Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS (/ˈbɜːrtən/; 19 March 1821 – 20 October 1890) was a British explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He was famed for his travels and explorations in Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. According to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian and African languages.
Burton's best-known achievements include: a well-documented journey to Mecca in disguise, at a time when Europeans were forbidden access on pain of death; an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights (commonly called The Arabian Nights in English after early translations of Antoine Galland's French version); the publication of the Kama Sutra in English; and a journey with John Hanning Speke as the first Europeans to visit the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile.
His works and letters extensively criticized colonial policies of the British Empire, even to the detriment of his career. Although he aborted his university studies, he became a prolific and erudite author and wrote numerous books and scholarly articles about subjects including human behaviour, travel, falconry, fencing, sexual practices and ethnography. A characteristic feature of his books is the copious footnotes and appendices containing remarkable observations and information. William Henry Wilkins wrote: "So far as I can gather from all I have learned, the chief value of Burton’s version of The Scented Garden lay not so much in his translation of the text, though that of course was admirably done, as in the copious notes and explanations which he had gathered together for the purpose of annotating the book. He had made this subject a study of years. For the notes of the book alone he had been collecting material for thirty years, though his actual translation of it only took him eighteen months."
Burton was a captain in the army of the East India Company, serving in India (and later, briefly, in the Crimean War). Following this, he was engaged by the Royal Geographical Society to explore the east coast of Africa and led an expedition guided by locals and was the first European known to have seen Lake Tanganyika. In later life, he served as British consul in Fernando Pó, Santos, Damascus and, finally, Trieste. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and was awarded a knighthood in 1886.
Sir Richard Francis Burton
Burton in 1864
|Born||19 March 1821|
|Died||20 October 1890 (aged 69)|
|Burial place||St Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Church, Mortlake, London, England|
|Other names||Mirza Abdullah the Bushri|
Hâjî Abdû El-Yezdî
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Oxford|
|Occupation||Soldier, diplomat, explorer, translator, arabist, author|
|Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al Madinah and Meccah;|
The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night;
Isabel Arundell (m. 1861)
|Years of service||1842–61|
|Awards||Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George|
Burton was born in Torquay, Devon, at 21:30 on 19 March 1821; in his autobiography, he incorrectly claimed to have been born in the family home at Barham House in Elstree in Hertfordshire. He was baptized on 2 September 1821 at Elstree Church in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. His father, Lt.-Colonel Joseph Netterville Burton, of the 36th Regiment, was an Irish-born British army officer of Anglo-Irish extraction who through his mother's family – the Campbells of Tuam – was a first cousin of Lt.-Colonel Henry Peard Driscoll and Mrs Richard Graves. Richard's mother, Martha Baker, was the daughter and co-heiress of a wealthy English squire, Richard Baker (1762–1824), of Barham House, Hertfordshire, for whom he was named. Burton had two siblings, Maria Katherine Elizabeth Burton (who married Lt.-General Sir Henry William Stisted) and Edward Joseph Netterville Burton, born in 1823 and 1824, respectively.
Burton's family travelled considerably during his childhood. In 1825, they moved to Tours, France. Burton's early education was provided by various tutors employed by his parents. He first began a formal education in 1829 at a preparatory school on Richmond Green in Richmond, Surrey, run by Rev. Charles Delafosse. Over the next few years, his family travelled between England, France, and Italy. Burton showed an early gift for languages and quickly learned French, Italian, Neapolitan, and Latin, as well as several dialects. During his youth, he was rumored to have carried on an affair with a young Roma woman, learning the rudiments of her language, Romani. The peregrinations of his youth may have encouraged Burton to regard himself as an outsider for much of his life. As he put it, "Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause".
Burton matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, on 19 November 1840. Before getting a room at the college, he lived for a short time in the house of Dr. William Alexander Greenhill, then physician to the Radcliffe Infirmary. Here, he met John Henry Newman, whose churchwarden was Dr. Greenhill. Despite his intelligence and ability, Burton was antagonised by his teachers and peers. During his first term, he is said to have challenged another student to a duel after the latter mocked Burton's moustache. Burton continued to gratify his love of languages by studying Arabic; he also spent his time learning falconry and fencing. In April 1842, he attended a steeplechase in deliberate violation of college rules and subsequently dared to tell the college authorities that students should be allowed to attend such events. Hoping to be merely "rusticated" – that is, suspended with the possibility of reinstatement, the punishment received by some less provocative students who had also visited the steeplechase – he was instead permanently expelled from Trinity College.
