Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In Turkish/Greek waters

It is 210 years since the birth of George William Frederick Howard, a British politician who went on to become the 7th Earl of Carlisle. A cultured man, he never reached high office, though Prime Minister Palmerston appointed him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for the last years of his life. From the age of 40 or so, he kept a regular diary, extracts of which were published privately and posthumously by his sister. More interesting, though, is the 7th Earl’s diary of his travels in Greek and Turkish waters.

George Howard was born in London on 18 April 1802. His father, the 6th Earl of Carlisle, was an MP for 25 years, as well as Chief Commissioner for Woods and Forests, Lord Privy Seal, and a Knight of the Garter. George was educated at Eton, and Christ Church, Oxford, where he developed a reputation as a poet and scholar. In 1826 he accompanied his uncle, the Duke of Devonshire, to Russia, to attend the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I.

The same year, 1826, Howard was elected to Parliament for the family seat at Morpeth, and remained an MP for around 15 years, serving in several governmental positions. When he lost his seat, he toured North America for a year. He was again returned to Parliament in 1846 before becoming the 7th Earl and a peer, on the death of his father, in 1848. He was then appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by Lord Palmerston, a post he held until his death with only one short interval.

Like his father, the 7th Earl was appointed a Knight of the Garter. He never married, and so the estate, Castle Howard, passed to his brother, William, who for more than 40 years was Rector of Londesborough in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia or the Web of English History.

The 7th Earl’s first foray into autobiographical writing was with Two Lectures on the Poetry of Pope, and on His Own Travels in America published in 1851 (the record of his travels in America is more of a memoir than a diary). Two volumes of bona fide diaries followed. The first was titled Diary in Turkish and Greek Waters and published by Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans in 1854. A second volume of diary texts 1843-1864 - Extracts from Journals kept by George Howard, earl of Carlisle: selected by his sister, lady Caroline Lascelles - was printed for private circulation only. Both are free to view online: the former at Internet Archive, and the latter at Googlebooks.

Here is the 7th Earl introducing his journey to Turkish and Greek Waters: ‘Having written an account of my visit to the Western World, I propose to myself the like task during my projected travels in the East. It shall again assume the form of a Diary, because my experience of the writings of others convinces me that it is by far more entertaining than any other; it secures the freshness of first impressions for whatever may be recorded; and, although it undoubtedly has the drawback of a tendency to include many details deficient in the importance and dignity due to more professed authorship, it has the countervailing merit of producing a more intimate sense of companionship between the author and reader than can otherwise be obtained. I will also, in like manner, form no pre-pense determination beforehand respecting the future destiny of the pages that are to follow, whether they shall only be shown to friends, published to the world, communicated to their full extent, abridged, condensed into one or more lectures, or kept entirely to myself. They shall reflect the feeling of the moment faithfully and freely; all besides shall be reserved for after consideration.’

And here are several extracts from the same tome.

13 June 1853
‘Secured my place in the Danube steam-boat to Constantinople. Went with Lady Westmorland to Count Edmund Zichy’s. He showed us a marvellous collection, principally of old swords, of every age and clime, and of his own splendidly jewelled Hungarian dresses. We went on with him to the imperial treasury, where we saw very fine crown jewels, and various interesting relics both of German and Austrian empires, beginning with the crown of Charlemagne; then to the imperial carriages, dating not quite so far back, but there was one which belonged to Charles V; also to the Manege, which is of very august dimensions; here lately had been held a splendid carousel, or tournament, of which they spoke with great admiration; then to the library, which I imagine must be the finest room north of the Alps; it has priceless manuscripts.

I then went over Prince Lichtenstein’s Palace, which I had heard compared to Stafford House; it has nothing like its staircase, and nothing like its pictures (the prince’s are elsewhere); the ball-room is more brilliant than any room at Stafford House, and there is more lightness, and perhaps not less richness, in the gilding and decoration.

I dined at my hotel, which is renowned for its cookery. I drove afterwards with Lady William in the Prater. It is very pretty, with its green alleys, and park-like glades, and fair visitors; but I think it must generally be very damp. I admire Vienna, on the whole, extremely. In the town itself, the narrow streets, tall houses, and frequent palaces, remind me occasionally of Genoa; while the cheerful faubourg, the broad glacis, with its alleys of chestnut and acacia in fullest blossom, and the fine outlines of hill beyond, make it a very attractive city. I suppose that in the beauty of its environs it surpasses any other capital, again I say, north of the Alps.

We then had ices in the Graben. [. . .] I went with Odo Russell to the Volksgarten, where citizens and soldiers were sitting under trees, listening to the alternate bands of Strauss and a Bohemian regiment; this seems the most attractive point of Vienna life, enjoyment of open air and music. I went still on for one act of the opera Stradella, and finished a full day with listening to some animated details of Austrian history and character.’

19 July 1853
‘I was again very glad to remain quiet during the day. I dined with the officers of the ward-room, who make very pleasant society, and after sunset we went to some theatricals got up by the sailors themselves. They gave us no less than three farces, besides various Ethiopian and comic songs. The theatre was on the main-deck, and, as it was intensely crowded by the crew, not a little hot. I had three sailors sitting between my knees. Happily a hatchway was open just over my head. Some of the actors showed considerable humor; and it was impossible to look round on the manly, jolly audience without hoping that they are not reserved to be mowed down by Russian cannon.’

