THE ADVENTURES OF HAJJI BABA OF ISPAHAN
ILLUSTRATED BY H.R. MILLAR
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY THE HON. GEORGE CURZON, M.P.
MACMILLAN AND CO. LONDON AND NEW YORK
All rights reserved.
In the first decade of the present century Persia was for a short time the pivot of the Oriental interest of English and Indian statesmen. But little known and scarcely visited during the preceding century, it suddenly and simultaneously focussed the ambitions of Russia, the apprehensions of Great Britain, the Asiatic schemes of France. The envoys of great Powers flocked to its court, and vied with each other in the magnificence of the display and the prodigality of the gifts with which they sought to attract the superb graces of its sovereign, Fath Ali Shah. Among these supplicants for the Persian alliance, then appraised at much beyond its real value, the most assiduous and also the most profuse were the British, agitated at one moment by the prospect of an Afghan invasion of India, at another by the fear of an overland march against Delhi of the combined armies of Napoleon and the Tsar. These apprehensions were equally illusory; but while they lasted they supplied the excuse for a constant stream of embassies, some from the British sovereign, others from the viceregal court at Calcutta, and were reproduced in a bewildering succession of Anglo-Persian Treaties. Sir John Malcolm, Sir Harford Jones, Sir Gore Ouseley, and Sir Henry Ellis were the plenipotentiaries who negotiated these several instruments; and the principal coadjutor of the last three diplomats was James Justinian Morier, the author of "Hajji Baba."
Born and nurtured in an Oriental atmosphere (though educated at Harrow), he was one of three out of four sons, whom their father, himself British Consul at Constantinople, dedicated to the Diplomatic or Consular service in Eastern Europe or in Asia. His Persian experience began when at the age of twenty-eight he accompanied Sir Harford Jones as private secretary, in 1808-1809, on that mission from the British Court direct which excited the bitter jealousy and provoked the undignified recriminations of the Indian Government. After the Treaty had been concluded, James Morier returned to England, being accompanied by the Persian envoy to the Court of St. James, who figures in this narrative as Mirza Firouz, and whose droll experiences in this country he subsequently related in the volume entitled "Hajji Baba in England." While at home, Morier wrote the first of the two works upon Persia, and his journeys and experiences in and about that country, which, together with the writings of Sir John Malcolm, and the later publications of Sir W. Ouseley, Sir R. Ker Porter, and J. Baillie Frazer, familiarised the cultivated Englishman of the first quarter of this century with Persian history and habits to a degree far beyond that enjoyed by the corresponding Englishman of the present day. Returning to Persia with Sir Gore Ouseley in 1811-12 to assist the latter in the negotiation of a fresh Treaty, to meet the novel situation of a Franco-Russian alliance, Morier remained in Tehran as charge d'affaire after his chief had left, and in 1814 rendered similar aid to Sir H. Ellis in the conclusion of a still further Treaty superseding that of Ouseley, which had never been ratified. After his return to England in 1815, appeared the account of his second journey. Finally, nearly ten years later, there was issued in 1824 the ripened product of his Persian experiences and reflections in the shape of the inimitable story to which is prefixed this introduction. "Hajji Baba" at once became a favourite of the cultured reading public, and passed speedily through several editions. That popularity has never since been exhausted; and the constant demand for a new issue is a proof not merely of the intrinsic merit of the book as a contemporary portrait of Persian manners and life, but also of the fidelity with which it continues to reflect, after the lapse of three-quarters of a century, the salient and unchanging characteristics of a singularly unchanging Oriental people. Its author, having left the Diplomatic service, died in 1849. The celebrity of the family name has, however, been revindicated in more recent diplomatic history by the services of his nephew, the late Sir Robert Morier, who died in 1893, while British Ambassador at St. Petersburg.
James Morier was an artist as well as an author. The bulk of the illustrations in his two journeys were reproduced from his own drawings; and he left upon his death a number of scrap-books, whose unpublished contents are, I believe, not unlikely to see the light. In the Preface to the second edition of Hajji Baba he also spoke of 'numerous notes which his long residence in Persia would have enabled him to add,' but which his reluctance to increase the size of the work led him to omit. These, if they ever existed in a separate form, are no longer in the possession of his family, and may therefore be presumed to have ceased to exist. Their place can now only be ineffectually supplied, as in the present instance, by the observations of later travellers over the familiar ground, and of inferior gleaners in the same still prolific field.
Such was the historic mise-en-scene in which James Morier penned his famous satire. I next turn to the work itself. The idea of criticising, and still more of satirising, a country or a people under the guise of a fictitious narrator is familiar in the literature of many lands. More commonly the device adopted is that of introducing upon the scene the denizen of some other country or clime. Here, as in the case of the immortal Gil Blas of Santillane, with whom Hajji Baba has been not inaptly compared, the infinitely more difficult plan is preferred of exposing the foibles of a people through the mouth of one of their own nationality. Hajji Baba is a Persian of the Persians, typical not merely of the life and surroundings, but of the character and instincts and manner of thought of his countrymen. And yet it is from his lips that flows the delightful stream of naive confession and mordant sarcasm that never seems either ill-natured or artificial, that lashes without vindictiveness, and excoriates without malice. In strict ratio, however, to the verisimilitude of the performance, must be esteemed the talents of the non-Oriental writer, who was responsible for so lifelike a creation. No man could, have written or could now write such a book unless he were steeped and saturated, not merely in Oriental experience, but in Oriental forms of expression and modes of thought. To these qualifications must be added great powers of insight and long observation. James Morier spent less than six years in Persia; and yet in a lifetime he could scarcely have improved upon the quality of his diagnosis. If the scenic and poetic accessories of a Persian picture are (except in the story of Yusuf and Mariam and a few other instances) somewhat wanting, their comparative neglect is more than compensated by the scrupulous exactitude of the dramatic properties with which is invested each incident in the tale. The hero, a characteristic Persian adventurer, one part good fellow, and three parts knave, always the plaything of fortune—whether barber, water-carrier, pipe-seller, dervish, doctor's servant, sub-executioner, scribe and mollah, outcast, vender of pipe-sticks, Turkish merchant, or secretary to an ambassador—equally accepting her buffets and profiting by her caresses, never reluctant to lie or cheat or thieve, or get the better of anybody else in a warfare where every one was similarly engaged in the effort to get the better of him, and equipped with the ready casuistry to justify any transgression of the moral code, Hajji Baba never strikes a really false chord, or does or says anything intrinsically improbable; but, whether in success or adversity, as a victim of the roguery of others, or as a rogue himself, is faithful to a type of human character which modern times and a European surrounding are incapable of producing, but which is natural to a state of society in which men live by their wits, where the scullion of one day may be the grandee of the next, and the loftiest is not exempt from the extreme vicissitudes of fortune, and in which a despotic sovereign is the apex of a half-civilised community of jealous and struggling slaves.
Perhaps the foibles of the national character upon which the author is most severe are those of imposture in the diverse and artistic shapes in which it is practised by the modern Persian. He delights in stripping bare the sham piety of the austere Mohammedan, the gullibility of the pilgrims to the sacred shrines, the sanctimonious humbug of the lantern-jawed devotees of Kum. One of his best portraits is that of the wandering dervish, who befriends and instructs, and ultimately robs Hajji Baba, and who thus explains the secrets of his trade:—
'It is not great learning that is required to make a dervish; assurance is the first ingredient. By impudence I have been a prophet, by impudence I have wrought miracles, by impudence I have restored the dying to health—by impudence, in short, I lead a life of great ease, and am feared and respected by those who, like you, do not know what dervishes are.'
