The Life of Sir Richard Burton
Thomas Wright

Part 1 out of 9

This etext was scanned by JC Byers; proofread by Laura Shaffer.



Author of "The Life of Edward Fitzgerald," etc.

2 Volumes in 1

This Work is
Dedicated to
Sir Richard Burton's Kinsman
And Friend,
Major St. George Richard Burton,
The Black Watch.


Fifteen years have elapsed since the death of Sir Richard Burton and
twelve since the appearance of the biography of Lady Burton.
A deeply pathetic interest attaches itself to that book.
Lady Burton was stricken down with an incurable disease. Death with
its icy breath hung over her as her pen flew along the paper,
and the questions constantly on her lips were "Shall I live to
complete my task? Shall I live to tell the world how great and
noble a man my husband was, and to refute the calumnies that his
enemies have so industriously circulated?" She did complete it in
a sense, for the work duly appeared; but no one recognised more
clearly than herself its numerous shortcomings. Indeed, it is
little better than a huge scrap-book filled with newspaper cuttings
and citations from Sir Richard's and other books, hurriedly selected
and even more hurriedly pieced together. It gives the impressions
of Lady Burton alone, for those of Sir Richard's friends are
ignored--so we see Burton from only one point of view. Amazing to
say, it does not contain a single original anecdote[FN#1]--though
perhaps, more amusing anecdotes could be told of Burton than of any
other modern Englishman. It will be my duty to rectify Lady
Burton's mistakes and mis-statements and to fill up the vast
hiatuses that she has left. Although it will be necessary to
subject her to criticism, I shall endeavour at the same time to
keep constantly in mind the queenliness and beauty of her character,
her almost unexampled devotion to her husband, and her anxiety that
everyone should think well of him. Her faults were all of the head.
Of the heart she had absolutely none.

As the Richard Burton whom I have to pourtray differs considerably
from Lady Burton's "Earthly God,"[FN#2] I have been very careful to
give chapter and verse for all my statements. The work has been
written on the same lines as my Life of Edward FitzGerald; that is
to say, without any aim except to arrive at the precise truth.
But although I have regarded it as no concern of mine whether any
particular fact tells for or against Sir Richard Burton, I do think
that when the reader rises from the last page he will feel that he
has been in the company not only of one of the greatest, noblest and
most fearless of Englishmen, but also of one who, without making
much profession of doing so, really loved his fellow-men, and who,
despite his inability to put himself in line with religionists,
fought steadily on the side of righteousness. We are aware that
there are in his books a few observations which call for vehement
and unqualified denunciation; but against them must be placed the
fundamental goodness of the man, to which all who knew him
intimately have testified. In not a few respects Sir Richard
Burton's character resembled Edward FitzGerald's. Burton, indeed,
hailed the adapter of Omar Khayyam as a "fellow Sufi."

Lady Burton, too, comes extremely well out of the fire of criticism.
The reader may object to her religious views, he may smile at her
weaknesses, he may lament her indiscretions, but he will recognise
that at bottom she was a God-fearing, noble-minded woman; and he
will, we think, find himself really in love with her almost before
knowing it.

The amount of absolutely new information in this work is very large.
Thus we are telling for the first time the history of Burton's
friendships with Mr. F. F. Arbuthnot, Mr. John Payne, and others;
and we are giving for the first time, too, a complete and accurate
history of the translation of The Arabian Nights, The Scented
Garden, and other works. Hundreds of new facts are recorded
respecting these and other absorbing topics, while the citations
from the unpublished letters of Burton and Lady Burton will, we are
sure, receive a welcome. We are able to give about fifty entirely
new anecdotes--many of them extremely piquant and amusing. We also
tell the touching story of Burton's brother Edward. In our accounts
of Burton's travels will be found a number of interesting facts and
some anecdotes not given in Burton's works.

The new material has been derived from many sources--but from ten in

(1) From two hundred unpublished letters of Sir Richard Burton
and Lady Burton.

(2) From interviews with Mrs. E. J. Burton[FN#3] and
Mr. F. Burton (Burton's cousins), Mr. John Payne, Mrs. Arbuthnot,
Mr. Watts-Dunton, Mr. W. F. Kirby, Mr. A. G. Ellis, Dr. Codrington,
Professor James F. Blumhardt, Mr. Henry R. Tedder (librarian and
secretary of The Athenaeum, Burton's club), Mrs. Baddeley (mother of
Burton's friend, St. Clair Baddeley), Madame Nicastro (sister of the
late Mr. Albert Letchford, illustrator of The Arabian Nights),
Dr. Grenfell Baker (Burton's medical attendant during the last three
years of his life), and many other ladies and gentlemen.

(3) From letters received from Major St. George Burton (to whom
I have the pleasure of dedicating this work), Lady Bancroft,
Mr. D. MacRitchie, Mr. E. S. Mostyn Pryce (representative of
Miss Stisted), Gunley Hall, Staffordshire, M. Charles Carrington,
of Paris, who sent me various notes, including an account of
Burton's unfinished translation of Apuleius's Golden Ass, the MS.
of which is in his possession, the Very Rev. J. P. Canon McCarthy,
of Ilkeston, for particulars of "The Shrine of our Lady of Dale,"
Mr. Segrave (son of Burton's "dear Louisa"), Mrs. Agg (Burton's
cousin), and Mr. P. P. Cautley (Burton's colleague at Trieste).
Nor must I omit reference to a kind letter received from
Mrs. Van Zeller, Lady Burton's only surviving sister.[FN#4]

(4) From the Burton collections in the Free Libraries of
Camberwell and Kensington.

(5) From unpublished manuscripts written by Burton's friends.

(6) From the church registers of Elstree. By examination of
these and other documents I have been able to correct many mistakes.

(7) From the manuscripts of F. F. Arbuthnot and the Oriental
scholar, Edward Rehatsek. These are now in the possession of the
Royal Asiatic Society.

(8) From Mr. Arbuthnot's typewritten and unpublished Life of
Balzac now in my possession. This contains many notes throwing
light on the Burton and Arbuthnot friendship.

(9) From the Genealogical Table of the Burtons of Shap,
very kindly sent me by Mr. E. S. Mostyn Pryce.

(10) From various persons interviewed during many journeys.
One of these journeys (June 1905) took me, of course, to the Tomb
of Mortlake, and I was gratified to find that, owing to the
watchfulness of the Arundell family, it is kept in perfect repair.

Let me first speak of the unpublished letters. These were lent me
by Mr. John Payne (40 letters), Mr. W. F. Kirby (50 letters),
Major St. George Burton, Mrs. E. J. Burton, Mrs. Agg, Mr. Mostyn
Pryce, Dr. Tuckey, Mr. D. MacRitchie, and Mr. A. G. Ellis. Many of
the letters reveal Burton in quite a new light. His patriotism and
his courage were known of all men, but the womanly tenderness of his
nature and his intense love for his friends will come to many as a
surprise. His distress, for example, on hearing of the death
of Drake,[FN#6] is particularly affecting.

Of the friends of Sir Richard Burton who have been interviewed
I must mention first of all Mr. John Payne. But for Mr. Payne's
generous assistance, this work I must frankly admit, could not have
been written. He, and he alone, held the keys to whole chambers of
mystery. Mr. Payne was at first extremely reluctant to give me the
material required. Indeed, in his first letter of reply to my
request for information (7th August 1904) he declined positively
either to enter the lists against Burton, with whom, he said, he had
been on terms of intimate friendship, or to discuss the matter at
all. "As for what," he said, "it pleases the public to think
(save the mark!) of the relative merits of my own and Burton's
translations, I have long ceased to care a straw." But this led me
to write even more pressingly. I assured Mr. Payne that the public
had been unjust to him simply because nobody had hitherto set
himself the great task of comparing the two translations,
and because the true history of the case had never been laid before
them. I assured him that I yielded to nobody in admiration of
Sir Richard Burton--that is, on account of what he (Sir Richard)
did do, not on account of what he did not do; and I gave it as my
opinion that Mr. Payne owed it both to the public and to himself to
lay bare the whole story. After several letters and interviews I at
last induced him to give way; and I think the public will thank me
for my persistency.

My revelations, which form an astonishing story, will no doubt come
as a complete surprise to almost everybody. I can imagine them,
indeed, dropping like a bombshell into some circles; but they are
founded, not only upon conversations with Mr. Payne, but upon
Burton's own letters to Mr. Payne, all of which have been in my
hands, and careful study of the two translations. The public,
however, cannot possibly be more surprised than I myself was when
I compared the two translations page by page, I could scarcely
believe my own eyes; and only one conclusion was possible. Burton,
indeed, has taken from Payne at least three-quarters of the entire
work. He has transferred many hundreds of sentences and clauses
bodily. Sometimes we come upon a whole page with only a word or
two altered.[FN#7] In short, amazing to say, the public have given
Burton credit for a gift which he did not possess[FN#8]--that of
being a great translator. If the public are sorry, we are deeply
sorry, too, but we cannot help it. Burton's exalted position,
however, as ethnologist and anthropologist, is unassailable. He was
the greatest linguist and traveller that England ever produced.
And four thrones are surely enough for any man. I must mention that
Mr. Payne gave me an absolute free hand--nay, more than that, having
placed all the documents before me, he said--and this he repeated
again and again--"Wherever there is any doubt, give Burton the
benefit of it," and I have done so.

In dealing with the fight[FN#9] over The Arabian Nights I have
endeavoured to write in such a way as to give offence to nobody,
and for that reason have made a liberal use of asterisks. I am the
more desirous of saying this because no one is better aware than
myself of the services that some of Burton's most bitter opponents--
those ten or twelve men whom he contemptuously termed Laneites--
have rendered to literature and knowledge. In short, I regard the
battle as fought and won. I am merely writing history. No man at
the present day would dream of mentioning Lane in the same breath
with Payne and Burton. In restoring to Mr. Payne his own, I have
had no desire to detract from Burton. Indeed, it is impossible to
take from a man that which he never possessed. Burton was a very
great man, Mr. Payne is a very great man, but they differ as two
stars differ in glory. Burton is the magnificent man of action and
the anthropologist, Mr. Payne the brilliant poet and prose writer.
Mr. Payne did not go to Mecca or Tanganyika, Burton did not
translate The Arabian Nights,[FN#10] or write The Rime of
Redemption and Vigil and Vision. He did, however, produce the
annotations of The Arabian Nights, and a remarkable enough and
distinct work they form.

