The first English biography of the Greek national hero Rigas Velestinlis (or Pheraios) was the work of Elizabeth Mayhew Edmonds, a minor Victorian author, who distinguished herself as one of the principal late-nineteenth century cultural mediators of modern Greece in Great Britain. Her Rhigas Pheraios. The Protomartyr of Greek Independence (1889/1890) is at once an aspect of her wider historiographic interest in the Greek Revolution, and an expression of a Protestant and liberal philhellenism that characterized her epoch. Τoday, its significance lies in the exploration of the diverse paths by which Rhigas’s life and struggle for political and cultural change were symbolically inscribed in European cultural memory.
In bringing to light from the “invisibility” of the past the forgotten figure of Rigas, Edmonds fashions a romantically tinged image of the radical political thinker and rebel, as a genial poet, able to perceive the period’s emerging historical changes, and to promote them with his verses. According to his woman biographer, the martyred opponent of tyranny could become an ethical example for all women and men in Britain, inspiring them to launch their own struggles for freedom.
This edition of Edmonds’s “biographical sketch” of Rigas is enriched by a lengthy Introduction and Notes.