HERE is a collection of excellent tales. They are now old friends of mine, yet I made their acquain­tance by mere chance. I fell upon them—or rather I should say upon some of them—a few years ago, when I was first attempting to gain that smattering of Persian which, slight though it be, has given me so much pleasure. It was on a second­hand bookstall—the very bookstall, I believe, that has been made famous by Mr. Andrew Lang in his ‘Book Lover’s Purgatory’—that I, rummaging, discovered some little French volumes, French volumes of the last century, lettered ‘Mille et un Jours.’ The title captivated me at once. I had loved ‘The Thousand and One Nights’ all my life, but I had never heard of ‘The Thousand and One Days.’ I opened one of the volumes, and found that they professed to contain Persian stories. To the beginner in Persian, anything bearing the Persian name has a charm, and I eagerly col­lected the companions of the set. They were imperfect, unfortunately, only four out of a proper five, but I bought them, and read their stories, as far as they went. I soon learned that they were easily obtainable in modern French editions, and I got the modern French editions and completed my knowledge of ‘The Thousand and One Days.’

It is curious to find that while in France ‘The Thousand and One Days’ are only second in popularity to ‘The Thousand and One Nights,’ they are almost if not entirely unknown in England. They have been translated, it is true, into English twice, but both times were early in the last century. The first translation, by Dr. King, was published in 1714; the second, by Ambrose Philips, was published in 1738. So far as I know, these translations have not been reprinted; so far as I know, no other translation of ‘The Thousand and One Days’ has been made. And yet they well deserve translating. If they are not such splendid stories as ‘The Thousand and One Nights,’ what stories in the world are so splendid? We may love ‘The Thousand and One Nights’ with all our hearts, and yet be willing to welcome ‘The Thousand and One Days’ for the sake of that enchanted and enchanting Orient of which they tell.

According to the preface to the Garnier edition, ‘The Thousand and One Days’ were first given to the Western world by the French Orientalist, Petis de la Croix, in 1710. His version professes to be a translation of a Persian original called ‘Hazar Yek Ruz,’ or ‘The Thousand and One Days.’ Petis de la Croix professed to get them from a Dervish named Mocles, whom he knew when he was in Ispahan in 1675. Mocles had adapted them, it would seem, from certain Indian comedies. Of these Indian comedies it is said that a Turkish version exists in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, under the title of ‘Al farady baad al chidda,’ or ‘Joy after Sorrow.’ Mocles allowed Petis de la Croix, who seems to have stood high in his favour, to take a copy of the ‘Hazar Yek Ruz,’ and from this copy Petis de la Croix made his translation on his return to Paris. That is the statement. Whether it is accurate or not, whether the manuscript of the ‘Hazar Yek Ruz’ used by Petis de la Croix exists, whether the ‘Hazar Yek Ruz’ are still familiar studies in Ispahan and Bagdad, whether they are all truly Eastern tales, I leave it to others to argue over, and, if they can, to decide. One, at least, will be familiar, in many forms, to all students of folk-lore. Another will recall one of the most fanciful of the tales of Hans Christian Andersen. But whatever the origin of these stories, whatever their parallels in the illimitable kingdom of fiction, they deserve for their own sake attention and applause. ‘The Thousand and One Days’ are here and ready to speak for themselves.


September 1892.