how it would look?
Now Philomel renews her tender strain,
Indulging all the night her pleasing pain;
I sought the groves to hear the wanton sing,
There saw a face more beauteous than the spring.
Your large stag's eyes, where thousand glories play,
As bright, as lively, but as wild as they.
In vain I'm promis'd such a heav'nly prize,
Ah! cruel Sultan who delays my joys!
While piercing charms transfix my amorous heart,
I dare not snatch one kiss to ease the smart.
Those eyes like, etc.
Your wretched lover in these lines complains,
From those dear beauties rise his killing pains.
Pg. 79 LETTER XXXI Cont.
When will the hour of wished-for bliss arrive?
Must I wait longer? Can I wait and live?
Ah! bright Sultana! Maid divinely fair!
Can you unpitying see the pain I bear?
The heavens relenting hear my piercing cries,
I loathe the light and sleep forsakes my eyes;
Turn thee, Sultana, ere thy lover dies.
Sinking to earth, I sigh the last adieu,
Call me, my goddess, and my life renew.
My queen! my angel! my fond heart's desire,
I rave, my bosom bums with heav'nly fire,
Pity that passion which thy charms inspire.
I have taken the liberty in the second verse of following what
I suppose is the true sense of the author, though not literally expressed. By
saying he went down to admire the beauty of the vines and her charms ravished
his soul, I understand a poetical fiction, of having first seen her in a garden,
where he was admiring the beauty of the spring; but I could not forbear retaining
the comparison of her eyes with those of a stag, though perhaps the novelty
of it may give it a burlesque sound in our language. I cannot determine, upon
the whole, how well I have succeeded in the translation, neither do I think
our English proper to express such violence of passion, which is very seldom
felt amongst us and we want also those compound words which are very frequent
and strong in the Turkish language.
You see I am pretty far gone in oriental learning, and to say truth I study very hard. I wish my studies may give me occasion of entertaining your curiosity, which will be the utmost advantage hoped from it, by etc.
Pg. 81 LETTER XXXII (Adrianople, 1 April 1718)
To Sarah Chiswell (an excerpt)
About the smallpox vaccination.
…A propos of distempers I am going to tell you a thing that I 11 make you wish yourself here. The smallpox, so fatal and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless by the invention of engrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a women who make it their business to perform the Every autumn in the month of September when the is abated, people send one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the smallpox. They make parties for this purpose and when they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together) the old woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of smallpox, and asks what veins you please to have opened. She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch) and puts into the vein as much venom as can lie upon the head of her needle, and after binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell, and in this manner opens four or five veins. The Grecians have commonly the superstition of opening one in the middle of the forehead, in each arm and on the breast to mark the sign of the cross, but this has a very ill effect, all these wounds leaving little scars, and is not done by those that are not superstitious, who choose to have them in the legs or that part of the arm that is concealed. The children or young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health until the eighth. Then the fever begins to seize them and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. They have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which never mark, and in eight days time they are as well as before their illness. Where they are wounded there remains running sores during the distemper which I don't doubt is a great relief to it. Every year thousands undergo this operation, and the French Ambassador says pleasantly that they take the smallpox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of any one that has died in it, and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of the experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England. …
Pg. 83 LETTER XXXIII (Adrianople, 1 April 1718)
To Anne Thistelethwayte, (An excerpt)
…I suppose you have read in most of our accounts of Turkey that their houses are the most miserable pieces of …
Pg. 84 LETTER XXXIII cont.
The letter talks of Turkish houses. Every house, upon the death of its master, is at the Grand Signors’ disposal and therefore no man cares to make a great expense which he is not sure his family will be better for. Architecture and Layout– all houses divided into two parts joined by a passage. House belonging to the lord and the adjoining one called the harem – ladies’ apartment. Architecture and social structure – the houses are split along gender lines (as are the heavens).
….building in the world. I can speak very learnedly on that subject, having been in so many of them and I assure you 'tis no such thing. We are now lodged in a palace belonging to the Grand Signor. I really think the manner of building here very agreeable and proper for the country. 'Tis true, they are not at all solicitous to beautify the outsides of their houses and they are generally built of wood, which I own is the cause of many inconveniences, but this is not to be charged on the ill taste of the people, but on the oppression of the government. Every house, upon the death of its master, is at the Grand Signor's disposal and therefore no man cares to make a great expense which he is not sure his family will be the better for. All their design is to build a house commodious and that will last their lives, and they are very indifferent if it falls down the year after. Every house, great and small, is divided into two distinct parts, which only join together by a narrow passage. The first house has-a large court before it, and open galleries all round it, which is to me a thing very agreeable. This gallery leads to all the chambers which are commonly large, and with two rows of windows, the first being of painted glass. They seldom build above two storeys, each of which has such galleries. The stairs are broad and not often above thirty steps. This is the house belonging to the lord, and the adjoining one is called the harem, that is, the ladies' apartment (for the name of seraglio is peculiar to the Grand Signor's). It has also a gallery running round it towards the garden to which all the windows are turned, and the same number of chambers as the other, but more gay and splendid, both in painting and furniture. The second row of windows are very low, with grates like those of convents.
The rooms are all spread with Persian carpets and raised at one end of them (my chamber is raised at both ends) about two feet. This is the sofa, and is laid with a richer sort of carpet, and all round it a sort of couch raised half a foot, covered with rich silk, according to the fancy or magnificence of the owner. Mine is of scarlet cloth with a gold fringe. Round about this are placed, standing against the wall, two rows of cushions, the first very large and the next little ones, and here the Turks display….
Pg. 85 LETTER XXXIII Cont.
The description of the magnificence of the furniture and interiors is continued. Lady Mary notes that other writers have exaggerated and men write nothing of women’s world.
….their greatest magnificence. They are generally brocade or gold wire upon satin. Nothing can look more gay and splendid. These seats are so convenient and easy that I believe I shall never endure chairs as long as I live. The rooms are low, which I think no fault, the ceiling always of wood generally inlaid or painted and gilded. They use no hangings, the rooms being all wainscoted with cedar set off with silver nails or painted with flowers, which open in many places with folding doors and serve for cabinets, I think more conveniently than ours. Between the windows are little arches to set pots of perfume or baskets of flowers. But what pleases me best is the fashion of having marble fountains in the lower part of the room, which throws up several spouts of water giving, at the same time, an agreeable coolness and a pleasant dashing sound, falling from one basin to another. Some of these fountains are very magnificent. Each house has a bagnio, which consists generally in two or three little rooms, leaded on the top, paved with marble with basins, cocks of water, and all conveniences for either hot or cold baths.
You will perhaps be surprised at an account so different from what you have been entertained with by the common voyage writers, who are very fond of speaking of what they don't know. It must be under a very particular character, or on some extraordinary occasion when a Christian is admitted into the house of a man of quality, and their harems are always forbidden ground. Thus they can only speak of the outside, which makes no great appearance, and the women's apartments are always built backward, removed from sight, and have no other prospect than the gardens, which are enclosed with very high walls. There is none of our parterres in them, but they are planted with high trees which give an agreeable shade, and, to my fancy, a pleasing view. In the midst of the garden is the kiosk, that is, a large room commonly beautified with a fine fountain in the midst of it. It is raised nine or ten steps and enclosed with gilded lattices round which vines, jessamines and honeysuckles twining make a sort of green wall. Large trees are planted round this place, which is the scene of their greatest pleasures, and where the….
Pg. 86 LETTER XXXIII Cont.
The life of high-class women is described.
….ladies spend most of their hours, employed by their music or embroidery. In the public gardens there are public kiosks where people go that are not so well accommodated at home, and drink their coffee, sherbet etc. Neither are they ignorant of a more durable manner of building. Their mosques are all of free stone, and the public hans or inns extremely magnificent, many of them taking up a large square built round with shops under stone arches, where poor artificers are lodged gratis. They have always a mosque joining to them, and the body of the ban is a most noble hall, capable of holding three or four hundred persons, the court extreme spacious and cloisters round it that give it the air of our colleges. I own I think these foundations a more reasonable piece of charity than the founding of convents. I think I have now told you a great deal for once. If you don't like my choice of subjects, tell me what you would have me write upon. There is nobody more desirous to entertain you tiran, dear Mrs Thistelthwayte, etc.
LETTER XXXIV (Adrianople, 18 April 1718)
To Lady Mar,
Dining with the Grand Vizier’s lady.
I writ to you, dear sister, and to all my other English correspondents,
by the last ship and only heaven can tell when I shall have another opportunity
of sending to you; but I cannot forbear writing though perhaps my letter may
lie upon my hands this two months. To confess the truth my head is so full of
my entertainment yesterday that 'tis absolutely necessary for my own repose
to give it some vent. Without farther preface, I will then begin my story.
I was invited to dine with the Grand Vizier's lady,166 and it was with a great deal of pleasure I prepared myself for an entertainment which was never given before to any Christian. I thought I should very little satisfy her curiosity, which I did not doubt was a considerable motive to the invitation, by going in a
Pg. 87 LETTER XXXIV Cont.
Continued descriptions. Very interesting.
….dress she used to see, and therefore dressed myself in the of Vienna, which is much more magnificent than ours. However, I chose to go incognito to avoid any disputes about ceremony, and went in a Turkish coach, only attended by my woman that held up my train and the Greek lady who was my interpretress. I was met at the court door by her black eunuch, who helped me out of the coach with great respect, and conducted me through several rooms, where her she-slaves, finely dressed, were ranged on each side. In the innermost I found the lady sitting on her sofa, in a sable vest. She advanced to meet me, and presented me half a dozen of her friends with great civility. She seemed a very good woman, near fifty years old. I was surprised to observe so little magnificence in her house, the furniture being all very moderate and, except the habits and number of her slaves, nothing about her that appeared expensive. She guessed at my thoughts and told me that she was no longer of an age to spend either her time or money in superfluities; that her whole expense was in charity, and her employment praying to God. There was no affectation in this speech; both she and her husband are entirely given up to devotion. He never looks upon any other woman and, what is much more extraordinary, touches no bribes, notwithstanding the example of all his predecessors. He is so scrupulous on this point, he would not accept Mr Wortley's present till he had been assured over and over that 'twas a settled perquisite of his place, at the entrance of every ambassador.
She entertained me with all kind of civility, till dinner came in, which was served, one dish at a time, to a vast number, all finely dressed after their manner, which I do not think so bad as you have perhaps heard it represented. I am a very good judge of their eating, having lived three weeks in the house of an effendi167 at Belgrade, who gave us very magnificent dinners, dressed by his own cooks which the first week pleased me extremely but, I own I then began to grow weary of it and desired our own cook might add a dish or two after our manner. But I attribute this to custom. I am very much inclined to believe an Indian that had never tasted of either, would prefer….
Pg. 88 LETTER XXXIV Cont.
Ritual behaviour described. Then Lady Mary visits the Kabya’s lady and notes differences between houses of Vizier’s lady and Kabya’s lady – the difference between the homes of an“old devote and a young beauty”. Eunuchs are present again.
….their cookery to ours. Their sauces are very high,168 all the roast very much done. They use a great deal of rich spice. The soup is served for the last dish and they have at least as great variety of ragouts as we have. I was very sorry I could not eat of as many as the good lady would have had me, who was very earnest in serving me of everything. The treat concluded with coffee and perfumes, which is a high mark of respect; two slaves kneeling censed169 my hair, clothes and handkerchief. After this ceremony she commanded her slaves to play and dance, which they did with their guitars in their hands, and she excused to me their want of skill, saying she took no care to accomplish them in that art. I returned her thanks and, soon after took my leave.
I was conducted back in the same manner I entered and would have gone straight to my own house but the Greek lady with me earnestly solicited me to visit the Kabya's lady, saying he was the second officer in the empire and ought indeed to be looked upon as the first, the Grand Vizier having only the name, while he exercised the authority. I had found so little diversion in this harem that I had no mind to go into another. But her importunity prevailed with me and I am extremely glad I was so complaisant. All things here were with quite another air than at the Grand Vizier's and the very house confessed the difference between an old devote and a young beauty. It was nicely clean and magnificent. I was met at the door by two black eunuchs who led me through a long gallery between two ranks of beautiful young girls, with their hair finely plaited almost hanging to their feet, all dressed in fine light damasks brocaded with silver. I was sorry that decency did not permit me to stop to consider them nearer. But that thought was lost upon my entrance into a large room or rather pavilion built round with gilded sashes, which were most of them thrown up and the trees planted near them gave an agreeable shade which hindered the sun from being troublesome, the jessamines and honeysuckles that twisted round their trunks shedding a soft perfume, increased by a white marble fountain playing sweet water in the lower part of the room, which fell into three or four basins with….
Embassy Letters Pg. 89 LETTER XXXIV Cont.
Continued description of visit to Kabya’s lady. She noted that the corner was a place of honour.
….a pleasing sound. The roof was painted with all sorts
of flowers out to gilded baskets, that seemed tumbling down.
On a sofa raised three steps and covered with fine Persian carpets, sat the Kabya's lady, leaning on cushions of white satin, embroidered, and at her feet sat two young girls, the eldest about twelve year old, lovely as angels, dressed perfectly rich, and almost covered with jewels. But they were hardly seen near the fair Fatima (for that is her name) so much her beauty effaced everything I have seen all that has been called lovely either in England or Germany and must own that I never saw anything so gloriously beautiful, nor can I recollect a face that would have been taken notice of near hers. She stood up to receive me, saluting me after their fashion putting her hand upon her heart with a sweetness full of majesty that no court breeding could ever give. She ordered cushions to be given me and took care to place me in the corner, which is the place of honour. I confess, though, the Greek lady had before given me a great opinion of her beauty I was so struck with admiration that I could not for some time speak to her, being wholly taken up in gazing. That surprising harmony of features! That charming result of the whole! That exact proportion of body! That lovely bloom of complexion, unsullied by art! The unutterable enchantment of her smile! But her eyes! Large and black, with all the soft languishment of the blue! Every turn of her face discovering some new charm! After my first surprise was over I endeavoured, by nicely examining her face, to find out some imperfection, without any fruit of my search, but my being clearly convinced of the error of that vulgar notion, that a face perfectly remilar would not be agreeable; nature having done for her, with more success, what Apelles170 is said to have essayed, by a collection of the most exact features, to form a perfect face. And to that a behaviour so full of grace and sweetness, such easy motions, with an air so majestic, yet free from stiffness or affectation that I am persuaded, could she be suddenly transported upon the most polite throne of Europe nobody would think her other than born and bred to be a queen, though educated in a country we call barbarous. To say all in a word, our most celebrated English beauties would vanish near her….
Pg. 90 LETTER XXXIV Cont.
Description of the clothes, music and dance.
…She was dressed in a caftan of gold brocade, flowered with silver, very well fitted to her shape, and showing to advantage the beauty of her bosom, only shaded by the thin gauze of her shift. Her drawers were pale pink, her waistcoat green and silver, her slippers white, finely embroidered, her lovely arms adorned with bracelets of diamonds and her broad girdle set round with diamonds; upon her head a rich Turkish handkerchief of pink and silver, her own fine black hair hanging a great length in various tresses, and on one side of her head some bodkins of jewels. I am afraid you will accuse me of extravagance in this description. I think I have read somewhere that women always speak in rapture when they speak of beauty, but I can't imagine why they should not be allowed to do so. I rather think it virtue to be able to admire without any mixture of desire or envy. The gravest writers have spoken with great warmth of some celebrated pictures and statues. The workmanship of Heaven certainly excels all our weak imitations, and I think has a much better claim to our praise. For my part I am not ashamed to own I took more pleasure in looking on the beauteous Fatima than the finest piece of sculpture could have given me. She told me the two girls at her feet were her daughters, though she appeared too young to be their mother.
