The Book of Burtoniana
Letters & Memoirs of Sir Richard Francis Burton
Volume 3: 1880 to 1924
Edited by Gavan Tredoux.
[DRAFT] 8/8/2016 9:28 PM.
2016, Gavan Tredoux.
The Book of Burtoniana:
Volume 1: 1841-1864
Volume 2: 1865-1879
Volume 3: 1880-1924
Volume 4: Register and Bibliography
5th Jany 1880
My dear Burton,
I have had the pleasure to receive your note of the 30th ult. and should have answered it before but I have had a good deal to occupy me for some days.
I do not know anyone at Suez who bought gold from Midian and I have enquired from [Ali el faud] who does not know anyone either.
We have had it very cold here lately, much more so than usual, with the mornings as cold as freezing nights and a maximum one day of only 48 so that with the dry air from the north one feels shivered up.
I hope matters will turn out to your satisfaction , of course you know that in this country “sábbar” is necessary.
very kind regards and believe me
Shepheards Jan 7 ’80.
The enclosed (which please return) would look as if you had forgotten to write to your father. [Could] you not find time to look in your notes and discover the name of the Suez man who brought up the duct for gold washing?
Richard F. Burton.
My dear Bates
Yesterday I received proofs of pp. 31—60; and return them corrected today. Consequently one parcel is missing pp. 20-30; this is no matter as it is registered and is probably lying at Alexandria. I have taken measures to receive it and will forward at once. As soon as they are complete please let me have 25 copies separate, for distribution to friends and others. If you send them to my agents Mssrs. Stuart and Son 16 Basingstoke Street E.C. he will forward them to me per steamer.
I have given a load of introductions to a young American correspondent C. Inman Barnard who wants to go to Hijaz, the head quarters of the Wahhabis. The latter are now beginning another movement. He wants the advice of the Society about the best way of getting there.
I am working hard about a concession for the mines & feel […] mouldy for want of exploration. Remember me most kindly to Signors Cole & Rye.
R. F. Burton
Please ask printer to send me my MS complete. Three leaves missing—which loses time.
U.S. Club, Pall Mall,
My Dear Mrs. Burton,
You write an orb which is setting, or rather is set. I have no power to aid your husband in any way. I went to F. O. to-day, and, as you know, Lord — is very ill. Well! the people there were afraid of me, for I have written hard things to them; and though they knew all, they would say naught. I said, 'Who is the personification of Foreign Office?’ They said, 'X is.’ I saw 'X’; but he tried to evade my question–i.e. Would F. O. do anything to prevent the Soudan falling into chaos? It was no use. I cornered him, and he then said, 'I am merely a clerk to register letters coming in and going out.’ So then I gave up, and marvelled. I must say I was surprised to see such a thing; a great Government like ours governed by men who dare not call their souls their own. Lord — rules them with a rod of iron. If your husband would understand that F. O. at present is Lord — (and he is ill) he would see that I can do nothing. I have written letters to F. O. that would raise a corpse; it is no good. I have threatened to go to the French Government about the Soudan; it is no good. In fact, my dear Mrs. Burton, I have done for myself with this Government, and you may count me a feather, for I am worth no more. Will you send this on to your husband? He is a first-rate fellow, and I wish I had seen him long ago (scratch this out, for he will fear I am going to borrow money); and believe me, my dear Mrs. Burton (pardon me about Suez),
C. G. Gordon
Hôtel Toucan, Lausanne
Excuse my not answering your kind note of 5.3.80 before, but to be quiet I have come abroad, and did not have a decided address, so I only got your letter to-day. I will come and see you when I (D.V.) come home; but that is undecided. Of course your husband failed with Tewfik. I scent carrion a long way off, and felt that the hour of my departure had come, so I left quietly. Instead of A (Ismail), who was a good man, you have B (Tewfik), who may be good or bad, as events will allow him. B is the true son of A; but has the inexperience of youth, and may be smarter. The problem working out in the small brains of Tewfik is this: “My father lost his throne because he scented the creditors. The Government only cared for the creditors; they did not care for good government. So if I look after the creditors, I may govern the country as I like.” No doubt Tewfik is mistaken; but those are his views, backed up by a ring of pashas. Now look at his Ministry. Are they not aliens to Egypt? They are all slaves or of low origin. Put their price down:
Riaz Pasha, a dancing-boy of Abbas Pasha, value …
A slave, Osman, Minister of War, turned out by me
Etc., etc., etc., each–five
350 = 1,750
So that the value of the Ministry (which we think an enlightened one) is £490. What do they care for the country? Not a jot. We ought to sweep all this lot out, and the corresponding lot at Stamboul. It is hopeless and madness to think that with such material you can do anything. Good-bye. Kind regards to your husband.
Cairo 25 March 1880
Dear Capn Burton
Your note reached me last night & I can start at any moment. You understand that my main business is to see whether I can get the rest of the Syriac MSS in the Syrian Convent. This may require some management & even involve delay. If that is inconsistent with your plans we may have to arrange so that I can stay behind you at W. Natrûn after the other objects of the journey are accomplished. It is certain that MSS exist but the monks having previously been paid for all they had are afraid to show them.
W. R. Smith
My dear friend. You cannot possibly be more dispirited then we are at our mishap. Your letter was forwarded to me at Munich & I did not answer because I felt so sure of seeing you. We went to Staunton & then all the best hotels. Twice a day I went to the bureau at the 4 seasons & to the book so it must have been the difficulty of pronouncing your name to a foreigner which caused the mistake. I went to the book the last thing before starting. I only met Lady Stanley by chance in the passage ½ an hour before leaving. It would have been so jolly to have fixed the same time to go to Ammergau had we known. We only had one fortnight’s leave. When I left London for Trieste I found Dick laid up with a violent gout which lasted 2 months. We have 2 places in our district very handily placed for sickness: a rural inn 1200 ft. above our own house in town & some thermal baths 50 minutes by train so we tried both of these but he was so weak he applied for a fortnight & took me to Ober Ammergau. The fleets are gathering at Ragusa close to us. We expect Lady Stanley here on 13th. In the first week of October I give my house fête. How much nicer it wd have been if you had come on here (for us). Now what shall I do for Lady Galway. In Stambul we only know Goschen & I’m sure she knows him better than we do. In Egypt I don’t believe at this hot season there will be anybody left except people “one doesn’t want to meet” as Judy says and in Damascus I enc. five letters to my two old dearest friends Lady Ellenborough & the famous old Abd El Kadir—but the thing is where can I now send these letters as yours is of old date at present. Poor Ismail. I wish he was back in Egypt or I wish Dick had begun years ago. It is just like our luck. We have had a bad run of ill luck for 2 years. Just as my midsummer book for boys was corrected & ready for press, my beast of a publisher gets so drunk & helpless, his father had to get him home & close the drink houses. My book is stereotyped at the printers hanging fire, & my draft for 100 l returned unaccepted.
