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Louis C. Alexander and The Testament of Omar Khayyam

January 28, 2020

RF AlexanderTestament Fig.02bSeveral years ago, we found in a bookshop a little volume entitled The Testament of Omar Khayyam which was attributed on the title page to Louis C AlexanderOn the cover was an inscription in Persian reading Wasiyyat-e Omar Khayyam.  When we looked inside, there were quatrains in English, clearly not FitzGerald, but with some similarities.  We bought the book but did not, at the time, look at it at all closely.  It was filed under Rubaiyat, other translations, and there it stayed until recently.

Now, Bob Forrest has turned his research skills onto this volume, and he reveals to us all what a very odd book it is.  Indeed he describes it as ‘one of the most peculiar books in the Omarian canon’.  He comments further ‘This little book, published by John Long in London in 1907, is one of numerous attempts to rescue Omar from accusations of wine–bibbing and disrespect for the Almighty, and to paint him in a more respectable light.’  This attempt at the ‘rehabilitation’ of the Persian poet is not of itself odd, since there have been many such.  What is indeed peculiar is the apparent source of the published verses.

The only attribution in the book is to Louis Alexander, but Bob has established, certainly to these readers’ satisfaction, that Alexander probably believed that the poems he published were the words of Omar Khayyam himself, transmitted as a ‘last testament’ through the medium of ‘automatic writing’.  This is a form of spiritualist communication, of which Alexander clearly had experience, and Bob sets out in his full article (see link below) to show Alexander’s involvement with the spiritualist world and his ‘work’ on other authors as well as Omar Khayyam.  The article also gives much detail on Alexander’s other writings and his complicated life.

Bob’s illustrated article is available in full on his website – see http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/Appendices/app27/app27.htm.  It is a story full of interest.  As always we are grateful to Bob for sharing with us the results of another of his excursions into the by-ways of Omarian spin-offs.

ADDENDUM

The article has now been published as one of Bob’s series of booklets on people connected with the Rubaiyat.  For more information on the limited circulation of these booklets, see https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/more-booklets-on-rubaiyat-artists-from-bob-forrest/

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