The Life of Sir Richard Burton
by Thomas Wright
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse


By Thomas Wright

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 [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," [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 particular.

(1) From two hundred unpublished letters of Sir Richard Burton and Lady Burton.

(2) From interviews with Mrs. E. J. Burton [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. [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. [5]

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, [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. [7] In short, amazing to say, the public have given Burton credit for a gift which he did not possess [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 [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, [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, [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 [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. [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. [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 [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 L700 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, [16] 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. [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. [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. [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 [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, [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 [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." [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, Gloucestershire. 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, London. 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 Oxford

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

Chapter III April 1842-20th February 1847 Sind

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 Gelele

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 L15 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 Midian

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 Camoens

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" 1885

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 K.C.M.G.

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

Chapter XXXVIII 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 [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. [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. [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" [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 [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, L30,000; 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 [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," [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 [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 [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." [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. [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 opposition.

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." [35]

Soon after the death of her husband, Mrs. Baker must have left Elstree, [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 [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. [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.'" [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." [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." [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." [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 [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, Oxford

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." [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 [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. [46]

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 [47] wrote long after, "I am sure, though Burton was brilliant, rather wild, and very popular, none of us foresaw his future greatness."

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," [48] and he always revered the memory of his tutor, the Rev. Thomas Short. [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 [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. [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." [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. [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, Sind

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 L500, 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 [54], the water colour painter and occultist, and the Rev. Robert Montgomery. [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 [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, [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. [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 [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 [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 [61], which gave him a taste for "parrot books," [62] on which he became an authority; while the study of the Baital-Pachisi led to his writing Vikram and the Vampire. [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 [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. [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 [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 [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 [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 orally.

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 [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." [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 [71], his brother Edward was practising as an army doctor; his Grandmother Baker was dead. [72]

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse