Alfred Bate Richards.

A sketch of the career of Richard F. Burton, collected from Men of eminence; from Sir Richard and Lady Burton's own works; from the press; from personal knowledge, and various other reliable sources online

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Online LibraryAlfred Bate RichardsA sketch of the career of Richard F. Burton, collected from Men of eminence; from Sir Richard and Lady Burton's own works; from the press; from personal knowledge, and various other reliable sources → online text (page 1 of 7)
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"Wanted: Men.
Not systems fit and wise,
Not faiths with rigid eyes.
Not wealth in mountain piles,
Not power with gracious smiles,
Not even the potent pen ;
Wanted: Men.

"Wanted: Deeds.
Not words of winning note,
Not thoughts from life remote,
Not fond religious airs,
Not sweetly languid prayers,
Not love of scent and creeds ;
Wanted: Deeds.

" Men and Deeds.
Men that can dare and do ;
Not longings for the new,
Not pratings of the old ;
Good life and action bold
These the occasion needs,
Men and Deeds."




IN the foremost rank of the noble band of illustrious
Explorers of which England is so justly prond, stands
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, K.C.M.G., F.R.G.S.,
late of Her Majesty's Bombay Army (18th Native In-
fantry) ; Chief of Staff Irregular Osmanli Cavalry serving
in the Crimea ; Her Britannic Majesty's Consul for the
West Coast of Africa ; for Santos (Sao Paulo, Brazil) ;
for Damascus, and now for Trieste, Austria, the cele-
brated Eastern traveller, author, and linguist ; Gold
Medallist of the English and French Royal Geographical
Societies and Maitre d'Armes in France.

Richard Burton's grandfather was the Rev. Edward
Burton, Rector of Tuam-, ia. - Galway (who with his
brother, Bishop Burton, of Tuam, were the first of this
branch to settle in Ireland). They were two of the
Burtons of Barker Hill, near Shap, Westmoreland, who
own a common ancestor with the Burtons of Yorkshire,
of Carlow, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, and Shrop-
shire. Richard Burton's grandfather married Maria
Margaretta Campbell, daughter, by a Lejeune, of Dr.
John Campbell, LL.D., Yicar-General of Tuam. Their
son was Richard Burton's father, Lieut.-Colonel Joseph



Netterville Burton, of the 36th. Eegiraent, who married
a Miss (Beckwith) Baker, of Nottinghamshire, a descen-
dant, on her mother's side, of the Scotch Macgregors.
The Lejeune above mentioned was related to the Mont-
morencys and Drelincourts, French Huguenots of the
time of Louis XIV. (See Appendix A.) To this hangs
a story which will be told by-and-bye. This Lejeune,
whose name was Louis, is supposed to have been
a son of Louis XIV. by the Huguenot Countess of
Montmorency. He was secretly carried off to Ireland.
His name was translated to Louis Young, and he even-
tually became a Doctor of Divinity. The morganatic
marriage contract was asserted to have existed, but has
disappeared. The Lady Primrose, who brought him to
Ireland, was buried, by her own desire, with an iron
casket in her hands, and it is supposed that some secret,
or papers, may have been concealed in this way.

Richard Francis Burton was born on the 19th March,
1821, at Barham House, Herts.

His education as a traveller and linguist commenced
in his fifth year, when he was taken to the Continent.
Here, with the exception of a few months passed at the
Rev. Mr. Delafosse's school (Richmond, Surrey), he
continued, until the age of nineteen, travelling through
France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, and thus
acquiring a practical knowledge of modern European
languages and fencing.

In 184-0 he entered Trinity College, Oxford,. where he
remained until 1842. This is a curious reflection at
school for any boy or any master, " What will become of
the boy ? Who will turn out well, who ill ? who will dis-
tinguish himself, who remain in obscurity ? who live, who
die ? " I am sure, although Burton was brilliant, rather
wild, and very popular, none of us foresaw his future

greatness, nor knew what a treasure we had amongst us.
His studies hitherto, whether abroad or at home, had
been directed towards the Church. A commission in the
Indian army having-, however, been offered him, he
accepted it ; and, presently, he found himself, at the age
of twenty-one, in Bombay, posted to the 18th Bombay
Native Infantry, then at Baroda, Guzerat, towards the
close of the Afghan war.

Within the first year of his Indian sojourn, he had
passed examinations in Hindostanee and Guzeratee.

