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Article on FitzGerald and the Rubaiyat in Dhaka newspaper

December 14, 2017

We are frequently reminded about how international the interest in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and Edward FitzGerald has become.  Jos Coumans has alerted us to another manifestation of this in the form of an article on the subject, by a fellow researcher John Drew, in the Dhaka Daily Star.  The Daily Star is described in Wikipedia as the largest circulating daily English-language newspaper in Bangladesh and the article is on the paper’s literature page.  It can be accessed via the following link

The article provides an excellent introduction to the story of FitzGerald and the Rubaiyat with a certain emphasis on the South Asian connections.  Judging by the length and content of this piece, the readers of the Daily Star must be quite a sophisticated bunch, with more serious interests than is apparent among the readers of some British newspapers.  We congratulate John Drew on his success in spreading the word about the Rubaiyat in this way.


New index for Potter’s Bibliography now available online

November 30, 2017

A little over a year ago, we reported that Douglas Taylor and Bob Forrest had co-operated to put together a new index for the well know Bibliography of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam ‘together with Kindred Mattter …’  by Ambrose George Potter – see  As we commented then, Potter’s Bibliography is a wonderful resource but it is marred by a very idiosyncratic index.  There have also been relatively few details about Potter’s own life history.  These are gaps that Douglas Taylor and Bob Forrest have filled with a splendid new and comprehensive Index for the Bibliography which Bob had printed for limited circulation in 2016.  The new Index contains, at the back, a ‘Provisional Biography’ of Potter, giving much new information.

The great news now is that Bob has put the new Potter index, plus his Biography, on line on his own website.  It can be accessed via  The index includes listings of the Potter entries by the following categories:  artists;  publishers;  translators, editors, commentators, parodists etc.;  authors in periodical literature; and anonymous articles.  It also identifies some errors that had crept into Potter’s work.  The booklet can be viewed online or downloaded.  If you do the latter, it is then easy to search the whole volume for particular names.

Many thanks from all of us to Douglas and Bob for doing this.  For those who don’t know Potter’s work, it only covers Rubaiyat-related material (or most of it) published up to 1929.  For the years 1930 to 2009, Jos Coumans’ Updated Bibliography provides an invaluable complement;  he also includes some earlier items that Potter left out.  See J Coumans, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: An Updated Bibliography (Iranian Studies Series). Leiden, Leiden University Press, 2010.

A cartoon by Gilbert James and a website which identifies many more Rubaiyat-related cartoons

November 27, 2017

The investigation of Rubaiyat-related cartoons is proving to be a very interesting area of research.  We have two further items of information, courtesy of our correspondents, to whom we are very grateful. 

First, Bob Forrest reminds us of a cartoon by one of the earliest illustrators of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat, Gilbert James.  This parody of quatrain 11 in FitzGerald’s first edition appeared in the issue of The Tatler for Feb 24th 1904.  The illustration left is taken from Bob’s own website, where there is much more information on the artist;  see

 Second, Joe Howard, whose information originally started this theme on the blog, has discovered an extremely useful website for those interested in the subject.  Joe writes as follows.

I discovered an excellent website the “British Cartoon Archive” located at the University of Kent:

Using the search term “Omar” yields 20 hits of which 16 are distinct cartoons (in some cases they have both the original cartoon and its printed form). Of these 12 are ROK related. The remaining 4 refer to contemporary persons with the name Omar. Cartoonists of interest, with the number of their cartoons shown, are:

Will Dyson (2)
Ronald Carl Giles (1)
Leslie Gilbert Illingworth (1)
John Jensen (1)
Nicholas Garland (4)
Victor Weisz (3)

Interestingly, all three of Weisz’s cartoons use the same quotation from quatrain 65; “But, fill me with the old familiar Juice, Methinks I might recover by-and-bye!” The “Juice” referred to in these cartoons is “oil”.

