Lady Mary Wortley Montagu


A craze for all things Turkish swept Europe in the 1700s, inspired at least in part by the first European translation of the Arabian Nights (into French, by Antoine Galland in 1704-17, and into English in 1706). Europeans were enthralled by the tales of sultans, slaves and harems.

Lady Mary travelled to Turkey in 1716. She was the first to write about the mysteries of the seraglio, and claimed that Turkish women had more freedom than English women. She was also broad-minded enough to have her own children “engrafted” with the smallpox virus, a comon practice outside Europe, and took this knowledge back to England with her - seventy years before Jenner’s vaccination.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Letters went into 23 editions between 1763 and 1800. (Next)