That women of fashion should travel further than the magasins of Paris, or the cameo-shops of Rome, is meritorious: that they should keep journals while on their travels is industrious and creditable, but that they should publish the said journals is somewhat supererogatory. Mrs. Dawson Damer, however, pleads charity as her excuse for adding to the stock of pink-parasol literature; and really she is so unaffected and good-humoured, so free from affectation and factitious enthusiasm, that one can excuse the flimsiness of the work, for the sake of its artlessness. Having travelled with apparently little more preparation in the way of reading or thought than she would have made for a rummage of Beaudrant's stores, she describes to us all that she saw at Athens; all the wonders of Constantinople; baths, mosques, bazaars; the Holy City of Jerusalem, a journey across the desert and the gorgeous cherry-coloured umbrella, which shaded Mehemet Ali, the most royal piece of finery she saw at Alexandria. In short, the good-humoured, superficial, positive Londoner is in every page of her journals.
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Diary of a Tour in Greece, Turkey, Egypt and the Holy Land
MARY GEORGIANA DAMER
Diary of a Tour, M. G. Damer
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Availability: Publicly available via the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA) through the following Creative Commons attribution license: "You are free: to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work; to make derivative works; to make commercial use of the work. Under the following conditions: By Attribution. You must give the original author credit. For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above." (Status: unknown)
TO THE READER.1
VOLUME 1. 2
VOLUME 2. 108
APPENDIX. (No. I.) THOUGHTS ON THE QUESTION OF THE EAST.188
APPENDIX III. COMING OF THE MESSIAH.198
APPENDIX IV. RETURN OF THE JEWS TO THE HOLY LAND.199
I HAD originally intended printing a few copies of part of my Journal for private distribution, believing that its numerous imperfections would be overlooked by those for whose eyes it was intended, and that it would hereafter prove a source of interest to my children, for whose perusal the record of our journey had been principally made. Having been since led to believe that, from its sale, profits would accrue, which might be beneficially employed in forwarding an object of great public charity and utility in this county, I have overcome the reluctance I naturally felt, to obtrude so unpretending a narrative upon the general reader, being further encouraged by the consideration that, at the present time, the notes of any recent journey in the East may not be entirely devoid of interest.
The illustrations which are inserted in these volumes have been engraved from original drawings taken of the objects represented, by Monsieur Chacaton, a French gentleman, who accompanied us on our tour.
Came House, Dorchester, May, 1841.
Pleasurable anticipations of the author when about to visit Greece—Voyage from Trieste, in “The Prince Metternich”—Ancona — Trajan's Arch— Island of Ulysses—Corfu—Patras—Picturesque groups of the Greek inhabitants—The Corsair and Giaour—The Jew.
The long-expected day had at length arrived on which we were to commence that part of our travels, to which we had so eagerly looked forward; for, delighted as we had been with all we had hitherto seen, we could not help anticipating a great increase of pleasure in visiting countries which could afford us such a total change of scene, and interest of so different a character.
By the friendly aid of Count Walstein, we secured the best places on board “The Prince Metternich,” and sailed from Trieste at four o'clock, on a most delightful afternoon. The accommodation was much more roomy than I had dared to hope for, and I was much pleased to find the dispositions of the three lady passengers on board as airy as my own, with respect to cabin arrangements. Mrs. Joyce, one of them, with whom I had made acquaintance the day before, was proceeding with her nice little boy, to join her family at Alexandria, in company with Madame Pastré and her husband, who is one of the principal merchants of Marseilles, and who was now going to Egypt on business connected with the Pacha.
The weather is perfect, and the vesse without disagreeable motion, so that we shall rest most comfortably; but such a temperature, and such general bien-etre, we can hardly venture to think will continue.
Arrived, at eight in the morning, off Ancona, where we landed, in the hope of going to Loretto, but were much disappointed to find that we had little more than six hours to spare, for an expedition which required at least seven. We, however, saw Trajan's Arch, which is characterized by great simplicity, and beauty of proportion. The bas-reliefs have been stripped from it, but the marble looks as pure and as white as on the day it was first set up.
On a promontory above the town is an interesting duomo, with a facade of the 11th century, built on a most commanding position, where formerly stood the Temple of Juno, of which a dozen columns, still to be seen in the interior, are evident remains.
The evening passed off most delightfully on board; but in the night the wind changed, as did our spirits in proportion.
A sad day for unpractised sailors: our poor doctor so unwell as to require all the nursing we might have looked for at his hands. A small party only met at dinner, in consequence of the weather; but, in the evening, the wind lulled, and enabled us to get on deck once more.
We did not catch a glimpse of land during the whole day.
A quiet night, followed by a lovely morning; all the ladies working and reading on deck: but the wind being still against us, prevented our arriving at Corfu before sunset.
We passed the very beautiful little isle of Ulysses, and almost immediately the view of the approach to Corfu opened upon us, which is perfectly enchanting. The citadel is perched on the summit of a high rock, which is almost touched by another, equally picturesque; but the effect is a little diminished by the straight line caused by the erection of a new military hospital.
The coast of Albania is only four miles distant, and the forms of its mountains, most beautifully traced by the setting sun, furnished a background worthy of the rest of the landscape.
