Notes to the Main Essay on the Rubaiyat

Note 1
Most details of the lives of Omar Khayyam and Edward FitzGerald, and of the story and publication of The Rubaiyat are readily found in the following key sources:

a) Nathan Haskell Dole – Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, multi-variorum edition, 2 volumes, 1898;

b) A.C.Benson, Edward FitzGerald, English Men of Letters Series, 1905;

c) Alfred McKinley Terhune – The Life of Edward FitzGerald, 1947;

d) Arthur J. Arberry, The Romance of the Rubaiyat, 1959;

e) Robert Bernard Martin – With Friends Possessed, 1985;

f) Garry Garrard – A Book of Verse, 2007;

g) Peter de Polnay, Into An Old Room, 1950 (the title comes from a line in a poem written by FitzGerald when he was 22);

More specifically for Omar and his philosophical writings, see:

h) Mehdi Aminrazavi, The Wine of Wisdom: The Life, Poetry and Philosophy of Omar Khayyam (2005);

i) Hazhir Teimourian, Omar Khayyam – Poet, Rebel, Astronomer (2007);

j) Ali Dashti, In Search of Omar Khayyam (1971);

Interesting for putting Omar into a historical literary context is:

k) Edward G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, vol.2: From Fidawsi to Sa’di (1906), particularly p.246-259.

The following are useful collections of essays relating to Omar, FitzGerald and The Rubaiyat:

l) Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations edition of Edward FitzGerald’s ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ , edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom (2004)

m) Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Popularity and Neglect edited by Adrian Poole, Christine van Ruymbeke, William H. Martin and Sandra Mason (2011).

Note 2
Many translations are listed in Part 2 of Ambrose George Potter, A Bibliography of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1929; reprinted 1994); likewise under “Other Translations” in Jos Coumans, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: an Updated Bibliography (2010). Particularly interesting is the relatively recent phenomenon of multilingual editions (Coumans #880-921), particularly those issuing from Tehran. The record seems to be held by the large tome bearing the title Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in 30 Languages, prepared and arranged by Mohsen Ramezani (Teheran, 1987) (= Coumans #901.)

Note 3
a) Referred to in verse 57 of the 3rd, 4th and 5th editions (verse 59 of the 2nd): (“Ah, but my Computations, People say, / Reduced the Year to better reckoning? …)

b) This featured, for example, in Harold Lamb’s notes at the end of his novel Omar Khayyam (1936), p.310-1, and was put to dramatic effect in the body of the novel itself (p.275ff.) He supported his view with his own translation of the Persian text that led to verse 68 of FitzGerald’s 4th edition, which he quotes: “We are no other than a moving row / Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go etc.” Lamb’s reasoning is a bit obscure, the situation not being helped any by the fact that in the body of the novel he wrote that Omar “had barely begun to test his theory that the earth revolved through space instead of remaining motionless in the centre of the universe.” (p.228) This potentially confuses the issue of the Earth’s rotation with the Heliocentric issue, but from what he says elsewhere, it is clear that what he means is: “that the earth revolved on its axis instead of remaining motionless (ie not spinning) in the centre of the universe” – in other words, a Geocentric model, but with a rotating Earth.

c) Thus, W.H. Carter, in the Introduction to his curious little booklet Hymns Ancient and Modern after Omar Khayyam (1974) wrote that, "Omar insisted like Galileo that the earth turned round the Sun, and also on its own axis." Again, at the time of writing (April 2013), the heliocentric claim features, on the website:, where we read that Omar “may have proposed a heliocentric theory well before Copernicus”, admittedly with the addition of “[Citation needed]”. Identical wording at one time (June 2010) appeared in the Wikipedia article on Omar Khayyam (, though this has since been amended. Certainly in the case of the first website mentioned above, the claim seems to arise from a confusion of the Earth moving round the Sun (a Heliocentric model) with the Earth rotating on its own axis at the centre of the universe (ie a Geocentric model with a rotating Earth, as in note 3b above.)

Claims that Omar anticipated the heliocentric theory of Copernicus may be based on nothing more substantial than the contents of verse 46 of FitzGerald’s 1st edition: “a Box whose Candle is the Sun, / Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.” But though suggestive of motion round the Sun, this is FitzGerald’s wording, and not Omar’s. Indeed, when this verse became verse 73 of the 2nd edition, then verse 68 of 3rd & 4th editions, FitzGerald’s wording had become rather less suggestive of Heliocentrism, this later wording being that quoted by Lamb in support of his Geocentric model with a spinning earth (again, as in note 3b above.)

The original Persian behind this verse was translated by Heron-Allen (note 11a, p.103) thus:

This vault of heaven beneath which we stand bewildered,
We know to be a sort of magic lantern:
Know thou that the sun is the flame and the universe is the lamp,
We are like figures that revolve in it.

Though this is possibly suggestive of a Sun-centred model (especially if the “in” of the last line is rendered “around”), it can also be interpreted as supportive of Lamb’s claims: the Universe is like a lamp at the centre of which the Earth revolves on its axis, illuminated by the flame of the Sun. Indeed, verse 31 of the 1st edition (= v.34 of 2nd; v.31 of 3rd & 4th), in which Omar ascends from Earth’s Centre to the Throne of Saturn,  is strongly suggestive of an Earth-centred model, “the Seventh Gate” being the seventh level of the conventional geocentric universe. (This seems to be borne out by Heron-Allen’s and E.H. Whinfield’s translations, for which see the notes on verse 31.)

Nothing in Khayyam’s surviving scientific works suggests his belief in a heliocentric model – on the contrary, he seems to have been versed in the geocentric model of Ptolemy’s Almagest (Aminrazavi, as note 1h, p. 19 & p.50; Teimourian, as note 1i, p.44-5 & p.137), even though a heliocentric model had been proposed much earlier by the Greeks (see note 25 below) and had been considered possible, though not proveable, by the likes of al-Biruni (who died round about the time that Omar Khayyam was born) – see A. Vibert Douglas, “Al-Biruni, Persian Scholar, 973-1048” in The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, vol.67, no.4 (1973), p.209-211. Sir James Baillie Fraser, in his Narrative of a Journey into Khorasan in the Years 1821 and 1822 (1825), p.465, records that in the Persian colleges at the time of his travels, Ptolemaic Astronomy was still taught, alongside Astrology.

d) Otherwise known as the Parallel Postulate, it was to be a problem for mathematicians up until the 19th century, and the investigation of it led to the mathematically important concept of non-Euclidean Geometries. For a good account see Howard Eves, An Introduction to the History of Mathematics (1969) p.124-8. Eves does mention Omar Khayyam on p.191, but mainly in connection with his solution of cubic equations, as well as his calendar reform and “the exquisite Rubaiyat”. He mentions Nasir ed-din (fl. c.1250) as an Arabic mathematician who probably had more influence on the western approach to the Parallel Postulate, for he was a source of inspiration for the Italian mathematician Girolamo Saccheri (1667-1733), an early investigator into non-Euclidean Geometry. Again, see Eves p.125.

Note 4
In what follows, III.232 will mean p.232 in volume III of Alfred McKinley Terhune and Annabelle Burdick Terhune, The Letters of Edward FitzGerald, published in 4 volumes in 1980. (It is ironic that FitzGerald burned many of his letters from Thackeray partly because, if he died before setting his house in order, they might get published by someone “according to the vile fashion of the day.” (II.51))

Note 5
For biographical information about Cowell – “my Master in Persian” as FitzGerald dubbed him (II.217) – the best source is undoubtedly Life and Letters of Edward Byles Cowell, by his cousin, George Cowell, first published in 1904. Since Cowell is such a key figure in the story of The Rubaiyat, Appendix 1 is devoted to him and his work.

Note 6
See Potter (as note 2), Part Four (p.303f) for a number of examples. The various manuscripts mentioned in FitzGerald’s introduction are taken from a footnote in Cowell’s article in the Calcutta Review (Appendix 1f, p.154.) For those interested in seeing a complete translation of one of these manuscripts, E.A.Johnson (also known as Johnson Pasha) spent nearly thirty years translating all 762 verses of the Lucknow Edition (I assume Potter Part IV, Section II, p,308, #13). The result was The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, first published in 1913.

Note 7
See, for example, Garrard (note 1f, p.182); A.J.Arberry published a translation of the Cambridge Manuscript, before it was unmasked as a forgery, in his book Omar Khayyam: a New Version based upon Recent Discoveries (1952). He also collaborated with J.C.E. Bowen to publish a translation of 60 quatrains from the Chester Beatty Manuscript, before that too was unmasked as a forgery, in the book A New Selection from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1961). Another forged manuscript led to the publication of Robert Graves and Omar Ali Shah’s book, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: A New Translation with Critical Commentaries (1967). What makes this book extraordinary, besides the manuscript coming, amid extremely suspicious circumstances, from the Shah family (Omar Ali Shah being the brother of Idries Shah, the well-known author on Sufism), are the scathing comments about FitzGerald made by Graves (the well-known poet, novelist and author of The Greek Myths and The White Goddess) in his introduction. Graves’ scorn reached its peak in an interview for The Daily Telegraph (March 25th, 1968) in which he called FitzGerald “a dilettante faggot trying to pretend he was a scholar”! For a good account of the whole affair, see J.C.E. Bowen, Translation or Travesty? (1973), and also Garrard (ib. p.100-104) for a summary. From the point of view of a Graves biographer, see Martin Seymour-Smith, Robert Graves – his Life and Work (1982), p.555-558.

Note 8
There are at least two versions of the story of who first rescued it from the penny box, but the one I give here – far and away the most likely one – has the support of the fact that “at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, there is preserved the copy of the Rubaiyat that Whitley Stokes gave to Rossetti, dated July 10th, 1861.” (Rosalie Glynn Grylls, Portrait of Rossetti (1964), Appendix D, p.226.)

This version of the story – the Orthodox Version, as it might be called, and which is repeated by Terhune in II.417-8 – is confirmed in a letter of Swinburne’s. In early 1896 Swinburne was invited to dinner with the Omar Khayyam Club. In his reply to Clement K. Shorter, he wrote:

“I am sorry that I must – with many thanks – decline the invitation of the Omar Khayyam Club. As to the immortal tent-maker himself, I believe I may claim to be one of his earliest English admirers. It is upwards of thirty-six years since I was introduced to him by D.G.Rossetti, who had just been introduced himself, I believe, by Mr Whitley Stokes. At that time the first and best edition of FitzGerald’s wonderful version was being sold off at a penny a copy, having proved hopelessly unsaleable at the published price of one shilling. We invested, I should think, in hardly less than six-pennyworth apiece, and on returning to the stall next day for more found that we had sent up the market to the sinfully extravagant sum of twopence, an imposition which evoked from Rossetti a fervent and impressive remonstrance. Not so very long afterwards, if I mistake not, the price of a copy was thirty shillings. It is the only edition worth having, as FitzGerald, like the ass of genius he was, cut out of later editions the crowning stanza which is the core or kernel of the whole. As to the greatness of the poem I can say no more than I have tried to say in print. I know none to be compared with it for power, pathos, and beauty, in the same line of thought and work, except possibly Ecclesiastes; and magnificent as that is, I can hardly think the author comparable to Omar either as philosopher or as poet.”

[That “crowning stanza” is something of a puzzle. Swinburne referred to verse 58 as “the crowning stanza” in his essay “Social Verse”, in which, incidentally, he enthused about FitzGerald, “whose shy audacity of diffident and daring genius has given Omar Khayyam a place for ever among the greatest of English poets.” However, verse 58 was not cut out of later editions by FitzGerald – it became verse 88 in the 2nd edition and verse 81 in the 3rd, 4th and 5th. Only verses 33, 37 and 45 were actually cut out, and of these three verses, the second is probably best described as the nub of the poem. For Ecclesiastes, see Appendix 11b.]

Swinburne repeated the story in a letter to A.C.Benson written in October 1904:

“I sent a full account of the matter years ago to the Omar Khayyam Society (I think that was the name), but it was such fun, though so long ago, that I don’t mind re-telling the story.

Neither Burton nor Rossetti nor I had anything to do with the discovery of Omar Fitzgerald (if a small g is good enough for a ducal family I should think it might be good enough for the traducer rather than translator of the Agamemnon.) Two friends of Rossetti’s – Mr Whitley Stokes and Mr Ormsby – told him (he told me) of the wonderful little pamphlet for sale on a stall (in St. Martin’s Lane, if you know where that is) to which Mr Quaritch, finding that the British public unanimously declined to give a shilling for it, had relegated it to be disposed of for a penny. Having read it, Rossetti and I invested upwards of sixpence apiece – or possibly threepence – I would not wish to exaggerate our extravagance – in copies at that not exorbitant price. Next day we thought we might get some more for presents among friends – but the man at the stall asked twopence! Rossetti expostulated with him in terms of such humorously indignant remonstrance as none but he could ever have commanded. We took a few, and left him. In a week or two, if I am not mistaken, the remaining copies were sold at a guinea. I have since – as a I dare say you have – seen copies offered for still more absurd prices. I kept my own pennyworth (the tidiest copy of the lot) and have it still.”

Another account from a key player in the Rubaiyat story, or rather from his wife, is to be found in Georgiana Burne-Jones’s book Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, first published in 1904. The story is essentially based on Swinburne’s recollections, but I include it for the sake of completeness. She is writing of the end of the year 1861, when her husband was 29 years old:

“Somewhere about this time – whether before or after the New Year I cannot say – belongs the story of the happy discovery of FitzGerald’s Omar Khayyam, which Swinburne brought one day to Edward in triumph, having just purchased it for the sum of twopence, and marvelling who the anonymous translator could be. From Swinburne I have an account of how he first heard through Rossetti that this treasure had been discovered on a bookstall near Leicester Square – I believe outside Quaritch’s shop in Castle Street. It had been published by Quaritch in 1859, but, proving a dead failure, the greater part of the edition was turned out of doors and anybody might have it for a penny a copy. ‘Thither we repaired,’ says Mr Swinburne, ‘and expended a few pence on a few copies. Next day, when we were returned for more, the price was raised to the iniquitous and exorbitant sum of twopence. You should have heard, but you can imagine, the eloquent and impressive severity of Gabriel’s humorous expostulations with the stall-keeper on behalf of a defrauded if limited public. But we were extravagant enough to invest in a few more copies even at that scandalous price. I think it was within the month that Quaritch was selling copies at a guinea – so at least we heard and read.’” (vol.1, p.234.)

After marvelling at the then failure of “this now famous work” and the anonymity of its author, Mrs Burne-Jones goes on to say:

“The copy of the first edition that Swinburne gave to Edward has always been one of our precious possessions, and before the book was reprinted became worn with frequent reading and transcribing.” (vol.1, p.235)

Thus far the orthodox version, then – and, incidentally, Rossetti himself appears to have left no written account of the discovery of The Rubaiyat, which is a great pity, and nor does Whitley Stokes.

A second version of how The Rubaiyat was first “discovered” probably originated via a memory lapse of either Bernard Quaritch or FitzGerald himself, for in a letter to E.B.Cowell written in July 1870, FitzGerald wrote that Quaritch had told him, in a letter, that the remaindered copies of The Rubaiyat had been bought up “by the Editor of The Saturday Review (Wilks?), who (at a penny a piece) gave them to friends.” (III.231) Terhune (III.232n.4) cites the plausible suggestion of Prof. Carl Weber that “Wilks” was a contraction of “Whitley Stokes” (WhItLey stoKeS), who was apparently a regular contributor to The Saturday Review. FitzGerald’s memory did certainly have odd lapses, as for example his repeated failure to remember that it was Samuel Laurence, not Thackeray, who had first introduced him to Thomas Carlyle in 1842 (III.244 & 245n.1; III.306 & 306n.1.) Weber’s suggestion about “Wilks?” was made in his article “Preparing for the Centenary of Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat”, published in the Colby Library Quarterly, March 1959, p.12.

Note 9
a) The text of the first four editions, together with their respective introductions, were published in Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the Astronomer Poet of Persia, Rendered into English Verse by Edward FitzGerald, The Four Editions with their Original Prefaces and Notes, published by Bernhard Tauchnitz in 1910. This has now been superceded by Edward FitzGerald – Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – A Critical Edition, edited by Christopher Decker (1997). Decker’s Appendix 1 is particularly useful for the view it gives of the evolution of the poem, verse by verse, through the four editions. It also indicates (p.164 & p.168) the two minor alterations which FitzGerald made by hand in a copy of the fourth edition, and which led to the famous fifth edition. [This was first published by William Aldis Wright in Letters and Literary Remains of Edward FitzGerald (Macmillan & Co., 1889), vol.3, p.349-366, but thereafter, from 1890, printed separately by Macmillan, coupled with the text of the first edition, numerous reprints appearing by 1900.] Decker’s Appendix 2 also gives Fitzgerald’s early Latin renderings of 31 rubaiyat. These can also be found in Arberry (as note 1d, p.58-64.) At the time of writing (June 2012) there is also a useful online verse by verse, side by side, version of the first four editions, with comparative links to Whinfield’s 1883 edition at: . The site also gives Fitzgerald’s Latin verses.

b) It would be interesting to know which of the four editions of The Rubaiyat published during his lifetime FitzGerald himself liked the best. We do at least have his views on the relative merits of the first two editions. In a letter to E.B.Cowell written in March 1872, when Bernard Quaritch was wondering whether to reprint the first or second edition, FitzGerald wrote, “Of course, I prefer the second Edition; or I should not have made it.” (III.335) Again, in a letter to Quaritch, also written in March 1872 (III.339) he writes:

“I daresay Edition 1 is better in some respects than 2, but I think not altogether. Surely, several good things were added – perhaps too much of them which also gave Omar’s thoughts room to turn in…..I dare say Edition 1 best pleased those who read it first: as first Impressions are apt to be strongest. By the same rule might not those who read the second Edition go the other way?...As to the relative fidelity of the two Versions, there isn’t a Pin to choose – not in the opening Stanzas you send.”

FitzGerald went on to say that if he had to vote for either a reissue of the first edition or the publication of the expanded second edition, “I certainly vote for Version 2, with some whole Stanzas which may be ‘de trop’ cut out, and some of the old readings replaced.”

As to the “relative fidelity” of the editions, Heron Allen (as note 11a, p.xiii) had this to say:

“It will be observed that FitzGerald’s tendency, after the second edition, was to eliminate quatrains which were merely suggested by the general tone and sentiment of the original poem, and not the reflection or translation of particular and identifiable rubaiyat. The reader is especially recommended, when studying these parallels, to turn to the corresponding quatrain in the first edition, for FitzGerald often diverged further from the originals in making his subsequent variations – notably, for instance, in the first and forty-eighth quatrains.”

Note that Heron Allen here refers to the 1st and 48th quatrains of the 3rd, 4th and 5th editions, quatrain 48 of these editions being quatrain 38 of the 1st and quatrain 49 of the 2nd.

Note 10
A reason that has been suggested for this is that an earlier published work of his, Six Dramas of Calderon, received a scathing review in the prestigious journal The Athenaeum, in 1853, but actually this is not true. He had published his Euphranor: a Dialogue on Youth anonymously in 1851 because of “a real horror to me to be known as the writer” (II.19). He had put his name to Calderon simply because there was another translation by MacCarthy on the market at the same time and he didn’t want the two to be confused – see II.124 & 153. (For the Athenaeum review, see II.93 & 94n3.) The main reason for FitzGerald’s reticence in putting his name to things seems likely to have been no more than his fear that “I had made an Ass of myself” (II.112) This lack of self-confidence took its most ironic form when he wondered if, in producing a second edition of Omar, he was making a mountain out of a molehill! (III.60). It is worth mentioning, too, that FitzGerald was acutely embarrassed by anything approaching praise. (III.722-3)

Note 11
Undoubtedly the best book for seeing how FitzGerald stitched together his free translation of the verses is a) Edward Heron Allen – Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, with their Original Persian Sources, Collated from his own Manuscripts, and literally translated (1899). In his preface (p.xi-xii) Heron Allen notes that of the 101 verses in the 3rd , 4th and 5th editions, 49 were paraphrases of single quatrains; 44 took lines from more than one quatrain; 2 were inspired by quatrains taken from J.B.Nicolas’ French translation of the rubaiyat which had been published in 1867; 2 were “quatrains reflecting the whole spirit of the original poem”; and 4 were actually traceable to Persian authors other than Omar Khayyam. In addition, there were “three which appeared only in the first and second editions and were afterwards suppressed by Edward FitzGerald himself”, and which appeared not to be traceable to any original quatrain(s) nor firmly attributable to any other Persian author either. These must be verses 33 and 45 of the 1st edition, and verse 77 of the 2nd edition – see Heron-Allen p.155 & 161. All three are very fine Omarian verses, wherever they came from! The inference seems to be that FitzGerald made them up in the spirit of Omar! b) In addition to Heron-Allen’s book, Arberry (as note 1d) is also quite useful here. c) Note that Heron Allen also published The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: being a Facsimile of the Manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, with a transcript into Modern Persian Characters (1898). d) Also useful is Heron-Allen’s little book Some Side-lights upon Edward FitzGerald’s Poem ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ (1898).

Note 12
FitzGerald’s unorthodox treatment of the original Persian texts of Omar Khayyam’s verses – referred to variously by himself as “tesselated” (II.294), “paraphrase” (II.304) and “mashed together” (II.318) etc – but nevertheless with great “pains of translation” (II.335) – was not unique to The Rubaiyat, but was in fact just the most famous result of his unorthodox working methods! He was similarly ruthless with his translations of the Calderon plays (II.543-4), of Aeschylus ‘ Agamemnon (III.217) and of Attar’s Bird Parliament (III.540). His later translation of Sophocles’ Oedipus – intended only for private circulation among friends – was a similar distillation (IV.385-6) – which worried even him lest he stand “accused of murdering Sophocles.”

Again, when FitzGerald was editing down the poems of Bernard Barton for posthumous publication, not only did he ‘cut’ material, he was not averse to re-wording Barton’s efforts to ‘improve’ them. As he put it, “I am sure I have distilled many pretty little poems out of long dull ones” (I.633). Amusingly he had similar ambitions to take “scissors and paste” to Frederick Tennyson’s poems (III.406; IV.88), and he actually did do so with the poems of George Crabbe (IV.152, 162-3) – his purpose here being to issue an edition “for some few who will not encounter the original book.” (IV.195)

Nor were FitzGerald’s draconian measures restricted to the printed word – his approach to paintings could be similarly drastic. He cut down and touched up the fading colours of his Opie (I.306, 309), attacked his Velasquez with turpentine (II.426), and was not averse to cutting a painting in half to create two smaller paintings, or cutting off the dark corners of a painting with a gold oval frame to get a more pleasing effect (II.459). “I have a sort of Genius for Picture-framing” he once told Fanny Kemble. (III.653)

Note 13
After FitzGerald’s translations, probably the most popular are those by Edward Henry Whinfield, who published verse translations of 253 quatrains in 1882, expanding this to 500 quatrains in 1883. After Whinfield’s verses, the next most popular are probably those by poet and man of letters, Richard Le Gallienne, entitled Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: a Paraphrase from several Literal Translations, first published in 1897. One critic, writing in The Saturday Review (11th Dec 1897, p.670), referred to it as an “impertinence” to FitzGerald, adding that, “This silly attempt to paint the rose and gild refined gold is doomed to oblivion from its very birth.” Nevertheless, a second edition appeared in 1898, and a third, enlarged, edition in 1901. Le Gallienne himself did not read Persian at all, and, as the title indicates, produced his verses from the literal translations of others who could read Persian, notably the prose translation by Justin Huntley McCarthy M.P., Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, first published in 1889. McCarthy’s version, too, was popular enough to run to a second edition in 1898.

Another rather nice translation, which seems, however, to get relatively little mention these days, is John Leslie Garner’s book, The Stanzas of Omar Khayyam, published in 1898. Garner’s translation purports to be more literal than FitzGerald’s, whilst retaining the same verse format as FitzGerald. Garner realised that to do this might “incur the danger of a comparison with the most beautiful quatrains in the English language”, adding, in further tribute to FitzGerald, “still, a translation which closely follows the letter of the original may find its ‘apologia pro vita sua’ in the belief that it may in a measure show how much more is due the Briton than the Persian” (p.xiv) Actually, Garner’s work needed no apologia, as it was very effective in its own right. (Note that Garner’s 1898 edition was a slightly enlarged and re-titled version of his earlier book, The Strophes of Omar Khayyam, published in 1888.)

For One Hundred Quatrains from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – a Rendering in English Verse by Elizabeth Alden Curtis, with an Introduction by Richard Burton, published in America in 1899, see the note at the end of Appendix 5.

A more modern translation that has achieved great popularity is The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs (1979), this being published by Penguin Books in addition to their FitzGerald edition (edited with an Introduction by Dick Davis, and first published in 1989.) It is interesting that just as FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat was taken by troops to the trenches in the First World War, so Avery and Heath-Stubbs’ version went with journalist Fergal Keane into the Iraq War – see his book All of these People (2006), p.370 (the quoted verse is no.58 in Avery & Heath-Stubbs.)

Finally, among the less memorable translations is one worth mentioning if only because of its rather strange author. This is Frederick Baron Corvo’s book The Rubaiyat of Umar Khaiyam: done into English from the French of J.B.Nicolas, together with the French Text, with an Introduction by Nathan Haskell Dole, published in 1903. It was published in both England and America at a time when FitzGerald’s version was enjoying huge popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, and Baron Corvo apparently had high hopes of it making him a fortune. Unfortunately the public didn’t share his enthusiasm, and despite Dole’s supportive introduction (he called Corvo “a masterly translator”) the book was a damp squib both here and in the United States! (Even so, it ran to a second edition in 1924, this time with an Introduction by Edward Heron-Allen and 16 colour illustrations by Hamzeh Carr – see Cecil Woolf, A Bibliography of Frederick Rolfe, Baron Corvo (1957), p.69-71; the two editions are Potter #570 & 574. For more details see Appendix 15.) But popular or not, its author makes it interesting, because he was something of a fantasist whose baronial title may well have been as phoney as his pose as “Rev. Frederick William Rolfe, Late Professor of English Literature and History at S. Marie’s College of Oscott.” (Far from being a Reverend, he was, in fact, a failed priest who had been expelled from Oscott, a Catholic training college for priests, near Birmingham, and, needless to say, he had never been a Professor there – or anywhere else for that matter!) For a more detailed account of the colourful, if occasionally unpleasant, ‘Baron Corvo’, again see Appendix 15. The Nicolas text, of course, was the translation into French from the original Persian, mentioned elsewhere in this essay, about whose Sufic tendencies FitzGerald complained, most particularly in the introduction to his second edition. An alternative translation of the French text of Nicolas into English, useful for comparison with the Baron’s translation, is to be found in Robert Arnot’s book The Sufistic Quatrains of Omar Khayyam in Definitive Form, including the Translations of Edward Fitzgerald (101 Quatrains), with Edward Heron-Allen’s Analysis; E.H. Whinfield (500 Quatrains); J.B.Nicolas (464 Quatrains); with Prefaces by each Translator and a General Introduction dealing with Omar’s Place in Sufism (New York, 1901) As indicated by the title, Nicolas’ Preface is translated as well as the verses (by “R.A.” – so presumably Arnot himself), though in a slightly edited form.

Note 14
This comes from McCarthy’s introduction to his translation, mentioned above in note 13 (p.viii), and is quoted in Arberry (1d, p.31).

Note 15
FitzGerald did not comment much on God allowing evil to happen in the world which He had created, and in particular in the name of religion, but he did write this, in a letter to Anna Biddell written in December 1876:

“My two Irish Cousins came to me on Saturday: went to the little Roman Chapel on Sunday, and on Christmas Day: and left me by Afternoon Train, I playing them out with their own most beautiful Hymn ‘Adeste Fideles’ – which we Schismatics have adopted by the name of ‘Portuguese’. To think that People were taken out to be burnt after that Hymn had been chaunted perhaps! ‘Adeste Fideles’ means ‘Come, ye Faithful!’ – to witness that Ceremony – perhaps – though the words are meant to call on all Catholics to worship at the Nativity of Christ, not to witness the murder of those who may have differed as to his Real Presence in the Sacrament. O how could He have sat in Heaven, at Father’s Right Hand, to witness such Things done – in his Honour!” (III.734)

Note 16
a) Curiously, perhaps, FitzGerald did not lay much stress on this in his first edition, but made up for it in later editions. Here is verse 67 in the 2nd edition, for example (it became verse 64 in the 3rd, 4th and 5th editions):

Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us pass’d the door of Darkness through,
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too.

