26 APRIL 1890, Page 21


Mn. CLOUSTOWS collection, though put forth under a title which forms a clue to only a portion of its contents, is a good piece of work of its kind. There is much in it calculated to attract the conscientious student of folk-lore ; but, as a whole,

the book is admirably contrived to enlist and retain the attention of the general reader. Such works tend to open the minds of ordinary persons much as travel does, by breaking down the barriers of insularity and prejudice; and this process is good for the average Briton, who less than most men is in danger of running to the opposite extreme of flabby and invertebrate cosmopolitanism. But quite apart from going the length of adopting the ways of foreigners, it is a whole- some thing to have an appreciation for what is admirable in their literature. To take the question of humour : English people enjoy a joke—when they see it—but they are too prone to imagine that only English-speaking races can originate jokes that are worth laughing at. The result is that we are at present groaning under the tyranny of some of the most tasteless masters of the art of ineptitude that ever undertook to provide the world with food for mirth. To exchange the company of the everlasting Transatlantic mountebank for that of the old-world humorists to whom Mr. Clouston introduces us, is like quitting the atmosphere of a circus for that of a moor. The modern contortionist makes one ache to watch him. In fact, as we heard it expressed the other day in the cant phrase of the hour, the object of the modern smart saying is not so much to make you laugh as to make you "sit up."

Of this electrifying element there is little or nothing to be found in Mr. Clouston's pages. Nevertheless, they abound in many charming instances of sweet and charming desipience. Tinder the head of "Oriental Wit and Humour," Mr. Clouston naturally gives prominence to that delightful jester introduced to the English public by Mrs. Ewing, the Khoja Naará 'd-Din, though we think he hardly does him full justice in the specimens quoted as representative of his genius. The fol- lowing, however, is not a bad sample of his method :—

"One day the Kboja borrowed a cauldron from a brazier, and returned it with a little saucepan inside. The owner, seeing the saucepan, asked : What is this ?' Quoth the Khoja : Why, the cauldron has had a young one ;' whereupon the brazier, well pleased, took possession of the saucepan. Some time after this the Khoja again borrowed the cauldron, and took it home. At the end of a week the brazier called at the Khoja's house and asked for his cauldron. 0, set your mind at rest,' said the Khoja, 'the cauldron is dead.' '0 Khoja,' quoth the brazier, can a eauldron die ? ' Responded the Khoja : Since you believed it could have a young one, why should you not also believe that it could die ?' "

Flowers from a Persian Garden, and other Papers. By W. A. Clouston. London: David Nutt.

Here, again, from an Arabian source is a character, somewhat after the fashion of Theophrastns, of A.shaab, a native of Medina, who became a by-word for covetousness :-

"He never saw a man put his hand into his pocket without hoping and expecting that he would give him something. He never saw a funeral go by, but he was pleased, hoping that the deceased had left him something. He never saw a bride about to be conducted through the streets to the house of the bridegroom, but he prepared his own house for her reception, hoping that her friends would bring her to his house by mistake. If he saw a workman making a box, he took care to tell him that he was putting in one or two boards too many, hoping that he would give him what was over, or, at least, something for the

suggestion When the youths of the town jeered and taunted him, he told them there was a wedding at such a house, in order to get rid of them (because they would go to get a share of the bonbons distributed there) ; but, as soon as they were gone, it struck him that possibly what he had told them was true, and that they would not have quitted him had they not been aware of its truth ; and he actually followed them himself to see what he could do, though exposing himself thereby to fresh taunts from them."

Many of the Oriental stories given by Mr. Clouston are without European parallels, but in many cases he has been able to identify them in a variety of Occidental forms. For example, he has discovered both English and Italian variants on the following Persian parrot story :—

"An oilman possessed a fine parrot, who amused him with her prattle and watched his shop during his absence. It chanced one day, when the oilman had gone out, that a cat ran into the shop in chase of a mouse, which so frightened the parrot that she flew about from shelf to shelf, upsetting several jars and spilling their contents. When her master returned and saw the havoc made among his goods, he fetched the parrot a blow that knocked out all her head-feathers, and from that day she sulked on her perch. The oilman, missing the prattle of his favourite, began to shower his alms on every passing beggar, in hope that some one would induce the parrot to speak again. At length a bald-beaded mendicant came to the shop one day, upon seeing whom, the parrot, breaking her long silence, cried out : Poor fellow ! poor fellow ! hast thou too upset some oil-jar P' " A very pleasant chapter is that in which Mr. Clouston gives an account, with numerous extracts, from the Titti Ncitna, or Parrot-Book, a typical Oriental romance, in which the flimsi- ness and absurdity of the main framework is fully atoned for by the excellence of the subsidiary tales. Mr. Clouston also gives us a readable account of Saadi and his works, a dis- cursive and amusing paper on Rabbinical legends, and several other stray essays, all bearing evidence of wide and intelligent reading.