Sir George B——y came out for us in his boat; and the effect of seeing arms presented by English troops, and English signs and names attached to the shabby little shops, was satisfactory after so considerable an absence from our own country. Luckily for us we were comfortably lodged by Sir George B——y; for the alberghi of the Cavallo Bianco and Bella Venezcia are described as very dirty, and thickly populated.
M. and Madame Pastré had also been fortunate enough to escape these bad inns: a very amusing fellow-passenger, one Signor Steffano, having afforded them hospitality. He was, in appearance, a perfect Sir John Falstaff; and even when a little paled from the effect of the roughness of the sea, was still busy with his basket, which he had taken care to store at Trieste with all kinds of good things; which, however, he dispensed with a most liberal hand.
While George went to examine the fortifications with Sir G. B——y, Minney and myself accompanied Mrs. R——y on an expedition into the interior of the island.
We drove to the governor's campagne, now abandoned on account of the malaria, which has prevailed there since July. The hedge-rows were composed of cactus and aloes, at least seven feet high. The situation of the house somewhat reminded us of the Villa Rocca Romana, at Naples.
We drove to several points, each commanding a varied, but equally fine view; but our expedition was a little abridged by our being obliged to be on board by half past twelve.
The view of Corfu, for the first two hours after leaving it, seemed quite as magnificent as the approach the day before; but we had no little island so pretty as that of Ulysses to pass. Cephalonia and St. Mauro we saw , but at some distance.
Arrived at Patras, at seven in the morning; and now, for the first time, we set foot in real Greece.
We walked up to Mr. C., our consul's house, which is situated at the highest point of the town. The effect produced upon us by the variety and beauty of the oriental costume served to cheat the length and heat of the walk; for, at every step, I was longing to have some striking group committed to our sketch-book.
It being Sunday, the Greeks were in their best costumes; that of the women was not so striking as the men's, owing chiefly to their caps being so unbecoming. Some of the groups were playing at cards, which at the cafés was the universal occupation. Many of them were sketched by Mons. Chacaton, and they generally included one or more fine and venerable-looking heads, which, till now, one had never seen but in a Rembrandt or a Titian.
The brightness of the atmosphere, and the beauty and variety of the tints around us, would of themselves have almost repaid us for our week's voyage.
The wind was too high and unfavourable for our projected voyage down the gulf of Lepanto, whence we had hoped to get across to Parnassus and Delphi, and to reach Athens by this route; but after having made arrangements for guides and horses, and caused a perfect massacre in the poultry-yard, we were forced to make up our minds to put off this project until after our arrival at the Grecian capital, where we had the satisfaction of hearing that Lords A——y and R——y had arrived a few days before.
The delightful calm has accompanied us from Trieste, and our agreeable society on board has made our voyage really a party of pleasure.
In the night we passed Zante, and, in the course of the morning, Modon and Coron, the western points of the Morea. Here the Corsair and Giaour furnished us with all the names of the promontories and islands.
We did not fail to look into Navarino, as we passed close to it; but the coast, generally speaking, even of Arcadia, was not very striking.
We doubled Cape Matapan very successfully; but off the island of Cerigo, within twelve hours of the Peiraeus, the wind changed, and blew directly in our teeth so strongly, that the pitching of the vessel made it impossible for us to enjoy a moment's rest during the night, and finally lengthened our voyage by at least seven hours.
George had much curious conversation with one of our fellow-passengers, who is a Jew, on his way to Smyrna on a trading speculation. He spoke only English, and wherever he went depended on his Talmud and his own nation for friends and protection. He appeared a sincere enthusiast, and wrapped up in his mysticism.
Entrance into the AEgean Sea—The Duke of Wellington's fac-simile—A ball at Athens—Wretched appearance of the town—The King's new Palace —Ruins of the Temple of Jupiter Olympus—The Acropolis—The Parthenon.
We passed close to the island of Ægina, and had a fine view of its Temple, of which sixteen columns of marble still remain standing.
The entrance into the AEgean Sea is very fine. The island itself, with the mountains of the Morea and the Acropolis of Corinth in the distance, were on our left. In front lay Salamis, and the mountains above Megara and Eleusis. The Acropolis of Athens was plainly visible; and behind it, Hymettus and Pentelicus. To the right, the range of hills in which were situated the celebrated silver mines of Laureium, and which terminate in the promontory of Sunium, or Colonna.
We reached the Peiraeus at two o'clock, and were told, on our arrival, that Lord R——y, with Sir A. B——d, and Mr. H——y, were in quarantine.
The boat which put off to take us on shore, contained in it a most striking likeness (or rather fac-simile) of the Duke of Wellington, in the person of the harbour-master's Greek clerk. He spoke English perfectly, and, to complete the illusion, his very tone and accent reminded one of the Duke.
On landing, our classical anticipations were sadly put to flight by observing on one side of the street large advertisements of Guinness's porter and Hunt's blacking; and on the other, a notice of the hours of arrival and departure of the omnibus which runs between Athens and the Peiraeus.
We soon after had the pleasure of seeing Lord A——y drive up in his carriage, which he had brought to fetch us. He told us that we had arrived a day too late to attend a ball at court, where he had been the night before.
He described the room as full of Greek heroes, and ladies in every variety of their national costume, of which the Hydriote was very remarkable. The queen was pre-eminent in youth and beauty, and danced a figure alone in the cotillion, in the most graceful manner possible.