Her fair maids were ranged below the sofa, to the number of twenty, and put me in mind of the pictures of the ancient nymphs. I did not think all nature could have furnished such a scene of beauty. She made them a sign to play and dance. Four of them immediately begun to play some soft airs on instruments, between a lute and a guitar, which they accompanied with their voices, while the others danced by turns. This dance was very different from what I had seen before. Nothing could be more artful or more proper to raise certain ideas; the tunes so soft, the motions so languishing, accompanied with pauses and dying eyes, half falling back and then recovering themselves in so artful a manner that I am very positive the coldest and most rigid prude upon earth could not have looked upon them without thinking of something not to be spoke of. I suppose you may have read that the Turks have no music but what is….
Pg. 91 LETTER XXXIV Cont.
Turkish music and continued descriptions.
….shocking to the ears, but this account is from those who never any but what is played in the streets, and is just as reasonable as if a foreigner should take his ideas of English music from the bladder and string or the marrow-bones and cleavers.171 I can assure you that the music is extremely pathetic; 'tis true, I am inclined to prefer the Italian, but perhaps I am partial. I am acquainted with a Greek lady who sings better than Mrs Robinson172 and is very well skilled in both, who gives the preference to the Turkish. 'Tis certain they have very fine natural voices; these were very agreeable.
When the dance was over, four fair slaves came into the room with silver censers in their hands and perfumed the air with amber, aloes wood and other scents. After this they served me coffee upon their knees in the finest Japan china, with soucoups173 of silver gilt. The lovely Fatima entertained me all this while, in the most polite agreeable manner, calling me often guzel Sultanum, or the beautiful Sultana, and desiring my friendship with the best grace in the world, lamenting that she could not entertain me in my own language.
When I took my leave, two maids brought in a fine silver basket of embroidered handkerchiefs. She begged I would wear the richest for her sake and gave the others to my woman and interpretress. I retired through the same ceremonies as before, and could not help fancying I had been some time in Mohammed's paradise, so much was I charmed with what I had seen. I know not how the relation of it appears to you. I wish it may give you part of my pleasure for I would have my dear sister share in all the diversions of etc.
LETTER XXXV (Adrianople, 17 May 1718)
To Abbé Conti,
Before leaving Adrianople, Lady gives an account of “all that is curious in it”.
I am going to leave Adrianople and I would not do it without giving some account of all that is curious in it, which I have….
Pg. 92 LETTER XXXV Cont.
….taken a great deal of pains to see. I will not trouble you with wise dissertations, whether or no this is the same city that was anciently called Orestesit or Oreste, which you know better than I do. It is now called from the Emperor Adrian174 and was the first European seat of the Turkish empire, and has been the favourite residence of many sultans. Mehmed IV the father, and Mustafa,175 the brother of the reigning emperor were so fond of it that they wholly abandoned Constantinople, which humour so far exasperated the Janissaries that it was a considerable motive to the rebellions which deposed them. Yet this man seems to love to keep his court here. I can give no reason for this partiality. 'Tis true, the situation is fine and the country all round very beautiful, but the air is extreme bad and the seraglio itself is not free from the ill effect of it. The town is said to be eight miles in compass; I suppose they reckon in the gardens. There are some good houses in it, I mean large ones, for the architecture of their palaces never makes any great show. It is now very full of people, but they are most of them such as follow the court or camp, and when they are removed, I am told, 'tis no populous city. The river Maritza (anciently the Hebrus) on which it is situated is dried up every summer, which contributes very much to make it unwholesome. It is now a very pleasant stream. There are two noble bridges built over it. I had the curiosity to go to see the Exchange in my Turkish dress which is disguise sufficient, yet I own I was not very easy when I saw it crowded with Janissaries; but they dare not be rude to a woman and made way for me with as much respect as if I had been in my own figure. It is half a mile in length, the roof arched and kept extremely neat. It holds 365 shops furnished with all sorts of rich goods, exposed to sale in the same manner as at the New Exchange in London, but the pavement kept much neater and the shops all so clean they seemed just new painted. Idle people of all sorts walk here for their diversion, or amuse themselves with drinking coffee or sherbet, which is cried about as oranges and sweetmeats are in our playhouses.
I observed most of the rich tradesmen were Jews. That people are in incredible power in this country. They have many….
Pg. 93 LETTER XXXV Cont.
….privileges above the natural Turks themselves and have formed a commonwealth here, being judged by their laws and have drawn the whole trade of the empire into hands, partly by the firm union amongst themselves and prevailing on the idle temper and want of industry of the Turks. Every pasha has his Jew who is his homme d'affaires. He is let into all his secrets and does all his business. No bargain is made, no bribe received, no merchandise disposed of but what passes through their hands. They are the physicians, the stewards and the interpreters of all the great men. You may judge how advantageous this is to a people who never fail to make use of the smallest advantages. They have found the secret of making themselves so necessary they are certain of the protection of the court whatever ministry is in power. Even the English, French and Italian merchants, who are sensible in their artifices are however forced to trust their affairs to their negotiation, nothing of trade being managed without them and the meanest amongst them is too important to be disobliged since the whole body take care of his interests with as much vigour as they would those of the most considerable of their members. They are many of them vastly rich but take care to make little public show of it, though they live in their houses in the utmost luxury and magnificence. This copious subject has drawn me from my description of the exchange founded by Ali Pasha, whose name it bears.176 Near it is the Shershi, a street of a mile in length, full of shops and all kind of fine merchandise but excessive dear, nothing being made here. It is covered on the top with boards to keep out the rain, that merchants may meet conveniently in all weathers. The Bedesten near it is another exchange, built upon pillars, where all sort of horse furniture is sold; glittering everywhere with gold, rich embroidery and jewels it makes a very agreeable show.
From this place I went in my Turkish coach to the camp, which is to move in a few days to the frontiers. The Sultan is already gone to his tents, and all his court. The appearance of them is indeed very magnificent. Those of the great men are rather like palaces than tents, taking up a great compass of….
Pg. 94 LETTER XXXV Cont.
Description of a procession.
….ground and being divided into a vast number of apartments. They are all of green and the pashas of three tails have those ensigns of their power placed in a very conspicuous manner before their tents which are adorned on the top with gilded balls, more or less according to their different ranks.177 The ladies go in their coaches to see this camp as eagerly as ours did to that of Hyde Park,178 but 'tis easy to observe that the soldiers do not begin the campaign with any great cheerfulness. The war is a general grievance upon the people but particularly hard upon the tradesmen.
Now the Grand Signor is resolved to lead his army in person every company of them is obliged upon this occasion to make a present according to their ability. I took the pains of rising at six in the morning to see that ceremony, which did not however begin till eight. The Grand Signor was at the seraglio window to see the procession, which passed through all the principal streets. It was preceded by an Effendi mounted on a camel richly furnished, reading aloud the Alcoran, finely bound, laid upon a cushion. Hew was surrounded by a pracel of boys in white, singing some verses of it, followed by a man dressed in green boughs representing a clean husbandman sowing seed. After him several reapers with garlands of ears of corn, as Ceres is pictured, with scythes in their hands seeming to mow; then a little machine drawn by oxen, in which was a windmill and boys employed in grinding corn, followed by another machine drawn by buffaloes carrying an oven and two more boys, one employed in kneading the bread and another in drawing it out of the oven. These boys threw little cakes on both sides among the crowd and were followed by the whole company of bakers marching on foot, two and two, in their best clothes, with cakes, loaves, pasties and pies of all sorts on their heads; and after then two buffoons or jack puddings with their faces and clothes smeared with meal, who diverted the mob with their antick gestures. In the same manner followed all the companies of trade in their empire, the nobler sort such as jewellers, mercers etc. finely mounted and many of the pageants that represented their trades perfectly magnificent, amongst….
Pg. 95 LETTER XXXV Cont.
Part of the show seemed “barbarous”. Lady Mary couldn’t watch – people naked to middle and their arms pierced through with arrows left sticking in them, others – sticking in their heads, the blood trickling down their faces, slashed arms with knives. Blood spout out over those near – seen as expression of their zeal for glory (emic view). Altogether an important page.
….which the furriers' made one of the best figures, being
a very large machine set round with the skins of ermines, foxes etc. so well
stuffed the animals seemed to be alive, followed by music and dancers. I believe
there were, upon the whole, at least 20,000 men, all ready to follow his highness
if he commanded them.
The rear was closed by the volunteers who came to beg the honour of dying in his service. This part of the show seemed to me so barbarous I removed from the window upon the first appearance of it. They were all naked to the middle, their arms pierced through with arrows left sticking in them, others had them sticking in their heads, the blood trickling down their faces, and some slashed their arms with sharp knives, making the blood spout out upon those that stood near, and this is looked upon as an expression of their zeal for glory. I am told that some make use of it to advance their love, and when they are near the window where their mistress stands, all the women in town being veiled to see this spectacle, they stick another arrow for her sake, who gives some sign of approbation and encouragement to this gallantry. The whole show lasted near eight hours, to my great sorrow, who was heartily tired, though I was in the house of the widow of the Captain Pasha (Admiral), who refreshed me with coffee, sweetmeats, sherbet etc. with all possible civility.
I went two days after to see the mosque of Sultan Selim I,179 which is a building very well worth the curiosity of a traveller. I was dressed in my Turkish habit and admitted without scruple, though I believe they guessed who I was by the extreme officiousness of the door keeper to show me every part of it. It is situated very advantageously in the midst of the city and in the highest part, making a very noble show. The first court has four gates and the innermost, three. They are both of them surrounded with cloisters with marble pillars of the Ionic order, finely polished and of very lively colours, the whole pavement being white marble, the roof of the cloisters being divided into several cupelos or domes, leaded, with gilt balls on the top, in the midst of each four fine fountains of white marble; before….
Pg. 96 LETTER XXXV Cont.
Description of the mosque. Compares layout with British churches. “Not divided into pews and encumbered with forms and benches like our churches”. Notes fountain to wash – essential part of their devotion. There are three staircases so that three priests may ascend without meeting each other.
….the great gate of the mosque a portico with green marble pillars.
It has five gates, the body of the mosque being one prodigious dome. I understand so little of architecture I dare not pretend to speak of the proportions; it seemed to me very regular. This I am sure of, it is vastly high, and I thought it the noblest building I ever saw. It had two rows of marble galleries on pillars with marble balustrades, the pavement marble covered with persian carpets, and in my opinion it is a great addition to its beauty that it is not divided into pews and encumbered with forms and benches like our churches, nor the pillars (which are most of them red and white marble) disfigured by the little tawdry images and pictures that give the Roman Catholic churches the air of toyshops. The walls seemed to me inlaid with such very lively colours in small flowers, I could not imagine what stones had been made use of, but, going nearer ' I saw they were crusted with japan china180 which has a very beautiful effect. In the midst hung a vast lamp of silver gilt, besides which I do verily believe there was at least 2,000 of a lesser size. This must look very glorious when they are all lighted, but that being at night no women are suffered to enter. Under the large lamp is a great pulpit of carved wood gilt and just by it a fountain to wash, which you know is an essential part of their devotion. In one comer is a little gallery enclosed with gilded lattices for the Grand Signor; at the upper end a large niche very like an altar, raised two steps, covered with gold brocade, and standing before it two silver gilt candlesticks the height of a man and in them white wax candles as thick as a man's waist. The outside of the mosque is adomed with four towers vastly high, gilt on the top, from whence the imams181 call the people to prayers. I had the curiosity to go up one of them, which is contrived so artfully as to give surprise to all that see it. There is but one door which leads to three different staircases going to the three different storeys of the tower in such a manner that three priests may ascend rounding without ever meeting each other, a contrivance very much admired. Behind the mosque is an exchange full of shops where poor artifiers are lodged gratis. I saw several….
Pg. 97 LETTER XXXV Cont.
Succession. Then first letter from Constantipole.
….dervishes182 at their prayers here. They are dressed
in a plain
piece of woollen with their arms bare and a woollen cap on their high crowned hat without brims. I went to see some other mosques built much after the same manner, but not in point of magnificence to this I have described, which is infinitely beyond any church in Germany or England. I won't talk of other countries I have not seen, The seraglio does not seem a very magnificent palace, but the gardens very large, plentifully supplied with water and full of trees, which is all I know of them, never having been in them.
I tell you nothing of the order of Mr Wortley's entry and his
audience. Those things are always the same and have been so often described
I won't trouble you with the repetition. The young prince, about eleven year
old sits near his father when he gives audience. He is a handsome boy, but probably
will not immediately succeed the Sultan, there being two sons of Sultan Mustafa
(his eldest brother) remaining, the eldest about 20 year old, on whom the hopes
of the people are fixed.183 This reign has been bloody and avaricious. I am
apt to believe they are very impatient to see the end of it. I am, sir, your
I will write to you again from Constantinople.
LETTER XXXVI (Constantinople, 29 May 1717)
To the Abbé Conti,
I have had the advantage of very fine weather all my journey and the summer being now in its beauty I enjoyed the pleasure of fine prospects; and the meadows being full of all sort of garden flowers and sweet herbs my berlin 184 perfumed the air as it pressed them. The Grand Signor furnished us with thirty covered waggons for our baggage and five coaches of the country for my women. We found the road full of the great sipahis185 and their equipages coming out of Asia to the war. They always travel with tents, but I chose to lie in houses all the way….
Pg. 98 LETTER XXXVI Cont.
Apartments destined for the ladies of Grand Signor’s court in a grove of trees.
I will not trouble you with the names of the villages we passed in which there was nothing remarkable, but at Ciorlu we were lodged in a conac or little seraglio, built for the use of the Grand Signor when he goes this road. I had the curiosity to view all the apartments destined for the ladies of his court. They were in the midst of a thick grove of trees made fresh by fountains, but I was surprised to see the walls almost covered with little distiches186 of Turkish verse writ with pencils. I made my interpreter explain them to me and I found several of them very well turned, though I easily believed him that they lost much of their beauty in the translation. One runs literally thus in English:
We come into this world, we lodge, and we depart;
He never goes that's lodged within my heart.
The rest of our journey was through fine painted meadows by the side of the sea of Marmora, the ancient Propontis. We lay the next night at Selivrea, anciently a noble town. It is now a very good sea port, and neatly built enough, and has a bridge of thirty two arches. Here is a famous ancient Greek church. I had given one of my coaches to a Greek lady who desired the convenience of travelling with me. She designed to pay her devotions and I was glad of the opportunity of going with her. I found it an ill built place, set out with the same sort of ornaments but less rich than the Roman Catholic churches. They showed me a saint's body, where I threw a piece of money and a picture of the Virgin Mary drawn by the hand of St Luke, very little to the credit of his painting, but, however, the finest madonna of Italy is not more famous for her miracles. The Greeks have the most monstrous taste in their pictures, which for more finery are always drawn upon a gold ground. You may imagine what a good air this has, but they have no notion either of shade or proportion. They have a bishop here who officiated in his purple robe, and sent me a candle almost as big as myself for a present when I was at my lodging.
We lay the next night at a town called Bujuk Cekmege or Great Bridge and the night following at Kujiik Cekmege, Little Bridge, in a very pleasant lodging, formerly a monastery of dervishes, having before it a large court encompassed with….
Pg. 99 LETTER XXXVI Cont.
Lady Mary notes that the burying fields are much larger than the whole city “'Tis surprising what a vast deal of land is lost this way in Turkey”. “On no occasion they remove a stone that serves for a monument.” Pillars show sex, status and profession.
