Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 18693
Harry Levin (essay date 1931)
SOURCE: "The Romanticists and the Classical Tradition," in The Broken Column: A Study in Romantic Hellenism, Harvard University Press, 1931, pp. 18-28.
[In the excerpt below, Levin offers a brief account of Romantic Hellenism as a reaction against eighteenth-century neo-classicism.]
The Romanticists and the Classical Tradition
Although we ordinarily expect to find the man reflected in the books that he reads, what are we to judge from the classical tastes of É mile, the romantic child of nature? "En général, É mile prendra plus de goût pour les livres des anciens, que pour les nôtres," explains his godfather, Rousseau, "par cela seul qu'étant les premiers, les anciens sont le plus près de la nature, et que leur génie est plus à eux." Emile, then, took his books along with him into the thicket and the shadows of leaves sifted over the pages as he read them. They reflected him in the sense that the whole world became, for the romantic egoist, a dim gallery of mirrors. The classical tradition, in a civilization which had hesitated to take a single step without looking back to Greece and Rome, was too strong to be swept aside, but men can always put new interpretations upon a body of laws too venerable to be flouted or abolished.
There were, early in the romantic movement, various attempts to flout and abolish the classics, and the literatures of Greece and Rome were, for a time, completely obscured by the literatures of the north. Battles of books and querelles des anciens et des modernes had been fought at the very height of neo-classic dominance, but both parties had then stood behind the ensign of correctness, and prominent classical scholars had engaged on the side of the moderns. The early romanticists attacked both the ancients and the correct moderns, and allied themselves to the primitives of their own respective races. It was, no doubt, a protest against the cast of formalism into which the classics had firmly settled during the period from the middle ages to the eighteenth century. We have only to recall Rousseau's youthful struggles with Vergil or Byron's confession (to Horace) that he abhorred
Too much, to conquer for the Poet's sake,
The drilled dull lesson, forced down word by word
In my repugnant youth. . . .
So they turned from these formalized studies to more novel explorations. The individualistic doctrines of Rousseau had undergone a new development when Herder and the German romanticists placed them on a collective and national scale. New self-conscious nationalisms supplanted the old commonwealth of nations, cosmopolitanism took on an imperialistic taint, nations went digging after their origins, and Latin was no longer the language of Europe. Universality gave way to particularism. And the course of classical studies, hitherto on the main road of European culture, was forced into a bypath down which it is still straying.
The Renaissance has been described as the addition of a new Hellenism to the old Latinity of the schoolmen. It was the claim of the romanticists that their school had purified the Greek tradition by repudiating Rome. There never was a time, during the romantic movement, when the classics were completely disregarded. Greek and Latin were still the staple of education and most of the romantic writers were brought up on them, although poetry may have been obscured by pedagogy, as Byron charges. But there is no sharp cessation or sudden revolution in the general attitude toward the classics; very gradually the formalistic and pedantic elements come to be identified with Latin culture.
The second romantic generation, no longer under the necessity of reacting to a Latinized neo-classicism, held no bias against the glory that was Greece. Schooled in the fundamental tenets of their predecessors, and yet weary of the mediaeval tinsel, they proclaimed a renaissance of ancient Greece. It was to be, in the paradoxical and confusing terminology of the literary historian, "the end of classicism and the return to the antique." The function of the classics as an intellectual discipline came to be neglected, and the cult of Greece became a mere enthusiasm in the long series of romantic obsessions. Poets began to indulge in Hellenic nostalgia. "La Grèce apparaît toujours comme un des cercles éclatants qu'on aperçoit en fermant les yeux," sighed Chateaubriand, the high priest of mediævalism, in a letter to the Hellenist Marcellus. "Quand retrouverai-je les lauriers-roses de l'Eurotas et le thym de l'Hymette?"
The manifesto of the new point of view had been the Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums which appeared in 1764. Madame de Staël sensed its significance when she wrote, "L'homme qui fit une véritable revolution de la manière de considérer les arts, et par les arts la littérature, c'est Winckelmann." And indeed it was Winckelmann who crystallized in his studies the scientific approach to Greece made by the antiquarians, the sentimental approach of the travellers, and the aesthetic approach of the poets. Winckelmann's glorious task, in the opinion of Walter Pater, was to supplant a "flimsier, more artificial classical tradition" by "the clear ring, the eternal outline of the genuine antique." Although the infancy of his new spade-and-footrule Hellenism forced him to over-emphasize Roman civilization and to draw inspiration from masterpieces at third hand, still his chest heaved and fell when he viewed the Apollo Belvidere.
Winckelmann's generation was intermediate between the neo-classicists and the romantic Hellenists. Like those of the editors and grammarians who heralded the Renaissance, the names of these scholars and enthusiasts are mostly forgotten. It is hard to pass judgment upon individual figures in the movement, or to do anything but trace a general progression from the one point of view to the other. The travels of "rapid Gell" (the epithet is Byron's), Chandler, Wilkins, Colonel Leake, and Fauvet, the archaeological endeavors of Humboldt, Cockerell, Raoul-Rochette, and Elgin, the philological studies of Boeckh, Matthaei, Gesner, and Heyne, and the doctrines of Quatremère De Quincey, Mengs, Quinet, and Cousin contributed to this development.
There was a great deal of talk about "New Humanism" (absit nomen!), preached by Christ in Germany, and later by Villemain in France, and by certain obscure Russian cults. Lectures and feuilletons announced the marriage of Faust and Helena, and celebrated the coming of the Hellenic angel of peace to reconcile Latin-French classicism with English-Teutonic romanticism. At the very outset, Diderot had ranked Æschylus with Shakspere, and compared Sophocles favorably to George Lillo. A copy of the Abbé Barthélemy's Voyages du jeune Anacharsis lay on every boudoir table in France, although a more thoroughgoing romantic Hellenist, August Wilhelm von Schlegel, was to label these the travels not of a young Scythian, but of an old Parisian. Considering this current of thought in the light of the contemporary Industrial Revolution and of the social consequences of the romantic movement, we may call it a bourgeois classicism.
Such a spirit is present in the art and architecture of the period. It reveals itself in Empire and "Biedermeier" furniture. Imported by Thomas Jefferson in a convoy of romantic ideas, it makes itself evident in American homes built at the time. It calls to mind the demagogues of the French Revolution, and how they were constantly likening themselves to Greek and Roman heroes. We find Neo-Hellenism on the one hand in the pompous vulgarity of David, and on the other in the fragile idealism of Canova. Piranesi, Fragonard, Thorwaldsen, Flaxman, and Danneker may be summoned up to show the extent of its artistic ramifications. Many contemporary manifestations, such as "physical culture" or the late Miss Isadora Duncan, continue to remind us of the pervasive influence of romantic Hellenism.
What classics—it will be inquired—did these admirers of the classics read? Homer, Sophocles, and Plato did not hold sway as undisputed favorites. They read such authors as reflected their own feelings: Demosthenes for his rhetoric and republican sentiments, Herodotus for his narratives of marvels, Daphnis and Chloe for its languorous eroticism, Anacreon for his trivial lyrics, and Plutarch for his mysticism, his idealism, and his religious liberalism. Of the Latin writers, Seneca found the least disfavor. Few of these authors or the qualities for which they were read, obviously, are in the main stream of the classical tradition.
An inherent change in the nature and scope of classical studies becomes apparent before the end of the eighteenth century. The Greek culture had been codified and vulgarized by Rome, which in turn supplied the intellectual framework of the middle ages. Down to the beginning of the eighteenth century, education and the classics meant almost the same thing, and successive generations of minds were molded by this unchanged discipline. It may have been perverted by involution and pedantry, but it remained essentially humanistic, because it placed authority in tradition, and accepted a body of human experience as evidence. The modern, naturalistic point of view accepts nothing but physical phenomena.
Scholarship has reversed its methods and turned from internal to external evidence. The early eighteenth-century scholar pored over his texts of Homer, which the approval of the past had bequeathed to him for their just representation of life as a whole, until he was rewarded by his discovery of the digamma and thereby enabled to recover many forgotten felicities of poetic style. The late nineteenth-century scholar rolled up his manuscripts and his sleeves, took down his pickaxe, and clambered over the Troad in search of the actual remains of that small tribe from Asia Minor whose particular activities had set Homer singing. He found his reward in a half-defaced inscription or the fragment of a drinking-bowl.
Centuries of Homeric doubts culminated in the attempt of romantic scholarship to settle a question which had wearied generations of scholiasts. The contentions of the Chorizontes and the Peisistratidean tradition attest the fact that the Greeks themselves were conscious of the obscurity which surrounds the origin of the Iliad and the Odyssey. European classicism was not untroubled by this problem; Perrault had attacked Homer in the name of good taste, D'Aubignac had denied his very existence, and Vico had begun to suspect that all epics were derived from ballads. Still the prevailing pre-romantic attitude is better expressed by Dr. Johnson, with his complete faith in Homer as a real poet and his utter contempt for the "sequel of songs and rhapsodies" theory.
It remained for Wolf, basing his Prolegomena of 1795 upon the accumulated arguments of the disintegrating crities, to lay down the principles for a completely romantic reinterpretation of Homer. His task had been facilitated by Villoisin's edition of the Scholia, and anticipated by the essays of Blackwell and Wood, which had laid great stress upon the oral character of the epics and crowned Homer with the newly garnered laurels of the original genius, the bard of the soil, warbling his native woodnotes wild after the manner of Ossian. But Wolf, in attacking the unity of the Iliad, went a step farther and argued that the Homeric epic was no polished production, deliberately planned and carefully executed by a skilled poet, but a mere potpourri of the random utterances of any number of rustic bards and rhapsodes.
Thus Herder, in Homer und das Epos, had only to draw the moral: that the epic was the haphazard, vegetative outgrowth of the folk themselves, and, as such, was chiefly remarkable for its national idiosyncrasies. This conclusion is perhaps most significant of the many changes which affected the humanities under the influence of the new ideas. Modern criticism has rejected the authority of the classics and split up classical studies into such categories as archaeology, epigraphy, palaeography, economic history, and comparative philology. If anything is left, it may be served up as pure aesthetics. The critical tendencies of the eighteenth century must account for the wide gulf between a pair of classicists like Bentley and Mommsen in their aims, methods, and intellectual outlook. The international republic of letters was no more, learned treatises were written not in Latin but in German, and classical study became the expert's research and the dilettante's diversion. . . .
Terence Spencer (essay date 1954)
SOURCE: "Hellenism and Philhellenism," in Fair Greece, Sad Relic: Literary Philhellenism from Shakespeare to Byron, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1954, pp. 194-211.
[In the following essay, Spencer discusses the factors that influenced the growing interest of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century interest in Greece, and analyzes the gradual shift in attention from the spirit of ancient Greece to the political situation of modern Greece.]
It is one thing to read the Iliad at Sigaeum and on the tumuli, or by the springs with Mount Ida above, and the plain and rivers and Archipelago around you; and another to trim your taper over it in a snug library—this I know.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto iii, note 19.
Ah, Athens! scarce escaped from Turk and Goth, Hell sends a paltry Scotchman worse than both.
The Curse of Minerva (1811), a cancelled couplet.
I cannot forbear mentioning a singular speech of a learned Greek of Ioannina, who said to me, "You English are carrying off the works of the Greeks, our forefathers—preserve them well—we Greeks will come and re-demand them!"
John Cam Hobhouse, A Journey through Albania and other Provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia (1813).
Although our view nowadays of Greek civilization may be very different from that current at the beginning of the nineteenth century, there can be no doubt that the eighteenth century enjoyed a fuller appreciation of ancient Greece and her achievement than had existed since Roman times; and the result was an enthusiasm that was both intense and contagious. Greece was the new focus of attention for classical studies. The "second Renaissance" which took place in the later eighteenth century and which both stimulated and was nourished by the researches of ardent antiquaries, above all, Winckelmann, made the very word "Grecian" full of emotional overtones. The Abbé Barthélemy's Anacharsis, and its imitators, were educating Europe to an appreciation of the life and "sensibility" of the ancient Greek. The background to the more generous attitude to the modern Greeks was the idealization of the ancient Greeks. The new Hellenism was, in England and in France, but not in Germany, a powerful companion of Philhellenism, principally because it took the enthusiasts to Greece and created a demand for information about the country.
