The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

§ II. — The Nights in Europe.

The history of The Nights in Europe is one of slow and gradual development. The process was begun (1704–17) by Galland, a Frenchman, continued (1823) by Von Hammer an Austro–German, and finished by Mr. John Payne (1882–84) an Englishman. But we must not forget that it is wholly and solely to the genius of the Gaul that Europe owes “The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments” over which Western childhood and youth have spent so many spelling hours. Antoine Galland was the first to discover the marvellous fund of material for the story-teller buried in the Oriental mine; and he had in a high degree that art of telling a tale which is far more captivating than culture or scholarship. Hence his delightful version (or perversion) became one of the world’s classics and at once made Sheherazade and Dinarzarde, Haroun Alraschid, the Calendars and a host of other personages as familiar to the home reader as Prospero, Robinson Crusoe, Lemuel Gulliver and Dr. Primrose. Without the name and fame won for the work by the brilliant paraphrase of the learned and single-minded Frenchman, Lane’s curious hash and latinized English, at once turgid and emasculated, would have found few readers. Mr. Payne’s admirable version appeals to the Orientalist and the “stylist,” not to the many-headed; and mine to the anthropologist and student of Eastern manners and customs. Galland did it and alone he did it: his fine literary flaire, his pleasing style, his polished taste and perfect tact at once made his work take high rank in the republic of letters nor will the immortal fragment ever be superseded in the infallible judgment of childhood. As the Encyclopædia Britannica has been pleased to ignore this excellent man and admirable Orientalist, numismatologist and littérateur, the reader may not be unwilling to see a short sketch of his biography.1

Antoine Galland was born in A.D. 1646 of peasant parents “poor and honest” at Rollot, a little bourg in Picardy some two leagues from Montdidier. He was a seventh child and his mother, left a widow in early life and compelled to earn her livelihood, saw scant chance of educating him when the kindly assistance of a Canon of the Cathedral and President of the Collége de Noyon relieved her difficulties. In this establishment Galland studied Greek and Hebrew for ten years, after which the “strait thing at home” apprenticed him to a trade. But he was made for letters; he hated manual labour and he presently removed en cachette to Paris, where he knew only an ancient kinswoman. She introduced him to a priestly relative of the Canon of Noyon, who in turn recommended him to the “Sous-principal” of the Collége Du Plessis. Here he made such notable progress in Oriental studies, that M. Petitpied, a Doctor of the Sorbonne, struck by his abilities, enabled him to study at the Collége Royal and eventually to catalogue the Eastern Mss. in the great ecclesiastical Society. Thence he passed to the Collége Mazarin, where a Professor, M. Godouin, was making an experiment which might be revived to advantage in our present schools. He collected a class of boys, aged about four, and proposed to teach them Latin speedily and easily by making them converse in the classical language as well as read and write it.2 Galland, his assistant, had not time to register success or failure before he was appointed attaché-secretary to M. de Nointel named in 1660 Ambassadeur de France for Constantinople. His special province was to study the dogmas and doctrines and to obtain official attestations concerning the articles of the Orthodox (or Greek) Christianity which had then been a subject of lively discussion amongst certain Catholics, especially Arnauld (Antoine) and Claude the Minister, and which even in our day occasionally crops up amongst “Protestants.”3 Galland, by frequenting the cafés and listening to the tale-teller, soon mastered Romaic and grappled with the religious question, under the tuition of a deposed Patriarch and of sundry Matráns or Metropolitans, whom the persecutions of the Pashas had driven for refuge to the Palais de France. M. de Nointel, after settling certain knotty points in the Capitulations, visited the harbour-towns of the Levant and the “Holy Places,” including Jerusalem, where Galland copied epigraphs, sketched monuments and collected antiques, such as the marbles in the Baudelot Gallery of which Père Dom Bernard de Montfaucon presently published specimens in his ‘‘Palæographia Græca,” etc. (Parisiis, 1708).

In Syria Galland was unable to buy a copy of The Nights: as he expressly states in his Epistle Dedicatory, il a fallu le faire venir de Syrie. But he prepared himself for translating it by studying the manners and customs, the religion and superstitions of the people; and in 1675, leaving his chief, who was ordered back to Stambul, he returned to France. In Paris his numismatic fame recommended him to MM. Vaillant, Carcary and Giraud who strongly urged a second visit to the Levant, for the purpose of collecting, and he set out without delay. In 1691 he made a third journey, travelling at the expense of the Compagnie des Indes–Orientales, with the main object of making purchases for the Library and Museum of Colbert the magnificent. The commission ended eighteen months afterwards with the changes of the Company, when Colbert and the Marquis de Louvois caused him to be created “Antiquary to the King,” Louis le Grand, and charged him with collecting coins and medals for the royal cabinet. As he was about to leave Smyrna, he had a narrow escape from the earthquake and subsequent fire which destroyed some fifteen thousand of the inhabitants: he was buried in the ruins; but, his kitchen being cold as becomes a philosopher’s, he was dug out unburnt.4