….marble cloisters with a good fountain in the middle. The prospect from this place and the gardens round it are the most have seen, and shows that monks of all religions to choose their retirements. 'Tis now belonging to a hogia or school master, who teaches boys here, and asking him to show me his own apartment I was surprised to see him point to a tall cypress tree in the garden, on the top of which was a place for a bed for himself and a little lower one for his wife and two children who slept there every night. I was so much diverted with the fancy I resolved to examine his nest nearer but after going up fifty steps I found I had still fifty to go and then I must climb from branch to branch with some hazard of my neck. I thought it the best way to come down again.
We arrived the next evening at Constantinople, but I can yet tell you very little of it, all my time having been taken up with receiving visits, which are at least a very good entertainment to the eyes, the young women being all beauties and their beauty highly improved by the good taste of their dress. Our palace is in Pera, which is no more a suburb of Constantinople than Westminster is a suburb to London. All the Ambassadors are lodged very near each other. One part of our house shows us the port, the city and the seraplio and the distant hills of Asia, perhaps altogether the most beautiful prospect in the world. A certain French author says that Constantinople is twice as large as Paris.187 Mr Wortley is unwilling to own 'tis bigger than London, though I confess it appears to me to be so, but I don't believe 'tis so populous. The burying fields about it are certainly much larger than the whole city. 'Tis surprising what a vast deal of land is lost this way in Turkey. Sometimes I have seen burying places of several miles belonging to very inconsiderable villages which were formerly great towns and retain no other mark of their ancient grandeur. On no occasion they remove a stone that serves for a monument. Some of them are costly enough, being of a very fine marble. They set up a pillar with a carved turban on the top of it to the memory of a man and as the turbans by their different shapes show the quality or profession, 'tis in a manner putting up the an-ns of the deceased; besides, the pillar….
Pg. 100 LETTER XXXVI Cont.
This whole page is of great anthropological value. It shows how beliefs systems affect behaviour, customs, social responses to death. There is an important focus on marital status. Ladies have a simple pillar, but those that die unmarried have a rose on top of it. Any woman that dies unmarried – dies in a state of “reprobation”. The function of women is said to be to increase and multiply. It is interesting to see how beliefs about the function of a woman affect social responses to death. It is also noted that the “function” of women means that they are shut out of public commerce! Women are so scared of dying unmarried that widows sometimes wont remain widows for ten days in case they die in state of “useless creature”. But other women marry only if they are afraid of dying. Lady Mary compares such beliefs to beliefs in Christianity – where virginity is acceptable to God. However, note 188 claims that “In fact matrimony does not affect the spiritual fate of Muslim women – a widow may remarry after four months and ten nights”.
It is thought that women have souls but of so elevated a kind
so there is a separate female paradise. Such a fundamental different must have
Lady Mary also notes particularities of their religion – when a man divorces his wife he can take her again only if she has been permitted a night with another man.
….commonly bears a large inscription in gold letters. The ladies have a simple pillar without other ornament, except those that die unmarried who have a rose on top of it. The sepulchres of particular families are railed in and planted round with trees. Those of the sultans and some great men have lamps constantly burning in them.
When I spoke of their religion I forgot to mention two particularities, one of which I had read of, but it seemed so odd to me I could not believe it.. Yet 'tis certainly true that when a man has divorced his wife in the most solemn manner he can take her again upon no other terms than permitting another man to pass a night with her, and there are some examples of those that have submitted to this law rather than not have back their beloved. The other point of doctrine is very extraordinary; any woman that dies unmarried is looked upon to die in a state of reprobation. To confirm this belief they reason that the end of the creation of woman is to increase and multiply, and she is only properly employed in the works of her calling when she is bringing children or taking care of them, which are all the virtues that God expects from her; and indeed, their way of life, which shuts them out of all public commerce, does not permit them any other. Our vulgar notion that they do not own women to have any souls is a mistake. 'Tis true they say they are not of so elevated a kind and therefore must not hope to be admitted into the paradise appointed for the men, who are to be entertained by celestial beauties, but there is a place of happiness destined for souls of the inferior order where all good women are to be in eternal bliss. Many of them are very superstitious and will not remain widows ten days for fear of dying in the reprobate state of a useless creature.188 But those that like their liberty and are not slaves to their religion content themselves with marrying when they are afraid of dying. This is a piece of theology very different from that which teaches nothing to be more acceptable to God than a vow of perpetual virginity. Which divinity is most rational I leave you to determine.
I have already made some progress in a collection of Greek….
Pg. 101 LETTER XXXVI Cont.
….medals. Here are several professed antiquaries who are ready to ready to serve anybody that desires them, but you can't imagine how they stare in my face when I enquire about them, as if nobody was permitted to seek after medals till they were grown a piece of antiquity themselves. I have got some very valuable of the Macedonian kings, particularly one of Perseus,189 so lively I fancy I can see all his ill qualities in his face. I have a porphyry head finely cut of the true Greek sculpture, but who it represents is to be guessed at by the learned when I return, for you are not to suppose these antiquaries, who are all Greeks, know anything. Their trade is only to sell. They have correspondents at Aleppo, Grand Cairo, in Arabia and Palestine, who send them all they can find, and very often great heaps that are only fit to melt into pans and kettles. They get the best price they can for any of them, without knowing those that are valuable from those that are not. Those that pretend to skill generally find out the image of some saint in the medals of the Greek cities. One of them, showing me the figure of Pallas190 with a victory in her hand on a reverse, assured me it was the Virgin holding a crucifix. The same man offered me the head of a Socrates on a Sardonix,191 and to enhance the value gave him the title of St Augustine.192 I have bespoke a mummy, which I hope will - come safe to my hands, notwithstanding the misfortune that befell a very fine one designed for the King of Sweden.193 He gave a great price for it, and the Turks took it into their heads that he must certainly have some considerable project depending upon it. They fancied it the body of God knows who and that the fate of their empire mystically depended on the conservation of it. Some old prophecies were remembered upon this occasion, and the mummy committed prisoner to the seven towers,194 where it has remained under close confinement ever since. I dare not try my interest in so considerable a point as the release of it, but I hope mine will pass without examination. I can tell you nothing more at present of this famous city. When I have looked a little about me you shall hear from me again. I am, sir, etc.
Pg. 102 LETTER XXXVII (Belgrade Village,195 17 June
To Alexander Pope,
Lady Mary is now writing from Belgrade – a village outside Constantinople used as a retreat from summer heat and epidemics. The village is inhabited by richest of Christians. In this letter, Lady Mary poetically reveals her personal feelings: “what persuades me more fully of my decease is the situation of my own mind, the profound ignorance I am in of what passes amongst the living, which only comes to me by chance, and the great calmness with which I receive it.”
I hope before this time you have received two or three of my letters. I had yours but yesterday, though dated the third of February, in which you suppose me dead and buried. I have already let you know that I am still alive, but to say truth, I look upon my present circumstances to be exactly the same with those of departed spirits. The heats of Constantinople have driven me to this place, which perfectly answers the description of the Elysian fields.196 I am in the middle of a wood, consisting chiefly of fruit trees, watered by a vast number of fountains famous for the excellency of their water, and divided into many shady walks upon short grass, that seems to me artificial but I am assured is the pure work of nature, within view of the Black Sea, from whence we perpetually enjoy the refreshment of cool breezes that makes us insensible of the heat of the summer. The village is wholly inhabited by the richest amongst the Christians, who meet every night at the fountain forty paces from my house to sing and dance, the beauty and dress of the women exactly resembling the ideas of the ancient nymphs as they are given us by the representations of the poets and painters. But what persuades me more fully of my decease is the situation of my own mind, the profound ignorance I am in of what passes amongst the living, which only comes to me by chance, and the great calmness with which I receive it. Yet I have still a hankering after my friends and acquaintance left in the world, according to the authority of that admirable author:
That spirits departed are wondrous kind
To friends and relations left behind,
Which nobody can deny.
of which solemn truth I am a dead instance. I think Virgil is of….
Pg. 103 LETTER XXXVII Cont.
Lady Mary learns the Turkish language on Wednesdays and is already “very learned”. In anthropology it is regarded as very important to learn the language of the people you are studying. It is extraordinary that Lady Mary has made an effort to learn the language!
….the same opinion, that in human souls there will still be some human passions.
Curae non ipsa in morte relinquunt197
and ’tis very necessary to make a perfect Elysium that there should be a river Lethe,198 which I am not so happy to find. To say truth I am sometimes very weary of this singing and dancing and sunshine, and wish for the smoke and impertinencies in which you toil, though I endeavour to persuade myself that I live in a more agreeable variety than you do, and that Monday setting of partridges, Tuesday reading English, Wednesday studying the Turkish language (in which, by the way, I am already very learned, Thursday classical authors, Friday spent in writing, Saturday at my needle and Sunday admitting of visits and hearing music, is a better way of disposing the week than Monday at the Drawing Room,199 Tuesday Lady Mohun's,200 Wednesday the opera, Thursday the play, Friday Mrs Chetwynd's,201 etc.; a perpetual round of hearing the same scandal and seeing the same follies acted over and over, which here affect me no more than they do other dead people. I can now hear of displeasing things with pity and without indignation. The reflection on the great gulf between you and me cools all news that comes hither. I can neither be sensibly touched with joy or grief when I consider that possibly the cause of either is removed before the letter comes to my hands; but, as I said before, this indolence does not extend to my few friendships. I am still warmly sensible of yours and Mr Congreve's and desire to live in your remembrance, though dead to all the world beside.
LETTER XXXVIII (Belgrade Village, 17june 1717)
I heartily beg your ladyship's pardon, but I really could not forbear laughing heartily at your letter and the commissions you….
Pg. 104 LETTER XXXVIII Cont.
The slaves of great ladies and men are bought at 8/9 years and educated. Lady Mary also comments on Dumont’s writings of Turkey, saying that they are “Writ with equal ignorance and confidence”. She notes that travel writers generally fail to give account of the women, talk of men they never talked to and mosques they never went in. Lady Mary remarks that Turks are proud and will not converse with a stranger they are not assured is considerable in his own country. We are lucky that Lady Mary’s social position made available to her so much information. However, it is unfortunate that she dismisses the ideas of ordinary fellows.
….are pleased to honour me with. You desire me to buy you a Greek slave who is to be mistress of a thousand good qualities. The Greeks are subjects and not slaves. Those who are to be bought in that manner are either such as are taken in war or stole by the Tartars from Russia, Circassia or Georgia, and are such miserable, awkward, poor wretches you would not think any of them worthy to be your housemaid. 'Tis true that many thousands were taken in the Morea, but they have been most of them redeemed by the charitable contributions of the Christians or ransomed by their own relations at Venice. The fine slaves that wait upon the great ladies or serve the pleasures of the great men are all bought at the age of eight or nine year old and educated with great care to accomplish them in singing, dancing, embroidery, etc. They are commonly Circassians and their patron never sells them except it is as a punishment for some very great fault. If ever they grow weary of them, they either present them to a friend or give them their freedoms. Those that ire exposed to sale at the markets are always either guilty of some crime or so entirely worthless that they are of no use at all. I am afraid you'll doubt the truth of this account, which I own is very different from our common notions in England, but it is not less truth for all that.
Your whole letter is full of mistakes from one end to the other. I see you have taken your ideas of Turkey from that worthy author Dumont, who has writ with equal ignorance and confidence.203 'Tis a particular pleasure to me here to read the voyages to the Levant, which are generally so far removed from truth and so full of absurdities I am very well diverted with them. They never fail to give you an account of the women, which 'tis certain they never saw, and talking very wisely of the genius of men, into whose company they are never admitted, and very often describe mosques which they dare not peep into. The Turks are very proud and will not converse with a stranger they are not assured is considerable in his own country. I speak of the men of distinction, for as to the ordinary fellows, you may imagine what ideas their conversation can give of the general genius of the people.
Pg. 105 LETTER XXXVIII Cont.
In this letter, Lady Mary is told of ways of making yourself “beloved” apart from becoming good-looking. The Ladies tell her of the secrets of “Enchantment”/magic! Lady Mary cannot find faith of this. Unfortunately, she makes this clear to her informants and makes one lady angry.
As to the Balm of Mecca,204 I will certainly send you some, but it is not so easily got as you suppose it and I cannot in conscience advise you to make use of it. I know not how it comes to have such universal applause. All the ladies of my acquaintance at London and Vienna have begged me to send pots of it to them. I have had a present of a small quantity (which I'll assure you is very valuable) of the best sort, and with great joy applied it to my face, expecting some wonderful effect to my advantage. The next morning the change indeed was wonderful; my face was swelled to a very extraordinary size and all over as red as my Lady?'s. It remained in this lamentable state three days, during which you may be sure I passed my time very ill. I believed it would never be otherwise and to add to my mortification Mr Wortley reproached my indiscretion without ceasing. However, my face is since in status quo. Nay, I am told by the ladies here that 'tis much mended by the operation, which I confess I cannot perceive in my looking glass. Indeed, if one was to form an opinion of this balm from their faces, one should think very well of it. They all make use of it and have the loveliest bloom in the world. For my part, I never intend to endure the pain of it again. Let my complexion take its natural course and decay in its own due time. I have very little esteem for medicines of this nature; but you do as you please, madam, only remember before you use it that your face will not be such as you'll care to show in the drawing room for some days after.
If one was to believe the women in this country, there is a surer way of making oneself beloved than by becoming handsome, though you know that's our method. But they pretend to the knowledge of secrets that by way of enchantment gives them the entire empire over whom they please. For me, that am not very apt to believe in wonders, I cannot find faith for this. I disputed the point last night with a lady who really talks very sensibly on any other subject, but she was downright angry with me that she did not perceive she had persuaded me of the truth of forty stories she told me of this kind, and at last mentioned several ridiculous marriages that there could be no other reason assigned for. I assured here that in England, where we were….
Pg. 106 LETTER XXXVIII Cont.
….entirely ignorant of all magic, where the climate is not half so warm nor the women half so handsome, we were not without our ridiculous marriages, and that we did not look upon it as anything supernatural when a man played the fool for the sake of a woman. But my arguments could not convince her against, as she said, her certain knowledge, though she added that she scrupled making use of charms herself, but that she could do it whenever she pleased and, staring in my face said, with a very learned air, that no enchantments would have their effect upon me, and that there were some people exempt from their power, but very few. You may imagine how I laughed at this discourse, but all the women here are of the same opinion. They don't pretend to any commerce with the devil, but that there are certain compositions to inspire love. If one could send over a shipload of them I fancy it would be a very quick way of raising an estate. What would not some ladies of our acquaintance give for suit, merchandise?
Adieu my dear Lady?. I cannot conclude my letter with a subject that affords more delightful scenes to imagination. I leave you to figure to yourself the extreme court that will be made to me at my return if my travels should furnish me with such a useful piece of leaming. I am, dear madam, etc.
LETTER XXXIX (Pera, Constantinople, 4 January 1718)
To Anne Thistlethwayte,
I am infinitely obliged to you, dear Mrs Thistlethwayte, for your entertaining letter. You are the only one of my correspondents that have judged right enough to think I would gladly be informed of the news amongst you. All the rest of them tell me, almost in the same words, that they suppose I know everything. Why they are pleased to suppose in this manner I can guess no reason except they are persuaded that the breed of Mohammed's pigeon205 still subsists in this country and that I receive….
Pg. 107 LETTER XXXIX Cont.
Lady Mary is heavily pregnant. This page is of great anthropological value and discusses Turkish beliefs and their affect on family size. It is classed as worse to be married and not being able to produce children than it is to have child before marriage. If woman doesn’t regularly have children she is labelled too old and therefore women prove youth by childbearing – some killing themselves. The more children – the more respect. When asked how will feed children, the women say that half of them will die anyway. It “happens without much concern to the parents, who are satisfied with the vanity of having brought forth so plentifully.” Then Lady Mary admits something amazing – I have heard of anthropologists fitting in with the culture around them – even vegetarians eating meat (see ‘The Vegetarian Anthropologist’ David E. Sutton. Anthropology Today, Vol. 13, No. 1. Feb., 1997, pp. 5-8) – but Lady Mary become pregnant “to comply with this fashion”! Looking at Turkish culture from an ‘emic’ viewpoint, she is astonished by the fact that the Turkish women seem to enjoy “the curse” of childbearing.
