Skip

Mustapha Ali
February 14, 2010 3:39 AM   Subscribe

Greece in 1823 and 1824; being a series of letters and other documents on the Greek revolution — the life of Mustapha Ali:
Mustapha Ali, the youth whose portrait is given in the frontispiece, in illustration of his national costume, was brought to England by Colonel Stanhope, on his return from Greece. His life though short, has been eventful, and his character is strongly illustrative, even at the early age of ten years, of that semi-barbarous state of morals and society which characterizes the half Europeanised Asiatics who have for many ages oppressed the south-eastern extremity of the most civilised portion of the globe.
The father of Mustapha was a Turk, who commanded a small district in the neighbourhood of Argos previously to the Greek revolution; at an early period of which, he, together with his wife and the whole of his family, with the exception of this boy, fell victim to the fury of the enfranchised Greeks. Mustapha Ali alone escaped this dreadful scene of retributive vengeance, to encounter a course of life that which death itself is almost more desirable. Like a dog he prowled about naked for subsistence, and was kicked or fondled as caprice dictated, and constantly half-starved and destitute of home. From Argos he followed in the suite of a traveller to Salona, where he again led a similar life to that which he had previously been subjected to. In the summer he laid up and down in the streets, and found refuge for the nights, during the winter, in an oven, which became his favourite dormitory. The menial slave of servants, he performed for them the dirty work which they loathed to undertake; and although still naked and craving with hunger, the little Turk contrived to make himself agreeable to the Greeks by his good humour and his fun.

At this time Captain Humphries, happening to pass by Salona, saw Ali, and took a liking to him. He clothed the little orphan, and took him into his suite, of which he quickly became the life and spirit. Released from the state of destitution in which he had been plunged, the gaiety of the boy became greater than ever. Sometimes he rode on a mule at the top of the trunks, sometimes he walked for seven or eight hours together over the mountains; but whatever mode of travelling he chose to adopt he was always at the head of the cavalcade, singing, dancing, mimicking, and laughing at every thing and at every body.
When Colonel Stanhope was recalled by the British government, he offered to take charge of Ali, to which Captain Humphries consented with much reluctance. During his stay in the quarantine house at Zante, Ali became very partial to the little Turkish girl whom Lord Byron had adopted as a companion to his beloved Ada*. On her restoration to her father, Ali was very sorrowful and disconsolate, and wept for her absence for many days. The same grief was felt on the departure of his former master for Argos; and days after he was gone, Ali would burst into tears whenever he saw any thing that put him in mind of his protector; on one occasion in particular, when on board ship, he was seen in a retired place weeping bitterly over an embroidered handkerchief which had been given him by Captain Humphries.

On his arrival in England Ali was dreadfully alarmed lest he should be slaughtered as soon as he landed, and was most anxious to have been allowed to remain on board. This request could not be complied with, and when, on his coming to shore, he was ordered to mount the the stage coach, a kind of conveyance which he had never previously seen, with a precaution indispensable in the country he had so recently quitted, he seated himself on top of of one his master's trunks and put his legs upon the other, nor could he be induced to quit his post, lest the property should be stolen. His notions of property are far from precise, and he may well be pardoned for suspecting others of that propensity to plunder which formed so marked a feature in the character of those among which his earlier years had been passed.

Ali now attends the Lancasterian School in Borough Road, where he acquits himself so well as to bring home a daily card of merit. He was at first very desirous to have been admitted into the girls' school but the directors refused, of course, to allow the young Turk to associate with their female pupils. He will not, however, allow that his parents were Turks; it is, indeed, an unpardonable offence to him to be called a Turk, or even to apply to him his prænomen of Mustapha. He hates the Turks; he hates also to have his turban touched; and a gentleman having one day made an effort to take it off, the little barbarian drew his pistol, and raved on account of its not being loaded. His general habits and attachments are military, and he is conversant with the use of arms. On one occasion, when no one could fire a pistol which was out of order, Ali, after repeated trials, rubbed the flint and pan with sulphur and succeeded in discharging it. He is very fond of dancing which he performs in a manner resembling that of the Ancient Greeks, deviating only by firing off his pistols while he twirls. He has also a taste for music and singing, and he is an admirable mimic.

