The exquisite amateur: FitzGerald, the Rubaiyat, and queer dilettantism.
--Edward FitzGerald to John Allen,
March 9, 1850 (1)
I. The Amateur Rubaiyat
Robert Graves, in promoting his own "authentic" translation of Omar Khayyam's quatrains in 1968, slandered Edward FitzGerald, the poem's Victorian translator and popularizer, as a "dilettante faggot trying to pretend he was a scholar." (2) Graves believed he had access to an earlier manuscript of the quatrains, though literary scholars soon revealed he had instead been taken in by a forgery orchestrated by the Sufi mystic Omar Ali-Shah. To make matters worse for Graves, the forged manuscript was itself cultivated from a commentary published by the Persian enthusiast Edward Heron-Alien, who in 1899 had published FitzGerald's fifth edition with, on the opposite page, "the Persian script of the ruba'i, hah-ruba'i or ruba'iyat, which he believed had inspired FitzGerald's translation" (Bowen, p. 2). Graves, not realizing how derivative of FitzGerald's work his translation indeed was, grandiloquently titled his edition, which he released with Doubleday in 1968, The Original Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam.
Yet Graves's defamation of FitzGerald is revelatory, for it suggests how the perceived shortcomings of FitzGerald's rendition, if not exclusively his character, are both amateur and homoerotic. Indeed, Graves was correct to perceive the same-sex entanglements of FitzGerald's verse, for as Dick Davis has pointed out, the cast of characters in FitzGerald's poem appears to be entirely male. (3) Before attempting the poem in English, FitzGerald had translated it first into "Monkish Latin," for which he uses masculine forms to connote the speaker's cupbearer and beloved. (4) The second-person "Thou" of FitzGerald's English versions obscures what the verses' 1867 French translator J. B. Nicolas called "revolting sensualities which I refrain from translating," and the gender of the Persian male beloved fades into second-person, English indeterminacy. (5) In response, Graves's reconstitution of "the original rubaiyyat" straightens out the queerer, ambiguous moments of FitzGerald's verse: "some once lovely Head" (st. 28) of FitzGerald's first version transforms into "some lovely girl" in Graves's hands (st. 19), and the "Angel Shape" of a cupbearer (st. 42), admittedly FitzGerald's own poetic innovation, becomes a tedious "Old man" and "fellow toper" (Graves, p. 64) (6) Graves's "original" version required a sanitization of the more homophile moments of FitzGerald's verse and rewrote its ambiguities to tally with mid-twentieth-century homophobia. The changes are regrettable, for, as Erik Gray discusses regarding popular illustrations that regendered the poem's cupbearer or beloved as female, "something crucial is lost when all of the poem's erotic charge is automatically read as heterosexual--a sense of radical questioning of the world and its assumptions" ("Common and Queer," p. 36).
Yet, of course, FitzGerald did not print his Latin quatrains (though he very coyly shared them with Edward Cowell, his young married friend and Persian tutor), and he instead selected the ambiguity of a second-person address. The text's uncertainty is productive, for it opens up the poem to enjoyment from readers of multiple erotic investments. Certainly, early critics like Charles Eliot Norton, who celebrated the "manly independence" of Omar in a review that bequeathed the poem to the heirs of American transcendentalism while elevating it above literal translations, might balk at the suggestion of same-sex eroticism in the verse, and the turn-of-the-century Omar Khayyam Club likewise anticipated Graves by asserting the female sex of the cupbearer in numerous illustrations. (7) Conversely, other contemporaneous readers easily grasped the poem's homoerotic engagements. For instance, Gray has demonstrated that Oscar Wilde, flirting with a young correspondent, linked the poem with Shakespeare's sonnets and his own short story "The Portrait of Mr W.H." ("Common and Queer," p. 31). Yet the tendency to heterosexualize the poem still exists today, even in queerly engaged scholarly discourse. Joseph Allen Boone's brief mention of FitzGerald's translation in his fascinating 2014 study The Homoerotics of Orientalism, for example, demonstrates the facility with which the poem has become shorthand for "the triad, 'wine, women, and song.'" (8) These various appraisals point out the importance of acknowledging the ambiguities of FitzGerald's verse. The poem is both queer and not at all; it facilitates the multiple desires of its readers.
One aim of this study, then, is to showcase how the poem resists placement in an easily discernable sexual category. The radical nature of the poem's erotics is neither the open secret of homophilia or a scandalous heterosexuality; rather, the Rubaiyat presents a fantasy of an eroticism unencumbered by sexual designation. Sexual contact in the poem is nearly always mediated across the veil of death--the great equalizer of sexual difference--allowing the poem to fantasize corporeal connections without sexual classification. The poem eroticizes the dust of antecedent partners, urging readers to find delight in an impossible, phantasmic connection to the past and thereby scrambling simultaneously both gay and straight readings. As the second-person address levels the playing field semantically, the poem's uncanny erotics imagine an unknowable, sexless network of intertwining matter that rebuffs attempts to identify the poem's homo- or heterosexual structures of meaning. In the Rubdiydt, sex simply leaves the equation when erotic contact involves the promiscuous intermingling of material remains.
