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Edward Lane's Surviving Arabic Correspondence1

  • D. S. Richards


The career and scholarship of Edward William Lane, the renowned Orientalist and Arabic lexicographer, have been closely described and evaluated. His life is soon to be the subject of a further study, one planned by Jason Thompson. It may therefore be opportune to take a look at a modest cache of letters in Arabic, both addressed to and written by Lane, which is held in the Griffith Institute at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. These letters were deposited, along with a manuscript version of Lane's unpublished Description of Egypt and other papers and drawings, by his great-great-nephew, Austin Lane Poole, in 1947.



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2 For this person, see Thompson, Jason, “Osman Effendi: a Scottish convert to Islam in early nineteenthcentury Egypt”, Journal of World History, V (1994), pp. 99123. See also Thompson, Jason, “Of the Osma'nlees, or Turks”: an unpublished chapter from Edward William Lane's Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians,” The Turkish Studies Association Bulletin, XIX (1995), p. 22, where Osman's original name is given as William Thompson, and not William Taylor.

3 On 8th November 1835 according to Fresnel (Griffith Institute, Lane letters no. 16, dated Cairo 13 November 1835).

4 See Dictionnaire de Biographic Française (Paris, 1979), xiv, pp. 1234–5.

5 See GAL II 479, S II 729; Enc. of Islam, 2nd ed. (s.v. al-Ṭanṭāwī), and references given there.

6 See note 3.

7 See Who Was Who in Egyptology, ed. Dawson, W. R. & Uphill, E. H., 3rd ed. (London, 1995) [hereafter WWWE], pp. 76–7 (Burton), and pp. 443–5 (Wilkinson), and also Thompson, Jason, Sir Gardner Wilkinson and his Circle (Austin, 1992).

8 Published by James Madden and Co., London, in 1843.

9 An ancestor of Lane's eventual collaborator.

10 The third and last volume appeared during 1841.

11 See Thompson, Jason, “Edward William Lane's ‘Description of Egypt’”, IJMES, XXVIII (1996), p. 572.

12 Spelt so in Latin letters; see the entry for his relative, Masarra, Youssef (c. 1760–1842+), in WWWE, p. 278. His relative Hanna, bom in Cairo of Syrian parents, was interpreter for the British Consulate and then Consulate-General from 1837 at least until 1862.

13 Poet and mystic, bom 531/1136, died in Damascus 602/1205 (see GAL, I 439,Suppl. I 785). This title is not given by Brockelmann, but other collections of his verse in praise of Saladin are listed.

14 Abū Ḥafṣ ‘Umar ibn al-Muẓaffar Ibn al-Wardi, born 689/1290, died 749/1349 (see GAL, II 140).

15 Muḥammad ibn 'Abd al-Mu'ṭi al-Isḥāqī, early seventeenth century historian (see GAL, II 296).

16 WWWE, p. 418.

17 Quoted in Dewachter, Michel, “Nouvelles Informations relatives à l'Exploitation de la Nécropole royale de Drah Aboul Neggah,” Revue d'Égyptologie, XXXVI (1985), pp. 50–1.

18 Dewachter, M., op. cit., p. 51.

19 WWWE, pp. 53–4.

20 Possibly the Egyptian dealer in Antiquities at Thebes, died in 1898 (see WWWE, p. 214).

21 For Richard Lepsius (1810–84), see WWWE, pp. 249–50.

22 WWWE, p. 191: Anthony Charles Harris (1790–1869).

23 WWWE, pp. 45–6.

24 For further details, see Dewachter, M., op. cit., & esp. pp. 53–4 (Harris's letter).

25 This is Ali ibn Sultan Muhammad al-Qari' al-Harawi, born in Herat and died in Mecca 1014/1605. Brockelmann (GAL, II 397, SII 541) gives the title as al-Nāmūs al-mulakhkhaṣ min al-Qāmūs.

26 See Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. al-Dasūkī.

27 An account of the association of the two men will be found in Amin, A., “Al-Shaikh al-Dasuqi and Mr. Lane,” (in Arabic) in Faiḍ al-Khāṭir, Cairo 1965, pp. 3950. Amin's account is based on Dasuqi's own, quoted by Mubarak, Ali, al-Khiṭaṭ al-Tawfiqiyya al-jadida etc., Bulaq 1305/18871888, ix, pp. 913.

28 I.e. Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Dieterici. For his letter to Lane, see Lane Mss. 5.1.10 (I owe this reference to Jason Thompson).

29 Or Bash Khoja al-Muhandiskhāne. The Engineering School was transferred to Bulaq in 1849 under Abbas Pasha I.

30 He is described by Lepsius, in Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Peninsula of Sinai, trans. L., & Homer, J., London, 1853, p. 36, as “the missionary Lieder, a German by birth, returning with his English wife to Cairo …” For farther biographical material on the Lieders, see Málek, Jaromir, “The monuments recorded by Alice Lieder in the ‘Temple of Vulcan’ at Memphis in May 1853,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, LXXII (1986), pp. 101–5.

31 Griffith Institute, Lane papers no. 50.

32 In Dasuqi's words: “At Ramadan … he was generous, giving me a splendid sum …, in addition to my regular salary, comprising a considerable number of English pounds” (Mubarak, Ali, op. cit., p. 11, lines 29–30).

33 Ali (later) Pasha Mubarak (born 1823, died 1893) was a significant figure in the intellectual and social life of nineteenth century Egypt. He went to study in Paris in 1844, and became director of the Engineering School in 1849. See GAL, II 481, S II 753

34 The reading (bi'l-Ḥaṣwa) is clear, and the possibility that bi'l-ḥaḍra, ‘at court’, was intended is unlikely. There are three Haswas: an old toponym now associated with a farm ('izba) in the markaz of Bilbays, and two others, at Tūh (Qalyūbiyya) and at Kafar Saqar (Sharqiyya), see Ramzi, M., al-Qāmūs al-jughrāfī li'l-bilād al-miṣriyya, i (1954), p. 47, ii (1955), pp. 49 & 131. It appears that the one in Qalyūbiyya is intended as one reads in Baedeker's, Egypt: Handbook for Travellers, Leipzig/London 1895, pp. 25–6: “Near Benha, on the Damietta arm of the Nile, is a large viceregal palace, where Abbas Pasha, Sa'īd Pasha's predecessor, was murdered in [July] 1854.”

35 Lane himself in The Manners and Customs of the Modem Egyptians, Everyman Library, pp. 214–15, describes a karrās as “Five sheets, or double leaves … placed together, one within another … without being sewed …”, and adds “The expense of writing a karras of twenty pages, quarto-size, with about twenty-five lines to a page, in an ordinary hand, is about three piasters…”

36 The author of the Tāj al-'Arūs, who died in 1791.

37 See above p. 6.

38 To quote Dasuqi's retrospective account: “He lost his regular financial support from a bank in England when it collapsed, which necessitated his falling into arrears. He only had enough left to meet his family expenses…. He told me what had happened, expecting that I would break our agreement, because he could not pay my salary. I replied, ‘Do not worry about this matter…’ I continued to be faithful to our past practice, indeed, I enlarged it. He was grateful for this, and eventually by God's help some rich charitable persons in London put money in the bank for him, which met his needs” (Mubarak, Ali, op. cit., p. 11, lines 32–5).

39 These and other closures were ordered by Said Pasha at the beginning of his rule (1854–63).

1 I am grateful to Jaromir Málek who brought these letters of Lane to my attention and I thank Jason Thompson for some valuable suggestions and for comments that saved me from errors.

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Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
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