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/20

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xii
Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

That amiable and devoted Arabist, the late Edward William Lane does not score a success in his "New Translation of the Tales of a Thousand and One Nights" (London: Charles Knight and Co., MDCCCXXXIX.) of which there have been four English editions, besides American, two edited by E. S. Poole. He chose the abbreviating Bulak Edition; and, of its two hundred tales, he has omitted about half and by far the more characteristic half: the work was intended for "the drawing-room table;" and, consequently, the workman was compelled to avoid the "objectionable" and aught "approaching to licentiousness." He converts the Arabian Nights into the Arabian Chapters, arbitrarily changing the division and, worse still, he converts some chapters into notes. He renders poetry by prose and apologises for not omitting it altogether: he neglects assonance and he is at once too Oriental and not Oriental enough. He had small store of Arabic at the time Lane of the Nights is not Lane of the Dictionary and his pages are disfigured by many childish mistakes. Worst of all, the three handsome volumes are rendered unreadable as Sale's Koran by their anglicised Latin, their sesquipedalian un-English words, and the stiff and stilted style of half a century ago when our prose was, perhaps, the worst in Europe. Their cargo of Moslem learning was most valuable to the student, but utterly out of place for readers of "The Nights;" republished, as these notes have been separately (London, Chatto, 1883), they are an ethnological text-book.


Mr. John Payne has printed, for the Villon Society and for private circulation only, the first and sole complete translation of the great compendium, "comprising about four times as much matter as that of Galland, and three times as much as that of any other translator;" and I cannot but feel proud that he has honoured me with the dedication of "The Book of The Thousand Nights and One Night." His version is most readable: his English, with a sub-flavour of the Mabinogionic archaicism, is admirable; and his style gives life and light to the nine volumes