I recall with great pleasure an evening spent with Mr. Watts-Dunton
at The Pines, Putney. The conversation ran chiefly on the Gipsies,
[FN#11] upon whom Mr. Watts-Dunton is one of our best authorities,
and the various translations of The Arabian Nights. Both he and
Mr. A. C. Swinburne have testified to Burton's personal charm and
his marvellous powers. "He was a much valued and loved friend,"
wrote Mr. Swinburne to me[FN#12], "and I have of him none but the
most delightful recollections." Mr. Swinburne has kindly allowed me
to give in full his magnificent poem on "The Death of Richard
Burton." Dr. Grenfell Baker, whom I interviewed in London, had much
to tell me respecting Sir Richard's last three years; and he has
since very kindly helped me by letter.

The great object of this book is to tell the story of Burton's life,
to delineate as vividly as possible his remarkable character--
his magnetic personality, and to defend him alike from enemy and
friend. In writing it my difficulties have been two. First, Burton
himself was woefully inaccurate as an autobiographer, and we must
also add regretfully that we have occasionally found him colouring
history in order to suit his own ends.[FN#13] He would have put
his life to the touch rather than misrepresent if he thought any man
would suffer thereby; but he seems to have assumed that it did not
matter about keeping strictly to the truth if nobody was likely to
be injured. Secondly, Lady Burton, with haughty indifference to the
opinions of everyone else, always exhibited occurrences in the light
in which she herself desired to see them. This fact and the extreme
haste with which her book was written are sufficient to account for
most of its shortcomings. She relied entirely upon her own
imperfect recollections. Church registers and all such documents
were ignored. She begins with the misstatement that Burton was born
at Elstree, she makes scarcely any reference to his most intimate
friends and even spells their names wrongly.[FN#14] Her remarks on
the Kasidah are stultified by the most cursory glance at that poem;
while the whole of her account of the translating of The Arabian
Nights is at variance with Burton's own letters and conversations.
I am assured by several who knew Burton intimately that the
untrustworthiness of the latter part of Lady Burton's "Life" of her
husband is owing mainly to her over-anxiety to shield him from his
enemies. But I think she mistook the situation. I do not believe
Burton had any enemies to speak of at the time of his death.

If Lady Burton's treatment of her husband's unfinished works cannot
be defended, on the other hand I shall show that the loss as regards
The Scented Garden was chiefly a pecuniary one, and therefore almost
entirely her own. The publication of The Scented Garden would not--
it could not--have added to Burton's fame. However, the matter will
be fully discussed in its proper place.

It has generally been supposed that two other difficulties must
confront any conscientious biographer of Burton--the first being
Burton's choice of subjects, and the second the friction between
Lady Burton and the Stisteds. But as regards the first, surely we
are justified in assuming that Burton's studies were pursued purely
for historical and scientific purposes. He himself insisted in
season and out of season that his outlook was solely that of the
student, and my researches for the purposes of this work have
thoroughly convinced me that, however much we may deprecate some of
these studies, Burton himself was sincere enough in his pursuit of
them. His nature, strange as it may seem to some ears, was a cold
one[FN#15]; and at the time he was buried in the most forbidding
of his studies he was an old man racked with infirmities. Yet he
toiled from morning to night, year in year out, more like a navvy
than an English gentleman, with an income of 700 a year, and 10,000
"jingling, tingling, golden, minted quid," as R. L. Stevenson would
have said, in his pocket. In his hunger for the fame of an author,
he forgot to feed his body, and had to be constantly reminded of its
needs by his medical attendant and others. And then he would wolf
down his food, in order to get back quickly to his absorbing work.
The study had become a monomania with him.

I do not think there is a more pathetic story in the history of
literature than that which I have to tell of the last few weeks of
Burton's life. You are to see the old man, always ailing, sometimes
in acute pain--working twenty-five hours a day, as it were--in order
to get completed a work by which he supposed he was to live for
ever. In the same room sits the wife who dearly loves him, and whom
he dearly loves and trusts. A few days pass. He is gone.
She burns, page by page, the work at which he had toiled so long and
so patiently. And here comes the pathos of it--she was, in the
circumstances, justified in so doing. As regards Lady Burton and
the Stisteds, it was natural, perhaps, that between a staunch
Protestant family such as the Stisteds, and an uncompromising
Catholic like Lady Burton there should have been friction; but both
Lady Burton and Miss Stisted are dead. Each made, during Lady
Burton's lifetime, an honest attempt to think well of the other;
each wrote to the other many sweet, sincere, and womanly letters;
but success did not follow. Death, however, is a very loving
mother. She gently hushes her little ones to sleep; and, as they
drop off, the red spot on the cheek gradually fades away, and even
the tears on the pillow soon dry.

Although Miss Stisted's book has been a help to me I cannot endorse
her opinion that Burton's recall from Damascus was the result of
Lady Burton's indiscretions. Her books give some very interesting
reminiscences of Sir Richard's childhood and early manhood,[FN#15]
but practically it finishes with the Damascus episode. Her innocent
remarks on The Scented Garden must have made the anthropological
sides of Ashbee, Arbuthnot, and Burton's other old friends shake
with uncontrollable laughter. Unfortunately, she was as careless as
Lady Burton. Thus on page 48 she relates a story about Burton's
attempt to carry off a nun; but readers of Burton's book on Goa will
find that it had no connection with Burton whatever. It was a story
someone had told him.

In these pages Burton will be seen on his travels, among his
friends, among his books, fighting, writing, quarrelling, exploring,
joking, flying like a squib from place to place--a 19th century Lord
Peterborough, though with the world instead of a mere continent for
theatre. Even late in life, when his infirmities prevented larger
circuits, he careered about Europe in a Walpurgic style that makes
the mind giddy to dwell upon.

Of Burton's original works I have given brief summaries; but as a
writer he shines only in isolated passages. We go to him not for
style but for facts. Many of his books throw welcome light on
historical portions of the Bible.[FN#17]

Of those of his works which are erotic in the true sense of the word
I have given a sufficient account, and one with which I am convinced
even the most captious will not find fault.[FN#18] When necessity
has obliged me to touch upon the subject to which Sir Richard
devoted his last lustrum, I have been as brief as possible, and have
written in a way that only scholars could understand. In short I
have kept steadily in view the fact that this work is one which will
lie on drawing-room tables and be within the reach of everyone.
I have nowhere mentioned the subject by name, but I do not see how
I could possible have avoided all allusion to it. I have dwelt on
Burton's bravery, his tenderness, his probity, his marvellous
industry, his encyclopaedic learning--but the picture would not have
been a true one had I entirely over-passed the monomania of his last
days. Hamlet must be shown, if not at his maddest, at any rate mad,
or he would not be Hamlet at all.

As regards Burton's letters, I have ruthlessly struck out every
sentence that might give offence.[FN#19] While I have not
hesitated to expose Sir Richard's faults, I have endeavoured to
avoid laying too much stress upon them. I have tried, indeed,
to get an idea of the mountain not only by climbing its sides,
but also by viewing it from a distance. I trust that there will be
found nothing in this book to hurt the feelings of any living person
or indeed of any body of persons. I have certainly tried my utmost
to avoid causing pain, and if the reader will kindly bear in mind
that it is as much a Christian duty to avoid taking offence as to
avoid giving offence, we shall amble along pleasantly together to
the very last page. Out of consideration for Catholics I have
suppressed a number of passages; and if I have allowed Sir Richard
in one or two instances to make a lunge at their church, I trust
they will notice that I have permitted him the same licence with
regard to the Church of England and Exeter Hall. Finally,
my impartiality is proved by my allowing him to gird at the
poet Cowper.

Wherever possible, that is to say, when I could do it without
ambiguity I have also out of courtesy used the term Catholic instead
of Roman Catholic; and in order to meet what I believe to be the
wishes of Lady Burton's executors, I have omitted all mention of
certain events that occurred after Sir Richard's death.

The various works of Mr. W. H. Wilkins have been of great help to
me, and I cannot avoid paying a passing tribute to the excellent
opening passages[FN#20] of the Preface of his edition of Lady
Burton's Life of her husband.

The illustrations in this book are of exceptional interest.
They include the Burton family portraits, the originals of which
are in the possession of Mr. Mostyn Pryce and Mrs. Agg. During the
lifetime of Sir Richard and Lady Burton they were the property of
Lady and Miss Stisted; but, owing to her difference with these
ladies, Lady Burton was not able to use them in the life of her
husband; and Miss Stisted's own scheme did not include
illustrations. So they are now reproduced for the first time.
The most noticeable are the quaint picture of Burton, his brother
and sister as children, and the oil painting of Burton and Lady
Stisted made by Jacquand about 1851. Of great interest, too, is the
series of photographs taken at Trieste by Dr. Grenfell Baker;
while the portraits of Burton's friends, Mr. F. F. Arbuthnot,
Mr. John Payne, Major St. George Burton, Dr. Baker, Mr. W. F. Kirby,
Mr. A. G. Ellis, Professor J. F. Blumhardt, and others, will no
doubt be appreciated by the public.

The writing of this book has been a thorough pleasure to me,
not only on account of the infinite charm of the subject, but also
because everyone whom I have approached has treated me with studied
kindness. The representatives of Sir Richard Burton, of Lady Burton
(through Mr. W. H. Wilkins) and of Miss Stisted have not only helped
and permitted me to use the unpublished letters,[FN#21] but have
generously given me a free hand. I am deeply indebted to them,
and I can only trust that these pages will prove that their
confidence in my judgment has not been misplaced.

To everyone who has assisted me I tender my sincere thanks, and I
assure them that I shall never forget their abundant kindness.

Finally, in writing this work every possible care has been taken to
ensure accuracy[FN#22]; but that absolute perfection has been
attained is improbable. It is hoped, however,--to borrow the quaint
expression of the Persian poet Jami--"that the noble disposition of
the readers will induce them to pass over defects."[FN#23]

My grateful thanks are due to the following ladies and gentlemen for
various services.

