Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bankes's of Kingston Lacy (Continued)

William Bankes traveled the east en grand seigneur in a noble barge with a cabin, not because he wanted to, but because it was expected. He also visited Lady Hester Stanhope, a fascinating lady who lived on Mount Lebanon.

After his travels he returned to Syria where he carried out clandestine nocturnal excavations with other English gentlemen who were also in the area at the time. He was one of the first Europeans to reach Petra famous for its rock cut architecture  and water conduits system. Imagine being among the first to see a sight like that pictured to the left.

Established sometime around the 6th century BC Petra was the capital city of the Nabataeans and is to be found east of the Dead Sea. I must say I am greatly resisting the temptation to delve deeper, but no. This is about William, not Arabia.  He really did have adventures. William went to Petra dressed as a Bedouin Arab.   He also went because he was so skilled in drawing and was to use his talent to capture the sights on paper, there not being any photographs at the time.  But you knew that didn't you.

Next he went up the Nile, leading Henry Salt's flotilla in his fourteen-oared canja among whom were artists and Belzoni,  a hydraulic engineer who had once been a strong man on the stage of Sadler's Wells. Williams plan of the temple at Luxor corrected that of the French antiquary Vivant Denon. He discovered the table of the kings now in the British Museum at Abydos. Amd at Abu Simbel William discovered a Greek inscription at the great temple of Rameses II which helped date the monument, while inside he and his companions copied all the wall paintings by the light of candles standing on ladders (and without their shirts because it was hot, so scandalous it deserves a mention).
After visiting Byron in Venice and then at Ravena where they "buffooned togther very merrily" he returned home in April 1820.  He collected all kinds of things, but never did anything to organize them or document them, nor did he ever write the promised book about his travels.  Too much like hard work, one wonders? He enjoyed the "doing" part. 

This is such a brief summary, of his adventures, it merely give a flavour of what he was up to while he was gaining his reputation as "the Nubian explorer".  My imagination is certainly taking flight.

Back at home he was lionised by society who gobbled up the  stories of his travels.  So much so that he had to be persuaded not to pursue his affair with Lady Buckinham, who wanted him to take her to Africa disguised as a boy, so they could search for the source of the Nile together.  Instead he devoted himself to his British inheritance.  Shades of a romance novel anyone?

We will finish up his story next time.   In the meantime a reminder about the upcoming contest to win a Kindle or a Kindle Fire along with daily prizes, which will be posted here and on my website, so don't forget to check back for the rules of how to enter the contest.

Until next time, Happy Rambles