Constantinople: Old & New (Paperback)
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I, a Persian and an Ispahani, had ever been accustomed to hold my native city as the first in the world: "Never had it crossed my mind that any other could, in the smallest degree, enter into competition with it, and when the capital of Roum was described to me as finer, I always laughed the describer to scorn. But what was my astonishment, and I may add mortification, on beholding, for the first time, this magnificent city I had always looked upon the royal mosque, in the great square at Ispahan, as the most superb building in the world; but here were a hundred finer, each surpassing the other in beauty and in splendour. It is Stamboul or ancient name is Constantinople." J. J. MORIER, " The Adventures oj Hajji Baba of Ispahan."I have never forgotten" nor do successive experiences seem to dull the sharpness of the impression" that abysmal drop from the general European level of spruceness and solidity. Yet Stamboul, if you belong to the same race of men as I, has a way of rehabilitating herself your eyes, perhaps even of making you adopt her point of view. Not that I shall try to gloss over her case. Stamboul is not for the race of men that must have trimness, smoothness, regularity, and modern conveniences, and the latest amusements. She has ambitions in that direction. I may live to see her attain them. I have already lived to see half of the Stamboul I once knew burn to the ground and the other half experiment in Haussmannising. But there is stil enough of the old Stamboul left to leaven the new. It is very bumpy to drive over. It is ill-painted and out of repair.If literature could be governed by law "which, very happily, to the despair of grammarians, it can not" there should be an act prohibiting any one, on pain of death, ever to quote again or adapt to private use Charles Lamb and his two races of men. No one is better aware of the necessity of such a law than the present scribe, as he struggles with the temptation to declare anew that there are two races of men. Where, for instance, do they betray themselves more perfectly than in Stamboul?You like Stamboul or you dislike Stamboul, and there seems to be no half-way ground between the two opinions. I notice, however, that conversion from the latter rank to the former is not impossible. I cannot say that I ever really belonged, myself, to the enemies of Stamboul. Stamboul entered too early into my consciousness and I was too early separated from her to ask myself questions; and it later happened to me to fall under a potent spell. But there came a day when I returned to Stamboul from Italy. I felt a scarcely definable change in the atmosphere as soon as we crossed the Danube.