Galland again returned to Paris where his familiarity with Arabic and Hebrew, Persian and Turkish recommended him to MM. Thevenot and Bignon: this first President of the Grand Council acknowledged his services by a pension. He also became a favourite with D’Herbelot whose Bibliothèque Orientale, left unfinished at his death, he had the honour of completing and prefacing.5 President Bignon died within the twelvemonth, which made Galland attach himself in 1697 to M. Foucault, Councillor of State and Intendant (governor) of Caen in Lower Normandy, then famous for its academy: in his new patron’s fine library and numismatic collection he found materials for a long succession of works, including a translation of the Koran.6 They recommended him strongly to the literary world and in 1701 he was made a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres.

At Caen Galland issued in 1704,7 the first part of his Mille et une Nuits, Contes Arabes traduits en François which at once became famous as “The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.” Mutilated, fragmentary and paraphrastic though the tales were, the glamour of imagination, the marvel of the miracles and the gorgeousness and magnificence of the scenery at once secured an exceptional success; it was a revelation in romance, and the public recognised that it stood in presence of a monumental literary work. France was a-fire with delight at a something so new, so unconventional, so entirely without purpose, religious, moral or philosophical: the Oriental wanderer in his stately robes was a startling surprise to the easy-going and utterly corrupt Europe of the ancien régime with its indecently tight garments and perfectly loose morals. “Ils produisirent,” said Charles Nodier, a genius in his way, “dès le moment de leur publication, cet effet qui assure aux productions de l’esprit une vogue populaire, quoiqu’ils appartinssent à une littérature peu connue en France; et que ce genre de composition admit ou plutôt exigeât des détails de moeurs, de caractère, de costume et de localités absolument étrangers à toutes les idées établies dans nos contes et nos romans. On fut étonné du charme que résultait du leur lecture. C’est que la vérité des sentimens, la nouveauté des tableaux, une imagination féconde en prodiges, un coloris plein de chaleur, l’attrait d’une sensibilité sans prétention, et le sel d’un comique sans caricature, c’est que l’esprit et le naturel enfin plaisent partout, et plaisent à tout le monde.”8

The Contes Arabes at once made Galland’s name and a popular tale is told of them and him known to all reviewers who, however, mostly mangle it. In the Biographie Universelle of Michaud9 we find:— Dans les deux premiers volumes de ces contes l’exorde était toujours, “Ma chère sœur, si vous ne dormez pas, faites-nous un de ces contes que vous savez.” Quelques jeunes gens, ennuyés de cette plate uniformité, allèrent une nuit qu’il faisait très-grand froid, frapper à la porte de l’auteur, qui courut en chemise à sa fenêtre. Après l’avoir fait morfondre quelque temps par diverses questions insignificantes, ils terminèrent en lui disant, “Ah, Monsieur Galland, si vous ne dormez pas, faites-nous un de ces beaux contes que vous savez si bien.” Galland profita de la lecon, et supprima dans les volumes suivants le préambule qui lui avait attiré la plaisanterie. This legend has the merit of explaining why the Professor so soon gave up the Arab framework which he had deliberately adopted.

The Nights was at once translated from the French10 though when, where and by whom no authority seems to know. In Lowndes’ “Bibliographer’s Manual” the English Editio Princeps is thus noticed, “Arabian Nights’ Entertainments translated from the French, London, 1724, 12mo, 6 vols.” and a footnote states that this translation, very inaccurate and vulgar in its diction, was often reprinted. In 1712 Addison introduced into the Spectator (No. 535, Nov. 13) the Story of Alnaschar ( = Al–Nashshár, the Sawyer) and says that his remarks on Hope “may serve as a moral to an Arabian tale which I find translated into French by Monsieur Galland.” His version appears, from the tone and style, to have been made by himself, and yet in that year a second English edition had appeared. The nearest approach to the Edit. Princeps in the British Museum11 is a set of six volumes bound in three and corresponding with Galland’s first half dozen. Tomes i. and ii. are from the fourth edition of 1713, Nos. iii. and iv. are from the second of 1712 and v. and vi. are from the third of 1715. It is conjectured that the two first volumes were reprinted several times apart from their subsequents, as was the fashion of the day; but all is mystery. We (my friends and I) have turned over scores of books in the British Museum, the University Library and the Advocates’ Libraries of Edinburgh and Glasgow: I have been permitted to put the question in “Notes and Queries” and in the “Antiquary”; but all our researches hitherto have been in vain.

