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Poetry, Verse and Rhymes; Games. 0802: Anon., Little Hunchback

Author: Anon.
Title: Little hunchback. From the Arabian Nights Entertainments. In three cantos
Cat. Number: 0802
Date: 1817
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: J. Harris
Pages: 1 vol., 31pp.
Size: 12.5 x 10 cm.
Illustrations: Engraved vignette on outside front cover, frontispiece and three further full-page engravings

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0802

Introductory essay

This excellent comic poem is based on 'The Little Hunchback' in the Arabian Nights Entertainment. It tells of a hunchback, later revealed to be the Sultan's court jester, who is taken in and fed by a tailor. The hunchback chokes on a fishbone, and fearing that he will be accused of murder, the tailor and his wife plot to hide the body. They leave the corpse at the house of a Jewish doctor, who, because he refuses to wait for a light to attend his patient, accidentally kicks the body downstairs. Thinking that he has killed the hunchback, the doctor and his wife also try to remove the incriminating evidence, and shove the corpse down the chimney of their 'Mussulman' next-door-neighbour, a purveyor of tallow and butter to the Sultan. Thinking that the hunchback is a robber after his supplies, the butter-merchant beats the corpse with a stick. Finding the intruder to be dead, and thinking himself the murderer, the merchant props the body against his street door. There body then falls against drunk Christian who, believing himself under attack, begins to beat the hunchback. He is apprehended, accused of murder, and sentenced to hang. Just as he is about to be executed, the butter-merchant appears and announces that he is the true murderer. Just as he is about to be hanged, the Jewish doctor appears with his confession. Last, the tailor makes his admission of guilt, and is about to be executed when a barber demands to be heard by the sultan. He stops the execution, and revives the hunchback, who had, in fact, been in a sort of coma all along. In this version, the tale ends here, happily, for the tailor is acquitted and the barber is handsomely rewarded by the Sultan. In the original version in the Arabian Nights, the tales continued with the barber narrating the stories of his brothers.

This anonymous version, published by John Harris, is written in neat and witty rhyming couplets, and supported by three high quality copper-plate engravings. It has much in common with the 'Popular Stories' series brought out by Benjamin Tabart in the early years of the nineteenth century, which included several tales from the Arabian Nights (compare, for example, 0046). Harris apparently deliberately imitated Tabart's series with his own publications, such as this.