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HAJJI BABA IN ENGLAND.
[ The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan in England. 2 vols. By J. MORIER, Esq. The Kuzzilbash; a Tale of Khorasan. 3 vols. By JAMES BAILLIE FRASER, Esq. - From the Quarterly Review, Jan. 1829.]
An old acquaintance of ours, as remarkable for the grotesque queerness of his physiognomy, as for the kindness and gentleness of his disposition, was asked by a friend, where he had been ? He replied he had been seeing the lion, which was at that time an object of curiosity-(we are not sure whether it was Nero or Cato-): “ And what,” rejoined the querist, “ did the lion think of you?” The jest passed as a good one; and yet under it lies something that is serious and true.
When a civilized people have gazed, at their leisure, upon one of those uninstructed productions of rude nature whom they term barbarians, the next object of natural curiosity is, to learn what opinion the barbarian has formed of the new state of society into which he is introduced what the lion thinks of his visiters. Will the simple, unsophisticated being, we ask ourselves, be more in
clined to reverence us, who direct the thunder and lightning by our command of electricity-control the course of the winds by our steam-engines turn night into day by our gas-erect the most stupendous edifices by our machinery-soar into mid-air like eagles-at pleasure dive into the earth like moles ?---or, to take us as individuals, and despise the effeminate child of social policy, whom the community have deprived of half his rights who dares not avenge a blow without having recourse to a constable--who, like a pampered jade, cannot go but thirty miles a-day without a haltor endure hunger, were it only for twenty-four hours, without suffering and complaint--whose life is undignified by trophies acquired in the chase or the battle--and whose death is not graced by a few preliminary tortures, applied to the most sensitive parts, in order to ascertain his decided superiority to ordinary mortals? We are equally desirous to know what the swarthy' stranger may think of our social institutions, of our complicated system of justice in comparison with the dictum of the chief, sitting in the gate of the village, or the award of the elders of the tribe, assembled around the council fire ; and even, in a lower and lighter point of view, what he thinks of our habits and forms of ordinary life,—that artificial and conventional ceremonial, which so broadly distinguishes different ranks from each other, and binds together so closely those who belong to the same grade.
In general, when we have an opportunity of enquiring, we find the rude stranger has arrived at some conclusion totally unexpected by his European bost. For instance, when Lee Boo, that most interesting and amiable specimen of the child of nature, was carried to see a man rise in a balloon, his only remark was, he wondered any one should take so much trouble in a country where it was so easy to call a hackney-coach. Lee Boo had supped full with wonders ; a coach was to him as great a marvel as a balloon ; he had lost all usual marks for comparing difficult and easy, and if Prince Hassein's flying tapestry, or Astolpho's hippogryph, had been shown, he would have judged of them by the ordinary rules of convenience, and preferred a snug corner in a well-hung chariot.
From the amusing results arising out of such contrasts it has occurred to many authors, at different periods, that an agreeable and striking mode of enquiry into the intrinsic value and rationality of social institutions might be conducted by writing critical remarks upon them, in the assumed character of the native of a primitive country. Lucian has placed some such observations in the mouth of his Scythian philosopher, Toxaris. In modern times, the Turkish Spy, though the subject of his letters did not embrace manners or morals, had considerable celebrity. The interest of the famous political romance of Gulliver turns on the same sort of contrivance. But, perhaps, the earliest example of the precise species of composition which we mean, exists in the Memoranda imputed to the Indian Kings, and published in the Spectator. At a latter period, Montesquieu's Persian Letters, with Lord Littleton's imitation of that remarkable work, and Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, were designed to represent the view which might be taken of Parisian or London manners and policy, by a Persian sage in the one case, and a Chinese philosopher in the other. Still, however, the notable imperfection occurred in these representations, that neither Montesquieu, nor Littleton, nor Goldsmith was at all qualified to sustain the character he assumed. Usbeck and Lien Chi Altangi are scarcely different, after all, from Europeans in their language, views, and ideas. The Persian caftan and Chinese gown are indeed put on, but the Persian and Chinese habitual modes of thinking are not exhibited, any more than the language of either of these countries ; the Frenchman's Persian might be a Chinese, or the Englishman's Chinese a Persian, without the reader being able to appeal to any satisfactory test for re-adjusting the machinery.
It is in this most essential particular that the Travels of Hajji Baba may claim a complete superiority over the works of those distinguished authors. The author of Hujji Baba's Travels writes, thinks, and speaks much more like an Oriental than an Englishman; and makes good what he himself affirms, that the single “idea of illustrating Eastern manners by contrast with those of England, has been his Kebleh, the direction of his Mecca.” Hajji Baba, moreover, is not an Orientalist merely, but one of a peculiar class and character-a Persian, and differing as much from a Turk as a Frenchman from a German.
The English reader, however, as he is politely called, who is ignorant of all save what his own language can convey to him, might have been at some loss to trace the merits of such a work, without some previous acquaintance with the Persian manners, particularly as differing from those of other Oriental nations ; since, however well acquainted he might be with the habits and manners of his own country, it is necessary, for the enjoyment of this work, that he should know something of the peculiar scale on which they are to be measured. This necessary information has been amply supplied by the Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan-in which we have a lively and entertaining history of the hero of the present work, his early adventures, mishaps, rogueries, with their consequences; all tending to prepare us for his experiences in England. There are few of our readers, probably, who have not perused this lively novel, which may be termed the Oriental Gil Blas, and enjoyed the easy and humorous introduction which it affords to the Oriental manners and customs, but especially to those which are peculiar to the Persians.
By what peculiar circumstances, in climate, constitution, education, or government, the national character is chiefly formed, has been long disputed; its existence we are all aware of; and proposing to travel, consider it as certain, nearly, that we have peculiar advantages to hope, and dangers to guard against, from the manners of a particular region, as that we shall enjoy peculiar pleasures,