In his own words, "fit for nothing but to be shot at for six pence a day", Burton enlisted in the army of the East India Company at the behest of his ex-college classmates who were already members. He hoped to fight in the first Afghan war, but the conflict was over before he arrived in India. He was posted to the 18th Bombay Native Infantry based in Gujarat and under the command of General Charles James Napier. While in India, he became a proficient speaker of Hindustani, Gujarati, Punjabi, Sindhi, Saraiki and Marathi as well as Persian and Arabic. His studies of Hindu culture had progressed to such an extent that "my Hindu teacher officially allowed me to wear the Janeu (Brahmanical Thread)", although the truth of this has been questioned, since it would usually have required long study, fasting, and a partial shaving of the head. It has been suggested that his teacher, a Nagar Brahmin could have been an apostate. Burton's interest (and active participation) in the cultures and religions of India was considered peculiar by some of his fellow soldiers who accused him of "going native" and called him "the White Nigger". Burton had many peculiar habits that set him apart from other soldiers. While in the army, he kept a large menagerie of tame monkeys in the hopes of learning their language. He also earned the name "Ruffian Dick" for his "demonic ferocity as a fighter and because he had fought in single combat more enemies than perhaps any other man of his time".
Motivated by his love of adventure, Burton got the approval of the Royal Geographical Society for an exploration of the area, and he gained permission from the board of directors of the British East India Company to take leave from the army. His seven years in India gave Burton a familiarity with the customs and behaviour of Muslims and prepared him to attempt a Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca and, in this case, Medina). It was this journey, undertaken in 1853, which first made Burton famous. He had planned it whilst traveling disguised among the Muslims of Sindh, and had laboriously prepared for the adventure by study and practice (including undergoing the Muslim tradition of circumcision to further lower the risk of being discovered).
Although Burton was certainly not the first non-Muslim European to make the Hajj (Ludovico di Varthema did this in 1503), his pilgrimage is the most famous and the best documented of the time. He adopted various disguises including that of a Pashtun to account for any oddities in speech, but he still had to demonstrate an understanding of intricate Islamic traditions, and a familiarity with the minutiae of Eastern manners and etiquette. Burton's trek to Mecca was dangerous, and his caravan was attacked by bandits (a common experience at the time). As he put it, though "... neither Koran or Sultan enjoin the death of Jew or Christian intruding within the columns that note the sanctuary limits, nothing could save a European detected by the populace, or one who after pilgrimage declared himself an unbeliever". The pilgrimage entitled him to the title of Hajji and to wear the green head wrap. Burton's own account of his journey is given in A Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah.
When Burton returned to the British Army, he sat for examination as an Arab linguist. The examiner was Robert Lambert Playfair, who disliked Burton. As Professor George Percy Badger knew Arabic well, Playfair asked Badger to oversee the exam. Having been told that Burton could be vindictive, and wishing to avoid any animosity should Burton fail, Badger declined. Playfair conducted the tests; despite Burton's success living as an Arab, Playfair had recommended to the committee that Burton be failed. Badger later told Burton that "After looking [Burton's test] over, I [had] sent them back to [Playfair] with a note eulogising your attainments and ... remarking on the absurdity of the Bombay Committee being made to judge your proficiency inasmuch as I did not believe that any of them possessed a tithe of the knowledge of Arabic you did."
Following his return to Cairo from Mecca, Burton sailed to India to rejoin his regiment. In March 1854, he transferred to the political department of the East India Company and went to Aden on the Arabian Peninsula in order to prepare for a new expedition, supported by the Royal Geographical Society, to explore the interior of the Somali Country and beyond, where Burton hoped to discover the large lakes he had heard about from Arab travelers. It was in Aden in September of this year that he first met Lieutenant John Hanning Speke, who would accompany him on his most famous exploration. Burton undertook the first part of the trip alone. He made an expedition to Harar (in present-day Ethiopia), which no European had entered (indeed there was a prophecy that the city would decline if a Christian was admitted inside).
This leg of the expedition lasted from 29 October 1854 to 9 February 1855, with much of the time spent in the port of Zeila where Burton was a guest of the town's Governor Haji Sharmarke Ali Saleh. Burton, "assuming the disguise of an Arab merchant", awaited word that the road to Harar was safe. Burton not only travelled to Harar but also was introduced to the Emir and stayed in the city for ten days, officially a guest of the Emir but in reality his prisoner. The journey back was plagued by lack of supplies, and Burton wrote that he would have died of thirst had he not seen desert birds and realized they would be near water.
Following this adventure, Burton prepared to set out for the interior accompanied by Lieutenant Speke, Lieutenant G. E. Herne and Lieutenant William Stroyan and a number of Africans employed as bearers. However, while the expedition was camped near Berbera, his party was attacked by a group of Somali waranle ("warriors") belonging to Isaaq clan. The officers estimated the number of attackers at 200. In the ensuing fight, Stroyan was killed and Speke was captured and wounded in eleven places before he managed to escape. Burton was impaled with a javelin, the point entering one cheek and exiting the other. This wound left a notable scar that can be easily seen on portraits and photographs. He was forced to make his escape with the weapon still transfixing his head. It was no surprise then that he found the Somalis to be a "fierce and turbulent race". However, the failure of this expedition was viewed harshly by the authorities, and a two-year investigation was set up to determine to what extent Burton was culpable for this disaster. While he was largely cleared of any blame, this did not help his career. He describes the harrowing attack in First Footsteps in East Africa (1856).