It is interesting that whilst this view resonated with many in Victorian England, this period was also the time at which Spiritualism became increasingly popular. It had started with the Fox sisters in America in 1848 and spread to England by 1853. By the early 1870s its popularity was such that Sir William Crookes undertook serious investigation of three mediums, Florence Cook, Kate Fox (one of the Fox sisters, who had come to England in 1871) and Daniel Dunglas Home – the last, who was said to have been seen to be levitated up into the air by the spirits, was dubbed “an Impostor” and “a scoundrel without shame” by Charles Dickens, and inspired Robert Browning to write an unflattering poem about him, “Mr. Sludge the Medium”, published, like “Rabbi ben Ezra”, in his Dramatis Personae in 1864. [For a good account of Hume see Jean Burton, Heyday of a Wizard (1948). The book gives a fascinating view of the Victorian spiritualist scene, with references not only to Robert Browning’s skepticism of – and his wife’s fascination with – spiritualism, but also the involvement of the likes of Ruskin and Rossetti, on which more below. Her chapter 10 is entitled “Mr Sludge”. For some useful general background of Victorian Spiritualism, see Russell M. Goldfarb and Clare R. Goldfarb, Spiritualism in Nineteenth Century Letters (1978) and, more generally, Ronald Pearsall, The Table-Rappers (1972). For Dickens on Home, see M.House, G. Storey, K. Tillotson (eds.) The Letters of Charles Dickens (1965-2002), in particular the letter to Mrs Linton of 16th Sept 1860 (vol.9, p.311) for the “impostor” quote, and the letter to Wilkie Collins of 22nd April 1863 (vol.10, p.239) for the “scoundrel” quote. In his article “The Martyr Medium”, published in the periodical All the Year Round (4th April 1863, p.133-6), Dickens also wrote a scornful account of Home’s recently published autobiography. See also 16b below.]

Spiritualism came to be intricately linked with Mesmerism (which had been around since the late 18th century) in the field of “unknown powers.” Though Mesmerism is synonymous with hypnotism now, it wasn’t so back in the early 19th century, for it had become an umbrella term for electrical biology, animal magnetism, odic (or odylic) force, spiritual healing and assorted occult phenomena. [Remember that in the early 19th century electrical forces were still largely ‘mysterious’ – witness Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, first published in 1818. Magnetism was equally ‘mysterious’, and in fact magnets were an essential tool of Mesmer himself – see Pearsall p.16, for example.] In 1850 there appeared an English translation of Baron von Reichenbach’s Researches on Magnetism &c, in their relation to the Vital Force, a book which had a great impact: electro-magnetic forces were by now being invoked to explain everything from hypnotism and healing to ghosts and telepathy. Not unexpectedly, then, when Spiritualism took hold in the mid 19th century, it readily latched onto the trappings of Mesmerism, and indeed, many Mesmerists latched onto Spiritualism as another manifestation of Mesmeric forces! (After all, superficially, there is little difference between a mesmeric trance and a mediumistic one.) In a letter to Bernard Barton, written in 1844, FitzGerald said that he had read an “extremely interesting” account (in The Athenaeum) of Harriet Martineau’s cure, by mesmerism, of an illness that had plagued her for 5 years (I.463.)

As regards Spiritualism itself, FitzGerald seems to have been skeptical, regarding with some alarm his friend Frederick Tennyson’s involvement with it, and in particular with a deaf and more than usually eccentric Spiritualist called Henry Melville. With help from the Spirit World, Melville claimed to have re-discovered a Lost Secret of the Freemasons, which apparently he hoped to sell back to them, even though they were quite unaware they had lost it! FitzGerald thought that even a child could see that Melville was a charlatan (though actually he was more likely just deluded), and was amazed at Frederick’s gullibility, given his strong intellect. Following Melville’s death in 1873, Frederick became involved with a psychic healer called Dr Mack, who could diagnose bodily ailments by clairvoyant means and then cure them by Mesmeric Healing, all of which left FitzGerald more amused than impressed (see III.366, 367 n.2, 456, 458 & 644-5.)

Alfred Tennyson did not share his brother’s enthusiasm for Spiritualism, believing that the Spirits – assuming they exist – would choose something better than mere table-rapping by which to speak to the living. (See Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir by his Son (1897), vol.2, p.342-3.)

The novelist Thackeray, another friend of FitzGerald’s, was impressed and intrigued by the physical phenomena of table turning and spirit raps, but still felt that spiritualism was riddled with “dire humbug and imposture” and was in many ways “a most dreary and foolish superstition”. (See Gordon N. Ray (ed.), The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray (1946), vol.3, p.134 – letter to Mrs Elliot and Kate Perry, 28th Nov. to 1st Dec. 1852. Thackeray gives an amusing – and revealing – account of asking ‘the spirits’ questions in Latin and German.)

Again, following the death of Rose la Touche in 1875, John Ruskin took to attending séances at the house of Mrs Cowper Temple, where the medium, on more than one occasion, professed to see the spirit of Rose hovering near him. (Peter Quennell, John Ruskin: the Portrait of a Prophet (1949), p.285; Ruskin refers briefly to his experiences in two letters to C.E.Norton written in January and February 1876 – The Works of John Ruskin, vol.37, p.189 & p.190; see also the Introduction to Works , vol.18,; also Jean Burton’s biography of D.D.Home, mentioned above, which says how Spiritualism rescued Ruskin from “brooding on the arid and purposeless waste to which Darwin, Huxley, et al had reduced the universe and the soulless automaton to which they had reduced himself.” (p.166) See also Pearsall, op.cit., p.69.)

Again, according to Oswald Doughty’s book A Victorian Romantic: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1949), though Rossetti was skeptical of Spiritualism (p.358), it seems that, “moved by the popular interest in spiritualistic enquiry”, he did make “some arrangement with Watts for indicating, if possible, his survival after death, so resolving that question of personal immortality which haunted Rossetti and his age.”(p.671)

Finally, of course, we should mention the Society for Psychical Research, founded in London in 1882 by Edmund Gurney, Frederick Myers, Henry Sidgwick and others, for the serious scientific investigation of the phenomena of spiritualism and other psychic phenomena. Not everything was on the level of a parlous game, and the SPR gave to many the serious hope that life after death could be established as a scientific fact. (For a curious Rubaiyat-related off-shoot of this – Albert. J. Edmunds, A Duet with Omar (1913) – see Appendix 12g.)

[In the present context we should perhaps also mention Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). He was a Swedish philosopher and scientist who in the mid 1740s experienced a “spiritual awakening”, which involved a vision of Christ and a conviction that it was his mission to spiritually reinterpret the early books of the Old Testament. Another of the ‘privileges’ afforded by his spiritual awakening was a God-given ability to communicate with the spirits – or angels, for at death, he claimed, man takes on an angelic form – inhabiting both heaven and hell. These communications led to what is probably his most famous book, Heaven and Hell, or to give its full title, Heaven and its Wonders, and Hell, from Things Heard and Seen, first published in Latin in 1758, but subsequently translated into many languages. Swedenborg’s rise to popularity undoubtedly owed much to the comfort he brought to people, not only as regards the existence of an Afterlife, but also the relative ease by which they might, if mindful of God and morally good, enter into a comfortingly earth-like, but much more spiritual and perfect, Kingdom of Heaven. On such terms, even the rich and the heathen could get in, and he reassured his readers that unbaptised children certainly didn’t go to hell, as some staunch Catholics believed. No doubt his descriptions of splendid Angelic Garments and the sumptuous Palaces of Heaven added to the appeal, as did his accounts of the super-human powers one could expect to develop beyond the grave.

Swedenborg had a wide-ranging influence – William Blake, John Flaxman, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were three prominent names that came under his spell in one way or another. Others mentioned in the course of this study are Frederick Tennyson (above and Appendix 4d), Evelyn de Morgan (Gallery 3F) and Albert J. Edmunds (Appendix 12g) Such was his popularity in England that the Swedenborg Society was founded in London in 1810. (John Flaxman was one of its founder members, in fact.) It continues to this day.

Swedenborg is sometimes claimed as a sort of Herald of Spiritualism (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle regarded him as such), though actually he believed that his communications with the spirits were a personal gift from God to him, and not open to all. Indeed, he said that the gift of communication was rarely granted because it was dangerous, and could all too easily lead to the communication with evil spirits. In fact, the practices of the spiritualists, using spirit-raps, table-turning, automatic writing and ouija boards, were very different to the “interior audio-visual experiences” of Swedenborg. Indeed, in 1860 there was something of a scandal when the proprietor of the Swedenborg Society’s bookshop was found to be selling spiritualist literature and, in particular, books by a renegade Swedenborgian named Thomas Lake Harris, who was not only a spiritualist but also the proponent of some distasteful “avant-garde views on sexuality”!

Undoubtedly what seemed to lend credence to Swedenborg’s visions was his involvement in several seemingly genuine psychic phenomena. Probably the most famous of these occurred at a dinner party in Gothenburg in 1759, when he somehow became aware that a great fire was raging in his home town of Stockholm, over 200 miles away. Some two hours after the start of the experience, he was relieved to ‘know’ that the fire had stopped not far short of his own house, something which, when investigated later, turned out to be true. Impressive, but on the other hand, Swedenborg also claimed to have communicated with spirits living on the Moon, as well as on each of the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These experiences he published in his book Earths in the Universe, or to give its full title, Earths in our Solar System which are called Planets, and Earths in the Starry Heaven, their Inhabitants, and the Spirits and Angels there, from Things Heard and Seen, first published in Latin in 1758, but again with many translated editions published since then. Most readers these days, in the light of modern astronomical knowledge (let alone simple common sense!) will be less than impressed to read how Swedenborg encountered the spirit of Aristotle on Mercury, that the inhabitants of Jupiter never get warts, and that the inhabitants of the Moon are a race of dwarfs who speak from their abdomens!]

b) William Howitt, an ardent spiritualist, wrote thus of D.D.Home in his scholarly book The History of the Supernatural (1863):

“Mr. Home is an exhibitor of what are called physical phenomena, but which are spiritual agencies acting on matter. Through him raps have been given and communications made from deceased friends; tables have been raised into the air, or have moved themselves, as it were, from one place to another in the apartment; his hand has been seized by spirit influence, and rapid communications written out of a surprising character to those to whom they were addressed. Spirit hands have appeared, which have been seen, felt, and recognised frequently by persons present or those of deceased friends; bells have been lifted up and rung about a room; persons in their chairs have been suddenly transported from one end of a room to another; he himself has been frequently lifted up and carried, floating, as it were, through a room near the ceiling. Numbers of such facts are recorded in the ‘British Spiritual Telegraph,’ and the ‘Spiritual Magazine,’ as well as in the ‘Cornhill Magazine,’ with the names and testimonies of well-known witnesses. Such manifestations have been made in very many of the houses of our leading nobility, cabinet ministers, and gentry, in the palaces of nearly half the principal monarchs in Europe. I myself have been witness to many of these phenomena through Mr. Home. The fact that the English press has made a great outcry against the truth of these statements is no proof that they did not take place, but only of the astounding ignorance of the press that all history abounds with such facts; that in all times they have been familiar phenomena, attested by the most celebrated men; and that for the last fifteen years they have been so common in America, that they have convinced 3,000,000 of people. In America, all these phenomena have displayed themselves in far greater force than here.” (vol.2, p.201)

Charles Dickens wrote one of his several scornful anti-spiritualist articles (“Rather a Strong Dose”) just about Howitt’s book. It was published in the March 21st 1863 issue of All the Year Round (p.84-7.)

c) Most notably, Home was actually expelled from Rome by the Papal Government in January 1864 on a charge of sorcery (see Burton, op.cit. p.157-159.) This prompted The London Review to query why Home’s miracles were any less worthy of credence than those of Catholic saints like “St Ursula and her attendant virgins”, who have been allowed “ever since their canonization, to revisit their friends without impropriety.” (Burton p.160)

Note 17
The following table lists the verse numbers here referred to here in the first edition, with the corresponding verse numbers in the fifth edition and the page numbers in Heron-Allen where their Persian antecedents can be found:

Verse no. in FitzGerald’s
First Edition
Verse no. in FitzGerald’s
Fifth Edition
Relevant page(s) in
v.3 v.3 p.6-9
v.8 v.9 p.18-21
v.14 v.16 p.31
v.17 v.18 p.33
v.20 v.21 p.34-37
v.23 v.24 p.41
v.26 v.63 p.96-97
v.27 v.27 p.44-47
v.28 v.28 p.44-47
v.34 v.35 p.56-59
v.39 v.54 p.84-87
v.40 v.55 p.86-87
v.49 v.69 p.102-105
v.50 v.70 p.104-105
v.56 v.77 p.112-115
v.57 v.80 p.118-119
v.58 v.81 p.118-123
v.63 v.86 p.128-129
v.69 v.93 p.136-139
v.71 v.95 p.138-141
v.73 v.99 p.144-145

Note 18
 See A.J.Arberry, Sufism: an Account of the Mystics of Islam (1950): a) p.113-116; b) p.120. See also Appendix 1h.

Note 19
Yogananda’s Sufic interpretation was preceded by Norton F. W. Hazeldine’s little book The Sufism of the Rubaiyat – or, the Secret of the Great Paradox (1908), in which Iram is “the nameless center of the universe, the womb from whence all things are born” and Bahram Gur “symbolizes the sun in the astronomical sign of Sagittarius” (p.3-4.) As for the famous verse 11 of FitzGerald’s first edition, Hazeldine has the Book of Life being read beneath a bough of the Tree of Knowledge, with the jug of wine symbolising “the life of opportunities” and the loaf of bread symbolising “experience” through which we learn wisdom (p.10-11.)

There are numerous other curiosities of interpretation of The Rubaiyat, like J.S.Pattinson’s little book The Symbolism of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1921), which offers “a spiritual interpretation”(p.6) in which Wine is a symbol of the spirit (p.30) and the Grape a symbol of divine wisdom (p.31). This interpretation is very similar to that of the Sufis, of course. Another Sufic interpretation is to be found in Abdullah Dougan's little book Who is the Potter?, a verse by verse interpretation of FitzGerald's first edition, published in New Zealand in 1991. Dougan had been a follower of Gurdjieff before becoming a Sufi with the adopted name of Abdullah (his real name was Neil.) Thus, for example, according to Dougan, in verse 1 the Sultan's Turret symbolises the male sex organ or active force, whilst the Bowl of Night symbolises the female breast or passive force, the overall message of the verse being that our sexual or animal nature must be superseded by our spiritual nature. The Loaf of Bread and Flask of Wine in verse 11, meanwhile, between them represent "manna from heaven" or spiritual food, and "the Cup that clears/ today of past Regrets and future Fears" in verse 20 represents the acquisition of a spiritual understanding of the fifth dimension! Equally curious is Dougan's assertion that FitzGerald was an instrument of Allah and Omar "a very cunning Sufi" who took pot-shots at other Sufis!

More Sufi-like interpretations come from the Theosophists, who readily find karmic law, the Door of Brahma and the non-reality of Time in Omar’s verses – see, for example, Leo L. Partlow, “The Rubaiyat” in The Theosophist (Sept-Dec 1930), p.809-816, and Alice Leighton-Cleather, “Omar Khayyam” in Theosophical Siftings, vol.5, no.4 (1892-3), p.18-20.

Another spiritual Rubaiyat-related oddity was published by the Theosophical Publishing House in 1978, though actually this was a republication of a little book published by The Bodley Head back in 1906. This was a poem of 75 quatrains by James Rhoades, entitled Out of the Silence. The Preface tells us that the poem, “while structurally conforming to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, is directly opposite in its teaching.” Verse 7, spoken by the Voice out of the Vastness who appears in the opening verse, will serve to give the flavour of the whole:

"Know thou thyself: as thou hast learned of Me,
I made thee three in one, and one in three –
Spirit and Mind and Form, immortal Whole,
Divine and undivided Trinity."

Then there is The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with Interpretations by E.L.Gabrielson, whose full title, as given on the title-page of the book, is: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (who wrote the Original Stanzas), and Edward FitzGerald (whose ‘translation’ made the poem widely popular among English-speaking people), and Ernest Ludwig Gabrielson (who has ventured to alter the order of FitzGerald’s stanzas slightly, and also the number thereof: in addition he has added his own interpretation) (1977). If you fancy an interpretation which involves reincarnation, karma, astral and etheric bodies, the alchemy of the ego, the Akashic Records and Guardian Angels, then this book is for you, though be warned: despite its recent date it is surprisingly rare. Perhaps not surprisingly, Gabrielson believed that Omar Khayyam was indeed a Sufi, but that FitzGerald totally misunderstood this and misrepresented his rubaiyat as a result (p.86 & p.109.)

But strangest – and rarest – of all, though of a very different nature to the foregoing, is Life’s Echoes by ‘Tis True: a Possible Elucidation of the Mysteriously Cryptic Tessellations made mostly by Byron, FitzGerald and others from Omar Qayyam’s Rubaiyat. Privately published in Paris in 1926, in a limited edition of 600 copies, it was “for the private amusement of philosophical bibliophiles only”. Being so rare, the only copies I have seen are those in the British Library and in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. The first problem with this curious volume is finding the beginning, which turns out to be in the middle of the book! The first page of the book is p.62, followed by p.61, 60, 59 etc down to p.1. Then after p.1 comes p.128, followed by p.127, 126, 125, and so on, down to p.63, which is right at the back of the book! This bizarre scheme of pagination suggests, at first glance, that something has gone badly wrong in the binding of the book, but actually it turns out that this is exactly what the author intended! (For more details, see Gallery 7F, Figs.5 & 6, and the notes on them.) Why the author did this is not at all clear, but he did. Another oddity of the book is that there is a p.22a as well as a p.22, and there are pages 24a and 24b, but no p.24. Note, too, that a single page number covers both the left hand leaf and its facing right hand leaf. Right hand leaves are labelled “Life” and their facing left hand leaves are labelled “Echo.” “Life” leaves usually bear three rubaiyat, whilst their facing “Echo” leaves bear illustrations (eg Persian miniatures) and/or lines by Byron (occasionally other poets – Cowley, Rochester & Dryden, notably) which relate to and elucidate those rubaiyat. It is to be noted, though, that the lines by Byron, allegedly from a collection of verses written by him in Pisa in 1822, and “found by an English traveller at Pisa in an Italian’s hut” (p.24a), are not actually by Byron at all. Rather, as Douglas Taylor has pointed out, they are from a Byronic forgery / imitation, Don Leon, first published in 1866, though probably written in the 1830s. This poem, whose authorship remains uncertain, purports to be Byron’s homosexual confessions. For those interested, it can be found, with some useful notes, at:

Furthermore, the quoted rubaiyat in Life’s Echoes are not taken from “a hitherto unrecorded manuscript of Omar Qayyam’s rubaiyat” transcribed by one Muhammad Issan in AD 1743 (p.9), a manuscript containing 91 quatrains which the author illustrates in full on p.9–12. In fact, the author seems to have done no translation at all, and his book is, in effect, a sexual reinterpretation of Omar and an erotic parody of FitzGerald! In eastern poetry, we are assured, “the most erotic thoughts are invariably expressed in symbolic terms” (p.23), for which reason the author and compiler of Life’s Echoes fully expects his unlocking of Omar’s symbolism to induce blushes in some quarters.

What we have in this book, then, are a set of mildly pornographic rubaiyat illuminated by a set of mildly pornographic pseudo–Byronic verses, with pictures, the rubaiyat being framed as a sexual parody of FitzGerald’s verses. So odd is the book that I was initially left wondering if the whole thing was a literary hoax. Here, for example, is one of the rubaiyat from p.38:

Oft ere the Phantom False at morning Died,
Methought, a Voice within Love’s Tavern Sighed, –
When Temple’s Altar’s all Prepared – and Waits –
Why Nods the Drowsy Worshipper outside?

This is a clear parody of the second verse of FitzGerald’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th editions. Part of the ‘Byronic’ poem of which accompanies this parody reads:

How oft in dreams, that ape the hour of bliss,
Youth’s passions wander, till they, waking, miss
The lovely phantom, clasped in their embrace,
And find a lost emission in her place!

As to whether or not this book is a literary hoax of some sort, the book’s covers (another of its eccentricities – again see the notes on Gallery 7F, Fig.5 for details) seem to hint at it. One cover (Fig.5a) bears an elaborate monogram of the name Omar, the date 1123 (at one time held to the year that Omar died) and the following verse:

Ope me? – I’m but the guardian shell
To spurious pearls, which hidden dwell,
Dull Dunce, on ev’ry page within;
Though p’raps forbidden – break the spell

The other cover (Fig.5b) bears an elaborate monogram of the name Qayyam and the date 1923 (the 8th centenary of Omar's death), together with the verse:

These pearls of wit in Eastern climes were bred;
Each philosophically’s true, and sound:
Thus Omar satirised the life men led,
And them ‘’Tis True’s’ so mis-FitzGeralded!

But the author turns out to have been quite serious in his reinterpretation of Omar's symbolism, for much more on which see the extended account in Appendix 25.

So who was ‘Tis True, the author of Life’s Echoes ? According to two letters tucked inside the copy in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, he was Robert J. R. Brown, and he was a retired colonel in the Indian Army, who had taken up residence at Houilles, just outside Paris. Garry Garrard has discovered that he was first commissioned in 1883 and he was appointed Commanding Officer of the 74th Punjabi Regiment in March 1908. He served in that position until November 1913, when he transferred to the elite band of “Officers in charge of Indian Regiments.” Douglas Taylor has further revealed that according to the London Gazette of 15th June 1920, Col. Brown retired in April 1920. More intriguingly, though, Michael Behrend has pointed out that Aleister Crowley, in his diary, recorded a meeting with Col. R.J.R. Brown in August 1929. [See Tobias Churton, Aleister Crowley (2012), p.318-9.] Unfortunately, it is not clear what the nature of that meeting was, though it is clear from the wording (“met again”) that it wasn’t their first meeting. There are suggestions that it was connected with espionage, but it seems rather more likely that it was connected with a shared interest in erotic ‘Persian’ literature, Crowley having privately published his pornographic book of poems The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz, in London in 1910. (Supposedly “translated from a rare Indian MS by the late Major Lutiy and another”, it was actually a concoction of Crowley’s from start to finish.) Beyond the foregoing, though, little seems to be known about Col. Brown’s personal life. (For more on Col. Brown, again see Appendix 25.)

For another oddity, discussed in more detail – Dr Otoman Ha’nish’s Omar Khayyam in his Rubaiyat (1924) – see Appendix 19. For yet another oddity – a spiritual interpretation of The Rubaiyat supposedly offered by Omar himself from beyond the grave, as recorded by the medium Esther O’Neill in her book Omar’s Rubaiyat Re–Written (1954) – see Appendix 22.

Note 20
The most comprehensive and readily available account of Spurgeon’s life, from which I quote here, is to be found in C.H.Spurgeon: Autobiography, published in two volumes in 1973 (with a reprint in 1995.) The original Autobiography, compiled by his wife and his private secretary from his diaries, letters and records, was published in 4 volumes in 1897, some five years after Spurgeon’s death. Also of great interest, though, for its many old photographs as well as its text, is Charles Ray’s book The Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1903).

a) Spurgeon was such a popular preacher that in March 1861 the Metropolitan Tabernacle was opened near the Elephant and Castle, Newington, London, largely to cater for his congregation (Autobiography vol.2, p.5). It contained basement schoolrooms for boys and girls, plus a lecture hall to seat 800 people, and, above these, a three-tier ‘chapel’ to seat 3000 people, with standing room for another 1000 (ib. vol.2, p.5-6). Seen from the podium, it was literally like a huge concert hall.

b) The lecture, delivered on October 1st 1861 was entitled “The Gorilla amd the Land he inhabits”. Periodically, Spurgeon would address the gorilla on some evolutionary point, as in this extract:

“I have heard that if we should admit this gentleman (the gorilla) to be our cousin, there is Mr Darwin, who at once is prepared to prove that our great-grandfather’s grandfather’s father – keep on for about a millennium or two – was a guinea pig, and that we were ourselves originally descended from oysters, or seaweeds, or starfishes. Now, I demur to that on my own account. Any bearded gentleman here, who chooses to do so, may claim relationship with the oyster; and others may imagine that they are only developed gorillas, but I, for my own part, believe there is a great gulf fixed between us, so that they who would pass from us to you (again turning to the gorilla) cannot; neither can they come to us who would pass from thence. At the same time, I do not wish to hold an argument with the philosopher who thinks himself related to a gorilla; I do not care to claim the honour for myself, but anyone else is perfectly welcome to it.” (Autobiography vol.2, p.133)

Spurgeon’s final point is, of course, that the gorilla might look like a man, but it doesn’t have a soul – that is what he means by “the great gulf fixed between us.”

Acually there is more to Spurgeon’s gorilla than meets today’s eye, for his lecture was partly in response to the publication in 1861 of Paul B. du Chaillu’s book Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa. Though gorillas were known about in England well before du Chaillu’s book – from travellers’ tales, a skull brought back by missionaries in the 1840s, but most notably from a stuffed gorilla exhibited at the Crystal Palace in 1858 – no white man before du Chaillu had ever actually met a living one face to face. Du Chaillu’s book thus caused something of a sensation, on which the author was not slow to capitalise via the lecture circuit. His description of a huge male gorilla “with fiercely-glaring large deep gray eyes, and a hellish expression of face which seemed to me like some nightmare vision” (p.70) makes for a ripping yarn even today, as does his tale of a native woman who was kidnapped by a male gorilla for his own lustful ends, and who lived to tell the tale! (p.60-1) But it wasn’t just that du Chaillu described his experiences in such graphic detail that caused the sensation (and skepticism in some quarters, it should be said); it was also that his book appeared in the wake of Darwin’s book The Origin of Species, so that his descriptions of gorillas being “fearfully like hairy men” (p.60) or like “some hellish dream creature – a being of that hideous order, half-man half-beast, which we find pictured by old artists in some representations of the infernal regions” (p.71) took on a double significance. But despite his study of the anatomy of the apes and “those points of structure wherein these animals most nearly resemble man” (p.363-382) he appears not to have been a Darwinian, for his conscientious search for “an intermediate race …between the natives and the gorilla” was in vain. “I have found not a single being, young or old”, he wrote, “who could show an intermediate link between man and the gorilla, which would certainly be found if man had come from the ape.” (p.378-9) (It is a common misconception that Darwin claimed that Man came from the Ape; what he actually claimed was that Man and Ape have a common ancestor.) Spurgeon and du Chaillu were not enemies, then, and indeed Spurgeon’s gorilla was on loan from du Chaillu, who was actually in the audience to hear the lecture, and seconded a vote of thanks to Spurgeon at the end of it. (See, for example, “Mr Spurgeon on the ‘Gorilla’” in The Liverpool Mercury for October 3rd, 1861. The Crystal Palace gorilla is mentioned in this article, but for a special feature on it, see “The ‘Gorilla’ at the Crystal Palace” in The Morning Chronicle (London) for November 8th, 1858. For skepticism regarding du Chaillu’s book, see “The Gorilla Controversy: Extraordinary Scene” in The Birmingham Daily Post for July 4th 1861. The extraordinary scene occurred at a meeting of the Ethnological Society and involved Sir Richard Burton, at that time merely Captain Burton, defending du Chaillu and his work.Things got so heated that du Chaillu, who was in the audience, almost ended up challenging a skeptical Mr Malone to a duel, but in the end settled for just spitting in his face! See also Frank McLynn, Burton: Snow upon the Desert (1990), p.191.)

c) Ronald Pearsall. The Table-Rappers (1972), p.214.

