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Notes on Anthony Hamilton MWrtf - Count Anthony Hamiltons genial



LT 363 Week 14

Anthony Hamilton
Notes from Marina Warner
     5 February 2008

     The first impact of the Arabian Nights on European literature

     1.       Anthony Hamilton (1645-1720), Pioneered Oriental tales at the English court in
France after the defeat of James II of England.

He was born Irish, Catholic, and became Anglo-French, writing in French and living mostly in
His audience were the great ladies of the English court in exile, for example the sister of the Duke
of Berwick, who was the son of James II, and therefore a claimant on the throne during Cromwell’s

He developed the parodic or ‘Mock’ tradition – mock fairy tales , oriental spoofs, mock
romances, mock fables, mock morals…. Mock classical myths Mock metamorphosis in direct
retaliation to the huge success of Antoine Galland’s translation of the 1001 Nights. He said he
wrote his tales, ‘to mark the absurdities of these badly made up stories…’
  Licentious and deliberately frivolous in tone and content, but sustained by a genuine undertow of
social critique and satire.
  Profoundly shaped l8th c approach to political and social criticism through stories, esp. in work of
  Ruth Clark writes: ‘ What Hamilton did bequeath to Voltaire was his manner of relating, his calm
polite malice, his easy deprecating grace, the air of unconscious ridicule, that delightfully grave
irony, so sure that it never exaggerates, so restrained it never gives way to laughter.’ (Ruth Clark,
Anthony Hamilton: His Life and Works and Family (London, l921), p256.

Hamilton’s fairy tales stories include Le Bélier (The Ram) . This was his nickname, but he may
have been responding to Mme d’Aulnoy’s fairy tale ‘Le Mouton’, which also means the Ram. It
enfolds ‘The Comb and the Collar|’ which Andrew Lang excerpted for The Olive Fairy Book in

 Fleur d’Epine (c 1704), translated into English, first in 1793 by anon. author: ‘History of Princess
May-Flower: A Circassian Tale’, which is presented as the last story of the 1001 Nights in order to
bring the cycle to a close.
The Four Facardins – a story in which all four protagonists have the same name.

The stories in French all appeared in Vol XX of Le Cabinet des Fées, the multi volume anthology
of fairy tales at the end of the l8th century.
He left unfinished a version of Faust, which influenced Goethe later.

Hamilton is best known and most appreciated however for a social history, The Memoirs of the
Count of Grammont, a gossipy, light-hearted, extremely frank account of his brother-in-law’s
amorous and other adventures. Published in l713 as if written by the brother-in-law, it had a huge

social and critical success, and was translated and published in English by Horace Walpole (author
of first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto) in 1772.
Walter Scott was a huge admirer and also re-edited and published it. He wrote of it, ‘The History of
Grammont may be considered as unique: there is nothing like it in any language. For drollery,
knowledge of the world, various satire, general utility, united with great vivacity of composition,
Gil Blas [by Victor Hugo] is unrivalled: but as a merely agreeable book, the Memoirs of Grammont
perhaps deserve that character more than any which was ever written: it is a pleasantry
throughout.’ The same could be said of Hamilton’s tales, which are trifling and light
entertainments, very cleverly done.

Hamilton connects the French courtly style to the later English gothic supernatural: his lineage
reveals cross-fertilisation between France and England, continues the tradition established by
Perrault, Madame d’Aulnoy, and Mme de Beaumont, and leads on to Walpole and Beckford (a
relative) and Walter Scott. .

Mathew (‘Monk’) Lewis (1775-1818) translated Hamilton’s tales in the version distributed in
photocopies: Fairy Tales and Romances , trans. M. Lewis, H. T. Hyde, and C. Kenney (London,
 Lewis also wrote sequels to several of them which Hamilton had left unfinished, and commented
that :
~it has been asserted that Hamilton’s tales were written with the intentin of turning the ‘Thousand
and One Nights’ into ridicule… but this I do not for one moment believe…Hamilton had too much
good taste not to appreciate the merit of a work in which we find all the luxuriance of the Eastern
imagination, so much more fervid than our own, with the striking simplicity of the early ages.
…This however, would not prevent Hamilton from ridiculing the infatuation of the ladies of the
court , who, with their usual exaggeration, unquestionably preferred the ‘Thousand and One
Nights’ to all books past, present, and to come.
 Lewis argues that Hamilton was imitating the Nights and lampooning the romances of chivalry of
Europe, in the manner of Cervantes and Don Quixote.

M.G.Lewis was known as ‘Monk’ Lewis after his bestselling scandalous novel The Monk (l796),
which was an early Gothic horror fiction, full of louring skies and crumbling abbeys and anti-
Catholic prurience.