The popularity of The Nights in England must have rivalled their vogue in France, judging from the fact that in 1713, or nine years after Galland’s Edit. Prin. appeared, they had already reached a fourth issue. Even the ignoble national jealousy which prompted Sir William Jones grossly to abuse that valiant scholar, Auquetil du Perron, could not mar their popularity. But as there are men who cannot read Pickwick, so they were not wanting who spoke of “Dreams of the distempered fancy of the East.”12 “When the work was first published in England,” says Henry Webber,13 “it seems to have made a considerable impression upon the public.” Pope in 1720 sent two volumes (French? or English?) to Bishop Atterbury, without making any remark on the work; but, from his very silence, it may be presumed that he was not displeased with the perusal. The bishop, who does not appear to have joined a relish for the flights of imagination to his other estimable qualities, expressed his dislike of these tales pretty strongly and stated it to be his opinion, formed on the frequent descriptions of female dress, that they were the work of some Frenchman (Petis de la Croix, a mistake afterwards corrected by Warburton). The Arabian Nights, however, quickly made their way to public favour. “We have been informed of a singular instance of the effect they produced soon after their first appearance. Sir James Stewart, Lord Advocate for Scotland, having one Saturday evening found his daughters employed in reading these volumes, seized them with a rebuke for spending the evening before the ‘Sawbbath’ in such worldly amusement; but the grave advocate himself became a prey to the fascination of the tales, being found on the morning of the Sabbath itself employed in their perusal, from which he had not risen the whole night.” As late as 1780 Dr. Beattie professed himself uncertain whether they were translated or fabricated by M. Galland; and, while Dr. Pusey wrote of them “Noctes Mille et Una dictæ, quæ in omnium firmè populorum cultiorum linguas conversæ, in deliciis omnium habentur, manibusque omnium terentur,”14 the amiable Carlyle, in the gospel according to Saint Froude, characteristically termed them “downright lies” and forbade the house to such “unwholesome literature.” What a sketch of character in two words!

The only fault found in France with the Contes Arabes was that their style is peu correcte; in fact they want classicism. Yet all Gallic imitators, Trébutien included, have carefully copied their leader and Charles Nodier remarks:—“Il me semble que l’on n’a pas rendu assez de justice au style de Galland. Abondant sans être prolixe, naturel et familier sans être lâche ni trivial, il ne manque jamais de cette elegance qui résulte de la facilité, et qui présente je ne sais quel mélange de la naïveté de Perrault et de la bonhomie de La Fontaine.”

Our Professor, with a name now thoroughly established, returned in 1706 to Paris, where he was an assiduous and efficient member of the Société Numismatique and corresponded largely with foreign Orientalists. Three years afterwards he was made Professor of Arabic at the Collége de France, succeeding Pierre Dippy; and, during the next half decade, he devoted himself to publishing his valuable studies. Then the end came. In his last illness, an attack of asthma complicated with pectoral mischief, he sent to Noyon for his nephew Julien Galland15 to assist him in ordering his Mss. and in making his will after the simplest military fashion: he bequeathed his writings to the Bibliothèque du Roi, his Numismatic Dictionary to the Academy and his Alcoran to the Abbé Bignon. He died, aged sixty-nine on February 17, 1715, leaving his second part of The Nights unpublished.16

Professor Galland was a French littérateur of the good old school which is rapidly becoming extinct. Homme vrai dans les moindres choses (as his Éloge stated); simple in life and manners and single-hearted in his devotion to letters, he was almost childish in worldly matters, while notable for penetration and acumen in his studies. He would have been as happy, one of his biographers remarks, in teaching children the elements of education as he was in acquiring his immense erudition. Briefly, truth and honesty, exactitude and indefatigable industry characterised his most honourable career.

Galland informs us (Epist. Ded.) that his Ms. consisted of four volumes, only three of which are extant,17 bringing the work down to Night cclxxxii., or about the beginning of “Camaralzaman.” The missing portion, if it contained like the other volumes 140 pages, would end that tale together with the Stories of Ghánim and the Enchanted (Ebony) Horse; and such is the disposition in the Bresl. Edit. which mostly favours in its ordinance the text used by the first translator. But this would hardly have filled more than two-thirds of his volumes; for the other third he interpolated, or is supposed to have interpolated, the ten18 following tales.

1. Histoire du prince Zeyn Al-asnam et du Roi des Génies.19 2. Histoire de Codadad et de ses frères. 3. Histoire de la Lampe merveilleuse (Aladdin). 4. Histoire de l’aveugle Baba Abdalla. 5. Histoire de Sidi Nouman. 6. Histoire de Cogia Hassan Alhabbal. 7. Histoire d’Ali Baba, et de Quarante Voleurs exterminés par une Esclave. 8. Histoire d’Ali Cogia, marchand de Bagdad. 9. Histoire du prince Ahmed et de la fée Peri–Banou. 10. Histoire de deux Sœurs jalouses de leur Cadette.20