6 October 1853
‘There was great beauty in the sunrise gilding the long extent of the town of Scio [Chios], as we steamed in front of it this morning. We landed, and walked about with our vice-consul, Signer Yedova, a very hearty and intelligent Italian. The long line and successive terraces of town even yet exhibit an immense proportion of ruins, to attest the massacres perpetrated by the Turks during the Greek revolution in 1822 and 1826; almost the most complete and deplorable that ever occurred. Here, indeed, was one of the exceptional cases to which I have referred; but it cannot be denied, on the other hand, that the circumstances and provocations were also exceptional. The number slaughtered has been computed at from twenty-four thousand to thirty thousand, which exceeds the present population of the island. A large portion of the women and children were sold into slavery; almost every house burned, all the gardens, which had been the especial pride of Scio, destroyed. By a species of reaction, the children of many that escaped have been educated in Europe, and now constitute the most enterprising of the Greek houses in London, Manchester, and the Levant. The doomed island sustained a further loss a few winters ago, when the unusual cold entirely destroyed the orange, lemon, and mastic trees, which supplied a material share of its commerce. There now seems a considerable show of activity both in the town and harbor. The Greek population is about eighteen thousand to eight hundred Turks. There was considerable disappointment at first among the Greeks at not being assigned to the new kingdom of Greece, when it was originally constituted; but it is said now that there is no tendency to excitement among them. They are very industrious, but are reckoned extremely sharp in their dealings. This seems, indeed, the common attribute of the Greek character, and it is supposed to give them no little advantage over our English competition. We set off for Smyrna before noon, and carried thither the wife and daughter of the vice-consul. Madame Vedova has lived twenty-three years at Scio, and complains wofully of its blank and unredeemed solitude. We did not arrive at Smyrna till an hour after sunset, when we made an ineffectual attempt to induce the quarantine authorities to allow the ladies to land. It required some ingenuity to accommodate them for the night. As a sort of compensation to them, the ship’s company got up an impromptu dance, with a solitary but very efficient fiddle; and any friends who may be anxious about my health would have been reassured, if they could have seen me leading off Sir Roger de Coverley, with the vice-consul’s lady.’

9 October 1853
‘We anchored early off the town of Mitylene. The neighborhood, covered with olive groves, had a very luxuriant look, as seen from the ship. After service, which is most creditably performed by the young chaplain, Mr Rogers, we landed, mounted on mules, and rode over a steep ridge of the island, through a continuous grove of olive, mixed with oleander and poplar, and broken by views of the sapphire sea and pale blue mountains of Asia, to Port Oliviero, or Iero, a beautiful inland basin, where navies may anchor, and even manoeuvre, and which is one of the possible destinations of our fleet this winter. There is one point, with a double view of sea on each side, which is most transcendent. I have not generally been very enthusiastic about the beauty of the Aegean islands, there is such a sad deficiency of verdure, and of relief to the gray barren crag; but this old Lesbos is clearly the first in beauty of those which I have as yet seen. We halted at the house of a proprietor in a Greek village; he was a very courteous old man, who told us that he should be very happy, but was in fact made miserable by having six daughters, as, when they married, he was obliged to give each of them a dower of four thousand dollars, a town house and a country house. Some of our officers thought they could not do better than to propose on the spot. An impromptu luncheon was served to us with great nicety and cleanliness. I give its components, poached eggs, an excellent salad of sage and anchovy, olives, pomegranates, melons, water-melons, with, of course, coffee and sweetmeats. We thought there was a good deal of beauty among the islanders, extant specimens of Sapphos and Phaons.’

10 October 1853
‘One more night’s steaming brought us, on the brightest of mornings, to the fleet at Besika Bay. The sight derived additional animation from some two hundred merchantmen, with all their sails up, reflected on the motionless water, to catch the faintest indications of the breeze that might come. I left the Firebrand, which has given me such pleasant conveyance, and transferred myself to my old hospitable quarters in the Britannia; where, I need hardly add, I had the most cordial reception from the kind admiral and his officers. All are waiting with the greatest anxiety for the next directions from England, or summons from Constantinople. They had to-day been just four months in Besika Bay, which they have thought far more than sufficient. There has been a good deal of fever in some ships; not many deaths. Mr. Blunt, the Master in Chancery, uncle to our young friend, Lord Edward Russell, and Lord John Hay, dined with us.’

11 October 1853
‘We all felt considerable excitement this morning as letters from Constantinople made us think it possible that the fleets might be ordered up there immediately. It would have been almost too good fortune to have arrived just in time for such an epoch and such a spectacle. However, the more probable opinion is that the summons will not arrive at soonest before the answer comes from the Russian head-quarters to the Turkish demand for the evacuation of the Principalities within fifteen days. The young prince of Leiningen, nephew to the Queen, who is serving on board this ship as a mid-shipman, dined with the admiral to-day. He is very highly spoken of as entirely unassuming, and most attentive to his duties.’

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