ART. II.—Travels in the Three Great Empires of Austria, Russia, and Turkey. By C. B. Elliott, M.A., F.R.S. 2 vols. Bentley. 1838.

[British Critic, vol. 25, April 1839.]

{305} WE never fell in with a writer who showed such a horror of the inconveniences of foreign travel, yet who with his eyes open had submitted himself to such voluntary discomfort as Mr. Elliott. He had to absent himself from England from ill health; and he is not content even with Ovid's exile in Pontus; but after voyaging down the Ister amid rocks and falls, he betakes himself to Scythia, shivers with cold, sickens of hunger, and cloys of vermin in Bessarabia, crosses to Crim Tahtary and thence goes to Constantinople to meet the plague, which is there raging; then he coasts along the bays and promontories and amid the pirates of Asia Minor down to Beyroot in Syria, and thence performs a land pilgrimage to Jerusalem, when he falls ill of a fever, and the work closes. Such is the termination, we are sorry to say, of the wanderings which indisposition forced upon our author, a termination as contrary to the rules of the Epopée, as to any but the Homœopathic system of physicking.

There is a story of an Englishman, who, when told of the miseries of foreign travel, said that he was not particular, for so that he had a knife and fork and a good beefsteak for dinner of a day, he could with good heart dispense with every thing else. Mr. Elliott has no such gross dreams floating before him; yet he is not the less possessed with a vision of ideal comfortableness, and is the victim of very definite imaginations, which arc never gratified. He is a scholar and an accomplished man; but above all he is a refined English gentleman, and he seeks to be comfortable {306} and English with so strong a yearning, that he woos comfort, "otium divos rogat," in a steam vessel on the Danube, in a Moldavian hut, in a lazaret in Bessarabia, on the steppes of Tahtary, on the inhospitable Euxine, in the ruins of the Seven Churches, and amid the desolateness of Syria and Palestine.

It is this phenomenon, the impression of which is carried off by the reader of these volumes. They do not disclose nearly so much about the countries they advertise, as about Mr. Elliott himself; or at least their principal charm lies in the relation existing between the traveller and his adventures, in his exquisite appreciation of the worth of every thing of English manufacture, whether English comfort, or English Ultra-Protestantism, and his consequent annoyance, dejection, or contempt when he meets with things and persons moulded upon a different standard.

He began his voluntary pains in a steam vessel on the Danube in the autumn of 1835; and the first shock which his feelings received arose from the straitened dimensions of its cabin, which was the occasion of some of his female fellow passengers undressing in his presence. Now he certainly mentions breaches of decorum on the part of passengers of his own sex, which might have been avoided, but we do think him somewhat too hard on these unhappy women. The chief part of their offence in Mr. Elliott's judgment is their not being conscious they were committing any; and yet when he gets to Constantinople, in spite of his own sensitive refinement, he cannot enter a whit the better into the feelings of the Turkish women, who in turn accuse English women of forwardness in making a display of themselves in public at all. He says—

"When she [a Turkish female] appears abroad, she is so wrapped up as to conceal her face, any exposure of which, however partial, is regarded as a violation of delicacy. A Frank lady informed us that one day, in the street, her arm was rudely seized, and separated from that of a gentleman who escorted her, by a Moslimah who felt her sex dishonoured by such familiarity; and we heard from another that, only three years ago, a green veil was pulled off her head by a Turkish female, enraged at seeing the sacred colour defiled by contact with an infidel so indelicate as to exhibit her face."—vol. i. p. 442.

Mr. Elliott's notions then of decorum move on a precise and fantastical line; yet from the following remarks on Turkish customs, which he gives from a modern writer, one would think that he had imbibed something of a more philosophical spirit.

"The abhorrence of the hat is well known; but the uncovering of the head, which with us is an expression of respect, is by them considered disrespectful and indecent. A quaker will give no offence by keeping on his hat in a mosque, if his shoes were left at the threshold, {307} The Turks turn in their toes; they mount on the right side of the horse; they follow their guests into a room and precede them on leaving it; the left hand is the place of honour; they do the honours of the table by serving themselves first; they take the wall and walk, hastily in sign of respect; they beckon by throwing back the hand, instead of drawing it towards them; they cut the hair from the head, and remove it from the body, but leave it on the chin; they sleep in their clothes; they look upon beheading as a more disgraceful punishment than strangling; they deem our close and short dresses indecent, and our shaven chins a mark of effeminacy or servitude; they resent an inquiry after their wives as an insult; they eschew pork as an abomination; they regard dancing as a theatrical performance only to be practised by slaves; lastly, their mourning habit is white, their sacred color is green, and their holy day is Friday."—vol. i. pp. 444, 445.