We drove to Athens, passing on our right the remains of the old wall which formerly connected the city with its harbour; but could hardly believe our eyes, when we first beheld a wretched little town, which reminded me of those one occasionally meets with in the north of England. Many houses were still building, and some, though finished, as yet uninhabited; trees were standing in the midst of the road, and shops full of half-unopened goods were to be seen. George said it brought to his recollection towns he had seen commencing business in the far-west of America.
We quickly installed ourselves at Bruno's small, but comfortable hotel, and then drove to the Acropolis, passing on our way through the bazaar, a tolerably wide street of shops, situated among the few remains still to be discovered of the ancient town.
The other streets are narrow, full of sharp turns and deep holes; but our Greek coachman made his way, in spite of every obstacle, at a rapid pace, shouting, in bad German, to the people who thronged the streets, to get out of his way.
The king's new palace looks at present as if it were being built very much on the plan of an hospital, or a union workhouse.
It was altogether quite a relief when we lost sight of modern Athens, and when a few moments more brought us to the ruins of the temple of Jupiter Olympus, of which, alas! only sixteen columns remain standing: they are of white marble, of the Corinthian order, and of the finest proportions.
The Temple itself was begun by the Greeks, but the Romans had the honour of putting the finishing stroke to it. Their descendants maintain to this day, that one of its columns was afterwards removed to Rome, and now stands in front of the Chiesa of St. Maria Maggiore; but at Athens the fact is disputed.
We next proceeded to the Parthenon, which we reached after about five minutes drive. The Acropolis is surrounded on all sides by barren and rocky ground, and is itself finely situated on a lofty oblong hill, commanding a view of everything in its neighbourhood It includes on its site, besides the Parthenon, the beautiful temple of Erechtheus, the portico of which is supported by caryatides, one of which forms part of the collection of Elgin marbles at the British Museum, and which are exquisitely sculptured; also the remains of the Temple of Victory without wings, the Pinacotheca, or library, and other ruins lately recovered.
It was fortunate we did not make our tour a year sooner, or we should have missed seeing in so satisfactory a manner the Temple of Victory, and various portions of the Parthenon, which have only very recently been excavated.
Some bas-reliefs were lying about, which had been also lately discovered. The first we saw represented two persons proceeding to a sacrifice, one of whom is endeavouring to check the impetuosity of a bull.
Another was Neptune, with his trident in one hand, while the other hangs down by his side, and is of such exquisite sculpture, and in such perfect preservation, that every vein is distinctly visible. He appears to be joining some ancient hero, or demi-god, in upbraiding a woman, whose profile and head-dress mark her as an Egyptian.
It was now getting late, so we prepared to descend; and whilst passing through the Propylsea had the good fortune to catch a view of the setting sun through its magnificent columns, as it sank into the Gulf of Ægina, throwing a different hue on each of the Peloponnesian mountains forming the back ground. It exceeded anything I had ever seen, in vividness and beauty of colouring. The first effect was much like that of the sunset from the Pincio; but the bright red dissolved into the most beautiful shades of violet and lilac, and the only things I could think of to compare them with, were the colours produced by artificial means at a good exhibition of fireworks. The last broad blaze of light which illumined the whole horizon, none of us, I think, can ever forget.
The shortness of twilight at this season of the year in Greece hastened our movements, and we returned to our hotel, asking ourselves, “Are we really in Athens?”
Another visit to the Acropolis—Situation of the Areopagus —Ruins of the Temple of Bacchus—Bas reliefs on the Temple of Minerva—State of the Temple of Theseus—Choragic monument of Lysicrates —Syria impracticable for travellers—An evening at Athens—Athenian women.
Re-visited the Acropolis, which we examined more in detail. It was surrounded with a wall by the Venetians; and the Turks have since built their houses and a small mosque there; so that, altogether, a strange jumble of architecture is presented to the eye.
The Areopagus was pointed out to us by our Greek servant, and seems to be the very spot which would have been selected by St. Paul to prove to the Athenians their too great “superstition,” looking as it did upon the many temples which crowned the city, and, above all, upon the colossal statue of their tutelary goddess Minerva, which stood, as is very probable, within the Propylaea.
The temple or theatre of Bacchus, the scene of the triumphs of all the great poets and actors of antiquity, has scarcely a vestige left; and the remains of a large Turkish bastion disfigure even the hill round which the religious processions passed to the temple.
An adjoining theatre, however, supposed to be on the site of the Odeum of Regilla, is tolerably entire. It was rebuilt by a rich Roman citizen, named Herodes, a son of Atticus, in honour of his wife; and the interior was said to have been lined or covered entirely with cedar wood, curiously carved.
On the frieze of the cella of the temple of Minerva are still to be seen exquisite bas-reliefs, which neither time nor barbarism have as yet been able to efface.
The small temple dedicated to King Erechtheus was very perfect until the last attack on the Parthenon, when, a number of persons having sought shelter within its walls, it attracted the fire of the enemy. A shell at length penetrated it, and, at one blow, nearly levelled what had been so long respected by time.
