Appendix 25: Colonel Robert J. R. Brown and Life’s Echoes by ‘Tis True !

Prefatory Note: The illustrations for this article can be browsed here

(i) The Soldier

Robert James Reid Brown, the man behind the mask of ‘Tis True!, was born on April 24th 1863 in Saugor (now Sagar), in Madhya Pradesh province, Central India, the son of Robert Reid Brown and his wife Margery. His father was a Captain in the 29th Madras Native Infantry. (1a)

In 1880 Robert J.R. Brown was in Scotland, for in that year an Application for a Queen’s Indian Cadetship was made on his behalf by Robert Orr of Tighnamara, Rothesay, who was the Advocate–Sheriff Substitute of Renfrew and Bute, and who was at that time one of the guardians of the then seventeen years old Brown. It is this application form that tells us that Brown’s father had died in London on 29th May 1869 as a result of surgery to remove a tumour on his neck; that his father had been an interpreter in the Madras Native Infantry, a Containment Magistrate and Judge of the Small Cause Court at Trichinopoly; and that he was also in charge of the Jail there. The Application form tells us, in addition, that his mother, Margery Brown, was also dead, and that he had a brother and a sister, both unnamed, but both living at that time. (1b)

As regards the application itself, which was dated 10th June 1880, it stated that Brown proposed to enter the preliminary examination in Edinburgh in October, and thereafter to sit the main examination in December. He must have been successful, for we know from The London Gazette (March 9th 1883) that with effect from 10th March he was commissioned into the Indian Army from The Royal Military College (or Sandhurst, as we now know it.) It was customary for such an officer to spend a year with a British regiment, usually one serving in India, before he joined an Indian one, as this would allow him time to become accustomed to army life and leadership. In Brown’s case, he joined the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Sussex Regiment (1c) which arrived at Bombay from Egypt on 30th December 1885, though when and where he actually joined it is not clear. At any rate, on 7th June 1886 he was finally appointed to the Indian Staff Corps, to the 1st Regiment of the Bengal Infantry.

On 3rd April 1889, he was appointed as the Assistant Commandant of the Military Police Battalion, at Shwebo, in Burma (The Burma Military Police was a semi–military force which recruited its men from the Punjab and Nepal and was primarily led by Indian Army officers seconded from their units for a period of service. They would guard the frontier, and monitor internal security.) We also know that by late 1891 Brown had passed both the Elementary and Lower Standard examinations in Burmese, and that within two years he had achieved the Higher Standard. In fact, he seems to have had a flair for languages, for we also know that in the 1890s he achieved similar qualifications in at least two other languages spoken in Burma, Sgau–Karen and Shan. It was while serving with the Burma Military Police that Brown qualified for the Indian General Service Medal (1854) with two clasps, Burma 1885–87 and Burma 1887–89. (1d)

On 10th March 1894, Brown was promoted to Captain; on 20th September 1895 he was attached for duty to the 32nd Regiment (4th Burma Battalion) of Madras Infantry at Fort Stedman in Burma; and on 24th March 1897 he was appointed to the 29th Regiment (7th Burma Battalion) of Madras Infantry, which had recently arrived at Fort Stedman. After taking a year’s leave out of Burma (1900–1), during which time it is not clear where he was, he returned there, to Bhamo, and was promoted to Major on 10th July 1901. In January 1902 his Regiment moved to Mandalay, and he remained stationed there until 9th July 1903, when he was appointed to the 87th Punjabis, with whom he would serve, mostly in Jhansi, in Northern India, until early 1908. It is at this stage of his career that his annual Confidential Reports give us some glimpses of Brown the man as well as Brown the soldier. Thus his Commanding Officer’s Remarks for 1903–4 say that he is “a hardworking, efficient and intelligent officer, with good abilities,” but that he is “of a slightly hasty temperament and is sometimes a little thoughtless.” His Commanding Officer’s Remarks for 1905–6 describe him more fully thus:

Very hardworking, energetic, thoroughly reliable officer, with power of initiative and capacity for command. Plenty of self–reliance and common sense, but apt at times to be a little hasty. Good rider, with an eye for country. Good military sketcher, and good instructor. Fit in all respects for promotion.

The Confidential Report for 1906–7 simply tells us that, since the report of the previous year, he had been out of India on sick leave (there are no details of his condition, nor of where he went); in that of 1907–8 his Commanding Officer simply repeats, word for word, the comments he made in 1905–6, quoted above. On 16 March 1908 Brown began another 8 months leave out of India. He is now noted as being Second–in–Command of the Regiment.

Back in India again, on 13 November 1908 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the 74th Punjabis, who had arrived at Lucknow on 20th October 1908. (Lucknow, as we shall see, features in the story of Life’s Echoes.) Brown’s tenure as a Lieutenant Colonel would end on 12th November 1913 on completing five years of regimental command, this being the standard period for which an Indian Army officer would command a Regiment. His Confidential Reports during this period reveal him to have been a very good commanding officer, and one deemed fit for further promotion, though in an Administrative capacity. In the report of 1912–3 he is described as “self–reliant” and, of particular interest to readers of Life’s Echoes, “of temperate habits.” He was, however, “too fond of small adverse details in his reports on his officers.” Even so, with effect from 24th March 1913, Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. R. Brown was promoted to Colonel.

To backtrack slightly to the year 1911, two things happened. Firstly, Brown’s name is among those listed in the Delhi Durbar 1911 Medal Roll of the 74th Punjabis. (The medal was merely a ceremonial one, issued to commemorate the coronation of George V.) Secondly, and more importantly, on October 6th 1911, Lieutenant Colonel (as he then was) Robert James Reid Brown, aged 47, married Berthe Saves (or Savés ?), aged 23, in St. Thomas’ Cathedral, Bombay. He is there described as a widower, though there is no trace of an earlier marriage. (1e)

After reaching the end of his tenure as the Commanding Officer of the 74th Punjabis in November 1913, Colonel Brown’s whereabouts and activities become unclear. In fact, quite what he did during the First World War is not known, which is odd, as this period is usually the one for which there is the most documentation. It is likely, given the comments in his Confidential Reports, that Brown was involved in an administrative role after he finished his period in command of the 74th Punjabis, but the Indian Army List gives us no further clues. For his service in the war we know from his Medal Cards in the National Archives, that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, and to qualify for the latter, he would have had to have seen service in a theatre of war, possibly on the North West Frontier. However, no information about this has come to light, and the next thing we know about him, from The London Gazette (15th June 1920), is that, with effect from 24th April 1920, Col. R.J.R. Brown of the Indian Army was granted retirement. In actual fact, we know from the ship’s manifest that he had returned from Bombay to London aboard the S.S. “König Friedrich August”, arriving on 14th February 1920. There is, however, no record of his wife being with him.

How long he remained in England, and where, is not known, but we do know that sometime in the early 1920s (1f) he went to live in Houilles, just outside Paris, where he was to compile and publish his magnum opus, 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. The book was privately published in Paris, in a limited edition of 600 copies, and – by virtue of its mildly erotic content – “for the private amusement of philosophical bibliophiles only.” It was available either directly from the author, or from Groves & Michaux of Paris (see, for example, the flyer illustrated in Fig.19a.).It is probably safe to say that there is no more peculiar volume than this one in the field of Rubaiyat studies, both on account of its structure and on account of its erotic content – Omarian soft–porn!

To save readers hopping back and forth from this Appendix to my original account of the book in note 19 of the main essay, some of what follows will repeat what is in that note, but with updates and corrections. As we shall see, Life’s Echoes is not an easy book to describe comprehensively, as any two copies can differ in various respects. The following account, therefore, is a composite picture built up by referring to eight different copies, three in private ownership and five in library collections. Details of these, including their copy numbers out of 600, bindings, dust–jackets etc, together with a list of the abbreviations used in what follows, are given in note 2a.

(ii) The Contents of Life’s Echoes

In addition to an unconventional use of punctuation, a minor 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. In addition, a single page number covers both the right–hand leaf (on which the page number is printed) and its facing left–hand leaf. For ease of reference in what follows p.15, for example, will refer to the right–hand leaf of p.15, and p.15+ to its facing left–hand leaf. The book begins with what Brown called his “Tessellated Preface” (p.1 – 24b+) and this is followed by his version of The Rubaiyat (p.25–90), Both leaves of page 91 feature 17th century poems about Drinking and Fate, whilst both leaves of p.92 feature similarly dated poems about Philosophy, about all of which we shall have more to say in section xi. Next comes a useful alphabetical Glossary of key words and their (usually sexual) symbolism (p.93 – 105+), followed by what Brown calls his “Vocabulary”, and what others would just call the General Index of the book (p.116–118.) The next two sections of the book are particularly useful. The first, the “Echoes” section (p.118 – 119+, reproduced in full in Figs.3a, b, c & d), is basically an index of illustrations with, where appropriate, the corresponding first line of their associated ‘Byronics’ (basically poetic quotes relevant to the illustrations and their associated Rubaiyat); the second, the “Quatrains” section (p.120 – 123+), is a list of the verses of Brown’s version of the Rubaiyat, together with their sources of inspiration, followed by a short list of the authors of miscellaneous quotes used in the Preface and Glossary. We shall have much more to say about both of these sections and the remaining pages of the book (p.124 – 128+) in due course.

(iii) Where to begin ? And backwards or forwards ?

The first problem with this literary curiosity is finding the beginning, which turns out to be where the front and back covers are – or should be – in the middle of the book! Fig.1a shows the layout, with Fig. 1b and Fig.1c giving a more detailed view of each cover. Fig.1c bears the monogram of Omar, and Fig.1b the monogram of Qayyam. As for the contents, reading the book in the regular way of the western world, the first page of the book is p.62, followed by p.61, 60, 59 etc down to p.1, which brings us (or should do!) to the covers of Fig.1. Then comes p.128 (the title page! – Fig.2a), followed by p.127, 126, 125, and so on, down to p.63, which is right at the back of the book! However, Colonel Brown would object to the description I have just given, for he wanted the book to be read “Mohammedan–style” (p.24a) – that is, starting at what we would call the back of the book, the pages go 63, 64, 65... up to p.128, then come the covers, followed by pages 1, 2, 3 up to pages 60, 61 and 62 at the Mohammedan end of the book, or what we in the west would call its beginning. Readers who are feeling confused at this point will probably find Fig.3e useful – we are here looking at the ‘Hardback’ (Planned #1) part at the top of the diagram. Note the Western Style arrow at the top, going left to right, and the Mohammedan style arrow at the bottom, going right to left, Col. Brown’s preferred way of reading it. This bizarre scheme of pagination, with the covers of the book in its middle, suggests, at first glance, that in both the Western and Mohammedan scheme of things, something has gone badly wrong in the binding of the book. I myself at first thought that the book should have been bound so that, looked at in western–style, it would have had front cover Fig.1b, then p.128, 127,...63, 62, 61,...3, 2, 1, then back cover Fig.1c. Reading “Mohammedan–style” would have reversed this, with the Omar monogram now on the front cover, all the pages in the correct order, and the Qayyam monogram now on the back cover. But that was way too simple for Colonel Brown. We shall return presently to the Colonel’s notion of “Mohammedan–style”, complicated, as it is, by his added notion of “Revolvution”(sic)! Suffice it say that the upper part of Fig.3e is exactly what the author intended, as can be seen from the part of his index of illustrations shown in Fig.3c – an index which, as we have already seen, is tucked away on p.118–9 of the book (where else in a book like this, which also has a space for the owner’s book–plate on p.126!) Note that because Col. Brown is reading the book Mohammedan style, the page numbering from top–to–bottom of Fig.3c follows the Mohammedan right–to–left arrow of the top part of Fig.3e.

Unfortunately things didn’t go quite to plan, for in the two leather / hard–bound copies (DT1 & GG) (2a) the covers didn’t quite end up where Col. Brown intended – instead of being between p.128 and p.1 (Fig.3c) they ended up between p.127 and p.128, as shown in the ‘Hardback’ (Actual) part of Fig.3e. The binding of both of these hard–bound copies is identical, as shown in Fig.1d and Fig.1g, the match suggesting that this binding is original.

Nor is that all, for the other six copies of Life’s Echoes used here (DT2, BL, TCD, NLS, BOD & UCLA) (2a), do not have their covers in the middle at all, but on the outside, with Fig.1b as the front cover (looked at in Western Style), then, pages 62, 61, 60,..., 2, 1, 128, 127,..., 64, 63 as they should be, and with Fig.1c as the back cover. None of these six copies is leather–bound or ‘hardback’, rather Figs.1b & 1c are used as card–covers for the book, this effectively making them more of a ‘paperback’ edition – hence the third layer of Fig.3e. Figs.1e and 1f show the covers of the paperback version – basically they are Figs.1b and 1c, but with a light blue binding strip at the edge, of which we shall have more to say later. The fact that all six paperback copies are bound in the same way implies, of course, that this is the way they were sent out to customers.

Nor is that the end of it, for the NLS copy – a ‘paperback’ copy, remember – still retains a cream coloured dust jacket on which Col. Brown had written in pencil, instructions to be followed if the book was ever to be re–bound in cloth or leather. The inscription is too faint to show up in an illustration, but it is decipherable, and a transcript of it, reproducing as far as possible its layout, is shown in Fig.3f. As can be seen, he again wanted the blue covers in the middle of the book, but in a slightly different position to that suggested in his index! Instead of wanting them between p.128 and p.1, as in the ‘Hardback’ (Planned #1) row of Fig.3e, he now wanted them between the two halves of p.127, as in the ‘Hardback’ (Planned #2) row at the bottom of Fig.3e! “The Omar monogram faces the big bird,” he tells us, and “the Qayyam monogram faces the dedication.” The big bird is the stencil on p.127 (Fig.18a) and the dedication is the illustration on p.127+ (Fig.18b). We shall look at the dedication in section xvii below.

The NLS dust jacket makes it clear that Col. Brown himself sent out copies of Life’s Echoes in ‘paperback’ format, with the blue covers on the outside of the book rather than somewhere in its middle, for the NLS copy was never re–bound and is just as Col. Brown sent it. But then who bound and sent out the two identical ‘hardback’ copies used here, and why weren’t the covers bound in accordance with either the Planned #1 or Planned #2 schemes in Fig.3e ? Unfortunately at present we don’t know, but hopefully in due course more hardback copies will come to light to clarify the situation.

(iv) The Rubaiyat Section

In what follows it is necessary to remember that a single page number covers both the right–hand leaf and its facing left–hand leaf. In the Rubaiyat section (p.25–90), right–hand leaves are labelled “Life” and left–hand leaves are labelled “Echo”. Here, “Life” leaves usually bear three rubaiyat, as in Figs.4a & 4c (p.60), whilst their facing “Echo” leaves bear illustrations as in Figs.4b & 4d (p.60+), and / or lines by ‘Byron’, occasionally other poets. Thus Cowley and Dryden feature quite prominently, with the likes of Herrick, Rochester and Oldham putting in an appearance (3a). There are also contributions from a few more modern authors (3b). These lines, collectively dubbed “Byronics”, relate to and elucidate (“echo”) their associated rubaiyat, as in Fig.4e, the ‘Byronics’ on p.60+. It is as well to be warned at the outset, though, that Col. Brown frequently edited and added bits to his ‘quotes’, and on occasion made up authors to supply his quotes! Just to add to the fun, the lines of Fig.4e are underneath the tipped–in plate of Fig.4b. Finally, as can be seen from Fig.4a, the book has to be turned on its side to be read, Mohammedan–style or otherwise! But though the images of Fig.4, taken from Garry Garrard’s copy, serve very well to illustrate the general format of Brown’s Rubaiyat section, they also serve to illustrate a problem with this strange book, for the plate shown in Fig.4d is on p.60+ of two copies (GG & DT1), p.59+ of a third copy (NLS), p.65+ of a fourth copy (UCLA), and is entirely absent from four copies (DT2, BL, TCD & BOD)! We shall have more to say about the twin phenomena of wandering and missing plates a little later (section vii.)

