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LHMP #414 Glover 1610 The Muftie, Cadileschiers, Divans: Manners and attire of the Turkes

Full citation: 

Glover, Thomas. 1610. The Muftie, Cadileschiers, Divans: Manners and attire of the Turkes. The Sultan described, and his Customes and Court. Included in George Sandys A Relation of a Journey begun Anno Dom. 1610 published in: Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes edited by Samuel Purchas (1625).

This post is part of a series of primary source materials illustrating how Europeans perceived, reported, and discussed female homoeroticism in the Ottoman Empire during the 16th to early 18th centuries. I’ll give a larger context for why this is a period of interest for European interactions with a non-European, non-Christian culture that could not be dismissed easily as  not being of equal power an importance to their own. Attitudes toward, and practice of homosexuality was far from the most noteworthy difference that these reports covered, but it’s the one of interest to us within the scope of this Project. I’ll be presenting the descriptions from ambassadors, travelers, and others in chronological order of their time spent in Constantinople and other key cities, followed by some additional primary sources that show how the echos of these interactions became part of European myths about lesbianism.

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Thomas Glover was born in Constantinople to an English father and Polish mother and was raised there, being fluent in Turkish, Greek, Italian, and Polish (as well as English). He served as secretary to two successive English ambassadors to Constantinople before being installed as ambassador himself in 1606. He was recalled to London in 1611 under something of a cloud, perhaps due to interceding in Moldavian royal politics, but evidently it blew over. The Wikipedia entry on him is scanty and doesn’t mention his writings.

Glover’s text is included  in volume II of Purchas His Pilgrimes, published 1625, as an inclusion in an account dated 1610 by George Sandys. Glover’s text is titled, The Muftie, Cadileschiers, Divans: Manners and attire of the Turkes. The Sultan described, and his Customes and Court. Sandys’ text is an account of his travels through Europe and the Middle East beginning in 1610. Assuming the inclusion of Glover’s text in conjunction with Sandys’ is due to Sandys having acquired Glover’s description during his travels, this happened in 1610 based on an internal reference in Glover’s text. But without additional research, I can’t be certain that the conjunction of these two texts isn’t an editorial decision by Purchas. On the other hand, given that The Muftie… is a sort of “introduction to Ottoman government and society” it might well be the sort of thing written to help a visiting English traveler. (Purchas His Pilgrimes is an extensive four-volume collection of travel writing, edited by Samuel Purchas and titled Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes. The reference to Hakluyt points to Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations and Purchas’s collection was partly based on manuscripts left by Hakluyt, who had died in 1616. My text is taken from a copy of Purchas at where it appears in volume 8, Chapter X (p.304ff).

There is a second text by Glover in the same volume titled, The Journey of Edward Barton Esquire, her Majesties Ambassador with the Grand Signior, otherwise called the Great Turke, in Constantinople, Sultan Mahumet Chan. Written by Sir Thomas Glover then Secretarie to the Ambassador, and since employed in that Honourable Function by his Majestie, to Sultan Achmet, which concerns an extensive description of travel logistics when the English ambassador accompanied the Sultan to the siege of Agria (modern Eger in Hungary) in 1596.

Glover’s text is briefly excerpted in Traub 2002.

The excerpts included below are:

  • A brief excerpt regarding the seclusion of women
  • A description of the baths

As usual, I’ll begin with an excerpt in which Glover describes the seclusion of Turkish women, casting doubt on whether any of his subsequent descriptions of women’s appearance and behavior can truly be considered “eyewitness.”

Yet give they no entertaynment unto one another, nor come there any into their houses but upon speciall occasion, and those but into the publike parts thereof; their women being never seene but by the Nurses and Eunuches which attend on them. Yea, so jealous they are, that their Sonnes when they come to growth are separated from them.

In describing households and women, Glover includes many details that don’t jibe well with the idea that men are not allowed to see women who are not their wives, such as women’s rituals with a bride before marriage, the appearance of women, their cosmetics, and their clothing. Glover’s description of the baths is a bit ambiguous with regard to gender, since he mixes in both male and female bathing practices. When he describes “unnatural and filthy lust” it isn’t clear whether he’s referring to both male and female practices, but with the specification “yea, women with women” he clearly indicates the latter at least.

They never stirre forth, but (and then alwayes in troupes) to pray at the graves, and to the publike Bannias: which for excellency of buildings are next to their Mosques. But having in part alreadie described some of their formes, I will treate of their use…. The men take them up in the morning, and in the afternoone the women. … The men are attended upon by men, and the women by women; in the outermost roome they put off their clothes, and having Aprons of stayned linnen tyed about their wastes, then entring the Baths to what degree of heate that they please, (for severall roomes, and severall parts of them are of severall temperatures, as is the water let in by cocks to wash the sweat and filth of the bodie) the servitors wash them, rub them, stretch out their joynts, and cleanse their skins with a piece of rough Grogeram; which done, they shave the heads and bodies of men, or take away the haire with a composition of Rusma (a minerall of Cyprus) and unsleakt Lime; who returning to the place where they left their clothes, are dryed with fresh linnen; and for all this they pay not above three or foure Aspers: so little, in that endued with revenues by their Founders. But the women, doe anoint their bodies with an oyntment made of the earth of Chios, which maketh the skin soft, white, and shining; extending that on the face, and freeing it from wrinkles. Much unnaturall and filthie lust is said to bee committed daily in the remote closets of the darkesome Bannias: yea, women with women; a thing uncredible, if former times had not given thereunto both detection and punishment. They have generally the sweetest children that ever I saw; partly proceeding from their frequent bathings, and affected cleanlinesse. As wee beare ours in our armes, so they doe theirs astride on their shoulders.

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