Letter of Charles S. Peirce to his wife Melusina Fay
(Constantinople, 28.08.1870)




Spanish translation & annotations

Constantinople. 1870 August 28. Sunday

Dearest Zina- I arrived here today after a most interesting journey from Vienna. I don’t think by the way I remembered to say how beautiful my journey from Prague to Vienna was. It was so, the passage through the mountains of Bohemia being very fine. Very precipitous dark green hills descending to a very narrow valley in which wound a little stream. Passed through eleven dark tunnels. A capital tour for young married people.

On Tuesday Aug 23 I left Wien early in the morning by boat & arrived at Pest that same evening just after dark. The way was through Hungary & the picturesque hills were crowned in many places with great ruins of tremendous strongholds erected I suppose for defence against the turks. Everything on the banks had a look of novelty, of which the form of the Hungarian church steeples will give some idea.

Form Nº 2 the commonest. The mountains were often grand & the manner in which

they rose from the plain very sudden. The country had a wild look & the peasants whom I saw on the banks in their picturesque dress looked capable of the Heroism which Kossuth attributed to them. The Hungarians on board were very disagreeable in their manners (excepting some Magyar gentlemen) & I thought of the saying that politeness & the spirit of freedom are inversely proportional to one another. I arrived at Pesth not feeling well at all & I did not go much about but principally occupied myself writing letters. I left there Thusday Aug 24 at 10 at night for Bazias. At the depot I had occasion to give some assistance to two ladies, a young lady & her grandmother. In the same coupé as myself were two gentlemen, one a M. Rosetti a revolutionist who was going off about some revolution or something somewhere which had just broke out. The other a fat man so fat that the moment he began to go to sleep he began to suffocate & his night was passed in continual agony & he did not make it very pleasant for me. M. Rosetti was highly excited. A french looking man with a shrug almost convulsive but with an appearance of considerable power. Loved to talk & talked rhetorically or perhaps theatrically would be a

better word. About 50. On the way saw horse cars at Temesvar. If you could see what another world this is you would wonder. Arrived at Bazias early in the morning & here began to see a dash of the oriental in the dress of the porters. Took the boat inmediately for Rustzuk. A large company of passengers, of all nationalities —English, French, Germans, Italians, Hungarians, Serbians, Wallachians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Sclavonians, Turks, etc. in tolerably equal proportions. They made the greatest noise that can possibly be conceived at meals (which were very good). French was the prevailing tongue. I found there the English lady & her granddaughter whom I had seen the night before who I learned were well known Constantinople people. And M. Rosetti was there in great feather talking with an excitement which it was really marvelous how he sustained so long. It turned out the revolution in hand was in Wallachia & some people suggested that the boat would probably be fired upon. My fat friend was also there & rather hinted that as he had a stateroom for the night (for which he had paid the moderate sum of 48 florins silver) & as I had none I should take half of his stateroom. I formed the idea sufficiently absurd for either of two reasons one of which I mentioned to him & the other of which you can guess. I found three Englishmen on board. One was a Mr. Perkins of Odessa


–a man of 60 odd- related to the Boston Perkins’s. He had been to Boston in 1826 & knew Mr. Webster, Messrs. William & Nathan Appleton, Mr. Everett etc. etc. The other two Englishmen were young men. One, Lt. Col. Buller of the Coldstream guards. The other, rather an interesting person & a friend of Mr. Everett, Mr. Albert Bankes, who described himself as a younger son, invited me to come & see him in London should I return there. The only pretty women were one Hungarian & three Serbian young ladies. The prettiest was the precise image of Sam Howe. My fat friend told me his name –very long & I didn’t remember it a moment- & invited me to call upon him should I ever go to Galatz. Its very handy to have a friend in Moldavia. I talked also with several other passengers, among others a German gentleman, of some cultivation. But however interesting the company was the scenery was still more so. We first passed the Carpathian Mountains & here were cliffs running up mountain high almost perpendicularly, varied by open spaces, & by high wouded mountains coming down very steeply to the water’s edge. The great volume & rapidity of the river itself adds to the majesty of the scene & I said to myself that imagination was incapable of picturing or memory of retaining such a scene. I believe no river in the world is so fine as this part of the Danube. After passing these mountains which took a long time, we had Bulgaria on our right hand & Malachia


