The Dodecanese: Further Travels Among the Insular Greeks Selected Writings of J. Theodore & Mabel V.A. Bent, 1885-1888
edited by Gerald Brisch. xiv+194 pages; illustrated throughout in black & white. 3rd
guides 143 2015 3rdGuides - Archaeopress Travel 8
. ISBN 9781784910969. £15.00 (No VAT).
A sequel to The Cyclades
, a compilation of late-19th-century travel writings (with an archaeological/ethnographical bias) centred on the Greek Dodecanese islands (including Rhodes, Nissiros, Tilos, Karpathos, Patmos, and Astypalea).
The authors are the British explorer J. Theodore Bent (1852-1897), devotedly supported by his wife Mabel Virginia Anna (1847-1929). Theodore met Mabel shortly after coming down from Oxford in 1875 and they married two years later. They were of independent character and means and spent the too few years until Theodore’s early death on a breathless sequence of annual travels to the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, and Southern Arabia. Theodore’s publications are referenced still by archaeologists and scholars working on sites or regions such as ‘Great Zimbabwe’, Aksum, the Wadi Hadramaut, the Cilician littoral, and, of course, the Greek islands.
Bent’s first successful monograph was based on two winters spent in the Cycladic isles (1882/3 and 1883/4). From the start the couple kept notebooks from which all Theodore’s later lectures and literature sprang. His The Cyclades, or Life Among the Insular Greeks
was published in 1885 and has been rarely out of print since. It remains one of the most delightful accounts in English of the region, and few serious travellers and tourists to these islands fail to discover it.
In the year The Cyclades
was published the Bents moved a little east and explored the islands now commonly referred to as the Greek Dodecanese. Unforeseen circumstances obliged the explorers to curtail their activities before Theodore’s writings on the area could be edited into a monograph to complement his earlier bestseller. Theodore’s Dodecanesian output was channelled instead into a wide range of articles, while Mabel completed three volumes of her personal Chronicles
on their daily travels and travails.
Bent never presented his Dodecanese researches to the public in a compendium, the way he had, so brilliantly, for the Cyclades. Now, 130 years later, his The Dodecanese
can appear for the first time: a collection of reminiscences and studies on these sunny, blue-surrounded, and delightful islands.
Contents: ‘Preface’ by Marc Dubin; ‘Introduction’ by Gerald Brisch; ‘J.T. Bent: Selected Writings on the Dodecanese 1885-1888’; ‘M.V.A. Bent: Travel Chronicles for the years 1885-1888’. Fully illustrated with maps and photographs.
Mr. Bent’s book deserves all success, for it is the result of researches pursued in the most laudable manner…[and] a unique description of the life and ideas of a people, which renders it a very storehouse of facts for the student of customs and myths. And in this respect its value will be permanent. Other travellers may follow in Mr. Bent’s footsteps, and fill up what is wanting in his archaeological information; but in a few years’ time, if any traveller be found so enduring as to attempt once more the task which he has so well performed, it is highly probable that a great part of these interesting customs and ideas will have disappeared.
(Henry Fanshawe Tozer (1885), on The Cyclades
by J.T. Bent)
The modern reader of Theodore’s and Mabel’s travels in the Dodecanese is surely to find something of interest to him or her... Their sentiments as reflected in this collection of writings surely rested well with their intended audience, and thus their candid accounts provide quite an informative, as well as entertaining, vestige of the 19th-century British imperial mindset and its approaches to the antiquities and local people they encountered.
(Review in Journal of Greek Archaeology 2016, Vol. 1, p. 470)