Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/120

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
101
PERSIA.

arrival, and his principal injunction was, "Be sure you give him plenty of flattery." They know, however, the real value of it as well as we; for at the same time he turned round to our countryman and said: "You know it is necessary reesh-khundish bekuneem—to laugh at his beard," or in other words to humbug him. Among themselves, they practise the same sort of deceit; and though they are in general aware of the value of the praise they receive, yet it does not fail to stimulate their vanity, which, as far back as the time of Herodotus, appears to have been a national vice; for he says, "they esteem themselves the most excellent of mankind."

In the embassy of Sir Harford Jones,—we quote the words of the same traveller—I once witnessed the introduction of one Persian to another, the principal mirza of the embassy to the chief jeweller. "What!" said the latter, "is this the renowned Aga Meer, that learned, that ingenious man, that famous penman?" and then went through such a rapid enumeration of virtues, qualities, personal charms, and family distinctions, that the mirza at first appeared quite overwhelmed: but by little and little he recovered, and returned so brisk a fire of compliments, as almost to annihilate the jeweller.

I have repeatedly heard them compliment a person, observes Mr. Scott Waring, either in his hearing, or in the presence of some one who would convey this adulation to his ears; and the instant that he has departed, their praises have turned into abuse, and they have, with malicious pleasure, exposed the character which not a moment before they praised with fervent servility.

I recollect, says the same writer, the Sheik at Bushire remonstrating against the rapacity of Chiragh Ali Khan, the governor of Shiraz, when he was informed of the arrival of his principal secretary. He began by inquiring after the governor's health, and when he was told that he had quitted the city, he readily observed, that, "now Shiraz was worthless, and that it had lost the only ornament it possessed."

This split of exaggeration and insincerity is not confined to their personal intercourse with one another: it insinuates itself into public affairs, as well as into the humbler relations between man and man.

Not long after the arrival of the English embassy, under Sir Gore Ouseley, at Teheran, the confidential secretary of the grand visir, accompanied by Mirza Abul Hassan Khan, who had been ambassador from Persia to the British court, came one morning in great agitation to announce a great victory gained by the prince-royal over the Russians. Their account was, that the Persians had killed 2000, and taken 5000 prisoners and