Andrew Lang (1844-1912) , who included Hamilton’s ‘The Comb and the Collar’ in his series of
Fairy Books, employed many translators and re-tellers in these famous anthologies, most of them
women. He was a Scottish folklorist , poet, essayist, with a vast knowledge of myths and legends,
and his series, which began with the Blue Fairy Book (1889) has lasted till the present day.
However the stories, from all over the world, have been recast and exhibit all the traits of
Victorian and Edwardian fairy tale revision: prepared for young readers, andrendered more solemn
as well as simple in structure, with an emphasis on serious magic rather than lighthearted

From my Robb Lectures, given in Auckland, 2004

Count Anthony Hamilton’s genial and comical spoofs were written around 1704-5 and published
twenty-five years later. They’re trifles, little soufflés puffed for his friend [s] at the English court in
exile, 1 with every intention of making fun of the ladies’s current craze for the Arabian Nights.2 He
helps himself liberally to motifs from the Nights : bringing in beseeching animals who are enchanted
humans and smile and gesture, unable to speak; arbitrary and sudden coups de theatre which are
accepted without demur by all concerned; using the dryest tone about summary justice or any similar
acts of terror : Of a supposed witch, he writes, ‘It was first put out that the Mother of Sheath s [the
witch] needs must be burned alive, but the effort would have been in vain, witches in those days did
not allow themselves be burned as they do these days. ‘3 Hamilton’s witty mimicry of the Arabian
Nights pilfers its structural conventions, its contents, its linguistic style, tone and imagery, its morality
, and its fatalistic world view with the light-fingered skill of a court jester.
        ‘Fleur d’Epine: or Mayblossom, a Circassian Tale’, is the tale of the 1001st Night as invented
by Hamilton, and Dinarzade, Scheherazade’s sister, offers to tell it because she cannot bear to hear
another of her sister Scheherazade’s interminable tedious yarns. She also promises to end the curse, by
striking a bargan with a Sultan that if he interrupts her, he willl spare Scheherazade and the whole
abominable cycle of narrative will stop at last, to everyone’s relief.
        A princess, called Luisante (or Radiant, which means The Shining one – a typical Arabism),
the daughter of the Caliph of Cashmeer, has such beautiful eyes that they kill stone dead any man who
approaches her, and blinds any woman, which is considered a grave disadvantage. But in spite of this
arsenal of deadly weapons, poor Brilliant, as she is called in the English translation of l731, is made
prisoner by a loathsome hag, Dentue, Toothy, or Old Mother Long Tooth, a witch of immense
potency, who stirs her cauldron with her single protruding tooth which ‘projected from her mouth at
least two yards.’ In one of the plot’s many complications, Dentue has kidnapped another beautiful
maiden, the sweet-natured and virtuous Fleur d’Epine, or Mayblossom, and is scheming to marry her
to her repulsive ogre offspring, Dentillon, Toothypeg. A champion appears, to solve the princess’s
lethal gaze, and rescue Mayblossom. He is called ‘Tarare’, an exclamation which means ‘Phooey’, or
‘Pooh-pooh’ – the English translator called him Fiddlesticks. The tale then ravels up a messy sheaf of
interpolated romance motifs and fanciful talismans – an enchanted ringing mare, a luminous diamond
hat – and sends its hero out against three hydras, ten rhinoceroses, fourteen elephants, and twenty

