The Biography of the Book
Its Reviewers Reviewed.
[" It has occurred to me that perhaps it would be a good plan to put a set of notes . . . to the 'Origin,' which now has none, exclusively devoted to the errors of my reviewers. It has occurred to me that where a reviewer has erred a common reader might err. Secondly, it will show the reader that we must not trust implicitly to reviewers."--DARWIN'S LIFE. ii. 349.]
TO RICHARD FRANCIS BURTON.
The Thousand Nights and a Night.
Athwart the welkin slant the snows and pile
On sill and balcony, their feathery feet
Trip o'er the landscape, and pursuing sleet
Earth's brow beglooming, robs the skies of smile:
Lies in her mourning-shroud our Northern Isle
And bitter winds in battle o'er her meet.
Her world is death-like, when behold! we greet
Light-gleams from morning-land in welcome while.
A light of golden mine and orient pearl--
Vistas of fairy-land, where Beauty reigns
And Valiance revels; cloudless moon, fierce sun,
The wold, the palm-tree; cities; hosts; a whirl
Of life in tents and palaces and fanes:
The light that streams from THOUSAND NIGHTS AND ONE.
Tangier, Marocco: Feb. 19, 1886.
The Biography of the Book
Its Reviewers Reviewed.
I here propose to produce what may be called the "biography" of a book whereof, methinks, the writer has some reason to be proud, a work which, after occupying him for the third of a century, well nigh half the life of average man and the normal endurance of a generation, can show for result these sixteen volumes. A labour of such parts and magnitude deserves, in my humble opinion, some notice of the main features distinguishing its career, especially of its presentation to Court (Public Opinion) and its reception by the high officials of the Palace, the critics, reviewers and criticasters.
And there is yet another consideration. To ignore the charges and criminations brought forward by certain literary Sir Oracles would be wilfully suffering judgment to go by default. However unpopular and despised may be, as a rule, the criticism of critique, and however veridical the famous apothegm "A controversy in the Press with the Press is the controversy of a fly with a spider," I hold it the author's bounder duty, in presence of the Great Public, to put forth his reply, if he have any satisfactory and interesting rejoinder, and by such ordeal to purge himself and prove his innocence unless he would incur wittingly impeachment for contumacy and contempt of court.
It is not only an instinct of human nature expressed by nemo me impurè lacessit which impels to answering in presence of the passers by the enemy at the gate; it is also a debt which his honour and a respectful regard for the good opinion of his fellows compel the author to repay. The man who is feeble enough silently to suffer detraction and calumny at the hands of some sciolist or Halb-bildung sheltering his miserable individuality under the shadow (may it never be less!) of " King We," simply sins against himself as the Arabs say and offends good manners by holding out a premium to wanton aggression and injurious doing. The reading world has a right to hear the alteram partem before it shall deliver that judgment and shall pronounce that sentence wherefrom lies no appeal. To ignore and not to visit with représailles unworthy and calumnious censure, may become that ideal and transcendental man who forgives (for a personal and egoistical reason) those who trespass against him. But the sublime doctrine which commands us to love our enemies and affect those who despitefully entreat us is in perilous proximity to the ridiculous; at any rate it is a vain and futile rule of life which the general never thinks of obeying. It contrasts poorly with the common sense of the pagan--Fiat Justitia, ruat cIlum; and the heathenish and old- Adamical sentiment of the clansman anent Roderick Dhu--
"Who rights his wrong where it was given
If it were in the court of Heaven,"
L. of the Lake, v. 6.
--commends itself far more to what divines are pleased to call "fallen human nature" that is the natural man.
And here before crossing the threshold, I would seize the opportunity of expressing my cordial gratitude and hearty thanks to the Press in general, which has received my Eastern studies and contributions to Oriental knowledge in the friendliest and most sympathetic spirit, appreciating my labours far beyond the modicum of the offerer's expectation and lending potent and generous aid to place them before the English world in the fairest and most favourable point of view. To number a small proportion of "black sheep" is no shame for a flock amounting to myriads: such exceptional varieties must be bred for the use and delectation of those who prefer to right wrong and darkness to light. It is with these only that my remarks and retorts will deal and consequently I have assigned to them the post of honour. The various extracts from notices, favourable appreciative and complimentary, appear as the "Opinions of the Press" at the end of this volume, and again I take the opportunity of professing myself truly thankful for the good word of the Fourth Estate, and for its wisely detecting the soul of good in things evil.
The romantic and exceptional circumstances under which my large labour was projected and determined have been sufficiently described in the Foreword (vol. i. pp. vii- x). I may here add that during a longsome obligatory halt of some two months at East African Zayla' and throughout a difficult and dangerous march across the murderous Somali country upon Harar-Gay, then the Tinbukhtú of Eastern Africa, The Nights rendered me the best of service. The wildlings listened with the rapt attention of little lads and lasses to the marvellous recitals of the charming Queen and the monotonous interpellations of her lay-image sister and looked forward to the evening lecture as the crown and guerdon of the toilsome day. And assuredly never was there a more suitable setting, a more admirable mise-en-scène for The Nights than the landscape of Somali-land, a prospect so adapted to their subject-matter that it lent credibility even to details the least credible. Barren and grisly for the most part, without any of the charms gladdening and beautifying the normal prospects of earth, grassy hill and wooded dale, park-like plain and placid lake, and the snaking of silvery stream, it displays ever and anon beauties made all its own by borrowing from the heavens, in an atmosphere of passing transparency, reflections of magical splendours and of weird shadows proper to tropical skies. No rose-hue pinker than the virginal blush and dewy flush of dawn in contrast with the shivering reek of flaming noon-tide, when all brightness of colour seems burnt out of the world by the white heat of sun-glow. No brilliancy more gorgeous or more ravishing than the play of light and shade, the rainbow shiftings and the fiery pinks and purples and embers and carmines of the sunset scenery--the gorgeous death-bed of the Day. No tint more tender, more restful, than the uniform grey, pale and pearly, invading by slowest progress that ocean of crimson that girds the orb of the Sun-King, diminishing it to a lakelet of fire and finally quenching it in iridescent haze. No gloom more ghostly than the murky hangings drooping like curtains from the violet heavens during those traveller's trials the unmoored nights, when the world seems peopled by weird phantoms and phantasms of man and monster moving and at rest. No verdure more exquisite than earth's glazing of greenery, the blend of ethereal azure and yellow; no gold more sheeny than the foregrounds of sand shimmering in the slant of the sun; no blue more profound and transparent than the middle distances; no neutral tints more subtle, pure, delicate and sight-soothing than the French grey which robes the clear-cut horizon; no variety of landscape more pronounced than the alternations of glowing sunlight and snowy moonlight and twinkling starlight, all streaming through diaphanous air. No contrast more admirable than the alternation of iron upland whereupon hardly a blade of grass may grow and the Wady with its double avenue of leek-green tamarisks, hedging now a furious rain-torrent then a ribbon of purest sand, or the purple-gray shadow rising majestic in the Orient to face the mysterious Zodiacal Light, a white pyramid whose base is Amenti--region of resting Osiris--and whose apex pierces the zenith. And not rarely this "after-glow" is followed by a blush of "celestial rosy-red" mantling the whole circle of the horizon where the hue is deepest and paling into the upper azure where the stars shine their brightest. How often in Somali land I repeated to myself
--Contente-vous, mes yeux,
Jamais vous ne verrez chose plus belle;
and the picture still haunts me.
* * * * * *
And now, turning away from these and similar pleasures of memory, and passing over the once told tale (Foreword, vol. i. pp. viii., ix.) of how, when and where work was begun, together with the disappointment caused by the death of my friend and collaborator, Steinhaeuser concerning the copying process which commenced in 1879 and anent the precedence willingly accorded to the "Villon Edition," I proceed directly to what may be termed
The Engineering of the Work.
During the autumn of '82, after my return from the Gold Coast (with less than no share of the noble metal which my companion Cameron and I went forth to find and found a failure), my task began in all possible earnest with ordering the old scraps of translation and collating a vast heterogeneous collection of notes. I was fortunate enough to discover at unlettered Trieste, an excellent copyist able and willing to decypher a crabbed hand and deft at reproducing facetious and drolatic words without thoroughly comprehending their significance. At first my exertions were but fitful and the scene was mostly a sick bed to which I was bound between October '83 and June '84. Marienbad, however, and Styrian Sauerbrunn (bed Rohitsch) set me right and on return to Trieste (Sept. 4, '84), we applied ourselves to the task of advertising, the first two volumes being almost ready for print.
And here we were confronted by a serious question, What number of copies would suffice my public? A distinguished Professor who had published some 160,000 texts with prices ranging from 6d. to 50 guineas, wrote to me in all kindness advising an issue of 150 to 250: an eminent printer-publisher would have ventured upon some 500: others rose to 750 with a warning-note anent "wreckage," great risk and ruinous expenditure, while only one friend--and he not in business--urged an edition of 2,000 to 3,000 with encouraging words as to its probable reception. After long forethought I chose 1,000 as a just middle.
We then drew up a long list, names of friends, acquaintances and strangers likely to patronise the novelty, and caused the following three papers to be lithographed and printed at Trieste.
Captain Burton, having neither agent nor publisher for his forthcoming ARABIAN NIGHTS, requests that all subscribers will kindly send their names and addresses to him personally (Captain Burton, Trieste, Austria), when they will be entered into a book kept for the purpose.
There will be 10 volumes at a guinea a piece, each to be paid for on delivery. Subscribers may count on the first three volumes being printed in March next. Captain Burton pledges himself to furnish copies to all subscribers who address themselves to him; and he also undertakes not to issue, nor to allow the issue of a cheaper Edition. One thousand copies will be printed, the whole Manuscript will be ready before going to press in February, and the ten volumes will be issued within Eighteen Months.
This was presently followed by
The Student of Arabic who reads "THE NIGHTS" with this version, will not only be competent to join in any conversation, to peruse the popular books and newspapers, and to write letters to his friends, he will also find in the notes a repertoire of those Arabian Manners and Customs, Beliefs and Practices, which are not discussed in popular works.
The 10 volumes will be handsomely bound in black and gold.
No subscriptions will be until the work is done, and then at Coutts' Bank, Strand London.
Subscribers who apply directly are preferred.
The author will pay carriage of volumes all over the United Kingdom. A London address is requested.
And, lastly, after some delay, came the subjoined cutting from the Daily Tribune, New York.
"It has already been announced that the first instalment of Captain Burton's new translation of the Arabian Nights may be expected this autumn. I am indebted to a friend of his for some details which have not yet, I think, been made public. There is still room for a translation of the Arabian Nights. All or nearly all the popular editions of which there are hundreds, are but renderings, more or less imperfect, from Professor Galland's French version, which is itself an abridgment from the original, and turns a most valuable ethnographical work into a mere collection of fairy tales. Moreover, these English translations abound in Gallicisms, and their style offers but a painful contrast to the French of the seventeenth century. Some years since a Mr. Torrens undertook a complete translation from the original, but his work did not go beyond a single volume, or fifty tales out of the 1,001. Then came Mr. Lane in 1839, whose success was but moderate In his three large and (in the 1839 edition) beautifully illustrated volumes, he has given not more than half the tales. He used the Cairo Arabic edition, which is itself an abridgment, and took all kinds of liberties with the text, translating verse into prose, and excising everything that was not 'strictly proper.'
"Lastly, there is Mr. John Payne's excellent translation, which has occupied him during seven years and is just brought to a conclusion. Mr. Payne bound himself to print not more than 500 copies, and his nine volumes, not published but printed, nominally for the Villon Society, are unprocurable except at a price which to the general public is prohibitive.
"Captain Burton began his work on this extraordinary monument of Oriental literature in 1852, at Aden, with some help from his friend Dr. Steinhaeuser, of the Bombay Army. He has gone on with it as opportunity offered, and as other literary and official labours and his many journeys in savage lands permitted. The text and the subject offer many difficulties, and it is to these difficulties that he has devoted especial attention. His object is to reproduce the book in a form as entirely Arabian as possible, preserving the strict division of the nights, and keeping (a more questionable matter) to the long unbroken sentences in which the composer indulged, imitating also the rhythmic prose which is a characteristic of the Arabic. The effect in English remains to be seen, but of the value of Captain Burton's method as an experiment in literature there can be no doubt, or of its great interest to everybody who cares for Oriental habits of thought and language. He will not shirk any of the passages which do not suit the taste of the day, but these, Captain Burton thinks, will not commonly be found more objectionable than some which are in Shakespeare and in Shakespeare's contemporaries. At the same time it will be understood that the book is intended for men only and for the study;--not for women or children, nor for the drawing-room table or dentist's waiting-room. It will be printed by subscription and not published.
"Few are the Oriental scholars in England who could do justice to this picture of the mediaeval Arab. Captain Burton is perhaps the only one who joins to the necessary linguistic knowledge that varied practical experience of Eastern life which alone in many cases can supply the true meaning of a troublesome passage or an accurate comment upon it. His aim is to make the book in its English dress not only absolutely literal in text but Oriental in tone and colour. He knows the tales almost by heart, and used to keep the Bedouin tribes in roars of laughter in camp during the long summer nights by reciting them. Sheiks to whom a preternatural solemnity of demeanour is usual were to be seen rolling on the ground in paroxysms of uncontrollable mirth. It was also Burckhardt's custom to read the stories aloud, but the Arabs would snatch the book from his hand because his pronunciation was so bad. Captain Burton is said to have an Arab accent not easily distinguishable from the native. When he contents himself with the English tongue here in England, he is one of the most picturesque talkers to be met with. I can remember a certain dinner-party, now many years ago, where the great traveller kept us all listening till long past day-break; narrating, as he did, the most singular adventures with the most vivid fidelity to facts. That, however, is a digression. I have only to add that Captain Burton has the names of many subscribers and will doubtless be glad to receive others which may, I suppose, be sent to him at Trieste. His present hope is to be ready to go to press next February and to bring out the whole of the volumes in 1885."
(Signed) G. W. S.
Concerning this "American" communication and its author I shall have more to say in a future page.
Some 24,000 to 30,000 circulars were posted at an expense of 126 pounds and they produced about 800 favourable replies which, after my return to England (May '85), rose to 1,500 and to 2,000 as my unprofessional friend, and he only, had anticipated. Meanwhile occurred an incident characteristic of such appeals by the inexperienced to the public. A case containing 1,100 circulars had been sent to my agent for mailing in London, and my secretary had unfortunately gummed their envelopes. Hereupon I should have been subjected by the Post Office to the pains and penalties of the law, perhaps to a fine of £200 pounds. But when the affair was reported, with due explanations, to the late lamented Postmaster-General Henry Fawcett--a man in a million, and an official in ten millions-- he had the justice and generosity to look upon the offence as the result of pure ignorance, and I received a caution "not to do it again."
Needless to say that I lost no time about advertising my mistake in the dailies, giving the name of my agent and in offering to refund the money. Some of the sealed and unpaid envelopes had, however, been forwarded prematurely and the consequence was a comical display of wrath in quarters where it was hardly to be expected. By way of stemming the unpleasant tide of abuse I forwarded the following communiqué; to The Academy.
TUPPENCE AS A TOUCHSTONE.
Trieste, Nov. 2, 85.
"Can you kindly find space for a few lines on a purely personal matter which is causing me abundant trouble? A box of circulars giving details concerning my forthcoming version of the Arabian Nights was sent to London with directions to stamp and post the contents. The envelopes having been inadvertently gummed down, the case was stopped by the Custom-house, and was transmitted to the Post Office where it was found to contain circulars not letters, and of these sundry were forwarded without prepayment. The pleasant result was that one out-spoken gentleman writes upon the circular, which he returns,--When you send your trash again, put postage-stamps on. A second is peremptorily polite, Please forward four stamps to the Adjutant of the --th Regiment. The 'Chaplain of the Forces at ----,' at once ironical and severe, ventures to suggest to Captain Burton that it is advisable, if he thinks his book worth selling, to put the postage on future advertisements. A fourth who, I regret to say, signs himself Lieutenant Colonel, gives me advice about pre-payment written in an orderly's hand upon a torn envelope (gratuitously insulting!); encloses the 2d. stamp and sends the missive under official cover 'On Her Majesty's Service.' The idea of a French or an Austrian Colonel lowering himself so infinitely low! Have these men lost all sense of honour, all respect for themselves (and others) because they can no longer be called to account for their insolence more majorum? I never imagined 'Tuppence' to be so cunning a touchstone for detecting and determining the difference between gold and dross; nor can I deeply regret that circumstance and no default of mine has placed in hand Ithuriel's spear in the shape of the said 'Tuppence'."
I am, Sir, etc.
RICHARD F. BURTON.
The process of filling-up my list presented a fine and varied study of character; and an extensive experience of subscribers, as well as of non-subscribers, presently enabled me to distribute the genus into the following eight species. The friendly subscriber who takes ten copies (more or less) forwarding their value. The gentleman subscriber who pays down his confidingly. The cautious-canny subscriber who ventures £5. 5s., or half the price. The impudent and snobbish subscriber who will address his victim as follows:--
Send me the first volume of your Arabian Nights and if I like it I will perhaps take more.
And Cynophron will probably receive for all reply:--
Send me ten guineas and take one or ten volumes as you please.
Yours obediently, etc.
No. vi. is the fussy and troublesome subscriber who gives more bother than he is worth, and who takes a VICIOUS pride in not paying till pushed to the last point. The professional subscriber fights hard for the most favourable terms, and holds it his vested right to "part" by dribblers. And lastly comes the dishonest subscriber who does not pay at all. I must however, in justice own that species No. viii. is rare: of one thousand the proportion was only about a score.
In mid-June, '85, I returned to London and began at once to prepare for issuing the book. Having found the publisher peculiarly unsatisfactory--with one single and remarkable exception my venerable friend, Mr. Van Voorst, whilome of Paternoster Row--I determined, like Professor Arber, to do without him, although well aware how risky was the proceeding, which would, in the case of a work for general reading, have arrayed against me the majority of the trade and of their "hands," the critics. Then I sought hard, but sought in vain, for the agency of a literary friend or friends, men of name and note, like those who assisted in the Villon version: all feared the responsibility and the expected storm of abuse which, however, failed to burst.
Under these circumstances "The Printing Times," a professional periodical produced by Messieurs Wymans, was pleased (August 25, '85) to be unpleasantly intrusive on the subject of my plan. "We always heard associated with the publication of this important work, the name of Mr.----, which is now conspicuous by its absence, nor is, apparently the name of any other leading publishing house to be identified with its production" (The Printer's Devil is, I presume, responsible for the English!) The writer then warns me in all (un-)friendliness that if the printers forget to add their imprint, they would become liable to a legal penalty; that the work is unsafe for literal translation and, lastly that although printed by private subscription, "It is likely enough to be pronounced an injury to public morals to the danger of the author and his printers." The unhappy article concludes, "We await the issue of the first volume since much will depend upon the spirit(!) in which the translation has been undertaken; certainly the original text is not suitable for general circulation (connu!) unless edited with the utmost care and discretion."
To this production so manifestly inspired by our old friend £s. d., I replied in The Aademy (August 7, '85), the gist of the few lines being as follows:--
In answer to many inquiries from friends and others, will you allow me to repeat through your columns, that my translation of the "Arabian Nights" will be strictly limited to 1,000 copies, each sent to picked subscribers, and to renew the promise which I before made, that no cheaper edition shall be printed? Correspondents have complained that I have not stated the price; but I have mentioned over and over again that there are ten volumes, at one guinea each--my object in making it so expensive being to keep it from the general public. I am also troubled with inquiries as to who is my publisher I am my own publisher, inaugurating (Inshallah!) a golden age for authors. Jesting apart the book has no publisher. It is printed by myself for the benefit of Orientalists and Anthropologists, and nothing could be more repugnant to me than the idea of a book of the kind being published or being put into the hands of any publisher.
The first volume dated "Benares: MDCCCLXXXV: Printed by the Kamashastra Society for Private Subscribers only," did not appear till September 12, '85: it had been promised for March and had been delayed by another unavoidable detention at Trieste. But my subscribers had no further cause of complaint; ten tomes in sixteen months ought to satisfy even the most exigent.