Note 21
This often quoted remark was made in a letter to Rev.D.S.Govett, written from Oxford in December 1855, in which he said: “If I had no duties here, and had fluency, I would long ago have asked leave to preach in the alleys of London, where the Gospel is as unknown as in Thibet.” The letter is quoted in H.P.Liddon’s Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey (1894), vol.3, p.32.

Note 22
See, for example, Derek Parker, Voltaire: the Universal Man (2005), as follows:

a) p.xii, p.61 and p.195.

b) p.61-2. Compare FitzGerald’s comment, “It is a lucky thing that God made Man, and that Man has not to make God: we should fare badly, judging by the specimens already produced…”(I.236)

c) p.37-8.

d) FitzGerald had read La Henriade and La Pucelle (III.463), as well as Candide (IV.291), but appears not to have been a great fan of Voltaire.

e) p.32.

f) p.152-5 – Voltaire referred to the great Lisbon earthquake in Candide, ch.5, but more particularly in his Poème sur le Désastre de Lisbonne. A good account of the disaster, and its religious implications for the Christians of Lisbon, can be found in T.D.Kendrick, The Lisbon Earthquake (1956). For the destruction of “over twenty parish churches…some of the largest convents…(and) the home of the Inquisition”, see p.31; for the sparing of “a street full of brothels” see p.79. Kendrick covers a number of theories proposed at the time as to why God allowed such things to happen, many, of course, absolving God and laying the blame fairly (or unfairly?) and squarely on the Sins of Man!

g) p.196-7;

h) p.199.

Note 23
a) FitzGerald did not make much reference to Darwin in his letters. In a letter to Stephen Spring Rice written in 1860 he wrote:

“Darwin’s Species bring one back to the old Vestiges of Creation: which I always had a leaning to, though Sedgwick and the Big Wigs don’d it down as impious and impudent: which it may be.”(II.355)

(Sedgwick was Adam Sedgwick, the Professor of Geology at Cambridge.) Again, in a letter to W.F.Pollock written in 1873, he wrote:

“Max Müller’s Darwin Paper reminded me of an observation in Bacon’s Sylva; that Apes and Monkeys, with Organs of Speech so much like Man’s, have never been taught to speak an Articulate word: whereas Parrots and Starlings, with organs so unlike Man’s, are easily taught to do so. Do you know if Darwin, or any of his Followers, or Antagonists, advert to this?” (III.430-431)

(Müller’s Darwin Paper was the second of three lectures on Darwin’s theory given at the Royal Institution, and was published in the June 1873 issue of Fraser’s Magazine, the same magazine which had declined to publish 35 of the “less wicked” of the Rubaiyat verses back in 1858.)

Finally, in letters written to W. Aldis Wright and Anna Biddell in 1880, occurs a characteristically quirky comment of FitzGerald’s relating to Darwin. He describes listening to “a beautiful anthem” in Westminster Abbey, and, as he listened, thinking that the Abbey was “a remarkable structure for Monkeys to have erected.” (IV.376) See also III.680 & 682 – “Carlyle vehement against Darwin, and the Turk.”

b) The story is quoted, for example, at the end of ch.4 in Robert E. D. Clark’s well-known book, Darwin: Before and After, first published in 1948, but which has gone through many reprints since. But like the Wilberforce-Huxley encounter detailed in note 26 below, the story has many variants, for which see Indeed, it is not known whether anyone ever actually said this at all, and it may well have been originally a fictional anecdote which later became accepted as a fact to be quoted and re-quoted!

Note 24
According to H. Jacobi’s article “Ages of the World (Indian)” in Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (vol.1, p.200-202), orthodox Hindus recognise four Ages of the World (or Yugas), which roughly correspond to the Ages of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron recognised by classical literature. The four Ages are the Krta Yuga (4), the Treta Yuga (3), the Dvapara Yuga (2) and the Kali Yuga (1), the (numerical) names apparently being derived from the scores on a die. Each Yuga is preceded by a Dawn period and followed by a Twilight period, and the four Yugas together, including their Dawns and Twilights, make one Mahayuga. The chronological proportions of the whole fanciful and stylised scheme are summarised in the table below. Note that 1 Divine Year = 360 of our earthly years, so that a Mahayuga takes up 12,000 Divine Years = 4,320,000 ordinary years.

Name Number Length in Divine Years Metal
Krta-yuga Krta = 4 Dawn = 400 Gold
Yuga proper = 4000
Twilight = 400
Treta-yuga Treta = 3 Dawn= 300 Silver
Yuga proper = 3000
Twilight = 300
Dvapara-yuga Dvapara = 2 Dawn = 200 Bronze
Yuga proper = 2000
Twilight = 200
Kali-yuga Kali = 1 Dawn = 100 Iron
Yuga proper = 1000
Twilight = 100
    Total: 12000  

The succession of the Yugas, from Krta to Treta to Dvapara to Kali signifies, like the succession of Ages from Gold to Silver to Bronze to Iron in the West, a general decrease in human virtue with time. Jacobi goes on (p.201) to say that a Mahayuga probably at first comprised the whole existence of the world, but that the idea developed that one mahayuga followed another, 1000 of them forming a single Kalpa, the Kalpa being adopted as the length of time from the creation to the destruction of the world. A Kalpa, then, would be 4,320,000,000 ordinary years – strangely close to the accepted age of the Earth!

Hesiod’s Works and Days (lines 109-201) is probably the best known classical sequence of world ages, symbolising the descent of Man from the perfection of the Golden Age to the imperfection of the present Iron Age, with the Age of the Trojan Heroes somewhat awkwardly sandwiched in between Bronze and Iron.

Note 25
a) Though a heliocentric model of the Solar System had been proposed by the Ancient Greeks (eg by Aristarchus of Samos in about 270 BC), it was only with Copernicus in the 16th century that the geocentric model was really overthrown, and the Earth shown to revolve around the Sun. Again, though Eratosthenes (276-195 BC) had measured the size of the Earth with surprising accuracy, it was not until about 1615 that the Dutchman Snellius improved upon Eratosthenes, followed by Picard in 1669-1670 – the latter’s measurements were of sufficient accuracy to suggest the polar flattening of the Earth. In about 1700 the Cassini brothers refined Picard’s work and confirmed the polar flattening of the Earth, and the French Academy of Sciences, working in 1735-1736, was able to refine things even further. The distance between the Earth and the Sun was first measured with some accuracy by Cassini and Richer in 1672 (though Eratosthenes is said to have made a good estimate of it.) From this, the scale of the Solar System could be established, involving miles by the million. As regards the members of the Solar System, in 1781, Herschell discovered Uranus, and in 1846 Leverrier and Adams (independently), following elaborate calculations, discovered Neptune. Between 1801 and 1852 twenty of the asteroids had been discovered; by 1870 the total had risen to a hundred and ten. On a different front, the velocity of light had first been measured by Roemer in 1676; by 1853 it was estimated at 192,000 miles per second, close to the presently accepted 186,000 miles per second. The distance to the first star, 61 Cygni, was measured by Bessel in 1838, and it was this which revealed the huge scale of interstellar distances, for 61 Cygni turned out to be some 60 trillion miles away – it took light fully 10 years to reach us from the star! Finally, in the 1840’s, astronomers were tentatively able to establish that not only was the Earth not stationary, but that the Sun wasn’t either – it was estimated that the Sun was moving roughly in the direction of the star π Herculis at the astounding rate of 33,350,000 miles every year. In addition, starting with the studies of Sir William Herschel in the 1780s, it became clear that the Milky Way was our insider’s view of the galaxy of stars within which the Sun moved, and that outside our own galaxy were others, situated at incredible distances away (though it wasn’t to be until the 20th century that these distances could be measured.) Another notable achievement of the 19th century was spectroscopy. Between 1814 and 1823 Fraunhofer had catalogued the dark lines in the spectrum of the Sun. Between 1859 and 1862, Kirchhoff and Bunsen were able to explain the nature of theses lines and to use them to establish that the Sun was made up of elements found here on Earth (notably Hydrogen; it was solar spectroscopy, of course, which led to the discovery of a new element, Helium.) Thus began to be answered a question that many thought would never be answered. How much of this was familiar to FitzGerald himself is not clear – much of it was readily available in popular astronomical works of the time, such as O.M.Mitchell’s book The Orbs of Heaven (1851), or one of the many editions of Sir John Herschel’s book Outlines of Astronomy, first published in 1849, and FitzGerald would certainly have encountered much of it in the opening chapter of Robert Chambers’ book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844), mentioned earlier.

b) The problems posed for the Christian faithful by Geology were much less precisely quantified than those posed by Astronomy, simply because geological time-scales remained stubbornly less measurable. In fact, precise geological time-scales remained elusive until radiometric dating became possible in the twentieth century. Before then, there were only crude estimates based on questionable assumptions.

As early as the eighteenth century it was clear to many geologists that the processes responsible for the formation of rock strata took far longer than could possibly fit in with the widely accepted Biblical creation date of 4004 BC. But nobody could put specific ages to things and it effectively remained pure speculation, so that the devout English poet William Cowper, in his poem “The Task” (1785), could poke fun at the geologists for presuming to correct God - for God, after all, had dictated the Book of Genesis to Moses, and had told us that it was all done in the space of six days:

......Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata there
Extract a register, by which we learn
That He who made it and reveal'd its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age. (Book III, lines 150-4)

Not only that, but the lack of precise figures meant that the faithful could also invoke 2 Peter 3.8 in times of difficulty: “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” As it was to turn out, though, Peter would have been much nearer the mark if he had said “one day is with the Lord as a billion years, and a billion years as one day.”

The publication of Charles Lowell's Principles of Geology in 1830-33 (already mentioned in chapter 3 of the main essay), skilfully marshalled the evidence for huge geological time-scales, though he held back from trying to give any actual estimates. In 1862, William Thomson (who later became Lord Kelvin) made an attempt to quantify the age of the Earth by assuming that it had been formed as a molten globe and then cooled down to its present temperature. Though his calculations were based on various faulty assumptions, they nevertheless came up with a figure of between 20 and 400 million years, which, though way off-target, as we now know, was at least a step in the right direction. (It is to be noted, however, that Thomson was and remained a devout Christian throughout his life, his faith being able to accommodate such geological realities.) But even in the 1860s many geologists believed that even the upper limit of Thomson's time-scale was still too low. It wasn't to be until the twentieth century, though, that radiometric dating provided any relatively reliable figures. (Radioactivity was only discovered in 1896, remember.) Thus in 1927 Arthur Holmes gave an age range for the Earth of 1.6 to 3.0 billion years, based on radiometric measures. New radiometric techniques and revised versions of older ones now put the age of the Earth at about 4.5 billion years.

A Note on Cowper. Having quoted Cowper's famous rejoinder to the presumptuous geologists, it is worthwhile to take a brief look at his attitude to the astronomers and their discoveries. In some ways he seems to have viewed scientific astronomy as rather a tragic waste of God-given time, for in the lines following his comment on the geologists, he talks of the astronomers who:

....tell us whence the stars. Why some are fixt,
And planetary some. What gave them first
Rotation, from what fountain flow'd their light.
Great contest follows, and much learned dust
Involves the combatants, each claiming truth,
And truth disclaiming both. And thus they spend
The little wick of life's poor shallow lamp,
In playing tricks with nature, giving laws
To distant worlds and trifling in their own. (III.158-166)

Much later in “The Task”, he does pause to wonder if God has created life on other worlds out in the immensity of space. Addressing the shining hosts of Heaven, he asks:

If from your elevation, whence ye view
Distinctly scenes invisible to man,
And systems of whose birth no tidings yet
Have reach'd this nether world, ye spy a race
Favour'd as our's... (V.825-9.)

William Norris Free, in his book William Cowper (1970), writes:

Science...had shown the universe to be much larger than people had previously thought. Instead of comforting Cowper with the vision of an orderly universe, it filled him with a sense of the loneliness of a world in which man is so insignificant. This response is usually expressed in highly particularized imagery which gives form not to the idea of the universe as a divine mechanism, but to a highly personal longing for communion with God. For example, gazing at the stars (in V.822-49) leads to a moralistic concern with the need for a loftier perspective from which to view man's condition. The brightness of the stars reminds the poet that Heaven is infinitely brighter; their distance, that man on earth is woefully separated from God; their position in the skies, that Heaven is infinitely more lofty a conception than the physical world can contain." (p.120-1)

Cowper, it should perhaps be added by way of elucidation, was prone to bouts of religious mania in which he imagined that God had singled him out for punishment and ultimate damnation. In his “Lines written during a Period of Insanity” (quoted on Free p.39, and dating from 1763), he complained that he was “Damn'd below Judas”, that “Deity disowns me”, and that “I, fed with judgment, in a fleshly tomb, am / Buried above ground.”

c) A more recent author who devoted much space to the scientific embarrassment of Christian fundamentalism was Mark Twain, though the bulk of this material was published only after his death, notably in Howard G. Baetzhold and Joseph B. McCullough's book The Bible according to Mark Twain (1996). Twain was bemused by the fact that, according to the Book of Genesis, God spent five of the six days of Creation just making what we now know to be this tiny, insignificant Earth of ours, with all its flora and fauna, and yet it only took Him a single day (the fourth day) to create all the heavenly bodies - the Sun, the Moon, the Planets and millions upon millions of Stars, most of which are vastly bigger than our own Sun. Not only that, but if the Universe was created in 4004 BC, then the majority of God's created stars would not yet be visible to us on account of their being so far away that their light would not yet have reached us. Indeed, if the Bible is literally true, Adam and Eve would have seen no stars at all until about three and a half years after their creation, since the light from even the nearest star takes that long to reach the Earth (Baetzhold and McCullough p.228-9.) Twain also had a great deal of fun with Noah's Ark (ib. p.232ff), pointing out that Noah had to collect some 146,000 kinds of birds, beasts and fresh-water creatures, plus upwards of 2,000,000 species of insects, many of which would have been very difficult to catch indeed (p.234). Not only that but, as the loving God must have foreseen, Noah rescued the fly, so that it could spread noisome diseases like typhoid fever among the saved remnant of Mankind and their descendants (p.236). Again, Noah must have rescued the microbes responsible not only for the typhoid so obligingly spread by the aforementioned fly, but also the microbes responsible for cholera, hydrophobia, lockjaw, consumption and bubonic plague (ib. p.240). Then, of course, there was that delightful creature, the hookworm, whose “special prey is the barefooted poor”, the poor being the especially beloved of God, of course. It too must have been rescued by Noah, since it is still with us as part of what Twain called the Creator's “great work of making man miserable.” (ib. p.241-3)

Some of Twain's logistical objections to the Book of Genesis bear comparison with those of Bishop Colenso, on which see Appendix 4b. Again, it is worth recalling at this point P.H.Gosse's book Omphalos as perhaps the most desperate - and yet ingenious - attempt to reconcile geological time-scales with a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis - on which see Appendix 4a.

Note 26
The story as it is usually told (for example by A.N.Wilson in The Victorians (2002), p.228) is that when Bishop Wilberforce asked if it was through his grandfather’s or his grandmother’s side of the family that Huxley claimed descent from a monkey, Huxley replied, “If the question is put to me, would I rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessed of great means of influence and yet who employs these faculties and that influence for the mere purpose of introducing ridicule into a grave scientific discussion, I unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the ape.” But this version of the encounter seems to be a dramatised one dating from nearly forty years after the event, and is included amongst the miscellaneous reminiscences of an anonymous Victorian lady. Her article, “A Grandmother’s Tales” was published in the October 1898 issue of Macmillan’s Magazine (vol. LXXVIII, p.425-435, the encounter being described on p.433-4), and it includes the detail – often repeated since – that a lady in the audience fainted with shock. However, no verbatim record survives from the day itself, contemporary reports are sketchy and certainly do not report the legendary words, and neither Wilberforce nor Huxley left anything like this version of it. For the myth and the reality, so far as it can be reconstructed, see the excellent article “Wilberforce and Huxley: a Legendary Encounter”, by J.R.Lucas, in The Historical Journal, vol.22, issue 2, p.313-330. The article is available on-line at the time of writing at

Incidentally, note 3 of this article identifies the anonymous authoress of “A Grandmother’s Tales” as Mrs Isabella Sidgwick.

Note 27
a) The eight Bridgewater Treatises were: (1) On the Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man, by Rev. Thomas Chalmers (1833); (2) On the Adaptation of External Nature to the Physical Condition of Man, by John Kidd, M.D. (1833); (3) On Astronomy and General Physics, by Rev. William Whewell (1833); (4) The Hand: its Mechanism and Vital Endowments as Evincing Design, by Sir Charles Bell (1834); (5) On Animal and Vegetable Physiology, by Peter Mark Roget M.D. (1839); (6) On Geology and Mineralogy, by Rev. William Buckland (1837); (7) On the Habits, and Instincts of Animals, by Rev. William Kirby (1835); (8) On Chemistry, Meteorology, and the Function of Digestion, by William Prout M. D. (1834). Though these books were welcomed by many, they also attracted much criticism, and to skeptics they came to be known as “the Bilgewater Treatises”. For a good overview see the section “Genesis and Geology” in Owen Chadwick’s book The Victorian Church Part 1 (1966), p.558ff, in particular p.560-565. (Chadwick’s two part work is part of a series with the overall title of An Ecclesiastical History of England.) FitzGerald refers to (1) as “very weak” (I.176), and to (6) as sending his brother-in-law to sleep (I.248)! Incidentally, Roget, the author of (5), is he of Roget’s Thesaurus fame.

b) For example, the problem for devout Christians was not helped any by the publication, in 1857, of Philip Henry Gosse’s book Omphalos: an Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot; and the School of Biblical Criticism was surely not helped any by John William Colenso and his work The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua, Critically Examined, published in 7 parts between 1862 and 1879. For an outline of both these eccentric books see Appendix 4a & b.

c) The seven essays and their authors were as follows: (1) “The Education of the World” by Frederick Temple D.D.; (2) “Bunsen’s Biblical Researches” by Rowland Williams D.D.; (3) “On the Study of the Evidences of Christianity” by Baden Powell M.A., F.R.S.; (4) “Séances Historiques de Genève: The National Church” by Henrey Bristow Wilson B.D.; (5) “On the Mosaic Cosmogony” by C.W.Goodwin M.A.; (6) “Tendencies of Religious Thought in England, 1688-1750” by Mark Pattison B.D.; (7) “On the Interpretation of Scripture” by Benjamin Jowett M.A. For a good overview see Owen Chadwick’s write-up of “Essays and Reviews” in The Victorian Church: Part 2 (1970), p.75-97.

d) The twelve essays and their authors were as follows: (1) “Faith” by H.S. Holland; (2)“The Christian Doctrine of God” by Aubrey Moore; (3) “The Problem of Pain” by J.R. Illingworth; (4) “The Preparation in History for Christ” by E.S. Talbot; (5) “The Incarnation in Relation to Development” by J.R. Illingworth; (6) “The Incarnation as the Basis of Dogma” by R.C. Moberly; (7) “Atonement” by Arthur Lyttelton; (8) “The Holy Spirit and Inspiration” by C. Gore; (9) “The Church” by W. Lock; (10) “Sacraments” by F. Paget; (11) “Christianity and Politics” by W.J.H. Campion; (12) “Christian Ethics” by R.L. Otley. For a good overview see again Owen Chadwick’s The Victorian Church: Part 2 (!970), p.101ff.

Note 28
a) See, for example, Edmund Blunden, Shelley – A Life Story (1946), p.54-56. For Shelley’s “passion for controversial discussion” in respect of The Necessity of Atheism see The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, edited by Roger Ingpen (1915), vol.1, footnote 1 on p.48-9.

b) The bedlam quote comes from an extraordinary article entitled “Licentious Productions in High Life” which appeared in The Investigator in October 1822 (Blunden, p.100-1.) This article, which attacked Byron and others, as well as Shelley, was partly reprinted in the “Literature” column of the Morning Post on October 9th, 1822, and it is from the prefatory comments to this reprint that the “Archdemon of Atheism” quote comes.

c) The “divine vengeance” quote comes from the prefatory comments of the Morning Post article mentioned in b) above. The “now he knows” quote is attended by some mystery. It is widely quoted as coming from The Courier on August 5th, 1822, this claim being traceable back to The Examiner of November 3rd, 1822: “‘Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned,’ says the Courier; ‘now he knows whether there is a God or no;’ – meaning, that the writer has the satisfaction of thinking the divine Being will burn Mr Shelley in everlasting flames.” But in fact, though The Courier did say that “Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned” in its issue of August 5th, it did not say “now he knows whether there is a God or no”, and the precise source of this latter quote remains a mystery. It does seem as if The Examiner ran two quotes together, the first from The Courier and the second from some other, unfortunately unnamed, newspaper.

Note 29
a) See, for example, Herbert Paul, The Life of Froude (1906), Chapter 2, in particular p.45-49; Kingsbury Badger’s article, “The Ordeal of Anthony Froude, Protestant Historian”, in Modern Language Quarterly, vol.13 (1952), p.41-55; and Owen Chadwick’s write-up of Froude in his book The Victorian Church, Part 1 (1966), p.533-539.

b) See, for example, H.G.Wood, Frederick Denison Maurice (1950), chapter 5; also Owen Chadwick’s write-up of Maurice in his book The Victorian Church, Part 1 (1966), p.545-550.

Note 30
This comment was made in a letter to Charles Lyell written in April 1845. See J.W.Clark and T.M.Hughes, The Life and Letters of the Reverend Adam Sedgwick (1890), vol.2, p.84:

“If the book be true, the labours of sober induction are in vain; religion is a lie; human law is a mass of folly, and a base injustice; morality is moonshine; our labours for the black people of Africa were works of madmen; and man and woman are only better beasts! When I read some pages of the foul book, it brought Swift’s satire to my mind, and filled me with such inexpressible disgust that I threw [it] down.”

Sedgwick wrote a long and scathing review of Vestiges in the July 1845 edition of The Edinburgh Review, of which Clark and Hughes wrote that “notwithstanding its solid merits and some eloquent passages, it is dogmatical, ponderous, dull.” (ib.p.88)

Note 31
The original source for this widely quoted comment is Edwin Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury K.G. (1886), vol.3, p.164. The comment was actually – or, maybe one should say, allegedly – made about Seeley’s book at a public meeting in 1866. Hodder quotes the following entry from Lord Shaftesbury’s diary:

“May 12th, 1866. – Speaking at meeting of Church Pastoral Aid Society, I denounced ‘Ecce Homo’ as a ‘most pestilential book.’ This expression I well recollect. The report adds ‘ever vomited from the jaws of hell.’ No doubt, then, I used the words. They have excited a good deal of wrath. Be it so. They were, perhaps, too strong for the world, but not too strong for the truth. It escaped in the heat of declamation, justifiable and yet injudicious.”

The comment was definitely made about Seeley’s Ecce Homo and not, as is sometimes claimed, about Strauss’ Das Leben Jesu.

Note 32
a) Like so many educated people of her time, Evans came to reject orthodox Christianity, whilst continuing to believe in a God behind all things “She rejected theological Christianity,” Gerald Bullett says of her, “She did not reject religion.” (George Eliot (1947), p.35.) Like FitzGerald, she stopped going to church (ib. p.38), but she continued to believe that we have “the breath of God within us” and that the Universe itself was “a perpetual utterance of the one Being” (ib.p.45.) As regards her translation of Strauss, in a letter to Sara Hennell written on Oct 31st 1844, she wrote:

“I am awfully afraid of my own translation, and I want you to come and comfort me. I am relapsing into heathen darkness about everything but Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. ‘Heaven has sent leanness into my soul’ – for reviling them, I suppose.” (From: J.W.Cross, George Eliot’s Life as related in her Letters and Journals (1885), vol.1, p.121-2)

Elsewhere, Cross writes:

“On 14th February 1846, Mrs Bray writes to Miss Sara Hennell that Miss Evans ‘says she is Strauss-sick – it makes her ill dissecting the beautiful story of the crucifixion, and only the sight of the Christ image* and picture make her endure it.” (ib. vol.1, p.131)

The footnote (*) tells us that “this was an ivory image she had of the crucified Christ over the desk in her study.” Finally, from another letter to Sara Hennell written in March 1846:

“The Crucifixion and the Resurrection are at all events better than the bursting asunder of Judas. I am afraid I have not made the dull part of Strauss even as tolerable as it might be, for both body and mind recoiled from it.” (ib. vol.1, p.134)

b) Charles Gore, in his Introduction to the Everyman’s Library edition of Renan’s Life of Jesus, the 1951 edition, p.v.

Note 33
a) There is some good material on this in John D.Yohannan’s essay, “One Hundred Years of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”, originally published (in English) in the Greek journal ΕΕΦΣΠΑ (the University of Athens Philosophical Journal) in 1959 (p.259-274), but available, at the time of writing, on the internet at See also Yohannan’s other fine essay, “The Fin de Siècle Cult of FitzGerald’s ‘Rubaiyat’ of Omar Khayyam”, originally published in the Review of National Literatures, vol.2, no.1 (Spring 1971), p.74-91, lately reprinted in the Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations edition of Edward FitzGerald’s ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ , edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom (2004), p.5-19.

b) At the time of writing, the whole article is available on the internet at

Note 34
R.Whittington-Egan & G. Smerdon, The Quest of the Golden Boy (1960): a) p.359; b) p.467; c) p.393; d) p.387.

Note 35
a) Alexander’s little book contains not just “The Testament (or Last Words)” of Omar Khayyam, but also other poems: “A Song”, “Hymn of Prayer”, “The Word in the Desert”, “Hymn of Praise” and finally “The Marathi, or Odes of the Disciples” (purportedly verses written in tribute to Omar by four of his disciples, one of which – Disciple #2 – speaks of a time “when lands thou never knewest will proclaim thy fame” (p.57, verse ix)!) Here, for example, is verse vi of the “Hymn of Prayer”(p.39) by the post-confession Omar:

For I need Thee, oh, Lord! I need Thy hand
To hold me up, lest I fall as I stand;
To cleanse me, to lighten, to teach and raise
This cold, dark soul to Thy prayer and praise.

b) For example, the conventional view is that Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon and his father was called John. According to the opening sentence of Alexander’s autobiographical fragment, however, he was born in Warwick and his father’s name was Richard! The explanation for the ‘mistakes’ of conventional historians is, according to Alexander and the Autobiography, that there were actually two William Shakespeares who were cousins: one the playwright, the son of Richard; the other, the son of Richard’s brother John. This second William Shakespeare was, according to his cousin, the first William Shakespeare, “a wastrel and a vagabond” and according to his own father, John, a “drunken, whoring, roystering knave” who was a “worthless son.” (p.55) To add to the confusion, the second William Shakespeare was betrothed to Anne Hathaway, but never married her, though he apparently left her pregnant (p.12-13), and it was the first William Shakespeare who actually did marry her, taking on her illegitimate child in the process, which is possibly why he famously left her his second best bed in his will! (p.14-5; p.59) Reviewers were not very kind to Alexander’s book. The Saturday Review for August 12th 1911, wondering how to classify it, said that they had rejected “an irreverent suggestion that we should put our copy among our fiction and humorous works”, adding that “we know a place truly worthy of it – for obvious reasons we do not name it more precisely – and thither it shall go without delay.” Again, The New York Times for April 23rd 1911 described the book as “a piece of pure phantasm” and “one of the weirdest books ever written, even about Shakespeare.” (As regards that phrase “even about Shakespeare”, recall that from about the mid-1850s a craze had arisen for ‘proving’ that the plays of Shakespeare were not really by Shakespeare at all, but by someone else – that someone else commonly being held to be Sir Francis Bacon. The strangest of these theories were those that sought to find hidden ciphers in the plays by which to ‘prove’ their non-Shakespearean authorship. For a good overview see John Michell, Who wrote Shakespeare? (1996) and for the ciphers in particular, see William F. and Elizabeth S. Friedman, The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined (1957).)

c) The book opens with a dedication “To Whistler”, which I here quote in full as the book is so problematical. Bear in mind that Whistler had been dead for seven years by the time Alexander wrote this dedication, which is dated August 1910:

“ You have, of late, been so much with me in spirit that, a little to my own wonderment, I sometimes wish that we had met in the flesh; or that I possessed, or even had ever seen, some fragment of your material hand-writing.

