Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

tellers, it is perfectly illustrative of the connecting narrative of the Arabian Tales themselves; where the Sultaness usually breaks off in a very interesting part of the story, that the Sultan may be induced to let her live to continue it. A most valuable accession to the present edition, is the "Introduction," comprising, in less than 90 pages, one of the most luminous views of oriental manners and customs that have yet appeared. The editor thus states the reason for placing it here, which no person can well deny to be perfectly valid.

"The incidents and machinery of the 1001 Nights, being for the most part founded upon the religious tenets, superstitious opinions, customs, laws, and domestic habits of the followers of Mahummed, the editor of these volumes has concluded, that a summary description of them may not prove unacceptable to most of their readers, as it is presumed they will not generally be persons who have paid much attention to such subjects. A brief account of the ground-work of the superstructure will enable such to judge of its general fidelity, and possibly may render the tales more interestingly amusing."

That this will be the case we cannot doubt, when we observe with what skill the editor has compiled his account from the very best authorities, combining and illustrating it with that knowledge of the subject in which he has not many rivals. We have no hesitation in saying that no where, in so small a compass, can so much accurate knowledge of oriental manners be found.

We observe that no notice whatever is taken of the Tales published as a continuation of the Arabian Nights, and said to be "newly translated from the original Arabic into French, by Don Chaves, a native Arab, and M. Čazotte, Member of the Academy of Dijon." These were published in English 1794, and have been considered by good judges as palpable forgeries, which sentence seems to be confirmed by this silence of Dr. Scott. They contain certainly many incidents very inconsistent with oriental manners, and many that are palpably French, yet there was a time, when we thought, and were countenanced by good authority in thinking, that some at least among them might be genuine. We yield, however, if this be his opinion, to the superior judgment in such matters, of the present editor.* The first of those supplemental

In one passage in his notes, Dr. Scott mentions the Tales of Cazotte, as allowing them to have a foundation of oriental original, though much disfigured in the superstructure. He says; "To this story [that of the first Lunatic, vol. vi. p. 43.] there is one similar in the Edinburgh continuation of the Arabian Nights. [The same nearly as the London.] It is called Halechalle [Halechalbé] and the unknown lady; but from the strange additions made to the incidents, and the language, any thing but oriental, of the young merchant and his beloved, it appears that Don Chaves, and M. Cazotte, who profess to have translated from the Arabic, did not understand, or wilfully deviated from the Ori ginal." Note 16.

Tales is that of Il Bondocani which has been dramatized among us, and we believe also in France. It has certainly more of French intrigue than of Arabian simplicity: and Cazotte, the pretended translator, was a man of unbounded imagination, and well practised in the invention of Tales.

A few more oriental tales, undoubtedly genuine, were published by Mr. Beloe, in the third volume of his Miscellanies, which appeared in 1795. They were communicated to him by Dr. Russell, from a small volume which he had brought from Aleppo, and perfectly agree in style with the tales of the Arabian Nights, though it does not appear that they ever belonged to that work; they are, however, extremely original and entertaining, particularly the concluding story of Basem the blacksmith.

Though we have said, decidedly, that these volumes do honour to the judgment of the editor, we are not yet satisfied with them as an edition of the Arabian Nights. These Tales deserve, as Oriental classics, a more splendid form, and a more extensive apparatus of notes. Those which are subjoined to the six volumes, are only 82 in number, and occupy about 20 pages." They are, it is true, very instructive and valuable, but occasions might have been found, without much seeking, to render them more copious. At present, some of the inferior editions are in splendour much superior to this, which yet is, beyond all doubt, the best.

*

FROM THE BRITISH CRITIC.

Travels in various Countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. By Edward Daniel Clarke, L. L. D. Part the first, Russia, Tartary, and Turkey, Vol. 1. 4to. 760 pp. 51. 58. Cadell and Davies. 1810.