No. i. volume was accompanied by a circular earnestly requesting that the book might not be exposed for sale in public places or permitted to fall into the hands of any save curious students of Moslem manners. Yet the birth of the first-born was accompanied (I am fain to confess) with no small trouble and qualms to the parent and to all who assisted at the parturition. Would the "little stranger" robed in black and gold, the colours of the Abbaside Caliphs, with its brick-red night-cap after the fashion of ecclesiastical bandings, be kindly welcomed or would it be regarded as an abortion, a monster? The reader will readily understand how welcome to an author in such perplexity came the following article from the Standard (September 12), usually attributed to the popular and trenchant pen of Mr. Alfred Austin. I must be permitted to quote it entire, because it expresses so fully and so admirably all and everything I could desire a reviewer to write. And the same paper has never ceased to give me the kindest encouragement: its latest notice was courteous and appreciative as its earliest.
The first volume of Captain Burton's long-expected edition of the "Arabian Nights" was issued yesterday to those who are in a position to avail themselves of the wealth of learning contained in this monumental labour of the famous Eastern traveller. The book is printed for subscribers only, and is sold at a price which is not likely to be paid by any save the scholars and students for whose instruction it is intended. But though the Benares "Kamashastra Society" are careful to let the world know that the "Thousand Nights and a Night" is not "published" in the technical sense of the term, the pages which will be read by a thousand purchasers may be fittingly regarded as the property of the world at large. In any case, the day when the experience of a life was embodied into this fresh translation of the "Alf Laylah wa Laylah" marks a distinct stage in the history of Oriental research. The world has had numerous versions of these stories. For at least a century and a half they have delighted old and young, until Shahrazade and Dunyazade, the Fisherman and the Jinn, and the tales told by the Tailor, the Kalendar, the Nazarene broker, and the Hunchback. . . to say nothing of Aladdin, Ali Baba, Sinbad the Sailor, and Camaralzaman and Badoura--seem like the most familiar of friends. Yet many of those who know the ordinary epitome prepared for the nursery and the drawing-room have little idea of the nature of the original. Galland's abridgment was a mere shadow of the Arabic. Even the editions of Lane and Habicht and Torrens and Von Hammer represented but imperfectly the great corpus of Eastern folk-lore which Captain Burton has undertaken to render into English, without regard to the susceptibilities of those who, not having bought the book, are, therefore, in no way concerned in what is the affair of him and his subscribers. The best part of two centuries have passed away since Antoine Galland first turned some of the tales into French, and got stigmatised as a forger for his pains. Never was there such a sensation as when he printed his translations. For weeks he had been pestered by troops of roysterers rousing him out of bed, and refusing to go until the shivering Professor recited one of the Arab stories to the crowd under his window. Nor has the interest in them in any way abated. Thousands of copies pass every year into circulation, and any one who has ever stood in the circle around the professional storyteller of the East must have noticed how often he draws on this deathless collection. The camel-driver listens to them as eagerly as did his predecessors ages ago. The Badawi laughs in spite of himself, though next moment he ejaculates a startling "Astaghfaru'llah" for listening to the light mention of the sex whose name is never heard amongst the Nobility of the Desert. Or if the traveller is a scholar and a gentleman, he will pull out his book for amusement of the company squatted round the camp fire, as did Captain Burton many a time and oft in the course of his Eastern wanderings.
To Captain Burton the preparation of these volumes must have been a labour of love. He began them in conjunction with his friend Steinhaeuser, soon after his return from the Mecca pilgrimage, more than thirty years ago, and he has been doing something to them ever since. In the swampy jungles of West Africa a tale or two has been turned into English, or a poem has been versified during the tedium of official life in the dank climate of Brazil. From Sind to Trieste the manuscript has formed part and parcel of his baggage and though, in the interval, the learned author has added many a volume to the shelf-full which he has written, the "Thousand Nights and a Night" have never been forgotten. And now when he nears the end of his labours it seems as if we had never before known what the beauteous Shahrazad told the King who believed not in the constancy of women. Captain Burton seems the one sober man among drunkards. We have all the old company though they appear in dresses so entirely new that one scans the lines again and again before the likeness is quite recognised. However, Tajal-Mulook will no doubt be as knightly as ever when his turn comes, for the Barber is garrulous, after the old fashion, and the three Shaykhs relate their experiences with the Jinns, the gazelles, and mules as vividly as they have done any time these thousand years or more. King Yoonan and the Sage Dooban are here, and so are King Sindibad and his falcon, the young Prince of the Black Islands, the envious Weezer and the Ghoolah, and the stories of the Porter and the Ladies of Baghdad lose nothing of their charm in the new, and, we may add, extremely unsophisticated version. For Captain Burton's work is not virginibus puerisque, and, while disclaiming for his version anything like intentional indecorum, he warns the readers that they will be guilty of a breach of good faith should they permit a work prepared only for students to fall into the hands of boys and girls. From the first to almost the penultimate edition of these stories the drawing-room alone has been consulted. Even Mr. Payne, though his otherwise faithful version was printed for the Villon Society, had the fear of Mrs. Grundy before his eyes. Moreover, no previous editor--not even Lane himself--had a tithe of Captain Burton's acquaintance with the manners and customs of the Moslem East. Hence not unfrequently, they made ludicrous blunders and in no instance did they supply anything like the explanatory notes which have added so greatly to the value of this issue of "Alf Laylah wa Laylah." Some of these are startling in their realism, and often the traveller who believed that he knew something of the East, winces at the plainness with which the Wazir's daughter tells her tales to Shahryar, King of the Banu Sasan. The language is, however, more frequently coarse than loose, and smacks more of the childish plainness with which high and low talk in the family circles from Tangier to Malayia, than of prurience or suggestiveness. The Oriental cannot understand that it is improper to refer in straightforward terms to anything which Allah has created or of which the Koran treats. But in his conversation, as in his folk-lore, there is no subtle corruption or covert licentiousness--none of the vicious suggestion and false sentiment that pervade so many of the productions of the modern romantic school.
It is, indeed, questionable whether there is much in these inimitable romances half so objectionable as many of the chapters in Rabelais and Boccaccio. Nor do the most archaic of the passages which Captain Burton declines to "veil in the decent obscurity of a learned language" leave much room for the admirers of Shakespeare, or Greene, or Nash, or Wycherley, or Swift, or Sterne to cry shame. Their coarseness was a reflection of the times. The indelicacy was not offensive to those who heard it. On the other hand, apart from the language, the general tone of "The Nights" is exceptionally high and pure. The devotional fervour, as Captain Burton justly claims, often rises to the boiling-point of fanaticism and the pathos is sweet and deep, genuine and tender, simple and true. Its life--strong, splendid, and multitudinous--is everywhere flavoured with that unaffected pessimism and constitutional melancholy which strike deepest root under the brightest skies. The Kazi administers poetical justice with exemplary impartiality, and so healthy is the morale that at times we descry through the voluptuous and libertine picture "vistas of a transcendental morality--the morality of Socrates in Plato." In no other work of the same nature is Eastern life so vividly portrayed. We see the Arab Knight, his prowess and his passion for adventure, his love and his revenge, the craft of his wives, and the hypocrisy of his priests, as plainly as if we had lived among them. Gilded palaces, charming women, lovely gardens, caves full of jewels, and exquisite repasts, captivate the senses and give variety to the panorama which is passing before our eyes. Yet we repeat that, though there is much in the excellent version now begun which is very plain speaking, there is nothing intentionally demoralising. Evidently, however the translator is prepared to hear this charge brought against his labour of love. Indeed, there is a tinge of melancholy pervading the preface in which the Editor refers to his "unsuccessful professional life," and to the knowledge of which his country has cared so little to avail itself. * * * * * Even in the recent Egyptian troubles--which are referred to somewhat bitterly-- his wisdom was not utilised, though, after the death of Major Morice, there was not an English official in the camps before Suakin capable of speaking Arabic. On this scandal, and on the ignorance of Oriental customs which was everywhere displayed, Captain Burton is deservedly severe. The issue of the ten volumes now in the press, accompanied by notes so full of learning as those with which they are illuminated, will surely give the nation an opportunity for wiping away the reproach of that neglect which Captain Burton seems to feel more keenly than he cares to express.
This was a sop to the friend and a sore blow dealt to the enemy. Moreover it was speedily followed up by another as swashing and trenchant in the Morning Advertiser (September 15, '85), of which long extracts are presently quoted. The journal was ever friendly to me during the long reign of Mr. James Grant, and became especially so when the editorial chair was so worthily filled by my old familiar of Oxford days, the late Alfred Bate Richards, a man who made the "Organ of the Licensed Victuallers" a power in the state and was warmly thanked for his good services by that model conservative, Lord Beaconsfield.
A phrase in the Standard, the "most archaic of the passages," acted upon
The "Pall Mall Gazette"
like a red rag upon a rageous bull. I should rather say that it excited the so-called "Sexual I Journal" by suggesting another opportunity for its unclean sensationalism: perhaps also the staff hoped to provide company and a fellow-sufferer for their editor, who was then in durance vile, his of fences being "inciting to an indecent assault" and an act of criminal immorality. I should not have felt called upon to remind my readers of a scandal half forgotten in England, while still held in lively remembrance by the jealous European world, had not the persistent fabrications, calumnies, and slanders of the Pall Mall, which continue to this day, compelled me to move in self-defence, and to explain the mean under lying motives.
Some three years and a half ago (June 3, '85), the paper startled the world of London by a prodigy of false, foul, and fulsome details in the shape of articles entitled "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon." The object of the editor, Mr. William T. Stead, a quondam teacher in the London schools and a respectable Methodist strengthened by non- Conformist support, in starting this ignoble surprise on the public was much debated. His partisans asserted that he had been honestly deceived by some designing knave as if such child-like credulity were any excuse for a veteran journalist! His foes opined that under the cloak of a virtue, which Cato never knew, he sought to quicken his subscription list ever dwindling under the effects of his exaggerated Russophilism and Anglophobia.
But whatever may have been the motive, the effect was deplorable. The articles, at once collected into a pamphlet (price two pence), as the "Report of the Pall Mall Gazette's Secret Commission," and headed by a laudatory quotation from one of the late Lord Shaftesbury's indiscreetly philanthropic speeches, were spread broadcast about every street and lane in London. The brochure of sixteen pages divided into three chapters delighted the malignant with such sensational section-headings as--How Girls are Bought and Ruined--Why the Cries of the Victims are not Heard--Procuresses in the West End--How Annie was Procured--You Want a Maid, do You?--The Ruin of Children--A London Minotaur(?)--The Ruin of the Young Life--The Demon Child and--A Close Time for Girls, the latter being intended to support the recommendation of the Lords' Committee and the promise of a Home Secretary that the age of consent be raised from thirteen to sixteen. And all this catchpenny stuff (price 2d.) ended characteristically with "Philanthropic and Religious Associations can be supplied with copies of this reprint on special terms." Such artless benevolence and disinterested beneficence must, of course, be made to pay.
Read by every class and age in the capital, the counties and the colonies, this false and filthy scandal could not but infect the very children with the contagion of vice. The little gutter-girls and street-lasses of East London looked at men passing-by as if assured that their pucelages were or would become vendible at £3 to £5. But, the first startling over men began to treat the writer as he deserved. The abomination was "boycotted" by the Press, expelled from clubs, and driven in disgrace from the "family breakfast table," an unpleasant predicament for a newspaper which lives, not by its news, but by its advertise meets. The editor had the impudence to bemoan a "conspiracy of silence," which can only mean that he wanted his foul sheets to be bought and discussed when the public thought fit to bury them in oblivion. And yet he must have known that his "Modern Babylon" is not worse in such matters than half-a-dozen minor Babylons scattered over Europe, Asia, and America; and that it is far from being, except by the law of proportion the "greatest market of human flesh in the world." But by carefully and curiously misrepresenting the sporadic as the systematic, and by declaring that the "practice of procuration has been reduced to a science" (instead of being, we will suppose, one of the fine arts), it is easy to make out a case of the grossest calumny and most barefaced scandal against any great capital.
The revelations of the Pall Mall were presently pooh-pooh'd at home; but abroad their effect was otherwise. Foreigners have not yet learned thoroughly to appreciate our national practice of washing (and suffering others to wash) the foulest linen in fullest public. Mr. Stead's unworthy clap-trap representing London as the head-quarters of kidnapping, hocussing, and child-prostitution, the author invoking the while with true Pharisaic righteousness, unclean and blatant, pure intentions and holy zeal for good works was welcomed with a shout of delight by our unfriends the French, who hold virtue in England to be mostly Tartuffery, and by our cousins-german and rivals the Germans, who dearly love to use us and roundly abuse us. In fact, the national name of England was wilfully and wrongfully defiled and bewrayed by a "moral and religious" Englishman throughout the length and breadth of Europe.
Hard upon these "revelations" came the Eliza Armstrong case whereby the editor of the "Sexual Gazette" stultified thoroughly and effectually his own assertions; and proved most satisfactorily, to the injury of his own person, that the easiest thing in the world is notably difficult and passing dangerous. An accomplice, unable to procure a "maiden" for immoral purposes after boasting her ability as a procuress, proceeded to kidnap one for the especial benefit of righteous Mr. Stead. Consequently, he found himself in the dock together with five other accused, male and female; and the verdict, condemning the archplotter to three months and the assistants to lesser terms of imprisonment for abduction and indecent assault, was hailed with universal applause. The delinquent had the fanatical and unscrupulous support, with purse and influence, of the National Vigilance Association, a troop of busybodies captained by licensed blackmailers who of late years have made England their unhappy hunting-ground. [FN#446] Despite, however, the "Stead Defence Fund" liberally supplied by Methody; despite the criminal's Pecksniffan tone, his self-glorification of the part he had taken, his effronté boast of pure and lofty motives and his passionate enthusiasm for sexual morality, the trial emphasised the fact that no individual may break the law of the land in order that good may come therefrom. It also proved most convincingly the utter baselessness of the sweeping indictment against the morality of England and especially of London--a charge which "undoubtedly had an enormous influence for harm at home and cruelly prejudiced the country abroad." In the words of Mr. Vaughan of the Bow Street Police Court (September 7, '85) the Pall Mall's "Sensational articles had certainly given unlimited pain and sorrow to many good people at home and had greatly lowered the English nation in the estimation of foreigners." In a sequel to the Eliza Armstrong case Mr. Justice Manisty, when summing up, severely condemned the "shocking exhibition that took place in the London streets by the publication of statements containing horrible details, and he trusted that those who were responsible for the administration of the law would take care that such outrage should not be permitted again." So pure and pious Mr. Stead found time for reflection during the secluded three-months life of a "first-class misdemeanant" in "happy Holywell," and did not bring out his intended articles denouncing London as the head- quarters of a certain sin named from Sodom.
About mid-September, when Mr. Stead still lay in durance vile, a sub-editor Mr. Morley (Jun.) applied to me for an interview which I did not refuse. It was by no means satisfactory except to provide his paper with "copy." I found him labouring hard to place me "in the same box" with his martyred principal and to represent my volume ("a book of archaic delights") as a greater outrage on public decency than the two-penny pamphlet. This, as said the London Figaro (September 19, '85), is a "monstrous and absurd comparison." It became evident to me, during the first visit, that I was to play the part of Mr. Pickwick between two rival races of editors, the pornologists and the anti- pornologists, and, having no stomach for such sport, I declined the rôle. In reply to a question about critics my remark to the interviewer was, "I have taken much interest in what the classics call Skiomachia and I shall allow Anonymus and Anonyma to howl unanswered. I shall also treat with scornful silence the miserables who, when shown a magnificent prospect, a landscape adorned with the highest charms of Nature and Art, can only see in a field corner here and there a little heap of muck. 'You must have been looking for it, Madam!' said, or is said to have said, sturdy old Doctor Samuel Johnson."
Moreover Mr. Morley's style of reporting "interviews" was somewhat too advanced and American--that is, too personal, too sensation-mongering and too nauseously familiar--to suit my taste, and I would have none other of them. Hereupon being unable to make more copy out of the case the Pall Mall Gazette let loose at me a German Jew pennyliner, who signs himself Sigma. This pauvre diable delivered himself of two articles, "Pantagruelism or Pornography?" (September 14, '85) and "The Ethics of the Dirt" (September 19, '85), wherein with matchless front of brass he talks of the "unsullied British breakfast-table," so pleasantly provided with pepper by his immaculate editor. And since that time the Pall Mall Gazette has never ceased to practice at my expense its old trade, falsehood and calumny, and the right of private judgment, sentence and execution. In hopes that his splenetic and vindictive fiction might bear fruit, at one time the Pall Mall Gazette has "heard that the work was to be withdrawn from circulation" (when it never circulated). Then, "it was resolved by the authorities to request Captain Burton not to issue the third volume and to prosecute him if he takes no notice of the invitation;" and, finally, "Government has at last determined to put down Captain Burton with a strong hand." All about as true as the political articles which the Pall Mall Gazette indites with such heroic contempt for truth, candour and honesty. One cannot but apply to the "Gutter Gazette" the words of the Rev. Edward Irving:--"I mean by the British Inquisition that court whose ministers and agents carry on their operations in secret; who drag every man's most private affairs before the sight of thousands and seek to mangle and destroy his life, trying him without a witness, condemning him without a hearing, nor suffering him to speak for himself, intermeddling in things of which they have no knowledge and cannot on any principle have a jurisdiction * * * I mean the ignorant, unprincipled, unhallowed spirit of criticism, which in this Protestant country is producing as foul effects against truth, and by as dishonest means as ever did the Inquisition of Rome" (p. 5 "Preliminary Discourse to Ben Ezra," etc.).
Of course men were not wanting to answer the malevolent insipidities of the Pall Mall Gazette, and to note the difference between newspaper articles duly pamphleted and distributed to the disgust of all decency, and the translation of an Arabian limited in issue and intended only for the few select. Nor could they fail to observe that black balling The Nights and admitting the "revelations" was a desperate straining at the proverbial gnat and swallowing the camel. My readers will hardly thank me for dwelling upon this point yet I cannot refrain from quoting certain of the protests:--
To the Editor of the PALL MALL GAZETTE.
Your correspondent "Sigma" has forgotten the considerable number of "students" who will buy Captain Burton's translation as the only literal one, needing it to help them in what has become necessary to many--a masterly knowledge of Egyptian Arabic. The so-called "Arabian Nights" are about the only written half-way house between the literary Arabic and the colloquial Arabic, both of which they need, and need introductions too. I venture to say that its largest use will be as a grown-up school-book and that it is not coarser than the classics in which we soak all our boys' minds at school.
September 14th, 1885.
And the Freethinker's answer (Oct. 25, '85) to these repeated and malicious assaults is as follows:--
Here is a fine illustration of Mr. Stead's Pecksniffian peculiarities. Captain Burton, a gentleman and a scholar whose boots Mr. Stead is not fit to black, is again hauled over the coals for the hundredth time about his new translation of the Arabian Nights, which is so "pornographic" that the price of the first volume has actually risen from a pound to twenty-five shillings. Further down, in the very same column, the P.M.G. gloats proudly over the fact that thirty-five shillings have been given for a single copy of its own twopennyworth of smut.
The last characteristic touch which I shall take the trouble to notice is the following gem of September 16, '87:--
I was talking to an American novelist the other day, and he assured me that the Custom-house authorities on "the other side" seized all copies of Sir Richard Burton's "Nights" that came into their hands, and retained them as indecent publications. Burned them, I hope he meant, and so, I fear, will all holders of this notorious publication, for prices will advance, and Sir Richard will chuckle to think that indecency is a much better protection than international copyright.
Truly the pen is a two-edged tool, often turned by the fool against his own soul. So an honest author "chuckles" when his subscribers have lost their copies because this will enhance the value of his book! I ask, Can anything be better proven than the vileness of a man who is ever suspecting and looking for vileness in his fellow-men? Again, the assertion that the Custom-house authorities in the United States had seized my copies is a Pall-Mallian fiction pure and simple, and the "Sexual Gazette" must have known this fact right well. In consequence of a complaint lodged by the local Society for the Suppression of Vice, the officials of the Custom-house, New York, began by impounding the first volumes of the Villon Version; but presently, as a literary friend informs me (February 10, '88), "the new translations of The Nights have been fully permitted entry at the Custom-house and are delivered on the payment of 25% duty." To my copies admittance was never refused.
