James Justinian Morier

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James Justinian Morier
Morier, portrait by an unknown artist
Morier, portrait by an unknown artist
BornJames Justinian Morier
(1782-08-15)15 August 1782
Smyrna, Ottoman Empire[a]
Died(1849-03-19)19 March 1849
Brighton, England[a]
OccupationNovelist, diplomat
Notable worksThe Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan

James Justinian Morier (15 August 1782 – 19 March 1849)[a] was a British diplomat and author noted for his novels about the Qajar dynasty in Iran, most famously for the Hajji Baba series.

Early life[edit]

Morier was born in Ottoman Smyrna, the second son of Isaac Morier, a Swiss-born merchant, British by naturalisation, and a member of the London-based Levant Company, and Elizabeth Clara Van Lennep. After private education in England, he worked in his father's Smyrna business between 1799 and 1806.

Diplomatic career[edit]

Career in Iran[edit]

Through the influence of his uncle, Admiral William Waldegrave, 1st Baron Radstock, he entered the diplomatic service. He first visited Iran in 1808 as secretary to Harford Jones-Brydges, a special British envoy to the Shah, publishing an account of his experiences in 1812 under the title A Journey through Iran, Armenia and Asia Minor to Constantinople in the years 1808 and 1809. In 1809 he accompanied the Iranian envoy to Britain, Mirza Abul Hasan, and in 1810 returned to Iran as Secretary of Embassy on the staff of Sir Gore Ouseley, first Ambassador to Iran. He remained there as Chargé d'Affaires in 1814–1816. After his return to England he published A Second Journey through Iran to Constantinople between the years 1810 and 1816.

Commissioner to Mexico[edit]

He married Harriet Fulke Greville in London in 1820 and between 1824 and 1826 he was special commissioner to Mexico, negotiating the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation with that country that was eventually ratified in 1827.[1][2]

Novelist career[edit]

With his knowledge of Eastern life and manners, he wrote several entertaining novels. The most popular of these were The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan (1824) and its sequel The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan in England (1828). The former novel is a sort of Gil Blas set in Persia. The Persian minister to England is said to have protested in behalf of his government against its satire and manner of speaking. There followed Zohrab the Hostage (1832), Ayesha the Maid of Kars (1834), and The Mirza (1841), all full of brilliant description, character-painting, and delicate satire, and several others of lesser quality.


Morier died suddenly in Brighton on 19 March 1849, from "cerebral congestion".[a] His wife died in London in 1858.


The Adventures of Hajji Baba is an American movie, based on the Hajji Baba novels, which was produced in 1954. Among many print editions, one came out in the United States in 1937 published by Random House, illustrated by the well-traveled Cyrus Leroy Baldridge. Baldridge had a hand in everything, from designing the cover and drawing dozens of illustrations to choosing the typeface and paper. A Persian translation of the book was produced by Douglas Craven Phillott.

Operation Hajji Baba, a humanitarian airlift operation conducted in 1952 by the US Air Force, took its name from the Hajji Baba novels.

Morier is credited with introducing the word "bosh", meaning absurd or foolish talk, into the English language. It is derived from the Turkish word boş meaning "empty".


  1. ^ a b c d "Morier, James Justinian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/19259. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) 23 September 2004. Stanley Lane-Poole, revised by Elizabeth Baigent. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
      That encyclopedia biography gives the dates and places of birth and death and the cause of death stated here. There are sources for other dates. Encyclopædia Britannica gives lifespan c. 1780 to 19 March 1849 (as of 2002, reported by the Library of Congress, or LCCN), which is revised from 1780 to 23 March 1849 (as of 1911, below). LCCN: n80-013276 notes reported birth years 1780, 1780?, 1782?, and 1784.


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