BURTON, Richard Francis. Barnham House, Hertshire 19.3.1821— Trieste 20.10.1890. Sir. British (of Irish origin) Orientalist, Traveller and Diplomat. Son of colonel Joseph Netterville B. and Martha Beckwith Baker. As a child he travelled much with his parents in France and Italy, only rarely going to school. From 1840 studies at Oxford, but did not finish them and joined in 1842 Indian Army as cadet. Serving in Gujarat he learnt quickly languages and manners, then in Sindh and Maharashtra. His famous visit to Mecca took place in 1853, in 1854 he was in Somalia, in 1856-59 sought with Speke for the sources of the Nile, and in 1860 visited North America. In 1855 served in Crimea. He entered the consular service and served as British consul 1861-65 in Fernando Poo, 1865-69 in Santos (Brazil), 1869-71 in Damaskus, and from 1872 until his death in Trieste. During these appointments travelled widely in West Africa, South America and Syria, in 1881-82 visited Gold Coast. Married in 1861 Isabel Arundell (1831–96), with whom he visited India again in 1876.
Burton was a gifted and many-sided man, who wrote a great number of books. He knew Arabic, Persian, several NIA languages, Pashto etc. He started his scholarly career with Indian linguistics and crowned it with his famous commented translation of the Arabian Nights.
Publications: “A Grammar of the Jataki or Bolochki Dialect”, JBRAS 3, 1849, 84-125; “A Grammar of the Multani Language”, JBRAS 1849.
– Sind, or the Unhappy Valley. 1-2. 297+309 p. L. 1851; Sind and the Races that inhabit the Valley of the Indus. 422 p. L. 1851; Falconry in the Valley of the Indus. 107 p. L. 1852; Sind revisited. 343+331 p. L. 1877.
– Goa and the Blue Mountains. 404 p. L. 1851 (travel account).
– Vikram and the Vampire, or Tales of Hindu Devilry. L. 1870 (free transl. of 11 tales from the Braj Baitāl Pacīsī).
– Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah. 1-3. 1855; First Footsteps in East Africa. 1856; The Lake Regions of Equatorial Africa. 1-2. 1860; The City of the Saints. 1861 (Salt Lake City); Wanderings in West Africa. 1-2. 1863; Abeokuta and the Cameroons. 1-2. 1863; A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome. 1864, 2nd ed. 1-2. 1893; Wit and Wisdom from West Africa: a Collection of 2859 Proverbs. 1865; Gorilla Land, or the Cataracts of the Congo. 1-2. 1875; Explorations of the Highlands of the Brazil. 1-2. 1869; Letters from the Battlefields of Paraguay. 1870; Etruscan Bologna: a Study. 1876; The Gold Mines of Midian. 1878; To the Gold Coast for Gold. 1-2. 1883.
– with C. F. T. Drake: Unexplored Syria. 1-2. 1875.
– anonymous translation (by RB and F. F. Arbuthnot) of the Kāmasūtra published by the Hindoo Kama Shastra Society, Benares 1883, reprinted with introduction by J. W. Spellman. 252 p. New York 1962.
– translated: The Lusiads. 1-2. 1880; The Arabian Nights. 1-10. 1885-86, Suppl. 1-5. 1887-88.
– The Book of the Sword. 1. 1884 (history of the sword).
Sources: *Isabel Burton (his widow), The Life of Captain Sir R.B. 1-2. L. 1893; *Byron Farwell, Burton. A Biography of Sir R.F.B. L. 1990; D.N.B. Suppl. 1, 349-356; N.M. Penzer, JRAS 1921, 304-307; *Wikipedia with several photos and references to several further biographies.
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