Mr. Stead left his prison-doors noisily declaring that the rest of his life should be "devoted to Christian chivalry"--whatever that majestic dictum may mean. As regards his subsequent journalistic career I can observe only that it has been unfortunate as inconsequent. He took up the defence, abusing the Home Secretary after foulest fashion of the card-blooded murderer Lipski, with the result that his protégé was hanged after plenary confession and the Editor had not the manliness to apologise. He espoused the cause of free speech in Ireland with the result that most of the orators were doomed to the infirmaries connected with the local gaols. True to his principle made penal by the older and wiser law of libel, that is of applying individual and irresponsible judgment to, and passing final and unappealable sentence upon, the conduct of private individuals and of public men, he raged and inveighed with all the fury of outraged (and interested) virtue against Colonel Hughes-Hallett with the consequence of seating that M.P. more firmly than before. He took up the question of free public meeting in England with the result that a number of deludeds (including Mr. Cunninghame Graham, M.P.) found their way to prison, which the "Christian chevalier" had apparently contracted to supply with inmates. But there is more to say concerning the vaunted morality of this immoral paper.--Eheu! quantum mutatus from the old decent days when, under Mr. Frederic Greenwood, it was indeed "written by gentlemen for gentlemen" (and ladies).
A journal which, like the Pall Mall Gazette, affects preferably and persistently sexual subjects and themes rubric, works more active and permanent damage to public morals than books and papers which are frankly gross and indecent. The latter, so far as the world of letters knows them, are read either for their wit and underlying wisdom (e.g. Rabelais and Swift), for their historical significance (Petronius Arbiter) or for their anthropological interest as the Alf Laylah. But the public print which deals, however primly and decently, piously and unctuously, with sexual and inter-sexual relations, usually held to be of the Alekta or taboo'd subjects, is the real perverter of conduct, the polluter of mental purity, the corrupter-general of society. Amongst savages and barbarians the comparatively unrestrained intercourse between men and women relieves the brain through the body; the mind and memory have scant reason, physical or mental, to dwell fondly upon visions amatory and venereal, to live in a "rustle of (imaginary) copulation." On the other hand the utterly artificial life of civilization, which debauches even the monkeys in "the Zoo," and which expands the period proper for the reproductory process from the vernal season into the whole twelvemonth, leaves to the many, whose lot is celibacy, no bodily want save one and that in a host of cases either unattainable or procurable only by difficulty and danger. Hence the prodigious amount of mental excitement and material impurity which is found wherever civilization extends, in maid, matron, and widow, save and except those solely who allay it by some counteragent --religion, pride, or physical frigidity. How many a woman in "Society," when stricken by insanity or puerperal fever, breaks out into language that would shame the slums and which makes the hearers marvel where she could have learned such vocabulary. How many an old maid held to be cold as virgin snow, how many a matron upon whose fairest fame not a breath of scandal has blown, how many a widow who proudly claims the title univira, must relieve their pent-up feelings by what may be called mental prostitution. So I would term the dear delights of sexual converse and that sub-erotic literature, the phthisical "French novel," whose sole merit is "suggestiveness," taking the place of Oriental morosa voluptas and of the unnatural practices--Tribadism and so forth, still rare, we believe, in England. How many hypocrites of either sex, who would turn away disgusted from the outspoken Tom Jones or the Sentimental Voyager, revel in and dwell fondly upon the sly romance or "study" of character whose profligacy is masked and therefore the more perilous. And a paper like the (modern) Pall Mall Gazette which deliberately pimps and panders to this latent sense and state of aphrodisiac excitement, is as much the more infamous than the loose book as hypocrisy is more hateful than vice and prevarication is more ignoble than a lie. And when such vile system is professionally practiced under the disguise and in the holy names of Religion and Morality, the effect is loathsome as that spectacle sometimes seen in the East of a wrinkled old eunuch garbed in woman's nautchdress ogling with painted eyes and waving and wriggling like a young Bayadére.
There is much virtue in a nickname: at all events it shows the direction whither the aura popularis sets. The organ of Christian Chivalry is now universally known to Society as "The Gutter Gazette;" to the public as "The Purity-Severity Paper," and the "Organ of the Social Pruriency Society," and to its colleagues of the Press as "The Dirt Squirt." In the United States fulsomely to slander a man is "to Pall Mall Gazette him:" "Just like your Pall Mall Gazette," said an American to me when describing a disreputable print "over the water." And Mr. Stead, now self-constituted coryphæus of the Reptile Press in Great Britain, has apparently still to learn that lying and slandering are neither Christian nor chivalrous.
The diminutive Echo of those days (October 13 and 14, '85) followed suit of the Pall Mall Gazette and caught lightly the sounds as they fell from the non-melliferous lips of the charmer who failed to charm wisely. The precious article begins by informing me that I am "always eager after the sensational," and that on this occasion I "cater for the prurient curiosity of the wealthy few," such being his synonym for "readiness to learn." And it ends with the following comical colophon:--"Captain Burton may possibly imitate himself(?) and challenge us(!) to mortal combat for this expression of opinion. If so, the writer of these lines will imitate himself(?) and take no notice of such an epistle." The poor scribe suggests the proverbial "Miss Baxter, who refused a man before he axed her." And what weapon could I use, composing-stick or dung-fork, upon an anonymous correspondent of the hawkers' and newsboys' "Hecker," the favourite ha'porth of East London? So I left him to the tender mercies of Gaiety (October 14, '84):--
The Echo is just a bit wild,
Its "par." is indeed a hard hitter:
In fact, it has not drawn it mild
'Tis a matter of "Burton and bitter."
I rejoice to subjoin that the Echo has now (1888) made a name for decent and sensible writing, having abandoned the "blatant" department to the Star (see, for the nonsense about a non-existent Alderman Waterlow, its issue of September 6, '88).
In the opinions of the Press will be found a selection from half a century of laudatory notices to which the few curious touching such matters will turn, while those who misjudged my work are duly acknowledged in this paper. Amongst friends I would specify without invidious distinction, The Bat (September 29, '85), who on this occasion and sundry others sturdily defended me, showing himself a bird of "light and leading." To the St. James's Gazette (September 12, '85), the Whitehall Review (September 17), the Home News (September 18), and the Nottingham Journal (September 19), I am also indebted for most appreciative and intelligent notices. My cordial thanks are likewise due to the Editor and especially to "Our London Correspondent" of the Lincoln Gazette (October 10 and October 17, '85, not to notice sundry minor articles): the articles will be reprinted almost entire because they have expressed my meaning as though it came from my own mouth. I have quoted Mr. J. Addington Symonds in extenso: if England now possesses a writer who can deliver an authoritative judgment on literary style it is this littérateur. Of the journals which profess letters The Academy has ever been my friend and I have still the honour of corresponding with it: we are called "faddists" probably from our "fad" of signing our articles and thus enabling the criticised to criticise the critic.
I now turn to another of my unfriends, amongst whom is and long has been
The "Saturday Review,"
This ancient dodderer, who has seen better days, deigned favour me with six notices (January 2 and March 27, '86; April 30, June 4, August 14, '87, and July 21, '88), of which No. i., dealing with my first and second volumes, is written after the facile American fashion, making the book review itself; that is, supply to the writer all the knowledge and familiarity with the subject which he parades before an incurious and easily gullible public. This especial form of dishonesty has but lately succeeded to and ousted the classical English critique of Jeffrey, Macaulay, and the late Mr. Abraham Hayward, which was mostly a handy peg for the contents of the critic's noddle or note book. The Saturnine article opens characteristically.
Abroad we English have the character of being the most prudish of nations; we are celebrated as having Bowdlerized for our babes and sucklings even the immortal William Shakespeare; but we shall infallibly lose this our character should the Kamashastra Society flourish. Captain Burton has long been known as a bold explorer; his pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, disguised in the dress and taking on him the manners and customs of a True Believer, was a marvel of audacity; but perhaps he may be held now to have surpassed himself, for he has been bold enough to lay before his countrymen a literal and unexcised translation of The Arabian Nights.
The writer is kind enough to pat me upon the back for "picturesque and fluent English" and to confess that I have successfully imitated the rhyming cadence of the original. But The Saturday would not be The Saturday without carping criticism, wrong-headedness and the culte of the common-place, together with absolute and unworthy cruelty to weaker vessels. The reviewer denounces as "too conceited to be passed over without comment" the good old English "whenas" (for when, vol. ii. 130), the common ballad-terms "a plump of spearmen" (ii. 190) and a "red cent" (i. 321), the only literal rendering of "Fals ahmar" which serves to show the ancient and noble pedigree of a slang term supposed to be modern and American. Moreover this Satan even condemns fiercely the sin of supplying him with "useful knowledge." The important note (ii. 45) upon the normal English mispronunciation of the J in Jerusalem, Jesus, Jehovah, a corruption whose origin and history are unknown to so many, and which was, doubtless, a surprise to this Son of King "We," is damned as "uninteresting to the reader of the Arabian Nights." En revanche, three mistakes of mine ("p. 43" for "p. 45" in vol. ii., index; "King Zahr Shah" for "King Suleyman Shah," ii. 285, and the careless confusion of the Caliphs Al-Muntasir and Al- Mustansir, ii. 817, note i.) were corrected and I have duly acknowledged the correction. No. i. article ends with Saturnine geniality and utterly ignoring a bye-word touching dwellers in glass houses:--
Finally, we mark with regret that Captain Burton should find no more courteous terms to apply to the useful work of a painstaking clergyman than those where in his note he alludes to "Missionary Porter's miserable Handbook."
As Mr. Missionary Porter has never ceased to malign me, even in his last Edition of Murray's "miserable Handbook," a cento of Hibernian blunders and hashed Bible, I have every reason to lui rendre la pareille.
The second article (March 27, '86), treating of vol. iii., opens with one of those plagiaristic common-places, so dear to the soul of The Saturday, in its staid and stale old age as in its sprightly youth. "There is particularly one commodity which all men, therein nobly disregarding their differences of creed and country, are of a mind that it is better to give than to receive. That commodity is good advice. We note further that the liberality with which this is everywhere offered is only to be equalled (he means 'to be equalled only') by the niggard reception at most times accorded to the munificent donation; in fact the very goodness of advice given apparently militates against its due appreciation in (by?) the recipient." The critic then proceeds to fit his ipse dixit upon my case. The sense of the sentiment is the reverse of new: we find in The Spectator (No. dxii.), "There is nothing we receive with so much reluctance as good advice," etc., but Mr. Spectator writes good English and his plagiarist does not. Nor is the dictum true. We authors who have studied a subject for years, are, I am convinced, ready enough to learn, but we justly object to sink our opinions and our judgment in those of a counsellor who has only "crammed" for his article. Moreover, we must be sure that he can fairly lay claim to the three requisites of an adviser--capacity to advise rightly, honesty to advise truly, and courtesy to advise decently. Now the Saturday Review has neither this, that, nor the other qualification. Indeed his words read like subtle and lurking irony by the light of those phenomenal and portentous vagaries which ever and anon illuminate his opaque pages. What correctness can we expect from a journal whose tomahawk-man, when scalping the corpse of Matthew Arnold, deliberately applies the term "sonnet" to some thirty lines in heroic couplets? His confusion of Dr. Jenner, Vaccinator, with Sir William Jenner, the President of the R. C. of Physicians, is one which passes all comprehension. And what shall we say of this title to pose as an Aristarchus (November 4th, '82)? "Then Jonathan Scott, LL.D. Oxon, assures the world that he intended to re-translate the Tales given by Galland(!) but he found Galland so adequate on the whole (!!) that he gave up the idea and now reprints Galland with etchings by M. Lalauze, giving a French view of Arab life. Why Jonathan Scott, LL.D., should have thought to better Galland while Mr. Lane's version is in existence, and has just been reprinted, it is impossible to say." In these wondrous words Jonathan Scott's editio princeps with engravings from pictures by Smirke and printed by Longmans in 1811 is confounded with the imperfect reprint by Messieurs Nimmo and Bain, in 1883; the illustrations being borrowed from M. Adolphe Lalauze, a French artist (nat. 1838), a master of eaux fortes, who had studied in Northern Africa and who maroccanized the mise-en-scène of "The Nights" with a marvellous contrast of white and negro nudities. And such is the Solomon who fantastically complains that I have disdained to be enlightened by his "modest suggestions." Au reste the article is not bad simply because it borrows--again Americanicè--all its matter from my book. At the tail-end, however comes the normal sting: I am guilty of not explaining "Wuzú" (lesser ablution), "Ghusl" (greater ablution), and "Zakát" (legal alms which constitute a poor-rate), proving that the writer never read vol. iii. He confidently suggests replacing "Cafilah," "by the better known word Caravan," as if it were my speciality (as it is his) to hunt-out commonplaces: he grumbles about "interrogation-points a l'Espagnole upside down"(?) which still satisfies me as an excellent substitute to distinguish the common Q(uestion) from A(nswer) and he seriously congratulates me upon my discovering a typographical error on the fly- leaf. No. iii. (August 14, '86, handling vols. vi., vii. and viii.) is free from the opening pretensions and absurdities of No. ii. and it is made tolerably safe by the familiar action of scissors and paste. But--desinit in piscem--it ends fishily; and we find, after saturnine fashion, in cauda venenum. It scolds me for telling the English public what it even now ignores, the properest way of cooking meat (à propos of kabábs) and it "trembles to receive vols. ix. and x. for truly (from a literary point of view, of course, we mean) there seems nothing of which the translator might not be capable"--capable de tout, as said Voltaire of Habbakuk and another agnostic Frenchman of the Prophet Zerubbabel. This was indeed high praise considering the Saturday's sympathy with and affection for the dead level, for the average man; but as an augury of ill it was a brutum fulmen. No. iv. (August 30, '87) was, strange to say, in tone almost civil and ended with a touch simulating approval:--
"The labours of a quarter of a century," writes the translator in L'Envoi, "are now brought to a close, and certainly no one could have been found better suited by education and taste to the task of translating the 'Nights' than is the accomplished author of the 'Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.' His summing up of the contents and character of 'The Thousand and One Nights' in the Terminal Essay is a masterpiece of careful analysis and we cannot do better than conclude our notice with a paragraph that resumes with wonderful effect the boundless imagination and variety of the picture that is conjured up before our eyes:--
"Viewed as a tout ensemble in full and complete form, they are a drama of Eastern life and a Dance of Death made sublime by faith and the highest emotions, by the certainty of expiation and the fulness of atoning equity, where virtue is victorious, vice is vanquished and the ways of Allah are justified to man. They are a panorama which remains kenspeckle upon the mental retina. They form a phantasmagoria in which archangels and angels, devils and goblins, men of air, of fire, of water, naturally mingle with men of earth, where flying horses and talking fishes are utterly realistic, where King and Prince must meet fishermen and pauper, lamia and cannibal, where citizen jostles Badawi, eunuch meets knight; the Kazi hob-nobs with the thief.... The work is a kaleidoscope where everything falls into picture, gorgeous palaces and pavilions; grisly underground caves and deadly words, gardens fairer than those of the Hesperid; seas dashing with clashing billows upon enchanted mountains, valleys of the Shadow of Death, air-voyages and promenades in the abysses of the ocean, the duello, the battle, and the siege, the wooing of maidens and the marriage rite. All the splendour and squalor, the beauty and baseness the glamour and grotesqueness, the magic and the mournfulness, the bravery and the baseness, of Oriental life are here."
And now, after the Saturday Review has condescended severely and sententiously to bepreach me, I must be permitted a trifling return in kind. As is declared by the French an objectionable people which prefers la gloire to "duty," and even places "honour" before "honesty," the calling of the Fourth Estate is un sacerdoce, an Apostolate: it is a high and holy mission whose ends are the diffusion of Truth and Knowledge and the suppression of Ignorance and Falsehood. "Sacrilege," with this profession, means the breaking of its two great commandments and all sins of commission and omission suggested and prompted by vain love of fame, by sordid self-esteem or by ignoble rancour. What then shall we say of a paper which, professedly established to "counteract the immorality of The Times," adds to normal journalistic follies, offences and mistakes an utter absence of literary honour, systematic misrepresentation, malignity and absolute ruffianism? Let those who hold such language exaggerated glance at my pièce justicative, the Saturday's article (June 28, '88) upon Mr. Hitchman's "Biography of Sir Richard Burton." No denizen of Grub Street in the coarse old day of British mob-savagery could have produced a more damning specimen of wilful falsehood, undignified scurrility and brutal malevolence, in order to gratify a well-known pique, private and personal. The "Saturday Reviler"--there is, I repeat, much virtue in a soubriquet--has grown only somewhat feebler, not kindlier, not more sympathetic since the clever author of "In Her Majesty's Keeping" styled this Magister Morum "the benignant and judicious foster-parent of literature"; and since Darwin wrote of it (ii. 260) "One cannot expect fairness in a reviewer;" nor has it even taken to heart what my friend Swinburne declared (anent its issue of December 15, '83) "clumsy and shallow snobbery can do no harm." Like other things waxing obsolete it has served, I hasten to confess, a special purpose in the world of letters. It has lived through a generation of thirty years in the glorification of the mediocrities and in pandering to the impish taint of poor human nature, the ungenerous passions of those who abhor the novel, the original, the surprising, the startling, and who are only too glad to witness and to assist in the Procrustes' process of trimming and lengthening out thoughts and ideas and diction that rise or strive to rise above the normal and vulgar plane. This virtual descendant of the ancestral Satirist, after long serving as a spawning-ground to envy, hatred and malice, now enters upon the decline of an unworthy old age. Since the death of its proprietor, Mr. Beresford-Hope, it has been steadily going down hill as is proved by its circulation, once 15,000, and now something nearer 5,000 than 10,000. It has become a poor shadow of its former self--preserving the passive ill- will but lacking the power of active malevolence--when journalists were often compelled to decline correspondence upon its misjudgments and to close to complainants their columns which otherwise would have been engrossed by just and reasonable protestations. The "young lions" of its prime (too often behanged with a calf-skin on their recreant limbs) are down among the dead and the jackal-pack which has now taken up the howling could no longer have caused Thackeray to fear or can excite the righteous disgust of that votary of "fair-play" --Mr. John Bright.
And now, before addressing myself to another Reviewer, I would be allowed a few words upon two purely personal subjects; the style chosen for my translation and my knowledge of the Arabian language and literature.
I need hardly waste time to point out what all men discern more or less distinctly, how important are diction and expression in all works of fancy and fiction and how both branches, poetic and prosaic, delight in beauty adorned and allow in such matters the extreme of liberty. A long study of Galland and Torrens, Lane and Payne, convinced me that none of these translators, albeit each could claim his special merit, has succeeded in preserving the local colouring of the original. The Frenchman had gallicised and popularised the general tone and tenor to such extent that even the vulgar English versions have ever failed to throw off the French flavour. Torrens attempted literalism laudably and courageously enough; but his execution was of the roughest, the nude verbatim; nor did his familiarity with Arabic, or rather with Egyptian, suffice him for the task. Lane, of whom I have already spoken, and of whom I shall presently be driven by his imprudent relatives and interested friends to say more, affected the latinised English of the period flat and dull, turgid and vapid as that of Sale's Koran; and his style proved the most insufficient and inadequate attire in which an Oriental romance of the Middle Ages could be arrayed. Payne was perfectly satisfactory to all cultivated tastes but he designedly converted a romantic into a classical work: none ignores its high merits regarded merely as strong and vital English, but it lacks one thing needful--the multiform variety of The Nights. The original Arabic text which in the first thirteen tales (Terminal Essay, p. 78) must date from before the xiiith century at the latest (since Galland's MS. in the Bibliothèque Nationale has been assigned to the early xivth) is highly composite: it does not disdain local terms, bye-words and allusions (some obsolete now and forgotten), and it borrows indiscriminately from Persian (e.g. Sháhbandar), from Turkish (as Khátún) and from Sanscrit (for instance Brahman). As its equivalent, in vocabulary I could devise only a somewhat archaical English whose old-fashioned and sub-antique flavour would contrast with our modern and everyday speech, admitting at times even Latin and French terms, such as res scibilis and citrouille. The mixture startled the critics and carpers to whom its object had not been explained; but my conviction still remains that it represents, with much truth to nature, the motley suit of the Arabo-Egyptian. And it certainly serves one purpose, too often neglected by writers and unnoticed by reviewers. The fluent and transparent styles of Buckle and Darwin (the modern Aristotle who has transformed the face of Biological Science) are instruments admirably fitted for their purpose: crystal-clear, they never divert even a bittock of the reader's brain from the all-important sense underlying the sound-symbols. But in works of imagination mar. wants a treatment totally different, a style which, by all or any means, little mattering what they be, can avoid the imminent deadly risk of languor and monotony and which adds to fluency the allurement of variety, of surprise and even of disappointment, when a musical discord is demanded.