Arbuthnot, Mrs. F. F., 43 South Street, Park Lane, London.
Ashbee, Mr. C. G., Woolstapler Hall, Chipping Cambden,
Agg, Mrs. Hewletts, Cheltenham.
Baddeley, Mrs., Brighton.
Baker, Dr. Grenfell, 25, Southwick Street, Hyde Park, W.
Birch, Mrs. G. M., Lympstone Grange, South Devon.
Blumhardt, Prof. James F., British Museum.
Burton, Mrs. E. J., 31, Wilbury Road, Brighton.
Burton, Major St. George, The Black Watch.
Burton, Mr. Frederick, Brighton.
Cautley, Mr. P. P., 4, Via della Zonta, Trieste.
Clayton, Mr. Arthur, South View, Ropley, Hants.
Carrington, Mr. Charles, 13, Faubourg Montmartre, Paris.
Chatto, Mr. Andrew, Hillside, Elstree.
Codrington, Dr., Royal Asiatic Society, Albemarle Street.
Committee, The, of the Central Library, Camberwell.
Eales, Rev. A. R. T., The Rectory, Elstree, Herts.
Ellis, Mr. A. G., British Museum.
Editors, The, of the following newspapers: The Times, The Daily
Telegraph, The Standard, The Daily News, The Morning Post,
The Daily Chronicle, The Daily Mail, The Athenaeum, The Saturday
Review, The Academy, for inserting letters for me at different
times. These letters put me in touch with several of Burton's
old friends.
Gardiner, Mr. C. H., 4, Montpelier Crescent, Brighton.
George, Mr. William H., 2, Highfield Terrace, Bognor.
Hector, Mr. E., Bookseller, 103, John Bright Street, Birmingham.
Hutchinson & Co., Messrs, for the loan of the portrait of Khamoor.
Jones, Mr. Herbert, The Library, High Street, Kensington.
Josling, Mr. A., 36, Lyndhurst Grove, Camberwell.
Kirby, Mr. W. F., "Hilden," Sutton Court Road, Chiswick, London.
Letchford, Miss Daisy (now Madame Nicastro), Mezellina 178, Naples.
McCarthy, The Very Rev. P. J. Canon, Ilkeston, Derbyshire.
Mendelssohn, Mr. S., 21, Kensington Court Gardens, London, W.
Murray, Mr. T. Douglas, Pyt Cottage, Tisbury, Wilts.
MacRitchie, Mr. David, 4, Archibald Place, Edinburgh.
Newcombe, Mr. C. F., 16, Champion Park, Denmark Hill, London, S. E.
Nicastro, Madame.
Payne, Mr. John.
Pelham, Dr., President of Trinity College, Oxford.
Pryce, Mr. E. S. Mostyn, Gunley Hall, Chirbury, Shropshire.
Rankin-Lloyd, Mrs., Wilne House, Pembroke.
Royal Asiatic Society (for permission to examine the Arbuthnot and
Rehatsek manuscripts).
Roe, Rev. Henry, 12, Barnoon Terrace, St. Ives, Cornwall.
Sams, Rev. G. F., The Rectory, Emberton, Bucks.
Segrave, Mr. H., Seaview, Lyme Regis, Dorset.
Snowsill, Mr. W. G., Camberwell Central Library.
Spencer, Mr. W. T., Bookseller, 27, New Oxford Street, London, W. C.
Steingass, Mrs., 36, Lyndhurst Grove, Camberwell.
Tussaud, Mr. John, of "Madame Tussaud's."
Tedder, Mr., The Athenaeum.
Tuckey, Dr. Charles Lloyd, 88, Park Street, Grosvenor Square,
Van Zeller, Mrs. (Lady Burton's sister).
Wilkins, Mr. W. H., 3, Queen Street, Mayfair, London, W.
Wood, Mr. W. Martin, Underwood, Oatlands Avenue, Weybridge.
Wyllie, Mr. Francis R. S., 6, Montpellier Villas, Brighton.
My wife, too, upon whom devolved the heavy task of transcribing,
must also be awarded her meed of praise.

The following is a fairly complete list of the various Books and
Magazine Articles that have been laid under contribution.

Arbuthnot, F. F., "Persian Portraits." 1887
"The Mysteries of Chronology."
"Life of Balzac (in Manuscript)."
"Baily's Monthly Magazine," April 1883.
Baddeley, St. Clair (See Richards, A. B.)
Burton, Lady. "Life of Sir Richard Burton," 2 vols. 1893.
Her Works. 5 vols.
Burton, Sir Richard. His Works. 60 vols.
"Edinburgh Review," July 1886. No. 335.
Hitchman, F., "Richard R. Burton," 2 vols. 1887.
Kama Shastra Society's Publications.
Magazine Articles by or relating to Burton. Too numerous
to mention.
Payne, Mr. John, The Book of "The Thousand Nights and One Night,"
9 vols., 1882-4, and "Omar Kheyyam."
"Perfumed Garden, The." Published in 1904 by Mr. Carrington,
of Paris.
Its Preface contains letters from several of the leading Arabists
of the day, including M. Fagnan and Professor Hartwig Derenbourg,
Membre de l'Institut.
Richards (A. B.), Wilson (A.), and Baddeley (St. C.), "Sketch of the
Career of Richard F. Burton," 1886.
Rehatsek (Edward), Translations.
Roe, Rev. Henry, "West African Scenes," "Fernando Po Mission."
Stisted, Miss Georgiana, "Reminiscences of Sir Richard Burton"--
"Temple Bar," July, 1891. Vol. 92.
"The True Life of Sir Richard Burton," 1896.
"Saturday Review," "Ultima Thule," 1876, Jan. 15 (p. 82).
"Zanzibar," 1872, February 17th (p. 222).
Wilkins, W. H., "The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton," 2 vols. 1897.
Also the various works by Sir Richard Burton that have been
edited by Mr. Wilkins.
Wilson, A. (See Richards, A. B.)

Thomas Wright.

Contents of Volume I

Chapter I
19th March 1821-October 1840
Childhood and Youth

1. Torquay and Elstree, 19th March 1821
2. Tours and Elstree
3. Death of Richard Baker, 16th September 1824
4. At School, Richmond, 1829
5. The Continent Again, 1829

Chapter II
October 1840-April 1842

6. Trinity College, Oxford, October 1840
7. Expelled, April 1842

Chapter III
April 1842-20th February 1847

8. To Bombay, 18th June 1842
9. Baroda: The Bubu
10. Narachi: Love of Disguise
11. A Dangerous Mission, 1845
12. The Persian Beauty
13. A Simian Dictionary
14. Duality

Chapter IV
20th February 1847-1849
Under the Spell of Camoens

15. Goa and Camoens
16. Would you a Sufi be?
17. Letter to Sarah Burton, 14th November 1848
18. Allahdad

Chapter V
1849-3rd April 1853
Chiefly Boulogne

19. A Motto from Ariosto
20. Isabel Arundell and "My dear Louisa," 1851
21. F. F. Arbuthnot, 1853

Chapter VI
3rd April 1853-29th October 1854
Pilgrimage to Mecca

22. The Man wants to Wander
23. Haji Wali
24. The Pilgrim Ship, 6th July 1853
25. Medina
26. Mecca
27. Burton's Delight in Shocking
28. El Islam

Chapter VII
29th October 1854-22nd April 1855
To Harar

29. The Arabian Nights, October 1854
30. From Zeila to Harar, 27th November 1854
31. At Harar, 2nd January, 1855
32. From Harar to Berbera, 13th January 1855
33. The Fight at Berbera, 22nd April 1855

Chapter VIII

34. The Crimea
35. Engaged to Isabel Arundell, August 1856

Chapter IX
22nd April 1855-December 1856
The Unveiling of Isis

36. To Fuga, January 1857
37. Zanzibar to Tanganyika, 26th June 1857-26th May 1858
38. The Return Journey, 26th May, 1858-13th February 1859

Chapter X
21st May 1859-August 1861
Mormons and Marriage

39. We Rushed into Each Other's Arms, 22nd May 1860
40. Brigham Young
41. Marriage
42. At Lord Houghton's

Chapter XI
August 1861-29th November 1863
Fernando Po

43. African Gold
44. Anecdotes
45. Fans and Gorillas
46. The Anthropological Society, 6th January 1863

Chapter XII
29th November, 1863-10th November 1865

47. Whydah and its Deity, 29th November 1863
48. The Amazons
49. "The Customs"
50. Death of Speke, 15th September 1864

Chapter XIII
October 1865-October 1869
2nd Consulate: Santos

51. To Santos
52. Aubertin: Death of Dr. Steinhauser, 27th July 1866
53. The Facetious Cannibals
54. Up the Sao Francisco
55. In Paraguay, August 1868-April 1869

Chapter XIV
1st October 1869-16th August 1871
"Emperor and Empress of Damascus"

56. Archbishop Manning and the Odd Fish
57. 3rd Consulate: Damascus
58. Jane Digby el Mezrab
59. To Tadmor
60. Palmer and Drake, 11th July 1870
61. Khamoor
62. The Shazlis
63. The Recall, 16th August 1871

Chapter XV
16th August 1871-4th June 1872
"The Blackness of Darkness"

64. With Sir H. Stisted at Norwood
65. Reduced to 15
66. An Orgie at Lady Alford's, 2nd November 1871
67. The Tichborne Trial
68. Khamoor at the Theatre, November 1871

Chapter XVI
4th June 1872-24th October 1872
In Iceland

69. In Edinburgh Again, 4th June, 1872
70. Wardour Castle, 5th July 1872
71. St. George and Frederick Burton
72. At the Athenaeum
73. Jane Digby again
74. His Book on Zanzibar

Chapter XVII
24th October 1872-12th May 1875
4th Consulate: Trieste

75. Burton at Trieste, 24th October 1872
76. At the Vienna Exhibition, 1873
77. A Visit from Drake, June 1873
78. Khamoor returns to Syria, 4th December 1874

Chapter XVIII
12th May 1875-18th June 1876
The Trip to India

79. Visit to England, 12th May 1875
80. "Tonic Bitters"
81. A Trip to India, December 1875-18th June 1876
82. Arbuthnot again; Rehatsek
83. In Sind
84. Golconda

Chapter XIX
18th June 1876-31st March 1877
Colonel Gordon

85. Ariosto
86. Death of Rashid Pasha, June 1876
87. Colonel Gordon
88. Jane Digby the Second
89. The Old Baronetcy, 18th January 1877

Chapter XX
31st March 1877-27th December 1879

90. The New Joseph, March 1877
91. More Advice to "Lazybones"
92. Haji Wali again
93. Graffiti
94. Letter to Sir Henry Gordon, 4th July 1878
95. Death of Maria Stisted, 12th November 1878
96. Burton's "Six Senses," 2nd December 1878
97. Still thinking of Midian

Chapter XXI
27th Devember 1879-August 1881

98. The Lusiads
99. Ober Ammergan
100. Mrs. Burton's Advice to Novelists
101. The Kasidah
102. Lisa

Chapter XXII
August 1881-20th May 1882
John Payne

103. With Cameron at Venice, August 1881
104. John Payne, November 1881
105. To the Gold Coast, 25th November 1881-20th May 1882

Chapter XXIII
July 1883-November 1883
The Meeting of Burton and Payne

106. Mrs. Grundy begins to Roar, May 1882
107. The Search for Palmer, October 1882

Chapter XXIV
July 1883-November 1883
The Palazzone

108. Anecdotes of Burton
109. Burton and Mrs. Disraeli
110. "I am an Old English Catholic"
111. Burton begins his Translation, April 1884
112. The Battle over the Nights
113. Completion of Payne's Translation

