A Summary Of The Turkish Embassy Letters

Decent Essays

In late summer of 1716, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu set out in the company of her husband and young son from London on an overland journey to Istanbul. That fall, she traveled over the Germanic regions of the sprawling Hapsburg Empire, and by winter, they had crossed the frozen plains of Eastern Europe into Ottoman held territory. By spring, Lady Mary found herself happily ensconced in the old capital of Adrianople. Surrounded by the magical splendor of the exotic east and swept up in scenes from a Hellenistic mythohistory, she wrote regularly and lavishly to her friends back home, detailing the beauty of her strange new world. These letters would form the basis of her posthumously published her Turkish Embassy Letters, still regarded as some of the finest examples of the familiar letter. Drawing on traditions ranging from Reconstruction satire to classical Greek poetry, Lady Mary’s writings provide an unparalleled depth of insight into a unique moment of east-west cultural contact. This study in contrast is what makes Montagu’s writings on feminine beauty the perfect dichotomy through which to study the complex dualities and multiplicities of trans-imperial interaction. The Turkish Embassy Letters are remarkable in many ways: they exemplify the witty rapport of familiar letters, the keen observations of an Enlightenment intellectual, and the romantic musings of a young woman. Standing on the edges of vast empires, she writes philosophy in prose both searching and sarcastic.

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