Again, my estimate of a translator's office has never been of the low level generally assigned to it even in the days when Englishmen were in the habit of englishing every important or interesting work published on the continent of Europe. We cannot expect at this period of our literature overmuch from a man who, as Messieurs Vizetelly assure their clientèle, must produce a version for a poor £20. But at his best the traducteur, while perfectly reproducing the matter and the manner of his original, works upon two lines. His prime and primary object is an honest and faithful copy, adding naught to the sense nor abating aught of its peculiar cachet whilst he labours his best to please and edify his readers. He has, however, or should have, another aim wherein is displayed the acme of hermeneutic art. Every language can profitably lend something to and borrow somewhat from its neighbours, near or far, an epithet, a metaphor, a turn of phrase, a naive idiom and the translator of original mind will not neglect the frequent opportunities of enriching his mother tongue with alien and novel ornaments, which will justly be accounted barbarisms until formally adopted and naturalised. Such are the "peoples" of Kossuth and the useful "lengthy," an American revival of a good old English term. Nor will my modern versionist relegate to a foot-note, as is the malpractice of his banal brotherhood the interesting and often startling phases of his foreign author's phraseology and dull the text with its commonplace English equivalent--thus doing the clean reverse of what he should do. It is needless to quote instances concerning this phase of "Bathos:" they abound in every occidental translation of every Oriental work, especially the French, such as Baron de Slane's honest and conscientious "Ibn Khaldún." It was this grand ideal of a translator's duty that made Eustache Deschamps, a contemporary poet, write of his English brother bard.--
Grand Translateur, Noble Geoffroy Chaucier.
"The firste finder of our faire language"
is styled a "Socrates in philosophy, a Seneca in morals, an Angel in conduct and a great Translator," which apparent anti-climax has scandalised not a little inditers of "Lives" and "Memoirs." The title is given simply because Chaucer translated (using the best and highest sense of the term) into his English tongue and its linguistic peculiarities, the thoughts and ideas of his foreign models--the very letter and spirit of Petrarch and Boccacao.
That my attempts to reproduce the form and features of the original and thee my manner of writing is well adapted to the matter appears from the consensus of the "Notices" presently to be quoted. Mr. J. Addington Symonds pronounces the version to be executed with "peculiar literary vigour." Mr. Swinburne is complimentary, and even the Saturday deigns to declare "Captain Burton is certainly felicitous in the manner in which he has englished the picturesque lines of the original." But le style est de l'homme; and this is a matter upon which any and every educated man who writes honestly will form and express and retain his own opinion: there are not a few who loathe "Pickwick," and who cannot relish Vanity Fair. So the Edinburgh Review No. 335 (pp. 174, 181), concerning which more anon, pronounces my work to be "a jumble of the vulgarest slang of all nations;" also "an unreadable compound of archæology and 'slang,' abounding in Americanisms, and full of an affected reaching after obsolete or foreign words and phrases;" and finally shows the assurance to assert "Captain Burton has produced a version which is neither Arabic nor English, but which has at least the merit of being beautifully unreadable" (p. 182).
It has been circulated widely enough by the Lane-Poole clique--poules mouillees they are called by an Arabist friend--that I do not know Arabic. Let me at once plead guilty to the charge, adding by way of circonstance atténuante that I know none who does know or who can thoroughly know a tongue of which we may say as did honest Izaak Walton of other two crafts, "angling be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learned." Most of us can master one section of a language concerning which those who use it vernacularly declare "Only Allah wotteth its entirety", but we lack as yet the means to study it as a whole. Older by long ages than Babel's fabulous Tower, and covering a continuous area from Eastern Arabia to the Maghrab al-Aksa (western Mauritania), from Chaldaea in the North to southern Zanzibar, it numbers of potential vocabulary 1,200,000 words all of which may be, if they are not, used, and while they specify the finest shades of meaning, not a few of them, technically termed "Zidd," bear significations diametrically opposite, e.g., "Maulá" = lord, slave; and "'Ajúz" with 88 different meanings. Its literature, poetic, semi-poetic and prosaic, falls into three greater sections:--Ancient (The Suspendeds, the Kitáb al-Aghání and the Koran), Mediæval (Al-Mutanabbi, Al-Asm'ài, Abú Nowás and the poets of the Harunic cycle) and Moderns, of whom not the least important (e.g. Yúsuf al-Yazají) are those of our own day. Throughout its vast domain there are local differences of terminology which render every dialect a study; and of these many are intimately connected with older families, as the Egyptian with Coptic and the Moorish with Berber. The purest speakers are still the Badawin who are often not understood by the citizen-folk (e.g. of Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad) at whose gates they tent; and a few classes like the Banú Fahim of Al-Hijáz still converse sub-classically, ever and anon using the terminal vowels and the nunnation elsewhere obsolete. These wildlings, whose evening camp-fires are still their schools for eloquence and whose improvisations are still their unwritten laws, divide speech into three degrees, Al-'Áli the lofty addressed to the great, Al-Wasat used for daily converse and Al-Dún the lowly or broken "loghat" (jargon) belonging to most tribes save their own. In Egypt the purest speakers are those of the Sa'íd--the upper Nile-region--differing greatly from the two main dialects of the Delta; in Syria, where the older Aramean is still current amongst sundry of the villagers outlying Damascus, the best Arabists are the Druzes, a heterogeneous of Arabs and Curds who cultivate language with uncommon care. Of the dialectic families which subtend the Mediterranean's southern sea-board, the Maroccan and the Algerine are barbarised by Berber, by Spanish and by Italian words and are roughened by the inordinate use of the Sukún (quiescence or conjoining of consonants), while the Tunisian approaches nearer to the Syrian and the Maltese was originally Punic. The jargon of Meccah is confessedly of all the worst. But the wide field has been scratched not worked out, and the greater part of it, especially the Mesopotamian and the Himyaritic of Mahrahland, still remains fallow and the reverse of sterile.
Materials for the study of Arabic in general and of its dialects in particular are still deficient, and the dictionaries mostly content themselves with pouring old stuff from flask to flask, instead of collecting fresh and unknown material. Such are recueils of prayers and proverbs, folk-songs and stories, riddles and satires, not forgetting those polyglot vocabularies so common in many parts of the Eastern world, notably in Sind and Afghánistán; and the departmental glossaries such as the many dealing with "Tasawwuf"--the Moslem form of Gnosticism. The excellent lexicon of the late Professor Dozy, Supplément aux Dictionnaires Arabes, par R. Dozy, Leyde: E. J. Brill, 1881, was a step in advance, but we still lack additions like Baron Adolph Von Kremer's Beitrage zur Arabischen Lexicographie (In commission bei Carl Gerold's Sohn, Wien, 1884). The French, as might be expected, began early, e.g. M. Ruphy's Dictionnaire abrege francais-arabe, Paris, Imprimerie de la Republique, 1810; they have done good work in Algiers and are now carrying it on in Tunis. Of these we have Marcel, Vocabulaire, etc. (Paris, 1837), Bled de Braine (Paris, 1846), who to his Cours Synthetique adds a study of Maroccan and Egyptian, Professor Cherbonneau (Paris, 1854), Précis Historique, and Dialogues, etc. (Alger, 1858); M. Gasselin (Paris, 1866), Dictionnaire francais-arabe, M. Brassier (Algiers, 1871), Dictionnaire pratique, also containing Algerine and Tunisian terms; General Parmentier (Vocabulaire arabe-francais des Principaux Termes de Geographie, etc.: Paris, rue Antoine-Dubois, 1882); and, to mention no others, the Grammaire Arabe Vulgaire (Paris, 1824) of M. Caussin de Perceval (fils) has extended far and wide. Berggren (Upsal, 1844) published his Guide Francais-Arabe des Voyageurs en Syrie et en Egypte. Rowland de Bussy printed (Algiers, 1877) his Dialogues Francais-Arabes in the Algerian dialect. Fr. José de Lerchundi, a respected Missioner to Tangier, has imitated and even improved upon this in his Rudimentos del Arabe Vulgar (Madrid, Rivadeneyra, 1872); and his studies of the Maghrabi dialect are most valuable. Dr. A. Socin produced his Arabische Sprichwörter, etc. (Tubingen, 1878), and the late Wilhelm Spitta-Bey, whose early death was so deeply lamented left a grammar of Egyptian which would have been a model had the author brought to his task more knowledge of Coptic in his Grammatik des Arabischen vulgär Dialektes von Ægypten, (Leipsig, 1870). Dr. Landberg published with Brill of Leyden and Maisonneuve of Paris, 1883, a volume of Syrian Proverbs and promises some five others--No. 2, Damascus and the Haurán; No. 3, Kasrawán and the Nusayriyah; No. 4, Homs, Hamah and Halab (Aleppo), and No. 5, the Badawin of Syria. It is evident that the process might be prolonged ad infinitum by a writer of whom I shall have something to say presently. M. Clément Huart (Jour. Asiat., Jan. '83) has printed notes on the dialect of Damascus: Dr. C. Snouck Hurgronje published a collection of 77 proverbs and idioms with lengthy notes in his Mehkanische Sprichwörter, etc. (Haag, Martinus Nijhoff, 1886), after being expelled from Meccah by the Turkish authorities who had discovered him only through a Parisian journal Le Temps (see his Het Mekkanshe Feest, Leyden, 1880). For the lower Najd and upper Hijaz we have the glossary of Arabic words ably edited by Prof. M. J. de Goeje in Mr. Charles M. Doughty's valuable and fantastic "Arabia Deserta" (ii. 542-690: see The Academy, July 28th, '88). Thus the local vocabularies are growing, but it will be long before the ground is covered.
Again the East, and notably the Moslem East since the Massacre of Damascus in 1860, although still moving slowly, shows a distinct advance. The once secluded and self- contained communities are now shaken by the repeated and continuous shocks of progress around them; and new wants and strange objects compel them nilly-willy to provide vernacular equivalents for the nomenclature of modern arts and sciences. Thus the Orientalist, who would produce a contemporary lexicon of Persian, must not only read up all the diaries and journals of Teheran and the vocabularies of Yezd and Herat, he must go further a-field. He should make himself familiar with the speech of the Iliyát or wandering pastoral tribes and master a host of cognate tongues whose chiefs are Armenian (Old and New), Caucasian, a modern Babel, Kurdish, Lúri (Bakhtiyári), Balochki and Pukhtú or Afghan, besides the direct descendants of the Zend, the Pehlevi, Dari and so forth. Even in the most barbarous jargons he will find terms which throw light upon the literary Iranian of the lexicons: for instance "Mádiyán" = a mare presupposes the existence of "Narayán" = a stallion, and the latter is preserved by the rude patois of the Baloch mountaineers. This process of general collection would in our day best be effected after the fashion of Professor James A. H. Murray's "New English Dictionary on Historical Principles." It would be compiled by a committee of readers resident in different parts of Persia, communicating with the Royal Asiatic Society (whose moribund remains they might perhaps quicken) and acting in co-operation with Russia, whom unfriends have converted from a friend to an angry and jealous rival and who is ever so forward in the linguistic field.
But if the model Persian dictionary have its difficulties, far harder will be the task with Arabic, which covers incomparably more ground. Here we must begin with Spain and Portugal, Sardinia and the Balearics, Southern Italy and Sicily; and thence pass over to Northern Africa and the two "Soudans," the Eastern extending far South of the Equator and the Western nearly to the Line. In Asia, besides the vast Arabian Peninsula, numbering one million of square miles, we find a host of linguistic outliers, such as Upper Hindostan, the Concan, Malacca, Java and even remote Yun-nan, where al-Islam is the dominant religion, and where Arabic is the language of Holy Writ.
My initiation into the mysteries of Arabic began at Oxford under my tutor Dr. W. A. Greenhill, who published a "Treatise on Small-pox and Measles," translated from Rhazes --Abú Bakr al-Rází (London, 1847), and where the famous Arabist, Don Pascual de Gayangos, kindly taught me to write Arabic leftwards. During eight years of service in Western India and in Moslem Sind, while studying Persian and a variety of vernaculars it was necessary to keep up and extend a practical acquaintance with the language which supplies all the religious and most of the metaphysical phraseology; and during my last year at Sindian Karáchí (1849), I imported a Shaykh from Maskat. Then work began in downright earnest. Besides Erpenius' (D'Erp) "Grammatica Arabica," Richardson, De Sacy and Forbes, I read at least a dozen Perso-Arabic works (mostly of pamphlet form) on "Serf Wa Nahw"--Accidence and Syntax--and learned by heart one-fourth of the Koran. A succession of journeys and long visits at various times to Egypt, a Pilgrimage to the Moslem Holy Land and an exploration of the Arabic-speaking Somáli-shores and Harar-Gay in the Galla country of Southern Abyssinia, added largely to my practice. At Aden, where I passed the official examination, Captain (now Sir. R. Lambert) Playfair and the late Rev. G. Percy Badger, to whom my papers were submitted, were pleased to report favourably of my proficiency. During some years of service and discovery in Western Africa and the Brazil my studies were necessarily confined to the "Thousand Nights and a Night"; and when a language is not wanted for use my habit is to forget as much of it as possible, thus clearing the brain for assimilating fresh matter. At the Consulate of Damascus, however, in West Arabian Midian and in Maroccan Tangier the loss was readily recovered. In fact, of this and sundry other subjects it may be said without immodesty that I have forgotten as much as many Arabists have learned. But I repeat my confession that I do not know Arabic and I have still to meet the man who does know Arabic.
Orientalists, however, are like poets and musicians, a rageous race. A passing allusion to a Swedish student styled by others (Mekkanische Sprichwörter, etc., p.1) "Dr. Landberg," and by himself "Doctor Count Carlo Landberg" procured me the surprise of the following communication. I quote it in full because it is the only uncourteous attempt at correspondence upon the subject of The Nights which has hitherto been forced upon me.
In his introduction (p. xx.) to the Syrian Proverbes et Dictons Doctor Count Landberg was pleased to criticise, with less than his usual knowledge, my study entitled "Proverbia Communia Syriaca" (Unexplored Syria, i. 264-269). These 187 "dictes" were taken mainly from a MS. collection by one Hanná Misk, ex-dragoman of the British Consulate (Damascus), a little recueil for private use such as would be made by a Syro Christian bourgeois. Hereupon the critic absurdly asserted that the translator a voulu s'occuper de la langue classique au lieu de se faire * * * l'interprète fidèle de celle du peuple. My reply was (The Nights, vol. viii. 148) that, as I was treating of proverbs familiar to the better educated order of citizens, his critique was not to the point; and this brought down upon me the following letter under the ægis of a portentous coronet and initials blazing with or, yules and azure.
Paris, le 24 Févr., 1888.
J'ai l'honneur de vous adresser 2 fascicules de mes Critica Arabica. Dans le vol. viii. p. 48 de votre traduction de 1001 Nuits vous avez une note qui me regard (sic). Vous y cites que je ne suds pas "Arabist." Ce n'est pas votre jugement qui m'impressionne, car vous n'êtes nullement à même de me juger. Votre article contient, comme tout ce que vous avez écrit dans le domaine de la langue arabe, des bévues. C'est vous qui n'êtes pas arabisant: cela est bien connu et reconnu, et nous ne nous donnons pas même la peine de relever toutes les innombrables erreurs don't vos publications fourmillent. Quant à "Sahífah" vous êtes encore en erreur. Mon étymologie est acceptée par tout le monde et je vous renvoie à Fleischer, Kleinre Schriften, p. 468, Leipzig, 1885, où vous trouverez ['instruction nécessaire. Le dilettantism qui se trahit dans tout ce que vous écrivez vous fait faire de telles erreurs. Nous autres arabisants et professo (?) nous ne vous avons jamais et nous ne vous pouvons jamais considérer comme arabisant. Voila ma réponse à votre note.
l'expression de mes sentiments distingués,
After these preliminaries I proceed to notice the article (No. 335, of July '86) in
The "Edinburgh Review"
and to explain its private history with the motives which begat it.
"This is the Augustan age of English criticism," say the reviewers, who are fond of remarking that the period is one of literary appreciation rather than of original production that is, contemporary reviewers, critics and monograph-writers are more important than "makers" in verse or in prose. In fact it is their aurea ætas. I reply "Virgin ore, no!" on the whole mixed metal, some noble, much ignoble; a little gold, more silver and an abundance of brass, lead and dross. There is the criticism of Sainte Beuve, of the late Matthew Arnold and of Swinburne, there is also the criticism of the Saturday Reviler and of the Edinburgh criticaster. The golden is truth and honour incarnate: it possesses outsight and insight: it either teaches and inspires or it comforts and consoles, save when a strict sense of duty compels it to severity: briefly, it is keen and guiding and creative. Let the young beginner learn by rote what one master says of another:--"He was never provoked into coarseness: his thrusts were made with the rapier according to the received rules of fence, he firmly upheld the honour of his calling, and in the exercise of it was uniformly fearless, independent and incorrupt." The Brazen is partial, one-sided, tricksy, misleading, immoral; serving personal and interested purposes and contemptuously forgetful of every obligation which an honest and honourable pen owes to the public and to itself. Such critiques bring no profit to the reviewed. He feels that he has been written up or written down by a literary hireling who has possibly been paid to praise or abuse him secondarily, and primarily to exalt or debase his publisher or his printer.
My own literary career has supplied me with many a curious study. Writing upon subjects, say The Lake Regions of Central Africa which were then a type of the Unknown I could readily trace in the journalistic notices all the tricks and dodges of the trade. The rare honest would confess that they could say nothing upon the subject, they came to me therefore for information and professed themselves duly thankful. The many dishonest had recourse to a variety of devices. The hard worker would read-up voyages and travels treating of the neighboring countries, Abyssinia, the Cape and the African Coasts Eastern and Western; thus he would write in a kind of reflected light without acknowledging his obligation to my volumes. Another would review my book after the easy American fashion of hashing up the author's production, taking all its facts from me with out disclosing that one fact to the reader and then proceed to "butter" or "slash." The worst, "fulfyld with malace of froward entente," would choose for theme not the work but the worker, upon the good old principle "Abuse the plaintiff's attorney." These arts fully account for the downfall of criticism in our day and the deafness of the public to such literary verdicts. But a few years ago a favourable review in a first-rate paper was "fifty pounds in the author's pocket": now it is not worth as many pence unless signed by some well-known scribbling statesman or bustling reverend who caters for the public taste. The decline and fall is well expressed in the old lines:--
"Non est sanctior quod laudaris:
Non est vilior si vituperaris."
"No one, now-a-days, cares for reviews," wrote Darwin as far back as 1849; and it is easy to see the whys and the wherefores. I have already touched upon the duty of reviewing the reviewer when the latter's work calls for the process, despite the pretensions of modern criticism that it must not be criticised. Although to buffet an anonym is to beat the air, still the very effort does good. A well-known and popular novelist of the present day was a favourite butt for certain journalists who, with the normal half-knowledge of men--
"That read too little, and that write too much"--
persistently fell foul of the points in which the author was almost always right and the reviewer was wrong. "An eagle hawketh not at flies;" the object of ill-natured satire despised--
"The creatures of the stall and stye,"
and persisted in contemptuous reticence, giving consent by silence to what was easily refuted, and suffering a fond and foolish sentence to misguide the public which it pretends to direct. "Take each man's censure but reserve thy judgment," is a wise saying when silently practiced; it leads, however, to suffering in public esteem. The case in question was wholly changed when, at my suggestion, the writer was persuaded to catch a few of the culprits and to administer the dressing and redressing they so richly deserved.