(v) Byronics

The name of Byron features prominently in Life’s Echoes – indeed, it even features in the extended title of the book (Fig.2a). It is to be noted, though, that the lines by Byron, so frequently quoted by Col. Brown – those allegedly from a collection of erotic verses written by the poet 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 – hence the inverted commas around his name in the last section. Rather, they are from two Byronic forgeries. The first is Leon to Annabella, (4a) which purports to be a distressed, angry and perplexed letter in verse, from Byron (Don Leon – the name is Noel (4b) spelt backwards) to his wife, Annabella, whom he sees as having been persuaded by an unnamed third party to leave him and seek a legal separation for unspecified reasons. He speculates that it is because she has confided the secrets of the bedroom to that third party, and that the separation is urged on account of his committing sodomy with her, a practice then considered immoral as well as being illegal, and in theory punishable by death (4c). In the poem ‘Byron’ defends the practice of marital sodomy, justifying his stance with classical allusions to the wives of Ancient Rome, and railing against the criminality of the act in 19th century England. The second Byronic forgery is Don Leon. This poem, probably later in date, but generally assumed to be by the same (uncertain) author (4d) as Leon to Annabella, is much longer. It purports to be Byron’s homosexual confessions and his defense of homosexuality against current prejudice and criminal prosecution. At that time, as is well known, being found engaging in homosexual activity carried the death penalty, or, if one had the wealth and contacts to escape that, then becoming an outcast of polite society was the result. Don Leon also contains further and more graphic reference to Byron’s marital sodomy. The poem is again clothed in classical allusions, and, unlike Leon to Annabella, has copious footnotes. It also comes with the implication (certainly true) that homosexual practices are far more widespread in polite society than polite society cares to admit – the aristocracy, politicians and the clergy are all implicated (some things don’t change!), as are judges, academics, soldiers, sailors, and schoolmasters who are overly fond of flogging their pupils. Both poems are thought to have been written in the 1830s, about a decade after Byron’s death, and were no doubt circulated privately before finally seeing publication together, albeit ‘underground’, in 1866 (4e).

The lines in Fig.4e are from Don Leon, for example, give or take a bit of editorial re–arrangement and re–wording (4f). Note the heading “Byronics” in Fig.3a, which Brown explains in his Glossary (p.95.) Here he tells us that it was only when Life’s Echoes was ready for the press that he discovered ‘Byron’s’ poem (he uses the singular), and “the remarkable affinity of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat was disclosed.” (He doesn’t actually name either Leon to Annabella or Don Leon, but presumably he meant the latter, as it does contain some Omarian elements (4g).) Most of us would say that this “remarkable affinity” was largely in Col. Brown’s head, but to him it was remarkable enough to wonder if ‘Byron’ had read Dr Hyde’s early translation of some quatrains of Omar, or if FitzGerald had read ‘Byron’s’ poem! He wrote of the effect of his discovery on Life’s Echoes: “Many pages which could not have been illustrated otherwise, have been ‘echoed’ by parallel extracts from that poem.”(p.95) We shall look in more detail at some of the Colonel’s use of both poems later.

As indicated in the previous section, the heading Byronics includes verses quoted from the likes of Dryden, Herrick and others. On occasion Brown does quote the real Byron, as on p.94 where he quotes from Byron’s translation of Catullus III. It is to be noted that Brown heads these lines “‘tessellated’ Byron”, whereas his quotes from the Don Leon poems (which far outnumber any real Byronic quotes) are always headed “‘tessellated’ Byron (?)”. Brown was well aware of the accusations of forgery, then.

(vi) The illustrations.

Brown’s illustrations are an eclectic mix, whose relevance to his Rubaiyat is not always clear. Often they are Persian miniatures, or drawings / photographs of people / buildings / things. There is a painting of a topless girl on p.36+ (Fig.5a), for example, a picture of the Taj Mahal on p.39+ (Fig.5b), a photograph of five combs on p.42+ (Fig.5c) and a painting of a rather formidable–looking harlot of Lahore (with pun intended ?) on p.63+ (Fig.5d)!

By way of comment, Fig.5a, whose title is given as “My Queen!” in the index of illustrations on p.119+ (Fig.3d), seems to be there simply as representative of lust, for there is no poetic reference to any Queen either in the Rubaiyat on p.36 or in the Byronics behind the plate on p.36+.

Fig.5b relates to the lines “Far–famed, Dome–Crowned, narcissus, Taj Mahal, / By Shah Jahan raised, his Queen to instal!” in the rubaiyat on p.39. These lines, supposedly written by Omar, remember, are particularly incongruous, since the Taj Mahal wasn’t built until some 500 years after Omar’s death! However, this verse is one which is labelled as “Spurious” in the above–mentioned list of Quatrains (p.120+), which I would assume means that it is one of fifteen such verses which Col. Brown just made up himself! The title of the illustration is given on p.119+ (Fig.3d) as “The Taj Mahal at Agra.”

Fig.5c also links smoothly to the title of the illustration given on p.119+ (Fig.3d) – “Combs”, though many readers will probably be wondering what possible relevance combs can have to the Rubaiyat. The answer relates to depilation, particularly of the sexual organs, to which subject Brown devotes a section of his Glossary (p.95–96+.) Readers who remain puzzled will have to be patient – all will be revealed presently (no pun intended!)

Fig.5d, meanwhile, makes rather more sense, in that it is there to illustrate the following verse (actually based on verse 473 in Whinfield’s 1883 translation of The Rubaiyat, as Brown indicates on p.120 of his list of Quatrains):

A Shaikh, a Harlot Meeting, said, – “To me
You seem a slave to drink and Lechery!”
The Whore reproached thus – “As I pose, I am! –
Are you, Solicitor! all you would be ?–”

Oddly, Brown also uses no less than nineteen rather curious paper stencils said to have been made in Lucknow in about 1840. Fig.5e is an example from p.31+ and Fig.5f another from p.88+, both there for no apparent reason! The first of these is particularly puzzling as Brown normally indexes these stencils (on his p.118–9) simply as “Paper–stencil, Lucknow, about 1840”, whereas the one on p.31+ is indexed on p.119 (Fig.3c) as “Gardens round town,” being an echo of the first line in the third verse on his p.31 (“Come ? – Play Within the Gardens Round the Town.”) The fact that this stencil appears on p.31+ of all eight copies used here suggests that, for whatever reason, this is where it is supposed to be! Since this plate does have images of plants, birds and a butterfly, as well as fish – from a garden pond ? – this may be the link with “Gardens round town”, but I would regard that as pretty tenuous ‘explanation’ at best! It is just as likely that Brown originally planned to use a different illustration, changed his mind at the last minute, and forgot to change the title on p.119.

Having mentioned the twin phenomena of wandering and missing plates in section iv above, it is worth stressing at this point that Figs.5a to 5f, taken from the copy in the British Library, all appear to be where they should be according to the index on p.118–9 and / or by their repeated locations in all the copies used here. With any normal book, such a statement would be unnecessary, of course, but then Life’s Echoes is no ordinary book!

(vii) Wandering and Missing Plates

Yet another oddity of Life’s Echoes is that when customers received their copies of the book they found that some of the plates were missing. Modern collectors – and book dealers – often assume that their copies are missing plates because they have somehow been lost over the years, as tipped–in plates are apt to be. But this is not wholly the case here, as becomes clear when various copies are compared with each other, for the same plates have ‘gone missing’ with peculiar frequency. The plates on pages 33+, 35+, 40+, 49+, 65+, 66+ & 81+, and which should be there according to Brown’s listing on his p.118–9, are missing in four of the eight copies used here (DT1 & 2; GG & BL), which rather suggests that they were never actually there. More than that, the copies in TCD, NLS and BOD are almost a fifth, sixth, and seventh, for whilst they also lack the plates on pages 33+, 35+, 40+, 49+, 65+ and 66+, they all have the same plate on p.81+, namely Fig.6a. But it is a different one to that on p.81+ in the UCLA copy, shown in Fig.6b, and according to Brown’s index of illustrations (p.118+; Fig.3b) we should have an illustration of “A Muhammadan’s grave” here, a title which at first doesn’t seem to square with either Fig.6a or Fig.6b! The situation is very confusing, to say the least, though it is possible to throw some light on it.

In the first instance, letters from Col. Brown stored with the NLS and BOD copies make it clear that the plate of Fig.6a was sent to the libraries nearly three years after they had received the book, with an instruction to put it on p.81. Fig.6c is the letter with the NLS copy, which is filed with a copy of the reply to Col. Brown from librarian William K. Dickson (not reproduced here) to say that it had been duly inserted in its proper place. This clearly demonstrates that, for one reason or another, copies of Life’s Echoes were actually sent out with some illustrations missing, Col. Brown intending to send these on later. Note too that the illustration is “a reproduction of a panel on the shrine at Naishapur.” We shall have more to say about this particular plate and its associated title, “a Mohammedan’s grave”, in section xv.

Secondly, it should be stated at the outset that the UCLA copy, once owned by Ambrose George Potter, is a ‘maverick’ as regards some of its plates. In reality, the seven missing plates mentioned above (ie on pages 33+, 35+, 40+, 49+, 65+, 66+ & 81+) were also missing from the UCLA copy, and it looks as if Potter filled six of these seven blank spaces (those on p.33+, 35+, 40+, 49+, 66+ & 81+) with Persian / Indian art–work taken from other books, Fig.6b being merely the first one we have encountered (note its Medici Society imprint.) In fact, Potter tipped–in two plates for p.49+, one of them being stuck on the tissue guard of the other! (2b). The seventh blank, that on p.65, he filled with the plate shown in Fig.4d, to which we now turn.

As we saw in section iv, whereas the UCLA copy has the plate of Fig.4d on p.65+, in the NLS copy it features on p.59+ (where it is tipped–in over the paper stencil which Brown’s index says should be there!), and in two of the other copies (DT1 & GG) it features on p.60+. This would seem to suggest that p.60+ is perhaps where it should be, though it is unnerving that a) p.60+ in the NLS copy has no plate on it; b) the plate doesn’t appear at all in the four other copies used here (DT2, BL, TCD & BOD); and c) in his index of illustrations on p.119+ (Fig.3d), Col. Brown gives the subject of the illustration on p.60+ as “Ploughing”!

Now this title sits rather uneasily with an illustration of a figure which appears to be Omar, accompanied by what seems to be a diagram illustrating the cause of lunar eclipses, and with a bit of geometrical construction thrown in! However, in the quatrains in Fig.4c we do have symbolic sexual references, supposedly written by Omar, advocating ploughing furrows, sowing pleasure’s weeds, and making the Earth more fruitful, together with the line, “God pardons Multipliers of all creeds”, so perhaps here is the explanation of Fig.4d, Omar being both a Multiplier in a mathematical and – at least according to the Colonel! – in a sexual sense. We should always bear in mind that Col. Brown used the words “Mysteriously Cryptic Tessellations” in his extended title, “cryptic” usually implying sexual innuendo, for one gets the impression that he could add a whole new dimension to those famous lines from an innocent harvest hymn, “we plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land”!

Incidentally, on p.60+ of the UCLA copy, instead of Fig.4d, we have a picture of a game of polo (Fig.4f), which would seem to have strayed from p.45+ if we go off the index of illustrations on p.119+ (Fig.3d) – except that p.45+ is actually occupied by a different picture of a game of polo (Fig.12b – see section x below), one which features on this page in all eight copies used here! The explanation, of course, is that Fig.4f is another Medici Society Persian Miniature, like Fig.6b, pasted in to plug what had been a gap on p.60+ in Potter’s copy. (2b) (Fig.14c, mentioned in section x below, is another such, being tipped–in on p.66+.)

But getting back to the mystery of consistently missing plates, as will become clearer later (section xv), the explanation is that Colonel Brown hadn’t had either the opportunity or the funds to print them at the time he sold the books to paying customers or donated them to libraries, but intended to send them on later. At the moment, Fig.6a is the only definite instance of a plate that was actually sent on later, but the fact that the same plates are missing in multiple extant copies strongly suggests that this was Col. Brown’s intention with all of them. Some missing plates seem never to have been sent on, hence they are still consistently missing today (pages 33+, 35+, 40+, 49+, 65+ and 66+.) But what of the ‘wandering plate’, Fig.4d, which is sometimes present, but when it is present, it has been inserted into the book on different pages ? Until a letter from Col. Brown turns up relating to this plate, we may never know, of course. It is possible, for example, that the letter accompanying Fig.4d was not as clear as Fig.6c, and that the Colonel referred to the title of the plate without giving the page number on which to insert it. With a title so cryptic, without referring to the Index, some readers might have been at a loss as to where exactly in the book it went, and hence the plate sometimes turns up in the wrong places, or was never tipped–in at all. Since the majority of plates in the eight copies of the book used here are tipped–in consistently, it doesn’t seem likely that whoever tipped–in the plates before the books were sent out fell down on the job when it came to Fig.4d. It seems much more likely that p.60+ was an eighth blank page when the books were sent out, and Fig.4d was another plate sent on later with little or no clear instruction as to where it went.

To recap a very confusing situation, it seems that copies of Life’s Echoes were sent out with eight missing plates (p. 33+, 35+, 40+, 49+, 60+, 65+, 66+ & 81+) which, as we know from Brown’s Index (p.118–9), he intended to be there, and which he did intend to send on later. Only those on p.81+ and p.60+ (?) were ever actually sent out, though, and these not to everybody. As we shall see later (section xv), there is some evidence that Col. Brown did not intend to send on missing plates to anyone to whom he had sent a presentation copy, but who had not actively promoted the sales of his book, or at least made appreciative comments about it!

For another missing plate to be sent on later, “when printed”, see Fig.3f – the ‘Omar’ book–plate promised for p.125, and indexed in advance on p.119 (Fig.3c). So far as I know, this was never sent out, though.

Whatever the full explanation, the plates of Life’s Echoes pose a real problem, as any collector who has ever set out to plug the gaps in their own copy, by hoping to scan the copies owned by other collectors, or stored in libraries, can testify!

Finally, it should be noted at this point, that Col. Brown also sent out illustrations that were not intended to plug physical gaps in the book, but were intended to supplement it – Fig.20b & Fig.23 are two such, as we shall see later in section xv. Nothing is simple about Life’s Echoes!

(viii) An Erotic Rubaiyat ?

