Wednesday, March 30, 2011

De Bagdad à Grenade, Miroirs des Mille et Une Nuits - 13-16 avril 2011 - Grenade, Espagne

De Bagdad à Grenade, Miroirs des Mille et Une Nuits - 13-16 avril 2011 - Grenade, Espagne

This is an upcoming conference in Granada, Spain with lots of interesting sounding panels and papers.  It is organized by Aboubakr Chraïbi, INALCO, Paris and Nathalie Bléser, U. de Grenade.

What a nice place for a Nights conference!

Most of the papers are in French, though a few are in English and Arabic.

You can find the whole program (mostly in French) here:

I've also uploaded it to scribd here:

Programme Colloque GRENADE


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Burton & the Wortley-Montague & Oxford

I chanced upon several letters in the Appendix of Volume 4 of Burton's Supplemental Nights which throw light on the situation he faced when he was in the process of translating his Nights.

He wanted to have the copy of the Wortley-Montague manuscript sent to him at the India Office from the Bodleian Library at Oxford but the board members at the library were refusing, despite Burton's insistence that he was not going to translate the racier passages or stories.

This may explain why ultimately there are several stories in the Wortley-Montague (including "Ali and his Large Member" of my previous post here: that Burton did not translate.

He also mentions the incident in the preface to the edition.  It's in my Volume 4 but may be in different volumes depending on which edition you are looking at, the initial set of his translations from the Wortley-Montague.

He tried to have a student who didn't know Arabic at Oxford copy the manuscript for him (like drawing the same characters without knowing what they said), but the student quit after a few days!

He eventually had someone photocopy (or the equivalent?) the manuscript for him and send it to him.  Ali and his large member is MIA however.  I'll have to check the 1995 German edition of the manuscript to see if Ali is there.   I have been officially sidetracked, though not completely off my own tracks.  Studying the Nights is truly like digging in the sand.

Many thanks to Jamie at USC for the question.

There is another English edition by Jonathan Scott translated before Burton which also includes stories from the Wortley-Montague but which, and I'm not certain here and only relying on Burton's notes so far, seem to be edited for cleanliness and not to contain an extensively translated amount of stories either.

Burton's letters are interesting to read in this volume.  He's quite upset with the library and ends the Appendix A of this volume with a scathing indictment of Oxford in general!

Some snippets from his letters:

"I may note that the translated tales (as may be seen by Scott's version) contain nothing indelicate or immoral; in fact the whole MS. is exceptionally pure.  Moreover, the MS., as far as I can learn, is never used at Oxford" (281).

"I am acquainted with many of the public libraries of Europe, but I know of none that would throw such obstacles in the way of students" (282).

The reason for the story not being translated by Burton, however, may not be related to the incident with the Bodleian after all.  As I look at Volume 5 I see his rebuttal to the library's refusal of lending the manuscript to him.  He writes to them that, because of their refusal, he's now going to put in all of the racy material, even overdoing it!

He also dedicates the Volume to them:


He writes to them:

I take the liberty of placing your names at the head of this Volume which owes its rarest and raciest passages to your kindly refusing the temporary transfer of the Wortley Montague MS. from your pleasant library to the care of Dr. Rost., Chief Librarian, India Office.  As a sop to "bigotry and virtue," as a concession to the "Scribes and Pharisees," I had undertaken, in case the loan were granted, not to translate tales and passages which might expose you, the Curators, to unfriendly comment.  But, possibly anticipating what injury would thereby accrue to the Volume and what sorrow to my subscribers, you were good enough not to sanction the transfer - indeed you refused it to me twice - and for this step my Clientele will be (or ought to be) truly thankful to you.

I am, Gentlemen,
Yours obediently,

BODLEIAN LIBRARY, August 5th, 1888."

"Ali and his large member" is not in this volume under this title.  Perhaps the story is inside another story or titled differently by Burton?  Perhaps the story doesn't really exist??


Friday, March 18, 2011

Ali and his Large "Member"

A visitor has asked me an interesting question, they are interested in the story "Ali and his large member" (yes that kind of member), but I don't know too much about it.

I did some very minor looking around and this is what I came up with, I'll have to double-check my Burton but I think he didn't translate all of the stories from the Wortley-Montague manuscript, although this one seems like something he may have been interested in taking a look at. 

It's only in the so called Wortley Montague manuscript, not found in any other version before it.  This was published in, or dated to 1764, according to the Arabian Nights Encyclopedia.

The story is on pages 682-692.

This (Arabic) manuscript is in the Bodleian Library.  It's not a translation and has Wortley-Montague's name attached to it because he owned it. 