….supernatural intelligence. I wish I could return your goodness with some diverting accounts from hence, but I know not what part of the scenes here would gratify your curiosity or whether you have any curiosity at all for things so far distant. To say the truth I am at this present writing not very much turned for the recollection of what is diverting, my head being wholly filled with the preparations necessary for the increase of my family, which I expect every day.206 You may easily guess at my uneasy situation, but I am, however, in some degree comforted by the glory that accrues to me from it, and a reflection on the contempt I should otherwise fall under.
You won't know what to make of this speech, but in this country it is more despicable to be married and not fruitful than it is with us to be fruitful before marriage. They have a notion that whenever a woman leaves off bringing children, 'tis because she is too old for that business, whatever her face says to the contrary, and this opinion makes the ladies here so ready to make proofs of their youth (which is as necessary in order to be a received beauty as it is to show the roof of nobility to be admitted Knight of Malta)207 that they do not content themselves with using the natural means, but fly to all sort of quackeries to avoid the scandal of being past child bearing and often kill themselves by them. Without any exaggeration, all the women of my acquaintance that have been married ten year have twelve or thirteen children, and the old ones boast of having had five-and-twenty or thirty apiece, and are respected according to the number they have produced. When they are with child 'tis their common expression to say they hope God will be so merciful to them to send two this time, and when I have asked them sometimes how they expected to provide for such a flock as they desire, they answer that the plague will certainly kill half of them, which, indeed, generally happens without much concern to the parents, who are satisfied with the vanity of having brought forth so plentifully. The French Ambassadress208 is forced to comply with this fashion as well as myself She has not been here much above a year and has lain in once and is big again. What is most wonderful is the exemption they seem to enjoy from the curse entailed on the sex.
Pg. 108 LETTER XXXIX Cont.
After having a child, women go visiting in new clothes – Lady Mary wonders how much this is due to climate. She talks about Turkish law – it is better designed than English law! She especially likes the punishment of liars – burnt on forehead with hot iron. Interesting custom. Turkish social control could be further looked into.
They see all company the day of their delivery and at the fornight's end return visits, set out in their jewels and new clothes. I wish I may find the influence of the climate in this particular, but I fear I shall continue an English woman in that affair as well as I do in my dread of fire and plague, which are two things very little feared here, most families having had their houses burnt down once or twice, occasioned by their extraordinary way of warming themselves, which is neither by chimneys nor stoves but a certain machine called a tandir, the height of two foot, in the form of a table covered with a fine carpet or embroidery. This is made only of wood, and they put into it a small quantity of hot ashes and sit with their legs under the carpet. At this table they work, read and very often sleep, and if they chance to dream, kick down the tandir and the hot ashes commonly sets the house on fire. There was five hundred houses burnt in this manner about a fortnight ago, and I have seen several of the owners since who seem not at all moved at so common a misfortune. They put their goods into a bark209 and see their houses bum with great philosophy, their persons being very seldom endangered, having no stairs to descend.
But having entertained you with things I don't like, 'tis but just I should tell you something that pleases me. The climate is delightful in the extremist degree. I am now sitting, this present 4th of January, with the windows open, enjoying the warrn shine of the sun, while you are freezing over a sad sea-coal fire, and my chamber is set out with carnations, roses and jonquils fresh from my garden. I am also charmed with many points of the Turkish law, to our shame be it spoken, better designed and better executed than ours, particularly the punishment of convicted liars (triumphant criminals in our country, God knows). They are burnt in the forehead with a hot iron, being proved the authors of any notorious falsehood. How many white foreheads should we see disfigured? How many fine gentlemen would be forced to wear their wigs as low as their eyebrows were this law in practice with us? I should go on to tell you many other parts of justice, but I must send for my midwife.
Pg. 109 LETTER XL (February 1718)
To the Abbé Conti,
Mohammed – too much a gentleman to exclude women from an afterlife paradise. Anthropologist, Mary Douglas, admits that in Purity and Danger she made a terrible mistake of the ‘Abominations of Leviticus’. Originally, she the eating of certain animals was forbidden due to their anomalous nature. She now claims that her biggest mistake was to have “accepted unquestioningly that the rational, just, compassionate God of the Bible would ever have been so inconsistent as to make abominable creatures” (Douglas, Mary, 2002. Purity and Danger. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul). Lady Mary seems to have looked at religion in the way that Douglas now does!
I am charmed, sir, with your obliging letter; and you may perceive by the largeness of my paper that I intend to give punctual answers to all your questions, at least if my french will permit me, for it is a language I do not understand to perfection, so I much fear that, for want of expressions I shall be quickly obliged to finish. Keep in mind, therefore, that I am writing in a foreign language210 and be sure to attribute all the impertinences and triflings dropping from my pen to the want of proper words for declaring my thoughts, but by no means to any dullness or natural levity.
These conditions being thus agreed and settled, I begin with telling you that you have a true notion of the Alcoran, concerning which the Greek priests (who are the greatest scoundrels in the universe) have invented out of their own heads a thousand ridiculous stories in order to decry the law of Mohammed; to run it down, I say, without any examination, or as much as letting the people read it, being afraid that if once they begun to sift the defects of the Alcoran they might not stop there but proceed to make use of their judgement about their own legends and fictions. In effect there's nothing so like as the fables of the Greeks and of the Mahommedans. And the last have multitudes of saints at whose tombs miracles are by them said to be daily performed, nor are the accounts of the lives of those blessed musulmans much less stuffed with extravagancies than the spiritual romances of the Greek papas.
As to your next enquiry, I assure you 'tis certainly false, though commonly believed in our parts of the world, that Mohammed excludes women from any share in a future happy state. He was too much a gentleman and loved the fair sex too well to use them so barbarously. On the contrary he promises a….
Pg. 110 LETTER XL
The female paradise is separate from the male – but women don’t mind this (emic). Mohammed requires women to merit the enjoyment of future happiness but when alive to make babies. Virgins and widows who die – are excluded from paradise! It is then very interesting to learn how beliefs affect social structure and hierarchy! Mohammed says that women are not capable of managing affairs of state or war. God has not ordered them to govern or reform world but entrusted them with important job of multiplying. So if they don’t make babies they are rebelling against God. “What will become of your saint Catherines, your saint Theresas, your saint Claras and the whole bead roll of your holy virgins and widows, who, if they are to be judged by this system of virtue will be found to have been infamous creatures that passed their whole lives in a most abominable libertinism”.
….very fine paradise to the Turkish women. He says indeed that this paradise will be a separate place from that of their husbands. But I fancy the most part of them won't like it the worse for that, and that the regret of this separation will not render their paradise the less agreeable. It remains to tell you that the virtues which Mahommed requires of women to merit the enjoyment of future happiness are: not to live in such a manner as to become useless to the world, but to employ themselves as much as possible in making little musulmans. The virgins who die virgins and the widows who marry not again, dying in mortal sin, are excluded out of paradise. For women, says he, not being capable to manage affairs of state, nor to support the fatigues of war, God has not ordered them to govern or reform the world but he has entrusted them with an office which is not less honourable, even that of multiplying the human race. And such as, out of malice or laziness do not make it their business to bear or to breed children fulfil not the duty of their vocation and rebel 'against the commands of God. Here are maxims for you, prodigiously contrary to those of your convents. What will become of your saint Catherines, your saint Theresas, your saint Claras and the whole bead roll of your holy virgins and widows, who, if they are to be judged by this system of virtue will be found to have been infamous creatures that passed their whole lives in a most abominable libertinism.
I know not what your thoughts may be concerning a doctrine so extraordinary with respect to us, but I can truly inform you, sir, that the Turks are not so ignorant as we fancy them to be in matters of politics or philosophy, or even of gallantry. 'Tis true that military discipline such as now practiced in Christendom does not mightily suit them. A long peace has plunged them into an universal sloth. Content with their condition and accustomed to boundless luxury they are become great enemies to all manner of fatigues. But to make amends, the sciences flourish amongst them. The effendis (which is to say, the learned) do very well deserve this name. They have no more faith in the inspiration of Mohammed than in the infallibility of the pope. They make a frank profession of deism amongst themselves or to….
Pg. 111 LETTER XL Cont.
Lady Mary stayed with one effendi for a month in his house. He became an informant. She asked about alcohol. He said “all the creatures in the world were made for the pleasure of man and that God would not have let the vine grow were it a sin to taste of its juice”. But law forbids it to the vulgar – because not as wise as an effendi – interesting.
….those they can trust, and never speak of their law but as of a politic institution, fit now to be observed by wise men, however at first introducted by politicians and enthusiasts.
If I remember right I think I have told you in some former letter that at Belgrade we lodged with a great and rich effendi, a man of wit and learning, and of a very agreeable humour. We were in his house about a month and he did constantly eat with us, drinking wine without any scruple. As I rallied him a little on this subject he answered me, smiling, that all the creatures in the world were made for the pleasure of man and that God would not have let the vine grow were it a sin to taste of its juice. But that nevertheless the law, which forbids the use of it to the vulgar, was very wise because such sort of folks have not sense enough to take it with moderation. This effendi appeared no stranger to the parties that prevail among us. Nay, he seemed to have some knowledge of our religious disputes and even of our writers, and I was surprised to hear him ask, amongst other things, how Mr Toland did.211
My paper, large as it is, draws towards an end. That I may not go beyond its limits I must leap from religions to tulips, concerning which you also ask me news. Their mixture produces surprising effects. But what is to be observed most surprising is the experiment of which you speak concerning animals and which is tried here every day. The suburbs of Pera, Jtophana and Galata are collections of strangers from all countries of the universe. They have so often intermarried that this forms several races of people the oddest imaginable. There's not one single family of natives that can value itself on being unmixed. You frequently see a person whose father was born a Grecian, the mother an Italian, the grandfather a Frenchman, the grandmother an Armenian and their ancestors English, Muscovites, Asiatics, etc.
This mixture produces creatures more extraordinary than you can imagine. Nor could I ever doubt but there were several different species of men, since the whites, the woolly and the long-haired blacks, the small-eyed Tartars and Chinese, the beardless Brazilians, and, to name no more, the oily-skinned….
Pg. 112 LETTER XL Cont.
Lady Mary talks of human mongrels and characteristics such as “Spanish arrogance” and “English thoughtfulness and dullness (inherited from stupidity of saxon progenitors)” – it is unclear as to whether she is talking about cultural or innate traits. If she is talking about innate traits – this is very disappointing and not anthropological!
….yellow Nova-Zemblians212 have as specific differences under the same general kind as greyhounds, mastiffs, spaniels, bulldogs or the race of my little Diana, if nobody is offended at the comparison. Now as the various intermixing of these latter animals causes mongrels, so mankind have their mongrels too, divided and subdivided into endless sorts. We have daily proofs of it here, as I told you before. In the same animal is not seldom remarked the Greek perfidiousness, the Italian diffidence, the Spanish arrogance, the French loquacity and all of a sudden he's seized with a fit of English thoughtfulness bordering a little upon dulness, which many of us have inherited from the stupidity of our saxon progenitors.
But the family which charms me most is that which proceeds from the fantastical conjunction of a Dutch male with a Greek female. As these are natures opposite in extremes 'tis a pleasure to observe how the differing atoms are perpetually jarring together in the children, even so as to produce effects visible in their external form. They have the large black eyes of the country with the fat, white, fishy flesh of Holland and a lively air streaked with dulness. At one and the same time they show that love of expensiveness so universal among the Greeks and an inclination to the Dutch frugality. To give an example of this, young women ruin themselves to purchase jewels for adorning their heads while they have not the heart to buy new shoes, or rather slippers, for their feet, which are commonly in a tattered condition; a thing so contrary to the taste of our English women that it is for showing how neatly their feet are dressed, and for showing this only, they are so passionately enamoured with their hoop petticoats. I have abundance of other singularities to communicate to you, but I am at the end both of my French and my paper.
Pg. 114 LETTER XLI (Pera, Constantinople, 10 March
Lady of dead Emperor ordered to choose a husband. But these women who esteem themselves Queens – look on this liberty as disgrace. Her new husband must respect her as a queen and not ask about what is done in her apartment!
This lady was immediately after his death saluted with an absolute order to leave the seraglio and choose herself a husband from the great men at the Port. I suppose you imagine her overjoyed at this proposal. Quite contrary. These women, who are called and esteem themselves queens, look upon this liberty as the greatest disgrace and affront that can happen to them. She threw herself at the Sultan's feet and begged him to poniard216 her rather than use his brother's widow with that contempt. She represented to him in agonies of sorrow that she was privileged from this misfortune by having brought five princes into the Ottoman family, but all the boys being dead and only one girl surviving this excuse was not received and she compelled to make her choice. She chose Bekir Effendi, then Secretary of State217 and above fourscore year old, to convince the world that she firmly intended to keep the vow she had made of never suffering a second husband to approach her bed, and since she must honour some subject so far as to be called his wife she would choose him as a mark of her gratitude, since it was he that had presented her at the age of ten year old to her lost lord. But she has never permitted him to pay her one visit, though it is now fifteen year she has been in his house, where she passes her time in uninterrupted mouming with a constancy very little known in Christendom, especially in a widow of twenty-one, for she is now but thirty-six. She has no black eunuchs for her guard, her husband being obliged to respect her as a queen and not enquire at all into what is done in her apartment, where I was led into a large room, with a sofa the whole length of it, adorned with white marble pillars like a ruelle,218 covered with a pale blue figured velvet on a silver ground, with cushions of the same, where I was desired to repose till the Sultana appeared, who had contrived this manner of reception to avoid rising up at my entrance, though she made me an inclination of her head when I rose up to her. I was very glad to observe a lady that had been distinguished by the favour of an emperor to whom beauties were every day presented from all parts of the world. But she did not seem to me to have ever been half so beautiful as the fair Fatima I saw at Adrianople,
Pg. 115 LETTER XLI Cont.
Description of clothes and jewels.
….though she had the remains of a fine face more decayed by sorrow than time.
But her dress was something so surprisingly rich I cannot forbear describing it to you. She wore a vest called dolaman, and which differs from a caftan by longer sleeves and folding over at the bottom. It was of purple cloth straight to her shape and thick set, on each side down to her feet and round the sleeves, with pearls of the best water, of the same size as their buttons commonly are. You must not suppose I mean as large as those of my Lord- but about the bigness of a pea; and to these buttons large loops of diamonds in the form of those gold loops so common upon birthday coats.219 This habit was tied at the waist with two large tassels of smaller pearl and round the arms embroidered with large diamonds; her shift fastened at the bosom with a great diamond shaped like a lozenge, her girdle as broad as the broadest English riband entirely covered with diamonds. Round her neck she wore three chains which reached to her knees, one of large pearl at the bottom of which hung a fine coloured emerald as big as a turkey egg, another consisting of two hundred emeralds close joined together, of the most lively green, perfectly matched, every one as large as a half crown piece and as thick as three crown pieces, and another of emeralds perfectly round. But her earrings eclipsed all the rest. They were two diamonds shaped exactly like pears, as large as a big hazelnut. Round her talpack220 she had four strings of pearl, the whitest and most perfect in the world, at least enough to make four necklaces every one as large as the Duchess of Marlborough's,221 and of the same size, fastened with two roses consisting of a large ruby for the middle stone and round them twenty drops of clean diamonds to each. Besides this, her headdress was covered with bodkins of emeralds and diamonds. She wore large diamond bracelets and had five rings on her fingers, all single diamonds, except Mr Pitt's222 the largest I ever saw in my life. 'Tis for the jewellers to compute the value of these things, but according to the common estimation of jewels in our part of the world, her whole dress must be worth above £100,000 sterling. This I am very sure of, that no European….