Chapter XXV
The Kama Shastra Society

114. The Azure Apollo
115. The Kama Sutra

Chapter XXVI
"The Ananga Ranga"

116. The Anana Ranga
117. The Beharistan
118. The Gulistan
119. The Nigaristan
120. The "1884" Letters to Payne
121. At Sauerbrunn, 12th August, 1884
122. Burton's Circulars
123. The Book of the Sword
124. The Lyrics of Camoens
125. More Letters to John Payne
126. Death of Gordon, January 1885
127. Mr. W. F. Kirby, 25th March 1885

Chapter XXVII
May 1885-5th February 1886
A Glance Through "The Arabian Nights"

128. Slaving at the Athenaeum
129. A Visit to Mr. Arbuthnot's
130. Dr. Steingass
131. Anecdotes
132. The Pentameron: Burton and Gladstone
133. A Brief Glance through the Nights

Chapter XXVIII
The Two Translations Compared

134. The Blacksmith who, etc.
135. Abu Al-Hasen and Abu Ja'afar the Leper
136. The Summing Up

Chapter XXIX
Burton's Notes

137. Burton's Notes
138. The Terminal Essay
139. Final Summing Up
140. Mr. Swinburne on Burton

Chapter XXX
21st November 1885-18th July 1888

141. In Morocco, 21st November 1885
142. K.C.M.G.
143. Burton at 65
144. More Anecdotes

Chapter XXXI
Burton's Religion

145. Burton's Religion
146. Burton as a Writer

Chapter XXXII
Burton and Social Questions

147. The Population Question
148. New Projects
149. Mr. A. G. Ellis and Professor Blumhardt, June 1886-April 1887
150. Dr. Leslie and Dr. Baker, April 1887; Anecdotes
151. Three Months at Abbazia, December 1887-March 1888

Chapter XXXIII
18th July 1888-15th October 1888
The Last Visit to England: "Supplemental Nights"

152. Meeting with Mr. Swinburne and others
153. H. W. Ashbee
154. Bacon causes Sparks
155. The Gipsy Lore Society, August 1888
156. The Supplemental Nights, 1st December, 1886-1st August 1888
157. Comparison

Chapter XXXIV
"The Scented Garden." November 1888

158. Naizawi
159. Origin of The Scented Garden
160. Contents of The Scented Garden
161. Burton's Translation

Chapter XXXV
15th October 1888-21st July, 1890
Working at the Catullus and the "Scented Garden"

162. In Switzerlant, 15th October 1888
163. Mr. Letchford, August and September 1889
164. To Dr. Tuckey
165. To Mr. Kirby, 15th May 1889
166. Tunis and Algiers, 20th December 1889
167. Arbuthnot in Trieste, May 1890

Chapter XXXVI
"The Priapeia"

168. The Priapeia, 1890
169. Catullus and The Last Trip, 1st July-7th Sept
170. At Maloja
171. The Golden Ass

Chapter XXXVII
Death of Sir Richard Burton, 20th October 1890

172. Death

20th October 1890-Devember 1890
The Fate of the "Scented Garden"

173. "Our Dead in Rare Instances Come Back"
174. Discrepancies in Lady Burton's Story
175. The Fate of the Catullus
176. Lisa Departs, November 1890

Chapter XXXVIX
January 1891-July 1891
Lady Burton in England

177. Lady Burton arrives in England
178. The Funeral at Mortlake
179. The Scented Garden Storm, June and July 1891

Chapter XL
June 1891-27th December 1893
O Tome, O Tomb

180. A Letter to Miss Stisted
181. The Writing of the "Life"
182. The Library Edition

Chapter XLI
22nd March, 1896
Death of Lady Burton

183. Lady Burton at Eastbourne
184. Death of Lady Burton, 22nd March 1896
185. Miss Sitsted's True Life
186. Mr. Wilkins's Work
187. Burton's Friends
Verses on the Death of Richard Burton, by Mr. A. C. Swinburne


1. Bibliography of Richard Burton
2. List of Works included in the "Memorial Edition"
3. List of Biographies of Burton
4. Extracts relating to Burton from the Index to the Publications of
the Anthropological Institute
5. Bibliography of F. F. Arbuthnot
6. Bibliography of Dr. Steingass
7. Bibliography of John Payne
8. The Beharistan
9. The Nigaristan and other unpublished Works translated by Rehatsek
10. W. F. Kirby
11. Genealogical Table. The Burtons of Shap {not included}

Chapter I
19th March 1821-October 1840
Childhood and Youth

1. Torquay and Elstree.

Sir Richard Burton, the famous traveller, linguist,
and anthropologist--"the Arabian Knight"--"the last of the
demi-gods"--has been very generally regarded as the most picturesque
figure of his time, and one of the most heroic and illustrious men
that "this blessed plot ... this England," this mother of heroes
every produced.

The Burtons, a Westmoreland family [FN#24] who had settled in
Ireland, included among their members several men of eminence,
not only in the army, which had always powerfully attracted them,
but also in the navy and the church. [FN#25] For long there was a
baronetcy in the family, but it fell into abeyance about 1712,
and all attempts of the later Burtons to substantiate their claim
to it proved ineffectual. [FN#26]

Burton supposed himself to be descended from Louis XIV. La Belle
Montmorency, a beauty of the French court, had, it seems, a son,
of which she rather believed Louis to be the father. In any
circumstances she called the baby Louis Le Jeune, put him in a
basket of flowers and carried him to Ireland, where he became known
as Louis Drelincourt Young. Louis Young's grand-daughter married
the Rev. Edward Burton, Richard Burton's grandfather. Thus it is
possible that a runnel of the blood of "le grand monarque" tripped
through Burton's veins. But Burton is a Romany name, and as Richard
Burton had certain gipsy characteristics, some persons have credited
him with gipsy lineage. Certainly no man could have been more given
to wandering. Lastly, through his maternal grandmother, he was
descended from the famous Scotch marauder, Rob Roy.

Burton's parents were Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Netterville Burton,
a tall, handsome man with sallow skin, dark hair, and coal-black
eyes, and Martha Beckwith, the accomplished but plain daughter of
Richard and Sarah Baker, of Barham House (now "Hillside" [FN#27]),
Elstree, Hertfordshire.

Richard Baker was an opulent country gentleman, and the most
important personage in the parish. Judging from the size of his pew
at church, "No. 19," he must also have been a man of eminent piety,
for it contained sixteen sittings. At all events he kept the parish
in admirable order, and, as churchwarden, discountenanced
unreasonable sleeping in church. Thanks to his patronage the choir
made marked progress, and eventually there was no louder in the
county. In 1813, we find him overseer with one George Olney.
He took a perfunctory [FN#28] interest in the village school (where,
by the by, Arthur Orton, the Tichborne claimant, received his
elaborate education), and was for a time "director." He led the
breezy life of a country gentleman. With his fat acres,
his thumping balance at the bank, his cellar of crusted wine,
and his horse that never refused a gate, this world seemed to him
a nether paradise. He required, he said, only one more boon to make
his happiness complete--namely, a grandson with unmistakably red
hair. A shrewd man of business, Mr. Baker tied up every farthing
of his daughter's fortune, 30,000; and this was well, for Burton's
father, a rather Quixotic gentleman, had but a child's notion of the
use of money. The Burtons resided at Torquay, and Colonel Burton
busied himself chiefly in making chemical experiments, of which he
was remarkably fond; but the other members of the household,
who generally went about holding their noses, appear not to have
sympathised with his studies and researches. He was very
superstitious--nothing, for instance, could induce him to reveal his
birthday; and he fretted continually because he was not permitted to
invest his wife's money and make a second fortune; which no doubt he
would very soon have done--for somebody else.

Richard Francis Burton was born at Torquay [FN#29] on 19th March
1821; and to the intemperate joy of the family his hair was a fierce
and fiery red. The news flew madly to Elstree. Old Mr. Baker could
scarcely contain himself, and vowed then and there to leave the
whole of his fortune to his considerate grandson. The baby,
of course, was promptly called Richard after Mr. Baker, with Francis
as an afterthought; and a little later the Burtons went to reside at
Barham House with the grandparents. Richard was baptised in the
parish church at Elstree, 2nd September 1821. In the entry his
father's abode is called "Bareham Wood," [FN#30] the name being
spelt various ways. Our illustration of the old church is taken
from an engraving made to commemorate the burial of William Weare
[FN#31] murdered by the notorious John Thurtell; an event that
occurred in 1823, when Burton was two years old.

There was another link between the Burtons and the Bakers,
for Joseph Netterville's youngest brother, Francis, military surgeon
in the 99th regiment, married Sarah Baker, Mr. Richard Baker's
eldest daughter. Dr. Burton [FN#32] who was in St. Helena at the
time of Napoleon's death lives in history as the man who "took a
bust of the dead emperor." [FN#33]

2. Tours and Elstree.

Being subject to asthma, Colonel Burton now left England and hired a
chateau called Beausejour situated on an eminence near Tours, where
there was an English colony. For several years the family
fluctuated between Tours and Elstree, and we hear of a great yellow
chariot which from time to time rolled into daylight. Richard's
hair gradually turned from its fiery and obtrusive red to jet black,
but the violent temper of which the former colour is supposed to be
indicative, and of which he had already many times given proofs,
signalised him to the end of life. In 1823 Mrs. Burton gave birth
to a daughter, Maria Katharine Elisa, who became the wife of General
Sir Henry Stisted; and on 3rd July 1824 to a son, Edward Joseph
Netterville, both of whom were baptized at Elstree. [FN#34]
While at Tours the children were under the care of their
Hertfordshire nurse, Mrs. Ling, a good, but obstinately English
soul who had been induced to cross the Channel only after strenuous

3. Death of Richard Baker, 16th September 1824.

Richard Burton always preserved some faint recollections of his
grandfather. "The first thing I remember," he says, "was being
brought down after dinner at Barham House to eat white currants,
seated upon the knee of a tall man with yellow hair and blue eyes."
This would be in the summer of 1824. Mr. Baker, as we have seen,
had intended to leave the whole of his property--worth about half a
million--to his red-haired grandson; and an old will, made in 1812,
was to be cancelled. But Burton's mother had a half brother--
Richard Baker, junior--too whom she was extravagantly attached,
and, in order that this brother should not lose a fortune, she did
everything in her power to prevent Mr. Baker from carrying out his
purpose. Three years passed away, but at last Mr. Baker resolved to
be thwarted no longer, so he drove to his lawyer's. It was the 16th
of September 1824. He reached the door and leapt nimbly from his
carriage; but his foot had scarcely touched the ground before he
fell dead of heart disease. So the old will had to stand, and the
property, instead of going to Burton, was divided among the children
of Mr. Baker, Burton's mother taking merely her share. But for this
extraordinary good hap Richard Burton might have led the life of an
undistinguished country gentleman; ingloriously breaking his dogs,
training his horses and attending to the breed of stock.
The planting of a quincunx or the presentation of a pump to the
parish might have proved his solitary title to fame. Mr. Baker
was buried at Elstree church, where may be seen a tablet to him
with the following inscription:

"Sacred to the memory of Richard Baker, Esq., late of Barham
House in this parish, who departed this life on the 16th September
1824, aged 62 years." [FN#35]

Soon after the death of her husband, Mrs. Baker must have left
Elstree, [FN#36] for from 1827 to 1839, Barham House was occupied
by Viscount Northland. The Burtons continued to reside at Tours,
and all went well until cholera broke out. Old Mrs. Baker, hearing
the news, and accounting prevention better than cure, at once
hurried across the channel; nor did she breathe freely until she had
plugged every nose at Beausejour with the best Borneo camphor.

