Page:A plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights entertainments, now entitled The book of the thousand nights and a night, volume 1.djvu/18

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Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

especially for his translation of "The Poems of Master Francis Villon, of Paris." Being then engaged on an expedition to the Gold Coast (for gold), which seemed likely to cover some months, I wrote to the "Athenæum" (Nov. 13, 1881) and to Mr. Payne, who was wholly unconscious that we were engaged on the same work, and freely offered him precedence and possession of the field till no longer wanted. He accepted my offer as frankly, and his priority entailed another delay lasting till the spring of 1885. These details will partly account for the lateness of my appearing, but there is yet another cause. Professional ambition suggested that literary labours, unpopular with the vulgar and the half-educated, are not likely to help a man up the ladder of promotion. But common sense presently suggested to me that, professionally speaking, I was not a success; and, at the same time, that I had no cause to be ashamed of my failure. In our day, when we live under a despotism of the lower "middle-class" Philister who can pardon anything but superiority, the prizes of competitive services are monopolised by certain "pets" of the Médiocratie, and prime favourites of that jealous and potent majority—the Mediocrities who know "no nonsense about merit." It is hard for an outsider to realise how perfect is the monopoly of commonplace, and to comprehend how fatal a stumbling-stone that man sets in the way of his own advancement who dares to think for himself, or who knows more or who does more than the mob of gentlemen-employés who know very little and who do even less.

Yet, however behindhand I may be, there is still ample room and verge for an English version of the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments."

Our century of translations, popular and vernacular, from (Professor Antoine) Galland's delightful abbreviation and adaptation (A.D. 1704), in no wise represent the eastern original. The best and latest, the Rev. Mr. Foster's, which is diffuse and verbose, and Mr. G. Moir Bussey's, which is a re-correction, abound in