The Diaries of Hermann Ludwig von Löwenstern
Hermann Ludwig von Löwenstern (1777-1836), as a younger son of the landed gentry in Estonia, had no prospects of being given an estate, i.e. a means of livelihood in his homeland. Therefore, at the age of 15 he entered Russian naval service. In 1797 while in England, he began keeping detailed diaries during the English sailors’ revolt and continued them until leaving the Russian navy in 1815 to marry and take over estates in Estonia. From England in 1799, he sailed to Gibraltar, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, and the Crimea. He describes how the Russians saved Turkish sailors in Palermo and suggests that the Russians might have caught Napoleon fleeing Egypt if the Russian admiral had acted. In 1801, he traveled overland from the Crimea to St. Petersburg to obtain the Tsar’s permission to leave Russian service and try to enter French service. Since he was no sycophant like others he met in Napoleonic Paris, he gave up trying to enter French service and spent his time visiting the sights of Paris, including Napoleon inspecting his troops, and had a love affair with his innkeeper. He then returned to Estonia by way of Berlin, where he learned of the coming Russian voyage around the world. (A translation of his diary from this voyage has been published by the University of Alaska Press). Therefore, this translation is of his diaries from before and after the voyage around the world. His diaries were never submitted to Russian censorship so they contain his personal feelings and impressions of events around him. He wrote freely without censoring himself and seems often to have used his diaries as a relief value for his frustrations and anger with his government, superiors, fellow officers, and the citizens of the various ports where he served.