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Call to recognise Edward FitzGerald as a great Suffolk poet

May 24, 2018

Charles Mugleston has recently written an article on the Rubaiyat and Edward FitzGerald which has been published in Twelve Rivers, the journal of the Suffolk Poetry Society (Vol 9, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2018).  In a stimulating presentation, Charles sets out his views on why the poem still has so much to offer us, and on the qualities that FitzGerald brought to his interpretation of Khayyam’s verses.  He concludes by raising an important outstanding question; “What is Suffolk doing to honour this man and his work?”  He asks, and answers as follows.

“Is there an Edward FitzGerald Poetry competition? No, not yet…”

“Is there an Edward FitzGerald Arts Festival? Um, no, not yet…”

Is there a devoted space – a room with items that belonged to Edward FitzGerald telling his life story …? Well there was … in Christchurch Mansion [Ipswich] … but is it there now? Um, no!”

We hope that Charles’ efforts will help to stimulate more interest in the Rubaiyat and FitzGerald in the poet’s home county.  For anyone who is keen to see the print version of the article in Twelve Rivers, it can be obtained through membership of the Suffolk Poetry Society – see .  We understand that the issue with Charles’ article will be available online later in the year.


Photo Poems – a new book of quatrains from Martin Kimeldorf

May 21, 2018

Martin Kimeldorf continues to remind us that the art of quatrain writing, and the inspiration of Omar Khayyam and Edward FitzGerald, are both alive and well in our 21st century society.  Martin has produced a new version of many of his highly apposite verses combined with a selection of his own photo art.  The prologue sets out what the book is intending to achieve.

In this sixth new title Photo•Poems, the author blends his previously published four-line quatrains with his award winning PhotoArt. Martin’s poems are inspired by Edward FitzGerald’s interpretation of the enduring verse found in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The result is a very readable and engaging volume that celebrates life, confronts its many challenges, and poses fundamental questions about its meaning. Come lift a glass of your favorite beverage as you imbibe the words—and toast the joy of seizing the day.

The author believes humor and doubt are critical survival tools in these difficult times. To that end, he deploys the comedic devices of irony, satire, and paradox when reflecting on that peculiar journey we call life. In Quatrain VII he writes:

There’s no cure for being born human,
we create our own pain deep within…
Tease yourself to survive your Self.
Laugh often to avoid ending broken.

In the long tradition of inventive poets, scientists, artists and thinkers, Martin remains skeptical of dogma and convention, especially fundamentalism of any stripe. He also versifies on our species self-destructive potential.

This book draws heavily on the heroic fatalism first espoused in the earlier Stoicism, Epicurean and Buddhist philosophies; and later threaded throughout the Rubáiyát. Join the author in rejoicing before the mysterious, star-filled cosmos, as well as the early sunlight glancing off a spider’s dewy web.

Martin’s new book is available in print form via the following links.  Buy through at $19.95.  Buy through at £13.00.  For those who are happy with a digital copy, Martin has made a very generous offer to readers of this blog.  He writes as follows.

“In honor of Bill and Sandra’s enduring commitment to the FitzOmar world and their readers’ shared sympathies, I’d like to offer a free PDF which should be eminently readable on a reading pad or computer screen. Simply write the author ( and tell me how long you’ve been a subscriber to Bill and Sandra’s world.”

Thank you, Martin.  We appreciate this offer.

It is Omar Khayyam Day today!

May 18, 2018

Today, 18th May 2018, we celebrate Omar Khayyam Day and mark the 970th anniversary of the birth of this great astronomer, mathematician, philosopher and writer from Persia.  Whether he wrote any of the quatrains that are attributed to him is beside the point.  His life brought much richness to the world and we value both this and the verses that we have inherited.  Please join with us and raise a glass to his memory today.

More on W G Stirling, Mera K Sett and the unknown artist of the Lotus edition

May 9, 2018

This post by Bob Forrest is a follow-up to Danton O’Day’s comments on the two previous posts relating to the identification of the unknown artist whose illustrations are presented in the Lotus Library issue of the Rubaiyat in 1918.

In his recent book on Early Artist of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam 1914-1929, Danton O’Day suggests that there is significant evidence that Mera K. Sett was the unknown artist of the Lotus Library edition of 1918.  There are two elements in his analysis.

