Bettina Savigny-Schinas was invited into Greek families on private occasions and to witness particularly women’s daily life in a way foreign visitors would not normally have been able to And she knew “Because I am S’s wife I get to know this country -- its inhabitants better than it is possible for other travelers or strangers, even if they stay here some time.” Brigitte Eckert's translation concerns the illness and death in Athens of Andreas Miaoulis, from whom Bettina and her husband had rented a house in Nauplion.
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From her diary:
10 January 1835: Visit at the house of old venerable Miaoulis. The man is suffering from podagra (gout), but still walking around, is simple but fine and dressed very neatly. I spoke to him about his son in Munich, he listened with tears in his eyes. Our conversation was in Italian.
30 April 1835: Miaoulis was deadly ill, is better now. S saw him the day before yesterday in his bed. He spoke to his wife Albanian, the actual language of Hydriots, which S is able to understand, telling her that S is the benefactor of the family, whose efforts brought his children to Munich to receive academic education.
drawn by Karl Krazeisen
drawn by Karl Krazeisen
16 May 1835: Visit at Miaoulis’, found his wife and servants crying in the corridor, he is sleeping a little. There is almost no hope anymore, the fever is going on and on, he is hardly able to speak. Some weeks ago he spoke sadly to S about dying slowly in a bed, being hit by a bullet in a battle would have been preferable. With him again a part of history will be buried.
To her parents, Athens June 29 1835
First about a great occurrence in these days which moved me deeply. Miaoulis’ death. - His indisposition which had started insignificantly proceeded in spite of all means till it took the symptoms of tuberculosis . . .
The king visited him several times as he was getting worse, which pleased the noble man very much. About two weeks before his death the king brought him the great Order of the Saviour. Miaoulis spoke to the king a lot about his late son whom he had loved very much and mentioned that he would like to be buried there, etc.. This there became related to the Piraeus, God knows why. The son lies, I was told by Hill (Anglican vicar in Athens and founder of the Hill School) who stood at the funeral next to the tomb, in the hall of the temple of Theseus, between two columns, far away from Pireaus, and Miaoulis, by speaking about his son, wished to be buried there. Understood was Pireaus, and nicely fantasized as the wish of the hero to rest at the side of Themistocles . . .
Miaoulis died on the 23rd, 6 o’clock in the afternoon. . . . On the 24th at 8 o’clock in the morning I went with S to the small small house where the dear man had suffered. On the staircase, in the corridor many seamen were standing deeply saddened with folded hands, they had visited the dead and could not leave the door. In the middle of the room a couch was standing, covered by a white sheet, a candle at the foot, another one in front of an icon at the head; two damask pillows supported his head. Miaoulis laid stretched out straight, one hand on the other, wearing a simple Hydriot clothing and all his orders, a fez on his head, fresh flowers all around, also in his hands. I will never forget this image of peace and quiet. No feature of pain, no contorted expression, no other colour than of his illness, like sleeping very calm and gentle. If you could have seen the great man resting on his last bed you would understand the indelible impression I am keeping in my mind. As I came and as I left I kissed his hand, I could not help it.
At 3 o’clock the door was closed, at 4 the corpse was opened (and found like always in such cases the causes why death had to happen inevitably) and embalmed, then put into a coffin which was closed, unusual in this country. On 25th, at 6 in the evening the coffin was carried to the church of St. Irene not far away, accompanied by military salutes; marine officers carried him, others carried his orders. Armansperg and the French admiral in great uniforms. . . . An icon of St. Andreas was laid on the coffin and the close relatives came one after one, kissing first the icon and then the coffin, a farewell that is bidden usually to the uncovered body. Until late night people crowded to say good bye to him . . .
During the night the coffin stayed in the church, surrounded by a guard of honour. - The grave had been dug 100 steps from the tomb of Themistokles on the cape of Pireaus. On 26th at 6 o’clock in the morning the funeral procession started, leading from St. Irene’s to the harbour. The artillery had gone down earlier. First soldiers on horseback, music, the four-horse hearse surrounded by marine officerss, in front and behind them priests in twos on horseback, then the bereaved in two coaches, again masses of soldiers followed by a long dense procession of riders, ministers, diplomats, employees, palikaria, etc.. Many people had walked down at 4 o’clock and expected the procession in the harbour, embarked now following the relics of this inexpressibly noble great man and hero to his final resting place. The army will be in mourning 8 days. 67 shots announced the age of the deceased. . . .
Miaoulis was of outstanding infinite excellence compared to others by his clear unselfish noble spirit, by a heart filled with inner peace and love which made him a reconciling mediator at all occasions, and by his personal courage bordering daring together with his total selflessness. Keep his autograph safe , it is quite scarce. Keep it with the relics of Blücher, Gneisenau, Schwartzenberg, because Miaoulis deserves in every respect their company.