John L. (John Lawson) Stoddard.

John L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) online

. (page 3 of 12)
Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 12)
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tionless as a Chi-
nese idol. If not,
a careless move-
ment, or misstep,
may give the tour-
ist an impromptu
Turkish bath

among the fishes of the Bosporus. Having at last secured
our boat, and taken our seats with infinite precautions, we
started up the Golden Horn. It is an arm of the sea which
pierces the European shore, almost at right angles to the
Bosporus, and winds thus inland for about four miles, having
at the lower end Stamboul on one side and the European
quarter on the other. It is a curving, tideless, land-locked
harbor, with water deep enough to float large ocean-steamers;
and it is called the "Golden Horn," not simply from its
likeness at sunset to a glittering cornucopia, but from the
fact that into its bosom has been poured the golden wealth
of almost every nation on earth. Across its fair expanse,
we see occasionally a floating bridge, like a chain bracelet


clasping a beautifully rounded arm. Meantime, along each
bank extends a charming perspective of vessels, houses,
mosques, and cypress groves; while here and there, beyond
the masts of ships, a graceful minaret lifts itself toward
heaven, like a shaft of ivory.

At last our boatman landed us at one of the numerous
cafes along the shores. Seating ourselves at the windows,
we idly watched the sun's rays pierce the cypress trees
and fleck the surface of the Golden Horn, while we attempted
to swallow some of that singular mixture which the Turks
call coffee. At first this beverage tasted like sweetened
mud, but, presently, we began to like it. Its fault (if it has
a fault) lies not in its ingre-
dients, but in its preparation.
The coffee-beans are, in the
first place, ground to the finest
possible powder; this, either
alone, or mixed with sugar, is
then boiled with water. The
moment it has reached the
boiling point, it is poured into
a tiny porcelain cup. The sedi-
ment sinks to the bottom, while
the lighter part forms on the
surface a kind of foam, Avhich
the Turks call cream. Coffee,
thus made, is much weaker
than ours; and this explains
how Orientals can consume
such quantities of it, with no insomnia or shattered nerves
as a result.

Lying on a table in the cafe was a Turkish newspaper.
\Ye did not get much news from it, for we knew nothing of
its complicated characters. Still, there is always a fascination




in seeing thus the evidences of a literary life outside our ou n.
It makes the world seem broader, and one's own importance
in it less, to find books, poems, periodicals and essays written
in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Russian, or Japanese, of which
one cannot read a word. It always gives me, though of course
in a lesser degree, somewhat the same feeling that I experience
at night in looking off at other suns and worlds than ours.
There are in Constantinople scores of European newspapers,
some printed half in English and half in French, others
exclusively in Greek or Italian. All these are subject to a
rigid censorship; but purely Turkish journals (strange to
say) have a much harder lot in this respect than foreign
ones. This, we are told, is due to the fact that these alone
are read by the great mass of the Moslem population, and

hence are the
only ones capa-
ble of exerting
a decided influ-
ence on the Sul-
tan's subjec

From the cafe,
we crossed to the
opposite side of
the Gold en
Horn, to inspect
a Turkish grave-
yard. Moslem
cemeteries are
almost invari-
ably shaded by
a grove of cypress trees. It was a custom of the Turks,
when they first came to the Bosporus, to plant beside each
new-made grave a cypress tree. To some extent this admi-
rable custom still prevails. Hence, many of their cemeteries,



especially in the Asiatic suburb, Scutari, are veritable forests,
miles in length, which spread above the dead a canopy of
leaves. These, to the Turks, are favorite places for prom-
enades, and even for picnics; and on a pleasant day one


may see hundreds of them here, walking about beneath the
trees, as if in a vast cathedral, or smoking tranquilly beside

some grave.

" The cypresses of Scutari
In stern magnificence look down
On the bright lake and stream of sea,
And glittering theatre of the town;
Above the throng of rich kiosks,
Above the towers in triple tire,
Above the domes of loftiest mosques,
These pinnacles of death aspire."

