The transcription of Hermann Ludwig von Lowenstern's uncensored diaries (1793-1815) gives the modern reader a rare insight into the life of a Baltic German Russian naval officer at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries. The estates in Estonia were not large or numerous enough to support all of the sons of the landed nobility. Thus, the younger sons often entered military service, usually but not always the Russian. Therefore in 1793, Hermann Ludwig von Lowenstern (1777-1836) at the age of fifteen from love for "a life at sea" began "a restless, transient, half-relished life" (7/19 February 1803) that only ended in 1815 with his marriage to Wilhelmine von Essen (1795-1862) and his taking over the estates of Allafer, Rasik, and Campen. Lowenstern began his naval career in the Baltic and North Seas. In England, during a sailor's revolt in 1797, he started a detailed diary, which he maintained throughout his naval career. From England in 1799, he sailed with the Russian Navy to Gibraltar, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, and the Crimea. In 1801, he traveled overland to St. Petersburg and Reval, where he received permission to leave Russian service and enter the French.
In 1802 with his father's financial help, he traveled by way Lubeck, Hamburg, Bremen, Amsterdam, and Brussels to Paris. He soon however realized that he could be no sycophant like others he met in Napoleonic Paris. Thus, he spent his time visiting the sights of Paris, including Napoleon inspecting his troops, while having a love affair with his innkeeper born in Zweibrucken, who claimed to have been General Michel Ney's common-law wife. In early 1803, Lowenstern returned to Estonia by way of the universities in Leipzig and Jena before traveling on to Berlin, where he learned of Adam Johann von Krusenstern's proposed voyage around the world. Lowenstern then hurried to St. Petersburg to be readmitted to the Russian Navy and shipped out with the expedition as fourth officer on the Nadezhda, as she sailed to Denmark, England, Tenerife, Brazil, Nukahiva, Kamchatka, Japan, China, St. Helena, and Scotland before returning to Russia in 1806. After his return, he spent unhappy days in Archangelsk's mucky, mosquito-ridden environs until he transferred to the warmer climes of the Black Sea in 1811.Lowenstern's diaries were never intended for publication, thus never submitted to czarist censorship, as were other publications of the period.
His diaries give the modern reader an intimate view of the Napoleonic period in Europe and life on board ship as seen by a thoughtful, well-read, inquisitive man as he matured from a teenage midshipman to the captain of a Turkish ship taken as prize in the Black Sea. His descriptions and drawings of the Russian envoy to Japan Nikolai Rezanov on the voyage around the world are of particular importance because they help the call for a reevaluation of this traditionally highly praised diplomat. Lowenstern's diaries were his friend, an outlet for his personal feelings, animosities, dislikes, frustrations and joys with life. They will give the modern reader new insights into the language, life, and fate of Baltic Germans living under Russian rule in the early nineteenth century.
Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press Ltd
Number of pages: 419