on our left. And now we began to see minarets & turbans & veiled women, showing us that we were on the borders of Turkey & these symptoms increasing as we went on kept up the interest of this part of our journey. At the Wallachian town of Tour-Sévérin we stopped to take in coal & I went up & saw the market place and also the garden. The later pretty. The market quadrangular, rather large, roughly paved & shabby looking with Cafés exactly like those I had always found in Germany with the narrow piazza with a row of chains outside & a vine growing over it. Gentlemen there reading newspapers & smoking & drinking coffe but it had a Salemy & out of the world kind of look. I should have been sorry to have to put up for the night at any of the hotels I saw but I was not left behind. That night on the boat. Next day a very bright & warm one. No special incidents till we reached Rustzuk at one o’clock. Here I got out to take the cars. My baggage was sealed with leaden seals by the Turkish officials. We took the train for Varna. The road through Bulgaria was agreeable the country is a pretty rolling country with some very high hills and but little cultivated. At Shi-tan-jik I got out and changed a Napoleon-d’or for 89 piastres for


fear I might want some small change. The silver pieces are about as well executed as our own & therefore do not compare with the beautiful Austrian money which I had just left –which is also very clean- but much better than the dirty disgusting Prussian change. The copper pieces are plated over & are very primitive in their appearance. In the coupé with me there was no one but the Prussian gentleman I have mentioned. But the 2 English ladies were along in the train. One of them by the way speaks English, French, German, Italian, Greek and Turkish; perhaps also Spanish but I had no demostration of it as I had of all the above languages. She said she spoke Spanish & could read Arabic. Her grandmother knew nearly as many, but I think not so well. We arrived in Varna about 9 & here was the Black Sea. I tasted it & to me it did not taste salt but I was assured that it was, very! I am strongly inclined to think not. We embarked by a boat on the boat for Constantinople & after a very poor supper went to bed pretty comfortably. In the morning I was assailed by an old Turk who would insist on speaking Turkish to me & when that failed tried pantomime & then went back to Turkish & stuck to it for a long time till I lost patience. Before noon we came to the Bosphorus; and with regard to the passage I can only say that it was extremely interesting & beautiful. The shores rising everywhere to a great height but not level at the top have their sides thickly sprinkled with groves & gardens, their more commanding points


crowned with fortresses of every age from the Roman to the present while the shores are lined with beautiful houses & palaces. And every point has some interesting history or legend connected with it. I saw the Cyanesian cliffs whence Jason sailed to find the golden fleece, the place where Darius built his bridge, where Simeon stylites sat, etc. Further on most splendid palaces of which I knew nothing. The Bosphorus itself all the way was almost literally crowded with shipping mostly going to Constantinople some coming away. Constantinople looked beautifully as we approached it, but as the sun hung over it it did not illuminate it, so that I did not get that view of it which is so celebrated. When we came to anchor inmediately we were in a pandemonium such as I never knew approached. I decided to go to the Hôtel d’Angleterre with my Prussian friend (the two ladies had disembarked at Therapia nearly at the northern end of the Bosphorus). I landed in a boat & proceed first to the Custom house. Here I gave the officials a good large copper coin in consequence of which the examination which one of the two ladies had pronounced “more than severe, absolutely arbitrary” became relaxed. True they opened every piece & fumbled about but they fumbled in a manner as if they feared very much they might light on something & mere determined they would not. It was so amusing I


could hardly keep any countenance & somehow it reminded me of Sophocles who to me looks more like a Turk than a Greek. But I have not yet learned to distinguish the races. It is important knowledge because the Turks are good honest people & the christians are worse than in Western Europe even. After this two porters took my trunks & we ascended the hill of Pera to the hotel. I have not been to the Turkish city yet & shall not do so today for I thought today I would rest & write letters. I have seen so much that unless I go over it in my mind it will escape me. I feel I have now forgotten ever so many things which interested me greatly. Ever since I left Pest my German has been of no use to me & my English precious little. In the Babel of tongues I have been in, French maintains a clear preeminence which here justifies its title of the universal language. Everybody speaks it & I must learn it for thus far I can do nothing with it hardly. I hate it. I do not find Constantinople hot though they call it a warm day. It is like one of our hot days very much. The streets of Pera are ludicrously filthy though it is supposed to be much cleaner than Constantinople itself. Tomorrow I shall rise early & take a dragoman to show me about. I regret to say that the English hours prevail at this hotel. Dinner at 7 and there is the bell.

C. S. P.


Traducción de Sara Barrena (2008)
Una de las ventajas de los textos en formato electrónico respecto de los textos impresos es que pueden corregirse con gran facilidad mediante la colaboración activa de los lectores que adviertan erratas, errores o simplemente mejores transcripciones. En este sentido agradeceríamos que se enviaran todas las sugerencias y correcciones a sbarrena@unav.es
Proyecto de investigación "La correspondencia europea de C. S. Peirce: creatividad y cooperación científica (Universidad de Navarra 2007-09)

Fecha del documento: 27 de mayo 2008
Última actualización: 14 de septiembre 2017
[Main Page]