I had a model publisher & Dick a model miner who has turned out equally bad. We spoiled them by treating them well & asking them to dinner & now if we ever write on business the first threatens me to have a brain fever & the latter threatens Dick to have a fit. The doctors do not allow them to work for another month & this has been going on for 14 months. I believe both have DT. I have now written to ask if I may be free to choose another publisher who will take me with the expenses already incurred. I don’t say a word about Ammergau. I am writing an account which you will see. Dick is critical. I shd like to know what you thought & felt.
With best love from both
I am yours ever affectly
2. 4. 80
My Dear Mrs. Burton,
Thanks for your telegram and your letter. Excuse half-sheet (economy). No, I will not write to Cairo, and your letters are all torn up. I am going to Brussels in a few days, and after a stay there I come over to England. I do not like or believe in Nubar. He is my horror; for he led the old ex-Khedive to his fall, though Nubar owed him everything. When Ismail became Khedive, Nubar had £3 a month; he now owns £1,000,000. Things will not and cannot go straight in Egypt, and I would say, “Let them glide.” Before long time elapses things will come to a crisis. The best way is to let all minor affairs rest, and to consider quietly how the ruin is to fall. It must fall ere long. United Bulgaria, Syria France, and Egypt England. France would then have as much interest in repelling Russia as we have. Supposing you got out Riaz, why, you would have Riaz’s brother; and if you got rid of the latter, you would have Riaz’s nephew. Le plus ça change, le plus c'est la même chose. We may, by stimulants, keep the life in them; but as long as the body of the people are unaffected, so long will it be corruption in high places, varying in form, not in matter. Egypt is usurped by the family of the Sandjeh of Salonique, and (by our folly) we have added a ring of Circassian pashas. The whole lot should go; they are as much strangers as we would be. Before we began muddling we had only to deal with the Salonique family, now we have added the ring, who say, “We are Egypt.” We have made Cairo a second Stamboul. So much the better. Let these locusts fall together. As well expect any reform, any good sentiment, from these people as water from a stone; the extract you wish to get does not and cannot exist in them. Remember I do not say this of the Turkish peasantry or of the Egyptian-born poor families. It is written, Egypt shall be the prey of nations, and so she has been; she is the servant; in fact Egypt does not really exist. It is a nest of usurpers.
Figure 1. Dier Al Anba Bishoi Monastery, Egypt, April 17 1880, from Burton's Sketchbook.
Figure 2. Már Girgis, Egypt, April 16 1880, from Burton's Sketchbook.
Trieste St John’s Day
Grant Smith (I wrote “Grant”)
Who is your “Dear Captain Burton?”
Just after receiving yours of Thurs 4, I was knocked down & got out of bed only yesterday. An exaggerated course of temperance gave me 1st a swollen right foot and 2nd a swollen left foot (gout? Rheumatism? Rheumatic gout ?). However, the attack has past off and I expect a few clean months.
I read your open letter and tried (vainly) to put myself in the place of Principal Rainy. Congratulate you. But mind! you bear the mark of Cain etc. and some Lamech may get the better of you. Odium Theo. is elemental as the gods, the olden gods.
That wretched Zohrab of Jeddah can’t find time even to send me a specimen of gold rock. I devote him to the nemesis of Poor-Devil-Consuls!
My Camoens is now being printed & I have found a publisher for the Commentary. Remains only to copy out the latter. I am still weak & not up to much but ça viendra, head clearer, not quite clear, don’t write [2 Arabic words]. The ham acting must keep a wee while. Nubar Pasha just through & came to see us.
My wife regrets missing you. Let us have a line from time to time. You are [ingested with the Nile talw] and you know what that means.
R. F. Burton
Trieste Sept. 3
Yes! Just like Providence! If he had only consulted a man of clear common sense how much better it would have been! And now all he has to do is look forward to next spring.
I wanted so much to speak to you about The Lusiads. Correction nearly finished and the whole almost ready for publication. I wish so much that you would review it, as you are one of the half dozen capable of understanding it, far ahead of the unhappy Brit Pub. I now keep a critic and all know it.
My sole enjoyment at the Play was to see the effect of the Last Supper. All the Germans around me were hungry and pigged into Butterbrod and garlicky sausages. Isabel would have crucified them. I'm writing realistic account for Spiritualist and comparing with Meccah Drama.
As soon as the world gets home & snuggled down for winter I'll send you (printed) account of my last visit to Egypt, and the proceedings of that poxy little Jew at minister Riaz P. The old man did me, but this lot did an extra do. A highly Catholic person is writing to you so I shut up with
R. F. B.
5 Rockstone Place
My dear Burton (excuse the Captain)
I sent you the M.S.S. one of Harar one of London. Why do you not translate them? I hope you have got the two.
I have been giving it to Khedive, as you will soon see.
I am now going to Bantry Bay Ireland to repose and to study the Irish, & to shoot snipe & to wait till April, when I have to decide what I will do. I am sorry I cannot see you, where is your pamphlet against Riaz & Co.
I hope Mrs. Burton is well. I have often thought of you both.
C. G. Gordon
Where is Captain [Hardy], he might go to Abyssa. & help John.
Address 5 Rockstone Place
My dear Burton
Thanks for you P. Card which I received at Cork: for I am here for a month or so, to see what human nature is like over here. We drove past a place this afternoon, where Paddy had crouched behind a hedge & shot the servant of a Landlord, dead, a few weeks ago. The landlord escaped. I was with the agent of Lord Bantry but did not get shot at. How is Mrs. Burton, I hope well.
I had a little skirmish with Khedive, and of course I could never show myself in Egypt again, however I am well away. Of course Malet & Colvin think things are splendid. I do hope that the Govt will not allow the capitulation to be annulled, which is the object of Riaz & the Khedive. I wonder if you are going to Egypt this year again: if you do, try and visit the prisons. Do not let Egypt shut up Abyssinia. I would go to King John, if our Govt would have me alone, but I feel sure they would object.
With kind regards to Mrs. Burton. Believe me
C. G. Gordon.
My dear R. Smith
Many thanks for the Speech. You are in the right way; purge puer and you’ll end well. But what the Devil (a Ruskinism, there is no such body) will the Assembly say after the merry jig you have executed upon their pet corns? Dear, dear! So Moses did not write the book of Moses! (As if anybody believed he did). If you republish, read (unless you have read) Spinoza who proved the date philologically.
