‘Dear Brother,’ the unpublished letters of Charles Cadogan. Part 3: from Vienna to Alexandria, via Hungary, Bulgaria and Constantinople. (August 1785 to March 1786)

Charles Cadogan climbs a mountain between Sophia and Plovdiv, witnesses a Ceremony in the Sultan’s Seraglio, and suffers from an inflamed eye. This doesn’t stop him sailing to Egypt to explore the Nile. A decade before Egyptology began to be properly studied, Cadogan is told that all the monuments were built by Joseph (of the Dreamcoat), just like Medieval travellers who believed that the pyramids had been built to store grain for the seven lean years. Cadogan plans to travel next through the Middle East. 

Constantinople August 25 1785

Dear Brother,

I arrived here on the 19thafter a journey of near six week from Vienna, during the Course of which I saw many interesting Scenes too tedious here to enumerate. Suffice it to say that I performed my journey to my Satisfaction, and that tho I far prefer our Manners and Customs to those of the people of this Country, yet the sudden change could not fail of being interesting on account of it’s novelty. The Country between Belgrade and this affords nothing very interesting on account either of its beauty or fertility, but Hungary and its Gold and Silver Mines are hardly to be parallelled.

Pray tell Mrs Cadogan I rode upon Post horses all the way from Belgrade about 550 miles, and only crossed one high mountain viz: Mt Kremus lying between Sophia and Philippopolis. It is allways covered with Snow. I shall set out for Greece and Egypt in two months at farthest, but probably in about six weeks. I shall I hope be able to give you some account of Athens, Scio, Corinth, Rhodes, Cairo, Palmyra, Balbec, and Jerusalem, which I hear is but a miserable Place, Notwithstanding which I shall take a touch there if Possible. The Plague rages a little the Levant but is lately abated, here there is but little.

You expect no doubt to hear much of this Place. My Windows indeed are Pleasant, but the Situations of the Dutch and Swedish Palaces are wonderfully fine, looking upon Scutari in Asia across the Bosphorus and into the Port. I have been once across the latter into Constantinople properly so called, have seen the Hippodrome one of the Mosques or Churches, and the Public Exchange. I shall make 5 or 6 more Jaunts in order to see every thing worthy of Notice.  Sir Robert Ainslie is exceedingly kind to me. We go in a day or two into the Country about 3 leagues off, where we shall see the Views upon the Black Sea etc.

I shall probably be gone before you can write to me, and therefore I’ll give you my address as soon as I can be certain of hearing from you. In the mean time I must be contented to write now and then to you, without hearing from you till I am more settled.

My Love to Mrs Cadogan and best Compliments as usual to all neighbours and friends. From your most affectionate CH Cadogan


Constantinople November 10 1785

Dear Brother,

I was in hopes of receiving a letter from you since my arrival here. however I hope your Silence is not owing to Illness or any disagreeable Cause whatever. For my part I have been allways perfectly well within these three weeks, when I had only what I thought a little cold; But after being blooded and taking an Emetic, I found it would require a good deal of Diet of Physic in order to get rid of them. I was feverish for about a week, and as soon as that went off, instead of going about again, behold such an inflammation settled in my right Eye that I have been obliged to continue my Room with the window curtains drawn, neither able to read write or to do any thing. This is the first day I can attempt it.

I hope Mrs Cadogan is well. Pray remember me kindly to her. If you write now and then and direct to me at his Excellency Sir Robert Ainslie’s Constantinople, and he will forward them to me. I should have wished to have been off towards Syria and Egypt (taking Greece as I come back) by this time. I could not have gone for reasons as above, but had I been ever so well, it would have been the same thing. Such Voyages require Patience for several reasons, and among others, opportunities ae not to be found to go from here to Alexandria, as you can step into the Reading Dilly to go to Chelsea. However, I have now spoke with a Ragusee Captain, and I shall be well enough to go on board his Vessell tomorrow. He talks of going in a week or ten days, so that I shall probably be off by or before the 1stof December.

My whiskers begin to cut a respectable figure, and if I enjoy my Health, have no doubt I shall make a very curious and agreeable tour, tho’ from my getting off so late, I may be a little drove into the Summer heat. This is the first Letter I have wrote since my Confinement, and I write it with one Eye. You will therefore excuse me if I hasten to a Conclusion, assuring you how much I am your ever most affectionate CH Cadogan.


Constantinople December 7 1785

Dear Brother,

I could not leave this place without informing you of my health, and that I am at last upon the point of leaving it. I have been detained here owing to the uncertainty of sea operations near double the time I intended to stay; however I have gained a sight of that few travellers see, I mean part of the Seraglio. This was owing to my having had the good fortune to have been here at the time that the Dutch Ambassador had his audience with the Sultan. It took place a week ago, and tho’ the Ceremony is too tedious to describe, yet I assure you it was very magnificent, tho’ mortifying and humiliating to the Ambassador.

I shall allways reflect with Satisfaction upon the journey I have made, having seen a people no where else to be seen, and so different in their Manners from us. The Country affords some remains of Antiquity, tho’ the ignorant brutal Inhabitants destroy them daily. Athens, where I shall make some stay is daily pulling them to pieces, but still affords noble remains. I go straight to Egypt, thence to Jerusalem, thence to Aleppo by Balbec, and (if possible) to Palmyra, taking Athens and what else is most interesting in Greece on my return. My Tour will take the best part of a year. You may depend on hearing from me in the Course of it. If you will direct to me at his Excellency Sir Robert Ainsley’s Constantinople. My Letters will be forwarded.

My best Compliments to Mrs Cadogan. You may well imagine what pleasure it will give me to hear of your wellfare.

From your most affectionate Brother CH Cadogan


Alexandria March 15 1786

Dear Brother,

I hope you received my last from Constantinople, since which I have executed that part of my Plan relative to Egypt, and have had a delightful jaunt up and down two different branches of the Niles. I went to Grand Cairo by Damietta, and came down thence by Rosetta. I often wished you with me, as to one so versed as you are in sacred history, Egypt is a most interesting Country, and even to this day every thing of Consequence still remaining goes under the name of Joseph’s.

I embark here in a few days for Jaffa, in order to take a touch at Jerusalem and pass the Easter there. From thence I shall go to Nazareth, Tyr, Sidon, Damascus, Balbec, and (if possible) Palmyra to Aleppo. I hope you approve of my undertakings, tho’ God knows the Public will never be benefitted by them. However, I find a rational as well as interesting amusement in surveying the Scenes of those Actions I had before read of, and comparing the one with the other.

Having thus given you an Idea of my plans as far as the Compass of a letter will permit, pray tell me how all your private Concerns go on. I hope to hear a good account of yourself and Mrs Cadogan. I have no doubt but that you envy me my present Tour, and indeed I should have felt the greater satisfaction had it been in your power to have partaken of it with me. Every place in these parts has something belonging to it more or less interesting, tho’ the barbarians who now inhabit the Country continue as they have done for ages to destroy every trace of Antiquity remaining. I hope to hear a good account (and of old Loveday, Vatas, etc. I must defer writing to him and other friends till this undertaking of mine is over, and till I get back into Christendom.

My kind Compliments to Mrs Cadogan and all friends and believe me ever Dear Brother your’s Most Affectionately CH Cadogan. Direct to me at the Ambassador’s at Constantinople.

Parliamentary Archive CAD 4/7-10


(Featured image Stele of the Royal Scribe Ipi worshipping Anubis (c) State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg)


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