12 September 1855 – 2 December 1856. Octavo journal (ca. 21,5x16 cm). 115 numbered pages of manuscript text, followed by ca. 90 blank leaves. Brown ink on watermarked laid paper, occasional author’s corrections in text. Manuscript title on verso of the front free endpaper; albumen carte-de-visite portrait photo ca. 10x6 cm (2 ¼ x 4 in), captioned “E. Estridge” in pencil and mounted on the first leaf. Original marbled papered boards neatly rebacked with maroon morocco; spine with gilt-lettered title; marbled endpapers. Two leaves (pp. 59-60 and 103-104) with small cut-out pieces on the upper or lower margins not affecting the text, boards rubbed, but overall a very good journal.
A captivating private journal kept by a young English military officer, describing his service, travels, excursions, and meetings in Constantinople (Istanbul) and environs during the last phase of the Crimean War. At the time, the author served for the British War Office (p. 114), most likely for the Commissariat Department, whose officers acted in Constantinople to aid and supply the British troops stationed in the city on the way for the Crimean War battlefields. The journal covers the period from September 12, 1855 to December 2, 1856. The first seven pages describe Estridge’s voyage from England to Istanbul across the Mediterranean (with the stops at Gibraltar and Malta), and the last eleven pages follow him on his return voyage with the stops at Athens, Messina, Marseilles, and Paris. The main body of the journal with almost one hundred pages is dedicated to Estridge’s residence in Constantinople, excursions in the environs and his travel to the Dardanelles Strait and the Tenedos Island in March-April 1856 “to look after two vessels that were wrecked on the Plains of Troy opposite to that Island” (p. 92).
The journal contains several extensive descriptions of Estridge’s encounters and communications with the Ottoman elite - a dinner with admiral Osman Pasha (ca. 1792 - ca. 1860), the commander of the Turkish fleet at the battle of Sinope who got captioned by the Russians, a discussion of Turkish wedding customs with Osman Pasha’s son Ahmet Bey, an observation of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid I (1823-1861) during the celebration of “the first day of Bairam” in June 1856 (Eid-al-Fitr or Ramadan Bayram), etc. Among the other entries are the accounts of his visits to the Serakier (Beyazit) tower (pp. 16-17), Constantinople Opera (pp. 18-19), the gardens of “Chamil Pasha” (Mehmed Kamil Pasha, 1833-1913, Turkish Grand Vizier during four different periods) (pp. 19-22), Belgrad Forest and aqueducts (pp. 22-23), the ancient walls of Constantinople and the Castle of the Seven Towers (Yedikule Fortress, pp. 31-35), the old Hippodrome and the Seraglio gardens (pp. 49-50), a masquerade ball (p. 56), the “Sweet Waters of Europe” picnic area (p. 57-58), the Hagia Sophia (pp. 70-72), the Prinkipo (Büyükada) Island (pp. 81-86), and others. The journal also contains a vivid depiction of the Greek Easter celebration on the night of April 26, 1856, which Estridge witnessed (pp. 60-65), descriptions of the interiors and procedures in the Turkish bathhouses (pp. 52-52), a review of British troops in Crimea (Jan.-Feb. 1856, p. 55), the size and structure of caique boats (pp. 15-16), the “Stamboul” market (central Constantinople), Turkish cuisine (pp. 24-25), an earthquake on December 8, 1855 (p. 29), a fight between Turks and Christians which required the interference of the 10th Hussars (p. 66), Constantinople Muslim and Jewish cemeteries, the newly-built Dolmabahçe Palace (pp. 99-103), etc. An often-recurring topic are the local girls, including apparent inhabitants of the “Sultan’s harem,” whose faces Estridge constantly attempted to see while they were travelling in carriages down the Constantinople streets. Overall a fascinating first-hand account of Constantinople during the Crimean War.
Edward Estridge was appointed Deputy Assistant Commissary General of the War Office in November 1859 (The London Gazette, Friday, November 11, 1859, p. 4033). In the 1860s, he served in the West Indies and Canada (Hart, Col. H.G. The New Army List. London, 1864, p. 320). He died in February 1866 in Accra at the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissary General in the British Cape Coast Castle (Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995 [database on-line]).
