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- Donovan Pasha And Some People of Egypt, Volume 1. - 1/12 -
DONOVAN PASHA AND SOME PEOPLE OF EGYPT
By Gilbert Parker
Volume 1. WHILE THE LAMP HOLDS OUT TO BURN THE PRICE OF THE GRINDSTONE-AND THE DRUM THE DESERTION OF MAHOMMED SELIMON THE REEF OF NORMAN'S WOE
Volume 2. FIELDING HAD AN ORDERLY THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE A TREATY OF PEACE AT THE MERCY OF TIBERIUS ALL THE WORLD'S MAD
Volume 3. THE MAN AT THE WHEEL A TYRANT AND A LADY
Volume 4. A YOUNG LION OF DEDAN HE WOULD NOT BE DENIED THE FLOWER OF THE FLOCK THE LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS
To the FOREWORD of this book I have practically nothing to add. It describes how the book was planned, and how at last it came to be written. The novel--'The Weavers'--of which it was the herald, as one might say, was published in 1907. The reception of Donovan Pasha convinced me beyond peradventure, that the step I took in enlarging my field of work was as wise in relation to my art as in its effect upon my mind, temperament and faculty for writing. I knew Egypt by study quite as well as I knew the Dominion of Canada, the difference being, of course, that the instinct for the life of Canada was part of my very being itself; but there are great numbers of people who live their lives for fifty or seventy or eighty years in a country, and have no real instinct for understanding. There are numberless Canadians who do not understand Canada, Englishmen who know nothing of England, and Americans who do not understand the United States. If it is so that I have some instinct for the life of Canada, and have expressed it to the world with some accuracy and fidelity, it is apparent that the capacity for understanding could not be limited absolutely to one environment. That I understood Canada could not be established by the fact that I had spent my boyhood there, but only by the fact that some inner vision permitted me to see it as it really was. That inner vision, however, if it was anything at all was not in blinders, seeing only one section of the life of the world. Relatively it might see more deeply, more intimately in that place where habit of life had made the man familiar with all its detail, but the same vision turned elsewhere to fields where study and sympathy played a devoted part, could not fail to see; though the workman's craft, which made material the vision, might fail.
The reception given Donovan Pasha convinced me that neither the vision nor the craftsmanship had wholly failed, whatever the degree of success which had been reached. Anglo-Egyptians approved the book. Its pages passed through the hands of an Englishman who had done over twenty years' service in the British army in Egypt and in official positions in the Egyptian administration, and I do not think that he made six corrections in the whole three hundred pages. He had himself a great gift for both music and painting; he was essentially exacting where any literature touching Egypt was concerned; but I am glad to think that, whatever he thought of the book as fiction, he did not find it necessary to grant absolution as to the facts and the details of incidents in character and life pourtrayed in Donovan Pasha.
Who the original of 'Donovan Pasha' was I shall never say, but he was real. There is, however, in the House of Commons today a young and active politician once in the Egyptian service, and who bears a most striking resemblance to the purely imaginary portrait which Mr. Talbot Kelly, the artist, drew of the Dicky Donovan of the book. This young politician, with his experience in the diplomatic service, is in manner, disposition, capacity, and in his neat, fine, and alert physical frame, the very image of Dicky Donovan, as in my mind I perceived him; and when I first saw him I was almost thunderstruck, because he was to me Dicky Donovan come to life. There was nothing Dicky Donovan did or said or saw or heard which had not its counterpart in actual things in Egypt. The germ of most of the stories was got from things told me, or things that I saw, heard of, or experienced in Egypt itself. The first story of the book--'While the Lamp Holds out to Burn'--was suggested to me by an incident which I saw at a certain village on the Nile, which I will not name. Suffice it to say that the story in the main was true. Also the chief incident of the story, called 'The Price of the Grindstone--and the Drum', is true. The Mahommed Seti of that story was the servant of a friend of mine, and he did in life what I made him do in the tale. 'On the Reef of Norman's Woe', which more than one journal singled out as showing what extraordinary work was being done in Egypt by a handful of British officials, had its origin in something told me by my friend Sir John Rogers, who at one time was at the head of the Sanitary Department of the Government of Egypt.