Mr. Elliott, however, in spite of his better knowledge, will look for England in every droshki and caique, and above all, for comfort. For instance, on entering the cuddy of the steamer, he found "the air of the room fraught with unsavoury odours and almost suffocating, several of the passengers having embarked the previous evening, and passed the night in the cabin with every door and window closed"—vol. 1. p. 72. When dinner was expected "vociferations commenced: 'Jacob' was called, commanded, scolded, and abused, but without effect. An universal roar was then raised for fleisch, fleisch, fleisch, followed by a bacchanalian yell for wein, wein, wein."—p. 76. In Servia he had to pass two nights in "discomfort," "on benches and tables without change of clothes."—p. 88. At Belgrade, "close to the sacred edifice," he says, "is the abode of the archbishop, a miserable dwelling, wholly destitute of comfort."—p. 104. He returns from thence to Semlin in a carriage, which was provided with a seat, "not very uncomfortable."—p. 106. The pleasure of his excursion to Mehadia, "was much diminished by the weather and the discomfort of the vehicle."—p. 134. He starts from Teraspol "lamenting the miserable accommodation afforded by Russian inns."—p. 249. At Odessa he tells us "there are no comfortable inns."—p. 256. The "venerable archbishop," who is president of the monastery of St. George, on the Crimea, has "but one chamber," and in it "only a table and chairs, a sofa and bed."—p. 333. At Baidah he is compelled to sit like the Tahtars, with his legs crossed under him, "no easy position for a Christian."—p. 337. In the archimandrite's house at Magnesia, though "the best in the town, not Turkish," Mr. Elliott's room "was neither large nor comfortable."—vol. ii. p. 68. The house of the archbishop of Philadelphia, "is neither large nor handsome." When Mr. Elliott dined with him, "as a mark of special attention, and kindness, the archbishop every now and then proffered us little {308} balls of rice rolled with his fingers and dipped in gravy, which after witnessing the process of manufacture, it was impossible to swallow."—vol. ii. p. 93. And at the khans in Asia Minor, a traveller can but procure "a cup of sugarless coffee."—p. 100. Servants are great plagues every where; but what shall we say to the domestics in Moldavia, whom Mr. Elliott thus describes?

"Moldavian domestics appear to be indolent, stupid, and immoral to the last degree. They require to have the same order repeated every day; when the dinner-cloth is laid by one who has performed the office for months, the mistress must sit by and say, 'Now put on the spoons, now the salt-cellars, now the tumblers, now the knives:' and so far every separate article of table furniture: when reproved, they stand mute, and look on the ground; but neither profess nor exhibit an intention to do better. Their inclination to theft is irresistible; a lady residing here told us that it frequently happened that her pocket-handkerchief, laid down for a moment while she was speaking to a servant, disappeared as she turned away her head: the culprit at first denies the charge; and when the stolen article is found upon him, he evinces no sense of shame."—vol. i. pp. 203, 204.

But the most strange instance of this sort of criticism upon external things occurs in his visit to the Mosque of Soliman at Constantinople. He mentions the necessity of taking off the shoes on entering it, and implies that some persons might have a scruple in doing so. A religious scruple the reader is likely to suppose; no such thing; he goes on to obviate it thus, "We took off our shoes as a matter of course; a compliance from which we suffered little inconvenience, since the marble pavements are always covered with Indian mats or carpets, never soiled by the sole of a shoe."—vol. i. p. 362.

Such is Mr. Elliott's sense of the refined and comfortable; and that it is keen may be conjectured from the resignation which breathes in the following meditation on the steam navigation of the Danube:—

"It is true, the inconveniences we encountered are considerable; but then, no one should venture on the excursion who is unprepared for hardships and harassing delays, for it cannot be expected that a project which has to contend against so many obstacles should be perfected at once. Instead of complaining, a traveller of an enlarged and philanthropic mind will turn with admiration to the enterprize and patriotism which have set on foot so grand an undertaking, and to the important moral consequences likely to be the result, remembering with satisfaction that steam is calculated to prove the precursor of civilization, civilization of education, education of religion, and religion of happiness!"—vol. i. pp. 191, 192.

Frequent indeed, as we may easily conjecture, were the calls on our traveller in the course of his wanderings for "enlarged and {309} philanthropic" feelings. Some glimpses of these have already been given in the foregoing brief, intimations; but they deserve to be set before the reader with something of distinctness and circumstance. We present him then with sketches of some of the miseries both of a sea and land journey. First, of the land journey.