The apprehensive old lady, indeed, hovered round her grandchildren
all day like some guardian angel, resolutely determined that no
conceivable means should be spared to save them from the dreaded
epidemic; and it was not until she had seen them safely tucked in
their snowy, lavendered beds that her anxieties of the day really
ceased. One night, however, when she went, as was her custom,
to look at the sleeping children before retiring herself, she found,
to her horror, that they were not there. The whole household was
roused, and there was an agonising hue and cry; but, by and by,
the culprits were seen slinking softly in at the principal door.
It seems that they had climbed down from their room and had gone the
round with the death carts and torches, to help collect corpses;
and enquiry revealed that they had worked considerably harder than
the paid men. When the cholera scare passed off Mrs. Baker took to
learning French, and with such success that in less than six months
she was able to speak several words, though she could never get hold
of the correct pronunciation. Despite, however, her knowledge of
the language, the good lady did not take kindly to France, and she
often looked wistfully northwards, quoting as she did so her
favourite Cowper:

"England with all thy faults I love thee still."

She and Mrs. Ling, the old nurse, who pined for English beef and
beer, made some attempts to console each other, but with
inappreciable success, and finally the fellow-sufferers, their faces
now beaming with smiles, returned together to their England.
And not even Campbell's sailor lad was gladder to see again the
"dear cliffs of Dover."

Our charmingly quaint picture of Richard, his sister and brother,
in wondrous French costumes, is from an oil painting [FN#37] which
has not before been copied. Richard was first taught by a lame
Irishman named Clough, who kept a school at Tours; and by and by,
chiefly for the children's sake, Colonel Burton gave up Beausejour
and took a house in the Rue De L'Archeveche, the best street in the
town. The little Burtons next attended the academy of a Mr. John
Gilchrist, who grounded them in Latin and Greek. A kind-hearted
man, Mr. Gilchrist often gave his pupils little treats. Once,
for instance, he took them to see a woman guillotined. Richard and
Edward were, to use Richard's expression, "perfect devilets."
Nor was the sister an angelet. The boys lied, fought, beat their
maids, generally after running at their petticoats and upsetting
them, smashed windows, stole apple puffs; and their escapades and
Richard's ungovernable temper were the talk of the neighourhood.
Their father was at this time given to boar hunting in the
neighbouring forest, but as he generally damaged himself against
the trees and returned home on a stretcher, he ultimately abandoned
himself again to the equally useful but less perilous pursuit of
chemistry. If Colonel Burton's blowpipes and retorts and his
conduct in private usually kept Mrs. Burton on tenterhooks, she was
no less uneasy on his account when they went into society. He was
so apt to call things by their right names. Thus on one occasion
when the conversation ran upon a certain lady who was known to be
unfaithful to her husband, he inexpressibly shocked a sensitive
company by referring to her as "an adulteress." In this trait,
as in many others, his famous son closely resembled him.

A youthful Stoic, Burton, in times of suffering, invariably took
infinite pains to conceal his feelings. Thus all one day he was in
frightful agony with the toothache, but nobody knew anything about
it until next morning when his cheek was swollen to the size of a
peewit's egg. He tried, too, to smother every affectionate
instinct; but when under strong emotion was not always successful.
One day, throwing stones, he cut his sister's forehead. Forgetting
all his noble resolutions he flew to her, flung his arms round her,
kissed her again and again, and then burst into a fit of crying.
Mrs. Burton's way of dressing her children had the charm of
simplicity. She used to buy a piece of yellow nankin and make up
three suits as nearly as possible alike, except for size.
We looked, said Burton, "like three sticks of barley sugar," and the
little French boys who called after them in the streets thought so
too, until Richard had well punched all their heads, when their
opinions underwent a sudden change.

Another household incident that fixed itself in Burton's mind was
the loss of their "elegant and chivalrous French chef," who had
rebelled when ordered to boil a gigot. "Comment, madame,"
he replied to Mrs. Burton, "un--gigot!--cuit a l'eau, jamais!
Neverre!" And rather than spoil, as he conceived it, a good leg of
mutton he quitted her service. [FN#38] Like most boys, Burton was
fond of pets, and often spent hours trying to revive some bird or
small beast that had met with misfortune, a bias that affords a
curious illustration of the permanence of character. The boy of
nine once succeeded in resuscitating a favourite bullfinch which had
nearly drowned itself in a great water jug--and we shall find the
man of sixty-nine, on the very last day of his life, trying to
revive a half-drowned robin.

4. At School, Richmond, 1829.

In 1829 the Burtons returned to England and took a house in Maids of
Honour Row, Richmond, while Richard and Edward were sent to a
preparatory school at Richmond Green--a handsome building with a
paddock which enclosed some fine old elms--kept by a "burly savage,"
named the Rev. Charles Delafosse. Although the fees were high,
the school was badly conducted, and the boys were both ill-taught
and ill-fed. Richard employed himself out of school hours fighting
with the other boys, and had at one time thirty-two affairs of
honour to settle. "On the first occasion," he says, "I received
a blow in the eye, which I thought most unfair, and having got my
opponent down I proceeded to hammer his head against the ground,
using his ears by way of handles. My indignation knew no bounds
when I was pulled off by the bystanders, and told to let my enemy
stand up again. 'Stand up!' I cried, 'After all the trouble I've
had to get the fellow down.'" [FN#39]

Of the various countries he knew, Burton hated England most.
Would he ever, he asked see again his "Dear France." And then Fate,
who revels in irony, must needs set him to learn as a school task,
of all the poems in English, Goldsmith's Traveller! So the wretched
boy, cursing England in his heart, scowling and taking it out of
Goldsmith by daubing his pages with ink, sat mumbling:

"Such is the patriot's boast, where'er we roam
His first, best country ever is at home." [FN#40]

By and by, to Burton's extravagant joy--and he always intemperately
loved change--measles broke out in the school, the pupils were
dispersed, and Colonel Burton, tired of Richmond, resolved to make
again for the continent. As tutor for his boys he hired an ox-like
man "with a head the shape of a pear, smaller end uppermost"--
the Rev. H. R. Du Pre afterwards rector of Shellingford; and Maria
was put in charge of a peony-faced lady named Miss Ruxton. The boys
hurrahed vociferously when they left what they called wretched
little England; but subsequently Richard held that his having been
educated abroad was an incalculable loss to him. He said the more
English boys are, "even to the cut of their hair," the better their
chances in life. Moreover, that it is a real advantage to belong to
some parish. "It is a great thing when you have won a battle,
or explored Central Africa, to be welcomed home by some little
corner of the great world, which takes a pride in your exploits,
because they reflect honour on itself." [FN#41] An English
education might have brought Burton more wealth, but for the wild
and adventurous life before him no possible training could have been
better than the varied and desultory one he had. Nor could there
have been a more suitable preparation for the great linguist and
anthropologist. From babyhood he mixed with men of many nations.

5. The Continent Again.

At first the family settled at Blois, where Colonel and Mrs. Burton
gave themselves over to the excitement of dressing three or four
times a day; and, as there was nothing whatever the matter with
them, passed many hours in feeling each other's pulses, looking at
each other's tongues, and doctoring each other. Richard and Edward
devoted themselves to fending and swimming. If the three children
were wild in England they were double wild at Blois. Pear-headed
Mr. Du Pre stuck tenaciously to his work, but Miss Ruxton gave up in
despair and returned to England. At a dancing party the boys learnt
what it was to fall in love. Richard adored an extremely tall young
woman named Miss Donovan, "whose face was truly celestial--being so
far up" but she was unkind, and did not encourage him.

After a year at Blois, Colonel and Mrs. Burton, who had at last
succeeded in persuading themselves that they were really invalids,
resolved to go in search of a more genial climate. Out came the
cumbersome old yellow chariot again, and in this and a chaise drawn
by an ugly beast called Dobbin, the family, with Colonel Burton's
blowpipes, retorts and other "notions," as his son put it, proceeded
by easy stages to Marseilles, whence chariot, chaise, horse and
family were shipped to Leghorn, and a few days later they found
themselves at Pisa. The boys became proficient in Italian and
drawing, but it was not until middle life that Richard's writing
developed into that gossamer hand which so long distinguished it.
Both had a talent for music, but when "a thing like Paganini,
length without breadth" was introduced, and they were ordered to
learn the violin, Richard rebelled, flew into a towering rage and
broke his instrument on his master's head. Edward, however,
threw his whole soul into the work and became one of the finest
amateur violinists of his day. Edward, indeed, was the Greek of
the family, standing for music and song as well as for muscle.
He had the finely chiselled profile and the straight nose that
characterises the faces on Attic coins. Richard, though without
the Roman features, was more of the ancient Roman type of character:
severe, doggedly brave, utilitarian; and he was of considerably
larger mould than his brother. In July 1832, the family stayed at
Siena and later at Perugia, where they visited the tomb of Pietro
Aretino. At Florence, the boys, having induced their sister to lend
them her pocket money, laid it out in a case of pistols; while their
mother went in daily terror lest they should kill each other.
The worst they did, however, was to put a bullet through a very good
hat which belonged to Mr. Du Pre. When their mother begged them not
to read Lord Chesterfield's Letters to a Son, concerning the
morality of which she had doubts, they dutifully complied and
surrendered themselves piously, and without a murmur, to the chaste
pages of Paul de Kock. They did not, however, neglect the art
treasures of Florence; and at Rome, their next stopping-place,
they sauntered about with Baedeker's predecessor, "Mrs. Starke,"
and peered into earthly churches and flower-illumined ruins.
Later the family journeyed to Naples, where the boys continued their
studies under Mr. Du Pre. As a clergyman, this gentleman steadily
inculcated in his pupils the beautiful principles of the Christian
religion, and took a sincere and lively interest in their favourite
pastime of cock-fighting.