There is  a German translation of the Nights from this manuscript by Felix Tauer that may contain this story, according to the Encyclopedia.  I think the title is Neue Erzählungen aus den Tausendundein Nächten.

Apart from that there doesn't seem to be any other mention of the story in any other version of the Nights.

Anyone else know something more/different?



Note to Aristotle's Poetics by Henry James Pye (1792)

I came across this while browsing some other related topic (the original topic I've long forgotten!).  Perhaps where you end up is just as well as where you begin.

It is a short essay with references to the Nights by Henry James Pye, from 1792. (

Its title is "Note to Aristotle's Poetics" and I found it at this website on English poetry:


It has been already observed that in every fictitious tale, independently of technical rules, it is impossible to keep up the attention and interest of the piece without confining the time of the fable within a certain boundary. This rule of nature is confirmed by the practice of all our good novel writers. I will not only instance the novels of Fielding, who as being a scholar, and rather fond of shewing he was, may be supposed to display his acquaintance with the precepts of the Stagirite, or rather the models from whence they are drawn: but those of Richardson, of Mrs. Smith, and of Miss Burney, who cannot be supposed to be influenced by any pedantry of this kind. Even in those novels which are written on what Dr. Beattie calls the historical plan, such as Peregrine Pickle and Roderick Random, though they begin with the infancy of the hero, they by no means compleat his life. The first events are rather preparatory to, than part of the main object of the story, the body of which, or to speak dramatically, the plot, is the love of the principal characters, as the solution of it, or catastrophe, is their marriage.

The mode used by the orientals to give a species of unity to their complicated fables is very singular. Of this the Arabian Nights exhibit a curious specimen. A general story, or ground-work for the whole, is first formed. This is the bloody vow of the sultan in consequence of the sultana's infidelity, the generous resolution of the vizir's daughter, and her final triumph. Into this the other stories are woven, but the introductory tale is continually brought to our recollection by the conversation that precedes the narrative of every night. Every story is besides branched out into a number of others, to each of which it serves as a common bond of union, as the original one is to the whole.

By this strange contrivance an appearance of general unity is kept up without the least of that effect which is proposed as the consequence of unity; as the mind is disagreeably perplexed by the broken chain of the narrative, expectation is suspended till all interest in the fable is lost, and instead of perspicuity confusion is produced. This arrangement is preserved in the first half of Mr. Galland's translation. In the latter part he has given such separate stories as struck him, without dividing the nights, or preserving any connexion between them, except the catastrophe of the leading fable. Mr. Andrews in his Anecdotes, gives a humorous reason for M. Galland's change of conduct. But I believe the principal cause of it was the length of the original work, which he has greatly abridged, as will be apparent on comparing the number of nights in that part of his translation where they are noticed, which is a full half of his work, with the compleat number of a thousand and one.

Dr. Beattie seems to question the authenticity of this work. I think the reason he urges; (the French features given it by M. Galland,) can have no weight with a person who has ever read a French translation from any language. Whoever will compare this work even through the medium of a French translation with the many WESTERN oriental tales, to which it has given birth, will see strong marks of original and real character. But I believe the authenticity of this work is capable of stronger proof. I have been informed that Professor White has a compleat copy in Arabic. Mr. Richardson also, in his Arabic Grammar, has printed one of the fables at length in the original language, and quoted verses from another which are not translated by M. Galland, though the tale from which they are taken is.
This mode of narration was adopted by Ariosto, and was copied from him by our countryman Spenser.

As for Ariosto, his imagination is so brilliant, his subject so wonderfully varied

From grave to gay, from lively to severe:

there is such a mingled vein of sublimity, and humour, running through the whole work, that notwithstanding the many absurdities it contains, and such a total want of connexion in the incidents, that to enable the reader at all to follow the thread of the scattered tales, the commentators have been obliged to have recourse to inartificial assistance or marginal references; yet we can hardly wish it to have been in any respect different from what it is. But as the work of Spenser is entirely of a serious cast, our taste is more fastidious, and indeed the attempt at uniformity, which is avowed by the author, causes us to be more disgusted both with the want of it in the Cantos that are preserved, and the apparent inadequacy of the whole plan proposed, had it been compleatly carried into execution. The unity produced by the introduction of a general kind of secondary hero pervading the whole, must have been very awkward and very uninteresting. Prince Arthur engaged as an assistant to the several allegorical heroes in their respective adventures, would have exactly resembled the pentathlete, as described by Plato, who, however skilful he might be in the contest with those who like himself were trained to the practice of various exercises, was always inferior to those athletes who applied themselves to one only, in that particular exercise."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Recollections of the Arabian Nights - Tennyson

