James Justinian Morier and the Adventures of Hajji Baba

James Justinian Morier published The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan  in 1824 and followed in 1828 with The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan in England . Satirical novels, they explored contemporary Persian society through he eyes and adventures of the title character, a barber whose desire to get ahead, and cleverness in so doing, leads him from his hometown  to life with a band of Torkamans (Turkmen), Tehran, Qom, Karbala, Baghdad, Constantinople (Istanbul), and finally returning home as a wealthy representative of the shah. In these places and situations – in the bazaar and the royal court and among dervishes and clerics – Hajji Baba satirically depicts Iranian ways and offers entertaining observations on human nature.

When Hajji Baba of Ispahan was translated into Persian in 1905, it was widely assumed in Iran that the Persian version was the original and Morier’s English novel was the translation. The book was thought so accurate and detailed in its depiction of culture-specific situations and behaviour that only an Iranian could have written it.

Morier was born in 1780 in Ottoman İzmir (Smyrna), the son of a Swiss-born merchant. After private education in England, he worked in his father’s İzmir business between 1799 and 1806. He first visit to Iran was in 1808 as secretary to a special British envoy to the Shah and he published an account of his experiences in 1812 under the title ‘A Journey through Iran, Armenia and Asia Minor to Constantinople in the years 1808 and 1809’.  In 1809 he accompanied the Iranian envoy to Britain and in 1810 returned to Iran as Secretary to the British ambassador to Iran. He remained there until 1816 and after his return to England he published ‘A Second Journey through Iran to Constantinople between the years 1810 and 1816.’

He married Harriet Fulke Greville in London in 1820. He Died at Brighton in 1849 and his wife in London in 1858. Nothing is currently known about their time in Brighton. Both are buried at St Nicholas Ground in the Rest Garden.

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