What had been recovered during the Renaissance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was more of a Roman culture than a Greek culture. It was generally assumed that the Romans had learnt their arts from the Greeks; and that therefore the accessible Roman remains of sculpture, architecture and literature were adequate models of Greek excellence. Classical enthusiasm hardly distinguished between Greek and Roman. It took several centuries to discover that Greek art and literature, and Roman art and literature, were fundamentally different from each other. The discovery came first, of course, in literature; as regards the fine arts, it was necessary to reveal the survivals in Greece itself. The growing enthusiasm for the Greek arts meant an expanding interest in Greece.
In architecture the first stage in the revelation of "the true Greek genius" was the discovery of Doric. When at Verona, Addison had noticed "the ruin of a triumphal arch erected to Flaminius, where one sees old Doric pillars without any pedestal or basis, as Vitruvius has described them";1 but the modern world knew practically nothing of the Doric order (except from the descriptions of Vitruvius and from travellers' inadequate accounts of the Parthenon) until the discovery of Paestum about the middle of the eighteenth century2 and the increase in the number of visitors to the Grecian temples of Sicily. Although the toast of the Society of Dilettanti was, from its earliest days, "Grecian Taste and Roman Spirit", the first part of this aspiration was imperfectly or negligibly realized for some years. Only after they had organized their expeditions to Greece and Ionia and arranged for their magnificent publications, did the Dilettanti reveal to themselves and to the world what Grecian Taste was. The notion of "The Antique" was undergoing a fundamental change. "Classicism" gradually came to mean a devotion to purely Greek ideals, in so far as those ideals could be discovered. The taste for Roman antiques, although still widespread, became much more discriminating. It was a common opinion that Rome had been inferior to Greece in all spheres of the arts; and Roman objects were of interest only so far as they could be relied upon as a just reflection of Greek art. The Portland Vase could be regarded as sufficiently Hellenic to provide patterns for decorative porcelain and the background to an ode on a Grecian Urn. The reputation of the Apollo Belvedere, the Venus dei Medici, and the Discobolus could be saved because they were supposed to be examples of Greek workmanship.
The new Hellenism, which developed in the latter part of the eighteenth century, thus directed towards Greece a good deal of the enthusiasm which had hitherto been concentrated upon Rome. The movement which Stuart and Revett had accelerated by their important pioneer publications had provoked, in many quarters, an enthusiasm for "pure Grecian" architecture. Some eminent architects, it is true, warmly opposed the growing fashion. The Grecian style did not grow up unopposed or uncondemned. Sir William Chambers, trained in the old Vitruvian and Palladian styles, emphatically rejected this new classicism, and proclaimed the superiority of the Roman remains in Italy and France over any surviving examples of Grecian architecture in Greece; and, without, of course, having seen any of the Athenian buildings, he ventured to assert that St. Martin-in-the-Fields was superior to the Parthenon. It should be remembered, however, that the source of information about the Doric order was, for many years, Le Roy's Ruines des plus beaux Monuments de la Grèce (1758), the incorrectness of which is obvious to modern eyes. . . . The first volume of the Society of Dilettanti's work on Athens by Stuart and Revett (1762) contained no important specimen of Doric. It was not until the second volume (twenty years after Le Roy's Ruines) that the world had an accurate account of Doric monuments. The rejection and contemptuous treatment of "Grecian" by many artists who were trained in the Palladian style becomes more intelligible when we remember that they had no material more authentic or accurate than Le Roy's to base their opinions upon. But the third volume of Stuart's work (1794) contained, for the first time, full delineations of Doric architecture; and this may be regarded as marking the turning-point in the reputation of "Grecian". After that date a visit to Greek lands and the careful study of the surviving monuments came to be regarded as an important part of the training of a young architect. With the decline of the taste for the Palladian style, the authority of the dicta of the Italian architects of the Renaissance weighed less heavily. Greater emphasis was placed on the actual study of extant remains. The Buildings of the Ancients, Robert Adam had written, "are in Architecture, what the works of Nature are with respect to the other Arts; they serve as models which we should imitate, and as standards by which we ought to judge: for this reason, they who aim at eminence, either in the knowledge or in the practice of Architecture, find it necessary to view with their own eyes the works of the Ancients which remain, that they may catch from them those ideas of grandeur and beauty, which nothing, perhaps, but such observation can suggest".3 Fired with ideas like these, a.visit to Greece for the purpose of studying the extant remains became the ambition of all the more adventurous young architects; and those who were unable to make the journey studied the records which had been made by others. The result is the large number of buildings in London and elsewhere based on Hellenic models, and incorporating memories and motifs brought back from Greece. Of course, the arguments against the adoption of an authentic Grecian style were strong. The method of construction which was appropriate to the climate of Greece is hardly suitable, or rarely suitable, in England. The porticos are unattractive and wasteful in a country where the inhabitants look for sunshine not shade. The pitch of the roof is not high enough to get rid of the snowfall in northern latitudes. The windows characteristic of pure Grecian buildings are ludicrously inadequate on the frequent sunless days. Yet none of these practical objections was sufficiently strong to overcome the romantic appeal of the Grecian manner; and buildings deriving their form from the Parthenon, the Erectheum, etc., filled the towns of Europe. It was a startling new architectural style. We have forgotten how strongly it once stirred the imagination.
Willey Revelly (d. 1799), one of Chambers's pupils, accompanied Sir Richard Worsley, the great collector of antiquities, during his tour of Greece in 1785-7, as architect and draughtsman; and on his return immediately began producing buildings in the Grecian style. It was he who edited the third volume of Stuart's Antiquities of Athens (1794), and in the preface he replied to Chambers's strictures on Greek architecture. Sir Robert Smirke was in Greece in 1802, before he was twenty-one; published his Specimens of Continental Architecture 1806, and later designed the British Museum and the Royal College of Physicians in Trafalgar Square in the new Greek style. William Wilkins, in his early twenties, was also in Athens; he published his Atheniensia, or Remarks on the Topography and Buildings of Athens in 1812, and later designed the façade of the National Gallery and University College, London, where he reproduced the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates on the top of the dome. These are some famous characteristic London buildings. But there were many other architects in the first two decades of the nineteenth century, whose travels to Greece gave them a style which filled town and country with romantically Grecian buildings.
It was the architect Thomas Harrison (1744-1829) who urged Lord Elgin, on his appointment as British Ambassador at Constantinople in 1799, to obtain casts and drawings of works of art at Athens and other places in Greece. For during the first few years of the nineteenth century conditions in the Turkish dominions gradually became especially advantageous to the English. The favourable issue of the struggle against Napoleon impressed the Porte, which became anxious to placate the government of the nation whose sea-power was dominant in the Mediterranean. Nelson was already a popular hero amongst the Greeks. He was presented with a golden-headed sword by the people of the Zante, together with a truncheon studded with all the diamonds that the island could furnish. It was on account of the enhanced prestige of Britain after the Battle of Copenhagen (1801) that Elgin was eventually able to obtain a firman from the Porte which allowed his agents to "fix scaffolding round the ancient Temple of the Idols [i.e. the Parthenon], and to mould the ornamental sculpture and visible figures thereon in plaster and gypsum". This was not all. They were also given permission "to take away from the Acropolis any pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon". Elgin wrote in his report: "In proportion with the change of affairs in our relations towards Turkey, the facilities of access to the Acropolis were increased to me and to all English travellers, and about the middle of the summer of 1801 all difficulties were removed." The story of the removal of the sculptures from the Parthenon, their shipment to England, their shipwreck off Cerigo and recovery after three years, and the eventual purchase for the British Museum for £35,000, is well known.4 It was one of the events which were bringing Greece into the English imagination in the early years of the nineteenth century. Plaster casts of most of the frieze were probably to be seen in London before Elgin's cases were unpacked. For W. R. Hamilton (who was Elgin's secretary during his embassy, and later minister at Naples, secretary of the Society of Dilettanti, and a trustee of the British Museum) had had casts made of the marbles before they were dispatched to England and these casts were visible in London before the marbles.5
Elgin's activities in Greece were notorious before Byron went to Athens and wrote his scathing attacks on the second destroyer of the Parthenon. Already in English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers (1809) he had expressed his derision of the Grecian cult:
Let ABERDEEN and ELGIN still pursue
The shades of fame through regions of Virtù;
Waste useless thousands on their Phidian freaks,
Misshapen monuments and maim'd antiques ...
Thus Byron joined in the fashionable contempt for the Elgin marbles, which, led by Payne Knight, was then usual in England. But after he had lived in Athens and could see with his own eyes the devastation that Elgin's agents had caused, his language acquired a personal bitterness:
Come then, ye classic Thieves of each degree,
Dark Hamilton and sullen Aberdeen,
Come pilfer all the Pilgrim loves to see,
All that yet consecrates the fading scene.
But we need not trouble to come to Elgin's defence; it is clear that, during the first twenty years of the nineteenth century, the eagerness to obtain genuine examples of Grecian sculpture was so great that, if one despoiler had not succeeded, another would have taken his place. The sentiments of the Greeks on the matter were noted, but not taken very seriously. Hobhouse, who was in Athens in 1810 with Byron, gave his readers a thoughtful discussion of the rights and wrongs of removing the sculptures, but concluded:
I have said nothing of the possibility of the ruins of Athens being, in event of a revolution in the favour of the Greeks, restored and put into a condition capable of resisting the ravages of decay; for an event of that nature cannot, it strikes me, have ever entered the head of any one who has seen Athens, and the Modern Athenians. Yet I cannot forbear mentioning a singular speech of a learned Greek of loannina, who said to me, "You English are carrying off the works of the Greeks, our forefathers—preserve them well—we Greeks will come and re-demand them!"7
"No circumstance", wrote James Dallaway, "has tended so much to improve the national style of design and painting as the introduction of so many genuine antiques or correct copies of them."8 But until towards the end of the eighteenth century, Italy, and Rome in particular, had remained the principal source of antiquities for the English collectors. The ancient marbles derived from Italy were almost all late copies of Greek originals or mere imitations by sculptors of the Roman period. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, Greek sculpture of the finest periods (according to nineteenth-century taste) began to arrive in the country; and the British Museum acquired a series of marbles which have made it one of the greatest depositories of Greek art in the world. More and more did Greece romantically fill the imagination. "My spirit is too weak", wrote the Greekless poet contemplating the wonders of Greek sculpture:
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
Bring round the heart an indescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old Time—with a billowy main
A sun, a shadow of a magnitude.
Moreover, new Greek arts were being discovered and appreciated. The vases which for long had been known as "Etruscan" and collected by English connoisseurs in Italy, such as Sir William Hamilton, were now recognized as Greek. An English gentleman called Stephen Graham was noted as a highly successful excavator, having secured nearly a thousand vases near Athens.10 Another collector was a merchant of the Levant Company, Thomas Burgon (1787-1858), the nephew of that Greek lady, Mrs. Baldwin, whom Reynolds painted in 1782,11 and father of the author of Petra ("a rose-red city half as old as time"). Burgon made an important collection of vases, and conducted excavations on Melos. Two travellers named Berners and Tilson returned from Greece about 1795 with a large collection of vases. The old error, that the pottery which we know as a characteristic product of Greek art of its finest periods was of "Etruscan" origin, was soon exploded; and the way was prepared for the interpretation of Greek literature and culture with the help of ancient vase-painting, a field of scholarship that has borne fruit ever since.
