The Origins of the Travelogue and its Role in Establishing the Twentieth Century Picture of Turkey

As far as the representation of Turkey, its people and culture is concerned, another literary genre to be dealt with in this investigation is travel-writing since 'an examination of the varied texts produced by travellers shows how prejudices, stereotypes and negative perceptions of other cultures can be handed down through generations' (Comparative Literature, 99). In association with the idea of representing one particular culture, travel writing is considered by various scholars such as Sara Mills, Mary Louise Pratt and Susan Bassnett, to be a part of the process of manipulation which affects and conditions people's attitudes to other cultures in which 'travel writers constantly position themselves in relation to their point of origin in a culture and the context they are describing' (58). Discussing the significance of travel accounts Bernard Lewis has made a similar conclusion in his "Some English Travellers in the East" where he states, despite some exceptions, that 'all travellers' tales have a not unimportant place in history, at least in that part of it which is concerned with the formation and projection of images' (59).

 The literature of travel has evolved through the centuries. Early examples of travel writing usually appeared in the form of guidebooks and itineraries such as that of Pausanias, who travelled the Mediterranean countries as well as the Nile and the Dead Sea, as far back as the second century AD (60). In the course of the popular rise of Christianity, demand for guidebooks and itineraries about the holy places arose, particularly about Jerusalem and its environs since it attracted many Christians as the place of pilgrimage in the wake of its legalisation by Constantine in AD 326.

 The religious tradition in travel writing continued through the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. The Abbot of Iona prepared a textbook out of the personal accounts of French bishop, Adaman, who travelled the Holy land in the time of the Venerable Bede (61), Sir John Mandeville set out four routes to Jerusalem, and Petrarch produced an itinerary for people visiting the Holy Land. With the publication of Holinshed's Chronicle (1577), The Traveiler of Jerome Turler (1575) translated from Hieronymus Turlerus (1574) and the Jesuit de Varanne's Le Voyage de France (1639), the long tradition of guidebooks and itineraries brought about the popularity of travel accounts. But it was not until the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that a substantial body of travel accounts began to appear as Percy G. Adams remarks: 'The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, however, are still thought of, and with reason, as the age of the Grand Tour' (62). There was a significant increase in the number of travellers who were looking for adventure in the eighteenth century; hence the title of Age of the Great Adventurers (63) given by such writers as Peter Wilding. Wilding cites John Smith in New England, as one of the early examples of an adventurer-traveller.

 Travel may be undertaken for a great variety of reasons ranging from religious to economic, from political to military and from the scientific to the cultural. European travellers in the sixteenth century set out to unknown lands for the purposes of study, trade, diplomatic service as well as to teach Christianity and go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Following the discovery of the Americas by Europe, many Europeans sailed to its untouched territories to seek gold, to settle on the land, to preach Christianity to the natives. When Percy Adams discusses the main aims of travellers, with particular reference to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he distinguishes travellers in accordance with their occupations:

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries sent out traders, missionaries, explorers, colonisers, and warriors but also an amazing number of ambassadors, not just within Europe but from European countries to Russia, Asia, Asia Minor and Abyssinia....Most of these embassies were of course designed to promote trade or Christianity, perhaps to help one country to compete with another (Travel Literature, 62).

A similar view is expressed by Bernard Lewis, referring to those who travelled from Europe to the East:

There has been a long series of travellers from Europe to the East; pilgrims and Crusaders in the Middle Ages, followed, with the growing sophistication of Christendom, by diplomats and spies, tourists and traders, renegades and missionaries, soldiers and politicians, artists, scholars several or even all of these functions (“English Travellers”, 296).

