Morier, James Justinian (DNB00)

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MORIER, JAMES JUSTINIAN (1780?–1849), diplomatist, traveller, and novelist, was the second son of Isaac Morier [q. v.], consul-general of the Levant Company at Constantinople, and was born at Smyrna, about 1780. Educated at Harrow, he joined his father at Constantinople some time before 1807 (Preface to Hajji Baba), and entered the diplomatic service in that year, being attached to Sir Harford Jones's mission to. the court of Persia in the capacity of private secretary. Themission sailed from Portsmouth in H.M.S. Sapphire 27 Oct. 1807, and reached Bombay in April 1808. Here, after waiting some months, the envoy received (6 Sept.) his orders to proceed to Tehran, and Morier was promoted to the post of secretary of legation (Morier, Journey through Persia, Armenia, and Asia Minor to Constantinople in the Years 1808 and 1809, London, 1812, p. 1). The mission arrived at Tehran in February 1809, but after three months Morier was sent home (7 May), probably with despatches, and made his well-known journey by way of Turkey in Asia, arriving at Plymouth in H.M.S. Formidable 25 Nov. 1809. At Constantinople, on his way home, he was among his own family, for his father was British consul there, and his younger brother David was a secretary in the British embassy, while his elder brother John was at the same time consul-general in Albania. The record of his journey, published in 1812, during his second absence in Persia, at once took rank as an important authority on a country then little known to Englishmen, and by its admirable style and accurate observation, its humour and graphic power, still holds a foremost place among early books of travel in Persia. It was at once translated into French (1813), and soon after into German (1815). Morier had returned but a few months when he was appointed secretary of embassy to Sir Gore Ouseley, ambassador extraordinary to the court of Tehran, and sailed with the ambassador and his brother, Sir William Ouseley, from Spithead 18 July 1810, on board the old Lion, the same ship which had carried Lord Macartney's mission to China eighteen years before (Morier, A Second Journey through Persia, pp. 2, 3). The embassy proceeded to Tabriz, where the prince royal of Persia had his government, and opened negotiations with a view to obtaining the support of Persia against the then subsisting Russo-French alliance. The work of the embassy, and the share taken by Morier in the treaty concluded in May 1812, are described in 'A Second Journey through Persia,' London, 1818. On Sir Gore Ouseley's return to England, in 1814, Morier was left in charge of the embassy at Tehran (see his despatch to foreign office, 25 June 1814). He did not long remain in command, however, for his letter of recall was sent out on 12 July 1815, and he left Tehran 6 Oct. following. As in his former journey he went by Tabriz and Asia Minor, reaching Constantinople 17 Dec. 1816. In 1817 he was granted a retiring pension by the government, and, except for a special service in Mexico (where he was special commissioner from 1824 to 1826, and was one of the plenipotentiaries who signed the treaty with Mexico in London 26 Dec. 1826), he was never again in the employment of the foreign office.

The rest of his life was devoted to literature. After the publication of his second book of travels he began a series of tales and romances, chiefly laid in Eastern scenes, of which the first and best was 'The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan,' 1824. The humour and true insight into oriental life displayed in this oriental 'Gil Bias' immediately seized the popular fancy. The book went to several editions; and Morier acquired a high reputation as a novelist, which his later works do not appear to have injured, though they are of very unequal merit. The best are 'Zohrab the Hostage,' 1832, and 'Ayesha, the Maid of Kars,' 1834, for here Morier was on familiar ground, and, as was said of him, 'he was never at home but when he was abroad.' So accurate was his delineation of Persian life and character that the Persian minister at St. James's is said to have remonstrated on behalf of his government with the plain-speaking and satire of 'Hajji Baba.' His other romances (see below) are of slight merit; but his high reputation is attested, not only by the remarkable statement of Sir Walter Scott in the 'Quarterly Review' that he was the best novelist of the day, but by the fact that his name was used, 'like the royal stamp on silver,' to accredit unknown authors to the public, as in the case of 'St. Roche' and 'The Banished.' Several of his novels were translated into French and German, and one into Swedish; and one, 'Martin Troutroud,' was written originally in French. Morier was a well-known figure in the society of his day, as a collector and dilettante and an amateur artist of considerable merit. In his later years he lived at Brighton, where he died 19 March 1849. By his marriage with Harriet, daughter of William Fulke Greville, he had a son, Greville, a clerk in the foreign office, who predeceased him.

The following is the list of his works:

  1. 'A Journey through Persia, Armenia, and Asia Minor to Constantinople in the Years 1808 and 1809,' 1812.
  2. 'A Second Journey through Persia,' 1818. 3. 'The Adventures of Haiji Baba of Ispahan,' 1824. 4. 'Zohrab the Hostage,' 1832. 5. 'Ayesha, the Maid of Kars,' 1834. 6. 'Abel Allnutt, a novel,' 1837. 7. 'The Banished' [by W. Hauff]: only prefatory note by Morier, 1839. 8. 'The Adventures of Tom Spicer,' a poem, printed 1840. 9. 'The Mirza,' 1842. 10. 'Misselmah, a Persian tale,' 1847. 11. 'St. Roche,' a romance (from the German), merely edited by Morier, 'the practised author,' 1847. 12. 'Martin Troutroud, or the Frenchman in London,' originally written by Morier in French, and translated by himself, 1849.

[Authorities cited in the article; Bates's Maclise Portrait Gallery, where there is a portrait of Morier; information from Sir E. Hertslet, librarian to the foreign office; private information; Fraser's Magazine, vii. 159; Quarterly Review, vols. xxi. xxxvi. xxxix. James Justinian has been confounded with his elder brother, John Philip, in biographical dictionaries.]

S. L-P.