And now to my tale.
Mr. Henry Reeve, Editor of the Edinburgh Review, wrote to me shortly before my first volume was issued to subscribers (September,'85) asking for advance sheets, as his magazine proposed to produce a general notice of The Arabian Nights Entertainments. But I suspected the man whose indiscretion and recklessness had been so unpleasantly paraded in the shape of the Greville (Mr. Worldly Wiseman's) Memoirs, and I had not forgotten the untruthful and malignant articles of perfervid brutality which during the hot youth and calm middle age of the Edinburgh had disgraced the profession of letters. My answer, which was temporising and diplomatic, induced only a second and a more urgent application. Bearing in mind that professional etiquette hardly justifies publicly reviewing a book intended only for private reading and vividly remembering the evil of the periodical, I replied that the sheets should be forwarded but on one condition, namely, that the reviewer would not dwell too lovingly and longingly upon the "archaics," which had so excited the Tartuffean temperament of the chaste Pall Mall Gazette. Mr. Henry Reeves replied (surlily) that he was not in the habit of dictating to his staff and I rejoined by refusing to grant his request. So he waited until five, that is one half of my volumes had been distributed to subscribers, and revenged himself by placing them for review in the hands of the "Lane-Poole" clique which, as the sequel proved could be noisy and combative as setting hens disturbed when their nest-egg was threatened by an intruding hand.
For the clique had appropriated all right and claim to a monopoly of The Arabian Nights Entertainments which they held in hand as a rotten borough. The "Uncle and Master," Mr. Edward William Lane, eponymous hero of the house, had retranslated certain choice specimens of the Recueil and the "nephews of their uncle" resolved to make a private gold-mine thereof. The book came out in monthly parts at half-a-crown (1839-41) and when offered for sale in 3 vols. royal 8 vo, the edition of 5,000 hung fire at first until the high price (3 pounds 3s.) was reduced to 27 shillings for the trade. The sale then went off briskly and amply repaid the author and the publishers--Charles Knight and Co. And although here and there some "old Tory" grumbled that new-fangled words (as Wezeer, Kádee and Jinnee) had taken the places of his childhood's pets, the Vizier, the Cadi, and the Genie, none complained of the workmanship for the all-sufficient reason that naught better was then known or could be wanted. Its succes de salon was greatly indebted to the "many hundred engravings on wood, from original designs by William Harvey", with a host of quaint and curious Arabesques, Cufic inscriptions, vignettes, head pieces and culs- de-lampes. These, with the exception of sundry minor accessories, [FN#447] were excellent and showed for the first time the realistic East and not the absurdities drawn from the depths of artistical ignorance and self-consciousness--those of Smirke, Deveria, Chasselot and Co., not to speak of the horrors of the De Sacy edition, whose plates have apparently been used by Prof. Weil and by the Italian versions. And so the three bulky and handsome volumes found a ready way into many a drawing room during the Forties, when the public was uncritical enough to hail the appearance of these scattered chapters and to hold that at last they had the real thing, pure and unadulterated. No less than three reprints of the "Standard Edition," 1859 (the last being in '83), succeeded one another and the issue was finally stopped, not by the author's death (ætat 75; London, August 10, 1876: net. Hereford, September 17, 1801), nor by the plates, which are now the property of Messieurs Chatto and Windus, becoming too worn for use, but simply by deficient demand. And the clique, represented by the late Edward Lane-Poole in 1879, who edited the last edition (1883) with a Preface by Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole, during a long run of forty-three years never paid the public the compliment of correcting the multitudinous errors and short comings of the translation. Even the lengthy and longsome notes, into which The Nights have too often been merged, were left untrimmed. Valuable in themselves and full of information, while wholly misplaced in a recueil of folk-lore, where they stand like pegs behung with the contents of the translator's adversaria, the monographs on details of Arab life have also been exploited and reprinted under the "fatuous" title, "Arabian (for Egyptian) Society in the Middle Ages: Studies on The Thousand and One Nights." They were edited by Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole (Chatto and Windus) in 1883.
At length the three volumes fell out of date, and the work was formally pronounced unreadable. Goëthe followed from afar by Emerson, had foreseen the "inevitable increase of Oriental influence upon the Occident," and the eagerness with which the men of the West would apply themselves to the languages and literature of the East. Such garbled and mutilated, unsexed and unsoured versions and perversions like Lane's were felt to be survivals of the unfittest. Mr. John Payne (for whom see my Foreword, vol. i. pp. xi.-xii.) resolved to give the world the first honest and complete version of the Thousand Nights and a Night. He put forth samples of his work in the New Quarterly Magazine (January- April, 1879), whereupon he was incontinently assaulted by Mr. Reginald Stuart Poole, the then front of the monopolists, who after drawing up a list of fifteen errata (which were not errata) in two Nights, declared that "they must be multiplied five hundred-fold to give the sum we may expect." (The Academy, April 26, 1879; November 29, 1881; and December 7, 1881.) The critic had the courage, or rather impudence, to fall foul of Mr. Payne's mode and mannerism, which had long become deservedly famous, and concludes: --"The question of English style may for the present be dropped, as, if a translator cannot translate, it little matters in what form his results appear. But it may lie questioned whether an Arab edifice should be decorated with old English wall-papers."
Evidently I had scant reason to expect mercy from the clique: I wanted none and I received none.
My reply to the arch-impostor, who
Spreads the light wings of saffron and of blue,
will perforce be somewhat detailed: it is necessary to answer paragraph by paragraph, and the greater part of the thirty-three pages refers more or less directly to myself. To begin with the beginning, it caused me and many others some surprise to see the "Thousand Nights and a Night" expelled the initial list of thirteen items, as if it were held unfit for mention. Cet article est principalement une diatribe contre l'ouorage de Sir Richard Burton et dans le libre cet ouvrage n'est même pas mentionné', writes my French friend. This proceeding was a fair specimen of "that impartiality which every reviewer is supposed to possess." But the ignoble "little dodge" presently suggested itself. The preliminary excursus (p.168) concerning the "Mille et Une Nuits (read Nuit) an audacious fraud, though not the less the best story book in the world," affords us a useful measure of the writer's competence in the matter of audacity and ill-judgment. The honest and single-minded Galland is here (let us believe through that pure ignorance which haply may hope for "fool's pardon") grossly and unjustly vilified; and, by way of making bad worse, we are assured (p. 167) that the Frenchman "brought the Arabic manuscript from Syria"--an infact which is surprising to the most superficial student. "Galland was a born story teller, in the good and the bad sense" (p. 167), is a silly sneer of the true Lane-Poolean type. The critic then compares most unadvisedly (p. 168) a passage in Galland (De Sacy edit. vol. i. 414) with the same in Mr. Payne's (i. 260) by way of proving the "extraordinary liberties which the worthy Frenchman permitted himself to take with the Arabic": had he troubled himself to collate my version (i. 290-291), which is made fuller by the Breslau Edit. (ii. 190), he would have found that the Frenchman, as was his wont, abridged rather than amplified; [FN#448] although, when the original permitted exact translation, he could be literal enough. And what doubt, may I enquire, can we have concerning "The Sleeper Awakened" (Lane, ii. 351-376), or, as I call it, "The Sleeper and the waker" (Suppl. vol.i.1-29), when it occurs in a host of MSS., not to mention the collection of tales which Prof. Habicht converted into the Arabian Nights by breaking the text into a thousand and one sections (Bresl. Edit. iv. 134-189, Nights cclxxii. ccxci.). The reckless assertions that "the whole" of the last fourteen (Gallandian) tales have nothing whatever to do with "The Nights" (p. 168); and that of the histories of Zayn al-Asnám and Aladdin, "it is abundantly certain that they belong to no manuscript of the Thousand and One Nights" (p. 169), have been notably stultified by M. Hermann Zotenberg's purchase of two volumes containing both these bones of long and vain contention. See Foreword to my Suppl. vol. iii. pp. viii.-xi., and Mr. W. F. Kirby's interesting notice of M. Zotenberg's epoch-making booklet (vol. vi. p. 287).
"The first English edition was published (pace Lowndes) within eight years of Galland's" (p. 170) states a mere error. The second part of Galland (6 vols. 12 mo) was not issued till 1717, or two years after the translator's death. Of the English editio princeps the critic tells nothing, nor indeed has anyone as yet been able to tell us aught. Of the dishonouring assertion (again let us hope made in simple ignorance) concerning "Cazotte's barefaced forgery" (p. 170), thus slandering the memory of Jacques Cazotte, one of the most upright and virtuous of men who ever graced the ranks of literature, I have disposed in the Foreword to my Supplemental vol. vi. "This edition (Scott's) was tastefully reprinted by Messrs. Nimmo and Bain in four volumes in 1883" (p. 170). But why is the reader not warned that the eaux fortes are by Lalauze (see suprà, p. 326), 19 in number, and taken from the 21 illustrations in MM. Jouaust's edit. of Galland with preface by J. Janin? Why also did the critic not inform us that Scott's sixth volume, the only original part of the work, was wilfully omitted? This paragraph ends with mentioning the labours of Baron von Hammer-Purgstall, concerning whom we are afterwards told (p. 186) for the first time that he "was brilliant and laborious." Hard-working, yes! brilliant, by no means!
We now come to the glorification of the "Uncle and Master," concerning whom I can only say that Lane's bitterest enemy (if the amiable Orientalist ever had any unfriend) could not have done him more discredit than this foolish friend. "His classical(!) translation was at once recognised as an altogether new departure" (p. 171), and "it was written in such a manner that the Oriental tone of The Nights should be reflected in the English" (ibid.). "It aims at reproducing in some degree the literary flavour of the original" (p 173). "The style of Lane's translation is an old-fashioned somewhat Biblical language" (p. 173) and "it is precisely this antiquated ring" (of the imperfect and mutilated "Boulak edition," unwisely preferred by the translator) "that Lane has succeeded in preserving" "The measured and finished language Lane chose for his version is eminently fitted to represent the rhythmical tongue of the Arab" (Memoir, p. xxvii.). "The translation itself is distinguished by its singular accuracy and by the marvellous way in which the Oriental tone and colour are retained " (ibid.). The writer has taken scant trouble to read me when he asserts that the Bulak edit was my text, and I may refer him, for his own advantage, to my Foreword (vol. i. p. xvii.), which he has wilfully ignored by stating unfact. I hasten to plead guilty before the charge of "really misunderstanding the design of Lane's style" (p. 173). Much must be pardoned to the panegyrist, the encomiast; but the idea of mentioning in the same sentence with Biblical English, the noblest and most perfect specimen of our prose, the stiff and bald, the vapid and turgid manner of the Orientalist who "commences" and "concludes"--never begins and ends, who never uses a short word if he can find a long word, who systematically rejects terse and idiomatic Anglo-Saxon when a Latinism is to be employed and whose pompous stilted periods are the very triumph of the "Deadly-lively"! By arts precisely similar the learned George Sale made the Koran, that pure and unstudied inspiration of Arabian eloquence, dull as a law document, and left the field clear for the Rev. Mr. Rodwell. I attempted to excuse the style-laches of Lane by noticing the lack of study in English linguistic which distinguished the latter part of the xviiith and the first half of the xixth centuries, when men disdaining the grammar of their own tongue, learned it from Latin and Greek; when not a few styled Shakespeare "silly-billy," and when Lamb the essayist, wrote, "I can read, and I say it seriously, the homely old version of the Psalms for an hour or two together sometimes, without sense of weariness." But the reviewer will have none of my palliative process, he is surprised at my "posing as a judge of prose style," being "acquainted with my quaint perversions of the English language" (p. 173) and, when combating my sweeping assertion that "our prose" (especially the prose of schoolmasters and professors, of savans and Orientalists) "was perhaps the worst in Europe," he triumphantly quotes half a dozen great exceptions whose eminence goes far to prove the rule.
As regards Lane's unjustifiable excisions the candid writer tells us everything but the truth. As I have before noted (vol. ix. 304), the main reason was simply that the publisher, who was by no means a business man, found the work outgrowing his limits and insisted upon its coming to an untimely and, alas! a tailless end. This is perhaps the principal cause for ignoring the longer histories, like King Omar bin al-Nu'umán (occupying 371 pages in my vols. ii. and iii.); Abú Hasan and his slave-girl Tawaddud (pp. 56, vol. v. 189-245), the Queen of the Serpents with the episodes of Bulukiyá and of Jánshah (pp.98, vol. v. 298-396); The Rogueries of Dalilah the Crafty and the Adventures of Mercury Ali (pp. 55, vol. vii. 144-209). The Tale of Harun al-Rashid and Abu Hasan of Oman (pp. 19, vol. ix. 188-207) is certainly not omitted by dictations of delicacy, nor is it true of the parts omitted in general that "none could be purified without being destroyed." As my French friend remarks, "Few parts are so plain-spoken as the introduction, le cadre de l'ouvrage, yet M. Lane was not deterred by such situation." And lastly we have, amongst the uncalledfor excisions, King Jali'ad of Hind, etc. (pp. 102, vol. ix. 32-134). The sum represents a grand total of 701 pages, while not a few of the notes are filled with unimportant fabliaux and apologues.
But the critic has been grandly deceptive, either designedly or of ignorance prepense in his arithmetic. "There are over four hundred of these (anecdotes, fables, and stories) in the complete text, and Lane has not translated more than two hundred" (p. 172). * * * "Adding the omitted anecdotes to the omitted tales, it appears that Lane left out about a third of the whore 'Nights,' and of that third at least three-fourths was incompatible with a popular edition. When Mr. Payne and Captain Burton boast of presenting the public 'with three times as much matter as any other version,' they perhaps mean a third as much again" (p. 173). * * * "Captain Burton records his opinion that Lane has 'omitted half and by far the more characteristic half of the Arabian Nights,' but Captain Burton has a talent for exaggeration, and for 'characteristic' we should reed 'unclear.' It is natural that he should make the most of such omissions, since they form the raison d'être of his own translation; but he has widely overshot the mark, and the public may rest assured that the tales omitted from the standard version (proh pudor!) are of very slight importance in comparison with the tales included in it" (p. 173).
What a mass of false statement!
Let us now exchange fiction for fact. Lane's three volumes contain a total, deducting 15 for index, of pp. 1995 (viz. 618 + 643 + 734); while each (full) page of text averages 38 lines and of notes (in smaller type) 48. The text with a number of illustrations represents a total of pp. 1485 (viz. 441 + 449 + 595). Mr. Payne's nine volumes contain a sum of pp. 3057, mostly without breaks, to the 1485 of the "Standard edition." In my version the sum of pages, each numbering 41 lines, is 3156, or 1163 more than Lane's total and 2671 more than his text.
Again, in Lane's text the tales number 62 (viz. 35 + 14 + 13), and as has been stated, all the longest have been omitted, save only Sindbad the Seaman. The anecdotes in the notes amount to 44 1/2 (viz. 3 1/2 + 35 + 6): these are for the most pert the merest outlines and include the 3 1/2 of volume i. viz. the Tale of Ibrahim al-Mausilí (pp. 223-24), the Tale of Caliph Mu'áwiyah (i. pp. 521-22), the Tale of Mukhárik the Musician (i. pp. 224- 26), and the half tale of Umm 'Amr (i. p. 522). They are quoted bodily from the "Halbat al- Kumayt" and from the "Kitáb al-Unwán fí Makáid al-Niswán," showing that at the early stage of his labours the translator, who published in parts, had not read the book on which he was working; or, at least, had not learned that all the three and a half had been borrowed from The Nights. Thus the grand total is represented by 106 1/2 tales, and the reader will note the difference between 106 1/2 and the diligent and accurate reviewer's "not much more than two hundred." In my version the primary tales amount to 171; the secondaries, &c., to 96 and the total to 267, while Mr. Payne has 266. [FN#449] And these the critic swells to "over four hundred!" Thus I have more than double the number of pages in Lane's text (allowing the difference between his 38 lines to an oft-broken page and my 41) and nearly two and a half tales to his one, and therefore I do not mean "a third as much again."
Thus, too, we can deal with the dishonest assertions concerning Lane's translation "not being absolutely complete" (p. 171) and that "nobody desired to see the objectionable passages which constituted the bulk of Lane's omissions restored to their place in the text" (p. 175).
The critic now passes to The Uncle's competence for the task, which he grossly exaggerates. Mr. Lane had no "intimate acquaintance with Mahommedan life" (p. 174). His "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians" should have been entitled "Modern Cairenes;" he had seen nothing of Nile-land save what was shown to him by a trip to Philæ in his first visit (1825-28) and another to Thebes during his second, he was profoundly ignorant of Egypt as a whole, and even in Cairo he knew nothing of woman-life and child-life--two thirds of humanity. I doubt if he could have understood the simplest expression in baby language; not to mention the many idioms peculiar to the Harem nursery. The characteristic of his work is geniality combined with a true affection for his subject, but no scholar can ignore its painful superficiality. His studies of legal theology gave him much weight with the Olema, although, at the time when he translated The Nights, his knowledge of Arabic was small. Hence the number of lapses which disfigures his pages. These would have been excusable in an Orientalist working out of Egypt, but Lane had a Shaykh ever at his elbow and he was always able to command the assistance of the University Mosque, Al-Azhar. I need not enter upon the invidious task of cataloguing these errors, especially as the most glaring have been cursorily noticed in my volumes. Mr. Lane after leaving Egypt became one of the best Arabic scholars of his day, but his fortune did not equal his deserts. The Lexicon is a fine work although sadly deficient in the critical sense, but after the labour of thirty-four years (it began printing in 1863) it reached only the 19th letter Ghayn (p. 2386). Then invidious Fate threw it into the hands of Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole. With characteristic audacity he disdained to seek the services of some German Professor, an order of men which, rarely dining out and caring little for "Society," can devote itself entirely to letters, perhaps he hearkened to the silly charge against the Teuton of minuteness and futility of research as opposed to "good old English breadth and suggestiveness of treatment." And the consequence has been a "continuation" which serves as a standard whereby to measure the excellence of the original work and the woful falling- off and deficiencies of the sequel-- the latter retaining of the former naught save the covers. [FN#450]
Of Mr. Lane's Notes I have ever spoken highly: they are excellent and marvellously misplaced--non erat his locus. The text of a story-book is too frail to bear so ponderous a burden of classical Arabian lore, and the annotations injure the symmetry of the book as a work of art. They begin with excessive prolixity: in the Introduction these studies fill 27 closely printed pages to 14 of a text broken by cuts and vignettes. In chaps. i. the proportion is pp. 20, notes: 15 text, and in chaps. ii. it is pp. 20: 35. Then they become under the publisher's protest, beautifully less; and in vol. iii. chaps. 30 (the last) they are pp. 5: 57. Long disquisitions, "On the initial Moslem formula," "On the Wickedness of Women," "On Fate and Destiny," "On Arabian Cosmogony," "On Slaves," "On Magic," "On the Two Grand Festivals," all these being appended to the Introduction and the first chapter, are mere hors d'oeuvres: such "copy" should have been reserved for another edition of "The Modern Egyptians." The substitution of chapters for Nights was perverse and ill-judged as it could be, but it appears venial compared with condensing the tales in a commentary, thus converting the Arabian Nights into Arabian Notes. However, "Arabian Society in the Middle Ages," a legacy left by the "Uncle and Master", and like the tame and inadequate "Selections from the Koran," utilised by the grand-nephew, has been of service to the Edinburgh. Also, as it appears three several and distinct times in one article (pp. 166, 174, and 183), we cannot but surmise that a main object of the critique was to advertise the volume. Men are crafty in these days when practicing the "puff indirect."