Equally unsparing is his exposure of the reputed pillars of the Church, mollahs and mushteheds, as illustrated by his excellent stories of the Mollah Bashi of Tehran, and of the mollah Nadan. He ridicules the combined ignorance and pretensions of the native quacks, who have in nowise improved since his day. He assumes, as he still might safely do, the venality of the kadi or official interpreter of the law. He places upon the lips of an old Curd a candid but unflattering estimate of the Persian character, 'whose great and national vice is lying, and whose weapons, instead of the sword and spear, are treachery, deceit, and falsehood'—an estimate which he would find no lack of more recent evidence to corroborate. And he revels in his tales of Persian cowardice, whether it be at the mere whisper of a Turcoman foray, or in conflict with the troops of a European Power, putting into the mouth of one of his characters the famous saying which it is on record that a Persian commander of that day actually employed: 'O Allah, Allah, if there was no dying in the case, how the Persians would fight!' In this general atmosphere of cheerful rascality and fraud an agreeable climax is reached when Hajji Baba is all but robbed of his patrimony by his own mother! It is the predominance in the narrative of these and other of the less attractive aspects of Persian character that has led some critics, writing from the charitable but ill-informed distance of an English arm-chair, to deprecate the apparent insensibility of the author to the more amiable characteristics of the Iranian people. Similarly, though doubtless with an additional instigation of ambassadorial prudence, Sir Harford Jones-Brydges, Morier's own chief, wrote in the Introduction to his own Report of his Mission to the Persian Court these words:—
'One may allow oneself to smile at some of the pages of "Hajji Baba"; but it would be just as wise to estimate the national character of the Persians from the adventures of that fictitious person, as it would be to estimate the national character of the Spaniards from those of Don Raphael or his worthy coadjutor, Ambrose de Lamela.... Knowing the Persians as well as I do, I will boldly say the greater part of their vices originate in the vices of their Government, while such virtues as they do possess proceed from qualities of the mind.'
To this nice, but, as I think, entirely affected discrimination between the sources respectively of Persian virtues and vices, it might be sufficient answer to point out that in "Hajji Baba" Morier takes up the pen of the professional satirist, an instrument which no satirist worthy of the name from Juvenal to Swift has ever yet dipped in honey or in treacle alone. But a more candid and certainly a more amusing reply was that which Morier himself received, after the publication of the book, from the Persian envoy whom he had escorted to England. This was how the irritated ambassador wrote:
'What for you write "Hajji Baba," sir? King very angry, sir. I swear him you never write lies; but he say, yes—write. All people very angry with you, sir. That very bad book, sir. All lies, sir. Who tell you all these lies, sir? What for you not speak to me? Very bad business, sir. Persian people very bad people, perhaps, but very good to you, sir. What for you abuse them so bad?'
There is a world of unconscious admission in the sentence which I have italicised, and which may well stand in defence of Morier's caustic, but never malicious, satire.
There is, however, to my mind, a deeper interest in the book than that which arises from its good-humoured flagellation of Persian peccadilloes. Just as no one who is unacquainted with the history and leading figures of the period can properly appreciate Sir Thomas More's "Utopia," or "Gulliver's Travels," so no one who has not sojourned in Persia, and devoted considerable study to contemporary events, can form any idea of the extent to which "Hajji Baba" is a picture of actual personages, and a record of veritable facts. It is no frolic of imaginative satire only; it is a historical document. The figures that move across the stage are not pasteboard creations, but the living personalities, disguised only in respect of their names, with whom Morier was brought daily into contact while at Tehran. The majority of the incidents so skilfully woven into the narrative of the hero's adventures actually occurred, and can be identified by the student who is familiar with the incidents of the time. Above all, in its delineation of national customs, the book is an invaluable contribution to sociology, and conveys a more truthful and instructive impression of Persian habits, methods, points of view, and courses of action, than any disquisition of which I am aware in the more serious volumes of statesmen, travellers, and men of affairs. I will proceed to identify some of these personages and events.
No more faithful portrait is contained in the book than that of the king, Fath Ali Shah, the second of the Kajar Dynasty, and the great-grandfather of the reigning Shah. His vanity and ostentation, his passion for money and for women, his love of flattery, his discreet deference, to the priesthood (illustrated by his annual pilgrimage, in the garb of penance, to the shrine of Fatima at Kum), his royal state, his jewels, and his ambrosial beard, form the background of every contemporary work, and are vividly reproduced in these pages. The royal processions, whether in semi-state when he visited the house of a subject, or in full state when he went abroad from the capital, and the annual departure of the royal household for the summer camp at Sultanieh, are drawn from the life. Under the present Shah they have been shorn of a good deal of their former splendour. The Grand Vizier of the narrative, 'that notorious minister, decrepit in person, and nefarious in conduct,' 'a little old man, famous for a hard and unyielding nature,' was Mirza Sheffi who was appointed by Fath Ali Shah to succeed if Ibrahim, the minister to whom his uncle had owed his throne, and whom the nephew repaid by putting to death. The Amin-ed-Dowleh, or Lord High Treasurer, 'a large, coarse man, and the son of a greengrocer of Ispahan,' was Mohammed Hussein Khan, the second personage of Court. Only a slight verbal change is needed to transform Hajji Baba's master, Mirza Ahmak, the king's chief physician into Mirza Ahmed, the Hakim Bashi of Fath Ali Shah. Namerd Khan, the chief executioner, and subsequent chief of the hero, whose swaggering cowardice is so vividly depicted, was, in actual life, Feraj Ullah Khan. The commander of the King's Camel Corps, who had to give up his house to the British Elchi, was Mohammed Khan. The Poet Laureate of the story, Asker Khan, shared the name of his sovereign, Fath Ali Khan; and the story of his mouth being filled on one occasion with gold coins, and stuffed on another with sugar-candy, as a mark of the royal approbation, is true. The serdar of Erivan, 'an abandoned sensualist, but liberal and enterprising,' was one Hassan Khan; and the romantic tale of the Armenians, Yusuf and Mariam, down to the minutest details, such as the throwing of a hand-grenade into one of the subterranean dwellings of the Armenians, and the escape of the girl by leaping from a window of the serdar's palace at Erivan, is a reproduction of incidents that actually occurred in the Russo-Persian war of that date. Finally, Mirza Firouz Khan, the Persian envoy to Great Britain, and the hero of "Hajji Baba in England", is a portrait of Mirza Abul Hassan Khan, a nephew of the former Grand Vizier, who visited London as the Shah's representative in 1809-10, and who was subsequently sent on a similar mission to Petersburg. This individual made a considerable sensation in England by his excellent manners and witty retorts, among which one is worthy of being quoted that does not appear in Morier's pages. When asked by a lady in London whether they did not worship the sun in Persia, he replied, 'Oh yes, madam, and so would you in England too, if you ever saw him!'
The international politics of the time are not without their serious place in the pages of "Hajji Baba." The French ambassador who is represented in chapter lxxiv. as retiring in disgrace from Tehran, was Napoleon's emissary, General Gardanne, who, after his master had signed the Peace of Tilsit with the Tsar, found a very different estimate of the value of the French alliance entertained by the Persian Court. The English embassy, whose honorific reception is described in chapter lxxvii., was that of Sir Harford Jones. The disputes about hats, and chairs, and stockings, and other points of divergence between English and Persian etiquette, are historical; and a contemporary oil-painting of the first audience with the Shah, as described by Morier, still exists on the walls of the royal palace of Negaristan in the Persian capital. There may be seen the portraits of Sir Harford Jones and Sir John Malcolm, as well as of General Gardanne, grouped by a pardonable anachronism in the same picture. There is the king with his spider's waist and his lordly beard; and there are the princes and the ministers of whom we have been reading. The philanthropic efforts of the Englishmen to force upon the reluctant Persians the triple boon of vaccination, post-mortem examinations, and potatoes, are also authentic.
