THE LIFE OF SIR RICHARD BURTON
THE LIFE OF SIR RICHARD BURTON
Author of "The Life of Edward Fitzgerald" etc.
2 Volumes in 1
This Work is
Sir Richard Burton's Kinsman
Major St. George Richard Burton
The Black Watch.
Fifteen years have elapsed since the death of Sir Richard Burton and
twelve since the appearance of the biography of Lady Burton.
A deeply pathetic interest attaches itself to that book.
Lady Burton was stricken down with an incurable disease. Death with
its icy breath hung over her as her pen flew along the paper
and the questions constantly on her lips were "Shall I live to
complete my task? Shall I live to tell the world how great and
noble a man my husband was and to refute the calumnies that his
enemies have so industriously circulated?" She did complete it in
a sense for the work duly appeared; but no one recognised more
clearly than herself its numerous shortcomings. Indeed it is
little better than a huge scrap-book filled with newspaper cuttings
and citations from Sir Richard's and other books hurriedly selected
and even more hurriedly pieced together. It gives the impressions
of Lady Burton alone for those of Sir Richard's friends are
ignored--so we see Burton from only one point of view. Amazing to
say it does not contain a single original anecdote[FN#1]--though
perhaps more amusing anecdotes could be told of Burton than of any
other modern Englishman. It will be my duty to rectify Lady
Burton's mistakes and mis-statements and to fill up the vast
hiatuses that she has left. Although it will be necessary to
subject her to criticism I shall endeavour at the same time to
keep constantly in mind the queenliness and beauty of her character
her almost unexampled devotion to her husband and her anxiety that
everyone should think well of him. Her faults were all of the head.
Of the heart she had absolutely none.
As the Richard Burton whom I have to pourtray differs considerably
from Lady Burton's "Earthly God"[FN#2] I have been very careful to
give chapter and verse for all my statements. The work has been
written on the same lines as my Life of Edward FitzGerald; that is
to say without any aim except to arrive at the precise truth.
But although I have regarded it as no concern of mine whether any
particular fact tells for or against Sir Richard Burton I do think
that when the reader rises from the last page he will feel that he
has been in the company not only of one of the greatest noblest and
most fearless of Englishmen but also of one who without making
much profession of doing so really loved his fellow-men and who
despite his inability to put himself in line with religionists
fought steadily on the side of righteousness. We are aware that
there are in his books a few observations which call for vehement
and unqualified denunciation; but against them must be placed the
fundamental goodness of the man to which all who knew him
intimately have testified. In not a few respects Sir Richard
Burton's character resembled Edward FitzGerald's. Burton indeed
hailed the adapter of Omar Khayyam as a "fellow Sufi."
Lady Burton too comes extremely well out of the fire of criticism.
The reader may object to her religious views he may smile at her
weaknesses he may lament her indiscretions but he will recognise
that at bottom she was a God-fearing noble-minded woman; and he
will we think find himself really in love with her almost before
The amount of absolutely new information in this work is very large.
Thus we are telling for the first time the history of Burton's
friendships with Mr. F. F. Arbuthnot Mr. John Payne and others;
and we are giving for the first time too a complete and accurate
history of the translation of The Arabian Nights The Scented
Garden and other works. Hundreds of new facts are recorded
respecting these and other absorbing topics while the citations
from the unpublished letters of Burton and Lady Burton will we are
sure receive a welcome. We are able to give about fifty entirely
new anecdotes--many of them extremely piquant and amusing. We also
tell the touching story of Burton's brother Edward. In our accounts
of Burton's travels will be found a number of interesting facts and
some anecdotes not given in Burton's works.
The new material has been derived from many sources--but from ten in
(1) From two hundred unpublished letters of Sir Richard Burton
and Lady Burton.
(2) From interviews with Mrs. E. J. Burton[FN#3] and
Mr. F. Burton (Burton's cousins) Mr. John Payne Mrs. Arbuthnot
Mr. Watts-Dunton Mr. W. F. Kirby Mr. A. G. Ellis Dr. Codrington
Professor James F. Blumhardt Mr. Henry R. Tedder (librarian and
secretary of The Athenaeum Burton's club) Mrs. Baddeley (mother of
Burton's friend St. Clair Baddeley) Madame Nicastro (sister of the
late Mr. Albert Letchford illustrator of The Arabian Nights)
Dr. Grenfell Baker (Burton's medical attendant during the last three
years of his life) and many other ladies and gentlemen.
(3) From letters received from Major St. George Burton (to whom
I have the pleasure of dedicating this work) Lady Bancroft
Mr. D. MacRitchie Mr. E. S. Mostyn Pryce (representative of
Miss Stisted) Gunley Hall Staffordshire M. Charles Carrington
of Paris who sent me various notes including an account of
Burton's unfinished translation of Apuleius's Golden Ass the MS.
of which is in his possession the Very Rev. J. P. Canon McCarthy
of Ilkeston for particulars of "The Shrine of our Lady of Dale"
Mr. Segrave (son of Burton's "dear Louisa") Mrs. Agg (Burton's
cousin) and Mr. P. P. Cautley (Burton's colleague at Trieste).
Nor must I omit reference to a kind letter received from
Mrs. Van Zeller Lady Burton's only surviving sister.[FN#4]
(4) From the Burton collections in the Free Libraries of
Camberwell and Kensington.
(5) From unpublished manuscripts written by Burton's friends.
(6) From the church registers of Elstree. By examination of
these and other documents I have been able to correct many mistakes.
(7) From the manuscripts of F. F. Arbuthnot and the Oriental
scholar Edward Rehatsek. These are now in the possession of the
Royal Asiatic Society.