The Elgin Affair: The True Story of the Greatest Theft in History
Aside from this, some of Edinburgh's wealthiest young men had already expressed their desire to marry his only child. Furthermore, he also knew that Elgin had recently incurred heavy debts restoring Broomhall. Nevertheless, he was attracted by the idea of marrying his daughter to a member of the nobility, and he gave his consent. Soon after Elgin's application for ambassador was accepted, he selected a sizable staff for his embassy. The men were youthful, well qualified, and dedicated. He had just turned thirty-nine and already had several important books published.
He also had a weakness for poetry and "kept beleaguering everyone on the staff with his poor verses. Lord Elgin had no objection to this as long as Carlyle was able to fortify the embassy with his knowledge and scholarly achievement. The Reverend Philip Hunt was twenty-eight and had been for a short time a clergyman under the patronage of Lord Upper Ossory.
A meticulous scholar, he could dissect the history of many archaeological sites in Europe and Asia and had a sound knowledge of Greek. The opportunity to join Lord Elgin's embassy excited him:.
As the Turks have now made a common cause with us to stop the progress of the French, it has been thought expedient by our court to send a splendid Embassy to Constantinople in order to enter into certain treaties for the mutual advantage of both countries. The Earl of Elgin is appointed Ambassador Extraordinary etc. Brand, Rector of Maulden, the situation of chaplain and private secretary to the Ambassador will most probably be filled by me.
I have consulted Lord Ossory and my other friends here, and they all concur in describing it as a most brilliant opportunity of improving my mind and laying the foundation of a splendid fortune. I need only add that it is a situation by which the young son of a Nobleman might aspire; that it will be certainly attended with great present advantages and most probably lead to an independent fortune. Elgin's two other secretarial assistants were both twenty-two.
John Morier knew about the East, having been born in Smyrna, where his father was consul. This was his first diplomatic assignment, and he religiously supplied his diary with many details of the voyage, particularly Lord Elgin's coldness of manner and frugality. Even during their first day at sea, Morier noticed.get link
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However, part of this can be attributed to His Lordship's chronic indisposition. He suffers constantly from rheumatism and is susceptible to catching cold, which is a deep source of vexation for Her Ladyship. Everyone under employment has very quickly discovered that His Lordship does not intend to pay one penny of the salary agreed upon until the Embassy is closed by order of the government. He has even stood by and allowed all in the party to pay their own expenses and studiously avoids any mention of money.
Elgin's first personal secretary, William Richard Hamilton, was also on his first assignment. He had studied at Oxford and Cambridge, and when his sponsor wrote to Elgin, the letter brimmed with hyperbole: "He has much good sense and great activity of mind. He is industrious and in the highest degree anxious to render himself useful.
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His manners are most pleasing and his principles perfectly good, so you may use him at once as your companion and your confidant. Hector McLean was the embassy physician. McLean had a weakness for alcohol and confined himself in his compartment throughout most of the voyage. Lady Elgin unabashedly regarded her husband's desire for the post at Constantinople as vain and senseless.
The world was already spinning into the nineteenth century, yet Turkey still remained a barbarous country, her plague-infested towns swelling with harems and dens of hashish. To seek such an embassy at a time when England was at war with Bonaparte seemed even more absurd, but Elgin, refusing to be dissuaded, continually reminded her of Constantinople's ancient beauty and fame, the matchless splendor of Haghia Sophia, the Gardens of Pera, the Bosporus, the seraglio.
But more importantly, Elgin had a deeper reason for seeking the post at Constantinople. From the time he was a young student at Westminster, he had developed a fond affection for art, and especially sculpture. Largely through the influence of Thomas Harrison, the architect he had engaged to restore Broomhall, Elgin learned that the best models of classical art were to be found in Greece, not Rome.
Harrison further suggested that while Elgin was at Constantinople he could make periodic visits to Athens, where excellent opportunities for improving his knowledge of Greek sculpture and architecture were agelessly present. Although many publications had been recently written by English and German scholars, Harrison insisted that books could not truly inspire.
- Vrettos, Theodore [WorldCat Identities].
- The Elgin Affair: The True Story of the Greatest Theft in History - Theodore Vrettos - Google книги.
