Thursday 15 June

Rose before daylight, having packed bag and drawing materials for journey. Paid Janni. Breakfast. Settled all things. It was 6 a.m. before we started.

Edward Lear, Athens Royal Palace, 12 June 1848
VIS4486, reproduced by kind permission of Museums Sheffield

In the course of ten days at Athens, between 3 and 14 June, Lear had collected more than 20 sketches (numbered from 3 to 24)[18] of Athens and its neighbourhood, of striking effect. Many of these contain features which have since disappeared from building and landscape, of picturesque and historic interest: the tall, brown Venetian watch-tower, which then stood in striking contrast with the straight lines of walls and temples, the Turkish bastion and gateway, the battered walls, the threshing floors on the platform of the tall columns of the Olympeium, gaunt and lonely, the olive groves on the plain, in their solemn dignity and rich golden vesture, with much more extended area than in later years, the groups of peasants in their native dresses, under the pergola of straw shelter on the plain, or in picturesque attitudes on the ochre rocks {sketch 27}, the Parthenon standing amid its wilderness of white marble blocks and long grass; all these features belonging to Athens of 60 years ago were represented in the grave and solemn character of Lear’s sketches of 1848 — all have disappeared amidst the growth of modern civilisation.

Edward Lear, Athens, 12 June 1848
VIS4487, reproduced by kind permission of Museums Sheffield

It was 6 a.m. before we got under way, Church and I in saddle, also Janni in flare-up red Turkish dress, Cook and 3 baggage horses followed. Soon after we had left the city, perhaps an hour, we were galloping, when my horse came down like a shot. I fell over his head and was much hurt in the shoulder and side.[19] We pass behind Lycabettus and go straight towards Pentelicus leaving Hymettus right. Vast lines, wide plain; two little villages, Marousi, Kephissia. My arm getting worse, walked. Trees increasing and larger. 10.30 a.m. reached Stamata –very ill and in great pain. Church advised going back, but resolved to go on. Janni gave us an excellent dinner in the tent under almond trees. Went on 2 p.m., always walking. Pine scenery. Came in sight of Bay and Plain of Marathon, descent among fine pines. Drew twice {sketches 32, 33}, though in no condition for drawing. Cut across to Tumulus, desolate flat plain. Church gallopeth. Herds of goats and cattle. Sunset. Came by valley full of myriads of goats to Marathon. Vrana, Demarch’s [Mayor’s] House, good tea. Arm very bad, rubbed by Church. Mosquito.

Edward Lear, Marathon, 15 June 1848
VIS4489, reproduced by kind permission of Museums Sheffield

[18] The Athens sketches are numbered from 3 to 31.

[19] Lear often suffered mishaps with horses: see, for example, his sequence of humorous sketches made in Sicily the previous year (British Museum).

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