But Graves not only disparaged FitzGerald's purported sexual preferences in the Daily Telegraph; he also condemned the earlier author as a "dilettante." By 1967, Robert Graves was the twentieth-century equivalent of a literary lion. He was an accomplished poet, and his novel I, Claudius had enjoyed thirty years of success, while his celebrated "historical grammar of poetic myth," The White Goddess, was over two decades old. In his long life, he published over 140 works. His productivity leads him to disparage FitzGerald in the opening essay of his translation as "incapable ... of writing first-class original work" (p. 11). Graves's approach to publishing characterizes him as a professional man of letters, against FitzGerald's more lackadaisical method, revealed, perhaps, by his publisher, the antiquarian bookseller Bernard Quaritch, having practically to beg for a third edition of the Rubdiydt in 1872 as he witnessed pirated American versions gain readers while his own second edition of 1868 sold out. (9) This difference between the two writers echoes one Anna Jane Barton has elucidated in her consideration of FitzGerald's and Tennyson's correspondence; Barton argues that in contrast to the laureate's scant private communication, FitzGerald's voluminous correspondence reveals his "nostalgic commitment" to an amateur literary tradition of manuscripts and personal criticism that flies in the face of the modern, professional world of print that was navigated so forcefully by his accomplished friend. (10)
Indeed, Fitzgerald himself acknowledged and seemed to cultivate his status as amateur. He had a comfortable income after his parents' deaths and welcomed his retired Suffolk life of reading, boating, and occasionally publishing, and his insistence on the anonymity of the four editions of Khayyam's verse--and many of his other works--suggests his ambivalence about becoming a professional writer. In his characteristically modest correspondence, he once referred forthrightly to his Agamemnon as "Dilettanteism" in a December 1875 note to Thomas Carlyle's niece, and Carlyle himself, having discovered his friend's authorship of the Rubaiyat, wrote to Charles Eliot Norton on April 18, 1873 of FitzGerald's "innocent far niente life" (Letters, 3: 630, 418). Moreover, FitzGerald frequently reported his own "idleness" to correspondents, occasionally in paradoxical turns of phrase, like the closing of one June 1861 letter to his lifelong friend George Crabbe, grandson of the poet: "Adieu. These long Letters prove one's Idleness" (Letters, 2: 403). And on December 11, 1868, FitzGerald even admitted to his literary executor, William Aldis Wright, upon the latter's request for copies of his works for the Trinity College library, "I am always a little ashamed of having made my leisure and idleness the means of putting myself forward in print." His publications were merely "small Escapades in print," "nice little things" next to the robust achievements of his friends Tennyson, William Thackeray, and Carlyle (Letters, 3: 119). Such modesty has encouraged both an early biographer to name him "essentially an amateur" and more recent FitzGerald scholars like Dick Davis himself to christen the writer "an obscure dilettante." (11)
Yet FitzGerald cultivated not only his own character as dilettantish but Khayyam's as well; his version of the historical Khayyam is the ideal amateur, one who did not seek "title or office" from a visit to the Vizier but instead committed himself to the indiscriminate endeavor of "winning knowledge of every kind." Indeed, FitzGerald suggests, "Perhaps he liked a little Farming too" and may have "at one time exercised [the tent-making] trade" (pp. 4-5). Even his philosophy, which FitzGerald observes earned a broader treatment from Lucretius, seems welcomingly dilettantish in its neglect to form "any such laborious System" as that of the earlier writer (p. 8). This catholicity renders Khayyam virtually inscrutable to a midcentury, professional ethos. Though FitzGerald does admit that Khayyam's mathematic learning may indeed have been "the Work and Event of his Life," he sabotages the seriousness of this claim by identifying, in his footnote to stanza 41, Khayyam's "Laugh at his Mathematics perhaps" (pp. 5, 22n14). FitzGerald's sketch of Khayyam jibes with current historical knowledge. (12) The Iranian writer Ali Dashti, for example, observes that "contemporary writers who knew Khayyam do not speak of him as a poet and certainly quote none of his verse," and he notes, more to the point, that clearly "Omar Khayyam was not a 'professional' poet, not a poet first and foremost." (13) FitzGerald's carefully crafted preface encodes the importance of amateurism to his translation, and this emphasis on Khayyam's dilettantism foreshadows the poem's combative approach to the protocols of bourgeois Victorian life. Amateurism is not only an effect of FitzGerald's socioeconomic status or a result of the poem's Bacchic pull but also a calculated political strategy that undermines professional practice, even that of the modern author.
Etymologically, dilettantes are lovers, specifically of music and painting; they draw our attention to the Latin root of amateur. Dilettantes eschew the detached scientific method of the professional by pursuing instead a course charted by passion. In a recent study of nineteenth-century amateur medievalists, Carolyn Dinshaw demonstrates that amateurs and their uses of temporality differ rather markedly from those of their professional counterparts. The time of professionalization, of specialization, is goal oriented, measured, and calendrical, but the dilettante lingers, uses time less resolvedly, explores. In Dinshaw's words, "amateurism is everything the professional leaves behind on the modern train of forward progress." Amateurs, she advances, "take their own sweet time, and operating outside of regimes of detachment governed by uniform, measured temporality, these uses of time are queer. In this sense, the act of taking one's own sweet time asserts a queer force." (14) "The act of taking one's own sweet time" relates to more than the publication history of the several editions of the Rubaiyat. FitzGerald's biographer Robert Bernard Martin describes the composition process of the first edition: "His method ... was to read over the relevant sections several times until their broad outlines were fixed in his mind, then to go for a long walk and work out the stanzas" (p. 203). FitzGerald's long walks distance the translator from the letters of the original text and reveal this amateur's resignation of literal translation to the professionals. Annmarie Drury records how FitzGerald "was attracted by the idea of genuine imitation being achieved by an accidental imitator, a writer who has not set imitation as a primary goal." (15) Indeed, these long walks demonstrate that FitzGerald ironically brought the attitude of the amateur--the "accidental imitator"--to his most successful professional endeavor.
Dinshaw continues her examination of amateurism by identifying it as a process that should ring familiar to students of FitzGerald's method: "amateurism is bricolage, bringing whatever can be found, whatever works, to the activity" (p. 23). Surely, FitzGerald is famous for his pastiches: he was up-front in a July 1857 letter to Edward Cowell about "tesselatfingj" Omar's "scattered quatrains" into a "very pretty Eclogue," and he admitted forthrightly to Cowell in September of the following year his lack of interest in a perfect reproduction by classifying his work as "very unliteral" (Letters, 2: 294, 318). (16) Additionally, the Rubaiyat is rife with allusions to, among others, Shakespeare, the Bible, Tennyson, Byron, Alexander Pope, and William Cowper. (17) In this vein, Barbara J. Black has even examined the poem as a typically Victorian manifestation of "the love of collecting." (18) Moreover, FitzGerald wrote warmly to Wright in June 1878 of allusion in Shakespeare as "footsteps in the Books he read," and the promiscuous referentiality in his most famous poem marks Old Fitz's own wellworn paths through the pages of English literature (Letters, 4:131). If the amateur is also the bricoleur, FitzGerald is a dead ringer for the type. In effect, Dinshaw offers us an avenue into the queerness of FitzGerald's text, not by recuperative reading practices that name a latent desire that FitzGerald himself did not but by acknowledging the complexity of the amateur's epistemological practices. Moreover, Dinshaw's focus on temporality can help us situate FitzGerald's amateurism within the work's antiteleological poetics. Though many deft scholars have considered this aspect of FitzGerald's translation, none has connected the poem's nonlinear temporality to its dedicated dilettantism. (19)
In 1923, the Spectator even enshrined FitzGerald as "the exquisite amateur," noting that "secretly we dislike the professional even when we admire, because we suspect that he plays the game more for the prize than for the joy of it, that he has forgotten what it is to be gallant and expressive and free, [and] that he has succumbed to the activities which he should master and can only like a machine-made pedant grind an industrious axe." (20) But the twentieth century christened not only FitzGerald himself as amateur but also his poem, even as it gained new readers and as new editions flooded the market. Writing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1899, Paul Elmer More anticipated Graves by revealing something in the poem "very fair and fragile, which we are wont to stigmatize as effeminate or dilettante," for "the love of beauty," he warned, "has always a tendency to become effeminate and inefficient." (21) Connecting the poem to "the love of beauty," More situates the Rubaiyat in a tradition of effete belletrism that scholars such as Francis Mulhern and Carol Atherton have pointed out began to lose favor as English rose to disciplinary maturity in the early twentieth century. New Critics and their modernist companions pushed for a disciplinary focus on "questions of form and method" to create a novel, systematic focus for English studies that subverted "the ideal of the scholar-gentleman," in Mulhern's turn of phrase. (22) As a result of this professional push to democratize the study of letters, literary professionals became disenchanted by FitzGerald's amateurism. In effect, even as FitzGerald's poem gained in popularity, his specific brand of belletrism contributed to his poem's neglect by disciplinary professionals. Adrian Poole writes, "For most of the twentieth century the very fact that [the Rubaiyat] retained its popularity with 'middlebrows' contributed forcefully to its neglect by 'intellectuals.'" (23) In a 1959 interview, T. S. Eliot recalls the poem as a formative literary influence of which he later came to be ashamed: "I began I think about the age of fourteen, under the inspiration of Fitzgerald's Omar Khayyam, to write a number of ... quatrains in the same style, which fortunately I suppressed completely--so completely that they don't exist." (24) Eliot suggests that the Rubaiyat is fine fodder for an amateur to imitate but beneath the regard of the literary professional.
