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a nook of the wall, are placed the Sultan's slippers, of
very small fishes. Answering to the platform mentioned
Our next and principal object was the examination of the
A catastrophe of this nature has been already
CHAREM, or Apartments of the Women.
Having inspected every alley and corner of the garden, we advanced, half-breathless, and on tip-toe, to the great wooden door of the passage which leads to the inner court of this mysterious edifice. We succeeded in forcing this open; but the noise of its grating hinges, amidst the
profound silence of the place, went to our very hearts. We then entered a small quadrangle, exactly resembling that of Queer's College, Cambridge, filled with weeds. It was divided into two parts, one raised above the other; the principal side of the court containing an open cloister, supported by small white marble columns. Every thing appeared in a neglected state. The women only reside here during summer. Their winter apartments may be compared to the late Bastile of France; and the decoration of these apartments is even inferior to that which I shall presently describe. From this court, forcing open a small window near the ground, we climbed into the building, and alighted upon a long range of wooden beds, or couches, covered by mats, prepared for the reception of a hundred slaves: these reached the whole extent of a very long corridor. From hence, passing some narrow passages, the floors of which were also matted, we came to a staircase leading to the upper apartments. Of such irregular and confused architecture, it is difficult to give any adequate description. We passed from the lower dormitory of the slaves to another above: this was divided into two tiers; so that one half of the numerous attendants it was designed to accommodate, slept over the other, upon a sort of shelf or scaffold near the ceiling. From this second corridor we
entered into a third, a long matted passage : on the left of this were small apartments for slaves of higher rank; and upon the right, a series of rooms looking towards the sea. By continuing along this corridor, we at last entered the great Chamber of Audience, in which the Sultan Mother receives visits of ceremony, from the Sultanas, and other distinguished ladies of the Charem. Nothing can be imagined better suited to theatrical representation than this chamber; and I regret the loss of the very accurate drawing which I caused Monsieur Preaux to complete upon the spot. It is exactly such an apartment as the best painters of scenic decoration would have selected, to afford a striking idea of the pomp, the seclusion, and the magnificence, of the Ottoman court. The stage is best suited for its representation; and therefore the Reader is requested to have the stage in his imagination while it is described. It was surrounded with enormous mirrors, the costly donations of Infidel Kings, as they are styled by the present possessors. These mirrors the women of the Seraglio sometimes break in their frolics'. At the upper end is the throne, a sort of cage, in which the Sultana sits, surrounded by latticed blinds; for even here her person is held too sacred to be exposed to the common
(1) The mischief done in this way, by the Grand Signior's women, is so great, that some of the most costly articles of furniture are removed, when they come from their winter apartments to this palace. Among the number, was the large coloured lustre given by the Earl of Elgin : this was only suspended during their absence ; and even then by a common rope. We saw it in this state. The offending ladies, when detected, are whipped by the black eunuchs, whom it is their chief amusement to elude and to ridicule.
observation of slaves and females of the Charem. A lofty flight of broad steps, covered with crimson cloth, leads to this cage, as to a throne. Immediately in front of it are two burnished chairs of state, covered with crimson velvet and gold, one on each side the entrance. To the right and the left of the throne, and upon a level with it, are the sleeping apartments of the Sultan Mother, and her principal females in waiting. The external windows of the throne are all latticed: on one side they look towards the sea, and on the other into the quadrangle of the Charem; the chamber itself occupying the whole breadth of the building, on the side of the quadrangle into which it looks. The area below the latticed throne, or the front of the stage (to follow the idea before proposed), is set apart for attendants, for the dancers, for actors, music, refreshments, and whatsoever is brought into the Charem for the amusement of the court. This place is covered with Persian mats; but these are removed when the Sultana is here, and the richest carpets substituted in their place.
Beyond the great Chamber of Audience is the Assembly Assembly Room of the Sultan, when he is in the Charem. Here we observed the magnificent lustre before mentioned. The Sultan sometimes visits this chamber during the winter, to hear music, and to amuse himself with his favourites. It is surrounded by mirrors. The other ornaments display that strange mixture of magnificence and wretchedness, which characterize all the state-chambers of Turkish grandees. Leaving the Assembly Room by the same door through which we entered, and continuing along the passage, as before, which runs
At the upper
parallel to the sea-shore, we at length reached, what might
Leaving the bath, and returning along the passage by
We now proceeded to that part of the Charem which looks into the Seraglio garden, and entered a large apartment,
(1) “ Pretiosissimi quidem generis, cunctisque hilarius." Nat. Hist. lib. xxxvi. c. 7