Concerning these interpolations which contain two of the best and most widely known stories in the work, Aladdin and the Forty Thieves, conjectures have been manifold but they mostly run upon three lines. De Sacy held that they were found by Galland in the public libraries of Paris. Mr. Chenery, whose acquaintance with Arabic grammar was ample, suggested that the Professor had borrowed them from the recitations of the Rawis, rhapsodists or professional story-tellers in the bazars of Smyrna and other ports of the Levant. The late Mr. Henry Charles Coote (in the “Folk–Lore Record,” vol. iii. Part ii. p. 178 et seq.), “On the source of some of M. Galland’s Tales,” quotes from popular Italian, Sicilian and Romaic stories incidents identical with those in Prince Ahmad, Aladdin, Ali Baba and the Envious Sisters, suggesting that the Frenchman had heard these paramythia in Levantine coffee-houses and had inserted them into his unequalled corpus fabularum. Mr. Payne (ix. 268) conjectures the probability “of their having been composed at a comparatively recent period by an inhabitant of Baghdad, in imitation of the legends of Haroun er Rashid and other well-known tales of the original work;” and adds, “It is possible that an exhaustive examination of the various Ms. copies of the Thousand and One Nights known to exist in the public libraries of Europe might yet cast some light upon the question of the origin of the interpolated Tales.” I quite agree with him, taking “The Sleeper and the Waker’’ and “Zeyn Al-asnam” as cases in point; but I should expect, for reasons before given, to find the stories in a Persic rather than an Arabic Ms. And I feel convinced that all will be recovered: Galland was not the man to commit a literary forgery.

As regards Aladdin, the most popular tale of the whole work, I am convinced that it is genuine, although my unfortunate friend, the late Professor Palmer, doubted its being an Eastern story. It is laid down upon all the lines of Oriental fiction. The mise-en-scène is China, “where they drink a certain warm liquor” (tea); the hero’s father is a poor tailor; and, as in “Judar and his Brethren,” the Maghribi Magician presently makes his appearance, introducing the Wonderful Lamp and the Magical Ring. Even the Sorcerer’s cry, “New lamps for old lamps!”— a prime point — is paralleled in the Tale of the Fisherman’s Son,21 where the Jew asks in exchange only old rings and the Princess, recollecting that her husband kept a shabby, well-worn ring in his writing-stand, and he being asleep, took it out and sent it to the man. In either tale the palace is transported to a distance and both end with the death of the wicked magician and the hero and heroine living happily together ever after.

All Arabists have remarked the sins of omission and commission, of abridgment, amplification and substitution, and the audacious distortion of fact and phrase in which Galland freely indulged, whilst his knowledge of Eastern languages proves that he knew better. But literary license was the order of his day and at that time French, always the most begueule of European languages, was bound by a rigorisme of the narrowest and the straightest of lines from which the least ecart condemned a man as a barbarian and a tudesque. If we consider Galland fairly we shall find that he errs mostly for a purpose, that of popularising his work; and his success indeed justified his means. He has been derided (by scholars) for “Hé Monsieur!” and “Ah Madame!”; but he could not write “O mon sieur” and “O ma dame;” although we can borrow from biblical and Shakespearean English, “O my lord!” and “O my lady!” “Bon Dieu! ma sœur” (which our translators English by “O heavens,” Night xx.) is good French for Wa’lláhi — by Allah; and “cinquante cavaliers bien faits” (“fifty handsome gentlemen on horseback”) is a more familiar picture than fifty knights. “L’officieuse Dinarzade” (Night lxi.), and “Cette plaisante querelle des deux frères” (Night 1xxii.) become ridiculous only in translation —“the officious Dinarzade” and “this pleasant quarrel;” while “ce qu’il y de remarquable” (Night 1xxiii.) would relieve the Gallic mind from the mortification of “Destiny decreed.” “Plusieurs sortes de fruits et de bouteilles de vin” (Night ccxxxi. etc.) Europeanises flasks and flaggons; and the violent convulsions in which the girl dies (Night cliv., her head having been cut off by her sister) is mere Gallic squeamishness: France laughs at “le shoking” in England but she has only to look at home especially during the reign of Galland’s contemporary — Roi Soleil. The terrible “Old man” (Shaykh) “of the Sea” (-board) is badly described by “l’incommode vieillard” (“the ill-natured old fellow”): “Brave Maimune” and “Agréable Maimune” are hardly what a Jinni would say to a Jinniyah (ccxiii.); but they are good Gallic. The same may be noted of “Plier les voiles pour marque qu’il se rendait” (Night ccxxxv.), a European practice; and of the false note struck in two passages. “Je m’estimais heureuse d’avoir fait une si belle conquête” (Night 1xvii.) gives a Parisian turn; and, “Je ne puis voir sans horreur cet abominable barbier que voilà: quoiqu’il soit né dans un pays où tout le monde est blanc, il ne laisse pas à resembler a un Éthiopien; mais il a l’âme encore plus noire et horrible que le visage” (Night clvii.), is a mere affectation of Orientalism. Lastly, “Une vieille dame de leur connaissance” (Night clviii.) puts French polish upon the matter of fact Arab’s “an old woman.”