Some excerpts from the journal:
Gibraltar: “Gibraltar in sight and steamed into the Bay on the morning of 19th [of September, 1855]. What a fine view it was entering! Here we laid until midday of the 20th & were delighted with the place. <…> We landed here & walked about a good deal, went to the neutral ground & saw a grand salute fired from the Rock, as we brought with us the news that Sebastopol had fallen. The place was quite in an uproar in congruence, illuminations had begun, & all sorts of amusements had been ordered for the evening. In the evening the whole population turned out & were walking about, bands of music playing &c., which kept us until late from getting on board…” (p. 2)
Eating ortolan birds in Malta (now banned in the EU): “I dined at a table d’hôte there and tasted some little birds, which I believe were ortolans. To some tastes, I have no doubt that they are at the top of delicate birds, but to mine, not so; it is a lump of fat, served up in its own gravy which resembled a thick brown oil. The bird itself is not as large as a sparrow…” (p. 3)
The first sight of Constantinople: “It well repays the annoyance & bother of a voyage to gaze on such splendid scenery, as that which surrounds you on turning the Seraglio Point. The Seraglio on one hand, on the other Scutari with its cemetery & immense barrack; now used by the English as a hospital, before you the Bosphorus full of ships & the banks studded with palaces & villages, & the quarters of Pera, Galata & Tophane rising to top of the hills covered with buildings, from which the tall Genoese tower raises its gigantic form still higher. The whole surrounded by distant hills. As you move new scenery & views burst on you every moment, & the mind is quite bewildered to know which is the most beautiful. As you proceed a little way up the Golden Horn, you have the whole Constantinople on your left & Pera on your right, the first full of mosques, & the immense remains of a ruined aqueduct built by Justinian are the two most striking objects; the lines of ships prevent you from seeing the shore. One the Pera side you catch here & there a view of the shore & what a difference you have. No wharf & the houses dirty, wooden & tumbling down. You now begin to look more closely at the place the nearer you get to shore & wonder how people can dwell in such houses as you now see. The deep Golden Horn begins to look of a turbid & muddy colour and you see straw[?], cabbages & melon rinds floating about. You begin to get inquisitive & wonder where all this comes from. <…> You enter a caique & wonder why it does not upset, however it does not, and the caique at last brings you to a place they call a wharf. The stench that here assails you is overpowering, the water is thick with filth, the people smell strongly of garlic & have never taken off their clothes, I am sure by the way they are tied[?] on…” (pp. 9-11).
Night fight with stray dogs in Pera: “I went to the ship to take a farewell of my comrades & stayed until late quite forgetting the difficulty I should have in finding my way at night at Pera through the quarter of Toplauch. I however was obliged to make an attempt, so sword in hand I sallied on after leaving the caique at the wretched wharf. Hardly had I gone 50 yards when I was assailed by a pack of some 30 dogs who seemed to have sprung from the earth. I cut & slashed all round, but touched none. One though more hardy than the rest caught hold of my leg & kept a piece of my trousers for remembrance <…> The next morning I had to lay some time in bed to enable my uniform trousers to get mended, which was at last done by my paying 6/ for the job” (p. 13).
“Everything seemed managed here by the French. They have patrols at night & punish anyone they find breaking their laws. I happened to see an Armenian caught picking the pocket of an English naval captain. The French immediately caught the man, marched him off between 2 soldiers & gave him a thrashing in their barracks” (p. 14).
October 16: “I went to the Opera last night. It is not so bad a house, but very dirty, the acting & singing of the generality was anything but good, some 2 or 3 managed to get through their parts pretty well. The band is pretty fair, but no very great shakers. <…> Plenty of cigarette smoking done through the performance by the audience, who either sit down on the bottom of the boxes or screw themselves into some horrid contortion to carry it into effect, as it is forbidden. If it were not for the smoking, civilized Europeans could not sit out the 3 hours on account of the highly odiferous perfume of garlic & leeks that floats about, as people in the pit move (pp. 18-19).