Among these cypresses fly many birds, called pelkovans,
whose melancholy cries have given rise to the singular super-
stition that they are lost souls, or, more pathetic still, the



restless spirits of unhappy Turkish women who have died
childless. In a Turkish cemetery each grave is usually
marked by two tall, marble tombstones, one at the head, t lie-
other at the foot. On these, two angels (so the Moslem
thinks) will seat themselves at the last day to judge the soul
of the deceased. A tombstone which denotes
the grave of a man is always crowned either with


a turban or a fez, carved from the marble of the Marmora.
The monuments of women are ornamented with flowers,
chiseled in the pure white stone. On all of them are epi-
taphs, inscribed in letters which are frequently raised and
gilded. The tombstones which are surmounted with turbans
have the disadvantage of presenting, when seen in a dim
light, a grotesque resemblance to intoxicated human beings.
When left uncared for for many years, they topple about, and
incline to every possible angle, or else fall prone upon the
ground, as if fatigued by their long struggle with gravitation.
In fact, where some of the turbans, or fezzes, have been



broken off, they look like de-
capitated bodies, presenting a
shocking, yet laughable, appear-
ance of neglect. The Turks, by
the way, are always buried in
great haste ; for they believe
that the dead actually surfer
until their bodies are committed
to the tomb. Strange, is it not?
Deliberate and slow in life, the
only hurry in which the Turk is
ever seen is when he is going to
his grave !

At the extremity of the Golden
Horn lies Eyoub, a tranquil suburb of the great metropolis.
It has one street which every Moslem looks upon as sacred :
in fact, so sacred, that up to the present time no Christian,
even of the highest rank, has been allowed to enter it, or step

within the pure,
white, marble
mosque at its
extremity. For
here is buried
Eyoub, the
of Mohammed,
who, only forty
years after the
Prophet's death,
was killed in the
first and unsuc-
cessful attack of
the Moslems on




nearly eight centuries before the final con-
quest of the city by the Turks. Within
this mosque every Sultan is solemnly
inaugurated into sovereignty by having
that hero's sword girded on his thigh.
Then, with imposing pageantry, the
monarch, followed by his glittering
court, comes down the sacred path
between some gilded tombs of royalty,
until he reaches an irregular marble
block set in the centre of the street.
On this he steps to mount a snow-white
horse, which bears him in triumph to
his palace on the Bosporus.

On my first visit to Constantinople,
I was particularly fortunate in having
an opportunity to see a little of Turkish

family life. A young French gentleman, to whom I had

brought a letter

of introduction,

was acting then

as tutor to the

only son of a rich

and influential

Pasha. To the

residence of this

wealthy Turk my

friend one day

conducted me.
"What sort

of mansion am I

going to see? "

I asked him on

the way.




" All Turkish houses," he replied, " are built after nearly
the same design. Each is divided into two parts, the
selamlik, and the harem."

" The harem! " I repeated in astonishment: " I thought
that only the Sultan possessed a harem."
My friend threw back his head and laughed.

" Pardon r _-

me," he ex-
claimed, ' but
that idea of
yours strikes me
as very amu-
sing, since, as
you will soon
discover, it is
utterly errone-
ous. The part
of the house
that we are about to enter,"
he continued, as we approached
the doorway, " is the selamlik.
It is intended strictly for the
men of the household. Beyond
that is the harem, reserved ex-
clusively for women. In one
the Pasha receives his friends ;

in the other his wife welcomes hers. A single door divides
the two establishments, but to all visitors they are as distinct
as separate houses. The harem is, however, the larger and
more elegantly furnished of the two."

" Excuse me," I faltered, "but I do not know just what
you mean by the harem? "

"The word 'harem,' " he replied, "means 'sacred en-
closure,' and sometimes denotes the sanctuary of a temple.




Hence, in domestic life, it merely signifies a place secure from
all intrusion."

Thus speaking, we entered the general reception-room of
the selamlik. It was carpeted with handsome rugs, while
around the walls extended a long line of couches covered with
soft cushions.

" Of course," said my companion, " you understand that

this is as far as
you or I, or any
man, save the
Pasha himself,
may go in this
Into the harem,
where his wife
and daughters
live, no gentle-
man, however
intimate a
friend he may
be, may pene-
trate. In fact,
the Pasha him-
self is not allowed to cross its threshold, if his wife has any
female callers."

