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- The Life of Sir Richard Burton - 1/88 -


THE LIFE OF SIR RICHARD BURTON

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.

Preface.

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 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[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.

(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. [FN#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,[FN#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


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