It is, however, of more importance to his future well-doing, and to his present character, to state that he is most faithful and obedient to his master's orders. He may indeed be regarded upon the whole as a clever boy, full of talent and feeling, alloyed by pride, obstinacy, revenge, and sundry other vices of his caste.
*All accounts of Ada's life say that she never met her father, so this is somewhat puzzling.
posted by tellurian (17 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, good stuff.

This Charles Stanhope is no relation, oddly, the our good friend Lady Hester, eminent eccentric and lover of all things middle eastern.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:30 AM on February 14, 2010


Boy, they don't write like that no more! "Observe this quaint woggy little chap, how humorous he is in his attachment to his barbarous ways! Of course we didn't let the little blighter near our precious English womanhood..."

By the way, I'm not sure why "Salona" is linked to that picture of a fierce freedom-fighter (or rebellious subject, take your pick) holding a flag, but Salona (stress on the first syllable) is the old name of the Greek town now known as Amphissa, thanks to the idiotic post-independence renaming of every feature of the Greek landscape to whatever the German archeologists drooling over their new plaything thought it had been called a couple of thousand years earlier. This meant that the Greeks themselves had to forget all the names they and their forebears for generations were used to and try to learn a bunch of meaningless names from dusty old books, but who cared about them? They were, after all, just a bunch of semi-barbarous half-Europeanized Asiatics.
posted by languagehat at 6:40 AM on February 14, 2010


Steady on Mr languagehat, my latest blogpost has Francis Buckland describing a bear foot:
I must say the bear's foot is amazingly human. I have the cast of the sole of the foot of a monster bear that died at the Zoological Gardens on Derby Day, 1864. The bear measured, when standing upright, nine feet. The foot is twelve inches long and six inches wide at the widest part. I have painted the cast which is now very like a niggers's foot.
Like this post it was a long time ago [1800's] and has to be viewed in the context of the time. I'm not saying it's right but it was acceptable then, I'm not going to edit.
I'm not quite sure what you're getting at with the Salona/Amfissa query.
posted by tellurian at 7:27 AM on February 14, 2010


Amphissa, not Salona? It's nobody's business but the Turks', I expect. Well, and the Greek's.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:10 AM on February 14, 2010


tellurian: tellurian: "Ali became very partial to the little Turkish girl whom Lord Byron had adopted as a companion to his beloved Ada*. On her restoration to her father, Ali was very sorrowful and disconsolate,"
...
"*All accounts of Ada's life say that she never met her father, so this is somewhat puzzling."

I believe it is the little turkish girl who is restored to her father, not Ms. Lovelace (obligatory Kate Beaton link, bottom strip).
posted by mwhybark at 11:01 AM on February 14, 2010


They were, after all, just a bunch of semi-barbarous half-Europeanized Asiatics.

That was refering to the Turks, the influence of whom the Greeks were trying to eradicate.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:04 AM on February 14, 2010


That was refering to the Turks, the influence of whom the Greeks were trying to eradicate.

A lot of the names of Greek towns that got changed back to their ancient names were also slavic, owing to slavic settlers that came all the way into southern Greece. Up north, the ancient city of Edessa became known as Vodina and then changed back to Edessa after the city was captured by the Greeks.
posted by deanc at 1:03 PM on February 14, 2010


I believe it is the little turkish girl who is restored to her father, not Ms. Lovelace
Yes, that's my understanding too. What I was getting at is that if Ada was not with her father why had he 'adopted the little Turkish girl' – was he going to send her over to England to be a companion for Ada? Is Stanhope saying that Ada is with her father? It sounds like it from my reading of that line. That would make all the Lovelace biographies I have read incorrect.
posted by tellurian at 2:31 PM on February 14, 2010


> Like this post it was a long time ago [1800's] and has to be viewed in the context of the time. I'm not saying it's right but it was acceptable then, I'm not going to edit.