My Camoens is printed. I am now hard at my Book of the Sword. In my moments of rest I shall copy out MS of our visit to the Copts. If I send you MS have you any objection to look over and append notes with your initials? I am doing work for 10. Pamphlet on Revival of the Slave Trade in Egypt, especial reference to Riaz P. (that prig Isabel drives me like a pickpocket); another on the Partition of Turkey; another on the Baths of Monfalcone and yet another on
The Coming Republic
My wife won’t allow this to be published as it sent Ole Marm to Mammon (who might go further for all I care) and makes the Welshman President as long as he behaves himself.
Do write me a line to chat about yourself, even as I have done. […] Inshallah […] An ugly business that death of King! And Grant certifying that the [Roy.] did not cause it! They tell me son is doing well.
R. F. Burton
I hope that Revd. Chester will catch it for that […] boy of his. The idea of making an allowance for the changes of 3000 years!
December 10, 1880.
My dear Barnard,
The gold mines in Yemen seem to have been forgotten. But they will sooner or later revive. The whole coast there is metalliferous, and the world is not rich enough to let gold and silver lie in the ground unworked.
Meanwhile, yrs. ffy.
(Signed) R. F. Burton
My dear Mrs. Burton
I have been in such a rage with the Akankoo company that I haven’t been able to write. They have kept me on waiting till now then tell me I am not wanted & besides are generally acting scandalously at least a section of them and I don't intend anything with my name on to go wrong whilst I can make it go right.
I can't sail next Saturday but hope to get away the following one. I shall be free the moment I land and therefore there will be no delay caused by my working for the mine and as the other boy’s wire has not arrived I expect to be out as soon as he.
Boy No. 2
I’ll look after your little pet as well as I can; give him his gruel & hot water bottle.
18 King Edward Road
London, 13th Decr 1880.
My Dear Consul Burton
I have just heard from a friend in the Education Department that Mr. Bruce Walker’s son called there last week to obtain my address for the purpose of sending it to you.
Although it was given to him, I believe, I would also do myself the pleasure of supplying it, and of assuring you that I felt extremely gratified to think that amid all the affairs of your exceedingly busy life you can find time to give a thought to your old friends of Fernando Po.
I hope I do not need to add the assurance that if there is any way in which I can be of the least service to you, it will give me unfeigned pleasure.
About six months ago I obtained a lengthened leave of absence from the Education Department and accepted an offer for my services from a Spanish friend who holds concessions of some Copper and Cobalt mines in Leon, and wishes to form a company in London to work them. A trial shipment of the Ore has, at length, been made, but we do not know the result yet, and cannot tell whether it will prove successful or not.
As there was little prospect of promotion in the branch of the Civil Service in which I was employed, I was thankful after long looking for it to find an opening that held out however feeble a chance of leading to something better.
I regret being ignorant of what plans you are at present conceiving, or to what part of the world your exploring eye is to be directed next, but I have only to know these particulars to feel the warmest interest in them, and, in any case, to wish you most sincerely every possible success.
kindest regards, and all good wishes for Mrs. Burton and yourself,
Yours ever sincerely
F. Burton F.R.G.S.
&c. &c. &c.
My dear Bates
Yesterday even. I got 1st mss. account of Midian, corrected it and sent it off to you this morn.
My wife says that she finds correction very difficult. You had better however continue to send proofs in triplicate with Ms. to Trieste; she will return you one copy corrected, & I another. The precaution is useful because in these stirring times one never knows where or when one goes.
Your note of Nov 26th about Lad. Magyar really amused me. The book is very difficult. I don’t know one of the Council who could read it. Besides German the translator wants Portuguese; Brazilian for such words as Schakaranda & Fararaka, for Jararáca (Jacarandá = [love] word) and South African. However I’ve done it & shall send it to Markham.
Here we are at war. Gordon wants 20,000 men for Massawah. Abyssinians are in earnest. Cadastre going on well: I’ve been to see the operations. Pretty business, scientific frontier! All kinds of bad reports flying. The weather here has been windy with a little rain, water much wanted, now for two months. Storms awful in Mediterranean, weather damnable at Trieste and in Adriatic. I had excellent passage till Corfu when a parson came on board. Shall Xmas here and wish you all manner of felicities.
R. F. Burton.
While at Trieste I used to see much of that extraordinary man, the late Sir Richard Burton, and his wife. They were both most industrious in writing pamphlets about various subjects. One pamphlet of his was a plan to dispose of Constantinople, by making it a free city guaranteed by the Great Powers. Lady Burton was devoted to her husband, and he to her in his way. She started at Trieste a society to prevent cruelty to animals. A cart used to go round every morning to catch any stray dogs, which were put into it, confined there by bars and nets, and left for the day, unless claimed, and often in the sun, so as to leave no excuse for their not going mad.
I did not hurry from the city of the Caliphs, there was so much of interest to be seen in those days. We had to gad about on donkeys and camels or in fiacres; there were no automobiles or streetcars, and of course the principal hotel was the historic Shepherds. As I sat on its stoop, I felt very much like a journalistic spider in a huge web looking out for copy, so many interesting folk came into the meshes of this wonderful hostelry—from gadfly tourists to great bluebottle flies of commerce and other species of big-bugs.
One day I was lazily puffing at a cheroot, stretching myself in a lounge chair, playing with two bulldogs belonging to Luigi the manager, when the flies began to arrive from the station. The first carriage disgorged two occupants; a rather severe looking lady in black, followed slowly by a man, mounted the steps in stately manner. The man halted half-way up to wipe the sweat from his forehead, for the weather was then intensely humid in Cairo. As he raised his soft Alpine hat a slant of sunlight caught the side of his face and lit up a rugged, deep-set scar which ran from below the left eye right down the jaw. The red light gave a remarkable crimson hue to the wound, as if the cut had been freshly made. The whole face was stern and rather repellent. It was the head of a portrait I had seen as a student on the walls of the Royal Academy which had a magnetic charm for me; I remembered it at once. “The Consul of Trieste,” was the title, and it was painted by Sir Frederick Leighton.
“Excuse me!” I said, “but are you not the Consul of Trieste?” The man looked at me almost with a scowl on his strong, rugged face, as much as to say, “Who the devil are you, sir?”
“Forgive me,” I continued, “but I was suddenly impelled to address you, I can't tell why, but I have always been impressed by a certain portrait painted by Leighton which appeared in the Academy in my student days called by that title. I felt certain that you were the sitter.”
