Sunday, November 28, 2010

Travels In Arabia Deserta by Charles M. Doughty (An Extraordinary Work)

Map of Arabia (From Samuel Butler, Egypt and Arabia, London: Longman & Co., 1851)

Volume I, Chapter I (The Peraea; Ammon and Moab)(Beginning)

     A NEW voice hailed me of an old friend when, first returned from the Peninsula, I paced again in that long street of Damascus which is called Straight; and suddenly taking me wondering by the hand "Tell me (said he), since thou art here again in the peace and assurance of Ullah, and whilst we walk, as in former years, toward the new blossoming orchards, full of the sweet spring as the garden of God, what moved thee, or how couldst thou take such journeys into the fanatic Arabia ?"

Madain Salah in Al Madinah (discovered by Doughty)

Volume II, Chapter XVIII (Wady Fatima)(Conclusion)

     We remounted ; and they said to me, with the Arabian urbanity, "When we arrive, thus and thus shalt thou speak (like a Beduwy -- with a deep-drawn voice out of the dry wind pipe), Gowak ya el-Mohhafuth!  keyf 'endakom el--'bil?  eth-- themn el--ghrannem eysh ;  wa eysh ijib es-samn? 'The Lord strengthen thee, O governor! what be the camels worth here? -- the price of small cattle ?  and how much is the samn ?'  Now I saw the seabord desert before us hollowed and balked ! -- the labor doubtless of the shovel plow -- and drawn down into channels towards the city ; and each channel ending in a covered cistern.  Rich water-merchants are the possessors of these birkets :  all well-water at Jidda is brackish, and every soul must drink cistern-water for money.  By our right hand is "the sepulchre of Hawwa," in the Abrahamic tradition the unhappy Mother of mankind:  they have laid out "Eve's grave" -- a yard wide -- to the length of almost half a furlong [v. Vol. I, p. 434] :  such is the vanity of their religion ! -- which can only stand by the suspension of human understanding.  We passed the gates and rode through the street to "the Sherif's palace" : but it is of a merchant (one called his agent), who has lately built this stately house, -- the highest in Jidda.
     On the morrow I was called to the open hospitality of the British Consulate.

"Ships of the desert, laden with coffee", 19th century

Notes to reader:

1.  From Nature, 6 February, 1926:

"WE regret to record the death on January 20 of Mr. Charles Montagu Doughty, the famous traveller in Arabia and poet, at Sissinghurst, Ken, at eighty-two years of age. Mr. Doughty was born on August 19, 1843, at Theberton, Suffolk.  He was educated at Portsmouth, and later, on failing to enter the Navy, with which he was closely connected through his mothers's family, he went to King's College, London, and Caius College, Cambridge.  He took his degree, however, from Downing, to which he had migrated from Caius, obtaining second-class honours in natural science (geology) in 1865,  During his career as an undergraduate he had shown a taste for antiquarian exploration, which he continued after taking his degree, spending some years in travelling and study.  In 1866 he published a short pamphlet on the Jostedals-Brae glaciers of Norway, where he had spent a year as an undergraduate.  In 1870 he went to Holland, where he acquired Dutch and Danish, thence to Italy, Spain and Greece, crossing over to Palestine a year later."

Charles M. Doughty (1843-1926)  