In 1855, Burton rejoined the army and traveled to the Crimea, hoping to see active service in the Crimean War. He served on the staff of Beatson's Horse, a corps of Bashi-bazouks, local fighters under the command of General Beatson, in the Dardanelles. The corps was disbanded following a "mutiny" after they refused to obey orders, and Burton's name was mentioned (to his detriment) in the subsequent inquiry.
In 1856, the Royal Geographical Society funded another expedition in which Burton set off from Zanzibar to explore an "inland sea" that had been described by Arab traders and slavers. His mission was to study the area's tribes and to find out what exports might be possible from the region. It was hoped that the expedition might lead to the discovery of the source of the River Nile, although this was not an explicit aim. Burton had been told that only a fool would say his expedition aimed to find the source of the Nile because anything short of that would then be regarded as a failure.
Before leaving for Africa, Burton became secretly engaged to Isabel Arundell. Her family, particularly her mother, would not allow a marriage since Burton was not a Catholic and was not wealthy, although in time the relationship became tolerated.
John Hanning Speke again accompanied him and on 27 June 1857, they set out from the east coast of Africa heading west in search of the lake or lakes. They were helped greatly by the Omani Arabs who lived and traded in the region. They followed the traditional caravan routes, hiring professional porters and guides who had been making similar treks for years. From the start, the outward journey was beset with problems such as recruiting reliable bearers and the theft of equipment and supplies by deserting expedition members.
Both men were beset by a variety of tropical diseases on the journey. Speke was rendered blind by a disease for some of the journey and deaf in one ear (due to an infection caused by attempts to remove a beetle). Burton was unable to walk for some of the journey and had to be carried by the bearers.
The expedition arrived at Lake Tanganyika in February 1858. Burton was awestruck by the sight of the magnificent lake, but Speke, who had been temporarily blinded, was unable to see the body of water. By this point much of their surveying equipment was lost, ruined, or stolen, and they were unable to complete surveys of the area as well as they wished. Burton was again taken ill on the return journey, and Speke continued exploring without him, making a journey to the north and eventually locating the great Lake Victoria, or Victoria Nyanza. Lacking supplies and proper instruments, Speke was unable to survey the area properly but was privately convinced that it was the long sought source of the Nile. Burton's description of the journey is given in Lake Regions of Equatorial Africa (1860). Speke gave his own account in The Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile (1863).
Both Burton and Speke were in extremely poor health after the journey and returned home separately. As usual, Burton kept very detailed notes, not just on the geography but also on the languages, customs, and even sexual habits of the people he encountered. Although it was Burton's last great expedition, his geographical and cultural notes proved invaluable for subsequent explorations by Speke and James Augustus Grant, Samuel Baker, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. Speke and Grant's (1863) exploration began on the east coast near Zanzibar again and went around the west side of Lake Victoria to Lake Albert and finally returned in triumph via the River Nile. However, crucially, they had lost track of the river's course between Lake Victoria and Albert. This left Burton, and others, unsatisfied that the source of the Nile was conclusively proven.
A prolonged public quarrel followed, damaging the reputations of both Burton and Speke. Some biographers have suggested that friends of Speke (particularly Laurence Oliphant) had initially stirred up trouble between the two. Burton's sympathizers contend that Speke resented Burton's leadership role. Tim Jeal, who has accessed Speke's personal papers, suggests that it was more likely the other way around, Burton being jealous and resentful of Speke's determination and success. "As the years went by, [Burton] would neglect no opportunity to deride and undermine Speke's geographical theories and achievements".
Speke had earlier proven his mettle by trekking through the mountains of Tibet, but Burton regarded him as inferior as he did not speak any Arabic or African languages. Despite his fascination with non-European cultures, some have portrayed Burton as an unabashed imperialist convinced of the historical and intellectual superiority of the white race, citing his involvement in the Anthropological Society, an organization that established a doctrine of scientific racism. Speke appears to have been kinder and less intrusive to the Africans they encountered, and reportedly fell in love with an African woman on a future expedition.
There were also problems with the debt associated with their expedition, for which Speke claimed Burton had sole responsibility. But their biggest disagreement was on the source of the Nile.
The two men travelled home separately. Speke returned to London first and presented a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society, claiming Lake Victoria as the source of the Nile. According to Burton, Speke broke an agreement they had made to give their first public speech together. Apart from Burton's word, there is no proof that such an agreement existed, and most modern researchers doubt that it did. Tim Jeal, evaluating the written evidence, says the odds are "heavily against Speke having made a pledge to his former leader".
Burton arrived in London to find Speke being lionized and his own role being considered secondary. Speke had already applied for further expeditions to the region without Burton. In subsequent months both men attempted to harm each other's reputations. Burton disparaged Speke's claims, calling his evidence inconclusive and his measurements inaccurate.