So how did Col. Brown arrive at his erotic Rubaiyat ? Not from the same, largely mistaken, Western associations of the Rubaiyat with the erotic Orient of scented harems, dancing girls and houris, which resulted in Peter de Polnay being told that The Rubaiyat was “too sexy for a boy.” (See Main Essay, ch.6.) Nor, apparently, from the 18th century manuscript copy containing 91 quatrains which he pictures on p.9–12 of his book, and to which he refers in his text on p.3 & p.9 (Fig.8 shows a sample page.) There is no real evidence that he used this as anything other than an illustration of a rare 18th century example of a selection of Omar’s quatrains, even though he could apparently read some Arabic and / or Persian. In fact, there is no evidence that Col. Brown did any real translating at all (see section xi below.) Rather, he seems to have ‘read between the lines’ of the translations by FitzGerald (1st, 2nd & 5th editions), Heron–Allen (from the Bodleian MS), Whinfield (1883 ed. mainly), and (infrequently) Keene (1887) [= Potter #338] to produce what is more a re–interpretation than a translation. Obligingly, as we saw earlier, Col. Brown provided a list of his quatrains cross–referenced with their equivalents in these translations (p.120–3). Not only that, since he uses FitzGerald’s wonderful format, it becomes, in effect, an erotic parody of his translation(s) – as indeed Brown admits on p.23+ of his Preface.

Brown seems to have been set off initially by the known symbolism in The Rubaiyat, and there is nothing like a bit of symbolism to set some imaginations racing, for it is but a short step from that to the conviction that “Omar had a secret meaning.” (p.19.) He seems then to have been particularly struck by an old Persian saying that every word of Sa’adi had seventy–two significations, and to have extrapolated this to the verses of Omar. FitzGerald’s Epicurean interpretation and Nicolas’s Sufic interpretation were two ‘significations’, but he was sure that somehow they were both missing something, and that that something still remained hidden (p.19). His erotic version was the result of his quest for that something. (Incidentally, he freely admitted that this still left 69 other significations waiting in the wings, but he seems to have been more excited by this possibility than worried by it! (p.19) It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that so many interpretations might simply demonstrate how easy it is to find interpretations that owe more to the mind of the interpreter than to that of Omar himself! In fairness to the Colonel, though, he did use the words “Possible Elucidation” in his title.)

But to continue, FitzGerald’s version is, as is well known, a mere selection of what Omar wrote, and, according to Col. Brown, FitzGerald simply missed out some of the juicier bits, if indeed he ever saw them, or realised their significance if he did (p.15+ & p.93+). Not that the juicier bits are explicit – they aren’t – for they are hidden behind the Oriental allegory and symbolism which the good Colonel has unlocked for us. As mentioned above, to help get the message across to his readers, Brown obligingly supplied a Glossary (p.93–105) to help with the trickier bits. Here are to be found notes on the sexual significance of the Bulbul or Nightingale (p.94); on the practice of depilation, particularly of the sexual organs (p.95–6); on the sexual symbolism of Fish (p.96+ to 97+) (Fig.5e & Fig.7a, for example!); on the grape and its juice as symbolic of the male organ (p.97+); and on wine as symbolic of semen (p.105) Even seemingly Sufic references can be erotic, he assures us, for is not the desire of man for woman an exemplar of the Sufis’ ultimate desire for God (p.21), for example ? And does not the “Gul–i–Raz” (sic) (5) say:

The mystic licence bears three several states; –
Annihilation, drunkenness, the trance
Of amorous longing. They who recognise
These three, know well what time and place,
To use these words, and meaning to assign. (p.13)

Many would, of course, simply accuse the Colonel of having a one–track mind, and of seeing things that weren’t really there as a result. But, according to Col. Brown, who had, remember, lived in India for many years, most westerners, even those who have actually lived in the East, never really understand “the tortuous workings of an Oriental’s mind” and the universal preoccupation of the Mohammedan male with “love in some form” (p.22.) “The beauty of Eastern poetry,” he tells us, “is that the most erotic thoughts are invariably expressed in symbolic and dainty, yet transparent terms, which cleverly delight, while they rarely offend!” (p.23)

(ix) Brown’s view of Omar and the Omar Cult

Col. Brown quotes various views of Omar, from Albulfeda’s claim that “Omar was too much addicted to pleasure, and poetry, and seemed not to set much store by his astronomical labours” (p.3) to E.H. Whinfield’s doubts that Omar was “a person very susceptible of the tender passion” (p.17.) At the very beginning of his Preface, Col. Brown says that Omar was “a scientific astronomer by profession, a philosophic poet by inspiration, and a devil–may–care, worldly, man–of–pleasure by inclination.” Later in his Preface, he makes his own view of Omar clearer: “The vulgar admiration of the hackneyed, and oft incoherently quoted references to ‘bough, bread, flask, book and thou’, and to ‘wine, woman, and song’, prove that readers falsely presume Omar Khayyam was but an advocate of laziness, liquor and love.” (p.22) To Colonel Brown, then, it would appear that Omar was a cultured connoisseur of the grape with a healthy eye for the ladies – not unlike Col. Brown himself, one suspects.

Col. Brown returns to pour more scorn on the Omar cult in his Glossary, under the heading of the Grape (p.97+) where he writes that:

The ultra–hysterical vogue among Westerns for the incomprehensible ‘Omar Khayyam’ is very largely and undoubtedly due to the sad fact, that intoxicating liquor is considered by too many vulgar admirers, to be a necessary component of hilarious conviviality!

Recall that, according to the Confidential Report on Col. Brown for 1912–3 (section i), he was himself a man “of temperate habits.”

(x) A Guided Tour

Life’s Echoes being so rare, I here give a few sample “Life” verses, together with some comment on their “Echoes”, Byronic and otherwise. For brevity’s sake, only specific Life verses are quoted here in the text, but the whole page from which they are taken, together with the whole of the facing Echo page are illustrated, so that readers can see more of the context for themselves. As indicated earlier, a list of Brown’s quatrains, cross–referenced with their equivalents in FitzGerald, Heron–Allen, Whinfield and Keene can be found on his p.120–123, so the source for each quatrain can be readily identified. It is to be noted that in what follows words beginning with capital letters, other than those at the beginning of lines, indicate something of symbolic (and thus usually sexual!) significance (p.23+). The Colonel, it would appear, wanted to be sure that his readers didn’t miss any of the spicy bits, though I suspect that many readers, like me, are / were more puzzled than enlightened by some of these capital letters!

It is to be noted that all the plates illustrated in this section (Figs.9b, 10b, 11b, 12b, and 15b) are identically located in all eight of the copies used here, and so can be assumed to be located as Col. Brown intended.

The first quoted verse (Fig.9a) will no doubt immediately remind many readers of FitzGerald’s v.42 (as elsewhere in this Archive, unless otherwise stated verse numbers refer to the first edition), as indeed Brown indicates on his p.121+, where he also cross–references v.370 of Whinfield (1883):

Once, stealing through an Archway wide aGape,
In Dream came a curled, rose–cheeked, Angel–shape
From village–well with water–pot on head;
She begged me, let her Kiss, and Taste, Love’s Grape! (p.32 )

Quite what the capital G in “agape” signifies, I do not know (perhaps I have led too sheltered an existence.) Be that as it may, on the Echo page (Fig.9b) facing this verse we have a picture of an archway (listed as such on p.119; Fig.3c) and some Byronic lines from Leon to Annabella (lines 21–28). As these are hidden behind the tipped–in illustration (another oddity of Life’s Echoes, already encountered with Fig.4e), I give them here:

Thou know’st, how many matrons spread their wiles,
How many daughters lavished all their smiles!
All these I scorned – that scorn by thee returned,
Whilst others burned for me, for thee I burned,
Till, won at last, I to the Qazi led
Thy faltering steps: the priest his rubric said.
Thy promised troth to honour and obey
Was faintly pledged, and pledged but to betray.

The reference here is to Byron’s marriage to Annabella, of course, the word Qazi in Brown’s version being altar in the original. (Quazi generally signifies a judge or magistrate, but is here presumably in his role as a marriage officiator.) Quite what these lines have to do with Brown’s rubaiyat on p.32 isn’t very clear, but the Archway of Fig.9b clearly carries vaginal significance for the Colonel, for in the third verse on p.32 (Fig.9a) we have, “Love’s Palace Arched and Domed which men Pass Through, / To Homage Pay and There their Lust Subdue.” The word “Domed” – note the capital letter D – here presumably denotes the mons veneris, as Brown indicates in his Glossary, on p.100 (see also note 8a).

The next verse (Fig.10a) is clearly based on v.2 of FitzGerald’s 2nd and 5th editions, except that the “the Tavern” of the original has become “Love’s Tavern” and “the drowsy Worshipper outside” takes on an erotic significance, on which I decline to elaborate, as is indicated by Brown giving the word “drowsy” a capital D:

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 ? (p.38)

On the Echo page facing this verse we have a picture of “A mosque with sleepers outside” (Fig.10b – the title being given as such on p.119+; Fig.3d) and, again hidden under the plate, the Byronic lines:

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!
Thus, though long nights doubt combatted grief;
Morn came, but brought my sorrow no relief:
Though silenced oft, some voice e’er seemed to cry, –
“Thy loved one’s false to Love’s freemasonry!”

Unfortunately, the situation here is not as simple as in the previous example, for in this instance Col. Brown has done a FitzGerald and “mashed together” and slightly re–worded lines from both Don Leon and Leon to Annabella. (Indeed, in the Byronics section of his Glossary, p.95, he actually tells us that here and there, “Some slight, minor, changes have been made in the text, so as to make extracts join.” His definition of “slight” is open to question at times, though.) So as not to interrupt the flow, I give the details in note (6a). But yet again, the relevance of these lines to the rubaiyat on p.38 (Fig.10a) isn’t very clear. Note Brown’s take on FitzGerald’s famous opening verse in his second verse on p.38, the “Sultan’s Turret” here presumably carrying phallic significance, similar to that he attaches to the minaret in his Glossary, on p.93+ (see also note 8a), and which is presumably carried by the minarets in Fig.10b.

The next verse (Fig.11a) is v.41 of FitzGerald’s 4th edition, with an erotic twist added to the last line (though Brown links it with the less similar v.55 of FitzGerald’s 2nd edition (p.121+), and with v.131 of Heron–Allen & v.332 of Whinfield (1883):

Perplexed no more with human, or divine,
To–morrow’s tangle to the winds resign,
And Lose your Fingers in the Tresses of
The Down on Cypress–slender Virgins Shrine! (p.41)

Now this verse is one of several to which Brown refers in his Glossary entry on Depilation, via the word Down. The reference to “Trimmed Gardens” in the first of his rubaiyat on the previous page is another, and the photograph of five combs on p.42+ (Fig.5c – listed as such on p.119+; Fig.3d), mentioned in section vi above, is yet another, via the couplet “Love, like a comb, must Take and Give Torn Scars / Ere It can Cleave what Maids Deprive of Hair”! But getting back to the above–quoted verse on p.41, on the Echo page facing it (Fig.11b) is a picture titled “A consultation with a Doctor” (listed as such on p.119+; Fig.3d) this being an echo of the previous verse (Fig.11a), plus some Byronic lines from Don Leon (lines 411–6.) Again, as these are hidden behind the tipped in plate, I give them here:

The daily round of dull scholastic rules
Amused me not – “I’ll quit these wordy fools,”
Cried I, “who pass unprofitable days
To square a circle or collate a phrase.
Be mine a wider field to till the mind,
I’ll ramble, and investigate mankind.”

One can see why Brown thought these lines echoed his first verse on p.41 (Fig.11a.)

The following verse (Fig.12a) follows a parody on FitzGerald’s v.50 (“The Ball no question makes &c.”), and seems to be of Brown’s own devising (or, at least, he lists it as “Spurious” on p.122+.)

Though, when thus Tossed by Heedless him in Sport,
Girls may, by Fighting, long Defend Love’s Port,
Yet, when He’s Victor, they’ll think – Is that all ? –
Then grumble that Love–Game has been too short! (p.45)

Not surprisingly, this verse is echoed (Fig.12b) by a picture of “A Game of Polo” (listed as such on p.119+; Fig.3d), and by some Byronic lines from Don Leon. Again, the situation here is not a simple one, for Col. Brown has again done a FitzGerald and “mashed together” lines from different parts of ‘Byron’s’ poem. So as not to interrupt the flow, I give the details in note 6b, and again, since the lines are hidden by the tipped–in plate, I give them here:

Yet, who, that’s seen a wishing woman lie
Between her shame and curiosity,
Knowing her sex’s failing, will not deem,
That in the balance shame will kick the beam? –
Tis true, that, from her lips though murmurs fall
In joy, or anger, she enjoys the brawl!
Experience – lovers all can swear to this! –
Proves, that her ecstasy e’er equals his !
Through virtue, to lose chastity, girls dread,
And fight, to save that film – their maidenhead !
What modern virtue is so used, to slight, –
It hardly serves, to make rich gudgeons bite !
For, unlike china, such frail things command !
A greater price, than when they’re second–hand !
Though those Cremona fiddles sell for more,
Which even amateurs have played before !

Clearly, then, the Colonel, Casanova–like, saw sex as a sport, and rated maidenly defence of chastity as a challenge, justifying his attitude by the belief that his partner would have enjoyed the experience as much as he had, in the end! Of course, Col. Brown was writing for a male audience of “philosophical bibliophiles”, and “nudge–nudge, wink–wink” was the order of the day. But it was “nudge–nudge, wink–wink”, and what he cut out here was indeed the pornographic of his day, though not so by today’s standards. (6a & 6b) As he put it in his Preface, “only unobjectionable matter has been extracted from these poems.” (p.24a+)

Next, here is another verse (Fig.13a) seemingly of Brown’s own devising (listed as “Spurious” on p.121+):

Oft, asking dames their Inclination’s Test,
Experienced Tasters have to me confessed, –
“Youth can’t Control, Dull Husbands are unSkilled:
A rich plus–forty Fornicator’s best!” (p.65)

The echo of this verse (Fig.13b) should include, according to Brown’s list of illustrations on p.118 (Fig.3a), a picture titled “Inclination’s test !”, but unfortunately this is one of those consistently missing plates mentioned above. Fig.13b, then, only shows the Byronic lines of the Echo, here from Leon to Annabella (lines 269–74.) These lines seem to echo the verses before and after the one just quoted, with their themes of Reputation and Repentance (Fig.13a.)

In view of the last quoted verse, it will now come as no surprise to readers that a little flyer for Life’s Echoes was actually addressed to “Philosophical Plus–Forty Bibliophiles.” (Fig.19a) Col. Brown treated the age of 40 as the dividing line between a sexually vigorous youth and the creeping onset of impotent old age, when many Persian males turned from sex to drink/ drugs! (p. 22) According to Col. Brown, “Omar satirised the life of man in a series of epigrammatical poemettes” in which he “laid bare ‘la vie intime’ of Man from puberty to death, ignoring completely the uninteresting period birth to puberty.” (p.23+) He tells us (p.93) that in Life’s Echoes “Omar’s satire has been ... chronologically arranged into three phases.” First (p.25–40), we have “Nature’s untiring workings, to reveal the purpose of sex”; second (p.41–67), we have “paired–life, till impotence”; and third (p.68–90), we have “the period of impotence till death intervenes.” As for his “Echoes”, he says that these too trace the Life of Man from Puberty to Death, but in a two–stage chronological sequence – first, Love and Woman (“the potent period”); second, Wine and Song (“the impotent period”) ( p.23+). I can only remind readers that Col. Brown did regard his book as merely a “Possible Elucidation” of The Rubaiyat, the italics being mine!