Though both popular and critical appraisals of FitzGerald's translation have been quick to point out his, or the poem's, amateurism, no inquiry has considered how the text itself cultivates its own antiprofessional stance--how it, in other words, invites readers to "Make Game" of life (FitzGerald, st. 45). Although this point may seem to be self-evident in a poem dedicated to inebriate pleasure, it is nonetheless worth considering, and clearly establishing, in order to identify how this amateurism, vis-a-vis Dinshaw's recent work, complicates erotic readings of the poem while enriching current critiques of its antiteleological temporality and agnosticism. What happens when we investigate amateurism in the Rubdiydt not as an ad hominem assessment of its translator but as an intentional political affront to midcentury culture? If, as Gray has argued, the poem's setting is "a distant and mythical past that nevertheless allegorically shadows forth contemporary Britain," then surely the committed dilettantism of the Rubdiydt is a rejoinder to midcentury sociopolitical practice. (25) That is to say, amateurism is every bit a part of the speaker's angry desire to "shatter [the world] to bits" as its agnosticism and temporal experimentation (st. 73). For FitzGerald's poem not only promulgates this antiprofessional ethos but applies it even to the ends of the lover by cultivating an amateur sexuality-an erotics at odds with both the professional definitions of a nascent sexological discourse and also the very terms on which sexual orientations themselves are constructed.
Fitzgerald's dilettantism, I argue, and his affective attachments to the writer he called "My Omar" allowed him to form a various, multiplicitous text that drowns linear, professional temporality--even that of the author and the lover--in the sweet vintage of oblivion while creating in its wake a genuinely original poem, if not in Graves's sense. I first examine the poem's dedicated amateurism, which clashed angrily against the dominant ideologies of its time, before considering this dilettantism's effects on the poem's erotic investments. Graves's aspersion, meant to disparage Old Fitz's literary reputation, actually redeems it, tor perhaps only a dilettante faggot like FitzGerald could have created such a temporally curious and marvelous mosaic as the Rubdiydt of Omar Khayyam, a poem so committed thematically not to the consummation and object choice of the professional lover but to the flirtation and ambiguity of the dilettante.
II. "Gossamer Association": The Rubaiyat and Amateur Poetics
Recent critical appraisals have deemed the Rubaiydt variously a "forgetful" poem, one governed by an "aesthetic of accident" or "chaos," or even "that still rarer thing: a drunk poem." (26) FitzGerald's self-contained quatrains do not necessarily lead logically to those that follow, and instead the poem "prizes," in Drury's language, "interruption and rapid metamorphosis over continuity" even in spite of its loose narrative structure (p. 40). In this way, the Rubdiyat encourages a kind of amateur reading that does not require the sustained attention of a tight, linear narrative, because new and chaotic interruptions send the speaker in new directions and pull the wandering mind of any reader into the novel, immediate concerns of a new quatrain. The openings to stanzas 7-9, for instance, demonstrate these abrupt transitions: "Come," "And look," "But come." And throughout the poem, the first words of many rubaiyat open with interjections that cut the current quatrain off from the thoughts of the previous one: "Lo!" "Ah," "Now," "Oh," and "Indeed" (FitzGerald, sts. 21, 23, 4, 26, 69). In effect, the poem adapts itself to what FitzGerald himself referred to as his own "idle" or "unscholarly" reading in his correspondence (Letters, 3: 298; 4: 48). In a September 1846 letter to Cowell, he explains,
A book is to me is what Locke says that watching the hour hand of a clock is to all; other thoughts (and those of the idlest and seemingly most irrelevant) will intrude between my vision and the written words; and then I have to read over again; often again and again till all is crossed and muddled. If Life were to be very much longer than is the usual lot of men, one would try very hard to reform this lax habit, and clear away such a system of gossamer association. (Letters, 1: 540)
The Rubaiyat itself is a poem of gossamer association. It plants seeds of mental waywardness with its allusiveness, while simultaneously beckoning its readers back into the immediate concerns of any given quatrain with abrupt transitions that do not require a concentrated mental attachment to the stanzas that have come before. Thus, in addition to being drunk, chaotic, or forgetful, the Rubaiydt is also, celebratorily, amateur. At every chance, the poem rebukes professional endeavor, to marinate instead in the pleasures of leisure, companionship, and unscholarly reading. This "Book of Verse" welcomes readers to the text in anticipation of distractions like "A Flask of Wine" or a singing friend, not the concentrated cerebral commitment of a scrupulous reader (FitzGerald, st. 11). Consequently, the poem recruits its readers as amateurs themselves; we are all in this together, the Rubdiydt reminds us, without the expertise to understand why.
If, then, the poem's insistence on religious doubt and its Orientalist fascinations have rightly led scholars such as Clive Wilmer to identify the Rubaiyat determinedly as "A Victorian Poem," another such marker of its timeliness is surely its rebuke of Victorian ideals of professionalism. (27) Social historians such as Daniel Duman and literary critics such as Jennifer Ruth and Susan E. Colon have traced the growth of professionalism as a particularly Victorian concept: Duman writes that a "new professional ideology" "[evolved] contemporaneously with the [early Victorian] drive for efficiency and reform." (28) Ruth follows the lead of other scholars such as W. J. Reader, Harold Perkin, Nancy Armstrong, and Leonard Tennenhouse by observing that "Victorians begin to conceptualize an emergent professional class" precisely at midcentury. (29) This ideology capitalized on the sacralization of work, most famously iterated by FitzGerald's friend Carlyle, who opens his 1843 chapter "Labour" with the forceful announcement of the "perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work." (30) Though the Rubdiydt takes its aim most exactingly at agrarian labor, artisanship, and other traditional callings like religion and scholarship, its determined amateurism nonetheless counters the ideological force that the Victorian cult of diligence and the professional ideal had come to assume at the moment of its first publication.
