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Heart-beguiling Araby: English Romance with Arabia Paperback – 31 Dec 1989
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'A captivating analysis of the Englishmen whose writings on the inhabitants of the Arabian desert enhanced what the author rightly terms a 'powerful imperial myth'. Her analysis of where reality failed to match up to fantasy is cool and compelling.' --The Economist
'Entertaining and well written.' --Malise Ruthven, London Review of Books
'The attraction of the Middle East for the English upper-middle-class is carefully - and amusingly - analysed.' --Richard Trench, The Middle East --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Kathryn Tidrick is the author of 'Empire and the English Character' and 'Gandhi' (both I.B.Tauris). She was born and grew up in Britain and has a Ph.D. in psychology from London University. She has lived in the United States, Jamaica, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and India and now makes Scotland her home. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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She was a capable horsewoman and reliable but unimaginative companion on the Arabian journeys. For some reason it was her accounts of these journeys which were published. Blunt mainly contributed chapters to her rather pedestrian narratives; his own accounts came later in his published diaries.
The irony is that Tidrick evidently does not realise that, although the books 'Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates' and 'A Pilgrimage to Nejd' were based on Lady Anne’s journals, they were actually almost entirely Wilfrid Blunt’s work. James Fleming, who together with Rosemary Archer edited and published extracts from Lady Anne’s journals and correspondence, says, ‘It is no exaggeration to say that it is often difficult to match Lady Anne’s Journals with the relevant pages in these books.’ He goes on to say that 'one can only guess at Blunt’s motives for not revealing the extent of his own contribution. It would have stood to his credit to have done so for the books are finely written and vividly evoke desert life in the last century. It would also have spared Lady Anne the embarrassment of acclaim and a false reputation from which she derived no pleasure at all.' One wonders whether Kathryn Tidrick would have written so disparagingly of those ‘pedestrian narratives’ had she known that they were mostly the work of Wilfrid Blunt and not the wife she so determinedly consigns to the shadows. (Since Lady Anne’s Journals were published in 1986, and Heart Beguiling Araby was published in 1990, there seems to be no excuse for Tidrick’s gaffe. Had she done her research more thoroughly she would have realised the extent of her error.)
Tidrick compounds her error by attributing to Lady Anne Wilfrid’s attitudes toward the Bedouin tribes they came into contact with on their journeys. She refers to the ‘artless snobbery of Lady Anne’s narratives’, again unaware that what she is commenting on had actually been written by Blunt himself, not Lady Anne.
All this would be amusing if it were not so annoying. It not only traduces the character of Lady Anne, it calls into question the depth of the author's research. One wonders, if she got this wrong, what other errors has she made throughout the book?
Of course no book is entirely error-free; but this is a serious error, because it shows that the author has mistakenly attributed certain qualities to Lady Anne that properly belong to Blunt himself. In fact Blunt never understood the Bedouin as well as Lady Anne did, and he never spoke Arabic as well as she did. His involvement in 'Araby', like so much else he turned his hand to, was superficial and yielded little by way of results
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
It's basically a survey of the madness of the Arabist: the recurrent theme in English culture that Arabia is a place of stark beauty, sensuality, arcane mysteries, austere manliness, etc. Tidrick doesn't exactly set out to "disprove" any of that: that's not the angle of the book. Instead, it's just a look at the crazy ideas of poets, novelist, and statesmen about Arabia. But it is about the English, not about the Arabs at all, really.
I found it very enjoyable.
Note: this book is not exactly for the general reader. While not scholarly, the book does assume you're familiar with Middle Eastern history, English history, and English literature. For example, if it has to be explained to you who Cromer and Philby were, you're going to have a tough time with this book.
If perchance you have a friend who is an Arabist and doesn't know about this book, it will make the perfect gift.
First published 1981. Doesn't go further than Gertrude Bell, by the way.