The idea that the library of the Grand Seraglio contained some valuable Greek manuscripts had long been held;12 it was thought, too, that the libraries of some of the mosques which had been converted from Christian Churches, especially that of Aya Sophia, might contain lost treasures of Greek literature. It had also been reported, at various times, that the monasteries of the Levant contained manuscripts, which might represent unknown and important ancient writings. When Elgin was sent out as British ambassador in 1799, it was decided, therefore, that a suitably erudite person should accompany him who might explore these unknown literary treasures. "The plan originated with Mr. Pitt and the Bishop of Lincoln, who thought that an embassy sent at a time when Great Britain was on the most friendly terms with the Porte, would afford great facilities for ascertaining how far these hopes of literary discovery were well founded. They trusted that the ambassador's influence would obtain permission for the transmission at least, if not for the acquisition of any unpublished work that might be found."13 The choice fell upon the professor of Arabic at Cambridge, Joseph Dacre Carlyle, who joined Elgin's entourage as his official chaplain,14 and it was he who by an extraordinary concession, the result of Elgin's pressure and the prestige of the English at the Porte, was admitted to the sealed library of the Seraglio. A full account of his remarkable achievement was sent home by Carlyle to the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Lincoln; and his letters make amusing reading. He was interviewed by Youssouf Aga, probably the most influential person at the Porte at that time; and Carlyle had to persuade the Turk that this activity of hunting for old books was of great importance to the Franks, even to the politicians. "I observed" (Carlyle wrote home) "that different nations possessed different customs; that my discovery of one of these ancient authors would be looked upon in England as very important; and I took the liberty of adding, that no person felt more interested in subjects of this kind than Mr. Pitt. Youssouf Aga replied, that nothing could give them greater pleasure than to gratify the British nation, and particularly Mr. Pitt; and that if they could give any intelligence where such books were deposited, I should not only have the liberty of inspecting them, but of carrying them along with me to England."
Thus fortified, and trembling with anticipation, Carlyle was ushered into the room which no infidel (it was supposed) had entered since the Turk had been at Constantinople; and there he found, amid large numbers of Persian and Arabic books, not one manuscript in Greek or Latin. The dream was at an end. Had he come upon the poems of Sappho or a codex of the comedies of Menander, Carlyle would have been famous; and Elgin would have been better known for his success in bringing Greek literature to England than in bringing Greek sculpture. But not a single classical fragment of a Greek or Latin author was found in any of these vast collections.15
Topographical investigation became especially important during the last decade of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century owing to the rise of the great Homeric Problem or Trojan Puzzle. The trouble began with Robert Wood, whose tour of Greece and Asia Minor in 1750-51 resulted in his book A Comparative View of the Antient and present State of the Troade. To which is prefixed an Essay on the Original Genius of Homer (1767). In this work (which went through five editions and was translated into French, German, Italian, and Spanish) Wood discussed, among other things, whether the art of writing was known to Homer; and he came to the conclusion that it was not. His book was well received in Germany and enthusiastically reviewed by Heyne, the foremost German humanist; and Wood's view of writing became the chief evidence on which F. A. Wolf, in his Prolegomena (Halle, 1795), based his theory of multiple authorship of the Homeric poems. Meanwhile in 1775, Wood's book was edited by his untravelled friend, Jacob Bryant, a somewhat disputatious scholar, known in literary history as the author of a strongly written defence of the authenticity of the Rowley poems. But other travellers were visiting the Troad and coming to conclusions about the topography, in relation to Homer's poems, very different from the opinions of Wood. The French traveller Choiseul-Gouffier made an important survey of the region, and concluded that Homer's Troy was not at New Ilium but at Bunarbashi. These ideas were communicated, without acknowledgement, to the Royal Society of Edinburgh by another Frenchman, J. B. Le Chevalier; and the account was translated, with annotations by Andrew Dalzel, the respected Professor of Greek at Edinburgh, as a Description of the Plain of Troy, translated from the original not yet published (Edinburgh, 1791), in which Wood's account was condemned. Bryant responded not merely with his Observations (Eton, 1795) on Le Chevalier's treatise, but followed this by a work which began an acrimonious controversy lasting for many years, A Dissertation concerning the War of Troy, and the Expedition of the Grecians as described by Homer. Showing that No Such Expedition Was Ever Undertaken, and that No Such City of Phrygia Existed (1796). The title explains itself. Naturally Bryant was immediately attacked, both by those who (like himself) had never seen the Troad with their own eyes and by those who brought their first-hand impressions to the problem. The impetuous Gilbert Wakefield hastily produced a pamphlet (A Letter to Jacob Bryant, Esq., 1797) and William Vincent reviewed Bryant's book unfavourably in The British Critic (January 1 and March 1, 1799; the reviews were also printed separately as a pamphlet). Meanwhile, James Dallaway in his important and veracious book Constantinople, Ancient and Modern, with Excursions to the Shores and Islands of the Archipelago and to the Troad, had written agreeing with Le Chevalier on the topography of Troy; and J. B. S. Morritt of Rokeby, fresh from his adventurous tour in the Levant (1794-6), leaped to Homer's defence in his Vindication of Homer and of the Ancient Poets and Historians who have recorded the Siege and Fall of Troy (York, 1798). Bryant replied to all attacks, often with great bitterness of tone, and republished his book in 1799 with corrections and additions. Replies, Vindications, Observations, and further Observations followed one another. New topographers set out to examine the evidence once again. William Francklin, in company with Henry Philip Hope, the brother of the author of Anastasius, re-surveyed the site and published his Remarks and Observations on the Plain of Troy, made during an Excursion in June 1799 (1800), corroborating Morritt's views. In 1804 Sir William Gell produced his folio Topography of Troy; Edward Clarke, Dodwell, Leake, and many others during the next few years gave the world the benefit of their observations on the problem.
"These tedious and pedantic productions" are the words used by one of the few modern scholars who have had occasion to mention the series of books and pamphlets which Wood and Bryant provoked.16 This judgment is unfair. Of course, any entirely obsolete controversy will seem tedious to later generations. But the Troy Problem was an exciting development in Homeric studies in those years; and, so far from being pedantic, the whole movement to relate the Homeric poems to a real environment was the very opposite of pedantry. Pedants did not make the difficult, troublesome, and sometimes dangerous journeys to the Trojan plain. It mattered intensely to many people of the time—and not merely to scholars—whether or not the Homeric environment could be made to fit the actual topography. Suggestions to the contrary provoked a characteristic outburst from Byron, who was not one to waste energy on pedantic controversies and who detested "antiquarian twaddle". To those who declared that it did not really matter whether the tale of Troy was authentic or not, Byron had nothing but scorn.
We do care about 'the authenticity of the tale of Troy'. I have stood upon that plain daily, for more than a month in 1810; and if any thing diminished my pleasure, it was that the blackguard Bryant impugned its veracity. .. . I venerated the grand original as the truth of history . . . and of place; otherwise it would have given me no delight.17
It is this reborn Troy-sentiment—now Homeric, no longer Virgilian—which provides one of the most telling poetical localizations in Byron's poetry:
The winds are high on Helle's wave,
As on that night of stormy water
When Love, who sent, forgot to save
The young—the beautiful—the brave—
The lonely hope of Sestos' daughter. . . .
The winds are high, and Helle's tide
Rolls darkly heaving to the main;
And Night's descending shadows hide
That field with blood bedew'd in vain,
The desert of old Priam's pride;
The tombs, sole relics of his reign,
All—save immortal dreams that could beguile
The blind old man of Scio's rocky isle.
Oh! yet—for there my steps have been;
These feet have pressed the sacred shore,
These limbs that buoyant wave hath borne—
Minstrel! with thee to muse, to mourn,
To trace again those fields of yore,
Believing every hillock green
Contains no fabled hero's ashes,
And that around the undoubted scene
Thine own "broad Hellespont" still dashes,
Be long my lot! and cold were he
Who there could gaze denying thee.
Nor was his experience of the Troad forgotten when Byron was writing Don Juan:
High barrows, without marble, or a name,
A vast, untill'd, and mountain-skirted plain,
And Ida in the distance, still the same,
And old Scamander (if 'tis he), remain;
The situation seems still form'd for fame—
A hundred thousand men might fight again
With ease; but where I sought for Ilion's walls,
The quiet sheep feeds, and the tortoise crawls....
Although Troy provided the most interesting problem of topography, the whole of Greek studies, both history and poetry, was being enlightened by the detailed inquiries into the country of Greece and the remains of antiquity which were conducted during the dozen years before the arrival of Byron in Greece. By the end of the eighteenth century it was still possible for those who concerned themselves with classical geography to present their ideas to the world without having seen the places they were writing about. Thus, Jacob Bryant evolved his ideas about the topography of Troy without any personal experience; and one of his opponents, Thomas Falconer, later to be celebrated as a student of Strabo, produced Remarks on some Passages in Mr. Bryant's Publications respecting the War of Troy (1799), being equally inexperienced. Occasionally a brilliant guess might be made by an untravelled scholar, as, for example, when Arthur Browne revealed the situation of the Vale of Tempe in his Miscellaneous Sketches, or Hints for Essays (2 vols., 1798). But on the whole the time had passed when the learned could write about the geography and topography of Greece as if it were a place built to music, therefore never built at all, and therefore built for ever; and it was now fully appreciated that the country itself must be investigated for the light it might be expected to throw on the history and literature of the ancients.
The most ardent and assiduous of those who came to Greece in these years left his bones in Athens. Among all the Englishmen in Greece none seems to have caught the imagination of the learned world like the unfortunate and all-accomplished Tweddell. His was a name (it is accented on the first syllable) which once, whatever it may sound like now, was associated with every pathos and every grace. John Tweddell, fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, having been crossed in love,19 set out on his European travels in September 1795, at the age of twenty-six. He traversed the north of Europe and parts of the Near East, and arrived in Greece. "Athens especially, is my great object", he wrote in a letter from Tenos in December 1798. "I promise you that those who come after me shall have nothing to glean. Not only every temple, but every stone, and every inscription, shall be copied with the most scrupulous fidelity."20 He had engaged the French artist Preaux, whom he had met in Constantinople, to accompany him through Greece as his draughtsman and artist. They reached Athens early in 1799. Tweddell was there for four months, diligently pursuing his researches. He died on July 25th 1799, in the arms of the faithful Fauvel, in the house of Spiridion Logothete, of a "double tertian fever". Tweddell seems to have been genuinely regretted in Athens. The Turkish commandant of the city wished his funeral to be accompanied by his own guard. He was buried in the Theseum, at his own request—precisely in the middle, because Fauvel hoped to find some traces of Theseus while Tweddell's grave was being dug. The Archbishop of Athens, the Archons, and a great crowd of people, formed the funeral procession; and as it was lowered into the grave, three salvos of musketry saluted his corpse—an unprecedented honour.21 The arrangements for a monument were a topic of discussion and rivalry among the Englishmen in Athens for several years. When Edward Clarke was there in 1801, he found that the burial had been carelessly made. Fearing foraging animals, he had the coffin re-interred more efficiently; and a lump of Pentelic marble from the Parthenon, left by Elgin's agents, was used for a tombstone. A creditable epitaph in Greek was written by Robert Walpole in 1805 as an inscription, concluding that it was some solace to his friends that Athenian dust was strewn upon this cultivated Briton's head.22 Although the poem was certainly inscribed on the marble soon afterwards (Edward Clarke, who has preserved it, says so), the tombstone itself appears to have now disappeared. When Byron was in Athens in 1810, he and one of his friends, John Fiott of St. John's, exerted themselves to get something done about Tweddell's grave. Eventually a Latin inscription also was placed in the Theseum. Fragments of this Latin monument are still preserved in the English Church at Athens, whither they have been removed from the Theseum.23 Many memorial verses were composed in his honour by scholars of both Universities. Among the prettiest was that of his friend Abraham Moore in 1799. If Tweddell must die, where but in his beloved Athens would he wish to rest? "Happy art thou, if perchance it is permitted to thee to retain any feelings in the grave; for the bones of how many great men rest here! and does not thine own Athens cover thee too?"24 Yet in spite of the interest and affection Tweddell had aroused, all the papers which he had collected, all his journals and drawings, unaccountably disappeared, after being sent by the British consul in Athens to the ambassador at the Porte. The loss was regarded as a severe one to the cause of learning, and for the next twenty years it provoked an acrimonious controversy. Tweddell's friends demanded some explanation from Elgin, who, however, denied all knowledge and resented the accusations made by Clarke, Thornton, Spencer Smith, and others. The complete loss of all Tweddell's extensive literary labours seemed a cruel blow after his unhappy death; and this, too, encouraged the University Muses to deplore "the exemplary and lamented Tweddell".25
Others, however, were more fortunate. William Martin Leake, the most accurate and indefatigable of the old topographers of Greece, was in 1799 sent on a military mission to Constantinople to instruct the Turkish troops in the use of modern artillery; for the Porte was anticipating aggression from the French. It was a time when, as we have seen above, in every province of the Turkish Empire, the English had an advantageous position; and Leake as a topographer (like Elgin as a collector) seized the favourable opportunity and travelled extensively throughout Greece and Asia Minor. In 1802 he was in Athens; and in September that year he sailed with Hamilton from the Piraeus in the boat which was conveying the Parthenon marbles from Athens and which was wrecked off Cythera. In 1809-10 he was British Resident in Yannina, much respected by Ali Pasha. Here Byron met him.26 He returned to England in 1815 and henceforth devoted himself to the preparation of a series of topographical writings on Greece, which are still of the greatest value to the modern scholarly traveller, for Leake records much that has now been destroyed.