FEW modern publications have excited more of public curiosity and animadversion, than this very curious and interesting volume of Travels. In one respect all readers appear to be agreed, that the narrative is highly interesting and important, and the detail of the author's progress through the countries he describes, communicated in a very animated and entertaining manner. If any proof were wanted of this being the general, we might say the universal, feeling, it is sufficiently ascertained by the unusual circumstance of the volume's passing through two

* These notes refer only to the sixth volume.

editions in the quarto form, in a very short period of time. The only circumstance which has occasioned perplexity, doubt, and dispute; and which indeed has been the particular reason why we have so long delayed our notice of a book, from which we have derived so much and such pleasing information, is the representation which is here found of the Russian character. As this is a prominent feature, and occasionally introduced with a force and boldness almost bordering upon caricature, we felt it a sort of duty, both to the public and to Dr. Clarke, to pause a little and employ such means as were in our power from assiduous inquiry and investigation, to ascertain the real fact. We will candidly acknowledge, that the result of our examination has not been entirely satisfactory.

We have communicated with some of the most intelligent and important individuals of different ranks, some of whom have long been resident in, and others have frequently visited the Russian Empire; with some who have been led to that quarter of the globe from curiosity and for information, with others who have been long fixed in Russia by official situations, or by speculations of commerce. Of these, some have informed us that what is here said by Dr. Clarke by no means outstrips the truth and fact, while others have strongly complained of misrepresentation and prejudice.

It is very certain that Dr. Clarke experienced much personal ill treatment in Russia, had unexpected and unreasonble obstructions thrown in his way, and was in some degree persecuted with a sort of vindictive temper. Allowing this treatment to operate on a temper, perhaps constitutionally warm, though universally acknowledged to be amiable, unnecessarily irritated and injuriously provoked, the common feelings of human nature, will explain, and to a certain degree justify, what to some readers has appeared to be malignant representation.

Of malignity we know Dr. Clarke to be utterly incapable, and it is a matter of common justice to him to state, that after due deliberation and a considerable interval of time, he in his second edition retains, and not only retains, but vindicates all the opinions and assertions which are exhibited in the first. To the weight of his own he adds the highly respectable authority of the late much-lamented Lord Royston, which on every impartial reader cannot fail to make a serious impression. We shall insert what the author says on this subject, in his second edition, and then forsaking it altogether enter on the more agreeable province of attending him in his interesting progress.

"After the fullest and most impartial consideration, the author is contented to rest the truth and validity of his remarks, concerning the

Russian character, upon the evidence afforded by almost every enlightened traveller who has preceded him. In addition to their testimony, the unpublished observations of the late Lord Royston may be adduced, to show that, subsequent to the author's travels, and under happier auspices of government in Russia, the state of society appeared to that gifted young nobleman, as it has been described in the following pages. Lord Royston, when writing to an accomplished friend, who was snatched from the pursuit of worldly honours, by a fate as untimely, although not so sudden as his own,† thus briefly, but emphatically characterizes the state of refinement in the two great cities of the Russian Emperor. A journey from Petersburg to Moscow is a journey from Europe to Asia. With respect to the society of the former city, I am almost ashamed to state my opinion, after the stubborn fact of my having twice returned thither, each time at the expense of a thousand miles: but although I had not imagined it possible that any place could exist more devoid of the means of enjoying rational conversation, I am now, since my residence here, become of a different opinion. Not that I have not been excessively interested, both during this and my former visit to Moscow. The feudal magnificence of the nobility, the Asiatic dress and manners of the common people, the mixture of nations to be seen here, the immensity, the variety, and the singular architecture of the city, present altogether a most curious and amusing assemblage.' In a former part of the same letter, the inattention of the superior Clergy to the religion of the lower orders is forcibly illustrated. The words are as fol

"The kindness of the Earl of Hardwicke authorises this allusion to his Son's Letters. Lord RoysTON's name carries with it a claim to public consideration. Although the knowledge of his great acquirements had scarcely transpired beyond the circle of his academical acquaintance, his erudition was regarded, even by a PORSON, with wonder. The loss sustained by his death can never be retrieved; but some consolation is derived from the consciousness that all the fruits of his literary labours have not been annihilated. The sublime prophecy of his own Cassandra, uttering a parable of other times," will yet be heard, in his native language, showing her dark speech,' and thus pourtraying his melancholy end.