But the just complaint against Lane's work is its sin of omission. The partial Reviewer declares (pp. 174 75) that the Arabist "retranslated The Nights in a practical spirit, omitting what was objectionable, together with a few tales(!) that were, on the whole, uninteresting or tautological, and enriching the work with a multitude of valuable notes. We had now a scholarly version of the greater part of The Nights imbued with the spirit of the East and rich in illustrative comment; and for forty years no one thought of anything more, although Galland still kept his hold on the nursery." Despite this spurious apology, the critic is compelled cautiously to confess (p. 172), "We are not sure that some of these omissions were not mistaken;" and he instances "Abdallah the Son of Fazil" and "Abu'l-Hasan of Khorasan" (he means, I suppose, Abu Hasan al-Ziyádi and the Khorasani Man, iv. 285), whilst he suggests, "a careful abridgment of the tale of Omar the Son of No'man" (ii. 7,, etc.). Let me add that wittiest and most rollicking of Rabelaisian skits, "All the Persian and the Kurd Sharper" (iv. 149), struck-out in the very wantonness of "respectability;" and the classical series, an Arabian "Pilpay," entitled "King Jali'ád of Hind and his Wazir Shimas" (iv. 32). Nor must I omit to notice the failure most injurious to the work which destroyed in it half the "spirit of the East." Mr. Lane had no gift of verse or rhyme: he must have known that the ten thousand lines of the original Nights formed a striking and necessary contrast with the narrative part, acting as aria to recitativo. Yet he rendered them only in the baldest and most prosaic of English without even the balanced style of the French translations. He can be excused only for one consideration--bad prose is not so bad as bad verse.
The ill-judged over-appreciation and glorification of Mr. Lane is followed (p. 176) by the depreciation and bedevilment of Mr. John Payne, who first taught the world what The Nights really is. We are told that the author (like myself) "unfortunately did not know Arabic;" and we are not told that he is a sound Persian scholar: however, "he undoubtedly managed to pick up enough of the language(!) to understand The Arabian Nights with the assistance of the earlier translations of (by?) Torrens and Lane," the former having printed only one volume out of some fifteen. This critic thinks proper now to ignore the "old English wall-papers," of Mr. R. S. Poole, indeed he concedes to the translator of Villon, a "genius for language," a "singular robust and masculine prose, which for the present purpose he intentionally weighted with archaisms and obsolete words but without greatly injuring its force or brilliancy" (p. 177). With plausible candour he also owns that the version "is a fine piece of English, it is also, save where the exigencies of rhyme compelled a degree of looseness, remarkably literal" (p. 178). Thus the author is damned with faint praise by one who utterly fails to appreciate the portentous difference between linguistic genius and linguistic mediocrity, and the Reviewer proceeds, "a careful collation" (we have already heard what his "careful" means) "of the different versions with their originals leads us to the conclusion that Mr. Payne's version is little less faithful than Lane's in those parts which are common to both, and is practically as close a rendering as is desirable" (p. 178). Tell the truth, man, and shame the Devil! I assert and am ready to support that the "Villon version" is incomparably superior to Lane's not only in its simple, pure and forcible English, but also in its literal and absolute correctness, being almost wholly free from the blunders and inaccuracies which everywhere disfigure Torrens, and which are rarely absent from Lane. I also repeat that wherever the style and the subject are the most difficult to treat, Mr. Payne comes forth most successfully from the contest, thus giving the best proof of his genius and capacity for painstaking. Of the metrical part, which makes the Villon version as superior to Lane's as virgin gold to German silver, the critique offers only three inadequate specimens specially chosen and accompanied with a growl that "the verse is nothing remarkable" (p. 177) and that the author is sometimes "led into extreme liberties with the original" (ibid.). Not a word of praise for mastering the prodigious difficulties of the monorhyme!
But--and there is a remarkable power in this particle--Mr. Payne's work is "restricted to the few wealthy collectors of proscribed books and what booksellers' catalogues describe as facetiæ'" (p. 179); for "when an Arabic word is unknown to the literary language" (what utter imbecility!), "and belongs only to the low vocabulary of the gutter" (which the most "elegant" writers most freely employ), "Mr. Payne laboriously searches out a corresponding term in English 'Billingsgate,' and prides himself upon an accurate reproduction of the tone of the original" (p. 178). This is a remarkable twisting of the truth. Mr. Payne persisted, despite my frequent protests, in rendering the "nursery words" and the "terms too plainly expressing natural situations" by old English such as "kaze" and "swive," equally ignored by the "gutter" and by "Billingsgate": he also omitted an offensive line whenever it did not occur in all the texts and could honestly be left untranslated. But the unfact is stated for a purpose: here the Reviewer mounts the high horse and poses as the Magister Morum per excellentiam. The Battle of the Books has often been fought, the crude text versus the bowdlerised and the expurgated; and our critic can contribute to the great fray only the merest platitudes. "There is an old and trusty saying that 'evil communications corrupt good manners,' end it is a well-known fact that the discussion(?) and reading of depraved literature leads (sic) infallibly to the depravation of the reader's mind" (p. 179). [FN#451] I should say that the childish indecencies and the unnatural vice of the original cannot deprave any mind save that which is perfectly prepared to be depraved; the former would provoke only curiosity and amusement to see bearded men such mere babes, and the latter would breed infinitely more disgust than desire. The man must be prurient and lecherous as a dog-faced baboon in rut to have aught of passion excited by either. And most inept is the conclusion, "So long as Mr. Payne's translation remains defiled by words, sentences, and whole paragraphs descriptive of coarse and often horribly depraved sensuality, it can never stand beside Lane's, which still remains the standard version of the Arabian Nights" (p. 179). Altro! No one knows better than the clique that Lane, after an artificially prolonged life of some half-century, has at last been weighed in the balance and been found wanting; that he is dying that second death which awaits the unsatisfactory worker and that his Arabian Nights are consigned by the present generation to the limbo of things obsolete and forgotten.
But if Mr. Payne is damned with poor praise and mock modesty, my version is condemned without redemption--beyond all hope of salvation: there is not a word in favour of a work which has been received by the reviewers with a chorus of kindly commendation. "The critical battery opens with a round-shot." "Another complete translation is now appearing in a surreptitious way" (p. 179). How "surreptitious" I ask of this scribe, who ekes not the lack of reason by a superfluity of railing, when I sent out some 24,000--30,000 advertisements and published my project in the literary papers? "The amiability of the two translators (Payne and Burton) was testified by their each dedicating a volume to the other. So far as the authors are concerned nothing could be more harmonious and delightful; but the public naturally ask, What do we want with two forbidden versions?" And I again inquire, What can be done by me to satisfy this atrabilious and ill-conditioned Aristarchus? Had I not mentioned Mr. Payne, my silence would have been construed into envy, hatred and malice: if I am proud to acknowledge my friend's noble work the proceeding engenders a spiteful sneer. As regards the "want," public demand is easily proved. It is universally known (except to the Reviewer who will not know) that Mr. Payne, who printed only 500 copies, was compelled to refuse as many hundreds of would be subscribers; and, when my design was made public by the Press, these and others at once applied to me. "To issue a thousand still more objectionable copies by another and not a better hand" (notice the quip cursive!) may "seem preposterous" (p. 180), but only to a writer so "preposterous" as this.
"A careful (again!) examination of Captain Burton's translation shows that he has not, as he pretends(!), corrected it to agree with the Calcutta text, but has made a hotch-potch of various texts, choosing one or another--Cairo, Breslau, Macnaghten or first Calcutta--according as it presented most of the 'characteristic' detail (note the dig in the side vicious), in which Captain Burton's version is peculiarly strong" (p. 180). So in return for the severe labour of collating the four printed texts and of supplying the palpable omissions, which by turns disfigure each and every of the quartette, thus producing a complete copy of the Recueil, I gain nothing but blame. My French friend writes to me: Lorsqu'il s'agit d'établir un texte d'après différents manuscrits, il est certain qu'il faut prendre pour base une-seule redaction. Mais il n'est pas de même d'une traduction. Il est conforme aux règles de la saine critique littéraire, de suivre tous les textes. Lane, I repeat, contented himself with the imperfect Bulak text while Payne and I preferred the Macnaghten Edition which, says the Reviewer, with a futile falsehood all his own, is "really only a revised form of the Cairo text" [FN#452] (ibid.). He concludes, making me his rival in ignorance, that I am unacquainted with the history of the MS. from which the four- volume Calcutta Edition was printed (ibid.). I should indeed be thankful to him if he could inform me of its ultimate fate: it has been traced by me to the Messieurs Allen and I have vainly consulted Mr. Johnston who carries on the business under the name of that now defunct house. The MS. has clean disappeared.
"On the other hand he (Captain Burton) sometimes omits passages which he considers(!) tautological and thereby deprives his version of the merit of completeness (e.g. vol. v. p. 327). It is needless to remark that this uncertainty about the text destroys the scholarly value of the translation" (p. 180). The scribe characteristically forgets to add that I have invariably noted these excised passages which are always the merest repetitions, damnable iterations of a twice-, and sometimes a thrice-told tale, and that I so act upon the great principle--in translating a work of imagination and "inducing" an Oriental tale, the writer's first duty to his readers is making his pages readable.
"Captain Burton's version is sometimes rather loose" (p.180), says the critic who quotes five specimens out of five volumes and who might have quoted five hundred. This is another favourite "dodge" with the rogue-reviewer, who delights to cite words and phrases and texts detached from their contexts. A translator is often compelled, by way of avoiding recurrences which no English public could endure, to render a word, whose literal and satisfactory meaning he has already given, by a synonym or a homonym in no way so sufficient or so satisfactory. He charges me with rendering "Siyar, which means 'doings,' by 'works and words"'; little knowing that the veteran Orientalist, M. Joseph Derenbourgh (p. 98, Johannes de Capua, Directorium, etc.), renders "Akhlák-í wa Síratí" (sing. of Siyar) by caractère et conducte, the latter consisting of deeds and speech. He objects to "Kabir" (lit.=old) being turned into very old; yet this would be its true sense were the Ráwí or story-teller to lay stress and emphasis upon the word, as here I suppose him to have done. But what does the Edinburgh know of the Ráwí? Again I render "Mal'únah" (not the mangled Mal'ouna) lit. = accurst, as "damned whore," which I am justified in doing when the version is of the category Call-a-spade-a-spade.
"Captain Burton's Arabian Nights, however, has another defect besides this textual inaccuracy" (p. 180); and this leads to a whole page of abusive rhetoric anent my vocabulary: the Reviewer has collected some thirty specimens--he might have collected three hundred from the five volumes--and he concludes that the list places Captain Burton's version "quite out of the category of English books" (p. 181) and "extremely annoying to any reader with a feeling for style." Much he must know of modern literary taste which encourages the translator of an ancient work such as Mr. Gibb's Aucassin and Nicolette (I quote but one in a dozen) to borrow the charm of antiquity by imitating the nervous and expressive language of the pre-Elizabethans and Shakespeareans. Let him compare any single page of Mr. Payne with Messieurs Torrens and Lane and he will find that the difference saute aux yeux. But a purist who objects so forcibly to archaism and archaicism should avoid such terms as "whilom Persian Secretary" (p. 170); as anthophobia, which he is compelled to explain by "dread of selecting only what is best" (p. 175), as anthophobist (p. 176); as "fatuous ejaculations" (p. 183), as a "raconteur" (p. 186), and as "intermedium" (p. 194) terms which are certainly not understood by the general. And here we have a list of six in thirty-three pages:--evidently this Reviewer did not expect to be reviewed.
"Here is a specimen of his (Captain Burton's) verse, in which, by the way, there is seen another example of the careless manner in which the proofs have been corrected" (p. 181). Generous and just to a work printed from abroad and when absence prevented the author's revision: false as unfair to boot! And what does the critic himself but show two several misprints in his 33 pages; "Mr. Payne, vol. ix. p. 274" (p. 168, for vol. i. 260), and "Jamshah" (p. 172, for Jánsháh). These faults may not excuse my default: however, I can summon to my defence the Saturday Review, that past-master in the art and mystery of carping criticism, which, noticing my first two volumes (Jan. 2, 1886), declares them "laudably free from misprints."
"Captain Burton's delight in straining the language beyond its capabilities(?) finds a wide field when he comes to those passages in the original which are written in rhyming prose" (p. 181). "Captain Burton of course could not neglect such an opportunity for display of linguistic flexibility on the model of 'Peter Parley picked a peck of pickled peppers"' (p. 182, where the Saj'a or prose rhyme is most ignorantly confounded with our peculiarly English alliteration). But this is wilfully to misstate the matter. Let me repeat my conviction (Terminal Essay, 144-145) that The Nights, in its present condition, was intended as a text or handbook for the Ráwí or professional story-teller, who would declaim the recitative in quasi-conversational tones, would intone the Saj'a and would chant the metrical portions to the twanging of the Rabábah or one-stringed viol. The Reviewer declares that the original has many such passages; but why does he not tell the reader that almost the whole Koran, and indeed all classical Arab prose, is composed in such "jingle"? "Doubtfully pleasing in the Arabic," it may "sound the reverse of melodious in our own tongue" (p. 282); yet no one finds fault with it in the older English authors (Terminal Essay, p. 220), and all praised the free use of it in Eastwick's "Gulistán." Torrens, Lane and Payne deliberately rejected it, each for his own and several reason; Torrens because he never dreamt of the application, Lane, because his scanty knowledge of English stood in his way; and Payne because he aimed at a severely classical style, which could only lose grace, vigour and harmony by such exotic decoration. In these matters every writer has an undoubted right to carry out his own view, remembering the while that it is impossible to please all tastes. I imitated the Saj'a, because I held it to be an essential part of the work and of my fifty reviewers none save the Edinburgh considered the reproduction of the original manner aught save a success. I care only to satisfy those whose judgment is satisfactory: "the abuse and contempt of ignorant writers hurts me very little," as Darwin says (iii. 88), and we all hold with Don Quixote that, es mejor ser loado de los pocos sabios, que burlado de los muchos necios.
"This amusement (of reproducing the Saj'a) may be carried to any length (how?), and we do not see why Captain Burton neglects the metre of the poetry, or divides his translation into sentences by stops, or permits any break in the continuity of the narrative, since none such exists in the Arabic" (p. 182). My reply is that I neglect the original metres first and chiefly because I do not care to "caper in fetters," as said Drummond of Hawthornden; and, secondly, because many of them are unfamiliar and consequently unpleasant to English ears. The exceptions are mostly two, the Rajaz (Anapaests and Iambs, Terminal Essay, x. 253), and the Tawíl or long measure (ibid. pp. 242, 255), which Mr. Lyall (Translations of Ancient Arab. Poetry, p. xix.) compares with "Abt Vogler,"
And there! ye have heard and seen: consider and bow the head.
This metre greatly outnumbers all others in The Nights; but its lilting measure by no means suits every theme, and in English it is apt to wax monotonous.
"The following example of a literal rendering which Mr. Payne adduces (vol. ix. 381: camp. my vol. v. 66) in order to show the difficulty of turning the phraseology of the original into good English, should have served Captain Burton as a model, and we are surprised he has not adopted so charmingly cumbrous a style" (p. 102). I shall quote the whole passage in question and shall show that by the most unimportant changes, omissions and transpositions, without losing a word, the whole becomes excellent English, and falls far behind the Reviewer's style in the contention for "cumbrousness":--
"When morrowed the morning he bedabbled his feet with the water they twain had expressed from the herb and, going-down to the sea, went thereupon, walking days and nights, he wondering the while at the horrors of the ocean and the marvels and rarities thereof. And he ceased not faring over the face of the waters till he arrived at an island as indeed it were Paradise. So Bulukiya went up thereto and fell to wondering thereanent and at the beauties thereof; and he found it a great island whose dust was saffron and its gravel were carnelian and precious stones: its edges were gelsomine and the growth was the goodliest of the trees and the brightest of the scented herbs and the sweetest of them. Its rivulets were a-flowing; its brushwood was of the Comorin aloe and the Sumatran lign- aloes; its reeds were sugar-canes and round about it bloomed rose and narcissus and amaranth and gilliflower and chamomile and lily and violet, all therein being of several kinds and different tints. The birds warbled upon those trees and the whole island was fair of attributes and spacious of sides and abundant of good things, comprising in fine all of beauty and loveliness," etc. (Payne, vol. ix. p. 381).
The Reviewer cites in his list, but evidently has not read, the "Tales from the Arabic," etc., printed as a sequel to The Nights, or he would have known that Mr. Payne, for the second part of his work, deliberately adopted a style literal as that above-quoted because it was the liveliest copy of the original.
We now come to the crucial matter of my version, the annotative concerning which this "decent gentleman," as we suppose this critic would entitle himself (p. 185), finds a fair channel of discharge for vituperative rhetoric. But before entering upon this subject I must be allowed to repeat a twice-told tale and once more to give the raison d'être of my long labour. When a friend asked me point-blank why I was bringing out my translation so soon after another and a most scholarly version, my reply was as follows:--"Sundry students of Orientalism assure me that they are anxious to have the work in its crudest and most realistic form. I have received letters saying, Let us know (you who can) what the Arab of The Nights was: if good and high-minded let us see him: if witty and humorous let us hear him: if coarse and uncultivated, rude, childish and indecent, still let us have him to the very letter. We want for once the genuine man. We would have a mediæval Arab telling the tales and traditions with the lays and legends of his own land in his own way, and showing the world what he has remained and how he has survived to this day, while we Westerns have progressed in culture and refinement. Above all things give us the naive and plain-spoken language of the original--such a contrast with the English of our times--and show us, by the side of these enfantillages, the accumulated wit and wisdom, life-knowledge and experience of an old-world race. We want also the technique of the Recueil, its division into nights, its monorhyme, in fact everything that gives it cachet and character." Now I could satisfy the longing, which is legitimate enough, only by annotation, by a running commentary, as it were, enabling the student to read between the lines and to understand hints and innuendoes that would otherwise have passed by wholly unheeded. I determined that subscribers should find in my book what does not occur in any other, making it a repertory of Eastern knowledge in its esoteric phase, by no means intended for the many-headed but solely for the few who are not too wise to learn or so ignorant as to ignore their own ignorance. I regretted to display the gross and bestial vices of the original, in the rare places where obscenity becomes rampant, but not the less I held it my duty to translate the text word for word, instead of garbling it and mangling it by perversion and castration. My rendering (I promised) would be something novel, wholly different from all other versions, and it would leave very little for any future interpreter. [FN#453]
And I resolved that, in case of the spiteful philanthropy and the rabid pornophobic suggestion of certain ornaments of the Home-Press being acted upon, to appear in Court with my version of The Nights in one hand and bearing in the other the Bible (especially the Old Testament, a free translation from an ancient Oriental work) and Shakespeare, with Petronius Arbiter and Rabelais by way of support and reserve. The two former are printed by millions; they find their way into the hands of children, and they are the twin columns which support the scanty edifice of our universal home-reading. The Arbiter is sotadical as Abú Nowás and the Curé of Meudon is surpassing in what appears uncleanness to the eye of outsight not of insight. Yet both have been translated textually and literally by eminent Englishmen and gentlemen, and have been printed and published as an "extra series" by Mr. Bohn's most respectable firm and solo by Messieurs Bell and Daldy. And if The Nights are to be bowdlerised for students, why not, I again ask, mutilate Plato and Juvenal, the Romances of the Middle Ages, Boccaccio and Petrarch and the Elizabethan dramatists one and all? What hypocrisy to blaterate about The Nights in presence of such triumphs of the Natural! How absurd to swallow such camels and to strain at my midge!