Huh? Who said you should have edited? Man, people are touchy around here. I was just mocking the colonialist attitudes taken for granted at the time.

> I'm not quite sure what you're getting at with the Salona/Amfissa query.

It wasn't a query, it was an excursus on an interesting point brought up by the name, namely the wholesale renaming of Greece at the behest of foreigners infatuated with the ancient Greeks (and correspondingly contemptuous of their barbarized descendants).

That was refering to the Turks, the influence of whom the Greeks were trying to eradicate.

I'm aware of what it was referring to in the original text; my point is that the Greeks were seen as exactly the same as the Turks. Read any account of the War of Independence, and the rapid disillusionment of the Westerners who came to support the people they thought of as the Athenians of Pericles, for details. And no, the Greeks weren't (at first) trying to eradicate the influence of the Turks, just the Turks themselves and their religion. Apart from religion, pretty much their entire culture had been Turkicized by then. It was the foreign Hellenists who kept nagging them to learn Attic Greek and raze the Acropolis down to its imagined original purity who promoted cultural eradication.
posted by languagehat at 5:10 PM on February 14, 2010


tellurian: "What I was getting at is that if Ada was not with her father why had he 'adopted the little Turkish girl' – was he going to send her over to England to be a companion for Ada? Is Stanhope saying that Ada is with her father? It sounds like it from my reading of that line. That would make all the Lovelace biographies I have read incorrect."


Yeah, not at all what I read. The 'he' in that clause is Byron, not Ada's pop.
posted by mwhybark at 5:21 PM on February 16, 2010


Byron is Ada's father.
posted by tellurian at 9:11 PM on February 16, 2010


ah, my bad. I had a vague notion of some sort of connection between Ms. Lovelace and Byron, but not THAT one.

"Ali became very partial to the little Turkish girl whom Lord Byron had adopted as a companion to his beloved Ada*. On her restoration to her father, Ali was very sorrowful and disconsolate,"

it seems clear that "as a companion to his beloved Ada" is just wrong, or might be more correctly stated "as a substitute for his . . ." , and that "her restoration to her father" refers to the turkish girl. Was Ada ever in Greece? How old was she at this time?
posted by mwhybark at 6:43 PM on February 17, 2010


Ada was born on December 10th 1815. On January 15th 1816, she was taken to her grandparents house by her mother and (presumably) never saw Byron again. Byron left England that same year, never to return, and was in Greece from 1823 to 1824 (when he died), so Ada would have been around 8-9. At this time she was paralysed after a bout of measles, so the likelihood that she was in Greece is nil.
That's what makes this line so puzzling to me. That Stanhope should write 'companion to' when he meant 'substitute for' does work, but sounds like a strange usage to me.
posted by tellurian at 9:47 PM on February 17, 2010


hm, maybe Byron self-deludingly described the kid as a 'companion,' but bailed on the deets. Just a wild guess. I sure have no factual or research-based idea.
posted by mwhybark at 9:29 PM on February 20, 2010


This is fascinating. I can tell what I'll be spending a significant part of my Sunday looking through.
posted by immlass at 10:19 PM on February 20, 2010


Yeah, I've thought about it a bit since your comment mwhybark, but along a different path. Maybe he was alluding to the 'little Turkish girl' as a companion more in the sense of a 'companion piece', more as a complement than a substitute to his 'beloved Ada'.
posted by tellurian at 2:50 AM on February 21, 2010


yeah, exactly: another girl-child kept for a time and then not.
posted by mwhybark at 10:13 PM on February 21, 2010


« Older London Calling   |   Truckin' My Blues Away Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post