"There is but one mode of travelling in Syria. Carriages and carriage-roads are unknown; and the surefootedness of the asinine race points out mules and donkeys as preferable to horses on the dangerous heights and almost impassable tracks which form the only communication between distant spots. A traveller in these regions has no reason to expect wholesome food, except when he may secure accommodation in a Greek or Latin convent: under other circumstances, he must depend entirely on his own provisions. A village will yield him generally sour, and sometimes fresh, milk, eggs, and dibash, unleavened cakes which he can ill digest, and bad water. In the towns he will purchase live fowls, rice, and coarse bread; the fowls must be carried ready cooked, and the stores laid in must be proportioned to his distance from the next market. The mattress he takes with him will be unique wherever he goes; and as to further luxuries,—the remembrance of the land in which he is travelling and its surpassing interest must supply to him the place of superfluities. The most serious annoyance to which he is subjected results from the perverseness of the muleteers. Whatever amount be offered by a Frank for mules, it is unusual for the owners to consent without the interference of the authorities, accompanied generally by blows. When the cavalcade is set in motion, the pace at which it advances is about two and a half miles per hour; and the traveller is sometimes obliged to stop sixteen, twenty, or thirty times in the course of a march to refasten on the animal the luggage, which would never have shifted had it been once properly secured. At the close of a long day's journey, worn out with fatigue and the vexation occasioned by his muleteers, he expects and finds no comforts. Instead of the officious alacrity of waiters and the self-satisfied smile of a portly landlord, to greet him and conduct to a clean apartment and wholesome repast, he marches in slow and solemn procession to the house of the principal man, or sheikh, who appoints a room in which the party is to be housed for the night, and perhaps sends a tray containing some milk, eggs, and unleavened bread, with dibash, for their supper. The room may be such as Khan Hussein, or it may be better; shared or not, as it happens, with the mules or with twenty dirty Bedouins less clean and wholesome than the animals. No door secures him against the intrusion of twenty more; for in most cases the room is public property, set apart for strangers, and all are equally welcome: a door, therefore, which might lead to exclusive appropriation, is regarded with religious aversion. The first night passed under such circumstances converts the clothes of the stranger into an entomological menagerie, in which every variety of insect familiar to the country may be found; many, which amongst us are nameless or named only sotta voce, here obtain importance from their numbers, and celebrate a long carnival upon his fasting frame."—vol. ii. pp. 252-254. {310}

The distress of his voyage is more concisely but not less significantly given.

"My little cabin, regarded by the captain as most spacious and handsome, measured about six feet by three, independently of two recesses each calculated to contain a mattress. It had neither window nor door; but through an opening in the deck a man could let himself down into it, though egress was somewhat more difficult to an inexperienced climber. This opening, while it afforded light and air, exposed the interior and its contents to the full view of the hajees, who, during the time of our companionship made a point of sitting before it to watch all my proceedings, and to amuse their children by pointing out a thousand wonders in every action and every article of the first Englishman they had seen.

"In order to secure his services when they might be required during the night, I had intended my servant to occupy one of the recesses in the little apartment; but a single experiment convinced me that such an arrangement was impracticable, for the smell peculiar to all Arabs was in Ibrahim's case absolutely unbearable: he had but two suits of clothes; the one, in which he exhibited himself to be hired, glittering with gilt braid, and looked upon by its owner as unrivalled; the other, substituted as soon as we went on board, old and tattered, worn through many an Egyptian summer, filthy as the muddy banks of the Nile, and enjoying the privilege (unshared even by half a shirt) of immediate contact with a body washed once a year."—vol. ii. pp. 144, 145.

But the flower of his miseries, briefer indeed than others according to the old stoical maxim, "si gravis brevis," but very acute, was his treatment on entering the Russian frontier at Liova. It is curious on several accounts, and we shall accordingly indulge in an extract of considerable length. It will be observed that Mr. Elliott had been expressly warned at Vienna "that it was impossible to conceive the inconveniences to which those are exposed who enter Bessarabia," owing to the jealousy of the Russian government.

"It was past nine in the evening when we found ourselves among some huts on the bank of the Pruth, at a spot dignified by the high-sounding title of Porte de Liova. By the light of the moon we discerned a ferry; and the loud cry of the guards, stationed on the opposite side and answering one another at short intervals, indicated the vicinity of the Russian quarantine, whither we were bound. This cry of the sentinels is wild and singular. It consists of one high note, which they usually sustain as long as the breath permits, when they conclude by descending the scale in semi-tones.

"A hard-featured, passionate man, roused from his slumbers, soon answered the call of our driver, and came out to ask what we required. We intimated by signs that we were desirous of crossing the river to Liova: to this he replied by violent gestures and unintelligible vociferations; and after a fruitless effort to persuade him to comply with our {311} wishes, we were beginning to make arrangements for spending the night in the carriage, when a more respectable person accosted us. He understood just two words of German, "Tomorrow morning;" by means of which he intimated that we could not cross the ferry till the following day; and at the same time conducted us to a miserable hut, where a woman and a naked child, rolling themselves off a plank, placed it at our disposal. In a corner, two more children lay on the mud floor. The stove, a broad bench on three sides of the room, and a stick suspended from the ceiling, on which several articles of dress were hanging, constituted the only furniture. Three holes in the wall, provided with pieces of bladder removable at pleasure, served to admit light, but did not exclude the air. Such was our apartment. Our companions had a similar one in another cabin. In a few minutes the vehicle was unloaded and the baggage piled before the door to barricade it against intruders; when, partially undressing and wrapt in our cloaks, we lay down to sleep, with the two children in the corner, thankful for a sheltered spot in which to rest our weary limbs.

