Leyla Hanım

Musician, Memoirist, Writer, Poet

06 December, 1936
Other Names
Leyla Saz Hanım

Poet (b. 1850, İstanbul - d. 6 December 1936, İstanbul). She was the daughter of Marshal Müşiri Hekim İsmail Paşa, who was a descendant of the Greeks in Chios and who served as Head Physician at the Palace and was the Governor of Crete. For seven years of her childhood she was at the Palace due to the position of her father. She grew up taking private lectures from the famous teachers of her time. She learnt Arabic, Persian, Greek and French. She had a sufficient education to be able to compose and write lyrics, as she had a well-rounded educational background. She lived through the periods of the Tanzimat*, the Constitutional Monarchy and the Republic, witnessing vital social changes and she skillfully put them into words as a sensitive and talented female writer.

Her articles on Crete, İzmir, Rusçuk, Trabzon and Kastamonu, where she went with her father and her husband and her articles and memoirs on the life in the harem and the palace were published at first in the İstanbul newspapers Vakit and İleri in succession between 1920 and 1922; then, in 1922, they were compiled and published with the title Souvenirs de Leila Hanoum Sur le Serai İmperial (Memories of Miss Leyla at the Imperial Palace) in Paris, which attracted great attention. She wrote her memoirs at the age of seventy, in which she depicted the milieu in the palace, the harem, and the period in which she lived, which constitute a valuable source of information. These were also translated into German, French and Czech.

Leyla Hanım, who had learnt to play the piano from the European teachers in the palace, also took music lessons from the famous composers of the time such as Nikoğos Ağa, Medeni Aziz Efendi, Astik Efendi, who were à la mode at that time. She was well versed in Turkish music and she composed over 200 songs in şehnâz bestenigâr, sultaniyegâh, hüzzâm, mâhur, suzinâk music (styles of Turkish music composition). Some other composers set music to her poems. As she was a musician she took Saz as her surname when the law regarding the taking of surnames was put into effect.

Leyla Hanım was married to Sırrı Paşa, a man of the old literary establishment, and their residence became a draw for people from the world of art and literature in İstanbul. The main theme of her poems was the yearning and aspiration of love. She wrote poems using the meters of Divan* literature. She died in Kızıltoprak in İstanbul. Her grave is in the Edirnekapı War Cemetery.


MEMOIR: Souvenirs de Leila Hanoum Sur le Serai İmperial (Memories of Leyla Hanım in the Imperial Palace, Paris, 1922), Haremin İçyüzü (The Real Face of the Harem, by Sadi Borak, 1974).

POETRY: Solmuş Çiçekler (Faded Flowers, 1928).

REFERENCE: İbrahim Alaeddin Gövsa / Türk Meşhurları (1946), Murad Uras / Resimli Kadın Şair ve Muharrirlerimiz (1957), Bedihan Tamsöz / Osmanlıdan Günümüze Kadın Şairler (1994, s. 76-77), Mübeccel Kızıltan / Divân Edebiyatı Özelliklerine Uyarak Şiir Yazan Kadın Şairler (Sombahar, sayı: 21-22, Ocak-Nisan 1994), Behçet Necatigil / Edebiyatımızda İsimler Sözlüğü (18. bas. 1999), Dünden Bugüne İstanbul Ansiklopedisi (c. 6, s. 475), TDE Ansiklopedisi (c. 7), TBE Ansiklopedisi (c. 2, 2001), İhsan Işık / TEKAA(2006).



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