Another serious and voluminous traveller was Edward Daniel Clarke, who, as the travelling tutor to a succession of young noblemen, made extensive journeys in the Levant. He was in Greece in 1801-2, collecting coins, ancient manuscripts (of which he secured some great prizes), statues (his colossal "Ceres" now in the Fitzwilliam Museum was his greatest achievement), pottery, and other antiquities. It is said that, when Clarke published his Travels in 1810 and the following years, he made nearly £7,000 from the sale. Greece and the Near East were certainly the subjects of popular interest. Byron rarely spoke with much enthusiasm of his fellow-travellers in the Levant; but a letter to Clarke dated December 15th 1813, is highly complimentary.27
The year 1801 was indeed a remarkable one for the English in Greece. In that year William Wilkins began his four years' tour in the Levant, preparing material for his Antiquities of Magna Graecia (Cambridge, 1807) and his Atheniensia, or Remarks on the Topography and Buildings of Athens (1812). Edward Dodwell arrived in Greece in 1801 and made a second journey in 1805-6. He was a prisoner-of-war in the hands of the French government, and, through the good offices of Le Chevalier, the topographer of Troy, he had been granted leave of absence to travel. Dodwell was a cultivated traveller and an ardent collector of the usual type in those years. It took him some years to get his travel-book ready for the press; it eventually appeared in 1819 as A Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece, in two quarto volumes. Sir William Gell accompanied Dodwell from Trieste to Greece in April 1801,28 and began a great series of topographical surveys, which, but for the fact that he has been somewhat outshone by Leake, would be regarded as a remarkable contribution to classical studies.
Of Dardan tours let Dilettanti tell,
I leave topography to classic Gell,
wrote Byron in English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers (1809), although his manuscript originally referred to him as "coxcomb".29 Gell was among the first seriously to study the topography of Ithaca for the sake of its Homeric associations and elucidations. He went to the island, in company with Dodwell, in 1806 and published his Geography and Antiquities of Ithaca in 1807, the first attempt to localize the Homeric descriptions. Gell, of course, carried to impossible lengths his identifications of the smallest allusions by the poet to the topography of Odysseus's kingdom. His Ithaca and his Itinerary of Greece (1810) had the honour of a detailed and skilful review by Byron in The Monthly Review for August 1811.30 From Patras in October 1810 Byron had written to Hobhouse, "I have some idea of purchasing the Island of Ithaca; I suppose you will add me to the Levant lunatics."31
Robert Walpole returned from extensive travels, apparently about 1808, and began his collection of papers on the antiquities and modern conditions of Greece and the Greeks which appeared in two parts in 1817 and 1820 (Memoirs relating to European and Asiatic Turkey; edited from manuscript journals and Travels in Various Countries in the East; being a continuation of Memoirs relating to European and Asiatic Turkey). Most of this impressive collection of essays and journals belongs to the pre-Byronic years. Here were printed papers by many of those Englishmen who had devoted themselves to the study of modern Greece in the early years of the century; the Earl of Aberdeen, John Sibthorp, John Hawkins, W. M. Leake, John Squire, C. R. Cockerell, William Wilkins, Henry Raikes, J. B. S. Morritt, W. G. Browne, William Haygarth, and others. Here, too, appeared a street-plan of contemporary Athens which had been prepared by the industrious and amiable Louis-François-Sébastien Fauvel (1753-1838), the cicerone of every learned traveller to Athens in those years. Fauvel had been taken into his service by Choiseul-Gouffier, the French ambassador, and eventually became consul.32 He was an eager and skilful excavator (by the standards of the age), and a paper on his work around Athens was printed in Robert Walpole's Memoirs in 1817. Among his many talents was some skill in landscape painting, in which he is no inconsiderable figure.33 Fauvel was Byron's guide to the antiquities of Athens and its neighbourhood, as he was for many others.
Byron, of course, had his joke against all this devoted inquiry into ancient Greek ruins; and he is reputed to have said, when standing before the Parthenon, "Very like the Mansion House".34 In some cancelled lines, which originally formed part of his allusion to the celebrated temple of Corinth in The Siege of Corinth, he wrote of
Monuments that the coming age
Leaves to the spoil of the season's rage—
Till Ruin makes the relics scarce,
Then Learning acts her solemn farce,
And, roaming through the marble waste,
Prates of beauty, art, and taste.
But, as a matter of fact, Byron saw all the usual things, and made all the usual expeditions as well as several unusual ones. Moreover, he employed a "famous Bavarian artist taking some views of Athens, etc., etc." for him, as he wrote home to his mother.36 He was sufficiently proud of his painter (Jacob Linckh) to mention the fact in a note to Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: "I was fortunate to engage a very superior German artist, and hope to renew my acquaintance with [Cape Colonna], and many other Levantine scenes, by the arrival of his performances."37 Nearly all the travellers in Greece took with them their own draughtsman, or employed one of those who had settled in the Levant, whose task it was to record the beauties of Nature and the relics of Antiquity. Fauvel played his part in this pictorial record of Greece, although he was not a professional artist; and many of his representations were engraved in the travel-books of the time. But there were several professionals who made their living by accompanying English gentlemen on their travels in Greece. Most of these were of Italian origin, but there were some Frenchmen and others. Dawkins and Wood had an Italian named Borra. Sir Robert Ainslie, who was ambassador at the Porte 1776 to 1792, employed Luigi Mayer to make drawings, which were subsequently engraved in a splendid series of books which Ainslie sponsored. Gaetano Mercati accompanied Liston on his embassy to the Porte 1793 to 1796; and from his drawings the engravings in Dallaway's book were made.38 John Sibthorp the botanist, who in 1794 began his second extensive tour of Greece collecting materials for his famous Flora Graeca (1806, etc.) had with him one Francis Borone. J. B. S. Morritt in 1794-6 had a Viennese artist (unnamed).39 Tweddell employed Preaux, who, on Tweddell's death in 1799, was taken over by Thomas Hope of Deepdene.40 Many of Preaux's drawings were engraved in Clarke's Travels. Agostino Aglio was met by Wilkins in Rome in 1801, travelled with him in Greece, and subsequently came to England to help Wilkins in the production of his Magna Graecia (1807), in which the illustrations were executed in aquatint by Aglio. A Neapolitan draughtsman, Lusieri, was employed by Elgin and Hamilton in Athens after they had failed to enlist the services of Turner for the task; Turner proved to be too expensive. Dodwell was accompanied by Pomardi, who made 600 drawings while in Greece; Dodwell himself made 400.41
In 1634, Henry Peacham had praised the Earl of Arundel for transplanting old Greece into England ... , but the transplantation really took place in the latter years of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth century. This eager exploring, excavating, transcribing, depicting, and collecting was fully developed before Byron went to Greece; and it forms the background, and the explanation, of many of his most characteristic utterances and attitudes while he was there. The revival of the Greek nation was taking place at a time when ancient Greece had become, more than it had ever been before, vividly resurrected in the imagination of Europe. There were thus many Englishmen in Greece to observe the stirrings of Greek national consciousness, and to form their opinions about the nature of a Greek revival, the possibility of a revolution, and the consequences of political independence. Some of the Englishmen were champions of the modern Greeks; some were sceptical of the Greek capacity for self-government. But both enthusiastic champions and cynical sceptics were expressing their opinions against a background of romantic attitudes to the ancient Greeks, as well as of the social and commercial advances which were being made by the modern Greeks. . . .
1Remarks on several parts of Italy . . . in the years 1701, 1702, 1703. (Works, ed. Hurd, Bohn's Library (1854), i, 378.)
2 See S. Lang, "The Early Publications of the Temples at Paestum" (Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XIII (1950), 48-64).
3Spalatro (1764) (ad init).
4 See Courtenay Pollock, "Lord Elgin and the Marbles" in Essays by Divers Hands being Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, New Series, vol. XI (1932), pp. 41-67; Michaelis, pp. 132 ff.; A. Hamilton Smith in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, XXXVI (1916).
5 Hamilton purchased Stanley Grove in Chelsea about 1815 and added a large East Room to accommodate them. They are still there, now that the house has become part of the College of St. Mark and St. John.
6Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, from a cancelled stanza after II, xiii. (Poetical Works, ed. E. H. Coleridge, ii, 108.)
7A Journey through Albania and other Provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia (2 vols., 1813), i, 347-8.
8Anecdotes (1800), p. 269.
9 Keats, Sonnet v, "On seeing the Elgin Marbles for the first time", Poems, ed. de Sélincourt, p. 275.
10 Clarke, Travels in Various Countries (1810, etc.), 2nd ed., 1816, IV, preface and p. 25
13 Robert Walpole, Memoirs (1817), p. 84.
14 Carlyle is in the Dictionary of National Biography; but this episode is misunderstood and slighted because the author (Stanley Lane-Poole, who should have known better) has missed the letters of Carlyle printed in Robert Walpole's Memoirs (1817).
15 Walpole, Memoirs, pp. 86, 173.
16 M. L. Clarke, Greek Studies in England, 1700-1830 (Cambridge, 1945), p. 184.
17 Diary, January 11, 1821; Letters and Journals, ed. Prothero, v, 165-6.
18The Bride of Abydos, canto the second, i-iii, 483-7, 502-20.
19 Some love-letters are printed by "George Paston" in Little Memoirs of the Eighteenth Century (1901).
20Remains of the late John Tweddell Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge (1815), p. 268.
21 Letter from Preaux to Spencer Smythe, Remains, p. 395.
22 Printed in Edward Clarke, Travels, iii, 534.
23 The following can be read:
O H S S (Ossa Hic Sita Sunt)
Johannis Tweddell An(gli)
Canta(bri)giae Literis in
(Thomas de Elgi)n Comes
(Amico Optimo Op)timeq(ue) Merito (M. C. F.) C.
I adopt the reconstruction of the late William Miller.
Felix! si tibi forsan inter umbras
Persentiscere fas sit, ossa tecum
Illo marmore quanta conquiescant,
Tuae te quoque quod tegant Athenae!
Remains, p. 23.
25 Edward Clarke, Travels, iii, 532.
26Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, ii, note B.
27Letters and Journals, ed. Prothero, ii, 308-11; a better text is in Byron, A Self Portrait; Letters and Diaries, edited by Peter Quennell (1950), i, 204-5.
28 Dodwell, Tour, i, 2.
29 1033-4. In the fifth edition of the poem, Byron, now better acquainted with Greece, again altered the epithet, this time to "rapid Gell", with the note: "Rapid indeed! He topographized and typographized King Priam's dominions in three days!" (Poetical Works, ed. E. H. Coleridge, i, 379.)
30 Reprinted in Letters and Journals, ed. Prothero, i, Appendix III (pp. 350 sqq.).
31Op. cit., i, 305.
32 See an account of him by Phillipe Ernest Legrand, "Biographie de Louis-François-Sébastien Fauvel, Antiquaire et Consul", in Revue Archaeologique, Ser. 3, XXX and XXXI (1897).
33 Two of his water-colours were exhibited at Burlington House in the Exhibition of French Landscape Painting 1950 (nos. 432, 442, representing the east front of the Parthenon and the temple of Bassae).
34Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers (1856), p. 238.
