THE TRANSLATOR'S FOREWORD.
This volume contains the last of my versions from the Wortley Montague Codex, and this is the place to offer a short account of that much bewritten MS.
In the "Annals of the Bodleian Library," etc., by the Reverend William Dunn Macray, M.A. (London, Oxford and Cambridge, 1868: 8vo. p. 206), we find the following official notice:--
"An Arabic MS. in seven volumes, written in 1764-5, and containing what is rarely met with, a complete collection of the Thousand and one Tales (N.B. an error for "Nights") of the Arabian Nights Entertainments, was bought from Captain Jonathan Scott for £50. Mr. Scott published, in 1811, an edition of the Tales in six volumes (N.B. He reprinted the wretched English version of Prof. Galland's admirable French, and his "revisions" and "occasional corrections" are purely imaginative), in which this MS. is described (N.B. after the mos majorum). He obtained it from Dr. (Joseph) White, the Professor of Hebrew and Arabic at Oxford, who had bought it at the sale of the library of Edward Wortley Montague, by whom it had been brought from the East. (N.B. Dr. White at one time intended to translate it literally, and thereby eclipse the Anglo French version.) It is noticed in Ouseley's Oriental Collections (Cadell and Davies), vol. ii. p. 25."
The Jonathan Scott above alluded to appears under various titles as Mr. Scott, Captain Scott and Doctor Scott. He was an officer in the Bengal Army about the end of the last century, and was made Persian Secretary by "Warren Hastings, Esq.," to whom he dedicated his "Tales, Anecdotes and Letters, translated from the Arabic and Persian" (Cadell and Davies, London, 1800), and he englished the "Bahár-i-Dánish" (A.D. 1799) and "Firishtah's History of the Dakkhan (Deccan) and of the reigns of the later Emperors of Hindostan." He became Dr. Scott because made an LL.D. at Oxford as meet for a "Professor (of Oriental languages) at the Royal Military and East India Colloges"; and finally he settled at Netley, in Shropshire, where he died.
It is not the fault of English Orientalists if the MS. in question is not thoroughly well known to the world of letters. In 1797 Sir Gore Ouseley's "Oriental Collections" (vol. ii. pp. 25-33) describes it, evidently with the aid of Scott, who is the authority for stating that the tales generally appear like pearls strung at random on the same thread; adding, "if they are truly Oriental It is a matter of little importance to us Europeans whether they are strung on this night or that night." [FN#1] This first and somewhat imperfect catalogue of the contents was followed in 1811 by a second, which concludes the six volume edition of "The
Carefully revised and occasionally corrected
from the Arabic.
to which is added
A SELECTION OF NEW TALES,
Now first translated
from the Arabic Originals.
AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES,
Illustrative of the
RELIGION, MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE: MAHOMMEDANS.
The sixth volume, whose second title is "Tales | selected from the Manuscript copy | of the | 1001 Nights | brought to Europe by Edward Wortley Montague, Esq.," ends with a general Appendix, of which ten pages are devoted to a description of the Codex and a Catalogue of its contents. Scott's sixth volume, like the rest of his version, is now becoming rare, and it is regretable that when Messieurs Nimmo and Bain reprinted, in 1882, the bulk of the work (4 vols. 8vo) they stopped short at volume five.
Lastly we find a third list dating from 1837 in the "Catalogi | Codicum Manuscriptorum Orientalium | Bibliothecæ Bodleianæ | Pars Secunda | Arabicos | complectens. | Confecit | Alexander Nicoll, J.C.D. | Nuper Linguæ Heb. Professor Regius, necnon Ædis Christi Canonicus. | Editionem absolvit | et Catalogum urianum [FN#2] aliquatenus emendavit | G. B. Pusey S.T.B. | Viri desideratissimi Successor. | Oxonii, | E Topographio Academico | MDCCCXXXV." This is introduced under the head, "Codicil Arabici Mahommedani Narrationes Fictæ sive Historiæs Romanenses | in Quarto (pp . 145-150).
I am not aware that any attempt has been made to trace the history of the Wortley Montague MS.; but its internal evidence supplies a modicum of information.
By way of colophon to the seventh and last volume we have, "On this wise end to us the Stories of the Kings and histories of various folk as foregoing in the Thousand Nights and a Night, perfected and completed, on the eighteenth day of Safar the auspicious, which is of the months of (the year A.H.) one thousand one hundred and seventy eight" (=A.D. 1764-65)
"Copied by the humblest and neediest of the poor, Omar-al-Safatí, to whose sins may Allah be Ruthful!
"An thou find in us fault deign default supply,
And hallow the Faultless and Glorify."
