CONSTANTINOPLE DURING THE CRIMEAN WAR.* CHARMING is the word that
best characterizes this record of Lady Hornby's Turkish experiences. There is much information about the Crimean war and Turkish affairs in general scat- tered throughout her pages ; but their chief attraction is the exquisite gracefulness both of thought and style that pervades the whole. If this is the result of art, the art has at least been most skilfully concealed, for the letters to friends in England, of which the book consists, have every appearance of having flowed off spontaneously from the pen of a most ready writer. In an advertisement prefixed to the work the publisher informs us that it is a re-cast with considerable additions of "In and Around Stamboul," a work which appeared a few years since, of which a very few copies were printed, and those immediately disposed of. Our best thanks are due to Lady Hornby for giving the world the benefit of these letters. They are far too good to be confined to a private circle, were it only as affording, we think, a typical instance of the purely feminine mind at its best. For Lady Hornby is thoroughly a woman, and tells of her troubles
with servants, and visitors whom she could not understand, and who could not understand her, dwells on her delight in the beauty of the Bosphorus, and sends messages to her little daugh- ter at home with an ease and abandon that no man—at any rate no educated Englishman, could ever come near. Highly cul- tured men are shy of obtruding themselves on their readers, are afraid of the imputation of sentimentalism, and generally, as it were, excuse themselves for describing their travels
at all by giving us a multitude of statistics—very valuable, no doubt, but sometimes not a little tedious,—just as the Indian officer whom Mr. Kinglake met in the desert midway between
Gaza and Cairo, while yielding to the impulse which prompted him to address a fellow-creature in that solitude, though he had
not been introduced, yet did so apologetically, suggesting that Mr. Kinglake would probably be anxious to know the last news from India. Men without this culture are, no doubt, ready enough to describe their emotions ; but then we do not particularly care to know them. Besides this instinctive reticence, from whose
influence women are much freer, a really clever man has his mind generally occupied by such weighty matters as to hinder bin appreciation of petty details—the slight touches which, render pictures of foreign and, above all, of Eastern countries, real and life-like. Such a man at Constantinople, for instance, would-be oppressed with a crowd of historical recollections and political problems which would make him more or less insensible to the taste in colours displayed by Turkish ladies, or the picturesque costumes of Armenian peasants. He might notice these things in a vague way, they might give him some pleasure, but he would scarcely think it worth while to write of them. But the true woman hardly feels the cui bono at all. The concrete—the living present—the small things which come home to her and those she loves, are more to her than thin abstractions, which are very far off, and with powers of perception and observation generally, we
think, finer than men's, she can dwell on what she sees without any lurking fear of triviality staying her hand.
The strange dream-like beauty of the Bosphorus and its shores is a constantly recurring theme in Lady Hornby's pages. Thus she writes :—
" The Bosphorus is certainly one of those beauties formed to turn all the heads in the world. She smiles, and nothing on earth can be more radiantly bright and sparkling; she is angry, and dashes along with a wild, untameable yet graceful fury ; the hills around grow dark and sorrowful, and the tall cypress trees wave their heads in stately sub.- mission to her stormy humour. Some people think her most beautiful then ; but others are enchanted with her quiet dreamy moods, when she murmurs gently on the shore, and takes delight in picturing fairy white palaces, and shady rose and orange gardens, and fragrant branches waving in the scented wind; or in the stiller nights, when she flashes back every touch with a gleam of gold, and sparkles with golden stars as she moves along in the pale grey light. You may tire of my attempt at description,—you never would of beholding the reality" (p. 79).
Again, in describing an excursion to Princes' Islands :— "Steaming down towards the islands, we had a glorious view of the Golden Horn and Scutari. The extraordinary beauty of the scene was to me even distressing. In the first place, you never can by any possi- bility believe it to be real, that you are not dreaming ; and, secondly, you are half miserable because everybody you like is not with you. When we came within eight of the mountains, leaving behind us the Golden Horn, the great wall and towers still guarding the shore,. I assure you it was quite overpowering. The sea heaved and glittered like silver beneath mountains, in some places distant and visionary ; here higher than the clouds, dazzling with ice and snow ; there clothed with dark fir trees, and wild heathery tracts" (p. 288).