" How does he know whether any callers are there? " I

" Because," was the reply, " all Moslem ladies leave their
slippers outside the harem door, and over them no Turk will
ever step. This is a universal custom, which every man
respects, as he desires his neighbor to respect it in his turn."
At this moment the door opened, and the young pupil of
my friend entered. He was sixteen years of age, courteous
in his manners, and spoke French like a Parisian. Up to the




age of ten his home had been exclusively in the harem. Then
he had stepped across the threshold, and had become a man;
that is to say, he had, ever since that time, frequented the
selamlik, and dined there with his father
when he received invited guests. Of course,
however, he always had free access to his
mother and sisters, and spent much time in
their society.

A moment later the Pasha himself entered
the room. He was a tall, fine-looking man,
and wore imposing decorations. As soon as
he appeared, his son arose and assumed a
most respectful attitude, with his arms folded on his breast.
In fact, after we had made our salutations, and had resumed
our seats, the son remained in the same position. The Pasha
asked him several questions, which the boy answered mod-
estly, using invariably the word Effendi, or Sir, in speaking
to his father. At length the elder Turk waved his hand

kindly and exclaimed :

"Sit down, my child." Without
that invitation, the boy would not
have ventured to do so.

' Is it possible," I asked my
friend, when we were alone, " that
there can be much love where there
is so much formality? "

' Yes, indeed," was the reply;
" I never saw more genuine affection
than that existing between this father
and his boy. Their lives are bound
up in each other. But the Turks,
like all Orientals, look on filial reverence and respect as the
most important of virtues; and they believe that too much
freedom and familiarity tend to destroy these qualities."



Before we left the house my friend conducted me into the
smoking-room of the mansion.

" Has the Pasha a large establishment? " I inquired.
" Not for the Orient," was the reply, " although there
are eight or ten servants in the harem, and fourteen here

in the selamlik, merely to
wait on the Pasha, his
son and myself."

"What do they 'all find

^^^^^^ _^^^^^^^^^^_ to do? " I asked in aston-


" You must remem-
ber," said my friend,
" that in the Orient, each
servant has his specialty,
and will do nothing else.
Moreover, there are many
gradations in their rank.
Highest of all are the
Pasha's amanuensis and
his steward. Beneath
' them come the head
cook, the master of the
stables, and a valet for
each of us. Next in
rank are the men who
row the family on t he-
Bosporus, the gardeners, grooms and stable-boys; while-
last of all are a few lesser functionaries, whose duty it is to
wait on those above them."

I see," I laughingly exclaimed, "it is as the poet has
told us:


"Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em;
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinititm"




" But what is the cost of all this?"
I continued, seriously.

" Not so much as you may imagine,
was the reply. "One thousand dollars a
month covers the whole expense of this
large household, including horses, car-
riages, private boat, food and clothing
for all, and salaries for this retinue of

The harem of a Turkish house must
always be to the male sex more or less of a mystery; but if
the ladies who do me the honor to read these pages could
enter one, they might perhaps be surprised to find there only
one wife. For, although allowed by law to have four wives,
the Turk of the present day rarely has more than one. This
fact is no doubt due in part to motives of economy; for every
wife is legally entitled to her separate apartment and her
private servants; and this, in these days, even in the Orient,
involves a large expenditure of money. Moreover, since a

wives must all

be treated on a

^3i? f *\ff jpr": ?> ' - P : '

"" '" basis of P erfect

equality, any
expense which
the husband in-
curs for one,
must be exactly
multiplied by
the number of
his other con-
sorts. Hence,
we can un-
derstand the





Turkish proverb
which declares
that a household
with four wives
is like a vessel in
a storm.

