The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Sep 20, 2010

Saving Souls

Sometime before 1653, a Dutchman named Willem Lithgouw was seized of a religious afflatus to go to the Grand Turk and save a Christian soul - preferably a virgin, or, failing that, a widow. In cahoots with a French naval officer, he arrived in Stamboul 'to render service unto God.' With great interest he and the Frenchman inspected one 'staerk naked' soul after another at the 'Weibermarket'. After having checked out the wares on offer, they sadly decided that a virgin was beyond their means, and settled for a Dalmatian widow, purchasing her for thirty-six ducats.

They took her across the Bosphorus to the far shore and put her up for the night. The next morning, the Dutchman was incensed to discover that the 'old lecher', the dastardly French Papist had happily bonked the woman all night, and, indeed, was plotting to sell her on again.

Infuriated, Lithgouw created a major scene, threatening to involve the French ambassador to the Ottoman court. He managed to extricate the woman, and even found her a job in a tavern. He earned her everlasting gratitude, but didn't presume to accept any favours in kind, and went back to Holland feeling rather pleased with himself.

Being a Protestant, Lithgouw's stereotypical view of Catholics was very likely vindicated by the perfidy of the Frenchman. But what brought him even more satisfaction was the knowledge that that one 'night of fornication' had cost his erstwhile partner the heavy sum of thirty-six ducats.

From 19 jaarige lant-reyse, by Willem Lithgouw (Amsterdam 1653), reported in Geert Mak's The Bridge: A Journey Between Orient and Occident.


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