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MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
GOLD MEDALLIST (1895) AND PRESIDENT (1911-1914) OF
THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY
Beyond the East, the sunrise, beyond the West, the sea,
NEW CDW YORK
Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit.
VIRGIL, Aeneid i. 203.
I WONDER if it may be permitted to a politician to remember the days when he was only secondarily a politician, and when he found the chief zest of life in travel, not indeed in aimless and desultory travel, but in travel with that most generally unpopular of all attributes, a purpose. In my case the purpose was twofold: to see the beautiful and romantic and, above all, the ancient things of the earth—taste which I probably share with most travellers, but which took me preferably to distant Oriental lands; and, secondly, to see how far the study of those places and peoples would help me to form an opinion on the Eastern responsibilities and destinies of Great Britain. This was a subject in which I took from boyhood an absorbing interest, and which led me to devote many months in each year, and, after I had entered Parliament, the bulk of my Parliamentary holidays, to wanderings in all parts of Asia from the Mediterranean to the China Seas. The results of these studies were embodied long ago in books of a more or less serious character, and I have no intention to repeat any part of that story here.
But in the course of these journeys I visited
many other countries and places, twice going round the world, and exploring unfrequented spots, not in Asia only, but in Europe, Africa, and America. In certain of these cases I studied rather deeply some subjects of more than ephemeral interest, I came across some remarkable persons, and I made notes of many curious scenes. I have found it a diversion, in the turmoil of public life, to put these notes into final shape, and have even thought that they might prove of interest to a larger audience.
After I had spent some years in travelling and in writing about my travels, it gave me greater pleasure to be awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society for exploration and research than it did to become a Minister of the Crown; and every moment that I could snatch from politics—before they finally captured and tied me down—I devoted to the pursuit of my old love.
Even now, if in rare moments I seek literary distraction, it is in the perusal of works of travel and exploration that I am certain to find it; and when foreign affairs are specially vexatious or perplexing, recreation and repose come stealing in upon me from the memories of the past. I am once again in the wilds of Asia, or on the mountain-tops, or amid the majestic monuments of bygone ages. At one moment the wonders of nature fill the picture, at another, the scarcely less remarkable masterpieces of man. The shut pages of the past unroll, and the characters written upon