Speke undertook a second expedition, along with Captain James Grant and Sidi Mubarak Bombay, to prove that Lake Victoria was the true source of the Nile. Speke, in light of the issues he was having with Burton, had Grant sign a statement saying, among other things, "I renounce all my rights to publishing ... my own account [of the expedition] until approved of by Captain Speke or [the Royal Geographical Society]". Burton and Livingstone were still unconvinced, but believing the matter had settled, the Royal Geographical Society awarded Speke its Gold Medal.
On 16 September 1864, Burton and Speke were scheduled to debate the source of the Nile at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. On the day before the debate, Burton and Speke sat near each other in the lecture hall. According to Burton's wife, Speke stood up, said "I can't stand this any longer," and abruptly left the hall. That afternoon Speke went hunting on the nearby estate of a relative. He was discovered lying near a stone wall, felled by a fatal gunshot wound from his hunting shotgun. Burton learned of Speke's death the following day while waiting for their debate to begin. A jury ruled Speke's death an accident. An obituary surmised that Speke, while climbing over the wall, had carelessly pulled the gun after himself with the muzzle pointing at his chest and shot himself. Alexander Maitland, Speke's only biographer, concurs.
On 22 January 1861, Burton and Isabel married in a quiet Catholic ceremony although he did not adopt the Catholic faith at this time. Shortly after this, the couple were forced to spend some time apart when he formally entered the Diplomatic Service as consul on the island of Fernando Po, now Bioko in Equatorial Guinea. This was not a prestigious appointment; because the climate was considered extremely unhealthy for Europeans, Isabel could not accompany him. Burton spent much of this time exploring the coast of West Africa. He described some of his experiences, including a trip up the Congo River to the Yellala Falls and beyond, in his 1876 book Two trips to gorilla land and the cataracts of the Congo.
The couple were reunited in 1865 when Burton was transferred to Santos in Brazil. Once there, Burton travelled through Brazil's central highlands, canoeing down the São Francisco River from its source to the falls of Paulo Afonso.
In 1868 he was appointed as the British consul in Damascus, an ideal post for someone with Burton's knowledge of the region and customs. However Burton made many enemies during his time there. He managed to antagonise much of the Jewish population of the area because of a dispute concerning money-lending. It had been the practice for the British consulate to take action against those who defaulted on loans but Burton saw no reason to continue this practice and this caused a great deal of hostility.
He and Isabel greatly enjoyed their time there, and considered it the best years of their lives. They befriended Jane Digby, the well-known adventurer, and Abdelkader El Djezairi, a prominent leader of the Algerian revolution then living in exile.
However, the area was in some turmoil at the time with considerable tensions between the Christian, Jewish and Muslim populations. Burton did his best to keep the peace and resolve the situation, but this sometimes led him into trouble. On one occasion, he claims to have escaped an attack by hundreds of armed horsemen and camel riders sent by Mohammed Rashid Pasha, the Governor of Syria. He wrote, "I have never been so flattered in my life than to think it would take three hundred men to kill me."
In addition to these incidents, there were a number of people who disliked Burton and wished him removed from such a sensitive position. He was recalled in 1871, prompting a telegram to Isabel "I am superseded. Pay, pack, and follow at convenience", and reassigned in 1872 to the sleepy port city of Trieste in Austria-Hungary. A "broken man", Burton was never particularly content with this post, but it required little work, was far less dangerous than Damascus (as well as less exciting), and allowed him the freedom to write and travel.
In 1863 Burton co-founded the Anthropological Society of London with Dr. James Hunt. In Burton's own words, the main aim of the society (through the publication of the periodical Anthropologia) was "to supply travelers with an organ that would rescue their observations from the outer darkness of manuscript and print their curious information on social and sexual matters". On 13 February 1886 Burton was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) by Queen Victoria.
He wrote a number of travel books in this period that were not particularly well received. His best-known contributions to literature were those considered risqué or even pornographic at the time and which were published under the auspices of the Kama Shastra society. These books include The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana (1883) (popularly known as the Kama Sutra), The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885) (popularly known as The Arabian Nights), The Perfumed Garden of the Shaykh Nefzawi (1886) and The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night (seventeen volumes 1886–98).
Published in this period, but composed on his return journey from Mecca, The Kasidah has been cited as evidence of Burton's status as a Bektashi Sufi. Deliberately presented by Burton as a translation, the poem and his notes and commentary on it contain layers of Sufic meaning, that seem to have been designed to project Sufi teaching in the West. "Do what thy manhood bids thee do/ from none but self expect applause;/ He noblest lives and noblest dies/ who makes and keeps his self-made laws" is The Kasidah's most often-quoted passage. As well as references to many themes from Classical Western myths, the poem contains many laments that are accented with fleeting imagery such as repeated comparisons to "the tinkling of the Camel bell" that becomes inaudible as the animal vanishes in the darkness of the desert.