The list of absolute mistakes, not including violent liberties, can hardly be held excessive. Professor Weil and Mr. Payne (ix. 271) justly charge Galland with making the Trader (Night i.) throw away the shells (écorces) of the date which has only a pellicle, as Galland certainly knew; but dates were not seen every day in France, while almonds and walnuts were of the quatre mendiants. He preserves the écorces, which later issues have changed to noyaux, probably in allusion to the jerking practice called Inwá. Again in the “First Shaykh’s Story” (vol. i. 27) the “maillet” is mentioned as the means of slaughtering cattle, because familiar to European readers: at the end of the tale it becomes “le couteaufuneste.” In Badral Din a “tarte à la crême,” so well known to the West, displaces, naturally enough, the outlandish “mess of pomegranate-seeds.” Though the text especially tells us the hero removed his bag-trousers (not only “son habit”) and placed them under the pillow, a crucial fact in the history, our Professor sends him to bed fully dressed, apparently for the purpose of informing his readers in a foot-note that Easterns “se couchent en caleçon” (Night lxxx.). It was mere ignorance to confound the arbalète or cross-bow with the stone-bow (Night xxxviii.), but this has universally been done, even by Lane who ought to have known better; and it was an unpardonable carelessness or something worse to turn Nár (fire) and Dún (in lieu of) into “le faux dieu Nardoun” (Night lxv.): as this has been untouched by De Sacy, I cannot but conclude that he never read the text with the translation. Nearly as bad also to make the Jewish physician remark, when the youth gave him the left wrist (Night cl.), “voilà une grande ignorance de ne savoir pas que l’on presente la main droite à un médecin et non pas la gauche”— whose exclusive use all travellers in the East must know. I have noticed the incuriousness which translates “along the Nile-shore” by “up towards Ethiopia” (Night cli.), and the “Islands of the Children of Khaledan” (Night ccxi.) instead of the Khálidatáni or Khálidát, the Fortunate Islands. It was by no means “des petite soufflets” (“some taps from time to time with her fingers”) which the sprightly dame administered to the Barber’s second brother (Night clxxi.), but sound and heavy “cuffs” on the nape; and the sixth brother (Night clxxx.) was not “aux lèvres fendues” (“he of the hair-lips”), for they had been cut off by the Badawi jealous of his fair wife. Abu al-Hasan would not greet his beloved by saluting “le tapis à ses pieds:” he would kiss her hands and feet. Haïatalnefous (Hayat al-Nufús, Night ccxxvi.) would not “throw cold water in the Princess’s face:” she would sprinkle it with eau-de-rose. “Camaralzaman” I. addresses his two abominable wives in language purely European (ccxxx.), “et de la vie il ne s’approcha d’elles,” missing one of the fine touches of the tale which shows its hero a weak and violent man, hasty and lacking the pundonor. “La belle Persienne,” in the Tale of Nur al-Din, was no Persian; nor would her master address her, “Venez çà, impertinente!” (“come hither, impertinence”). In the story of Badr, one of the Comoro Islands becomes “L’île de la Lune.” “Dog” and “dog-son” are not “injures atroces et indignes d’un grand roi:” the greatest Eastern kings allow themselves far more energetic and significant language.

Fitnah22 is by no means “Force de cœurs.” Lastly the dénoûement of The Nights is widely different in French and in Arabic; but that is probably not Galland’s fault, as he never saw the original, and indeed he deserves high praise for having invented so pleasant and sympathetic a close, inferior only to the Oriental device.23

Galland’s fragment has a strange effect upon the Orientalist and those who take the scholastic view, be it wide or narrow. De Sacy does not hesitate to say that the work owes much to his fellow-countryman’s hand; but I judge otherwise: it is necessary to dissociate the two works and to regard Galland’s paraphrase, which contains only a quarter of The Thousand Nights and a Night, as a wholly different book. Its attempts to amplify beauties and to correct or conceal the defects and the grotesqueness of the original, absolutely suppress much of the local colour, clothing the bare body in the best of Parisian suits. It ignores the rhymed prose and excludes the verse, rarely and very rarely rendering a few lines in a balanced style. It generally rejects the proverbs, epigrams and moral reflections which form the pith and marrow of the book; and, worse still, it disdains those finer touches of character which are often Shakespearean in their depth and delicacy, and which, applied to a race of familiar ways and thoughts, manners and customs, would have been the wonder and delight of Europe. It shows only a single side of the gem that has so many facets. By deference to public taste it was compelled to expunge the often repulsive simplicity, the childish indecencies and the wild orgies of the original, contrasting with the gorgeous tints, the elevated morality and the religious tone of passages which crowd upon them. We miss the odeur du sang which taints the parfums du harem; also the humouristic tale and the Rabelaisian outbreak which relieve and throw out into strong relief the splendour of Empire and the havoc of Time. Considered in this light it is a caput mortuum, a magnificent texture seen on the wrong side; and it speaks volumes for the genius of the man who could recommend it in such blurred and caricatured condition to readers throughout the civilised world. But those who look only at Galland’s picture, his effort to “transplant into European gardens the magic flowers of Eastern fancy,” still compare his tales with the sudden prospect of magnificent mountains seen after a long desert-march: they arouse strange longings and indescribable desires; their marvellous imaginativeness produces an insensible brightening of mind and an increase of fancy-power, making one dream that behind them lies the new and unseen, the strange and unexpected — in fact, all the glamour of the unknown.