November 10: “I went today to the “Ottoman Porte” on business. It is a very long building of two stories high & the floors well covered with matting. Passing along the corridor I observed a great commotion going on ahead of me, & which seemed to be getting nearer. I found that this was caused by an enormously stout Pasha, the stoutest man I ever saw, going from one office to another. What his name was I could not find out, he was preceded by all sorts of attendants &c, & 2 pipe bearers, each carrying a beautiful jasmine pipe of some 6 or 7 feet long, & whose amber mouthpiece was a mass of jewels. [I think it was Halid Pasha, married a daughter or Sutu of the Sultan]. This unfortunate man could hardly walk from his great size and grunted like a pig at each step. When I finished my business, which was accomplished after bows, pipes, coffee, & a great deal of compliments on both sides, I took my departure” (pp. 25-26).
“Two or three days ago while in Galata (the business part of Constantinople) I was attracted by a magnificently ornamented carriage with beautiful horses that could not get on, as the street was filled up with wood. The carriage was surrounded by several eunuchs &c., and by the haste the wood was getting cleared away I found she was one of the Sultan’s favourites. I determined at having a good look at her & got quite close to the carriage. There was only one young woman it is, & one old. I slightly coughed & they turned round. I caught the young one’s eye & made her laugh. She was certainly a most beautiful creature & had what is rarely seen in Turkey even with the women – a beautiful set of teeth. One of the Eunuchs did not like my approaching so close to the carriage & gave me a slight push, but getting a good kick in return he did not repeat the experiment & allowed me to stare at the fair one uninterruptedly…” (pp. 26-27).
“It is now very dangerous to go out of an evening unless you are armed, as murders are constantly taking place. If you go without a lantern you stand a great chance of being stopped by the French patrols, unless you have a very strong excuse, even then the will hardly let you pass unless in uniform” (p. 28).
Osman Pasha “is a fine looking old man of 70, he does not speak English, but his son interpreted all for us. He told us that he was some time in England and had been introduced to the Queen &c. He preferred England vastly, he said to Constantinople, but if he went to live there, he should not be able to get any money. He is suffering from a wound he received at Sinope, & which makes him walk rather lame…” (p. 38)
[January-February 1856]: “There has been a great review in the Crimea of our troops, some 26000 strong, which they say has quite eclipsed any of the former reviews by any of the different armies. The French here are dying at the rate of 60 or 70 a day it is said, of a malignant typhus fever brought on by their hospitals being in such a dirty state” (p. 55).
“It is extraordinary the hatred the Turks and Greeks bear to one another. I saw a Greek collapsed the other day by a lot of Turks, who spit in his face & kicked him in the most brutal manner though the fellow’s arms were tied. His look was terrible & if he possibly could have got loose I fear some of the Turks would have paid for this delicate behaviour” (pp. 58-59).
“Exactly at 8 ½ (1 o’clock Turkish) the Sultan made his appearance on the Bosphorus in this state caique, which was illuminated and followed by the caiques of some of the other digs. As soon as he landed guns went off and the whole air was filled with fireworks. He then walked to the mosque, his horse & a man with 2 chairs preceeding him, as he is not very firm on his legs. He has handsome features, but the appearance of a done up roué, he passed quite close to me and walked so bent that he hardly seemed able to get on at all. He was followed by a lot of digs & amongst them was Omar Pasha, a savage looking old fellow of 60 old, with a grey beard cut square. I followed the procession with 2 or 3 others and we shoved our way into the interior of the mosque, and walked about it in our boots, stepping over the people as they were praying. No Christian I believe ever entered this mosque before that night and we were amongst the first…” (pp. 74-75),
“The Jews burial ground. This lies on the hills not far from the 3rd bridge over the Golden Horn, and is the most curious of all the burial grounds here. As it lies quite out of the way I think it is not much visited by strangers. It covers 2 or 3 small hills & the valleys between them & has been cannonaded, all the monuments either represent broken pillars or pillars thrown down. It has not a single tree in it & must be of a great age, for in some places the carving on the stones, which are all of white marble, is quite obliterated. The stones in some places are so thick that to put in another would be almost impossible…” (pp. 100-101).
Price: $5,250.00 USD