The Internet Archive has a beautiful scan of Stories From the Arabian Nights, by Laurence Housman with illustrations by Edmund Dulac.
This entry was posted in Arabian Nights, Books and tagged 1001 Nights, Arabian Nights, Edmund Dulac on October 7, 2010 by Alessandro Cima. About The SiteFilms, photography, short stories, and games are the primary areas covered here. More than just opinions, you will find original films produced by your editor, Alessandro Cima.
You will also find a collection of original games that may appeal to those still enjoying the pleasures of unique independent browser games programmed in Flash. Then there are the original audio stories for children, including a wild pirate adventure and some classic novels. Dig into the stories menu for a collection of illustrated tales that first found an audience for this site. Whatever and however, in the 1820s young Benjamin Disraeli found The Arabian Nights an enchanting alternative to his life as a London law clerk — and he wanted out. The Vladika (the combined prince-bishop of Montenegro) was a poet, and a man fond of learning and literature.
They carried in a cloth, held up between them, several heads which they had severed from the bodies of their victims.
His formal education had been patchy, and his childhood experience of various schools in England and on the continent had been miserable. Only a short time after the grim experience of Montenegro, having crossed into Turkish Albania and arrived at the city of Scutari (modern Shkoder), Layard was enthusing about the colourful life of an eastern bazaar.
The jaunty Albanian with his white fustanella and his long gun resplendent with coral and silver, his richly inlaid pistols and his silver-sheathed yataghan, the savoury messes in the cook’s shops… etc. From Constantinople he sent a letter to his Aunt Louisa that might have come from Disraeli himself: “With this place I am much delighted. At Antioch Layard had seen the springs associated with Daphne and the remains of what may have been the temple of Apollo.
At this stage Layard knew no Arabic, and the area where he was going was infested with Bedouin who lived by robbing and murdering anyone they could find on the roads. I had romantic ideas about Bedouin hospitality and believed that if I trusted to it, and placed myself unreservedly in the power of the Bedouin tribes, trusting to their respect for their guests, I should incur no danger. The consequence of placing himself unreservedly in the power of armed and dangerous brigands, however picturesquely dressed, was not what he hoped.
The dress, manners, and political institutions of European civilisation had scarcely penetrated into this Islamic realm at all — presumably a huge plus — but Layard was beginning to understand the limitations of Turkish rule.
But these imperfections seemed ignorable: at Mosul all the old childhood emotions and memories of books read under the gilded Florentine table came enjoyably flooding back. In Baghdad Layard spent his days exploring Babylonian ruins, and looking at the fine collection of Arabic and Persian manuscripts in the library of Colonel Taylor, the Political Resident of the East India Company in Baghdad. His confidence was justified — he soon fluked his way into the patronage of a great and powerful Bakhtiari chieftain, Mehemet Taki Khan, a man able to command a force of 10,000 men. No longer a solitary alien on the outside, perpetually having to explain himself and at risk of being murdered on the road, his position was suddenly reversed. Lord Curzon described Layard’s account of life among the Bakhtiari as “one of the most romantic narratives of adventure ever penned.” He not only joined the tribe, he mastered their Persian dialect and participated in their lion hunts, their feuds, and their battles with Persian authority. Anyway it was tremendous fun living amidst forays, feuds, and death by the assassin’s hand, or sitting long into the small hours listening to stories told by men “constantly engaged in bloody quarrels arising out of questions of right of pasture and other such matters.
In a land where oaths were lightly given and lightly broken, Mehemet Taki Khan soon found himself beleaguered and on the run. I called to him, and he turned towards me in the utmost surprise, scarcely believing his senses when he saw me without cover to my bare head, with naked feet, and in my tattered ‘abba’. Layard’s experiences along the Turko-Persian border made the young adventurer an authority on the geographical issues involved — when it was in his possession he put his compass to good use.
The subsequent achievements of Sir Austen Henry Layard, as he eventually became, were prodigious — excavating an enormous site, making remarkable drawings of the palace sculptures, mastering cuneiform, firmly responding to the continual obstruction of his work by venal and mendacious Pashas, transporting both the palace reliefs and two colossal stone bulls down the Tigris — all the while fighting off armed marauders who, both at the diggings and while rafting the reliefs downriver to Basra, were always waiting their chance. Turning the yellowed leaves of his 1853 folio publication The Monuments of Nineveh, the dry and disintegrating leather of its old Morocco binding falling apart in one’s hands, one may learn from Layard’s drawings much about ancient Mesopotamia.