griffins. He scatters them with a blow-torch. There are also sunglasses, crimson unicorns, magpies
who play cards, baby ogres, sudden deaths – and resuscitations; recognitions and transformations, of
course. Unbeknownst to (Fiddlesticks), Old Mother Longtooth has turned his longlost twin brother
into a parrot. It is all very silly, droll, innocuous – and nonsensical. There are so many double
entendres played on the name Fiddlesticks that the Sultan explodes in exasperation, and so Dinarzade
wins her bet and Scheherazade is free; Hamilton has also brought the cycle of stories to an end, or so
he hopes, he said.
       For readers today, references to particular political figures are lost or dulled by time. On the
surface, there is not much matter to this story at all, except frivolous and mischievous badinage.
Nevertheless, the raillery, hyperbole, deadpan tone of the conte philosophique, its misanthropy and its
protest against fate, are unmistakeable. Dinarzade addresses the Sultan in accents Candide and
Pangloss echo very closely, and Hamilton loves to interject the conjunction ‘car’ – for – to link non-
sequiturs with a breezy insouciance of all logic that Pangloss also later echoes.
       This one was written around l695, before Galland’s translation of the Thousand and One
Nights appeared, and it responds directly to the fairy tales of Mme. D’Aulnoy, such as Le Mouton
(The Sheep). In Le Belier (The Ram), Hamilton interpolated another tale, which Andrew Lang
included in the Olive Fairy Book in l907. Lang had mixed feelings about the characteristic vagaries
of Oriental shaggy dog-storytelling: of Hamilton’s story, The Ram, Lang remarks, ‘ [it is ] too
prolix and confused, best remembered for the remark, ‘ Ram, my friend, begin at the beginning!’. In
‘The Comb and the Collar’, another hapless princess suffers at the hands of her wicked stepmother,
who in her jealousy, disfigures her natural beauty. She has a brother, and together they are whirled
away into oblivion : by ‘ un tremblement de terre qu ebranla toute la ville, auquel succeda un
tourbillon mele de grele & d’eclairs qui dispersa toute l’assemblee. This plotline becomes all tangled
up in another, parallel tale of woe, about the princess’s two lost cousins, a boy and a girl , who have
fallen into the clutches of an evil sorceress called with strong sexual nudging, the Mother of Sheaths,
who lines her cave with trophy knives in her collection of sheaths (gaines n French?) The cousins
have been changed, as we learn later, into a delectable snow white fox and a dreadful monstrous
crocodile-like fish with snapping jaws. The comb and carcan, or neck iron/ choker (collar) of the
title are magic talismans, which can only be opened and handled by the right hero and heroine, and
eventually, after a hurly burly of narrative and a million wild improbable vicissitudes, they’re used
by the prince and princess to free the poor young captives of the witch from the animal
metamorphoses she has inflicted on them. 4

        Hamilton wrote a handful more tales, including a rigmarole called ‘The Four Facardins’ (Les
quatre Facardins), so called because he brings off a feat worthy of the most surrealist word games (of
Oulipo), in that the four, distinct and unrelated protagonists all bear the same name.
        The Arabian Nights, translated or invented, joined the home-grown fairy tale tradition, which
in France had begun with the Contes du temps passé of Charles Perrault in l697., and brought Oriental
sumptuousness to Le Cabinet des Fees, an anthology of fairy tales which appeared in forty-four
volumes at the end of the eighteenth century, and which collected many of Galland’s translations. In
many ways, the Ottoman disguise gave writers a cover for ironical philosophising and a satirical
perspective on their own social mores and aberrant despots. An the anonymous editor of one collection
comments – and this author might well be Galland: ‘The greater number of monarchies in the Orient
were despotic, and the subjects in consequence did not see themselves as free; as those peoples are
ingenious, they found this way of being able to give advice, without risking their lives, to their kings,
who treat them as slaves and do not give them the liberty to say what they think.’ 5 The sentence
significantly changes tense half way through, to comment on the enduring motives of fabulists.
        The status of fairy tales of this kind lent them to fifth columnists, by a strange, even queer,

        Imitation is a kind of transformation, a variant on translation’s action of disclosing
meaning, as is meta-phora, which comes from the Greek, also meaning to carry across.
Imitation is copying, but copying with a difference. In the eighteenth century, when the
Thousand and One Nights first appeared in print, a term used for translation was ‘belle
infidele’, ‘ beautiful and faithless’.

         From my Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds

Tales of metamorphosis proliferated, themselves multi-limbed, protean, polymorphous, in
the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: this period of secularisation,
scientific inquiry, epistemological adventures in the pursuit of clear Reason saw a bubbling
spate of fables, dramas, romances, fancies and harlequinades in which animals turn into
human beings and vice versa, in which magic spells and talismans bring about a myriad
transformations; in which souls leave living bodies to fly to other dimensions of existence
and return; or depart from their fleshly host to take up occupation of another: poems and
stories told of identities doubling and redoubling through body-hopping, body-squatting, or
spirit travels, also known as the shaman’s flight.
         This body-hopping, shape-shifting, breaks the rules of time, place, pf human
reproduction and personal uniqueness; it became a highly popular, much elaborated
motive force in fantastic fictions, exploding in full bizarre bloom in western Europe first in
the tales of Gian Battista Basile, published in Naples in 1636- and their close cousins, The
Arabian Nights, which were translated into French in 1704 by Antoine Galland, and almost
immediately afterwards into English, but reaching a new seriousness and pitch of unease
in the gothic romance and the modern novel. I’m going to attempt to trace this fascinating
journey of the imagination much too rapidly here, taking us from the drama of Carlo Gozzi
in one cross roads of land and sea and the gateway to the Ottoman empire – eighteenth
century Venice. Le Cabinet des fees, a collection of fairy tales and fantastic fables in
French begins with Charles Perrault’s pioneering book of 1697, and runs to an astonishing
forty-one volumes, which included Antoine Galland’s translation of the Arabian Nights,
which I discussed last week. The Cabinet was published in 1785-89, first in Paris, but later
in the series on account of certain coincidental evenements at the time, in Amsterdam and
         The word vizier will have given a clue to the type of story: these are Orientalist
tales, set in Baghdad and Kashmir, about heroines with names like                   and they
were written by figures who are themselves often situated at turning points in culture and at
moments of clash and conflict between one intellectual hegemony and another: this is a
characteristic of metamorphic writing, that it explodes in transtional places aand at the
confluence of traditions and civilisations, cresting and spilling forth like the riptide of the

