Tales of Old Japan
by Lord Redesdale
Tales of Old Japan is an anthology of short stories, compiled by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, Lord Redesdale, writing under the better known name of A.B. Mitford. These stories focus on the varying aspects of Japanese life in centuries past. The book, which was written in 1871, is still regarded as an excellent introduction to Japanese literature and culture, by virtue of its ease of access and supplemental notes by the writer. Also included are the author's eyewitness accounts of a selection of Japanese rituals, ranging from the harakiri and marriage to a selection of sermons. This book had a lasting influence on the Western perception of Japanese history, culture and society, particularly because of just one widely known tale about samurai revenge.
About Lord Redesdale:
Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale GCVO, KCB (24 February 1837 - 17 August 1916), of Batsford Park, Gloucestershire, and Birdhope Craig, Northumberland, was a British diplomat, collector and writer. Nicknamed "Barty", he was the paternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters. He entered the Foreign Office in 1858, and was appointed Third Secretary of the British Embassy in St Petersburg. After service in the Diplomatic Corps in Peking, Mitford went to Japan as second secretary to the British Legation. There he met Ernest Satow and wrote Tales of Old Japan (1871) - a book credited with making such classical Japanese tales as that of the Forty-seven Ronin first known to a wide Western public. He resigned in 1873. In 1906 he accompanied Prince Arthur on a visit to Japan to present the emperor with the Order of the Garter, and was asked about Japanese ceremonies that had since disappeared. From 1874 to 1886 Mitford acted as secretary to HM Office of Works, involved in the restoration of the Tower of London and landscaping parts of Hyde Park such as 'The Dell'. From 1887 he was a member of the Royal Commission on Civil Services. He also sat as Member of Parliament for Stratford-on-Avon between 1892 and 1895. In 1886 Mitford inherited the substantial estates of his first cousin twice removed, John Freeman-Mitford, 1st Earl of Redesdale. In accordance with the will he assumed by Royal license the additional surname of Freeman. He substantially rebuilt Batsford House in Gloucestershire in the Victorian Gothic style. In 1902 the Redesdale title was revived when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Redesdale, of Redesdale in the County of Northumberland. In his closing years Lord Redesdale translated into English, edited, and wrote extensive effusive Introductions of two of Houston Stewart Chamberlain's books: Foundations of the Nineteenth Century and Immanuel Kant - A Study and Comparison with Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, Bruno, Plato, and Descartes, published by John Lane at the Bodley Head, London, in 1910 and 1914.
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