"The following morning we awoke to a sense of our miseries, and saw by daylight the full extent of the wretchedness by which we were surrounded. The screaming of the children had compelled us in the middle of the night to put them into the outer room, and they ceased to disturb us: but not so the insects by which we were almost devoured: an entomologist might have made a fair collection from the various species of our tormenters. On opening the door, we found ourselves enveloped in a thick mist; the Pruth flowed under the wall of the hut, and the eye could not penetrate the dense vapour that arose from its surface; but as soon as this was dissipated, we descried the roof of the Russian quarantine on the farther side of a low hill, and recognized in it the site of our future prison. In vain we traversed and retraversed the village in search of some one who spoke French, Italian, or German; but not a creature was to be found whose attainments extended beyond a knowledge of the Moldavian dialect. The uncourteous man who the preceding night had impressed us with no very favourable opinion of his disposition, verified today the estimate we had formed of him; and to our signs, soliciting a conveyance to the opposite shore, he replied only by negations issued with all the assumption of petty authority. In this painful situation we passed several hours, without the possibility of moving or of procuring bread, meat, clean water, or the common necessaries of life, till, in the afternoon, a flag raised on the Russian bank intimated that strangers might cross the water: at the same time several Jews arrived, some of whom spoke broken German; and from them we learned the real cause of our detention, namely, that the bureau is opened only twice a day, and on Sunday, which this happened to be, but once."—vol. i. pp. 216-219.

Accordingly our traveller or travellers (with Mr. Elliott the pronoun "we" is sometimes singular, sometimes plural,) cross the river, present their passports, and ask leave to enter into quarantine; the commissary, who spoke no language but Russ, signified {312} in reply, by means of a Jew as an interpreter, that they must go back and return the following day.

"We represented that we had already lost time by the arrangements which prevented our reception the previous night; that we were now in a spot where the necessaries of life were not procurable; that we had literally passed fifty-four hours without washing our faces, from the impossibility of procuring any water unmixed with mud, and that we had spent two nights without enjoying the comforts of a bed; that to force us to remain longer in such a condition was cruel, and that some consideration ought to be manifested. All this touched not the heart of the commissary, who replied only that the law must be obeyed. Before we left, the doctor of the quarantine, who spoke a little French, arrived, and acted as interpreter. Having heard our just complaint, he kindly interceded for us, but without effect; and the sleek little commissary desired him to apprise us that the law requires every foreigner, not French, bringing a French passport, to detained beyond the frontier while inquiries are instituted regarding him; nor would he understand that the passports of all English travellers are necessarily drawn out in French, that being the diplomatic language of Europe … Doomed to pass another day in the miserable Port of Porte de Liova, it was a source of thankfulness and surprise that the means professedly intended to prevent our carrying infection from countries where it was well known no contagious disease existed, did not themselves induce illness; a result which would probably have ensued, but for the wholesome food supplied by our kind friends at Galatz.

"After a second doleful night, we arose with such strength as survived the attacks of the insatiable insects, and were happy to see the flag flying at eight o'clock. Again we resorted to the office of the commissary, who said that it was impossible we should be received, because we must previously take an oath, and we did not understand the Russian language. We inquired why the oath could not be translated? 'Because nobody can translate it.'—'Where is the doctor?'—'He may perhaps come tomorrow or next day.'—'Is there no one in the town who talks German, French, or Italian, and who will translate the oath for a handsome remuneration?'—'No, nobody!'—'Will you not communicate substance of the oath to one of these Jews, and suffer him to repeat it to us?'—'That is impossible—'a Jew cannot administer an oath to Christian.'—'But a Jew can inform a Christian what he is called upon to swear?'—'No, he cannot take the name of Christ.'—'A Jew often does take the name of Christ, though in blasphemy: however, the word is the same in all languages, let him interpret the rest of the oath, we can supply the sacred name.' The absurdity of this conversation was the more glaring, as a Jew was at the time actually naming the name of Christ in his office of interpreter between us. To suppose the commissary could not understand the feasibility of this arrangement, were to suppose him without reason, but he would not. We offered him a piece of gold, which he refused, and went away, leaving us to decide whether we should go back to Galatz or make one more effort to overcome the vexatious annoyances of a Russian frontier."—vol. i. pp. 220-224. {313}

At length they gained a permission to enter the house of quarantine; as a preliminary to which they were obliged to make an inventory of all the articles of their luggage. This they did by means of a Jew who spoke a little German and Moldavian, and a Moldavian who spoke a little Russ.