There was a curious half-amused glint in his deep-set eyes as he said, “My name's Burton, I was Consul of Trieste, and you are right about the portrait.” We sat down and chatted. Of course it all dawned on me; he was the great explorer—the hero of a hundred-and-one marvelous adventures which had fascinated my youth.
What a charm of manner he had in spite of that stern, almost repulsive, exterior. This was the Sir Richard Burton who put before the world the real unvarnished and delightful translation of The Arabian Nights that made such a stir in the puritanical world in the eighties.
On the following evening we were smoking with other idlers, awaiting the arrival of the train, when the procession of fiacres with their dusty and weary occupants drove up. A solitary figure stepped out of the last carriage. As this man mounted the steps the last rays of the sun lit up his face with vividness exactly similar to Burton's on the previous evening. I gave a start as the clean-cut features and crisp beard stood out in Rembrandt-like glow.
“Look, Sir Richard,” I whispered, “this is a curious coincidence; there is the artist who painted your portrait.” And Sir Frederick Leighton passed us and went on into the hotel. The great president of the Royal Academy had come out to make sketches of lilac dawn on the Nile for one of his masterpieces.
My friend, Sir Richard Burton, while I was in Egypt, was entrusted by the Khedive Ismail with a mission to explore the Akabar region in Arabia, and report upon the condition of the mines that once supplied the Pharaohs with gold, silver, copper, and precious stones. These mines are situated in the “Land of Midian,” whither Moses retired and lived in peace, after having killed the Egyptian (Exodus ii. 12 et seq.).
Sir Richard brought back to Cairo specimens of gold dust, rubies, emeralds, and turquoises. He reported that the gold mines, far from being exhausted, could be profitably worked by modern scientific methods.
General Stone Pasha took me with Burton to Abdin Palace to submit the report on the mineral resources of Arabia to the Khedive. Burton began by saying: “I am convinced, Your Highness, that Midian will prove to be a California for Egypt. The Akabar region abounds in mineral wealth. Mines of gold, silver, tin, antimony, and copper were abandoned four thousand years ago, and there is no evidence of their having been touched ever since. The sands of the streams, as may be seen by the specimens now submitted, still “yield gold.”
A few days later the Khedive informed Burton that his report, which indicated the practical value of the mineral wealth of Arabia, was approved by experts to whom it had been referred, and that he had instructed General Stone Pasha to engage an eminent American engineer to put the mines in working order.
“Meanwhile,” added the Khedive, “if it suits your plans, I will arrange for your appointment as Governor of the Egyptian possessions in Arabia.”
Burton replied: “I feel certain, Your Highness, that in due course the mines will add greatly to the resources of Egypt.”
Before anything further could be done, the ill-starred firman of the Sultan Abdul Hamid arrived, and the project of the Arabian mines was abandoned. The new Khedive Tewfik never considered himself bound by anything his father had done. He turned his back on Button, and his minister, Riaz Pasha, refused to refund the explorer for the sums spent during his mission to the “Land of Midian”, where the mines remain today (1940) just as they were when Burton submitted his report.
Sir Richard and Lady Burton seldom missed their yearly visit to Cairo, where they had many friends. Sir Richard was the most versatile genius of his time. He was philosopher, scholar, poet, explorer, athlete, combatant, skilled swordsman, and jovial comrade. He spoke and wrote the classic Arabic, and was also familiar with the colloquial idioms of the people. He was able to converse in ten Oriental languages, including Arabic, Persian, Hindustani, and Afghani.
Sir Richard journeyed to Mecca with the Mohammedan pilgrims and visited the tomb of the Prophet. The slightest fault in the ritual of the Koran would have been taken as proof that he was not a true believer. Such a discovery would have meant instant death.
Perhaps the most thrilling of his expeditions was his exploration of Harrar in Abyssinia, still inhabited, I suppose, by roving bands of bloodthirsty savages who are neither Christians like the Abyssinians, nor Moslems like the Arabs, and whose sole instinct is to kill and rob all that fall under their hand. Burton was four months in Harrar, and his observations and notes proved useful to the Egyptians, the English, and later to the Italians.
Burton's physical appearance was striking. He was five feet eleven inches in height, and he always regretted not being able to grow another inch. He had the classic, Semitic features of an Arab, and long straight nose, dark hair, shaggy eyebrows, black flashing eyes; he wore a big dark moustache; as sketched by a friend, he had the “brow of a God, and the jaw of a Devil”. He was one of the most attractive men I ever met.
It is not generally known, although, I understand, established by family documents, that Richard Burton was a direct descendant of Louis XIV, who took the beautiful Huguenot Countess of Montmorency from her husband, the Constable de Montmorency. The unfortunate husband was shut up in a fortress where he died.
During this union the Countess gave birth to a son, duly recognized by the King. The youth, at his mother's request, was brought up in the Protestant faith. At the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he was carried to Ireland, where he became a Doctor of Divinity.
Burton's renown as an author rests chiefly upon his unexpurgated translation of the Arabian Nights, and of the Scented Garden, the erotic poetry of the Arab El Nefzemin. He rarely alluded to his literary achievements. An exception occurred one evening at Cairo when only three congenial comrades were present. It was his birthday, March 29th. The principal dish was a roast sucking pig three weeks old, and apple sauce—his favourite repast. Asked which of his works gave him the greatest pleasure to produce, he replied: “The translation of the Luciades. Camoens was a wayfarer, explorer, and soldier, besides being a poet. He personified chivalry, and was a hero of the sword as well as of the pen. During my wanderings, I always had with me a volume of the cantos of the Luciades. Camoens, whether on sea, desert, jungle, or mountain, was my consoler and companion. Twenty years of my life, off and on, were devoted to rendering into English the verses of my master Camoens, the Pilgrim Poet of Sea and Land.” Might not Burton himself be described as a nineteenth-century Camoens?
Sir Richard kept his muscles in good form by constantly carrying as a cane a heavy iron bar adroitly concealed inside a Malacca joint. One evening during a dinner party on the second floor of Shepheard's Hotel—there was no lift there in those days—Lady Burton was telling her friends that she was now the happiest woman in the world, for her “Richard had greatly improved in health since he had forsworn strong drink.” Soon afterwards a tremendous commotion was heard in the hall below. This was caused by Sir Richard returning home from a convivial gathering of comrades; he had inadvertently dropped his gymnastic walking stick at the top of the marble staircase, and it rebounded, step by step, with astonishing reverberations, until it reached the ground floor.
Lady Burton was an ideal wife for a man like Burton. She accompanied him during many of his journeys, and when he became an invalid took good care of him. She was criticized for having burned the manuscripts of his version of the Arabian Nights and of the Scented Garden. Lady Burton's defence was that this was done out of pure devotion to the moral reputation of her husband—an excuse perhaps acceptable during a period of excessive prudery when Punch, with gentle irony, declared that Mrs. Grundy had concealed the legs of her piano by draping them in calico pantalettes.
