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November 20 , 2007

Eothen (Illustrated)


Eothen is the earliest work of Alexander William Kinglake, best known as the historian of the Crimean War.  It is an account of a tour—or rather of selected adventures which occurred during a tour—undertaken in the Levant in 1834, but was not published until ten years later.  The biographical notices of the Author are somewhat meagre, as by his dying directions all his papers were destroyed.  He was born near Taunton in 1809, and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, at which latter he is said to have been the friend of Thackeray and Tennyson.  On leaving college he started on his Oriental tour with Lord Pollington (the Methley of Eothen), and on returning to England was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, and obtained a lucrative practice.  But the life was too tame to suit his taste.  In 1845 he visited Algeria, and went through a campaign with the flying column of St. Arnaud; and in 1854 went to the Crimea with Lord Raglan, and was present at the p. viiibattle of Alma.  On returning to England he decided to go into politics, and was elected for Bridgewater in 1857 in the Liberal interest.  He seems to have been a poor speaker, and to have exercised little parliamentary influence; but we are told that in 1859 he was strongly opposed to the Conspiracy Bill, which was introduced after Orsini’s attempt to murder Napoleon III., and that in 1860 he denounced the cession of Nice and Savoy to France.  In both cases he was apparently actuated by his personal dislike of Napoleon, which is evident in his historical works.  In 1868 he was again returned for Bridgewater, but unseated on petition, for bribery.  One might have supposed that he had acquired this habit in the East, but his biographers assert that he knew nothing of the irregularities which were committed by his agents.  But the chief business of his later life was the composition of the History of the War in the Crimea, of which the first two volumes appeared in 1863, and the seventh and eighth (completing the work) in 1887.  He died in 1891.

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