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half of the seventeenth century be regarded as singularly rich in efforts to recommend the fancy and imagery of the East. One of our greatest poets, Milton, has, in various parts of his picturesque and sublime compositions, shewn a great partiality for fiction of this kind, mixed, as he found it in his favourite authors, with all the romantic usages of gothic and chivalric life. "I may tell you,” says he,
“ whither my younger feet wandered : I betook me among those lofTY FABLES AND ROMANCES, which recount in SOLEMN Cantos the deeds of knighthood * ; and we have seen how much he was delighted with the Arabian story of Cambuscan in the Canterbury Tales.
It is, however, to the travellers and translators of this period, and particularly to those of France, that we are indebted for an intimacy with the manners and literature of the East, more accurate and extensive than had hitherto been obtained. The travels of CHARDIN into Persia and the East Indies, were productive of a fund of the most valuable and curious information ; and, in 1697, the Bibliotheque Orientale of HERBELOT added a multitude of particulars relative to the learning, customs, and religion of the orientals, before unknown to Europe. The erudition of
* Prose Works, vol. i. ii.
Herbelot, indeed, was equally universal and profound; and his Dictionary includes, as it were, a library of Persian, Arabian, and Turkish books.
The taste which these productions had the merit of imparting, soon led to an attempt to naturalize some of the most instructive and amusing efforts of Oriental genius. M. Petis DE LA Croix, Professor of Arabic, gave a version of The Thousand und One Days Persian Tales, and AnTHONY GALLAND of The Thousand and One Nights Arabian Tales, and of the Fables of Pilpay and Locman. These oriental fictions and apologues, which paint in glowing yet faithful colours the people and costume of eastern countries, were eagerly read and admired, and were very soon rendered familiar to the English reader by translations from the French.
It was a little anterior to the appearance of these tales in his native language that Addison commenced the Spectator. In this work and the Guardian he has shewn a
very decided partiality for oriental imagery and fable, and has not only seized every opportunity of introducing the eastern apologue, but has given us three most exquisite imitations of the oriental style and manner. The example, presented as it was in a book more popular than any other that English literature has afforded, operated most effectually
in diffusing a taste for these productions through the island; and many of his successors in periodical composition, particularly Doctors Johnson and Hawkesworth, have very vigorously pursued the path which he had the merit of first opening.
If Addison has been taxed with not sufficiently indulging the powers of imagination in his poetical effusions, it may justly be said, that he has amply atoned for the deficiency in his prose compositions. In his three oriental tales, the Vision of Mirza *, Shalum and Hilpa t, and Alnaraschin, king of Persia I, the imagery and incidents are such as to display an imagination equally fertile and rich, whilst the costume and consequences, incident to the traditionary manners and longevity of the Antediluvians are, in the delightful tale of Shalum the Chinese, preserved with a consistency and propriety productive of the most pleasing emotion and surprise.
That our author was intimately acquainted with the writings of Chardin, Herbelot, M. Petis de la Croix, and Galland, is evident from the beautiful apologues dispersed through the Spectator and Guardian. These, which are seven in number, he has acknowledged as derived either
+ Ditto, No 584, 585.
* Spectator, No 159.
from the French orientalist, or from the Ara: bian, Persian, or Turkish Tales. Chardin and Galland he has expressly mentioned in Numbers 289 and 535 of the Spectator; and he has introduced two or three of them with a declaration of his attachment to the wild and interesting simplicity which they exhibit *.
The mode in which he has rendered these little narratives subservient to the purest and most instructive morality, is worthy of all praise. The value of time, is finely illustrated by the story of the Sultan of Egypt and the Mahometan Doctor t; the uncertainty and vicissitudes of life, by that of the Dervise of Tartary $; the reward of humility, by the Persian Fable of a Drop of Water ; the best mode of giving advice, by the Turkish tale of the Sultan Mahmoud and his Visier || ; the folly of indulging visionary schemes, by the Arabian apologue of Alnaschar l; how great should be the impartiality of justice, by the narrative of the Sultan and the Poor Man **, and the merit of well-timed complaisance, by the little wild Arabian tale, as Addison terms it, of Schacabac and the Barmecide ft.
* See the Spectator, No 512, 535, and Guardian, No 162. + Spectator, No 94.
; Ditto, No 289. $ Ditto, No 993.
|| Ditto, No 512. Ditto, No 535.
** Guardian, No 99. ++ Ditto, No 162.
« Fables,” very justly observes our author, were the first pieces of wit that made their
appearance in the world, and have been still highly valued, not only in times of the greatest simplicity, but among the most polite ages of mankind. Jotham's Fable of the Trees * is the oldest that is extant, and as beautiful as any which have been made since that time t.” After the fables of the Hebrew Scriptures, the oldest collection that we possess, and which, without doubt, gave birth to the Grecian Æsop, is the Heetopades of Veeshnoo-Sarma. It is remarkable, that to these Indian fables of very remote antiquity many of the Arabian and Persian fabulists, though perhaps ignorant of the original source, are indebted, through the medium of successive versions and imitations, for no inconsiderable number of their tales; and of the apologues which Addison has selected, one of the most pleasing, the story of Alnaschar in the Arabian Nights, is to be found in the venerable volume of the Sanskreet Brahman.
“ In the city of Devee-kotta,” he relates, o there was a Brahman, whose name was DevaSarma. One lucky evening he found a curious dish, which he took with him into a potter's warehouse full of earthen-ware, and throwing
* Judges, ix, 8–15. + Spectator, No 183.