The intelligent Reader will know at what stand-point he is expected to place himself so as to understand rightly, and to discriminate justly.

The more especially, as I have only just written two of the essays – the other matter having been composed between four and five years ago.

Let the ‘higher criticism’, as it is ridiculously called, discover which most, or least, reflect – or surpass – your inspiration, or influence.

To say more than this were silly vanity – or sillier humility.

In order that the thought and feeling of two men be attuned to a perfect unison, is bodily communion a necessity – or a limitation; a facility – or an impediment?

You can supply the answer.

Perhaps I can do so – even better.

You know why.

À bientôt!

L.C. Alexander.”

This makes it clear enough that the book is, at least partially, supposed to have been written under the influence of the deceased Whistler, whom Alexander had never actually met whilst he was alive. The reference to a fragment of Whistler’s handwriting is what supports the idea that Alexander received communications by automatic writing, of the pencil-and-paper variety rather than ouija board variety (see d below), and that he wanted to compare his handwriting, under spirit influence, with that of Whistler.

Echoes of Whistler consists of thirty three quirky essays on everything from Vanity, Proverbs, Birdsong and Hobbies to critiques of Ruskin, Carlyle and Browning, plus three equally quirky poems – the first verse of one, “On the Acceptance of my picture by the National Gallery” (p.241-244), reading thus:

I hear that the Gallery has got
A picture done by me,
And that they have hung it high and clear
For all to come and see.

Which picture this was, exactly, we are not told, but clearly Whistler (if that is indeed who composed the poem) was a much better painter than he was a poet!

Of the essays, most could have been written by anyone living, let alone dead, and even the one “On Myself” (p.253-258), which makes it quite clear that its author is deceased (“I am a Spirit now…I am what men call DEAD”) says nothing that really connects it with Whistler. Indeed, one wonders if Whistler himself would have ‘written’ an essay entitled “On Whistler” (p.205-211) with references to himself in the third person, let alone references saying uncomplimentary things about himself like “Whistler was a good deal of a humbug” (p.205) and “Whistler was, in his time, much of a nuisance” (p.206)! But then, in fairness to Alexander (being a total skeptic myself), Whistler in life was extremely vain and did sometimes pompously refer to himself in the third person, as, for example, when having spoilt the plate for one of his etchings, he said, “Whistler has decided to do (it) all over again” (for this and other examples see Hesketh Pearson, The Man Whistler (1978), p.95-6.) And perhaps when one crosses the Great Divide one’s modesty rating takes a turn for the better? This is not just a flippant comment of mine, either, for in the essay “On Myself” Whistler (or whoever the deceased author was) says:

“I – the I of this moment – am to the I of my pre-death time as is the full grown plant to the crude and potential seed……I am in anything but a preliminary or preparatory condition, with a gradually-broadening view of myself as I was, as I am, and as the Lord of all would have me to be – if I can only be rid of this proud, impatient, intolerant, arrogant, and ultra-vain mind and temper of mine.” (p.254-5)

At any rate, the author of “On Whistler” says of himself:

“I consider that I am in a particularly-favoured position to understand my subject, inasmuch as I have been in close personal relation with him all my life – and his; and I venture to say that he had not many thoughts or feelings which I did not share.” (p.205)

But whether or not this is an unnecessarily roundabout way of saying that it really was Whistler that got in touch with Alexander from beyond the grave is nowhere made totally clear. (Ironically, towards the end of his life, Whistler did have an interest in Spiritualism – see Pearson, p.174, for example.) But whatever, this is not really the issue here. The main point here is that Alexander clearly believed in spiritualism and thus could well have dabbled in it using the common practice of automatic writing. It is this that opens up possibilities as to how he might have obtained the ‘manuscripts’ of The Testament of Omar Khayyam and The Autobiography of Shakespeare.

d) Spirits are said to be able to communicate with the Living via automatic writing in two ways – the first where the medium uses a ouija board, the message being spelt out letter by letter; the second where the medium holds a pencil over a sheet of paper, and the Spirits guide his/her hand to write out a message. One of the most famous examples of the first method was the case of Patience Worth, who began to communicate from the spirit world through the ouija board of Mrs Pearl Lenore Curran in 1913, and who within the space of a few years had given to the world a large quantity of poetry and prose, all delivered in allegedly authentic 17th century English. The case was dealt with in detail by W.F.Prince in his book The Case of Patience Worth (1927). A good example of the second method was the “teenage psychic” of the nineteen seventies, Matthew Manning, who channelled a written message about life after death from Bertrand Russell, a recipe from Mrs Beeton, and a poem from William Falconer! (See Matthew Manning, The Link (1975), p.72-79) Manning also channelled drawings from artists beyond the grave, notably Picasso (p.114-5) and Dürer (p.125-9). These invite comparison with the music channelled by Rosemary Brown, who claimed that the spirits of Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms and others were using her to give more of their music to the world from beyond the grave! (See Rosemary Brown, Unfinished Symphonies – Voices from the Beyond (1971).) Indeed, Brown hoped one day to write down the missing movement of Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” for him, as he had already allowed her to hear it “by telepathy”! (p.143-4). This in its turn invites comparison with the case of Thomas P. James, who in 1872 was allegedly contacted by the spirit of Charles Dickens to complete his unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood. [See Frank Edwards, Stranger than Science (1959), ch.14; also Arthur Conan Doyle’s article, “The Alleged Posthumous Writings of Great Authors” in The Fortnightly Review, Dec. 1st 1927 (New Series vol.122, p.721-735.) Doyle also mentions literary communications from Oscar Wilde and Jack London.] Considered in this context, there is nothing at all fanciful in supposing that Alexander’s books The Testament of Omar Khayyam and The Autobiography of Shakespeare were similarly channelled by spiritualist means.

Note 36
a) For these and many other illustrators, see William H. Martin and Sandra Mason, The Art of Omar Khayyam: Illustrating FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat (2007). Appendices 1 & 2 are particularly useful for tracking who illustrated what and when.

b) The graph on p.8 of the book gives an interesting overview of the publication history of The Rubaiyat, showing a pronounced peak in the number of published editions roughly between 1890 and 1920. The graph is reproduced in Gallery 7F, Fig.7.

Note 37
It becomes clear from reading FitzGerald’s letters that he enjoyed a drink – ale, wine, punch, port, sherry, whiskey, brandy and grog all receive repeated mentions. He was also a smoker – both of pipes and cigars – and a snuff taker. But though he sometimes drank to excess – his letters record the occasional hangover (eg I.697), and though he is on record as joining Bernard Barton and George Crabbe to “smoke and drink and tell dirty stories” (I.478), he was no Omarian drunkard. He was alarmed by Alfred Tennyson’s drinking a bottle of port a day (II.113) – and by his excessive smoking (II.408 & 420); and by the drinking of an art-dealer acquaintance of his called Pearce, who “smells rather strong of Brandy and Water, by which he is killing himself”(III.324). He was also alarmed by the excessive drinking of Posh Fletcher (II.616; III.155, 201, 239-240), which was a source of friction between them and a major cause of the breakup of their friendship (III.714.)

Note 38
a) See Gillian Wright, “Basil Kennett and Janus Vitalis” in Notes and Queries (Sept 2002, p.357-360) and Raymond Skyrme, “Quevedo, Du Bellay and Janus Vitalis” in Comparative Literature Studies, vol.19, no.3 (Fall, 1982), p.281-295.

b) See Ralph M. Williams, Poet, Painter and Parson: the Life of John Dyer (1956), chapter 3.

c) On the background to the poem, see, for example, the commentary by Richard Schell in The Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser, edited by W.A.Oram, E. Bjorvand et al (1989), p.381-384. For dates of composition, accuracy of translation, and other useful notes, see the Commentary in C.G.Osgood, E.A.Greenlaw et al, The Works of Edmund Spenser (1947), vol.8 (= vol.2 of  the Minor Poems), p.378-380.

d) See The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, edited by Roger Ingpen (1915), vol.2, p.651-653 (Dec 22, 1818) and p.675-684 (Mar 23, 1819). For the composition of “Prometheus Unbound” at the Baths of Caracalla, see the footnote on p.677. (Shelley told the story himself in his Preface to “Prometheus Unbound”.)

e) See, for example, Roberto Weiss, The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity (1969), p.8; also Peter J. Aicher, Rome Alive-A Source-Guide to the Ancient City (2004), vol.1, p.179.

f) For an account of this picture and its unfortunate end, see Malcolm Bell, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a Record and Review (1899), p.49-50.

g) Penelope FitzGerald, Edward Burne-Jones: A Biography (1975) p.141. FitzGerald gives a useful thumbnail sketch of the highly intriguing work Hypnerotomachia on her p.108-9, and Burne-Jones certainly had a copy – see FitzGerald p.107 & p.216. A modern translation of it is now available: Franceso Colonna: Hypnerotomachis Poliphili – the Strife of Love in a Dream, translated by Joscelyn Godwin (1999), the episode of Poliphilo, Polia and the ruined temple being on p.236-241. One of the woodcuts from this section of the work which may well have visually prompted Burne-Jones is shown in Gallery 3A, Fig.9.

h) See Johnstone Parr, “The Site and Ancient City of Browning’s ‘Love among the Ruins’”, PMLA vol.68, no.1 (Mar 1953), p.128-137.

i) Information in English about Claude and Piranesi is relatively easy to come by, but there appears to be no monograph in English about Panini. A good account of him can be found, though, in Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century, edited by Edgar Peters Bowron and Joseph J. Rishel (2000), p.416-429. Piranesi features in the same volume (p.568-591), though for the most complete coverage of his work, including the aerial view of the Colosseum, see Luigi Ficacci, Giovanni Battista Piranesi: the Complete Etchings (2000).

j) For all of the examples cited here, see Imagining Rome – British Artists and Rome in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Michael Liversidge and Catharine Edwards (1996).

k) Ruskin made this comment in a letter written from Rome on December 3rd 1840, to his college friend, Edward Clayton. He went on to say, “If it were all new, and set up again at Birmingham, not a soul would care twopence for it.” (The Works of John Ruskin, vol.1, p.433.) For similar comments, including his classic dismissal of the Colosseum as “a public nuisance”, see his letter to Thomas Dale, written, again from Rome, and dated December 31st, 1840 (ibid. p.381.)

Note 39
a) This is the English translation by Frederick Schoberl of Chateaubriand’s Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem et de Jérusalem à Paris, en allant par la Grèce et revenant par l’Égypte, la Barbarie et l’Espagne, first published in France in 1811.

b) The translation used here is taken from the (New York) Truth Seeker Company edition of 1950, one of a series of Freethinking Books “that all reformers should read”. The Publisher’s Preface tells us that “the translation here given closely follows that published in Paris by Levrault, Quai Malaquais, in 1802, which was under the direction and careful supervision of the talented author.” The same translation is now available on the internet at

c) Though Volney, in the opening chapter of The Ruins, talks of visiting Palmyra, it seems he never actually did so. There was probably no deception intended in this, for The Ruins was a philosophical work, and, in a sense, a work of fiction. This much seems clear from chapter 30 of Volney’s factual account of his travels, Voyage en Syrie et en Egypte pendant les Années 1783, 1784 et 1785, first published in 1787, which subsequently ran through many editions, and which, as early as 1788, was translated into English under the title Travels through Syria and Egypt in the Years 1783, 1784 and 1785. Here Volney makes no pretence of visiting Palmyra himself, but instead, on the subject of the ruins, openly cites, paraphrases and quotes Robert Wood’s book, The Ruins of Palmyra, which had been published in 1753 (see vol.2, p.278-282 of the first English edition of Volney, just cited.) Volney’s panoramic fold-out plate of the ruins, together with his commentary on it (ib. p.283-286), are likewise based on Wood, again with acknowledgement. Interestingly, even at this stage, Volney is indicating how “the philosopher may contemplate” (p.286) parts of Wood’s account of the ruins (in particular the contrast between the wretched hovels of the local peasants who live within the ruins and the splendour of the ancient city itself.) Volney’s quotes and paraphrases are easily located in Wood p.33-5 & p.37; his fold-out plate consists of the three parts of Wood’s Plate I, stitched together, with the annotation of it (with some re-lettering) based on Wood p.36. Curiously, Volney’s Ruins was not the only unexpected side-effect of Wood’s study: in 1815 appeared Richard Brothers’ book The Ruins of Baalbec and Palmyra: from the Plates of Robert Wood proved to be the Palaces of Solomon – one of Brothers’ saner efforts! (For an account of Brothers, see Appendix 4d).

Note 40
Towards the end of his chapter 2, Volney wrote:

“Who knows if on the banks of the Seine, the Thames, the Zuyder-Zee, where now, in the tumult of so many enjoyments, the heart and the eye suffice not for the multitude of sensations — who knows if some traveller, like myself, shall not one day sit on their silent ruins, and weep in solitude over the ashes of their inhabitants, and the memory of their former greatness?”

The thought that London or Paris might suffer the ruinous fate of Palmyra, common in the wake of the French Revolution, inspired a number of curious works of art. Thus in 1796 Hubert Robert (who was imprisoned and, it is said, narrowly escaped the guillotine in the French Revolution) painted his Vue Imaginaire de la Grande Galerie en Ruines (Imaginary View of the Grand Gallery (of the Louvre) in Ruins) in contrast to his Projet d’Aménagement de la Grande Galerie (Plan for the layout of the Grand Gallery (not in ruins!)) painted in the same year. (See Paula Rea Radisich, Hubert Robert: Painted Spaces of the Enlightenment (1998), p. 130-132). Again, in 1798 Joseph Gandy painted his View of the Rotunda of the Bank of England in Ruins. This latter was apparently done by Gandy as a present for Sir John Soane, the architect of the Rotunda, who had commissioned him to paint a picture of it, intact, on its completion. (See Christopher Woodward’s very readable book In Ruins (2001), p.160ff for the background to Gandy’s picture; and p.152ff for the background to Robert’s. Disappointingly, Rose Macauley’s classic book The Pleasure of Ruins (1953) does mention both, but only briefly – p.23 & p.38. She does add, however, that “an artist in the Strand Magazine of the 1890’s presented exciting and romantic ruins of St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace.” Unfortunately, I have not been able to trace these at the time of writing.)

Probably the most famous work of this type, though, was Gustave Doré’s engraving The New Zealander, first published in London: a Pilgrimage by Doré and his collaborator Blanchard Jerrold in 1872. This merits some explanation. The image originated in, of all places, a book review in The Edinburgh Review (October 1840, p.227-258). It was by the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, and was a review of Leopold Ranke’s History of the Popes. Book reviews then were more of a literary performance by the reviewer than they are now, and Macaulay waxed lyrical about the ups and downs of the Catholic Church, saying that:

“She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain – before the Frank had passed the Rhine – when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch – when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St Paul’s.” (p.228)

And that is all! The image caught on in much the same way as the most unlikely images catch on in modern TV adverts, and eventually it became well enough known for people to use it, without explanation, and safe in the knowledge that they would be readily understood. Thus, for example, FitzGerald made a passing reference to “the New Zealander”, as a person of one hundred years in the future, in his letter to W.F. Pollock, written in December 1864 (II.537). (It is quoted in the notes on verse 14.) The image was famously, as we saw above, picked up by Gustave Doré, whose New Zealander sketching the ruins of London in the future was a parody of the 19th century English gentleman sketching the ruins of ancient Rome. (There is also an interesting comparison to be drawn between Doré’s engraving and the engraving of a turbaned philosopher contemplating the ruins of Palmyra which features in many editions of Volney’s book The Ruins. Whether Doré knew of or was influenced by the engraving in Volney’s book is not clear.)

Actually, though Macaulay’s article in The Edinburgh Review was his first reference to the New Zealander, it was not his first reference to the image of someone in the future viewing the ruins of present-day England. In 1824, in the November issue of Knight’s Quarterly Magazine, at the end of his article – another lengthy book review (p.285-304) – “On Mitford’s History of Greece”, he wrote:

“This is the gift of Athens to man. Her freedom and her power have for more than twenty centuries been annihilated; her people have degenerated into timid slaves; her language into a barbarous jargon; her temples have been given up to the successive depredations of Romans, Turks, and Scotchmen; but her intellectual empire is imperishable. And, when those who have rivalled her greatness shall have shared her fate; when civilisation and knowledge shall have fixed their abode in distant continents; when the sceptre shall have passed away from England; when, perhaps, travellers from distant regions shall in vain labour to decipher on some mouldering pedestal the name of our proudest chief; shall hear savage hymns chaunted to some misshapen idol over the ruined dome of our proudest temple; and shall see a single naked fisherman wash his nets in the river of the ten thousand masts,—her influence and her glory will still survive,—fresh in eternal youth, exempt from mutability and decay, immortal as the intellectual principle from which they derived their origin, and over which they exercise their control.” (p.303-4)

A few years later, in the March 1829 issue of The Edinburgh Review, in a review of Mill’s Essay on Government, he used a similar image:

“Is it possible, that in two or three hundred years, a few lean and half-naked fishermen may divide with owls and foxes the ruins of the greatest of European cities – may wash their nets amidst the relics of her gigantic docks, and build their huts out of the capitals of her stately cathedrals?” (p.183)

As we have seen with the quote from Volney above, the idea behind this type of image did not originate even with the earliest example from Macaulay. It was ‘in the air’, if you like, and Macaulay’s “New Zealander” happened to become the best known example of the type. After all, in 1819 Shelley had written, in the Dedication of his poem “Peter Bell the Third”, of a time in the future, when, viewed by “some transatlantic commentator”:

“… London shall be an habitation of bitterns; when St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey shall stand, shapeless and nameless ruins, in the midst of an unpeopled marsh; when the piers of Waterloo Bridge shall become the nuclei of islets of reeds and osiers, and cast the jagged shadows of their broken arches on the solitary stream.”

Again, Horace Smith’s rival poem to Shelley’s “Ozymandias”, written in 1817, (see the notes on verse 17 for the background on this) reads:

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:-
"I am great Ozymandias," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings: this mighty City shows
The wonders of my hand." The City's gone!
Naught but the Leg remaining to disclose
The sight of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, – and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chase,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful, but unrecorded, race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Here again, then, London is viewed as the ruin of some future time.

Again, in November 1774, before even Volney, Horace Walpole had written in a letter to Sir Horace Mann:

“The next Augustan age will dawn on the other side of the Atlantic. There will, perhaps, be a Thucydides at Boston, a Xenophon at New York, and, in time, a Virgil at Mexico, and a Newton at Peru. At last, some curious traveller from Lima will visit England and give a description of the ruins of St. Paul's, like the editions of Balbec and Palmyra…” (From: Peter Cunningham, The Letters of Horace Walpole (1886), vol.6, p.153.)

Like Shelley’s, then, Walpole’s visitor to the ruined London of the future was from the Americas, not New Zealand.

Rossetti came up with an interesting variation on the theme in his poem “The Burden of Nineveh”, written in response to his seeing a huge Winged Bull sculpture from Nineveh delivered to the British Museum in October 1850. The poem was largely written in 1850, but was only published in 1856 (and subsequently extensively revised for republication in Rossetti’s Poems in 1870.) Rossetti looked to a time in the distant future (“threescore and ten” centuries ahead, in fact) when London and the British Museum would lie in ruins, amongst which would lie this Winged Bull, waiting to be re-discovered, perhaps by travellers from Australia:

So may he stand again; till now,
In ships of unknown sail and prow,
Some tribe of the Australian plough
Bear him afar, – a relic now
Of London, not of Nineveh!

These travellers from Australia:

Who, finding in this desert place
This form, shall hold us for some race
That walked not in Christ’s lowly ways,
But bowed its pride and vowed its praise
Unto the God of Nineveh.

(For Rossetti’s poem see Andrew M. Stauffer, “Dante Gabriel Rossetti and The Burdens of Nineveh”, in Victorian Literature and Culture (2005), vol.33, p.369-394.)

But to bring us back to the New Zealander, Edward Gibbon, in Chapter 25 of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, originally published in 6 volumes between 1776 and 1789, wrote of “a valiant tribe of Caledonia, the Attacotti” who were “accused, by an eyewitness, of delighting in the taste of human flesh.” Gibbon went on:

“If, in the neighbourhood of the commercial and literary town of Glasgow, a race of cannibals has really existed, we may contemplate, in the period of the Scottish history, the opposite extremes of savage and civilised life. Such reflections tend to enlarge the circle of our ideas; and to encourage the pleasing hope, that New Zealand may produce, in some future age, the Hume of the Southern Hemisphere.”

Gibbon, of course, had been inspired to write his monumental work whilst sitting among the ruins of ancient Rome. As he famously wrote in his Memoirs:

"It was at Rome, on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the bare-footed friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind."

For more detail on all this, see Michael Bright’s essay “Macaulay’s New Zealander” in The Arnoldian vol.10, no.1 (Winter 1982), p.8-27. For Doré’s and Volney’s engravings, and the paintings by Robert and Gandy mentioned above, see Gallery 5B. (To browse, click here.)

Note 41
Egyptomania is an interesting phenomenon. The first phase of it took place in Roman times, following the Roman annexation of Egypt. Fascinated by the antiquity of Ancient Egypt and its monumental architecture, the Romans took numerous statues and obelisks back to Rome with them, where they were used to enhance imperial grandeur and to adorn the palaces of the rich. The Emperor Hadrian was a particularly keen ‘collector’, it seems. Naturally Roman artists imitated these Egyptian antiquities, as they did with Greek, resulting in some confusion for later archaeologists and art historians. Be that as it may, the various Egyptian obelisks that currently adorn Rome, and the famous Tomb of Caius Cestius, built in imitation of an Egyptian pyramid, are testimony to Roman interest in Ancient Egypt. (The Pyramid of Cestius can be seen in two of the illustrations to Gallery 5A, Figs.5 & 8, one by Panini and another by Piranesi.)

After the fall of Rome and the onset of the dark ages, much became destroyed or buried, but in the early 18th century a second phase of Egyptomania began when, in 1710, five buried statues were discovered by workmen digging in a Roman vineyard which stood on the site of a former ‘Egyptian Pavilion’ built by either Hadrian or Aurelian. Interest snowballed, no doubt encouraged by the particular interest of the then Pope, Clement XI, and the Egyptian collections of the Capitoline and Vatican Museums were slowly formed as more and more pieces came to light. This in its turn led to Egyptomania spreading throughout Europe as young gentlemen doing the Grand Tour came to Rome and were very impressed by what they saw. With the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt and the subsequent publication of Description de l’Égypt in the period 1809 to 1829, interest was aroused even more. The result was widespread artistic imitation of Ancient Egyptian style in everything from jewellery and pottery to furniture, painting and statuary. Obelisks, sphinxes and pyramids were, of course, favoured characteristic Egyptian formats. More surprisingly, in England, imitation Canopic Vases were produced by the Wedgwood firm from the 1770s to the 1860s. (I say “surprisingly” because the original canopic vases were made to store the internal organs of dead bodies, removed prior to mummification!)

The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 gave another huge boost to Egyptomania – Egypt in art deco style.

For a detailed and fully illustrated study, see Jean-Marcel Humbert, Michael Pantazzi and Christiane Ziegler, Egyptomania: Egypt in Western Art 1730-1930, published in connection with an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, at the National Gallery of Canada, and at the Kunsthistorisches Musem in Vienna in 1994. For some examples see Gallery 7D, Folder 2.

Note 42
One could cite hundreds of examples of these. For instance, in 1787 C.F.Volney published his Voyage en Syrie et en Egypte, already referred to above in note 39c, which was an account of his travels during the years 1783 to 1785. In England in the 19th century, two travel books were particularly popular: Alexander William Kinglake’s Eothen, first published anonymously in 1844, and Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, first published in 1869. The first, to which FitzGerald referred as a book “which all the world talks of” (I.480), described Kinglake’s travels through the Holy Land and Egypt; the second described its author’s “great Pleasure Excursion to Europe and the Holy Land” (as he himself described it at the beginning of his opening chapter.) Both books are very readable, even today. On a different front, in 1816 the French missionary Abbé Jean-Antoine Dubois first published, in English, his Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, which was so influential that an enlarged edition, in French, appeared in 1825, this being in its turn translated into English, and repeatedly reprinted up to the present day. It remains a valuable account of life in India in the early 19th century. Taking FitzGerald’s own reading as a sampler of the times, he certainly had a copy of Robert Binning’s book A Journal of Two Years’ Travel in Persia, Ceylon, etc, published in two volumes in 1857, which he recommended to Professor Cowell as “worth looking over” (II.325), and to which he refers in his note to verse 17 of his first edition (see the notes on verse 17.) He also had copies of Sir William Ouseley’s Travels in Various Countries of the East: More Particularly Persia, 1810, 1811, 1812, published in three volumes between 1819 and 1823, and Sir John Malcolm’s Sketches of Persia: from the Journals of a Traveler in the East, published in two volumes in 1827, for he refers to both books in letters to Professor Cowell written in 1854 (II.139-147.) The references most notably concern the Persian equivalent of the modern game of Polo, which FitzGerald was later to use symbolically in verse 50 of his first edition. (Incidentally, the Ouseley Manuscript used by FitzGerald owes its name to Sir William Ouseley, who had acquired it on his travels.) FitzGerald also owned copies of E.S.Waring’s Tour of Sheeraz (1807)(II.151); Sir John Chardin’s Voyages du Chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l’Orient (1811)(II.206-7); and James Baillie Fraser’s Travels in Persia (though it isn’t clear which one – Fraser published two lots of Travels, in 1825 and 1826)(II.208). FitzGerald himself, though, was very much an armchair traveller, who barely set foot out of England, and yet he appears to have had quite an appetite for travel books, picking up much useful information from them, without suffering the discomfort of “Snakes, Sand-leeches, Mosquitoes etc”! (II.352-3) Amusingly, when Prof Cowell suggested that FitzGerald should visit him in India, FitzGerald declined on the grounds that he would “die when I got there of hot Brains.” (II.323). As he once said of travel, “tis better to stick to muddy Suffolk.” (I.480)

Note 43
For a detailed study, see Andrew Elfenbein, Byron and the Victorians (1995). As Elfenbein indicates, Byron was “not just an author, but an unprecedented cultural phenomenon” whose works affected “not only the novel, poetry and drama, but fashion, social manners, erotic experience, and gender roles.” (p.8).

Note 44
a) Miriam Allen de Ford, Thomas Moore (1967), p.24. On the “dazzling immediate triumph” of the poem, see also Howard Mumford Jones, The Harp that Once…a Chronicle of the Life of Thomas Moore (1970), p.169-171.

b) That Moore’s background research was all done from books, see Linda Kelly, Ireland’s Minstrel: a Life of Tom Moore – Poet, Patriot and Byron’s Friend (2006), p.98; also H. Mumford Jones, op.cit., p.152. Moore was not alone in this. Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer was another example of a work based purely on library research rather than actual experience of the East – see Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793-1810, vol.3 (Thalaba the Destroyer), ed. T. Fulford (2004), introduction p.x-xi. Oddly enough, one of Southey’s sources of inspiration was William Beckford’s Vathek (Fulford, p.viii), and he had had no actual experience of the East either! In fact, Beckford’s key sources of inspiration appear to have been a copy of The Arabian Nights in his father’s library and the oriental salons of the family home Splendens, at Fonthill in Wiltshire! Beckford, a notable eccentric, referred to his mother as “the Begum” (a Persian lady of high rank), and claimed that what really sparked off Vathek was a Christmas party that he held in the Old Egyptian Hall at Splendens, shortly after achieving the age of majority. Beckford hired castrati to sing at this party, for which the artist Philippe de Loutherbourg designed exotic scenery illuminated by “necromantic lights”! (See Vathek and other Short Stories – a William Beckford Reader, edited with an introduction by Malcolm Jack (1993), particularly p.x-xiii.) In fact, of the four authors mentioned in the body of the text – Beckford, Southey, Moore and Morier - only James Morier had any actual experience of the east – he had worked in his father’s business in the Levant from 1799-1806 and followed a diplomatic career in Persia between 1809 and 1816 (Dictionary of National Biography) He wrote A Journey through Persia, Armenia, and Asia Minor, to Constantinople, in the Years 1808 and 1809, published in 1812, with a sequel, describing a later journey, published in 1818. Morier wrote his four oriental novels after his retirement from diplomatic life, though only The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan achieved any lasting fame. Incidentally, Morier pre-figured the modern trend for movie sequels by later writing The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan in England. See Henry McKenzie Johnston, Ottoman and Persian Odysseys – James Morier, Creator of ‘Hajji Baba of Ispahan’, and his Brothers (1998), particularly p.212-219.

c) Moore was not just famous for his Irish Melodies and his oriental poem Lalla Rookh, he was also famous for his poems derived from the works of the ancient Greek poet Anacreon. As indicated earlier in this essay, this earned him the nickname of “Anacreon Moore”, a nickname first bestowed upon him by the Morning Post newspaper (Kelly, op.cit.p.37.) As if that weren’t enough, he achieved further fame with his biography of Byron, The Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: with some Notices of his Life, published in two volumes in 1830. According to Elfenbein (as note 43), the book was “an instant best-seller and was reprinted more frequently than any other version of Byron’s life.”(p.78) See also de Ford, op.cit., p.79-83.