One of these relates to the interpretation of the monogrammed initials on the “New Lamps for Old” page at the front of the Lotus edition.  Research carried out since Danton’s book was published suggests strongly that the initials shown are W.G.S. and that they demonstrably relate to another artist, W.G. Stirling, The evidence for this conclusion is set out in summary in the previous post, and Danton has acknowledged the strength of this conclusion.

What, then, of the second aspect of Danton’s analysis, the parallels he finds between the illustrations by Sett and those by Stirling? My personal feeling is that they are not very significant. Taking the parallels in order, Sett’s Nude is more like that on the title page of Beardsley’s illustrated edition of Wilde’s play Salomé (Fig.1) than it is like the Stirling Nude (which in some ways reminds me more of the later Rubaiyat illustrations of John Yunge Bateman than it does that of Sett.) Besides, pictures of nudes with their modesty preserved by a variety of means are legion

Fig 1

Fig 2

As regards the Peacock Feather designs common to both Sett & Stirling, they also have a precursor in Beardsley’s Salomé, in his famous “Peacock Skirt” (Fig.2.) Indeed, Beardsley used eight large peacock feathers in his design for the cover of Wilde’s play, though it was not used at the time, and only published as an example of his work later.

The Moons (or Queer Faces, as I call them) also have a precursor in Beardsley’s Salomé, in his “Woman in the Moon” (Fig.3.) Another Queer Face, here with a peacock, appears in “Peacock and Rising Sun” (Fig.4.), though this picture, being from the H.S. Nichols collection, is almost certainly a forgery.

I am not saying that either Sett or Stirling copied from Beardsley (in fact, Sett strenuously denied any influence by Beardsley’s work) – merely that the peacock feather & queer face symbols were in general artistic circulation before either Sett or Stirling came along, and cannot therefore be taken as reliable evidence that Stirling copied from Sett. In fact, both the peacock feather & the queer face have much older antecedents than Beardsley – strange to say, involving Chinese numismatics – but it is not necessary to go into details of those here.

Fig 3

Fig 4

This leaves us with the Vultures, and here the resemblance is very striking and much more difficult to explain. It is possible that Stirling copied his vulture from one of Sett’s (there are two of them in Sett’s illustration.)  He was certainly not above ‘recycling’ his own images – witness the fact that in his illustrations for A.W. Hamilton’s Malayan Nursery Rhymes (1923), the young girl in “Mary had a Little Lamb” looks suspiciously like the one in “Where are you going to, my Pretty Maid ?” But whether he ‘recycled’ one of Sett’s Vultures is another matter – it might be the case, for example, that both artists used a common ‘model’ – an illustration in a book about birds, for example. But even if he got this image from Sett, it proves only that Stirling knew about Sett’s edition. It certainly does not, to my mind, prove that Sett illustrated the Lotus edition.

To address the other points raised by Danton in his comments on the previous post: first, why didn’t Stirling “sign” each of his pictures with his monogram as he did for the 1924 Asiatic Society article? Perhaps for the same reason that he didn’t sign any of his illustrations in Malayan Nursery Rhymes – his name was at the front of the book, in full in the front of Malayan Nursery Rhymes, in monogram form in the case of the Lotus edition. Why use the monogram instead of his full name at the front of the Lotus edition? I don’t know – perhaps he realised that this was a rather wild experiment in the art of Rubaiyat illustration, and, being a respectable civil servant by day at the time, he wanted to put his stamp on the book without being too easily recognised if it caused a scandal with the likes of its nude opium-den scene!

As for “New Lamps for Old”, I suspect that the Old Lamps were the staid editions of the likes of Edmund Dulac and René Bull, or of lesser lights like Gilbert James. Certainly Stirling’s Lotus edition – like Sett’s – stands out as a refreshing change in the routine flow of illustrated Rubaiyats.

Finally, on a different point of interpretation, Danton (p.21) seems to take FitzGerald’s line “Oh, Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin” (v.57 of the 1st edition) to refer to the alcoholic drink, gin. My understanding is that Gin here is more commonly taken to be the old English word meaning a snare or a trap.

Evidence that the unknown artist of the Lotus edition could be W G Stirling

May 2, 2018

The possibility that the unknown artist of the Lotus Library edition of 1918 could be W G Stirling was raised by Jos Coumans in the previous post.  Bob Forrest has been doing some further digging and has come up with some strong evidence to support this thesis.  Here are his findings in summary.