Here is the poem "Recollections of the Arabian Nights" by English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Originally published in 1830. More on Tennyson:,_Lord_Tennyson

Recollections of the Arabian Nights

When the breeze of a joyful dawn blew free
In the silken sail of infancy,
The tide of time flow'd back with me,
The forward-flowing tide of time;
And many a sheeny summer-morn,
Adown the Tigris I was borne,
By Bagdat's shrines of fretted gold,
High-walled gardens green and old;
True Mussulman was I and sworn,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Anight my shallop, rustling thro'
The low and bloomed foliage, drove
The fragrant, glistening deeps, and clove
The citron-shadows in the blue:
By garden porches on the brim,
The costly doors flung open wide,
Gold glittering thro' lamplight dim,
And broider'd sofas on each side:
In sooth it was a goodly time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Often where clear-stemm'd platans guard
The outlet, did I turn away
The boat-head down a broad canal
From the main river sluiced, where all
The sloping of the moon-lit sward
Was damask-work, and deep inlay
Of braided blooms unmown, which crept
Adown to where the water slept.
A goodly place, a goodly time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

A motion from the river won
Ridged the smooth level, bearing on
My shallop thro' the star-strown calm,
Until another night in night
I enter'd, from the clearer light,
Imbower'd vaults of pillar'd palm,
Imprisoning sweets, which, as they clomb
Heavenward, were stay'd beneath the dome
Of hollow boughs. -- A goodly time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Still onward; and the clear canal
Is rounded to as clear a lake.
From the green rivage many a fall
Of diamond rillets musical,
Thro' little crystal arches low
Down from the central fountain's flow
Fall'n silver-chiming, seemed to shake
The sparkling flints beneath the prow.
A goodly place, a goodly time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Above thro' many a bowery turn
A walk with vary-colour'd shells
Wander'd engrain'd. On either side
All round about the fragrant marge
From fluted vase, and brazen urn
In order, eastern flowers large,
Some dropping low their crimson bells
Half-closed, and others studded wide
With disks and tiars, fed the time
With odour in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Far off, and where the lemon grove
In closest coverture upsprung,
The living airs of middle night
Died round the bulbul as he sung;
Not he: but something which possess'd
The darkness of the world, delight,
Life, anguish, death, immortal love,
Ceasing not, mingled, unrepress'd,
Apart from place, withholding time,
But flattering the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Black the garden-bowers and grots
Slumber'd: the solemn palms were ranged
Above, unwoo'd of summer wind:
A sudden splendour from behind
Flush'd all the leaves with rich gold-green,
And, flowing rapidly between
Their interspaces, counterchanged
The level lake with diamond-plots
Of dark and bright. A lovely time,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Dark-blue the deep sphere overhead,
Distinct with vivid stars inlaid,
Grew darker from that under-flame:
So, leaping lightly from the boat,
With silver anchor left afloat,
In marvel whence that glory came
Upon me, as in sleep I sank
In cool soft turf upon the bank,
Entranced with that place and time,
So worthy of the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Thence thro' the garden I was drawn --
A realm of pleasance, many a mound,
And many a shadow-chequer'd lawn
Full of the city's stilly sound,
And deep myrrh-thickets blowing round
The stately cedar, tamarisks,
Thick rosaries of scented thorn,
Tall orient shrubs, and obelisks
Graven with emblems of the time,
In honour of the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

With dazed vision unawares
From the long alley's latticed shade
Emerged, I came upon the great
Pavilion of the Caliphat.
Right to the carven cedarn doors,
Flung inward over spangled floors,
Broad-based flights of marble stairs
Ran up with golden balustrade,
After the fashion of the time,
And humour of the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

The fourscore windows all alight
As with the quintessence of flame,
A million tapers flaring bright
From twisted silvers look'd to shame
The hollow-vaulted dark, and stream'd
Upon the mooned domes aloof
In inmost Bagdat, till there seem'd
Hundreds of crescents on the roof
Of night new-risen, that marvellous time
To celebrate the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Then stole I up, and trancedly
Gazed on the Persian girl alone,
Serene with argent-lidded eyes
Amorous, and lashes like to rays
Of darkness, and a brow of pearl
Tressed with redolent ebony,
In many a dark delicious curl,
Flowing beneath her rose-hued zone;
The sweetest lady of the time,
Well worthy of the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Six columns, three on either side,
Pure silver, underpropt a rich
Throne of the massive ore, from which
Down-droop'd, in many a floating fold,
Engarlanded and diaper'd
With inwrought flowers, a cloth of gold.
Thereon, his deep eye laughter-stirr'd
With merriment of kingly pride,
Sole star of all that place and time,
I saw him -- in his golden prime,
Of good Haroun Alraschid.