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When Anaetaslus first made Its appearance, everybody thought Lord Byron was taking to write prose; for there was no living author but Lord Byron supposed capable of having written such a book. When Byron denied the work, (and, in fact, his lordship could not have written it,) people looked about again, and wondered who the author could be. But, when the production was claimed by Mr Thomas Hope, who had, heretofore, written only about chairs and tables, and not written very well about chairs and tables neither, then the puzzlement of ratiocinators became profounder than ever.
All that could be made out at all in common between Mr Hope and Anastasius, was, that Mr Hope had had opportunities of getting at theloeal information which that book contained. He had visited those parts of the world in which the scene was chiefly laid; and had resided in some of them (as at Constantinople) for considerable periods.
But Anastasius, though full of circumstance which necessarily had been collected by travel, was (that circumstance, all of it, apart) a work of immense genius, and natural power. The thing told was good; but the manner of telling it was still better. The book was absolutely crammed with bold incidents, and brilliant descriptions— with historical details, given in a style which Hume or Gibbon could scarcely have surpassed; and with analysis of human character and impulse, such as even Mandevillemighthave been proud to acknowledge. Material, as regards every description of work, is perhaps the first point towards success. It is not easy for any man to write ill, who has an overflow of fresh matter to write about.
But Anastasius was anything rather than a bare compilation of material. The author did not merely appear to have imbued himself completely, with a scarce and interesting species of information, and to have the power of pouring that information forth again, in any shape he pleased; but he also seemed to nave the power, (and with
al, almost equally the facility,) of originating new matter, of most curious and valuable quality. He paraded asuper-fluity of attainment at one moment, and shewed a faculty to act without any of it the next; displayed an extraordinary acquired talent for drawing Man, as he is in one particular country; but a still more extraordinary intuitive talent for drawing man, as he is in every class, and in every country.
His capacity for producing effect was so extended, that he could afford to trifle with it. Anastasius was not merely one of the most vigorous, but absolutely the most vigorous, of the "dark-eyed and slender-waisted heroes," that had appeared. We liked him better than any of his cater cousins, because the family characteristics were more fully developed in him. The Giaours had their hundred vices, and their single virtue; but Anastasius came without any virtue at all. The Corsairs were vindictive, and rapacious, and sanguinary, as regarded their fellow-men; but Anastasius had no mercy even upon woman.
The history of Euphrosyne is not only the most powerful feature in Mr Hope's book; but, perhaps, one of the most powerful stories that ever was written in a novel.
There is a vraisemblance about the villainy of that transaction, which it sickens the soul to think of. Crabbe could not have dug deeper for horrible realities; nor could the author of the Fable of the Bees have put them into more simple, yet eloquent and energetic, language. For throughout the whole description of Euphrosyne's situation, after she becomes the mistress of Anastasius—his harsh treatment of her in the first instance, by degrees increasing to brutality—his deliberately torturing her, to compel her to leave him, even when he knows she has not a place of refuge upon earth—her patient submission, after a time, only aggravating his fury, and his telling her, in terms, " to go!" that " he desires to see her no more!" Throughout all this description, and the admirable scene that follows—his leaving her when she faints, believing her ill—
• The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan John Murray, 1824.
a novel, in three volumes. London.
ness to be affected—the nervous forebodings that come over him, afterwards, at the banquet, until, at length, he is compelled to quit the party— hurries home—and finds her gone! Throughout the whole of this narrative, there is not an epithet bordering upon inflation. The writer never stops to make a display of his feelings; but keeps up the passion as he goes on, merely by keeping up the action of the scene. The simplicity all through, and the natural elegance of thestylc, catches attention almost as much as the commanding interest of the subject. The tale is one of the most painful that ever was related; and it is told in the plainest, and most unaffected possible manner.
And it is the great art of Mr Hope, in this story of Euphrosyne, as in the conduct of a hundred other criminalities into which he precipitates his hero —throwing him actually into scrapes sometimes, as though for the pleasure of taking him out of them again—it is the author's great art, that, with all his vices, Anastasius never thoroughly loses the sympathy of thereader. There is a rag of good feeling—a wretched rag it is, and it commonly shews itself in the most useless shape too (in the shape of repentance)—but there is a remnant of feeling about the rogue, (though no jot of moral principle,) and a pride of heart, which, with romance readers, covers a multitude of sins; and upon this trifle of honesty, (the very limited amount of which is a curiosity,) joined to a vast fund of attractive and popular qualities—wit, animal spirits, gay figure, and personal courage—he contrives, through three volumes, to keep just within the public estimation.
