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Then Abba, listening still in fear,
She raised for help her in-drawn breath,
In an evil day and an hour of wo
Did Garci Ferrandez wed!
One wicked wife has he sent to her grave,
Designed for a Monument to be erected in Lichfield Cathedral, agreeably to the bequest of the late Miss Anna Seward, to designate the Burial place of her Father, the Rev. Thomas Seward, a Canon of that Cathedral, in which she is herself in
BY WALTER SCOTT, ESQ.
AMID these aisles, where once his precepts show'd
Still wouldst thou know why o'er the marble spread,
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REVIEWS OF LITERATURE,
FOR MAY, 1812.
FROM THE BRITISH CRITIC.
The Arabian Nights' Entertainments, carefully revised, and occasionally cor rected from the Arabic. To which is added, a Selection of New Tales, now first translated from the Arabic originals. Also an Introduction and Notes, illustrative of the Religion, Manners, and Customs of the Mohammedans. By Jonathan Scott, L. L. D. Oxford. Late oriental Professor at the Royal Military and East-India Colleges, &c. &c. In six vols. 12 mo. 1. 16s. Longman, &c. 1811.
WHEN the Arabian Nights were first introduced among us, in a translation, made from the French translation of M. Galland, though the tales were read with avidity, many doubts were entertained of their authenticity: and, whether they might have been invented or embellished in France, they were thought little worthy of any serious consideration. Even in that country, the learned translator was occasionally exposed to ridicule, in return for this present to the public; and it is particularly related that one very cold night, a set of young Parisian wits knocked furiously at his door, and when the alarm had brought him to the window in his shirt, they contrived to detain him there by several frivolous questions, as whether he was M. Galland? whether he was the author of the Arabian Nights? addressing him at length in a parody on the usual interrogation of Dinarzade to her sister, "M. Galland, si vous ne dormez pas, faites-nous un de ces beaux contes que vous savez." "M. Galland, if you are not asleep, pray tell us one of those fine stories which you know so well."
It has now been long known, on the testimony of our best orientalists, Sir W. Jones, Col. Capper, Mr. Dallaway, Dr. Russell, the very intelligent editor of these volumes, and others, that those tales are genuine productions of the East, strongly charac
teristic of the manners and customs, habits and opinions of those countries; and form a small part only of a very extensive collection, generally current and admired throughout the Moosulmaun dominions. They have been also illustrated, in a pleasing manner, by Mr. Hole in his "Essay on the Arabian Nights." The tales being thus established, well deserved a more classical edition than had hitherto appeared, and for fulfilling the task of producing such an edition, a better person could not have been found than Dr. Jonathan Scott; long well-known for his deep and various researches into Oriental literature.*
The editor, we think, has acted judiciously in his conduct of this edition. He has not attempted a new translation, but has corrected from the Arabic those passages which particularly required it; and has given such general improvement to the language as to him seemed proper. The work is augmented by one volume of tales newly translated, of which the history is this. A very valuable copy of the original Arabic was procured in the East, by Mr. Wortley Montague, which at the sale of his oriental MSS. was bought by professor White. Dr. Scott, wishing to retranslate the whole, this copy was ceded to him by the Professor, on condition that, if he thought of parting with it again, it should be offered to the curators of the Bodleian library; and there it now is actually deposited, enriched by several remarks by Dr. Scott. On attempting to retranslate the tales published by M. Galland, it was soon found that the version of that learned orientalist, accorded so well in general with the original, that a new translation would have produced but little gratification or advantage to the public. On attempting to proceed with those not translated by M. Galland, it appeared, very much to the disappointment of Dr. Scott, that very few of them were fit, either from indelicacy or frivolousness, to appear in an English dress. Those which form the sixth volume of this collection are all that seemed worthy of translation; and having been kept some time in manuscript, are now added, to complete the present edition. It is, however, certain that there were other tales worthy of translation, namely, those which the editor himself published in 1800, from a fragment of the original work, procured by Mr. Anderson in Bengal. These, which occupy 198 pages of the "Tales,
See, in our volumes, the account of several works by him: as his transla tion of Ferishta, vol. v. 209, and 516; his Tales, Anecdotes, and Letters from the Arabic, xvi. 83, and Bahar Danush, ibid.
He has, however, new-modelled names and titles, according to his ideas of oriental pronunciation; of which, unfortunately, every European has a different system. Schahriar is Shier-ear; our old favourite Aladdin, Alla ad Deen; and the Cadi of the first published Tales, is here the Cawzee, &c.
Even the first tale of those actually translated has an offence against deli
cacy in it.
Anecdotes, and Letters," before mentioned, are not here repeated, and are in fact wanting to make the collection perfect. It may easily be imagined, why the editor would not consent to melt down his own Tales into another work, but still the fact should be known to the reader. As to the original collections, it is clear, from abundant testimony, that there is great variation in them, some containing more and some fewer of the Tales. Nor is this extraordinary, as the work is evidently not the production of one person, but a collection of oriental tales, invented by different authors. It is mentioned in the preface to this edition, that the MS. in the Paris library does not contain the story of Sindbad; which nevertheless is found in a MS. in the library of Christ Church, Oxford. The arrangement of the Tales is also different in most of the copies. Dr. Russell's account of the manner in which such tales are usually recited in the East, is so characteristic and picturesque, that we cannot refrain from re-quoting it from the preface to the present work. It is taken from his history of Aleppo.
"The recitation of eastern fables and tales partake somewhat of a dramatic performance; it is not merely a simple narrative; the story is animated by the manner and action of the speaker. A variety of other story-books, besides the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, (which under that title are little known at Aleppo) furnish materials for the story-teller, who, by combining the incidents of the different tales, and varying the catastrophe of such as he has related before, gives them an air of novelty, even to persons who at first imagine they are listening to tales with which they are acquainted. He recites walking to and fro in the middle of the coffee-room, stopping only now and then, when the expression requires some emphatical attitude. He is commonly heard with great attention; and not unfrequently, in the midst of some interesting adventure, when the expectation of his audience is raised to the highest pitch, he breaks off abruptly, and makes his escape from the room, leaving both his hero and his audience in the utmost embarrassment. Those who happen to be near the door, endeavour to detain him, insisting on the story being finished before he departs; but he always makes his retreat good: and the auditors, suspending their curiosity, are induced to return at the same hour next day to hear the sequel. He has no sooner made his exit, than the company, in separate parties, fall a disputing about the characters of the drama, or the event of the unfinished adventure. The controversy by degrees becomes serious, and opposite opinions are maintained with no less warmth than if the fate of the city depended on the decision."
This is surely full as good, if not better, than our coffee-house politicians, disputing about measures which they neither comprehend, nor will on either hand consent to learn, otherwise than from partial representations. As for the address of the story