Those Amazing Humans, Second Series, #14, Sir Richard Francis Burton

Posted: March 19, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Victorian Renaissance Man

Victorian Renaissance Man


Where do I begin with this guy. I guess I’ll let wikipedia supply the details and I’ll just add a personal touch at the end.
If Richard Francis Burton had never set foot in Africa, he would still be remembered as the most erudite adventurer of the Victorian Age. Today, he is as well known for translating the Arabian Nights (and adding “Aladdin and His Magic Lamp” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” to its canon) and the Kama Sutra into English as for discovering the source of the Nile with his expedition partner John Hanning Speke. Burton’s accomplishments extend well beyond these, however, and the range of his interests, as reflected in the terms often used to describe him, is truly astonishing: explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, ethnologist, linguist, poet, hypnotist, fencer, diplomat. According to one count, he spoke twenty-nine European, Asian, and African languages, including Arabic, Greek, Hindustani, Icelandic, Swahili, and Turkish. During his life he published forty-three volumes on his explorations and almost thirty volumes of translations.

Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Hope, one feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood. . . . A journey, in fact, appeals to the Imagination, to Memory, to Hope,—the three sister Graces of our moral being.

—Burton, Zanzibar (London, 1872), vol. 1, pp. 16-17

Sir Richard Francis Burton ( Torquay , United Kingdom , March 19 of 1821 – Trieste , Austria-Hungary , October 20 of 1890 ), was a consul British , explorer , translator and orientalist , born in Torquay ( England ). He became famous for his explorations in Asia and Africa, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages ​​and cultures. According to a recent count, twenty-nine spoke European languages, Asian and African.
He lived in India for seven years where he had the opportunity to learn about the customs of Oriental peoples. Completed maps of the area adjacent to the Red Sea on behalf of the British government, interested in trading with the area. He traveled alone to know the Mecca , to which he disguised in Arab feat on which he wrote in My pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina . You must first complete translation into English of The Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra , as well as a brilliant translation of the epic and classic Portuguese Lusiads of Camoens , the English . Along with John Hanning Speke traveled to Africa where he discovered Lake Tanganyika .
He also toured the United States , where the community described Mormon in his book The City of the Saints , and part of Brazil . He co-founded the Anthropological Society of London with Dr. James Hunt. He was reviled by the puritanical British society of his time to maintain unorthodox views on female sexuality and polygamy and for being married to a Catholic, Isabel Arundell. He was consul British Trieste (Italy), Damascus (Syria) and the African island of Fernando Poo . He was appointed Knight in 1866 .

I first learned about the existence of Sir Richard in a book of fiction, “To Your Scattered Bodies Go”, the first novel of a trilogy, The Riverworld Series, by Phillip Jose Farmer. During the course of the story I learned some “facts” about Sir Richard’s prior incarnation.
The novel begins with adventurer Sir Richard Francis Burton waking up after his death on a strange new world made up of one ongoing river. He discovers that he is but one of billions of previously dead personalities from throughout Earth’s history stretching from the Neolithic age through 2008 AD also ‘resurrected’. At first the resurrectees are primarily focused on survival, though their basic needs for food are mysteriously taken care of; but eventually Burton decides to make it his mission to find the headwaters of the River and discover the purpose and intention of humanity’s resurrection. Along the way he is enslaved and then, after being partnered with Nazi war criminal Hermann Göring, discovers the existence of a mysterious organization responsible for the resurrection of humanity, and is recruited by a rogue member of this group to take down their carefully laid plans.

Some years later I saw an excellent biopic which chronicled Burton and Speke’s search for the source of the Nile, “Mountains of the Moon”.

More recently I read a biography of this fascinating individual: RICE , Edward. Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: The Secret Agent Who Made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, Discovered the Kama Sutra, and Brought the Arabian Nights to the West . New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1990. (In Castilian Siruela Ed. 1992).

He has to be in the Top Ten Most Amazing Humans I’ve documented on my blog.

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