Quite a number of smaller instances may be cited in which what appears only as an incident or an illustration in the story is in reality a historical fact. It is the case that the Turcoman freebooters did on more than one occasion push their alamans or raids as far even as Ispahan. The tribe by whom Hajji Baba is taken captive in the opening chapters is seemingly rather the Yomuts beyond Atrek River than the Tekke Turcomans of Akhal Tekke. I have myself ridden over the road between Abbasabad and Shahrud, where they were in the habit of swooping down upon the defenceless and terror-stricken caravans; and the description of the panic which they created among vastly superior numbers of Persians is in nowise exaggerated. The pillar of skulls which Aga Mohammed Shah is represented as having erected in chapter vii. was actually raised by that truculent eunuch at Bam in Persian Beluchistan, and was there noticed by an English traveller, Sir Henry Pottinger, in 1810. I have seen the story of the unhappy Zeenab and her fate described a review of "Hajji Baba" as more characteristic of the seraglio at Stamboul than of the harem at Tehran. This is an ignorant remark; for this form of execution was more than once inflicted during the reign of Fath Ali Shah. At Shiraz there still exists a deep well in the mountain above city, down which, until recently, women convicted of adultery were hurled; and when I was at Bokhara in 1888 there had, in the preceding year, been more than one case of execution by being thrown from the summit of the Minari-Kalan or Great Minaret. It is an interesting but now well-nigh forgotten fact that the Christian dervish who is represented in chapter lix. as publicly disputing with the mollahs in a medresseh at Ispahan, and as writing a refutation of the Mohammedan creed, was no other than the famous Henry Martyn, who created a prodigious sensation by the fearlessness of his polemics while at Shiraz, and who subsequently died at Tokat, in Asiatic Turkey, in 1812. The incidental mention of the great diamond or 'Mountain of Light' that was worn by Fath Ali Shah in one of his bazubands or armlets, though historically inaccurate, is also of interest to English readers; since the jewel alluded to is the Daria-i-Nur or Sea of Light, the sister-stone to the Koh-i-Nur or Mountain of Light, which, in the previous century, had been carried from Persia to Afghanistan, and in this century passed through the hands of Runjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, into the regalia of the British crown. The 'Sea of Light' is still at Tehran.
In two respects the Persia of "Hajji Baba" differs notably from the Persia of to-day. The national, and still more the court dress, as depicted by him, have been considerably modified. The Kashmir shawls and turbans, and the red-cloth gaiters, which were de rigueur at the court of Fath Ali Shah, are now only seen at the salams or official levees of Nasr-ed-Din Shah. Nor does the young dandy of modern Tehran wear the lofty black sheepskin kolah or hat, indented at the top and stuck on sideways, as described by Morier. A lower and less pretentious variety of the same head-gear adorns the brow of the fin de siecle Iranian gallant. Secondly, the Tehran of "Hajji Baba" has been transmogrified almost out of existence; and, in particular, the fortified Ark or Palace of the earlier Kajars, with its watch-towers and the open porch over the gates in which the king sat to see reviews, and the lofty octagonal tower from which Zeenab was thrown, have been entirely obliterated in the more spacious architectural reconstruction of the reigning Shah.
Unchanged, however, are those customs by which now, as then, the royal coffers require to be replenished or the royal purse relieved by the application of a judicious spur to the backward generosity of the subjects of the King of Kings. Still, as described in "Hajji Baba," is the visit of the Sovereign to any of his officials the recognised intimation that a large money equivalent is expected for the unsolicited honour. Still must the presents of the king be repaid by gifts of more than corresponding value to the bearers of the royal favour. Still is the sending of the royal khalat or dress of office adopted as an ingenious method of discharging the arrears of wages due to the royal ministers or servants. In chapter xxxiii. the sub-lieutenant to the chief executioner gives an admirable account, as true now as when penned, of the methods by which salaries are capable of being recruited in Persia; and the speech of the grand vizier in chapter lxxviii., on political morality as interpreted in that country, would, I am confident, have been enthusiastically re-echoed by every subsequent incumbent of that high office.
The art, however, in which Morier especially excels is of introducing, so to speak by a side wind, as a subordinate incident in the narrative, or as a spontaneous comment on the lips of the various dramatis personae, informing and luminous knowledge upon the local charactistics of places, or the social customs of peoples. For instance, he takes advantage of being at Meshed to bring in the passion-play of Hussein, as annually enacted by the Shiah Mohammedans in the month of Moharrem; of mentioning Herat to introduce the bad-i-sad-o-bist-ruz or famous 'wind of 120 days'; of conducting his hero to Kum, to describe the curious prescription of bast or sanctuary that still adheres to that sacred spot; and of his arrival at Bagdad, to inflict upon him the familiar pest of the Bagdad pimple. His description of camp-life among the Turcomans is only surpassed in fidelity by his corresponding picture of the vagrant existence of the border Curds; nor is there anywhere to be found a more dramatic realisation of the incidents of a nomad encampment, the arrangement and meals and etiquette, the striking of the tents, and the straggling march of the tribes with their flocks and herds, than in the narrative of the child-hood of the Curdish slave Zeenab.
It is to be noted that Morier represents her as a Yezeedi or devil-worshipper (though it is more than doubtful whether the Yezeedis could ever with justice be so described), and attributes her origin to one of the incestuous nocturnal orgies that were said to be practised by that people, and that gave rise to the epithet Chiragh Sunderun, or Lamp Extinguishers. It is to be observed, however, that in such a case Zeenab would have known her parentage on the maternal rather than on the paternal side; whereas Morier, by a curious error, represents her as knowing her father, but being in ignorance of the identity of her mother.
In different chapters of "Hajji Baba" we are further initiated into the domestic life and habits of the Persians. We learn that it is considered a mark of respect for a man to keep his hands and feet hidden beneath the folds of his dress. In two places we have mention of the profoundly Persian device of conforming with the letter, while trifling with the spirit of the religious law, by neatly ripping open a seam as a substitute for rending the fabric of a garment in token of woe. We are reminded of the prohibition from exacting interest that is imposed upon the true believer, and of the still common custom of divination by extracting a fall from the pages of Hafiz or Saadi. We may gain a good deal of information about the culinary methods of Turcomans, Persians, and Curds; the operations of the hammam or bath are disclosed to us, and we are surreptitously introduced along with the hero to the mysteries the Persian harem or anderun, and its petty existence, inane frivolity, open jealousy, and clandestine intrigue. The death and funeral of the old barber provide an opportunity for a valuable account of Persian customs upon those occasions.
Similarly the story of Yusuf and Mariam is utilised to furnish an equally interesting description of the Armenian ritual in cases of betrothal and marriage. Incidentally the return of the poet Asker from his captivity among the Turcomans acquaints us with the curious habit of bringing back a person supposed to be dead, not by the door, but through the roof; and when Hajji Baba, from the terrace of the doctor's house, listens to 'the distant din of the king's band, the crash of the drums, and the swell of the trumpets, announcing sunset,' he is alluding to a custom that has prevailed for centuries in all the Mohammedan courts of Central Asia and India, that is supposed to be a relic of extinct sun-worship, and that is still observed in seats of royal or princely rule, alike at Tehran, Ispahan and Kabul.
Mention should not be omitted, in passing, of the perfect familiarity of the author both with cultured and colloquial Persian and with the Persian classics. An Oriental metaphor, however hyperbolical, slips as easily from his lips as though it had always rested there. Quotations from Hafiz and Saadi play as large and as apposite a part in his dialogue as they do to this day in the conversation of any well-educated Asiatic who has been brought up in countries where Persian is the language of literature and fashion. No one who has not been in the East can fully appreciate the talent for self-detachment and for successful assimilation of an alien mode of thought and expression which such an exercise demands.
Nor, though this is beside the main purpose of the work, should we shut our eyes to the side-lights which are thrown upon foreign nations; and which, while they lend additional testimony to the insight of the writer, are invaluable as showing the point of view from which European institutions and customs were then and are still for the most part regarded by the Asiatic Mussulman. How amusing is the description, placed in chapter xix., in the mouth of the Chief Physician, of the main external differences between Persians and Europeans, and in the ensuing chapter, of the contemporary costume, regarded by the Persians as so improper, of the English doctor who came in the train of Sir Harford Jones. In those days the only Feringhis known to the Persians were the English, the Russians, and the French; and it no doubt was a matter of genuine surprise to the Persian ambassador to find when he arrived at Constantinople that the Franks consisted of many nations with as many kings. The Persians were particularly concerned to find out the truth about 'the infidel Boonapoort,' whose career they much admired from its supposed resemblance to that of their own hero Nadir Shah. Nor is there less humour in Hajji Baba's attempt to make progress in the study of their language by writing down the words that he heard most frequently in the conversation of the French envoys, viz. sacre, Paris, and l'Empereur. That the Persian Court was thoroughly alive to the jealous and interested struggle of the two Powers, England and France, to acquire political ascendency at Tehran, is sufficiently evident from the history of the period, but is admirably illustrated by the diplomatic argument placed in chapter lxxvi in the mouth of Fath Ali Shah. Finally, can a pupil of Party Government, and much more a member of the House of Commons, read without a delicious emotion this description of the system under which is conducted the government of the greatest empire in the world?—
'Then they have certain houses full of madmen, who meet half the year round for the purpose of quarrelling. If one set says white, the other cries black; and they throw more words away in settling a common question than would suffice one of our muftis during a whole reign. In short, nothing can be settled in the state, be it only whether a rebellious Aga is to have his head cut off and his property confiscated, or some such trifle, until these people have wrangled.'
