Tuesday, March 28, 2017

19th C. Turkish Etiquette

In the past, what was known as Constantinople, is modern day Istanbul. It was the capital of the Ottoman Empire until 1923. 

Etiquette at Constantinople

Court etiquette, degenerating into ease even in Spain, seems still to hold its own at Constantinople. The Paris Journal thinks that the following anecdote of the celebrated pianist Leopold Mayer throws some light upon the hot water into which M. de Vogue, the French Embassador to the Porte, lately fell, it is not easy, according to Mayer, to perform in the Seraglio. You must arrive by 8 o'clock in the morning to perform at 3:00. You must be in full dress. You wait seven hours in a very beautiful gallery, where sitting is forbidden. From time to time you are told what his Highness is doing. " His Highness is just risen." You must prostrate yourself accordingly. "His Highness is going to take the bath." You prostrate yourself again. "His Highness is dressing." Once more you prostrate yourself. ''His Highness is taking coffee," and you prostrate yourself at each of these details of information, and each time more respectfully than before.

At last they bring the piano, but they have removed the legs, in order not to injure the mosaic work of the floor The grand piano is supported on five Turks! The poor fellows are on their knees, bent down and crushed by the enormous weight! But by objecting to play on a piano a cinq Turcs they only think you mean that the instrument is not level. They take a cushion aud place it under the knees of the smallest Turk. They do not suspect that a sentiment of humanity forbids your playing. You are obliged to explain this delicacy of civilization, and the process is long.

At last they place the piano on its real legs, and the Sultan appears. After all sorts of salamaleks, they order you to play. You ask for a chair. There is no chair. It is forbidden to sit in the presence of his Highness. Now a pianist without a chair is in even a more awkward position than an embassador who must not sit down. One must do at Rome what Rome does, and M. de Vogue has been merely taught that the same proverb is true of other places than Rome. But it is clear that a man who cannot stand a great deal — in many senses — is not fitted to be a representative of any kind at Constantinople.
-1872

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