And apart too from, and even beyond, the interest of the leiuling characters in Anastasius, there is so much pains laid out upon all the tributary personages of the tale: the work is got up with the labour of a large picture, in which the most distant figure is meant to be a portrait. Suleiman Bey—Aly Tchawoosh—the Lady Khadege—Anagnosti—the Jew apothecary —Gasili, the knight of industry—oven the bravo Panayoti—there is not a personage brought in anywhere, even to fill up a group, who has not a certain quantity of finish bestowed upon him;
Then the historical episodes. The character of the Capital) Pacha, and
the circumstances which lead to his appointment in the Morea. Djczzar (the liutcher) and his atrocities—in. the third volume. The court of Suleiman Bey in Egypt, and the march of Hassan Pacha into that country. The nervous terseness and brief style of these details, contrasted with the brilliant eloquence, the lively imagination, the strong graphic faculty, and the deep tone and feeling displayed in such passages as the bagnio—the first field of battle—the flight of Hassan Bey through the streets of Cairo—the death of the Hungarian Colonel—the lives of all the women—and, beyond all, the cemetery near Constantinople, and the reflections which arise on it in the third volume! If, besides all this, we recollect the occasional rich descriptions of local scenery; the wit and spirit of those lighter sketches which abound in the first and third volumes; and, especially, the polished, cultivated tone, and the gracefulness of style and manner, which runs through the whole work, it will not appear surprising that the production of Anastasius by an author of (comparatively) no previous estimation, should have been considered, in the literary world, as a remarkable event.
But, if it excited wonder that Mr Hope should, on the sudden, have become the author of Anastasius, it will be found quite as surprising, that the author of Anastasius should ever have written Hajji Baba. The curiosity about this book was great; the disappointment which it produces will not be littjp; not that it is absolutely destitute of merit, but that it falls so very far below what the public expected.
It is not easy to get at the solution of a failure like this. Mr Hope evidently means to do his best. He sets out with all the formality of a long introduction—Hajji Baba is only a prelude to much more that is to be effected. And yet the work is not merely, as regards matter, interest, taste, and choice of subjects, three hundred per cent at least, under the mark of Anastasius; but the style is never forcible or eloquent; and in many places, to say the truth, it is miserably bad. Some of this objection may be comparative; but objection must be so, and ought fairly to he so. If an author takes the benefit of a certain accredited faculty to get his book read, it is by the measure of that accredited faculty, that be 18210 H'W1 Baba
must expect the production to be tried. We can drink a wine, perhaps, of thirty sous, as a wine of thirty sous, but we will not submit to have it brought to us as claret. We might manage, upon an emergency, to read a dozen lines of Lady Morgan; but who would readlialf aline, if she were to get herself bound up as Lady Montague? There are chapters in Hajji Baba that may amuse;—there are a great many,most certainly, that will not amuse;—but, perhaps, the easiest way of makingits deficienciesapparent, will be to give a short outline of the production itself.
Mr Hope sets out, in the character of " Mr Peregrine Persic," by writing to " Doctor Fundgruben," chaplain to the Swedish Embassy, at the Ottoman Porte—a letter which explains the intention of his book.
Mr Persic is dissatisfied (and, perhaps, fairly, may be) with all existing pictures of Asiatic habits and manners; and he suggests the advantage of inditing, from " actual anecdotes" collected in the East,—a novel upon the plan of Gil Bias, which should supply the (as he views it) deficiency. Dr Fundgruben approves the idea of Mr Persic, but doubts how far any European would be capable of realizing it; he thinks an oriental Gil Bias would be most conveniently constructed, by procuring some "actual" Turk,or Persian, to write his life. The discussion which follows between the friends, would not convey a great deal to the reader. What the Swedish Doctor opines—we will give his own words— "That no education, time, or talent, can ever enable a foreigner, in any given country, to pass for a native;"— this (for a Doctor, who should mind what he says) has a smack of exaggeration; and Mr Persic's charge of obscurity against the Arabian Nights, (so far as he himself illustrates it,) seems to amount to nothing. At a period, however, subsequent to this supposed conversation, Mr P. (who is employed himself upon an embassy to Persia) saves Hajji Baba, a Persian of some station, from the hands of an Italian quack Doctor; and, in gratitude for certain doses of calomel, by the English gentleman administered, the Ispahani presents his written memoirs, for the benefit of the English public. Now here is a blot in the very outset of the book. Mr Hope starts, most
of Ispahan. 53transparently, with Gil Bias in his eye, and never considers that a character perfectly fitted for a hero in one country, may not be so well calculated to fill the same role in another. The attention to Gil Bias is obvious. The chapters are headed in Le Sage's manner.—" Of Hajji Baba's birth and education."—" Into what hands Hajji Baba falls, and the fortune which his razors prove to him."—" Hajji Baba, in his distress, becomes a Saka, or water-carrier."—" Of the man he meets, and of the consequences of theencounter," &c. &c. There are occasional imitations too, and not happy ones, of the style coupee of some of the French writers. An affectation of setting out about twenty unconnected facts, in just the same number of short unconnected sentences. A rolling up, as it were, of knowledge into little hard pills, and giving us dozens of them to swallow, (without diluent,) one after the other. This avoidance (from whatever cause it proceeds) of conjunction, and connecting observation, leads to an eternal recurrence of pronouns—rattling staccato upon the ear. It makes a book read like a judge's notes of a trial, or a report of a speech of a newspaper. And, indeed, throughout the work before us—(we can scarcely suppose the author to have written in a hurry)—but, throughout the work, there is a sort of slovenliness; an inattention to minute, but nevertheless material, circumstances; which could scarcely, one would think, have been overlooked, if it had been cautiously revised.
