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Supplemental Nights, Volume 6 by Richard F. Burton

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Then the six sons-in-law brought the milk to the doctors, but when they looked
at it, they said, "This is the milk of an old she-bear and is good for
nothing." Then they gave the king the other milk, and cured him, but he was
much annoyed to hear who had brought it. Soon afterwards a war broke out, and
the king pitched his camp outside the town in face of the enemy. Mohammed set
out again on his lame mare, the people shouting after him, "Go back, sir, for
the soldiers have been defeated." Then he summoned his horse, put on his own
clothes, and said to the horse, "Let your hair shoot forth fire." Then he came
before the king, saying, "I declare for you and your six sons-in-law." He
rushed into battle, smiting with his sword, while his horse shot forth fire.
They slew a third of the enemy, and then disappeared, while the king lamented.
"Ah, if my six sons-in-law had only done this!" After his exertions Mohammed
was tired, and went home to sleep. Next day the same thing happened, but the
king put his own ring on his finger. On the third day he slew the remaining
third of his enemies, but his arm was wounded, and the king bound it up with
his own handkerchief before he departed.

The king gathered together the horses and the spoil, and returned to town,
much vexed that his sons-in-law had done nothing. Then the youngest princess
asked her mother to send for her father to look at the ring and the
handkerchief, when he fell down and kissed the feet of Mohammed, who rose up
giddy from sleep, but when he was asked his history, he answered, "I am a
prince like yourself, and your six sons-in-law are mamelouks of my father. I
beat them, and they took to flight, and through fear of my father, I set out
in search of them. I came here and found that they were your sons-in-law, but
I imposed silence on them. But as regards your daughter, she saw me in the
garden, and recognised my real rank; here is your daughter, O king; she is
still a virgin." Then the wedding was celebrated with great pomp, and Mohammed
remained with his father-in-law for some time, until he desired to return to
his own country. On his arrival he found that his father had died, so he
ascended the throne, and ordered his mother-in-law and the Jew to be burned.

Carlo de Landberg, Basim le Forgeron et Haron Er-Rachid, 8vo., Leyden, 1888.

Text and translation of a modern Arabic story of an unfortunate smith and
hashish-eater whom Harun encounters on one of his usual nocturnal rambles.
Harun plays a succession of practical jokes on him, driving him out of his
employment every day, and supping with him every night. At last he bastinadoes
him, and throws him into prison, where a jinniyah takes pity on him, and
confers unlimited power on him, which he enjoys for a week, and then dies, to
the great grief of Harun.

Additional Note to Suppl. Vol. V. (Pp. 318-320).

Compare Boccaccio's story of the Devil in Hell (Day iii. No. 11).

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.]


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.

Isabel Burton,
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 impure
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 represailles
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 coelum; 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
Tinbukhtu 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-scene 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

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.

No. I.

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

No. II.

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.

No. III.

"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 communique; to The Academy.


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.


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


Send me the first volume of your Arabian Nights and if I like it I will
perhaps take more.

Yours obediently,


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

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

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
effronte 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 role. 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 protege 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 Bayadere.

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 coryphaeus 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 litterateur. 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-scene 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
Americanice--all its matter from my book. At the tail-end, however comes the
normal sting: I am guilty of not explaining "Wuzu" (lesser ablution), "Ghusl"
(greater ablution), and "Zakat" (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 (a propos of kababs) 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 piece 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 Bibliotheque
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. Shahbandar),
from Turkish (as Khatun) 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 clientele, 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 Khaldun." 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 archaeology
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.

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
attenuante 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., "Maula" = lord, slave; and "'Ajuz" with 88 different meanings.
Its literature, poetic, semi-poetic and prosaic, falls into three greater
sections:--Ancient (The Suspendeds, the Kitab al-Aghani and the Koran),
Mediaeval (Al-Mutanabbi, Al-Asm'ai, Abu Nowas and the poets of the Harunic
cycle) and Moderns, of whom not the least important (e.g. Yusuf al-Yazaji) 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 Banu Fahim of Al-Hijaz 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-'Ali the lofty addressed
to the great, Al-Wasat used for daily converse and Al-Dun the lowly or broken
"loghat" (jargon) belonging to most tribes save their own. In Egypt the purest
speakers are those of the Sa'id--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
Sukun (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 Afghanistan; and the
departmental glossaries such as the many dealing with "Tasawwuf"--the Moslem
form of Gnosticism. The excellent lexicon of the late Professor Dozy,
Supplement 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), Precis 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. Jose 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
Sprichworter, 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 vulgar Dialektes von AEgypten, (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 Hauran; No. 3, Kasrawan 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. Clement 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 Sprichworter, 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 Iliyat or
wandering pastoral tribes and master a host of cognate tongues whose chiefs
are Armenian (Old and New), Caucasian, a modern Babel, Kurdish, Luri
(Bakhtiyari), Balochki and Pukhtu 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 "Madiyan" = a mare presupposes the existence of
"Narayan" = 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 --Abu Bakr al-Razi (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 Karachi (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 Somali-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 Sprichworter,
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 Hanna 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'interprete fidele 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 aegis of a portentous
coronet and initials blazing with or, yules and azure.

Paris, le 24 Fevr., 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'etes nullement a meme de me juger.
Votre article contient, comme tout ce que vous avez ecrit dans le domaine de
la langue arabe, des bevues. C'est vous qui n'etes pas arabisant: cela est
bien connu et reconnu, et nous ne nous donnons pas meme la peine de relever
toutes les innombrables erreurs don't vos publications fourmillent. Quant a
"Sahifah" vous etes encore en erreur. Mon etymologie est acceptee par tout le
monde et je vous renvoie a Fleischer, Kleinre Schriften, p. 468, Leipzig,
1885, ou vous trouverez ['instruction necessaire. Le dilettantism qui se
trahit dans tout ce que vous ecrivez vous fait faire de telles erreurs. Nous
autres arabisants et professo (?) nous ne vous avons jamais et nous ne vous
pouvons jamais considerer comme arabisant. Voila ma reponse a votre note.

Agreez, Monsieur,

l'expression de mes sentiments distingues,

Comte Lasdberg,


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 aetas. 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

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, Kadee 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 (aetat 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. Goethe 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 meme pas mentionne', 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-Asnam 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 supra, 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'uman (occupying 371
pages in my vols. ii. and iii.); Abu Hasan and his slave-girl Tawaddud (pp.
56, vol. v. 189-245), the Queen of the Serpents with the episodes of Bulukiya
and of Janshah (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'etre 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-Mausili (pp. 223-24), the Tale of Caliph Mu'awiyah (i. pp.
521-22), the Tale of Mukharik 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 "Kitab al-Unwan fi Makaid al-Niswan," 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 Philae 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

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-Ziyadi 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'ad 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!

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