THE JEW, THE GYPSY AND EL ISLAM

This electronic book is an transcription of the collection "The Jew, the Gypsy and El Islam" (Chicago & New York: Herbert S. Stone, 1898). This volume was also published by Scribner's in 1898. The Stone edition collates the same as the first English edition (London: Hutchinson, 1898).

By the late Captain SIR RICHARD F. BURTON, K.C.M.G. F.R.G.S. ETC.

Translator of "The Thousand and One Nights," and Author of "The Book of the Sword," "My Pilgrimage to Mecca," etc.

Edited with a Preface and Brief Notes by W. H. WILKINS

PREFACE

"GOOD wine needs no bush," and a good book needs no preface, least of all from any but the author's pen. This is a rule more honoured in the breach than the observance nowadays, when many a classic appears weighed down and obscured by the unnecessary remarks and bulky commentaries of some unimportant editor. For my part it will suffice to give as briefly as possible the history of the MSS. now published for the first time in this volume.

Sir Richard Burton was a voluminous writer. In addition to the forty-eight works published during his life, there remained at his death twenty MSS., some long and some short, in different stages of completion. A few were ready for press; others were finished to all intents and purposes, and only required final revision or a few additions; some were in a state of preparation merely, and for that reason may never see the light. Those in this volume belong to the second category. That so many of Burton's MSS. were unpublished at the time of his death arose from his habit of working at several books at a time. In his bedroom, which also served as his study, at Trieste were some ten or twelve rough deal tables, and on each table were piled the materials and notes of a different book in a more or less advanced stage of completion. When he was tired of one, or when he came to a standstill for lack of material, he would leave it for a time and work at another. During the last few years of his life the great success which attended his Arabian Nights led him to turn his attention more to that phase of his work, to the exclusion of books which had been in preparation for years. Thus it came about that so many were unpublished when he died.

As it is well known, he left his writings, published and unpublished, to his widow, Lady Burton, absolutely, to do with as she thought best. Lady Burton suppressed what she deemed advisable; the rest she brought with her to England. She published her Life of Sir Richard Burton, a new edition of his Arabian Nights, also Catullus and Il Pentamerone; and was arranging for the publication of others when she died (March, 1896).

Her sister and executrix, Mrs. Fitzgerald (to whom I should like to express my gratitude for the many facilities she has given me), thought fit to entrust me with the work of editing and preparing for publication the remaining MSS. In the exercise of the discretion she was good enough to vest in me, I determined to bring out first the three MSS. which make up this book.

The first part – The Jew – has a somewhat curious history. Burton collected most of the materials for writing it from 1869 to 1871, when he was Consul at Damascus. His intimate knowledge of Eastern races and languages, and his sympathy with Oriental habits and lines of thought, gave him exceptional facilities for ethnological studies of this kind. Disguised as a native, and unknown to any living soul except his wife, the British Consul mingled freely with the motley populations of Damascus, and inspected every quarter of the city – Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. His inquiries bore fruit in material, not only for this general essay on the Jew, but for an Appendix dealing with the alleged rite of Human Sacrifice among the Sephardím or Eastern Jews, and more especially the mysterious murder of Padre Tomaso at Damascus in 1840. There is little doubt that his inquiry into these subjects was one of the reasons which aroused the hostility of the Damascus Jews against him; and that hostility was a powerful factor, though by no means the only one, in his recall by Lord Granville in 1871.

Burton, however, had collected a mass of material before he left Damascus, and in 1873, the year after he had been appointed Consul at Trieste, he began to put it into shape for publication. It was his habit to collect for many years the material of a work, to mark, learn, and inwardly digest it, and then write it in a few months. This plan he pursued with The Jew, which, with the Appendix before mentioned, was finished and ready for publication towards the end of 1874.

In 1875 he came home from Trieste on leave, and brought the book with him, intending to publish it forthwith. But first he asked an influential friend, who was highly placed in the official world, to read the MS., and give him his opinion as to the expediency of publishing it. That opinion was adverse, owing to the anti-Semitic tendency of the book. Other friends also pointed out to Burton that, so long as he remained in the service of the Government of a country where the Jews enjoy unprecedented power and position, it would be unwise, to say the least of it, for him to make enemies of them. These arguments had weight with Burton, who was not as a rule influenced by anything but his own will, and for once he deemed discretion the better quality, and returned with his MS. to Trieste. There were other considerations too. His wife had just brought out her Inner Life of Syria, which was partly devoted to a defence of his action at Damascus in the matter of the Jews. It had met with a very favourable reception. His friends were also endeavouring to obtain for him a K.C.B. and the post of Tangier, Morocco – the one thing he stayed in the Consular Service in the hope of obtaining. So the time (1875) was not deemed a propitious one for making enemies.

