Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

THE KUZZILBASH.

A TALE OF KHORASAN.*

We have long been tired of the eter- meet at a venture with three more tanal tameness and insipidity which are lenteil and promising individuals than the prevailing characteristics of works Lord Normanby, Mr Lister, and Mr of fiction in the present day. The Robert Ward. They are quite the poor novel writers are evidently at sort of men one would wish to meet their wits' end, and, to use a Scotch at a dinner party any day in the week; phrase, have already gone to the full clever, personable, well dressed, and length of their tether. Time was, that well bred ; amiable in their domestic when stretched on our comfortable relations, pleasant travelling compasofa, with a dish of Mocha, and a new nions, chutiy in a post chaise, and connovel, we were as happy as Sir William descendingly communicative in the Curtis with punch and turtle. Now, mail ; good shots and quadrillers, far though we still lounge and sip cof- from despicable at Ecarté, and able, fee, the novel forms no longer an item with some cramming, to accomplish a in our catalogue of pleasurable appli- tolerable speech in the House of Comances. We can derive no amusement mons. We appeal to any one if we from a mere dull rifacciamento of have here overstated their merits, or old incidents dressed up in holiday whether, in the catalogueof these gen. finery for the nonce of republication tlemen's pretensions, one item could by Mr Colburn. We are sick to death conscientiously be omitted. Yet take of the eternal remodelling of antiqua. them as novel-writers, and they disted common-places; of the incessant play a lamentable want of all imagin. outpouring of one vessel into another; ative power. How utterly stale, fiat, the tame resuscitation of feeble and and unprofitable, (to any at least but everyday characters; the persevering the author and bookseller,) is the matendeavour to concoct new mixtures ter of their fictions ! They present us from old ingredients,-ending, as all with no new and vigorous creations ; such attempts must end-in lamenta- they give utterance to no thoughts ble failure. There really appears as which bear the stamp of power and if there were something in novel-wri- originality; all is tame, drowsy, unting which numbs the faculties, and impassioned and monotonous. They paralyses the energies of ordinary describe not men but manners; the minds. We have thousands of first manners too, not of large bodies of sorate men in the country, poets, philo- ciety, but of a particular coterie, insigsophers, political economists, maga- nificant in everything but the rank zine-contributors, historians, news and wealth of its members. Their paper-reporters, and metaphysicians. motto uniformly is, "La sauce vaut Now, take these men each in their own mieux que le poisson." In their eyes particular department, read their hise the value is not in the matter, but in torical, or metaphysical, or political the cookery, and such hashing and treatises, their police reports, their es- rehashing, such mingling of fashionsays, critical and moral, their poetry, able condiments to disguise the scaleand ten to one you will find them alí ness of their materials, as they are come respectable some more than respec. pelled to employ, it is altogether mare table—in point of talent. But strange vellous to contemplate. to say, let any of these lights of the It is but justice to observe, however, age sit down to indite a novel, and a that many of the faults we bave noticed, change is at once wrought in the are faults as much of the system as of whole character of his intellect; his its individual supporters. Luckily for faculties desert him in his utmost Mr Colburn there is a rage among need, and he sinks at once into a dri- vulgar people and vulgar people form veller. Where, for instance, will you the great majority of the reading pub

The Kuzzilbash, a Tale of Khorasan. 3 vols. Henry Colburn, New Burlington Street, London. 1828.

lic of the present day- to become ao punctually for all our contributions, at quainted with the manners, habits, the rate of five guineas a-sheet, transand pursuits of those circles, from mitted regularly, including the odd which they are excluded. It is quite shillings, in a parcel by the mail; and wonderful to observe the interest ex- though this rate of remuneration must cited East of Temple-bar, by a de undoubtedly appear small, we have scription of a ball at Almack's or a din- no doubt that, under all the circum. ner at Park Lane. And if such things stances of the work, it is quite as much please these opulent and worthy per- as could reasonably have been expected. sons, why, in Heaven's name, should We are always happy, therefore, they not be gratified? Why, if the when Mr Colburn really does publish people call for a stone, should Mr a good book, to do our best to add to Colburn give them bread ? It is his its popularity, by impressing it with office to cater for, not to regulate the the signet of our praise. As a proof public taste, and he is not called on to of our good faith in this declaration, decide, like a Paris or an Abernethy, we do not hesitate to express our deon the value or wholesomeness of the cided opinion, that the public now viands which the popular appetite stand indebted to him for one of the may demand.

best and ablest works of fiction which Were we in a bad humour, which for a long time past has issued from -thanks to a peptic pill of Doctor the press. We allude to “ The Kuze Kitchiner and a good dinner - we zilbash, a Tale of Khorasan.” An acare not, we might go on in this snarl- count of which we intend shall form ing and captious strain, to the end the staple of our present article. of our article, laying about us with Considering the almost universal our critical shillelah, like an Irish- attraction of Eastern fiction, and the man in a row, and occasioning frac- number of accomplished travellers, ture and contusion to many worthy qualified by long residence to afford individuals, who rejoice in Mr Cols true and vivid pictures of the manners burn as their publisher. But this we of those oriental nations, among whom shall not do for two reasons.

