Sun, sea and ruins

When you see Palestine as a destination in a passenger list, your first thought is that the travellers on board must be pilgrims to the Holy Land. But click on the link below and look more closely at these passengers’ details from 1895. Their ages look wrong – many are in their thirties or forties. Only one of those on board has a title suggesting a religious vocation. Then you remember the full itinerary of the voyage – “South of France, Italy, Palestine etc” – and see that across the first page is written “Tour”. In fact, these travellers are artists and aesthetes, scholars and dilettantes, dabblers in antiquity from the beau monde of the 1890s on a tour of the Mediterranean.

Rev William John Loftie, like many a leisured Victorian clergyman, is an enthusiast in temporal affairs as well as in the saving of souls: in his case, majoring not as an entomologist or an etymologist but as a learned author and antiquarian. Mr Tristram Ellis, Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, is a water-colourist and etcher whose works still fetch good money at auction. Sir John Benjamin Stone, industrialist and MP, when off duty has a passion for photography – he founded the National Photographic Record Association, a kind of pioneering national memory bank, and his collection is now to be found in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and at Birmingham Central Library.

Dig a little deeper beneath the surface of many passenger lists such as this and a whole world begins to emerge.


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