Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Thousand Miles up the Nile

ODNB Life of the Day - Amelia Edwards!

In 1873 Amelia Edwards and Lucy Renshawe, dissatisfied with the weather in central France, set off for Egypt. It was a journey that changed the course of her life. She became so fascinated with Egypt that it dominated her thinking and her work for the next two decades. With other tourists whom they had met in Cairo the two women hired a dahabiyah and sailed to Wadi Halfa, accompanying friends met on the crossing from Italy. While at Abu Simbel the party discovered, excavated, and described in detail a previously unknown small temple with a painted chamber. Amelia Edwards and Lucy Renshawe also visited Syria, crossed the Lebanese ranges to Damascus and Baalbek, and travelled on to Constantinople (Amelia B. Edwards MS 546). On her return to England she read extensively about ancient Egypt and consulted such specialists as Dr Samuel Birch and R. S. Poole on matters of historical and archaeological detail. She was also ‘led step by step to the study of hieroglyphical writing’ (Edwards, A Thousand Miles, xiii). With this knowledge and her own experiences she wrote her very successful A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1876), illustrated from her watercolours. Praised by reviewers for its ‘brilliant descriptions of scenery and the exactness of its information’ (Bristol Mercury, 16 April 1892) and as ‘a delightful, gossiping book’ (The World, 6 Feb 1877), it is still recognized as ‘one of the great classics of the history of the Nile’ (Crewe). She regarded it as the most important of her books and the one for which she hoped to be remembered (Amelia B. Edwards MS 477).