2.  From Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols., 1922-58:

Doughty, Charles Montagu.
Adm. pens. (age 18) at CAIUS, Sept. 30, 1861. [2nd] s. of Charles Montagu (above), clerk, of Theberton Hall, Suffolk. [B. Aug. 19, 1843.] School, King's College, London. [Naval School at Portsmouth (Who was Who).] Matric. Michs. 1861.
Migrated to Downing, Oct. 8, 1863; B.A. (Downing) 1866; M.A. (Caius) 1869; Hon. Litt.D. 1920.
Hon. Fellow of Caius, 1907.
Hon. Litt.D. (Oxford) 1908.
Studied in Leyden and Louvain on leaving Cambridge.
Spent 1863-4 alone in Norway, studying glacier action, and a paper of his on this subject was read at the British Association Meeting in 1864.
Travelled, as a poor student, in France, Spain, Italy, Greece, North Africa, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula.
Joined a pilgrim caravan to Mecca, and travelled for many years in Arabia.
Returned to England, 1878, broken in health.
Addressed the R.G.S. on his travels, Nov. 26, 1883.
In 1912 received the R.G.S. Royal Founder's Medal.
Author of Travels in Arabia Deserta (1884), in which he contributed much to Western knowledge of Arabia.
Was the first to record accurately the true direction of the great watercourses of Wadi Hamd and Wadi er-Rumma.
This work was issued by the Cambridge University Press after it had been refused by four other publishers, one of whom wrote that 'it ought to be practically re-written by a practised literary man.' At first only scholars appreciated its value and the style of its writing; but in 1908 an abridgment was published by Mr Edward Garnett under the title of Wanderings in Arabia which brought much appreciation.
In 1921 Travels in Arabia Deserta was re-issued with a new preface by the author and an introduction by T. E. Lawrence, which was accepted as a classic of travel.
The rest of his life was given up to poetry, and he lived a recluse's life, first on the Riviera, and after 1899 at Tunbridge Wells, Eastbourne, and from 1923 at Sissinghurst, Kent.
Hon. Fellow, British Academy.
His published poems were, Dawn in Britain, 1906; Adam cast forth, 1908; The Titans, 1916; The Cliffs, 1909; The Clouds, 1912; Mansoul, or the Riddle of the World, 1920.
Died Jan. 20, 1926, at Sissinghurst.
Brother of Henry M. (1860).
(Venn, II. 355 and Addenda; Burke, L.G.; Who was Who, 1916-28; D.N.B., 1922-30; The Times, Jan. 22, 1926; D. G. Howarth, Life of Doughty.)

Memorial at Golders Green Crematorium, London

Frederic Edwin Church, The Arabian Desert, 1870


  1. Curtis,

    Nice segue from the Henry Green moment to one of HG's favourite writers.

    I recall that a framed photo of Doughty was among those gracing the college library walls at Caius, where he had been an undergraduate.

    (The college had been the source of several great explorers of the deserts and the poles.)

  2. I'm so glad you liked this. Every time I return to Doughty, I'm amazed by the writing, the story and the mind. Curiously, during the halftime break in the Eagles-Bears game yesterday, I encountered Caroline (a die-hard Eagles person; they all are here) in the kitchen and we found Lawrence of Arabia showing on television. Those Arabian vistas are astonishing. Curtis

  3. Hey! Nice to see Doughty again. I remember piecing (not reading) my way through the books years and years ago and being taken by his harmonic storytelling. IT was at the same time when I was trying to read Seven Pillars, which was (and is) a non-starter for me--just can't crack it. Doughty is another story, entirely. Thanks!

  4. I'm so glad you liked it. (Just responded on Facebook also.) Doughty is remarkable and I agree about Seven Pillars, although I like Lawrence's introduction materials quite a bit. I did read his last book, The Mint, about his experiences in the RAF towards the end of his life and found it interesting and moving. When I was a kid, my parents took me to see Terence Ratigan's play Ross which, as I recall, included material from both the Arabia and Royal Tank Corps/RAF re-enlistment days, and was excellent. I became interested in Doughty through reading the English novelist Henry Green, who so admired him, and from time spent in graduate school studying Islamic art. It's been a mostly trying November, except for some bright spots like beginning our correspondence. I'm hoping for a great December for us and all our friends Best, Curtis

  5. Hello.

    Thank you for publishing that map. I've just begun reading TIAD from the first edition. And it's a fragile book. I was afraid to take the map out for fear of damage. Now I won't have to, an I will be able to fix his passage visually. This will make the journey much easier for me follow

  6. You are super-nice to write and tell me this. Many thanks. Doughty people need to stick together. Please visit again soon. I'll try to post something that will interest you (although that's what I try to do all the time.) Greetings from the Philadelphia suburbs. Curtis

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