Pg. 116 LETTER XLI Cont.
Description of dining. Notes custom of Polygyny and the jealousy of the Sultan’s ladies.
….queen has half the quantity and the Empress's jewels, though very fine, would look very mean near hers.
She gave me a dinner of fifty dishes of meat, which, after their fashion, was placed on the table but one at a time, and was extremely tedious, but the magnificence of her table answered very well to that of her dress. The knives were of gold, the hafts set with diamonds, but the piece of luxury that grieved my eyes was the table cloth and napkins, which were all tiffany,223 embroidered with silks and gold in the finest manner in natural flowers. It was with the utmost regret that I made use of these costly napkins, as finely wrought as the finest handkerchiefs that ever came out of this country. You may be sure that they were entirely spoilt before dinner was over. The sherbet, which is the liquor they drink at meals, was served in china bowls, but the covers and salvers massy gold. After dinner water was brought in a gold basin and towels of the same kind of the napkins, which I very unwillingly wiped my hands upon, and coffee was served in china with gold soficoupes.224
The Sultana seemed in very good humour and talked to me with the utmost civility. I did not omit this opportunity of learning all that I possibly could of the seraglio, which is so entirely unknown amongst us. She assured me that the story of the Sultan's throwing a handkerchief is altogether fabulous and the manner upon that occasion no other but that he send the Kuslir Aga to signify to the lady the honour he intends her.225 She is immediately complimented upon it by the others and led to the bath where she is perfumed and dressed in the most magnificent and becoming manner. The Emperor precedes his visit by a royal present and then comes into her apartment. Neither is there any such thing as her creeping in at the bed's feet. She said that the first he make choice of was always after the first in rank and not the mother of the eldest son, as other writers would make us believe. Sometimes the Sultan diverts himself in the company of all his ladies, who stand in a circle round him, and she confessed that they were ready to die with jealousy and envy of the happy she that he distinguished by any appearance of preference. But this seemed to me neither better….
Pg. 117 LETTER XLI Cont.
Sultana, after Sultan’s death, showed signs of deep long mourning. Description of Sultana’s apartment.
….nor worse than the circles in most courts where the glance of the monarch is watched and every smile waited for with impatience and envied by those that cannot obtain it.
She never mentioned the Sultan without tears in her eyes, yet she seemed very fond of the discourse. My past happiness (said she) appears a dream to me, yet I cannot forget that I was beloved by the greatest and most lovely of mankind. I was chose from all the rest to make all his campaigns with him. I would not survive him if I was not passionately fond of the princess, my daughter, yet all my tenderness for her was hardly enough to make me preserve my life when I lost him. I passed a whole twelvemonth without seeing the light. Time has softened my despair, yet I now pass some days every week in tears devoted to the memory of my Sultan. There was no affectation in these words. It was easy to see she was in a deep melancholy, though her good humour made her willing to divert me.
She asked me to walk in her garden, and one of her slaves immediately brought her a pelisse226 of rich brocade lined with sables. I waited on her into the garden, which had nothing in it remarkable but the fountains, and from thence she showed me all her apartments. In her bedchamber her toilet was displayed, consisting of two looking glasses, the frames covered with pearls, and her night talpak set with bodkins of jewels, and near it three vests of fine sables, every one of which is at least worth 1000 dollars, £200 English money. I don't doubt these rich habits were purposely placed in sight, but they seemed negligently thrown on the sofa. When I took my leave of her I was complimented with perfumes as at the Grand Vizier's and presented with a very fine embroidered handkerchief. Her slaves were to the number of thirty, besides ten little ones, the eldest not above seven year old. These were the most beautiful girls I ever saw, all richly dressed, and I observed that the Sultana took a great deal of pleasure in these lovely children, which is a vast expense, for there is not a handsome girl of that age to be bought under £100 sterling. They wore little garlands of flowers, and their own hair braided, which was all their headdress, but their habits all of gold stuffs. These served her coffee kneeling,…
Pg. 118 LETTER XLI Cont.
Older slaves take care of younger slaves. Her comment that “changes of customs that happen every twenty year in every country” is anthropologically interesting. Then Lady Mary notes the differences between summer and winter apartments – in decoration.
…brought water when she washed, etc. 'Tis a great part of the business of the older slaves to take care of these girls, to learn them to embroider and serve them as carefully as if they were children of the family.
Now do I fancy that you imagine I have entertained you all this while with a relation that has, at least, received many embellishments from my hand. This is but too like, says you, the Arabian tales;227 these embroidered napkins, and a jewel as large as a turkey's egg! You forget, dear sister, those very tales were writ by an author of this country and, excepting the enchantments, are a real representation of the manners here. We travellers are in very hard circumstances. If we say nothing but what has been said before us we are dull and we have observed nothing. If we tell anything new, we are laughed at as fabulous and romantic, not allowing for the difference of ranks, which afford difference of company, more curiosity, or the changes of customs that happen every twenty year in every country. But people judge of travellers exactly with the same candour, good nature and impartiality they judge of their neighbours upon all occasions. For my part, if I live to return amongst you I am so well acquainted with the morals of all my dear friends and acquaintance that I am resolved to tell them nothing at all, to avoid the imputation, which their charity would certainly incline them to, of my telling too much. But I depend upon your knowing me enough to believe whatever I seriously assert for truth, though I give you leave to be surprised at an account so new to you. But what would you say if I told you that I have been in a harem where the winter apartment was wainscoted with inlaid work of mother of pearl, ivory of different colours and olive wood, exactly like the little boxes you have seen brought out of this country; and those rooms designed for summer, the walls all crusted with japan china, the roofs gilt and the floors spread with the finest Persian carpets. Yet there is nothing more true, such is the palace of my lovely friend, the fair Fatima, who I was acquainted with at Adrianople. I went to visit her yesterday and, if possible, she appeared to me handsomer than before. She met me at the door of her chamber and, giving me her hand with the….
Pg. 119 LETTER XLI Cont.
Lady Mary is enjoying the company and can speak the language. Her comments shown what qualities she values: “She is very curious after the manners of other countries and has not that partiality for her own so common to little minds.” The value of beauty is described as different in different countries.
….best grace in the world: 'You Christian ladies,' said she with a smile that made her as handsome as an angel, 'have the reputation of inconstancy, and I did not expect, whatever goodness you expressed for me at Adrianople, that I should ever see you again; but I am now convinced that I have really the happiness of pleasing you, and if you knew how I speak of you amongst our ladies you would be assured that you do me justice if you think me your friend.' She placed me in the comer of the sofa and I spent the afternoon in her conversation with the greatest pleasure in the world.
The Sultana Hafise is what one would naturally expect to find a Turkish lady; willing to oblige, but not knowing how to go about it, and 'tis easy to see in her manner that she has lived excluded from the world. But Fatima has all the politeness and good breeding of a court, with an air that inspires at once respect and tenderness; and now I understand her language I find her wit as engaging as her beauty. She is very curious after the manners of other countries and has not that partiality for her own so common to little minds. A Greek that I carried with me who had never seen her before (nor could have been admitted now if she had not been in my train) showed that surprise at her beauty and manner which is unavoidable at the first sight, and said to me in Italian: 'This is no Turkish lady; she is certainly some Christian.' Fatima guessed she spoke of her and asked what she said. I would not have told, thinking she would have been no better pleased with the compliment than one of our court beauties to be told she had the air of a Turk. But the Greek lady told it her and she smiled, saying: 'it is not the first time I have heard so. My mother was a Poloneze taken at the Siege of Camieniec,228 and my father used to rally me, saying he believed his Christian wife had found some Christian gallant, for I had not the air of a Turkish girl.' I assured her that if all the Turkish ladies were like her, it was absolutely necessary to confine them from public view for the repose of mankind, and proceeded to tell her what a noise such a face as hers would make in London or Paris. 'I can't believe you', replied she agreeably; 'if beauty was so much valued in your country as you say they would never have suffered you to leave it.'…
Pg. 120 LETTER XLI Cont.
Lady Mary’s prolific nature is clear: “'Tis well if I don't degenerate into a downright story teller.”
…Perhaps, dear sister, you laugh at my vanity in repeating this compliment, but I only do it as I think it very well turned and give it you as an instance of the spirit of her conversation. Her house was magnificently furnished and very well fancied, her winter rooms being furnished with figured velvet on gold grounds, and those for summer with fine Indian quilting embroidered with gold. The houses of the great Turkish lades are kept clean with as much nicety as those in Holland. This was situated in a high part of the town, and from the windows of her summer apartment we had the prospect of the sea and the islands and the Asian mountains. My letter is insensibly grown so long, I am ashamed of it. This is a very bad symptom. 'Tis well if I don't degenerate into a downright story teller. It may be our proverb that knowledge is no burden may be true to oneself, but knowing too much is very apt to make us troublesome to other people.
Pg. 126 LETTER XLVI (Constantinople, 10 April 1718)
To Lady Bristol,
Lady Mary discusses the veil: veils “only serve to show their beauty to more advantage, and which would not be permitted in Constantinople.” Other travellers do not wear veil and so are not able to go where, and see what, Lady Mary does. Lady Mary likes the veil.
At length I have heard, for the first time from my dear Lady Bristol, this present 10th of April 1718. Yet I am persuaded you have had the goodness to write before, but I have had the ill fortune to lose your letters. Since my last I have stayed quietly at -Constantinople, a city that I ought in conscience to give your ladyship a right notion of, since I know you can have none but what is partial and mistaken from the writings of travellers. 'Tis certain there are many people that pass years here in Pera without having ever seen it, and yet they all pretend to describe it.
Pera, Tophana and Galata, wholly inhabited by Frank Christians,241 and which together make the appearance of a very fine town, are divided from it by the sea, which is not above half so broad as the broadest part of the Thames, but the Christian men are loathe to hazard the adventures they sometimes meet with amongst the levents or seamen (worse monsters than our watermen) and the women must cover their faces to go there, which they have a perfect aversion to do. 'Tis true they wear veils in Pera, but they are such as only serve to show their beauty to more advantage, and which would not be permitted in Constantinople. Those reasons deter almost every creature from seeing it, and the French Ambassadress will return to France, I believe, without ever having been there. You'll wonder, madam, to hear me add that I have been there very often. The yasrp-alor Turkish veil, is become not only very easy but agreeable to….
Pg. 127 LETTER XLVI Cont.
Palace – six large courts – one for the guard, one for the slaves, one for officers of the kitchen, one for stables, one for divan, and one for audiences. There is a “ladies sale” – with many more with distinct carts belonging to their eunuchs, attendants, kitchens, etc. This is an important description of living layout (of high classes).
….me, it was not, I would be content to endure some e to content a passion so powerful with me as curiosity; and indeed the pleasure of going in a barge to Chelsea is not comparable to that of rowing upon the canal of the sea here, where for twenty miles together down the Bosphorus the most Beautiful variety of prospects present themselves. The Asian side is covered with fruit trees, villages and the most delightful landscapes in nature. On the European stands Constantinople, situated on seven hills. The unequal heights make it seem as large again as it is (though one of the largest cities in the world), showing an agreeable mixture of gardens, pine and cyprus trees, palaces, mosques and public buildings, raised one above another with as much beauty and appearance of symmetry as your ladyship ever saw in a cabinet adomed by the most skilful hands, jars showing themselves above jars, mixed with canisters, babies242 and candlesticks. This is a very odd comparison, but it gives me an exact image of the thing.
have taken care to see as much of the seraglio as is to be seen. It is on a point of land running into the sea; a palace of prodigious extent, but very irregular, the gardens a large compass of ground full of high cypress trees, which is all I know of them, the buildings all of white stone, leaded on top, with gilded turrets and spires, which look very magnificent, and indeed I believe there is no Christian king's palace half so large. There are six large courts in it all built round and set with trees, having galleries of stone; one of these for the guard, another for the slaves, another for the officers of the kitchen, another for the stables, the fifth for the divan, the sixth for the apartment destined for audiences. On the ladies' side there is at least as many more, with distinct courts belonging to their eunuchs and attendants, their kitchens, etc.
The next remarkable structure is that of St Sophia, which it is very difficult to see. I was forced to send three times to the Kaymakam (the governor of the town), and he assembled the chief effendis or heads of the law and enquired of the mufti whether it was lawful to permit it. They passed some days in this important debate, but I insisting on my request, permission….
Pg. 128 LETTER XLVI Cont.
….was granted. I can't be informed why the Turks are more delicate on the subject of this mosque than-any of the others, where what Christian pleases may enter without scruple. I fancy they imagine that having been once consecrated, people on pretence of curiosity might profane it with prayers, particularly to those saints who are still very visible in mosaic work, and no other way defaced but by the decays of time, for 'tis absolutely false what is so universally asserted, that the Turks defaced all the images that they found in the city. The dome of St Sophia is said to be 113 foot diameter, built upon arches, sustained by vast pillars of marble, the pavement and staircase marble. There is two rows of galleries supported with pillars of particoloured marble, and the whole roof mosaic work, part of which decays very fast and drops down. They presented me a handful of it. The composition seems to me a sort of glass or that paste with which they make counterfeit jewels. They show here the tomb of the Emperor Constantine, for which they have a great veneration. This is a dull, imperfect description of this celebrated building, but I understand architecture so little that I am afraid of talking nonsense in endeavouring to speak of it particularly.243
Perhaps I am in the wrong, but some Turkish mosques please me better. That of Sultan Suleiman is in an exact square with four fine towers on the angles, in the midst of a noble cupola supported with beautiful marble pillars, two lesser at the ends supported in the same manner, the pavement and gallery round the mosque of marble. 244 Under the great cupola is a fountain adomed with such fine coloured pillars I can hardly think them natural marble. On one side is the pulpit of white marble, and on the other the little gallery for the Grand Signor. A fine staircase leads to it and it is built up with gilded lattices. At the upper end is a sort of altar where the name of God is written, and before it stands two candlesticks as high as a man, with wax candles as thick as three flambeaux. The pavement is spread with fine carpets and the mosque illuminated with a vast number of lamps. The court leading to it is very spacious, with galleries of marble with green fountains covered with twenty-….
Pg. 129 LETTER XLVI Cont.
Layout of mosques. Hippodrome – impossible to learn why so odd a pillar was erected. Dismisses Greek “legends”.
….eight cupolas on two sides, a fine fountain of three basins in the midst of it. The description may serve for all the mosques in Constantinople; the model is exactly the same, and they only differ in largeness and richness of materials. That of the Validé is the largest of all, built entirely of marble, the most prodigious and, I think, the most beautiful structure I ever saw, be it spoke to the honour of our sex, for it was founded by the mother of Mohammed IV.245 Between friends, St Paul's Church would make a pitiful figure near it, as any of our squares would do near the Atmeydan, or Place of Horses, 'at' signifying horse in Turkish.
This was the Hippodrome246 in the reign of the Greek emperors. In the midst of it is a brazen column of three serpents twisted together with their mouths gaping. 'Tis impossible to learn why so odd a pillar was erected; the Greeks can tell nothing but fabulous legends when they are asked the meaning of it, and there is no sign of its having ever had any inscription. At the upper end is an obelisk of porphyry, probably brought from Egypt, the hieroglyphics all very entire, which I look upon as mere ancient puns. It is placed on four little brazen pillars upon a pedestal of square free stone full of figures in has relief on two sides, one square representing a battle, another an assembly. The others have inscriptions in Greek and Latin. The last I took in my pocket book and is literally:
Difficilis quondam Dominis parere serenis
lussus et extinctis paimam portare Tyrannis
Omnia Theodosio cedunt, sobolique perreni.247
Your lord will interpret these lines. Don't fancy they are a love letter to him. All the figures have their heads on, and I cannot forbear reflecting again on the impudence of authors who all say they have not, but I dare swear the greatest part of them never saw them, but took the report from the Greeks, who resist with incredible fortitude the conviction of their own eyes whenever they have invented lies to the dishonour of their enemies. Were you to ask them, there is nothing worth seeing in Constantinople but St Sophia, though there are several larger mosques.