And then in Plate 21 something else catches the eye — as perhaps it was meant to by the Assyrian architect who placed it near the middle of a scene. Civil society (for me pretty much synonymous with civilized society) is the only social order that satisfies the hopes, values, and understandings of the modern mind. But let’s begin at the evolutionary beginning… More simply and just by way of adumbration, in civil societies the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker count themselves lucky because after hundreds of years they’ve at last got out from under the feudal lord, the military caste with its blood-thirsty warriors, the raving mullah with his dogmas and constraints, the clan and the tribe with their xenophobic prohibitions and endless fighting; and last but not least, the political regime of “ruler takes all” with its Khans and Kings and Emperors. What are the conditions for escaping these assorted tyrannies — an escape Mesopotamia never made? This alternative route to prosperity requires private property, along with civil law, and other legislative protections allowing wealth to accumulate or be used to best advantage by free citizens — not tribesmen or slaves or serfs or fanatically fierce sectarians murdering each other day after day.
It would be wonderful if you could find these desirable features shining out in Mesopotamia’s long and notable past. Tagged with Arabian Nights, Assyrian palace reliefs, Austen Henry Layard, Baghdad Days, Bakhtiari, Nineveh, Persia, Sennacherib, torture and impalement. An Australian writer living in Sydney, Roger Sandall is the author of The Culture Cult (2001), a study of romantic primitivism and its effects. On July 4th, 1862 ten year old Alice Liddell and her sisters Ina and Edith set out from Folly Bridge in a row boat with the 30-year-old Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson. Join me as I celebrate the 1st Anniversary of DSO, answer questions and discuss the story origins of The Disney Story Origins Podcast.
This is an example of a widgeted area that you can place text to describe a particular product or service. The films range from kid-friendly animations to horror, documentary and experimental film works intended for gallery and festival showings. Escaping from Swain, Stevens, Maples, Pearce and Hunt, and inspired by tales of Scheherazade, this dandified young man headed east where he dressed up as a pirate in “blood-red shirt, with silver studs as big as shillings,” and a sash stuffed with pistols and daggers. With a travelling companion he too fled eastward, escaping both his uncle’s law office and his aunt’s literary salons. Layard tells in his Autobiography how they had received a letter from Montenegro’s leading chieftain, or Vladika, that “courteously invited” them not merely to visit but to stay with him in his palace at Cetinje.
Russian despotism was the main enemy: the Sultan, however decadent his administration, deserved British help resisting it. Huntington pointed to the fault-lines dividing cultures, and on page 159 of his well-known book he provides a map of “The Eastern Boundary of Western Civilization”.
On the one hand picturesque peasants, colourful textiles, novel dishes to whet the appetite, followed by exciting music and dance.
Tri-lingual, in France he was tormented for being English; in England he was persecuted as a “frog”.
On the same voyage that found him sailing so splendidly dressed between Malta and Corfu, Benjamin Disraeli tried to help Turkey suppress a rebellion in Albania. He was pleased to find that the dress and manners of European civilization “had scarcely penetrated into the realm of Islam” and that he felt he had at last passed into “a world of which I had dreamt from my earliest childhood.” Once more he sees the ferocious weaponry men habitually carry, not as a symptom of lawlessness, or the absence of civil society, but as largely decorative.

On the way to Aleppo he found reminders of Crusader days — churches, convents, and castles.
But none of this dimmed the glowing vision of the desert tribes he had acquired from the writings of the Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. I did not know that the Arab tribes who inhabit the country to the south and east of the Dead Sea differed much from the Bedouins of the desert, of whom I had read in the travels of Burckhardt, and that they fully deserved the evil reputation they had acquired in Jerusalem. After skirmishes with drawn swords, and confrontations at pistol-point, half-starved, exhausted, robbed of books, papers, medicines, his beautiful robe of Damascus silk and most of his clothes, wearing only an “Arab cloak, now almost in tatters and not worth taking,” he dragged himself into Damascus to meet the British Consul.
Layard had been warned of Arabs along the banks of the river that “would rob and plunder us if we ventured to land”. But soon his mind turned toward the region of the southern Zagros mountains, a territory vigorously contested between the Bakhtiari tribe, who pretty much controlled things on the ground, and the Shah in Tehran who claimed sovereignty. If Layard was now going to defy Manuchar Khan and throw in his lot with the Bakhtiari — a tribe regarded by Tehran as “a race of robbers, treacherous, cruel, and bloodthirsty”, that Governor Manuchar Khan plainly intended to crush — then he wanted none of it. He wrote that despite the bad reputation of the Bakhtiari “I was very hopeful and very confident that my good fortune would not desert me, and that by tact and prudence I should succeed in coming safely out of my adventure. Now he was on the inside, and tribal life looked increasingly like the warm and hospitable world he had fantasised about for so long.