In the compli-
cated phases of
modern society
polygamy in
large Oriental
cities at least, is
itself, save in the case of the Sultan, or of wealthy officials.
My friend declared that in all his acquaintance at Constanti-
nople, he knew only one man who had two wives, and he was
a Frenchman who had become a Moslem. It is well to re-
member also, in justice to Mohammed, that the law permit-
ting each of his followers to have four wives was really a lim-
itation of the polygamy exist-
ing before Iris time. Polygamy
had flourished in the Orient
for ages. The Patriarchs had
several wives. King
Solomon (who never-
theless enjoyed a rep-
utation for wisdom) is
said to have had seven

It is often care-
lessly stated that the
Islam faith regards all
women as soulless, and
denies them immortal-




ity. This is not so.
The Koran repeated-
ly assures to women
equal participation
with men in the joys of
Paradise. Thus, one
verse reads: " God
hath promised to all
believers, men and
women, gardens and
goodly places to dwell
in forever. ' ' Again,
even more explicitly,
it states: " For all
believing men and be-
lieving women; devout men and devout women; for truthful

men and trutJiful women; and for all men and women who

remember him, God hath

prepared forgiveness and a

great reward." And every

Friday, at the conclusion

of the sermon, a collect is

recited, praying that divine

mercy and grace may rest

upon all faithful and be-
lieving women, whether

living or dead.

Some facts of a legal

nature regarding Moslem

women are not generally

known. For example, a

daughter, at her father's

death, shares equally with

a son in the estate. A



Mohammedan wife has absolute possession of all property
that was hers before marriage, and of all that subsequently
comes to her. She can dispose of it during her lifetime, or
at her death, as she pleases. She can sue and be sued, inde-

pendently of her hus-
sue him, and be
may plead her
fore the courts,
does so. Nor
Not only is
and p ro-
with a suit-
but (more im-
when he mar-
(not her father)
dowry, which is
vidual property ; and
her, that dowry still


band ; she can even
sued by him. She
own cause be-
and sometimes
is this all.
a husband
bound to
his wife
vide her
able home.
portunt still),
ries her, lie
must give her a
to be her incli-
if he ever divorces
remains her own. As

regards the custody of children in case of a divorce, Mohammed
settled the question, thirteen hundred years ago, by saying
that a son must remain with his mother as long as he requires
her care; and a daughter until she is married. On the
other hand, the divorce laws in the Orient put even those
of South Dakota in the shade. If a Moslem husband wishes
to divorce his wife, he merely has to say: " I give thee
thy dowry; I divorce thee," and the thing is done.
Twice he can say this and take back his wife; but if he
says it the third time, all is over. He has lost her, at
least until some other man has married and divorced her;
then he has another chance! The woman, however, has
no such opportunity as this. In Constantinople the men
do all the divorcing. There is no doubt, therefore, which


of the sexes holds the reins in Turkey, and a Moslem
could hardly appreciate the story of the American lady who
said: " Ten years ago the minister made John and me one,
and ever since then we have been trying to find out which
one." Yet, deplorable as their lives may seem to us, we must
not think that Turkish women languish in absolute seclusion.
On the contrary, so far as associating with their own sex is
concerned, they have great freedom. They walk or drive
about at any hour of the day, they have their pleasure-
boats on the Bosporus, they travel in the steamboats, trains
and horse-cars ; they visit their friends ; they go to the mosques ;
they spend hours in the baths; they shop freely in the
bazaars ; in fact, they do almost everything they choose, pro-
vided they wear a mantle and are lightly
veiled, and associate only with their
own sex. Thus clothed and attend-
ed, they have an
advantage over
many Christian
ladies, for they
are then never
subjected to the
slightest insult
in even the poor-
est quarters of
the city.

The place be-
loved above all
others by these
Eastern women
is the bath-house. Many of these establishments are quite
luxurious, and may be fairly called the Club Houses of the
ladies of Stamboul. Here they can meet as often as they
like, and gossip to their hearts' content; and so enamored


8 4


are they of this dissipation, that they will sometimes bring
their luncheons with them and stay all day long. In those
softly tinted halls there are often gathered a hundred ladies
at a time, in every stage of dress and undress, chatting,
laughing, smoking, doing fancy work, or being waited on by
female slaves. And, according to the testimony of European

ladies who have seen them, they
present such an array of lovely
forms that one could easily imag-
ine the sumptuous rooms thus
tenanted, to be a portion of the
Paradise promised to all faithful

