Title:
PP/GC/PO/307 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the ambassador's residence at Constantinople, 8 October 1837
Date:
08/09/1837
Content:
Letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, later first Viscount Ponsonby, [ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Constantinople], to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: [Transcript] "I delayed obedience to your instruction, that I should make a report upon the subject of a palace, because I was unable to make one that could be satisfactory to you. I could not undertake to be responsible in the way you require because I am wholly unacquainted with architectural affairs, and incapable of superintending and checking the expenditure to be made by those who would be employed in building. I will however [f.1v] make a report, and do my best to have it as little unsatisfaction as I can. The season already makes it impossible that anything should be done for many months to come, except to patch up the house we inhabit for the winter, and there will be time enough for explanation of what \ it / may be necessary to explain. I am on my own account quite content with the house we live in. It is even comfortable for Lady Ponsonby and myself when the weather is not very severe, for it has been caulked [f.2r] in many places like a ship and now keeps out water and a good deal of wind, but it is impossible to lodge anybody even decently. We have only one small bedroom, and that stands within the dining room and has no other entrance and it is also as cold and bleak (being close to the sea with a north east aspect) as any other room in the world. I have no partiality for Therapia, and when I wrote about Mavrogeni's house I did so from the conviction I still feel that it * was * is the best place for the ambassador's residence, taking into consideration the small cost at which it might then have been had, and its vicinity to the [f.2v] French palace, as well as (during 7 months or more) to the residences of all the other foreign ministers whilst it is also nearer the abode of Akif Pasha and of Reschid Bey, who is to be Foreign Minister, than Pera is. My objectives to Pera are that the expense of building there will be enormous, that at Pera the danger of fire is great, the danger of plague is great, the situation of the ground belonging to Her Maj[esty's] government is unhealthy rather than not, and overlooks and adjoins a vast burying ground, into which corpses are thrown and scarcely covered with sufficient earth [f.3r] and not sufficient to prevent the smell of putrid bodies escaping. The confinement to which the ambassador, and still more his wife, must be subject, and the total want of any advantage to the public or to individuals to compensate for the disagreeable [MS "disagreable"] things connected with the residence in it. I admit that there may be short periods of time when it may be much better for the ambassador to be in the midst of the town in order to see more constantly certain people who may be employed by him, and I expected [f.3v] sometime ago the coming on of some such situation of things, but it has not occurred and I am not aware that anybody in the diplomatick line has been better informed than I have been and certainly I could not excuse any failures I may have made, upon the plea of ignorance and want of information, and if such failure, have been, they must be laid to my want of ability. I am very sure no mercantile business has been neglected, nor delayed by my being at Therapia, and I challenge [f.4r] the proof of the contrary to my assertion. I have already told you that the title to the ground at Pera is perfect, and has been legally verified. I have been informed of many places near Pera where the embassy might be placed and which were for sale or to be let on perpetual lease, but I had no right to say to the proprietors, "Delay the sale or settlement of a lease for your ground, until I hear what my gov[ernmen]t will say to my report respecting it," because I have never had authority to give any hopes that gov[ernmen]t would even treat for such places, and it has happened that [f.4v] have been disposed of. I will say no more at present but reserve myself for my report. I have now to thank you for the obliging manner in which you reply to what I said about the new sec[retar]y of embassy, and to add that I feel no objection to his coming to his post, but only deprecate his being directed to live in this house where it is indeed impossible to lodge both him and me. I confess that were it otherwise, and were there accommodations [MS "accomodations"] for him instead of there being none, I should still feel alarm [f.5r] at the notion of his being shut up with us during winter, when we have often no society, and when he must be bored to death with an old man like myself as well as bore me by convincing me that I bore him. I shall be very glad of his society if he be free to deny it me, I only desire not to have him as an inmate in a the house with me, when I must be answerable for the conduct of my servants to him, and still worse, to his servants and be answerable for his comforts as to bed and so forth, which are things [f.5v] I cannot ensure him. God forbid I should imagine that Mr Bulwer would act as Mr Urquhart did whilst he was an inmate of this house, but I cannot exempt myself from the weakness of dreading the possibility of anything like it being repeated. I have never known that a sec[retar]y of embassy or of legation ever did anything or of their having anything to do except to occupy the place of the chief when he is absent on leave. It may be necessary for secretaries to be within reach, but it is now [f.6r] necessary they should sleep in the same bed with the minister. I think it better the minister and the sec[retar]y should not be thrown forcibly together because I think it best to prevent quarrels, and I have experience enough to know how true is the old copy set by the writing master, "Too much familiarity breeds contempt". The Turks still continue to wish for your Polish general. I write to you largely on that subject. I am labouring under a disorder in my head that is a buzzing and rumbling there like the nois made by a steamer. I beg you will pardon [f.6v] me in consequence if I have been very blundering, and if I defer many things I have to say and some of them interesting. I must not, however, neglect to tell you that Akif Pasha does all in his power to shew his confidence in me and desire to cultivate me. I have said before what my opinion of the man is. The affairs of Wallachia and Moldavia and Servia are becoming very important. The Prince of Wallachia says he is only a capitano de bandiera, by which he means that he has only a title and no authority. He I know sent complaint to St Petersburg against Ruckman, but what could that avail him ! Pray attend to the fact of the construction of the great Place d'Armes at ?Goomres so near ?Kods." 8 Oct 1837 It is noted, in pencil, that the letter was received on 31 October 1837. Palmerston has written in pencil "Extract to be made official" from the start of the letter to the top of f.4v. By Ponsonby's observation that no mercantile business has been neglected, Palmerston has noted in pencil: "All persons complain: even travellers who arrive certify to the unusual complaining on this subject".
Extent:
Four papers
License:
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Subject:
John Mavrogeni, former Ottoman special envoy to London
Akif Muhammad Effendi or Akiff Mehmed Pasha, former Reis Effendi or Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Reschid Mustapha Bey, alias Mustafa Bey, later Reschid Mustapha Pasha, later Reis Effendi or Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs
William Henry Lytton Earle Bulwer, known as Sir Henry Bulwer, later first Baron Dalling and Bulwer, nominated as secretary of the British embassy at Constantinople
David Urquhart, former secretary of the British embassy at Constantinople
General Adalbert Chrzanowski, or Skranowsky, Polish officer formerly in English employ in Turkey
Alexander Ghica, Prince of Wallachia
Pyotr Ivanovich, Baron Ruckmann, or Ruckman, Russian agent and consul general at Bucharest
Servia, alias Serbia
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