35Poetical Works, ed. E. H. Coleridge, iii, 470; the lines follow section xviii.
36 A letter dated January 14th 1811; Letters and Journals, ed. Prothero, i, 309-10.
37 Note 6 to Canto ii (Poetical Works, ed. E. H. Coleridge, ii, 170).
38Constantinople, Advertisement, p. xii.
39 Some feeble drawings are reproduced in Morritt's Letters (1914).
40Remains, pp. 402, 440.
41Tour, preface, p. ix.
James M. Osborn (essay date 1963)
SOURCE: "Travel Literature and the Rise of Neo-Hellenism in England," in Bulletin of the New York Public Library, Vol. 67, No. 5, May, 1963, pp. 279-300.
[In the following essay, Osborn offers a detailed outline of the development of "Neo-Hellenism, " identifying Romantic Hellenism as a part of this larger movement]
Appropriately, this paper begins with a quotation from Sir George Wheler. For two centuries the mainland of Greece had been virtually sealed off from the states of Europe when in 1675 Wheler, a young Oxford graduate on the Grand Tour, accompanied by a French travelling companion, ventured to land in Attica where he filled notebooks with accounts of the antiquities and the present state of the Greek people. To their surprise, though some voyagers had asserted that little besides the Acropolis remained, they found Athens to be a populous and comparatively well organized city. Wheler complained that these travellers "perhaps have seen it [Athens] only from the Sea, through the wrong end of their Perspective-Glass." The thesis offered in this paper is similar—that writers on Neo-Hellenism in England also have tended to look "through the wrong end of the Perspective-Glass."1
Despite the extensive list of writings on Neo-Hellenism in France and Germany,2 no book on Neo-Hellenism in England appeared until 1931, when Harvard University published the Bowdoin Prize Essay for that year, written by an undergraduate named Harry Levin. Titled The Broken Column, A Study in Romantic Hellenism, the essay is an inquiry into the changes that affected the classical tradition in the romantic age. By examining the concept of Greece held by various Germans from Winckelmann to Herder, and French writers from the Abbé Barthélémy to Renan, and in more detail the attitudes of Byron, Keats and Shelley, the young author provided a comprehensive panorama of the subject. The essay made a welcome contribution to the study of romanticism, within the limitations of its size and scope.
Levin's influence is acknowledged in the opening sentence of Bernard H. Stern's The Rise of Romantic Hellenism in English Literature 1732-1786 (1940). Although only fifty years are staked out for examination, Stern's study ranges beyond the announced dates, and also beyond English literature to archeology and the aesthetics of Winckelmann. He also has a chapter on "Romantic Hellenism and the Literature of Travel to the East," most of which consists of quotations.
The next important book appeared in 1943, Stephen A. Larrabee's English Bards and Grecian Marbles. The rest of the title indicates the special area covered: "The Relationship Between Sculpture and Poetry, Especially in the Romantic Period." Although thus limited to one aspect of the larger subject, Larrabee provides many perceptive remarks on the history of taste.
The fourth book (and the first outside America) is Terence Spencer's Fair Greece, Sad Relic, published in 1954. The subtitle describes its scope as "Literary Philhellenism from Shakespeare to Byron," which the Introduction explains as "a survey of the literary contacts between England and the modern country of Greece during the three centuries preceding the romantic enthusiasm which greeted the Greek national revival in the early nineteenth century." The author has thrown his net far and wide (no reference to a Turk in early drama escapes him) but has synthesized well the broad aspects of his subject. Spencer stands on the shoulders of his American predecessors, and Fair Greece, Sad Relic may be considered the definitive book on Philhellenism.
To return to "the wrong end of the Perspective-Glass" my contention is that Levin, Stern, Larrabee and Spencer have looked at Neo-Hellenism through the reverse end of the historical telescope. Their books are concerned with romanticism first and with Neo-Hellenism primarly as an aspect of romanticism. Moreover, being literary critics, these four authors discuss Neo-Hellenism chiefly as a literary event. Their attitude can even be called belletristic, for they focus on the best poets, though poetry represents only one of the manifestations of Neo-Hellenism.
My reading of the subject has led to several conclusions: first that Neo-Hellenism passed through three recognizable phases. The "bookish" Hellenism of neoclassicism, which characterized the seventeenth century gave way to the first phase of Neo-Hellenism, which may be called Archaeography, the systematic description of antiquities. (Archaeology, the term used by some writers, is unsatisfactory because of its implication of excavations, particularly in prehistorical sites). The Archaeographical phase lasted well into the second half of the eighteenth century, when the romantic element, present from the beginning, became dominant. This second phase is Romantic Hellenism, so named by Levin and his followers. The third phase occurred when Philhellenism became the foremost element: romantic sentiments towards the ancient Greeks were superseded by political sentiments towards the modern Greeks, sympathy for them in their struggle for independence from the Turks. In all three phases, each of the three elements is found; though each in turn becomes dominant.
My second contention is that Neo-Hellenism should be viewed in a chronological perspective, beginning with the renewal of contact with Greece by travellers in the seventeenth century and continuing with their followers in succeeding generations.
Thirdly, I believe that Neo-Hellenism is best understood by focusing on the means by which these travellers communicated with the general public, namely through the books they wrote about Greece, for travel literature was then, as it is now, a popular literary genre.
The first phase in "the rise of Neo-Hellenism in England" begins with the hero of our opening paragraph, Sir George Wheler. Before he set foot on the Greek mainland ("dry Greece" as it is called, in contrast to "wet Greece," the myriad Greek islands) English travellers had been rare indeed. Although ships visited Zante, Crete, Rhodes, Cyprus, Chios and other islands, as well as Smyrna and other Asia Minor ports, few of them risked calls on the mainland of Greece, especially the peninsular areas south of the Dus massif, where most of the history celebrated as the "glory that was Greece" took place. Professor Warner G. Rice, in his pioneering study of "Early English Travellers to Greece and the Levant,"3 written earlier than Levin's Broken Column though published two years later, reports only six Englishmen who visited Athens or the peninsular mainland, some of them on second-hand evidence.4 To these I can add only three others who were there before 1675.5 That year marks a milestone, for in June of that year Wheler, the young Oxford graduate, having sometime earlier parted company with George Hickes, his learned tutor while at Lincoln College, teamed up with a new travelling companion, Jacob Spon, a Doctor of the Faculty of Paris, who had practised medicine in Lyons, but had spent half a year in Rome studying antiquities. In fact, before leaving Lyons in 1674 Spon had published the first account of Athens by any eyewitness among the early travellers. This was in the form of a long letter from the French Jesuit, Jacques Paul Babin, dated 8 October from Smyrna, addressed to the Abbé Pecoil of Lyons. Spon supplied some notes and a preface and published the letter as Relation de l'État Présent de la Ville d'Athènes. It fired the French physician with a desire to visit Greece, an ardor which he communicated to Wheler. The young Englishman had inherited a modest income, sufficient to allow him to concur in the venture to Greece and Constantinople, and to pay the expenses of the "discreet and ingenious" Dr Spon.6
Two circumstances serve as concomitants to make 1675 a felicitous time for Wheler and Spon to have embarked on their journey. The first concerns the French Ambassador to the Porte, the Marquis de Nointel, who had visited Athens in the previous year. Thus when Wheler and Spon reached Constantinople in the autumn of 1675, the French Ambassador was able to describe to them in detail the present state of Athens and the Acropolis. Their eyes must have blazed when he showed them the drawings of the frieze on the Parthenon, executed at the Ambassador's direction by an artist named Jacques Carrey.7 Here was first hand evidence of what the young travellers could expect to find, and practical advice about how to venture into this Turkish stronghold: evidence and advice of equal value they could not have found elsewhere, or at any earlier time.
The second concomitant circumstance was the acquisition of a book recently arrived from Paris,8 which Wheler and Spon pored over while awaiting departure in Venice, and studied repeatedly as they voyaged among the Greek islands and the cities of Asia Minor before they finally landed on the mainland of Greece about New Year's day, 1676. Published under the name of Monsieur de la Guilletière and with the title Athènes ancienne et nouvelle (1675) the book gave a remarkable account of the city, its people and its antiquities. The young travellers hung on every point, of which only a few can be quoted here.9
The narrative whisks the reader about from one detail to another that twentieth-century travellers may recognize: one street, he tells us, is occupied mainly by shoemakers; the list of chief families reads like a directory of streets in modern Athens; the bright Greek schoolboys excel at their lessons; the conversational vivacity of the citizens prompted the remark, "We attributed much of their vigour to their diet, and their use of Honey, which the Athenians use very frequently, being excellently good. Their physicians account their Honey the wholsomest of their food . . ." (p 147).
Thus Wheler and Spon were well prepared when in January 1676 they approached Athens. Fortunately, they were able to stay with Jean Giraud, a Frenchman who served as the British consul. Wheler and Spon remained a month, each day crammed with observing details about Greek people, Greek antiquities and local botany.10 But it did not take these two keen-eyed travellers long—especially Dr Spon—to ascertain that Monsieur de la Guilletière was a literary fiction, and the book a fake. The author, one Guillet,11 possessed a gift of style, thanks to which the book has a vivacity, a narrative flow, and sense of veracity that remind one of Defoe. Sooner or later someone would have exposed the fraud, though if Wheler and Spon had not arrived so promptly on the classic ground with their measuring rods, while their host, the worthy consul Giraud, was still alive, the exposure of the fabrication might have been more difficult.
After returning to their respective homelands both young men published accounts of their travels. Dr Spon, who wrote with an easy flow of mind, produced in 1678 three volumes under the title, Voyage d'Italie, de Dalmatie, de Grèce et du Levant. . . par Iacob Spon, Docteur Médecin Aggregé à Lyon, & avec George Wheler Gentilhomme Anglois. Wheler, more phlegmatic as well as more naive than his Gallic companion, did not bestir himself until the success of Spon's book brought the threat of an English translation. Wheler's response, with a reciprocal bow to his French colleague, appeared as a folio volume published in November 1682 with the title A Journey into Greece . . . In Company of Dr Spon of Lyons. In his preface Wheler states that he found Spon's text so consistent with his own notebooks that he had been content to translate with few changes, principally the addition of many botanical observations. The book was dedicated to Charles II, who responded by conferring a knighthood on the author.
Its publication was indeed a noteworthy event, for Spon and Wheler were the first travellers since Pausanias in the second century A D to give a careful description of Greek antiquities. Later generations are particularly indebted to their description of the Parthenon before bombardment by the Venetians reduced it to ruins in 1686. The books were deservedly popular and remained authoritative for over a century. Spon's volumes were reprinted six times, including editions in Dutch, German, and Italian. Despite the availability of the French editions of Spon, Wheler's book was translated into French in 1689 and republished in 1734.