The Nights has been translated into every far-extending Eastern tongue, Persian, Turkish and Hindostani. The latter entitles them Hikáyát al-Jalílah or Noble Tales, and the translation was made by Munshi Shams al-Din Ahmad for the use of the College of Fort George in A.H. 1252 = 1836.24 All these versions are direct from the Arabic: my search for a translation of Galland into any Eastern tongue has hitherto been fruitless.

I was assured by the late Bertholdy Seemann that the “language of Hoffmann and Heine” contained a literal and complete translation of The Nights; but personal enquiries at Leipzig and elsewhere convinced me that the work still remains to be done. The first attempt to improve upon Galland and to show the world what the work really is was made by Dr. Max Habicht and was printed at Breslau (1824–25), in fifteen small square volumes.25 Thus it appeared before the “Tunis Manuscript”26 of which it purports to be a translation. The German version is, if possible, more condemnable than the Arabic original. It lacks every charm of style; it conscientiously shirks every difficulty; it abounds in the most extraordinary blunders and it is utterly useless as a picture of manners or a book of reference. We can explain its lâches only by the theory that the eminent Professor left the labour to his collaborateurs and did not take the trouble to revise their careless work.

The next German translation was by Aulic Councillor J. von Hammer–Purgstallt who, during his short stay at Cairo and Constantinople, turned into French the tales neglected by Galland. After some difference with M. Caussin (de Perceval) in 1810, the Styrian Orientalist entrusted his Ms. to Herr Cotta the publisher of Tubingen. Thus a German version appeared, the translation of a translation, at the hand of Professor Zinserling,27 while the French version was unaccountably lost en route to London. Finally the “Contes inédits,” etc., appeared in a French translation by G. S. Trébutien (Paris, mdcccxxviii.). Von Hammer took liberties with the text which can compare only with those of Lane: he abridged and retrenched till the likeness in places entirely disappeared; he shirked some difficult passages and he misexplained others. In fact the work did no honour to the amiable and laborious historian of the Turks.

The only good German translation of The Nights is due to Dr. Gustav Weil who, born on April 24, 1808, is still (1886) professing at Heidelburg.28 His originals (he tells us) were the Breslau Edition, the Bulak text of Abd al-Rahman al-Safati and a Ms. in the library of Saxe Gotha. The venerable savant, who has rendered such service to Arabism, informs me that Aug. Lewald’s “Vorhalle” (pp. i.-xv.)29 was written without his knowledge. Dr. Weil neglects the division of days which enables him to introduce any number of tales: for instance, Galland’s eleven occupy a large part of vol. iii. The Vorwort wants development, the notes, confined to a few words, are inadequate and verse is everywhere rendered by prose, the Saj’a or assonance being wholly ignored. On the other hand the scholar shows himself by a correct translation, contrasting strongly with those which preceded him, and by a strictly literal version, save where the treatment required to be modified in a book intended for the public. Under such circumstances it cannot well be other than longsome and monotonous reading.

Although Spain and Italy have produced many and remarkable Orientalists, I cannot find that they have taken the trouble to translate The Nights for themselves: cheap and gaudy versions of Galland seem to have satisfied the public.30 Notes on the Romaic, Icelandic, Russian (?) and other versions, will be found in a future page.

Professor Galland has never been forgotten in France where, amongst a host of editions, four have claims to distinction;31 and his success did not fail to create a host of imitators and to attract what De Sacy justly terms “une prodigieuse importation de marchandise de contrabande.” As early as 1823 Von Hammer numbered seven in France (Trébutien, Préface xviii.) and during later years they have grown prodigiously. Mr. William F. Kirby, who has made a special study of the subject, has favoured me with detailed bibliographical notes on Galland’s imitators which are printed in Appendix No. II.

1 I have extracted it from many books, especially from Hoeffer’s Biographie Générale, Paris, Firmin Didot, mdccclvii.; Biographie Universelle, Paris, Didot, 1816, etc. etc. All are taken from the work of M. de Boze, his “Bozzy.”

2 As learning a language is an affair of pure memory, almost without other exercise of the mental faculties, it should be assisted by the ear and the tongue as well as the eyes. I would invariably make pupils talk, during lessons, Latin and Greek, no matter how badly at first; but unfortunately I should have to begin with teaching the pedants who, as a class, are far more unwilling and unready to learn than are those they teach.