There are some very amusing and beautifully written accounts
• Conttantinopk during the Crimean War. By Lilly Iloruby. With Illustrations In chromolithography. London: Bentley, 1863.
of visits to the "Valley of Sweet Waters,"—the Tinkiph Hyde Park. Lady Hornby was much struck with the beauty and gentle grace of the Turkish women. "Nothing," she says, "in point of colouring and grouping could be more strikingly beautiful than these clusters of women by the trees and fountains. Imagine five or six in a row, their jet black eyes shining through their white veils, under which you can see the gleam of jewels which confine their hair, often dressed, by the bye, very much e/a Euginie. Your first impression is that they look just like a bed of splendid flowers." Presently came by the (late) Sultan's married daughter—married to Aali Ghalib Pasha, the son of liedschid Pasha,—in a droll imitation of an English carriage.
"We could not see ratioh of the lady (who is said to be very lovely), the negroes keeping close to the windows, as they splashed up the mud all over their uniforms, besides which her yashmak was thickly folded. I could only see plainly her beautiful fan of snow-white feathers, the handle glittering with emeralds. The lady on the opposite seat (there were three in the carriage) was more thinly veiled, very young, and very pretty. I saw her face plainly, and her feridjee being a little off her shoulders, I threw an envious glance on a violet-coloured velvet jacket embroidered with gold, and fastened at the throat with a large jewelled clasp, which gleamed through the gauzy veil. As to beauty of mere dress and ease of attitude, nothing that I have seen in life or in pictures can give the slightest idea of the wonderful grace, the extreme delicacy, and bird-of-paradise-like uselessness of the Turkish belle. Women of rank look like hothouse flowers and are really cultivated to the highest perfection of physical beauty, having no other employment but to make their skins as snow-white and their eyebrows as jet-Mac-1 as possible. When young, their skin is literally as white as their veal, with the faintest tinge of pink on the cheek, like that in the inside of a shell, which blends exquisitely with the tender apple-leaf green and soft violet colours of which they are so fond. The reverse of the pic- ture is, that after the first bloom of youth is past the skin becomes yellow and sickly looking, and you long to give the yashmak a pill; and admit a fresh breeze to brighten up the fine features" (p. 59).
The yashmak of these days, Lady Hornby says, is so trans- parent as rather to add to the -beauty of the wearer than to
Pere, the " Frank " quarter of Constantinople, is crowded and lively enough ; but Stamboul, the stronghold of the true be- lievers, except in the harrow street leading up to the bazaars, is
a city of the dead, "closed lattices, and not a sound to disturb the silence of the steep and narrow streets, across which sometimes trails a neglected trellised vine." We must give the following adventure which befell Lady Hornby in this abode of quietness in
her own words :—
"After a long ramble one day, Mr. Bell and I sat down on an ancient fountain stone in this silent region. Opposite to us on the right was a vacant space caused by a fire, over which fig-trees and creeping plants grew in uninterrupted wildness and luxuriance. Exactly opposite to the poor weary travellers was a dark red and closely latticed wooden house, most picturesquely decayed looking. Presently a veiled black slave came out, and carefully closing the door, gave a auspicious glance at the ' Giaours,' and shuffled mysteriously out of sight. A little red and white kitten had evidently wished to come into the street with her; but when it saw us it started back, as if in fear of the 'infidels.' All the time we sat there we saw one of its little golden eyes peeping at us through a hole in the ironbound door. We were very tired, so there we sat a long time, saying what a curious, silent, drowsy, and picturesque place it was, when we saw a little square bit of the trellis-work lattice quietly open, and a pair of black eyes looked down on us through the thick white folds of a yashmak. We did not speak, and sat just as children do, scarcely daring to breathe, when a strange bird hops by which they are anxious not to scare away. The black eyes evidently scanned us both from head to foot ; but presently a turbanned head crossed the lattice, and they suddenly disappeared. Mr. Turk now opened the lattice a little wider, and seemed so well pleased with his view that Mr. Bell at length broke silence by suggesting that it would be rather awkward, alone as we were if he were to come down and insist upon buying me at once. M;. Bell and I are famous for making each other laugh, and there was an end of our gravity at once. The black eyes again returned to the lattice, but we could see by the wreaths of white smoke that Afylord was close by. It seemed to us that this silent pantomime meant, `If you look at her, I will look at him/ for the black eyes now fixed themselves on the good-looking and susceptible Mr. Bell in the most determined and tender manner ; so that out of regard for his peace of mind I thought it better to rise from the old stone and go our way, which we did.