With the exception of conver-
sation, music, and reading, Oriental
ladies have few indoor diversions.
The Turks, of course, never give
social entertainments like ouro\\ n.
To them the promiscuous mingling
of the sexes at a ball is abhorrent,
and waltzing they no doubt con-
sider an invention of the devil.
In fact, dancing, as an amuse-
ment, is something which indolent Orientals cannot compre-
hend. When a distinguished Moslem visited Paris, not long
ago, he was invited to the house of a wealthy banker. There,
to his amazement, he beheld his host indulging in a waltz.
' How is it possible," he cried, "that, when he is so rich,
this gentleman gives himself the trouble to dance? Why
does n't he hire some one to do it for him? "

There is, however, a kind of dancing in which some fol-
lowers of the Prophet are adepts. It is that practiced by
the Whirling Dervishes. These men are easily recogni/ed
by their peculiar, tall, felt hats, resembling in form and color




inverted flower-pots or loaves of Boston brown bread. All
visitors to Constantinople come to witness their unique per-
formances, the
attendance of
strangers being
desired by the
dervishes, with-
out regard to
their religious
belief. The pres-
ence of spec-
tators probably
adds to the nerv-
ous excitement,
which they crave. Imagine, in the centre of a room contain-
ing galleries for visitors, an old man standing motionless, sur-
rounded by a score or more of younger men, who have saluted
him and patiently await a signal from his hand. When it is
given, one of the dervishes begins to spin around like a top,
resting on the heel of his right foot, while propelling him-

self with the left. Another

^- - ^

quickly follows his example,
then another and another,
until the entire company is
in motion. The skirts of
their long robes, belted at
the waist, soon stand out
from their bodies like so
many bells, and keep their
shape as steadily as if cast
in bronze. Meantime the
pose of each of the dancers
is identical. The head droops to one side, the arms are
extended, the right hand is raised aloft with upturned palm,




as if to claim the blessing of Allah, the left hand lowered
with the palm inverted, in token that what they thus receive
they will hand down to others. Round and round they go,
not in one place alone, but circling slowly through the hall,
as planets turn on their own axes, while revolving about a
central sun. But, though the eyes of the whirlers were
half-closed, we never saw the least collision of even one robe
with another. Meanwhile an orchestra
of flutes and tambourines kept up a
weird, monotonous music, which grad-
ually grated on our nerves, and made
us restless and excited. The dancers
were much more affected by it,
and as its measures grew more
rapid, they seemed to lose all
consciousness of their surround-
ings, revolving with increased
velocity, a smile of ecstasy
upon their parted lips. No
doubt they thus experience a
vertigo which has a temporary
A mm rn TMB movwcss. effect upon the brain like that

of intoxication. But though their revolutions were con-
tinued for an hour, with scarcely an instant's pause, we saw
no dervish fall from the ranks, nor were they finally any
more affected than to stagger slightly at the conclusion of
their exhausting work.

The most enjoyable excursion to be made in the envi-
rons of Constantinople is the sail of sixteen miles on the
Bosporus, from the Golden Horn to the Black Sea. It
is a fascinating scene of brilliant colors and perpetual move-
ment. Vessels from every quarter of the globe, steamers
from various parts of Europe, and Turkish men-of-war bear-
ing the crimson flag and crescent, all these are anchored



here, or passing to and fro. Around them, too, are little
boats, which skim across the waves, as light and swift as sea-
gulls, some bearing from shore to shore officers in uniform,
others conveying richly-dressed pashas, or half-veiled ladies
from a Turkish harem. Aside from all that man has done to
give these shores immortal interest, the scenery which they dis-
close is most enchanting. The contour of the banks is as sym-
metrical and graceful as if delineated by an artist's hand.


Eight promontories from the side of Asia, and just as many
from the shore of Europe, project themselves into the spark-
ling waves, an advancing headland on one continent always
corresponding to a retiring bay upon the other, till the
observer cannot doubt that in some prehistoric age the
Black Sea and the Mediterranean were entirely separate,
and that an earthquake shock of fearful magnitude here tore
apart the shores of the future Europe and Asia, and cleft
between them this deep channel, down which the waters of
the northern sea have never ceased to roll. At present, how-
ever, the site of that remote catastrophe is profoundly peace-

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Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 12)