Colonel Burton continued his chemical studies, and in an evil hour
for the family, purchased a copy of the quaint text book by
S. Parkes: "A Chemical Catechism ... with copious notes ... to which
are added a Vocabulary and a Chapter of Amusing Experiments."
[FN#42] And very amusing they were when Colonel Burton made them.
Having studied the book closely, including the "poetry" with which
it is studded, he manufactured, at vast expense, a few cakes of a
nasty-looking and evil-smelling substance, which, he said, was soap,
and ought to be put on the market. Mrs. Burton intimated that he
might put it on the market or anywhere else as long as he did not
make any more. He next, by the aid of the same manual, prepared a
mixture which he called citric acid, though any other name would
have suited it equally well; and of this, as neither he nor anybody
else had any use for it, he daily produced large quantities.
From Naples the family moved to Sorrento, where S'or Riccardo and
S'or Edwardo, as the Italians called them, surrendered themselves
to the natural and legendary influences of the neighbourhood and to
reading. The promontory on which Sorrento stands is barren enough,
but southward rise pleasant cliffs viridescent with samphire, and
beyond them purple hills dotted with white spots of houses. At no
great distance, though hidden from view, stood the classic Paestum,
with its temple to Neptune; and nothing was easier than to imagine,
on his native sea as it were, the shell-borne ocean-god and old
Triton blowing his wreathed horn. Capri, the retreat of Tiberius,
was of easy access. Eastward swept a land of myrtle and lemon
orchards. While the elder Burton was immersed in the melodious
Parkes, who sang about "Oxygen, abandoning the mass," and changing
"into gas," his sons played the parts of Anacreon and Ovid, they
crowned their heads with garlands and drank wine like Anacreon,
not omitting the libation, and called to mind the Ovid of well-nigh
two thousand years previous, and his roses of Paestum. From poetry
they turned once more to pistols, again brought their mother's heart
to her mouth, and became generally ungovernable. A visit to a house
of poor reputation having been discovered, their father and
Mr. Du Pre set upon them with horsewhips, whereupon the graceless
but agile youths ran to a neighbouring house and swarmed to the top
of a stack of chimneys, whence partly by word and partly by
gesticulation they arranged terms of peace.

In 1836, the Burtons left for Pau in the South of France; and while
there Richard lost his heart to the daughter of a French baron.
Unfortunately, however, she had to go away to be married; and
Richard who loved her to desperation, wept bitterly, partly because
he was to lose her and partly because she didn't weep too. Edward
and the young lady's sister, who also understood each other, fared
no better, for Colonel Burton having got tired of Pau, the whole
family had to return to Italy. At Pisa "S'or Riccardo" and "S'or
Edwardo" again "cocked their hats and loved the ladies," Riccardo's
choice being a slim, soft, dark beauty named Caterina, Edwardo's her
sister Antonia. Proposals of marriage were made and accepted,
but adieux had soon to follow, for Colonel Burton now moved to
Lucca. All four lovers gave way to tears, and Richard was so wrung
with grief that he did not become engaged again for over a
fortnight. At Lucca the precious pair ruffled it with a number of
dissolute medical students, who taught them several quite original
wickednesses. They went, however, with their parents, into more
wholesome society; and were introduced to Louis Desanges, the battle
painter, Miss Helen Croly, daughter of the author of Salathiel,
and Miss Virginia Gabriel (daughter of General, generally called
Archangel Gabriel) the lady who afterwards attained fame as a
musical composer [FN#43] and became, as we have recently discovered,
one of the friends of Walter Pater. Says Burton "she showed her
savoir faire at the earliest age. At a ball given to the Prince,
all appeared in their finest dresses, and richest jewellery.
Miss Virginia was in white, with a single necklace of pink coral."
They danced till daybreak, when Miss Virginia "was like a rose among
faded dahlias and sunflowers."

Here, as everywhere, there was more pistol practice, and the boys
plumed themselves on having discovered a new vice--that of
opium-eating, while their father made the house unendurable by the
preparation of sulphuretted hydrogen and other highly-scented
compounds. It was recognised, however, that these chemical
experiments had at least the advantage of keeping Colonel Burton
employed, and consequently of allowing everybody a little breathing
time at each stopping-place. In the spring of 1840, Colonel Burton,
Mr. Du Pre and the lads set out for Schinznach, in Switzerland,
to drink the waters; and then the family returned to England in
order that Richard and Edward might have a university education.
Their father, although not quite certain as to their future,
thought they were most adapted for holy orders. Their deportment
was perfect, the ladies admired them, and their worst enemies, it
seems, had never accused them of being "unorthodox in their views."
Indeed, Mrs. Burton already pictured them mitred and croziered.
For a few weeks the budding bishops stayed with "Grandmama Baker,"
who with "Aunt Sarah" and "Aunt Georgiana," and Aunt Sarah's
daughters, Sarah and Elisa, was summering at Hampstead; and filled
up the time, which hung heavy on their hands, with gambling,
drinking and love-making.

Chapter II
October 1840-April 1842

6. Trinity College, October 1840.

Edward was then placed under a clergyman at Cambridge--The Rev.
Mr. Havergal, whose name, to that gentleman's indignation,
the brothers turned into "a peculiar form of ridicule." [FN#44]
Richard was to go to Trinity College, Oxford. Neither, as we have
seen, had been suitably prepared for a University career. Richard,
who could speak fluently French, Italian, and modern Greek, did not
know the Apostles' Creed, and what was even more unusual in a
prospective clergyman, had never heard of the Thirty-nine Articles.
He was struck with the architecture of the colleges, and much
surprised at the meanness of the houses that surrounded them.
He heretically calls the Isis 'a mere moat,' the Cherwell 'a ditch.'
The brilliant dare-devil from Italy despised alike the raw,
limitary, reputable, priggish undergraduates and the dull,
snuffling, smug-looking, fussy dons. The torpor of academic
dulness, indeed, was as irksome to Burton at Oxford as it had been
to FitzGerald and Tennyson at Cambridge. After a little coaching
from Dr. Ogle and Dr. William Alexander Greenhill [FN#45], he in
October 1840, entered Trinity, where he has installed in "a couple
of frowsy dog-holes" overlooking the garden of old Dr. Jenkins,
the Master of Balliol.

"My reception at College," says Burton, "was not pleasant. I had
grown a splendid moustache, which was the envy of all the boys
abroad, and which all the advice of Drs. Ogle and Greenhill failed
to make me remove. I declined to be shaved until formal orders were
issued by the authorities of the college. For I had already formed
strong ideas upon the Shaven Age of England, when her history,
with some brilliant exceptions, such as Marlborough, Wellington and
Nelson, was at its meanest." An undergraduate who laughed at him
he challenged to fight a duel; and when he was reminded that Oxford
"men" like to visit freshmen's rooms and play practical jokes,
he stirred his fire, heated his poker red hot, and waited
impatiently for callers. "The college teaching for which one
was obliged to pay," says Burton, "was of the most worthless
description. Two hours a day were regularly wasted, and those who
read for honours were obliged to choose and pay a private coach."

Another grievance was the constant bell ringing, there being so many
churches and so many services both on week days and Sundays. Later,
however, he discovered that it is possible to study, even at Oxford,
if you plug your ears with cotton-wool soaked in glycerine.
He spent his first months, not in studying, but in rowing, fencing,
shooting the college rooks, and breaking the rules generally.
Many of his pranks were at the expense of Dr. Jenkins, for whose
sturdy common sense, however, he had sincere respect; and long
after, in his Vikram and the Vampire, in which he satirises the
tutors and gerund-grinders of Oxford, he paid him a compliment.

Although he could not speak highly of the dons and undergraduates,
he was forced to admit that in one respect the University
out-distanced all other seats of learning. It produced a breed of
bull-terriers of renowned pedigree which for their "beautiful build"
were a joy to think about and a delirium to contemplate; and of one
of these pugnacious brutes he soon became the proud possessor.
That he got drunk himself and made his fellow collegians drunk he
mentions quite casually, just as he mentions his other preparations
for holy orders. If he walked out with his bull-terrier, it was
generally to Bagley Wood, where a pretty, dizened gipsy girl named
Selina told fortunes; and henceforward he took a keen interest in
Selina's race.

He spent most of his time, however, in the fencing saloons of an
Italian named Angelo and a Scotchman named Maclaren; and it was at
Maclaren's he first met Alfred Bates Richards, who became a life
friend. Richards, an undergraduate of Exeter, was a man of splendid
physique. A giant in height and strength, he defeated all
antagonists at boxing, but Burton mastered him with the foil and the
broad-sword. Richards, who, like Burton, became a voluminous author
[FN#47] wrote long after, "I am sure, though Burton was brilliant,
rather wild, and very popular, none of us foresaw his future

Another Oxford friend of Burton's was Tom Hughes, author of Tom
Brown's Schooldays; the man who, in Burton's phrase, "taught boys
not to be ashamed of being called good," [FN#48] and he always
revered the memory of his tutor, the Rev. Thomas Short. [FN#49]
Burton naturally made enemies as well as friends, but the most
bitter was that imaginary person, Mrs. Grundy. This lady, whom he
always pictured as an exceedingly stout and square-looking body with
capacious skirts, and a look of austere piety, had, he tells us,
"just begun to reign" when he was at Oxford, although forty years
had elapsed since she first made her bow [FN#50], and set everybody
asking, "What will Mrs. Grundy say?" Mrs. Grundy had a great deal
to say against Richard Burton, and, life through, he took a peculiar
delight in affronting her. The good soul disapproved of Burton's
"foreign ways" and his "expressed dislike to school and college
life," she disapproved of much that he did in his prime, and when
he came to translate The Arabian Nights she set up, and not without
justification, a scream that is heard even to this day and in the
remotest corners of the kingdom.

If Richard was miserable at Oxford, Edward was equally so at
Cambridge. After the polish and politeness of Italy, where they had
been "such tremendous dandies and ladies' men," the "boorishness and
shoppiness," of Oxford and Cambridge were well-nigh unendurable.
Seizing an early opportunity, Richard ran over to Cambridge to visit
his brother. "What is the matter, Edward," enquired Richard.
"Why so downcast?" "Oh, Dick," moaned Edward, "I have fallen among
epiciers. [FN#51]"

7. Expelled, April 1842.

The dull life at Oxford was varied by the occasional visit of a
mesmeric lecturer; and one youth caused peals of canorous laughter
by walking round in a pretended mesmeric sleep and kissing the
pretty daughters of the dons.