The they have been sojourners, it does apfirst is, that we are not in the humour. pear strange that so few efforts should Nothing has occurred to exacerbate have been made in a department of our temper, or stimulate our liver into literature, so popular and engaging. unhealthy action, and we feel our- That the task of filling the hiatus thus selves at the present moment in charity left, is most difficult, we admit; yet with all mankind. The second is, we have already seen the difficulties, that beneath all our deceitful demon- great as they are, surmounted by at strations of dislike or indifference, we least one author, and only wonder that have always had a sneaking regard for other writers, almost equally qualiMr Colburn. True it is, we never

fied for the task, should not have told our love, but let not our assertion started forward to be held doubtful on that account. We have done him good offices in secret,

• " Partake the triumph, and pursue the and now almost blush, even through

gale." our own emblazonment, to find them The truth is, that the studies of a fame. Of many of the best articles in person who would acquire an intithe New Monthly, we are the author. mate knowledge of the manners, haWe wrote the Ode on the Bonassus, bits, feelings of a nation, must not be and the Elegy on the death of the Elea limited to the journal of the traveller, phant in Exeter Change. For a much or the researches of the historian. It admired article on “ Hats," which ape is only from a series of individual porpeared some years ago, we may like traits,---by representing men in their wise assume credit, to say nothing of domestic as well as in their public resundry contributions which we pure lations—by exposing to view, not loined from Blackwood's Balaam box, merely their actions, but their motives, and which contributed in no small de« by exhibiting them, in short, as they gree to the celebrity of the New Month- exist in all their widely ramified conly-But of this enough. We now say nexions, with religion, with governpublicly, that we consider Mr Colburn ment, and with each other, that an aca liberal and enterprising publisher, curate judgment can be formed of the and an honourable man. We were paid genius and character of a people. It

2

is only by a story skilfully constructed work in the whole circle of British Liand happily adapted to the purposes it terature which displays greater vigour is intended to effect, that this know- of conception, or exercises an influence ledge in its fullest extent can be ime more powerful and despotic over the parted. In other words, it is an Easte feelings and the imagination of the ern novel alone which can be made reader. In all its delineations, there the vehicle of such interesting but mi- is a freedom of pencil, and a vividness nute information, as can lead us to any and splendour of colouring, which intimate communion with nations dif- mark the band of a master, while the fering, so widely from ourselves in truth of the picture in its details, its everything of thoughtor circumstance, rigid and close adherence to all the principle or observance.

lineaments of humanity, modified in Had works of this sort formed any their developement and form by the portion of the scauty but precious re- thousand visionary and material ine lics of ancient Greece, how vast would fluences which affect our nature, has be our increase of knowledge on all never been surpassed, even by the those points, which at present admit most unimaginative and prosaic histoonly of the vague conjectures of the rian. The story of Euphrosyne is a antiquarian ! Nay, did we possess but fine specimen of the very loftiest pow. one single story of Athenian fiction, in er, somewhat wantonly exercised on how great a degree would not the his. matter full of difficulty and danger. tory, the philosophy, the poetry, of the The author shews himself on the brink most glorious and interesting, era of a precipice, but he does not fall; recorded in the annals of mankind, and we think our language affords nohave been illustrated and explained ! thing more full of melancholy beauty, "How many doubts would at once be than the latter portion of the work, removed, how many false conjectures but above all, that which relates to corrected, how many erroneous con- the illness and death of his son. Such clusions set at nought? As it is, of descriptions as these will not die. The much which it would be most inter- tooth of time will not injure the pages esting to know, of the habitudes and of Anastasius; they bear the stamp of modes of thought of a people whose immortality—xtua éis ds. productions have modelled the taste, Anastasius was followed by Hajji and ennobled the imagination, of all Baba, a work altogether of inferior succeeding generations, we are, and pretensions, and yet excellent in its must continue ignorant. Through a kind. The author knew his own medium always obscure, and frequente powers too well to attempt a fruitless ly fallacious, we can view them only rivalry with his predecessor, and pitchas a whole, in their collective and ex- ed his tone in a lower-we think too ternal relations, while all the minuter low a_key. His model is evidently features which would have lent beauty Le Sage ; and Hajji Baba is in truth and accuracy to the picture, must re- nothing more than a Persian Gil Blas, main without the scope of our obser- equally unprincipled and uninterestvation.