Hajji Baba, however, is the son of a barber at Ispahan, and is educated to follow his father's profession. He learns shaving upon the " heads" of camel-drivers and muleteers—a field of practice more extended than barbers have the advantage of in Europe —and having got a smattering of poetry, and a pretty good idea of shampooing—some notion of reading and writing, and a perfect dexterity at cleaning people's ears;—at sixteen, he is prepared to make his entree in society.
Starting as a barber, is starting rather low; and it is one material fault in our friend Hajji Baba, that, from beginning to end, he is a low character. Obscure birth is no bar to a man's fortune in the East; nor shall it be any hinderance to him among us; but we cau't take cordially, Bast or West,
to a common-place fellow. Anastasius is meanly born, but he has the soul that makes all ranks equal. Beggar him—strip him—starve him—make a slave of him—still nature maintains him a prince, and the superior (ten to one else) of the man that tramples upon him. Like the Mainote captain, in that exquisite chapter of" The Bagnio," he is one of those spirits which, of themselves, even in the most abject condition, will command attention and respect;—which, "like the cedars of Lebanon," to use the author's own simile, "though scathed by the lightning of Heaven, still overtop all the trees in the forest."
But it won't do to have a hero (certainly not in Turkey) an awkward fellow. We don't profess to go entirely along with Mowbray, in Clarissa, who, extenuating Lovelace's crimes, by reference to the enormities of somebody else, throws his friend's scale up to the beam, by recollecting that the counter rogue is " an ugly dog too!" But we think, if a hero is to be a rascal, that he ought to be a rascal like a gentleman. Mr Hope denies Hajji Baba even the advantage of personal courage. As he got on in his last work without virtue, so he proposes to get on in this without qualification. This is Gil Bias; but we wish Mr II. had let imitation alone. Gil Bias (/ier se) is no great model, anywhere, for a hero. It is the book that carries him through—not him that carries the book. Gil Bias (that is the man) has a great deal more whim, and ten times more national characteristic, than Hajji Baba ; and yet we long to cane him, or put him in a horse-pond, at almost every page we read. And, besides, Gil Bias, let it be recollected, Gil Bias was the Original. We have got imitations of him already enough, to be forgotten. The French Gil Bias—and the German Gil Bias—and now, the Persian Gil Bias! It is an unprofitable task; at least, Mr Hope, at all events, has made it one.
To proceed, however, with Mr Hajji Baba, whom we drag along, as it were, critically, by the ears; and whose first step in public life is into the service of Osman Aga, a merchant of Bagdad. His father gives him a blessing, accompanied by "a new case of ra
zors;" his mother adds "a small tin case of a certain precious unguent," calculated to cure "all fractures and internal complaints;" and he is directed to leave trie house with his face towards the door, "by way of propitiating a happy return."
Osman Aga has in view a journey to Meshed, where he will buy the lambskins of Bokhara, and afterwards resell them at Constantinople. He leaves Ispahan with the caravan, accompanied by his servant; and both are taken prisoners by certain Turcomans of the desert. Hajji's sojourn among these wandering people, with their attack and pillage of the caravan, is given with the same apparent knowledge of what he writes about, which Mr Hope displayed in Anastasius.
The prisoners, after being stripped, are disposed of according to their merits. Osman Aga, who is middle-aged, and inclining to be fat, is deputed to wait upon the camels of his new masters; Hajji is admitted a robber, upon liking, in which capacity he guides the band on an excursion to Ispahan, his native city.
The movement upon Ispahan is successful; the robbers plunder the caravanserai. Afterwards, in a lonely dell, five parasangs from the town, they examine the prisoners, who turn out not so good as was expected. A poet—a ferash (house servant) and a cadi ;— "egregious ransom," scemshardly probable. The scene that follows has some pleasantry.
The poet (Asker^ is doomed to death, as being an animal of no utility anywhere. Hajji, however, is moved with compassion, and interferes.