Burton had devoted friends, and bitter enemies, and many of each. His intellect had a wide scope best described by the Arab adage: “Like an elephant's trunk it could pick up a needle, or uproot a tree.”
Sir Richard's confidential reports to the Khedive were entrusted to the care of the War Office at the Citadel, where, together with a dozen invaluable reports and maps made by American officers in the Soudan, Darfour, and Kardofan, on the important resources of Equatorial Africa, they were destroyed during the Arab Rebellion in 1882.
When Burton, disguised as an Indian Moslem, made his pilgrimage to Mecca, a tragic episode occurred. Early one morning Burton strolled out alone in the desert, and after accomplishing an act of urgent personal necessity, he, according to Christian custom, made use of paper, instead of the hot clean sand of the desert, applied by the left hand, as is usual with Moslem pilgrims. Looking about him, he noticed that an Arab had observed his act. As a faithful Moslem he would surely report the incident as proof that the supposed Indian Mohammedan was an impostor, and this would certainly have resulted in the death of Burton. The Arab was never again seen. Referring to this episode, Burton said: “I never murdered anyone.” It would be singular, however, if in his long career of adventure, peril, and combat, he never killed anyone in self-defence.
I may here introduce some of my companions. Turabi Bey I have already mentioned, a jovial sturdy little Turk of sixty years, with a kindly pleasant face and a loyal heart, with the tottering gait of a child and the appetite of a giant, never happy without a cigarette, yet the model of misery when forced for politeness' sake to smoke a cigar; a first-rate English scholar, yet incapable of uttering one sentence in the native Arabic after fifteen years residence in Egypt, always grumbling yet never ill-tempered, to me the cheeriest of companions and best of friends, to the Khedive most devoted of servants and often wisest of counsellors. Poor Turabi! Just four years after the time of which I am writing I witnessed the pomp of his funeral, and stood beside his grave outside the walls of Cairo, as his body was lowered in its Muslim shroud and the Ulema chanted their prayers above his last resting-place. I never recall that day without sorrow, nor his memory without affection. …
Besides the new things that one saw, there were many strange stories to hear, and men more or less famous to meet. About this time I met Captain Burton, whose marvellous knowledge of eastern life and languages must alone make him a unique figure, even were he not a brilliant talker and the hero of the daring pilgrimage to Mecca. I met him dining at Turabi's house, and Turabi afterwards told me that he was on board the same ship with Captain Burton bound for Alexandria, when the latter was about starting on his great journey. Turabi was struck with the regularity and earnestness with which a certain poorly-dressed Arab performed his devotions and watching him rather narrowly suddenly recognised his friend Captain Burton. . A burst of laughter followed; but Burton, seeing his disguise penetrated, merely made a quick sign of silence, and went on with his prayers. Turabi took the hint, but subsequently they had many a chat in private, and the good little Turk was of service to the Englishman in his initiation as Musulman. … Zagazig was the beginning of troubles to us. … It was the English telegraphist here who first heard from the sheikhs and pilgrims from Mecca of the gold in Midian, and also prompted Captain Burton to undertake the expedition thither.
Sixteen miles west of Tell el-Hesy is Gaza. In those days Gaza lay outside the limits of the tourist's route, and it heard and knew little about Europe. I was the guest of a well-to-do Mohammedan family and counted as one of themselves. While I was with them the zikr or commemoration of the grandfather of Mohammed, whom the populace maintained had been buried in the chief mosque, was celebrated, and I was naturally taken to it as one of my host's family. On that particular night of the year we were allowed to wear our shoes and smoke if we wished to do so. It was a moonless night, but the brilliancy of the starry heavens more than made up for the want of moonshine, and the great court of the mosque was lighted with numberless lamps. The court was filled with people; the whole population of Gaza appeared to be there, and as I stood in the dense crowd I could not help reflecting how easily a fanatic might put me out of this world and leave no trace of the deed behind him. Presently the spirit of ecstasy came upon some of the assemblage as it came upon Saul among the prophets, and men and boys formed circles, and to the chaunt of “Allah! Allah-hu!” swayed backward and forward till they fell to the ground through giddiness and exhaustion. It was curious to look into their eyes; they were wide open but, like Balaam's, they saw nothing. I understood then what it meant when we are told that “the spirit of God came upon him. The man which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open” (Numbers xxiv. 2-4). After a while some of them were carried still further in their religious frenzy and began to slash and pierce themselves with knives and skewers. I saw the slashes on the flesh, and skewers thrust through the muscles and withdrawn; and I also saw the wounds closing up immediately and no blood flowing from them. It must be remembered that I was crowded up against the devotees, actually touching some of them, and that the devotees themselves were not professional dervishes like the jugglers I have since seen in Algeria and Tunisia, but the ordinary townspeople and boys, and that there were no directors or music. What chaunt there was, was uttered by the devotees themselves.
Of course I do not expect the citizens of a civilised country in the unimaginative West to believe my story. Once I was mentioning it to Sir Richard Burton: “Ah yes,” he said, “I know it is true, for I have seen the same, but you wouldn't get the British public to believe that it isn't a traveller's lie.” …
A year or two later Burton and I planned a journey together along the north coast of Africa, starting from Marocco and ending with Alexandria. In his company it would have been possible. He was a Hajji, a pilgrim, well known to the oriental, and respected even by the lawless Arab tribes of Cyrene. But at the time we were both of us engaged, he with his consular work, and I with my Oxford duties, and we therefore postponed our expedition to a more convenient season when we should be free. But when that season came it was too late. Burton was crippled with gout, and I had become too old for the fatigues of such a journey. That I have never seen the Cyrenaica is one of the regrets of my life. …
7. 4. '81
Dear Mr. Massey yesterday I received per post from W&N two grand volumes; for which you are duly thanked. As I am writing about the Sword in Egypt I at once read Chapt. 1. You have worked it up very well—do you read hieroglyphs fluently? We perfectly agree (1) that the Egyptians are indigenous, “Indo Germanic is a German impertinence” (I have sent home 100 mummied skulls to prove the Africanism of the race) and (2) that the origin is Aethiopia. Excuse me if I say that with such a handsome work you should have a list of misprints at end. e.g. Aedipus (p. 39) won’t do. Meter again is not neter.
You have given me an Ostrich egg and I return you that of a tomtit. A friend will send you my translation of The Lusiads to be followed by a detailed commentary—vol. 1 already printed.
