Lear first visited Corfu briefly in the summer of 1848. At this time it was a British protectorate, ceded to the British in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon. He was overwhelmed by its beauty. 'I wish I could give you any idea of the beauty of this island,' he wrote, 'it really is a Paradise. The extreme gardeny verdure - the fine olives, cypresses, almonds, & oranges, make the landscape so rich - & the Albanian mountains are wonderfully fine.'
Dominating the town was the Citadel- 'than which a more picturesque object can hardly exist' - a promontory which Lear described as 'double-crowned', surmounted by twin forts enclosed by bastions. This stronghold, which had been built by the Venetians who had controlled the island between the thirteenth and late eighteenth centuries, reflected the island's strategic position, separated from the coast of Albania by narrow straights and guarding the main trade routes between Europe and the Levant.