Note 45
a) See David Roberts: from an Antique Land – Travels in Egypt and the Holy Land, with a Foreword by Helen Guiterman (1989).

b) See Gérard-Georges Lemaire, The Orient in Western Art (2001), p.244-247.

c) See, for example, Martyn Gregory, Chinnery and Paintings of the China Coast (1988); also Mildred Archer and Ronald Lightbown, India Observed: India as viewed by British Artists 1760-1860 (Victoria & Albert Museum, 1982).

d) See, for example, Roger Benjamin, Orientalism: Delacroix to Klee (1997), p.79-87.

e) See, for example, Lemaire, op.cit., p.204-218; Benjamin, op.cit., p.56-66.

f) See, for example, Lemaire, op.cit., p.198-203; Benjamin, op.cit., p.67-70.

g) See, for example, Benjamin, op.cit., p.99-102. For “The Slave Market” and Gérôme’s homoerotic oriental painting “The Snake Charmer”, see Gerald M. Ackerman’s Jean-Léon Gérôme: his Life, his Work (1997), p.67 & p.120 respectively.

h) See, for example, Imagining Rome: British Artists and Rome in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Michael Liversidge and Catharine Edwards (1996), p.146-8.

Note 46
a) There never seems to have been quite the same degree of interest in Persian, Indian and Turkish art as in Chinese and Japanese, and I am not aware of any western imitation of the style of oriental miniature paintings to compare with “chinoiserie” or “japonisme”. The greatest interest has perhaps been in oriental carpets!

Books on Chinese and Japanese art are legion, but this is not so for oriental miniatures. See, however, F.R.Martin, The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia, India and Turkey from the 8th to the 18th Century (2 vols., 1912). Martin’s book was based on the collections in various museums and libraries, but also on the contents of 23 private collections (including his own and that of Bernard Quaritch.) Martin’s book has been reprinted at least three times since 1912. Also of great interest is: Oriental Miniatures: Persian, Indian, Turkish, edited with Introductions and Notes by William Lillys, Robert Reiff, and Emel Esin (1965.)

b) For a detailed account of chinoiserie, see Hugh Honour, Chinoiserie: the Vision of Cathay (1961); also the nicely illustrated Chinese Whispers: Chinoiserie in Britain 1650-1930, edited by David Beevers (2008). For some examples, see Gallery 7D, Folder 2.

c) For example, Chinese watercolours were painted specifically for export from the late 18th century and throughout the 19th – see Craig Clunas, Chinese Export Watercolours (Victoria and Albert Museum, 1984). Surprisingly, catering for western tastes included the correct use of perspective and the depiction of shadows (p.96-7). It also included producing paintings on themes of particular interest to westerners, one of the oddest of which was depictions of judicial torture in Chinese Courts of Justice, “gruesome scenes which would confirm impressions of exotic barbarity” (p.92). Oddly enough, Chinese erotica does not feature as a theme for export art (p.54). Nor was it just paintings that aroused interest in the west. Clunas writes:

“Enamelling on porcelain and copper, ivory and jade carving, furniture manufacturing in hardwood and lacquer, mother-of-pearl carving, silver-smithing and of course painting on glass, in oils and in watercolours were only some of the crafts specialising in products modified to a western taste.” (p.20)

For more detail of these various types of export art, see Clunas’s other work, Chinese Export Art and Design (1987)

FitzGerald records a visit to the Chinese Department of the Baker Street Bazaar in London in November 1861. He liked “Oriental Things” with “their quaint Shapes, fine Colours, and musky sandal-wood Scents”. (II.426).

d) Interest in Japanese art-work – prints, dress fabrics, fans, lacquered furniture, bronzes etc – came rather later than the corresponding interest in Chinese art-work, and became very much of a craze. For some examples, see Gallery 7D, Folder 2 . According to Elizabeth Aslin’s book, The Aesthetic Movement (1981), chapter 4, Japanese Mania developed in the 1860’s – Morris, Carlyle, Ruskin, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and Whistler were early enthusiasts, as was Oscar Wilde. Whistler’s painting “La Princesse du Pays de Porcelaine” of 1863-4 is clearly a result of Japanese influence, as is Claude Monet’s “La Japonaise” of 1876 (actually Madame Monet in a kimono!) - see Gallery 7D, Folder 1 (Fig.1 & Fig.2); for Wilde, see the notes at the end of Appendix 10. By the mid 1870’s, Japanese art-works were being made specifically for export to Europe, but by the 1880’s the trade had rather become one of “cheap and tawdry bric-à-brac” (Aslin, p.82.)  The most detailed account of “japonisme” is Siegfried Wichmann’s Japonisme – the Japanese influence on Western Art since 1858 (1980), though some argue that Wichmann sometimes gets carried away and sees too much Japanese influence!

Note 47
a) Major Moor was a friend of FitzGerald’s father, and the young Edward FitzGerald saw Moor’s collection of Hindu gods many times during his childhood. A.C. Benson (as note 1b) wrote that it was thanks to Moor’s influence that FitzGerald developed his interest in Oriental literature, and that “Major Moor can, perhaps, be dignified with the title of the true begetter of Omar Khayyam” (p.5) However, A.M.Terhune (as note 1c) took issue with this, saying that after examining some 2000 of FitzGerald’s letters, he had found no reference to Moor having stimulated his interest in Persian (p.171, n.28). See also Terhune and Terhune (as note 4), vol.I, p.51. Benson's statement possibly arose from an over-enthusiastic extrapolation from Thomas Wright's The Life of Edward FitzGerald (1904), vol.1, p.47, which reads thus: “he it was who first gave to the future adapter of Omar Khayyam .... a taste for philology and expressive words, and first interested him in the glittering, odorous, fascinating East.”

b) The erotic sculptures of India are found throughout the country, relate to widely different religious sects, and vary in date from the 2nd century BC to the 17th century AD.  (See R. Nath, The Art of Khajuraho (1980), ch.3.) They are a source of great controversy insofar as it is not clear why such erotic sculptures should adorn temple areas and holy places. Khajuraho is merely the most famous example, of which Alexander Cunningham said, in one of the earliest accounts of them, published in 1871 (but relating back to an expedition of 1864-5), that they were “highly indecent” and “disgustingly obscene”. (The Archaeological Survey of India Reports, vol.2, p.420.) “Many statues”, Cunningham went on to say, “are highly indelicate, and everywhere there are numbers of female figures who are represented dropping their clothes, and thus purposely exposing their persons.” (ib. p.423.) There is nothing like such high handed disapproval to arouse distinctly non-archaeological interests, of course, and over a century later we find R. Nath, in the Preface to his book, mentioned above, bemoaning the fact that “an album of erotic sculptures sells like hot cakes” and that “sometimes captions to the plates are the only text in a work!”

The earliest account of Khajuraho and its sculptures seems to be that of Captain T.S.Burt, in an extract from his Journal of an expedition there in 1838, published in The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol.8 (1840), p.159-184. Burt wrote that “some of the sculptures were extremely indecent, which I was at first much surprised to find in temples that are professed to be erected for good purposes, and on account of religion.” (p.163) Burt’s surprise, of course, has been echoed ever since.

Note 48
a) A French translation of The Thousand and One Nights, by Antoine Galland, the first into any European language, had been published in twelve volumes between 1704 and 1717, and had been very popular throughout Europe. (FitzGerald mentions it in passing in III.419.) Galland’s work was translated anonymously into English from about 1706. Known as “the Grub Street Version” it had served to popularise The Thousand and One Nights in England. An English translation of the original Arabic text by E.W.Lane had also appeared, in three volumes, between 1839 and 1841, a revised edition of it being published in 1859. Another translation into English by John Payne was published in 9 volumes between 1882 and 1884, but being a limited edition of 500 copies, it had correspondingly limited circulation. Chronologically, Burton’s famous translation comes next, and his was followed by another translation from the original Arabic into French by J.C. Mardrus, published in 16 volumes between 1899 and 1904. The Mardrus version was translated into English by Powys Mathers in 1923. FitzGerald himself had “Volume 1 of McNaghten’s Arabic Arabian Nights, and Torrens’ Translation thereof” (II.214) – published in 1839 and 1838 respectively – and “the 5 Vols. Octavo A(rabian) Nights (with Smirke’s Plates)” (III.419) – published in 1811. The Henry Torrens translation covered only the first fifty of the Nights; the translation with Robert Smirke’s plates was that by Jonathan Scott. For a good overview of the various translations, see the introduction to N.J.Dawood’s Tales from the Thousand and One Nights (Penguin Classics, 1973); for more detail, see Eva Sallis, Sheherazade through the Looking Glass: the Metamorphosis of the Thousand and One Nights (1999), particularly ch.3. Of course, all the foregoing translations are scholarly multi-volumed works, and though they did indeed have wide influence, edited, paraphrased, and often illustrated, editions based on them – many aimed at children – probably had a greater influence in the long run, for it is to these that most of us owe our knowledge of Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad the Sailor!

b) Though Rimsky Korsakov’s symphonic suite Sheherazade appeared in 1888 and achieved fame in its own right, a further boost to its fame was undoubtedly given by its adaptation for the ballet, premiered at the Paris Opéra by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in June 1910. The choreography was by Michel Fokine with the sets and costumes designed by Léon Bakst.

Note 49
a) Robert Burton, in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy, first published in 1621, but still popular reading in the 19th century, described the Qur’an (or Alcoran as it was known then) as “a gallimaufry of lies, tales, ceremonies, traditions, precepts, stole from other sects, and confusedly heaped up to delude a company of rude and barbarous clowns” (

Likewise, Thomas Fuller, in his book The History of the Holy War, first published in 1639, but again still popular reading through reprints in the 19th century (I have here used an 1840 edition), said of Islam – or Mahometanism as it then was – “For what is it but the scum of Judaism and Paganism sod together, and here and there strewed over with a spice of Christianity?” It was “a senseless religion”, he said, whose spread demonstrated “the gangrene-like nature of evil.” Somewhat oddly, he believed that one of the reasons that Islam had taken root was because “errors grow the fastest in hot brains”! (See his Book 1, Chapter 6.)

For a typical 19th century view of Islam, Robert B. M. Binning’s book A Journal of Two Years Travel in Persia, Ceylon etc, published in two volumes in 1857, is a good source. Binning refers to Mohammed as “that impostor” (vol.1, p.199) and “the false prophet of Mecca.” (vol.1, p.356) Whilst he decries “the delusive doctrines of the false religion” (vol.1, p.415) he goes on to admit that “there are some so-called Christian communities that are an utter disgrace to the name.”(vol.1, p.416) The best he can say of Islam is:

“It is certainly better than any system of paganism, and preferable to deism denying revelation. The best parts of it have been derived from the Bible; but it falls far short of a proper standard.” (vol.1, p.419)

Here again, then, we have the idea that Islam is merely a perverted off-shoot of Christianity, which is ironic since Christianity is arguably a perverted off-shoot of Judaism!

b) For the most detailed account of the Parliament, its origins and day-by-day proceedings, see the sumptuously bound work, in two-volumes, The World’s Parliament of Religions, edited by Rev John Henry Barrows (1893). This is now a rare book, but an edited single volume edition can be found in The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893, edited with introductions by Richard Hughes Seager (1993; second printing 1994.) Incidentally, Max Müller, one of the main founders of the modern study of Comparative Religion, who was unable to attend the Parliament, wrote a letter to Rev Barrows which finished thus: “I have no doubt that your Congress of Religions of the World might do excellent work for the resuscitation of pure and primitive ante-Nicene Christianity.” (Reproduced in Barrows, vol.2, p.935-6.) Max Müller also gave an enthusiastic talk about the Parliament in Oxford in 1894, the substance of which was printed as an essay,“The Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893”, in his Last Essays: Second Series (1901), p.324-345. (His letter to Rev. Barrows is also reproduced here, on p.342-5.) As might be expected, Comparative Religion did feature in the Parliament’s proceedings – for example in Professor Tiele’s paper “The Study of Comparative Theology” (Barrows, vol.1, p.583-590), and in that of Monsignor C.D. d’Harlez, “Comparative Study of the World’s Religions” (Barrows, vol.1, p.605-621.) Evolution, too, put in an appearance, in the form of Henry Drummond’s paper, “Evolution and Christianity” (Barrows, vol.2, p.1316-1325; Seager, p.285-295.)

c) The earliest voice of discontent was raised within the Parliament itself, by the Boston preacher, Rev Joseph Cook. As one Christian observer wrote in his report afterwards:

“It is a humiliating fact to the liberal and tolerant Christian to find that the first discordant note sounded at the Parliament of Religions – the first manifestation of bigotry and ill-will – was made, not by a Pagan, Mohammedan or Jew, but by a Christian. All were courteous, tolerant and charitable in utterance and demeanour till the Rev. Joseph Cook, of Boston, took the platform. He was narrow, dogmatic, uncharitable, and discourteous….who, in the language of the Chicago Tribune, made the ‘platform tremble with the weight of three hundred pounds of orthodoxy’…as he ‘thundered and tramped to and fro upon the stage pouring out a torrent of denunciations with face red with the vehemence of his utterances.” (quoted in R.H.Seager. as cited in note (b) above, p.51)

To take another example, William Remfrey Hunt, in his book Heathenism under the Searchlight: the Call of the Far East (1908), wrote:

“Occasionally, and from a few popular authors, or from the artistic pen of some tourist au gallop, heathenism has been re-christened with some fantastic name, and received quite a little bolstering up. Sir Edwin Arnold was enamoured of this ethical will-o’-the-wisp. Others, flirting with the charming devotees of esoteric Buddhism, theosophy, and other vague and empty ‘isms’ that bear the whiff of spicy breezes from the Orient, have also temporarily donned the fad and fashion, being absolutely ignorant of either the facts or fruits of these ill-bred and unscientific systems. It is one thing to write up an interesting essay on the rue and euphrasies of pagan systems, but quite another thing to see it day by day and night by night in all the naked reality of its gross and vulgar character. As from India, so from Japan, after the meeting in Chicago of ‘The Parliament of Religions’, there went forth Hindoo pundits, Mohammedan mollahs, Buddhist priests, and Shinto ‘right reverends,’ to exhibit the polished shells of their religious and superstitious cults. Nor was their itinerary or propaganda in vain, when it satisfied them to know they did woo and win not a few of the moral nondescripts of America and Europe to their respective tenets.”(p.54-5)

Hunt went on to quote an article on “The Aftermath of the Parliament” by Dr William Ashmore which complained that after the Parliament, the adherents of the non-Christian religions had gone back home “to flaunt their garlands in the faces of Christian converts, and to boast of the triumphs they achieved”, thus making the Battle for Christ doubly difficult!

Incidentally, in the above quoted passage, note that Edwin Arnold achieved great popularity with his poem, “The Light of Asia”, first published in 1879, which was seen by many as too sympathetic to Buddhism.

d) In his Foreword to William Remfrey Hunt’s book, cited in note (c) above, the Rev. William Durban wrote:

“The accomplished missionary author belongs to that select band of missionary-littérateurs who, while toiling assiduously in their arduous field, are willing and able to enlighten us in the West concerning their exploitation of the true conditions of paganism. Much has been written by sciolists in disparagement of the claims of the heathen world upon Christendom. Any simple recital of actual facts such as those contained in the following pages aims a fatal blow at that specious Ethnic Theory which is in favour with certain schools of rationalists. It might more aptly be termed the Ethnic Superstition. It professes to derive itself from ethnology by scientific induction. It declares that Buddhism is perfectly adapted to the idiosyncrasy of the Chinese, Burmese, Singalese, and Tibetan races; that Brahmanism is exactly suited to the Hindu temperament; and that Islam is the proper cult for the Turks, Persians, and Arabians. Those who only indulge in dilettante studies may be deluded by this so-called ‘religious philosophy of nationalities’. But workers for God who are imbued with the true ‘enthusiasm of humanity’ comprehend how such theories mock cruelly at the profound needs of the nations that sit in darkness.” (p.7)

This, of course, was the usual pious Christian stance: heathen races – be they Buddhist, Hindu or Moslem – “sit in darkness”, waiting for Christian missionaries to “switch on the light”.

Why was ethnic tolerance dangerous? Well, looking at the huge population of China – at that time “one quarter of the world’s population in an area which is only one twelfth of the whole” – Durban went on to turn the missionary enterprise into one with politico-military overtones:

“For if China becomes Christian, all Asia must gravitate to the Cross of Christ. And if, on the other hand, China should remain pagan while adopting modern civilisation, it must as a military Power threaten the world as did the Tartar host in the early Middle Ages. History contains lurid pages relating to the Tartar devastation, and these are followed by the terrible sequel of the Moslem deluge that almost submerged Europe. Such histories are trivial in comparison with those which would be enacted if the world should be destined to witness an uprising of Asia cultured by Western learning but unconquered by Christianity.” (p.8)

Note 50
See Max Müller’s essay “Coincidences”, published in his Last Essays: First Series (1901), p.251-290. The particular parallels I cite here, plus the suspicion of the devil at work, can be found on p.251-2. Müller’s essay was the substance of a paper read before the Royal Society of Literature in May 1896.

Note 51
What might be called a scientific interest in the comparative study of different religions began in the 18th century with the likes of Joseph-François Lafitau’s Moeurs des Sauvages Amériquains, comparées aux Moeurs des Premiers Temps, first published in 1724, which included a study of the religious customs of the North American Indians as compared with Graeco-Roman Paganism and Christianity. Also of early interest is Sir William Jones's study, On the Gods of Greece, Italy and India, first published in 1784. Dupuis’s Origine de tous les Cultes, ou la Réligion Universelle, first published in 1795, eccentric as it is (see Appendix 6) is another early example. Equally curious is Richard Payne Knight's study, An Account of the Remains of the Worship of Priapus, first published in 1786, in which the Christian tau–cross is classed as the derivative of an ancient phallic symbol. But Comparative Religion really only gained momentum in the 19th century. Its real development was helped by the more widespread and detailed study of oriental languages, including ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Babylonian cuneiform, but also by more widespread ethnographic studies made possible by increased exploration and ease of travel. Oddly enough, Darwin’s theory of evolution played its part, for the developments of societies and religions were also seen to follow evolutionary processes (cf Harriet Martineau’s comments quoted in chapter 10 of the main essay.) See the article “Comparative Religion” in A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, edited by S.G.F.Brandon (1970), and for a detailed study, Louis Henry Jordan, Comparative Religion – it’s Genesis and Growth (1905) – Jordan p.139-140 acknowledges the work of Dupuis, adding: “It is greatly to be regretted, however, that this book is marred by a blemish of a very serious character.”

Note 52
Frazer’s essay, “The Great Flood” featured in ch. 4, vol.1 of Folk-Lore in the Old Testament: Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend and Law (3 vols, 1918). From a reading of Frazer’s lengthy study it becomes clear that it is common for flooding to enter into folklore and mythology, since flooding – be it caused by heavy rains, overflowing rivers or tidal waves – is a relatively common type of disaster that has afflicted mankind throughout history, and which, like other disasters – earthquakes, for example – invites interpretation as a judgement from the gods. Thus we find flood stories incorporating all the various types of flooding. The floods in the story of Noah and the Epic of Gilgamesh are the results of rain, as are the floods in stories from New Zealand (Frazer p.250) and Bolivia (Frazer p.272-3), whereas a Peruvian flood legend has its cause in the sea breaking its bounds (Frazer p.271-2), this same mechanism being found in a flood story from Tahiti (Frazer p.245.) Again, a legend from New Guinea has a flood caused by a fountain of water bursting from the ground (Frazer p.237); another from North America has a flood caused by an overflowing lake (Frazer p.296), and another, from Canada, from the melting of an unusually early snow fall (Frazer p.312).

It is surprising how often fossils are cited as evidence of the reality of a flood story. We now know that the presence of fossilised sea-creatures in mountainous areas, far from the sea, is simply the result of age-long geological processes – the folding and upheaval of formerly sub-marine rock strata. But to the ancient and primitive mind, which can have no knowledge of these processes, the only way to explain such fossils is through some extraordinary rise in sea-level some time in the distant past. Frazer (p.159) writes that the 7th century bishop, Isidore of Seville was probably the first of many Christian writers to appeal to fossils as a confirmation of Noah’s Flood, though actually he was preceded by Tertullian in about 200 AD (in De Pallio II.3). Elsewhere, Frazer (p.222) says of the Toradjas of the Central Celebes that in proof of their flood story “they point to the sea-shells which are to be found on the tops of hills two thousand feet and more above the level of the sea.” In the Leeward Islands, the natives “point triumphantly for confirmation of their story to the coral, shells, and other marine substances which are occasionally found near the surface of the ground on the tops of their highest mountains” (Frazer p.245) In a legend from Alaska (Frazer p.318), we read how the Raven saw fish left high and dry on the mountains as the flood waters receded and turned them into stone where they lay – a clear reference to fossils. Frazer cites other fossil-confirmed flood stories from Mongolia (p.217), New Guinea (p.238), Samoa (p.249), Southern California (p.289), Canada and Greenland (p.327-8). In fact, flood stories which cite fossils as evidence girdle the globe, inviting the suggestion that the global distribution of flood stories may in part be connected with the global distribution of fossils. By their nature, fossils are bound to puzzle the ancient and primitive mind, and so invite the attention of the myth-making process. The question arises, then, as to whether fossils were merely regarded as confirming their respective flood stories, or whether in fact they started them. In other words, did fossils give rise to the idea of some past Great Deluge, and was it this hypothesised flood which became translated into stories of how the present human race has descended from a chosen few that survived a Universal Deluge?

For more on how natural disasters like earthquakes, or unusual natural features like the Giant’s Causeway, inspire mythopœic thought, see Dorothy B. Vitaliano’s Legends of the Earth (1973)

Note 53
Ann Clark Amor, William Holman Hunt – the True Pre-Raphaelite (1989): a) p.39; b) p.45; c) p.46; d) p.78; e) p.44. See also her account of the Pre-Raphaelite Mutual Suicide Association, “whereof any member, being weary of life, may call at any time upon another to cut his throat for him.” (p.41) Similar boyish material is to be found in Oswald Doughty’s book A Victorian Romantic: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1949) as follows:  Ford Madox Brown thought that “the Brotherhood was little more than a schoolboys’ conspiracy” (p.72); Doughty rightly describes as “absurd” the Brotherhood’s “class list of ‘immortals’, which began with Christ and Shakespeare…and, ignoring.. ….Plato…ended with ….Longfellow and Mrs Browning!”(p.74-75). (The list of Immortals is mentioned briefly on Amor p.45. For Hunt’s own account of it, see his Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1905), vol.1, p.159.) Again, Rossetti himself “sneered at the origins of the Pre-Raphaelite movement” (p.335), telling Hall Caine many years later:

“What you call the movement was serious enough, but the banding together under the title was all a joke. We had at that time a phenomenal antipathy to the Academy, and in sheer love of being outlawed signed our pictures with the well-known initials.” (p.617)

He also dismissed Pre-Raphaelitism as “the mere affectation of a parcel of boys.” (p.617) At the end, as at the beginning, for Rossetti it was a “lark” (p.69)

f) There is a tendency to merge the two phases of the PRB together, but in fact they were very different and had very different ideals, as Millais himself pointed out (see J.G.Millais, The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais (1899), vol.1, p.52f.) The ideal of the first phase was for the artist to capture on canvas what he actually saw in Nature, often in painstaking detail. The ideal of the second phase, though, was to capture on canvas romanticised and symbolic images from life, literature, myth and legend – “highly imaginative and original, and not without elements of beauty”, said Millas, “but they were not Nature.” (p.55) Rossetti, too, recognised this in those moments when he “not only sneered at the origins of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, but also categorically denied (and in the deepest sense truly) that had ever been a Pre-Raphaelite at all.” (Doughty, op.cit., p.335.)

Note 54
a) FitzGerald didn’t make much comment about Pre-Raphaelite paintings in his letters. He quite liked Millais’ painting “The North West Passage” (III.504, 506), but he “didn’t care a straw” for Holman Hunt’s “The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple” (II.380, 382, 387) – it was, he said, “a sad Humbug” (II.388). He wasn’t quite so dismissive of Hunt’s “The Shadow of Death”, though: “I see awful Accounts of H. Hunt’s Great Picture – the Greatest, no doubt, of modern times. The Idea of it seems good at any rate.” (III.458). As for Burne-Jones, FitzGerald seems not to have heard of him, for he thought he was just “another American Gentleman.” (III.421) (This is in connection with that famous appreciative letter from Ruskin to “The Translator of Omar Khayyam”, which was left with Burne-Jones for eventual delivery – see note 61a below.)

FitzGerald made much more comment on Pre-Raphaelite poetry than painting, encountering it largely through publications like The Athenaeum, it seems. Though it may seem slightly odd to us today, he had a habit of classifying Robert Browning, whom he found particularly irksome (see Appendix 8), with the Pre-Raphaelite poets: they were all ‘modern poets’ who weren’t up to much compared to the old school. Gray’s Elegy would outlive all “the hasty abortions” of Morris, Browning and Swinburne, he once said, in a letter to C.E.Norton written in December 1876 (III.730.) Gray’s Elegy was a star; Browning, Swinburne and Co were mere fireworks in comparison (IV.223). As for the poems of Charles Tennyson (brother of Alfred), they were worth far more than “the rank vegetation of Browning, Swinburne & Co.” (IV.207) Again, when William Morris’s poem The Life and Death of Jason was published in 1867, FitzGerald didn’t think much of it (III.139): it was a “no goer” like Browning (III.219); a passing fad that wasn’t a patch on Sir Walter Scott (III.259). The most positive that FitzGerald ever got was about Swinburne – “better than Browning and Co, but too fiery for me.” (III.487). More typical though was his reaction when The Athenaeum called Dante Gabriel Rossetti a great poet: “Great poet? How thick and fast great poets grow these days” (III.243, 718); and again, “Rossetti, Browning and Co are not what the newspapers say they are.” (III.342)

b) Another Pre-Raphaelite idol was Walt Whitman whose Leaves of Grass was ‘discovered’ by William Bell Scott (Autobiographical Notes (1892), vol.2, pp.32-3 & 267-9) in 1856. Like The Rubaiyat in England, Leaves of Grass had fallen flat in America on its publication in 1855, and a friend of Scott had picked up a few copies here in England from a travelling salesman who had known Whitman back in America. Interestingly, like The Rubaiyat, Leaves of Grass did not bear its author’s name on the title-page, though Whitman’s anonymity was not as closely guarded as FitzGerald’s: there was a picture of him as the Frontispiece, his name was clearly stated as what we would now call the copyright holder on the back of the title page, plus he named himself on p.29 as “Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, / Disorderly fleshy and sensual…” Actually, Leaves of Grass had a mixed reception among the Pre-Raphaelites. Scott and William Michael Rossetti were enthusiastic about it, but Dante Gabriel Rossetti certainly was not (Scott vol.2, p.32-3; W.E.Fredeman, Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (2002), vol.2, p.119.) Swinburne was at first very enthusiastic about Leaves of Grass (E.Gosse, Life of A.C.Swinburne (1917), p.94-5), but later, possibly under the influence of Theodore Watts-Dunton, he came to detest Whitman and his work (Gosse p.276), venting his spleen in his essay “Whitmania”, published in 1887.

