“Come travel soon thy friends will be replaced.
Come work; and life's true sweetness thou shalt know.
Success and fame are never found in rest;
But cares are. Leave thy native land, and go.”
Agnes Smith Lewis (1843-1926) was born in the small Ayrshire town of Irvine, Scotland, in January 1843, daughter of a solicitor and twin sister of Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1843-1920). After their father’s death in 1868, the sisters decided to visit Greece and Egypt. After these adventures, life in rural Scotland was restricted and Agnes devoted herself to learning Greek, the first of many languages which she was to master.
“I am more and more convinced, for my own part, that no language helps its possessor in the acquirement of other tongues as Greek does.”
During their travels they visited: Turkey, Egypt, the Holy Land, Athens, Peloponnisos and Cyprus. In 1887 Agnes Smith Lewis published an account of their exploration of Cyprus entitled 'Through Cyprus’ in which she gives detailed information on their tours around the island seen through the eyes of Western travellers visiting this little island of the Eastern Mediterranean under British rule. The book is illustrated with beautiful sketches depicting landscapes, antiquities and the people of Cyprus.
“Cyprus has undergone a few changes, and it is just possible that the eyes of two lady travellers may have been able to discern something new and worth telling.”
Her overall comments at the conclusion of the book about the future of Cyprus, leaves the modern reader with a bittersweet flavour given the troubled history of the island.
'Through Cyprus’ was one of the many travelogues written by Lewis. Others refer to Eastern Pilgrims: The travels of three ladies, In the Shadow of Sinai: A story of travel and research from 1895 to 1897, The Forty Martyrs of the Sinai Desert and the Story of Eulogius from a Palestinian Syriac and Arabic Palimpsest, Light on the Four Gospels from the Sinai Palimpsest, that granted the author a permanent place in scholarship and travelling literature.
Moreover, the Westminster Sisters (as they are sometimes referred to) became pioneering scholars and explorers to foreign lands during a time when women rarely ventured out alone.
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