As for Layard, confined by Manuchar Khan in the city of Shustar for helping the Bakhtiari, he boldly escaped and made his way back through parching deserts and fearful heat to Baghdad. This drew the notice of the British Ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Stratford Canning, who in 1842 made him an unpaid attache at the Embassy. Plates 8 and 9 show dates, apples, grapes and pomegranates being carried to a royal banquet, and groves of palms, and one can easily imagine a gentle breeze wafting the scent of citron across the river, for the noble Tigris ripples through many scenes.
The relief sculptures show Sennacherib’s destruction in 701 BC of the city of Lachish, in the Kingdom of Judah. Two were stretched naked at full length on the ground, and whilst their limbs were held apart by pegs and cords they were being flayed alive. That civil society never developed in the region is an anthropological puzzle where culture, psychology, intransigent tribalism, military imperatives and religious belief, are probably all involved.
For a discussion of more recent regional issues, and the political influence of Lawrence of Arabia, see also Nihilism in the Middle East. If the western butcher’s wife wants to take a course in accountancy she can — whatever her clan or tribe or priest or president might think.
Well, yes, I suppose the subject of civil society is that, since the puzzle why East is East and West is West — including why Oriental Despotism repels and why no thinking man or woman wants a bar of it — runs all the way back to Aristotle.
They are largely economic (just as Ayaan Hirsi Ali today could never have found a way out of her Somalian straight-jacket without alternative, non-tribal sources of financial support). Without it, all you tend to get is the chronic instability of a three-cornered contest for power between the state, the tribes, and the sects, as Gellner says. In brief, a social order where citizens are guaranteed freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of belief, freedom to pursue economic opportunities as they arise and to keep or use whatever capital accumulates as a result, freedom from obligatory state service — along with the separation of church and state, the right to think whatever you like without being blown up or having your head cut off, and government by the consent of the governed with appropriate electoral procedures. In all the centuries of Mesopotamian history, was there never single more “civilized” culture than those two? Civil society- by which I mean, and I suppose the author means as well, institutions, processes, cultural activities, etc., not directed by a state or government- was flourishing in the region well before the Islamic period, particularly in the Jewish and Church of the East communities. The Temple of Innana, built and rebuilt, among many others, over multiple layers of its previous incarnation, is testament to this fact, as are all the artifacts and art remaindered from the High Neolithic.
Europeans had a real hard time comprehending the physical abuse and torture of high officials when the emperor found them at fault. His work has appeared in a number of places including Commentary, The American Interest, Encounter, The New Criterion, The American, Sight and Sound, Quadrant, Art International, The New Lugano Review, The Salisbury Review, Merkur, Mankind, Visual Anthropology, and Social Science and Modern Society. His improvised yarn would become “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”, which would then become a classic of nonsense literature “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. Like past supplemental episodes, it’s a story I want to tell, but it just wanders too far away from the purpose of the main episode, so it is now a supplemental episode, that may lend you some extra insight, when the main episode drops. You can also use other WordPress widgets such as recent posts, recent comments, a tag cloud or more. Only after crossing France and Italy, and reaching the shores of the Adriatic, did he feel able to fill his lungs and breathe freely at long last. To ensure their safety the chief had sent horses and guards to escort his guests — “four savage but fine-looking fellows… presented themselves at our lodging.
It galled him that German newspapers had praised the courage of the King of Saxony, who had visited Montenegro in the course of a botanical excursion, for venturing into “the territory of a barbarous, sanguinary, and perfidious race”. This accorded with long-term British policy that saw the Ottoman Empire as a necessary bulwark against Russian expansion to the south.
Running southward from the Russian shores of the White Sea, it bisects a number of countries in Eastern Europe before passing through Montenegro to end in the Adriatic.
He was only truly happy in Florence, where the family went for nine years hoping that a change in climate would restore the health of his asthmatic father Peter.
His biographer Robert Blake tells us that the revolt was over before Disraeli was ready, but that he nevertheless went to Janina in north-western Greece “to congratulate Reshid Pasha, the Grand Vizier, who was in command of the Turkish army.” Disraeli was both a friend of Layard’s uncle Benjamin Austen, and a regular visitor to his aunt Sara’s salons.
