Sunday, 23 March 2008

Travel Writing

During the 1920s, Cyprus became a British Crown Colony, and many military personnel and colonial officials were posted there to administer the island. Gladys Peto's husband, Cuthbert Lindsay Emmerson was one of those officials, and between 1924 and 1928, he was stationed in Cyprus, Egypt and Malta.

Gladys accompanied him on his travels, and her experiences in the Far East had a considerable influence on her writing, resulting in stories such as Cynthia in Cairo and On the Nile popping up in otherwise typically British children's books.

Furthermore, her experiences resulted in two travel guide books published by J. M. Dent & Sons as part of The Outward Bound Library; Malta and Cyprus (1926) and The Egypt of the Sojourner (1928), the only two non-fiction books that Gladys wrote. These books provide a superb and often hilarious insight into the daily life of an upper class woman abroad, and are a unique mixture of historical and cultural observation and social critique. In keeping with her enthusiasm for style and fashion, there are frequent references to the appearance of the locals:

" The Greek women of the Troodos district are much addicted to wearing a blue frock with an apron of a particularly delightful shade of salmon pink, both made of the local fabric alaja. They are a mostly friendly folk. If you are able to talk to them, the women have the most curious habit of patting you upon the cheek when they take leave, which is rather disconcerting. They also uphold the fallacy that if they speak Greek to you very, very slowly and incredibly loud, you are sure to understand every word."

In addition to these publications, Peto's artwork was used to illustrate the cover of the 1931 magazine Egypt and the Sudan, for which she also supplied heading flourishes for the interior articles.

In 1998 the Laiki Group Cultural Centre and the Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia produced an exquisite limited edition, linen-bound book called In the Footsteps of Women: Peregrinations in Cyprus. The book is beautifully produced and includes a chapter on Gladys Peto, and reproductions of her illustrations from Malta and Cyprus.

1 comment:

M. Photiou said...

One of the best blogs i ever visited! I saw two of Peto's works in Cyprus and i loved them!

i never knew about her book during her residence in Cyprus, i ll look for it!