three pairs of lovers with space

THE TRAVELS OF LORD CHARLEMONT IN GREECE AND TURKEY 1749

 

James Caulfeild, 4th Viscount Charlemont and later 1st Earl of Charlemont, (1728-99) was an Irish nobleman who spent nine years of his youth on the Grand Tour, and left journals describing his time in  Turkey and Greece from June to December 1749. These were written in his youth, but he made alterations to them at least as late as 1767.

They were only at last published in 1984 as The Travels of Lord Charlemont in Greece and Turkey 1749, edited by W. B. Stanford and E. J. Finopoulos,[1] from which the following excerpts about Greek love are taken.

 

Chios

About to leave Chios, Lord Charlemont and his party were invited to visit the ship of the “Commodore”, the second-in-command of the Turkish ships of war which came annually to Chios to extort money from the inhabitants.

The son of the Commodore received us upon the quarter deck, […]. We were now conducted by the young man to his father, whom we found sitting on a sofa in his cabin, surrounded by his attendants, and particularly by a number of handsome boys, whose destination, as we were afterward informed, was not of the most honourable kind. [p. 36]

 

Turkish Women and Marriage

The following comes as part of a long essay on the degrading position of women in Turkey:

But vengeance of love of of nature doth not stop here. There yet remains an odious circumstance, which, though a stain to my paper candour will not suffer me to conceal. There is too much reason to believe that the Turks are greatly addicted to that detestable vice which nature starts at, and which, if there were not too certain proof that such crimes have been perpetrated, no innocent man could suppose possible….

Refinement of manners, however extraordinary and paradoxical it may appear, has generally been productive of unnatural vices. Refinement necessarily produces luxury, one principal of which is an unrestrained intercourse with women, and this naturally bring satiety and a consequent desire and search after novelty. The epicure whose palate has been palled by every exquisite taste which nature affords, seeks novelty even in nastiness, and flavours naturally the most detestable, become delicacies to him, as being alone capable of exciting his depraved and sated appetite. However, as it is certain that a too great refinement of manners cannot be assigned as a cause of the prevalence of this horror among the Turks one would almost be inclined to believe that there was some radical vice in the climate which influences them as it formerly did their predecessors, the Greeks.

Yet let us not accuse nature of those crimes for which our own depravity is accountable. The best gifts of Heaven are by wicked men so perverted as often to produce the worst effects. Thus strength and courage become the means of violence, beauty of wantonness, and power of oppression; and that benign temperature of the air which produces health and vigour, and consequently strong and violent passions, though in itself a blessing, becomes by the wicked and unrestrained indulgence of these passions a source of the most infamous crimes. The unlimited and early use of women among the Turks induces satiety and consequent disgust, and, if the passion still remains after its natural objects are become distasteful, new and unnatural objects are sought afterwards, nature is forced from her proper channel, and the horrors of this vice are substituted for the innocent joys of love. I blush while I recount such instances as have occurred to me in proof of the prevalence of this horror among the Turks, and shall therefore be as brief as possible in order to get rid of an odious subject which I choose to huddle up in a note, that my text at least may remain undefiled.

It has happened to me more than once on board of Turkish men-of-war to have been shown a number of handsome boys attendant on the Captain, who, as I was assured, were kept solely for this infamous purpose. Being becalmed off the coast of Asia Minor, and some of our sailors being sent to cut firewood for the use of the ship, we chose to accompany them for the sake of walking and to see the country. Our sailors, fearless of danger, scattered themselves abroad, while Burton and I walked together with our guns in our hands with which we usually went armed, when suddenly we observed one of our people, a Manx boy of about eighteen years old, running towards us with great symptoms of fear, and presently we perceived two Turks who pursued him. We ran up towards him and presented our arms at the Turks who immediately turned and fled, and the boy informed us that having caught him at a ridiculous and nasty disadvantage they had seized him and offered violence, but that escaping out of their hands and seeing us at a distance, he had ran towards us for protection.

The 4th Viscount Charlemont by Pompeo Batoni, ca. 1754

Such are the reflections, which must naturally occur to every feeling heart upon the slightest review of these illiberal customs; and yet – for I would fain afford what comfort I could to my brethren in sensibility – perhaps that delicacy of feeling towards the fair sex to which we are fortunately inclined by the gallantry of our manners may prompt us to push these reflections rather too far and to imagine the situation of Turkish women still more miserable even than it really is. We are apt to measure their sufferings by what we conceive our women would suffer under similar circumstances. But in this we err. Custom has the power not only to render such hardships tolerable but even to make the acting contrary to its despotic institutions, (how irrational soever they may be), unpalatable to ingenuous minds. Our Consuless at Cairo – for I am obliged to bring together all the little knowledge I have been able to collect upon this mysterious subject – was known to many Turkish women, and often visited them. She informed me that when in the course of conversation she told them of Christian liberty, of the unconfined intercourse of the sexes, and of the freedom indulged to women in our countries, they seemed rather to look upon such customs with disgust and horror than with any degree of envy or desire. They exclaimed against our ladies as unnaturally licentious, and treated those liberties which we account innocent as criminal to the last degree. In a word they cried out against our customs as our women would do at the naked simplicity of the Indians, or at the liberality of love which the discovery of Otaheite has lately disclosed to us. [pp. 202-4]    

 

[1] Published for the A. G. Leventis Foundation by Trigraph Ltd., London.

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