"Arrived on the Bessarabian bank and now in the empire of Russia, we marched in procession, accompanied by a number of Jews going to see their friends, to the office of the commissary, who, after sundry forms and much delay, placed in our hands a French translation of the regulations of the quarantine, all of which were enforced under penalty of death. These being read, we were required to take an oath of obedience, and to give a solemn promise that we would secrete nothing from the inspectors. The great doors were then opened, and we were admitted with our baggage, which was laid out upon the grass, every article being taken separately from the boxes and compared with the inventory written on the other side of the water. The exact number of gold ducats and silver rubles possessed by each of us was entered; every scrap of paper, rag, and leather was examined, and the list made doubly correct; yet, two days afterwards, an official was directed to inform us that a pair of braces was not recorded, which with some garters was then formally added to the catalogue. It is not possible to conceive, without personal experience, the rigidity of this investigation. At length, the shadows of night drew over the horizon, and we were permitted to retire to our apartments; having previously bespoken the best in the quarantine, and particularly requested that mattresses might be hired for our use from the town.

"Our room, floored with brick, was eleven feet square and seven high; it contained a stove, a small deal table, a wooden stool, and two frames of bedsteads supplied with narrow planks which did not nearly meet one another. This was literally the whole furniture of the apartment in which we were destined to pass four days and nights; there were none of the innumerable little comforts required in a domestic ménage, nor were we permitted to provide them at our own expense. The door opened into a small enclosure, six yards square, in which a soldier, called our guardian, remained day and night, the gate being locked at sunset on him and us, and the windows fastened on the outside. One of these (for there were two) faced the little quadrangle,  so that the guardian could inform himself of all we did; and between eight and nine o'clock in the evening he insisted on our putting out our candle and fire; a requisition the more vexatious, as the place swarmed with field-bugs and fleas to such a degree that, every second hour of the day and as long as light was allowed, we were compelled to wage war against them; giving, as we received, no quarter. For a candlestick we were provided with a piece of clay; a soldier's old cloak, with a coarse canvas bag, was given as a covering for each bedstead; thus no very promising prospect opened before us. We were told that there was a Jew traiteur who provided food, but on our admission, he had left his shop for the day, and the following was a Hebrew festival; so that, but for own {314} little stocks laid in without the slightest anticipation of being placed in such circumstances, we should probably have become ill for want of the necessaries of life.

"The first morning, the doctor paid us an early visit to enquire, as well he might, how we had rested on our hard beds, and to tell us that permission would be granted to purchase from the Jew some hay to convert into paillasses the sacks thrown over the bedsteads; he likewise informed us that all our goods must be suspended, or spread out, under a roof surrounded by trellis-work, there to remain for three days to be ventilated and purified. But another difficulty had arisen. Our passport was drawn out on the twenty-ninth of August at Vienna, and a visé appeared on it which, according to the doctor, bore date the twenty-fifth of August. This looked like fraud, and we were responsible. The document was produced, and the visé proved to be written on the eleventh of September; the entry, however, was in German; and the German running-hand S is not very unlike an O with a flourish; the doctor therefore declared it was October: we reminded him that the eleventh of October had not yet arrived; and that, even if the secretary of a public office had made the blunder supposed, a traveller should not be held accountable; at the same time we maintained, that, in point of fact, the word written was September, not October; nevertheless he strongly asserted his acquaintance with German, and it was not expedient to dispute it. At length he departed, and we heard no more of the passport being in French, nor of the date, nor of any other difficulty connected with it."—vol. i. pp. 226-234.

"On the fifth day preparations were made for our liberation, which, however, was not effected as readily as we had hoped. Early in the morning the doctor paid us a visit to assure himself that we were in health. We were then required to take an oath, enforced by a reference to God's presence and the anticipation of his 'terrible judgment,' that we had complied with all the requisitions of the establishment; that we had not been in contact with any person, except those of our party, during the time of confinement; that we had thrown nothing over the walls; and that everything belonging to us had been aired and turned each day. To the last clause we objected, observing that, however anxious we might have been to comply with the instructions received, yet it was scarcely practicable to handle daily each minute scrap of paper, &c. and that certainly we could not swear that this had been done. Our hesitation gave rise to a discussion between the doctor, the commissary, and the director, as to whether we should be detained. At length, it was decided that all our things had been turned en masse; and with this understanding, we were suffered to depart."—vol. i. pp. 231, 232.

