The British author and painter William Haygarth (1782- 1825/30) was a fellow student of Lord Byron at Trinity College Cambridge. He travelled in Greek lands from August 1810 to January 1811. Influenced by the classicist spirit of his time, which dominated Arts and Letters in Britain, as well as fascinated by his experience of arduous travelling in Greece (in the Ionian Islands, Pindos, Central Greece, Attica and the Saronic Gulf, and the Peloponnese), and with even deeper philhellenic sentiments, he composed a unique poetic and pictorial work, in which he describes the Greek landscape and its glorious antiquities, but also genre elements of the living culture.
His approximately 2400-line poem, most of which was written in Athens, together with detailed comments and references in his diary, as well as his 120 watercolours and his drawings, enhance Haygarth as one of the most interesting travellers to Greece. In his notes he refers to Strabo, Thucydides, Apollonius Rhodius, Herodotus, Homer, Aeschylus, Pausanias, Sophocles, as well as Gibbon, Abbé Barthélemy and others, while commentaries on his drawings mention also Plutarch, Strabo, again Pausanias, Diogenes Laertius, Demosthenes, Athenaeus, G. Wheler and others. Last, Haygarth makes note of the language debate (the coexistence of vernacular Greek, erudite Greek, ecclesiastical Greek, etc.) and cites a list of European literary works, mainly of the Enlightenment Age, that had been translated into Greek.
With his romantic style, reminiscences, associations and lyricism, in combination with realistic and imaginary elements, absent neither from his pen nor his brush, as he himself writes: “I have ventured to predict in poetry what I certainly should not be so hardy as to foretell in prose – the moral regeneration of Greece”.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou