In the wake of Ida Laura Pfeiffer (1797-1858)

Ida Laura Pfeiffer (1797-1858) (wikipedia).

No list of indomitable women travellers would be complete without a reference to the incredible Ida Laura Pfeiffer, in whose footprints Mabel occasionally followed. Although the latter never refers directly to the Austrian globetrotter in her diaries, Mabel would certainly have known of her, and probably read Ida’s travel accounts, several of which were already translated into English in her time. Ida died when Mabel Hall-Dare was just a girl of ten or so in the south of Ireland.

One among many of the locations they both were to visit was the island of Rhodes (then a Turkish province for both Ida and Mabel). Here is Pfeiffer on Rhodes’ famous main harbour in late May 1842 (trans from the German by  H.W. Dulcken):

Cover to the English edition ot Ida Pfeiffer’s “A Visit to the Holy Land” (

“This morning, shortly after five o’clock, we ran into the superb harbour of Rhodes. Here, for the first time, I obtained a correct notion of a harbour. That of Rhodes is shut in on all sides by walls and masses of rock, leaving only a gap of a hundred and fifty to two hundred paces in width for the ships to enter. Here every vessel can lie in perfect safety, be the sea outside the bar as stormy as it may; the only drawback is, that the entering of this harbour, a task of some difficulty in calm weather, becomes totally impracticable during a storm. A round tower stands as a protection on either side of the entrance to the harbour.” (Visit to the Holy Land, Egypt, and Italy, London, 1853, p.86)

And here is Mabel Bent (she married Theodore in 1877) putting up with some tricky February weather in the same harbour region some thirty years later, in 1885, endorsing Ida’s observation about bad weather:

A view of Rhodes’ great harbour from C.T. Newton’s “Travels & Discoveries in the Levant” (London, 1865). The folly that is ‘Naillac’s Tower’ (left) would have been enjoyed by Ida, but was toppled by the time Mabel was in the offing in 1885 (

“The day seems quite over, it is half past six, and a most anxious day we have passed with the yellow flag waving us. We got to Rhodes about 3 but did not settle till 5 and the health officers did not come till 7. The Captain asked leave to go to a bay to shelter if storm came on, or the open sea, but they said no, if we wanted pratigue he must remain there. But the Captain told us that sooner than lose or damage the ship he would go off with us and the two guardians to Smyrna. Great therefore was our horror at 3.30 p.m. to hear all the noises of a start, after having observed that it was getting rougher, but we only went round the corner of the island to shelter on the eastern side and hope to be returned to the capital tomorrow morning. In the mean time no one has been able to communicate in any way with the shore. It has been pouring most of the day.” (The Travel Chronicles of Mrs J Theodore Bent, vol 1, Oxford, 2006, p.68)

For the Bents on Rhodes and in the Dodecanese, see The Dodecanese: Further Travels Among the Insular Greeks (Oxford, 2015).