chapter  Chapter XIV
17 Pages

Oriental Romance

WithJohnson Beckford

In English literature in 1800’s, in spite of experiments in the type from the hands of Joseph Addison, Sir Richard Steele, John Hawksworth, Walpole, Goldsmith Mackenzie, Tobias Smollett, and Maria Edgeworth, only two stand out as particularly memorable: Johnson Beckford’s Rasselas and William Beckford’s Vathek. All the Oriental romances, except for a scattering before the eighteenth century without authentic background, take their origin from Antoine Galland’s French translation of the larger part of the Thousand and One Nights, retranslated promptly into English. These romances became very numerous, both in France and England, appearing in a steady stream throughout the entire century and influencing poetry and fiction far into the 1800’s. By general admission, Vathek was modeled upon no single and specific antecedent. Yet what might be called its orientality, its assimilation of the authentic tone of Oriental life and culture, brings it closer to the Arabian Nights than any other of the eighteenth-century romances of its type.