Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/78

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Lane
Lane
72

tion enabled him to steer the ship through a terrific hurricane, when the sailing-master was incapacitated, and after narrowly escaping death in a mutiny of the crew, he arrived in the land with which his name was henceforth to be permanently associated.

Egypt was then almost an unknown country. Napoleon’s scientific commission had recently published the results of their resarches in the monumental ‘Description de l’Egypte,' but this great work was a tentative beginning. No one had yet fully taken stock of the monuments. On arriving, Lane found ‘himself in the midst of a brilliant group of discoverers, who were longing to essay that task. Wilkinson and James Burton (afterwards Haliburton [q. v.]), the hieroglyphic scholars, were there, together with Linant and Bonomi, the explorers; the travellers Humphreys, Hay, and Fox-Strangways; Major Felix and his distinguished friend, Lord Prudhoe. Lane determined to take his part in the work. He resolved to write an exhaustive description of Egypt, and to illustrate it by his own pencil. He possessed unusual qualifications for the task. He soon spoke Arabic fluently, and his grave demeanour and almost Arabian cast of countenance, added to the native dress which he always wore in Egypt, enabled him to among the people as one of themselves. After some months spent in Cairo in studying the townsfolk and improving himself in the dialect, and some weeks' residence in a tomb by the pyramids of Gizeh, Lane set out in March 1826 on his first Nile voyage. He ascended as far as the second cataract, an unusual distance in those days, spent more than two months at Thebes, in August to October, and made a large number of exquisite sepia drawings of the monuments, aided by the camera lucida, the invention of his friend Dr. Wollaston. On his return to Cairo he devoted himself to a study of the people, their manners and customs, and the monuments of Saracenic art, and then (1827) again ascended the Nile to Wâdi Halfeh, and completed his survey of the Theban temples in another residence of forty-one days, living, the while in tombs. At the beginning of 1828 he was again in Cairo, and in the autumn he manor to England, bringing with him an elaborate ‘Description of Egypt,' illustrated by 101 sepia drawings selected from his portfolios. The work is a model of lucid and accurate description, but it has never been published, in consequence of the difficulty and expense of reproducing the drawings in a manner satisfactory to Lane‘s fastidious taste. The drawings and manuscript are now in the British Museum.

Although the work was never printed as a whole, those chapters of it which related to the modern inhabitants were, on the recommendation of Lord Brougham, accepted by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge for publication in their 'Library.' It was characteristic of Lane's thoroughness that he refused to print the chapters as they stood, and insisted upon revisiting for the sole purpose of revising and expanding what most men would have considered an adequate account. With the exception of six months in 1835 spent at Thebes in the company of his friend Fulgence Fresnel, in order to escape the plague which was then devastating the capital, this second residence in Egypt (December 1833 to August 1835) was devoted exclusively to a close study of the people of Cairo, with a view to his works on their manners and customs, Lane lived in the Mohammedan quarters, wore the native dress, took the name of ‘Mansoor Effendi,' associated almost exclusively with Muslims, attended on every possible occasion their religious ceremonies, festivals, and entertainments, and (except that he always retained his Christian belief and conduct) lived the life of an Egyptian man of learning. A good picture of his daily pursuits is given in his diary (published in Lane-Poole's Life of E. W. Lane, pp. 41-84), where it appears that he became acquainted with most sides of Egyptian society, including the strange mystical and so-called magical element which has since vanished from Cairo. The result of his observations was the well-known ‘Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians,’ which was first published in 2 vols. in December 1836 by Charles Knight, who had bought the first edition from the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The book was an immediate success. The first edition was sold within a fortnight. The society cheaper edition came out in 1887, a third in 1842, a fourth in ‘Knight’s Weekly Volumes’ in 1846, and a fifth, in one volume, edited, with important additions, by Lane’s nephew, Edward Stanley Poole, was published in 1860. This, which is the standard text, has been repeatedly reprinted in 2 vols. (1871, &c.) An unauthorised cheap reprint was included in the ‘Minerva Library’ (edited by G. T. Bettany, with a brief memoir, 1891). The book has also been reprinted in America and translated into German. The value of the ‘Modern Egyptians’ lies partly in the favourable date to its composition, when Cairo was still a Saracenic city, almost untouched by European influences; but chiefly in its microscopic accuracy of detail, which is so complete and final that no important additions have been made to its picture of the