But to get back to the rubaiyat themselves, the following verse (Fig.14a) is a clear parody of FitzGerald’s v.37 (and linked as such on p.120+; also with v. 386 of Whinfield (1883)):

Ay! Brim Love’s Cup! – What boots it, to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our feet ? –
Unborn to–morrow, and dead yesterday, –
Why fret about them, if Love’s Act be Sweet. ? (p.66)

Opposite this verse (Fig.14b) we should have, according to Brown’s list of illustrations on p.118 (Fig.3a), a picture titled “Bellums” (boats for passengers), relevant to the verse before this, but again this is one of those consistently missing plates mentioned earlier. All we have here by way of an Echo, then, are the Byronic lines visible in Fig.14b, based on Don Leon (lines 1067–96.) These lines are part of a reference to the restricted social (and sexual) freedom of the Moslem wife, compared to that of her husband, for a husband can turn to other women or – more particularly – to boys when he tires of his wife, but a wife, at least in theory, has no such escape when she tires of her husband, whose infidelities she must endure.(4h) (As already indicated in section vii, the maverick UCLA copy does have an illustration on p.66+, this being Fig.14c, but it clearly has nothing to do with boats, and doesn’t belong in this book at all!)

And this last verse (Fig.15a) is clearly based on FitzGerald’s v.23 (and linked as such on p.120; also with v.35 of Heron–Allen & v.390 of Whinfield (1883)):

Ah! make the most of what we yet may Spend,
Before we too into the dust descend!
Dust unto dust, and under dust, to lie,
Wine, song, and Woman, wanting, – what an end! (p.74)

The echo page opposite this verse (Fig.15b) bears an illustration of a “Paper–stencil, Lucknow, about 1840” (listed as such on p.118+; Fig.3b), unaccompanied by any Byronic verses. (As indicated earlier, Brown uses a number of such stencils in his book, Figs.5e, 5f & 7a being other examples.) Unless my imagination is going the same way as the Colonel’s, Fig.15b really only makes sense here if it is seen as a phallic symbol linked to an ejaculatory sense of “what we yet may Spend” (“Spend” is highlighted with one of Brown’s capital letters indicating a double–meaning) and with a similarly phallic sense being given to the Hardest Tools of the following verse! (Fig.15a)

Enough has been quoted here to show that Life’s Echoes is, in effect, an elaborate erotic parody of FitzGerald, paralleled by the mildly erotic verses of others, and illustrated with pictures whose relevance is not always clear. Or maybe that is being too dismissive. Certainly, I have to admit that I remain very much intrigued by the book, and by its author! Whatever else one might say about Life’s Echoes, Colonel Brown spent much time and went to great pains to compile and publish it – it really was a labour of love, if you’ll pardon the pun!

I cannot resist giving another example of Brown’s eccentricity and fertile imagination, which occurs at the end of his verses, on p.90 (Fig.16a) – the little stick–man and the accompanying “love X mark.” As Brown indicates, an explanation is to be found on p.98+ (Fig.16b), in his Glossary. It reads as follows:

The love–mark of ‘’TIS–TRUE’ shows the genealogy of the innocent word ‘kiss’! Aboriginal art depicted Man as (a stick man); perspective being unknown, ‘artists’ were unable to draw coital superimposition; hence the sign became emblematic of a hidden meaning! Later on, morals, inducing secrecy, evolved the hurried X ! Readers should now hear an echo of the famous ‘virgin of Gloucester’! (7) In the cool, Himalayan, climate of Naini Tal, where European children are sent for education, on the sign–posts of roads in the vicinity of the schools can be seen phrases, such as ‘Robert Burns X Mary Scott !’ pencilled by jealous and unsuccessful aspirants for Beauties’ favours! Many may be simply provocative, insulting, or facetious, but Echo whispers, that possibly some may be quite true! From this origin mathematicians probably selected their multiplication symbol !

As a mathematician myself, I must admit to never having thought about it quite like that, and I find myself wondering how Col. Brown would have explained the division symbol. Or maybe it is better not to ask!

(xi) Pages 91 & 92

On finishing his erotic parody of FitzGerald on p.90, Colonel Brown changes tack, and gives us two pages of poetry – p.91 consists of tessellated poems on Drinking and Fate, whilst p.92 consists of tessellated poems on Philosophy. (“Tessellated”, as we now know, means “hacked about a bit.”) These are well worth looking at as examples of Brown’s methodology, and constitute a refreshing Omarian change from eroticism.

Fig.17a shows p.91 and Fig.17b shows its continuation on p.91+. The poems by Cowley and Oldham are Anacreontics – that is, poems of Love and Wine adapted from, or in imitation of, the ancient Greek poet, Anacreon (6c); that by Rochester is ‘adapted’ by Brown from “A Dialogue between Strephon and Daphne” (6d); and that from Dryden is a “mashing together” of lines from his “Sigismonda and Guiscardo” and from two of ‘his’ translations (one was actually by his son) of the Satires of Juvenal (nos.3 & 7.)(6e) All of these, but this last in particular, show that Brown was very well–read in the poetry of the 17th century, or at least in its more risqué aspects!

Fig.17c shows p.92 and Fig.17d shows its continuation on p.92+. At first everything looks pretty much like p.91, except that we have turned from Love and Wine to Philosophy. First we have some lines from Cowley (6f) followed by some lines from Garth’s poem “The Dispensary” (6g), followed by what seems at first to be an extensive quote from Dryden. This last is a complex mashing together of lines adapted from Dryden’s “Religio Laici” (6h), but it rapidly becomes clear that, even more than usual, we are listening to Col. Brown himself, not Dryden. Here is a transcript of p.92+ (Fig.17d), which is where we suddenly find ‘Dryden’ talking about Life’s Echoes, ’Tis True, FitzGerald and Omar:

To learn what unsuspected Ancients say!
And how the Heathens came to see the truth,
Which seems obscure to Moderns, – e’en past Youth!
Witness ‘LIFE’S ECHOES’ then, in which appears
The crabbèd toil of many thoughtful years,
FitzGerald spent in paraphrasing care
Of Omar’s philosophic quatrains rare, –
A treasure which, if Middle Age would buy,
Would make his old–age leisure pleasant fly!
And Age might find at last removed the screen
From Joys, with which he’d ne’er Acquainted been!
It speaks itself, and what it does contain,
In all things, needful to be known, ’tis plain!
Though it sings true, and in a nation free
Assumes an honest layman’s liberty,
Yet if placed in the Rabble’s vulgar hand,
Methinks, its symbols few could understand!
Here we may see what errors have been made
Both in the copiers’, and translators’, trade;
Hence be not sure, that all, these have explained,
Is in the blessed original contained!
’Tis hoped, since he’s in Persian quite unskilled,
The task has been by ‘’Tis True!’ well fulfilled ? –
Though some, who quick the secret meanings guess,
May think he suffers not from bashfulness,
Yet many have been taught, – and more still may, –
Who’ve never heard this subject brought in play!
No praise does he expect, nor censure fear,
For having made mysterious Omar clear!
For, while from truth, though hid, nought herein swerves,
The subject gains th’importance it deserves!

It is not clear whether “the crabbèd toil of many thoughtful years” (from Dryden’s line 235) (6h) refers to FitzGerald or to Col. Brown himself. But the more one sees of Brown’s stitching together of snatches of verse from the various authors of his ‘Byronics’, not to mention the compiling of his own Rubaiyat, the more one realises that he must have spent a long time on Life’s Echoes. Indeed, I would guess he started it well before the 1923 of the Qayyam cover. Note also the Colonel’s confession that he is “in Persian quite unskilled” – confirming what was said earlier about him not having done any actual translation of Omar himself. Interesting, too, if rather snobbishly phrased, is that Col. Brown did not consider his book suitable for “the Rabble” (words taken from Dryden’s line 403)! It was very much for “Philosophical Bibliophiles”, as we saw earlier. Finally, Brown’s phrase “an honest layman’s liberty” comes from Dryden’s line 317, “Religio Laici” being “a Layman’s Faith” (Dryden being the Layman commenting on the religious climate of his time.)

(xii) More Brownian Shenanigans.

The wholesale liberties which Brown took with Dryden’s lines in the last section do not stand alone. The lines “after Landor” on p.128+ of Life’s Echoes (Fig.2b – the title page, remember!) are another, less severe, example. (At least the “after” gives fair warning here!) Brown’s version reads:

‘LIFE’S ECHOES’, fly, and never fear,
As men before all Beauties do!
On you none e’er will look severe, –
E’en longing prudes will gloat on you!
To interest those, to whom you’re sent,
And that you in their minds may live,
Some wanton wit is herein blent,
Knowing, ’twill please them to forgive!

The original lines of Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864), from his poem “Away my Verse”, read thus:

Away my verse; and never fear,
As men before such beauty do;
On you she will not look severe,
She will not turn her eyes from you.
Some happier graces could I lend
That in her memory you should live
Some little blemishes might blend,
For it would please her to forgive.

The poet John Gay (1685–1732) fares no better than Landor on the flyer shown in Fig.19a. Brown’s flyer reads:

Shall not ‘LIFE’S ECHOES’ int’rest men
To scan past mem’ries now and then ? –
If it lash life in style of fiction,
Is’t ‘’TIS TRUE!’’s fault or self–conviction ? –
Mankind’s it’s theme; is it to blame,
If all in morals are the same ? –
It calls no man an ape or ass;
’Tis Man’s own conscience, hold’s the glass !
Thus, void of all offence, ’tis writ;
Who sees himself, must own it’s wit !

The first two lines appear to be Brown’s own, and the rest is taken from Gay’s fable “The Dog and the Fox”, Gay’s original lines (49–56) reading thus:

If I lash vice in gen’ral fiction,
Is’t I apply or self conviction ?
Brutes are my theme. Am I to blame,
If men in morals are the same ?
I no man call an ape or ass;
’Tis his own conscience holds the glass.
Thus void of all offence I write:
Who claims the fable knows his right.

Nor is this all. Another poet ‘quoted’ by Brown on his p.93+ and again on his p.96 is named as “Say – Yes!?” It is by no means certain, but both quotes, which carry faint echoes of Aleister Crowley’s Scented Garden (on which see section xviii below), are quite possibly by Brown himself. I quote the one on p.96 as an example – it appears in the section of his Glossary devoted to one of his favourite topics, Depilation of the female genitalia:

Though I’d prefer your garden cleared,
And ready for Love’s spade,
Yet, while I’m gone, guard it with beard ? –
Love’s oasis thus shade ? –

Col. Brown was certainly not above making things up when it suited him – witness the Taj Mahal quatrain quoted in section x, and the other fourteen “Spurious” quatrains to which he admits in his Index. He was not above making up bits of ‘Byron’ either – witness this verse on p.2+ (Fig.17e):

Celestial Omar! your praise all proclaim!
On Time’s broad pinions wafted, lives your name!
Age upon age your quatrains shall admire;
No future day shall see your fame expire!

Needless to say, no such lines occur in either Leon to Annabella or Don Leon, and, in a nutshell, Col. Brown has here imposed another layer of forgery on what was already a forgery!

The other verse on p.2+ (Fig.17e) attributed to “Brown, 1721”, is similarly suspect:

Succeeding ages, as they read his lore,
Shall praise old Omar, whose works all adore!
His ‘Rubaiyat’ amazing gems unfold;
Man’s acts to–day but echo, what he told!
His verse speaks true; it’s philosophic strain
Signification doubtful should make plain!

For “Brown, 1721” read “Col. Brown, 1921”, methinks!

Incidentally, on the page facing the above verses (p.2), Brown writes that “in 1663 Butler described Hudibras in a manner which might suitably fit Omar.” Whilst the first eight lines are a direct quote from Hudibras (Part I, Canto 1, lines 119–126), and might indeed be applied to Omar the mathematician, the next four lines are clearly by Brown himself (though derived from lines 173–8 of the same Canto, I think), for they refer to the ability to calculate the:

...Altitude of Adam’s Pride! –
E’en Depth to which it Ploughs inside
The Latitude of Paradise,
And Longitude of maid’s Glad–eyes !

I decline to dwell upon what he meant by “Adam’s Pride” and what sense of “Ploughing” he had in mind, but by now I don’t think most readers will need any explanation at all from me!

Again when, at the bottom of p.20+, Brown says that “Some one wrote the following verses anonymously”, one suspects that the someone was Brown himself:

Thou hadst a secret, so our young men say,
World–weary youths who writhe and groan that they
Were born to solve the ‘Where’, the ‘How’, but tell
Us nought besides of thy strange–lilted lay.

Late from thy face the veil of darkness clears;
Thy name now rings for ever in our ears;
So that we wonder as we listen, how
We’ve done without thee this eight hundred years.

The “thou” is Omar, of course, and “the veil of darkness” surrounding his “strange–lilted lay” has been lifted by Life’s Echoes, eight hundred years after Omar’s death. Of course, it could have been written by a friend of Col. Brown’s, but I wouldn’t bet on it!

Finally, on p.124 (Fig.17f), one strongly suspects that Col. Brown has again adopted the mantle of that well–known poet Anon to produce his “Envoi!”:

‘LIFE’S ECHOES’, go! – You’ll live all censure down,
Under the banner of Love’s spread renown!
Yet, should old men, – or Prudes! – at any time
Wish to castrate your philosophic rhyme,
Your cover ought to fend oblivion’s shame,
Armed with aristocratic Omar’s name!

Fig.17f is of interest not only for its lines by Anon, but also for its demonstration of Col. Brown’s extraordinary attention to detail, for, as he tells us on p.98+ (Fig.16b):

Out of compliment to the astronomer Omar, the corners have been utilised to show the four phases of the Moon, which symbolise similar changes in women! The constellations are Boötes, Ursa Major, Virgo and Canis Major.

Granted the gibbous phase of the Moon seems to have gone awry, and three of the four constellations are not readily recognisable (Boötes is the only clear one in the top left hand corner), but the Colonel clearly put much thought into the design, even if the end product wasn’t quite what he had in mind!. By “similar changes in women”, of course, he refers to the old theory that the menstrual cycle in women is somehow governed by the moon.

(xiii) The Hidden Date of Publication

Turning briefly now to the history of Life’s Echoes, Brown had certainly begun work on it by 1923 – the date on the Qayyam cover of the book (Fig.1b) – and probably some years before that (see section xi above.) The year 1923 seems mainly to mark a round 800 years from the assumed date of Omar’s death in 1123, the date on the Omar cover (Fig.1c). In addition, 1923 was – almost – the first centenary of Byron’s death (p.24a+) – he actually died in 1824. Also, we know from Brown’s Preface (p.4) that he was in London in December 1923 to show Maggs Brothers “the nucleus” of Life’s Echoes. We know, however, that he actually completed it on October 15, 1926 – a date hand–written inside most copies (2c) of the book, and under the tipped–in plate (another of his beloved stencils) on p.24b+ at the end of his Preface (Figs.7a & 7b)! Not surprisingly, then, many people – myself included – have missed the 1926 completion / publication date, and have assumed the 1923 on the cover to be the date of publication. As we shall see later (section xvii), he also hid the copy number out of 600 under yet another stencil – the one tipped–in on p.127 (Fig.18a). Why ? I suspect the reason is linked to the reason why he seemingly hid his ‘Byronic’ verses behind the tipped–in plates – production costs. Presumably for this reason he had opted to print three rubaiyat on each Life page, so he had limited space to Echo all of them. Having the illustrations sharing the page with the Byronics effectively doubled the Echo space at his disposal, and my guess is that the hidden completion date and copy number were part of the same scheme, though with Col. Brown one can never be sure that he isn’t just being cryptic again! (Incidentally, the name and address of the Paris printers, Bishop and Garrett, are hidden under the plate tipped–in on p.125.)

