It is better not to call Ali Baba names. Nothing is so misleading as a vulgar nomenclature. I once knew a man who was called “Counsellor of the Empress” when he ought to have had his photograph exposed in the London shop-windows like King Cetewayo, K.C.M.G. I have heard an eminent Frontier General called “Judas Iscariot,” and I myself was once pointed out as a “Famine Commissioner,” and afterwards as an expurgated edition of the Secretary to the Punjab Government. People seemed to think that Ali Baba would smell sweeter under some other name. This was a mistake.
Almost everything you are told in Simla is a mistake. You should never believe anything you hear till it is contradicted by the Pioneer. I suppose the Government of India is the greatest gobemouche in the world. I suppose there never was an administration of equal importance which received so much information and which was so ill-informed. At a bureaucratic Simla dinner-party the abysses of ignorance that yawn below the company on every Indian topic are quite appalling!
I once heard Mr. Stokes say that he had never heard of my book on the Permanent Settlement; and yet Mr. Stokes is a decidedly intelligent man, with some knowledge of Cymric and law. I daresay now if you were to draw off and decant the law on his brain, it would amount to a full dose for an adult; yet he never heard of my book on the Permanent Settlement. He knew about Blackstone; he had seen an old copy once in a second-hand book shop; but he had never heard of my work! How loosely the world floats around us! I question its objective reality. I doubt whether anything has more objectivity in it than Ali Baba himself. He was certainly flogged at school. Yet when we now try to put our finger on Ali Baba he eludes the touch; when we try to lay him he starts up gibbering at Cabul, Lahore, or elsewhere. Perhaps it is easier to imprison him in morocco boards and allow him to be blown with restless violence round about the pendant world, abandoned to critics: whom our lawless and uncertain thoughts imagine howling.
[Ali Baba! I know not what thou art, but know that thou and I must part; and why or where and how we met, I own to me’s a secret yet. Ali Baba, we’ve been long together through pleasant and through cloudy weather; ’tis hard to part when things are dear, bar silver, piece cloth, bottled beer, then steal away with this short warning: choose thine own winding-sheet, say not good-night here, but in some brighter binding, sweet, bid me good morning.]—ALI BABA, K.C.B.