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Austin Torney’s new blog and new Rubaiyat-related publications

November 28, 2014



Austin Torney is an artist and poet who has published an illustrated version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and versions of his own poems in Rubaiyat format, also with illustrations. His original Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was published in book form in 2009, and this has now been updated in a number of different formats available via Amazon. Details of these and Austin’s other illustrated works are shown on his new blog site. Go to for more information.

Opportunity to learn more about Edward FitzGerald, Bedford, and the Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám

November 2, 2014

Garry Garrard has alerted us to a special one day course of interest to students of FitzGerald and the Rubaiyat, being run in Bedford on Saturday 8th November

f01-1iefgd28scfThis day course is being organised by The Retirement Education Centre in Bedford and is presented by Dr Stephen Rogers. The title of the day is Edward FitzGerald, Bedford, and the Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám, and the accompanying description is as follows.

“Ezra Pound claimed that FitzGerald’s version of the Rubáiyat was ‘the only good poem of Vict[orian] era that has got beyond a fame de cénacle.’ Indeed its fame reached across America and Laurens van der Post recorded that it was still known by heart in remote provinces of the Soviet Union in the 1960s. We will discover that FitzGerald was profoundly influenced by his visits to Bedford and the surrounding countryside in the 1830s, 40s and 50s; and whilst it might be too much to describe him as a great Bedfordian, it is well to acknowledge his debt to the town. We will examine the man and his works. How accurate is his version of Omar’s work? Can the work of a translator of poetry ever be just the exact repetition of work in one language into another? Why was FitzGerald’s version so important? “

There are further details on . Course number is WEF 08A, cost £24 to non-members. You can book online, or by telephone 01234 302203/4.

Edward FitzGerald’s organ ‘found’ in Essex church

October 20, 2014

Garry Garrard was visiting St Mary’s Church in Saffron Walden, Essex, when he ‘discovered’ the organ that Edward FitzGerald had in his home in Woodbridge.  Here is his report.

On the back of the small organ is the following caption. ‘This organ was built by Bevington around 1870 for Edward FitzGerald of Woodbridge (famous for originally translating the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam).  Following his death it was moved to Woodbridge Roman Catholic Church where it accompanied weekly services until 2000 when it was moved (here) to St. Mary’s, Saffron Walden. It is on loan to the church and is jointly owned by Andrew Malcolm and Peter De Vile.’

Thomas Wright, one of FitzGerald’s earliest biographers, describes…an organ on which he often played, always from memory, songs from old operas and glees – little pieces from Handel or Mozart. “We often”, says one of [the boys who read to FitzGerald] “passed an hour in that way, especially in the summer twilights, instead of with books.” It was a kind of David’s harp to him – driving away melancholy. “He could get,” says Archdeacon Groome, “such full harmonies out of it as did good to the listener.” ‘

The pictures below show the organ as it is now and a cartoon image of FitzGerald playing the organ, drawn by his friend Charles Keene.

EFGorganFitz by Keene













The specification for the organ is: open diapason 8; stopped diapason treble 8; stopped diapason bass 8; dulciana 8; principal 4; flute 2. Bevington and Sons, Organ Builders, was based in Rose Yard, Rose Court, in London, but later moved to Greek Street, Soho. It was started in 1794 by Henry Bevington, who had been apprenticed to Ohrmann and Nutt, successors to the famous Snetzler. In 1851 the firm employed 8 men, 3 boys and 1 apprentice. Bevingtons was severely damaged during the ‘blitz’ of 1941, and was bought by the organ firm of Hill, Norman & Beard in 1950.

The organs of St. Martin’s in the Fields, St Paul’s Church Covent Garden, the Foundling Hospital, St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, were also built by Bevington & Sons, as well as those in many provincial churches and even private homes! There is a renowned (and untouched) Bevington organ in St. Mary’s Church, Rock Gardens, Brighton. A Bevington organ was installed in the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in 1878/9.

New illustrated version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Benny Thomas

September 30, 2014

BennyThomas0914Benny Thomas is an architect, author, artist, and epigramist based in the Netherlands. For several years he has been working on a new English version, with illustrations, of quatrains from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. This work has now been published in a variety of forms. There is an e-book with illustrations, a paperback with illustrations, and a cheaper paperback without illustrations.

More details on the e-book are available on, with links to the other formats. All formats contain some 260 quatrains, plus a foreword by Prof. Mehdi Aminrazavi, the author of The Wine of Wisdom. There is also an introduction by the author explaining his approach to Khayyam’s verses.