Such are among the many merits of this admirable, and, I would fain add, immortal book. Even were the Persians be blotted out of existence as a nation, even though Tehran, and Meshed, and Shiraz were to share the fate of Persepolis and Susa, it would yet remain as a portrait of unrivalled humour and accuracy of a people who, though now in their decadence, have played an immense and still play a not wholly insignificant part in the complex drama of Asiatic politics. It is the picture of a people, light-hearted, nimble-witted, and volatile, but subtle, hypocritical, and insincere; metaphysicians and casuists, courtiers and rogues, gentlemen and liars, hommes d'esprit and yet incurable cowards. To explain the history and to elucidate the character of this composite people great tomes have been written. I am conscious myself of having added no inconsiderable quota to their bulk; but if all this solid literature were to be burned by an international hangman to-morrow, and were "Hajji Baba" and the "Sketches" of Sir John Malcolm alone to survive, I believe that the future diplomatist or traveller who visited Persia, or the scholar who explored it from a distance, would from their pages derive more exact information about Persian manners, and acquire a surer insight into Persian character, than he would gain from years of independent study or months of local residence. Together the two works are an epitome of modern and moribund Iran.
GEORGE N. CURZON.
Of Hajji Baba's birth and education.
Hajji Baba commences his travels—His encounter with the Turcomans, and his captivity.
Into what hands Hajji Baba falls, and the fortune which his razors proved to him.
Of his ingenuity in rescuing his master's money from the Turcoman, and of his determination to keep it.
Hajji Baba becomes a robber in his own defence, and invades his native city.
Concerning the three prisoners taken by the Turcomans, and of the booty made in the caravanserai.
Hajji Baba evinces a feeling disposition—History of the poet Asker.
Hajji Baba escapes from the Turcomans—The meaning of 'falling from the frying-pan into the fire' illustrated.
Hajji Baba, in his distress, becomes a saka, or water-carrier.
He makes a soliloquy, and becomes an itinerant vendor of smoke.
History of Dervish Sefer, and of two other dervishes.
Hajji Baba finds that fraud does not remain unpunished, even in this world—He makes fresh plans.
Hajji Baba leaves Meshed, is cured of his sprain, and relates a story.
Of the man he meets, and the consequences of the encounter.
Hajji Baba reaches Tehran, and goes to the poet's house.
He makes plans for the future, and is involved in a quarrel.
He puts on new clothes, goes to the bath, and appears in a new character.
The poet returns from captivity—the consequences of it for Hajji Baba.
Hajji Baba gets into the service of the king's physician—Of the manner he was first employed by him.
He succeeds in deceiving two of the faculty, getting a pill from one, and a piece of gold from the other.
He describes the manner in which the Shah of Persia takes medicine.
Hajji Baba asks the doctor for a salary, and of the success of his demand.
He becomes dissatisfied with his situation, is idle, and falls in love
He has an interview with the fair Zeenab, who relates how she passes her time in the doctor's harem.
The lovers meet again, and are very happy—Hajji Baba sings.
The history of Zeenab, the Curdish slave.
Of the preparations made by the chief physician to receive the Shah as his guest, and of the great expense which threatened him.
Concerning the manner of the Shah's reception; of the present made him, and the conversation which ensued.
A description of the entertainment, which is followed by an event destructive to Hajji Baba's happiness.
Hajji Baba meets with a rival in the Shah himself, and loses the fair object of his affections.
His reflections on the loss of Zeenab—He is suddenly called upon to exert his skill as a doctor.
Hajji is appointed to a situation under government—He becomes an executioner.
He accompanies the Shah to his camp, and gets some insight into his profession.
Employed in his official capacity, Hajji Baba gives a specimen of Persian despotism.
Fortune, which pretended to frown, in fact smiles upon Hajji Baba, and promotes him to be sub-lieutenant to the chief executioner.
Although by trade an executioner, he shows a feeling heart—He meets with a young man and woman in distress.
The history of Yusuf, the Armenian, and his wife Mariam.
Sequel of the foregoing history, and of the resolution which Hajji Baba takes in consequence.
The Armenian Yusuf proves himself worthy of Hajji Baba's confidence.
Hajji Baba gives an account of his proceedings to his superiors, and shows himself a friend to the distressed.
He describes an expedition against the Russians, and does ample justice to the cowardice of his chief.
He proceeds to the king's camp, and gives a specimen of lying on a grand scale.
He relates a horrid tale, the consequences of which plunge him in the greatest misery.
Hajji Baba meets with an old friend, who cheers him up, gives him good advice, and secures him from danger.
He takes refuge in a sanctuary, where his melancholy thoughts are diverted by a curious story.
He becomes a saint, and associates with the most celebrated divine in Persia.
Hajji Baba is robbed by his friend, and left utterly destitute; but is released from his confinement.
Hajji Baba reaches Ispahan, and his paternal roof, just time enough to close the eyes of his dying father.
He becomes heir to property which is not to be found, and his suspicions thereon.
Showing the steps he takes to discover his property, and who the diviner, Teez Negah, was.
Of the diviner's success in making discoveries, and of the resolution which Hajji Baba takes in consequence.
Hajji Baba quits his mother, and becomes the scribe to a celebrated man of the law.
The mollah Nadan gives an account of his new scheme for raising money, and for making men happy.
Hajji Baba becomes a promoter of matrimony, and of the register he keeps.
Of the man Hajji Baba meets, thinking him dead; and of the marriage which he brings about.
Showing how the ambition of the mollah Nadan involves both him and his disciples in ruin.
Hajji Baba meets with an extraordinary adventure in the bath, which miraculously saves him from the horrors of despair.
Of the consequences of the adventure, which threaten danger, but end in apparent good fortune.
Hajji Baba does not shine in honesty—The life and adventures of the mollah Nadan.
Hajji and the mollah make plans suited to their critical situation, showing that no confidence can exist between rogues.
The punishment due to Hajji Baba falls upon Nadan, which makes the former a staunch predestinarian.
Hajji Baba hears an extraordinary sequel to his adventure in the bath, and feels all the alarms of guilt.
He is discovered and seized, but his good stars again befriend and set him free.
He reaches Bagdad, meets his first master, and turns his views to commerce.
He purchases pipe-sticks, and inspires a hopeless passion in the breast of his old master's daughter.
He becomes a merchant, leaves Bagdad, and accompanies a caravan to Constantinople.
Hajji Baba makes a conquest of the widow of an emir, which at first alarms, but afterwards elates him.
He obtains an interview with the fair Shekerleb, makes a settlement upon her, and becomes her husband.
From a vender of pipe-sticks he becomes a rich Aga, but feels all the inconvenience of supporting a false character.
His desire to excite envy lays the foundation of his disgrace—He quarrels with his wife.
He is discovered to be an impostor, loses his wife, and the wide world is again before him.
An incident in the street diverts his despair—He seeks consolation in the advice of old Osman.
In endeavouring to gain satisfaction from his enemies he acquires a friend—Some account of Mirza Firouz.
He becomes useful to an ambassador, who makes him a partaker of his confidence.
Of his first essays in public life, and of the use he was to his employer.
Hajji Baba writes the history of Europe and with his ambassador returns to Persia.
The ceremony of receiving a Frank ambassador at the court is described.
Hajji is noticed by the grand vizier, and is the means of gratifying that minister's favourite passion.
Of the manner in which he turned his influence to use, and how he was again noticed by the vizier.
The conclusion—Misfortune seems to take leave of Hajji Baba, who returns to his native city a greater man than when he first left.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Hajji shaves the camel-driver.
The chaoush tells what he will do when he meets the robbers.
Hajji's master and the great Turkoman.
Hajji Baba bleeds the Banou.
Turcomans attack the caravanserai.
The prince's tent-pitcher strikes Hajji over the mouth with his slipper.
Hajji carries the great water-sack.
The dervish slays the ape.
Hajji and the disguised Mohtesib.
