In April 1812 Henrietta Liston and her husband Robert, the esteemed Scottish diplomat, boarded the Argo and sailed to Constantinople. At almost 70, Robert was appointed British Ambassador to Sublime Porte. The Listons reached Turkey in June, found the cherries in great perfection and Mahmud II, the young Sultan, about to begin the fourth year of his reign.
Over almost eight years' residency in the Ottoman Empire, Robert spent his time preserving peace between Turkey and Russia and patching and palliating, and endeavouring to prevent mischief, while Henrietta, as diplomat's consort, kept up a friendly intercourse with all mankind. Henrietta also kept travel journals which, preserved in the Liston Papers archive at the National Library of Scotland, offer a unique vision of Constantinople in the early years of the nineteenth century.
Henrietta Liston's Turkish Journal is a significant yet virtually unknown work of women's travel writing. As the wife of the British Ambassador to the Sublime Porte, Liston had privileged access to the Ottoman elite and diplomatic corps. Her journal reflects on British Ottoman relations, combining Orientalist perspectives with a human-centred version of the picturesque. It offers astute commentaries on places, people and events including a plague-ridden Constantinople, a visit to the harem of the Grand Vizier's deputy, the presentation of ambassadors in the Seraglio and the departure of pilgrims on the hajj.
Edited by Patrick Hart, Valerie Kennedy, Dora Petherbridge. Associate Editor F. Özden Mercan.
Image Credit:Edinburgh University Press