On a different level, Edward Lear exercised an amusing influence on the Pre-Raphaelites, who went through a phase of writing limericks about each other. (For a good account of these, see Scott, vol.2, p.187-9.)

Note 55
a) Morris worked on two illuminated manuscripts of The Rubaiyat. The first was finished in October 1872 after 1½ years work, Morris having done both the calligraphy and the floriate ornamentation surrounding the verses, as well as the design for some of the marginal figures and for the two figures holding the scroll bearing the words “Tamam Shud” (= it is finished) at the bottom of the last page. Burne-Jones designed the rest of the marginal figures, but they were actually all painted into the book by Charles Fairfax Murray, so that it is now difficult to know exactly who designed what. This manuscript was the one given as a present to Georgiana Burne-Jones. (A limited edition facsimile of this manuscript was published by Phaidon Press in 1981, and it includes a facsimile of the note pasted into the back of the manuscript by Mrs Burne-Jones, giving an account of the contributions made by Morris, Burne-Jones and Murray.) The second version, again with calligraphy and floral ornamentation by Morris, was apparently begun before the first was finished (though some controversy surrounds the relative dating), and was for Edward Burne-Jones, who himself painted the six illustrations for it. It was this copy which was given as a present to Frances Graham (= Mrs J.F.Horner.) See J.W.Mackail, The Life of William Morris (1899), vol.1, p.278-280; Georgiana Burne-Jones, Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones (1904), vol. 2, p.33-4; and for a good, modern and detailed account of who did what, see Michaela Braesel’s article William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ (Apollo, February 2004, p.47-56.) Braesel mentions (p.47) that Morris actually prepared four copies of The Rubaiyat, three of them illuminated, though she only goes into detail as regards the two versions described in the present note. She also covers in detail the issues of the relative dating of the two versions – see particularly p.51. See Gallery 3A, Fig.5 & Fig.6, for sample pages from these two versions.

b) According to William S. Peterson, A Bibliography of the Kelmscott Press (1984), p.151-2, Sydney Cockerell did suggest to Morris, on at least three occasions between June 1891 and November 1892, that he should publish an edition of The Rubaiyat. Though at one point Morris “seemed to think that would do so”, he never actually did.

c) See The Swinburne Letters, edited by Cecil Y. Lang (1962), vol.5, p.131-136. Incidentally, Swinburne’s list included “no living names.”

Note 56
a) The Letters of George Meredith, ed. C.L.Cline (1970), vol.3, p.1691-2.

b) Put simply, the date of June 1862 – specifically 14th June 1862 – arises from the assumption that Swinburne’s Laus Veneris visit was the forthcoming one to which Meredith referred in his letter to William Hardman written on 12th June1862 (Cline vol.1, p.150.) However, that letter says that Rossetti was coming with Swinburne, and, of course, there is no mention of Rossetti’s presence in Meredith’s letter to The Times of April 1909, nor in Meredith’s other account of the Laus Veneris visit, that given verbally to Constantin Photiadès in September 1908. For details, again see Appendix 16.

Note 57
a) For the symbolism of “The Wheel of Fortune”, see David Peters Corbett, Edward Burne-Jones (2004), p.40; Penelope FitzGerald, Edward Burne-Jones – a Biography (1975), p.140, p.245. Note that there are several versions of “The Wheel of Fortune” – see Martin Harrison and Bill Waters, Burne-Jones (1989), p.105 (fig.147) and p.133 (fig.190), though the basic symbolism of all is the same. In the version of 1875-83 (Gallery 3A, Fig.1) there are three figures on the Wheel. The Beggar is at the top, his right foot trampling the crown and head of the King, thus reversing the usual order of things, as Fortune is apt to do. The third figure, right at the bottom and just visible, is the Poet, recognisable by his laurel wreath. He is being trampled on, in effect, by King and Beggar alike, and is about to be swept under the Wheel and crushed, this being so often the fate of Poets (and Artists!) For “The Story of Troy” (“The Troy Triptych”), see Harrison and Waters p.108 and their Fig.144 (p.103)., a colour version of which can be found in Gallery 3A (Fig.7.) A second version of “The Wheel of Fortune” can also be found in Gallery 3A (Fig.8.)

b) Lisa Tickner, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (2003), p.48-49; H.C.Marillier, Dante Gabriel Rossetti – an Illustrated Memorial of his Art and Life (1904), p.91-93. “Venus Verticordia” means “Venus, Turner of Hearts”, Rossetti using the word “turner” in the sense of “leading into illicit temptation.” Rossetti wrote a sonnet, also entitled “Venus Verticordia”, to accompany and complement the picture.

c) See, for example, Marillier, op.cit. p.132-3 and Robert D. Johnston, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1969), p.39. Rossetti himself explained the symbolism of the drawing in two letters, one to Jane Morris (of 10th March 1875) and the other to Frederick Stephens (of about 10th August 1875) –  see William E. Fredeman, The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (2002-9), vol.7, p.24 & p.70-1. The suggestion that the dead Youth was inspired by Nolly Brown’s early death was apparently first made by William Michael Rossetti in Dante Gabriel Rossetti – his Family Letters, with a Memoir (1895), vol.1 p.364; see also Fredeman, op.cit., vol.6, p.575 & p.577 n.2. The two sonnets to accompany the drawing were actually the last verses Rossetti composed. He dictated them to Hall Caine four days before his death, in 1882. – see Johnston, op.cit., p.43; also Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, edited by Oswald Doughty and John Robert Wahl (1967), vol.4, p.1952–1953; and Fredeman, op.cit., vol.9, p.679-680. Finally, in the letter to Jane Morris mentioned above, Rossetti said of the drawing that, “The subject is in fact the same as that of my little poem ‘The Cloud’” (that is, ‘The Cloud Confines’); and in the letter to Frederick Stephens, Rossetti indicated that the alternative title of “The Question” was inspired by the line of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” See also the letter to Ford Madox Brown of 9th March 1875: “I have been making a design – all men & a sphinx! – meant to be a sort of painted ‘Cloud Confines’.” (Fredeman, vol.7, p.23)

d) Ann Clark Amor, William Holman Hunt – the True Pre-Raphaelite (1989), p.104 & p.233. For Hunt’s attendance at a dinner of the Omar Khayyam Club on some unspecified date or dates, see the list of guests in The Book of the Omar Khayyam Club 1892-1910 (1910), p.216. For the copy of The Rubaiyat as a birthday present, see Edward Clodd, Memories (1916), p.205. Clodd apparently wrote a “very pertinent inscription” in the front of the copy, this involving a couplet from The Rubaiyat. But since we are not told what that inscription was, nor which couplet was quoted, Holman Hunt's letter is not crystal clear. However, the letter is short, so I quote it in full here. It is dated April 3, 1899:

“Among my birthday gifts yesterday not the least welcome was the pretty little volume of the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, with your very pertinent inscription and quotation in front. He, or it may be Edward FitzGerald, in parts, as some say, is such a jolly philosopher of the expect-nothing kind, that he is always a treat to read and, for his poetic gems, a lasting glory. He is very bracing in the couplet you quote, and I hope that both of us will still be able to add much to our quota of new work, although it will be done by me without any dimming of the other tent-maker's dream.”

Hunt's reference to quotas of new work suggests that Clodd quoted a couplet of Omar relating to life's transience, and his reference to “the other tent-maker's dream.” suggests that though he found his copy of The Rubaiyat “a treat to read”, it would not affect his Christian faith: Omar Khayyam was one tent-maker; the other tentmaker was St Paul (Acts 18.3), whose dream was to spread Christ's gospel throughout the world.

e) Millais’ son, John Guille Millais, in his book The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais (1899) said only this of “Bubbles”:

“Millais painted it simply and solely for his own pleasure. He was very fond of his little grandson, Willie James – a singularly beautiful and most winning child – and seeing him one day blowing soap bubbles through a pipe, he thought what a dainty picture he would make, and at once set to work to paint him, bubbles and all.” (vol.2, p.186)

There is no evidence here of any intended symbolism. Millais Jr then goes on to say that the portrait itself was finished very quickly, but that the bubbles had to be added later, painted from a specially made crystal sphere, real bubbles being “too evanescent for portraiture.” Yet according to Jeremy Paxman’s The Victorians (2009), “the bubbles signify the fleeting nature of happiness and of life itself” (p.153), an interpretation which also featured on the web-page of the Lady Lever Art Gallery (where the picture is exhibited) in August 2006 when the painting was their Art Work of the Month, the wording being taken from the Gallery’s printed note on the picture in the exhibition hall:

“Although 'Bubbles' may appear sentimental to modern taste, it has a serious meaning. Millais was using a symbol with a long tradition behind it. 'Bubbles' are fragile and have a brief moment of beauty before they burst. In the 17th century Dutch artists painted children blowing bubbles to convey the brevity of human life, the transience of beauty and the inevitability of death.”

The supposed symbolism of the broken pot comes from the Wikipedia web-page devoted to the painting (as at December 2010):

“The painting portrays a young golden-haired boy looking up at a bubble, symbolising the beauty and fragility of life. On one side of him is a young plant growing in a pot, and on the other is a fallen broken pot, emblematic of death. He is spot-lit against a gloomy background.”

See also note i below.

f) The use of bubbles as a symbol of the transience of human life is ancient, for in the 2nd century AD Lucian used it in his dialogue between Charon and Hermes, in Charon, or the Inspectors (§19, thus):

“Let me tell you, Hermes, what I think men and the whole life of man resemble.You have noticed bubbles in water, caused by a streamlet splashing down – I mean those that mass to make foam? Some of them, being small, burst and are gone in an instant, while some last longer and as others join them, become swollen and grow to exceeding great compass; but afterwards they also burst without fail in time, for it cannot be otherwise. Such is the life of men; they are all swollen with wind, some to greater size, others to less; and with some the swelling is short-lived and swift-fated, while with others it is over as soon as it comes into being; but in any case they all must burst.” (Translation: A.M.Harmon, Loeb 1915.)

To which Hermes replies:

“Charon, your simile is every bit as good as Homer’s, who compares the race of man to leaves.”

The reference here is to the Iliad (6.146f), which reads thus:

“Just as are the generations of leaves, such are those also of men. As for the leaves, the wind scatters some on the earth, but the luxuriant forest sprouts others when the season of spring has come, so of men, one generation springs up and another passes away.” (Translation: A.T.Murray, revised W.F. Wyatt, Loeb 1999.)

There is a lot to be said for Pope’s rendering of these lines, reminiscent of FitzGerald in its freeness and freshness of translation:

Like leaves on trees the race of man is found,
Now green in youth, now withering on the ground;
Another race the following spring supplies;
They fall successive, and successive rise:
So generations in their course decay;
So flourish these, when those are pass'd away.

Thus, again, there are ancient antecedents for fallen leaves as a symbol of the transience of human life.

g) J.E.Phythian, Millais (1911), p.123-4 for “Speak! Speak!” and p.124-5 for “Time the Reaper.” Also, J.G.Millais, The Life and Letters of John Everett Millais (1899), vol.2, p.304f for “Speak! Speak!” and vol.2, p.314 for “Time the Reaper” (though for this mysterious picture, Phythian is the better reference!) See also the essay by Roger Bowdler cited in note i below, p.227-230.

h) As with “Bubbles”, J.G.Millais says nothing about any symbolism intended in “Autumn Leaves”, concentrating solely on the twilight effects his father achieved in the painting (vol.1, p.290-291). However, in remarks made to Holman Hunt in 1851, Millais talked of the odour of burning leaves, adding, “To me nothing brings back sweeter memories of the days that are gone.” This last phrases ties in with the suggestion that Millais was at least in part inspired by the following lines from Tennyson’s “Tears, Idle Tears” (from The Princess):

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

If all this is so, there is probably an inherent symbol of transience here which is reinforced by the twilight effect of parting day. Interestingly, autumn leaves and twilight come together in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,

Autumn leaves are used as a symbol of death in Homer’s Iliad (see note f above) and verse 8 of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th editions of The Rubaiyat also uses falling leaf symbolism:

Whether at Naishápúr or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

For Millais’ “Autumn Leaves”, the remarks to Holman Hunt, and Tennyson’s poem, see Julian Treuherz, Pre-Raphaelite Paintings from the Manchester City Art Gallery (1980), p.49, and Malcolm Warner, The Victorians: British Painting 1837-1901 (1996), p.72-3. “Autumn Leaves” forms an interesting symbolic pairing with Millais’ other painting “Spring (Apple Blossoms)” (1859), for which see the notes on verse 72.

i) Roger Bowdler, “Ars Longa, Vita Brevis: Life, Death and John Everett Millais” in John Everett Millais – Beyond the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – Studies in British Art 7, edited by Debra N. Mancoff (2001), p.207- 233. Bowdler’s excellent essay gives numerous examples of Millais’ returns to “the solemn themes of death and mutability” including the obvious example “The Vale of Rest” (p.214-216) and the less obvious example “Autumn Leaves” (p.214; see also note h above). He also includes Millais’ child portraits, which he believes should be considered “in the light of Millais’ demonstrable concerns with the theme of transience”, adding that, “Child portraits, by definition, capture an ephemeral state.” (p.225). In respect of “Bubbles” he says that, “It looked for inspiration to the vanitas tradition, and especially to the Erasmian dictum homo bulla, man is a bubble, a thing of little substance, prone to sudden extinction.” (p.226) He goes on to say that, “Millais would have been hard-pressed indeed to make more clear the connection between youth and transience than he did with Bubbles.”(p.226) In a personal email of 5th December 2011, Roger Bowdler expanded on this:

“Re Bubbles: one would be a foolish person to pretend that it had all the solemnity of a 17th century emblem. It's really a tender picture of a sweet child. But as his wife's family's ghastly record of child mortality makes clear, there was a vulnerability about childhood then; plus the other message of vanitas bubbles – time passes swiftly on; mop-headed boys become bald-headed admirals. I think JEM's sensitivity to transience, mutability and human fragility made him able to turn a child portrait into something with an undercurrent.”

Note 58
a) According to Donald Thomas, Swinburne: the Poet in his World (1979), Swinburne, “the figurehead of rebellion and modernity in literature” (p.1) and “the enfant terrible of the 1860s” (p.182) lost his faith when an undergraduate at Balliol (p.15). Whether he was an atheist or not isn’t clear – he could be “caustically anti-clerical or anti-theist on one day and then pondering personal immortality the next, as the mood took him.” (p.182) When Rossetti died in 1882, Swinburne said that “his strong inclination was to believe in the survival of individual and conscious life after bodily dissolution (p.181), and in 1892 he told his mother of “his wish – rather than his ability – to believe” in an after-life.(p.224) His vacillating beliefs are not unusual for the time but illustrate “the recurrent truth in the Victorian period that though religious belief was often inconsistent and plagued by doubt, so was the ‘unbelief’ of atheists.” (p.220) For Swinburne’s heavy drinking see, for example,Thomas p.96, p.138-9 & p.145.

b) According to Oswald Doughty’s A Victorian Romantic: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1949), Rossetti was dubbed “a born rapscallion” by his own father (p.44) and led a bohemian life-style that aroused the disapproval of his champion, Ruskin (p.168-9). He was “an idealist…if ever there was one” (p.531), who saw “his own life as literature, through the eyes of Dante and Malory” (p.126), and whose “life and art were dominated by dream.”(p.532) Rossetti “like his father, was ever divided between a naturally rationalistic mentality and the emotional and sensuous appeal of religious mysticism, especially as embodied in the creed and ritual of the Catholic Church.” (p.74) In fact, Rossetti rather avoided discussing his religious views, but on one occasion, in 1865, when he did, “he showed his sympathy with and respect for those who could accept orthodox Christian dogma, while at the same time he equally clearly expressed the impossibility of such an acceptance for himself.” (p.575) Again, “despite Rossetti’s rejection of orthodox theology, the Christ-ideal appealed strongly to his imagination…”(p.627) The problem was, as he wrote in 1879, “I myself was never gifted with implicit faith in things not undeniably proved.” (p.575, footnote) His basic agnosticism – and, incidentally, affinity with Omar! – showed through in a stanza from the verses entitled Commandments, written in 1871 (quoted on Doughty p.576):

Let no priest tell you of any home
Unseen above the sky’s blue dome.
To have played in childhood by the sea,
Or to have been young in Italy,
Or anywhere in the sun or rain,
To have loved and been beloved again,
Is nearer Heaven than he can come.

When Swinburne joined the Pre-Raphaelites in 1857 it was largely through encountering the sensuous imagery and symbolism of Rossetti’s poetry, but he was also drawn to the group for “their aversion to Victorianism, to a merely conventional religion and morality.” (p.232) Though Rossetti drew and painted Biblical scenes, such as “Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee” and “Ecce Ancilla Domini”, the Bible for him was really no more than a source-book of imagery on a par with that to be found in the works of Malory and Dante (Éva Péteri, Victorian Approaches to Religion as Reflected in the Art of the Pre-Raphaelites (2003), p.106-7.) Ironically, “Ecce Ancilla Domini” was interpreted by some critics to be pro-Catholic propaganda, its “popery” being clearly indicated by its Latin title! Accordingly Rossetti changed it to “The Annunciation.” (Péteri p.25; Doughty p.101-2) But other things besides hedonism and religious skepticism may hold keys to Rossetti’s particular interest in The Rubaiyat. For example, Rossetti was a fan – one of very few! – of William Bell Scott’s poem “The Year of the World”, published in 1847. In the words of its author, the poem dealt with “the different forms of religion underlying the periods of time occupied by the civilisation of the world.” (Doughty p.56) Again, in 1869 Rossetti published a set of 16 sonnets under the title of “Of Life, Love and Death”, these three themes, Doughty tells us, “becoming an obsessive trinity” which “henceforth haunted his imagination to the end.”(p.385) Also in 1869 came “The Orchard Pit”, in which, for Rossetti, “the life instinct suddenly turns deathward, and the poet dreams of Love’s final consummation, of the beloved’s absorption by the lover, of complete spiritual unity beyond the gate of Death…..” (p.406) Finally, an odd insight into Rossetti’s mind-set is provided by the fact that he took the trouble to make a translation of an ill-spelt French poem which he saw scrawled on the window pane of an inn he was staying at in 1867 (Doughty p.344). It is entitled “A Doctor’s Advice”:

My doctor’s issued his decree
That too much wine is killing me,
And furthermore his ban he hurls
Against my touching naked girls.

How then? must I no longer share
Good wine or beauties, dark and fair?
Doctor, good-bye, my sail’s unfurled,
I’m off to try the other world.

As regards drink, for Rossetti’s temperate habits when younger, see Doughty p.277; for his later addiction to chloral and whiskey, see Doughty p.530.

c) According to Esther Meynell’s Portrait of William Morris (1947), when Morris went up to Oxford in 1853 he thought of the Church as his probable future career, as did Burne-Jones, whom he met there. (p.18) At Oxford the two of them even read together such works as Milman’s Latin Christianity, the Acta Sanctorum, the Tracts for the Times, and Neale’s History of the Eastern Church (p.24); Morris even wrote devotional poetry (p.28-9). But with widening artistic and poetic interests, it wasn’t long before both Morris and Burne-Jones abandoned the Church as their destined vocation (p.33) As regards death, Meynell, talking about extracts from the June (prelude) and August verses of Morris’s poem “Earthly Paradise”, says the following about Morris’s views:

“Such poems are essentially English. They have that touch of nostalgic sadness most English poets betray when they write of summer, knowing as they do how brief and uncertain is the glory of an English summer’s day. It is the same thing, in a lesser degree, that Morris felt so strongly about death; he felt pressingly at times throughout the years how each brief life awaited that Comer whom none can stay.” (p.81)

Morris seems not to have said much about his own religious beliefs, and Meynell says little on the subject, but J. W. Mackail, in his book The Life of William Morris (1899), describes the religious background of Morris's childhood as the “normal type of a somewhat sterile Evangelicalism, which cursorily dismissed everything outside itself as Popery on the one hand or Dissent on the other” (vol.1, p.10), adding that he left school as a pronounced Anglo-Catholic (vol.1, p.17.) As for his later beliefs, J.Bruce Glasier in his book William Morris and the Early Days of the Socialist Movement (1921), says that though ordinarily, “Religion was a subject on which Morris never touched” (p.164), nevertheless, on a couple of occasions, Morris did raise the subject in the course of conversation. On one of these he said that:

 “….so far as I can discover from logical thinking, I am what is bluntly called an Atheist. I cannot see any real evidence of the existence of God or of immortality in the facts of the world – amazing as is the whole phenomenon of the universe. And of this I am absolutely convinced – that if there is a God, He never meant us to know much about Himself, or indeed to concern ourselves about Him at all. Had He so wished, don’t you think He would have made his existence and wishes so overwhelmingly clear to us that we could not possibly have ever doubted about it at all?” (p. 171).

d) According to Penelope FitzGerald’s book, Edward Burne-Jones: a Biography (1975), Burne-Jones had an Evangelical upbringing (p.13) and early ambitions to make the Church his career (p.20), which ambition, as noted in c) above, he found he had in common with Morris when the two met at Oxford (p.25, 30.) Burne-Jones's religious turmoil came to a head in 1854: having contemplated converting to Roman Catholicism, “it was in this year that Burne-Jones, and probably Morris also, lost their belief in any doctrinal form of Christianity.” (p.31) Nevertheless, like so many others, he could still be stirred by the sight and sounds of the High Mass in a Cathedral setting – as he was at Beauvais Cathedral on a trip to France in 1855. (p.35-6).

Probably the most revealing insight into the nature of the appeal of The Rubaiyat to Burne-Jones is contained in one of his letters to Lady Lewis, written in 1883. The letter is quoted in Lady Burne-Jones’ Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones (1904), and in it he talks about Persian poetry and the possibility of a prose translation of the poetry of Hafiz:

“It is altogether unknown land to me, and I have but the vaguest impression about all that realm. I hate poems about wine and women, I hate them put together in a poem as much as you could – only I have a sort of idea of Hafiz that he made it an excuse for saying daring things about life, and splendid blasphemies like Omar Khayyam – I don’t know: but Islam in Persia seems much like that, the little I know of it; gladness of heart and scorn of low ideals of Allah and love of freedom and delight in beauty and endless chatter about roses and tulips and fenced gardens and brave sayings about life and a little impertinence and mockery – pride in being artists and scorn of sultans their masters – it might be after all that a vein of Heine might be in it – but how should I know? Such things are untranslateable and one concedes that at once – only if I knew the mere prose of it I could imagine sound and colour for it.

I should like it when he fell into that snare of thought that caught them all in the East – the sight of ancient ruined cities and desolated houses and broken gardens; then they abandon themselves to the melancholy of it and if they call for wine it isn’t for wine’s sake. Meantime I know nothing, but have made a Hafiz for myself out of nothing.” (vol.2, p.135-7)

Clearly, then, the wine and women of The Rubaiyat held no appeal for Burne-Jones, whereas Khayyam’s “splendid blasphemies” certainly did! Note also “the delight in beauty”, the “scorn of sultans” and the melancholy inspired by ancient ruins. Burne-Jones also shared Khayyam’s disdain for organised religion – Khayyam would surely have delighted in Burne-Jones’ satirical Prayer for the Stock Exchange, to be recited in the conveniently situated St Paul’s Cathedral (vol.2, p.219-20), and which beseeched the Almighty to turn his all-seeing eye upon any financial difficulties which might threaten to overturn the commercial pre-eminence of London! And yet Burne-Jones also wrote, “I never doubt for a moment the real presence of God, I should never debate about it any more than I should argue about Beauty, and the things I most love.” (vol.2, p.325) For his intense experience of High Mass in Beauvais Cathedral in 1855, see vol.1, p.113-4 and vol.2, p.301.

For Burne-Jones’ fascination with Arabian and Persian stories, see ib.vol.2, p.43, and in particular the Arabian Nights (vol.1, p.58 and vol.2, p.55) and the Shah Nameh (vol.2, p.41).

Note 59
Interestingly, in 1909 Frederick LeRoy Sargent wrote a play entitled Omar and the Rabbi. By interweaving the full texts of FitzGerald’s fifth edition of The Rubaiyat and Browning’s Rabbi ben Ezra he created a theological debate between Omar and the Rabbi in which, by the end, the Rabbi gains the upper hand on behalf of God, and Omar and his followers retire in “forced merriment.” The first edition of 1909 was followed by a second in 1911, and a third in 1919. The text of the play can be found online at: .

Note 60
a) Nicholas Murray, A Life of Matthew Arnold (1996), p.117; also p.252. As Murray points out (p.234), "Dover Beach" does not represent Arnold's own loss of faith, but rather that of the age in which he lived, a loss which deeply disturbed him. This is perhaps most clearly seen in his book Literature and Dogma (1873), a work which is heavily larded with Biblical quotations, to the extent that in places it reads like the outpourings of a Bible-thumping preacher! In it, Arnold set out to rescue the Christian Faith both from the dogmatists of the Orthodox Church, whom he saw as bogging down True Christianity with their with their disputes over such things as the nature of the Holy Trinity, and from the Rationalists, who would throw out the baby with the bath-water, and do away with religion altogether. For Arnold, the reality or otherwise of Christ's miracles, for example, was of little importance compared to the moral force of Christ's teaching. Again and again he emphasises the promotion of righteousness, for "to righteousness belongs happiness" and that would ultimately lead to "Peace through Jesus Christ." Literature and Dogma is certainly not the book of an agnostic!

b) There appears to be no direct reference by Arnold himself to writing “Growing Old” as a direct response to Browning’s “Rabbi ben Ezra”. The idea seems to have been first proposed by William C. DeVane in A Browning Handbook (1935), p.260, and to have been accepted by C.B. Tinker and H.F.Lowry in The Poetry of Matthew Arnold: A Commentary (1940), p.178. See Conrad A. Balliet, “‘Growing Old’ along with ‘Rabbi Ben Ezra’” in Victorian Poetry, vol.1, no.4 (November 1963), p.300-301; also John Huebenthal, “’Growing Old’, ‘Rabbi ben Ezra’, and ‘Tears, Idle Tears’” in Victorian Poetry, vol.3, no.1 (Winter 1965), p.61-63, which links Arnold’s poem with Tennyson’s “Tears, Idle Tears” as well as with Browning’s “Rabbi ben Ezra”; also Robert E. Lovelace, “A Note on Arnold’s ‘Growing Old’” in Modern Language Notes, vol.68, no.1 (January 1953), p.21-23, which links Arnold’s poem with a section of Wordsworth’s Excursion (ix.50-92), as well as with Browning’s “Rabbi ben Ezra.”

c) For the poem and its history see Mark Twain’s Rubaiyat, with an Introduction by Alan Gribben and a Textual Note by Kevin B. MacDonnell, published in a limited edition of 650 copies in 1983.

Note 61
a) Apparently in 1863, via Burne-Jones: according to Georgiana Burne-Jones in her Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones (1904):

“It was during our stay at Winnington, I believe, that Edward shewed his copy of Omar Khayyam to Mr Ruskin; certainly I remember that he was so delighted with it that before going abroad he wrote a letter of thanks addressed simply ‘To the Translator of Omar Khayyam’, and gave it into our care, charging us to deliver it to the author if ever we learned his name.” (vol.1, p.271)

For Mrs Burne-Jones’ account of how the translator was finally identified for them by C.E. Norton in 1873, see vol.2, p.33-4.

b) The Works of John Ruskin, vol.36 (Letters), p.115.

c) John Lewis Bradley, The Letters of John Ruskin to Lord and Lady Mount Temple (1964), p.6. As examples of these we might cite his use of rose quartz as a symbol of Rose (p.255) and his reference to Lord Henry Kerr of Melrose (the underline is Ruskin’s own), of which he said, “I always underline my pet bits, even in addresses.” (p.120.) If the latter seems strange, the following is positively convoluted: “Do you see what Proserpine spells – if you take P (for pet) – and R – (next the rose) – away from it? Ros-Epine.” (p.235) Epine means thorn, a reference to the pain that his relationship with Rose so often caused him. (Incidentally, the rose quartz symbol mentioned above signified her flintiness – or hardness – in the way she sometimes treated him.) As for pictorial images of the rose, the insignia on the title page of Fors Clavigera is a rose (p.286, footnote) and in a letter written in July 1871 Ruskin said that he was going out “to paint a spray of rose against a rock.” (p.299) Even Ruskin’s funeral pall was embroidered with wild roses. (p.306). Poetic references to roses also did attract his attention, as for example (p.171) the following verse (verse 18) from Thomas Hood’s poem “Miss Kilmansegg and her Precious Leg”:

And the other sex—the tender—the fair—
What wide reverses of fate are there!
Whilst Margaret, charm'd by the Bulbul rare,
In a garden of Gul reposes—
Poor Peggy hawks nosegays from street to street
Till—think of that, who find life so sweet!—
She hates the smell of roses!