The significance of this travel book (for it is essentially one book, published in two versions) as an event in the origins of Neo-Hellenism in Europe cannot be overestimated. Of the two travellers, the precedence undoubtedly belongs to Dr Spon. Indeed, as noted earlier, Spon's edition of Brother Babin's report on Athens in 1674, before he met Wheler in Rome, with his preface and notes, may be cited as the overture to the whole Neo-Hellenic revival. Spon's published account of his travels influenced at first or second hand every serious student of Greek antiquities for four generations, and it is still a source book that cannot be neglected. Further, his exposure of the faked narrative of Guillet resulted in fanning interest in Athens. Thus Spon's and Wheler's report offered the fresh interest of travellers into unexplored territories, into what had been a virtually blank space on the map.12
In the first half of the eighteenth century many Englishmen visited the Levant, for the rise of British sea power during the war of the Spanish Succession opened up the Mediterranean to trade, especially for the sale of English cloth. The Embassy at Constantinople was considered the highest diplomatic post under the British Crown, both in importance and emoluments. The English factory at Smyrna, the chief center of the Levant Company, even in Wheler's day, consisted of about a hundred persons, many of them sons of gentlemen apprenticed to merchants. In their goings and comings they visited many of the islands, and from Smyrna they made excursions to Ephesus and other nearby ruins in Asia Minor,13 but very few of them visited "dry Greece." Perhaps the most surprising example is Aaron Hill, the future projector and pompous dramatist, who at the age of fifteen voyaged to Constantinople to visit his relative, Lord Paget, the British Ambassador to the Porte. Hill returned with Lord Paget three years later (1703) and in 1709 published A Full Account of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire, a volume of florid writing that went into a second edition, but is worthless as a source of information. Similarly, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, on the return journey in 1718 after her husband's term as Ambassador, had their fifty-gun frigate anchor off the Troad. Afterwards she sailed among the Isles of Greece, but did not stop on the mainland, then newly reconquered by the Turks from the Venetians. Lady Mary's emotive response to reading Homer on the Trojan plains was not available to readers, however, until after her death five decades later.14
Two young aristocrats followed Wheler's example and extended the Grand Tour to include Greece. In 1738 another Montagu, John, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718—1792) embarked with a company of friends on a voyage that brought them to Athens. The twenty-year-old Earl had the foresight to bring along the French artist, Jean É tienne Liotard, "to preserve in their memories, by the help of painting, these noble remains of antiquity they went in quest of." Here again, the printed account of A Voyage Performed by the late Earl of Sandwich round the Mediterranean in the Years 1738 and 1739. Written by himself did not reach the public until 1799, seven years after the Earl's death. A similar expedition was made in 1749 by another future statesman, James Caulfield (1728-1799) fourth Viscount and later first Earl of Charlemont. Like Sandwich, Charlemont was accompanied by young friends, a classical tutor and an artist named Richard Dalton. The latter's folio volume of Views in Greece, Egypt and Italy, published in 1752, provided Englishmen with their first engravings of the Parthenon sculptures. Charlemont himself published nothing on Greece until 1790, when after years in the center of Irish politics, he gave one paper at the Royal Irish Academy.
The only important published travel book during this period was A View of the Levant: particularly of Constantinople, Syria, Egypt and Greece, 1743, reporting the first-hand observations of Charles Perry M D (1698-1780) in the years 1739-1742. His full description of the ruins of Greece was the first since those of Spon and Wheler to be written by an actual observer.
Less significant than Perry's book are the two volumes of Richard Pococke's Description of the East (1743, 1745). He had visited Athens for ten days in 1740, and the nine-page description in his second volume brings to mind Gibbon's remark that Pococke "too often confounded what he had seen with what he had heard." The plates are particularly inept: he shows the Thesium with tall thin pillars, and the westernmost caryatid of the Erechtheum facing west, with her back turned to her sisters.
The year 1744 saw the publication of The Travels of the late Charles Thompson Esq; Containing his Observations on . . . Turkey in Europe . . . and Many parts of the World, a work so popular that four more editions were called for within the next few decades. But like his predecessor, Monsieur de la Guilletière, Thompson is a fictional character. The book reminds us that we are discussing the age of Robinson Crusoe and George Psalamanzar; it is a cento of paraphrased passages from other authors, especially the French. For it should not be forgotten that the English were eager readers of French travel books, both in the original language and in translation, though none of them aside from Dr Spon's is significant enough to examine here.
The most important event of the Archaeographic phase had its beginnings in 1748. Rome was then the mecca for students of the arts who flocked there from all parts of Europe, especially from England. The neoclassical style of the French Academy was dying, and the young men either looked more deeply into the classic ideal, or turned away from it entirely. The shift from neo-classicism to the antique was stimulated by the spade, for Cardinal Albani and a number of other arbiters of taste learned how to turn marble into gold. The new excavations at Herculaneum in 1738 fanned a flame of interest in the antique that was augmented by the treasures uncovered at Pompeii a decade later. Sometime earlier, connoisseurs had adopted the attitude that Greek artists were superior to their Roman followers, and the architecture and art objects found at Herculaneum and Pompeii deflated the grandeur of Augustan Rome that the Renaissance had dreamed of. The time had come to look back to the origins of classicism, to Greece from whence Roman art and architecture were now recognized to have derived.
This was the situation in 1748 when two young British artists in Rome, James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, issued proposals for an expedition to Greece to measure exactly the Parthenon and other buildings. With the financial help of several wealthy members of the Society of Dilettanti (a club comprised of English veterans of the Grand Tour,15 whose toast was "To Grecian Taste and Roman Spirit") Stuart and Revett finally reached Athens in March 1751. While Stuart made sketches of the buildings, Revett recorded the dimensions of every architectural detail, using "a Rod of Brass, three feet long, most accurately divided."
They finished in 1753, and after barely escaping with their lives, reached England in 1755. Following delays due both to careful preparation of the plates and to Stuart's indolence, their superb elephant folio finally appeared in 1762, with a dedication to the King, bearing the title, The Antiquities of Athens, Measured and Delineated. Anticipation had been built up over so many years (the proposals were issued in London in 1751 and in Venice in 1753) that publication was a major event. The list of subscribers reads like a Who's Who of the world of taste, containing besides the aristocrats, Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Horace Walpole, Laurence Sterne, Benjamin Franklin and the Abbé Barthélémy (of whom more in proper time). Of equal significance, the leading men in the building trades had also subscribed their four guineas in advance. Stuart, now a famous man, was overwhelmed with commissions and henceforth was known as "Athenian Stuart." "Grecian Gusto" became the fashionable style in architecture both in London and the provinces. Ten years later the author of Letters concerning the Present State of England reported:
There is now a purity and Grecian elegance diffused through every part of the edifices erected in the present age; the ornaments of the ceilings, walls, and chimney-pieces, are in a stile unknown to the last age; instead of the heavy, clumsey exertions of blundering artists, whose utmost efforts of finery reached no higher than much gilding, we now see the choicest remnants of the finest ages of antiquity made the standard of our taste. The rooms fitted up from the designs of Mr. Stuart, have an elegance unrivaled in all the p[a]laces of Europe.16
Parenthetically it should be remarked that the Grecian style in the eighteenth century was primarily in decorative details; the Greek revival in architectural structure did not occur until the nineteenth century. In point of fact the second (1789) and third (1794) volumes of Stuart and Revett first revealed the Doric style to the world in full detail.
In the interval between the issuing of Stuart and Revett's Proposals in 1748 and publication in 1762 the new taste had been furthered by the publications of other travellers. Only two months after they had begun work in Athens two Englishmen turned up, James Dawkins and Robert Wood, on their way to Palmyra and Baalbec. When Wood's beautifully illustrated Ruins of Palmyra or Tedmor in the Desart came out in 1753 it carried a handsome compliment to Stuart and Revett that heightened eagerness among those who had read their original proposals. Dawkins, the silent but wealthy partner, subscribed for twenty copies of The Antiquities of Athens, to follow his earlier help, for he had issued the 1751 London proposals.
Another traveller in Greece who had read the 1748 proposals was the Frenchman, Julien Davide LeRoy. LeRoy got to Greece in 1754, the year after Stuart and Revett had left, and on the basis that national honor was at stake with the help of friends at the French court managed to publish in 1758 Les Ruines des plus beaux Monuments de la Grèce. The book was warmly received and promptly translated into English (1759). Stuart and Revett were piqued because LeRoy nowhere mentioned them or their project, but particularly because he had tried to steal their market. Consequently, when the first volume of The Antiquities of Athens made its tardy appearance in 1762, Stuart took pains to point out the mistakes in LeRoy's plates as well as the errors that LeRoy had taken over from Spon and Wheler. The controversy was not left unnoticed by reviewers, and the aspect of national rivalry added to the widening interest in Hellenic antiquities.
The Society of Dilettanti was so impressed with the value of Stuart and Revett's first volume that they decided to send out an expedition to measure and delineate antiquities in other parts of Greece. Revett agreed to go again to do the measuring, a youthful artist named William Pars was employed to sketch and paint, and for the learned descriptions they engaged on Robert Wood's recommendation Richard Chandler, a young Oxonian who had already earned a reputation in archaeography with Marmora Oxonensia (1763), a careful account of the specimens owned by the University, including those brought back by Sir George Wheler. The book produced by this team, Ionian Antiquities: or Ruins of Magnificent and Famous Buildings in Ionia (1769), lived up to the expected standards, combining the virtues that Revett had displayed in the 1762 Athens with the vivid detail of Spon and Wheler. Chandler followed with two volumes of excerpts from his journals, the first being Travels in Asia Minor (1775) and the second, Travels in Greece (1776). These volumes served as the well of knowledge about modern Greece for the next two generations.
The archaeographical phase of Neo-Hellenism had now reached its crest. Stuart became involved in politics with his patron, the Marquis of Rockingham, who gathered a group of aristocrats and gentlemen weekly at Stuart's house on Leicester Square. The professed purpose of these meetings was to discuss Greek literature and antiquities, though skeptics whispered that the business of the Rockingham party was the chief topic of conversation.
Stuart dawdled so long with the important second volume, showing the "Buildings erected while the Athenians were a free people," that at the time of his death in 1788, sixteen years after the first volume, it was not yet ready for publication, though his widow managed to put it into the hands of the public in the following year. The third volume followed in 1794 with a preface by Willey Revelly, notable for its answer to the posthumous attack which Sir William Chambers, champion of the Vitruvian and Palladian schools of architecture, had made on Stuart. Chambers considered that the Parthenon appeared deformed by "gouty columns"; he stated that it was less attractive and smaller than the church of St Martin in the Fields, and that its appearance would be improved by the addition of a steeple! Revelly retorted that Chamber's ignorance of the Parthenon derived from his friend and correspondent LeRoy, that the Parthenon was about a third larger than St Martin in the Fields, and he asked why Sir Robert (author of a book on Chinoiserie) had not suggested adding a pagoda instead of a steeple? Revelly concluded, " . . . the popularity into which Grecian principles are daily growing, in spite of the feeble attempts that have been made to decry them, is the best answer to such undistinguishing assailants" (p 19-26). An unstated irony is that "Athenian" Stuart had been buried in St Martin in the Fields shortly before Chambers published his attack.
Remaining events in the archaeographic phase of the Greek Revival can be summarized briefly without the need for detailed comment. In 1806 the Newdigate Poetry Prize at Oxford was first put on a regular footing; the chosen subject was "A Recommendation of the Study of the Remains of Ancient Grecian and Roman Architecture, Sculpture and Painting," and the contestants were restricted to only fifty lines of verse in covering this broad subject. The winner, a young Scot named John Wilson, survived to enjoy a literary career under the pseudonym of "Christopher North." The fourth and last volume of Stuart's Antiquities of Athens did not appear until 1816, edited by Joseph Woods, and consisting mainly of odds and ends from Stuart's papers, along with a biographical memoir.17
In the meantime, thanks to Lord Elgin's having in 1801 convinced the Sultan to allow Englishmen easy access to Greece, travellers began to come in droves. Thus Goethe, in setting the third act of the second part of Faust in Greece, has Mephistopheles ask the Sphinx,
Are Britons here? So round the world they wheel,
To stare at battlefields, historic traces,
Cascades, old walls and classic dreary places;
And here were something worthy of their zeal.
By now the Greek war for independence was just around the corner, and when peace came, Prince Otho of Bavaria had been crowned King of the Hellenes and a century of German archaeology had begun.
Before leaving this scientific phase of Neo-Hellenism, a comment is in order concerning the state of Greek studies in England. Aside from the efforts of Richard Bentley, Greek scholarship lay quiescent. The universities remained in the state so well described by Gibbon, when the dons were "sunk in prejudice and port," and professorships were regarded as little more than livings. In 1779 when Andrew Dalzel was appointed to the Greek professorship at Edinburgh the status of his chair was at the lowest ebb. Philological studies were far behind archaeographical in concept: in 1783 when Richard Porson was invited by the Cambridge University Press to prepare a new text of Aeschylus and replied that the manuscript in the Laurentian Library at Florence should be collated, the syndics of the Press gravely suggested that "Mr. Porson might collect his manuscripts at home."19 A new era in Greek studies was clearly overdue. It began in 1793 when Porson was appointed Regius Professor at Cambridge.