The term "Suftah" is now and has been applied for the last century to the sons of Turkish fathers by Arab mothers, and many of these Mulattos live by the pen. On the fly leaf of vol. i. is written in a fine and flowing Persian (?) hand, strongly contrasting with the text of the tome, which is unusually careless and bad, "This book | The Thousand Nights and a Night of the Acts and deeds (Sírat) of the Kings | and what befel them from sundry | women that were whorish | and witty | and various | Tales | therein." Below it also is a Persian couplet written in vulgar Iranian characters of the half-Shikastah type:--
Chih goyam, o chih poyam? * Na mí-dánam hích o púch.
(What shall I say or whither fly? * This stuff and this nonsense know not I.)
Moreover, at the beginning of vol. i. is a list of fifteen tales written in Europeo-Arabic characters, after schoolboy fashion, and probably by Scott. In vol. ii. there is no initial list, but by way of Foreword we read, "This is volume the second of the Thousand Nights and a Night from the xciiid. Night, full and complete." And the Colophon declares, "And this is what hath been finished for us of the fourth (probably a clerical error for "second") tome of the Thousand Nights and a Night to the clxxviith. Night, written on the twentieth day of the month Sha'bán A.H., one thousand one hundred and seventy-seven" (=A.D. 1764). This date shows that the MS. was finished during the year after incept.
The text from which our MS. was copied must have been valuable, and we have reason to regret that so many passages both of poetry and prose are almost hopelessly corrupt. Its tone and tenor are distinctly Nilotic; and, as Mr. E. Wortley Montague lived for some time in Egypt, he may have bought it at the Capital of the Nile-land. The story of the Syrian (v. 468) and that of the Two Lack facts (vi. 262), notably exalt Misr and Cairo at the expense of Shám and Damascus; and there are many other instances of preferring Kemi the Black Soil to the so called "Holy Land." The general tone, as well as the special incidents of the book, argues that the stories may have been ancient, but they certainly have been modernised. Coffee is commonly used (passim) although tobacco is still unknown; a youth learns archery and gunnery (Zarb al-Risás, vol. vii. 440); casting of cannon occurs (vol. v. 186), and in one place (vol. vi. 134) we read of "Taban-jatayn," a pair of pistols; the word, which is still popular, being a corruption of the Persian "Tabáncheh" = a slap or blow, even as the French call a derringer coup de poing. The characteristic of this Recueil is its want of finish. The stories are told after perfunctory fashion as though the writer had not taken the trouble to work out the details. There are no names or titles to the tales, so that every translator must give his own; and the endings are equally unsatisfactory, they usually content themselves, after "native" fashion, with "Intihá" = finis, and the connection with the thread of the work must be supplied by the story-teller or the translator. Headlines were not in use for the MSS. of that day, and the catchwords are often irregular, a new word taking the place of the initial in the following page.
The handwriting, save and except in the first volume, has the merit of regularity, and appears the same throughout the succeeding six, except in the rare places (e.g. vi. 92-93), where the lazy copyist did not care to change a worn-out pen, and continued to write with a double nib. On the other hand, it is the character of a village-schoolmaster whose literary culture is at its lowest. Hardly a sheet appears without some blunder which only in rare places is erased or corrected, and a few lacunæ are supplied by several hands, Oriental and European, the latter presumably Scott's. Not unfrequently the terminal word of a line is divided, a sign of great incuria or ignorance, as "Sháhr | baz" (i. 4), "Shahr | zád" (v. 309, vi. 106), and "Fawa | jadtu-h" = so I found him (V. 104). Koranic quotations almost always lack vowel points, and are introduced without the usual ceremony. Poetry also, that crux of a skilful scribe, is carelessly treated, and often enough two sets of verse are thrown into one, the first rhyming in ur, and the second in ír (e.g. vol. v. 256). The rhyme-words also are repeated within unlawful limits (passim and vol. v. 308, 11. 6 and II). Verse is thrust into the body of the page (vii. 112) without signs of citation in red ink or other (iii. 406); and rarely we find it, as it should be, in distichs divided by the normal conventional marks, asterisks and similar separations. Sometimes it appears in a column of hemistichs after the fashion of Europe (iv. III; iv.. 232, etc.): here (v. 226) a quotation is huddled into a single line; there (v. 242) four lines, written as monostichs, are followed by two distichs in as many lines.
As regards the metrical part Dr. Steingass writes to me, "The verses in Al-Hayfá and Yúsuf, where not mere doggerel, are spoiled by the spelling. I was rarely able to make out even the metre and I think you have accomplished a feat by translating them as you have done."