On our return, we visited the Temple of Theseus, which is in good preservation, and reminded us much of Paestum, but is as much inferior in point of size, as it is superior in the quality of its materials. It is now used as a repository for various interesting memorials which are being daily excavated in its immediate neighbourhood. Amongst other things are some fine sarcophagi, with various strange devices on them; one we noticed in particular bore a spirited and very tipsy little Bacchus. But the most beautiful bas-relief we have yet seen is a very graceful figure of Victory, untying her sandal, it is supposed, after the battle of Marathon. Would that she had not lost her head — though enthusiastic amateurs might their hearts and purses had she been more perfect!
A little to the east of the Acropolis is a small building, commonly called the Lantern of Demosthenes, but now known to have been a Choragic monument of Lysicrates. It has escaped the accidents of war much better than the surrounding monuments of antiquity, from having been protected by the walls of a convent, in which Lord Byron resided whilst at Athens.
We were so interested by all we saw , as almost selfishly to demur at going down to the Peiraeus to see our imprisoned friends in quarantine. We found Lord R——y grown very thin: he had been at the point of death from a fever at Damascus. He described the present state of Syria as perfectly impracticable for travellers, or at least highly dangerous, from the united obstacles of marauders and pestilence.
He saw a party of deserters marched in near Damascus, chained to each other, and occasionally a man free from plague joined hand in hand with one who was infected. Some enterprising travellers, who had persevered in going on to Palmyra, had actually been robbed of all they had, stripped, and then left to make their way on foot nearly three hundred miles back to Damascus.
Mr. H——y and Sir A. B——d had had either more luck or less enterprise, for they appeared to have escaped all interesting adventures, though they had seen almost as much of Syria as those who had so severely suffered. One thing appeared too evident, that no père, much less mère de famille could venture on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at the present period; which imparted a feeling of disappointment, that even the interest and charm of Athens could not wholly dispel.
We stayed at home in the evening, which we passed most agreeably. Mr. de L—— dined with us, and we received visits from Sir E. L——and his son, and from Mr. G——, the Austrian consul-general, a gentleman of great research, and a well-known antiquarian, who had resided at Athens for the last forty-five years. Mr. F——, a very intelligent Scotchman, and a resident here of twenty years' standing, brought us Sir W. Gell's and some other works on Greece, which they all looked over with us, and drew out an itinerary for some expeditions into the Morea. So much for our première soirée d'Athènes.
I must not omit, in the list of our adventures to-day, our having passed, on the road from the Peiraeus, the most beautiful woman I ever beheld, carrying her infant in her arms. Her profile was perfectly Grecian, and she united great brilliancy of eye to the utmost clearness of complexion. In the latter respect she was like Lady H——n, when still Miss W——y, whom she also resembled in height.
I should have thought her age at least twenty-five; but in this country, we are told, that even the old-looking women are not more than thirty, so that it is as difficult to judge of ladies' ages in Greece, as it is unpolite to do so in England.
Excavations at the Parthenon—Recent surmises relating to Greek architecture—Curious bas-relief —Head-dress worn by ancient Greek warriors— Expense of restoring the fallen columns—A proposal from an English gentleman to raise one at his expense.
WE did not forget our appointment with M. Pittakys, who shewed us over the Parthenon in the most detailed and satisfactory manner.
He had been instrumental in excavating some very interesting inscriptions; one of which, on a marble tablet, contained the public record of the expenses incurred by the people in building the temple of Erechtheus.
The whole sum was not computed to be above 20,000 l., which, considering the size of the building, seems a mere trifle.
Minney succeeded in obtaining a lead pencil, or rather plummet, a great many of which, with colours, &c., in a wooden box, had just been dug up in what had evidently been formerly the habitation of an artist. >From various data they were supposed to have lain there about two thousand years.
It is really quite surprising to observe the effect which the Greeks contrived to throw into all their buildings. The Parthenon strikes one as being larger every time one sees it.
Mr. G——s gave us an interesting account of the discoveries of an English architect on this subject. He found, in studying the ancient authors with attention, that all the great Grecian buildings were in a very slight degree irregular in their construction; and this seems to have been the secret which enabled them to furnish models which the whole world has been since unable to imitate.
For instance, all their buildings receded slightly in the centre; the columns were made to incline, and to swell rather towards the middle, &c. The degree was very small, merely extending to perhaps a portion of an inch in a great number of feet; but this is said to have been the cause of the extraordinary and beautiful effect observable in their buildings.
The Englishman on his arrival found, to his mortification, that a German architect had, by actual measurement of the Temple of Minerva, discovered the same fact, but was at a loss to account for the irregularity till it was explained to him by the learning of the other. It is to be hoped they will amicably agree in laying before the world the result of their labours.
Our curiosity was also gratified as to the manner in which the ancients contrived to erect their columns of so many blocks, and yet with so much art that the divisions were invisible.
A fallen column explained the mystery; it seems that in the centre of each block was a square cavity filled up with olive-wood, of which some original pieces are still to be found; in this wood was a peg, made to fit into a corresponding hole in the next block, which was turned round on this pivot, till, with the addition of water, so much of the marble was ground into dust, as completely to fill up the interstice.
A very curious bas relief, the date of which was antecedent to the time of Pericles, shewed us that Napoleon was not the first warrior distinguished by wearing a little cocked hat. In the foreground of this group is a very graceful equestrian figure, with an Anglesey seat and helmet, and behind him are three soldiers, whose heads are protected by what very much resembles the cocked hat in which Buonaparte is usually represented.
