Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Time to stop circling and return to ponder the purpose...

I have not gotten far in Finding Charlie Ross as planned in the beginning, but I have gotten far in finding the family into which he married and the family he founded.

Perhaps as Cavafy said, it is the journey which matters, not the destination. And, as the words which begin his poem predict, this journey is full of adventure, full of discovery.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.

I feel confident that what I want to know about Charlie Ross will be found - his Greek name and the confirmation of his place of birth - I just do not know when.

Photo: Greek singers in the 19th century.

But, what I can do is learn as much as possible about 19th century Greece in general and Ithaca in particular in order to get a feel of the culture into which my great-grandfather was born and the society he left behind.  The magical thing is that as I hunt for traces of him in the 19th century I can do so online, finding books, written by literal travellers to Greece, which will paint a picture of the world in which he grew up and the world he chose to leave behind.

One such book is Ithaca in 1850 by George Ferguson Bowen and another is, A Journal Kept in Turkey and Greece in the Autumn of 1857 and the Beginning of 1858, by Nassau William, Senior.  I have ordered both.

I may not be able to touch Charlie Ross as yet, in any tangible form, but I will chase him through the shadows of his past, and mine, until I can paint as clear as picture of him as possible. And perhaps, in that way of life, as I put together the pieces of his general past, it will draw, from the mists of Ithaca, pieces of his personal past.

Some snippets from the past:

'Access to the sphere of female socialization, which fascinated British travellers and observers, was even more severely restricted. It is worth turning to the clearly postcolonial context of the Ionian Islands which, again,may suggest the origins of British observations on this subject. Ansted, an observer acquainted with Greek Ionian culture, argued that it was imposs-ible to gather any information on women because Greek men ‘guarded’ them zealously, forbidding their interaction with the ‘Lords’ (1863: 58). No more information is provided by this account, but, intriguingly, we encounter the same comment on Greek attitudes in another travel diary by an anonymous expert on the Eastern Question.

This recorder travelled in the Greek kingdom before the Crimean War, but his work was edited and modified by John Murray in the 1870s. In the ‘Roving Englishman’s’ narrative, foreigners cannot approach women, who flee the encounter to find refuge in domestic spaces:I am lightly shod and I do not make much noise, nor am I a very fearful apparition;... but I have no sooner entered the street than a change comes over it.

 When I first turned the corner, young women were gossiping and laughing together in the doorways, and from the windows:now I hear the click of many doors closing stealthily; and the lattices are shut everywhere. A Frank is a rare sight in this obscure quarter, and the women are wild as young fawns. They are watching me from all sorts of places; but if I stayed there for hours, not one would come out till I was gone.'
'Greek deception would soon be associated with actual stage performance. According to a traveller, the Greeks were‘born actors’. Self-consciousness, which brings with it the usual train of mannerisms and affectations, is said to be the curse of the English stage, if not of English society. On the stage and off the stage it is apparently unknown to the Greeks, who, bumptious and boastful though they often are, do not look conscious or self-absorbed; never seem, when in public, to trouble themselves the least in the world whether or no people arelooking at them, admiring them, or criticising them, and, consequently,never appear nervous or ill-at-ease among themselves, as is the case with  so many of our countrymen.
Their habit of gesticulation, which we may call forced and exaggerated, is in reality as much part of their nature, as it is part of an Englishman’s nature to carry an umbrella '!(Young, 1876: 201) (History of the Human Sciences.)

A list of qualities which Greeks were said to possess:

a desire for what the rival/other has
entrepreneurial spirit:
acting on this desire
 performance of mannerisms:
the means for acquisition of what is desired
Greek lying:
the deceived ‘other’s’ feeling of exploitation/ privation
 From a History of the Human Sciences.

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