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More on the Great Omar and the Titanic

May 1, 2016

An earlier post drew attention to the story of the Great Omar, a very fine copy of the Rubaiyat which went down with the Titanic.  We have now been alerted to an article on the subject, originating we think in Eastern Europe, which can be found on the following site:

We don’t know the language used, but think it may be Serbian or Croatian?  Does any reader know the language?  If so, would you be able to give us all an idea of what is in the article?  Please comment below.  And thanks for any help.

How to commemorate Edward Cowell in Ipswich?

May 1, 2016

04-ebcowellThe name Edward Cowell is well known to English speaking Rubaiyat enthusiasts as a close friend of Edward FitzGerald, and as the man who introduced FitzGerald both to the Persian language and to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  Edward Cowell was born in Ipswich in Suffolk and lived there during his childhood.  His family were important business people in the area.  Cowell started working in the family business, but he was an exceptional linguist and he went on to become famous as an expert in oriental languages and writings, and Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Cambridge.

It appears that there is no visible recognition in Ipswich of Edward Cowell and his achievements. Charles Mugleston and others are anxious that this omission should be remedied.  They have explored the possibility of putting a ‘blue plaque’ on the house where Cowell was born, showing his name, dates and residence there, but for various reasons this is not possible.  They are seeking suggestions for other ways in which recognition might be achieved.

Do readers of this blog have any ideas about this, or experience of getting recognition for other notable people in their home areas?  Please put your comments below

A new video reading of the Rubaiyat

April 9, 2016

davidbailieThe actor and photographer David Bailie has sent us details of the video he recently created of his own reading of the complete Rubaiyat in English.  Here is the message, that he sent.

I uploaded a short while back a full reading and video of the Rubaiyat — – Whilst not perfect I believe it to be worthy – it is certainly gaining in popularity – your fellow enthusiasts may enjoy it – I hope so.

I would certainly appreciate any promotion – as I use my channel – mdebailes- as a professional actor to progress my technique and for, I hope, others pleasure.

We certainly enjoyed watching and listening to the video.  The version appears to be one of FitzGerald’s later ones (3rd, 4th or 5th edition).  Our congratulations to David on his initiative.  Feedback from others would be welcome.

Celebrate Edward FitzGerald’s birthday – and eat toasted cheese!

March 31, 2016

efgyoungcutToday, 31st March 2016, is the 207th anniversary of the birthday of Edward FitzGerald who introduced much of the world to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and left us the heritage of his great poems, his letters and other writings.  One of his great pleasures in life was to eat toasted cheese – indeed he signed off one of his letters as ‘Philocaseotoastus’ which those of you classically inclined will realise translates as ‘lover of toasted cheese’!  We celebrated today with a lunch of this delicacy, already a favourite of ours, and we shall raise a glass to FitzGerald’s memory this evening.  We hope others will mark his anniversary in a suitable way.

A valuable write-up on Cecil G Trew and her Rubaiyat illustrations

March 22, 2016

Fig.3Several earlier posts have presented the results of research by Bob Forrest, Douglas Taylor, Joe Howard and others on Cecil G Trew and her Rubaiyat illustrations.  The links to those posts are shown below.

Bob Forrest has recently brought together his research findings into a comprehensive article on Trew, her life and her work.  This fascinating article summarises a large amount of information, previously generally unknown, about an enigmatic but interesting artist and writer.  The article includes family photos and many images of Trew’s work.  Bob and his collaborators have made a significant contribution to the knowledge about Rubaiyat illustration and we congratulate them on their work.

The article is to be found on Bob’s website, via the following link:

Earlier posts on this blog are:

Some lesser-known anecdotes about Edward FitzGerald

March 11, 2016


We have corrected this item for an error in the original sourcing – see second comment below. 

There are many anecdotes about Edward FitzGerald, the ‘translator’ of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, that stress his idiosyncratic qualities.  Here are some lesser-known stories that show the poet in somewhat more everyday mode.  They were sent to us by Garry Garrard who found them in Thomas Wright’s autobiography;  Wright was, inter alia, the author of a biography of FitzGerald (see references at end of this post).

‘A lady writing to me said:

We were giving a party at Woodbridge and I crossed the street with a little loaf of fancy bread in my hand. FitzGerald, who was passing, suddenly stopped, and exclaimed, “Young lady, shake hands, I honour you”  “Why”  “Because you are not ashamed to be seen carrying a loaf.” As we shook hands I said “Since I am going by and by to carry it inside (pointing to my mouth) I don’t see why I should object to carry it outside now.”   FitzGerald smiled and tilting his head sideways said, “I hope you will always speak to me when we meet. I never recognise ladies, their bonnets are so much alike.”  “You should look a little lower than the bonnet,” I commented. “I will,” he said.’

‘Another day he met the same lady in Loder’s shop. She was wearing a dark blue serge dress with small round brass buttons, while pinned to the breast were some intensely vivid scarlet geraniums.   He said “Thank you madam, I am much obliged to you.” She replied, “I am glad to have given you pleasure, but how?”   He said, “By your choice of decided pure colour and bright points,” and he added, with the faintest half-melancholy intonation, “I give my nieces every year a dress of scarlet orange or green silk, but they never wear them.” ‘

‘One sweltering hot day he was seen cheerfully striding along a country road near Woodbridge with his feet bare, his stockings hanging out of his trousers pockets and his boots at the end of a walking stick which he carried over his shoulder. A gentleman who was on nodding acquaintance with him, called out to him while passing, “H-O-T, hot!”  FitzGerald, without stopping, or even turning his head, replied “F-O-O-L, fool.”’

‘FitzGerald called his boat The Scandal  “because nothing travelled faster.” A later owner, who changed its name to The Sapphire, described it to me as a “beautiful sailer only rather frisky, being too heavily sparred for her size.” ‘


Thomas Wright, Thomas Wright of Olney: An Autobiography.  London: Herbert Jenkins, 1936

Thomas Wright, The Life of Edward FitzGerald (2 vols.). London: Grant Richards, 1904

New interpretations of the Rubaiyat on YouTube

March 4, 2016

austintorneyROKAustin Torney is an artist and poet who has published an illustrated version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (pictured) and versions of his own poems in Rubaiyat format, also with illustrations.  These have been highlighted in previous posts see starting with

Austin has now moved on to creating video interpretations of the Rubaiyat, as well as his own poems and thoughts, which he has put on YouTube.  Particularly relevant to the readers of this blog are:

First half of Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam iclone 4K (Parts 1-5 combined, quatrains 1-54)

Bodleian Rubaiyat Manuscriipt Retransmogrified Spoken

For a taste of the way Austin has used the Rubaiyat format and the inspiration of FitzGerald’s poem as an basis for other recent videos, see the following.

Austin’s Golden Rubaiyat iclone complete 1-6

Better Resolution Playlist for Rubaiyat of Rhymes and Reasons




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