Indeed, the etymology of the word professional would not likely be lost on a student of languages like FitzGerald. Citing the early thirteenth century as a candidate for the first time the word appears in manuscript, the OED reminds us that the original meaning of profession was the announcement of religious faith, or "the declaration, promise, or vow made by a person entering a religious order." (31) Surely this is clear to FitzGerald, who wryly suggests, in his opening preface, that a saki, wine, and roses were all Khayyam "profess'd to want of this World or to expect of Paradise" (p. 7, emphasis added). In an etymological sleight of hand, the poem dovetails the presumptions of the professional with the poem's larger religious doubts. Even the Rubaiyat's first British review in the Literary Gazette could not fail to notice the poem's "absolute [religious] skepticism," and critics have been calling attention to it ever since as a hallmark of midcentury Victorian doubt. (32) What seems to have been left out of the conversation, however, is FitzGerald's sly intermingling of religious and professional ennui as though the poem itself were aware of religion's complicity in the creation of nineteenth-century Protestant capitalism. Though Carlyle bellowed, "all true Work is Religion," FitzGerald refused to convert (p. 201).
Moreover, the poem's antiteleological temporality supplements this reading. Max Weber writes that it was the "rational" scheme of monastic hours that birthed the timelines of Protestant labor, thereby supporting the "evolution of [the] capitalistic spirit." (33) Thus, the Rubaiyat's celebration of amateurism is at once a rebuke to professional protocol and its systems of time management and a cutting reminder of their antiquated religious origins. The antiteleological force of FitzGerald's quatrains maps onto the poem's committed disregard for the Victorian cult of diligence, professionalism, and religious orthodoxy. The Rubaiyat's amateurism, then, is essentially wound up in its agnosticism; these currents are so intricately entangled that it seems nearly impossible to parse them.
FitzGerald encodes his poem's distaste for professional practice by attacking diligent labor early in his translation:
And those who husbanded the Golden Grain, And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain, Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd As, buried once, Men want dug up again, (st. 15)
Taking FitzGerald's agricultural metaphor on its own terms, dedicated labor to the process of cultivation seems pointless in the face of an all-obliterating time--the little "Hour or two" that bookends this stanza in the final line of both quatrains 14 and 16. In other words, if the diligent cannot hope to harvest the fruits of his labor, why would he even try? FitzGerald applies this same cynicism to other pursuits elsewhere in the poem: scholars are "foolish Prophets," potters are carelessly incompetent, and parliamentary procedure, which stands out from these other examples as a revealing anachronism to the poem's medieval setting, is incapable to affect the haphazard will of fate (st. 25). Together, these dismissals of concentrated labor amount to the poem's attack on professional presumption. Indeed, in a poem that encodes the passing of time itself as an amateur's recreation--a "Chequer-board of Nights and Days"-professional pursuits seem not only altogether undesirable but a definite waste of our precious little time (st. 49).
The fantastical narrative of the pots, or "Kuza-Nama," of FitzGerald's first version calls into question the practice of diligent work through the guise of artisanship. In these eight quatrains, a number of inanimate pots--a "clay Population"--thrown by a potter come alive to destabilize the relationships between artisan, product, and talent (st. 59). Over the course of the section, pots voice their concerns about their origin and question the motivation and agency of the silent potter, who might have created them, they fear, without regard for their uncertain future. One pot hopes that " 'Surely not in vain / 'My substance from the common Earth was ta'en,"' for a prospective return "'to common Earth again'" (st. 61). Of course, this discourse maps onto the poem's larger agnostic concerns and anxieties about human mortality, but it also destabilizes professional ideology. One "Vessel of a more ungainly Make" opines, "'They sneer at me for leaning all awry; / 'What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?'" (st. 53). Another vessel likens a potter who fails to care properly for his creations unfavorably to a petulant child:
Another said--"Why, ne'er, a peevish Boy, "Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy; "Shall he that made the Vessel in pure Love "And Fansy, in an after Rage destroy!" (st. 52)
Ayse Cellkkol has suggested that as these pots turn into metaphysicians who question the nature of their existence, "the categories of human, object, and creator begin to dissolve" (p. 524). The markers of successful labor seem to disappear as well, as the potter's motivations, workmanship, and even maturity are called into question.
Importantly, the potter's wheel had formed part of a central analogy in the "Labour" chapter in Past and Present, In an extended metaphor designed to illustrate the perils of idleness, Carlyle compares the industrious man to the potter's wheel, "one of the venerablest objects," assisting Destiny the Potter against the menaces of "formless Chaos": "Of an idle unrevolving man the kindest Destiny, like the most assiduous Potter without wheel, can bake and knead nothing other than a botch; let her spend on him what expensive colouring, what gilding and enameling she will, he is but a botch. Not a dish; no, a bulging, kneaded, crooked, shambling, squint-cornered, amorphous botch,--a mere enameled vessel of dishonor! Let the idle think of this" (p. 197). Here, destiny, industry, idleness, form, and ornament converge in a screed against unshapely moral character. FitzGerald's "Kuza^Nama" responds to Carlyle by suggesting a vessel's "ungainly Make" to be the unreliable work of the potter's hands himself. Moreover, he upends Carlyle's polemic by showing the pots themselves neglected by the faithful, fasting for "Ramazan" (st. 59). Even the perfectly formed vessels lie in disuse. Yet FitzGerald laughs at Carlyle most forcefully, perhaps, by hinting at the pots' eventual retreat from idleness at the sequence's close when the "Porte[r]" approaches the "Cellar" where they converse (st. 66; p. 23n22). However, unlike the heroic "assiduousness" that Carlyle celebrates in Christophers Wren and Columbus--his two paragons in the same chapter-these vessels will be employed in the creation of inebriate pleasure, not architectural and imperial watersheds.
In another brief but illustrative narrative sequence across several quatrains, FitzGerald's speaker embraces his own thinking against the grain of professionalism:
Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument About it and about: but evermore Came out by the same Door as in I went. With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow, And with my own hand labour'd it to grow: And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd- "I came like Water, and like Wind I go." Into this Universe, and why not knowing, Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing: And out of it, as Wind along the Waste, I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing. What, without asking, hither hurried whence? And, without asking, whither hurried hence! Another and another Cup to drown The Memory of this Impertinence! (sts. 27-30)
In these stanzas, FitzGerald's speaker rebukes the fruits of professional labor, typified by the "great Argument" of the saint or scholar, for these intellectual endeavors have no capacity to fundamentally affect the speaker's way of life or resolve his ontological queries. Exiting by "the same Door as in [he] went," FitzGerald's speaker carousels through a medieval analogue to the Circumlocution Office, as the Doctor and Saint demonstrate "How not to" resolve the speaker's existential doubts. With the agricultural metaphor of the second stanza, FitzGerald emphasizes again his critique of professionalism by dwelling on the drudgery of the sowing, his laboring "hand," and his paltry harvest; intellectual labor offers a meager return for a grueling investment. The third stanza considers this yield--merely, a recognition of his ontological ignorance, while the repetition of the childlike "willy-nilly" undercuts the arrogance of the Doctor's or Saint's arguments with a sarcastically juvenile reminder of the hopelessness of their plight. The last two lines of the fourth quoted stanza have most often been read as a reproach to a divinity that has created a chaotic existence and not supplied its creation with the capacity to comprehend itself; (54) however, I suggest that another "Impertinence" here is the posturing of the professional. "Great Arguments" lead not to enlightenment but to further uncertainty and thereby reveal both religious and professional claims to the production of knowledge as a sham. FitzGerald's speaker tipples to forget his wasted time in the company of these "foolish Prophets"; his wine is an elixir that nullifies professional ambition.