Long before Neo-Hellenism reached its Romantic phase, romantic elements occurred abundantly in the early travel books. Indeed, the fictional Monsieur de la Guilletière set the tone in Athènes ancienne et nouvelle (1675) when he described his sentiments on approaching the city, a passage overlooked by writers on Romantic Hellenism:
And here I cannot but acknowledge my own weakness, you may call it folly if you please: At the first sight of this Famous Town (struck as it were with a sentiment of Veneration for those Miracles of Antiquity which were Recorded of it) I started immediately, and was taken with an universal shivering all over my Body. Nor was I singular in my Commotion, we all of us stared, but could see nothing, our imaginations were too full of the Great Men which that City had produced. (p 123-124)
In turn, Spon and Wheler echoed this attitude, though with proper restraint. When the adolescent Aaron Hill reached Greece he "found a certain pleasure in the very looking at a Place of such Antiquity."
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, equally moved, enshrined her sentiments in verse:
Warm'd with poetic transport I survey
Th' immortal islands, and the well-known sea;
For here so oft the muse her heart has strung,
And not a mountain rears his head unsung.
From Troy she wrote to Alexander Pope, "I read over your Homer here with an infinite pleasure, and find several little passages explained, that I did not before entirely comprehend the beauty of." Pope responded, ".. . you may lay the immortal work on some broken column of a hero's sepulchre, and read the fall of Troy in the shade of a Trojan ruin."21
As the century progressed and romantic sentiments became more common the very word "Grecian" produced an emotional response in the minds of all who had read Homer, even Pope's translation into heroic couplets which Bentley had decried for its lack of Homeric quality. Like Pope, other writers who had not visited Greece in the flesh travelled there in spirit, and poured their emotional response into their writings. First (and least romantic) is that strange Scotsman, Andrew Ramsay, who spent most of his life in France in the service of the exiled Stuarts, where he was known as Le Chevalier Ramsay. In 1727 Ramsay published Les Voyages de Cyrus, an imaginary account of the education of Cyrus, prince of Persia in the time of Xenophon, as he travelled with a philosophical tutor on a Grand Tour of the eastern Mediterranean. Book IV describes Cyrus's experiences in Greece, where Solon shows him around Athens, explains its laws and describes the life of the citizens. Cyrus is also taken to a performance at the theatre and given a lecture on Greek tragic drama. Les Voyages de Cyrus immediately became a best seller, and went through over thirty editions in English and French before the end of the century, not to mention translations into German, Italian, Spanish, and ultimately into modern Greek. Space does not permit detailed discussion of its content or influence, except to remark that it demonstrates the existence of a wide audience eager for information about life in antiquity. (Remember, the novel had not yet come into being, so travel books attracted readers hungry for narrative fiction.)
Perhaps the most lasting effect of Ramsay's Les Voyages de Cyrus was that it prepared the way for Les Voyages du Jeune Anacharsis, published after thirty years of incubation in 1789 by the Abbé Barthélémy. Although Barthélémy had traveled no farther than Rome, he was a keen student of Greek antiquity (we have noted earlier that he was a subscriber to Stuart's and Revett's Antiquities of Athens). Despite the fact that eight volumes were required to recount the Travels of Anacharsis the Younger, in Greece, ten editions were called for in the first ten years, not to mention translations into English and other languages, extending to Danish, Dutch, Armenian, and modern Greek. It tells how the young philosopher, Anacharsis, comes from Scythia to Greece in the middle of the fourth century and visits all the famous places. Anacharsis first learns about earlier events of Greek history. He then describes with proper romantic sentiments the appearance of Greek cities, temples, and statues; he inquires particularly into the laws and forms of government, and warms to the praise of democracy and the glorious state of liberty.
That publication of this book coincided with the dawn of the French Revolution accounts for some of its phenomenal success, and also for the enthusiasm with which the Revolutionists identified themselves with the ancient Greeks. Political leaders enjoyed comparing themselves with heroes of the age of Pericles, for democracy and liberty were now revived in Paris, along with other Athenian virtues. The women of fashion followed the example, and modeled their dress on that of the ancient Greeks; they wore sandals and tunics, cut their hair in imitation of statues or bound it with fillets over which they wore hats constructed to look like classic helmets. Carlyle's graphic description comes to mind, "Behold her, that beautiful adventurous Citoyenne: in costume of the Ancient Greeks, such Greek as Painter David could teach; her sweeping tresses snooded by glittering antique fillet; bright-dyed tunic of the Greek women; her little feet naked, as in Antique Statues, with mere sandals, and winding-strings of riband—defying the frost."22 Barthélémy's Travels of Anacharsis was only one cause behind this sentimental enthusiasm for ancient Greece, but the importance of the book in the rise of Romantic Hellenism in Europe can scarcely be exaggerated.
To return to Britons in Greece, one of the accidents of fate was the survival of a Scottish sailor named William Falconer when his ship went down in a storm off the ruined temple on Cape Sunium, an experience which he versified and published in 1762 as The Shipwreck. Present day literary historians look down their noses at Falconer's didactic verses, but they moved a generation of readers, and influenced poems as recent as Masefield's Dauber. Falconer contributed to the rising stream of Romantic Hellenism by interrupting his narrative to describe the ruins of Greece in sentimental terms, thus becoming the first traveller to do so in verse.
Surprisingly, the last quarter of the eighteenth century saw only a dozen or so British travellers in "dry Greece," aside from the archaeographers already mentioned and others on official missions. One of the most devout was Thomas Watkins in 1788, who on landing at Piraeus kissed the classic ground. In the meantime a controversy raged at home that involved numerous Hellenists, the "Troy Controversy." In brief it concerned the problem of locating the Homeric city, but expanded to the question of whether the Trojan war was merely a creation of the poet's imagination.23 A dozen learned men published tracts or dissertations on the subject, the academics' arguments being based on writings of the ancient geographers, and the travellers' on their actual visits to the Troade. In 1804 Sir William Gell settled the matter with his Topography of Troy and its Vicinity.
The year 1800 marks the beginning of another controversy, for in that year another Scot, Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin, having recently been appointed (at the age of thirty-three) Ambassador to the Porte, sent before him a group of technicians to make plaster casts of statuary in "the Temple of the Idols" as the Turkish authorities called the Parthenon. The following year permission was granted "to take away any pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon." During the next two years Elgin's "predatory band" were busily at work, and included such distinguished visitors as his Lordship's father and mother-in-law and Dr Carlyle, Professor of Arabic at Cambridge. The story is well known of the transportation of the Elgin Marbles to London and of the long controversy over their merits, before Parliament in 1816 finally purchased them for the nation (at £35,000, less than half the amount Elgin had invested in them). The British public, stimulated by the controversy, flocked to see the sculptures. Whether the stones were authentic works of Phidias or were merely Roman copies became the foremost artistic issue of the day, and ultimately became a political issue as well, the Liberals taking the opposition. Once the marbles were ensconced in the British Museum they became the most popular exhibit, and we read that the cows of the Athenian hectacomb excited the admiration of English cattle breeders and that a riding master decided to bring his pupils to study the marbles in preference to giving them a riding lesson, so that they might contemplate for an hour these riders.24 The glories of the Phidean school were now open for the eyes of all to see. The result was a revolution in taste; the delicate, polished style of the Hellenistic Venuses and Apollos (complete to their fingertips) was gradually replaced by the rough, energetic, fragmentary style of the age of Pericles. Ancient Greek art became established on the pinnacle already occupied by Greek philosophy and Greek poetry—the pinnacle of perfection beyond all emulation. Romantic Hellenism had reached its zenith.
So far there has been no occasion to mention Lord Byron. As we have seen, by 1810 the path up the Acropolis was well trodden by the boots of English travellers, most of whom wrote up their experiences in one form or another. Before the adolescent Byron entered Cambridge (1805) the public had received poetical descriptions of Greece written by Dr Carlyle (already mentioned), including one titled "On Viewing Athens from the Pnyx, by the light of a waning moon." The bulk of the Elgin marbles had already arrived in London in 1804. Indeed, Byron took a reactionary attitude towards them, and before he set out for Greece in 1809 condemned them as "freaks . . . misshappen monuments and maim'd antiques . . . mutilated blocks of art."25
A few months before Byron left England he read a book of poems entitled Horae Ionicae written by W. R. Wright, sometime Consul General of the Ionian Isles. Greatly impressed, he inserted a passage praising the book into English Bards and Scotch Reviewers:
. . . doubly blest is he whose heart expands
With hallowed feelings for those classic lands.
Who rends the veil of ages long gone by,
And views the remnants with a poet's eye!
WRIGHT! 'Twas thy happy lot at once to view
Those shores of glory, and to sing them too;
And sure no common Muse inspired thy pen
To hail the land of Gods and Godlike men.
Here, indeed, was a program for Byron to follow; to write not another travel book in prose (that task was left to his companion, Hobhouse26 ) but to write poetical travels centering on a fictional character. Thus when the first two books of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage were published in March 1812, the world welcomed it as a poetical travel book by a new major poet. But when the Grecian canto (the second) is read with the earlier travel books and poems in mind, we see that Byron had little new to say, regardless of the emotional and poetic power with which he said it. The Greek canto begins by lashing his whipping boy, Lord Elgin, then, after taking us to Albania, Istanbul, and the Bosphorus, returns to wallop the despoilers of Greek statuary. Childe Harold does not reach Greece proper until the 73 d stanza, so that only a third of the canto is actually given to Greece. The principal idea expressed by Byron's "gloomy wanderer" is a lament on the old theme of lost liberty; the modern Greeks he considered "a degenerated horde," "From birth to death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmann'd." There are even indications that at this time Byron preferred the Turks to the Greeks, an attitude common among English merchants in the Levant.27
During the next ten years Byron returned again and again to Greek scenes for his poems. Like other writers of travel books, histories, and poems he ranged beyond Greece to other areas of the Levant, for the whole Near East had become popular subject matter. W. C. Cable who studied "The Popularity of English Travel Books about the Near East, 1775-1825,"28 has supplied impressive evidence, especially from contemporary magazines, remarking, "It is hardly possible to open a single issue of a periodical of the time without encountering a review or a listing of some new travel account of the Near East" (p 74). His subsequent study of minor poetry of the same fifty years led to the following conclusions:
First, the application of these contemporary ideas to the Near East obviously originated in the travel books. Second, the popularity of the travel-book material made these themes easily accessible to the minor poets at home. Third . . . the minor poets not only read extensively in the travel books, but . . . appropriated the travellers' dominant ideas. Finally, by so doing the minor poets helped to reinforce the vogue of these ideas in England and the association of them with the Near East. Thus the minor poetry, as well as the travel books, played an important part in creating the milieu of English interest in the Near East.29
Of all the areas in the Near East it was Greece, of course, that excited the most emotion.
As noted earlier, the French were second only to the British in producing travel books about Greece. Pierre Guys set the tone with his Voyage Littéraire de la Grèce in 1771, which promptly appeared in an English translation with the Sternian title, A Sentimental Journey Through Greece. These books, like the Travels of Anacharsis already mentioned, were widely circulated in England. Byron, a voracious reader, had gulped down the literature of Near Eastern travel from boyhood on. He scribbled, "Knolles, Cantemir, De Tott, Lady M. W. Montagu, Hawkins's translation from Mignot's History of the Turks, the Arabian Nights—all travels or histories, or books upon the East, I could meet with, I had read, as well as Ricaut, before I was ten years old."30
The idea that the Greeks should once again become free goes back at least to the early seventeenth century. Terence Spencer has chronicled the subject so thoroughly that here a nutshell summary will suffice. In short, after 1687 when the Venetians briefly occupied Athens and the Peloponnesus, the population began to be stirred from the hopeless state they had known for two hundred years. In 1770 an abortive revolt occurred inspired by Catherine of Russia, which drew world wide attention to Greece. By the 1790s Turkey was recognized as the "sick man of Europe" and the great powers—Russia, Britain, and Napoleonic France—each feared that the others might take advantage of the situation. The emergence of a modern Greek literary revival led by Rhegas (d.1798) crystallized nationalist sentiment, and simultaneously the "fallout" of the French Revolution carried to distant lands. The revolt of Byron's friend the Ali Pasha of Albania in 1820 touched off the action in Greece proper. Once it had begun, the interests of the Great Powers, however tardy in participation, made the outcome certain.
