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Turkish Embassy Letters Reprint Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1853816796
ISBN-10: 1853816795
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Her letters have an immediacy and vivacity that remains as fresh as the mosiacs on the ancient monuments she saw and the eastern gardens that gave her such delight.―Anita Desai

From the Publisher

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) was described by a contemporary as "one of the most extraordinary shining characters in the world." Her letters, collected here, tell of her travels through Europe to Turkey in 1716, where her husband had been appointed Ambassador. Her liveliness makes them delightfully readable, and her singular intelligence provides us with insights that were exceptional for their time. Her ability to study another culture according to its own values, and to see herself through the eyes of others, makes Lady Mary one of the most fascinating and accomplished of early travel writers.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; Reprint edition (January 27, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853816795
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853816796
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Lady M.W.M. was a great letter writer, and though it's not fashionable to say so, I much prefer her to Mme de Sevigne, whose letters are in essence one long hysterical cry to her daughter, You never write, you never call. Per contra, Lady MWM is common-sensical, less needlessly poetic, but with the sharp, discerning eye of a spy. That is, she is a real writer. I only wish I could read her letters that were burnt, thrown away, locked up, and otherwise held away from us, because they were too much of a muchness. Were they explicit? Or were they merely telling 300 y/old secrets? No one knows, and those who do, aren't telling. But even the letters that survived are a dilly. You feel you are almost there. Good stuff, this.
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Format: Paperback
What a very clever and interesting book - that is, for those who are interested in early eighteenth century English customs and the Ottoman empire. Lady Mary was an English aristocrat who travelled to Constantinople in 1716 with her husband, Edward, who had been appointed Ambassador to the Turkish court in order to try to broker a peace deal between it and the Viennese court of the Habsburgs. He failed in this mission but, as a result of it, later generations of readers were treated to his wife’s observations of a culture that was so foreign to her own. In her letters to her friends and family back home, she enlightened them on subjects such as the treatment of Jews in the Turkish empire (they were a very powerful element in it); the brutal attitude shown by the Turkish army to the common people, who were often left destitute after soldiers had been through their lands; the position of women in Turkish society; and the wonders of Turkish architecture, so utterly different from that in her own country. She chose her topics according to whom she was writing to. When communicating with the poet, Alexander Pope, she regaled him with lengthy quotes from Arabian poetry. When writing to a clergyman, she explained to him the religious beliefs and rituals practiced in Turkey. And, when writing to her female friends, she took great pains to describe the clothes and hair styles of the local women. In fact, one of the subjects she dwells on the most in the Letters is the women she met. She gives lengthy descriptions of the public baths that women used as meeting places, of her visits to various harems, and her attendance at an all-women pre-marriage ceremony conducted in a public bath.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a mind blowing book. How beautiful is to get to know the life style of Ottoman Turks in Istanbul via the famous letters of an English woman...
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Format: Paperback
Wonderful insights into both Turkish and English societies, by an excellent writer. Montagu spent two years in Turkey while her husband served as an ambassador. After returning to England, she published adaptations of works by Virgil, as well as an attack on Jonathan Swift. Her fifty-two Turkish letters were published to wide acclaim in 1763, one year after her death.

1717 | Adrianople

The Corset Stays
I was here convinced of the truth of a reflection I had often made—that if it was the fashion to go naked, the face would be hardly observed. I perceived that the ladies with the finest skins and most delicate shapes had the greatest share of my admiration, though their faces were sometimes less beautiful than those of their companions.

In short, it is the women’s coffee house, where all the news of the town is told, scandal invented, etc. They generally take this diversion once a week and stay there at least four or five hours, without getting cold by immediately coming out of the hot bath into the cold room, which was very surprising to me.

The lady that seemed the most considerable among them entreated me to sit by her and would fain have undressed me for the bath. I excused myself with some difficulty. They being all so earnest in persuading me, I was at last forced to open my shirt and show them my stays, which satisfied them very well—for they believed I was so locked up in that machine, that it was not in my own power to open it, which contrivance they attributed to my husband. I was charmed with their civility and beauty and should have been very glad to pass more time with them.

Robert C. Ross
June 2015
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