In what is perhaps FitzGerald's most anachronistic quatrain, the speaker doubts the efficacy of parliamentary practice. Describing existence as a game played by Destiny with men as its pawns, he writes, "The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes" (st. 50). Here, Destiny lays waste to parliamentary procedure, undermining the midcentury professional's claims to shape his world. L. C. B. Seaman recounts that the inauguration of new professional societies like the Law Society in 1833 and the British Medical Society in 1854 signaled that "a growing body of informed professional opinion was thus available to influence politicians." (35) It is probably unsurprising that Graves lambasted this stanza in particular; the anachronistic assault it wages against the collected powers of civil servants, a new professional class, and others in public life proved too outrageous to bear (Graves, p. 13). In the poem's certainty of uncertainty, the production of knowledge, agriculture, artisanship, and legislation all appear as hopelessly vain pursuits when confronted with the unceasing onslaught of time and the haphazard will of destiny. Consequently, the Rubaiyat scorns professional ideology at the precise moment that it came to be a recognizable force in midcentury Britain.
Though popular readers and literary scholars have long discerned the poem's committed agnosticism, we have failed to take account of how FitzGerald cleverly intermingles his religious critique with a profound antipathy for the Victorian cult of diligence. The poem's antiprofessional ethos is at once a skeptical appraisal of belief and industriousness. In effect, the Rubaiyat takes aim simultaneously at both the religious faith of the professor and the clerical drudgery of the professional in a series of quatrains perfectly adapted to "unscholarly" reading. In the exquisite idleness that remains in the wake of stale religion and discarded professionalism, FitzGerald carves a space for the desire of the amateur.
III. Dilettante Faggots
As the poem favors skepticism over belief, idle reading over sustained attention, and dilettantism over professional diligence, its amateurism infects even the desire of the speaker as well. FitzGerald's Khayyam is not an amorous lover engaged in a lengthy seduction of his auditor; rather, he is an amateur lover, if such a phrase may be permitted, engaged in flirtation for its own sake, not as a means to a definite end or even with any definite partner. Throughout the poem, the speaker comes across as more of a coquette than a paramour, for his pleasures seem to lie more in flirting than in consummation itself. Addressing his cupbearer as "Beloved," "Love!" and "Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane" (sts. 20, 73, 74), he even entices them both into a state of relative undress, by imploring the auditor early in the poem to "fling" "The Winter Garment of Repentance," as he himself admits that he has been "robb'd ... of [his] Robe of Honour" (sts. 7, 71). But these enticing pronouncements, couched as they are in metaphor, remain merely suggestive. In a twinkle of the eye, the speaker alludes to a nakedness that stays, it seems, always on the horizon. Even the moments of greatest erotic contact in the poem, which this section explores in depth, are notable for their conditionality. The speaker continually points to the unknowability of the couplings it imagines; "who knows," "I think," and "if" undercut the speaker's certainty of these erotic stagings.
Physically, FitzGerald's Khayyam is drawn to the kiss and the caress, but even these remain most often at a distance mediated by the vessel of wine and often across the veil of death. Lips, especially, offer an almost divine enticement to the speaker:
And this delightful Herb whose tender Green Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean-- Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen! (st. 19)
Here, the poem's tender homoeroticism is diluted across time and matter, for, as several scholars have argued, this stanza seems to eroticize the traces of a youth's mustache "fledging" the mouth of the river and thus illuminating the poem's veiled exploration of same-sex desire (Davis, p. 2). Yet, while the speaker's metaphor may reveal his own fantasies about the source of fertilization here, the stanza's emphasis surely falls on the uncertainty of "who knows" in the unrhymed third line. The speaker may hope that the "Herb" offers access to the deceased young man--he may even believe it--but the ambiguity remains not only key but potentially a source of even more excitement. In the absence of an afterlife, Khayyam imagines instead an aestheticized network of intertwined matter, so that the decomposition of the body revitalizes the world around it. In one early stanza, for instance, "the White Hand Of Moses on the Bough / Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires" (FitzGerald, st. 4). In place of the ascension, the bodies of Jesus, Moses, and the dead are incorporated into a vast, complex organic whole. For Khayyam, nature is a network through which we can touch the past, and here that past carries an erotic charge. Dendrophilia is not an end in itself but a vehicle that offers magical proximity to a constellation of "lovely Lips" that have come before.
As the auditor leans on lips lightly, the speaker himself presses them to his own:
Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn: And Lip to Lip it murmur'd--"While you live "Drink!--for once dead you never shall return." I think the Vessel, that with fugitive Articulation answer'd, once did live, And merry-make; and the cold Lip I kiss'd How many Kisses might it take--and give! (sts. 34-35)
These stanzas are the strange apex of erotic contact in the Rubaiyat. Turning from the impertinent arguments of Doctor and Saint, Khayyam recalls how he sought out instead the pleasures of the vine's sweet oblivion. The strange transubstantiation that unites the speaker's lips with those of a merry-making predecessor upends Catholic ritual and unites the speaker not with the blood of Christ but with the material remains of some antecedent reveler, perfectly equipped in this final line to reciprocate with kisses of his own. These innumerable kisses rob infinity from the Christian afterlife and displace it into the mortal capacity of an almost otherworldly kiss. As this speaker meets the "cold Lip" of the reveler's remains, so may his future disciples also kiss his own eventual dust. Yet even here the second stanza undercuts any definite knowledge of this partner; "I think" hangs over the second quatrain not with the surety of absolute knowledge but with the hopeful desire of the amateur.