(xiv) Readers’ Reactions and Reviews

Another of Brown’s flyers is of some interest here as providing some readers’ responses to their copies of Life’s Echoes (Fig.19b), albeit ones selected by the Colonel to use for advertising purposes! The first, by A.S.G., is particularly interesting for its reiteration of the idea that we have been misled by FitzGerald’s version, and that there is “some message in the original (Omar) which has not been conveyed to us.” The third is from a review by Nathan Haskell Dole in an American publication, The Evening Transcript (no date given.) After declaring that Col. Brown rivals Sir Richard Burton in his ability to find phallic symbolism in the minarets of mosques (8a), the spires of churches and even in the letters of the alphabet (8b), he nevertheless concludes that, with its “melange of...illustrative decoration,” it is “not only a curiosity but also a treasure of beauty.” (Incidentally, the discolorations showing through in Fig.19b arise from a copy of Fig.8 and a sample page from the Preface of Life’s Echoes being printed on the back of it.)

Dole also referred to Life’s Echoes in his Foreword to the 1931 edition of George Roe’s translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam thus:

Recently a retired British army officer living in France, Colonel Brown, has privately printed an elaborate and ingenious attempt to prove that nearly all of Omar’s allusions, however cryptic, are centered on phallic or sex symbolism. Nicolas and others have found in Omar’s wine the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Others take it literally. One may not go so far as Colonel Brown does, but no one can fail in admiration of the lavish illustrations, largely reproductions of rare Persian miniatures reproduced in gold and colors, which makes his Life’s Echoes so notable. (p.38–9)

It was indeed a labour of love, and one which severely strained the finances of Col. Brown. An anonymously written and undated card in the collection of Ambrose George Potter’s Rubaiyat ephemera in UCLA (2d) says this:

The author of this book ruined himself over it’s (sic) production. He sent a man specially to Omar’s tomb in order to take photographs and make drawings. Luzac was his agent in G.B. They had one copy, Mr Potter had two, but otherwise the author couldn’t get them over as he was unable to pay the printers in France.

This is interesting on several counts. Firstly, Col. Brown could afford to donate copies of Life’s Echoes to the likes of the British Library, the Library of Trinity College Dublin, and the National Library of Scotland in 1927, so he cannot have been quite so short of cash as the above note suggests. Thus Fig.20a is the letter offering a presentation copy to TCD dated 20th September 1927. In it he mentions that the normal price of a copy is fifteen guineas, which even he admits makes it “an expensive book.” (This price is also given in Fig.3f.) It is hardly surprising, therefore, that sales were not brisk, and funds were somewhat low at times! (Incidentally, he sent an identically worded letter to NLS on the same day, not illustrated here.) Secondly, we have here a mention of Mr Potter having two copies, one of which became that now in UCLA. And thirdly, the mention of sending someone to take photographs and make drawings of Omar’s tomb relates to Fig.6a, as we shall see in the next section.

(xv) Ambrose George Potter

As noted above, the UCLA copy of Life’s Echoes used here is one which once belonged to Ambrose George Potter. That in itself is of interest to any Omarian, but of even greater interest is the fact that also in the UCLA Collection (2d) is a letter from Colonel Brown to Potter (who lists Life’s Echoes as #176 in his Bibliography.) It is, like the letters in Fig.6c and Fig.20a, written from his address at Houilles, a few miles to the north–west of Paris, and is dated 1st July 1930. It thanks Potter for sending him a cheque, and expresses pleasure that he was so pleased with his copy that it would find a prominent place in his collection. (Whether Potter was just being polite here is not clear!) As the letter is of considerable interest, I quote the rest of it in full here, with pauses for comment. (The actual letter is pictured in Fig.21a & Fig.21b.) To begin with, Potter was clearly as puzzled as everyone else in finding the beginning of the book in its middle. Col. Brown replied to this puzzlement as follows:

But I am sorry that you have blamed the binder, who was only working to order! Page 24 (a) of the book gives the reason for the pagination; see also at the foot of page 22 (a) for the idea of ‘Revolvution’ ? – The proof of everything was based on the movement of the planets. Just as no one can tell when day ends and night begins, nor youth ceases and old age takes its place, nor power and impotence, nor life begins and death ends, nor existence and non–existence, so my book has no beginning nor no end! The last page touches the first page. Ordinarily the blue covers with the monograms should be as in all books, but if so placed the monograms would sooner or later be destroyed. To have put them as you would wish, would be to separate them; as I have put them, they act as a sign to show where the book begins and ends! By this system one can count and find that the pearls equal in number the quatrains in the book! see page 23 ? You don’t say if the mother–of–pearl discs on the ‘markers’ please you (Fig.1g). I have often been disgusted with the thin rotten ribbons used in most books! They could never even from their first day have been able to support the weight of the pages when turning over! At the top and bottom of the ‘backs’ you will see the pale blue and dark blue ‘rolls’ ? (cf. Figs.1e & 1f ? – see below) These also represent ‘night and day’! I had to make them myself, as no binder would give me any but ‘red and yellow’ or ‘red and green’ ! The trade articles!!! I put a sheet of dark blue paper round the ‘envelope’ because the ‘envelope’ had been spoilt slightly by oil spots when at the die–sinkers; I only got the blue sheets the day before I sent off the book, and had no time to re–cover the ‘envelopes.’ I hope you find the binding well done ? I would like to know how it compares with english work ? I now am able to send you copies of one of the panels, which decorate the tower of the shrine at Naishapur (Fig.22); I don’t think they have ever before been published! I have 7 more, which I am not able to reproduce owing to the cost, though I hope to be able to do so, if the public will help me a bit! I am now having a photo of the tower enlarged, so as to be able to prepare a picture for reproduction in colour ! If it materialises, it wil be a fine thing! I also send you a bad photo of a chinese god of generation; page 98 shows a classification of males (p.98+, Fig.16b): many people probably have laughed at the idea as being cranky, but I am now able to produce and actual idol showing a bull in the act with a girl! (Fig.23) I will also have this idol reproduced later on! The blurry effect is due to the reflection of the gold. I have also seen for sale in Paris a stallion in the same position! But I could not afford to buy both idols! Funnily enough the Brahmins have a similar classification, which reads (a) Elephants, (b) Bulls, (c) Deer, and (d) Hares! The persians did not have elephants in their classification, as there are no elephants in Persia!

The first puzzling thing about this is that it implies that the copy which Col. Brown had sent off to Potter had its covers in the middle of the book, as in Fig.1a (the hardback version), whereas the copy Potter actually received (ie as it is now in UCLA) had its covers on the outside of the book, as in Figs.1e & 1f (the paperback version.) Brown’s reference to “the pale blue and dark blue ‘rolls’” is rather puzzling, but if the word ‘roll’ is being used here in the unusual sense of a turned–back edge, he may be referring to the pale blue binding strips of Figs.1e & 1f. If so, this would be in reference to the paperback version. (That these ‘rolls’ are “at the top and bottom of the ‘backs’” rather than at the edges would be explained by the fact that the book has to be read whilst turned on its side.) However, Brown’s mention of the ribbons and mother–of–pearl discs also indicates that he is talking about the hardback version, since these do not seem to have been included with the paperback version.

One possibility is that Potter, like the NLS (and presumably others), received a paperback copy with a dust–jacket bearing instructions for the re–location of the covers in the event of re–binding (Fig.3f.) This would perhaps explain why Brown’s letter to Potter seems to talk about both the paperback and hardback versions. But of course we have no direct indication of this, either in the letter to Potter or anywhere else, and in any case, it still leaves unanswered the twin questions of a) why the paperback copies weren’t bound with their covers in the middle in the first place, and b) who bound the hardback copies (DT1 & GG) which did have their covers in the middle, even if not quite where Col. Brown intended! It is also possible, I suppose, that the ribbons and mother–of–pearl discs were sent with the paperback copies, to be used in the (presumed ?) event of re–binding as a hardback, but again we have no indication of this, crucially not even on the dust–cover of the NLS copy (Fig.3f), so it is merely a guess which at least explains some of the facts.

Col. Brown’s references to his p.22a and p.24a do provide some clarification, if that is the right word, of the beginning of the book being in its middle. On p.22a+ he tells us that Omar recognised the ‘Wheel–of–Fate’ (cf. the Notes on verse 14) and its perpetual movement, but realised that he could not see the ‘End of the Secret’ (of Existence.) “The Planets, night–and–day, life–and–death, all proved his theory – that Nature’s law is recurring and eternal – in fact, Revolvution in contradistinction to intermittent and spasmodic Evolution.” (p.22a+) The intended binding of his book with the covers in the middle and its bizarre pagination are supposed to be similarly Revolvutional (to use Brown’s own neologism.) He writes (p.24a):

Mohammedan books are read from right to left; ‘LIFE’S ECHOES’, in order to be consistent and original, is bound so that it must be read in Muhammadan style. To symbolise Nature’s Law of Revolvution, on which Omar laid such stress, the beginning and the end are joined and hid in the centre; thus a cylindrical roll is formed, illustrating the restless–desire–for–change...

As Douglas Taylor has pointed out, the “cylindrical roll” nature of the book is given additional emphasis by the fact that it is printed on ‘accordion–folded’ paper, forming, in effect, a complete circle with its beginning and end in the middle of the book. Unfortunately, in flattening out the ‘cylinder’ into book form with the beginning and end in the middle, Brown simply created more beginnings and ends than if he had stuck to a regular book format in the first place!

But getting back to the letter to Potter, Col. Brown’s erotic inclinations are here apparent in his references to a Chinese god of generation and an idol of a bull “in the act with a girl,” shown here as Fig.23, this being another item in the UCLA Collection of Potter Ephemera (2d) which Brown must have sent to him some time after this letter was written. As indicated at the end of section vii Col. Brown did send out illustrations that were not intended to plug the gaps created by missing plates, but were intended to supplement the book – Fig.23 being one such. Again, in a letter to TCD, dated 11th February 1930 (Fig.20b), he enclosed a woodcut from a 1728 edition of the poetical works of William Pattison (3c), to supplement his comment on perspective on p.98+ (Fig.16b). The NLS was also sent a copy of the Pattison woodcut, with an identical covering letter, sent on the same date (not reproduced here.)

But of particular interest here as regards Brown’s practice of sending additional illustrations is the mention in his letter to Potter of the panels of the tower of the shrine at Naishapur. These panels are also mentioned in the letters to NLS (Fig.6c) and TCD (Fig.20b), the latter adding the detail that the tomb of Omar is annexed to the shrine. What is particularly interesting is that Fig.22, which is in the UCLA Collection of Potter Ephemera (2d), is so similar to Fig.6a, the plate tipped–in to the TCD, NLS & BOD copies on p.81+, and which is where it should be, as we know from letters to the NLS (Fig.6c) and BOD. This is the plate missing from the other five of the eight copies used here, remember, and the plate which demonstrates that copies of Life’s Echoes were indeed sent out with missing plates, Col. Brown intending to send the plates on later when circumstances (funds being one of them) permitted. To recap, the plate sent on to be tipped–in on p.81+ some three years after publication is meant to illustrate the panels on the shrine at Naishapur, to which shrine the tomb of Omar is annexed.

It seems odd at first glance that Brown gave the title of the plate on p.81+ as “a Muhammadan’s grave” in his index of illustrations (p.118+; Fig.3b) But this does fit, for the shrine at Naishapur is that of Mohammed Marook, the brother of the eighth imam, so it is certainly “a Mohammedan’s grave,” the tomb of Omar being annexed to it in a sort of ‘Poets’ Corner,’ as William Simpson put it in the account of his famous visit to Omar’s tomb. Simpson even mentioned the coloured tiles with which the tomb of Mohammed Marook was decorated.(9) Interestingly, Brown didn’t say anything about p.81+ in his letter to Potter, possibly as a result of which, as Fig.6b shows, that wasn’t where Potter put his copy! (There remains, of course, the question of whether Potter was sent Fig.22 instead of a copy of Fig.6a, as was sent to TCD, NLS & BOD, or as well as Fig.6a – Brown does use the word “copies” plural in his letter. However, only Fig.22 is known to have been sent to Potter, and he never put it anywhere in his copy at all, it simply remained loose in his collection of ephemera!)

As indicated in section vii, Potter’s ‘maverick’ UCLA copy was really a result of the book being sold with plates missing, for Potter decided to fill the spaces in his copy (10) with Persian / Indian art–work taken from at least three other books (2b)! Thus Fig.6b, from a London Medici Society publication, is a Persian miniature relating to one of the seven coloured pavilions of King Bahram, on which see my verse–by–verse notes on FitzGerald’s verse 17. Fig.4f (A Game of Polo) & Fig.14c (Bahram Gur), also from the Potter / UCLA copy, are clearly from the same source of Persian miniatures (2b). All three, via Polo and Bahram, are related to FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat, to be sure, but they bear no relation to Brown’s Rubaiyat on the pages facing them, or to the titles given in Brown’s Index of Illustrations (p.118–9)!

Col. Brown continued his letter to Potter by saying, “I will put off my annual visit to London till the beginning of Sepr., so as to be able to meet you and see your grand collection.” Unfortunately, we do not have any record of such a visit, or any indication that it ever actually took place. Col. Brown went on:

If all would look at the book as you do, it might soon be sold, and allow me to bring out some other things! The difficulty is to find the class of people, who can afford such a book; then the idea, that it is a ‘translation’ of the ‘Rubai’iyat’ is wrong, for it is only the echoes of most men’s lives, based on an Omaresque foundation! As such it is quite new, and not in any way a copy of existing stuff! Mr Sterling is delighted with his copy!

In other words, as we have already seen, Col. Brown didn’t translate Omar’s Rubaiyat so much as offer an erotic interpretation of some of Omar’s quatrains in the style of FitzGerald (and in many instances borrowing heavily from his wording), giving himself a pretty free leeway in the process. Col. Brown went on:

I am continually being advised to reduce the price, but I say “NO!” Of course I could, like FitzGerald, let it go for a song, or burn it, but why ? – Many, who have got presentation copies on the promise that they would help me in selling it, will now find their copies without value, owing to their not having the reproductions of the panels of the Naishapur shrine!

Though this isn’t as specific as one would like, it seems to be threatening that if the receivers of presentation copies do not help to promote Life’s Echoes, they will not receive their copy of Fig.6a / Fig.22 to tip–in to their copy of the book. This presumably explains its absence in copies DT1 & 2; GG and BL, though why the BL should miss out, whilst TCD, NLS and BOD did receive copies, is not known. (It is perhaps worth noting, though, that on file in the NLS are a couple of letters from William K. Dickson, the librarian at the time, which are at least politely appreciative of Col. Brown’s efforts. Perhaps others were not so appreciative or encouraging!) Be that as it may, Col. Brown continued:

One man here, who bought a copy, has cut out the monograms and verses, and had them mounted on white leather as a binding for his copy! I think, the monograms will not be there long! While mine will last as long as the book lasts! I hope, you have written your name in the owners page! Only yesterday I have been able to have a rich man’s library photographed; from the photo I hope to get an artist to make me a picture on copper for reproduction as a book–plate: four artists have failed to give me what I want! All artists will draw rooms, which show an angle; I specially want a room, in which the mantel–piece is centred! But it all costs money, and everyone thinks, that fine things can be had for a song! America has disappointed me! But rich Americans have been so robbed, that they are now afraid of buying unless some dealer of repute backs the thing sold! Of course dealers have come into a good thing! Well now you must be tired of me ? so good–bye!