ing in his own personal attributes, yet It has been said that knowledge is affording scope, in the narration of his power, and it is true; but surely it vicissitudes and adventures, for deis no less so, that knowledge is plea, scription of all ranks of society in Persure; nor, of all the modifications of sia, and in the other countries of which, pleasure, of which our nature is suse in the progress of the story, he becomes ceptible, is that the least noble and a visitor. We are thus furnished with enduring, which is derived from works a series of portraits drawn from the in which instruction is united to the life, and animated with all the spirit highest excitement of the imagination, which the Promethean skill of the artand of all the best and deepest sympa- ist enabled him to infuse. One adthies of the human heart. Such a vantage of the plan undoubtedly is, work is Anastasius; one of the proud- that it obviates the necessity of any est and most successfulefforts of con- regularly constructed plot, while it temporary genius, which at once rai- gives ample room and verge enough sed its author, previously known only for introduction of incident and deas a dilettante dissertator on chairs, lineation of manners. We wish Mr chimney-pieces, and chaises longues, Morier--for such is the name of the to the very foremost rank of literary author of Hajji Baba-had thought distinction. We confess we know of no proper to invest his hero with a de

[graphic]

gree of principle and feeling somewhat having had, what in Scottish phrase is greater, which, we trust, would not called, “ a sair time o't,” when she is have injured the truth of the delinea- visited by Roushun-u-deen Sheikh Altion.

lee Calunder, a dervish equally cele.' Altogether, bowever, the book is brated for his profound wisdom, his clever and amusing, and the manners unrivalled sanctity, and the impeneof the different classes of society in trable mystery which hung over his Persia are painted with a graceful fe- character, and the habits of his life. licity of touch, which bears abundant As this personage plays rather a strievidence of the skill of the artist. All king part in the story, it may be as oecasions of deep feeling he avoids, well to allow the author to shadow, and even when they naturally occur forth his character and attributes. in the course of the narrative, they “The Sheikh was believed to be a native are slurred over in a manner which

of India, a land fertile in magicians and shews pretty strongly, that the forte

necromancers, as well as in saints and of the author does

not lie in the

pa- sages; but though the person and extrathetic.

ordinary attributes of this holy man were Between these two works-below well known in Persia, and throughout all Anastasius, but, in all respects, above the east, no one in all these countries could Hajji Baba-would we place the Ad- give any account either of his family, the ventures of a Kuzzilbash. It is a work place of his birth, his age, or even of the

ich he lived and moved from of great talent and originality ; full of way in vivid and vigorous description and spie place to place. Strange tales were told of rit-stirring adventure, of perilous es

age, and of the power he possessed of capes by flood and field, of broil and transporting himself to great distances in

an incredibly short time :-- his appearance battle, of human passion and human was that of a man in the prime of life, yet crime.

he had been known to speak of periods and The word Kuzzilbash, or Redhead, events of very remote occurrence, as from as our readers know-or, more proba- his own knowledge, so that those who heard bly, as they do not know—is employed him were constrained to believe that his in the present day to designate a Per. mortal span had been preternaturally ex. sian soldier, though in former times it

tended. He was never seen to partake was exclusively applied to seven tribes, either of meat or drink, and a comparison

of dates between travellers in countries who, in the reign of Shah Ismael the first, formed a sort of body-guard to this extraordinary person, reduced them to

widely distant, who each had met with their monarch, and were bound by co

the perplexing dilemma of attributing to venant to defend the Sheah faith him the power of ubiquity, or of a mira. against the accursed followers of Omar. culously rapid locomotion. The hero, whose adventures form the “ The Sheikh was believed to profess staple of the work, is represented as of the tenets of that sect of religious sceptics distinguished lineage, being the son of called Sooffees ; but the rigid austerity and a chief of the tribe of Affshar, which

self-denial of his life, its blameless tenor, occupies a small district in the pro

and the power of his eloquence in the vince of Khorasan. His respectable

mosques, when preaching to the people on father, we are informed, was a person

the sublimer doctrines of their religion, all

caused him to be looked upon as a worthy of truly moderate desires, and con

pillar of Islamism ;-even the priests and tented with a very limited exercise of Moollahs of the most celebrated shrines, the privileges of a polygamist. He had though they hated and feared him for his only two wives, of whom the mother extraordinary influence and endowments, of our hero was the favourite. Ismael did not dare to deny his claims to super

