You may remember the old Persian saying

From the conclusion to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Case of Identity:

“And Miss Sutherland?”

“If I tell her she will not believe me. You may remember the old Persian saying, ‘There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.’ There is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and as much knowledge of the world.”

I tried tracing the exact citation for this line but could find nothing online. The footnote in the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes surrenders as well:

“Hafiz” is also spelled “Hafez.” His more complete name is Mohammed Shams Od-Dīān Haāfez (b. 1325/26, Shīāraāz, Iran–d. 1389/90, Shīāraāz), and he was one of the finest lyric poets of Persia. The Diwan (Collected Poems) of the poet was not translated in its entirety into English prose until 1891. However, scholars have been unable to trace the proverb to any published works of Hafiz.

“Horace” is Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65–8 B.C.), the greatest of the Latin lyric poets.

But this remained unsatisfying so I went digging and found a real suggestion in a book by John Yohannan called Persian Poetry in England and America: A 200 Year History

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put into the mouth of his famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes the observation that “there is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace and as much knowledge of the world,” he was probably chiefly inspired by the advantage of alliteration in the poets’ names. the sentiment he attributed to Hafiz in “A Case of Identity” … was more likely an adaptation of the fifty-third Maxim in Sadi’s Gulistan in Eastwick’s translation.

That passage in the translation referenced reads:

Maxim LIII
To consult with women is ruin, and to be liberal to the mischievous is a crime.

To sharp-toothed tigers kind to be
To harmless flocks is tyranny.

I had hopes before I found the text but I don’t much find the connection convincing, aside from the convenient collocation of women and tigers. What I had wanted to find – something close to Pliny and the medieval bestiaries – I’ll pull together for another post.

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