At a somewhat later period this indefatigable scholar
and soldier proved his proficiency in five other Oriental
languages Persian, Maharattee, Sindhee, Punjaubee,
and Arabic 5 had attacked Telugu and Pushtu (the
Afghan tongue), and was studying literary and conver-
sational Turkish and Armenian.

In 1844 Lieutenant Burton proceeded to Sind with the
18th Native Infantry, and was immediately placed, under
Colonel Walter Scott, upon the Staff of Sir Charles
Napier, who soon discovered his merits, and turned them
to account. With the exception of a visit to Goa and
the Neilgherries the visit which gave rise to Lieute-
nant Burton's first volume entitled l( Goa and the Blue
Mountains" the five following years were spent by him
in the Sind Canal Survey, and in collecting materials for
his " Sindh, or the Races that inhabit the Valley of the
Indus 5" "Scinde, or the Unhappy Valley ;" and "Fal-
conry in the Valley of the Indus."

With a view for employment on active service in
Mooltan, he had, in 1849, published in the Journal of
the Bombay Asiatic Society, " Notes on the Pushtu,
Jan. 7, 1849," and a " Grammar on the Jataki or
Belochki Dialect." He joined his regiment when
marching upon Mooltan to attack the Sikhs.

Part of his training* had been uncommonly good and
rare. While on the survey he received frequent permission
to travel amongst the wild tribes of the hills and plains to-
collect information for Sir Charles Napier. He used to
exchange his European dress or uniform for the tattered
robes of a Dervish, and, bidding adieu to civilization,
wander about the country on foot, lodging in mosques
and with the strangest company. Thus he became well
acquainted with the Beloch and Brahui tribes, those Indo-
Scythians who were then so little known. His chief danger
was that the people insisted on his being a saint, and when
a village wants a patron it is uncommonly fond of putting*
to death some holy pilgrim with all the honours, and
using his tomb as a place to pray at. The metamorphose
was so complete that not only natives but even Euro-
peans never suspected it ; and on one occasion he rode a
dromedary from the Gateway of Haydrabud, meeting his
Colonel face to face, who never imagined for a moment it
was Burton. From these excursions he used to return
with a rich budget of news and information, which
proved not a little useful to the local Government. Dur-
ing his surveying excursions, whilst levelling down the
canals, he also w r orked in native dress, and thus he
arrived at secrets which were quite out of the reach of
his brother officers and surveyors. Hence Captain, now
General, Macmurdo, frequently consulted his journals,
and the survey books were highly praised by the Sur-

Eventually, after seven years of this kind of life,
over-work and over-study, combined with the "hot
season" and the march up the Indus Valley, caused
some suffering* to our gallant and erudite young
soldier, and, at the end of the campaign, he was attacked
by severe ophthalmia, the result of mental and physical

over-fatigue; thus lie was compelled by sickness to
return to Europe, vid the Cape.

liesiding* principally in France upon his return, he
was there awarded the Brevet dc Pointe for the excellence
of his swordsmanship. It has been observed of Captain
Burton, that as horseman, swordsman, and marksman, no
soldier of his day could surpass, and few equalled him.
In 1853 he published a " System of Bayonet Exercise"
.(Clowes, London), which, although undervalued at the
time, has since been made use of by the Horse Guards.*

Even the late Colonel Sykes, who was Burton's friend,
sent for him and sharply reproached him with printing a
book which would do far more harm than good. All
the old Waterloo officers seemed to fancy that bayonet
exercise would make the men unsteady in the ranks, so
that official " wigging" was the principal award Burton
got. And yet every European nation, not to speak of the
American army, was at the time engaged in perfecting its
bayonet exercise. Thus, a few years afterwards, the much-
abused pamphlet was liberally used by the Horse Guards,
in order to form an official system. One day the author
received an immense letter from the Treasury, with a
seal the size of a baby's fist. He opened it, with high
expectations, and found, not a compliment nor a word of
thanks, the only thing he would have valued, but gracious
permission to draw one shilling*. This is the usual
custom when military authorities borrow from profes-
sional works by officers on full pay, and then there is no
infringement of authors' rights. Poor Captain Blakeley,
the inventor of Blakeley's guns, calculated his losses in

* This little Manual, which has its history, will be reproduced
at the end of a future boys' book, that boys intended for military
service may interest themselves in it, and practise their drill if
they like, and also Burton's sword exercise.

this way at several hundred thousand pounds. How-
ever, Burton was not a loser, except in time and dis-
appointment. He went to the War Office and was
sent to half-a-dozen different rooms, to the intense
astonishment of as many clerks, and, after three-quarters
of an hour's hard work, succeeded in drawing his shilling-,
which he gave to the first beggar.