But I had another object while making the notes a Repertory of Eastern knowledge in its esoteric form (Foreword, p. xvii.). Having failed to free the Anthropological Society from the fetters of mauvaise honte and the mock-modesty which compels travellers and ethnological students to keep silence concerning one side of human nature (and that side the most interesting to mankind), I proposed to supply the want in these pages. The England of our day would fain bring up both sexes and keep all ages in profound ignorance of sexual and intersexual relations; and the consequences of that imbecility are peculiarly cruel and afflicting. How often do we hear women in Society lamenting that they have absolutely no knowledge of their own physiology; and at what heavy price must this fruit of the knowledge-tree be bought by the young first entering life. Shall we ever understand that ignorance is not innocence? What an absurdum is a veteran officer who has spent a quarter-century in the East without learning that all Moslem women are circumcised, and without a notion of how female circumcision is effected; without an idea of the difference between the Jewish and the Moslem rite as regards males; without an inkling of the Armenian process whereby the cutting is concealed, and without the slightest theoretical knowledge concerning the mental and spiritual effect of the operation. Where then is the shame of teaching what it is shameful not to have learnt? But the ultra-delicacy, the squeamishness of an age which is by no means purer or more virtuous than its ruder predecessors, has ended in trenching upon the ridiculous. Let us see what the modern English woman and her Anglo-American sister have become under the working of a mock-modesty which too often acts cloak to real dévergondage; and how Respectability unmakes what Nature made. She has feet but no "toes"; ankles but no "calves"; knees but no "thighs"; a stomach but no "belly" nor "bowels"; a heart but no "bladder" nor "groin"; a liver end no "kidneys"; hips and no "haunches"; a bust and no "backside" nor "buttocks": in fact, she is a monstrum, a figure fit only to frighten the crows.
But the Edinburgh knows nothing of these things, and the "decent gentleman," like the lady who doth protest overmuch, persistently fixes his eye upon a single side of the shield." Probably no European has ever gathered such an appalling collection of degrading customs and statistics of vice as is contained in Captain Burton's translation of the 'Arabian Nights' (p. 185). He finds in the case of Mr. Payne, like myself, "no adequate justification for flooding the world (!) with an ocean of filth" (ibid.) showing that he also can be (as said the past-master of catch-words, the primus verborum artifex) "an interested rhetorician inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity." But audi alteram partem--my view of the question. I have no apology to make for the details offered to the students of Moslem usages and customs, who will find in them much to learn and more to suggest the necessity of learning. On no wise ashamed am I of lecturing upon these esoteric matters, the most important to humanity, at a time when their absence from the novel of modern society veils with a double gloom the night-side of human nature. Nay, I take pride to myself for so doing in the face of silly prejudice and miserable hypocrisy, and I venture to hold myself in the light of a public benefactor. In fact, I consider my labours as a legacy bequeathed to my countrymen at a most critical time when England the puissantest of Moslem powers is called upon, without adequate knowledge of the Moslem's inner life, to administer Egypt as well as to rule India. And while Pharisee and Philister may be or may pretend to be "shocked" and "horrified" by my pages, the sound common sense of a public, which is slowly but surely emancipating itself from the prudish and prurient reticences and the immodest and immoral modesties of the early xixth century, will in good time do me, I am convinced, full and ample justice.
In p. 184 the Reviewer sneers at me for writing "Roum" in lieu of Rum or Rúm; but what would the latter have suggested to the home-reader save a reference to the Jamaican drink? He also corrects me (vol. v. 248) in the matter of the late Mr. Emanuel Deutsch (p. 184), who excised "our Saviour" from the article on the Talmud reprinted amongst his literary remains. The Reviewer, or inspirer of the Review, let me own, knew more of Mr. Deutsch than I, a simple acquaintance, could know; but perhaps he does not know all, and if he did he probably would not publish his knowledge. The truth is that Mr. Deutsch was, during his younger years, a liberal, nay, a latitudinarian in religion, differing little from the so-styled "Christian Unitarian." But when failing health drove him to Egypt and his hour drew nigh he became (and all honour to him!) the scrupulous and even fanatical Hebrew of the Hebrews; he consorted mainly with the followers and divines of his own faith, and it is said that he ordered himself when dying to be taken out of bed and placed upon the bare floor. The "Saviour" of the article was perhaps written in his earlier phase of religious thought, and it was excised as the end drew in sight.
"Captain Burton's experience in the East seems to have obliterated any (all?) sentiments of chivalry, for he is never weary of recording disparaging estimates of women, and apparently delights in discovering evidence of 'feminine devilry"' (p. 184). This argumentum ad feminam is sharpish practice, much after the manner of the Christian "Fathers of the Church" who, themselves vehemently doubting the existence of souls non- masculine, falsely and foolishly ascribed the theory and its consequences to Mohammed and the Moslems. And here the Persian proverb holds good "Harf-i-kufr kufr níst"--to speak of blasphemy is not blasphemous. Curious readers will consult the article "Woman" in my Terminal Essay (x. 167), which alone refutes this silly scandal. I never pretended to understand woman, and, as Balzac says, no wonder man fails when He who created her was by no means successful. But in The Nights we meet principally Egyptian maids, matrons and widows, of whose "devilry" I cannot speak too highly, and in this matter even the pudibund Lane is as free-spoken as myself. Like the natives of warm, damp and malarious lowlands and river-valleys adjacent to rugged and healthy uplands, such as Mazanderán, Sind, Malabar and California, the passions and the sexual powers of the females greatly exceed those of their males, and hence a notable development of the crude form of polyandry popularly termed whoredom. Nor have the women of the Nile valley improved under our rule. The last time I visited Cairo a Fellah wench, big, burly and boisterous, threatened one morning, in a fine new French avenue off the Ezbekiyah Gardens, to expose her person unless bought off with a piastre. And generally the condition of womenkind throughout the Nile-valley reminded me of that frantic outbreak of debauchery which characterised Afghanistán during its ill-judged occupation by Lord Auckland, and Sind after the conquest by Sir Charles Napier.
"Captain Burton actually depends upon the respectable and antiquated D'Herbelot for his information" (p. 184). This silly skit at the two great French Orientalists, D'Herbelot and Galland, is indeed worthy of a clique which, puff and struggle however much it will, can never do a tithe of the good work found in the Bibliothéque Orientale. The book was issued in an unfinished state; in many points it has been superseded, during its life of a century and a half, by modern studies, but it is still a mine of facts, and a revised edition would be a boon to students. Again, I have consulted Prof. Palmer's work, and the publications of the Palæographical Society (p. 184); but I nowhere find the proofs that the Naskhi character (vol. i. 128) so long preceded the Cufic which, amongst vulgar Moslems, is looked upon like black letter in Europe. But Semitic epigraphy is only now entering upon its second stage of study, the first being mere tentative ignorance: about 80 years ago the illustrious De Sacy proved, in a learned memoir, the non-existence of letters in Arabia before the days of Mohammed. But Palmer [FN#454], Halevy, Robertson Smith, Doughty and Euting have changed all that, and Herr Eduard Glaser of Prague is now bringing back from Sana'á some 390 Sabaean epigraphs--a mass of new-old literature.
And now, having passed in review, and having been much scandalised by the "extravagant claims of the complete translations over the Standard Version"--a term which properly applies only to the Editio princeps, 3 vols. 8vo--the Edinburgh delivers a parting and insolent sting. "The different versions, however, have each its proper destination--Galland for the nursery, Lane for the library, Payne for the study, and Burton for the sewers" (p. 184). I need hardly attempt to precise the ultimate and well merited office of his article: the gall in that ink may enable it hygienically to excel for certain purposes the best of "curl-papers." Then our critic passes to the history of the work concerning which nothing need be said: it is bodily borrowed from Lane's Preface (pp. ix. xv.), and his Terminal Review (iii. 735-47) with a few unimportant and uninteresting details taken from Al-Makrízí, and probably from the studies of the late Rogers Bey (pp. 191-92). Here the cult of the Uncle and Master emerges most extravagantly. "It was Lane who first brought out the importance of the 'Arabian Nights' as constituting a picture of Moslem life and manners" (p. 192); thus wholly ignoring the claims of Galland, to whom and whom alone the honour is due. But almost every statement concerning the French Professor involves more or less of lapse. "It was in 1704 that Antoine Galland, sometime of the French embassy at Constantinople, but then professor at the Collége de France, presented the world with the contents of an Arab Manuscript which he had brought from Syria and which bore the title of 'The Thousand Nights and One Night'" (p. 167), thus ignoring the famous Il a fallu le faire venir de Syrie. At that time (1704) Galland was still at Caen in the employ of "L'intendant Fouquet"; and he brought with him no MS., as he himself expressly assures us in Preface to his first volume. Here are two telling mistakes in one page, and in the next (p. 168) we find "As a professed translation Galland's 'Mille et une Nuits' (N.B. the Frenchman always wrote Mille et une Nuit) [FN#455] is an audacious fraud. "It requires something more than" audacity "to offer such misstatement even in the pages of the Edinburgh, and can anything be falser than to declare "the whole of the last fourteen tales have nothing whatever to do with the 'Nights'"?
These bévues, which give us the fairest measure for the Reviewer's competence to review, are followed (p. 189) by a series of obsolete assertions. "The highest authority on this point (the date) is the late Mr. Lane, who states his unqualified conviction that the tales represent the social life of mediaerval Egypt, and he selects a period approaching the close of the fifteenth century as the probable date of collection, though some of the tales are, he believes, rather later" (p. 189). Mr. Lane's studies upon the subject were painfully perfunctory. He distinctly states (Preface, p. xii.) that "the work was commenced and completed by one man," or at least that "one man completed what another commenced." With a marvellous want of critical acumen he could not distinguish the vast difference of style and diction, treatment and sentiments, which at once strikes every intelligent reader, and which proves incontestably that many hands took part in the Great Saga-book. He speaks of "Galland's very imperfect MS.," but he never took the trouble to inspect the three volumes in question which are still in the Bibliothèque Nationale. And when he opines that "it (the work) was most probably not commenced earlier than the fifteenth century of our era" (Pref. p. xiii.) M. Hermann Zotenberg, judging from the style of writing, would attribute the MS. to the beginning [FN#456] of the xivth century. The French Savant has printed a specimen page in his Histoire d'Alâ al-Dîn (p. 6; see my Suppl. vol. iii., Foreword p. ix.); and now, at the request of sundry experts, he is preparing for publication other proofs which confirm his opinion. We must correct Lane's fifteenth century to thirteenth century --a difference of only 200 years. [FN#457]
After this unhappy excursus the Reviewer proceeds to offer a most unintelligent estimate of the Great Recueil. "Enchantment" may be "a constant motive," but it is wholly secondary and subservient: "the true and universal theme is love;" "'all are but the ministers of love' absolutely subordinate to the great theme" (p. 193). This is the usual half-truth and whole unfact. Love and war, or rather war and love, form the bases of all romantic fiction even as they are the motor power of the myriad forms and fashions of dancing. This may not appear from Lane's mangled and mutilated version which carefully omits all the tales of chivalry and conquest as the History of Gharíb and his brother 'Ajíb (vol. vi. 257) and that of Omar ibn Al-Nu'umán, "which is, as a whole so very unreadable" (p. 172) though by no means more so than our European romances. But the reverse is the case with the original composition. Again, "These romantic lovers who will go through fire to meet each other, are not in themselves interesting characters: it may be questioned whether they have any character at all" (p. 195). "The story and not the delineation of character is the essence of the 'Arabian Nights'" (p. 196). I can only marvel at the utter want of comprehension and appreciation with which this critic read what he wrote about: one hemisphere of his brain must have been otherwise occupied and his mental cecity makes him a phenomenon even amongst reviewers. He thus ignores all the lofty morale of the work, its marvellous pathos and humour, its tender sentiment and fine touches of portraiture, the personal individuality and the nice discrimination between the manifold heroes and heroines which combine to make it a book for all time.
The critic ends his article with doing what critics should carefully avoid to do. After shrewdly displaying his powers of invective and depreciation he has submitted to his readers a sample of his own workmanship. He persists in writing "Zobeyda," "Khalifa," "Aziza" (p. 194) and "Kahramana" (p. 199) without the terminal aspirate which, in Arabic if not in Turkish, is a sine quâ non (see my Suppl. vol. v. 302). He preserves the pretentious blunder "The Khalif" (p. 193), a word which does not exist in Arabic. He translates (p. 181), although I have taught him to do better, "Hádimu 'I-Lizzáti wa Mufarriku 'l-Jama'át," by "Terminator of Delights and Separator of Companies" instead of Destroyer of delights and Severer of societies. And lastly he pads the end of his article (pp. 196-199) with five dreary extracts from Lane (i. 372-73) who can be dull even when translating the Immortal Barber.
The first quotation is so far changed that the peppering of commas (three to the initial line of the original) disappears to the reader's gain, Lane's textual date (App. 263) is also exchanged for that of the notes (A.H. 653); and the "æra of Alexander," A.M. 7320, an absurdity which has its value in proving the worthlessness of such chronology, is clean omitted, because Lane used the worthless Bull Edit. The latinisms due to Lane show here in force--"Looked for a considerable time" (Maliyyan = for a long while); "there is an announcement that presenteth itself to me" (a matter which hath come to my knowledge) and "thou hast dissipated [FN#458] my mind" (Azhakta rúhí = thou scatterest my wits, in the Calc. Edit. Saghgharta rúhí = thou belittles" my mind). But even Lane never wrote "I only required thee to shave my head"--the adverb thus qualifying, as the ignoramus loves to do, the wrong verb--for "I required thee only to shave my head." In the second échantillon we have "a piece of gold" as equivalent of a quarter-diner and "for God's sake" which certainly does not preserve local colour. In No. 3 we find "'May God,' said I," etc.; "There is no deity but God! Mohammed is God's apostle!" Here Allah ought invariably to be used, e.g. "Mohammed is the Apostle of Allah," unless the English name of the Deity be absolutely required as in "There is no god but the God." The Moslem's "Wa'lláhi" must not be rendered "By God," a verbal translation and an absolute nonequivalent; the terms Jehovah, Allah and God and the use of them involving manifold fine distinctions. If it be true that God made man, man in his turn made and mismade God who thus becomes a Son of Man and a mere racial type. I need not trouble my reader with further notices of these extracts whose sole use is to show the phenomenal dullness of Lane's latinised style: I prefer even Torrens (p. 273).
"We have spoken severely with regard to the last" (my version), says the Reviewer (p.185), and verily I thank him therefor. Laudari ab illaudato has never been my ambition. A writer so learned and so disinterested could hurt my feelings and mortify my pride only by approving me and praising me. Nor have I any desire to be exalted in the pages of the Edinburgh, so famous for its incartades of old. As Dryden says, "He has done me all the honour that any man can receive from him, which is to be railed at by him." I am content to share the vituperation of this veteran--incapable in company with the poetaster George Gordon who suffered for "this Lord's station;" with that "burnish fly in the pride of May," Macaulay, and with the great trio, Darwin, Huxley and Hooker, who also have been the butts of his bitter and malignant abuse (April '63 and April '73). And lastly I have no stomach for sweet words from the present Editor of the Edinburgh Mr. Henry Reeve, a cross and cross-grained old man whose surly temper is equalled only by his ignoble jealousy of another's success. Let them bedevil the thin-skinned with their godless ribaldry; for myself peu m'importe--my shoulders are broad enough to bear all their envy, hatred and malice.
During the three years which have elapsed since I first began printing my book I have not had often to complain of mere gratuitous impertinence, and a single exception deserves some notice. The following lines which I addressed to The Academy (August 11, '88) will suffice to lay my case before my readers:--
The Bestial Element in Man.
"One hesitates to dissent from so great an authority as Sir Richard Burton on all that relates to the bestial element in man." So writes (p. xii., Introduction to the Fables of Pilpay), with uncalled-for impertinence, Mr. Joseph Jacobs, who goes out of his way to be offensive, and who confesses to having derived all his knowledge of my views not from "the notorious Terminal Essay of the Nights," but from the excellent article by Mr. Thomas Davidson on "Beast-fables," in Chambers's Cyclopædia, Edinburgh, 1888. This lofty standpoint of morality was probably occupied for a reason by a writer who dedicates "To my dear wife" a volume rich in anecdotes grivoises, and not poor in language the contrary of conventional. However, I suffer from this Maccabee in good society together with Prof. Max Müller (pp. xxvi. and xxxiii.), Mr. Clouston (pp. xxxiii. and xxxv.), Byron (p. xlvi.), Theodor Benfey (p. xlvii.), Mr. W. G. Rutherford (p. xlviii.), and Bishop Lightfoot (p. xlix.). All this eminent half-dozen is glanced at, with distinct and several sneers, in a little volume which, rendered useless by lack of notes and index, must advertise itself by the réclame of abuse.
As regards the reminiscence of Homo Darwinienesis by Homo Sapiens, doubtless it would ex hypothesi be common to mankind. Yet to me Africa is the old home of the Beast-fable, because Egypt was the inventor of the alphabet, the cradle of letters, the preacher of animism and metempsychosis, and, generally, the source of all human civilisation.
Richard F. Burton
And now I must proceed a trifle further a-field and meet
The Critic in Anglo-America.
The Boston Daily Advertiser (Jan. 26,'86) contains the following choice morceau which went the round of the Transatlantic Press:--
G. W. S. writes from London to the New York Tribune in regard to Captain Burton's notorious translation of the "Arabian Nights." Of Captain Burton's translation of "The Arabian Nights," two volumes have now appeared. Before anything had been seen of them, I gave some account of this scheme, and of the material on which he had worked, with a statement of the reasons which made all existing versions unsatisfactory to the student, and incomplete. Captain Burton saw fit to reprint these desultory paragraphs as a kind of circular or advertisement on his forthcoming book. He did not think it necessary to ask leave to do this, nor did I know to what use my letter had been put till it was too late to object. In any ordinary case it would have been of no consequence, but Captain Burton's version is of such a character that I wish to state the facts, and to say that when I wrote my letter I had never seen a line of his translation, and had no idea that what I said of his plans would be used for the purpose it has been, or for any purpose except to be printed in your columns. As it is, I am made to seem to give some sort of approval to a book which I think offensive, and not only offensive, but grossly and needlessly offensive. If anybody has been induced to subscribe for it by what I wrote I regret it, and both to him and to myself I think this explanation due.
Mr. Smalley is the London correspondent of the New York Tribune, which represents Jupiter Tonans in the Western World. He may be unable to write with independent tone--few Anglo-Americans can afford to confront the crass and compound ignorance of a "free and independent majority"--but even he is not called upon solemnly to state an untruth. Before using Mr. Smalley's article as a circular, my representative made a point of applying to him for permission, as he indeed was bound to do by the simplest rules of courtesy. Mr. Smalley replied at once, willingly granting the favour, as I can prove by the note still in my possession; and presently, frightened by the puny yelping of a few critical curs at home, he has the effrontery to deny the fact.
In my last volumes I have been materially aided by two Anglo-American friends, MM Thayer and Cotheal, and I have often had cause to thank the Tribune and the Herald of New York for generously appreciating my labours. But no gratitude from me is due to the small fry of the Transatlantic Press which has welcomed me with spiteful little pars mostly borrowed from unfriends in England and mainly touching upon style and dollars. In the Mail Express of New York (September 7, '85) I read, "Captain Richard Burton, traveller and translator, intends to make all the money that there may be in his translation of the 'Arabian Nights.' * * * If he only fills his list, and collects his money, he will be in easy circumstances for the remainder of his days." In a subsequent issue (October 24) readers are told that I have been requested not to publish the rest of the series under pain of legal prosecution. In the same paper (October 31, '85; see also November 7, '85) I find:--
The authorities have discovered where Capt. Burton's "Thousand and One Nights" is being printed, despite the author's efforts to keep the place a secret, but are undecided whether to suppress it or to permit the publication of the coming volumes. Burton's own footnotes are so voluminous that they exceed the letterpress of the text proper, and make up the bulk of the work. [FN#459] The foulness of the second volume of his translation places it at a much higher premium in the market than the first.
The Tribune of Chicago (October 26,'85) honours me by declaring "It has been resolved to request Captain Burton not to publish the rest of his translation of the 'Thousand and One Nights,' which is really foul and slipshod as to style." The New York Times (October 17 and November 9, '85) merely echoes the spite of its English confrere:--
Capt. Burton's translation of the "Arabian Nights" bears the imprint "Benares." Of course the work never saw Benares. America, France, Belgium and Germany have all been suggested as the place of printing, and now the Pall Mall Gazette affirms that the work was done "north of the Tweed." There is, without doubt, on British soil, it says, "a press which year after year produces scores of obscene publications."