Pg. 130 LETTER XLVI Cont.
In mosques there are little chapels where tombs of founders and their families with candles burning. Lady Mary applauds humanity with which slaves are treated. She doesn’t object to the slavery.
That of Sultan Achmed has that of particular, its gates are of brass.248 In all these mosques there are little chapels where are the tombs of the founders and their families, with vast candles burning before them.
The exchanges are all noble buildings, full of fine alleys, the greatest part supported with pillars, and kept wonderfully neat. Every trade has their distinct alley, the merchandise disposed in the same order as in the New Exchange at London.249 The Bedesten, or jewellers' quarter shows so much riches, such a vast quantity of diamonds and all kind of precious stones, that they dazzle the sight. The embroiderers' is also very glittering, and people walk here as much for diversion as business. The markets are most of them handsome squares, and admirably well provided, perhaps better than in any other part of the world. I know you'll expect I should day something particular of that of the slaves, and you will imagine me half a Turk when I don't speak of it with the same horror other Christians have done before me, but I cannot forbear applauding the humanity of the Turks to those creatures. They are never ill used and their slavery is in my opinion no worse than servitude all over the world. 'Tis true they have no wages, but they give them yearly clothes to a higher value than our salaries to any ordinary servant. But you'll object men buy women with an eye to evil. In my opinion they are bought and sold as publicly and more infamously in all our Christian great cities. I must add to the description of Constantinople that the Historical Pillar is no more, dropped down about two year before I came.250 I have seen no other footsteps of antiquity, except the aqueducts, which are so vast that I am apt to believe they are yet ancienter than the Greek Empire, though the Turks have clapped in some stones with Turkish inscription to give their nation the honour of so great a work, but the deceit is easily discovered,
The other public buildings are the hans and monasteries, the first very large and numerous, the second few in number and not at all magnificent. I had the curiosity to visit one of them and observe the devotions of the dervishes, which are as whimsical as any in Rome. These fellows have permission to….
Pg. 131 LETTER XLVI Cont.
Descriptions of religious men and a ceremony.
….marry, but are confined to an odd habit, which is only a piece of cloth wrapped about them, with their legs and naked. Their order has few other rules, except that of fantastic rites every Tuesday and Friday, which r. They meet together in a large hall, where they with their eyes fixed on the ground and their arms e the imam or preacher reads part of the Alcoran p it placed in the midst; and when he has done, eight of them make a melancholy consort with their pipes, are no unmusical instruments. Then he reads again and a short exposition on what he has read, after which they sing and play till their superior (the only one of them dressed in green) rises and begins a sort of solemn dance. They all stand about him in a regular figure, and while some play the others tie their robe, which is very wide, fast round their waists and begin to turn round with an amazing swiftness and yet with great regard to the music, moving slower or faster as the tune is played. This lasts above an hour without any of them showing the least appearance of giddiness, which is not to be wondered at when it is considered they are all used to it from infancy, most of them being devoted to this way of life from their birth, and sons of dervishes. There turned amongst them some little dervishes of six or seven years old who seems no more disordered by that exercise than the others. At the end of the ceremony they shout out; 'there is no other god but God, and Mohammed is his prophet', after which they kiss the superior's hand and retire. The whole is performed with the most solemn gravity. Nothing can be more austere than the form of these people. They never raise their eyes and seem devoted to contemplation, and as ridiculous as this is in description there is something touching in the air of submission and mortification they assume.
This letter is of a horrible length but you may burn it when you have read enough.
Mr Wortley is not yet here, but I may assure your ladyship in his name of the respect he has for you. I give humble service to my Lord Bristol and Mr Hervey.251
Pg. 132 LETTER XLVII (April 1718)
To Madame ?, 252
Once again, Lady Mary reveals that she has surrendered to the Turkish feminine ideal of multiplying! She wants to return home so that she can stop becoming pregnant. Ladies are respected for number of children. “I can hardly convince them that I have a legitimate excuse for being three months without pregnancy because my husband is a hundred leagues away from me.” Lady Mary says that she receives such valuable information because she speaks the language and has many Turkish ladies as friends.
I am so glad to find you again, my dear madam, that I cannot complain any more of having lost you, and the pleasure given me by that letter which I have just received today makes me forget completely the uneasiness of the past ten months.
Idleness is the mother of vices, as you know, and having nothing better to do, I have produced a daughter. I know you will tell me that I have done very badly, but if you had been in my place I believe, God forgive me, that you would have produced two or three. In this country it is just as necessary to show proofs of youth to be recognised among beauties as it is to show proofs of nobility to be admitted among the Knights of Malta. I was very angry at this necessity, but, noticing that people looked at me with a great air of contempt I finally complied with the fashion and I lay in like the others. For that reason, among innumerable others, I wish with all my heart to hasten my return, because I am absolutely obliged to lie in every year as long as I remain here. The French Ambassadress has complied to her heart's content; she has lain and is big again. The ladies of the country respect women only for the number of their offspring. I can hardly convince them that I have a legitimate excuse for being three months without pregnancy because my husband is a hundred leagues away from me.
I pray every day to see my king, my country and my friends again. I take great pains to see everything. I speak the language passably and I have had the advantage of forming friendships with Turkish ladies and of their liking me, and I can boast of being the first foreigner ever to have had that pleasure. I have visited a Sultana, widow of the late Emperor and by this means I have learned all about the intrigue of the seraglio. She assured me that the story of the handkerchief, so firmly believed among us, has not a syllable of truth…
Pg. 133 LETTER XLVII Cont.
Lady Mary is preparing to leave Constantinople.
…I have got hold of a Turkish love letter which I will bring you, is so truly curious that I cannot sufficiently marvel at the stupidity of travellers in not having brought back to Europe before. My dear madam, may God give you (in the Turkish phrase) whatever pleasure would make you happy, and to me that of seeing you again.
LETTER XLVIII (Pera, Constantinople, May 1718)
To the Countess of ?,253
Your ladyship may be assured I received yours with very great pleasure. I am very glad to hear that our friends are in good health, particularly Mr Congreve, who I heard was ill of the gout. I am now preparing to leave Constantinople, and perhaps you will accuse me of hypocrisy when I tell you 'tis with regret, but I am used to the air and have learnt the language. I am easy here, and as much as I love travelling, I tremble at the inconveniences attending so great a journey with a numerous family and a little infant hanging at the breast. However, I endeavour upon this occasion to do as I have hitherto done in all the odd turns of my life; turn them, if I can, to my diversion. In order to this, I ramble every day, wrapped up in my ferace and yasmak254 about Constantinople and amuse myself with seeing all that is curious in it. I know you'll expect this declaration should be followed with some account of what I have seen, but I am in no humour to copy what has been writ so often over. To what purpose should I tell you that Constantinople was the ancient Byzantium, that 'tis at present the conquest of a race of people supposed Scythians, that there is five or six thousand mosques in it, that St Sophia was founded by Justinian etc? I'll assure you 'tis not want of learning that I forbear writing all these bright things. I could also, with little trouble, turn over Knolles and Sir Paul Rycaut to give you a list of Turkish emperors, but I will not tell you what you may find in every author that has writ of this country.255
Pg. 134 LETTER XLVIII Cont.
Turkish (upper class) women’s lives are spent free, visiting, bathing, spending money, inventing new fashions. It is interesting that a husband would be thought mad who exacted any degree of economy from wife. Her money is hers to do what she wants with. It is his business is to get money and hers to spend it! In this letter, there is a description of a Wedding ceremony – of anthropological value!
I am more inclined, out of a true female spirit of contradiction, to tell you the falsehood of a great part of what you find in authors; as, for example, the admirable Mr Hill,256 who so gravely asserts that he saw in St Sophia a sweating pillar very balsamic for disordered heads. There is not the least tradition of any such matter, and I suppose it was revealed to him in vision during his wonderful stay in the Egyptian catacombs, for I am sure he never heard of any such miracle here. 'Tis also very pleasant to observe how tenderly he and all his brethren voyage-writers lament on the miserable confinement of the Turkish ladies, who are, perhaps, freer than any ladies in the universe, and are the only women in the world that lead a life of uninterrupted pleasure, exempt from cares, their whole time being spent in visiting, bathing or the agreeable amusement of spending money and inventing new fashions. A husband would be thought mad that exacted any degree of economy from his wife, whose expenses are no way limited but by her own fancy. 'Tis his business to get money and hers to spend it, and this noble prerogative extends itself to the very meanest of the sex. Here is a fellow that carries embroidered handkerchiefs upon his back to sell, as miserable a figure as you may suppose such a mean dealer, yet I'll assure you his wife scorns to wear anything less than cloth of gold, has her ermine furs and a very handsome set of jewels for her head. They go abroad when and where they please. 'Tis true they have no public places but the bagnios,257 and there can only be seen by their own sex. However, that is a diversion they take great pleasure in.
I was three days ago at one of the finest in the town and had the opportunity of seeing a Turkish bride received there and all the ceremonies used on that occasion, which made me recollect the epithalamium of Helen by Theocritus,258 and it seems to me that the same customs have continued ever since. All the she-friends, relations and acquaintance of the two families newly allied meet at the bagnio. Several others go out of curiosity and I believe there was that day at least 200 women. Those that were or had been married placed themselves round the room on the marble sofas, but the virgins very hastily threw off their clothes and appeared without other ornament or covering than their own long hair….
Pg. 135 LETTER XLVIII Cont.
The important description of a ceremony is continued. If a woman’s indiscretions are discovered her husband can deal with her severely! A woman was found murdered. No one knew who she was because the veil had prevented her face from being known. There was no enquiry.
….braided with pearl or ribbon. Two of them met the bride at the door, conducted by her mother and another grave relation. She was a beautiful maid of about seventeen, richly dressed and shining with jewels, but was presently reduced by them to the state of nature. Two others filled silver gilt pots with perfume and begun the procession, the rest following in pairs to the number of thirty. The leaders sung an epithalamium answered by the others in chorus, and the two last led the fair bride, her eyes fixed on the ground with a chan-ning affectation of modesty. In this order they marched round the three large rooms of the bagnio. 'Tis not easy to represent to you the beauty of this sight, most of them being well proportioned and white skinned, all of them perfectly smooth and polished by the frequent use of bathing. After having made their tour, the bride was again led to every matron round the rooms, who saluted her with a compliment and a present, some of jewels, others pieces of stuff, handkerchiefs, or little gallantries of that nature, which she thanked them for by kissing their hands.
I was very well pleased with having seen this ceremony and you may believe me that the Turkish ladies have at least as much wit and civility, nay, liberty, as ladies amongst us. 'Tis true the same customs that give them so many opportunities of gratifying their evil inclinations (if they have any) also puts it very fully in the power of their husbands to revenge them if they are discovered, and I don't doubt but they suffer sometimes for their indiscretions in a very severe manner. About two months ago there was found at daybreak not very far from my house the bleeding body of a young woman, naked, only wrapped in a course sheet, with two wounds with a knife, one in her side and another in her breast. She was not yet quite cold, and so surprisingly beautiful that there were very few men in Pera that did not go to look upon her, but it was not possible for anybody to know her, no woman's face being known. She was supposed to be brought in dead of night from the Constantinople side and laid there. Very little enquiry was made about the murderer and the corpse privately buried without noise. Murder is never pursued by the king's officers as with us. 'Tis the business of the….
Pg. 136 LETTER XLVIII Cont.
We are given an insight into the system of control/justice. It is up to the family of the deceased to seek revenge. They generally want money. We are then told a story about a woman.
….next relations to revenge the dead person, and if they like better to compound the matter for money, as they generally do, there is no more said of it. One would imagine this defect in their government should make such tragedies very frequent, yet they are extremely rare, which is enough to prove the people not naturally cruel, neither do I think in many other particulars they deserve the barbarous character we give them.
I am well acquainted with a Christian woman of quality who made it her choice to live with a Turkish husband, and is a very agreeable sensible lady. Her story is so extraordinary I cannot forbear relating it, but I promise you it shall be in as few words as I can possibly express it. She is a Spaniard, and was at Naples with her family when that Kingdom was part of the Spanish dominion.259 Coming from thence in a felucca, accompanied by her brother they were attacked by the Turkish Admiral, boarded and taken; and now how shall I modestly tell you the rest of her adventure? The same accident happened to her that happened to the fair Lucretia260 so many years before her, but she was too good a Christian to kill herself as that heathenish Roman did. The admiral was so much charmed with the beauty and long suffering of the fair captive that as his first compliment he gave inunediate liberty to her brother and attendants, who made haste to Spain and in a few months sent the sum of £4000 sterling as a ransom for his sister. The Turk took the money, which he presented to her, and told her she was at liberty, but the lady very discreetly weighted the different treatment she was likely to find in her native country. Her Catholics relation, as the kindest thing they could do for her in her present circumstances, would certainly confine her to a nunnery for the rest of her days. Her infidel lover was very handsome, very tender, fond of her and lavished at her feet all the Turkish magnificence. She answered him very resolutely that her liberty was not so precious to her as her honour, that he could no way restore that but by marrying her. She desired him to accept the ransom as her portion and give her the satisfaction of knowing no man could boast of her favours without being her husband. The Admiral was transported at this kind offer and sent back the….
Pg. 137 LETTER XLVIII Cont.
We are told of the custom of adoption in Turkey. If a person has no friends or relatives and wants to avoid estates going to the Grand Signer’s treasury they adopt a child. But the parents don’t give up the child. They are forced to give up their child, although poor parents will generally not resist.
….money to her relations, saying he was too happy in her possession. He married her and never took any other wife, and (as she says herselo she never had any reason to repent the choice she made. He left her some years after one of the richest widows in Constantinople, but there is no remaining honourably a single woman, and that consideration has obliged her to marry the present Captain Pasha (ie Admiral), his successor.261 I am afraid you'll think that my friend fell in love with her ravisher, but I am willing to take her word for it that she acted wholly on principles of honour, though I think she might be reasonably touched at his generosity, which is very often found amongst Turks of rank.
'Tis a degree of generosity to tell the truth, and 'tis very rare that any Turk will assert a solemn falsehood. I don't speak of the lowest sort, for as there is a great deal of ignorance, there is very little virtue amongst them, and false witnesses are much cheaper than in Christendom, those wretches not being punished (even when they are publicly detected) with the rigour they ought to be. Now I am speaking of their law, I don't know whether I have ever mentioned to you one custom peculiar to this country. I mean adoption, very common amongst the Turks and yet more amongst the Greeks and Armenians. Not having it in their power to give their estates to a friend or distant relation to avoid its falling into the Grand Signor's treasury, when they are not likely to have children of their own they choose some pretty child of either sex amongst the meanest people and carry the child and its parents before the cadi, and there declare they receive it for their heir. The parents at the same time renounce all future claim to it, a writing is drawn and witnessed and a child thus adopted cannot be disinherited. Yet I have seen some common beggars that have refused to part with their children in this manner to some of the richest amongst the Greeks, so powerful is the instinctive fondness natural to parents! Though the adopting fathers are generally very tender to these children of their souls, as they call them. I own this custom pleases me much better than our absurd following our name. Methinks 'tis much more reasonable to make happy and rich an infant whom….
