EG Browne

E.G. Browne was one of the most important European scholars of Persian. He sought to bridge the Western and Persian worlds. The outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war aroused a lifelong interest in the near East because he sympathized with the underdog Turks.

Browne had a humanistic outlook and may have become attracted to the teachings of the Bab and Baha’u’llah. He read about Babism in Gobineau’s book and came to admire the Bab.

He undertook a year-long trip through Persia in 1887-8, in great part to research Babi/Baha’i origins by meeting believers and finding original manuscripts.

One of the results of this trip was the travel book, A Year Amongst the Persians, in which Browne described Persian society with both great learning and sympathy. He described the Baha’i gatherings:

“The memory of those assemblies can never fade from my mind; the recollection of those faces and those tones no time can efface. I have gazed with awe on the workings of a mighty Spirit, and I marvel whereunto it tends.”

Though it did not receive much attention during Browne’s life, A Year Among the Persians came be seen as a classic of English travel literature.

Another important piece of work from this trip was Browne’s translation of a history of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths, A Traveller’s Narrative, written by the son of the prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith, ‘Abdu’l-Baha. In it, he praised and made this definitive assessment of Tahirih:

“the appearance of such a woman as Qurratu'l-'Ayn is in any country and any age a rare phenomenon, but in such a country as Persia it is a prodigy--nay, almost a miracle….Had the Bábí religion no other claim to greatness, this were sufficient--that it produced a heroine like Qurratu'l-'Ayn."

Browne wrote several about the new religion for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain. In one he describes the difficulty of finding information and documents related to Tahirih:

“Anxious as I was to obtain some of her poems, I only met with a very limited amount of success.…it must be borne in mind that the odium which attaches to the name of Babi amongst Persian Muhamadans would render impossible the recitation by them of verses confessedly composed by her.…that many poems written by Kurratu’l-‘Ayn were amongst the favorite songs of the people, who were for the most part unaware of their authorship. Open allusions to the Bab had, of course, been cut out or altered, so that no one could tell the source from whence they came.”