Other works of note include a collection of Hindu tales, Vikram and the Vampire (1870); and his uncompleted history of swordsmanship, The Book of the Sword (1884). He also translated The Lusiads, the Portuguese national epic by Luís de Camões, in 1880 and, the next year, wrote a sympathetic biography of the poet and adventurer. The book The Jew, the Gipsy and el Islam was published posthumously in 1898 and was controversial for its criticism of Jews and for its assertion of the existence of Jewish human sacrifices. (Burton's investigations into this had provoked hostility from the Jewish population in Damascus (see the Damascus affair). The manuscript of the book included an appendix discussing the topic in more detail, but by the decision of his widow, it was not included in the book when published).
Burton died in Trieste early on the morning of 20 October 1890 of a heart attack. His wife Isabel persuaded a priest to perform the last rites, although Burton was not a Catholic and this action later caused a rift between Isabel and some of Burton's friends. It has been suggested that the death occurred very late on 19 October and that Burton was already dead by the time the last rites were administered. On his religious views, Burton called himself an atheist, stating he was raised in the Church of England which he said was "officially (his) church".
Isabel never recovered from the loss. After his death she burned many of her husband's papers, including journals and a planned new translation of The Perfumed Garden to be called The Scented Garden, for which she had been offered six thousand guineas and which she regarded as his "magnum opus". She believed she was acting to protect her husband's reputation, and that she had been instructed to burn the manuscript of The Scented Garden by his spirit, but her actions have been widely condemned.
Isabel wrote a biography in praise of her husband.
The couple are buried in a remarkable tomb in the shape of a Bedouin tent, designed by Isabel, in the cemetery of St Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Church Mortlake in southwest London. The coffins of Sir Richard and Lady Burton can be seen through a window at the rear of the tent, which can be accessed via a short fixed ladder. Next to the lady chapel in the church there is a memorial stained-glass window to Burton, also erected by Isabel; it depicts Burton as a medieval knight. Burton's personal effects and a collection of paintings, photographs and objects relating to him are in the Burton Collection at Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham.
Burton had long had an interest in sexuality and some erotic literature. However, the Obscene Publications Act of 1857 had resulted in many jail sentences for publishers, with prosecutions being brought by the Society for the Suppression of Vice. Burton referred to the society and those who shared its views as Mrs Grundy. A way around this was the private circulation of books amongst the members of a society. For this reason Burton, together with Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot, created the Kama Shastra Society to print and circulate books that would be illegal to publish in public.
One of the most celebrated of all his books is his translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (commonly called The Arabian Nights in English after early translations of Antoine Galland's French version), in ten volumes, (1885) with seven further volumes being added later. The volumes were printed by the Kama Shastra Society in a subscribers-only edition of one thousand with a guarantee that there would never be a larger printing of the books in this form. The stories collected were often sexual in content and were considered pornography at the time of publication. In particular, the Terminal Essay in volume 10 of the Nights contained a 14,000-word essay entitled "Pederasty" (Volume 10, section IV, D), at the time a synonym for homosexuality (as it still is, in modern French). This was and remained for many years the longest and most explicit discussion of homosexuality in any language. Burton speculated that male homosexuality was prevalent in an area of the southern latitudes named by him the "Sotadic zone". Rumours about Burton's own sexuality were already circulating and were further incited by this work.
Perhaps Burton's best-known book is his translation of The Kama Sutra. In fact, it is untrue that he was the translator since the original manuscript was in ancient Sanskrit, which he could not read. However, he collaborated with Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot on the work and provided translations from other manuscripts of later translations. The Kama Shastra Society first printed the book in 1883 and numerous editions of the Burton translation are in print to this day.
His English translation from a French edition of the Arabic erotic guide The Perfumed Garden was printed as The Perfumed Garden of the Cheikh Nefzaoui: A Manual of Arabian Erotology (1886). After Burton's death, Isabel burnt many of his papers, including a manuscript of a subsequent translation, The Scented Garden, containing the final chapter of the work, on pederasty. Burton all along intended for this translation to be published after his death, to provide an income for his widow, and also, as a final gesture of defiance against Victorian society.
Burton's writings are unusually open and frank about his interest in sex and sexuality. His travel writing is often full of details about the sexual lives of the inhabitants of areas he traveled through. Burton's interest in sexuality led him to make measurements of the lengths of the penises of male inhabitants of various regions which he includes in his travel books. He also describes sexual techniques common in the regions he visited, often hinting that he had participated, hence breaking both sexual and racial taboos of his day. Many people at the time considered the Kama Shastra Society and the books it published scandalous.
Biographers disagree on whether or not Burton ever experienced homosexual sex (he never directly acknowledges it in his writing). Allegations began in his army days when Charles James Napier requested that Burton go undercover to investigate a male brothel reputed to be frequented by British soldiers. It has been suggested that Burton's detailed report on the workings of the brothel may have led some to believe he had been a customer. There is no documentary evidence that such a report was written or submitted, nor that Napier ordered such research by Burton, and it has been argued that this is one of Burton's embellishments.
