Jane Digby

Carl Haag - Jane Digby In Palmyra (1859)
Carl Haag – Jane Digby In Palmyra (1859)

Jane Digby (1807–1881) is a fascinating character. In Europe, she became known for her scandals and promiscuity:

In 1838, Jane found a new lover in the Greek Count Spyridon Theotokis (born 1805). [Her previous lover with whom she had children] Venningen found out and challenged Theotokis to a duel, in which the latter was wounded. Venningen generously released Jane from the marriage and took care of their children. They remained friends for the rest of their lives.

[…] Jane converted to the Greek Orthodox faith and married Theotokis in Marseille in 1841. The couple moved to Greece with their son Leonidas. In 1846, after their son’s fatal fall off a balcony, Theotokis and Jane divorced. Greece’s King Otto became her next lover.

Next came an affair with a hero of Greek revolution, Thessalian general Christodoulos Chatzipetros, acting as ‘queen’ of his brigand army, living in caves, riding horses and hunting in the mountains.

She then moved to Syria, where she married a sheik twenty years her junior:

Jane adopted Arab dress and learned Arabic in addition to the other eight languages in which she was fluent. Half of each year was spent in the nomadic style, living in goat-hair tents in the desert, while the rest was enjoyed in a palatial villa that she had built in Damascus.

[…] She was buried [in Damascus] with her horse in attendance at the funeral. Upon her footstone–a block of pink limestone from Palmyra–is her name, written in Arabic.

In fact, click on the header image (above) to see that the ruins of Palmyra are in the background. Unfortunately, the Islamic State destroyed most of these ruins in 2015.

Related to the idea of traveling far away against social norms, I came across a blog by an Austrian train fanatic, Helmut. In 2008, Helmut traveled from Vienna to Pyongyang by train. He was able to ride the train into North Korea from Russia using a clever visa loophole:

Tumangan [in North Korea] is by default listed on every North Korean visa, despite the fact that KITC [Korea International Travel Company] doesn’t offer this route to tourists.

This was an important information. At least it is not totally illegal to enter at Tumangan…

[…] So if Tumangan is listed on the visa – it could be possible to just book an ordinary trip to North Korea via Sinujiu [from China] but then in reality arrive via Tumangan [from Russia]…. hmmmm


A Comorian stamp expressing the country's relationship to the "most beautiful fish"
A Comorian stamp expressing the country’s relationship to “the most beautiful fish”

Somehow I missed the existence of the African country of The Comoros. It’s some islands north-west of Madagascar.

For a country that has a population of about 800,000 (with about half below the age of 15), the government is exceedingly developed:

Around 80 percent of the central government’s annual budget is spent on the country’s complex electoral system which provides for a semi-autonomous government and president for each of the three islands and a rotating presidency for the overarching Union government.

This bloat is likely a direct result of the fact that the country has had at least 20 coups (or attempted coups) since its independence from France in 1975. It had its first peaceful democratic transfer of power in 2006.

The Comoros is also home to a large population of coelacanths1. In fact, the genome of the fish was sequenced from a Comorian specimen. Related, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer describes her discovery of the species amusingly:

I picked away at the layers of slime to reveal the most beautiful fish I had ever seen.

Road Scythe

Winslow Homer - The Veteran In A New Field (1865)
Winslow Homer – The Veteran In A New Field (1865)

A common psychological behavior as described by Jack Kerouac in On The Road:

I told Dean that when I was a kid and rode in cars I used to imagine I held a big scythe in my hand and cut down all the trees and posts and even sliced every hill that zoomed past the window. “Yes! Yes!” yelled Dean. “I used to do it too only different scythe—tell you why. Driving across the West with the long stretches my scythe had to be immeasurably longer and it had to curve over distant mountains, slicing off their tops, and reach another level to get at further mountains and at the same time clip off every post along the road, regular throbbing poles.”


As a child lying back in my father’s car in the back seat I also had a vision of myself on a white horse riding alongside over every possible obstacle that presented itself: this included dodging posts, hurling around houses, sometimes jumping over when I looked too late, running over hills, across sudden squares with traffic that I had to dodge through incredibly—” “Yes! Yes! Yes!” breathed Dean ecstatically. “Only difference with me was, I myself ran, I had no horse. You were a Eastern kid and dreamed of horses; of course we won’t assume such things as we both know they are really dross and literary ideas, but merely that I in my perhaps wilder schizophrenia actually ran on foot along the car and at incredible speeds sometimes ninety, making it over every bush and fence and farmhouse and sometimes taking quick dashes to the hills and back without losing a moment’s ground …”

If anyone knows about any serious academic research into this behavior, I’d be interested to know about it.