When they at length got into the town, they found it "crowded with Jews all talking German," in spite of the commissary's assurance that Russ was the only language spoken.

Mr. Elliott reaped the benefit of this painful initiation into the dominions of the Autocrat, by gaining ingress in consequence into the Crimea, the beauties of which he describes in glowing {315} language, he is especially delighted with Count Woronzow's English mansion now building, of which and its gardens he gives an eloquent description. The count is the present governor of New Russia; and Mr. Elliott says that his "personal exertions and influence have converted the wilderness into a terrestrial paradise."—p. 342. He speaks of the peninsula as abounding in majestic scenery, and covered with gardens, orchards, and vineyards, which seem to strike his imagination more than the mountains, whether of Hungary or Asia Minor.

The following extract will give the reader an idea of Mr. Elliott's style; though we wish he had not defaced it by an irrelevant and in itself most preposterous remark towards the end.

"As we glided along, village after village passed before our eyes like the scenes in a camara obscura, each beautiful in its way, and each succeeded by beauties different, but not inferior. Foros and Nitschatka are picturesquely situate on the slope of the Ayila chain of mountains, among forests which give cover to herds of deers and antelopes. Beyond these is Simeis, the residence of Madame Narischkine, whose father, General Rostoptchin, is believed to have set fire to Moscow, of which city he was the governor when Napoleon entered it. Proceeding a little further, Aloupka, Xαραξ of Ptolemy, a lovely spot embellished by the taste of its proprietor, Count Woronzow, dawned on our view. Here we were saluted with nine guns, and the same playful compliment was repeatedly paid to the name borne by our steamer, 'Peter the Great.' On the adjoining estate of Count Narischkine, olives, pomegranates, and figs grow in great luxuriance, with vines which produce the best white wine of the country, called Risling; while the neighbourhood is famous for its Pineau fleuri, a red wine resembling Burgundy, which is made from a vine called Pineau. A beautiful white structure towards the east, surmounted by two towers, proclaims the residence of Prince Galitzin, whose assistance in missions entitles him to the gratitude of every lover of that cause, and next to this is the cottage of the Princess Metchersky, who is said to have distributed more Bibles than any other female in Europe. After passing several country seats, all built within the last seven years, and the imperial gardens of Oreanda, the private property of the emperor, we landed at Yalta, a village on the south-east point of the Crimea."—vol. i. pp. 285, 286.

The mention of Bibles in this extract, to which we just now alluded, reminds us that we have not done justice to Mr. Elliott's work, till we show his vivid perception, not only of the comfortable, but also of the ultra-Protestant. How extreme a Protestant he is may be conjectured from his speaking of "the unscriptural God of Mohammed."—vol. ii. p. 444; but we would forgive him this, if he had not a savour of another school about him. Indeed his theological opinions, we regret to say, afford us very little satisfaction; and to tell the truth, this is the main concern {316} we have with his volumes, which we should hardly have thought it necessary to notice, were we not alive to the evil of lax opinions, such as his being scattered through Europe, as if in the name of the English clergy. One indication of his state of mind was incidentally mentioned several pages back; and we must say, the general tenor of his remarks does but confirm what there seemed intimated, that a gentleman, who is endued with such shrinking delicacy as regards the proprieties of society in a steamer, and such acute sensibility as regards archiepiscopal and clerical discomfort, yet, unconscious of it as he himself, is not gifted with equal quickness of feeling as regards the honour of religion. He is but partially alive to the risk of approaching the confines of truth and error, nor does he understand that his sense of indecorum might advantageously be elevated into a reverential feeling. The following references will show too truly the correctness of this representation.

We do not for one instant accuse Mr. Elliott of any wilful profaneness—the notion is absurd; but we are sorry to detect in him, what is a great fault in religious matters, a want of duly realizing what he is doing or talking about; so that he use solemn words to round a sentence, speak disrespectfully of sacred subjects, or commit doubtful acts to serve some purpose of the moment; and all this with the same unconsciousness which he imputes to the unrefined women in the steamer. He has, in his conduct towards religion, a rude, coarse, indelicate manner about him. Speaking, for instance, of the site of a heathen oracle, he says,

"The oracle is no more! The deceivers and the deceived now blend their dust around the uncertain seat of the idol they adored, awaiting the solemn call which shall summon them to the bar of the divine iconoclast."—vol. i. p. 195.

Again, speaking of the holy sepulchre,

"Here seven large silver and forty-four smaller lamps are ever burning, while in the adjoining chapels incense ascends day and night, and prayers and praises are offered without ceasing to the incarnate God."—vol. ii. p. 447.

