I learned recently that an academic article I co-authored in Literature Compass has become one of this journal’s most downloaded articles this past year. The popularity of the article clearly has less to do with me than its far more fascinating subject matter: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters. Montagu, an eighteenth-century British aristocrat, penned her letters while accompanying her husband on a diplomatic trip, and they provide an enthralling narrative of her journeys.
On a personal level, it was my encounter with her letters that inspired me to pursue a PhD in English. I can still recall my college English professor (now the chair of my dissertation committee) suggesting that I read Montagu’s writings. I went straight to the NYU library, where I found several volumes of her letters. I think it was several hours before I finally set those volumes down, so easily had I slipped into the worlds she was creating on each page of each letter.