Terence Spencer

Fair Greece
Sad Relic

Literary Philhellenism
Shakespeare to Byron

Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth!
Immortal, though no more; though fallen, great!
Who now shall lead they scattered children forth,
And long-accustomed bondage uncreate?

Child Harold's Pilgrimage

This absorbing book presents the picture of Greece from the fall of Constantinople to the arrival of Byron as seen through the eyes of English poets, essayists and travellers. It shows that ‘Philhellenism'’has a much longer history than most people realize, and goes back at least to the late Middle Ages. In a manner that combines scholarship and wit, narrative history and literary anecdote, fable and fantasy, the author shows how our conception of Greece has been moulded by the feelings and opinions expressed by generations of writers when the country was under Turkish occupation and when its people, its temples and traditions were regarded as witnesses both to its ancient splendour and its contemporary sadness. Shakespeare, Milton, Shelley, Byron, as well as countless other half-forgotten travellers and poets, all contribute to the growth of that powerful current of Philhellenism which has become part and parcel of our western culture.

‘I suppose an affection for Greece seems to most of us now something we are born with; it is the one country which would appear to possess an unalterable natural affinity for us,’ wrote Cyril Connolly in a review of this book when it was originally published. Fair Greece, Sad Relic is an account of why this affection and affinity have become a thread of gold in the homespun of our history.

Reprint of the 1954 Weidenfeld and Nicolson edition. The pages of this present edition are uncut.

  • 324 pages, 22.5 x 15.0 cm, sewn pages, 8 black & white illustrations, no dust jacket, 1986

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