There is something very observable in his mode of speaking of the ancient people of God, whom he unscrupulously degrades to the rank of heathens or Mahomedans. Thus he says that "the principal object of desire with the Moslim, as with the Hebrew women, is children"—vol. i. p. 441; that "the special honour conferred on the parental relation has characterized the inhabitants of Syria from the days of Rachael to the present"—vol. ii. p. 281; that the Turks, "like the Jews, identify their civil polity with {317} religion"—vol. i. p. 445; and that "among the ancient Jews storks were held in abomination, as we learn from the two last books of the Penteteuch."—vol. ii. p. 38. In another place he has the following most strange explanation of the anathemas found in the book of Psalms; he has been speaking of the recent conscription at Damascus, then he adds,

"Surely it was the sight of tyranny embodied in effects like this—such as men living under a Christian government and well-defined laws cannot conceive—that led David to utter certain denunciations against tyrants which appear to militate against the principle of universal charity. But if the execution of God's wrath on oppressors, and the manifestation of his abhorrence of their cruelties be essential to the well-being of society, then may the infliction of punishment of those who in being to such an extent the enemies of man are especially the enemies of God, be the legitimate object of a righteous man's desire."—vol. ii. p. 489.

Yet, while he is thus critical and apologetic as regards the ancient people of God, he seems, as is not unfrequent with men of what he calls "enlarged" minds, as if out of mere perverseness, to take their apostate and rejected descendants under his "philanthropic" consideration. He talks of a "venerable son of Abraham," whom he fell in with in a ferry-boat, commanding "our respect by his age, and our interest by his birth."—vol. i. p. 320. He visited a Karaite settlement in the Crimea, where he sees "a number of aged Hebrews in Tahtar costume, with long flowing beards, sitting in conclave"—vol. i. p. 309; and he moralizes over their burying place in the following pathetic way:—

"It lies in a fissure of the mountains, and is darkened by the shade of numerous venerable trees, which cast a sombre hue over the graves, and give effect to the scene ... Our last impression of Jorfud Kelah were such as to induce a regret that we were compelled to hasten away, and that our visit could neither be prolonged nor repeated. Yet so it is! a regret is mingled with life's every pleasure."—vol. i. p. 317.

We have noticed our author's complaisant recognition of the sanctity of a mosque. He repeats the same civility in the Samaritan temple at Nabloos. It was with no common interest," he says, "that we entered into the synagogue of these remarkable people, as a prelude to which they required that we should take off our shoes."—vol. ii. p. 397. That there may be no mistake, he ingenuously adds in a note, "the fact of the Samaritans requiring strangers to take off their shoes marks an interesting distinction between them and the Jews; as it intimates that they look on their place of assembly for worship as a temple; a light in which it is well known the Jews do not regard their synagogues."

Evidently he is quite at his ease among heretics, and misbelievers. {318} Accordingly he speaks of being conducted to an object of his search in Constantinople "by the kindness of a Turkish gentleman, who heard our dragoman inquiring his way."—vol. ii. p. 374. The same tone, for it is of tone that we are speaking, is observable in other passages, as where he speaks of "the Moslem house of prayer," "from whose consecrated summits the muezzin invites the congregation of 'the faithful' to the adoration of an anti-Trinitarian God"—vol. i. p. 352; of "the elegant sacred edifices erected by Mahommed II., &c."—p. 357; of "all the sacred structures being surrounded by a gilt crescent"—p. 368; or when he speaks of his own sensations on witnessing the worship of the False Prophet.

"Time will not soon efface from my memory the impression first made, and often renewed, by the sight of hundreds of Mohammedans prostrating themselves and bowing their foreheads to the ground in the great mosque of Delhi, incomparably more splendid than any building existing at Constantinople, while the imam chanted in slow and solemn accents, and in the sonorous language of the Koran, 'God is great and merciful. There is no God but one God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God.'"—vol. i. p. 363.

Such is his praise of Islamism; his blame is equally unreal and rhetorical; he speaks of Turkey and Persia "exhibiting the remarkable phenomenon (so characteristic of a fallen world!) of two monarchies indebted for their origin and continuance to a religion of lies, and founding their political institutions on the reputed visions of an Arabian impostor."—p. 422

On the other hand, with the same forgetfulness of the difference between Christianity and heathenism, he makes out Greeks, and of course Romans, to be far worse than Jew and Turk. Sometimes indeed he does praise an archbishop as "a portly and pleasing man"—vol. ii, p. 91, or even as "venerable;" but on the whole it is easy to see that he has no sympathy with them as rulers, or even as members of the city of God. He speaks of his host at Pergamus as being "a man of comparatively enlightened mind," (enlightened is his praise of the Sultan,) and as "expressing himself with some degree of liberality on religious subjects."—vol. ii. p. 136. He adds "his nephew is more fully emancipated from the trammels which the Greek heresy imposes on its votaries." In like manner he elsewhere speaks of the "moral degradation" of the present inhabitants of Palestine, not as being Turks, but because "sunk in the darkest errors of the Greek and Romish heresies."—p. 216. He says that "a false faith and a dead faith divide the land. Mahomet and Mary are raised to an impious rivalry of,"—and then he adds the name of the true God by way of completing his antithesis.—p. 198. He {319} credits the most unfavourable reports of the avarice of the Greek clergy (one should have thought that mere brotherhood in suffering would have restrained a clergyman from this kind of slander); and gravely records the following gossip, which, even if true, avails to show the parties criminals only on the supposition that bad men, and none but they, have a conscience.