- for in such name does he rejoice- eminent picty. was not born for several years after • But the Sheikh possessed other and their union, and his birth was not un- more powerful holds on the minds of the accompanied by fearful omens. His people at large. Intimately acquainted mother, having fallen asleep one day with the motions of the heavenly bodies, after coming out of the bath, is visite and their powers over and sympathies with ed by a dream of fearful import,

the animal and vegetable worlds, he was a which is afterwards fully realized in profound astrologer ; he surpassed Aristotle

as a philosopher, and Avicenna or Hippothe misfortunes of the family, and the crates in medical skill. The unerring cerperils by which the life of her son is tainty of his predictions, and the accuracy assajled. The worthy matron is slowwith which he decided upon lucky hours ly recovering from her accouchement, and minutes, together with the mystery in whích much of his life and actions were the salutation of peace, in the name of God shrouded, while they raised him almost to and his prophet; and seating himself opthe rank of a prophet in popular estimation, posite to her, remained for more than a caused him also to be regarded in some de minute bending his keen eyes mournfully gree as a magician, and one possessing on her countenance. No one ventured to power over the genii and spirits of the ele- interrupt this silence, till the Dervish him. ments ;--what wonder then, that my mo. self at length spoke as follows :—Daugh. ther's excited imagination should hail the ter! the angels of good and of evil are alike arrival of such a person, at such a moment, the messengers of Allah, and both must be as a special interposition of destiny ? Men received with meekness and humility; learn, of such holy stamp have always free ac- then, to bend with resignation to his will, cess to every part of the household ; and that the blessings which his goodness bewoe to that husband, father, or official, stows may not elevate thee unduly, nor who should in any way impede the pro- the sorrows he permits to assail thee in this gress, or oppose the will, of Sheikh Allee vale of tears weigh too heavily on thy Calunder !

soul. Thou hast dreamed a dream, which “On being informed, by an attendant, of indeed has in part imaged to thy sleeping the pregnant lady's wish to see and con. mind the future destiny of thyself and of verse with him, the Sheikh solemnly, and thy offspring. Thy soul shall be gladdeneven mournfully, pronounced his blessing. ed by the birth of a son, but thy joy shall *Peace be with thy lady, so long as hea. not long endure. He will be lost to thee ven wills it! the cares of her soul are known before his youthful energies have attained to me, and I come to soothe them; lead maturity; many perils, much of adversity me straightway to her presence !' So say. and various adventure, shall be experience, ing, he followed the slave to my mother's but it will be to surmount them all; for apartment.

more of good than of evil fortune is writ“ The Sheikh, it has already been said, ten on his forehead, and his star shines appeared to be a man in his prime; scarce brightly though it be environed with many did he seem to have numbered thirty winbaleful influences ! But here the veil is ters :-his hair, grown to immense length dropt, and Heaven, in mercy to its creatures, and thickness, was plaited and wreathed denies the dangerous gratification of peraround his head like a lofty turban, and fect foreknowledge. Be satisfied then, my partially sprinkled with ashes ; a few fea. daughter, with the promised good fortune thers of a pheasant, with a branch of the of thy son, and seek no farther to pry into Arabian jasmine, were stuck fancifully on his destiny or thy own : be sure that, if one side ; two full, piercing, and deep-seat- thou dost, evil will result from the attempte ed eyes, blazed from under brows of in. My task is now ended, and, for the pretense thought, above which rose his high sent, thou seest me no more. May God and noble forehead; a finely formed and protect thee!'. So saying, the Sheikh arose, aquiline nose gave dignity to his face, na. and quitted the apartment slowly as he turally of a graceful oval, but which now, had entered it, leaving all who had wit. thin and care-worn, betokened the auște- nessed this extraordinary interview too rities of penance and abstinence ; a large much bewildered to think of stopping, or and handsome beard hung in undulating even addressing him: and whether the at. curls around his cheeks, and half conceals tendants without had held careless watch ed a mouth, which could fascinate by the was never known, but none of them obsweetness of its smile, or add terror to the served the Sheikh quit the fort, or even the dark frown of the brow.

village, nor was he heard of any more at “ The figure of the Sheikh was in har. this period." mony with his countenance : lofty, graceful, and nervous, it bespoke the

The lady, as might be expected,

power of the mind that animated, yet seemed to prey disregards the positive injunctions of upon it; for his frame was wasted almost this formidable person, and determines to emaciation. A tattered mantle, of va.

still further to gratify her curiosity, rious colours, formed but a scanty cover. by applying to a neighbouring, astroing to the upper part of his body; a thin loger for such information as he can strip of cloth was wound around his loins; afford with regard to the future desthe skin of a tiger hung over his shoulders; tiny of her son. But the astrologer on his feet he wore the wooden slippers confesses himself at fault; he is ruled common to dervishes ; and in his hand he by a higher influence, and can tell like handle, on which, when seated in meo nothing wbich the mother of Ismael ditation, he could rest his arm, and to

is at all desirous of hearing. She is which many people attributed much of his again visited, however, by the Dersupposed magical power.

vish, who thunders forth a dreadful * The Sheikh, as he entered the room, at denunciation on her rashness and obe the upper end of which my mother was stinacy, and departs. Shortly after, seated upon a cushion, solemnly uttered the town is attacked by the Toorko

« НазадПродовжити »