Bulbul and Gul are, respectively, the Nightingale and the Rose of Persian poetry – see the notes on verse 6. Where Hood got these from, and whether Ruskin realised that they linked up with The Rubaiyat, I do not know. But whatever, enough has been said to show that Ruskin could certainly have seen Rose la Touche symbolism among the roses of The Rubaiyat.

d) In a letter to Mrs John Simon, dated September 1863. See The Works of John Ruskin, vol.36 (Letters), p.455.

e) The Works of John Ruskin, vol.34, p.705, which cites W.G.Collingwood, Ruskin Relics (1903), p.190. Collingwood says only that his dissent or energetic assent was “scored on the margins in the edition of 1879.”

f) The Works of John Ruskin, vol.36 (Letters), p.577.

Note 62
a) The fourth edition was the odd one out, in that Omar was paired with Salaman and Absal, “my two Siamese Persians” as FitzGerald referred to them (IV.242.) FitzGerald had a fondness for his translation of Salaman and Absal, and in a letter to H.S.Wilson written in February 1882, he wrote of it being

“….the first Persian Poem I read, with my friend Edward Cowell, near on forty years ago: and I was so well pleased with it then (and now think it almost the best of the Persian Poems I have read or heard about), that I published my version of it in 1856 (I think)…. But some six or seven years ago that Sheikh of mine, Edward Cowell, who liked the Version better than anyone else, wished it to be reprinted. So I took it in hand, boiled it down to three-fourths of what it originally was, and (as you see) clapt it on the back of Omar.”(IV.487)

FitzGerald felt that Salaman and Absal published alone would not have much appeal, but “with Omar for Trumpeter, Salaman might come modestly forth: both, at a moderate price.” (IV.68) As regards the “moderate price”, FitzGerald had been alarmed at Quaritch’s prices –“it seemed to me a sort of Impudence to charge 7/6 (I believe) for such things” (IV.66), he wrote, when the Americans could do it for 2/6 (IV.67) It was this volume which FitzGerald wanted to dedicate to Cowell, with “a proviso as to your not approving of Omar’s morals”(IV.170-1), but as Coweel told W. Aldis Wright in 1888, “I would not have it done, as I never cared very much for Omar – my favourites were the Salaman and Bird Parliament and Mesnavi; and so it was eventually dropped.”(IV.205-6)

b) The first edition consisted of some 250 copies, 200 of which went to Bernard Quaritch (II.332 n.1), and which were “as much lost as sold, when B. Quaritch changed houses.”(III.81) The second edition consisted of some 200 copies (III.81); the third, of 500 copies (IV.174); and the fourth, tentatively, of 1000 copies (IV.162, 164 & 174.) [Quaritch wanted “privilege to print 1000” (IV.162), but FitzGerald thought 1000 copies was too many, for, as he wrote in a letter to W. Aldis Wright in December 1878; “1000 would, at the rate I sell at, be a final Edition, so far as my Life is concerned, and, I should think, Quaritch’s also.”(IV.165)] Fifty copies of a ‘pirated’ version of the first edition, with some added quatrains, appeared in Madras in 1862, very probably published by Whitley Stokes for friends of his [III.320 & 321 n.2; also III.706 n.1; for a detailed study see John Drew, The Dog and the Mongoose: the Indian Pirate Edition of ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ (1862), a limited library edition published by the Cambridge Poetry Workshop in 2009, later extended and republished for general circulation as Empire, Piracy and Appropriation; also Drew’s article in Poole et al., as note 1m, chaper 7.] FitzGerald was greatly amused by this pirate edition: “So I have lived not in vain, if I have lived to be Pirated!” (III.339) So, given one pirated edition, there may have been other small ‘privately published’ editions around as well. In addition, in a rather puzzling footnote of the Terhunes to a letter from FitzGerald to Quaritch, written in September 1875, we read: “A reprint of the 1872 Rubaiyat was issued at some unknown date…EFG never learned of the later copies.” (III.601 n.1) How many copies and by whom is unclear. I wonder myself if this was a Quaritch re-issue, for FitzGerald was rather vague as to how many copies of the third edition had been printed in 1872. Writing to Aldis Wright in January 1879, he indicated that he had been told 500 by Quaritch back in 1872 (IV.174), which seems to suggest that no firm number had been agreed upon. The 1878 pirated “Osgood & Co., of Boston” edition ran to 500 copies (Potter #200.)

Note 63
a) Some of Housman’s poems were in fact included in the so-called “Broadsheets for the Trenches” – literature specially printed to be sent out for the use of soldiers and sailors on active service, the first making their appearance in late 1915. Housman jokingly nursed a secret ambition that “a soldier is to receive a bullet in the breast, and it is to be turned aside from his heart by a copy of A Shropshire Lad which he is carrying there. Hitherto it is only the Bible which has performed this trick.” (Richard Perceval Graves, A.E.Housman, the Scholar Poet (1979), p.174; Grant Richards, Housman 1897-1936 (1941), p.155.) So far as I know, though, The Rubaiyat was never actually included in the Broadsheets for the Trenches. Certainly it doesn’t feature in Geoffrey Dawson’s books A Book of Broadsheets (1928) and A Second Book of Broadsheets (1929). [By way of illustration, the Broadsheets listed by Dawson covered a wide range of literature, from the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning, Burns and Dickens, to Gilbert White on birds, Izaak Walton on fishing, and John Nyren on cricket. All of which invites the question of exactly how popular in the trenches The Rubaiyat was.]

Though not directly related to the reading matter in the trenches, there was an interesting article, “Books and the War” by ‘Onlooker’, which appeared in The Bookman for October 1915 (p.2-4). Basically it was an account of the books which had sold best in the shops of W.H.Smith in the previous year. Of some 150 titles supplied, not all of which were named in the article, about two-thirds of them were books relating to the war. Of the 84 titles named, 45 were War Books, 10 Poetry and 29 Fiction & Miscellaneous. The poetry books were by Kipling (particularly “A Song of the English”), Chesterton, and Rupert Brooke – with no mention of either A.E.Housman or The Rubaiyat.

When, in 1917, American troops joined the war effort, they too were supplied with reading matter on request. In a letter to the editor, published under the title “The Army names its Choice ” in The North American Review (February 1919, p.281-4), Katherine Mayo gave an interesting list of the wide variety of material requested. The list included some unexpected items, like books on accountancy, dairy farming, electrical engineering and trigonometry, but also more literary items, like the works of Tennyson, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, the short stories of O. Henry, Ralph Waldo Trine’s classic of philosophical mysticism, In Tune with the Infinite, and - here it is - The Rubaiyat.

b) Brooke wrote:

“I spend my odd moments in a grave perplexity, about marriage. I rather feel that if the war hadn’t happened, I’d have gone on eyeing the brink…until I relapsed into a friendly celibate middle-age…But oh! this threatens a hastiness of decision. ‘Tomorrow Why tomorrow I may be, myself, with yesterday’s seven thousand years.’ If it’s true the war’ll last two years more, there’s very little chance of anyone who goes out in January 1915 returning. Now, if I knew I’d be shot, I’d marry in a flash – oh any of two or three ladies – and do my best to leave a son…But, oh, if I came back in a year and found myself caught. It’s easy to select a wife for a month: but for a lifetime – one must be a little more certain.” (Geoffrey Keynes, The Letters of Rupert Brooke (1968).p.636.)

The quoted lines are from verse 20 of The Rubaiyat. For Brooke’s other references to The Rubaiyat and his reported review of Mera K. Sett’s illustrated Omar Khayyam (1914), see Appendix 17.

c) Gurney wrote:

“C and I crawled into a candle-lit dugout, and so met four of the nicest young men you could meet, possibly. They knew folksong. And one of them sang ‘David of the White Rock’ and ‘A Slumber Song’, both of which Somervell has arranged, and both beauties. We talked later of Omar Khayyam, Borrow, Burns, Wordsworth, Oscar Wilde etc etc.” (R.K.R.Thornton, Ivor Gurney: Collected Letters (1991), p.89.)

d) The context (at the end of Part 7:1) is as follows:

“I was losing my belief in the War, and I longed for mental acquiescence – to be like young Patterson, who had come out to fight for his country undoubting, who could still kneel by his bed and say his simple prayers, steadfastly believing that he was in the Field Artillery to make the world a better place. I had believed like that, once upon a time, but now the only prayer which seemed worth uttering was Omar Khayyam’s:

For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken’d, Man’s Forgiveness give – and take!”

The quoted lines are from verse 58.

e) See Vita Sackville-West, The Eagle and the Dove (1943), p.173.

f) For example, see Harold Monro, Some Contemporary Poets (1920), p.48; also Norman Marlow, A.E.Housman, Scholar and Poet (1958), p.47 & p.136.

g) Housman knew enough about FitzGerald to know that he had lived for many years in Woodbridge, Suffolk, for in a letter to Lily Thicknesse, written in August 1909, he wrote:

“Thanks for the picture card. I did not know, or had forgotten, that you were at Woodbridge. If you can find an old hat of Edward FitzGerald’s they will let you write three columns about it in the Athenaeum. But some literary people are so proud that they despise these avenues to fame.” (Archie Burnett, The Letters of A.E.Housman (2007), vol.1, p.239.)

When a young French student named Maurice Pollet asked Housman his opinion about “the Stoics, the Epicureans; – Villon, Pascal, Verlaine. – Leopardi; Calderon; – Ed. FitzGerald; – the German philosophers of the last century; Kant, Schopenhauer, Hartmann; – Th. Hardy; and many others”, Housman replied:

“I respect the Epicureans more than the Stoics, but I am myself a Cyrenaic. Pascal and Leopardi I have studied with great admiration; Villon and Verlaine very little, Calderon and German philosophers not at all. For Hardy I felt affection, and high admiration for some of his novels and a few of his poems.” (ib. vol.2, p.329-330)

No mention of FitzGerald. The reply to Pollet’s questionnaire is also of interest as regards Housman’s religious beliefs (“I became a deist at 13 and an atheist at 21”) and his chief poetic influences (“Shakespeare’s songs, the Scottish border ballads, and Heine.”) For much more on his poetic influences, see Grant Richards, Housman 1897-1936 (1941), chapter 36 & section 2 of Appendix 3, though again FitzGerald nowhere puts in an appearance. The full Pollet questionnaire and Housman’s answers can also be found on Richards p.267-271. Incidentally, Laurence Housman, the author of the introduction to many editions of The Rubaiyat published by Collins from the late 1920s onwards, was the younger brother of A.E.Housman.

[Having mentioned Laurence Housman, a paragraph or two about him might be in order here. His commonly encountered introduction to The Rubaiyat first appeared in the Collins edition illustrated by Charles Robinson, undated, but published in 1928. The same introduction was subsequently used by Collins in (also undated) editions illustrated by Marjorie Anderson, Margaret Caird and Robert Stewart Sherriffs, probably initially in the 1930s and 1940s, but with later reprints. Housman's introduction also appears in the well-known Collins edition of The Rubaiyat, in which it is published alongside FitzGerald's other works, Euphranor and Salaman and Absal (unillustrated aside from a frontispiece portrait of FitzGerald.) This was first published in 1953.

Interestingly, Laurence Housman was himself a talented book illustrator, having done a very fine illustrated edition of Christina Rossetti's poem Goblin Market in 1893, to cite probably the most famous example of his work, as well as a fine illustrated edition of his own fairy tales, A Farm in Fairy Land, in 1894. He also produced an illustrated edition of his own poems, Green Arras in 1896, and an illustrated edition of Shelley's poem The Sensitive Plant in 1898. So why didn't he ever illustrate The Rubaiyat himself ? The answer seems to be that by about 1900 his eyesight was beginning to fail, and also he had decided that he was more naturally cut out to be a writer than an artist, so his book illustration rather petered out. Thus, by 1907 one finds Housman re-telling a selection of tales from the Arabian Nights, but with illustrations by Edmund Dulac! It was not until 1928, long after he had ceased doing his own illustrations, then, that Housman wrote the above-mentioned introduction to The Rubaiyat, in the Collins edition illustrated by Charles Robinson.

Having seen the quality of Housman's illustrations to various books prior to 1900, one can only regret that he didn't illustrate The Rubaiyat during that period, for the results would undoubtedly have been of great interest. For a good account of his career, sadly much overshadowed by that of his more famous brother, A.E. Housman, see Rodney Engen's excellent study, Laurence Housman (1983). Unfortunately Engen only mentions the Charles Robinson Rubaiyat of 1928 in passing (p.75), and Housman himself says nothing about how he came to write his introduction to The Rubaiyat in his autobiography, The Unexpected Years (1937). It isn't even clear at what point in his life he became enthralled by The Rubaiyat, but clearly he did at some point.

We can, however, trace, via his autobiography, his disillusionment with institutional Christianity, and this immediately links him with Omar's and FitzGerald's similar disillusionments. (In what follows, page numbers refer to his autobiography.)

He was born in 1865 and was brought up in an environment where family prayers were the norm, grace was said at dinner, and attendance at church was the done thing. Amusingly he writes of his childhood that “while my family love was growing, my love for God was non-existent and my love for Jesus Christ not much more than my love for Robinson Crusoe.” (p.34; see also p.143-4.) Similar thoughts no doubt occurred to young boys (and girls!) in many a pious Victorian household - but to continue. As he looked back on the parish church of his youth, he remembered it as “a fortress for class-distinction” (p.137) - one's social status determined which pew one sat in - and attendance at church was necessary “in order to prosper professionally.” (p.137) No faith - or at least, no pretence of one - meant no job. The following paragraph is of particular interest:

“One hears a good deal of talk nowadays about the decay of religion; and the Victorian age is spoken of as though it had been an age of faith. My own impression of it is that it combined much foolish superstition with a smug adaptation of Christianity to social convention and worldly ends; and that the main aim of the Established Church was - with as little mutual disturbance as possible - to make Christianity support Conservatism, and Conservatism support Christianity.” (p.138)

But it was the Church's attitude to War - beginning with the First World War - which eventually alienated him: “the Church's tolerance of war has become the final barrier between myself and any form of Institutional Christianity.” (p.142) Housman was a Pacifist (he had also been a staunch supporter of the Suffragette Movement) and when the Peace Movement became particularly troublesome to the authorities in the 1930s, presumably in association with the League of Nations in relation to the Italian invasion of Abyssinia and the growing militarism of Germany under Hitler, he was alarmed that the Baldwin Government could appeal to the Church to declare Pacifism a heresy, and be obliged! As one churchman apparently put it, “it is blasphemy against God, because Pacifism refuses to accept the good means which God provides us for defending ourselves from evil.” (p.380) Some members of the Church had taken a similar attitude in relation to the First World War, of course, on which see Appendix 18b.

But Laurence Housman, unlike his brother, was not a man without belief in God. In 1898 he published Spikenard: a Book of Devotional Love Poems, which included poems with titles like “The Mystery of the Incarnation” and “To the Penitent Thief on Calvary.” (According to his autobiography, he had a confessed liking for crucifixes (p.56) and at one point had contemplated converting to Catholicism (p.142), to the point of attending a Retreat at Stonyhurst College (p.146), though he remained "unconvinced.") He also began to write his Little Plays of St. Francis as a response to the events of the First World War (p.321) and in the 1920s he extended the series for the drama students of University College, London (p.356ff). He is also said to have written several hymns, one entitled Father Eternal, Ruler of Creation in 1919, though he does not mention this in his autobiography.

For his “farewell to illustration” - his failing eyesight and the feeling that he was “more naturally cut out to be an author than an illustrator” see p.158 of his autobiography.]

Note 64
The identity of de C is something of a puzzle. Before acquiring my own copy of this little book, I used the one in the British Library, the COPAC record for which indicated that de C was the pseudonym of William Edward Clery. (If so, I would guess that the “de” came from the first two letters of Edward, reversed, and the “C” from the initial letter of Clery.) This seemed to imply (unless we have two men with the same unusual name) that de C was the trade unionist, journalist and writer who was born in Ireland in 1861 and died in poverty in London in 1931. However, neither Alan Clinton’s article on Clery in The Dictionary of Labour Biography nor the article on Clery in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which is largely based on Clinton’s article anyway) gives de C as a pen-name of his, nor A Rubaiyat of the Trenches as one of his works. On the contrary, his cited pen-name in both articles is Austin Fryers, under which he wrote, for example, the novels A Pauper Millionaire (1899) and A New Rip Van Winkle (1905). Furthermore, there is no mention of Clery having served in the trenches, and indeed, by the beginning of the Great War he would have been well into his fifties anyway. Though the two military service acts of 1916 specified an upper age limit for conscription of 41 years (this being raised to 51 only in the third act of 1918), it is, of course, possible that Clery lied about his age, as so many did – both the too young and the too old; and it is possible, too, that Clery never actually served in the trenches, but wrote the poem simply on the basis of newspaper accounts or other second-hand sources.

When I approached the British Library about the basis on which they had written their COPAC entry (the only such entry to cite de C as the pseudonym of Clery), despite diligent searches, they could find no actual records to support it, and where it came from became something of a mystery – the more so since the entry for de C in the good old-fashioned, paper-based British Library General Catalogue of Printed Books to 1975 (published in 1981) had not given Clery as the real name of de C.

However, Bill Martin and Sandra Mason alerted me to the fact that the copy of A Rubaiyat of the Trenches in the Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas was (according to the HRC catalogue at that time) a “signed presentation copy to F. Joynsen-Powell from Austin Tryon (de C), Aug: 1922.” Given the foregoing, Molly Schwartzburg at the HRC checked out the inscription (a copy of which can be found in Gallery 7F, Fig.2) and found that it could certainly be read as, “To my very dear friend F. Joynsen-Powell with my best wishes from Austin Fryers (de C) Aug.1922.” Clery was again in line as the true author, then, via his pen-name of Austin Fryers! But why would Clery sign a copy of A Rubaiyat of the Trenches with “Austin Fryers (de C)” rather than with “W.E.Clery (de C)” (or similar), especially in a book inscribed to a “very dear friend”, who would therefore know who he really was? I don’t know, but I wonder if the answer may lie in Clery’s association with the stage – F. Joynsen-Powell was an actor (see the play bill illustrated in Gallery 7F, Fig.3a & Fig.3b), and two of Clery’s works, written under the pen-name of Austin Fryers, were A Guide to the Stage (1904) and A Popular Life of Henry Irving (1906).

However, I should stress that aside from the aforementioned COPAC entry and the questionable inscription in the HRC’s copy of A Rubaiyat of the Trenches, I have been unable to find any documentary evidence at all of Clery’s authorship. Sharron Willis, of the Research Department of the Communication Workers Union, very kindly checked through their small archive of material relating to Clery, in the hope that it might turn up something. But though she found a series of six short articles by Clery, published under the general heading “Memories” in the weekly publication The Post in August and September 1930, these, perhaps not surprisingly, related to his early postal union activities of the period 1889-1896, and not to his literary activities or his whereabouts during the Great War.

Jos Biegstraaten, in his article “Omar with a Smile” (see note 65 below), assumes, or at least states without proof or references, that de C was the minor war poet Alec de Candole (p.15), who was killed in action in September 1918. This does at first seem plausible, given the obvious similarity of the names de C and de Candole. However, A Rubaiyat of the Trenches is not included in the large volume of de Candole’s Poems published posthumously in 1919, nor is it even hinted at in his book The Faith of a Subaltern: Essays on Religion and Life (1919), despite his quotations from FitzGerald on p.63 & p.67. In fact the theological stance of de Candole seems very much at odds with that of de C, for a more in-depth study of which see Appendix 18. Incidentally, Catherine W. Reilly’s English Poetry of the First World War – A Bibliography (1978), p.108 lists de Candole’s Poems (abridged 1920 edition) immediately below de C’s Rubaiyat without making any connection between the two.

But we are not quite finished yet, for Alec de Candole does lead us back, in a rather curious way, to the name Tryon, mentioned above. Nigel Burwood, of “Any Amount of Books” on Charing Cross Road, London, has for sale, at the time of writing, a copy of the 1919 edition of de Candole’s Poems, which is inscribed thus: “For Evie Tryon, in memory of her cousin, the author, who was killed in France Sept. 3rd, 1918, aged 21½ years, from H. E. de C. March 1927.” (Nigel very kindly supplied a scan of this, and it can be found in Gallery 7F, Fig.4. H.E. de C is almost certainly Helen Edith de Candole, Alec de Candole’s mother.) Exactly who Evie Tryon was is unclear, but since Alec de Candole’s father appears to have had two brothers, but no sisters, it is clear that she must have been born a de Candole and obtained the name Tryon by marriage. Was her Christian name Eve? Possibly, but it is a fact that one of Alec de Candole’s uncles, Armar Corry Vully de Candole, married an Edith Hodgson in December 1897, so one possibility is that a daughter of that marriage was named Edith after her mother. If this name was then changed by childhood mis-pronunciation into the nickname Evie, and if she subsequently married a man with the surname Tryon, then we would indeed have a cousin of Alec de Candole who was known as Evie Tryon. But whoever she was, she gives us a possible link to the Austin Tryon mentioned above in connection with A Rubaiyat of the Trenches. Such a link might also explain the hypothesised Austin Tryon’s choice of “de C” as his pen-name. There is, however, no evidence of any of this at the time of writing, and it remains pure conjecture. It is worth adding, too, that a search of COPAC reveals nothing under the name Austin Tryon, nor indeed anything further by “de C”.

Note 65
The many parodies of The Rubaiyat, mostly published between about 1890 and 1930, are a curious testimony to just how well-known FitzGerald had become by that time, for many of them don’t just use FitzGerald’s catchy metre and rhyming pattern, they also mimic his actual wording very cleverly. Here, for example, is the opening verse of W.Hodgson Burnet’s The Rubaiyat of Omar, M.P. (1921), which clearly mimics FitzGerald’s opening verse:

Wake! For the Whip who scatter’d late last night
The Wires which gave Supporters such a Fright
Drags Members all the way from Dev’n and stirs
The Midland Counties and the Isle of Wight.

Mostly the parodies are, like Burnet’s, comic – Helen Rowland’s The Rubaiyat of a Bachelor (1915) is another good example, as is Gelett Burgess’s The Rubaiyat of Omar Cayenne (1904), an excursion into the publishing industry, with a very clever parody of FitzGerald’s “Book of Pots” in which the poet is surrounded not by pots in a potter’s shop but by manuscripts in a publisher’s office. The following is Burgess’s verse 84, neatly based on FitzGerald’s verse 61:

Said one among them – “Surely not in vain
My author has exhausted all his Brain
In writing me, to be rejected here –
I’d hate to have to be sent back again!”

Often the parodies are aimed at particular interest groups, like golfers [J.A.Hammerton’s The Rubaiyat of a Golfer (1946)] or animal lovers [Sewell Collins’ The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Terrier (1926).] Worthy of mention is The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Junior written by Wallace Irwin and published in 1902. This was a poem, supposedly by the son of Omar Khayyam, on the “tobacchanalian” joys of tobacco and the woes of women, the latter subject, as Irwin tells us in his Introduction (p.3), being one sadly neglected by his father. [Irwin was also the author of the delightfully titled Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum (1901), whose twelfth sonnet contains the immortal words, “O Life! You give Yours Truly quite a pain”!] Another parody, worthy of particular mention here for its connection with the Great War, is St John Hamund’s The Rubaiyat of William the War-Lord (1915). However, this is totally unlike de C’s A Rubaiyat of the Trenches, in that it is a comic anti-Kaiser Bill and anti-Hun militaristic satire. Here are its two opening verses, for example:

Wake! For my Banner is at last unfurled
To flaunt its boastful message to the World:
War to the Death! My Culture to enforce
With Challenge after Ultimatum hurled!

For I am ever eager to instil
The precepts that our Destinies fulfil
In all our enterprises: ‘God with Us’
And ‘Deutschland über Alles.’ That’s my will!

It is perhaps significant that St John Hamund’s Rubaiyat was written early in the war, whereas as de C’s was penned two years later when the horrors of trench warfare had had more of an impact, both on those fighting and on those hearing the news of it at home.

Interestingly, Edward Heron-Allen wrote a parody of the famous verse 11 of FitzGerald’s first edition, in his Journal of the Great War, an excellent edited version of which was published in 2002 (for more details see Appendix 18c – the parody appears on p.183.) In April 1918 – by which time food supplies in England were rationed and subject to numerous regulations, and even offal had become something of a treat – he wrote that, “if old Umar Khayyam had lived today, one of his most quoted Rubaiyyat would have run approximately as follows”:

A slab of offal underneath the bough
A costly fish, our ration cards, and thou
Beside thyself amid the wilderness
Of regulations that ‘control’ us now!

For a good article on the various parodies of Fitzgerald, see Jos Biegstraaten, “Omar with a Smile”, in Persica 20 (2005), p.1-37 and Annmarie S. Drury’s article “’Some for the Glories of the Sole’: The Rubaiyat and FitzGerald’s Sceptical American Parodists” in Poole et al., as note 1m, chapter 12

Finally, a note about the use of the word “parody” in this essay: As Jos Biegstraaten notes in the article just cited, the definition of a parody is problematic. The traditional definition involves some element of ridicule of the author being parodied, but if that is the case, then the likes of The Rubaiyat of Omar M.P. isn’t really a parody at all, since neither FitzGerald nor Omar is being ridiculed. On the contrary, if anything, the Rubaiyat format is being complimented by its very adoption! The word parody, though, seems to have been generally adopted by students of FitzOmar as a blanket name for a wide variety of poems, serious as well as comic, written in the format of the Rubaiyat, and I follow that usage here, even if, strictly speaking, it is arguably incorrect in many cases.

For more on parodies of various types, and in particular their illustrations, see Gallery 2H and the Notes on it. See also Appendices 12i & j.

Note 66
a) Florence Emily Hardy, The Life of Thomas Hardy (1933), vol.2, p.265-6. Interestingly, Mrs Hardy also tells us that on the evening before he died, Hardy asked for Browning’s “Rabbi ben Ezra” to be read to him. (I say “interestingly” on account of “Rabbi ben Ezra” and “The Rubaiyat” being so opposed in outlook, as discussed in chapter 12 of the main essay and in Appendix 8.)

Hardy was something of a fan of Omar. With George Meredith, he attended the summer dinner of the Omar Khayyam Club in 1895 (see The Book of the Omar Khayyam Club (1910), p.191-3.) Also, in a letter to Florence Henniker dated June 2nd 1901, he referred to his recent visit to FitzGerald’s grave at Boulge (see The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy, edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate (1980), vol.2, p.288; also the PS to the letter to Sir George Douglas on p.289.)

b) Tess of the d’Urbervilles was rejected for serialisation by Murray’s Magazine “virtually on the score of its improper explicitness”, then rejected by Macmillan’s Magazine “for practically the same reason”. Accordingly, Hardy cut out the offending bits (keeping them on one side for re-insertion later!) and the resulting edited version was accepted by the Graphic for publication in 1891 (ib.vol.1, p290-1.) One of the offending bits was apparently where Angel Clare carries Tess and her three dairymaid companions, in his arms, across a flooded lane. It was deemed “more appropriate” that they be carried across in a wheelbarrow instead! (vol.1, p.315) Jude the Obscure had to be similarly edited before magazine publication (vol.2, p.37), and on its appearance the onslaught in the press was “unequalled in violence since the publication of Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads thirty years before.” (vol.2, p.39) For the Bishop of Wakefield burning his copy of Jude, see vol.2, p.48, and for Miss Gilder’s critique etc see vol.2, p.50-53.