A story that haunted Burton up to his death (recounted in some of his obituaries) was that he came close to being discovered one night when he lifted his robe to urinate rather than squatting as an Arab would. It was said that he was seen by an Arab and, in order to avoid exposure, killed him. Burton denied this, pointing out that killing the boy would almost certainly have led to his being discovered as an impostor. Burton became so tired of denying this accusation that he took to baiting his accusers, although he was said to enjoy the notoriety and even once laughingly claimed to have done it. A doctor once asked him: "How do you feel when you have killed a man?", Burton retorted: "Quite jolly, what about you?". When asked by a priest about the same incident Burton is said to have replied: "Sir, I'm proud to say I have committed every sin in the Decalogue." Stanley Lane-Poole, a Burton detractor, reported that Burton "confessed rather shamefacedly that he had never killed anybody at any time."
These allegations coupled with Burton's often irascible nature were said to have harmed his career and may explain why he was not promoted further, either in army life or in the diplomatic service. As an obituary described: "...he was ill fitted to run in official harness, and he had a Byronic love of shocking people, of telling tales against himself that had no foundation in fact." Ouida reported: "Men at the FO [Foreign Office] ... used to hint dark horrors about Burton, and certainly justly or unjustly he was disliked, feared and suspected ... not for what he had done, but for what he was believed capable of doing." Whatever the truth of the many allegations made against him, Burton's interests and outspoken nature ensured that he was always a controversial character in his lifetime.
The existence of a Sotadic Zone was a hypothesis of Burton. He asserted that there exists a geographic zone in which pederasty (romantic-sexual intimacy between a boy and a man) is prevalent and celebrated among the indigenous inhabitants. The name derives from Sotades, a 3rd-century BC Greek poet who was the chief representative of a group of writers of obscene, and sometimes pederastic, satirical poetry. (These homoerotic verses are preserved in the Greek Anthology, a collection of poems spanning the Classical and Byzantine periods of Greek literature.)
Burton first advanced his Sotadic Zone concept in the "Terminal Essay" contained in Volume 10 of his translation of The Arabian Nights—which he called The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night—in 1886.
According to Burton's description, the Sotadic Zone is:
Burton published over 40 books and countless articles, monographs and letters. A great number of his journal and magazine pieces have never been catalogued. Over 200 of these have been collected in PDF facsimile format at burtoniana.org.
An extensive selection of Burton's correspondence can be found in the four volume Book of Burtoniana edited by Gavan Tredoux (burtoniana.org, 2016), which is freely downloadable in HTML, PDF, Kindle/MOBI and ePub formats. 
Afqa (Arabic: افقا; also spelled Afka) is a village and municipality located in the Jbeil District of the Mount Lebanon Governorate, 71 kilometres (44 mi) northeast of Beirut in Lebanon. It has an average elevation of 1,200 meters above sea level and a total land area of 934 hectares. Its inhabitants are predominantly Shia Muslims.Known in ancient times as Apheca or Afeka, the word can be interpreted as "source", is located in the mountains of Lebanon, about 20 kilometres from the ancient city of Byblos, which still stands just east of the town of Qartaba. It is the site of one of the finest waterfalls in the mountains of the Middle East, which feeds into the Adonis River (known today as Abraham River or Nahr Ibrahim in Arabic), and forms Lake Yammoune, with which it is also associated by legend.In Greek mythology Adonis was born and died at the foot of the falls in Afqa. The ruins of the celebrated temple of Aphrodite Aphakitis— the Aphrodite particular to this site— are located there. Sir Richard Francis Burton and Sir James Frazer further attribute the temple at Afqa to the honouring of Astarte or Ishtar (Ashtaroth). Afqa is aligned centrally between Baalbek and Byblos, pointing to the summer solstice sunset over the Mediterranean. It is from Byblos that the myth was told of a mystical ark that came ashore containing the bones of Osiris. The ark became stuck in a swamp until Isis found it and carried it back to Ancient Egypt.Anthropological Society of London
The Anthropological Society of London was founded in 1863 by Richard Francis Burton and Dr. James Hunt. It broke away from the existing Ethnological Society of London, founded in 1843, and defined itself in opposition to the older society. The Anthropological Society, Hunt proclaimed, would concern itself with the collection of facts and the identification of natural laws that explained the diversity of humankind. It would also cast its intellectual nets more broadly, dealing with the physical as well as the cultural aspects of humans.Arabist
An Arabist is someone normally from outside the Arab world who specialises in the study of the Arabic language and culture (usually including Arabic literature).Bharthari (king)
Bharthari, also known as "Sant" Bharthari, in many parts of India, is the hero of many folk stories in North India. He was the ruler of Ujjain, before renouncing the world and abdicating in the favor of his younger brother [[Vikramaditya].