Nearly a century and a half ago Marshal Saxe, of
famous memory, called the gun the musket-handle,
Alexandre Dumas declared it an act of patriotism to
teach Governments the resources of this weapon ; and
he justly remarks that, as the sword decided individual,,
so the bayonet settles national, questions. It is curious
to remark that every nation prides itself on its own?
peculiar prowess with the bayonet. According to their
own respective writers the weapon in which the English
excel the French, and the French the English, both of
them the Germans, and the Germans both of them, is
the bayonet.

In April, 1853, supported by the Royal Geographical
Society, Eichard Burton prepared to penetrate into-
Arabia under circumstances unusually strange, and pe-
culiarly well adapted to facilitate his object in view
study of " the inner life of the Moslem." With this ex-
pedition opens the most romantic chapter in the history
of this remarkable man.

He had long felt within himself the qualifications,
mental and physical, which are needed for the explora-
tion of dangerous regions, difficult of access. Not alone
had his previous education and his career as a Dervish in
Sind especially prepared him for such enterprises ; .but
with a mind, at once practical and imaginative, grasping
every contingency likely to arise, he had sought to
accomplish himself thoroughly for this mission in the

most trifling* as well as in the most important directions.
Thus it is related that he took lessons from a blacksmith
in order not only, in case of need, to shoe his horse, but
also to make its shoes.

For penetrating- with safety into Arabia, it was neces-
sary that our traveller should be absolutely unknown ;
indeed, he appears to have assumed and sustained
various Oriental characters. He left London as a
Persian, and travelled to Southampton with a friend,
Captain Grindlay kindly acting* as his interpreter.
Landing* at Alexandria, he was received in the house of
the excellent John Thurburn, who, curious to say, was
the host of Burckhardt till the Swiss traveller died. He
and his son-in-law, John Larking, now of the Firs, Lee,
Kent were the only persons throughout "Richard Bur-
ton's perilous expedition who knew his secret. To Cairo
he went as a Dervish, living there as a native until the
time of the departure of the Pilgrims. Unable, as he
had intended, to cross Arabia on account of the disturb-
ances caused by the Russian war, he performed the
pilgrimage described in his work, published in 1855,
entitled " Pilgrimage to Meccah and Medinah."*

The peculiarity of this pilgrimage consists in the Holy
City having been visited by this bold and subtle English-
man as one of " the Faithful." As converted Moslems,
many Europeans have of late gone there. They have been
received with the utmost civility consistent with coldness,
have been admitted to outward friendship, but have been
carefully kept out of what they most wished to know and
see, so that Burton was thus the first European who had

* Three vols. , Longmans ; 2nd edition, 1857. Translated in the
Revue des deux Monties ; republished by Putnam &Co., New York.
Cheap edition, William Mullan & Son, 1879.


beheld the inner and religious life of the Moslem as one
of themselves.

There is a story (amongst many others) current about
Burton viz., that two men watching some of his habits,
suspected him of not being a Mahometan, and, that he
perceiving it, shot them both to avoid detection. Nobody
enjoys these grim jokes against himself so much as
Burton, who little recks what impression they may
produce upon small minds who are unused to danger,
but the fact is, this is not true. Nobody ever doubted
his origin, and, therefore, he had no need to defend
himself, and it should be contradicted.

We have said that various were the Oriental charac-
ters assumed by this explorer of versatile genius. The
one easiest sustained appears to have been that of half-
Arab, half-Iranian, whose brethren throng the northern
shores of the Persian Gulf. With hair falling on his
shoulders, long beard, his face, hands, arms, and legs
stained with a thin coat of henna, Oriental dress, spear
in hand, pistols in belt, such was Richard Burton, alias
Mirza Abdullah, el-Bushiri, as he commenced his adven-
turous life ; the explorer who has since been from north
to south, from east to west, and mixed with all nations
and tribes, without betraying himself in manners, customs,
or speech, often when death must have ensued had he
created either suspicion or dislike.

Richard Burton's talents for mixing with and assimi-
lating natives of all countries, but especially Oriental
characters, and of becoming as one of themselves with-
out any one doubting or suspecting his origin; his
perfect knowledge of their languages, manners, customs,
habits, and religion ; and last, but not least, his being
gitted by Nature with an Arab head and face, favoured
this his first great enterprise. One can learn from that

versatile poet-traveller, the excellent The*ophile Gautier,
why Richard Burton is an Arab in appearance; and
account for that incurable restlessness that is unable to
wrest from fortune a spot on earth wherein to repose
when weary of wandering 1 like the Desert sands.