You won’t have time to read the whole but you may get a moment to read the "Ignez Episode" Canto iii st. 118 to end; and the Isle of Sin IX, 54-65. Your opinion will be valuable to me on one point. Will the British Public stand so much literalisation, Portugalizm, Cameonizm? The Sonnets (352 in no.) will come out next autumn.
Returning to the Libro Originam. I fear that Chapter ii which I shall read tonight will scribe a great gulf between you and me. I hold to the Antique vice, believing Káfir to be a modern Arabism & imperfectly written "Kuffir". Hoping to see a line from you I am ever yrs trly.
R. F. Burton
April 8, ’81
My dear Ouida
The spirit moves me to inflict a note upon you. It is very long since I saw your handwriting, but the papers constantly give me details about your writings. It is as good as a biography. I was glad to see that they have promoted Colnaghi.
One of my reasons for writing to you is that I have just printed my translation of Camoens’ "Lusiads." If you will read it (or a small part of it to be marked out) I will send you a copy. The Press as with most of my other things is at odds in the matter: some praise me too much, others abuse me too much and I don’t care a damn for either. There! honest if not polite.
No news at Trieste. My wife is deep in ill-fed persons and dissolute curs. Philobeastism is becoming the rage. I hold it mostly a hysterical affection to which, curious to say, men are also liable. When it takes the form of a society, with President (or -ess), Secretary, Clerk, officers etc. it may do some good, to bipeds if not to quadrupeds.
How is health treating you? Has Colonel Larking left Florence for good? What of the enemy Lady Joan? A terrible row that book made. My wife sends you all manner of memories and enfin my dear Ouida I am ev yrs sincy
R. F. Burton
The Pines, Putney Hill,
April 13, 1881
My dear Mrs. Burton
I am horribly ashamed to find that my letter of thanks to you on the arrival of the Lusiads, which I quite thought had been at once written and despatched (this is the real and honest truth and not a lying afterthought to excuse myself), never went or existed at all, but remained in the limbo of good intentions. I cannot tell how, for I distinctly remember the very words I meant to send (and thought I had sent) of congratulation to Burton on having in that translation—as I think—matched Byron on his own ground as a translator and beaten him at his own weapon. The version of Pulci's Morgante on which Byron prided himself so greatly as being (in his own words) 'the best translation that ever was or will be made' is an infinitely less important (and I should think less difficult) attempt on exactly the same lines of work—and certainly to say the least not more successful—as far as one can judge without knowledge of Camoens in the original language.
With best remembrances to both of you
Ever faithfully yours,
A. C. Swinburne
Private Trieste 22.4.81
Dear Mr. Massey
Being very hardly worked (hard worked men have time for all things) I have now read your 2 vols. The idea is quite sound. Egypt is the source of all civilisation (except China?). She sent out an alphabet and with it doubtless a language. Sanskrit is quite modern; Prakrit comparatively so; and India was utterly barbarous in the days of Herodotus. You have done your best (and very good work) to abate the Hindu “Indo-Germanic” nuisance and Max the Miller, alias Solar myth. Ditto of “Hebrew delusions.” In your book (allow me to say) the reader wants more proofs that the Sabrean (star worship) distinctly preceded the Solar and like all obsolete things fell to the lowest e.g. Slavery, Polygamy, Polyandry.
The extract from D.T. will prepare you for reviews. The
critics have no time to read. Nor have they the acumen to discover the
soundness of your foundations. They will glance at superstructure and pick out
its holes. It is a pity that you did not work at Arab. for six months or so.
Now you quote Turkish, Persian (esp.), Hindust., Kisawahili, Malay & other
words which are mere Arab. corruptions. This is opening your coat of mail to
the enemy reviewer. Meanwhile the book shows an immense amount of research, of
folk-lore, and of curious out-of-the-way knowledge. What that old Genetrix
Mrs. Grundy will say I can hardly fancy. But I suppose you are like myself
brass-fronted and copper-bottomed. As regards my wife, she is a Rom. Cat.; and
these people you know are furious against heterodoxy in their own flock, but
allow outsiders to think & say what they damn please.
Do you know Palmer of Cambridge? If you don't know Revd Badger make his acquaintance and get him to work up Káf. My conviction is that represents the root of Cau-casus; where the Russians still preserve Vladi-Kupkas. I am here away from books and oppressed with tasks. My hands won’t be free ‘til late autumn when the "Book of the Sword" will be finished (Diabolo suad vite).
Many thanks for your valuable note on Khopsh or Shopsh. Before reading your book I had derived from it the Eng. "chop". It is the Argive . "Sword" is the Egypt. Sifet; Arab. (Sayf-um—sign of love) & Gr.; hence schwerte, swerde, sword. The Egyptians had 2 main forms; the straight—as in Somali land—blade, and the faulchion or sickle blade that is still preserved in Abyssinia to perfection. The Greeks had the regular rapier (in bronze) and the curious ending in a swallow-tail—the "sword of Ali". Cherib. & Harbah (Phan) are from the root Harbe, fight.
The "gulf" of the second chapter is that you assume direct derivation from English to Egyptian. I hold that the so called Indo-European or rather European (nothing to do with India) element in Coptic was first cultivated in Phrygia and thence passed to Greece. Remember Herod. who says Egyptians owned Phrygians to be older than themselves. The Aryan is a different affair: the headquarters were about Herat and thence overspread India in a thin succession of local invasions. Please work up Phrygia as much as you can. Aryan includes European but not v.v.
I have been tempted to two sheets of note-paper which is rare. But I cannot deny myself the pleasure of thanking you for the pleasant hours I have passed over your book. The next Edit. should have an Index. Also, I think, a summary of doctrines.
My wife joins me in very kind regards and best wishes.
R. F. Burton
Please let me know by post card if you have recd Lusiads, Don't bother to read all but just look at Canto iii 118 to end & ix, 54-65.
Gerald Massey Esq.
Trieste May 28
Dear Mr. Massey
Yesterday I sent your notice and wrote about your beginnings to my friend Quaritch. We will hear what he says about the matter before sending him the 50 copies. Why don't you call upon him, no. 15 Piccadilly? He has a noble collection.
Thank you for your Preface and friendly allusion to me. Had you not better prefix a kind of synopsis of views to the next vol. and openly tell the Philologers 1. That you hold Egyptian 1st and only civilised tongue of its day. 2. That Egyptian art & science overspread the world & 3. That whenever & wherever you find a sound resembling an Egyptian root you assume derivation without regard to Grimm and the old principles of philology. I think if you work this out mixed with much snubbing of the Sanskrito maxi’als you will silence many a brag.