Changing the search term to “Rubaiyat” reveals an additional cartoon by Nicholas Garland.

Changing it again to “Khayyam” leads to 11 hits but only the last one, by Victor Weisz is not already included above.

The website provides considerable detail about the cartoons, plus good images.

We seem to get slightly different numbers from Joe’s when we do the searches (using the advanced search facility), but the site is clearly a very useful resource.  Our second illustration is by David Low and has a suitably seasonal tone, referring to David Lloyd George in 1922.  Joe’s original comments are available on the following link:

Yet more Rubaiyat-related cartoons

November 26, 2017

In response to Joe Howard’s original post *, Bob Forrest has sent in images of two more cartoons that make satirical use of extracts from FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat.  Bob has also provided brief comments on the origins of the cartoons.

The Anglo-Persian Oil Concession Cartoon

 In 1901 the English-born millionaire William Knox D’Arcy negotiated a concession to prospect for oil over a large part of Iran for a period of 60 years, in return for which large payments would be made into the Royal Treasury. But by 1931, a glut of oil on the world market, plus the effects of the Depression, led to substantial reductions in payments to Iran by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) under the D’Arcy concession. As a result, in November 1932 the then Iranian monarch Reza Shah threatened to cancel the concession (hence this cartoon from Punch in December 1932.) This resulted in the case going before the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Some Iranian brinkmanship seems to have been involved here, for in April 1933 the Shah did a U-turn, and a new agreement was signed, with royal assent, in May 1933.

In the cartoon the Shah is represented as Reza Khayyam, with an oil can at his feet and a petrol pump behind his head, tearing up the D’Arcy Concession. The lines beneath are a parody of the last two lines of verse 12 of the first edition of The Rubaiyat:

Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest;
Oh the brave Music of a distant drum.

Exploded Reputations VIII:

 This was one of a series of cartoons on the theme of “Exploded Reputations” by George Morrow, published in Punch on January 13th 1909. It takes an alternative look at the famous verse 11 of FitzGerald’s first edition:

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Here, Paradise is anything but Paradise, and Omar’s Beloved is depicted as a jug-swigging termagant

Other cartoons in the series depicted, for example, Alfred the Great as “Alfred the Great Pastry Cook,” selling “Cakes baked under Royal Supervision”; and Leander about to swim the Hellespont after a hot drink, wearing a buoyancy ring, and with a boat ready to hook him out of the water if he gets into trouble.

* See Joe’s original post on, plus a follow up from Jos Coumans on

Bob Forrest also draws attention to a cartoon by Gilbert James in the style of his well known Rubaiyat illustrations.  More details of this will come in a further post.


More about cartoons

November 23, 2017

In addition to the previous post about OK related cartoons, there is of course the well known cartoon by Max Beerbohm, in his book Poet’s Corner.

Omar Khayyam

On the cover of the Men Only issue of July 1951, there was also an Omar Khayyam cartoon, by Hynes. Omar featured as the so called ‘coverman’, as explained in a one page article by John May. Edward Hynes (1897-1982) was an Irish born cartoonist, illustrator and painter, and he frequently illustrated the covers of the ‘naughty’ magazine.


A completely different story is that of the cartoons and poems by the Dutch artist Lex Metz and poet-lawyer Theo van Raalte, in a weekly series in De Vrije Katheder. This was a magazine that started as a resistance newspaper in 1941, during the German occupation of the Netherlands. In 1946, when the magazine had become a platform for communists and non-communists to establish a new ‘Nederland’, Theo and Lex started what you now may call a column, “In de Nationale Kroeg” (In the National Pub). This was a poem consisting of four quatrains, in which they commented on the actual politic, economic and socio-cultural developments, in an often sarcastic, sometimes sardonic way, but always rather humourous. The point was that the last of the four quatrains was a translation of one of FitzGerald’s rubaiyat translations, to show how old Omar long time ago ridiculed the doctors and the saints and sages and their arguments.
The public however wasn’t aware of the origin of these last quatrains and didn’t understand their meaning. When protests came the column was withdrawn, but this caused a counter protest and the Nationale Kroeg was re-established only a few weeks later. The series lasted until May 1948.