There the letter ends, with Brown signing himself off as “Your unacquainted acquaintance.” (Note that the flyer in Fig.19a ‘echoes’ what Col. Brown says in his letter about American book–dealers!)

(xvi) The Monograms on the covers of Life’s Echoes

We should perhaps devote a little space at this point to the monograms on which Col. Brown lays so much stress. One cover (Fig.1c) bears an elaborate monogram of the name Omar, the date 1123 (at one time held to be the year that Omar Khayyam 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!

This is presumably a cryptic reference to breaking the spell of the “spurious pearls” of FitzGerald’s version via his own “forbidden” (sexual) interpretation. (My initial reaction to this verse, on first coming across Life’s Echoes, was that the “spurious pearls” were Brown’s own quatrains, and that this verse was a sort of confession to a literary hoax or joke! But the Colonel does seem to have been serious!)

The other cover bears an elaborate monogram of the name Qayyam (Fig.1b) and the date 1923 (the eighth centenary of Omar’s supposed death in 1123 and – almost – the first centenary of Byron’s), together with the following 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!

The word mis–FitzGeralded presumably relates to Col Brown’s correction of what he sees as FitzGerald’s misinterpretation of Omar’s verses.

This latter verse is reminiscent of the lines by James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), quoted in numerous editions of The Rubaiyat, but first published as one of three quatrains under the title “In a Copy of Omar Khayyam”, in Lowell’s collection Heartsease and Rue (1888):

These pearls of thought in Persian gulfs were bred
Each softly lucent as a rounded moon;
The diver Omar plucked them from their bed;
FitzGerald strung them on an English thread.

Whether these lines did act as a source of inspiration for Col. Brown is not clear, but as we saw in sections xi and xii above, it is certainly possible that they are “after Lowell”, but with no mention of Lowell!

As Brown indicates in his Preface (p.23+) and in his letter to Potter, the number of ‘pearls’ surrounding the monograms and verses on the covers matches the number of verses in his version of The Rubaiyat. And, ’tis true! For 31 pearls surround the Omar Monogram; 45 pearls make up the surround of the Qayyam Monogram; each of the verses on the covers has a surround consisting of 60 pearls, and 31 + 45 + 60 + 60 = 196, the number of quatrains in the Rubaiyat section of Life’s Echoes.

Finally, the two shades of blue used on the covers of Life’s Echoes are symbolic, the pale blue (turquoise) and dark blue (lapis lazuli) being representative of the sky of day–time and sky of night–time respectively, this being done “to honour the astronomer Omar.” (p.99) Note again the light blue binding strip in Figs.1e & 1f, which presumably follows the same colour code.

(xvii) The Dedication

One cryptic reference of Col. Brown’s which remains cryptic – insofar as no–one has yet come up with a convincing explanation – centres on p.127 (Fig.18a) and in the first instance on p.127+ (Fig.18b), which bears the inscription “VYA”, the central Y being larger than the V and the A, and with “’tis your’s!” beneath. Now the latter illustration is surely the one to which Brown refers in his Index (p.119; Fig.3c) as “Dedication, frame from an old Qoran.” If this is a dedication, though, what do the letters VYA signify ? At first I thought it might be a cryptic dedicatory message to the owner of the book – Your Voyage Awaits, with emphasis on You, the central Y, for example, or View Ye All, taking the letters in order. But then it dawned on me that the letters VYA might after all be the initials of a specific person to whom Brown dedicated his book in the traditional way, for on p.98+ of his Glossary (Fig.16b), where he gives some additional notes on his illustrations, he says this of p.127:

The ‘dedication’, copied from a page of an old Qoran, is probably the least sentimental and the simplest which exists! The name of the dedicatee is as uncommon, as it is ‘chic’! She, being aged eight years, personifies Youth, in paradoxical contrast to Omar, who, dying at plus eighty, represents Old–Age!

Make of that what you will. Douglas Taylor wonders if it indicates that the name of the young girl dedicatee was Yva, which is not a common name, and is arguably ‘chic’, to boot. But why write it in that VYA formation? Was her name, perhaps, something like Yva Vance Agnew, so that her initials also spelt out Yva ? Who knows ? Meanwhile, as Fig.18a shows, opposite the Dedication is another of Brown’s collection of stencils, of which we have already seen several. This one, though, merits no mention either in his index of illustrations on p.119 (Fig.3c) or in his Glossary notes on the illustrations. Not only that, but when it is lifted up, it reveals underneath the details of the number of the copy out of the 600 published (Fig.18c). Brown no more tells his readers this than he tells them that the finishing / publication date of the book is hidden under the tipped–in stencil on p.24b+ (Fig.7a & Fig.7b)! And no, there isn’t any further clue about the Dedication hidden under Fig.18b, for that image is printed directly onto the page.

(xviii) Aleister Crowley

It remains only to mention Col. Brown’s association with Aleister Crowley. On p.14+ of his preface to Life’s Echoes, Brown does quote Crowley’s humorous depiction of a Sufi in his Bagh–i–Mu’attar, this being the Persian title of The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz. (11a) In a Persian–style format, it is a mixture of prose and verse which purports to be a Sufi–inspired mystical work whose message is expressed through homoerotic symbolism. To give him his due, Crowley cleverly frames his verse in couplets following the ghazal rhyming pattern AA, BA CA, DA etc, and even incorporates an acrostic of his name read backwards into the initial letters of the lines of ghazal no.42, the last in the book. In style, though, in some places it clearly owes much to the Biblical – and heterosexually symbolic – Song of Solomon, with which Crowley was certainly familiar. (11b)

The Scented Garden was privately printed, in a limited edition of only 200 copies, in London in 1910, and was offered for sale through the London Orientalist bookseller, Probsthain and Company. As with many other erotic works seeking a veneer of respectability, its prospectus made it clear that its sale was “most strictly confined to bona fide scholars of mysticism, anthropology and the like” (cf Brown’s “philosophical bibliophiles only.”) 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 (11c), probably inspired by his hero Sir Richard Burton’s similarly made–up (but non–erotic!) ‘translation’, The Kasidah of Haji Abdu el Yezdi (1880) (see Appendix 5) (11d) and possibly also by Burton’s projected Scented Garden, which was to have been his Perfumed Garden with a previously excised chapter on homosexual practices, the sexual habits of eunuchs, bestialism and other similarly delightful topics, restored. (Burton’s Scented Garden was never published by virtue of the fact that he died before he could publish it, and Lady Burton, being Lady Burton, destroyed the manuscript.) (11e)

Crowley’s book being a privately published limited edition, Brown must have got his copy either from Probsthain & Co. during one of his trips to London, or via some direct contact (in Paris ?) with either Crowley himself, or with one of his acolytes, such as Norman Mudd, some time before 1926. However, as indicated in note 19 of the Main Essay, we only know of an actual meeting between them, probably in London, in August 1929, when Crowley, in his diary, recorded a meeting with Col. R.J.R. Brown. (11f) 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. There have been 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.

Though Colonel Brown was clearly in some way fascinated by the homosexual content of both Crowley’s Scented Garden and ‘Byron’s’ Don Leon and Leon to Annabella, he himself seems to have been firmly heterosexual. In his Preface (p.22) he does mention that, in the East, “wine is served by boys, at whom guests throw improper suggestions,” adding that, “the paederastic taint is widely spread in Mohammedan nations,” but he steers clear of such things in Life’s Echoes, where, he assures us, in curiously coy phraseology, “the female sweetheart only is recognised.” (p.22) Thus, whilst Col. Brown shared Crowley’s and Byron’s pronounced heterosexual inclinations, he clearly did not share their homosexual ones.

Unfortunately, nothing further has come to light as regards the links between Col. Brown and Crowley.

(xix) Col. Brown’s death.

After 1930 little seems to be known about Col. Brown’s personal life, and he rather disappears from view. However, thanks to the ease of modern internet searches, we do know that Robert James Reid Brown, “a Retired Colonel, Indian Army,” died in Archway Hospital, Islington, London, on 23rd January, 1946, aged 82. His death certificate gives his address as 2 Tavistock Place, Holborn , a short distance from Euston Station. At some stage, then, he must have returned to England, perhaps to escape the Second World War in France (he doesn’t seem to be in the 1939 register), but of course this is merely a guess.

The facts that there seem to be no extant letters relating to Life’s Echoes from Brown dating from later than 1930; that six of the eight missing plates discussed in section vii seem never to have been sent out at all; and that none of the eight copies used here is numbered above 103 out of 600, taken together rather suggest that the book ‘fell flat,’ leaving the Colonel with a considerable number of unsold copies on his hands. It would be interesting to know what became of them.

(xx) An update.

Some time after the forgoing was written I was lucky enough to acquire my own copy of Life’s Echoes. This copy lacks completely the covers shown in Fig.1b & Fig.1c. They appear neither at the front & back of the book, as with the British Library Copy, nor in the middle of the book, as Col. Brown planned (Fig.1a & Fig.3e.) In fact, the book appears never to have been bound at all, but has tapes in preparation for the attachment of either covers or binding, as shown in Fig.27a & Fig.27b. In addition, this copy lacks the signature of ’Tis True! and the date 15.10.1926 underneath the tipped–in plate on p.24b+ (they are usually present as shown in Fig.7a & Fig.7b.) Other than that, this copy is identical to the British Library copy described above – ie it is missing the plates on p.33+, p.35+, p.40+, p.49+, p.60+, p.65+, p.66+ and p.81+, which are indexed as being there on p.118–119, as detailed in section vii.

Now, this copy is no.212 out of 600, this number being given underneath the tipped–in plate on p.127, and this perhaps gives us a clue as regards answering the question raised at the end of section xix. As detailed in note 2a, the eight copies used in the present essay were numbered 33, 48, 84, 85, 99, 100, 101 and 103, and all had the covers of Fig.1b & Fig.1c, be they in the middle of the book or at its front & back. My copy bears a number well above these. Given its lack of covers, and given the absence of the signature of ’Tis True! and the date 15.10.1926 on p.24b+, this perhaps suggests that copy 212 was one of the unsold ones which turned up, via an unknown route, on the French ebay site from which I acquired it in September 2016. Hopefully more such copies will come to light in due course to clarify the situation further, but at the moment it looks like Col. Brown may only have sold or donated at most about 200 copies of Life’s Echoes out of a projected 600. If so, some 400 copies must have remained unsold, and this must surely have been a financial disaster for Col. Brown. This is presumably what was indicated by the anonymously written and undated card from A.G. Potter’s collection of Rubaiyat ephemera, quoted in section xiv above: “The author of this book ruined himself over its production &c.”


Note 1a: From the Register of Baptisms Solemnised at Saugor. This gives Brown’s date of baptism as June 26th 1863 and his date of birth as May 24th 1863, the latter in a column headed “Said to be born.” This seems to be just a misprint, for his date of birth is given in at least two other documents as April 24th 1863, not May 24th – his Application for a Queen’s Indian Cadetship is one, and an entry in The Quarterly Indian Army List for January 1, 1912 is another. It is safe to assume, then, that April 24th is the correct date of birth.

Note 1b: We do know, however, that his sister was called Caroline, that she was Caroline Toughill by marriage, and that she was killed in a motor accident during the retreat from Serbia in 1915 (Report in The Scotsman, 25th December 1915.)

Note 1c: Here and in what follows my account is based Rob Clark’s expert search through the Indian Army Lists, The London Gazette and the annual Confidential Reports on Officers, housed in the British Library. It was Rob, too, who unearthed for me the information in note 1b above, and also the copy of Brown’s Application for a Queen’s Indian Cadetship.

Note 1d: The Indian General Service Medal (1854) was awarded with clasps depending on the campaign(s) in which the soldier had served. The medal was never issued without a clasp, and there were 24 clasps in all, some of them earned outside India, in Burma (as in Colonel Brown’s case) or Persia. The obverse of the medal bore the bust of Queen Victoria (updated in 1896) and the reverse bore the figure of Victory crowning a seated warrior with a laurel wreath, the whole rendered in distinctly classical style. Colonel Brown’s award would have looked like Fig.24, with the two clasps on the medal’s ribbon as shown, one for service in Burma 1885–7 and the other for service in Burma 1887–9. Strictly speaking, the name of the medal was always the Indian General Service Medal (1854), but this particular award is sometimes dubbed the Third Burma War Medal.

Note 1e: From the Register of “Marriages Solemnized at St. Thomas Cathedral, Bombay, within the Archdeaconry & Diocese of Bombay in the Year of our Lord 1911.”

Note 1f: We know from the ship’s passenger list that a “Brown, Robt. James” (name abbreviated to fit in the Names column), age 59, and “retired”, set out from London to Bombay aboard the Mulbera on 3rd November 1922. His last address in the UK was listed as “c/o Thos. Cook E.C.” (ie a mailbox in London, East Central); his Country of last Permanent Residence (= at least one year in duration) was marked in the “Foreign Countries” column (hence not the UK, Ireland, or any British Possessions); and his Country of Intended Future Permanent Residence was listed as France. This is presumably a sighting of Colonel Brown ‘in transit’.

Note 2a: Of the three in private ownership, Douglas Taylor owns two copies, one he calls his ‘de–luxe’ hard–back edition (DT1), which is copy no.100, and the other he calls his ‘paperback’ edition (DT2), which is copy no.33. Garry Garrard owns one hard–back copy (GG), which is copy no.99, and whose binding (Fig.1d & Fig.1g) matches that of DT1 exactly, which rather suggests that this is an original binding. Of the five copies in library collections, the British Library has one hard–bound copy (BL), which is copy no.85, but this binding was done by the British Library itself in 1930, as is specifically indicated by a bindery date stamp in the back. In reality it is a ‘paperback’ copy like DT2. The copy in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin (TCD), which is copy no.101, the copy in the National Library of Scotland (NLS), which is copy no.103, and the copy in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (BOD), which is copy no.48, are all ‘paperbacks’. Finally, the copy in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA.) which, according to the UCLA library catalog, was the one formerly owned by Ambrose George Potter, is also a ‘paperback’, being copy no.84.

To recap, all six paperback copies just mentioned are bound so as to have front cover Fig.1e and back cover Fig.1f (viewed Western–style!), the light blue strip being part of the binding. The two hardback copies have the covers in the middle of the book as in Fig.1a.

Finally, the TCD and NLS copies both retain a cream–coloured dust–wrapper on which are written notes in pencil. That of the NLS copy bears the inscription transcribed in Fig.3f, and this is covered in some detail in section iii That on the TCD copy is mostly undecipherable because it is so faded, though a reference to p.24a, the date 10.10.27 (that on the NLS copy) and the signature of “R.J.R. Brown, Colonel” are just about visible, suggesting that its contents were originally much the same as the NLS copy.