3 The late Dean Stanley was notably trapped by the wily Greek who had only political purposes in view. In religions as a rule the minimum of difference breeds the maximum of disputation, dislike and disgust.

4 See in Trébutien (Avertissement iii.) how Baron von Hammer escaped drowning by the blessing of The Nights.

5 He signs his name to the Discours pour servir de Préface.

6 I need not trouble the reader with their titles, which fill up nearly a column and a half in M. Hoeffer. His collection of maxims from Arabic, Persian and Turkish authors appeared in English in 1695.

7 Galland’s version was published in 1704–1717 in 12 vols. 12mo., (Hoeffer’s Biographie; Grasse’s Trésor de Livres rares and Encyclop. Britannica, ixth Edit.)

8 See also Leigh Hunt “The Book of the Thousand Nights and one Night,” etc., etc. London and Westminster Review Art. iii., No. 1xiv. mentioned in Lane, iii., 746.

9 Edition of 1856 vol. xv.

10 To France England also owes her first translation of the Koran, a poor and mean version by Andrew Ross of that made from the Arabic (No. iv.) by André du Reyer, Consul de France for Egypt. It kept the field till ousted in 1734 by the learned lawyer George Sale whose conscientious work, including Preliminary Discourse and Notes (4to London), brought him the ill-fame of having “turned Turk.”

11 Catalogue of Printed Books, 1884, p. 159, col. i. I am ashamed to state this default in the British Museum, concerning which Englishmen are apt to boast and which so carefully mulcts modern authors in unpaid copies. But it is only a slight specimen of the sad state of art and literature in England, neglected equally by Conservatives, Liberals and Radicals. What has been done for the endowment of research? What is our equivalent for the Prix de Rome? Since the death of Dr. Birch, who can fairly deal with a Demotic papyrus? Contrast the Société Anthropologique and its palace and professors in Paris with our “Institute” au second in a corner of Hanover Square and its skulls in the cellar!

12 Art. vii. pp. 139–168, “On the Arabian Nights and translators, Weil, Torrens and Lane (vol. i.) with the Essai of A. Loisseleur Deslongchamps.” The Foreign Quarterly Review, vol. xxiv., Oct. 1839-Jan. 1840. London, Black and Armstrong, 1840.

13 Introduction to his Collection “Tales of the East,” 3 vols. Edinburgh, 1812. He was the first to point out the resemblance between the introductory adventures of Shahryar and Shah Zaman and those of Astolfo and Giacondo in the Orlando Furioso (Canto xxviii.). M. E. Lévêque in Les Mythes et les Légendes de l’Inde et la Perse (Paris, 1880) gives French versions of the Arabian and Italian narratives, side by side in p. 543 ff. (Clouston).

14 Notitiæ Codicis MI. Noctium. Dr. Pusey studied Arabic to familiarise himself with Hebrew, and was very different from his predecessor at Oxford in my day, who, when applied to for instruction in Arabic, refused to lecture except to a class.

15 This nephew was the author of “Recueil des Rits et Cérémonies des Pilgrimages de La Mecque,” etc. etc. Paris and Amsterdam, 1754, in 12mo.

16 The concluding part did not appear, I have said, till 1717: his “Comes et Fables Indiennes de Bidpaï et de Lokman,” were first printed in 1724, 2 vols. in 12mo. Hence, I presume, Lowndes’ mistake.

17 M. Caussin (de Perceval), Professeur of Arabic at the Imperial Library, who edited Galland in 1806, tells us that he found there only two Mss., both imperfect. The first (Galland’s) is in three small vols. 4to. each of about pp. 140. The stories are more detailed and the style, more correct than that of other Ms., is hardly intelligible to many Arabs, whence he presumes that it contains the original (an early?) text which has been altered and vitiated. The date is supposed to be circa A.D. 1600. The second Parisian copy is a single folio of some 800 pages, and is divided into 29 sections and cmv. Nights, the last two sections being reversed. The Ms. is very imperfect, the 12th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 21st-23rd, 25th and 27th parts are wanting; the sections which follow the 17th contain sundry stories repeated, there are anecdotes from Bidpai, the Ten Wazirs and other popular works, and lacunæ everywhere abound.

18 Mr. Payne (ix. 264) makes eleven, including the Histoire du Dormeur éveillé = The Sleeper and the Waker, which he afterwards translated from the Bresl. Edit. in his “Tales from the Arabic” (vol. i. 5, etc.)

19 Mr. E. J. W. Gibb informs me that he has come upon this tale in a Turkish storybook, the same from which he drew his “Jewád.”

20 A littérateur lately assured me that Nos. ix. and x. have been found in the Bibliothèque Nationale (du Roi) Paris; but two friends were kind enough to enquire and ascertained that it was a mistake. Such Persianisms as Codadad (Khudadad), Baba Cogia (Khwájah) and Peri (fairy) suggest a Persic Ms.