The imagination could not picture a site more beautiful as that occupied by Constantinople. In Jerusalem he was determined to see the strange rock-carved architecture of Petra, and explore the lands of Moab and Jerash. On the banks of the Tigris were the long-buried remains of Nineveh, the ancient city where he would make his name. Beneath tall and graceful date palms “were clusters of orange, citron, and pomegranate trees, in the full blossom of spring. When somewhat surprisingly this did not happen, he soon found why — it was because a highly disagreeable penalty for robbery had been imposed by the previous Pasha. To do this however meant dealing with the Persian governor of Isfahan, Manuchar Khan, a man who had recently shown he was not to be trifled with by building a tower out of 300 prisoners, mortared together like bricks, who all died slowly and hideously. Edward Mitford now journeyed on to India alone, while Layard turned his mind to the months ahead. It is not impossible that in these days he may from time to time have been romantically involved with Bakhtiari women.
It is perhaps not entirely irrelevant that in the Arabian Nights, before Scheherazade found a beguiling way around it, the Sultan had married, enjoyed, and then calmly killed each of his ‘wives’ next day. Upon learning of Layard’s active participation in skirmishes with Persian troops, the Vizier in Tehran told the British Ambassador Sir John McNeill, who inquired after his whereabouts: “That man!
With them ‘the life of a man was as the life of a sheep,’ as the Persians say, and they would slay the one with as much unconcern as the other.” The excitement of life in the great chief’s fortress was all very well as long as Taki Khan was in control and the Persians were not. Attacked and thrown from his horse by marauders of the Shammar tribe, Layard lost the disguise of his Arab keffiya (or cloth headdress) and was mistaken for a hated Osmanli. In 1845, after much hesitation, Canning allowed Layard to commence the excavations that led to the discovery of several long-buried palaces, including that of Sennacherib.
Arabian Nights, Baghdad Days offers all-too-typical scenes from the human comedy — in this case the long-running farce of East meets West. Or perhaps Voltaire: the naivete of young Austen Henry Layard reads like Candide among the Ottomans.

So imagine my surprise when I find the only items discussed are two words, “civil society”, occurring in the final paragraph. If the wife of the baker wants to get away from the oven and an offensive husband too, then civil law allows this, because opting out is protected; indeed, the freedom of individuals to achieve their destinies according to talent and opportunity — not according to ascribed features of tribe or skin color or sex or dynastic connection or prophetic affiliation (Shia, Sunni) — is an intrinsic feature of this historically novel and belatedly evolved social order.
And by the way, minds a lot more powerful than Edward Said’s have pondered the issues involved, from Adam Ferguson and Gibbon in the 18th century, to Marx (the Asiatic Mode of Production) and Sir Henry Maine (status vs.
The short answer describing a very long process is in Gellner’s words “perpetual and exponential growth”: in this process the commerce and production of free economic agents supersedes predation, replacing the exactions of warrior castes and the forced internal and external tribute of the state. But there was no Greek Enlightenment, or game-changing debate about the nature of justice, citizenship, and the duties of government.
What about Hammurabi and his code of law, propagated a full millenium before Assyrian rule, for instance?
In the company of another adventurer named Edward Ledwich Mitford, (Layard was 22, his companion Mitford 32) the two men planned to walk and ride all the way to India and Ceylon. They each carried a long gun, and were armed to the teeth with pistols, yataghans, and knives.” These accoutrements added a spice of danger. This was simply untrue, he protested, pointing to a sign of his own civilized taste — the billiard table he had recently installed — but one fine day while he and Layard were chalking their cues they were interrupted by a clatter of hooves outside, with much shouting and firing of guns. Yet the trophies on display outside the palace in Cetinje must surely have given pause — must have provided at least some sense of leaving behind not only the London law office he despised, but law itself; of having crossed a frontier separating civilization from the tribal past.
Layard was on his way to Mosul in Mesopotamia, and the unearthing of the Assyrian remains of Nimrud and Nineveh that would be forever associated with his name. For romantic aesthetes the discovery that in tribal societies the appealing and the appalling are often inseparable always comes as a disappointing surprise.
It was in Italy that Peter Layard took his son to galleries where he learned to appreciate the Masters, and it was there the boy first read Shakespeare, Spenser, and Ben Jonson. He wrote excitedly to Austen: “For a week, I was in a scene equal to anything in the Arabian Nights. There was however a small problem: south of the Dead Sea the whole countryside was in disorder following an invasion by Egyptian armies under the famous Muhammad Ali Pasha. Although it would be five long years before he was allowed to begin digging, and all he could see were vast enigmatic mounds, “I was deeply moved by their desolate and solitary grandeur”, he wrote, and spent a week in the area taking measurements and looking for inscriptions.