The language of the MS. is generally that of the Fellah and notably so in sundry of the tales, such as, "The Goodwife of Cairo and her four Gallants" (v. 444). Of this a few verbal and phrasal instances will suffice. Adíní = here am I (v. 198); Ahná (passim, for nahnu) nakháf = we fear; 'Alaykí (for 'alayki) = on thee; and generally the long vowel (-ki) for the short (-kí) in the pronoun of the second person feminine; Antah (for ante) = thou (vi. 96) and Antú (for antum) = you (iii. 351); Aráha and even arúha, rúhat and rúha (for ráha) = he went (Vii. 74 and iv. 75) and Arúhú (for rúhú) = go ye (iv. 179); Bakarah * * * allazi (for allatí) = a cow (he) who, etc.; (see in this vol., p. 253) and generally a fine and utter contempt for genders, e.g. Hum (for hunna) masc. for fem. (iii. 91; iii. 146; and v. 233); Tá 'áli (for taál) fem. for masc. (vi. 96 et passim); Bíhím (for bi-him) = with them (v. 367); Bi-kám (for bi-kum) = with you (iii. 142) are fair specimens of long broad vowels supplanting the short, a peculiarity known in classical Arab., e.g. Miftáh (for Miftah) = a key. Here, however, it is exaggerated, e.g. Bá'íd (for ba'íd) = far (iv. 167); Kám (for kam) = how many? Kúm (for kum) = you (v. 118); Kúl-há (for kul-ha) = tell it (iv 58); Mín (for man) = who? (iii. 89); Mirwád (for Mirwad)= a branding iron; Natanáshshad (for natanashshad) = we seek tidings (v. 211); Rájal (pron. Rágil, for Rajul) = a man (iv. 118 and passim); Sáhal (for sahal) = easy, facile (iv. 7I); Sír (for sir) = go, be off! (v. 199); Shíl (for shil) =carry away (i. 111); and Záhab (for zahab) = gold (v. 186). This broad Doric or Caledonian articulation is not musical to unaccustomed organs. As in popular parlance the Dál supplants the Zál; e.g. Dahaba (for zahaba) = he went (v. 277 and passim); also T takes the place of Th, as Tult for thulth = one third (iii. 348) and Tamrat (for thamrat) = fruit (v. 260), thus generally ignoring the sibilant Th after the fashion of the modern Egyptians who say Tumm (for thumma) = again; "Kattir (for kaththir) Khayrak" = God increase thy weal, and Lattama (for laththama) = he veiled. Also a general ignoring of the dual, e.g. Házá 'usfurayn (for 'Usfuráni) = these be birds (vi. 121); Nazalú al-Wazirayn (do) = the two Wazirs went down (vii. 123); and lastly Al-Wuzará al-itnayn (for Al-Wazíráni) = the two Wazirs (vii. 121). Again a fine contempt for numbers, as Nanzur ana (for Anzur) = I (we) see (v. 198) and Inní (for inná) narúhu = indeed I (we) go (iii. 190). Also an equally conscientious disregard for cases, as Min mál abú-há (for abí-há) = out of the moneys of her sire (iv. 190); and this is apparently the rule of the writer.
Of Egyptianisms and vulgarisms we have Ant, má ghibtshayy = thou, hast thou not been absent at all? with the shayy (a thing) subjoined to the verb in this and similar other phrases; Baksísh for Bakhshish (iv. 356); Al-Jawáz (for al-zíwáj) = marriage (i. 14); Fakí or Fakí (for fakih) = a divine (vi. 207 and passim); Finjál (for finján) = a coffee-cup (v. 424, also a Najdí or Central Arabian corruption); Kuwayyis = nice, pretty (iv. 179); Láyálí (for liallá) = lest that (v. 285); Luhúmát (for lukúm) = meats, a mere barbarism (v. 247); Matah (for Matá) =when? (v. 464); Ma'áyah (for ma'í) =with me (vi. 13 et passim); Shuwayy (or shuwayyah) Mayah, a double diminutive (for Muwayy or Muwayh) = a small little water, intensely Nilotic (iv. 44); Mbarih or Embárah (for Al-bárihah) = yesterday (v. 449); Takkat (for Dakkat) = she rapped (iv. 190); Úzbáshá and Uzbáshá (for Yúzbáshí) = a centurion, a captain (v.430 et passim); Záídjah for Záijah (vi. 329); Zarághít (for Zaghárít) = lullilooing (iv. 12); Zínah (for Ziná) = adultery, and lastly Zúda (for Záda) = increased (iv. 87). Here the reader will cry jam satis; while the student will compare the list with that given in my Terminal Essay (vol. x. 149).
The two Appendices require no explanation. No. I. is a Catalogue of the Tales in the Wortley Montague MS., and No. II. contains Notes upon the Storiology of the Supplemental Volumes IV. and V. by the practiced pen of Mr. W. P. Kirby. The sheets during my absence from England have been passed through the press and sundry additions and corrections have been made by Dr. Steingass.
In conclusion I would state that my hope was to see this Volume (No. xv.) terminate my long task; but circumstance is stronger than my will and I must ask leave to bring out one more--The New Arabian Nights.
RICHARD F. BURTON.
ATHENÆUM CLUB, September 1st, 1888.