Hajji receives the ferosles.
Hajji is cauterised for his sprain.
The shaving of the ass.
'I pretended to receive a violent twitch.'
Hajji and Zeenab.
Hajji sings to Zeenab.
The khanum ill-treats Zeenab.
The procession of slaves before the Shah.
'An explosion took place in the very room.'
'I beheld her fair form in the air, falling down the giddy height.'
The two Russians drive back the Persians.
Death of Zeenab.
Hajji takes sanctuary.
The baked head.
'"O mercy! mercy!" cried Kior Ali.'
'To where the dead body of a Jew lay extended.'
Hajji's father dying.
The diviner and the rice.
Hajji interviews the fair candidates for marriage.
The mock marriage.
The degradation of Hajji and the mollah.
Drowning of the mollah bashi.
Hajji in the mollah bashi's house.
Hajji leaves the village hurriedly after collecting the money.
Hajji meets Osman Aga again.
The curing of Hajji Baba.
Shekerleb approaches Hajji.
Hajji curses Shekerleb and her relations.
Hajji relates his story to Mirza Firouz.
The British ambassadors and the Shah.
TO THE REV. DR. FUNDGRUBEN CHAPLAIN TO THE SWEDISH EMBASSY AT THE OTTOMAN PORTE
ESTEEMED AND LEARNED SIR, You will be astonished to see yourself addressed by one, of whose existence you are, perhaps, ignorant, and whose name doubtless long since been erased from your memory. But when I put you in mind of an English traveller, who (forgive my precision) sixteen years ago was frequently admitted to enjoy the pleasure of your conversation, and who was even honoured with a peculiar share of your attention, perhaps then you may indulgently recollect him, and patiently submit to peruse the following volumes, to which he now takes the liberty of prefixing your name.
At the time to which I allude, your precious hours were employed in searching into the very depths of hieroglyphic lore, and you were then almost entirely taken up in putting together the fruits of those your researches, which have since appeared, and astonished the world in that very luminous work, entitled "The Biography of Celebrated Mummies." I have frequently since reflected upon the debt of gratitude which you imposed by allowing me to engross so much of your time, and upon matters of comparatively trivial importance, when your mind must have been so much engaged upon those grave and weighty subjects, which you have treated with such vast learning, clearness, and perspicuity in your above-mentioned treatise. In particular I have ever borne in mind a conversation when one beautiful moonlight night, reclining upon a sofa of the Swedish palace, and looking out of those windows which command so magnificent and extensive a view of the city and harbour of Constantinople, we discussed subjects which had reference to the life and manners of the extraordinary people its inhabitants.
Excuse me for reporting back your own words; but as the subject interested me much, I recollect well the observation you made, that no traveller had ever satisfied you in his delineation of Asiatic manners; 'for,' said you, 'in in general their mode of treating the subject is by sweeping assertions, which leave no precise image on the mind, or by disjointed and insulated facts, which, for the most part, are only of consequence as they relate to the individual traveller himself.' We were both agreed, that of all the books which have ever been published on the subject, the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments" give the truest picture of the Orientals, and that, for the best of all reasons, because it is the work of one of their own community. 'But,' said you, 'notwithstanding they have been put into an European dress, weeded of their numerous repetitions, and brought as near to the level of our ideas as can be, still few would be likely to understand them thoroughly who have not lived some time in the East, and who have not had frequent opportunities of associating with its inhabitants. For,' you added, opening a volume of that work at the same time, 'to make a random observation upon the first instance which occurs here in the history of the three Calendars, I see that Anima, after having requested the porter whom she had met to follow her with his basket, stopped at a closed door, and having rapped, a Christian with a long white beard opened it, into whose hand she put some money without saying a single word. But the Christian, who knew what she wanted, went in again, and a little while after returned, bringing a large pitcher full of excellent wine.' You observed, 'that although we who lived in Turkey might know that wine was in most cities prohibited to be sold openly, and that if it was to be found it would be in the house of a Christian, many of whom disposed of it in a mysterious manner to the Mohammedans; yet that circumstance would not immediately occur to the mere European reader, who, perhaps, would expect something to be forthcoming in the future narrative, from what is, in fact, only a trait of common life.'
I then suggested, that, perhaps, if an European would give a correct idea of Oriental manners, which would comprehend an account of the vicissitudes attendant upon the life of an Eastern, of his feelings about his government, of his conduct in domestic life, of his hopes and plans of advancement, of his rivalities and jealousies, in short, of everything that is connected both with the operations of the mind and those of the body, perhaps his best method would be to collect so many facts and anecdotes of actual life as would illustrate the different stations and ranks which compose a Mussulman community, and then work them into one connected narrative, upon the plan of that excellent picture of European life, "Gil Blas" of Le Sage.
To this you were pleased to object, because you deemed it almost impossible that an European, even supposing him to have rejected his own faith and adopted the Mohammedan, as in the case of Monsieur de Bonneval, who rose to high rank in the Turkish government, and of Messrs. C—— and B—— in more modern times (the former a Topchi Bashi, or general of artillery, the latter an attendant upon the Capitan Pasha), could ever so exactly seize those nice shades and distinctions of purpose, in action and manner, which a pure Asiatic only could. To support your argument, you illustrated it by observing, that neither education, time, nor talent, could ever give to a foreigner, in any given country, so complete a possession of its language as to make him pass for a native; and that, do what he would, some defect in idiom, or even some too great precision in grammar, would detect him. 'But,' said you, 'if a native Oriental could ever be brought to understand so much of the taste of Europeans, in investigations of this nature, as to write a full and detailed history of his own life, beginning with his earliest education, and going through to its decline, we might then stand a chance of acquiring the desired knowledge.
This conversation, reverend sir, has remained treasured up in my mind; for having lived much in Eastern countries, I never lost sight of the possibility of either falling in with a native who might have written his own adventures, or of forming such an intimacy with one, as might induce him faithfully to recite them, and thus afford materials for the work which my imagination had fondly conceived might be usefully put together. I have always held in respect most of the customs and habits of the Orientals, many of which, to the generality of Europeans, appear so ridiculous and disgusting, because I have ever conceived them to be copies of ancient originals. For, who can think the custom of eating with one's fingers disgusting, as now done in the East, when two or more put their hands into the same mess, and at the same time read that part of our sacred history which records, 'He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish,' etc.? I must own, every time that, dining with my Eastern friends, I performed this very natural operation (although, at the same time, let it be understood that I have a great respect for knives and forks), I could not help feeling myself to be a living illustration of an ancient custom, and a proof of the authenticity of those records upon which our happiness depends. Whenever I heard the exclamation so frequently used in Persia, on the occasion of little miseries, 'What ashes are fallen on my head!' instead of seeing anything ridiculous in the expression, I could not but meditate on the coincidence which so forcibly illustrated one of the commonest expressions of grief as recorded in ancient writ.
It is an ingenious expression which I owe to you, sir, that the manners of the East are, as it were, stereotype. Although I do not conceive that they are quite so strongly marked, yet, to make my idea understood, I would say that they are like the last impressions taken from a copperplate engraving, where the whole of the subject to be represented is made out, although parts of it from much use have been obliterated.
If I may be allowed the expression, a picturesqueness pervades the whole being of Asiatics, which we do not find in our own countries, and in my eyes makes everything relating to them so attractive as to create a desire to impart to others the impressions made upon myself. Thus, in viewing a beautiful landscape, the traveller, be he a draughtsman or not, tant bien que mal, endeavours to make a representation of it; and thus do I apologise for venturing before the public even in the character of a humble translator.
Impressed with such feelings you may conceive the fulness of my joy, when not very long after the conversation above mentioned, having returned to England, I was fortunate enough to be appointed to fill an official situation in the suite of an ambassador, which our government found itself under the necessity of sending to the Shah of Persia. Persia, that imaginary seat of Oriental splendour! that land of poets and roses! that cradle of mankind, that uncontaminated source of Eastern manners lay before me, and I was delighted with the opportunities which would be afforded me of pursuing my favourite subject. I had an undefined feeling about the many countries I was about to visit, which filled my mind with vast ideas of travel.
'Sive per Syrtes iter aestuosas, Sive facturus per inhospitalem Caucasum, vel quae loca fabulosus Lambit Hydaspes.'
