King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
West of Suez: Britain and the Mediterranean, 1704-1967

A woman's journey through Cyprus

Frontispiece, based on a photograph, depicting tents and the author’s travelling party and a horseFrontispiece depicting tents and the author’s travelling partyThis illustrated account of a tour of Cyprus, eight years after it had become a British possession, is notable both as another example of Victorian women’s travel writing, and as evidence of how the advent of steam and rail travel, and the publication of John Murray’s and other guidebooks to the Mediterranean region had democratised the Grand Tour.

The author and her companion endured an uncomfortable train journey from Paris to Marseilles, from where they sailed to Port Said. They took the steamship Rio Grande of the Messageries Maritimes, from Beirut to Larnaca.

The frontispiece image shown here, based on a photograph, shows their tents and travelling party, ‘a strangely assorted cavalcade which consisted of two ladies, an Arab dragoman, an Arab waiter, a cook, one Arab muleteer, and five Cypriots, each of whom owned three mules.’

The author was born Agnes Smith (1843–1926), the daughter of a Scottish Presbyterian lawyer. Her education, partly at boarding schools and partly at home, inspired in her a lasting interest in languages and in the ancient world. She inherited a sufficient income to enable her to travel in the eastern Mediterranean and to pursue her studies of Arabic, Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. Later in her life she became distinguished as an antiquarian and scholar.

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