There had once been a bridge, but it had been swept away long ago, “and, under the careless and fatuous rule of the Turks, no attempt had been made to replace it.” It was also obvious that the consequences of Ottoman government were more serious than a mere indifference to roads and bridges.
A gentle breeze wafted a delicious odour over the river, with the cooing of innumerable turtle-doves. Hundreds of prisoners, criminals, and naked slaves, harnessed by long ropes to sledges on which great stone bulls were being moved, are seen with overseers, their arms always threateningly upraised to lash and beat. There are also scenes of beheadings, and of government scribes counting piles of heads, and of prisoners being flayed alive. The brains of one were apparently being beaten out with an iron mace, whilst an officer held him by the beard. Nice clean-living London law student reads a book of tall tales, ships out to Turkey so he can dress up and meet princesses and ride on magic carpets through the sky… Then crashes to earth and is lucky not to lose his head. Anyway the adventures described provide a hilarious metaphor for Western delusions about the historic cultures of the region — fantasies whose consequences, as we can see today in Iraq and Afghanistan, are sometimes not funny at all. Sufi lodges and madrassas, like the local donkey market and a thriving carpet trade, just don’t cut it.
Whether it was the process and enforcement of law or the work of charity or popular education, civil society was, in many cases, the only location for things to happen. But already as they rode along south of Trieste they could feel the grey burden of England lifting — and their spirits did too.
Some Montenegrin warriors had been on a foray into Turkish territory and had returned with a present for their leader.
Both in antiquity, and in the 1840s, he would discover there a markedly cavalier attitude toward both human life and human heads — especially in the region we now call Iraq. In Layard’s case, one wonders how such an exceedingly cultured young Englishman understood so little — less indeed than ordinary German newspaper readers might expect to know in 1840 — about the ‘barbarous, sanguinary, and perfidious’ political customs east of Huntington’s line? It also became necessary for this fugitive from a London solicitor’s office to proclaim his new identity in a suitably picturesque way. The British Vice Consul warned Layard that he’d be attacked and plundered by Bedouin who would strip him naked and leave him for dead.
The creaking of the water-wheels, worked by oxen, and the cries of the Arabs on the banks added life and animation to the scene. Manuchar Khan was determined to break and punish the Bakhtiari, the clans sensed it, and before long their fealty weakened and the chief’s followers began to melt away. Today sensitive museum administrators are a little shy about this sort of thing, preferring to keep it out of sight, but Layard himself was unflinching.
A torturer was wrenching the tongue out of the mouth of a second wretch who had been pinioned to the ground. It was articulated in neighborhood associations, in Sufi lodges, in futuwwa brotherhoods, in Christian school systems, in markets, in mosques and madrasas, and so on. In short, knew so little about lands, unlike his own, where life is cheap and where both civil and civilised law is thin on the ground.
Two of the most commonly reproduced portraits of Layard as a young man show him “in Albanian Dress”, by W. Upon hearing this the prudent Mitford declined to go: he would wait for his companion (assuming Layard survived) in the safety of Damascus.
The bleeding heads of the slain were tied round the necks of the living who seemed reserved for still more barbarous tortures.
They all belong to an intensely parochial and limited world, whose freedoms, both mental and political, are crippled by local cultural constraints and enduring religious fixations that make it difficult for the region to move on.
English diplomats were involved over its own citizens imprisoned by the Chinese authority in 19th cen. Or could it be for some readers the vision of exquisitely delayed beheadings — so unlike the rude explosions of roadside bombs? But whatever the two young Englishmen made of this daunting arsenal they were entirely unprepared for what came into view at the palace. No relief from religious obsessions, dating back to Ishtar and Asshur, with their persistent theocratic temptations.
There “a circle of forty-five gory Turkish heads were stuck on poles, trophies from a battle the previous week.” For the last seven days they had been ripening outside the window of what became Layard’s sleeping quarters during his stay. Phillips, and “in Bakhtiari dress”, a watercolour painted in Constantinople by Amadeo Preziosi in 1843. The political panorama of Mesopotamian history shows little but the dynastic rise and fall of despots and their vassals, rulers whose Ozymandian pretensions stretch from Sargon to Saddam with their armies and captives and slaves, shouting their conquests brazenly from stelae, proudly displaying their grisly triumphs in sculptured panels of military violence, enslavement, punishment, and submission.

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