 From the sixteenth century onwards, European traders such as Anthonie Jenkinson who was the chief representative of the Muscovy Company as well as merchant groups from different parts of Europe travelled to distant lands and wrote their own accounts about those places they had already visited (64). Moreover, various religious missions were organised by different churches in order to convert the heathen, and most of the travelling priests such as Alexander Whitaker, John Archdok, George Fox, and John Wesley (65), wrote of their travels and described the places, peoples and natural history and culture they observed as well as their missionary methods, and the intrigues and obstacles they encountered. With the establishment of the Society of Jesus (1540) in particular, a great number of letters, journals, biographies, and summaries of travels were collected and published by the Society until it was dissolved in 1773. Within the religious context, another group of travellers were pilgrims, like the Catholic priest Pietro Della Valle, who started from Venice in 1614, wandered all over Asia for ten years, and had his journal published in 1652, after his death (66). For centuries, the travels of missionaries and their travel writings, especially those of Jesuits, were the best regular source of information for Europeans about the East, Latin America, and North America:

The number of Jesuit teacher-missionaries of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is perhaps so great as to be incalculable, and even more incalculable is the influence on European ideas of their widely read travel biographies, letters, journals and memoirs (Travel Literature, 61).

 As has been pointed out by historians such as Edward Heawood (1912), another important reason for travelling was exploration itself. In his analysis of the explorers to unknown continents and oceans, Heawood works out that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 125 different travel books including Some Old Puritan Love-Letters:  John and Margaret Wintrop, 1618-1638, An Account of Two Voyages to New England (1674), New England's Rareties Discovered (1672) and An Essay on the Natural History of Guiana in South America (1769) were written by explorers themselves, though this is a small percentage of the total amount (67).
Apart from numerous travel books by medical doctors, geologists, surveyors, astronomers, botanists, a significant number of ambassadors from Europe to Russia, Asia Minor and the Middle East were also recording their journeys, and impressions about other countries, and peoples with their social, economic and cultural features. As Adams says; 'Travel writers between 1600-1800 worked for their religious order, their trading company, or their nation, but they also represented almost every occupation imaginable' (Travel Literature, 64).

 In the nineteenth century there was an increase in travel writing. This was the period that saw the rise of literary movements such as Romanticism in reaction to the rationalist scepticism of the preceding century, and accounts of travels to exotic and unknown places became a Romantic passion: 'The search for the exotic generates a rich tradition... which achieves its most luxuriant growth in the nineteenth century' (68). Travel writers had already been fascinated by previous images of the Orient as a place of difference, and were seeking exoticism, mystery and the unusual due to their tendency initially to create an image of the Orient as a dream world or 'escapist lieu' in Kabbani's term (Europe’s Myths of the Orient, 32). When Kabbani examines various travellers’ tales to find out why some travellers were particularly led eastwards she suggests that they set out on their journeys to escape from the boredom of home or restrictions of bourgeois Europe:

The journey Eastward (and the desert journey in particular) provided an alternative self for the English traveller to inhabit, one that he could put aside once it had provided him with the necessary distraction. A haven from the bourgeois parlour, it was a place where inhibitions and social obligation could be shed (Europe’s Myths of the Orient, 93).

 Later in the Victorian era travelling turned into a pragmatic desire for the accumulation of knowledge about other parts of the world, probably linked to colonial aspirations of control. Besides the former objectives and occupations of travellers, a new motivation from the imperial interest in foreign lands and societies - a motivation which has been interpreted by Kabbani as the imperial formula of 'devise and rule'. When Edward Said discusses the nineteenth century as the age of imperialism mainly associated with Britain and France in Culture and Imperialism (1993) he also points out the significance of the travellers' place as they often contributed to the formation of a colonial existence and authority (Culture and Imperialism, 8).

Considering the tales of nineteenth century travellers as an ideological apparatus of empire he remarks that the Orient for them was an extension of the imperial will to possess and control other lands: ‘To write about Egypt, Syria or Turkey, as much as travelling in them, was a matter of touring the realms of political will, political management, political definition’ (Orientalism, 169).
Although the Ottoman Empire was dissolved into the Turkish Republic with, by all means, different characteristics in the wake of the defeat in World War I, a great many travel writers, in fact the majority, have chosen to write about Turkey because of associations they already had from their own cultural background about the country. Due to these associations, which seem to have been embedded in some historical facts chronologically going back to the Middle Ages, and even to the Crusades when the West met the Turks for the first time, it is rather difficult to analyse a cluster of twentieth century images of Turkey as distinct phenomenon totally independent from the past, as many accounts implicitly or explicitly refer to these associations. Therefore, an understanding of twentieth century Western perceptions of Turkey requires an examination of these associations with their historical connotations that determined western travellers' interest in Turkey.