The last quatrain in this issue (December 13, nr. 32, 1946) is a translation of FitzGerald’s quatrain nr. 24 (1859).

D’een maakt zich nijver voor het Heden klaar;
Een ander meent: het Morgen loopt gevaar.
En van de toren van de duisternis
Een muezzin: “Dwazen! Uw loon is hier noch daar.”

Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after a TO-MORROW stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
“Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!”

Although the cartoons were not Omar related, the last quatrain certainly was, and it is that combination of artwork, parody and poetry that makes this a unique example of a typical literary genre.
The FitzGerald quatrains as translated by Theo van Raalte, were collected and published in 1992 by the Avalon Pers, together with FitzGerald’s translations, and an introduction by Johan van Schagen.


New videos presenting the early artists who illustrated the Rubaiyat

November 22, 2017

Four new videos introducing the Rubaiyat of Edward FitzGerald and its illustrators have been posted on YouTube.  They have been produced by Danton O’Day as promotional material for his recently published books that cover the Golden Age of  Rubaiyat Art – see .   

As well as promoting the books, the videos provide a valuable introduction to the poems and the artists for those who find audio-visual presentations more accessible than the printed word and image.  Even for those of us who know the illustrations well, it is great to see some of them shown so clearly on screen.  Danton introduces the videos in the following way.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as translated by Edward FitzGerald is arguably one of the words most adored books of poetry. It is also one of the most illustrated. Starting in 1884 artists began to illustrate the verses and decorate the publicly available books they contained. The following four narrated videos introduce the artists and the era that started in 1884 and ended in 1913.

Golden Age of Rubaiyat Art Introduction (4min12sec)

This video introduces Omar and FitzGerald, their poetic contributions and their continued popularity. The first artists of the Rubaiyat are then introduced.

First Illustrators of the Rubaiyat in Pictures 1884-1913, I. Ault to Grieffenhagen (5min37sec)

The era from 1884 to 1913 can be considered the Golden Age of Rubaiyat Art. It is an era where 34 different artists illustrated the poems. In this narrated video the artwork of 13 of those artists are revealed.

First Illustrators of the Rubaiyat in Pictures 1884-1913, II. Hall to Robinson (5min7sec)

In this second narrated video the artwork of 11 more of those artists are revealed.

First Illustrators of the Rubaiyat in Pictures 1884-1913, III. Rose to Webb (3min49sec)

In the third narrated video the artwork of the final 10 of those artists is revealed.

Danton H. O’Day
Oakville, ON, CANADA

A Rubaiyat-related political cartoon and some studies for a menu

November 21, 2017

Joe Howard has sent us information about two pieces of Rubaiyat-related artwork that he came across recently.  The first, shown below, is a political cartoon from the late 1940’s in post-war Britain created by George Butterworth for the Daily Dispatch.. 

Joe comments as follows.

I recently acquired an original ink and watercolour cartoon from 1948.   It utilizes a popular rubai-as you can see from the attached image.  The cartoon appeared in the Daily Dispatch and the characters represented are Clement Atlee and Sir Stafford Cripps.  I am not aware of other OK related cartoons, though I assume they must exist. Do you know if anyone has studied the use of the ROK in cartoons?

If any one has an answer to Joe’s questions please comment below.

His second item is some original  pen and ink studies for illustrations for a menu at a dinner of the Omar Khayyam Club of London in 1926.  The work is by James McBey, a British artist 1883-1959, whose life and work is documented in Danton O’Day’s valuable book on The Artists of the Omar Khayyam Club of London 1892-1929 – see

The studies are currently on sale from The Old Print Shop, New York, with an asking price of $700.  There is more information via the following link .