For inst. the word Káfir () = unbeliever. The root is () Kafara—he disbelieved and Kafir is act. part 1st conj.
You have I think logically a right to take any orderly combination of letters
and derive these from the nearest Egyptian root. But you do so at your peril, more later logic.
Meanwhile the heathen will furiously rage against you and you have to maintain du calme. Of all things don't lose temper and answer brag with broad grins.
Thank you for your kindly expressed opinion about the Lusiads. I should very much like to have all your notes and particularly the places where a word made you squirm. If within distance I shall certainly accept your good offer to consult you about Sonnets. But you have not quite understood the gist of my translation, which is to copy tone and sound of, as well as to translate original. Hence "digno" "pergrim" "voyante" and "aspero" become words which you allow. But I can't afford to consider individual abhorrence or (I can assure you) my version would become utterly unlike original. I must be shown that the words themselves are ugly, unpleasant, not significant. I don't care a fig whether they are in use or not. You see my attempt is novel: no translator as yet has flown so high. Of course I must expect to “catch it” for a vicious flight over vulgar heads. Again the French rhymes I, 30 III 122 etc. are simply copies of original. And here I have not to consider the sense of coupling the same sounds, but only whether they offend music and metre or not. It is like the row lately made—about assonance. Readers of poetry will feel grateful for not having these things pointed out to them.
Your criticism is quite correct in one part where you say that in the midst of particular passages which pleased you, a word came in and did dire offence. You may have observed that in the most ornate parts (Episodes etc.) I have adhered to common modern English as much as possible. And I am ready to do so by revision if you can let me know what the peccant passages are.
Of course the Lusiads won’t pay, but I shall publish a 2d edition and make many changes.
Returning to the Beginnings, I have mentioned it to many friends and shall continue to do so. Write to me freely. I am immensely occupied and consequently have time for everything. What does Lord Brownlow say to the book? "Spiritualism" (your preface reminded me of it) seems to have let in a hurricane of swindling. It has done what I hold good work—it has proved that spirit is essentially material i.e. subject to the five (or six) senses. The phenomena stand unaffected. The ghost-business is shown to be a physical peculiarity of mediumistic organisation. A year or two ago I assisted them to this conclusion by a lecture before the Spirit. Soc. openly assuring them that they had no souls; that "soul" is not a thing but state of things. They did not deck my brow with bays etc. but they damned me—sinc.
R. F. Burton
Trieste May 13
My dear Smith I have now read you carefully (of course under protest that the game is not worth the candle). As regards El Islam I don’t think you are fair. Mohammed was no impostor (419), at least no more than Paul, Luther or Calvin: he was led away by the Demon of belief. Imposture is weak and no weak man could have imposed long upon the hard heads (Umar etc.) around him. You once told me that Islam is the baldest of faiths. Perhaps; but you forget the glowing Tasawary poetry to which it gave origin. I abhor the hideous [functificatory] (p. 424) “Bedouin” and “Bedouins”. I suppose you would not speak out upon the subject of meat (p. 424).
The book is very well and pleasingly written; and I picture to myself with pleasure its effect upon a grim Elder. He sits down with his wooden brain and wine—merry convinced that the “Old Testament” was dictated verbatim et literatim by a peculiar process called “inspiration”; that is he is hearing the voice of the Creator. He gets up with a gloating idea that he has been almost worshipping the “Law of the Second Temple”. He dines uncomfortably, [sleeps wonder and the ghost wabbles with the whucky in his Name]. Next morning he chooses a nice sharp stone and puts it in his pocket inscribed “for the head of Wm Rob. Smith!”
I hope that I am a “Prophet of Baal” (note this approach to grace!) and that you will tell me so.
R. F. Burton.
I send this to Black’s not knowing if you are still at Aberdeen
Trieste May 28
My dear Smith
I am glad that you have refreshed in Italy; gladder that the book has paid so well. In next edit. had you not better notice Athenaeum notice? It leaves a vague impression that you are ultra.
I don’t much like your account of yourself “nervous and worried”. Can’t you add an inch of thickness to your mental hide? Susceptible men should not be present at “the hunting of the bear”. Make up your mind to put Assembly in wrong, yourself in right and damn the results.
Have you seen Gordon’s book. I think it will give a downwards push to the Riaz mismanagement. How I should like to have a long tour with you in Egypt. I must see uppermost Nile and make up mind about African origin of the Egyptians. My skulls are in oskullophile hands. The enclosed (send to Mrs. Maclagan) will procure a copy of the Lusiads. Like Camoens I am treated to the 2 extremes of praise & dispraise, you should see what Ed. Arnold, Ger. Massey & Swinburne say compared with Scotsman, Manchester Times & Saturday Satirist. It is all fun to me who never cares a fig for an opinion which does not tally with my own.
R. F. Burton
Have you seen Gerald Massey’s Book of the Beginnings? O-h-h-h-h! What a blow for Max Müller the Solar.
Trieste July 11
Dear Mr. Massey
Many thanks for the highly flattering lines—not a Sonnet. My wife has seized upon them and they will appear in her letter at the end of the commentary. If not a first Seat, it is a kind Seat of very conspicuous nature. I am perfectly aware that the Lusiads lacks finish; but the next edition shall make ample atonement; and I will have a second.
I want to send you a thing just published for me by that wretched "Harrison" of the Spiritualist. Name not promising "A Glance at the Passion Play" (was to have come out September last). But end will interest you: I have taken the trouble to formulate a creed (a x-logue) for Spiritualism—as I understand it. The system is quite a-theistic, wanting neither God nor Devil.
You shall have a copy when I can manage it. At present I am so cross with the wretched Harrison for his stultifying delay in bringing it out that I have not the stomach to write to him.
We are up to eyes in business here. English fleet came last Thursday and will be here till next Sunday. Write when you can.
R. F. Burton
Trieste July 21 [‘81]
Dear Mr. Massey
I return the printed sheet in case you want it (duplicate). The attack you direct against the "Aryan heresy" (as old Crawfurd called it) should be emphasised. I once knew Mr. Cole, but I find that one gets on better with him by not knowing him. You must be prepared for a growl in the Grundy-organ and I only hope (for your sake) that the growl will be long enough—and loud enough.
Thanks for the promise of an early copy. I had hoped that the Sword-book would have been out before yours, but there have been difficulties of mss. and Illust.; and I am still proofing. It is easy to imagine what work this Index has given you. It will in fact be the culmination of the book.
With best wishes, ever yrs faithfully
R. F. Burton
I hope that you will find leisure to keep me au courant of your movements. Is Yankee-land still part of the programme? It ought to pay and I suppose that is the one needful. Au revoir.
pps. What a summer we are having! Not sun enough to ripen the grapes. Rain every day. Can you let me have a clean proof of the Egypt Sanskrit Vol? I want it for von Kremer, great Orientalist and ex-Minister of Commerce, Vienna.