 In this respect, apart from a brief examination of historical associations pointed out in some typical texts of previous centuries, a detailed analysis will focus on the nineteenth century as it seems to impinge upon various twentieth century travellers with a great number of accounts about the region. Because overseas expansion during the age of European imperialism brought new opportunities and challenges for travel writers, it became easier to travel to Ottoman lands for both personal curiosities and colonial aspirations and these also brought about the increase of the number of western publications about the region with different perceptions.

 As has been emphasised by various critics such as Percy Adams these associations have been conveyed for centuries through travel accounts because of their writers' awareness of the earlier travellers and their tales. Hence in some accounts these associations are repeated with few nuances whereas in others they are reinterpreted with personal embellishments or fantasies (69). Within this general framework, some writers try to re-trace the steps of earlier writers, others venture into Turkey because they see it as a country on the edges of Europe, somewhere that is a gateway into the Orient, and the representation through travel accounts is therefore coloured by their sense of venturing outside the boundaries of Europe.
In other words, while Philip Glazebrook sets off to Turkey to revere the experiences of the previous travellers by following Marco Polo's route to Jerusalem with the expectation of seeing a typical Oriental state with similar unusual elements represented in the previous accounts, Rose Macaulay journeys throughout the country for religious and cultural reasons. Another group of travellers such as John Dos Passos, who travelled throughout Turkey as a journalist, are appointed to travel for official duties, and sometimes for secret ones such as spying as 'the idea of travel as a means of gathering and recording information is commonly found in societies that exercise a high degree of political power' (Europe’s Myths of the Orient, 1).

 Above all, as can be observed from various travel accounts such as Orient Express (1922), The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), A Traveller on Horseback (1987), and In Xanadu: A Quest (1989) travellers usually continue their journeys into the Middle East and further via Turkey (70). Another apparent reason for travelling to Turkey seems to be the crucial situation of the country as it bridges Europe and Asia not only in terms of geography, but also culture, civilisation and religion. Therefore, those travellers who tend to journey to the Orient usually go to Turkey with the notion of venturing outside the European boundaries.

 In the course of the analysis of travel accounts from different decades of the twentieth century, there will also be an examination of the processes, procedures and constraints which impinge upon the production and consumption of Turkish reflections in Western texts with particular references to The Towers of Trebizond (1956) and Journey to Kars (1984).


58-Susan Bassnett, Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), p. 99. Also see: Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 1985); Irene L. Szyliowicz, Pierre Loti and the Oriental Woman (London: Macmillan, 1988); Martin Bernal Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985, vol.I (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987). Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992); Rana Kabbani, Europe's Myths of Orient (London: Pandora Press, 1988) and Sara Mills, Discourses of Difference: An Analysis of Women's Travel Writing and Colonialism (London: Routledge, 1991).

59-Bernard Lewis, “Some English Travellers in the East” in Middle Eastern Studies 4, 1967-8, p.297. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its shortened title, 'English Travellers'.

60-Lionel Casson, Travel in the Ancient World (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1974), pp. 294-9.

61-Sidney Heath, In the Steps of the Pilgrims (London: Rich and Cowan, 1953), p. 17.

62-Percy G. Adams, Travel Literature and the Evolution of the Novel (Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1983), p. 66. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts and footnotes, by mentioning its shortened title, 'Travel Literature'.

63-Peter Wilding, Adventures in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Putnam's, 1937).

