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for Lady Mary Wortley Montague's Selected Embassy Letters
Vocabulary: deism, Enlightenment,
- What famous philosopher did Lady Montague
- Lady Montague’s
daughter, Mary Godwin, later married what famous English poet from the Romantic
What famous science fiction work did this author write?
- What foreign city
did Lady Montague live in when her husband was
the British ambassador?
- What (in general) sort of
advice was Lady Montague giving the Countess of
Bute regarding the education
of the Countess’ daughter? What relationship
does Lady Montague have to the Countess of Bute, and accordingly, what
is the familial
relationship between Bute’s daughter and Lady Montague?
Lecture or Handouts:
Identify the following characters:
Lady Mary Wortley Montague, the Countess of Bute, the
Abbot Conti, the Countess of Mar, Miss Sarah Chiswell
Reading Questions: (Answer
these questions as you read along to make sure you understand
- “Selected Turkish Embassy Letters”
- "To the Lady _____, 1 April 1717, Adrianople"
- What special attraction does the city of Sophia offer
visitors for their health?
- Montague mentions voitures in the second paragraph. What are voitures? How many
people do they hold?
- Montague goes to the bagnio at 10:00
a.m. What is a bagnio?
- How are the water temperatures
controlled at the bagnio?
- How do the local women
respond to Lady Montague’s
foreign attire? How does that contrast with the way European
women behave when a stranger shows up in foreign clothing?
does the phrase “Uzelle, pek uzelle” mean?
the women at the Turkish bath open up Lady Montague’s
skirts and see her stays, corsets, petticoats, and whalebone
corset, they make two mistaken assumptions.
- What do they
mistakenly assume about the “power to open it [the
corset]”? What do they assume about the “contrivance” of
- Montague wished to spend more time with the
ladies, but decided to travel on to meat her husband
and see a tourist
site in the area. What was this tourist site? What
was her reaction to it when she contrasted it with the
- In the last paragraph of the letter, Montague notes
that no travel book written by men describes the
Turkish baths. Why is that? Do you think that gender
matters when writing a travel guide?
- "To the Abbot Conti, 1 April 1717, Adrianople"
dangers await travelers on the road through Serbia according
to this letter?
- The letter mentions janissaries in the
first paragraph. What is a janissary?
- What is “teeth-money”?
- What is an effendi?
- The various denominations
of Islam—Zeidi, Kadari,
Jabari, etc., remind Montague of what?
- According to Montague,
in spite of the various sectarian views, the prevailing
opinion in religion matters is
what? Do you think she’s accurate in this? Or is
the prevailing beliefs of the 18th century deists coloring
- Montague expresses an unusual idea regarding
to origins of the Alcoran (the Koran). What is her theory?
Countess of Mar, 1 April 1717, Adrianople"
letter is addressed to the Countess of Mar. Who is the
Countess of Mar and what is her relationship to
Montague? (hint: look at the first line of the letter
and the last line of the letter.)
- Why does Montague say
the Abbot of Conti would be surprised to see her appearance?
What is Montague wearing on the
day she writes her letter?
- Explain the following bits
of Turkish garb: caftan, curdee, talpock, and the “bouquet”?
custom does the Lady Montague note about what Turkish
women do with their eyes? Their fingernails?
- How does
Turkish garb allow women in Turkey more freedom than
western women have?
- Why does Montague think that “Turkish
the only “free people in the Empire”?
- "To Miss
Sarah Chiswell, 1 April 1717, Adrianople"
medical procedure common among the Turks does Montague
describe in this letter? How does the healing
about the process? How long does it take for the disease
to manifest itself? How long does the fever last? How
many children die from the process?
- Montague is so impressed
with the treatment, whom does she have treated in this
- To the Abbot of Conti, 17 May 1717, Adrianople:
is surprised to discover that the wealthiest professional
class in Turkey is what race? (Hint:
This ethnic group was expelled from England in
under King Edward, so she would not know many
Passages for Identification/Discussion:
(For the title, simply refer to these on examinations as
"selected letters" and provide Montague as the author--you
need not memorize the title/recipient of individual letters.)
A. “’Uzelle, pek
uzelle,” which is nothing but, ‘charming, very
B. The first sofas were covered with
cushions and rich carpets, on which sat the ladies, and
on the second their slaves
behind them, but without any distinction of rank by their
dress, all being in the state of nature, that is, in plain
English, stark naked, without any beauty or defect concealed,
yet there was not the least wanton smile or immodest gesture
I was here convinced of the truth of a reflection that
I had often made, that if it was the fashion to go naked,
the face would be hardly observed.
D. . . . In short, it is
the women’s coffee house, where all the news of the
town is told, scandal invented, etc. They generally take
this diversion once a week, and stay there at least four
or five hours without getting cold by immediately coming
out of the hot bath into the cool room, which was very
surprising to me.
E. “Adieu, Madam. I am sure I have now entertained
you with an account of such a sight as you never saw in
and what no book of travels could inform you of. It is
no less than death for a man to be founding one of these