Stories of Bharthari and his nephew King Gopi Chand of Bengal, who are considered Nath panth yogis, abound in the Indian folklore of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.Many of the details about the lives of Bharthari and his brother Vikramaditya are from the tales of Baital Pachisi (Twenty five tales of Baital), translated as 'Vikram and The Vampire' by Sir Richard Francis Burton in 1870.Edward Rehatsek
Edward Rehatsek (3 July 1819 – 11 December 1891) was an Orientalist and translator of several works of Islamic literature including the Gulistan of Saadi Shirazi, ibn Ishaq’s Prophetic biography, and the Rawẓat aṣ-ṣafāʾ. All three translations were originally published by the Kama Shastra Society founded by Richard Francis Burton and Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot at the end of the 19th century.El Borak
El Borak, otherwise known as Francis Xavier Gordon, is a fictional character created by Robert E. Howard. Gordon was a Texan gunfighter from El Paso who had travelled the world and settled in Afghanistan. He is known in Asia for his exploits in that continent.
The character was originally created when Howard was only ten years old but he did not see print until "The Daughter of Erlik Khan" in the December 1934 issue of Top-Notch. He is likely to have been inspired by real people such as Richard Francis Burton, John Nicholson, "Chinese" Gordon and Lawrence of Arabia as well as the fiction of Talbot Mundy. One of the earliest surviving stories where he made an appearance was a story written by Howard when he was sixteen years old. These stories, however, were not complete and the character itself faded from the author's consciousness for several years. He was revived in 1933 together with another oriental adventurer, Kirby O'Donnell in stories published by Top-Notch, Complete Stories and Thrilling Adventures.Although Howard is best known for his fantasy fiction, the El Borak stories are straight adventure fiction and only "Three-Bladed Doom" contains a fantasy element.
The background of the El Borak stories is similar to that of the Conan the Barbarian story "The People of the Black Circle" in which Conan is a chieftain of a hill tribe in what corresponds to Afghanistan.Francis Burton
Francis Burton may refer to:
Francis Burton (Irish politician) (1696–1744)
Francis Burton (MP) (c.1744–1832), second Justice of Chester
Francis Nathaniel Burton (1766–1832), Canadian politician
Francis H. Burton (1817–1872), Ontario businessman and political figure
Francis Robert Burton (1840–1915), public servant in South Australia
Francis Burton, 2nd Baron Conyngham (c. 1725–1787), Irish peer and politician
Francis G. Burton (1850s–1915), British engineer and accountant
Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890), British explorerIsabel Burton
Isabel, Lady Burton (20 March 1831 – 22 March 1896) was an English writer. She was the wife and partner of explorer, adventurer, and writer Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890).Jenipapo River
The Jenipapo River is a river of Paraíba state in northeastern Brazil. The river, or creek, flows from east to west, towards the Atlantic ocean. The river and the area surrounding it was first explored by Sir Richard Francis Burton The Battle of Jenipapo was fought near the river as part of the Brazilian War of Independence in 1823.John Robinson (Canadian actor)
John Robinson is a Canadian film and television actor. His roles have included Richard Francis Burton in Zero Patience, Cage Tyler in Further Tales of the City, and Chuck Morgan in MVP. He has been in the film sticks and stones and score a hockey musical and has talked in several Chevrolet
commercials.Mountains of the Moon (film)
Mountains of the Moon is a 1990 Rankcolor theatrical film depicting the 1857–58 journey of Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke in their expedition to Central Africa – the project that culminated in Speke's discovery of the source of the Nile River. The expedition led to a bitter rivalry between the two men. The film stars Patrick Bergin as Burton and Iain Glen as Speke. Delroy Lindo made an early film appearance as an African native the adventurers meet.
The film was directed by Bob Rafelson, for whom this was something of a dream project. It was based on the novel Burton and Speke by William Harrison. The narrative concentrates on the relationship between the two very different men. A first-time epic for Rafelson, it opened to positive reviews.Norman Mosley Penzer
Norman Mosley Penzer (30 September 1892 – 27 November 1960) — known as N. M. Penzer — was a British independent scholar and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society who specialised in Oriental studies. He translated the tale of Nala and Damayanti in 1926 from Sanskrit.Richard Francis Burton bibliography
The British explorer and Arabist Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890) published over 40 books and countless articles, monographs and letters. Most of Burton's books are travel narratives and translations. His only works of original imaginative fiction are both in verse: Stone Talk (1865) and the well-known The Kasidah (1880), both of which he published under the pseudonym "Frank Baker".