And the same is the case with the St. Louis Post Dispatch (November 11, '85) the Mail Express of New York (November 23,'85); the Weekly Post of Boston (November 27 '85), which again revives a false report, and with the Boston Herald (December 16,'85). The Chicago Daily News (January 30, '86) contains a malicious sneer at the Kamashastra Society. The American Register (Paris, July 25, '86) informs its clientèle, "If, as is generally supposed, Captain Burton's book is printed abroad, the probability is that every copy will on arrival be confiscated as 'indecent' by the Custom-house." And to curtail a long list of similar fadaises I will quote the Bookmart (of Pittsburg, Pa., U.S.A., October, '86): "Sir Richard Burton's 'Nights' are terribly in want of the fig-leaf, if anything less than a cabbage leaf will do, before they can be fit (fitted?) for family reading. It is not possible (Is it not possible?) that by the time a household selection has been sifted out of the great work, everything which makes the originality and the value--such as it is--of Richard's series of volumes will have disappeared, and nothing will remain but his diverting lunacies of style." The Bookmart, I am informed, is edited by one Halkett Lord, an unnaturalised Englishman who finds it pays best to abuse everything and everyone English. And lastly, the Springfield Republican (April 5, '88) assures me that I have published "fully as much as the (his?) world wants of the 'Nights'."
In the case of "The Nights," I am exposed to that peculiar Protestant form of hypocrisy, so different from the Tartuffean original of Catholicism, and still as mighty a motor force, throughout the length and breadth of the North-American continent, as within the narrow limits of England. There also as here it goes hand-in-hand with "Respectability" to blind judgment and good sense.
A great surgeon of our day said (or is said to have said) in addressing his students:-- "Never forget, gentlemen, that you have to deal with an ignorant public." The dictum may fairly be extended from medical knowledge to general information amongst the many headed of England; and the Publisher, when rejecting a too recondite book, will repeat parrot-fashion, The English public is not a learned body. Equally valid is the statement in the case of the Anglo-American community which is still half-educated and very far from being erudite. The vast country has produced a few men of great and original genius, such as Emerson and Theodore Parker, Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman; but the sum total is as yet too small to leaven the mighty mass which learns its rudiments at school and college and which finishes its education with the newspaper and the lecture. When Emerson died it was said that the intellectual glory of a continent had departed; but Edgar A. Poe, the peculiar poetic glory of the States, the first Transatlantic who dared be himself and who disdained to borrow from Schiller and Byron, the outlander poet who, as Edgar Allan Poe, is now the prime favourite in France, appears to be still under ban because he separated like Byron from his spouse, and he led a manner of so-called "Bohemian" life. Indeed the wide diffusion of letters in the States, that favourite theme for boasting and bragging over the unenlightened and analphabetic Old World, has tended only to exaggerate the defective and disagreeable side of a national character lacking geniality and bristling with prickly individuality. This disposition of mind, whose favourable and laudable presentations are love of liberty and self-reliance, began with the beginnings of American history. The "Fathers," Pilgrim and Puritan, who left their country for their country's good and their own, fled from lay tyranny and clerkly oppression only to oppress and tyrannise over others in new and distant homes. Hardly had a century and a half elapsed before the sturdy colonists, who did not claim freedom but determined to keep it, formally revolted and fought their way to absolute independence--not, by the by, a feat whereof to be overproud when a whole country rose unanimously against a handful of troops. The movement, however, reacted powerfully upon the politics of Europe, which stood agape for change, and undoubtedly precipitated the great French Revolution. As soon as the States became an empire, their democratic and republican institutions at once attracted hosts of emigrants from the Old World, thus peopling the land with a selection of species: the active and the adventurous, the malcontent and the malefactor, readily expatriate themselves, while the pauvre diable remains at home. The potato-famine in Ireland (1848) gave an overwhelming impetus to the exode of a race which had never known a racial baptism; and, lastly, the Germans flying from the conscription, the blood tax of the Fatherland, carried with them over the ocean a transcendentalism which has engendered the wildest theories of socialism and communism. And the emigration process still continues. Whole regions, like the rugged Bocche di Cattaro in Dalmatia and pauper Iceland, are becoming depopulated to me the wonder is that a poor man ever consents to live out of America or a rich man to live.
The result of such selection has been two-fold. The first appears in a splendid self- esteem, a complacency, a confidence which passes all bounds of the golden mean. "I am engrossed in calmly contemplating the grandeur of my native country and her miraculous growth," writes to me an old literary friend. The feeling normally breaks out in the grossest laudation of everything American. The ultra-provincial twang which we still hear amongst the servant-classes of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and which is so notable in the nouveau riche, modified by traditional nasalisation and, as in Australia, by climatic influences, is American and, therefore, the purest of English utterances. The obsolete vocabulary often obsolete in England without just reason--contrasting with a modern disfigured etymology which strips vocables of their genealogy and history, is American and ergo admirably progressive. The spurious facetiousness which deals mainly in mere jargon words ill-spelt and worse pronounced; in bizarre contrast of ideas, and in ultra-Rabelaisian exaggeration, is American wit and humour--therefore unsurpassable. The Newspaper Press, that great reflector of nationalities, that prime expression of popular taste, too often of an écurant vulgarity, personal beyond all bounds of common decency, sensational as a transpontine drama, is American; America is the greatest nation upon earth's face, ergo the daily sheet is setting-up the standard of English speech and forming the language of the Future, good and too good for all the world. This low standard of the Press is the more regretable as its exalted duty is at present to solve the highest problems social and industrial, such as co-operation in labour, the development of fisheries, direct taxation versus indirect and a host of enigmas which the young world, uncumbered by the burdens of the Old World, alone shall unravel.
The second result is still more prejudicial and perilous. This is the glorification of mediocrity, of the average man and woman whose low standard must be a norm to statesman and publicist. Such cult of the common and the ignoble is the more prejudicial because it "wars against all distinction and against the sense of elevation to be gained by respecting and admiring superiority." Its characteristic predominance in a race which, true to its Anglo-Saxon origin, bases and builds the strongest opinions upon the weakest foundations, hinders the higher Avatars of genius and interferes with the "chief duty of a nation which is to produce great men." It accounts for the ever-incroaching reign of women in literature--meaning as a rule cheap work and second-rate. And the main lack is not so much the "thrill of awe," which Göethe pronounces to be the best thing humanity possesses, but that discipline of respect, that sense of loyalty, not in its confined meaning of attachment to royalty, but in a far higher and nobler signification, the recognising and welcoming elevation and distinction whatever be the guise they may assume. "The soul lives by admiration and hope and love."
And here we see the shady side of the educational process, the diffusion of elementary and superficial knowledge, of the veneer and polish which mask, until chipped-off, the raw and unpolished material lying hidden beneath them. A little learning is a dangerous thing because it knows all and consequently it stands in the way of learning more or much. Hence, it is sorely impatient of novelty, of improvement, of originality. It is intolerant of contradiction, irritable, thin-skinned, and impatient of criticism, of a word spoken against it. It is chargeable with the Law of Copyright, which is not only legalised plunder of the foreigner, but is unfair, unjust and ungenerous to native talent for the exclusive benefit of the short-sighted many-headed. I am far from charging the United States with the abomination called "International Copyright;" the English publisher is as sturdy an enemy to "protection" as the Transatlantic statesman; but we expect better things from a new people which enjoys the heritage of European civilisation without the sufferings accompanying the winning of it. This mediocrity has the furious, unpardoning hatred of l'amour propre offensé. Even a word in favour of my old friends the Mormons is an unpardonable offence: the dwarfish and dwarfing demon "Respectability" has made their barbarous treatment a burning shame to a so-called "free" country: they are subjected to slights and wrongs only for practicing polygamy, an institution never condemned by Christ or the early Christians. The calm and dispassionate judgments of Sir Lepel Griffith and the late Matthew Arnold, who ventured to state, in guarded language, that the boasted civilisation of the United States was not quite perfect, resulted in the former being called a snob and the latter a liar. English stolidity would only have smiled at the criticism even had it been couched in the language of persiflage. And when M. Max O'Rell traverses the statements of the two Englishmen and exaggerates American civilisation, we must bear in mind first that la vulgarité ne se traduit pas, and secondly, that the foes of our foemen are our friends. Woe be to the man who refuses to fall down and do worship before that brazen-faced idol (Eidolon Novi Mundi), Public Opinion in the States; unless, indeed, his name be Brown and he hail from Briggsville.
Some years ago I proposed to write a paper upon the reflex action of Anglo-America upon England using as a base the last edition of Mrs. Trollope, who was compelled to confess that almost every pecularity which she had abused in her first issue had become naturalised at home. Yankee cuteness has already displaced in a marvellous way old English rectitude and plain-dealing; gambling on the Stock Exchange, cornering, booms and trusts have invaded the trading-classes from merchant-princes to shopkeepers, and threaten, at their actual rate of progress, not to leave us an honest man. But now the student's attention will be called to the great and ever-growing influence of the New World upon the Old, and notably upon Europe. Some 50,000 Americans annually visit the continent, they are rapidly becoming the most important item of the floating population, and in a few years they will number 500,000. Meanwhile they are revolutionising all the old institutions; they are abolishing the classical cicerone whose occupation is gone amongst a herd which wants only to see streets and people: they greatly increase the cost of traveling; they pay dollars in lieu of francs, and they are satisfied with inferior treatment at superior prices:--hence the American hotel abroad is carefully shunned by Englishmen and natives. At home the "well-to-do class" began by regarding their kinsmen d'outre mer with contemptuous dislike; then they looked upon them as a country squire would regard a junior branch which has emigrated and has thriven by emigration; and now they are welcomed in Society because they amuse and startle and stir up the duller depths. But however warm may be private friendship between Englishmen and Anglo-Americans there is no public sympathy nor is any to be expected from the present generation. "New England does not understand Old England and never will," the reverse being equally the fact. "The Millennium must come," says Darwin (ii. 387), "before nations love each other:" I add that first Homo alalus seu Pithecanthropus must become Homo Sapiens and cast off his moral slough--egoism and ignorance. Mr. Cleveland, in order to efface the foul stigma of being the "English President," found it necessary to adopt the strongest measures in the matter of "Fisheries;" and the "Irish vote" must quadrennially be bought at the grave risk of national complications. Despite the much-bewritten "brotherhood of the two great English-speaking races of the world," the old leaven of cousinly ill-feeling, the jealousy which embitters the Pole against his Russian congener, is still rampant. Uncle Sam actively dislikes John Bull and dispraises England. An Anglo-American who has lived years amongst us and in private intimacy must, when he returns home, speak disparagingly of the old country unless he can afford the expensive luxury of telling unpopular truths and of affronting Demos, the hydra-headed.
But there are even now signs of better things in the Great Republic. Mr. James R. Lowell, an authority (if there be any) upon the subject of Democracy, after displaying its fine points and favourable aspects in his addresses to English audiences, has at length had the uncommon courage to discuss family affairs, and to teach Boston and New York what "weaknesses and perils there may be in the practical working of a system never before set in motion under such favourable circumstances, nor on so grand a scale." He is emboldened to say firmly and aloud, despite the storming of false and hollow self-praise, that American civilisation, so strong on the material side, is sadly wanting on the other, and still lacks much to make it morally acceptable or satisfactory. And we have some truths concerning that Fool's Paradise, the glorification of the "average man." Every citizen of the world must wish full success to the "Independents" (in politics) who sit at the feet of so wise and patriotic a teacher.
And here I feel myself bound to offer some explanation concerning
The Household Edition of the Arabian Nights.
lest any subscriber charge me, after contracting not to issue or to allow the issue of a cheaper form, with the sharp practice which may be styled
To keep the word of promise to our ear
And break it to our hope.
Hardly had my third volume of "The Nights" (proper) been issued to my patrons when a benevolent subscriber, whose name I am bound to conceal, apprised me that he had personal and precise information concerning a project to pirate the production. England and Anglo-America, be it observed, are the only self-styled civilised countries in the world where an author's brain-work is not held to be his private property: his book is simply no book unless published and entered, after a cost of seven presentation copies, at "Stationers' Hall"--its only ægis. France, Italy and Austria treat such volumes as private MSS.: here any dishonest house may reproduce them in replica without the slightest regard to the writer's rightful rights. In my case this act of robbery was proposed by a German publisher domiciled in London, supported by a Frenchman equally industrious, who practises in Paris, and of whose sharp doings in money-matters not a few Englishmen have had ample reason bitterly to complain. This par nobile agreed to print in partnership an issue of handier form and easier price than my edition, and their plan if carried out would have seriously damaged the property of my subscribers: the series which cost them 10 pounds 10s. would have fallen probably to one-half value. The two pirates met by agreement in Paris where the design was duly discussed and determined; but, fortunately for me, an unexpected obstacle barred the way. The London solicitor, professionally consulted by the dishonest firm, gave his opinion that such a work publicly issued would be a boon to the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and would not escape the unsavoury attentions of old Father Antic--the Law.
But, although these two men were deterred by probable consequences, a bolder spirit might make light of them. I had never intended to go beyond my original project, that is of printing one thousand copies and no more, nor did I believe that any cunning of disguise could make "The Nights" presentable in conventionally decent society. It was, however, represented to me by many whose opinions I valued that thus and thus only the author and his subscribers could be protected from impudent fraud, and finally an unwilling consent was the result.
Mr. Justin Huntley McCarthy, a name well known in the annals of contemporary literature, undertook the task of converting the grand old barbarian into a family man to be received by the "best circles." His proofs, after due expurgation, were passed on to my wife, who I may say has never read the original, and she struck out all that appeared to her over-free, under the promise that no mother should hesitate in allowing the book to her daughters. It would, perhaps, surprise certain "modest gentlemen" and blatantly virtuous reviewers that the amount of raw material excised from the text and the notes chiefly addressed to anthropologists and Orientalists, amounts to only 215 pages out of a grand total numbering 3156.
Between 1886 and 1888 appeared the revision in six pretty volumes, bearing emblematic colours, virgin-white adorned with the golden lilies of St. Joseph and the "chaste crescent of the young moon." The price also was reduced to the lowest (£3 3s.) under the idea that the work would be welcome if not to families at any rate to libraries and reading-rooms, for whose benefit the older translations are still being reproduced. But the flattering tale of Hope again proved to be a snare and a delusion; I had once more dispensed with the services of Mr. Middleman, the publisher, and he naturally refused to aid and abet the dangerous innovation. The hint went abroad that the book belonged to the category which has borrowed a name from the ingenious Mr. Bowdler, and vainly half a century of reviewers spoke bravely in its praise. The public would have none of it: even innocent girlhood tossed aside the chaste volumes in utter contempt, and would not condescend to aught save the thing, the whole thing, and nothing but the thing, unexpurgated and uncastrated. The result was an unexpected and unpleasant study of modern taste in highly respectable England. And the fact remains that of an edition which began with a thousand copies only 457 were sold in the course of two years. Next time I shall see my way more clearly to suit the peculiar tastes and prepossessions of the reading world at home.
Before dismissing the subject of the Household Edition, I would offer a few words of explanation on the part of the Editress. While touching-up and trimming the somewhat hurried work of our friend, Mr. McCarthy, she was compelled to accompany me abroad, and to nurse me through a dangerous illness, which left but little time for the heavy claims of business. Unable to superintend, with the care required, the issue of her six volumes she entrusted the task to two agents in whose good will and experience she had and still has the fullest confidence; but the results were sundry letters of appeal and indignation from subscribers touching matters wholly unknown and unintelligible to her. If any mistakes have been made in matters of detail she begs to express her sincerest regret, and to assure those aggrieved that nothing was further from her intention than to show discourtesy where she felt cordial gratitude was due.
* * * * *
Nothing now remains for me but the pleasant task of naming the many friends and assistants to whom this sixteenth and last volume has been inscribed. The late Reverend G. Percy Badger strongly objected to the literal translation of "The Nights" (The Academy, December 8, '81); not the less, however, he assisted me in its philology with all readiness. Dr. F. Grenfell Baker lent me ready and valuable aid in the mechanical part of my hard labour. Mr. James F. Blumhardt, a practical Orientalist and reacher of the Prakrit dialects at Cambridge, englished for me the eight Gallandian tales (Foreword, Supp. vol. iii.) from the various Hindostan versions. To Mr. William H. Chandler, of Pembroke College, Oxford, I have expressed (Supp. vol. iii.) the obligations due to a kind and generous friend: his experiments with photography will serve to reconcile the churlishness and retrograde legislation of the great Oxford Library with the manners and customs of more civilised peoples. Mr. W. A. Clouston, whose degree is high in "Storiology," supplied my second and third Supplemental volumes with valuable analogues and variants. Mr. Alexander J. Cotheal, Consul-General for Nicaragua at New York, sent a valuable MS. to me across the water, and was persuaded to translate, for my sixth Supplemental volume, a novel version of the "Tale of Attáf." Mr. A. G. Ellis, of the British Museum, amongst other favours, kindly revised the Foreword of my sixth volume. Mr. E. J. W. Gibb, an Orientalist of the modern and realistic school, who is not deterred by literal translation, permitted me to print his version of the Turkish Zayn al-Asnám (Supp. vol. iii.) and translations of three tales which he judged inexpedient to publish (Supp. vol. iv.). M. O. Houdas, Professeur d' Arabe Vulgaire à l'école des langues Orientales vicantes, Paris, copied for me the Arabic text of Zayn al-Asnám and the whole MS. used by MM. Chavis and Cazotte: he also obligingly assisted me in overcoming the various difficulties of a crabbed and imperfect text. My friend Mr. W. F. Kirby appended to volume x. of "The Nights" (proper) his most valuable contributions to the bibliology of the work with its various imitations and a table showing the contents of the principal editions and translations of "The Nights": he also enriched my Supplemental volumes v. and vi. with his excellent annotations. Mr. Kingsbury (and Notcutt) photographed for my use 400 and odd pages of the Wortley-Montague MS., and proved how easy it was to produce a perfect fac-simile of the whole. Mr. George Lewis gave me the soundest advice touching legal matters and Mr. Philip M. Justice was induced to take an active interest in the "Household Edition." The eminent Orientalist, Dr. Pertsch, Librarian of the Grand-Ducal Collection, Saxe-Gotha, in lively contrast to my countrymen of the Bodleian, offered to send me the two volumes of a valuable MS. containing the most detailed texts of Judar and his brethren (vol. vi. 213) and of Zahir and his son Ali. Dr. Reinhold Rost, Librarian of the Indian Office, took much trouble about the W. M. MS. but all in vain. Mr. Alexander W. Thayer, of Trieste, who has studied for years the subject of the so-called Jewish "Exodus," obliged me with a valuable note detailing his original views. His Excellency Yacoub Artin Pasha, Minister of Public Instruction, Cairo, a friend of many years standing, procured for me the decorations in the Cufic, Naskhí and other characters, which add to much of novelty and ornament to the outer semblance of my sixteen volumes. Mr. Hermann Zotenberg, Keeper of Oriental MS. at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, lent me his own transcription of the "Alaeddin," and generously supplied me with exact bibliographical notes and measurements of sundry tomes in that admirable collection.
I am also deeply indebted to Mrs. Victoria L. Maylor, of Trieste, who, during the past three years (1885-1888) had the energy and perseverance to copy for me sixteen bulky volumes written in a "running-hand," concerning which the less said the better. And lastly, I must acknowledge peculiar obligations to my Shaykh, Dr. Steingass, Ph.D. This well-known Arabist not only assisted me in passing the whole work through the press he also added a valuable treatise on Arabic Prosody (x. 233-258) with indexes of various kinds, and finally he supervised the MSS. of the Supplemental volumes and enriched the last three, which were translated under peculiar difficulties in analphabetic lands, with the results of his wide reading and lexicographical experience.
And now, Alhamdolillah, the play is ended, and while the curtain drops, I take the final liberty of addressing my kindly and appreciative audience in the following words, borrowed from a Persian brother of the pen:--
Now hear my hope from men of liberal mind,
Faults, that indulgence crave, shall seek and find;
For whose blames and of despite decries,
Is wight right witless, clean reverse of wise.
To which let me add the following gentle reminder from Ibn Khaldún:--
All that we can we do, and who ne'er swerves
From best endeavour much of praise deserves.
Richard F. Burton
United Service Club, September 30, 1888.