James Lewis lived at the crossroads between remembrance and forgetfulness. He was at once spy, fáquír, pioneering archaeologist, and British deserter under a death-sentence. Escaping across India in 1827, he cast aside his former name and became Charles Masson. This article traces his subsequent journey into Afghanistan, into the blank spaces of the map, in search of the lost cities of Alexander the Great. Searching for antiquity, erasing his own past, his excavations led to the discovery of Alexandria of the Caucasus, on the plains of Bagram. His pursuit of the ancient world is extraordinary: mendacious, full of longing, groundbreaking, hovering between fact and fiction as artfully as himself. This article is likewise a dialogue between the desire to remember and the desire to forget — and it argues that in narratives of classical reception, remembrance should not take the stage unchallenged; that which has been erased, and that which has been forgotten may be equally essential, when seeking to understand relationships with the past.
Richardson, E. (2013). Mr Masson and the lost cities: a Victorian journey to the edges of remembrance. Classical Receptions Journal, 5(1), 84-105. https://doi.org/10.1093/crj/cls008