21 Vol. vi. 212. “The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments (London: Longmans, 1811) by Jonathan Scott, with the Collection of New Tales from the Wortley Montagu Ms. in the Bodleian.” I regret to see that Messieurs Nimmo in reprinting Scott have omitted his sixth Volume.

22 Dr. Scott who uses Fitnah (iv. 42) makes it worse by adding “Alcolom (Al–Kulúb?) signifying Ravisher of Hearts” and his names for the six slave-girls (vol. iv. 37) such as “Zohorob Bostan” (Zahr al-Bústán), which Galland rightly renders by “Fleur du Jardin,” serve only to heap blunder upon blunder. Indeed the Anglo–French translations are below criticism: it would be waste of time to notice them. The characteristic is a servile suit paid to the original e.g. rendering hair “accomodé en boucles” by “hair festooned in buckles” (Night ccxiv.), and Île d’Ébène (Jazírat al-Abnús, Night xliii.) by “the Isle of Ebene.” A certain surly old littérateur tells me that he prefers these wretched versions to Mr. Payne’s. Padrone! as the Italians say: I cannot envy his taste or his temper.

23 De Sacy (Mémoire p. 52) notes that in some Mss., the Sultan, ennuyé by the last tales of Shahrázad, proposes to put her to death, when she produces her three children and all ends merrily without marriage-bells. Von Hammer prefers this version as the more dramatic, the Frenchman rejects it on account of the difficulties of the accouchements. Here he strains at the gnat — a common process.

24 See Journ. Asiatique, iii. série, vol. viii., Paris, 1839.

25 “Tausend und Eine Nacht: Arabische Erzählungen. Zum ersten mal aus einer Tunisischen Handschrift ergänzt und vollstandig übersetzt,” Von Max Habicht, F. H. von der Hagen und Karl Schatte (the offenders?).

26 Dr. Habicht informs us (Vorwort iii., vol. ix. 7) that he obtained his Ms. with other valuable works from Tunis, through a personal acquaintance, a learned Arab, Herr M. Annagar (Mohammed Al–Najjár?) and was aided by Baron de Sacy, Langlès and other savants in filling up the lacunæ by means of sundry Mss. The editing was a prodigy of negligence: the corrigenda (of which brief lists are given) would fill a volume; and, as before noticed, the indices of the first four tomes were printed in the fifth, as if the necessity of a list of tales had just struck the dense editor. After Habicht’s death in 1839 his work was completed in four vols. (ix.-xii.) by the well-known Prof. H. J. Fleischer who had shown some tartness in his “Dissertatio Critica de Glossis Habichtianis.” He carefully imitated all the shortcomings of his predecessor and even omitted the Verzeichniss etc., the Varianten and the Glossary of Arabic words not found in Golius, which formed the only useful part of the first eight volumes.

27 Die in Tausend und Eine Nacht noch nicht übersetzten Nächte, Erzählungen und Anekdoten, zum erstenmal aus dem Arabischen in das Französische übersetzt von J. von Hammer, und aus dem Französischen in das Deutsche von A. E. Zinserling, Professor, Stuttgart und Tubingen, 1823. Drei Bde. 80. Trébutien’s, therefore, is the translation of a translation of a translation.

28 Tausend und Eine Nacht Arabische Erzählungen. Zum erstenmale aus dem Urtexte vollständig und treu uebersetze von Dr. Gustav Weil. He began his work on return from Egypt in 1836 and completed his first version of the Arabische Meisterwerk in 1838–42 (3 vols. roy. oct.). I have the Zweiter Abdruck der dritten (2d reprint of 3d) in 4 vols. 8vo., Stuttgart, 1872. It has more than a hundred woodcuts.

29 My learned friend Dr. Wilhelm Storck, to whose admirable translations of Camoens I have often borne witness, notes that this Vorhalle, or Porch to the first edition, a rhetorical introduction addressed to the general public, is held in Germany to be valueless and that it was noticed only for the Bemerkung concerning the offensive passages which Professor Weil had toned down in his translation. In the Vorwort of the succeeding editions (Stuttgart) it is wholly omitted.

30 The most popular are now “Mille ed una notte. Novelle Arabe.” Napoli, 1867, 8vo illustrated, 4 francs; and “Mille ed une notte. Novelle Arabe, versione italiana nuovamente emendata e corredata di note”; 4 vols. in 32 (dateless) Milano, 8vo, 4 francs.

31 These are; (l) by M. Caussin (de Perceval), Paris, 1806, 9 vols. 8vo. (2) Edouard Gauttier, Paris, 1822–24: 7 vols. 12mo; (3) M. Destain, Paris, 1823–25, 6 vols. 8vo, and (4) Baron de Sacy, Paris. 1838 (?) 3 vols. large 8vo, illustrated (and vilely illustrated).

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