11 There is a reason," says Gautier, who had studied
the Andalusian and the Moor, "for that fantasy of
Nature which causes an Arab to be born in Paris, or a
Greek in Auvergne ; the mysterious voice of blood which
is silent for generations, or only utters a confused
murmur, speaks at rare intervals a more intelligible
language. In the general confusion race claims its own,
and some forgotten ancestor asserts his rights. Who
knows what alien drops are mingled with our blood ?
The great migrations from the table-lands of India, the
descents of the Northern races, the Roman and Arab,
invasions, have all left their marks. Instincts which
seem bizarre spring from these confused recollections,
these hints of a distant country. The vague desire of
this primitive Fatherland moves such minds as retain
the more vivid memories of the past. Hence the wild
unrest that wakens in certain spirits the need of flight,
such as the cranes and the swallows feel when kept in
bondage the impulses that make a man leave his
luxurious life to bury himself in the Steppes, the Desert,
the Pampas, the Sahara. He goes to seek his brothers.
It would be easy to point out the intellectual Fatherland
of our greatest minds. Lamartine, De Musset, and De
Vigny, are English ; Delacroix is an Anglo-Indian ;
Victor Hugo a Spaniard; Ingres belongs to the Italy
of Florence and. Rome.

Richard Burton has also some peculiarities which
oblige one to suspect a drop of Oriental, perhaps Gipsy
blood. By Gipsy we must understand the pure Eastern


race, not the tramps called " Gipsies" in England. There
are but few remnants of these unmixed families in
Europe with English names one of which is Burton.
They have a peculiar eye. When it looks at you, it
looks through you, and then glazing- over, seems to see
something behind you. ."Richard Burton is the only man
(not a Gipsy) with that peculiarity, and he shows, with
them, the same horror of a corpse, death-bed scenes, and
graveyards, though caring* but little for his own life.

Eeturning to Egypt for a few months, he proceeded
to Bombay ; and, assisted by the late Lord Elphinstone,
then Governor of Western India, organized an expedi-
tion into Somali Land, East Africa, taking Lieutenant,
afterwards the Captain, Speke as second in command,
and two Indian officers, Lieutenants Stroyan, I.N., and
Herne, Bo. N.I. The object was to visit Harar, in
Moslem Abyssinia, the Timbuctoo of East Africa, the
exploration of which had in vain been attempted by some
thirty travellers. Disguised as an Arab, he was success-
ful ; and returned to Aden with the first authentic notices
of this mysterious city, the southernmost masonry-built
settlement in North Equatorial Africa. Terrible suffer-
ings in the Desert had been endured on the way from
want of water and food sufferings almost unto death.

The Somali Expedition terminated disastrously. The
explorers were attacked in the night at Berberah by the
natives, who endeavoured to throw down their tents, and
catch them, as it were, in a trap. All four fought bravely
against overpowering numbers. Burton and Speke were
both desperately wounded. Poor Stroyan was killed,
whilst Herne was untouched, though he followed his
leader, cutting his wa} 7 " valiantly through the enemy.

Captain Speke had eleven wounds, and Captain Burton,
with a lance transfixing his jaws and palate, wandered


up and down the coast, suffering from wounds, hunger
and thirst. They met; left the natives to sack their
property; but, carrying off the dead body of their com-
rade, they were at last picked up by a native dhow, or

The severe nature of Lieutenant Burton's wounds
compelled his return to England. Having read an
account of his explorations before the Royal Geographical
Society, and published " First Footsteps in East Africa,"*
he again left his native land, this time bound for the
Crimea, and landed at Balaklava.

In the Crimea he was employed as Chief of the Staff
of Irregular Cavalry, of which indeed he was the prin-
cipal organizer ; and, at the moment of their disbanding,.
4000 sabres were in perfect training, ready to do any-
thing and to go anywhere. He also, by the order of
General Beatson, volunteered to Lord Stratford de Red-
cliffe to convoy any amount of provision for the relief of
Kars. But Kars was already doomed, and the offer only
excited official wrath. It was the terrible mistake of
over-zeal. General Beatson and his Staff were com-
pelled, by complication of small intrigues, to resign, and
the subject of this memoir returned to England. Lord
Palmerston was going to send Captain Burton to raise a
large body of Kurdish Horse to attack Georgia and aid
Circassia, when peace was proclaimed.