A great number of Burton's journal and magazine pieces have never been catalogued.Selim Aga
Selim Aga (born around 1826 in Taqali area of Sudan, died December 1875 in Liberia), a native of Sudan who was abducted by slave traders when he was eight years of age, was brought to Scotland in 1836, and raised and educated as a free man. Selim wrote an autobiography of his life as a slave, accompanied by his poetic Ode to Britain and printed in Aberdeen in 1846. He regularly lectured in Great Britain on the African topics, and in 1857 left with William Balfour Baikie for an expedition of the Niger River. Later he accompanied John Hawley Glover and Richard Francis Burton on their African expeditions. In late 1860s Selim relocated to Liberia, probably aspiring for presidency; he was killed by Grebo insurgents in 1875.The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night
The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885), subtitled A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainments, is an English language translation of One Thousand and One Nights (the “Arabian Nights”) – a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age (8th−13th centuries) – by the British explorer and Arabist Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890). It stood as the only complete translation of the Macnaghten or Calcutta II edition (Egyptian recension) of the "Arabian Nights" until the Malcolm C. and Ursula Lyons translation in 2008.
Burton's translation was one of two unabridged and unexpurgated English translations done in the 1880s; the first was by John Payne, under the title The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (1882–84, nine volumes). Burton's ten volume version was published almost immediately afterward with a slightly different title. This, along with the fact that Burton closely advised Payne and partially based his books on Payne's, led later to charges of plagiarism. Owing to the sexual imagery in the source texts (which Burton made a special study of, adding extensive footnotes and appendices on "Oriental" sexual mores) and to the strict Victorian laws on obscene material, both translations were printed as private editions for subscribers only, rather than being published in the usual manner. Burton's original ten volumes were followed by a further six entitled The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night (1886–88). Burton's 16 volumes, while boasting many prominent admirers, have been criticised for their "archaic language and extravagant idiom" and "obsessive focus on sexuality"; they have even been called an "eccentric ego-trip" and a "highly personal reworking of the text". His voluminous and obscurely detailed notes and appendices have been characterised as “obtrusive, kinky and highly personal”.In 1982, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) began naming features on Saturn's moon Enceladus after characters and places in Burton's translation because “its surface is so strange and mysterious that it was given the Arabian Nights as a name bank, linking fantasy landscape with a literary fantasy”. (See List of geological features on Enceladus.)The Kasidah
The Kasîdah of Hâjî Abdû El-Yezdî (1880) is a long English-language poem written by "Hâjî Abdû El-Yezdî", a pseudonym of the true author, Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), a well-known British Arabist and explorer. In a note to the reader, Burton claims to be the translator of the poem, to which he gives the English title "Lay of the Higher Law." It is thus a pseudotranslation, pretending to have had an original Persian text, which never existed. The Kasidah is essentially a distillation of Sufi thought in the poetic idiom of that mystical tradition; Burton had hoped to bring Sufist ideas to the West.The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack
The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack is a steampunk novel by British writer Mark Hodder, the first novel in the Burton & Swinburne series; it won the 2010 Philip K. Dick Award. The series follows the adventures of two Victorian-era protagonists based on two historical figures, Richard Francis Burton and Algernon Charles Swinburne, in mid-late 19th Century London.
The series is framed as an alternate history, and takes place in actual locations such as the Cannibal Club and London's East End, involving many notable personalities of the era, such as Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, and explorer John Hanning Speke. It includes actual historical events, namely the Spring-heeled Jack case, the assassination attempt on Queen Victoria in 1840, the search for the source of the Nile and the development of Darwin's theory of Evolution.Tomb of Eve
The Tomb of Eve, also known as Eve's Grave and Eve's Tomb, is an archeological site located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (21°29′31″N 39°11′24″E). It is considered by some Muslims to be the burial place of Eve. Prince Faisal, Viceroy of Hejaz, destroyed it in 1928. In 1975, the site was also sealed with concrete by religious authorities, who disapprove of pilgrims praying at tombs.Richard Francis Burton mentions seeing it in his translation of the Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night.Translations of One Thousand and One Nights
The translations of One Thousand and One Nights have been made into virtually every major language of the world. They began with the French translation by Antoine Galland (titled Les mille et une nuits, finished in 1717). Galland's translation was essentially an adapted Arabic manuscript of Syrian origins and oral tales recorded by him in Paris from a Maronite Arab from Aleppo named Youhenna Diab or Hanna Diab.The first English translation appeared in 1706 and was made from Galland's version; being anonymous, it is known as the Grub Street edition. It exists in two known copies kept in the Bodleian Library and in the Princeton University Library. Since then several English reissues appeared simultaneously in 1708. As early as the end of the 18th century the English translation based on Galland was brought to Halifax, Montreal, Philadelphia, New York and Sydney. Galland-based English translations were superseded by that made by Edward William Lane in 1839–41. In the 1880s an unexpurgated and complete English translation, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, was made by Richard Francis Burton.
The original scattered Arabic texts were collected in four corpuses: the so-called Calcutta I or the Shirwanee Edition (1814–18, 2 volumes), Bulaq or the Cairo Edition (1835, 2 volumes), Breslau Edition (1825–38, 8 volumes) and Calcutta II or the W.H. Macnaghten Edition (1839–42, 4 volumes). Some translations starting from Galland were censored due to lewd content.