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

Hobhouse's account of his Grand Tour

Hand-coloured aquatint view of the village of Marathon, with a distant view of the plain, with people and animals in the foregroundThe village of Marathon with a distant view of the plainIn 1809 the politician John Cam Hobhouse (1786-1869) accompanied Lord Byron, with whom he had been a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, on a journey to the eastern Mediterranean by way of Gibraltar, Malta and Albania, culminating in an audience with the Sultan, Mahmoud II, in July 1810.

The image shown here is from Hobhouse’s account of this Grand Tour, told in the form of letters, accompanied by colour illustrations.

Hobhouse and Byron arrived in Malta during a period of British naval activity in the eastern Mediterranean, as preparations were in train for the capture of the Ionian Islands from the French.

The two young men were entertained by members of the British diplomatic community and persuaded to travel into Albania, furnished with an introduction to Ali Pasha, at whose capital, Tepellene, William Martin Leake was then in residence.  

On 24 January 1810 Hobhouse and Byron visited the village of Marathon, illustrated in the hand-coloured aquatint reproduced here. It was here, in 490 BC, that the Greeks, although outnumbered, had defeated the army of the Persians. Byron was to refer to Marathon in the celebrated philhellenic lines in the third canto of Don Juan, published in 1821 on the eve of the Greek Revolution:

The mountains look on Marathon
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there a while alone,
 I dreamed that Greece might still be free

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