Pg. 138 LETTER XLVIII Cont.
Lady Mary thinks that this is better than giving your estate to a very distant relative. The customs linked to inheritance and adoption are very interesting. Then religious behaviour is described.
….I educate after my own manner, brought up, in the Turkish phrase, upon my knees, and who has learnt to look upon me with a filial respect, than to give an estate to a creature without other merit or relation to me than by a few letters. Yet this is an absurdity we see frequently practised.
Now I have mentioned the Armenians, perhaps it will be agreeable to tell you something of that nation, with which I am sure you are utterly unacquainted. I will not trouble you with the geographical account of the situation of their country, which you may see in the map, or a relation of their ancient greatness, which you may read in the Roman history. They are now subject to the Turks, and, being very industrious in trade, and increasing and multiplying, are dispersed in great numbers through all the Turkish dominions. They were, as they say, converted to the Christian religion by St Gregory,262 and are perhaps the devoutest Christians in the whole world. The chief precepts of theif priests enjoin the strict keeping of their Lents, which are at least seven months in every year, and are not to be dispensed with on the most emergent necessity. No occasion whatever can excuse them if they touch anything more than mere herbs or roots, without oil, and plain dry bread. This is their Lenten diet. Mr Wortley has one of his interpreters of this nation, and the poor fellow was brought so low with the severity of his fasts that his life was despaired of, yet neither his master's commands or the doctor's entreaties (who declared nothing else could save his life) were powerful enough to prevail with him to take two or three spoonfuls of broth. Excepting this, which may rather be called custom than an article of faith, I see very little in their religion different from ours. 'Tis true they seem to incline very much to Mr Whiston's doctrine,263 neither do I think the Greek church very distant from it, since 'tis certain the insisting on the Holy Spirit only proceeding from the Father is making a plain subordination in the Son. But the Armenians have no notion of transubstantiation, whatever account Sir Paul Rycaut gives of them264 (which account I am apt to believe was designed to compliment our court in 1679), and they have a great horror for those amongst them that change to the Roman religion.
Pg. 139 LETTER XLVIII Cont.
The Armenian matrimonial ceremony: “unparalleled all over the world”, an “extraordinary” custom. Of anthropological interest!
What is most extraordinary in their customs is their matria ceremony I believe unparalleled all over the world. They are always promised very young, but the espoused never see one another till three days after their marriage. The bride is carried to church with a cap on her head in the fashion of a large trencher,265 and over it a read silken veil which covers her all over to her feet. The priest asks the bridegroom whether he is contented to marry that woman, be she deaf, be she blind. These are the literal words, to which having answered yes, she is led home to his house accompanied with all the friends and relations on both sides, singing and dancing, and is placed on a cushion in the corner of the sofa, but her veil never lifted up, not even by her husband, till she has been three days married. There is something so odd and monstrous in these ways that I could not believe them till I had enquired of several Armenians myself who all assured me of the truth of them, particularly one young fellow who wept when he spoke of it, being promised by his mother to a girl that he must marry in this manner, though he protested to me he had rather die than submit to this slavery, having already figured his bride to himself with all the defon-nities in nature.
I fancy I see you bless yourself at this terrible relation. I cannot conclude my letter with a more surprising story, yet 'tis as seriously true as that I am, dear sister, your etc.
LETTER XLIX (Pera, Constantinople, 19 May 1718)
To the Abbé Conti,
I am extremely pleased with hearing from you, and my vanity (the darling frailty of humankind)266 not a little flattered by the uncommon questions you ask me, though I am utterly incapable of answering them, and indeed were I as good a mathematician as Euclid himself, it requires an age's stay to make just observations on the air and vapours.
Pg. 140 LETTER XLIX Cont.
…I have not been yet a full year here and am on the point of removing; such is my rambling destiny. This will surprise you, and can surprise nobody so much as myself. Perhaps you will accuse me of laziness of dulness, or both together, that can leave this place without giving you some account of the Turkish court. I can only tell you that if you please to read Sir Paul Rycaut you will there find a full and true account of the viziers, the Berglerbleys, 267 the civil and spiritual government, the officers of the seraglio, etc., things that 'tis very easy to procure lists of and therefore may be depended on, though other stories, God knows - I say no more - everybody is at liberty to write their own remarks. The manners of people may change or some of them escaped the observation of travellers, but 'tis not the same of the government, and for that reason, since I can tell you nothing new I will tell nothing of it. In the same silence shall be passed over the arsenal and seven towers, and for the mosques, I have-already described one of the noblest to you very particularly; but I cannot forbear taking notice to you of a mistake of Gemelli268 (though I honour him in a much higher degree than any other voyage-writer). He says that there is no remains of Calcedon. This is certainly a mistake. I was there yesterday and went cross the canal in my galley, the sea being very narrow between that city and Constantinople, 'Tis still a large town and has several mosques in it. The Christians still call it Calcedonia, and the Turks give it a name I forgot, but which is only a corruption of the same word.269 I suppose this an error of his guide, which his short stay hindered him from rectifying, for I have, in other matters, a very just esteem for his veracity.
Nothing can be pleasanter than the canal, and the Turks are so well acquainted with its beauties, all their pleasure seats are built on its banks, where they have at the same time the most beautiful prospects in Europe and Asia. There are near one another some hundreds of magnificent palaces. Human grandeur being here yet more unstable than anywhere else, 'tis common for the heirs of a great three-tailed pasha not to be rich enough to keep in repair the house he built; thus in a few years they all fall to ruin. I was yesterday to see that of the late Grand…
Pg. 141 LETTER XLIX Cont.
Descriptions of the interiors of a palace of the late Grand Vizier.
….Vizier was killed at Peterwardein. It was built to receive his daughter of the present Sultan, but he did not live to see her there. I have a great mind to describe it to you, but I check that inclination, knowing very well that I cannot give you, with my best description, such an idea of it as I ought. it is situated on one of the most delightful parts of the canal, with a fine wood on the side of a hill behind it. The extent of it is prodigious; the guardian assured me there is 800 rooms in it. I will not answer for that number since I did not count them, but It is certain the number is very large and the whole adomed with a profusion of marble, gilding and the most exquisite painting of fruit and flowers. The windows are all sashed with the finest crystalline glass brought from England, and all the expensive magnificence that you can suppose in a palace founded by a vain young luxurious man with the wealth of a vast empire at his command. But no part of it pleased me better than the apartments destined for the bagnios. There are two exactly built in the same manner, answering to one another; the baths, fountains and pavements all of white marble, the roofs gilt and the walls covered with japan china; but adjoining to them two rooms, the upper part of which is divided into a sofa; in the four corners falls of water from the very roof, from shell to shell of white marble to the lower end of the room, where it falls into a large basin surrounded with pipes that throw up the water as high as the room. The walls are in the nature of lattices and on the outside of them vines and woodbines planted that form a sort of green tapestry and give an agreeable obscurity to these delightful chambers. I should go on and let you into some of the other apartments, all worthy your curiosity, but 'tis yet harder to describe a Turkish palace than any other, being built entirely irregular. There is nothing can be properly called front or wings, and though such a confusion is, I think, pleasing to the sight, yet it would be very unintelligible in a letter. I shall only add that the chamber destined for the Sultan, when he visits his daughter, is wainscotted with mother of pearl fastened with emeralds like nails; there are others of mother of pearl and olive wood inlaid, and several of japan china. The galleries, which are….
Pg. 142 LETTER XLIX Cont.
Lady Mary certainly admires Turkish life. Turks have the “Right notion of life; while they consume it in music, gardens, wine and delicate eating, while we are tormenting our brains with some scheme of politics or studying some science to which we can never attain, or if we do, cannot persuade people to set that value upon it we do ourselves…We die, or grow old and decrepit before we can reap the fruit of our labours…I had rather be a rich effendi with all his ignorance than Sir Isaac Newton with all his knowledge.”
….numerous and very large, are adorned with jars of flowers and porcelain dishes of frit of all sorts, so well done in plaster and coloured in so lively a manner that it has an enchanting effect. The garden is suitable to the house, where arbours, fountains and walks are thrown together in an agreeable confusion. There is no ornament wanting except that of statues.
Thus you see, sir, these people are not so unpolished as we represent them. 'Tis true their magnificence is of a different taste from ours, and perhaps of a better. I am almost of opinion they have a right notion of life; while they consume it in music, gardens, wine and delicate eating, while we are tormenting our brains with some scheme of politics or studying some science to which we can never attain, or if we do, cannot persuade people to set that value upon it we do ourselves, 'Tis certain what we fell and see is properly (if anything is properly) our won, but the good of fame, the folly of praise, hardly purchased, and when obtained, poor recompense for loss of time and health! We die, or grow old and decrepit before we can reap the fruit of our labours. Considering what short lived, weak animals men are, is there any study so beneficial as the study of present pleasure? I dare not pursue this them; perhaps I have already said too much, but I depend upon the true knowledge you have of my heart. I don't expect from you the insipid railleries I should suffer from another in answer to this letter. You know how to divide the idea of pleasure from that of vice, and they are only mingled in the heads of fools - but I allow you to laugh at me for the sensual declaration that I had rather be a rich effendi with all his ignorance than Sir Isaac Newton with all his knowledge. I am, sir, etc.
Pg. 153 LETTER LI (Genoa, 28 August 1718)
To Lady Mar, (An excerpt )
…The ladies affect the French habit and are more genteel than imitate. I do not doubt but the custom of cicisbeismo has very much improved their airs. I know not whether you have ever heard of those animals. Upon my word, nothing but my own eyes could have convinced me there were any such upon earth. The fashion begun here and is now received all over Italy, where the husbands are not such terrible creatures as we represent them. There are none amongst them such brutes to pretend to find fault with a custom so well established and so politically founded, since I am assured here that it was an expedient first found out by the senate to put an end to those family hatreds which tore their state to pieces, and to find employment for those young men who were forced to cut one another's throats pour passer le temps, and it has succeeded so well that since the institution of cicisbeismo there has been nothing but peace and good humour amongst them. These are gentlemen that devote themselves to the service of a particular lady (I mean a married one, for the virgins are all invisible, confined to convents). They are obliged to wait on her to all public places, the plays, opera and assemblies (which are called here conversations), where they wait behind her chair, take care of her fan and gloves if she plays, have the privilege of whispers, etc. When she goes out they serve her instead of lackeys, gravely trotting by her chair. 'Tis their business to present against any day of public appearance, not forgetting that of her name. In short, they are to spend all their time and money in her service who rewards them according to her inclination (for opportunity they want none), but the husband is not to have the impudence to suppose 'tis any other than a pure platonic friendship. 'Tis true they endeavour to give her a cicisbeismo of their own choosing, but when the lady happens not to be of the same taste (as that often happens) she never fails to bring it about to have one of her own fancy. In former times one beauty used to have eight or ten of these humble admirers, but those days of plenty and humility are no more; men grow more scarce and saucy and every lady is forced to content herself with one at a time. You see the glorious liberty of a republic, or more properly an aristocracy…
For the omitted work see:
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. 1993. Turkish Embassy Letters. Introduced by Anita Desai, Text edited and annotated by Malcolm Jack. William Pickering. London.
78 Marie Catherine Le jumel de Bameville, comtesse
d'Aulnoy (c. 16501705), author of fairy stories and travel writing about Spain.
79 Frederick IV (1671-1730).
80 Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), Austrian general and victor of the battle of Peterwardein. See above n. 24.
81 According to Greek mythology, the Delphic Oracle ordered Hercules to sell himself as a slave to Omphale, Queen of Lydia to expiate the murder of lphitus.
82 Dom Manuel of Braganca (1697-1736) Portuguese prince who fought at the battle of Peterwardein against the order of his brother, Joao V, fang f Portugal.
83 83 Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) Tamerlane (1702) Act I 1. 1.265.
84 84 Lady Rich. See previous Letter, number X-Xl.
86 86 A gap in fortifications.
87 The Montagus were escorted by a considerable contigent of Imperial troops.
88 William Congreve (1670-1729), Restoration playwright, friend of Lady Mary 4nd of Pope. He was one of the writers attacked by Collier, see above, n. 34.
89 Petrovaradin in Serbia. Halsband suggests that this letter may be from Lady Mary's journal.
90 Ladislaus, Count Nidasdy (d. 17 30) Bishop of Banad. Temcswar is now Timisoara in Romania.
91 Among the illustrious Nidasky family was the patriot Count Ferencz Nadasky, who tried to gain Hungary independence but was executed for treason by the Imperial army.
92 Kodja Sinan Pasha (d. 1 596) and Murad III (I 546-95), Ottoman Emperor from 1574-95.
93 Adolf Count von Schwarzenberg (I 547-1600); Nikolaus 11, Count Palffy (1552-1600).
94 Turkish soldiers disguised as peasants dragged carts of hay, in which other soldiers were hidden, into the town.
95 Leopold I acted against Protestants following a conspiracy of Hungarian nobles who had tried to seize independence.
96 Maximilian Ludwig Regal (d. 1717) Count von Kranichsfeld; Eleonore Christiana, Countess von Mettemich.
97 Buda is on the West bank of the Danube; its inhabitants were Serbs.
98 Suleiman (I 494-1566), most famous of the Ottoman emperors whose rule was from I S20-66. He was a military strategist, lawgiver, builder and patron of the arts.
99 Ferdinand I (I 503-64) King of Bohemia and Hungary from 1526; HOIY Roman Emperor from 1558; John I Zapolya (1487-1540), King of Hungary
Joachim 11 (1505-71), Elector of Brandenburg;
Hermann Christof, Count von Russworn (I 565-1605); Charles IV, Duke of Lorraine
(I 643-90); Abdul al-Rahman Pasha.
100 Mehmed IV (1642-92) Ottoman Emperor from 1648-87.
101 Mohacs, on the Danube, is the site of two major battles which marked the beginning and end of Turkish dominion in Hungary. The first was on 29 August, 1526 when Suleiman the Magnificent defeated the Hungarian King, Louis II. The second was on 12 August, 1687, when the Austrians under Charles of Lorraine decisively defeated the Turks.
103 Julius Franz, Count Veterani (1666-1736).
104 Heroes in the conflicts between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Turks who retained control of a part of Hungary.
105 Sir Paul Rycaut's History of the Turks ( 1 700).
106 Greek Orthodox Church from which the Serbian Church gained independence in 1557.
107 By the Treaty of Karlowitz, 1699, the Austrians gained control of Peterwardein from the Turks.
108 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapter XIII. ed. W.G. Pogso@ Smith (Oxford, 1909) pp. 94-8. Hobbes's state of nature was designed to show how unpleasant life in a pre-civil condition would be. Admitting to being a Hobbist, even in this one matter, was daring of Lady Mary since Hobbes was associated with materialism and even atheism.
109 The aga was the commander of the elite corps of Turkish troops, the Janissaries, who had first been recruited by forced levy from Christian children.
110 Belgrade was first captured by the Turks in 1521 and passed from Turkish to Austrian hands and back several times over the next two centuries.
111 Ahmed III (1673-1736) Ottoman Emperor from 1703-20, famous for his love of tulips. See below n. 143.
112 Cadi a civil magistrate; mufti a lawyer expert in Muslim law.
113 Ahmed Bey Effendi. Effendi was a term of respect given to a scholar, teacher or man of letters.
114 Central office of state of Ottoman government.
115 Halsband located a copy of François Petis de la Croix's Les Mille et unjours, Contes Persanes (1710-12) in Lady Mary's library. See Letters 1: 308 n.i. These tales may not, in fact, be oriental originals. In 1705 Antoine Galland had started to produce a French version of Arabian Nights Entertainments which greatly influenced the vogue for oriental tales in France and in England throughout the eighteenth century.