Severn. As we saw in the last lecture, with regard to Aladdin, the impersonation of
Sheherazade was one of the most popular writerly metamorphoses undertaken by
sophisticated, scholar- writers in France; their exotic performances then influenced fantastic
narratives in German (Wieland),Italian and English.
       The Princess who unfortunately killed men with a look of her beautiful eyes, and
blinded the women appears in the story Fleur d’Epine, or Mayflower, by Count Anthony
Hamilton, an Anglo-Irish Jacobite who lived in exile in France and wrote in French. In
English her name is given as Brilliant, daughter o fhte Caliph of Cashmeer, in the ‘
fairytale, translated and ‘ augmented ‘ by Horace Walpole, and published by William
Dodsley in 1783 ; around half a century later, Monk Lewis took enough of an interest to
translate and edit Anthony Hamilton’s Fairy tales and romances.7 These arch, mocking,
urbane and fantastical fables are not much read now, whereas his gallant and amusing
worldly memoirs of his brother in law, the Duc de Grammont are a classic of court gossip
genre. But Sir Walter Scott read Hamilton and edited him- remarking disparagingly that his
stories were’wretched imitations of some of the Persian and Arabian tales, in which
everything was distorted and rendered absurd and preposterous.’
       He does concede, however, that Hamilton was a kind of pioneer Voltaire was
influenced by Hamilton in his apporach to the mordant, fantastical fable, and his dismissal
of the stories deosn’t quite convince, as Walpole must have responded to the diverting,
exaggerated, almost Wildean, or even Firbankian burlesquing of orientalist conventions,
fairy tale devices, and the resources of romance. A sorceress stirs her cauldron with ‘ a
large tooth which projected from her mouth at least two yards ’ as she misquotes Macbeth;
later she gives chase to the lovers on a ‘crimson unicorn, followed by two tigers of
enormous size.’ Comic reverses follow thick and fast : there is the theft of a Luminous
Hat, and a magical mare with a hide of tinkling golden bells, the hero’s brother is turned
into a parrot, with whom the princess Brilliant is in love, and Old Mother Long Tooth is
somehow involved in his transmogrification; Brilliant expires for love fo her parrot, and so
on and so forth, it bowls along twisting and turning abd turning, gleefully parodying the
nonsensical complications of such stories. While Hamilton takes nothing serioiusly, it
seems, Sir Walter Scott will turn out to be a key mediator of this narrative motif of
doubling that I am looking at today, in this last lecture, and he perhaps bridled at
Hamilton’s prancing skittishness with such themes. For the Scottish tendency of the
uncanny, as displayed later by James Hogg and Robert Louis Stevenson, carried three

different but related forms of doubling into mainstream story telling in absolute earnest –
even for young readers.

    Especially Henrietta Bulkeley, sister of the Duchess of Berwick, and daughter-in-law of
King James II )
    Moncrif wrote ‘Les Aventures de Zeloide et d’Amansarifdine’ in l715, see R. Robert, ed.
Contes parodiques et licentieux du l8e siecle (Nancy, l987), Pp 144-6.
    ‘on dit d’abord qu’il falloit aller bruler la mere aux gaines toute vive. La tentative eut ete
inutile, les sorcieres de ce tems-la ne se laissoient pas bruler comme en ces tems-ci.’Le
Belier, Le Cabinet des Fees Vo XX (Amsterdam and Paris, 1785), Vol XX,, p 49
    Tres-illustre, tres-religieux, & tres-clement empereur qui, n’ecoutant que les lois de la justice,
& la bonte de votre naturel, etranglez toutes vos femmes en haine de la premiere, & qui
noblement irrite de ce que tant de negres &de muletiers etoient au service de cette imperatrice,
d’heureuse memoire… etc.
    Anon. Ed Bidpai, l697, quoted in Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde (London,
l994), p 165.
    Ed C.J. Mayer, Le Cabinet des fees Amsterdam etc1785-89
    Anthony Hamilton, Fairy Tales and Romances, tr. M. Lewis, H.T. Ryde and C.
Kenney (London, 1849)

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