"' What folly are you about to commit? Kill the poet! Why it will be worse than killing the goose with the golden egg. Don't you know that poets are very rich sometimes, and can, if they choose, be rich at all times, for they carry their wealth in their heads? Did you never hear of the king who gave a famous poet a miscal of gold for every stanza that he composed? And—who knows ?—perhaps your prisoner may be the king's poet-laureat himself.'" This observation changes the face of the affair, and the Turcomans are delighted with poetry.
"• Is that the case?' said one of the gong; 'then let him make stanzas for ui immediately; and it' they don't fetch a miscal' each, he shall die.*
Twenty-four grains of gold.
"' Make on ! male on!' exclaimed the whole of them to the poet, elated by so bright a prospect of gain; * if you don't, we'll cut your tongue out.'"
At length it is decided that all the prisoners shall be spared; and the cadi is set to work to divide the booty among the thieves. When it comes, however, to Hajji's turn to share, he finds that he is to be allowed nothing, and thereupon resolves to escape from his new brethren; which he does on the first opportunity.
Arriving at Meshed, without any means of subsistence, he becomes first a " Saka," a water-bearer, and afterwards an itinerant tobacconist, or " vender of smoke." He afterwards gets acquainted with a party of dervishesone, a man of sanctity—another, a story-teller—and the third, a talisman writer. He is bastinadoed by the Mohtesib for adulterating his wares, turns dervish himself, and quits the city.
A variety of adventures, readable, but not worth talking about, then conduct Hajji to Tehran, and place him in the service of the king's chief physician. He reaches this promotion just as we are terribly tired of reading on, almost without knowing, or caring, about what, and recollecting how, in Anastasius, we stopped at every third page, to read something or other halfa-dozen times over. At last our feelings get a fillip, by Monsieur Hajji's falling in love.
Hajji Baba is a vulgar man, and of course makes but an indifferent lover. The lady, however, "holds her state," of whom he becomes enamoured, and prattles away through twenty pages very thoughtlessly and delightfully.
The spring has passed over, and the first heats of summer are driving most of the inhabitants of Tehran to sleep upon their house-tops. Hajji disposes his bed in the corner of a terrace, which overlooks the court-yard of his master's anderun, or women's apartments; and, one night, looking over the wall, he sees a female in this court, whose figure, and her face, (as far as he can see it,) are exquisite. After gazing for some time, he makes a slight noise, ■which causes the lady to look up.
«* And, before she could cover herself with her veil, I had had time to see the most enchanting features that the imagination can conceive, and to receive a look from eyes so bewitching, that I imraediate
It felt my heart In ablaze. With apparent displeasure, she covered herself; but still I could perceive that she had managed her veil with so much art, that there was room for a certain dark and sparkling eye to look at me, and enjoy my agitation. As I continued to gaze upon her, she at length said, though still going on with her work,
[[She is sorting tobacco leaves,]]
"• Why do you look at me ?—it is criminal.'
"' For the sake of the sainted Hosien," I exclaimed, ' do not turn from me; it is no crime to love—your eyes have made roast meat of my heart. By the mother that bore you, let me look upon your face again!'
"In a more subdued voice she answered
me, 'Why do you ask me? You know
it is a crime for a woman to let her face be seen, and you are neither my father, my brother, nor my husband; I do not even know who you are. Have you no shame to talk thus to a maid ?*"
This is a touch of our author's true spirit; but, unfortunately, it is but transient. At this moment, she lets her veil fall (so shewing her face) as if by accident;—but a voice is heard within, impatiently repeating the name of" Zeenab !" and she disappears, leaving Hajji nailed to the spot from whence she departed.
This lady, who sorts tobacco leaves, is a slave belonging to the chief physician, and an object of jealousy and dislike to his wife. The lovers meet on the next evening; and Zeenab's scandal about the affairs of the harem is as light and chatty as Miss Biddy Fudge's letters about " Pa I" and "Monsieur Calicot," and the " rabbitskin" shawls.
"We are five in the harem, besides our mistress," said she: "There is Shireen, the Georgian slave, then Nur Jehan, the Ethiopian slave girl; Fatneh, the cook, and old Seilah, the duenna. My situation is that of liand-maid to the khanum, so my mistress is called; I attend her pipe; I hand her her coffee, bring in the meals, go with her to the bath, dress and undress her ; make her clothes, spread, sift, and pound tobacco, and stand before her. Shireen, the Georgian, is the sandvhiar, or housekeeper; she has the care of the clothes of both my master and mistress, and indeed the clothes of all the house; she superintends the expenses, lays in the corn for the house, as well as the other provisions; she takes charge of all the porcelain, the silver, and other ware; and in short, has the care of whatever is either precious, or of consequence, in the fa