116 This letter is not part of the Embassy series. Frances Hewet was a friend of Lady Mary's to whom she wrote in her single days. Some of these earlier letters are collected in Whamcliffe 3: 203-24. also see Halsband Letters, 1:308 n.4.
Adrianpolis, modem Edime in European Turkey
was the location of the Seraglio, the Sultan's personal household although Constantinople
was the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
117 Wilhelmina Caroline of Ansbach, consort to King George II. She was
Queen of England from 1727 to 1738 when she died.
118 Now Lovdivin in Bulgaria.
119 Whamcliffe identifies the addressee as Lady Rich see Wharncliffe 1:351 but the letter is unaddressed in Halsband, see Letters 1:312.
120 Bathing house.
121 Eve. See John Milton Paradise Lost IV 1.492. The Poetical Works of john Afilton,
ed. H. Darbishire, 2 Vols. (Oxford, 1952) 1:8S.
122 Guido Reni (I S75-1642) Bolognese painter.
123 Charles jervas (?167S-1739) Irish portrait painter, disciple of Kneller;
friend of Pope and well known to literary circles.
124 Justinian (AD 527-65) Roman Emperor at Constantinople. He reorganised Roman Law, leavinz an important Code summarising his system. He also had the great church orst Sophia built at Constantinople.
125 Antonio Conti (1677-1749) Italian dramatist, savant and man of letters. He translated, among other things, Pope's poetry. He met Lady Mary in England in 171 S.
126 French Huguenot (Protestant) refugees fled to England after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 which once again led to persecution of non-Catholics. They settled in Soho where Greek Street is located.
127 Virgil Eclogue I 1 8 trans James Rhoades, (Oxford 192 1 ) P. 39 1.
128 Mustafa II Ottoman Emperor from 1695 until 1703 when he was deposed.
129 Samuel Clarke (1675-1729) Metaphysician and moralist who defended a rational theology. His work, A Discourse of Natural Religion, based on the Boyle lectures of 1704, was widely read.
130 William Whiston (1667-1752) disciple of Newton and his successor in the Lucasian chair of Mathematics at Cambridge. He was a friend of Samuel Clarke. See above n. 129.
131 Al-Zaidiya, Kadariya and Djabariya, sects of Islam.
132 See above, n. IO S. Rycaut had served in the British legation at Constantinople in the 1660s. He also wrote The Present State of the Ottoman Empire (1668).
133 Sect of Christians who incorporated non-Christian elements into their
interpretation of St Paul.
135 Marcos Ulpius Trajanus (AD 53-117) Roman Emperor of Spanish origin who extended the Empire to the Persian Gulf 116
136 Baldwin I (d. 1 205) Count of Flanders, Emperor of Constantinople.
137 Caftan is a long under-tunic tied at the waist; manteau a loose cape.
138 Ali Pasha (c. 1667-1716), Grand Vizier from
1713-16. Princess Fatima (1704-33), his wife, later married Ibrahim Pasha (c.1666-1730)
who succeeded Ali Pasha as Grand Vizier, a post he held until his death.
139 The Sultan's friend or adviser.
140 Halsband finds the verse repeated in a poem about Robert Walpole written by Lady Mary in the 1730s. See Letters 1:322 n.l.
141 The doctrine of passive obedience was espoused by Tory monarchists in defence of the Crown. It derived from the ancient theory of the divine right of Kings which made obedience to the monarch absolute and not dependent on consent. Sir Robert Filmer made a strong defence of the principle in Patriarcha, published in 1680.
142 Madeleine-Françoise de Gontaut-Biron (1698-1739). Her husband, jean Louis d'Usson Marquis of Bonac (1672-1738) had been appointed Ambassador in 1716 and they arrived in Adrianople early in 1717.
143 The reign of Ahmed III, from 1703-20 was known as the 'Age of Tulips'.
See above n. I I 1.
145 Harlequin, a character in Aphra Behn's The Emperor of the Moon (1687),
reported that morality applied on the moon as on earth.
146 Council or ministry of Sultan.
147 River Maritza in Northern Greece.
148 In Greek mythology, the Maenads (mad women) were votaries of Diony-
sius who tore Orpheus to pieces. His severed head, floating down the river, was still heard singing until it reached Lesbos where it was buried.
149 'Then too, even then, what time the Hebrus stream, Oeagrian Hebrus, down mid-current rolled,
Rent from the marble neck, his drifting head,
The death-chilled tongue found yet a voice to cry "Eurydice! ah! poor Eurydice!"
With parting breath he called her, and the banks From the broad stream caught up "Eurydice!"'.
Virgil Georgics IV 521-8 trans. j Rhoades (Oxford 1921) p.385 ff.
150 Turtle doves.
151 Reed instrument or pipe of ancient Romans.
152 Joseph Addison (1672-1719), classical scholar, essayist, who travelled on the Continent between 1699-1703. His contributions, with Richard Steele, to the Tatier and Spectator secured his place in English letters
153 (fl. c. 270 BC) His poems, the Idylls celebrate pastoral life.
154 Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad first appeared in 1715, the second volume was published in 1716 and it was completed in 1720.
155 Refined, advanced.
156 In Greek mythology, Andromache was the wife of Hector and in the Illiad represents the true wife and mother.
157 In Greek mythology Helen was the daughter of Zeus. She was reputed to
be the most beautiful woman in the world and
was married to Menelaus, the younger brother of Agamemnon.
158 Military chiefs or generals.
159 In Greek mythology, Priam was King of Troy, slain when the city fell to the Greeks.
160 In Greek mythology, Erymanthus was the name of a mountain and river in Arcadia which Lady Mary has changed to the Eurotas, now Iri in Laconia.
161 Book of the Old Testament.
162 See above, n. I I I & n. 143.
163 Boileau-Despr6aux, Nicholas (1636-171 1), writer and critic who founded modern French literary criticism. His Art Pc4tique (1674) was particularly influential.
164 in Persian and Turkish poetry, the nightingale sings of his unrequited love for the rose.
166 Wife of Amand Khalit Pasha (1655-1733), an Albanian, who had been in office since August 1716.
167 See above, n. I 1 3.
168 Strongly flavoured.
170 Apelles (fl. 4th century BC) Court painter to Philip and Alexander of Macedon, reckoned to be one of the finest of Greek painters though none of his work survives.
171 Primitive musical instruments.
172 Anastasia Robinson (d. 1755) a well-known London singer.
174 Publius Aelius Hadrianus, Roman Emperor (AD 11 7-138) of Spanish descent. He was a Hellenist, codifier of laws and builder who developed Adrianople (now Edime) from its modest origins.
175 Mehmed IV (1642-93) Ottoman Emperor from 1648-87; Mustafa 11 (1664-1703) Ottoman Emperor from 1695 until his death.
176 Ali Pasha See above n. 1 3 8
177 There were three grades of Pasha who were entitled to display different numbers of horsetails outside their tents.
178 The Jacobite cause, much associated with the Tories, was dedicated to restoring the Stuarts to the throne. There were numerous attempts to overthrow the Hanoverian dynasty after 1714 and on the occasion mentioned troops were camped in Hyde Park.
179 Mosque of Selimiye Camiil (Selim 11) is reckoned a masterpiece of Ottoman art. It was built between 1569-75 by the architect Sinan and dominates the city as Lady Mary observes.
180 Iznik ceramics.
181 Officiating priests of Islam.
182 Members of an austere sect known for devotional
practices which include trance enduced states and dancing of a frenzied kind.
183 Young Prince Suleiman. The other two sons of Mustafa became Mahmud 1 (1696-1754), Ottoman Emperor from 1730-54 and Osman III (16991757), Ottoman Emperor from 1754-57. There was a third son, Hassan (1699-1733) who is not mentioned by Lady Mary.
184 A four wheeled carriage first used in Berlin in the late seventeenth century.
185 Turkish cavalrymen.
187 Jean Dumont Nouveau Voyage au Levant (1694) translated into English in 1696.
188 In fact matrimony does not affect the spiritual fate of Muslim women; a widow may remarry after four months and ten nights. See Halsband, Letters
1: 364 n. I .
189 in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus who obtained the head of Medusa without himself being petrified, then used it to defeat rivals for Andromache.
190 Athena, daughter of Zeus who emerged full-blown from his head. Protectress of Athens and patroness of the urban arts and crafts.
191 Kind of onyx used as a gemstone.
192 St AuZustine of Hippo (345-430) leading Catholic theologian, philosopher a@d prolific writer. His work, particularly his City of God, has remained influential until modern times.
193 Charles XII (1682-1718).
194 Castle on S.E. side of Constantinople.
195 Village outside Constantinople used as a retreat from summer heat and epidemics.
196 In Greek mythology, the place where those favoured by the Cods enjoy a blissful existence after death.
197 Their pangs even death removes not' Virgil, Acneid vi 443. trans. J. Rhoades (Oxford, 192 1) P. 1 38.
198 In Latin poets, a river in Hades whose water is drunk by souls about to be reincarnated so that they might forget their previous existences. Virgil describes Aeneas witnessing such a scene. Aeneid VI 703ff. trans. J. Rhoades (Oxford, 192 1) p. 146ff.
199 At St james's Palace.
200 Elisabeth Lawrence (d. 17 2 5) mother of Lady Rich.
201 Mary Berkeley (1671-1741) whose home was a favourite rendezvous for
202 Whamcliffe identifies the addressee as Lady Rich see Whamcliffe 2:11 but
the letter is unaddressed in Halsband, see Letters, 1: 367.
203 See above, n. 1 87.
204 Healing ointment.
205 A pigeon is said to have taught Mohammed
to pick corn out of his ear; thought to I>e whisperings of the Holy Ghost.
206 A daughter was born to Lady Mary two weeks later, on January 19th.
207 Order of St John of Jerusalem founded during the First Crusade.
208 Madeleine Françoise d'Usson Bonnac (1698-1739) who became a close friend of Lady Mary and accompanied her on a visit to a harem.
209 Small boat.
210 This letter is not in the Turkish Embassy series. It was written in French and the translation used was made by Halsband, Letters 1:454-7.
211 John Toland (1670-1722) Irish freethinker whose Christianity Not Mysterious (I 696) sparked off the deist controversy.
212 Inhabitants of Nova Zemblya, islands stretching from the north coast of Russia into the Arctic Ocean.
213 Lady Mar was in France in 1717. Her husband, along with other Tory
politicians, was implicated in the Jacobite plots after 1714. See above, n. 1 78
214 Hafise(b. 168 3).
215 Mustafa 11 was deposed in 1703.
216 Stab. Poinard is a dagger.
217 Ebubekir Effendi (d. 1723) Minister for Foreign Affairs.
218 Boudoir where visitors could be received.
219 Omate court wear.
221 Sarah Jennings (1660-1744) wife of John Churchill, Duke of Marl-
borough and for a time the favourite of Queen Anne.
222 Thomas Pitt (1653-1726) owner of a large diamond.
223 Thin silk gauze.
225 The reference is to an incident, recorded by Rycaut, in which the Grand Sipnor threw his handkerchief to one of the women in the Seraglio as a sign that she should come to his bed. P. Rycaut, Present State of the Ottoman Empire (1668) p. 39.
226 Full length silk gown.
227 See above n. 1 15.
228 Polish fortress taken by Melimed IV in 1672.
229 Wharncliffe identifies the addressee as Lady Rich see Wharncliffe 11:30 but
the letter is unaddressed in Halsband, see Letters 1:387.
230 The ship Smyrnote arrived at Smyrna (modern Ismir) in February, 1718, reaching Constantinople in mid-March.
231 For a translation of the Turkish, See Halsband Letters 1:464-5.
232 Wortley was at Adrianople taking his leave of the Court as he had been recalled.
233 Lady Mary had lent William Fielding, her uncle, LI 5 50.
234 Catharina de Bourg, wife of Count Jacob
Colyer (1657-1725), the Dutch
ambassador to Turkey.
235 Edward Wortley Montagu had been vaccinated against smallpox on 18
236 Wortley's pro-Turkish sympathies, which it was thought would compromise his position as a negotiator, had led to his recall. The Levant Company was compensated for the loss of the Ambassador of its choice.
237 Wortley was granted L500 to cover his return expenses, the same sum that had been granted to his predecessor, Sir Robert Sutton, who was Ambassador from 1701-16.
238 John Lethieultier (1667-1737), Turkey merchant.
239 Sir John Williams (d. 1743) prominent figure in the Turkey trade.
240 Edward Barker (d. 1747) treasurer of the Levant Company in Constantinople.
241 French Christians.
242 Small cups.
243 St Sophia, the centre of religious life in Constantinople, was begun by Constantine and consecrated in 360, the penuitimate year of his son's reign. A new church was built by Justinian in 537. In 1453 St Sophia's was converted into a mosque by Mohammed 11 after his capture of the city. Mausoleums of Ottoman Sultans are in the church but Constantine is represented only by a mosaic.
244 The Suleymaniye Mosque was built between 1550-57 by Sinan, architect of the mosque in Adrianople (see above n. 179) and is regarded as the finest monuments of Muslim art in the city.
245 Hadice Turhan (1627-82), Valide Sultan (princess-mother) favourite of
Ibrahim (I 61 S-48), Ottoman Emperor from 1640-48.
246 Course or circus for horse racing and chariot racing.
24 247 The inscription is concluded with two further lines:
'Ter denis sic victus ego domitusq,ue diebus
ludice sub Proclo superas elatus ad auras'.
The whole has been translated as: 'Of lords serene a stubborn subject once, bidden to bear the palm to tyrants also that have met their doom - all yields to Theodosius and his undying issue - so conquered I in tlirice ten days and tamed, was under Proclus' judgeship raised to the skies above'. Halsband Letters I: 400 n.3.
248 The Blue Mosque, built between 1609 and 1616 for Sultan Ahmed 1, Ottoman Emperor from 1603-17.
249 The New Exchange took over business from the Royal Exchange after the fire of 1666.
250 Arcadian column, copied after Trajan's column in Rome, came down in 1695.
251 John Hervey (1665-1751) Vice-Chamberlain to Queen Charlotte, courtier, wit and author of Memoirs of the Reign of George if (published in 1848) was
• close friend of Lady Mary who joined
the battle against Pope. See above, n.
... 252 This letter was first written in French, addressed to Madame de Bonnac
and published without Lady Mary's permission. Translated by Halsband, Letters 1:458.
253 Whamcliffe identifies the addressee as the Countess of Bristol, see Whamcliffe 11:44 whereas Halsband leaves the letter unaddressed and guesses at the date. See Letters 1:40S.
254 Double veil concealing the face which Muslim ladies wore in public.
255 Richard Knolies (1550-1610) TheHistoryofthe Turks (1603); P. Rycaut The History of the Turks (1700) was a continuation of it.
256 A. Hill A Full andjust Account of the Present State a the Ottoman Empire
257 Public baths.
258 See above, n. 1 5 7. An Epithalamium is a celebration of nuptials.
259 Naples was part of the Spanish Empire from 1522.
260 According to Roman legend, she killed herself after being raped by Sextus while her husband, Targuinius Collatinus, was away.
261 Ibrahim Pasha, first admiral until 1718 when he was succeeded by Suleiman Koca.
262 Gregory (240-332) converted the Armenian King, Tiridates.
263 Whiston supported the Arian doctrine that denied that Christ's body was the same body as God's. Also see above n. 130.264 P. 264 Rycaut Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches (1679) p.433.
266 Lady Mary's allusion to human frailty is very much in the tradition of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literary psychology where man was represented as a creature of passions, one of which, the 'darling' or 'predominant' was called the 'ruling passion'.
267 A begierbey was governor of a province, next in rank to the Grand Vizier.
268 Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri (1651-1725) Neopolitan man of letters.
269 Kadikoy in modem Turkey.