The desert and the bedouins, as symbolised by their horses, clearly represent personal freedom from restraint, as well as from the degeneracy of modern Western civilisation.
Anne Blunt travelled to the Middle East as one of a married couple. In noticeable ways, her writing shows evidence of the constraints imposed by her husband's presence. Wilfrid Blunt had been in the diplomatic service but he left it in 1869,1 several years before he and his wife Anne travelled to Mesopotamia in 1877. The Blunts did not travel for health or professional reasons. Because of their wealth and social status, they were able to travel for pleasure and adventure. Wilfrid Blunt felt the romantic attraction to the bedouins, and he introduced his wife Anne to the beauty and freedom of desert travel on horseback. Their times together on these desert trips were the best times in their marriage. The Blunts loved horses and embarked on rigorous journeys. The Blunts rode thousands of miles on horseback across the inhospitable stretches of the Syrian, Iraqi and Arabian deserts.2
Anne Blunt's life (1837-1917) and writing career extended into the twentieth century. In fact, her death near the end of the First World War coincided fairly closely with the death of the Ottoman Empire, that "sick man of Europe" whose remains the European nations were waiting to carve up, and did carve up in the wake of the war. By the terms of the post-war Mandate system, Britain occupied Palestine, Iraq, and Transjordan. France took over Syria and Lebanon. The British had already been in possession of Egypt since 1882, and the French had invaded Algeria in 1834. Because Anne Blunt lived to see the outbreak of the First World War, she also witnessed the beginnings of the struggle of the Arab peoples for self-rule. Her husband was an outspoken advocate of Arab nationalism who argued for Egyptian independence. Anne Blunt usually lived part of each year in Egypt after the British takeover in 1882, and she continued to breed Arabian horses both in England and Egypt while Egypt began to transform itself into a twentieth-century nation.
As the granddaughter of Lord Byron, Anne Blunt had intimate family connections to the literary heritage of the Romantic era. She also lived through the Victorian period and witnessed its end. Anne Blunt was an accomplished horsewoman, but unlike English horsewomen riding to literary fame in the Middle East, she made a gentlewoman's profession out of her love for horses by breeding and raising them.3 She pointed the way for the British and American women who followed her into the Middle East in the twentieth century and who were able to combine a professional interest with their love for the Middle East. Anne Blunt's literary attention to topographical detail, her careful drawings and maps which illustrate her texts, and her scientific, low-key narrative style joined with an obvious emotional attachment to the desert and desert Arabs provided a bridge to the styles of later women travel writers in the Arab world, such as Geitrude Bell, Freya Stark, and Elizabeth Warnock Fernea.4
For the reader, one of the problems with the texts of Anne Blunt is that they were often written in conjunction with her husband. The prefaces to both