Sidney Whitman - Turkish Memories
The following pages are the outcome of several prolonged visits to Constantinople, Macedonia, and Asiatic Turkey, covering a period of twelve years, from 1896 to 1908. Several of these were made under exceptional circumstances and embody experiences such as do not often fall to the lot of a traveller, some of which, I venture to think, are of lasting public interest.
Anyone who has had personal relations with an autocrat—in this case the spiritual head of a faith in which in the course of centuries thousands of millions of human beings have lived and died—ought to have much to tell worth recounting. There were also the surroundings of the Monarch to be observed. Many a trait of deep human interest presented itself to him who was a privileged visitor: for instance, the ups and downs of fortune as they affected the all-powerful favourite whose good offices—as in the time of a Madame de Pompadour—powerful Sovereigns did not think it beneath their dignity to strive and compete for. Such a man I have seen in disgrace,
Our quick-living age is so full of transient impressions that “to-day” has become the avowed enemy of “yesterday.” Men who but recently played a prominent part in the world are forgotten; they are obliged to die in order to reveal the fact that they were until just now still living. If the material of my book is partly concerned with the things of yesterday, the incidents and characters which it displays may at least claim to illustrate a series of abiding human truths.
In the course of my work a trifling incident led me into a correspondence with the late Professor Arminius Vambéry, whose letters, full of insight into Turkish affairs and goodwill towards England, will be found reprinted in the Appendix. I am also indebted to my friend Lieutenant-Colonel H. P. Picot, who was H.B.M.’s Military Attaché in Teheran from 1893–1900, for a short contribution which will likewise be found in the Appendix, p. 294.