From its first appearance in 1817, Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh was widely seen to be remarkably true to the oriental world that it purported to depict. Byron’s dedication in 1814 of his own hugely successful Eastern poem, The Corsair – which sold 10,000 copies on its first day – to Moore, effectively handed the palm to his friend even before the latter had written his poem: “It is said... that you are engaged in the composition of a poem whose scene will be laid in the East; none can do those scenes so much justice” (Byron, Corsair vi). Byron’s championing of Moore as supremely qualified among contemporary poets to deal with Eastern materials, together with news of the extraordinary advance of £3,000 paid by Longman – the highest ever paid for a poem hitherto – had raised public expectations of Moore’s oriental poem to fever pitch. At stake, for Moore’s success, was a two-fold proficiency: a convincing knowledge of those Eastern sources, and the talent to turn that knowledge into verse forms that were palatable to the public. Faced with such expectations, Moore was assiduous in his preparations to assume the mantle of Britain’s leading orientalist poet. As he recounted in the Preface to Lalla Rookh for his collected works:

I took the whole range of all such Oriental reading as was accessible to me; and became, for the time, indeed, far more conversant with all relating to that distant region, than I have ever been with the scenery, productions, or modes of life of any of those countries lying most within my reach.

(MCP 6: xviii)