This aspirant eroticism requires acts of imaginative fantasy and material transformation to press these bodies together, for this contact can occur only imaginatively, through an uncanny metonymy that links the "earthen," biodegraded remnants of the ancient reveler to a single lip (not even a set!) capable of kissing. After the single lip only, the speaker cannot bring himself to imagine the reveler's entire body. Barbara J. Black has suggested that FitzGerald denuded the quatrains of Khayyfim's playfulness, sensuality, "general fascination with the body," and "orgiastically [erotic] elements" because the "monogamy of FitzGerald's 'Beloved' and 'I' must prevail" (p. 56). Yet monogamy seems to miss the mark altogether, as Old Omar imaginatively cultivates a garden that offers a magical access to countless bodies of the dead, and this speaker is surely not a possessive monogamist when he instructs his listener, "And when the Angel with his darker Draught / Draws up to Thee--take that, and do not shrink" (st. 48). Additionally in 1868, FitzGerald added perhaps his most scandalous lines, which again nudge the beloved into the arms of another to "lose [his] fingers in the tresses of / The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine" (1868, st. 55). This is hardly the directive of a possessive lover. Rather, the speaker escorts the auditor not only into the sensual foliage of the dead but also into the arms of angels and ministers; of course, the poem prizes promiscuous couplings, not monogamy. And yet these pairings remain, at least in the speaker's imagination, startlingly chaste. In a later quatrain, FitzGerald even calls our attention explicitly to the idea of unconsummated desire:
And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press, End in the Nothing all Things end in--Yes- Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what Though shalt be--Nothing--Thou shalt not be less. (st. 47)
Drinking, kissing are ends in themselves--not steps to a more certain fulfillment. Copulation, or more exactly the expectation that sexual knowledge can somehow resolve ontological doubts, is as wrongheaded as the presumptions of the Doctor or Saint. Lips and wine are salves from which to expect no certain meaning but the immediate pleasures they offer.
The act of reproduction, in one of its few oblique appearances, falls in a train of Destiny's manipulations of human will: "Destiny with Men for Pieces plays: / Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays" (st. 49). FitzGerald collapses both reproduction and a vanquishing play within his word choice when he presents procreation as both a mechanical affair--a consequence not of human choice but an almost evolutionary inevitability--and the losing maneuver in a game of life. Although FitzGerald replaces "mates" with "checks" in later editions and thereby obscures the dual meaning of the 1858 version, the sly pun in his original translation illustrates the poem's relative distaste for the protocols of conjugality. Moreover, "marriage" as it appears in every version is merely a commitment to the pleasures of inebriation and a renunciation of the Doctor's and Saint's attempts at ontological ratiocination: "For a new Marriage I did make Carouse: / Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed, / And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse" (st. 40). The Rubaiyat discards matrimonial conventions to sing instead an epithalamion to drunkenness. Procreative possibility here is inverted, as the speaker forswears "barren Reason" to marry "the Daughter of the Vine," a bedfellow more closely associated with impotence or casual promiscuity than the reproductive promise of heterosexual marriage. Indeed, the philosophically generative effects of alcohol replace altogether a drive for biological offspring, for, as the speaker implores, "Better be merry with the fruitful Grape / Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit" (st. 39). More graphically, coition seems altogether undesirable, if not impossible, for a speaker who admits--winking in the stanza directly following his "Marriage"--"I ... / Was never deep in anything--but Wine" (st. 41). (36) The Rubdiydt applies its amateurism, then, even to the ends of the lover. The uncanny kiss and the caress are the pinnacle of sexual possibility for this speaker.
FitzGerald's biography may shine some light on the idea of the amateur lover. FitzGerald's short-lived and disastrous marriage to his friend Bernard Barton's daughter, Lucy, is well-known: Robert Martin records that throughout the engagement, the ceremony, and especially the honeymoon in 1856, FitzGerald was miserable: "The bitterness, even coarseness, with which he later spoke of her sounds like a thinly disguised transferal of self-loathing, and the physical terms in which he expressed his disgust suggest that what lay at the base of his unwonted lack of charity was his own physical failure as a husband" (p. 194). FitzGerald's own surviving language suggests that he did not have particularly sanguine expectations for his marriage, which he admitted to one friend seemed more like "a very doubtful Experiment" (Letters, 2: 239). William Donne was shocked by his friend's manner with Lucy after the marriage and wrote to Fanny Kemble in January 1857 of the couple's new "dark and dismal" lodgings: "he says that 'his contemporary'--which, being interpreted, means his wife! looks in this chamber of horrors like Lucrezia Borgia. Most extraordinary of Benedicks is our friend. He talks like Bluebeard" (Letters, 2: 244). The violence underscoring this account is still relatively shocking, and for the good of all concerned, the pair split relatively quickly. If Martin's hypothesis that FitzGerald was concerned with his own "physical failure as a husband" holds any credence, it is clear to see why Khayyam may have held some fascination for him, as Old Fitz drowned himself "through the latter part of his marriage" in the quatrains that Cowell had copied (Martin, p. 202). Like the listener who brushes against the lips of yesterday's youth, FitzGerald himself found literature to be a similar means of transference and escape from his "Contemporary." Writing to Cowell during his early studies of the second manuscript and in the wake of his marriage, FitzGerald admits, "Omar breathes a sort of Consolation to me" (Letters, 2: 273). FitzGerald feels the soft touch of Khayyam's ancient exhalation, as his speaker outlines the beautiful bodies of the dead in the foliage surrounding him. Khayyam's gentle breath of consolation was the anesthetic for the pain of FitzGerald's failures as a husband.
Havelock Ellis, in his 1915 edition of Studies in the Psychology of Sex, choose to include FitzGerald in a catalogue of famous inverts, with reservations about how well he fit into the category: "it is easy to trace an element of homosexuality [in FitzGerald], though it appears never to have reached full and conscious development." (37) In sexological terms, FitzGerald is a liminal sexual figure--a dilettante faggot--neither a "full and conscious" invert nor a successful husband. FitzGerald, then, seems to scramble sexual definitions at the very moment of their medical codification. Later twentieth-century criticism is as unsure as Ellis himself. Martin writes in his 1985 biography, "It is hard for modern readers to understand, but FitzGerald probably never directly faced the emotions that [other men] stirred in him" (p. 113). Yet, four years later, Davis counters in his introduction to the poem, "It is frankly incredible that a man could have so little consciousness of his own sexual instincts.... He was fully cognizant of the nature of his sexuality" (pp. 22-23). Was he, or wasn't he? The question simply is not fair. FitzGerald was not Wilde or John Addington Symonds; nor was he a paragon of nineteenth-century marital masculinity. He is somewhere in between. If we take the twenty-three-year-old FitzGerald at his own words in a September 1834 letter to his Cambridge friend John Allen, he developed the most passion in his friendships: "I suppose that people who are engaged in serious ways of life, and are of well filled minds, don't think much about the interchange of letters with any anxiety: but I am an idle fellow, of a very ladylike turn of sentiment: and my friendships are more like loves, I think" (Letters, 1: 153). Here, in his characteristic candor, FitzGerald connects his idleness specifically to his capacity for romantic fulfillment; he describes himself as the amateur lover.