64-’The sixteenth-century literature of travel for Asia and Muscovy is vast and was often well known. After the very popular Varthema early in the period, the Portuguese official Tenreiro enjoyed just as exciting a life in Persia; and his countryman Mendes Pinto, in China and then in Japan with Francis Xavier in the 1540s, had his marvellous adventures come out only in 1614, although two Lives of Xavier had already appeared narrating that great missionary's far travels. And for only two more examples - these among the best - one can turn to the English traders Anthonie Jenkinson and Ralph Fitch. Jenkinson, Chief Factor of the Muscovy Company, after 1553 opened a trade route across Russia and the Caspian Sea to Bokhara and Samarkand, made a number of trips, and proved himself a supremely fine diplomat with both the Tsar of Russia and the Shah of Persia. Fitch became thoroughly acquainted with India and the Malay countries during his eight years of moving about there (1583-91) and has one of the best journals ever kept by a merchant. Both of these writers were included by Hakluyt, who added Jan van Linschoten's eyewitness story of Fitch's escape from imprisonment at Goa’. See: Travel Literature, p. 52.

65-’They represented a variety of sects. There was the gentle, pious Cambridge Anglican Alexander Whitaker, who loved the Red Men and reported his Good Newes from Virginia in 1613. There were the Quakers, who went to America especially in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and who are perhaps best represented then by two men - John Archdale, governor of Carolina in 1694 and author of the New Description...of Carolina (1707); and George Fox, whose readable Journal of his travels in the New World appeared in 1694. Finally, there were the Methodists. One was John Wesley, whose amazing Journal tells far more than how many people he converted on his 250,000 miles of travels and how intractable he found the Auld Kirch natives of Scotland or the Indians of Georgia. Another was George Whitefield, who travelled just as far and whose various journals reveal not only much about human nature, transportation, and living conditions but about a saint who-in spite of Fielding's ridicule-could make even a Benjamin Franklin love him. All of these innumerable missionaries, Church of Rome or Protestant were more or less literate; and since they were urged by superiors to keep records or impelled by practical considerations of vanity, they may have produced more books, even in proportion to their numbers, than did any other group of travellers of the time’. See: Travel Literature, pp. 59-60.

66-Edward Grey, ed. The Travels of Pietro della Valle (London: Hakluyt, 1892).

67-Edward Heawood, A History of Geographical Discoveries in the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1912), rpt.(New York: Octagon Books, 1969)

68-Irene L. Szyliowicz, Pierre Loti and the Oriental Woman (London: Macmillan, 1988), p.35.

69-Adams examines the continuity of these associations with reference to several examples of similar stories, anecdotes and representations with some nuances and new interpretations, and points out that there is a traditional process of travel writing tracing back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in which there seems an enormous imitation of the earlier tales. See: Percy G Adams, Travellers and Travel Liars 1600-1800 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962) and Travel Literature and the Evolution of the Novel (Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1983).
 A similar conclusion appears in John Dixon's research about the representation of the Orient (Egypt in particular) through travellers’ tales where he remarks: 'The fact that Byron's travels were limited to Constantinople, and that Keats never travelled to either Turkey or Egypt, allowed them the freedom to create fantasies out of parts of other tales, travel sketches etc. without being judged for the veracity of their images. Keats drew his material largely from the British Museum, and its collection of Egyptian relics largely captured form the French after the failure of the Egyptian expedition in 1801'. See: John Spencer Dixon, Representations of the East in English and French Travel Writing 1798-1882 with Particular Reference to Egypt, Unpub. Diss. (Warwick: University of Warwick, 1991).

70-Some travel accounts which are mentioned in this investigation on different occasions are not completely involved in Turkey as travellers' journeys in some cases stretch further down to the Middle East or Far East. For some examples, see: Christina Dodwell, A Traveller on Horseback (London: Sceptre, 1988); John Dos Passos, Orient Express (New York: Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, 1922); Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar (New York: Ballantine, 1975) and William Dalrymple, In Xanadu: A Quest (London: Flamingo, 1990).