M. Pittakys is a perfect enthusiast, but most simple in mind and manners, as well as in his descriptions. He calculated that the expense of restoring each magnificent column, so far as replacing les tambours as he called them on their pediments, would not exceed five hundred drachms, about 20l. Lord A——y proposed raising one, on condition of his own statue being placed on it, an offer which I suspect M. P——took in good earnest.
Nine temples, it is affirmed, existed formerly in this confined area; but one must imagine most of them to have been of the small though graceful proportions of that of the Nike, to have allowed space for the processions and religious ceremonies.
The day was oppressively hot, and we only got home in time to dress for Sir E. L——'s, where, besides his intended son-in-law, we met Capt. G——, R.N., of this station, whose account of Mrs. R——y's spirit of enterprise, in pursuing her travels as far as Sennaar, was very amusing.
Expedition to Cape Colonna—Crocuses on the rock of the Areopagus—Monument to Philopapas—The rostrum of Demosthenes—Palace of Adrian—Temple of the Winds—Attending church at Athens— Groves of Academus—Military band—The King and Queen of Greece in the Hyde Park of Athens —Dancing the romaika—Romantic adventures.
—Lord A——y and George set off at six in the morning on a day's expedition to Sunium, now Cape Colonna. Minney, the doctor, and myself, took our usual afternoon's walk to the Acropolis, where I am writing this journal, from the Propylaea, while they are wandering about, making sketches.
After having watched the sunset, we made our way up the sixteen steps cut in the rock of Areopagus, which Dr. Wordsworth believes to have led to the exact spot whence St. Paul preached. On it we gathered crocuses, a flower we little expected to have met with in such a position, and at such a season of the year.
We had a few visitors in the evening, and we were all much surprised by the return of our travellers, after only eighteen hours' absence, perfectly delighted with their whole excursion, which afforded abundant matter of conversation for the rest of the evening.
They had ridden thirty miles through a most romantic country, full of interesting remains, and abounding in little hollows covered with trees and shrubs of every variety, the scent of which was almost oppressive.
They went out in a boat to see the temple to the greatest advantage. It stands on the summit of a rock 600 feet above the level of the sea, and forms a landmark which is visible from an immense distance.
They said that from whatever point they looked at it, from sea or land, it always gave them the impression of being far larger than it actually is. On their return, which was by water, they were glad to partake of the boatmen's fare, which was humble enough, as it consisted of plain bread and water, but both were excellent.
—With the aid of a steady donkey I got up to the monument of Philopapas, whence is the finest view of the Parthenon, as well as of the Peiraeus, &c.
We descended from thence to the Pnyx, an object of the highest interest, which had been excavated by Lord Aberdeen, and which is very distinctly marked by rows of steps cut in the rock, and a terrace on a level below, capable of containing five or six thousand persons, on which we could clearly discern the spot where the rostrum of Demosthenes is said to have formerly stood; a sight which roused all the classical enthusiasm of the gentlemen of our party.
A little further on, but in a situation which does not command a view of the sea, we were shewn what is called the new Pnyx, which is said to have been chosen on that very account by the thirty tyrants, for the scene of their debates.
We next followed the line of the Agora, which took us to the remains of a statue of Erechtheus, king of Athens, recently discovered by Sir E. L——, and distinguished by its terminating in a fish's tail. From thence we proceeded to the Stoa, or portico of the palace of Hadrian, against the remaining columns of which the Turks have built a mosque.
We returned by the Temple of the Winds, supposed to have stood in the centre of the Agora, and which was surmounted by the figure of a Triton, whose movements would of course have great influence on the commercial affairs of the Athenians.
The temple itself is nearly perfect, and of an octagonal form. On each of its sides a figure representing some one of the winds is sculptured, and in a very spirited manner. Mr. G——and Sir E. L——came to us in the evening, to talk over our sight-seeing of the morning.
—We went to church at Sir E. L——'s; a very limited congregation of thirty-six people. From his room, by the aid of a glass, we could distinguish the king and queen in the palace opposite. She is very pretty, and was leaning most affectionately on his shoulder.
We went afterwards to the so-called groves of Academus, where however not a tree now remains, but the view of Athens from thence is beautiful. In the midst of it the Turks had built a small mosque, now deserted; and on the right and left our eyes were refreshed by the first appearance of vegetation I had seen, proceeding chiefly from mulberry trees, which afforded from the brightness of their foliage a great contrast to their neighbours, the gloomy olives.
We went back to hear the music at the Hyde Park of Athens, a very dusty road on a piece of bare land or down, less picturesque, if possible, than Salisbury Plain.
The band was very indifferent, but all Athens were assembled there, and the king and queen appeared on horseback; she all smiles and gaiety, and he much better looking than he had been described to us, and dressed in the Greek costume, which he has lately assumed in compliment to his people.
I fancied him a younger, but unfavourable likeness of Lord Durham; but Lord R——y pronounces him to be a handsome likeness of Macready, and I believe we are both right.
Mademoiselle Botzaris' (the maid of honour) animated and beautiful countenance seemed to me to eclipse that of her majesty.
In one barouche was a party of Greeks, which we particularly noticed; it consisted of two gentlemen and three ladies, all handsome, but especially the one who was acting bodikin, perhaps only because she was the youngest. We thought her a likeness of Lady H. C——n, but on a larger scale, and with a most fascinating smile. The real Greek cap is so little becoming to a woman, that it requires very decided beauty to carry it off.