As the dilettante faggot, then, FitzGerald forswore conventional protocols of both heterosexual marriage and same-sex desire and created instead a poem that envisions an ambiguous, eroticized network of multiple, fragmented bodies. Compositionally, the translation linked FitzGerald to Cowell, who had sailed to India with his wife three months before FitzGerald's own marriage for an appointment at Presidency College, Calcutta. Norman Page, comparing the Rubaiyat's connection to Cowell with Tennyson's In Memoriam's reverence for Arthur Henry Hallam, notes, "For FitzGerald the study of Persian in general and of Omar Khayyam in particular were closely woven into the texture of his friendship with Cowell: his Rubaiyat might later be taken as an expression of the Zeitgeist, but its origins were intimately personal." (38) On one level, then, the poem was an elaborate flirtation with FitzGerald's young friend, whose faith, marriage, and removal to India likely seemed to be barriers as insurmountable as death itself. On another, the study of Khayyam rejuvenated a FitzGerald miserable with his failures as a husband and offered the translator an intimacy across time that his marriage never could. The poem simultaneously telegraphs FitzGerald's failures as both gay and straight.
Moreover, the Rubaiyat's determined commitment to the gendered ambiguity of the bodies in the dust, despite the possibility of FitzGerald's own latent desires, imagines an erotic topography uncompromised by the designations of sex. Death returns us to dust--to nothing--where we may finally abandon biological, cultural, and religious prohibitions determined by sexual categorization. FitzGerald eroticizes the dirt, Khayyam kisses the dust, for death is the great leveler that erases sexual difference. The poem's eroticisms are not opposite or same-sex. They are both and neither. The poem offers the fantasy of an erotics unencumbered by sex and gender, and, in this way, the Rubaiyat's erotics are decidedly amateur. By refusing sexual designations for its uncanny partners, emphasizing their conditionality, turning up its nose at conventions of marriage and consummation, and serving as a monument to its translator's failed marriage and unrequited same-sex attraction, the poem commits itself to something much more queer than scholarship has previously noted, and this queerness is intimately wrapped up in the poem's amateurism.
Robert Graves intended for his slur to dismiss the "dilettante faggot" and his work, yet he unwittingly gave us a category of investigation for a man of FitzGerald's generation, whose tender passions may have never developed into the fervent curiosity or sexual adventurousness of late-century men like Symonds or Wilde but whose friendships and literary romances remained central foundations of his personal fulfillment. In the ecology of the poem, of course, destiny remands all of us "back in the Closet," where, if sexuality determined by object choice does matter, it is clouded by unknowability (st. 49). This "Closet" is of course a grave, but importantly it does not function as a mechanism of prohibition. Rather, when these closet doors close, we are enlisted in a promiscuous network of circulating matter, so, like this speaker, even the perfume of our "buried Ashes" might ensnare future passersby (st. 48). FitzGerald, like his speaker, seems totally uninterested in sexuality as a technology of knowledge, power, or fulfillment, so of course his papers reveal few declaratory statements about desire. Instead, FitzGerald, ever the exquisite amateur, shared his affections generously among his friends and interests and gilded this philosophy into his most famous translation. In the celebratory amateurism of the design, themes, and eroticism of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the poem is a testament to the dilettante faggot.
(1.) References to FitzGerald's letters are drawn from Edward FitzGerald, The Letters of Edward FitzGerald, 4 vols., ed. Alfred McKinley Terhune and Annabelle Burdick Terhune (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1980); hereafter cited as Letters.
(2.) Daily Telegraph, 25 March 1968, quoted in John Charles Edward Bowen, Translation or Travesty: An Enquiry into Robert Graves's Version of Some Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Abingdon, UK: Abbey, 1973), p. 15.
(3.) Dick Davis, introduction to Rubdiydt of Omar Khayydm (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1989), pp. 30-31.
(4.) Erik Gray, "Common and Queer: Syntax and Sexuality in the Rubaiyat," in FitzGerald's Rubdiydt of Omar Khayydm: Popularity and Neglect, ed. Adrian Poole, Christine van Ruymbeke, William H. Martin, and Sandra Mason (London: Anthem, 2011), p. 33n29. The Latin quatrains themselves are included in Christopher Decker's critical edition of the poem: see, in particular, quatrains 3 and 15, which refer to the cupbearer as "Sdki mi," and quatrains 10, 13, 25, and 26, which refer to the beloved as "dilecte mi" See also the first Latin quatrain, in which the speaker addresses his auditor as "Frater." Edward FitzGerald, Rubdiydt of Omar Khayydm: A Critical Edition, ed. Christopher Decker (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 1997), pp. 234-235. This article references, unless noted otherwise, the first edition of 1859, of which FitzGerald planned to print only fifty copies to share with friends. Quaritch manufactured a 250-copy run that did not sell well, if at all, until the Celtic scholar Whitley Stokes happened upon it two years later. The often-retold story of how the edition made its way to Ruskin, Swinburne, and the PreRaphaelites after lying neglected in the penny box of Quaritch's shop connotes fortuitously the romance of the amateur in the history of FitzGerald's translation. Decker, introduction to Rubdiydt of Omar Khayydm, p. xxxiv; Robert Bernard Martin, With Friends Possessed: A Life of Edward FitzGerald (New York: Atheneum, 1985), p. 203.
(5.) Quoted in Robert Graves, "The Fitz-Omar Cult," in The Original Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam: A New Translation with Critical Commentaries, trans. Robert Graves (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968), p. 22; references to Graves's version of the poem are cited parenthetically with last name and stanza number.
(6.) On FitzGerald's own poetic innovation, see A. J. Arberry, The Romance of the Rubdiydt (New York: Macmillan, 1959), pp. 21-22.
(7.) Charles E. Norton, "Nicolas's Quatrains de Kheyam," North American Review 225 (1869): 570, quoted in Vinnie-Marie D'Ambrosio, Eliot Possessed: T. S. Eliot and FitzGerald's Rubaiyat (New York: NYU Press, 1989), p. 50.
(8.) Joseph A. Boone, The Homoerotics of Orientalism (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2014), p. 287.
(9.) Iran B. Hassani Jewett, "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayydm," in Edward Fitzgerald's The Rubdiydt of Omar Khayydm, ed. Harold Bloom (Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004), p. 39.
(10.) Anna Jane Barton, "Letters, Scraps of Manuscript, and Printed Poems: The Correspondence of Edward FitzGerald and Alfred Tennyson," VP 46, no. 1 (2008): 19.
(11.) A. C. Benson, Edward FitzGerald, English Men of Letters (New York: Macmillan, 1905), p. 144; Davis, introduction to Rubdiydt, p. 2.
(12.) E. S. Kennedy, "The Exact Sciences in Iran under the Saljuqs and Mongols," in The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 5, The Saljuq and Mongol Periods, ed. J. A. Boyle (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1968), pp. 659-679.
