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/19

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The Translator's Foreword.

gallicisms of style and idiom; and one and all degrade a chef-d'oeuvre of the highest anthropological and ethnographical interest and importance to a mere fairy-book, a nice present for little boys.


After nearly a century had elapsed, Dr. Jonathan Scott (LL.D. H.E.I.C.'s S., Persian Secretary to the G. G. Bengal; Oriental Professor, etc., etc.), printed his "Tales, Anecdotes, and Letters, translated from the Arabic and Persian," (Cadell and Davies, London, A.D. 1800); and followed in 1811 with an edition of "The Arabian Nights' Entertainments" from the MS. of Edward Wortley Montague (in 6 vols., small 8vo, London : Longmans, etc.). This work he (and he only) describes as "Carefully revised and occasionally corrected from the Arabic." The reading public did not wholly reject it, sundry texts were founded upon the Scott version and it has been imperfectly reprinted (4 vols., 8vo, Nimmo and Bain, London, 1883). But most men, little recking what a small portion of the original they were reading, satisfied themselves with the Anglo-French epitome and metaphrase. At length in 1838, Mr. Henry Torrens, B.A., Irishman, lawyer ("of the Inner Temple") and Bengal Civilian, took a step in the right direction; and began to translate, "The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night," (I vol., 8vo, Calcutta: W. Thacker and Co.) from the Arabic of the Ægyptian (!) M.S. edited by Mr. (afterwards Sir.) William H. Macnaghten." The attempt, or rather the intention, was highly creditable; the copy was carefully moulded upon the model and offered the best example of the verbatim et literatim style. But the plucky author knew little Arabic, and least of what is most wanted, the dialect the Egypt and Syria. His prose is so conscientious as to offer up spirit at the shrine of letter; and his verse, always whimsical, has at times the manner of Hibernian whoop which is comical when it should be pathetic. Lastly he printed only one volume of a series which completed would have contained nine or ten.