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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
James Justinian Morier (1780?–1849)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
HAJJI BABA, one of the most delightful of all the disreputable rascals in literature, was invented, or rather discovered, in Persia by James Justinian Morier, about the year 1808. In that year Mr. Morier went to Tehrân as private secretary of the English minister to the Persian court. He was born in Constantinople, where his father held the position of British consul; brought up in an Oriental atmosphere, although he passed some years at Harrow; and was dedicated to the Oriental diplomatic or consular service. At the age of twenty-eight he had his first Persian experience. From 1811 to 1815 he was again in Persia as secretary and chargé d’affaires. He wrote two works on Persia, which were greatly valued in England for their historical information and keen insight into Persian character. In 1824 appeared ‘Hajji Baba,’ the ripened product of his observation and experience. It became at once a favorite of the intelligent reading public, and speedily passed through several editions. This popularity it has never lost, and new editions have constantly been in demand. The latest (Macmillan & Co.) was published in 1895 with a biographical introduction by the Hon. George Curzon, and with the original illustrations made from drawings by the author. ‘Hajji Baba in England,’ a narrative which followed this classic, gives the droll experiences of Mirza Firouz, Persian envoy to the court of St. James, whither he is supposed to have been accompanied by Hajji.  1
  Mr. Morier seems to have been saturated with the Oriental feeling; and his knowledge of the Persian character, in all grades of society, is so comprehensive, his acquaintance with Persian literature so sympathetic, and his study of its religion, morals and manners, and way of regarding life, is so deep, that the narrative put into the mouth of the barber of Ispahan strikes no false note. The story has no companion for verisimilitude in all those written by foreigners of another age and another race; including all the romances of Greek and Roman life, which invariably smell of erudition and of archæology. Hajji tells his story like a Persian, and his tale is worthy to rank with the ‘Arabian Nights.’ Hajji is as unconscious of his cheerful rascality, and of the revelations he is making of his people, as the story-tellers of the ‘Nights’ are of the Occidental view of the moral law. As a picture of Oriental life his narrative fits in well with the ‘Arabian Nights’; but it has also kinship to Benvenuto Cellini and to ‘Gil Blas.’ But there is a great difference between the ‘Arabian Nights’ and ‘Hajji Baba.’ The latter is a satire, and was bitterly resented by the Persians as a satire; whereas the same sort of revelations in the ‘Tales’ seem to them genial and natural. To them this satire is particularly offensive in the exposure of the pillars of the church,—the dervishes and the mollahs,—and Hajji’s apparently unconscious admission of the natural vices of cowardice, lying, and deceit. As a keen piece of satire it has never been surpassed; and it is heightened by coming from the mouth of a good-natured adventurer and thief.  2
  The reader will not go amiss of entertainment on any page of this curious book; but we have selected from it the following account of the Persian physician and how the Shah took physic, as fairly representative of its humor, and complete in itself.  3
 
 
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