Note 2b: In the UCLA copy, the illustrations tipped–in by Potter on pages 35+, 40+, and 49+ seem to be from a British Museum publication relating to Mughal Art, and those on pages 33+, 60+ (Fig.4f), 66+ (Fig.14c) and 81+ (Fig.6b) from a Medici Society, London, publication relating to Persian Art. The plate he tipped–in on the tissue–guard of p.49+ is from a third book, one published by Oxford University Press.

Note 2c: Mostly, as in Fig.7b, we find the signature of ‘’Tis True!’ and the date 15.10.1926. In the TCD copy we have, in addition, “Presented to the Dublin University by the Author” and similarly in the NLS copy, “Presented to the National Library of Scotland by the Author.” The BOD copy, though, is different, in that it bears the inscription “‘’Tis True!’ presents this copy to the Bodleian Library Oxford with many thanks.” The usual 15.10.1926 is missing, though the book is accession stamped 11th Nov 1926. Different again is copy DT1, which bears the inscription, “To Mr T. Ll. Bishop with many thanks to commemorate the successful and careful completion of ‘Life’s Echoes’”, with the signature R.J.R. Brown. (Bishop & Garrett were the printers of Life’s Echoes – see Fig.3f, for example. T = Tom & Ll. = Llewellyn – he was born in England in 1874 and moved to Paris, probably sometime in the late 1890s.)

Note 2d: The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) acquired a substantial portion of Potter’s collection in 1951. Consisting mainly of ephemera, the “Collection of Material about Omar Khayyam (Collection 378). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA” is stored in five boxes, the first four containing varying numbers of folders with varying numbers of contents, and the fifth containing loose sample illustrations and music scores relating to The Rubaiyat. The folders are not numbered, but they are titled, and all the items mentioned in this article are stored in Box 2, in the folder labelled “Potter, A.G. Miscellaneous.”

Note 3a: John Dryden (1631–1700), Robert Herrick (1591–1674) and the Earl of Rochester (1647–1680) will be familiar names to most readers, Abraham Cowley (1618–1667), John Oldham (1653–1683), and others possibly less so.

Cowley wrote a set of amatory verses, very popular in their day, under the title of The Mistress (1647) – despite, it is said, never having found the courage to actually declare his love for a real woman during his lifetime. He also wrote eleven poems in the style of the ancient Greek poet of Love and Wine, Anacreon, again popular in their day, dubbing them his Anacreontics, and thus originating the modern term for such poems. He also wrote an Elegy upon Anacreon, who was choked by a Grape-stone, spoken by the God of Love.

Oldham, who was a friend of both Dryden and Rochester, wrote the curiously titled poem “A Satire upon a Woman who, by her Falsehood and Scorn, was the Death of my Friend”, and another titled “A Satire against Virtue.” He also wrote verses imitative of classical authors, including Anacreon, Bion, Horace, Juvenal and Ovid.

Brown also ‘quotes’ from the politician and poet Edmund Waller (1606–1687) on p.95+, adapting the lines “Take heed, fair Eve! You do not make / Another tempter of this snake” (from his poem “To a Fair Lady, playing with a Snake”) to give “Take care, fair Eve! me you don’t make / Your tempter ? – as was Eden’s snake!”

He also quotes the clergyman and poet John Pomfret (1667–1702) on p.96+. The lines “Love is the monarch passion of the mind, / Knows no superior, by no laws confined!” are lines 23–4 of “Strephon’s Love for Delia Justified.”

For physician and poet Samuel Garth (1661–1719), see note 6g below.

Col. Brown obviously had a particular liking for English poetry of the 17th and 18th centuries, and was clearly well read in it.

Rochester was far and away the most sexually explicit of all these poets, who, for the most part, restricted themselves to heaving bosoms, the occasional glimpse of thigh, and crumbling virtue. Rochester, in contrast, wrote a satirical poem called “Signior Dildo”; treated his readers to a graphic account of the orgies encountered on “A Ramble in St. James’s Park”; and, in his poem “The Imperfect Enjoyment”, detailed the attendant embarrassments of premature ejaculation. But, of course, since Col. Brown was avowedly quoting only “unobjectionable matter” (p.24a+), much of Rochester’s work was a no–go area, though he was doubtlessly familiar with far more than he quoted.

Note 3b: One of the most interesting of the more modern authors is Laurence Hope, the pseudonym of Adela Florence Nicolson (née Cory), whom Brown quotes twice, on p.96 and p.96+. She was born in England in 1865 and educated there, but in 1881 she joined her parents in Lahore, in India – her father was a colonel in the Indian Army. In 1889 she married Colonel Malcolm Hassels Nicolson of the Bengal Army, and they settled in Madras. Her first book of poems was The Garden of Kama and other Love Lyrics from India (1901), and for a long time it was naturally assumed that the author was a man. It was also assumed by many that the Love Lyrics, described on the title page as “Arranged in Verse by Laurence Hope”, were translations from some undisclosed native sources, though there is no evidence that she herself ever claimed this, and in fact the poems, which became hugely popular and ran through many editions, were entirely her own work. After spending some time in North Africa, her second book of verse appeared, Stars of the Desert (1903), and this too became very popular. Following her husband’s death in 1904, Nicolson fell into deep depression, to which she was prone, and within two months had committed suicide. She was only 39 years old. The quote on Brown’s p.96 is from the very end of “The Court of Pomegranates” in Stars of the Desert and the quote on p.96+ is the first verse of “Request” in The Garden of Kama, but with the last two lines changed from, “Come, as a Sultan may caress a slave / And then forget forever, utterly” to “Come, as a Sultan may caress a slave, / Be loved, – and then forget me utterly ? –”

Perhaps not surprisingly, on his p.17+, Col. Brown quotes from the 1887 edition of The Rose Garden of Persia by Louisa Stuart Costello (1799–1870); on his p.20+ he quotes from the poem “To Omar Khayyam” – actually no.21 of Letters to Dead Authors – by Andrew Lang (1844–1912); and on his p.21 he quotes from the poem “On Reading the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in a Kentish Rose Garden” by Mathilde Blind (1841–1896.) All of these are actual quotes with no Brownian adjustments (though the second of Miss Costello’s verses has become a little mangled.) There are also direct quotes from Thomas Moore’s Intercepted Letters or the Twopenny Post–Bag (no.VI), first published in 1813, on p.13, and from Tennyson’s poem “The Two Voices”, first published in 1842, on p.15+.

Note 3c: William Pattison (1706–1727) is not exactly a household name today. He was educated at Sidney College (now Sidney Sussex College), Cambridge, but left without taking his degree (he was in imminent danger of being sent down anyway), and headed to London to become a poet. This so disgusted his father that he cut off his allowance and refused to speak to him ever after. As a result, Pattison found himself a very poor and hungry poet, but, perhaps because some of his poetry showed promise, and perhaps also because some of it was of a mildly erotic nature, he was soon discovered and rescued from his dire straits by Edmund Curll, the notorious bookseller, pirate publisher, scandal–monger, purveyor of pornography, and thorn in the side of Alexander Pope, with whom he had multiple long–running disputes. (Such is the reputation of Curll, at any rate. In fairness to the man, though, alongside the likes of The Parson’s Daughter, Pleasures of Coition, and Venus in the Cloister he did also publish various creditable works on Antiquities.) It was Curll, or rather his son, Henry, who, in the year following Pattison’s death from smallpox at the early age of 21, published The Poetical Works of Mr William Pattison (1728) and Cupid’s Metamorphoses (1728.) Col. Brown’s woodcut (Fig.20b) is a vignette on p.52 of the former. Since it seems to be there just to fill up the page on which the introductory “Memoirs of the Author” finish, its significance is not at all clear (it is quite possibly a recycled vignette from another publication of Curll’s.) Col. Brown obviously takes it as an example of “coital superimposition” drawn in perspective (Fig.16b), though quite what an eighteenth century woodcut has to do with the inability of ancient artists (Fig.20b) is far from clear, perspective having been known with geometrical exactness, at least in western art, since about the fifteenth century.

Note 4a: The Introduction of Leon to Annabella opens thus: “The following lines were found written on several loose sheets of paper in a cottage by the roadside, about a mile from the Porta all’argine, at Pisa.” No date is given for the discovery.

Note 4b: The maiden–name of Byron’s wife, Annabella, was Milbanke, but her parents were also Lord and Lady Noel. Annabella added Noel to her name on her mother’s death in 1822. Legally, by matrimonial settlements, Byron would share in his mother–in–law’s estate, but only if he also added Noel to his name. Is this the origin of Don Leon ? And is it just a coincidence that 1822 is said to be the year in which ‘Byron’ wrote the Don Leon poems in Pisa ?

Note 4c: The break–up of Byron’s marriage in 1816 is shrouded in mystery, and many reasons have been given for the sudden decision by Annabella to leave her husband – a decision almost certainly made under pressure from both her parents and her former governess, Mrs Clermont. [Annabella’s mother and Mrs Clermont both had a particular dislike of Lord Byron, though in Leon to Annabella, ‘Byron’ clearly absolves her mother (line 187), and blames only an unnamed “serpent she” (line 185), who is presumably Mrs Clermont.] Unreasonable behaviour and psychological abuse (as we would now call them); financial problems; fears for Lord Byron’s sanity; an extra–marital affair with an actress; pre–marital incest with his half–sister, Augusta; his homosexual / bisexual inclinations; and marital sodomy have all been adduced in various combinations. It is the last two of these alleged reasons which make the Don Leon poems of such key interest, of course, though whether what they tell is true or not is another matter!

Note 4d: The author of both is assumed by many to be the dramatist and writer of scurrilous satirical verses, George Colman the Younger (1762–1836), who was a drinking companion and thus confidant of Byron. See, for example, Bernard Grebanier, The Uninhibited Byron (1971), p.31–2, p.65–6, p.76–82, & p.239–244, which follows G. Wilson Knight’s book Lord Byron’s Marriage: the Evidence of Asterisks (1957), ch.5 (also his articles, “Who wrote ‘Don Leon’ ?” & “Colman and ‘Don Leon’” in The Twentieth Century, July 1954, p.67–79 & June 1956, p.562–573 respectively.) Doris Langley Moore, in her Lord Byron – Accounts Rendered (1974), Appendix 2, p.445ff, disputes Wilson Knight’s conclusions, however, but declines to name her own candidate for authorship, partly because she had lost her notes about it (p.452) – I am told she left them on a bus! Others believe the author to have been John Cam Hobhouse (1786–1869), the better–known friend of Byron. See, for example, Peter Cochran’s excellent articles on the two poems on the Newstead Abbey Byronic Society website. Given Hobhouse’s known and severe disapproval of Byron’s homosexual inclinations, however, this doesn’t seem to me to be very likely, unless Hobhouse was a repressed homosexual, for which there is little or no evidence beyond his undoubted love for Byron!

Note 4e: Though there are known to have been earlier editions of both poems [see, for example, Wilson Knight’s book, cited in note 4d above, p.232; also Samuel C. Chew, Byron in England (1965) p.173–4 & p.177–8], I myself have never seen any, and not a single copy of the 1830s originals seems to have survived (though see Chew, p.173 n.3). The only extant and widely known edition, containing both poems together, is the one cited, which bears the lengthy title: Don Leon: a Poem by Lord Byron, author of Childe Harold, Don Juan, &c., &c., and forming Part of the Private Journal of his Lordship, supposed to have been entirely destroyed by Thos. Moore; to which is added, Leon to Annabella, an Epistle from Lord Byron to Lady Byron (London, 1866.) (Fig.25) Curiously, though the title page of the book bears the date 1866, the title page of the Leon to Annabella section still bears the date 1865, as well as the pagination, of an earlier, separate edition. The footnotes to Don Leon – 63 pages of them! – again have separate pagination, and it is also a fact that many of them are later additions to / embellishments of any original ones, for several are actually dated to the 1840s and 1850s. The 1866 edition was reprinted for subscribers only by The Fortune Press in 1934, and again by Fowey Rare Books in 1995. The complete text of both poems, though, in a downloadable pdf format, can be found with Peter Cochran’s articles cited in note 4d above, and the text of Don Leon can be found in an appendix to Grebanier’s book, also cited in note 4d. Wilson Knight’s book (p.169–197) gives an excellent guided tour of both poems, with extensive quotes and commentary. Chew, however, is very coy as regards most of the contents!

Note 4f: For the benefit of the curious, the 16 lines in Fig.4e are formed from Don Leon lines 761–8, then lines 1023–6, then lines 769–70, then lines 341–2, and rounding off with lines 383–4! Such a complex “mashing together” of these ‘Byronic’ lines demonstrates, at the very least, that Brown went to considerable pains in his work, misguided though many of us might think the end–product to be.

Note 4g: There are, it is true, some Omarian elements in Don Leon, as in lines 47–8:

Death levels all; and, deaf to mortal cries,
At his decree the prince or beggar dies.

Or in lines 97–8:

Where’s Memphis? Wherefore in Persepolis
Do jackals scream, and venomed serpents hiss?

Or again, in lines 775–6:

God, like the potter, when his clay is damp,
Gives every man, in birth, a different stamp.

There are also complaints against “Mother Church” (line 109) and “the wiles of priestcraft” (line 1407); against Biblical teachings (lines 81ff) and God (lines 757ff & 1231ff.) But to go from these to Col. Brown’s view requires a giant leap of the imagination for most people. The main theme of Don Leon is, after all, ‘Byron’s’ confession of his homosexuality / bisexuality and his condemnation of society’s hypocritical intolerance of such inclinations. There is no similar Omarian content in Leon to Annabella.

Note 4h: The context of this in Don Leon is that Annabella asks ‘Byron’ to tell her of his travels in the East and “of strange and jealous men / In secret harems who their consorts pen ” (lines 1055–6.) When ‘Byron’ tells her about those husbands who turn to boys for sexual gratification, Annabella is shocked: – “can male then covet male ?” she asks (line 1124.) ‘Byron’ then explains to her that Anacreon, Virgil, and Catullus had similar inclinations in Classical times, and that there is nothing wrong with it. It is this which leads to the act of marital sodomy, to which Annabella by “silence gave consent.” (line 1171)

Note 5: On p.123+ Brown attributes this translation to FitzGerald, but in actual fact it comes from Johnson Pasha’s translation of The Dialogue of the Gulshan–i–Raz: or Mystical Garden of Roses of Mahmoud Shabistan with selections from the Rubaiyat of Omar–i–Khayam (Trübner & Co., London, 1887; Potter #332), p.55. There are various later reprints of this – Potter #333 (1898) & #334 (1908), for example.

Note 6a: Brown began with lines 1239–44 of Don Leon:

How oft in dreams, that ape the hour of bliss,
Our passions wander, ’till we wake, and miss
The lovely phantom, clasp’t in our embrace,
And find a lost emission in its place!
Then turn thee round, indulge a husband’s wish,
And taste with me this truly classic dish.

The last two lines, a reference to Byron’s marital sodomy, were dropped by Brown as potentially objectionable, and he turned to Leon to Annabella to complete his Echo, this being a fusion of lines 205–6:

Thus, through the night doubt combatted with grief;
Morn came, but brought my sorrow no relief.

and lines 211–2:

Though silenced oft, some voice still seemed to cry, –
“Thy wife is false to Love’s freemasonry!”

Again these lines refer specifically to Byron’s marital relations (on which more in note 6b below), but Col. Brown has adapted them to refer either to a generic sexual partner or perhaps to some episode in his own love–life.