Burton put his MS. on the shelf, and waited for the promotion which never came. It remained there until 1886, when Tangier, which was as good as promised to Burton, was given by Lord Rosebery to Sir William Kirby-Green. Then Burton took down the MS. on The Jew again, and had it recopied. But his wife, who was endeavouring to obtain permission for him to retire on full pension, pointed out to him that since it had waited so long it might as well wait until March, 1891, when, his term of service being finished, they would retire from official life and be free to publish what they liked. Moreover, they numbered many friends among the wealthy Jews of Trieste, and had no wish to wound their susceptibilities. Burton reluctantly agreed to this, but declared his determination of publishing the book as soon as he had retired from the Consular Service. Five months before the date of his retirement he died.

Lady Burton had The Jew next on her list for publication at the time of her death. In publishing it now, therefore, one is only carrying out her wishes and those of her husband. But in the exercise of the discretion given to me, I have thought it better to hold over for the present the Appendix on the alleged rite of Human Sacrifice among the Sephardím and the murder of Padre Tomaso. The only alternative was to publish it in a mutilated form; and as I hold strongly that no one has a right to mutilate the work of another writer, least of all of one who is dead, I prefer to withhold it until a more convenient season. I can do this with a clearer conscience, because the Appendix has no direct bearing on the other part of the book, and because the chapters on The Jew which are retained are by far the more important. The tone of even this portion is anti-Semitic; but I do not feel justified in going contrary to the wishes of the author and suppressing an interesting ethnological study merely to avoid the possibility of hurting the susceptibilities of the Hebrew community. It has been truly said, "Every nation gets the Jew it deserves," and it may well be that the superstitions and cruelties of the Eastern Jews have been generated in them by long centuries of oppression and wrong. From these superstitions and cruelties the enlightened and highly favoured Jews in England naturally shrink with abhorrence and repudiation; but it does not therefore follow they have no existence among their less fortunate Eastern brethren.

The Gypsy has a far less eventful history, though the materials for its making were collected during a period of over thirty years, and were gathered for the most part by personal research, in Asia mainly, and also in Africa, South America, and Europe. Burton's interest in the Gypsies was lifelong; and when he was a lieutenant in the Bombay Army and quartered in Sindh, he began his investigations concerning the affinity between the Jats and the Gypsies. During his many travels in different parts of the world, whenever he had the opportunity he collected fresh materials with a view to putting them together some day. In 1875 his controversy with Bataillard provoked him into compiling his long-contemplated work on the Gypsies. Unfortunately other interests intervened, and the work was never completed. It was one of the many unfinished things Burton intended to complete when he should have quitted the Consular Service. He hoped, for instance, to make fuller inquiries concerning the Gypsies in France, Germany, and other countries of Europe, and especially he intended to write a chapter on the Gypsies in England on his return home. Even as it stands, however, The Gypsy is a valuable addition to ethnology; for apart from Burton's rare knowledge of strange peoples and tongues, his connexion with the Gypsies lends to the subject a unique interest. There is no doubt that he was affiliated to this strange people by nature, if not by descent. To quote from the Gypsy Lore Journal (1 January, 1891):

"Whether there may not be also a tinge of Arab, or perhaps of Gypsy blood in Burton's race, is a point which is perhaps open to question. For the latter suspicion an excuse may be found in the incurable restlessness which has beset him since his infancy, a restlessness which has effectually prevented him from ever settling long in any one place, and in the singular idiosyncrasy which his friends have often remarked – the peculiarity of his eyes. 'When it (the eye) looks at you,' said one who knows him well, 'it looks through you, and then, glazing over, seems to see something behind you. Richard Burton is the only man (not a Gypsy) with that peculiarity, and he shares with them the same horror of a corpse, death-bed scenes, and graveyards, though caring little for his own life.' When to this remarkable fact be added the scarcely less interesting detail that 'Burton' is one of the half-dozen distinctively Romany names, it is evident that the suspicion of Sir Richard Burton having a drop of Gypsy blood in his descent – crossed and commingled though it be with an English, Scottish, French, and Irish strain is not altogether unreasonable."