I was in some degree like a French lady of my acquaintance, who had so general a notion of the East, that upon taking leave of her, she enjoined me to get acquainted with a friend of hers, living, as she said, quelque part dans les Indes, and whom, to my astonishment, I found residing at the Cape of Good Hope!
I will not say that all my dreams were realised; for, perhaps, no country in the world less comes up to one's expectation than Persia, whether in the beauties of nature, or the dress and magnificence of its inhabitants. But in what regards manners and customs, it appears to me that no Asiatics bear so strong the stamp of an ancient origin as they. Even in their features I thought to have distinguished a decided originality of expression; which was confirmed when I remarked, that the numerous faces seen among the sculptures of Persepolis, so perfect as if chiselled but yesterday, were so many likenesses of modern Persians, more particularly of the natives of the province of Fars.
During my long residence there, I never lost the recollection of our conversation on the sofa of the Swedish palace; and every time I added an anecdote or an observation illustrative of Oriental manners to my store, or a sketch to my collection, I always thought of the Reverend Doctor Fundgruben, and sighed after that imaginary manuscript which some imaginary native of the East must have written as a complete exposition of the life of his countrymen.
I will not say, learned sir, that the years I passed in Persia were years of happiness, or that during that time I could so far keep up an illusion, that I was living among the patriarchs in the first ages of the world, or among those Persians whose monarchs gave laws to almost the whole of Asia: no, I sighed for shaven chins and swallow-tailed coats; and, to speak the truth, though addressing an antiquary of your celebrity, I felt that I would rather be one among the crowd in the Graben at Vienna, or in our own Bond Street, than at liberty to range in the ease of solitude among the ruins of the palaces of Darius.
At length the day of my departure came, and I left Persia with books filled with remarks, and portfolios abounding in original sketches. My ideas during the journey were wholly taken up with schemes for the future, and, perhaps, like every other traveller, I nourished a sort of sly and secret conviction that I had seen and observed things which no one before me had ever done; and that when I came to publish to the world the fruits of my discoveries, I should create a sensation equal at least to the discovery of a new planet.
I passed at the foot of the venerable Mount Ararat, and was fortunate enough to meet with a favourable moment for traversing the cold regions of Arminia, 'nec Armeniis in oris stat glacies iners menses per omnes'; and I crossed the dangerous borders of Turkey and Persia without any event occurring worthy of record. But I must request your indulgent attention to what befell me at Tocat; for it is to that occurrence you are indebted for this letter, and the world for the accompanying volume.
It was at the close of a fatiguing days journey, that I and my escort, consisting of two Tatars, two servants, and the conductors of our baggage and post-horses, entered the city of Tocat. Our approach was as usual announced by the howls of the Surujees, who more than usually exerted their lungs in my service, because they felt that these sounds, the harbingers of rest and entertainment, could but be agreeable to weary and jaded travellers like ourselves. The moon was shining bright as our cavalcade clattered over the long paved road leading to the city, and lighted up, in awful grandeur, the turret-topped peaks which rear their heads on the crest of the surrounding abrupt crags. On entering the post-house, I was immediately conducted into the travellers' room, where, having disencumbered myself of my cloak, arms, and heavy boots, and putting myself at ease in my slippers and loose dress, I quietly enjoyed, the cup of strong coffee and the chibouk, which were immediately handed to me, and after that my dish of rice, my tough fowl, and my basin of sour curds.
I was preparing to take my night's rest on the sofas of the post-house, where my bed had been spread, when a stranger unceremoniously walked into the room, and stood before me. I remarked that he was a Persian, and, by his dress, a servant. At any other moment I should have been happy to see and converse with him; because having lived so long in Persia, I felt myself, in some measure, identified with its natives, and now in a country where both nations were treated with the same degree of contempt, my fellow-feeling for them became infinitely stronger.
I discovered that he had a tale of misery to unfold, from the very doleful face that he was pleased to make on the occasion, and I was not mistaken. It was this,—that his master, one Mirza Hajji Baba, now on his return from Constantinople, where he had been employed on the Shah's business, had fallen seriously ill, and that he had been obliged to stop at Tocat; that he had taken up his abode at the caravanserai, where he had already spent a week, during which time he had been attended by a Frank doctor, an inhabitant of Tocat, who, instead of curing, had, in fact, brought him to his last gasp,—that having heard of my arrival from Persia, he had brightened up and requested, without loss of time, that I would call upon him, for he was sure the presence of one coming from his own country would alone restore him to health. In short, his servant, as is usual on such occasions, finished his speech by saying, that, with the exception of God and myself, he had nothing left to depend upon in this life.
I immediately recollected who Mirza Hajji Baba was; for though I had lost sight of him for several years, yet once on a time I had seen much of him, and had taken great interest in everything that regarded him, owing to his having been in England, whither, in quality of secretary, he accompanied the first ambassador which Persia had sent in modern times. He had since been employed in various ways in the government, sometimes in high, and sometimes in lower situations, undergoing the vicissitudes which are sure to attend every Persian; and at length had been sent to Constantinople, as resident agent at the Porte on the part of the Shah.
I did not hesitate an instant, tired and jaded as I was, immediately to accompany his servant; and in the same garb in which I was, only throwing a cloak over my shoulders, I walked in all haste to the caravanserai.
There, on a bed spread in the middle of a small room, surrounded by several of his servants, I found the sick Mirza, looking more like a corpse than a living body. When I had first known him he was a remarkably handsome man, with a fine aquiline nose, oval face, an expressive countenance, and a well-made person. He had now passed the meridian of life, but his features were still fine, and his eye full of fire. As soon as he saw he recognised me, and the joy which he felt at the meeting broke out in a great animation of his features, and in the thousand exclamations so common to a Persian's lips.
'See,' said he, 'what a fortunate destiny mine is, that at a moment when I thought the angel of death was about to seize me for his own, the angel of life comes and blows a fresh existence into my nostrils.'
After his first transports were over, I endeavoured to make him explain what was the nature of his complaint, and how it had hitherto been treated. I saw enough by his saffron hue, that bile was the occasion of his disorder; and, as I had had great experience in treating it during my stay in Persia, I did not hesitate to cheer up his hopes by an assurance of being able to relieve him.
'What can I say?' said he. 'I thought at first that I had been struck with the plague. My head ached intensely, my eyes became dim, I had a pain in my side, and a nauseous taste in my mouth, and expected to die on the third day; but no, the symptoms still continue, and I am alive. As soon as I arrived here, I enquired for a physician, and was told there were two practitioners in the town, a Jew and a Frank. Of course I chose the latter; but 'tis plain, that my evil star had a great deal to say in the choice I made. I have not yet been able to discover to what tribe among the Franks he belongs,—certainly he is not an Englishman. But a more extraordinary ass never existed in this world, be his nation what it may. I began by telling him that I was very, very ill. All he said in answer, with a grave face, was "Mashallah! Praise be to God!" and when, in surprise and rage, I cried out, "But I shall die, man!" with the same grave face, he said, "Inshallah! Please God!" My servants were about to thrust him from the room, when they found that he knew nothing of our language excepting these two words, which he had only learnt to misapply. Supposing that he still might know something of his profession, I agreed to take his medicine; but I might have saved myself the trouble, for I have been daily getting worse.'
Here the Mirza stopped to take breath. I did not permit him to exert himself further; but, without loss of time, returned the post-house, applied to my medicine-chest, and prepared a dose of calomel, which was administered that evening with due solemnity. I then retired to rest.
The next morning I repaired to his bedside, and there, to my great satisfaction, found that my medicine had performed wonders. The patient's eyes were opened, the headache had in great measure ceased, and he was, in short, a different person. I was received by him and his servants with all the honours due to the greatest sage, and they could not collect words sufficiently expressive of their admiration of my profound skill. As they were pouring forth their thanks and gratitude, looking up I saw a strange figure in the room, whose person I must take the liberty to describe, so highly ludicrous and extravagant did it appear. He was of the middle size, rather inclined to be corpulent, with thick black eyebrows, dark eyes, a three days' beard, and mustachios. He wore the Turkish bag dress, from his shoulders downwards, yellow pabouches, shawl to his waist, and carried a long cane in his hand; but from his shoulders up he was an European, a neckcloth, his hair dressed in the aile de pigeon fashion, a thick tail clubbed, and over all an old-fashioned, three-cornered laced hat. This redoubtable personage made me a bow, and at the same time accosted me in Italian. I was not long in discovering that he was my rival the doctor, and that he was precisely what, from the description of the Mirza, I expected him to be, viz. an itinerant quack, who, perhaps, might once have mixed medicines in some apothecary's shop in Italy or Constantinople, and who had now set up for himself in this remote corner of Asia where he might physic and kill at his pleasure.