The only preacher Burton would listen to was Newman, then Vicar of
St. Mary's; of Pusey's interminable and prosy harangues he could not
bear even to think. Although unable to bend himself to the drudgery
of Oxford, Burton was already forming vast ambitions. He longed to
excel as a linguist, and particularly in Oriental languages.
Hence he began to teach himself Arabic; and got a little assistance
from the Spanish scholar Don Pascual de Gayangos. When he asked the
Regius Professor of Arabic to teach him, he was rebuffed with the
information that it was the duty of a professor to teach a class,
not an individual. He spent the vacation with his Grandmother Baker
in Great Cumberland Place, and he and his brother amused themselves
about town with other roisterers, chiefly in gambling. Returned to
Oxford he applied sedulously to the acquisition of foreign
languages. He says, "I got a simple grammar and vocabulary, marked
out the forms and words which I knew were absolutely necessary,
and learnt them by heart. ... I never worked more than a quarter
of an hour at a time, for after that the brain lost its freshness.
After learning some three hundred words, easily done in a week,
I stumbled through some easy book-work and underlined every word
that I wished to recollect. ... Having finished my volume, I then
carefully worked up the grammar minutiae, and I then chose some
other book whose subject most interested me. The neck of the
language was now broken, and progress was rapid. If I came across
a new sound, like the Arabic Ghayn, I trained my tongue to it by
repeating it so many thousand times a day. When I read,
I invariably read out loud, so that the ear might aid memory.
I was delighted with the most difficult characters, Chinese and
Cuneiform, because I felt that they impressed themselves more
strongly upon the eye than the eternal Roman letters." [FN#52]
Such remarks from the man who became the first linguist of his day
are well worth remembering. For pronouncing Latin words the "Roman
way" he was ridiculed, but he lived long enough to see this
pronunciation adopted in all our schools. The long vacation of 1841
was spent at Wiesbaden with his father and mother. Here again the
chief delights of Richard and his brother were gambling and fencing;
and when tired of Wiesbaden they wandered about the country,
visiting among other places Heidelberg and Mannheim. Once more
Richard importuned his father to let him leave Oxford and enter the
army, but Colonel Burton, who still considered his son peculiarly
fitted for the church, was not to be moved. Upon his return to
England, however, Burton resolved to take the matter into his own
hands. He laid his plans, and presently--in April 1842--
an opportunity offered.

The Oxford races of that year were being looked forward to with
exceptional interest because of the anticipated presence of a noted
steeplechaser named Oliver, but at the last moment the college
authorities forbade the undergraduates to attend them.

Burton, however, and some other lawless spirits resolved to go all
the same, and a tandem conveyed them from the rear of Worcester
College to the race meeting. Next morning the culprits were brought
before the college dignitaries; but the dons having lectured Burton,
he began lecturing them--concluding with the observation that young
men ought not to be treated like children. As a consequence,
while the other offenders were merely rusticated, Burton was
expelled. [FN#53] He made a ceremonious bow, and retired "stung
with a sense of injustice," though where the injustice comes in, it
is difficult to see. His departure from Oxford was characteristic.
He and Anderson of Oriel, one of the other offenders, hired a tandem
in which they placed their luggage, and then with "a cantering
leader and a high-trotting shaft horse" they rode through the High
Street, and so on to London, Burton artistically performing upon a
yard of tin trumpet, waving adieux to his friends and kissing his
hands to the shop girls. About the same time Edward, also for
insubordination, had to leave Cambridge. Thus Burton got his own
way, but he long afterwards told his sister, Lady Stisted, that
beneath all his bravado there lay a deep sense of regret that such
a course had been necessary.

Chapter III
April 1842-20th February 1847

8. To Bombay, 18th June 1842.

On his arrival in London, Burton, in order to have an hour or two
of peace, coolly told his people that he had been given an extra
vacation, "as a reward for winning a double first." Then occurred
a quite un-looked-for sequel. His father insisted on giving a
dinner in honour of the success, and Burton, unwillingly enough,
became the hero of the moment. At table, however, a remark from one
of the guests revealed the precise truth--with the result of an
unpleasant scene; but eventually it was deemed advisable to let
Burton have his own way and exchange the surplice for the sword.
The Indian Service having been selected, a commission was purchased
for 500, and Burton presently found himself Ensign to the 18th
Regiment, Bombay Native Infantry. Delirious with joy, he applied
himself vigorously to Hindustani under a dirty, smoky Scotch
linguist, named Duncan Forbes. While thus employed he made the
acquaintance of two persons who just them enjoyed a remarkable
reputation, namely John Varley [FN#54], the water colour painter and
occultist, and the Rev. Robert Montgomery. [FN#55] An artist of
undoubted genius, Varley usually got fair prices for his pictures,
but the expenses of a numerous family kept him miserably poor.
Then he took to "judicial astrology," and eventually made it a kind
of second profession. Curious to say, some of his predictions came
true, and thanks to this freak of fate he obtained more fame from
his horoscopes than from his canvasses. He "prognosticated," says
Burton, "that I was to become a great astrologer." Straightway
Burton buried himself in astrological and cabalistic books [FN#56],
studied the uncanny arts, and became learned in "dark spells and
devilish enginery," but his own prophecies generally proved to be
of the Moseilima type; that is to say, the opposite invariably
happened--a fatality that pursued him to the end of life. The Rev.
Robert Montgomery, with whom also he became acquainted, was the
fashionable preacher and author whom Macaulay cudgelled so
pitilessly in the Edinburgh Review. Burton's aunts, Sarah and
Georgiana, [FN#57] who went with the crowd to his chapel,
ranked the author of "Satan, a Poem," rather above Shakespeare,
and probably few men have received higher encomiums or a greater
number of wool-work slippers.

Having been sworn in at the East India House, Burton went down to
Greenwich, whence on 18th June, 1842, after being "duly wept over,"
he, in company with his beautifully built bull-terrier of renowned
pedigree, set sail for Bombay. He divided his time during the
voyage, which lasted four months, between studying Hindustani and
taking part in the quarrels of the crew. This was the year of the
murder of Sir William Macnaughten by the Afghans and the disastrous
retreat of the British from Cabul; consequently the first request of
the voyagers on reaching Bombay (28th October 1842) was for news
about Afghanistan. They learnt that the prestige of the British
arms had been restored by Pollack, and that the campaign was ended.

To Burton, who had counted on being sent to the front, this was a
burning disappointment. He found Bombay marvellously picturesque,
with its crowds of people from all parts of the world, but before
many days had passed he fell ill and had to be transferred to the
Sanitarium, where he made the acquaintance of an old Parsee priest
who assisted him in his Hindustani. Even in these early days we
find him collecting material of the kind that was to be utilised
in his Arabian Nights. He was struck, for example, with the fine
hedges of henna whose powerful and distinctive odour loaded the
atmosphere; and with the immense numbers of ravenous kites and
grey-headed crows that swooped down on dead and even dying animals.

9. Baroda. The Bubu.

After six weeks' rest, having received orders to join his regiment,
which was then stationed at Baroda, he engaged some Goanese servants
and made the voyage thither in a small vessel called a pattymar.
It took them four days to march from the Tankaria-Bunder mudbank,
where they landed, to Baroda; and Burton thus graphically describes
the scenery through which they passed. "The ground, rich black
earth ... was covered with vivid, leek-like, verdigris green.
The little villages, with their leafy huts, were surrounded and
protected by hedge milk bush, the colour of emeralds. A light veil,
as of Damascene silver, hung over each settlement, and the
magnificent trees were tipped by peacocks screaming their good-night
to the son." The sharp bark of the monkey mingled with the bray of
the conch. Arrived at Baroda, he lodged himself in a bungalow,
and spent his time alternately there with his books and on the drill
ground. He threw himself into his studies with an ardour scarcely
credible--devoting twelve hours a day to Hindustani, and outwearying
two munshis.

At that time it was quite the custom for the officers, married as
well as single, to form irregular unions with the Hindu women.
Every individual had his Bubu; consequently half-caste children were
not uncommon; but Burton was of opinion that this manner of life had
advantages as well as disadvantages. It connected, he says,
"the white stranger with the country and its people, gave him an
interest in their manners and customs, and taught him thoroughly
well their language." Like the rest, Burton had his Bubu. Still,
he was no voluptuary. Towering ambition, enthusiasm, and passion
for hard work trampled down all meaner instincts. Languages, not
amours, were his aspiration, and his mind ran on grammar books
rather than ghazels; though he confesses to having given whole days
and nights to the tender pages of Euclid. Indeed, he was of a cold
nature, and Plutarch's remark about Alexander applies equally to
him: "For though otherwise he was very hot and hasty, yet was he
hardly moved with lust or pleasure of the body." When the officers
were not on the drill ground or philandering with their dusky loves,
they amused themselves shooting the black buck, tigers, and the
countless birds with which the neighbourhood abounded. The dances
of the aphish-looking Nautch girls, dressed though they were in
magnificent brocades, gave Burton disgust rather than pleasure.
The Gaikwar, whose state processions were gorgeous to a wonder,
occasionally inaugurated spectacles like those of the old Roman
arena, and we hear of fights between various wild animals.
"Cocking" was universal, and Burton, who as a lad had patronised
this cruel sport, himself kept a fighter--"Bhujang"--of which he
speaks affectionately, as one might of an only child. The account
of the great fight between Bhujang and the fancy of a certain
Mr. Ahmed Khan, which took place one evening "after prayers,"
may be read by those who have a taste for such matters in Burton's
book Sind Revisited. [FN#58] When Bhujang died, Burton gave it
almost Christian burial near his bungalow, and the facetious
enquired whether the little mound was not "a baby's grave."

His hero was the eagle-faced little veteran and despot, Sir Charles
Napier, generally known from his Jewish look as "Fagin," and from
his irascibility as "The Devil's Brother," and after the war with
Sind, the chief event of which was the battle of Meeanee
(February 21st), where Sir Charles and Major Outram defeated
the Ameer, his admiration grew almost to worship; though he did not
actually see his hero till some months later. According to Punch
the news of the battle was transmitted to headquarters in one word:
"Peccavi." A quarrel then broke out between the great English
leaders, and Western India was divided into the two opposing camps
of Outramists and Napierists, Burton, of course, siding with the
latter. In April, Burton returned to Bombay to present himself for
examination in Hindustani, and having passed with honour [FN#59]
he returned to Baroda, where he experienced all the inconveniences
attendant on the south-west monsoon. The rain fell in cataracts.
Night and day he lay or sat in a wet skin; the air was alive with
ants and other winged horrors, which settled on both food and drink,
while the dust storms were so dense that candles had to be burned in
mid-day. However he applied himself vigorously to Gujarati [FN#60],
the language of the country, and also took lessons in Sanskrit.

