1815 was of course the year that Jane Austen's Emma was first published, but in 2015 another important, unpublished work from the period surfaced - the diary of a young Muslim student named Mirza Salih Shirazi. His diary tells the real-life story of six scholars enjoying the very best of Regency life in England.The Love of Strangers by Nile Green delves into that forgotten diary, making fascinating comparisons between the experiences described by Mirza Salih, the characters in Jane Austen's novels, and the life she herself lived.
Along with his five Muslim companions, Mirza Salih had arrived in London in the fall of 1815, a few months before the novel was published. They lodged with their aptly named chaperone, Mr. D’Arcy (though not Darcy), in his splendid Regency bachelor pad overlooking Leicester Square. Jane Austen was also living in London’s West End that season, staying on Sloane Street with her brother, Henry. The Iranians were the first Muslims ever to study in western Europe and they had just wandered right into Jane Austen’s milieu. It was to shape their entire experience of English life.Nile Green's book offers Janeites a rare opportunity to experience Regency England from an entirely new cultural perspective. From nights at the opera to taking the waters in Bath, The Love of Strangers is a unique chronicle of the frustrations, fellowship and the search for love and learning in a strange new land.
Nile Green is professor of history at UCLA. His many books include The Love of Strangers and Sufism: A Global History.