I did not shrink from his acquaintance, because I was certain that the life and adventures of such a person must be highly curious and entertaining, and I cordially encouraged him in his advances, hoping thus to acquire his confidence.
He very soon informed me who he was, and what were his pursuits, and did not seem to take the least umbrage at my having prescribed for his patient without previously consulting him. His name was Ludovico Pestello, and he pretended to have studied at Padua, where he had got his diploma. He had not long arrived at Constantinople, with the intention of setting up for himself, where, finding that the city overflowed with Esculapii, he was persuaded to accompany a Pasha of two tails to Tocat, who had recently been appointed to its government, and was there now established as his body physician. I suspected this story to be fabrication, and undertook to examine his knowledge of physic, particularly in the case of my friend the Persian Mirza. The galimatia which he unfolded, as we proceeded, was so extremely ridiculous, and he puzzled himself so entirely by his answers to the plain questions which I put, that at length, not being able to proceed, he joined, with the best good-nature possible, in the horse-laugh, from which I could not refrain. I made him candidly confess that he knew nothing of medicine, more than having been servant to a doctor of some eminence at Padua, where he had picked up a smattering; and that, as all his patients were heretics and abominable Mussulmans, he never could feel any remorse for those which, during his practice, he had despatched from this world.
'But, caro Signor Dottore,' said I, 'how in the name of all that is sacred, how have you managed hitherto not to have had your bones broken? Turks are dangerous tools to play with.'
'Oh,' said he, in great unconcern, 'the Turks believe anything, and I take care never to give them medicine that can do harm.'
'But you must have drugs, and you must apply them,' said I. 'Where are they?'
'I have different coloured liquids,' said he, 'and as long as there is bread and water to be had I am never at a loss for a pill. I perform all my cures with them, accompanied by the words Inshallah and Mashallah!'
'Bread and water! wonderful!' did I exclaim.
'Signor, si,' said he, 'I sprinkle my pills with a little flour for the common people, cover them with gold leaf for my higher patients, the Agas and the Pasha, and they all swallow them without even a wry face.'
I was so highly amused by the account which this extraordinary fellow gave of himself, of the life he led, and of the odd adventures which he had met with, that I invited him to dine; and were it not for the length which this letter has already run, I should, perhaps, have thought it right to make partake of my entertainment by retailing his narrative. I repaid him, as he said, over and above, by presents from my medicine-chest, which he assured me would be plentifully sufficient to administer relief to the whole of Asia Minor.
I could not think of leaving the poor Persian in such hands; and feeling that I might be the means of saving his life, I determined to remain at Tocat until I saw him out of danger.
After three days' administration of calomel, Hajji Baba's complexion was nearly restored to its original hue; and as he might now be said to be free from danger, and in a fair way of recovery, I proposed proceeding on my journey. The poor man could not find words for the expression of his gratitude, and I saw that he was labouring hard to discover a present worthy of my acceptance. At length, just before taking my leave, he desired his servants to leave us alone, and spoke to me in the following words:—
'You have saved my life; you are my old friend and my deliverer. What can I do to show my gratitude? Of worldly goods I have but few: it is long since I have received any salary from my government, and the little money I have here will barely suffice, to take me to my own country. Besides, I know the English,—they are above such considerations; it would be in vain to offer them a pecuniary reward. But I have that by me which, perhaps, may have some value in your eyes; I can assure you that it has in mine. Ever since I have known your nation, I have remarked their inquisitiveness, and eagerness after knowledge. Whenever I have travelled with them, I observed they record their observations in books; and when they return home, thus make their fellow-countrymen acquainted with the most distant regions of the globe. Will you believe me, that I, Persian as I am, have followed their example; and that during the period of my residence at Constantinople, I have passed my time in writing a detailed history of my life, which, although that of a very obscure and ordinary individual, is still so full of vicissitude and adventure, that I think it would not fail to create an interest if published in Europe? I offer it to you; and in so doing, I assure you that I wish to show you the confidence I place in your generosity, for I never would have offered it to any one else. Will you accept it?'
Conceive, my dear sir, conceive my happiness upon hearing this—upon at length getting into my possession precisely the sort of work which you so long since had looked upon as a desideratum in the history of mankind, and which I had utterly despaired of ever seeing in reality.
My eyes, I am sure, glistened with pleasure when I expressed my sense of the Mirza's liberality; and as fast as I refused his offer (for I thought it but generous to do so upon the terms he proposed), the more he pressed it upon me.
As a further inducement, he said, that he was going back to his country, uncertain if he enjoyed the favour of the Shah; and as he had freely expressed his sentiments, which included his observations upon England, he was afraid, should he be in disgrace, and his work be found upon him, that it might lead to his destruction.
Unable to withstand these entreaties, I at length acceded to his request, and became the possessor of the manuscript. It forms the subject of the following work; and tell me, can I dedicate it to any but him who first awakened my mind to its value? If you will do me the favour to peruse it, you will find I have done my best endeavour to adapt it to the taste of European readers, divesting it of the numerous repetitions, and the tone of exaggeration and hyperbole which pervade the compositions of the Easterns; but still you will, no doubt, discover much of that deviation from truth, and perversion of chronology, which characterise them. However, of the matter contained in the book, this I must say, that having lived in the country myself during the time to which it refers, I find that most of the incidents are grounded upon fact, which, although not adhered to with that scrupulous regard to truth which we might expect from an European writer, yet are sufficient to give an insight into manners. Many of them will, no doubt, appear improbable to those who have never visited the scenes upon which they were acted; and it is natural it should be so, because, from the nature of circumstances, such events could only occur in Eastern countries.
A distinct line must ever be drawn between 'the nations who wear the hat and those who wear the beard'; and they must ever hold each other's stories as improbable, until a more general intercourse of common life takes place between them. What is moral and virtuous with the one, is wickedness with the other,—that which the Christian reviles as abominable, is by the Mohammedan held sacred. Although the contrast between their respective manners may be very amusing, still it is most certain that the former will ever feel devoutly grateful that he is neither subject to Mohammedan rule, nor educated in Mohammedan principles; whilst the latter, in his turn, looking upon the rest of mankind as unclean infidels, will continue to hold fast to his bigoted persuasion, until some powerful interposition of Providence shall dispel the moral and intellectual darkness which, at present, overhangs so large a portion of the Asiatic world.
Fearing to increase the size of the work, I have refrained adding the numerous notes which my long residence in Persia would have enabled me to do, and have only occasionally made explanations necessary to understand the narrative. In the same fear, I have not ventured to take Hajji out of his own country. His remarks upon England during his residence there, and during his travels, may perhaps be thought worthy of future notice; and should they be called for, I will do my best endeavour to interpret his feelings as near to nature as possible.
I must now, dear sir, take my leave, expressing my regret at your absence from Constantinople on my return from Persia; for had I then been fortunate enough to meet you, no doubt, from the valuable hints which you would have afforded me, the work now presented to you would have been in every way more worthy of your acceptance. But you were far better engaged; you were seeking another oasis in the wilds of the desert (that emblem of yourself in hieroglyphic lore), to which, so I was informed, you expected to have been guided information gained in the inside wrappers of one of your most interesting mummies.
May your footsteps have been fortunate, and may I live to have the pleasure of assuring you by word of mouth how truly I am, esteemed and learned sir,
Your very devoted and Obliged humble servant, PEREGRINE PERSIC.
LONDON, 1st December 1823.
THE ADVENTURES OF HAJJI BABA
Of Hajji Baba's birth and education.