"I soon," he says, "became as well acquainted as a stranger can with
the practice of Hinduism. I carefully read up Ward, Moor, and the
publications of the Asiatic Society ... and eventually my Hindu
teacher officially allowed me to wear the Brahminical thread."
He learnt some of the Hindu text books by heart, including the
Tota-kahani [FN#61], which gave him a taste for "parrot books,"
[FN#62] on which he became an authority; while the study of the
Baital-Pachisi led to his writing Vikram and the Vampire. [FN#63]
All this application caused his fellow officers to call him
"The White Nigger."

Although, in after years, Burton often made bitter attacks on
Christianity, and wrote most scathingly against the Roman Catholic
priesthood, and the cenobitic life of the monks, yet at times he had
certain sympathies with Roman Catholicism. Thus at Baroda, instead
of attending the services of the garrison chaplain, he sat under the
pleasant Goanese priest who preached to the camp servants; but he
did not call himself a Catholic. In August he visited Bombay to be
examined in Gujarati; and having passed with distinction, he once
more returned to Baroda--just in time to join in the farewell revels
of his regiment, which was ordered to Sind.

10. Karachi. Love of Disguise.

On board the Semiramis, in which the voyage was performed, he made
the acquaintance of Captain Scott, nephew of the novelist--
a handsome man "with yellow hair and beard," and friendship
followed. Both were fond of ancient history and romance,
and Burton, who could speak Italian fluently and had knowledge of
the canalization of the Po Valley, was able to render Scott,
whose business was the surveyal of Sind, the precise assistance
he just then required. Burton also formed a friendship with
Dr. John Steinhauser, afterwards surgeon at Aden. Then, too,
it was at Karachi that he first saw his hero, Sir Charles Napier.
Though his ferocious temper repelled some, and his Rabelaisisms and
kindred witticisms others, Sir Charles won the admiration and esteem
of almost all who knew him. It was from him, to some extent,
that Burton acquired the taste, afterwards so extraordinarily
developed for erotic, esoteric and other curious knowledge.
Napier intensely hated the East India Company, as the champions
of his detested rival, Major Outram, and customarily spoke of them
contemptuously as the "Twenty-four kings of Leadenhall Street,"
while Burton on his part felt little respect for the effete and
maundering body whose uniform he wore and whose pay he drew.

Karachi [FN#64], then not much better than a big village,
was surrounded by walls which were perforated with "nostril holes,"
for pouring boiling water through in times of siege. There were
narrow lanes, but no streets--the only open place being a miserable
bazaar; while owing to the absence of sewers the stench was at times
unendurable. Near the town was a great shallow artificial pond
which abounded in huge sleepy crocodiles, sacred animals which were
tended by a holy fakir, and one of Burton's amusements was to worry
these creatures with his bull terrier. Tired of that pastime,
he would muzzle a crocodile by means of a fowl fastened to a hook at
the end of a rope, and then jump on to its back and take a zig-zag
ride. [FN#65] The feat of his friend, Lieutenant Beresford, of the
86th, however, was more daring even than that. Here and there in
the pond were islets of rank grass, and one day noticing that the
crocodiles and islets made a line across the pond, he took a run and
hopped from one crocodile's back on to another or an islet until he
reached the opposite side, though many a pair of huge jaws snapped
angrily as he passed.

Burton presently found himself gazetted as Captain Scott's
assistant; and having learnt the use of the theodolite and the
spirit level, he went on December 10th (1844) with a surveying party
to Hyderbad [FN#66] and the Guni River. The work was trying, but he
varied it with hawking; and collected material for a work which he
published eight years later with the title of Falconry in the Valley
of the Indus. He then made the acquaintance of three natives,
all of whom assisted him in his linguistic studies, Mirza Ali
Akhbar [FN#67], Mirza Daud, and Mirza Mohammed Musayn. Helped by
the last he opened covertly at Karachi several shops with the
object, however, not of making profit, but of obtaining intimate
knowledge of the people and their secret customs. Then he put on
long hair and a venerable beard, stained his limbs with henna,
and called himself Abdullah of Bushire, a half-Arab. In this
disguise, with spear in hand and pistols in holsters, he travelled
the country with a little pack of nick-knacks. In order to display
his stock he boldly entered private houses, for he found that if the
master wanted to eject him, the mistress would be sure to oppose
such a measure.

All his life he loved to disguise himself. We shall see him later
as a Greek doctor, a Pathan Hakim, and an Arab shaykh. His shops
had plenty of customers, for he was in the habit of giving the
ladies, especially if they were pretty, "the heaviest possible
weight for their money," though sometimes he would charge too much
in order to induce them to chaffer with him. He learnt most,
however, from the garrulity of a decayed beauty named Khanum Jan,
who in her springtide had married a handsome tailor. Her husband
having lost the graces of his person, she generally alluded to him
affectionately as "that old hyena." This couple proved a Golconda
for information. Burton had not long studied these and other
persons before coming to the conclusion that the Eastern mind is
always in extremes, that it ignores what is meant by the "golden
mean," and that it delights to range in flights limited only by the
ne plus ultra of Nature herself. He picked up miscellaneous
information about magic, white and black, Yoga [FN#68],
local manners and customs such as circumcision, both female and
male, and other subjects, all of which he utilised when he came
to write his Notes and Terminal Essay to The Arabian Nights,
particularly the articles on Al Islam and woman. Then, too,
when at Bombay and other large towns he used to ransack the bazaars
for rare books and manuscripts, whether ancient or contemporaneous.
Still, the most valuable portion of his knowledge was acquired

11. A Dangerous Mission, 1845.

About this time it was reported to Sir Charles Napier that Karachi,
though a town of only 2,000 souls, supported no fewer than three
houses which were devoted to a particular and unspeakable vice
[FN#69] which is said to be common in the East. Sir Charles,
whose custom it was to worm out the truth respecting anything and
everything, at once looked round for someone willing to make
enquiries and to report upon the subject. Burton being then the
only British officer who could speak Sindi, the choice naturally
fell upon him, and he undertook the task, only, however, on the
express condition that his report should not be forwarded to the
Bombay Government, from whom supporters of Napier's policy "could
expect scant favour, mercy, or justice." Accompanied by his Munshi,
Mirza Mohammed Hosayn Shiraz, and disguised as a merchant, Burton
passed many evenings in the town, made the required visits,
and obtained the fullest details, which were duly dispatched to
Government House. But in 1847, when Napier quitted Sind "he left
in his office Burton's unfortunate official." "This," says Burton,
"found its way with sundry other reports to Bombay, and produced the
expected result. A friend in the secretariat informed me that my
summary dismissal had been formally proposed by one of Sir Charles
Napier's successors, but this excess of outraged modesty was not
allowed." [FN#70] A little later, however, Burton had to suffer
very severely for this unfortunate occurrence. Of course he heard
regularly from home. His father was still immersed in blow-pipes
and retorts, his mother still mildly protesting. His sister, who
had won to herself for her loveliness the name of "the Moss Rose,"
was married to General Sir Henry Stisted [FN#71], his brother Edward
was practising as an army doctor; his Grandmother Baker was dead.

12. The Persian Beauty.

During one of his rambles he formed the acquaintance of a beautiful
olive, oval-faced Persian girl of high descent. We are told that
her "eyes were narcissi, her cheeks sweet basil," her personal
charms together with her siren voice and sweet disposition caused
him to fall in love with her; but he had scarcely learnt that his
passion was reciprocated before she died. We are told also that for
many years he could never think of her without pain; and that when,
some time after, he narrated the story to his sister he revealed
considerable emotion. Miss Stisted thought she could see references
to this episode in Burton's poem The Kasidah, portions of which were
written some three years later: "Mine eyes, my brain, my heart are
sad--sad is the very core of me." This may be so, but the birth of
a litter of pups, presented to him by his beloved bull terrier,
seems to have taken the edge off his grief; and his tribute to one
of these pups, which received the name of Bachhun, is really

The "Acting Commissioner" of the time was General Jacob of the Sind
Horse, who wore a helmet of silver and a sabre-tache studded with
diamonds. This, however, was not from pride or love of display,
but because he held it policy in those who have to deal with Hindus
not to neglect show and splendour. "In the eyes of Orientals,"
he used to remark, and Burton endorsed the saying, "no man is great
unless he is also superbly dressed." As Jacob stuttered, one of his
correspondents thought his name was J. J. J. J. J. Jacob,
and terribly offended the testy General by writing it so. A brave
and self-confident, but rancorous old man, Jacob by his senseless
regulations brought the Indian army to the verge of ruin.
This peccadillo was passed over, but a more serious offence,
his inability to play whist, was remembered against him by his
brother officers right to the day of his death. [FN#73]

13. A Simian Dictionary.

When the Sikh war broke out Burton resigned his post under Scott
in order to take part in the campaign in the Punjab, but peace being
proclaimed a few weeks later, after the battle of Sobraon, Burton
had no opportunities of distinguishing himself. So he returned to
his studies, and now became ambitious to understand not only the
people but also the monkeys of India. Consequently he collected
some forty of them, made them live and eat after the manner of
humans; and studies them as they mowed and gibbered. He would then
talk to them and pronounce the sounds they made, until at last they
could conduct quite a conversation together. Burton never divulged
this talk, which, of course, may have been of a confidential nature,
but he compiled a Simian Dictionary, and thus to some extent
anticipated the work of Mr. R. L. Garner. Unfortunately the
dictionary was some years later destroyed by fire.

14. Duality.

We shall often notice in Burton's life what Burton himself called
his dual nature. In the tale of Janshah in The Arabian Nights we
read of a race of split men who separated longitudinally, each half
hopping about contentedly on its own account, and reuniting with its
fellow at pleasure. If Burton in a pre-existent state--and he half
believed in the Pre-existence of Souls--belonged to this race,
and one of his halves became accidentally united to one of the
halves of somebody else, the condition of affairs would be
explicable. In any circumstances, he was always insisting on his
duality. For example--a kind-hearted man, who detested cruelty to
animals, nevertheless he delighted, as we have seen, in the sport of
cocking; an ambitious man, who wore himself out with his studies yet
he neutralised all his efforts to rise by giving way to an
ungovernable temper. He would say just what he thought, and no man
could have exhibited less tact. Thus he managed to give offence,
and quite unnecessarily, to his superior officer, Colonel Henry
Corsellis, and they were henceforth at handgrips.

Among his favourite books was Jami's Beharistan. The only pity is
that he did not take the advice proffered in the Third Garden:

"If Alexander's realm you want, to work adroitly go,
Make friends more friendly still, and make a friend of every foe."

Other instances of opposing qualities will be noticed as this work
proceeds. Late in life, when he took to glasses, Burton used to say
"My duality is proved by my eyes alone. My right eye requires a
No. 50 convex lens, my left a No. 14." His assiduous application
to his studies now brought about an illness, and, having returned
to Bombay, he obtained two years' leave of absence to the salubrious


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