Archive for February 3rd, 2011

Sir.Richard F. Burton (1821-1890)
traveler,scholar and explorer

This master adventurer belongs to a select brotherhood of adventurers. In his vitality endurance and courage he would have equally excelled as a companion to Marco Polo and Sir Francis Drake. Of course in his curiosity to ferret out quirks of culture and sexual mores of tribesmen far flung as far as Africa or In the Indian subcontinent he could have entertained Dr. Kinsey or Havelock Ellis. He might have had a gypsy streak in him and he could be equally at home and pass off as a Pathan, Persian or Arab. He knew 29 languages and as many dialects. His dexterity at handling a saber made him a deadly duelist.

His wanderlust was not merely to pass of time but as a formidable Orientalist he had to know,- in the best traditions of Herodotus who it seems went back to Egypt in order to verify a doubt at a time traveling meant great hardship and danger, and he lived to tell it. *. A soldier and a poet he was also a famous geographer who passed of as a Muslim to visit the holy city of Mecca and write a scholarly account of his journey. He was successful in finding the source of Nile, a doubtful point since Baker, Livingstone and John H. Speke claimed it as laying elsewhere. Hundred years later the mystery of the source was located accurately and thus vindicating curiously the theories of all the four.
Eventually he was appointed as British Consul at various places like Fernando Po, Damascus and Trieste. For long he was increasingly bothered by ill health and in financial straits. He put his energy to the Arabian Nights(16 vol.) a work that he had taken up spanning more than 30 years. The work was an unique achievement . Before he could complete the Perfumed Garden he passed away on Oct.20,1890. His wife fiercely loyal but prudish being afraid of his posthumous fame burnt the whole manuscript result of many years of hard work.
*When he undertook a trip to Median he took 80 pounds in gold and silver,hiding it in boxes and part on his person. If the bedouin robbers search a man’s luggage and find no money they proceed to bodily inspection and ‘if his waist-belt be empty they are rather disposed to rip open his stomach in the belief that he must have some ingenious way of secreting valuables.’


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