(13.) Ali Dashti, In Search of Omar Khayyam, trans. L. P. Elwell-Sutton, Persian Studies Monographs 1 (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1971), pp. 14-15.
(14.) Carolyn Dinshaw, How Soon Is NowI Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2012), pp. 21, 5.
(15.) Annmarie Drury, "Accident, Orientalism, and Edward FitzGerald as Translator," VP 46, no. 1 (2008): 38.
(16.) FitzGerald seems adamant about using this particular verb to describe the composition of his poem in his letters; he repeats it again in a letter to Cowell in November 1858 (Letters 2: 323). His commitment to the tessellated, and not the literal, exhibits the amateur's enthusiasm for multiple works of art and not the professional translator's commitment to the singular text.
(17.) Two studies in particular note these allusions. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst characterizes Old Fitz as "under the influence" of earlier texts like the King James Bible, As You Like It, and Tennyson's verse. Douglas-Fairhurst, Victorian Afterlives: The Shaping of Influence in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), pp. 270-420. Christopher Decker, deeming the poem "an anthology of other men's flowers," charts FitzGerald's allusions to Pope, Cowper, John Dryden, John Donne, Robert Burns, and Byron, among others. Decker, "Edward FitzGerald and Other Men's Flowers: Allusion in the Rubdiydt of Omar Khayydm," Literary Imagination 6, no. 2 (2004): 213-239.
(18.) Barbara J. Black, On Exhibit: Victorians and Their Museums (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 2000), p. 49. John Eisner and Roger Cardinal identify collecting as an amateur's game insofar as it "shuns closure and the security of received evaluations." Indeed, the collector models his demesne after his own peculiar fascinations. Eisner and Cardinal, introduction to The Cultures of Collecting, ed. Eisner and Cardinal (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1994), p. 5.
(19.) Robert Douglas-Fairhurst spearheaded critical inquiry into the poem's antiteleological temporality (Victorian Afterlives, pp. 307-310), and Erik Gray and Herbert F. Tucker have since elaborated his work by considering the stanza form of the ruba'i itself. Gray, The Poetry of Indifference from the Romantics to the Rubaiyat (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2005), p. 94; Tucker, "Metaphor, Translation, and Autoekphrasis in FitzGerald's Rubdiydt," VP 46, no. 1 (2008): 73-75.
(20.) Hugh I'Anson Fausset, "Incomparable 'Fitz,'" Spectator Literary Supplement, 15 December 1923, p. 951. Curiously, Fausset contrasts this definition of the professional with a definition of the "dilettante" that tallies with the misogyny and homophobia of Graves's use of the term. The dilettante is, according to Fausset, "a passionless connoisseur," "daintily absorbed in the petty processes of a personal cultivation." FitzGerald, as "exquisite amateur," falls between the two poles of professional and dilettante: "neither a cog nor an exotic," in Fausset's words. This study disregards Fausset's speciations and uses the terms amateur and dilettante interchangeably.
(21.) Paul Elmer More, "The Seven Seas and the Rubaiyat," Atlantic Monthly 84, no. 506 (1899): 807.
(22.) Carol Atherton, Defining Literary Criticism: Scholarship, Authority and the Possession of Literary Knowledge, 1880-2002 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 124; Francis Mulhern, The Moment of "Scrutiny" (London: Verso, 1979), p. 24.
(23.) Adrian Poole, introduction to FitzGerald's Rubdiydt of Omar Khayyam, p. xviii.
(24.) "T. S. Eliot," in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, 2nd ser. (New York: Viking, 1963), pp. 92-93. For a more thorough examination of FitzGerald's influence on Eliot, see D'Ambrosio, Eliot Possessed.
(25.) Erik Gray, "FitzGerald and the Rubdiydt, In and Out of Time," VP 46, no. 1 (2008): 9.
(26.) Gray, Poetry of Indifference, p. 109; Drury, "Accident," p. 40; Ayge Qellkkol, "Secular Pleasures and FitzGerald's Rubdiydt of Omar Khayyam," VP 51, no. 4 (2013): 526; Douglas-Fairhurst, Victorian Afterlives, p. 308.
(27.) Clive Wilmer, "A Victorian Poem: Edward FitzGerald's Rubdiydt of Omar Khayydm," in Poole et al, FitzGerald's Rubdiydt of Omar Khayydm, p. 45.
(28.) Daniel Duman, "The Creation and Diffusion of a Professional Ideology in Nineteenth Century England," Sociological Review 27, no. 1 (1979): 120.
(29.) Jennifer Ruth, Novel Professions: Interested Disinterest and the Making of the Professional in the Victorian Novel (Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 2006), p. 3.
(30.) Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, ed. Robert D. Altick (New York: NYU Press, 1965), p. 196.
(31.) OED Online, June 2015, s.v. "profession."
(32.) Charles Eliot Norton, "Rubdiydt of Omar Khayyam, the Astronomer-Toet of Persia. Translated into English Verse," Literary Gazette 66 (1 October 1859): 326, quoted in "Appendix: Two Early Reviews of the Rubdiydt," VP 46, no. 1 (2008): 106. On mid-century Victorian doubt see Wilmer, "Victorian Poem," pp. 46-47.
(33.) Max Weber, General Economic History (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2003), p. 365.
(34.) See, for example, Drury, who suggests that "FitzGerald here emphasizes the 'Impertinence' of a divinity who allows the world to be governed by chance. His translation (and not Khayyam, whose words FitzGerald first misunderstood and subsequently misrepresented by choice) holds God responsible for creating a world ruled by arbitrary fortune" ("Accident," p. 42).
(35.) L. C. B. Seaman, Victorian England: Aspects of English and Imperial History, 18371901 (London: Methuen, 1973), p. 169.
(36.) As I suggested earlier, FitzGerald's own note about the first two lines of this stanza situates this quatrain as Khayyam's "Laugh at his Mathematics, perhaps," committing his speaker as, if not here a dedicated amateur, at least someone prepared to ridicule his own claims to professional knowledge. The erotic and the amateur collapse into each other in the full stanza:
For "Is" and "Is-not" though with Rule and Line, And "Up-and-down" without, I could define, I yet in all I only cared to know, Was never deep in anything but--Wine. (st. 41)
(37.) Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex: Sexual Inversion, vol. 2, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: F. A. Davis, 1915), p. 50.
(38.) Norman Page, "Larger Hopes and the New Hedonism: Tennyson and FitzGerald," in Tennyson: Seven Essays, ed. Philip Collins (New York: St. Martin's, 1992), p. 151.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Edward FitzGerald|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2016|
|Previous Article:||Lyric tipplers: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Wine of Cyprus," Emily Dickinson's "I taste a Liquor," and the transatlantic Anacreontic tradition.|
|Next Article:||Bodily sensations in the conversion poetry of Michael Field.|