Byron, in the meantime, followed the shift in attitude towards the Greek people, albeit somewhat belatedly. In the eyes of all Europe he had become the image of the Philhellene; thus an inevitability of fate called him to join in the cause with which, somewhat paradoxically, he was identified. Sir Harold Nicholson in Byron: the Last Journey has described in detail the personal factors in his decision and the magnificent courage he displayed during the nine months before his death at Missolonghi. From that day onward travel books had a new tone, for Philhellenism, especially fascination with the birth of a new nation that had won liberty on classic ground where liberty (according to accepted myth) first grew, now reached its crest. Of course, the romantic tone persisted, and archaeography also, though it became transposed to archaeology as digging became a science, especially after the Germans (to the annoyance of the British) took over under the patronage of King Otho.
Once peace broke out Greece became for the prosperous British a popular extension of the Grand Tour. Athens was now as accessible as Avignon had been a few generations earlier. Journals, diaries, and other travel books proliferated from the pens of the classical Dr Syntaxes who set out "to make a tour and write it." The successful development of the steam printing press drastically reduced publishing costs; so travel books along with all others poured forth in an expanding flood.
Only a few events remain to be mentioned. First, let us salute a milestone in the annals of the travel industry: in April of 1833, less than a year after Otho had been crowned, the first organized cruise ship, the SS Francois Premier, sailed for Greece. The passenger list signifies the importance of this enterprise, for it includes several ambassadors, the brother of King Otho, Madame la Duchesse de Berry, and, as might be expected, sundry English travellers.31
A second event, equally notable as a portent of a whole future industry, was the publication in 1840 of Murray's Handbook for Travellers in the Ionian Isles, Greece, etc. Ostensibly this should have eliminated the need for further travel books, but no change in the output can be noted. Actually, so many tourists were crawling over the Greek landscape, a writer in the Quarterly Review in 1842 complained, that Greece was being westernized and romance had gone out of the Hellenic pilgrimage.32 Only four years later, in 1846, Thackeray found his visit to Athens a subject ripe for satire in his burlesque of travel books, Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo by Michel Angelo Titmarsh:
Not feeling any enthusiasm myself about Athens, my bounden duty of course is clear, to sneer and laugh heartily at all who have. . . . What call have young ladies to consider Greece "romantic"—they who get their notions of mythology from the wellknown pages of Tooke's Pantheon? What is the reason that blundering Yorkshire squires, young dandies from Corfu regiments, jolly sailors from ships in the harbour, and yellow old Indians from Bundelcund, should think proper to be enthusiastic about a country of which they know nothing; the physical beauty of which they cannot, for the most part, comprehend; and because certain characters lived in it two thousand four hundred years ago? What have these people in common with Pericles, what have these ladies in common with Aspasia (O fie)? Of the race of Englishmen who come wandering about the tomb of Socrates, do you think the majority would not have voted to hemlock him? Yes; for the very same superstition which leads men by the nose now, drove them onward in the days when the lowly husband of Xantippe died for daring to think simply and to speak the truth.33
By this time the scribbling travellers had done their work, and Philhellenism had grown beyond the measuring and delineating into an understanding of the principles of Greek architecture and how they could be used in northern Europe. Similarly, classical scholars who had visited Greece were illuminating the texts and the literature. Grote and Finlay were writing the history of Greece with authority, especially Finlay, who invested his inherited capital in Greek real estate and penned his pages in the ashes of disillusionment.
Thus Neo-Hellenism can be seen as a phenomenon, in both intellectual history and the history of taste, that passed through several phases. Just as reading of the classics had prepared earlier generations to think of Greece as the homeland of the greatest poets and philosophers, so the books written by successive generations of travellers—once such travel became possible—prepared the public for successive new attitudes towards things Greek. In a nation where prose fiction commonly utilized travel plots and situations (Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver, Tom Jones, Humphrey Clinker, Rasselas, etc, etc) it is not surprising that travel books rivalled fiction in popularity, as library records show.34 Indeed, the books by travellers to Greece prepared the audience for Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, itself in turn a travel book that created a wave of sympathy for Greece just before the struggle for independence.
Before the nineteenth century had ended, Neo-Hellenism passed into a new phase. The romantic view became superseded by a relatively clear-eyed objectivity, based on scholarship. The emotion-charged image of Greece became transformed into a rational understanding of actualities. (Emotional attitudes towards Greece will, of course, persist, but the actualities have become available for those who wish to know them.) With the founding of the British School in Athens in 1886, British archaeologists began to regain their laurels usurped by the Germans. And with Arnold, Jebb, Jowett, Gilbert Murray, and others, Hellenism became a vital factor in English culture. The "Greek way of life" came to be a phrase spoken with comprehension and conviction.
1 Sir George Wheler, A Journey into Greece (1682) 347.
2 Neo-Hellenism may be defined as the revival of interest in ancient Greek civilization, based on the conviction that it made a peculiar and lasting contribution to Western culture. Among studies on French aspects, the following may be mentioned: Louis Bertrand, La fin du classicisme et le retour à l'antique dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIesiècle et les premières années du XIXe, en France (Paris 1897); Demetrius Bikélas, "Le Philhellénisme en France," Revue d'Histoire Diplomatique ν 346-365 (Paris 1891); René Bray, La formation de la doctrine classique en France (Paris 1927); Nicholas Torga, Les voyageurs Français dans l'Orient Européen (Paris 1928); Le Comte de Laborde, Athènes aux XVe, XVI,eet XVIIesiècles, 2 vols (Paris 1854); Jean Longnon, "Quatre siècles de philhellénisme français," La Revue de France I (No 6) 512-542; É mile Malakis, French Travellers in Greece, 1770-1820: An Early Phase of French Philhellenism (Philadelphia 1925). For Neo-Hellenism in Germany see: Karl Borinski, Die Antike in Poetik und Kunsttheorie von Ausgang des klassischen Altertums bis auf Goethe und Wilhelm von Humboldt (Leipzig 1914-24); E. M. Butler, The Tyranny of Greece over Germany (London 1935); Humphrey Trevelyan, The Popular Background of Goethe's Hellenism (London 1934); Hans Meyer, et al, Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliographie zum Nachleben der Antike (Leipzig and Berlin 1931-34).
3 University of Michigan Essays and Studies in English and Comparative Literature (Ann Arbor 1933).
4 John Erigena in the ninth century, on the testimony of William of Malmesbury (p 206); Anthony Jenkinson and John Sanderson in Elizabethan times (p 213); the painful perigrine, William Lithgow who was in Greece about 1610; William Petty, sent by Sir Thomas Roe to look for marbles in Athens; and another agent (or Petty?) dispatched by Sir Thomas to the Peloponnese (ρ 252, 255).
5 Master John of Basingstoke, Archdeacon of Leicester in the early thirteenth century, is said by Matthew Paris to have studied in Athens. Lord Winchelsea, Ambassador to the Sublime Porte, stopped there late in 1668 and a few months later sent a frieze to England. The traveller Bernard Randolph, who cruised about the Levant on several voyages, visited the mainland in 1674, though his Present State of the Morea did not reach print until 1686. Quite possibly three other Englishmen also visited Athens: Sir Paul Rycaut, while secretary to Lord Winchelsea, Lord Henry Howard (later sixth Duke of Norfolk) on his return from a visit to Constantinople in 1664, and the traveller Edward Brown.
6 Besides their enthusiasm for antiquities the friends had at least two other bonds of interest. The first, surprisingly, was religion, for Dr Spon held strong Protestant views and Wheler had decided before embarking on his travels to enter Holy Orders on his return. He ultimately became a Prebendary of Durham Cathedral and the author, among other worthy works, of The Protestant Monastery; or Christian Oeconomicks, containing Directions for the Religious Conduct of a Family (1698). The second, perhaps equally surprising, was science, for Wheler had been from childhood an ardent and observant botanist.
7 Wheler, Journey, ρ 362. Carrey's drawings were first reproduced in the Abbé Barthélémy's Les Voyages du jeune Anacharsis in 1791, in miniature. The first enlarged reproductions were in Vol IV of the Antiquities of Athens, 1816.
8 It was licensed 13 Dec 1674 and registered 4 Jan 1675.
9 From the English translation that appeared promptly in 1676 under the title, An Account of a Late Voyage to Athens, Containing the Estate both Ancient and Modern of that Famous City . . . now Englished.
10 In his preface Wheler observed, "I know some will say, why does he treat us with insiped descriptions of Weeds, and make us hobble after him over broken stones, decayed buildings, and old rubbish?"
11 He had developed a correspondence with the Capuchin missionaries in Athens, and based his account on information received from them, printing for the first time a map of Athens that had been sent to the Capuchin headquarters in Paris. Guillet also had corresponded with Giraud, who had been consul to the French before he shifted his services to the British. He then embellished the current information with details gleaned from the ancients. (Fortunately these had been collected by Johannes Meiersuis, professor of Greek at Leyden, in his Athenae Atticae, 1624.)
12 Guillet, who had already profited from three editions of his book in 1675, did not retreat before Spon's exposé, but counterattacked in a booklet that questioned whether Spon himself had ever been in Greece. In the exchanges that followed Guillet managed to obscure the issue so successfully that his fraudulent travel book was cited seriously by a learned British Hellenist as late as 1810 (Edward Clarke, in his Travels III ii sec 2, 472).
13 For example, Edmund Chishull, British Chaplain at Smyrna, 1698-1702, whose Travels in Turkey and back to England were not published until 1747.
14 Her Letters were first published in 1763, the year after her death.
15 Lionel Cust, A History of the Society of Dilettanti, 1914. 1772,
16 ρ 244-245.
17 Beginning in 1810 classical topography became a popular branch of archaeography with Sir William Gell's Itinerary of Greece, a sub-genre that he exploited to the full. In 1812 William Wilkins, the future architect of Downing College, Cambridge, of University College, London, and the National Gallery, whose career is linked with the Greek Revival, published Atheniensia, or Remarks on the Topography and Buildings of Athens. Edward Dodwell's Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece, in two volumes quarto, followed in 1819. Two years earlier the Dilettanti Society had published an omnium gatherum, entitled Unedited Antiquities of Attica.
18 From Bayard Taylor's translation, Act III scene i.
19 J. E. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship (1908) II 427.
20Letters and Works of Lady Mary Worthy Montagu (1893) I 300
21Correspondence of Alexander Pope, ed G. Sherburn (1956) I 440.
22The French Revolution, ed C. R. L. Fletcher (1902) III 223.
23 M. L. Clarke, Greek Studies in England, 1700-1830 (1945) 184 et passim.
24 J. T. Smith, Nollekens and His Times (1829) chapter 11.
25English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, lines 1027-32. In 1810, visiting the Acropolis daily, he came to take a different view. "These relics that were being carried away were not now in his eyes worthless stones . . . but the heritage of the finest culture of the Greek race " Leslie A. Marchand, Byron (1957) I 224-225.
26 Hobhouse carried a large supply of paper and ink, as well as the standard books on Greece. He would spend his mornings studying the classic sites while Byron was poetizing, and then take Byron back to the site in the afternoon. Hobhouse's Journey through Albania was published in 1813. See Marchand I 266, 268, III 1107, 1115-16.
27 See his letter of 3 May 1810: "I see not much difference between ourselves and the Turks. . . . I like the Greeks, who are plausible rascals,—with all the Turkish vices, without their courage." But he was superior to, and amused by, the merchants' contempt of those they exploited. See Marchand I 226 and Byron's note on stanza 73.
28Philological Quarterly XV (Jan 1936) 70-80.
29Philological Quarterly XVI (July 1937) 271.
30 Moore's Life of Byron (1830) I 255.
31 Two printed accounts exist in the Gennadius Library at Athens, and doubtless elsewhere; the first by J. Girandeau (1835) and the second by someone who wrote under the pseudonym, Marchebeus (1839).
32Quarterly Review LXXX No. cxxxix 130-131.
33Burlesques; From Cornhill to Grand Cairo (1903) 271.
34 Paul Fussell, Jr, "Patrick Brydone; The Eighteenth Century Traveller as Representative Man," Bulletin of The New York Public Library LXVI (1962) 349-350.