In our road home to dinner we were attracted by the sound of music, and stopped at a café, before which two men were very actively engaged in dancing the romaika, which is very graceful, but has much of the character of the tarantella and the bolero.
Dined at Sir E. L——'s; no ladies except Mrs. G—— and Mrs. N——, both Armenians, and the latter the heroine of a very romantic adventure. She had been run away with by her husband, who, having chanced to fall into Lord Byron's society, had made up his mind, it seems, to distinguish himself in the East by some bold enterprise in love or war.
He therefore commenced operations by making love from his own window to the inhabitant of the opposite one, and made such good use of his time that a communication was shortly opened between them, and the lady agreed to attempt her escape, which she at length effected in the disguise of a midshipman.
Having surmounted difficulties of every description, and managed to compromise half the authorities of Constantinople in their flight, they were at length overtaken by the lady's brother, from whom they had the satisfaction of learning that their interesting adventure had been wholly uncalled for, as his family would not have offered the slightest opposition to a match which the relative fortunes and position in society of the parties rendered so perfectly suitable.
We found Mrs. N——a very piquante, agreeable little woman, but not looking in the least like a lady of romance.
Account of an interesting Syrian tour—The miracle at Mount Horeb—New view of the Pnyx and the Peiraeus—Projected excursion in the Morea— The villa and garden of Comte B.—Ruined chapel at the foot of Mount Hymettus—Dr. Bendiner— An Attic villa—A Greek artist.
—Our friends being emancipated from quarantine, we sat at home the whole morning, greatly interested in the description which Lord R——y gave us of his Syrian tour.
He differed much from Sir Andrew B——d in his account of its perils and difficulties, which may arise from the different seasons at which they travelled, as well as from the changes in political affairs, which of late have proved the chief drawback to the security of the roads.
The sight which appears to have made the deepest impression on Lord R——y was the rock of Mount Horeb, cleft by the rod of Moses, the chasm in which, he said, was of such a peculiar character that it was not to be accounted for by any effort of human art, or by the shock of an earthquake, or in fact, by anything less than supernatural agency.
We acted as ciceroni to the travellers in the afternoon, and took them to the Acropolis, where by dint of scrambling over loose stones and rubbish, we obtained a new view of the Pnyx and the Peiraeus, which quite rewarded our exertions.
We all dined together in the most sociable manner, and spent the evening as we had the morning, in tales of travel, till Lord A——y, George and M. de L——decided that it was time to profit by the evening breeze, and to sail for Epidaurus, which was the point from which they were to commence their projected excursion in the Morea.
I had settled with Mrs. G. to accompany her, in King Otho's cutter, to Nauplia, whence we were to get across to Argos, when we were to join the other party; but, on second thoughts, I was deterred by the uncertainty attending the period of our return, for which we must necessarily be dependent on the wind.
—Minney and I ventured to ride some little Thessalian horses, belonging to Sir E. L——, to the villa of Comte B——, a Milanese refugee.
The garden is very well laid out, and a creation of only three years, which shews the rapid progress of vegetation here when the slightest culture is applied. The walks through treillages of vines were quite lovely, and the luxuriance of the fruit was such as quite to weigh down their branches.
Pomegranates were also very plentiful, as well as other extremely graceful plants. After the barrenness and dust of Athens and its immediate neighbourhood, this garden seemed quite an oasis.
The evening I spent alone in reading M. de Marcellus' agreeably written account of Jerusalem.
—We again rode out with Sir E. L——to a ruined chapel at the foot of Mount Hymettus, from which we had a fresh, but always beautiful view of Athens.
Mons. Chacaton spent the whole morning in drawing, in spite of the wind, dust, and glare; and brought home a sketch of that beautiful view of the Parthenon from Philopapas which we all had so much admired.
Dr. Bendiner, our physician, had spent his morning somewhat differently. Interested, as he was, in the magnificent ruins of Athens, his whole heart was evidently in his own profession.
He came up to me on my return, with his eyes sparkling with such delight that I thought he had at least discovered the little finger of the golden Minerva. His salutation however, “Je viens de decouvrir un vrai lépreux,” soon undeceived me.
It seems that the king's physician had taken him to see an unhappy man afflicted with this disorder, who was dwelling by himself in a sort of cave near Academus, and who had been lately robbed of all his little store by some brigands, who had cruelly taken advantage of his helplessness and isolated situation.
—We rode to Academus with Lord R——y and Sir A. B——1, and on our return passed by a house worthy of notice, as having been the occasion of drawing forth a most glowing and spirited description from the eloquent pen of Mr. George R——.
To use his own words as nearly as possible, “It is a lovely Attic villa, admirably suited for the occupation of any nobleman or gentleman possessed of a large fortune and classical reminiscences, situated within the precincts of the ancient Academus,” &c. &c.
It was impossible to let slip an opportunity of viewing such a villa, so we boldly encountered the perils of a nettle garden attached to it, and also “within the precincts of the Academus.”