Note 67
In 1839 FitzGerald spent a fortnight with Browne. In a letter to Bernard Barton he tells us that Browne “shot at rooks and rabbits, and trained horses and dogs” whilst he himself spent much time just watching Browne, “and well I may while I can, for his like is not to be seen.” (I.225) Via the old adage that those whom the gods love die young, FitzGerald felt that Browne’s “very perfection of nature somehow forebodes a short continuance.” (I.226) Curiously, he concludes his letter, “You do not know this fellow…but I have said what I have said – and, as the Doctor says, perhaps I am the better for having said it.” In another letter, to George Borrow, written in May 1857, he describes Browne as “a Friend I love best in the world” (II.276), and in a letter to Stephen Spring Rice, written in October 1859, some months after Browne’s death, he says: “I lost my poor Bedford lad in the Spring. This has made a Hole in Life to me.” (II.343)

Again, in a letter to Browne’s widow (Browne had married in 1844), written, in August 1867, FitzGerald describes – with remarkably innocent frankness – how back in the autumn and winter of 1859, following her husband’s death, he “used to wander about the shore at night longing for some fellow to accost me who might give some promise of filling up a very vacant place in my heart, but only some of the more idle and worthless sailors came across me.” (III.40). Then along came the fisherman ‘Posh’ Fletcher:

“…he was the very man I wanted, with, strangely enough, some resemblance in feature to a portrait of you may guess whom, and much in character also, so that I seem to have jumped back to a regard of near forty years ago, and while I am with him feel young again, and when he goes shall feel old again.” (III.40-1)

In a letter to Frederick Spalding, written in May 1867, FitzGerald described Posh as looking “as good an Image of the Mould that Man was originally cast in, as you may chance to see in the Temple of The Maker in these Days.” (III.27) Other descriptions of Posh by FitzGerald include: like “the grand Figure on the Top of M. Angelo’s Medici Tomb” (III.18); “so big and strong and broad, so quiet and yielding at home….to his little Wife” (III,32); “this altogether satisfactory Specimen of the Divine Image” (III.100); “the man has as sound, upright, and well-proportioned a Soul as he has Body” (III.132); and “a Gentleman of Nature’s grandest Type.” (III.204) Finally, when, in 1870, FitzGerald had decided that he wanted a life-size portrait of Posh, he wrote, in a letter to W.F.Pollock:

“I want a good big head of the Fellow – to hang up by old Thackeray and Tennyson, all three having a stamp of Grandeur about them in their several ways, and occupying great places in my Soul.” (III.186-7)

Nor was this placing of Posh on a par with Thackeray and Tennyson a passing fancy, for he repeated it in a letter to Fanny Kemble, written in October 1876, long after his friendship with Posh had disintegrated, referring to them as “the three greatest men I have known.” (III.714)

Note 68
Maybe, in reality, they were no more common then than they are now, just more freely expressed, and it is just that with the 20th century came the homophobia that inhibited any form of expression of love between two men (or two women) for fear of being dubbed “queer”, and “bashed” as a result. (Similar horror now attaches to Lewis Carroll’s devotions to Alice Liddell and other young girls, of course. The Victorians did not see paedophilia at every turn as we today tend to do, though of course it existed.) At any rate, at various times FitzGerald also expressed his love for Frederick Tennyson (“I constantly think of you – with a kind of love which I feel towards but two or three friends” – I.664); James Spedding (in a letter to Frederick Tennyson, “For has he not all the beauty of the Platonic Socrates, with some Personal Beauty to boot?” – I.695); W.M.Thackeray (“I truly believe there is no Man alive loves you (in his own way of love) more than I do” – II.75); and Alfred Tennyson (in a letter to Stephen Spring Rice: “I know you love him as I do, I dare say much more.” – II.420). Hallam Tennyson’s two volume work Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir by his Son (1897) gives a number of other interesting examples of this love – most notably, of course, Alfred Tennyson’s love for Arthur Hallam, whose early death in 1833 led to the poem “In Memoriam” (Appendix 9.) Tennyson described Hallam as being “as near perfection as mortal man could be“ (vol.1, p.38) and “the man I loved” (vol.1, p.107.) Likewise John Kemble told Tennyson “I love you heartily” (vol.1, p.129) and Charles Dickens happily told him of “the love I bear you.” (vol.1, p.219)

Note 69
a)In letters to W.M.Thackeray (July 1835 – I.172) and John Allen (February 1836 – I.179) he toyed with the idea of proposing to her, but never actually did. Nevertheless, as he admitted in a letter to Thomas Carlyle, written in March 1844, he had been “slightly in love as I supposed.” (I.429). Actually, there is probably an element of denial here, for the feelings clearly stayed with him for many years. As he wrote in a letter to Elizabeth Cowell herself in September 1853, one of her verses was “a Gazelle song which is the pride and delight of my heart – the most darling memory of my Age” (II.105) and as he indicated to her in two letters written in 1865, the smell of the violets in Wherstead Churchyard was a persistent reminder of her “as forty years ago” (II.546 &547 n.1; II.550.) He mentions the evocative smell of violets again, in a letter to Prof. Cowell, written in April 1869, this time, in connection with the death of Elizabeth Cowell’s mother. (III.137) One suspects, though, that the memories evoked were as much of Elizabeth as of her mother.

b) In about 1839. The source for this is Thomas Wright's Life of Edward FitzGerald (1904), where Wright says that FitzGerald “fell deeply in love” with her, “a fact that has never before been recorded” (vol.1, p.139.) He also implies that Miss Crabbe actually turned down a proposal of marriage from FitzGerald (vol.1, p.163.) A.M. Terhune, in his Life of Edward FitzGerald (1947), p.138 n.6, disputes this, saying that he had found “no evidence whatever of any such attachment,” and claims that W. Aldiss Wright had been told, by a correspondent, that he knew a maid of Miss Crabbe who emphatically denied any such involvement. Nevertheless, Thomas Wright states that what he says is “founded on most trustworthy authority” (vol.1, p.163 n.2), though he does not say who that authority was. See also Terhune and Terhune, Letters, I.35.

Note 70
a) FitzGerald himself put it less emphatically. In a letter to Bernard Quaritch written in August 1867, he referred to Omar as “one I have great fellow feeling with.” (III.40)

b) Quoted in Arberry, as note 1d, p.33-4. Colonel John Hay, in an address entitled “In Praise of Omar”, delivered to the Omar Khayyam Club of London, in December 1897, said something similar: “Omar was a FitzGerald before the latter or FitzGerald was a reincarnation of Omar.” (quoted in The Book of Omar and Rubaiyat (1900), p.73.)

c) It is perhaps surprising that Rosamond Harding, in her excellent study, An Anatomy of Inspiration (1942; 1967), made no mention of the phenomenon of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat, for phenomenon it certainly is. As Lamb says (loc.cit.), “FitzGerald wrote nothing else that can be compared to this paraphrase of Omar, and the ablest scholars have not been able to make a translation equal to FitzGerald’s inimitable rendering.”

Note 71
The Georgian Poets had actually regarded themselves as reactionaries against Victorian poetic standards, but they were tame stuff as far as the Modernists were concerned. The standard work here, which traces the fortunes of the Georgian Poets from 1911, through the War, and on into the 1920s, is Robert H. Ross, The Georgian Revolt 1910-1922: Rise and Fall of a Poetic Ideal (1965). His chapter 2, “Sound and Fury”, is an excellent survey of the pre-War avant-garde, including not only the Imagists and the Vorticists, but the even stranger Futurists, led by the extraordinary Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, with their poetic use of mathematical symbols, multi-coloured inks and assorted fonts!

Note 72
Anne Conover, Olga Rudge and Ezra Pound: What Thou Lovest Well (2001), p.68. Pound made this comment in a letter to Felix E. Schelling, written from Paris on the 8th & 9th July 1922 – see D.D. Paige (ed.), The Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941 (1951), p.248. Earlier, in his article “Provincialism the Enemy”, published in The New Age (12th July 1917), he wrote: “FitzGerald’s ‘Omar’ is worth all the Persian scholarship of a century.” [See William Cookson (ed.), Ezra Pound: Selected Prose 1909-1965 (1973), p.168.] So far as I know, though, Pound made only one poetic nod towards FitzGerald in his work: three verses towards the end of Pound’s Canto LXXX, written in 1948, are cast in the metre and rhyming pattern of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat. Oddly enough, Pound’s son, Omar, went on to become a translator of Arabic and Persian texts, publishing his Arabic and Persian Poems in English in 1970.

Note 73
a) Nicholas Murray, The Red Sweet Wine of Youth: the Brave and Brief Lives of the War Poets (2010), p.36.

b) Murray, p.36-7; Ross, as note 71, p.140-144. Ross noted that Brooke “was to have a more pronounced effect on English poetry dead than he ever had living”, for having died for the homeland and been buried on Scyros, he became “not only the tragic archetype of youth sacrificing itself for England but also the epitome of the poet gone to war.” (p.140) It is an interesting point for speculation, though, as to whether Brooke would have achieved the fame he did, without his family connections to Winston Churchill, who turned Brooke’s death to propagandist advantage in his letter to The Times of April 26th, 1915 (quoted in Ross p.140-1.)

c) Murray, p.36; Ross p.141-2.

Note 74
a) For those interested in following this up, for the period 1793-1815, see: and for the Boer War, see: Both sites are excellent.

b) As the second of the sites mentionsed in a) above says, literacy among the troops of the Boer War was such that many did set pen to paper: “Some of the more critical work found a home in the radical press. These works fascinated the public because they came from first-hand experience, whereas poets at home could only base their work on reports from others.” The poets at home, though, are now better known. A.E. Housman’s poem Astronomy, with its lines “Oh I will sit me down and weep / For bones in Africa”, was inspired by the death of his brother, who was killed in action in South Africa in 1901. (Though the poem was first published in Last Poems in 1922, it was actually written in 1902.) Again, Thomas Hardy’s poem Drummer Hodge, first published in Literature in 1899 (issue of Nov. 25th), with its opening lines “They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest / Uncoffined – just as found” has a bluntness shared by the poets of the First World War. Less well known today is T.W.H. Crosland’s poem Slain, first published in The Outlook in 1899 (issue of Nov. 11th), which refers to dead young soldiers for whom now “nor Spring, nor love, nor death / Matter at all.” [Interestingly, this poem also appeared in The Collected Poems of T. W. H. Crosland (1917), along with poems like Killed, which were actually written as a result of the Great War.]

Note 75
a) Mary Karr, in her essay “How to read ‘The Waste Land’ so it alters your Soul rather than just addling your Head”, which serves as the Introduction to T.S.Eliot: the Waste Land and Other Writings (2002), writes as follows:

“The boundary between twentieth-century verse in English and its nineteenth-century predecessors – Romantic poetry and the genteel Victorian stuff after it – didn’t simply dissolve. It came down with an axe swoop, and the blade was T.S.Eliot’s ‘Waste Land’. William Carlos Williams said the poem ‘wiped out our world as if an atom bomb had been dropped upon it.’ Its publication in 1922 killed off the last limping, rickets-ridden vestiges of the old era and raised the flag of Modernism, under whose flapping shadow we still live.” (p.ix)

The other side of this coin is presented A.C. Ward in his book The Nineteen-Twenties (1930), already referred to in chapter 15 of the main essay. Eliot’s seemingly deliberate obscurity was the problem, for in the space only eleven lines Ward noted that Eliot had crammed in allusions to Jessie L. Weston’s book From Ritual to Romance, Dante’s Purgatorio, the Latin poem the Pervigilium Veneris, a sonnet by Gérard de Nerval, Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy and the Indian Upanishads. Ward writes thus:

“Critics whose judgement it would be merely silly to flout are of the opinion that The Waste Land is the great poem of our time. But only mental snobbery could persuade the average reader to submit to that opinion without personal conviction…What is it that is found by the average reader…when he opens Eliot’s poems? That the author has painstakingly entrenched himself behind the ramparts of his own intellect – clearly with an experience he desires to communicate (else why should he publish?), but determined that communication shall not be effected until…the difficulties of the poem have been elucidated in the light of…the seven pages of notes to a poem of only 433 lines. A little discouraged by the labour proposed, the average reader turns from the notes to see what he can make of it unaided. (Shakespeare and the great poets of the past – he thinks, a little resentfully – managed to get on without this palaver.) He probably gathers vaguely (for The Waste Land is James Joycean in its fragmentary technique and its interior monologues) that….no! he gives it up and decides to be a comfortable happy half-wit; panting after the unhappy intellectuals is (he thinks) too exhausting.” (p.45)

Other critics at the time of publication were less restrained: Amy Lowell called it “a piece of tripe”; Charles Powell called it “so much wasted paper”; and F.L. Lucas said that “a poem that has to be explained in notes is not unlike a picture with ‘This is a dog’ inscribed beneath”. (The Lowell, Powell and Lucas quotes are from T.S.Eliot ‘The Waste Land’ – a Casebook, edited by C.B. Cox and A.P.Hinchliffe (1975), p.11, p.30 & p.37.) One wonders what FitzGerald would have made of it all, given his views on the obscurities of the ‘Cockney’ upstart Browning (see Appendix 8)!

b) The avant-garde has always been easy to parody, and the Sitwells – Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell, but most particularly Edith – seem to have suffered more than most. Thus, an anthology of ‘poems’ entitled Cranks, allegedly by Osbert, Sebert and Ethelberta Standstill, was published in London in 1921. Two years later, in 1923, Noel Coward introduced a sketch entitled “The Swiss Family Whittlebot” into his revue London Calling. It featured an avant-garde poetry-reciting Hernia Whittlebot, and her brothers Gob and Sago. (See, for example, Victoria Glendinning, Edith Sitwell – A Unicorn Among Lions (1993), p.80-82.) The revue featured only four spoof poems, but Coward actually wrote a number of others, and these were popular enough for him to have them privately printed as Poems by Hernia Whittlebot in 1923, followed by Chelsea Buns in 1924.

In his turn, in 1941 T.S.Eliot was to be famously parodied by Henry Reed in his poem “Chard Whitlow” – a satire of Eliot’s poem “Burnt Norton.”, first published in 1936. Reed’s wonderful opening line was, “As we get older we do not get any younger,” in response to Eliot’s opening lines, “Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future containined in time past.” Reed’s poem, subtitled “Mr Eliot’s Sunday Evening Postscript”, was published in New Statesman and Nation on May 10th, 1941. Nor did Eliot’s death in 1965 rescue him from further flak: in 1986 Wendy Cope, in her book Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, parodied the five parts of The Waste Land in five limericks. Eliot’s famous opening phrase, “April is the cruelest month” became the first part of, “In April one seldom feels cheerful / Dry stones, sun and dust make me fearful.” [In the same book can be found Cope's neat parody of FitzGerald, “From Strugnell's Rubaiyat.” Jake Strugnell is Cope's fictional would-be suburban poet from the South London district of Tulse Hill.]

c) The Spectrist School of Poetry was a satire on modernist poetry devised by two poets, Witter Bynner and Arthur D. Ficke, writing under the pen-names of Emanuel Morgan and Anne Knish respectively. Their book Spectra: a Book of Poetic Experiments (1916) appeared, according to E.L.Pearson’s Books in Black or Red (1924), when “magazines, especially the freak magazines, were announcing the birth of some new ‘school’ of art or poetry nearly every month.” Their book, says Pearson, “resulted in an alarming rally of modernists and rebels” and “praise for the new poetry began to pour in.” Even when Bynner and Ficke revealed that it was all a hoax, “some of the admirers and devotees added gratuitous amusement by sticking grimly to their guns, and insisting that the burlesque poetry was really very good.” (Pearson p.21-2)

d) The Turnip Prize is, of course, a satire on the highly controversial Turner Prize. See –

Note 76
a) Walter Pater's views basically related to the appreciation of beauty, in its various forms, in the face of the transience of human life. Thus he urged his readers to enjoy the beauty around them while they could - a sort of aesthetic carpe diem, to which one could happily (mis)apply that well-known dictum, “Ars longa, vita brevis.” Curiously, Pater first chose to air his views in an anonymous review “Poems of William Morris” published in the Westminster Review in October 1868. The review did indeed start out as a review of Morris' work, but by the end of it Pater was preaching from his own Epicurean pulpit. The following will give the flavour of it:

“ Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistably real and attractive for us for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience but experience itself is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the finest senses ? How can we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy ?

To burn always with this hard gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life... While all melts under our feet, we may well catch at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange flowers and curious odours, or work of the artist's hands, or the face of one's friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us and in the brilliance of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is on this short day of frost and sun to sleep before evening. With this sense of the splendour of our experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch.....The theory or idea or system which requires of us the sacrifice of any part of this experience, in consideration of some interest into which we cannot enter, or some abstract morality we have not identified with ourselves, or what is only conventional, has no real claim upon us.

... we are all condamnés, as Victor Hugo somewhere says: we have an interval and then we cease to be. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest in art and song. For our one chance is in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. High passions give one this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, political or religious enthusiasm, or the 'enthusiasm of humanity.' Only, be sure it is passion, that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness. Of this wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for art's sake, has most; for art comes to you professing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake.” (p.311-2)

This, of course, is the adopted philosophy of the Aesthetes or Decadents, and though it all seems innocuous enough to us now, when it was written, such a pursuit of beauty seemed to many a pious Victorian to imply an abdication of Christian restraint bordering on the immoral - hence that epithet “Decadents”, of course. In addition, Pater's phrase, "we have an interval and then we cease to be" seemed dangerously akin to an off-hand rejection of the Christian promise of a life to come.

Pater recycled this part of his review, almost word for word, in the conclusion of his book The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, first published in 1873. Interestingly, in the second edition of 1877 the conclusion was dropped because, as Pater said, “I conceived it might possibly mislead some of those young men into whose hands it might fall.” (One such ‘misled’ young man was Oscar Wilde, incidentally - see part b below.) By 1885, though, he had expanded his views into the form of a novel, Marius the Epicurean, and in 1888, when the third edition of The Renaissance was published, his controversial conclusion was back in place again.

Pater's religious views are of some background interest, and form a complex picture. According to Michael Levey's biography The Case of Walter Pater (1978), he had a fascination for Catholic Ritual, mostly for its aesthetic appeal (p.47). On the other hand, in student days he made “positive jibes about the Christian religion which were part of laying the ghost of his pious childhood and expressed his revulsion from all systems of belief.” (p.72) What faith he had is variously described as “flickering, even expiring” (p.62) or in “acute crises.” (p.81) Curiously it seems that his family had expected him to go into the church as a career, and he seems to have regarded with perverse pleasure the prospect of being ordained as an Anglican priest without believing a word of it. (p.85) In the end, he never actually applied, however.

At one stage he did identify himself as a Christian Socialist (p.84) and later in life seems to have given some indication of a return to faith (p.184), but when directly questioned on the matter he declined to commit himself. In Levey's words, he was “ neither for God nor for His enemies.” (p.202)

b) Wilde expressed what Chesterton called his “ very powerful and very desolate philosophy” in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891 ed. - see c below), in the following words spoken to Dorian by Lord Henry Wotton:

Ah! realize your youth while you have it. Don't squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing... A new Hedonism - that is what our century wants. You might be its visible symbol. With your personality there is nothing you could not do. The world belongs to you for a season... (Chapter 2)

Though The Picture of Dorian Gray is a work of fiction, the views expressed in it were undoubtedly Wilde's own at its time of writing, as is clear from De Profundis, Wilde's famous - and very long! - letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, written in 1897. This letter, previously published only in heavily edited forms, was finally published in full, with useful annotations, by Rupert Hart-Davis in his book The Letters of Oscar Wilde in 1962 (pp.423-511), and I here quote from this version, to which the cited page numbers refer. But, of course, between the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1890-91 and the writing of De Profundis in 1897 had come Wilde's two years imprisonment with hard labour - De Profundis having been written in Reading Gaol. There is little doubt that Wilde, who wasn't aware of just how much evidence had been collected against him, thought that his wit in court and his literary popularity would win him his court case against the Marquess of Queensberry, at which his behaviour could certainly be described as smugly arrogant, but they didn't, and the result was his humiliating downfall. It is surely to Wilde's credit, though, that he adjusted his philosophy accordingly, something of which Chesterton would probably not have been aware when he wrote Heretics. In fact, curiously, Wilde seems to have come around to the same way of thinking as Browning's Rabbi ben Ezra (for which see Appendix 8) - that life's pains are actually a pathway - possibly the only one for most of us - to spiritual, personal, and, in Wilde's framework, artistic, maturity. Here then is Wilde's summary of his former hedonistic life-style, and its, for him, enlightening aftermath:

The gods had given me almost everything....I made art a philosophy, and philosophy an art... I treated Art as the supreme reality, and life as a mere mode of fiction... I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease. I amused myself with being a flâneur, a dandy, a man of fashion. I surrounded myself with the smaller natures and the meaner minds. I became the spend-thrift of my own genius, and to waste an eternal youth gave me a curious joy. Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search for new sensations. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. Desire, at the end, was a malady, or a madness, or both. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the housetops. I ceased to be Lord over myself. I was no longer the Captain of my Soul, and did not know it....I ended in horrible disgrace. There is only one thing for me now, absolute Humility. (Hart-Davis, p.466)

Again, in similar vein, Wilde writes of his earlier hedonistic life thus:

I used to live entirely for pleasure. I shunned sorrow and suffering of every kind. I hated both. I resolved to ignore them as far as possible, to treat them, that is to say, as modes of imperfection. They were not part of my scheme of life. They had no place in my philosophy. (Hart-Davis, p.472)

But of the later pain caused by his downfall and imprisonment, he went on to say this:

...during the last few months I have, after terrible struggles and difficulties, been able to comprehend some of the lessons hidden in the heart of pain. Clergymen and people who use phrases without wisdom, sometimes talk of suffering as a mystery. It is really a revelation. One discerns things that one never discerned before. One approaches the whole of history from a different standpoint. What one had felt dimly through instinct, about Art, is intellectually and emotionally realised with perfect clearness of vision and absolute intensity of apprehension. (Hart-Davis, p.473)

And again:

I remember when I was at Oxford saying to one of my friends - as we were strolling round Magdalen's narrow bird-haunted walks one morning in the June before I took my degree - that I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world, and that I was going out into the world with that passion in my soul. And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived. My only mistake was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-gilt side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its shadow and its gloom. (Hart-Davis, p.475)

Wilde's religious views are of some interest here. His life-long dalliance with Catholicism, in part based on the aesthetic appeal of its art and ritual, is well known. His mother had him baptised as a Catholic, but, despite some 'near-misses', he was only actually received into the Catholic Church on his death-bed (see, for example, H. Montgomery Hyde, Oscar Wilde: a Biography (2001) pp.8, 31, 358-9 and p.373.) On the other hand, according to his friend Robert Hardborough Sherard, writing in his book The Life of Oscar Wilde (1906), in his younger days, Wilde had had “some desire to join the Church of Rome” but that:

If he did not do so it was because his faith was never ardent. In later years it abandoned him altogether. He was a tolerant Agnostic. (p.146)

As Wilde wrote in De Profundis:

Religion does not help me. The faith that others give to what is unseen, I give to what one can touch, and look at. My Gods dwell in temples made with hands, and within the circle of actual experience is my creed made perfect and complete: too complete, it may be, for like many or all of those who have placed their Heaven in this earth, I have found in it not merely the beauty of Heaven, but the horror of Hell also. When I think about Religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe: the Confraternity of the Fatherless, one might call it, where on an altar, on which no taper burned, a priest, in whose heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a chalice empty of wine. (Hart-Davis p.468.)

And yet at the same time Wilde had developed a deep regard for Christ, but as a teacher and a poet; as a man rather than as the Son of God. The following is worth quoting at some length:

I had said of him (Christ) that he ranks with the poets. That is true. Shelley and Sophocles are of his company. But his entire life also is the most wonderful of poems. For 'pity and terror' there is nothing in the entire cycle of Greek Tragedy to touch it.... Nor in Aeschylus or Dante... (nor) in there anything that for sheer simplicity of pathos wedded and made one with sublimity of tragic effect can be said to equal or approach even the last act of Christ's Passion....

...the whole life of Christ - so entirely may sorrow and beauty be made one in their meaning and manifestation - is really an idyll, though it ends with the veil of the temple being rent... His miracles seem to me as exquisite as the coming of Spring, and quite as natural. I see no difficulty at all in believing that such was the charm of his personality that his mere presence could bring peace to souls in anguish, and that those who touched his garments or his hands forgot their pain...or that when he taught on the hillside the multitude forgot their hunger and thirst and the cares of this world, and that to his friends who listened to him as he sat at meat the coarse food seemed delicate, and the water had the taste of good wine, and the whole house became full of the odour and sweetness of nard.

Renan in his Vie de Jesus...says somewhere that Christ's great achievement was that he made himself as much loved after his death as he had been during his lifetime. And certainly, if his place is among the poets, he is the leader of all the lovers. He saw that love was that lost secret of the world for which the wise men had been looking, and that it was only through love that one could approach either the heart of the leper or the feet of God.

And above all, Christ is the most supreme of Individualists. Humility, like the artistic, acceptance of all experiences, is merely a mode of manifestation. It is man's soul that Christ is always looking for. He calls it 'God's Kingdom'... and finds it in everyone. (Hart-Davis p.477-9)

Robert Sherard went so far as to say that De Profundis was “from first page to last inspired by Christ” and that “no man who had not found Christ could have written that book.” (op. cit. p.372) [The sections “A Prison Conversation” and “Oscar Wilde's views on Religion” in Sherard's Chapter 16 are also of considerable interest, though the foregoing edited quote from De Profundis serves to cover the main points.]

As regards the influence on Wilde of Walter Pater, as mentioned in part a) above, in De Profundis Wilde wrote of reading Pater's Renaissance during his first term at Oxford (1874), referring to it as “that book which has had such a strange influence over my life.” (Hart-Davis, p.471) He also refers to Pater's novel Marius the Epicurean in De Profundis (Hart-Davis, p.476.) That Pater's Renaissance was one of the books which Wilde requested during his imprisonment, see Hart-Davis, p.399, n.4, and H. Montgomery Hyde, p.301, though with characteristic modesty - or lack of it - he once said that, “Setting aside the prose and poetry of Greek and Latin authors, the only writers who have influenced me are Keats, Flaubert, and Walter Pater; and before I came across them I had already gone more than half-way to meet them.” (H. Montgomery Hyde, p.176.) Thomas Wright, in Oscar's Books, devotes the whole of his chapter 13 to Pater's influence on Wilde.

c) Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published, in full, in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (which issue, coincidentally, also contained an article “The Cheiromancy of Today” by Edward Heron-Allen.) That version consisted of 13 chapters. Wilde then re-worked it, adding six new chapters, and splitting the final chapter, with some new additions, into two new chapters, which became the book version published by Ward, Lock and Company in 1891. This version thus consisted of 20 chapters. Wilde's passing reference to Omar (mentioned in ch.13 of the main essay) is in chapter 3 of the 1891 book edition, but since this was one of the new chapters added by Wilde to the 1890 Lippincott edition, it does not appear in the 1890 version. Wilde's reaction to the portrait of him painted by Frances Richards, also mentioned in ch.13 of the main essay, clearly became the basis for Dorian Gray's reaction to the portrait of him painted by Basil Hallward in the novel. The wording is that of the 1891 book version:

“ How sad it is!” murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June... If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that - for that - I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!” (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2 was substantially the same in both the 1890 and 1891 editions, so that Dorian's reaction to his portrait, just quoted, and the quote about Lord Henry Wotton's “new Hedonism” in b above, are very similarly worded in the two versions. The main difference worthy of note is that the Faustean sentence in the former quote, “I would give my soul for that!”, does not appear in the 1890 version.

For those interested, both the 1890 and 1891 editions are reprinted in full, together with much background material (including the Conclusion to Walter Pater's Renaissance, mentioned in a and b above), in The Picture of Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde, edited by Donald L. Lawler (Norton Critical Editions, 1988.)