By John Lucas
Greece has consistently had its admirers, notwithstanding none turns out to have adored the Athenian tavernas, the murderous site visitors and the jaded prostitutes, the petty bureaucratic tyrannies, the road noise and the heroic individualists with the irony and detachment of John Lucas. Lucas' love for the realities of Greece ultimately banishes the banality of a half-century of tourism during this number of memoirs and tales.
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Such an innocent, uncrusading traveler had a great deal to teach her countrymen in an age when they felt it "greatly to his credit" for anyone to be an Englishman. In the day of the "White Man's Burden," she had something to say that could not be found in Kipling or Disraeli or Gladstone. For she could live among the oddest peoplepagan Chinese and uncouth Americanswithout being either shocked or ''charmed" by their un-English ways. Almost always Isabella Bird traveled alone. Yet she seldom complained of loneliness nor did she tell us much of her personal feelings.
The rescuers returned to California, taking the German with them, whose story was that Mr. Donner died in the fall, and that the cattle escaped, leaving them but little food, and that when this was exhausted Mrs. Donner died. The story never gained any credence, and the truth oozed out that the German Page 21 had murdered the husband, then brutally murdered the wife, and had seized upon Donner's money. There were, however, no witnesses, and the murderer escaped with the enforced surrender of the money to the Donner orphans.
Her travels continued, in Persia, Kurdistan, and elsewhere, into her late years. When in her middle sixties, she again toured Canada, Japan, Korea, and China, spending fifteen months Page xvi and covering 8,000 miles in China alone. She died at Edinburgh in her seventy-third year. It is hard to recall another woman in any age or country who traveled as widely, who saw so much, and who left so perceptive a record of what she saw. There was nothing faddish or snobbish, and very little that was romantic in her travel interests.
92 Acharnon Street by John Lucas