Following the appearance on the blog of my article claiming that the artist behind the Lotus edition of The Rubaiyat was someone with the initials W.G.S., both Douglas Taylor and Jos Coumans suggested W. G. Stirling. This at first seems unlikely since Stirling’s illustrations for A.W. Hamilton’s Malay translation of The Rubaiyat are totally different in style to those in the Lotus edition, and, where the illustrations in the Malay edition are signed, it is with W. Stirling or with the simple initial S, not with the monogram at the beginning of the Lotus edition. Nevertheless, it looks as though the illustrator of the Lotus edition was indeed W.G. Stirling.

Fig 1

Fig 2



Confirmation of this comes from Stirling’s article “Chinese Exorcists”, published in the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (June 1924), p.41-7. I here reproduce a scan of the title page (Fig.1) and a scan of the illustration on p.43 (Fig.2) – the latter shows various instruments of self-torture used by Chinese exorcists! To the lower right of Fig.2 is the tell-tale monogram of the Lotus edition, here conclusively linked, via Fig.1 to the name of W.G. Stirling.

Researches are continuing into this fascinating if little known artist – he was actually a Civil Servant in Malaya by profession – but he could clearly turn his hand to a variety of styles, and under a variety of signatures. Fig.3 shows the title page of his book John Chinaman and Fig,4 is one of its twenty-nine illustrations – note WGS’s Chinese signature in both.

Fig 3

Fig 4

As regards the man himself, he was born in England in 1887, and returned to England after retiring from the Civil Service, sometime in the 1930s. He died in London in 1951.

Another possibility for the ‘unknown artist’ of the Lotus edition

April 30, 2018

Jos Coumans has sent us another suggestion for the identity of the unknown artist of the 1918 Lotus edition of the Rubaiyat – see previous two posts.  He writes:

Though I am not sure about the identity of W.G.S., what about William G. Stirling, who illustrated an edition, published in 1932 by Australasian Publishing Co., with a Malayan translation by A.W. Hamilton. There is no monogram or other indication with the illustrations similar to the Lotus Library Edition, it is only the title page that gives Stirling as illustrator. The drawings in the Hamilton edition are rather straightforward images of often heavily bearded and sinister looking men, and with some imagination you might see similarities in style. But it is only a suggestion of course.  The illustration is the cover of an edition by Printers Limited, Singapore, 1935.

The possibility of the Lotus artist being William Stirling has also been raised by others, notably Douglas Taylor and Bob Forrest, and Bob is currently looking further into the history of this artist.  So, watch this space.

More on the unknown artist of the Lotus edition 1918

April 28, 2018

Bob Forrest has sent us his comments on the questions raised in the previous post concerning the identity of the artist who illustrated the Lotus Library edition of the Rubaiyat, published in 1918.  Bob has not yet had a chance to see the detail of Danton O’Day’s analysis suggesting that the artist could be Mera K Sett, and he reaches a different conclusion.  Bob writes:

Fig.1 – Lotus ed, v.20


As regards Mera K. Sett being the illustrator of the Lotus Edition, the thought had crossed my mind as well at one point, though I personally came to doubt it, despite some resemblances in style & symbolism (queer faces & peacocks / peacock feathers etc – see Figs. 1 & 2.)

For a start, Sett was more than happy to name himself as illustrator in both the book version and the folio version of his Rubaiyat, as well as in his other book, Sculptured Melodies. So, if he illustrated the Lotus edition, why not put his name to that as well ? But more than that, the page following the title page of the Lotus edition tells that this book offers “New Lamps for Old lit by” an artist identified by a monogram (Fig.3). Read vertically it seems to read W.G.S, though if one turns it 90 degrees clockwise, it could possibly, though less convincingly, be read U.G. E – my own preference is for W.G.S. Either way, Mera K. Sett is not  in evidence.

Fig.3 – Lotus ed


Fig.2 – Sett v.46


Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to discover the identity of W.G.S. I have seen it suggested that the monogram of the Lotus edition consists of the first two initials of the artist W. G. Mein, the S being simply an underlining flourish. But, quite aside from the huge stylistic differences between Mein’s output and the Lotus edition, W.G. Mein variously signed his book illustrations “Will. G. Mein” or “W. Gordon Mein”, and though he did occasionally use a monogram, it was that shown in Figs.4a & 4b – W. G. and M. together (Fig.4a is from Christie Deas, Pan o’ the Pipes, probably published in 1913, the accession date of the copy in the British Library.)

Fig.4a W Gordon Mein

Fig.4b W Gordon Mein monogram









Personally, I think it safest to say at this stage that the Lotus edition was illustrated by an unknown artist with the initials W.G.S.