My father, Kerbelai Hassan, was one of the most celebrated barbers of Ispahan. He was married, when only seventeen years of age, to the daughter of a chandler, who lived in the neighbourhood of his shop; but the connexion was not fortunate, for his wife brought him no offspring, and he, in consequence, neglected her. His dexterity in the use of a razor had gained for him, together with no little renown, such great custom, particularly among the merchants, that after twenty years' industry, he found he could afford to add a second wife to his harem; and succeeded in obtaining the daughter of a rich money-changer, whose head he had shaved, during that period, with so much success, that he made no difficulty in granting his daughter to my father. In order to get rid, for a while, of the importunities and jealousy of his first wife, and also to acquire the good opinion of his father-in-law (who, although noted for clipping money, and passing it for lawful, affected to be a saint), he undertook a pilgrimage to the tomb of Hosein, at Kerbelah. He took his new wife with him, and she was delivered of me on the road. Before the journey took place he was generally known, simply as 'Hassan the barber'; but ever after he was honoured by the epithet of Kerbelai; and I, to please my mother, who spoilt me, was called Hajji or the pilgrim, a name which has stuck to me through life, and procured for me a great deal of unmerited respect; because, in fact, that honoured title is seldom conferred on any but those who have made the great pilgrimage to the tomb of the blessed Prophet of Mecca.
My father having left his business during his absence to his chief apprentice, resumed it with increased industry on his return; and the reputation of a zealous Mussulman, which he had acquired by his journey, attracted the clergy, as well as the merchants, to his shop. It being intended that I should be brought up to the strap, I should perhaps have received no more education than was necessary to teach me my prayers, and I not been noticed by a mollah, (or priest), who kept a school in an adjoining mosque, whom my father (to keep up the character he had acquired of being a good man) used to shave once a week, as he was wont to explain, purely for the love of God. The holy man repaid the service by teaching me to read and write; and I made such progress under his care, that in two years I could decipher the Koran, and began to write a legible hand. When not in school I attended the shop, where I learnt the rudiments of my profession, and when there was a press of customers, was permitted to practise upon the heads of muleteers and camel-drivers, who indeed sometimes paid dear for my first essays.
By the time I was sixteen it would be difficult to say whether I was most accomplished as a barber or a scholar. Besides shaving the head, cleaning the ears, and trimming the beard, I became famous for my skill in the offices of the bath. No one understood better than I the different modes of rubbing or shampooing, as practised in India, Cashmere, and Turkey; and I had an art peculiar to myself of making the joints to crack, and my slaps echo.
Thanks to my master, I had learnt sufficiently of our poets to enable me to enliven conversation with occasional apt quotations from Saadi, Hafiz, etc.; this accomplishment, added to a good voice, made me considered as an agreeable companion by all those whose crowns or limbs were submitted to my operation. In short, it may, without vanity, be asserted that Hajji Baba was quite the fashion among the men of taste and pleasure.
My father's shop being situated near the Royal Caravanserai, the largest and most frequented in the city, was the common resort of the foreign, as well as of the resident, merchants; they not unfrequently gave him something over and above the usual price, for the entertainment they found in the repartees of his hopeful son. One of them, a Bagdad merchant, took great fancy to me, and always insisted that I should attend upon him, in preference even to my more experienced father. He made me converse with him in Turkish, of which I had acquired a slight knowledge, and so excited my curiosity by describing the beauties of the different cities which he had visited, that I soon felt a strong desire to travel. He was then in want of some one to keep his accounts, and as I associated the two qualifications of barber and scribe, he made me such advantageous offers, to enter into his service, that I agreed to follow him; and immediately mentioned my determination to my father. My father was very loath to lose me, and endeavoured to persuade me not to leave a certain profession for one which was likely to be attended with danger and vicissitudes; but when he found how advantageous were the merchant's offers, and that it was not impossible that I might become one myself in time, he gradually ceased to dissuade me from going; and at length gave me his blessing, accompanied by a new case of razors.
My mother's regret for the loss of my society, and her fears for my safety, derived no alleviation from the prospect of my expected future aggrandizement; she augured no good from a career begun in the service of a Suni; but still, as a mark of her maternal affection, she gave me a bag of broken biscuit, accompanied by a small tin case of a precious unguent, which, she told me, would cure all fractures, and internal complaints. She further directed me to leave the house with my face towards the door, by way of propitiating a happy return from a journey undertaken under such inauspicious circumstances.
Hajji Baba commences his travels—His encounter with the Turcomans, and his captivity.
Osman Aga, my master, was now on a journey to Meshed, the object of which was to purchase the lamb-skins of Bokhara, which he afterwards purposed to convey to Constantinople for sale. Imagine a short squat man, with a large head, prominent spongy nose, and a thick, black beard, and you will see my fellow traveller. He was a good Mussulman, very strict in his devotions, and never failed to pull off his stockings, even in the coldest morning, to wash his feet, in order that his ablutions might be perfect; and, withal, he was a great hater of the sect of Ali, a feeling he strictly kept to himself, as long as he was in Persia. His prevailing passion was love of gain, and he never went to sleep without having ascertained that his money was deposited in a place of safety. He was, however, devoted to his own ease; smoked constantly, ate much, and secretly drank wine, although he denounced eternal perdition to those who openly indulged in it.
The caravan was appointed to collect in the spring, and we made preparations for our departure. My master bought a strong, ambling mule for his own riding; whilst I was provided with a horse, which, besides myself, bore the kalian (for he adopted the Persian style of smoking), the fire-pan and leather bottle, the charcoal, and also my own wardrobe. A black slave, who cooked for us, spread the carpets, loaded and unloaded the beasts, bestrode another mule, upon which were piled the bedding, carpets, and kitchen utensils. A third, carrying a pair of trunks, in which was my master's wardrobe, and every other necessary, completed our equipment.
The day before our departure, the prudent Osman had taken precaution to sew into the cotton wadding of his heavy turban fifty ducats, a circumstance known only to him and me, and these were to serve in case of accidents; for the remainder of his cash, with which he intended to make his purchases, was sewn up in small white leather bags, and deposited in the very centre of the trunks.
The caravan being ready to depart consisted of about five hundred mules and horses, and two hundred camels, most of which were laden with merchandize for the north of Persia, and escorted by about one hundred and fifty men, composed of merchants, their servants, and the conductors of the caravan. Besides these, a small body of pilgrims bound to the tomb of Imam Reza at Meshed joined the caravan, and gave a character of sanctity to the procession of which its other members were happy to take advantage, considering in what high estimation persons bound upon so laudable a purpose as a pilgrimage are always supposed to be held.
Every man on these occasions is armed, and my master, who always turned his head away whenever a gun was fired, and became pale at the sight of a drawn sword, now appeared with a long carbine slung obliquely across his back, and a crooked sword by his side, whilst a pair of huge pistols projected from his girdle; the rest of his surface was almost made up of the apparatus of cartouch-boxes, powder-flasks, ramrods, &c. I also was armed cap-a-pie, only in addition to what my master carried, I was honoured by wielding a huge spear. The black slave had a sword with only half a blade, and a gun without a lock.
We started at break of day from the northern suburb of Ispahan, led by the chaoushes of the pilgrimage, who announced our departure by loud cries and the beating of their copper drums. We soon got acquainted with our fellow travellers, who were all armed; but who, notwithstanding their martial equipment, appeared to be very peaceably disposed persons. I was delighted with the novelty of the scene, and could not help galloping and curvetting my horse to the annoyance of my master, who in a somewhat crabbed tone, bid me keep in mind that the beast would not last the journey if I wore it out by unseasonable feats of horsemanship. I soon became a favourite with all the company, many of whom I shaved after the day's march was over. As for my master, it is not too much to say that I was a great source of comfort to him, for after the fatigue of sitting his mule was at an end, I practised many of the arts which I had acquired at the bath to do away the stiffness of his limbs, by kneading his body all over, and rubbing him with my hands.
We proceeded without impediment to Tehran, where we sojourned ten days to rest our mules, and to increase our numbers. The dangerous part of the journey was to come, as a tribe of Turcomans, who were at war with the king of Persia, were known to infest the road, and had lately attacked and plundered a caravan, whilst at the same time they had carried those who composed it into captivity. Such were the horrors related of the Turcomans, that many of our party, and my master in particular, were fearful of proceeding to Meshed; but the account he received of the enormous price of lamb-skins at Constantinople was so alluring, that, in spite of everything, he resolved not to be frightened out of his prospect of gain.