As the foreword concludes ‘For those interested in a mystical reading of Khayyām’s quatrains, this collection of poems provides an invaluable insight.’ There is further information about the translation and illustrations on Benny Thomas’ blog

Recently on the web

September 23, 2014

KGOUOn the website of KGOU, a public radio station, licensed to the University of Oklahoma, you can listen to an interview with Austin O’Mally, classical Persian scholar and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago. O’Malley says he was drawn to ancient Persian poetry because of the accessibility of the language. The interview is about ancient Persian poetry, more particularly on Khayyám and Rumi, and their influence on modern culture. There is also a full transcript of the interview.
Go to the KGOU website.



In Church Times, the world’s leading Anglican newspaper, there is a column by Ronald Blythe called “Word from Wormingford”. Blythe told his young neighbours that he once lived near Boulge, the Suffolk village where Edward FitzGerald translated The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. They had driven to his grave and recited what was once one of the most popular poems in the English language, and now he ponders on this meeting with these young boys ….
Read the column


RobinsonFrench historian Jean Stouff, librarian at he University of Tours, published a list of Omar’s illustrators on his website: Les illustrateurs des Robâiyât d’Omar Khayyâm. Here we find the names and (a selection of) illustrations of Thomas Heath and Charles Robinson, Balfour, Pogány, Bull, Fish, Palmer, Buckland Wright and many others. Short biographical notes are also provided.



Omar Khayyám in Manhattan

September 4, 2014

KhayyamStatuePayvand Iran News reports of a statue of Omar Khayyám to be installed in Manhattan, New York City. The statue is a work by the Iranian sculptor Hossein Fakhimi, who also carved two copies from stones mined in Iran, to be installed in Florence, Italy, and in Tehran, Iran. Read more …

‘Clarion’ series of Omar Khayyam postcards, illustrated by Frank Chesworth

August 25, 2014

Thanks to Bob Forrest for this note about another unusual aspect of Rubaiyat publishing.  Bob is also in need of further informationon this subject..  If you can help to answer any of his questions, set out below, please post a comment and/or contact Bob via his website

Though it does not say so on the cards themselves, the (undated) “Clarion” series of Omar Khayyam postcards, with artwork by Frank Chesworth, were first published by the socialist newspaper The Clarion “just in time for Christmas” in 1904. The wording of the advert for them at that time isn’t very clear, but it seems that the series consisted of six different designs, each of the six designs being sold in packs containing six copies of the same design. At any rate, only six different designs are known to me via various sources (see illustrations), and I would be grateful if readers would let me know if they know of any others, as these six cards are numbered 21 to 26 inclusive, which is puzzling to say the least!

Contact SheetThe Clarion did also issue a Songs of Shakespeare series, again by Chesworth, at the same time as the Omar cards, one of these being No.12, and a few years earlier they had published a series of socialist postcards, several by Walter Crane, though I have never seen any of these. So the numbers on the Omar cards may simply represent their place in the broader series of cards, on various subjects, published by the newspaper in the course of time. Again, if any reader can help with this, please let me know.

The Omar cards were advertised again at Christmas 1905, this time in conjunction with an Omar calendar, also by Chesworth. I have never seen this, and was unaware of it before I saw the advert in The Clarion. Does any reader have a copy, or at least, has any reader ever seen one ?

Finally, many of these cards were used as ordinary postcards, from 1904 onwards, and appear to have been in use for some years. The two cards I have (Nos. 22 & 24) bear a Leeds postmark of 1909, for example. One contact of mine has an example bearing a Leeds postmark of 1911, and another contact has a couple of examples bearing a Glasgow postmark of 1904. I’d be grateful if readers could let me know the postmark, places and dates on any of their cards, as it would be interesting to build up a picture of the extent of their usage.

Clarion Omar no.22The cards are not the best illustrations of The Rubaiyat on the market, it is true. This is a shame as Frank Chesworth was a talented book illustrator in black and white, though he seems never to have illustrated The Rubaiyat in book form. His illustrations for Robert Blatchford’s book for children, The Dolly Ballads (the 1907 edition, rather than the less adorned edition of 1911), for example, are wonderful.

Little seems to be known about Chesworth the man, though I do know that he died in Camberwell, London, in 1906, and so he didn’t live to see The Dolly Ballads actually published. Sadly, he was aged only 38 when he died. In due course, I intend to feature a write-up of him, his book illustration, and his Omarian associations with Robert Blatchford (the founder-editor of The Clarion) on my website, as it all makes for an interesting story. Meanwhile, I am still gathering information, so if anyone reading this knows anything about Chesworth’s life – or indeed, is curious to know in advance what I’ve managed to unearth already – please do get in touch.



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