On this subject Lady Burton also wrote:

"In the January number of the Gypsy Lore Journal a passage is quoted from 'a short sketch of the career' of my husband (a little black pamphlet) which half suspects a remote drop of Gypsy blood in him. There is no proof that this was ever the case; but there is no question that he showed many of their peculiarities in appearance, disposition, and speech – speaking Romany like themselves. Nor did we ever enter a Gypsy camp without their claiming him 'What are you doing with a black coat on?' they would say 'why don't you join us and be our King?'" {NOTE: Lady Burton's Life of Her Husband, Vol. I., p. 252.}

Whether the affinity was one of blood or of nature does not greatly matter; in either case it lends a special interest to Burton's study of the gypsy.

Of El Islam; or, The Rank of Muhammadanism among the Religions of the World there is little to be said. It is one of the oldest of the Burton MSS.; and though it bears no date, from internal evidence I judge it to have been written soon after his famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1853. It is, in fact, contemporary with his poem The Kasîdah, though I know not why the poem was published and the essay withheld. Probably Burton contemplated writing more fully on the subject. Muhammadanism in its highest aspect always attracted him. So long ago as 1848 we find him preparing for his Mecca pilgrimage, not only by learning the Koran and practising rites and ceremonies, but by "a sympathetic study of Sufi-ism, the Gnosticism of El Islam, which would raise me high above the rank of a mere Muslim." {NOTE: Burton's Reminiscences, written for Mr. Hitchman in 1888.} Lady Burton writes: "This stuck to him off and on all his life"; and, it may be added, gave a colour to his writings.

Since Burton wrote this essay (now published for the first time) a change has taken place among thinking men in the estimate of El Islam among the religions of the world. Writers like Lane Poole, Isaac Taylor, and Bosworth Smith, to name no others, have cleared away many misconceptions concerning the "Saving Faith," and have discussed its merits as a humanizing creed. But the testimony of a man like Burton, who by personal observation studied thoroughly the "inner life of the Muslim," who absolutely lived the life of an Arab pilgrim, and penetrated to the Holy of Holies, of necessity carries peculiar weight.

I should like to say a few words concerning the author's MSS. So many conflicting rumours have appeared with reference to the late Sir Richard Burton's MSS., that it is well to state that these are here reproduced practically as they left the author's hands. {NOTE: In the case of the Appendix on Human Sacrifice among the Sephardím or Eastern Jews and the murder of Padre Tomaso, I have (as before stated) preferred to hold it over to publishing it in a mutilated form.} It has been my endeavour to avoid over-editing, and to interfere as little as possible with the original text. Hence editorial notes, always in square brackets, are sparingly introduced. It has not been found necessary to make any verbal changes of importance. But the case is different with the spelling of proper names, which were left in such a chaotic condition that a revision was found indispensable, so as to reduce them to some measure of uniformity. The variants were so many and the MS. so difficult to decipher, that I am fain to crave indulgence for my performance of this somewhat troublesome task.

In conclusion, I will only add that it has been my endeavour to give a full and accurate presentment of these hitherto unpublished MSS. There are more to follow; but these form a good sample of the work of the famous Oriental traveller in fields which he made peculiarly his own. They are eminently characteristic of the man. They give glimpses of him once more as a bold and original thinker, a profound student of men and things, as a rare genius, if a wayward one, and as one of the most remarkable personalities of our day and generation.

W. H. WILKINS.

CONTENTS:

Volume I – THE JEW – Chapters:

1. GENERAL OPINION OF THE JEW

2. OPINION OF THE JEW IN ENGLAND

3. THE JEW OF THE HOLY LAND AND HIS DESTINY

4. THE JEW AND THE TALMUD

5. THE CONTINUITY OF TRADITION IN THE EAST

Volume II – THE GYPSY – Chapters:

1. THE INDIAN AFFINITIES OF THE GYPSIES

2. THE CLAIMS AND PRETENSIONS OF M. PAUL BATAILLARD

3. A REVIEW OF M. PAUL BATAILLARD'S REVIEWS

4. HISTORICAL SURVEY OF THE GYPSY IN EUROPE

5. THE GYPSY IN ASIA

6. THE GYPSY IN AFRICA

7. THE GYPSY IN EUROPE

8. THE GYPSY IN AMERICA

Volume III – EL ISLAM