Boulge Church is in need of funds to help with repairs to the fabric, and for the levelling of the stone of Edward FitzGerald’s grave. The church was recently the setting for a performance of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat by Charles Mugleston, see earlier post https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/fitzgerald-and-his-rubaiyat-alive-again-in-boulge-church/, and Charles has produced some attractive greetings cards to help with the fundraising.
The cards (see illustration) show an attractive and entertaining image by Cyril Bird, which was used on a menu of the Omar Khayyam Club of London in 1959. They are on sale for £1.50 each, plus post and packaging, from Charles Mugleston, firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone number 01394 285 669. If you are interested in making a general donation to help Boulge Church funds, this can be done directly to the Boulge PCC account at the CAF Bank, sort code 40-52-40, account no. 00012993, with the Church’s sincere gratitude for all received.
Gilbert James (1865-1941) – New research provides important insights into the life and work of a major illustrator
Most people who have browsed through illustrated copies of the Rubaiyat will have come across the work of Gilbert James. He was one of the earliest and most prolific of the artists to take up the challenge of providing illustrations for FitzGerald’s verses and his work was reprinted many times in different forms during the 20th century. But until now, very little has been known about Gilbert James the man; even the dates of his birth and death were unclear. And the chronology of his work on the Rubaiyat and other volumes has been very confused.
Now, thanks to the efforts of Bob Forrest, we are in ignorance no longer. Bob has carried a major investigation into the life and work of Gilbert James, results of which are accessible via the link http://bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Gilbert_James/Gilbert_James.htm. The article deals first with James’ work on the Rubaiyat illustrations, giving a clear guide to the different versions and the complex links between those published in book form and those in the magazine The Sketch and on menus of The Omar Khayyam Club. There is an extensive gallery of illustrations on the site, well linked to the text.
Bob then goes on to tell something of James’ life history, from his birth in Liverpool to his death at the age of 75 in a mental hospital in Surrey. The accompanying images include a photo portrait of James, the first we have seen. The article concludes with a full discussion of other works illustrated by James, and some of the differing views about this artist’s work. There are also extensive notes following the text which highlight many other points of historical interest.
We must all be very grateful to Bob Forrest for the energy and analysis that he has put into finding and then sorting out so much new information about this important illustrator. Although Gilbert James is not our personal favourite among the artists who interpreted the Rubaiyat, he had a major influence on the development of illustration in the Edwardian period, and his work and his history deserve to be better known.
On the afternoon of Sunday 3rd May, memories of Edward FitzGerald and his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam were revived in the village of Boulge near Woodbridge, where the author spent so much of his life. The church of St Michael and All Angels, where FitzGerald is buried, was the venue for a reading of his Rubaiyat by Charles Mugleston, who has long been an enthusiast for the poem. His reading was in fact more of a performance of the poem, bringing the verses, the poet Khayyam and the famous pots very much to life, and making FitzGerald’s poetry accessible to many in the audience who had heard of the poem, but did not know it well. To those of us who are well acquainted with the verses, Charles brought new insights for which we are grateful.
The presentation of the poem was accompanied by music at the beginning and end which added to the atmosphere of the occasion, and, before the reading of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat, Hazhir Teimourian, the author of a biography of Omar Khayyam, took the audience back over 900 years while reading two of Khayyam’s quatrains in the original Persian. Over 50 people attended the event, nearly filling the small church, and, in addition to the poetic feast, they were offered other refreshment in the form of wine, grapes and Persian pastries. This was an altogether delightful and enlightening occasion and we are very grateful to Charles Mugleston and the other organisers and helpers for creating an event that keeps the legacy of FitzGerald and Khayyam alive in the modern world.
The first of these is https://austintorney.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/the-theory-of-everything-rubaiyat-book-pages/ This is a production using mainly Austin’s own quatrains inspired by Khayyam and FitzGerald, with many illustrations, and it is available in a variety of formats. As Austin puts it in his introduction ‘herein, we’ll meander on through life’s curious magic-shadow show, with my new quatrains, along with Omar transmogrifications.’
The second link, https://austintorney.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/the-great-omar-pages/, is to Austin’s digital version of a famous edition of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat, namely the Great Omar, the first copy of which went down in the Titanic. There is a poetic introduction to the volume, and both the jewelled cover, and Vedder’s text and illustrations that formed the interior, are shown. Vedder’s grayscale presentation has been digitally enhanced with some colour, which produces an interesting effect, though purists may not approve. Have a look for yourself and see what you think.
Austin Torney has continued to present his interpretations of the Rubaiyat in a number of different ways.
First, his lavishly illustrated ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Resplendent’ is now available in several editions and different formats. There are more details on https://austintorney.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/austins-new-illustrated-rubaiyat-of-omar-khayyam-resplendent-published-in-several-editions/
Second, extracts from these editions are presented as videos on YouTube with musical accompaniment and some of the quatrains spoken or sung. The two films are on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcV3u0Pq1SM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtbHBBPt4bw
Third, Austin has undertaken a major project to reinterpret (in his terms ‘transmogrify’) all 158 quatrains in the Bodleian manuscript of the Rubaiyat. In this exercise, he is following in the footsteps of other Rubaiyat lovers like Le Gallienne who used existing ‘translations’ as a basis for their own rendering of the elusive meaning of the Khayyammic originals. In his interpretation, Austin has drawn on Jos Coumans’ new Concordances website, which brings together many historic ‘translations’ of the Bodleian’s Persian quatrains – see Jos’ earlier post on this blog https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/corresponding-quatrains/. Austin’s new version of the text of the 158 Bodleian quatrains, together with an additional 6 of his own are available on https://austintorney.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/austins-ongoing-bodleian-rubaiyat-manuscript-re-transmogrification-project/. Illustrated versions of the Rubaiyat with his ‘transmogrified’ text are available via https://austintorney.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/omar-khayyams-bodleian-rubaiyat-re-transmogrified-book-pages-so-far/.
Our congratulations to Austin on all his hard work and the interesting results that he has given us. Not everyone will agree with all his interpretations, but both text and images are stimulating, and they will, we hope, encourage a wider interest in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.