Saturday, March 19, 2022

Mar. 19: Richard Francis Burton, British explorer and writer


Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was a British explorer and writer. Not so many men are cut from this cloth: a genuine adventurer who also wrote books of lasting interest. According to one count, he spoke twenty-nine European, Asian, and African languages (and tried to learn "monkey"); visited the Muslim holy city of Mecca when it was forbidden to Europeans on pain of death; translated The One Thousand and One Nights and The Kama Sutra; and traveled with the first Europeans to visit the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile. He also produced a "pseudotranslation," The Kasidah, claiming to be a translation of an original Persian text on Sufism, but in fact a wholly original work written by Burton. All this in addition to careers in the British Army in India and the diplomatic service in Equatorial Guinea, Brazil, Syria, and Italy. He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1886.


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