Note 6b: Brown began with lines 1245–60, thus:

Who that has seen a woman wavering lie
Betwixt her shame and curiosity,
Knowing her sex’s failing, will not deem,
That in the balance shame would kick the beam ?
Ah, fatal hour, that saw my prayer succeed,
And my fond bride enact the Ganymede.
Quick from my mouth some bland saliva spread
The ingress smoothed to her new maidenhead,
The Thespian God his rosy pinions beat,
And laughed to see his victory complete.
’Tis true that from her lips some murmurs fell –
In joy or anger, ’tis too late to tell;
But this I swear, that not a single sign
Proved that her pleasure did not equal mine.
Ah, fatal hour! for thence my sorrows date:
Thence sprung the source of her undying hate.

The reference here is to Byron’s sodomy with his wife, Annabella, and whether or not she actually enjoyed the experience of “enacting the Ganymede.” (According to Roman mythology, the beautiful youth Ganymede was carried off to heaven by an eagle, in the words of Lemprière’s Classical Dictionary, “to satisfy the unnatural desires of Jupiter.”) It is accepted by many that it was this act of sodomy which became a key factor in Byron’s separation (see note 4c above.) To soften this section of Don Leon, and render it “unobjectionable”, Brown kept the first four lines, altering “wavering” to “wishing”; edited out the next six lines, with their explicit reference to marital sodomy; slightly re–worded the next four lines so that they applied to a generic partner rather than Annabella; deleted the last two lines, which referred to Annabella’s “undying hate” for Lord Byron; then dragged down a slightly re–worded version of lines 826–32 to round things off. The original lines 826–32 read:

Unmoved, to save that film – a maidenhead;
Which modern virtue is so used to slight,
It hardly serves to make rich gudgeons bite.
For things when new, not always will command
A price as great as when they’re second hand.
So good Cremona fiddles sell for more,
Which amateurs have played upon before.

Note 6c: Brown’s tessellation of Cowley is pretty faithful to the full version of the original, “Anacreontics No. 2 – Drinking”, with only minor re–wordings. That of Oldham tessellates lines 1–8, 25–30, 33–4, 42–5 & 49–55, with minor re–wordings, of his “Ode of Anacreon, paraphras’d.”

Note 6d: Brown has reworked the following lines (29–32) from “A Dialogue between Strephon and Daphne”:

Nymph, unjustly you inveigh:
Love, like us, must fate obey.
Since ’tis nature’s law to change,
Constancy alone is strange.

Note 6e: Brown’s tessellation here is more complex. His first four lines come from John Dryden’s “Sigismonda and Guiscardo” (lines 495–8); the next two lines, with a bit of re–wording in the second, from Charles Dryden’s translation of Juvenal’s 7th Satire (lines 268–9); and the last two lines from John Dryden’s translation of Juvenal’s 3rd Satire (lines 73–4.) [Both translations of Juvenal are originally from The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis, translated into English Verse by Mr Dryden and Several other Eminent Hands (London 1693). John Dryden only translated Satires 1, 3, 6, 10 & 16. Charles Dryden was his eldest son.]

Note 6f: The first two lines are based on lines 49–50 of Cowley’s translation of Virgil’s Georgics (II.458ff), which appeared in his Essays, in Verse and Prose (No.4, “On Agriculture.”) I have not traced Brown’s second two lines, so they may in fact be by him!

Note 6g: The physician and poet Samuel Garth (1661–1719) is known today mainly for his poem The Dispensary, which was basically a complaint against the greedy apothecaries of his day and the corrupt physicians in league with them This seems an unlikely source for Col. Brown, but nevertheless he here makes use of the first of its six cantos. Actually, Brown’s ‘Garth’ text is a mashing together of lines from Canto 1. The first two lines are a Brownian adaptation of lines 46–7, the original reading, “Why paler Looks impetuous Rage proclaim, / And why chill Virgins redden into Flame.” Brown then uses, in order, lines 32–5 (the original line 35 reading, “To slake a feav’rish Heat with ambient Show’rs”; lines 58–9 (a direct quote); and lines 66–7 (another direct quote.)

Note 6h: It would take up too much space to enter into the full details of Brown’s mashing together of bits of Dryden’s poem, but it is worthwhile to see how he has got some bits. For example, Brown’s four lines beginning “Witness ‘LIFE’S ECHOES’” are derived from lines 234–7 of Dryden, thus:

Witness this weighty Book, in which appears
The crabbed Toil of many thoughtfull years,
Spent by the Authour, in the Sifting Care
Of Rabbins old Sophisticated Ware.

Again, Brown’s reference to copiers and translators come from lines 248–9 of Dryden:

Where we may see what Errours have been made
Both in the Copiers and Translaters Trade.

Finally, Brown’s reference praise and censure is based on lines 452–3 of Dryden:

Thus have I made my own Opinions clear:
Yet neither Praise expect, nor Censure fear.

Note 7: This reference to the virgin (with a small v) of Gloucester is a puzzle. St. Arilda, who died in defence of her chastity, could certainly be described as the Virgin (with a capital V) of Gloucester, but she is hardly famous, and her relevance here, assuming that she is intended, is not at all clear. There are many more famous Virgin Martyrs Brown could have cited who died in defence of their chastity, such as St Lucy and St. Winefride. Perhaps, then, this reference is to a less saintly virgin from a secular setting, perhaps in a bawdy folk song or poem ? [There are at least two limericks about “a young maiden from Gloucester”, but neither of these seems a likely source for Brown’s reference.]

Note 8a: Not only is the minaret phallic, but Col. Brown assures us that the Arab word for Cairo, El Qahira, means “the powerful upright One” (p.93+.) The domes of a mosque, meanwhile, “represent female breasts, the ‘mons veneris’, and the gland of the male organ.” (p.100) Presumably this gives us some insight into the way Col. Brown saw, and intended his readers to see, the likes of Fig.5b and Fig.10b, where we have both domes and minarets aplenty!

Note 8b: Dole here refers to various things: firstly, to the Arabic letter Alif (ا) which is basically just a single vertical stroke of the pen, as shown. In his Glossary (p.93+), Brown has it as an obvious phallic symbol, but also as “a symbol of the pre–puberty female organ.” Secondly, on p.97+, having proved, at least to his own satisfaction, that the word TAMAM when written in Persian letters “clearly shows the humorously erotic jest of Nature’s unceasing disturbance of the male organ,” Brown writes:

Thus human lust, the planetary system, and the Persian alphabet, are ingeniously co–related, forming Omaresque taunts, typically satirical, astronomical, and philosophical!

Thirdly, on p.100 of his Glossary, under the heading Moon, Brown writes:

In Persian writing short–sound vowels are never written. The Persian letter ‘n’ is written ‘ن’, and is pronounced ‘noon’ the Persian word for moon, when in its crescent form is written (Persian) and also pronounced ‘noon’! the Persian word for the female organ in its usable state is also ‘noon’! Hence Persian wits see in the letter ‘n’ ‘ن’ an emblem of the post–puberty female organ, the dot being the clitoris!

Note 9: See The Autobiography of William Simpson, R.I. (Crimean Simpson) edited by George Eyre–Todd (London, 1903), p.305–6. It is here that Simpson gives his account of taking three hips off the rose bushes near to Omar’s tomb, these being subsequently planted at Kew, with a cutting from the result being transplanted to the head of FitzGerald’s grave at Boulge, Suffolk.

Note 10: As an interesting aside, though hardly evidence of anything, tipping–in seems to have been something of a Potter family tradition, for in the British Library is a copy of Cornelius Nicholson’s Scraps of History of the Northern Suburb of London (1879) with numerous additional illustrations tipped–in by its former owner, George Potter, the father of Ambrose George. [The British Library has two copies of Nicholson, but it is the one with shelf–mark 010348.ff.22 which contains the inserts by George Potter.] Not only that, but father and son shared a passion for collecting ephemera – Ambrose George collecting Rubaiyat ephemera, much of his collection ending up in UCLA (2d), whilst his father collected ephemera relating to Highgate and its environs, the bulk of his collection ending up in the BL.

Note 11a: This is one of the rarest of Crowley’s works, its title–page being reproduced here as Fig.26. A facsimile edition of it, with a useful introduction by Martin P. Starr, was published by Teitan Press, Chicago, in 1991, but even this is quite rare. However, the complete text in a downloadable pdf format is readily available online. Brown’s ‘quote’ is an edited and slightly reworded version of lines from Crowley’s 1910 edition, p.103. Brown softened Crowley’s phrase “while stands my member” to the less explicit “while I have vigour.”

Note 11b: Crowley, in the guise of Major Lutiy, specifically mentions the Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon, or Canticles) on p.10 of his Introduction, and on the following page ‘quotes’ ch.5, v.4 of it, giving it an anally erotic sense, thus: “My beloved put his hand by the hole, and my bowels were moved in me.” (It should read: “My beloved put his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.” The hole of the door was that through which the beloved could unlock the door and enter the house; “my bowels were moved for him” is roughly the equivalent of the modern expression “I felt butterflies in my stomach as he turned the key in the lock.”) In Crowley’s Scented Garden, El Qahar corresponds to Solomon, and El Qahar’s male lover, Habib, corresponds to Solomon’s female lover, the Shulamite. [For those not familiar with it, the Song of Solomon is the strangest of the canonical works of the Old Testament, in the sense that it is actually a collection of Hebrew love–songs, and not by Solomon at all. It appears to have earned its place in the Bible by virtue of the fact that it can be symbolically interpreted as having a religious meaning. In Christian literature, for example, the love of Solomon for the Shulamite is interpreted as the love of Christ for his Church, and whole commentaries on the text have been written on this basis.]

Note 11c: In The Confessions of Aleister Crowley – an Autohagiography, ed. by John Symonds & Kenneth Grant (Penguin 1969; 1979), we read:

Persian fascinated me more than any other language had ever done and I revelled in the ideas of the Sufis. Their esoteric symbolism delighted me beyond measure. I took it into my head to go one better than my previous performance in the way of inventing poets and their productions.

I spent most of my time writing ghazals, purporting to be by a certain Abdullah al Haji (Haji, with a soft “h”, satirist, as opposed to Haji with a hard “h”, pilgrim) of Shiraz. I caused him to flourish about 1600 A.D., but gave to the collection of his ghazals the title Bagh–i–Muattar (The Scented Garden), which implies the date 1906, the value of the Arabic letters of the title adding up to the equivalent of that year of the Hegira. I also invented an Anglo–Indian major to find, translate and annotate the manuscript, an editor to complete the work of that gallant soldier (killed in South Africa) and a Christian clergyman to discuss the matter of the poem from the peculiar point of view of high Anglicanism. (p.451)

The Anglo–Indian major was Major Lutiy, of course, and the Christian clergyman was one Reverend P.D. Carey. Crowley had a rather grandiose view of his work, with echoes of the philosophical nature of Burton’s Kasidah:

The book itself is a complete treatise on mysticism, expressed in the symbolism prescribed by Persian piety. It describes the relations of God and man, explains how the latter falls from his essential innocence by allowing himself to be deceived by the illusion of matter. His religion ceases to be real and becomes formal; he falls into sin and suffers the penalty thereof. God prepares the pathway of regeneration and brings him through shame and sorrow to repentance, thus preparing the mystical union which restores man to his original privileges, free will, immortality, the perception of truth and so on. (p.451)

He went on:

I put the last ounce of myself into this book. My previous efforts in the same direction would have deceived nobody, but the Bagh–i–Muattar, despite my inability to produce the Persian original – my excuse was that it was rare and held the most sacred and most secret, but was being copied for me – persuaded even experienced scholars that it was genuine. It was issued by Probsthain & Co., by private subscription, in 1910. I have heard of a copy changing hands at fifty guineas. (p.451–2)

It would be interesting to know who the “experienced scholars” were!

It is a pity that we don’t have a confession from Burton about his Kasidah comparable to that from Crowley about his Bagh–i–Muattar.

Note 11d: The pseudo–translation by Crowley under the pen–name Major Lutiy of a non–existent manuscript by a fictional Abdullah al Haji certainly does invite a comparison with the pseudo–translation by Burton of a non–existent manuscript (the Kasidah) by a fictional Haji Abdu el Yezdi, of which we know Crowley was a fan. In Tobias Churton’s Aleister Crowley (2012) is quoted a letter from Crowley to Gerald Kelly, sent from Calcutta, and dated 31st October 1905:

My views are changing in many ways – it is in a very limited sense that I can call myself a Buddhist. If you have not read Burton’s Kasidah, do – even if it costs you an effort. It seems to me pretty well the ultimate of human wisdom, as distinguished from my own advance after the possible. (p.113)

Crowley was a great admirer of Burton, as a man as well as a literary figure. In Confessions he refers to Burton as one of “the great men of the world” who “have stood up and taken their medicine” (p.59); as “my hero” (p.166, p.327 & p.461); as an example of those rare people who have “any spark of individuality”, and are generally badly treated by the world as a result (p.338); and as “a supreme master” of travel–writing (p.375.) Again, when Crowley ‘went native’ in India, in his quest to enter the rock temples of Madura, he saw himself as taking “a leaf out of Burton’s book” (p.255), and he even had it in mind to emulate Burton’s famous journey to Mecca, though he never actually did so (p.388.) Indeed, Burton, “the perfect pioneer of spiritual and physical adventure,” is one of the three “Immortal Memories” to whom Confessions is dedicated (the other two are Oscar Eckenstein and Allan Bennett.)

Note 11e: On The Scented Garden as a follow–up to The Perfumed Garden, and Lady Burton’s horrified attitude to it, see Frank McLynn, Burton: Snow upon the Desert (1990), p.357–8.

Note 11f: See Tobias Churton, Aleister Crowley (2012), p.318–9. The relevant part of Crowley’s diary entry for 24th August 1929 says simply: “Met again Col. R.J.R. Brown 12 bis rue du Maréchal Joffre. Flouiller S[eine]–et–O[ise]. He came in at 6. [?]” As can be seen from Col. Brown’s various letters (eg Fig.20a), Flouiller should read Houilles. According to Churton, Crowley’s quoting of Col. Brown’s address does not necessarily indicate that the meeting took place there, it being merely a record of where Col. Brown lived. Churton believes it more likely that the meeting actually took place in London.


My particular thanks here must go to Douglas Taylor, both for supplying much information about his two copies of Life’s Echoes, and for sharing his notes on the UCLA copy and the UCLA collection of Potter’s Ephemera, most particularly as regards the letter from Col. Brown to Potter. Garry Garrard has likewise been of great help in supplying details of his copy. I must thank the staff of several libraries for patiently answering questions about their copies of Life’s Echoes: Jo Maddocks, Rare Books Reference Specialist, at the British Library; Simon Lang, Higher Library Assistant in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections at the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, who also supplied the images of the two letters from Col. Brown to the library; James Mitchell, Curator of Rare Books and Music at the National Library of Scotland, who also supplied the images of the surviving dust–wrapper of their copy and of the letters from Colonel Brown to the library; Lucy Evans of the Special Collections Department of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, who supplied an image of a letter from Colonel Brown to the library; and last but not least, Julie Jenkins of the Library Special Collections at UCLA. Finally, I must again thank Rob Clark for his services in tracking down some of the less accessible details of Colonel Brown’s military career.


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