When Captain Burton was at Constantinople, Lord
Stratford de Redcliffe, whose fervent disciple and great
admirer Burton was, had set his heart upon personally
communicating, by a trusty messenger, with Schamyl, of
patriotic fame. Accordingly, Lord Napier and Ettrick was

* Longmans, 1856; the Appendix containing a Grammar of the
Havar Dialect. This work was translated into French by a Belgian


commissioned to sound Burton about a secret expedition
to the Moslem's head- quarters. He was delighted with
the prospect, and laid before them his plans, and showed
them where obstacles would have to be encountered, that
he might be empowered to deal with them. He told them
that Schamyl, made suspicious by constant treachery,
would first ask him, as an Envoy of the Great Eltchi,
what terms, or how many guns and thousand pounds
sterling 1 he had brought him, or was to bring him. Had
the answer been "Nothing," the visit would have been
deemed one of simple curiosity and the visitor a " spy,"
in which case nothing could have saved his life. For
this end he would have had, moreover, to ride through
some 300 miles of Russian territory. He would, however,
have thought but little of this danger and difficulty, and
he would, beforehand, have arranged to be assisted to the
utmost by the patriotic Circassians j and such an expe-
dition would have had the protection of all the harems
of Constantinople. However, the Great Eltchi, the
greatest Eastern diplomatist we have ever had or shall
ever have, did not think the affair justified the risks, and
refused to offer any definite terms, without which the
enterprise would have been utterly useless, so it fell to
the ground.

At the instance of the Royal Geographical Society,
Lord Clarendon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs,
supplied Captain Burton with funds for an exploration
of the then utterly unknown Lake Region of Central
Africa. In October, 1856, he set out for Bombay, ac-
companied, as second in command, by his former com-
panion, Captain Speke, and landed at Zanzibar on
December 19th, 1856. Energetically assisted by the
late Lieutenant-Colonel Hamerton, Her Majesty's Con-
sul at Zanzibar, the explorers made a tentative expedi-


dition, between the 5th January, 1857, and March 6th,
1857, to the regions about Mombas. Struck down,
however, by the dangerous remittent known as " Coast
fever," they were forced to return to their head-quarters
at Zanzibar.

After a prolonged re- organization, our dauntless ex-
plorers, Burton and Speke, set forth, once more, bound
for the regions of the far interior, into which only one
European, M. Maizan, a French naval officer, had at-
tempted to penetrate, he having been cruelly murdered
at the very commencement of his journey. The result
of this memorable expedition, which occupied the years
from 1856 to 1859, is well known to the world through
Captain Burton's work.* It was the base upon which
all subsequent journeys were founded. The lamented
Livingstone, the gallant Cameron, and the adventurous
Stanley, have carried it out. Now, where the explorers
found the rudest barbarians, two church missions have
been established, and a railway is proposed to connect
the Coast with the Lake regions. This expedition
brought neither honour nor profit to Burton ; but the
world is not likely to forget it. The Future will pro-
bably be juster and more generous than the Past or

During* these African explorations Captain Burton felt
severely the effects of the climate, being attacked by
fever twenty-one times, and having suffered temporarily
from paralysis', and partial blindness, f

* "The Lake Regions of Equatorial Africa," and through the
volume of the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society for 1860.
The former was translated into French hy Madame H. Loreau, and
republished in New York hy Harper, 1861.

fThis (Captain Burton's) exploration of the Lake Eegions of
Equatorial Africa was the first successful attempt to penetrate
that country, and in it the foundation was laid for the subsequent
labours of Stanley, Cameron and others. The Encyclopedia
Americana, 1883.


In May, 1859, this brave traveller returned to Eng-
land, where he immediately proposed another expedition
;to the sources of the Nile. The Royal Geographical
Society did not, however, encourage the proposal.

In April, 1860, Captain Burton set out for the United
States, and, passing through the country of the Mor-
mons, visited California. He returned to England in
December, 1860, having spent six weeks with Brigham
Young, the Prophet, at Great Salt Lake City, and tra-

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Online LibraryAlfred Bate RichardsA sketch of the career of Richard F. Burton, collected from Men of eminence; from Sir Richard and Lady Burton's own works; from the press; from personal knowledge, and various other reliable sources → online text (page 1 of 7)