- The Elgin Affair.
Far more important were plaster casts of the actual objects, as well as paintings and drawings done in situ under the brilliance of the Grecian sky. Harrison's words stirred Lord Elgin. It was the opportunity he had long been seeking, the chance to restore the entire position of the fine arts in Great Britain and to improve British architecture, painting, and sculpture. Moreover, classical designs could be used everywhere, even on furniture and household items, and consequently the embassy could very well benefit the whole advancement of the arts in England.
It was a grandiose scheme, and immediately after Elgin learned that he had been accepted for this much-desired post, he put his ideas to Lord Grenville. After requesting sufficient money to support such an important undertaking, Elgin furthermore asked for painters, artists, architects, draftsmen, and formatori. These demands, however, exceeded Grenville's authority, and he suggested that Elgin present them in person to the prime minister, Wiliam Pitt. Pitt's response was disheartening: "His Majesty's Government cannot equip your Embassy with such grand ideas.
If you choose to embark upon this venture you must do so at your own expense. Elgin's salary had already been fixed at only six thousand pounds per year. Nevertheless he was determined to carry his scheme forward, and soon the best painters of England offered themselves at Broomhall. First to arrive was the watercolor painter Thomas Girtin. He waited two hours in the great hall before being interviewed, only to learn that Elgin could offer him thirty pounds annually, which was half the salary of an English valet.
In addition to his main task as artist of the embassy, Girtin "was also expected to assist Lady Elgin In the decoration of fire screens, worktables, and other household duties requiring artistic knowledge. Next came Richard and Robert Smirke. Robert was the more famous of the two brothers. At the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed in London to a heraldic painter, and seven years later, he studied in the schools of the Royal Academy. His works were usually small, humorous, graceful, and accomplished in draftsmanship. He also executed many clever and popular book illustrations.
With each of the brothers, Elgin was forced to adjust his price, but the basic terms remained unacceptable, and further negotiations broke down.
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William Daniell, another artist to be interviewed, was the nephew of the great English painter Thomas Daniell. William had accompanied his uncle on a voyage to India when he was only fourteen, and shortly after this, his many sketches engraved in aquatint had been published. However, he, too, balked at Elgin's terms and reluctantiy refused the proposal. In the weeks that followed, Elgin had the same results with the rest of the artists that presented themselves at Broomhall.
Shortly before embarking on the Phaeton with his young bride, he called upon Benjamin West for advice, and die venerable painter suggested the name of J. Turner, who was only twenty-four but had already gained stature in London art circles. Turner seemed quite willing at first, but when Elgin demanded sole possession of all paintings and added that Turner's leisure hours were to be devoted to drawing lessons for Lady Elgin, "the young artist retaliated with a salary demand of four hundred pounds, at which point the interview was brought to a sharp halt by Elgin. HMS Phaeton had now covered more than half the way to her destination, yet Elgin was still without an artist who would supervise his grand scheme.
Seized by a heavy melancholy, he became even crankier with the members of his staff, and although Lady Elgin tried to lift his sagging spirits, she, too, had her own discomfort to consider. While the Phaeton strained at her anchor, the ship's courier Charles Duff was sent into Palermo to secure lodgings. He returned with the discouraging news that it was impossible to get on shore that night. In the next breath, however, Duff revealed that Sir William Hamilton had learned of their arrival and was offering the use of his house.
At first Lady Elgin balked at the thought of living under the same roof with Lord Nelson's notorious mistress Emma Hamilton, but she had been one whole month on the high seas, confined in a damp cabin that was divided into six insufferable compartments by a hideous green curtain. To make matters worse, not one day had passed without listening to the constant complaints of the Reverend Philip Hunt: "How can I be expected to share this molecular compartment with four other gentlemen?
It is twelve feet long, six broad, and six high. It has five beds, thirteen trunks, six basins, hats, dressing gowns, boat cloaks, a cabin-boy brushing our shoes, servants preparing our shaving apparatus, five foul clothes bags, four portmanteaux, brooms, blankets, quilts, an Eighteen-Pounder with carriage tackles, iron crow, balls and grapeshot! Products of this store will be shipped directly from China to your country. Products of this store will be shipped directly from Japan to your country.
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