Having passed this, we came to the building itself, which we found to consist of a tower containing three stories, and as many rooms, each eight feet square, and communicating with the others by means of a trap-door and a ladder; the space for a staircase having been, rather unaccountably, omitted in the original design; though some supposed it might have been contrived by the proprietor himself, to put him in mind of his former profession, as he had been purser to Captain Robert Spencer. The only pieces of furniture which we could discover in the sitting room were two pictures of his late master. The house was at present uninhabited, its last occupier having been driven out by mal aria.
Sir E. L——shewed us in the evening some extraordinary productions of the pencil of a Greek, Col. M——, who has also illustrated the late war and revolution in Greece in the most primitive style, the soldiers being occasionally drawn as large as the buildings; and, in the battle of————General Church's horse being made about the size of a man-of-war.
Still they are interesting, as being probably the only original illustrations of the Greek war; and some of them really offer a resemblance to the early paintings of Cimabue. Indifferent as they are, the like of Marathon might be invaluable.
Col. M——is quite an enthusiast, and his first sheet is a dedication to their majesties Louis Philippe, Queen Victoria, and the Emperor Nicholas. Their portraits are also attempted; and it is evident that, “quoique brave comme son epée,” he is no courtier, for it is impossible to imagine anything more un-flattering than the one intended for our queen, who is made to look very much as if she had flourished in the last century. On the opposite side of the same sheet stand King Otho and Queen Amilie, little less hideous.
Sir E. L——has promised, at the gallant Greek's request, to forward this modern specimen of the fine arts to Lord Palmerston, for her majesty's acceptance.
The Convent of Daphne—Visit to Princess S— —An excursion—The tomb of Agamemnon—Start for Corinth—Verd Antique—Bracebridge Hall— The Protestant Cemetery—The Maid of Athens— Our last Athenian ride—Schools of the American missionaries.
—We rode again to Comte B——'s garden, to introduce Lord R——and Sir Andrew B——. The Comte told us that his patience was severely tried by his Athenian gardeners; for that in spite of three years' training, if his vigilance did but relax one moment, they invariably relapsed into their primitive modes of culture.
We dined again with the party of the day before; and the only occurrence of today worth noting was, that the gentlemen were presented at court, a ceremony which, including departure and return, lasted almost a quarter of an hour.
—We took our longest and prettiest ride to the ruins of the Convent of Daphne. The sea shews itself at the foot of the mountain which separates the Peloponnesus from Attica. The convent has now become a station house; and on looking down on the sea from hence, the latter appears completely imbedded in mountains; and one might have supposed it a calm and placid lake in Switzerland, instead of a branch of the occasionally stormy AEgean.
Minney's horse became a little frisky on our return; and on her referring to Sir Edmund's Bavarian groom as to the cause of his wonted equanimity of temper being disturbed, his explanation was, “Er hat ein stein im munde.” Minney translated this into his having a stone in his mouth, which puzzled us all extremely, particularly when on asking him to be so good as to take it out, he answered that it was “ganz unmöglich,”—quite impossible. We therefore satisfied ourselves that poor Minney's German was in fault; but on asking our doctor, she had the triumph of announcing to us that it was a familiar German expression, answering to “le mors au dent.”
Sir E—— and his son drank tea with us, and the evening passed off so agreeably, that we found ourselves far advanced into to-morrow morning before we separated.
—Mr. L——, the clergyman, performed the service at the ambassador's; after which we came home to pass the hottest hours of the day, and I then proceeded to pay my first real Greek visit to Princess S——'s, where I found the pretty Marie, promised to the Lord Palmerston of Greece, who is a sallow-looking gentleman, nearly thirty years older than his fianceé. The eldest daughter, Helène, who is married to a cousin, is extremely handsome, and her beauty much more Grecian than that of Marie.
The arrangement and furniture of the house bespoke an acquaintance with English and French comforts; and a beautiful portrait of the Prince C——, the father of the lady of the house, enabled us to recognise him in our drive. He was the very type of oriental and patriarchal beauty, and costumé, as his picture represented him, in a dress more resembling the Turkish than the actual Greek. At the promenade to day we met general Hesse and Count Victor Zichy, who were just out of quarantine, after having performed their mission of compliment to the young sultan on his accession.
We went on the road towards Corinth in hopes to meet my lord and my master,but only met their baggage, they themselves having taken to boating, and having had, in consequence, the usual allowance of calms and contrary winds, which kept them at sea fourteen hours.
We found them arrived, however, on our return, and perfectly delighted with all they had seen and done. The excitement of recounting their various adventures kept them from feeling their fatigues; and the recital was some compensation to us for having been debarred the pleasure of visiting with them places of such interest. They had, it seems, led a complete life of bivouac during their six days' absence; but as their servant, Jean, was a tolerable cook, they had, at least, fared well in general.
Having landed at Epidaurus, the first place they visited was the remains of Hiero, an ancient town that may have been a fashionable watering-place, built for the convenience of those who frequented the baths of Esculapius in the neighbourhood.
Its amphitheatre is still to be seen, built against the slope of a hill, and was said to have contained 30,000 spectators. From thence they rode to Napoli di Romania, the acropolis or Palamidhi of which they compared to Edinburgh Castle, and spoke with the greatest delight of the views from thence, over the rich plains of Argos and the beautiful gulf of Napoli.
The next day they started for Argos, halting on the road thither to inspect the ruins of an old Cyclopian fortress, at Tiryns, which was more perfect than those they had seen in the Greek colonies in Italy.