·

"Ye cliffs of Zarax, and ye waves which wash
Opheltes' craggs, and melancholy shore,
Ye rocks of Trychas, Nedon's dangerous heights,
Dirphossian ridges, and Diacrian caves,

Ye plains, where Phorcyn broods upon the deep,
And founds his floating palaces, what sobs
Of dying men shall ye not hear? what groans
Of masts and wrecks, all crashing in the wind?
What mighty waters, whose receding waves
Bursting shall rive the continents of earth?'
Viscount Royston's Cassandra, p. 28.”

"Rev. G. D. Whittington, author of an Historical Survey of Gothic Architecture,' published since his death by certain of his distinguished friends. See the elegant tribute to his memory, in a preface to that work, by the Earl of Aberdeen."

# This letter is dated, Moscow, April 13th, 1809.

low; You have probably received some account of my Journey to Archangel; of my movement thence in a north-easterly direction, to Mezen; of the distinguished reception I received from the Mayor of that highly-civilized city, who made me a speech in Russian, threequarters of an hour long; of my procuring there twelve rein-deer, and proceeding towards the Frozen Ocean, until I found a Samoid Camp in the desert between the rivers Mezen and Petchora: and of my ascertaining that that nation, which extends over almost all the North of Russia, remains still in a state of Paganism; a circumstance of which the Archbishop of the diocese was ignorant.'

"The description given in this work of the miserable condition of the Russian peasants, and of the scarcity of provisions, in the interior of the country, has been disputed. Let us now, therefore, see what Lord Royston has said upon this part of the subject. It is contained in a letter to Mr. Whittington, from Casan, dated May 16, 1807. I left Moscow on Tuesday the 5th of May; and the first town at which I arrived was Vladimir, formerly the capital of an independent sovereignty, and the residence of a Grand Duke. The accommodations are such as are alone to be met with all over Muscovy; one room, in which you sleep with the whole family, in the midst of a most suffocating heat and smell; no furniture to be found, but a bench and table; and an absolute dearth of provisions.'

"In the extracts added to the Notes, from Mr. Heber's Journal, there are certain observations which are said to be at variance with the remarks in the Text; but it is hardly necessary to add, that they were introduced for this especial reason. Some persons have also insinuated that the author has accused the Russians of want of hospitality; although the very reverse may be proved from his writings. In describing the reception which he experienced at Moscow, he lays particular stress upon the hospitality of the inhabitants, ‘although,' to use his own words in the fourth chapter of the present volume, 'it was considered dangerous at the time to have the character of hospitality towards Englishmen.' He also cites a passage in the Notes, from a French work of celebrity, to prove, with reference to Moscow, that l'hospitalité des Russes paroît ici dans tout son jour. Another extract from Lord Royston's Letters will show that the same characteristic of the inhabitants was observed by his Lordship; although, as he expressly declares, it did not alter his general opinion' of the people. It is taken from a Letter to the Right Honourable Charles Yorke, dated Moscow, May 5th, 1807. Notwithstanding all the pleasure I promise myself from my tour, I shall be sorry to leave Moscow: the hospitality of the people is very great, and it is unpleasant to be always forming new and agreeable acquaintance, with the expectation of shortly leaving them, and the probability of never seeing them again. On leaving Petersburg, notwithstanding my general opinion, I felt very strongly ho painful it is to quit for ever a place in which we have resided for some time; and believe it was solely that feeling which caused me to return thither from Moscow.'”

So marked in the original.

« AnteriorContinuar »