"The owner of an English merchantman trading between Trebizond and Smyrna told us that two of his passengers were a bishop and archbishop of the Russo-Greek church. The vessel encountered a severe gale and was nearly wrecked. The two prelates manifested the greatest terror, and began to confess their sins to one another. They then implored our informant to put back; and, conscience-stricken, declared, like Jonah, that the storm was sent in token of divine wrath against their impiety. Shortly after, the captain succeeded in making a port, when they left the ship and pursued their journey by land."—vol. i. p. 463.

Perhaps the "owner of the English merchantman" did not know of the existence of a text with which his frightened passengers were complying when they confessed their sins one to another, or that the Greek Church injoins it. As to Mr. Elliott he either did, or he did not.

However he can, in due measure, be liberal to the Greeks and Romans; let us see how.

"The routine of church duties entirely engrosses the clerical members, Forms are multiplified without number; and the greater part of the night as well as of the day, is passed with rosaries, crucifixes, and missals. To a Protestant some of their services appear a solemn mockery: but God judgeth not as man, and perhaps under many a pharisaical form and monkish cowl, the Searcher of hearts discerns rectitude of purpose and an earliest desire to honour him."—vol. ii. pp. 368, 369.

Yet, after all necessary admissions on the score of the undue sacrifice of practical to devotional duties, and of the impropriety of "rosaries and crucifixes," missals one should have thought no great offence; somehow one should have fancied that devotional books imply the performance of certain devotional acts, and that even the use of rosaries and crucifixes are ordinarily not unattended with an observance which Mr. Elliott does not show that he recollects any better than confession,—prayer.

Mr. Elliott is full of complaints of the forms, legends, and relics of the foreign Churches; nor do we mean to defend them. However, he finds at Buda the following more appropriate memento of a great reformer; "a silver goblet which belonged to Martin Luther, formed into a likeness of his wife."—vol. i. p. 63. No wonder, living in the habitual influence of a system which is illustrated by such interesting memorials, he entertains the following {320} relative view of the two great divisions of foreign Christianity.

"The progress of religion has not kept pace with its early advances in this once hallowed spot; and yet there is not one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor within whose sacred precincts the trumpet of the gospels now gives so distinct and certain a sound. While Mohammed is acknowledged in twenty mosques, and Jews assemble in several synagogues, the faith of the Messiah is taught in Armenian, Greek, and Catholic churches. Yet it is not in the exhibition of Christianity thus perverted and dishonoured that we can rejoice: happily, her doctrines are set forth, sabbath after sabbath, in a purer form, in English, French, and Italian, in two Protestant chapels; one connected with the English, the other with the Dutch consulate."—vol. ii. pp. 45, 46.

He goes on to compare the ministers in these heretical congregations, (for so the conventicles of Calvin may far more truly be called than the Churches of Greece and Rome,) to no less a person than St. Polycarp.

"In Smyrna alone, Greeks, Armenians and Catholics are instructed in intelligible accents; and five resident Protestant ministers labour as missionaries, striving, at however humble a distance, to tread in the footsteps of the blessed Polycarp."—vol. ii. p. 46.

Shortly before, he had to all appearance brought himself, at least in his aspirations, into a singular relation with the same primitive Saint. Speaking of his martyrdom, he exclaims:—

"Standing on the spot which witnessed this memorable event, the Christian must be cold indeed whose heart does not kindle with a fervent desire that a double portion of the spirit of Polycarp may rest upon him!"—vol. ii. p. 44.

It is safe to make these antithetical statements between parties at the distance of 1700 years; but we suspect that, did the holy bishop appear to Mr. Elliott in that life which he really lived in the flesh, the latter would pronounce his "abode" to be a "miserable dwelling, wholly destitute of comfort;" nay we should not be surprised if his creed and worship needed that finish which, in Mr. Elliott's judgment, pure Protestantism would have given to it. Sad indeed it is that an accomplished man like Mr. Elliott should not have a more clear perception of the principles of the Gospel, and should have had the opportunity of visiting such deeply interesting places without the due gifts of mind to profit by them. And with this reflection we take our leave of his volumes.

Top | Contents | Works | Home

Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright © 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.