Argos they found a straggling town, of three or four thousand inhabitants, containing a few good houses. The ruins of the old town lay on a hill above, on the rugged sides of which are still to be traced the remains of its theatre, where, after heavy rains, coins are frequently brought to light. The fort or the acropolis, which is perched, as usual, on a rock overlooking the whole neighbourhood, was built by the Venetians, as was that of Napoli. Some Roman baths, of considerable size, also attracted their attention.
George was here received by an old military friend who had become a resident proprietor in Argos, and who was possessed of the best house in the place.
Fortunately, however, their guns had abundantly provided them with the wherewithal for soup and supper, which fortified them in some measure for the horrors of the night, sleeping, as they did, on the ground, in a little cabin, and overrun by rats and vermin of every description. In the morning they proceeded to Mycenae, the head-quarters of Cyclopian architecture.
The fortress here was very large, and vast masses of its débris were to be seen scattered about, as well as the ruins of the town itself; but the building which called forth the most curiosity and discussion, was one dug out and excavated by Lord Elgin. It is called by some the tomb of Agamemnon, by others the treasury of Atreus.
There were two other buildings of similar construction, but not so perfect; this one is very much the shape of an egg, with a flat bottom, is of fine workmanship, and will probably last for ever. It was formerly lined with brass; and some bronze nails have been even of late years taken from its walls. A cavern adjoining was lighted up by their guides with good effect.
On leaving Mycenae, their way led them up a valley, through which ran a clear stream, with its banks lined with the finest oleanders and arbutus in flower; but their people had not had the good sense to prepare their luncheon in this inviting spot, to their great annoyance. They made a détour to Nemea, which is situated on a plain surrounded by mountains, one of which resembled in form that which overlooks Cape Town.
At Corteria, a small village where they again joined the high road, a sort of corn and cattle fair was being held, which had brought together a concourse of about fifty people, and the scene, they said, appeared quite bustling, compared with the solitude and desolation of the places they had lately visited.
At starting for Corinth their gendarme examined his pistols, and seemed to apprehend an attack from brigands; and on arriving at a narrow pass with high shelving rocks overhanging the road, he called out to some one above, when immediately two peasants appeared on the look-out, and made a sort of signal. They of course expected an instant attack, but nothing further occurred to alarm them, and they were much amused at the end of their ride to find out that the supposed robbers were only gardes nationaux.
They at length reached a hill, commanding a view of the Acropolis of Corinth and the gulf of Lepanto, just as the sun was setting behind the Spartan mountains. This effect they described as magical, and the more so, perhaps, because momentary. Beneath them lay the plain of Corinth, glittering in the golden rays of light; to the right, Corinth itself, with its acropolis rendered more than usually striking by a rainbow; on the left the gulf of Lepanto, with the bold lofty mountains behind it, and its waters of the deepest blue. But in a few minutes the sun had sunk beneath the horizon, and with it vanished all the splendour of the scene, which the travellers described as the most remarkable for splendour of colouring they had ever witnessed. Corinth they found a sorry place; not a vestige remaining to remind them either of its ancient glories, or of the apostle's preaching there, with the exception of what remains of one temple, and the trace of the canal once attempted to be cut through the isthmus.
At Kalamaki they imprudently took boat for Megara at one o'clock in the day, and had the satisfaction of being landed near the same spot at three the next morning. They were, however, repaid by witnessing a most magnificent meteor, which for a short space lighted up the whole horizon, they said, as if by an immense rocket. Megara is an inconsiderable place, chiefly remarkable for the beauty of its female population. Its inhabitants are very fond of the ancient Greek names, and in the house in which George lodged was a Pericles and a Solon. They returned by way of Salamis, and partook of the hospitality of a convent on the island. Crossing from thence to the plain of Athens, they passed over the scene of the celebrated battle of Salamis, and rejoined us towards nightfall, to our great delight.
Jean produced almost a block of what was supposed to be Verd Antique, which he had picked up near Napoli di Romania; but, alas! on sending it the next day to the statuary's, it turned out to be of the most ordinary grain, and the quality iron. Still Minney and I are almost as much over-whelmed by his good intention, as Jean must have been with the weight.
—Set off on a ride to Mr. B——'s villa, which commonly goes here by the name of Bracebridge Hall; but I was attracted by the fine light gleaming on the columns of the Temple of Jupiter Olympus, which I admire excessively, in spite of Mr. Grossius, and all the other savans of Athens, who universally depreciate the graceful Corinthian architecture, as belonging to an age whose taste had been perverted, and will only allow us to express our admiration of the pure Doric.
We rode to the Stadium through the bed of the Ilyssus, which is not above ten or twelve feet wide, very stony and slippery, and quite dry during the summer and autumn months. The outline of the Stadium is clearly to be traced, as well as the raised gradins, and the platform from which the prizes were delivered to the successful competitors. An excavation in the rock was shewn us, which is supposed to have served as a den for wild beasts in the days of the Romans, for the combats of animals were never tolerated by the more civilized Greeks.
We found ourselves close to the Protestant Cemetery, which is as yet thinly populated; the Guardiana, a very handsome Greek, is married to an Englishman, and surrounded by a large family, who answered to the names of Themistocles, Aristides, Demetrius, Helen, and Lycurgus.
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