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E H Whinfield – civil servant, lawyer and translator of the Rubaiyat

January 22, 2018

Edward Whinfield (1835–1922) was one of the earliest British scholars to follow Edward FitzGerald in producing an English version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  In his two editions published in 1882 and 1883,  he presented a fairly literal verse translation of first 253 quatrains, then extended to some 500 quatrains, attributed to Khayyam and taken from a much wider range of manuscript sources than FitzGerald’s.  Whinfield’s verse does not have the quality of FitzGerald’s but his books remain a valuable research resource, especially since the second edition contains the Persian text and detailed notes on the sources of each quatrain.

Bob Forrest has been investigating the life and letters of Edward Whinfield and he has published the results on his website – see http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/E_H_Whinfield/E_H_Whinfield.htm.  The article documents Whinfield’s life first as an Indian civil servant and lawyer, and later as an oriental scholar and translator.  Bob also provides details of an interesting correspondence between Whinfield and Edward Heron-Allen on various topics relating to the Rubaiyat.  Of particular note is the critical attitude of both men to the so-called Omar cult which emerged during the 1890’s and to the London-based Omar Khayyam Club.  Bob’s whole article is well worth reading.

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