I could take the stories one by one, and show the seeds from which this little plantation of fiction sprang, but I will not go further than to refer to a story called 'Fielding Had an Orderly', the idea of which was contained in the experience of a British official whose courage was as cool as his wit, and both were extremely dangerous weapons, used at times against those who were opposed to him. When I read a book like 'Said the Fisherman', however, with its wonderfully intimate knowledge of Oriental life and the thousand nuances which only the born Orientalist can give, I look with tempered pride upon Donovan Pasha. Still I think that it caught and held some phases of Egyptian life which the author of 'Said the Fisherman' might perhaps miss, since the observation of every artist has its own idiosyncrasy, and what strikes one observer will not strike another.
It is now twelve years since I began giving to the public tales of life in lands well known to me. The first of them were drawn from Australia and the Islands of the Southern Pacific, where I had lived and roamed in the middle and late Eighties. They appeared in various English magazines, and were written in London far from the scenes which suggested them. None of them were written on the spot, as it were. I did not think then, and I do not think now, that this was perilous to their truthfulness. After many years of travel and home-staying observation I have found that all worth remembrance, the salient things and scenes, emerge clearly out of myriad impressions, and become permanent in mind and memory. Things so emerging are typical at least, and probably true.
Those tales of the Far South were given out with some prodigality. They did not appear in book form, however; for, at the time I was sending out these Antipodean sketches, I was also writing--far from the scenes where they were laid--a series of Canadian tales, many of which appeared in the 'Independent' of New York, in the 'National Observer', edited by Mr. Henley, and in the 'Illustrated London News'. By accident, and on the suggestion of my friend Mr. Henley, the Canadian tales 'Pierre and his People' were published first; with the result that the stories of the Southern Hemisphere were withheld from publication, though they have been privately printed and duly copyrighted. Some day I may send them forth, but meanwhile I am content to keep them in my own care.
Moved always by deep interest in the varied manifestations of life in different portions of the Empire, five or six years ago I was attracted to the Island of Jersey, in the Channel Sea, by the likeness of the origin of her people with that of the French-Canadians. I went to live at St. Heliers for a time, and there wrote a novel called 'The Battle of the Strong'.
Nor would it be thought strange that, having visited another and newer sphere of England's influence, Egypt to wit, in 1889, I should then determine that, when I could study the country at leisure, I should try to write of the life there, so full of splendour and of primitive simplicity; of mystery and guilt; of cruel indolence and beautiful industry; of tyranny and devoted slavery; of the high elements of a true democracy and the shameful practices of a false autocracy; all touched off by the majesty of an ancient charm, the nobility of the remotest history.
The years went by, and, four times visiting Egypt, at last I began to write of her. That is now five years ago. From time to time the stories which I offer to the public in this volume were given forth. It is likely that the old Anglo-Egyptian and the historical student may find some anachronisms and other things to criticise; but the anachronisms are deliberate, and even as in writing of Canada and Australia, which I know very well, I have here, perhaps, sacrificed superficial exactness while trying to give the more intimate meaning and spirit. I have never thought it necessary to apologise for this disregard of photographic accuracy,--that may be found in my note-books,--and I shall not begin to do so now. I shall be sufficiently grateful if this series of tales does no more than make ready the way for the novel of Egyptian life on which I have been working for some years. It is an avant courier. I hope, however, that it may be welcomed for its own sake. G. P.
NOTE: A Glossary will be found at the end of the volume.
WHILE THE LAMP HOLDS OUT TO BURN
There is a town on the Nile which Fielding Bey called Hasha, meaning "Heaven Forbid!" He loathed inspecting it. Going up the Nile, he would put off visiting it till he came down; coming down, he thanked his fates if accident carried him beyond it. Convenient accidents sometimes did occur: a murder at one of the villages below it, asking his immediate presence; a telegram from his Minister at Cairo, requiring his return; or a very low Nile, when Hasha suddenly found itself a mile away from the channel and there was no good place to land. So it was that Hasha, with little inspection, was the least reputable and almost the dirtiest town on the Nile; for even in those far-off days the official Englishman had his influence, especially when Kubar Pasha was behind him. Kubar had his
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