"Both of us, however, being rather flattered by such evident and novel admiration, we consulted together as to the expediency of waving an adieu,—I to the turban, he to the black eyes and yashmak. But we were alone in the very heart of silent Stamboul, and not able to speak a word of the language ; so I advised Mr. Bell to keep his head on his shoulders, and to depart with no other demonstration to the lovely black eyes than a sorrowful look. This he agreed to, provided I did the same, to which I consented, after some disputation as to the ' difference ' in the way of danger." (pp. 85-43.) Sir Edmund Hornby's position as one of the Commissioners for managing the Turkish Loan necessitating constant com- munication with native officials, Lady Hornby had abun- dant facilities for becoming acquainted with the shameless and systematic corruption and iejustice which characterize the ruling class. A pasha, she says, dreams away life very pleasantly in his white marble palace, and shady gardens, and gently gliding
calque; but the road to these luxuries lies through something worse than brigandage. Vast fortunes are often accumulated by them after holding a provincial government for a very few years by extorting whateverby extrataxesand imposts they can wring from the unhappy population, by receiving bribes in perversion of jus- tice, and by open, lawless depredation; and they hasten home with their ill-gotten wealth to build summer palaces and buy Circassian slaves. Some of them do, indeed, belong to old and honourable families, but the majority have risen from the lowest social positions—have, perhaps, been bought in the slave market. It is not, she says, what we call education, talent, genius, that com- mend success in Turkey ; but fanaticism, false witness, calm
cruelty, and, above all, consummate falsehood and deceit under a smiling and bland exterior. The poor are, physically and morally, the real aristocracy of the country. They are dignified
in their bearing as emperors, honest, laborious, and abstemious as long as they are poor and oppressed, and have no chance of doing harm ; but if the temptation comes in their way, what is to
he expected of men who have been brought up in poverty and ignorance, who have never known any one hesitate at any
conceivable means which might lead to wealth, and see the -rewards of successful iniquity in the pasha's marble palace next door to their own miserable hovels ? There seems, writes our author, no honest work for honest men in Turkey but to plant a Taw water-melons, row calques, and bear heavy burdens. Indeed, an English officer told her that those whom the law called bri- gandsivere very respectable people, who had generally been driven to, the trade by some act of cruelty or oppression on the part of their rulers. "English and French delicacy shrinks from saying to a Turkish Minister, 'I know you are cheating.' Not under- standing the delicacy, however, the Turks think either that you do not see through their knavery, or are finessing with them after their own fashion."
On several occasions Lady Hornby succeeded in penetrating ' -
into the very sanctum ssmctorum of the Moslem—the harem, and her accounts of her visits are among the most interesting chapters
of her book. In the first she visited she and the ladies who accompanied her were completely captured by the beauty of the pasha's second wife, a present from the Sultan, whom they unani- mously christened" the fair Circassian."
"She was very tall; but it is impossible to describe her winning beauty or the exquisite grace of her movements. We were all three instantly charmed with her, and no longer regretted their not under- standing English, it was such a pleasure to exclaim every now and then, 'Oh you pretty creature!' Did you ever see such a figure?' 'Do look at the shape of her head and throat." What a lovely mouth! and just listen to her voice." There's a plait of glossy hair—quite down taker feet it must be when unbound !"
But to see this pretty creature, who looked charming even while smoking, from the indolent, dreamy grace with which she hung fondly over her chibouque—whom they pardoned for taking delight in the barbarous noise the Turks call "a concert of music,"
to see her at dinner "lick her fingers up to the last joint after each dish, to see her lick her favourite tortoise-shell spoon bright after successive and never-to-be-believed enormous platefuls of sweet pancakes daubed with honey, and tarts too luscious for the
Knave of Hearts—this was too much for Venus herself to have
done with impunity."
We cannot too heartily recommend Lady Hornby's book to all who care for polished English and graceful and graphic descrip- tions of one of the most interesting cities of the world at a most stirring time. The chromolithographic illustrations by the author's friend, Mrs. Walker, are beautifully executed, and impart an additional attraction to one of the pleasantest books it has ever fallen to our lot to meet with.