Browse Henrietta Liston's journals

Read Henrietta Liston's manuscript journals which describe her travels in the United States and the West Indies between 1796 and 1801, and her residency in the Ottoman Empire between 1812 and 1820.

'No European can travel in America without remarking the familiarly of Inn & Tavern keepers'

Henrietta's inquisitive voice fills her travel writing with a sense of discovery.

She takes us to the streets, dinners, and political happenings of early national America, and to the markets, burial grounds, mosques and embassies of Ottoman Istanbul. She is fascinated by the landscapes and trees, by the skill of American ladies at dancing, the dress of the Ottoman elite, by the practice of Ramazan, and by politics and rulers.

Henrietta writes about George Washington, Sultan Mahmud II, and the other iconic figures she meets with discernment, wit, decisiveness and bias. She was an informed observer of international politics. Yet she was officially, as all women at this time, politically invisible. Like the American and Turkish women she knew, Henrietta was denied the 'rights' claimed by white men.

Henrietta's journals demonstrate her political nous and sensitivity for the politics of character. Liston layers her personal opinion with the public — looks at the reputation of the men she encounters and weighs it in the balance.

The journals are fascinating in their expression of thought, feeling and bias, in their first impressions, and indeed revised impressions, of the United States during this formative era and of the Ottoman Empire in the early years of the 19th century.

Robert Liston's portrait by Gilbert Stuart

Robert Liston

Henrietta Liston's portrait by Gilbert Stuart

Henrietta Liston

This influential couple moved in circles that included presidents, politicians, writers, diplomats and monarchs

About the Listons