Opicina (direct Trieste) 30/7/'81
My dear Mr. Massey
Please correct anything you wish to correct and if there be correcting send in to Wymans—if not kindly return to me. I hope you like your place! My wife is delighted with the lines, and the enemy will wail at the gate.
I have carefully read your study of the Sonnets; the general view was before known to me by report and by reviews, now I have come to the fountain-head. It will take me many a month before I make up my mind. Sonnet XX is stumbling block. Your theory (at first sight) strikes me as being too complete, too regular, and suggests le non e vero e ben trovato. As regards your estimate of Shakespeare every man makes his own S. and (like Elohim/Jehovah made man) in his own image.
What news of the Origins? I am sorry for your sake that it has not been more violently abused. But by persevering in your path and by stepping aside at times violently to kick a critical ass (no pun), you may convert a mild shower bath into a very neat douche. I think that your case medically requires the latter.
I’ve been reading Payne’s Villon with much enjoyment—damning Mrs. Grundy for the messiness. I wonder what he’ll make of the “1001 Nights” (Arabian be damned!). I intended to publish (at Brussels) some day all the obscenest parts in plain English. It will be nice reading for babes & sucklings.
R. F. Burton
From that time I did not meet him again until the Geographical Conference at Venice in August, 1881, though in the meantime I had often corresponded with him, and especially with regard to my journey in Syria and Mesopotamia; but at Venice it was that I first became a companion of his, and there also I for the first time met Lady (then Mrs.) Burton.
Perhaps no other occasion could so easily, in so short a time, have given specimens of Burton's varied attainments. He and I were only visitors, and had no official connection with the Congress; the Royal Geographical Society, if I mistake not, was represented by its President, Lord Aberdare, who chanced to be passing by that way; but all the geographical societies of foreign nations had sent strong deputations, and men of science of all kinds had assembled from far and wide. With one and all of these Burton held converse, every man in his own tongue and on his own subject, and then I also found out that not only did he know more languages than almost any other living man, but that also he knew their patois and their slang, and understood the spirit of them. One striking incident was his meeting one day, in front of St. Mark's, a Portuguese commentator upon Camoens—I have forgotten his name, but his countrymen held him in high honour for his scholarship—and he endeavoured to prove to Burton that one of his readings of Camoens was wrong. Burton quietly and patiently argued the matter out with him, speaking Portuguese the whole time, and ended by convincing him that he was wrong and Burton right. Almost immediately after this we met an Egyptian officer, who had, while at Mecca, managed to take a series of photographs of the holy places; and even with this man, who was fresh from the place, Burton was superior in many matters of detail, to say nothing of far-reaching knowledge of the doctrines of El Islam, and actually explained to this Mahommedan the meaning of much of the ritual of the pilgrimage of which he previously had known nothing. I could recapitulate numerous instances of this sort, but both he and I were at Venice holiday-making, and did not spend all our time in talking to learned professors. Burton and his wife had many friends, as where had they not? and I had the pleasure of introducing them to the mother of my friend, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, and in society I saw how deferent and courteous to ladies he always was. His courtesy was like himself—singular yet charming. Besides science and society, we also amused ourselves in other ways. In the mornings we used sometimes to stroll past the rooms in which, on those bright sunny days, the juries were busy at their labours, and which he used to call going round the zoological gardens and seeing the beasts in their dens. One day I remember especially well, and that was the one we went over to the Lido to bathe and have breakfast; and when, after breakfast, just as a vast wave of sight-seers appeared, he and I took off our shoes and stockings, and made sand-castles on the beach, while Lady Burton called us two naughty boys, and threatened us with punishment if we made our clothes dirty, and we retaliated by saying that if she did not withdraw her threats we would sit down in the water. Innocent and childish, perhaps, but showing that Burton was not the fierce farouche man so many people thought him to be. Ever after, among ourselves, Lady Burton was nicknamed the nurse, and we were the two naughty boys, Dick and Cammy. As a cicerone, too, Burton at Venice was invaluable. His inexhaustible stock of historical knowledge and legendary lore furnished him with something to relate about even the meanest and commonest buildings; and then there were trips about the canals in Lady Burton's gondola, and the day and night of the regatta, when the Grand Canal and St. Mark's were illuminated, all of which Burton enjoyed as much as any one of all that merry party, for round about Burton had gathered all that was brightest and best of all those assembled at Venice.
After leaving Venice I paid a visit to the De Brazzas, and then went on to Trieste, where I spent a few days with the Burtons, and there I found not only that he was a most efficient consul, but that by the members of the English colony, and those others with whom he was brought in contact there, he was simply idolised.
Trieste Sept 29 ['81]
Dear Mr. Massey
I did not at once answer yours of Sept 1. Of course you know that I shall be happy to look over your proofs. The two 1st vols. will make their way in time, but you must not be impatient—especially as you have fallen foul of Max Müller and you have a grand bit of work to do. Old Egyptian contains the schema of the three so called families of language, Semitic, Aryan and Turanian (Allad, Chenile, Tartar Turkish). If you can only bring this out with proofs of vocabulary and grammar etc., the grammar especially you will open up a new vista. We especially want the Turanian element brought out of old Egypt.
Please look at the enclosed slips from The Academy. They are specimens of my intended translation of Camoens lyrics. I want opinion and advice not commendation. Are they archaic enough? or too archaic? In fact a bit of hard critique would do me a power of good. I may tell you that line is rendered for line, but that means nothing to the English reader. The question is, are they readable English? The vol. will be out next year. I am dear Mr. Massey
R. F. Burton
G. Massey Esq.
My dear Mr. Payne
Yours of the 28th followed me here, hence my delay in answering a very kind letter. On the 20th inst. we sail for Africa, reach Madeira on 23rd and on 24th sail forward to my destination—again on the Gold Coast. My direction till next March will be care of James Irvine Esq. F.R.G.S. Exchange Court Liverpool. In April at the latest I hope to have the pleasure of shaking hands with you in London, and then we will talk over the 1000 Nights and a Night. At present it is useless to say anything more than this. I shall be most happy to collaborate with you. Do you know the Rev. G. Percy Badger (of the Dictionary): if not you should make his acquaintance, as he is familiar with the Persian (and to a certain extent with the Egyptian) terms of the Nights. He is very obliging and ready to assist Arabists.
Remains only to wish you a Merry Xmas etc., and to express the pleasure with which I shall meet you. Meanwhile, believe me
R. F. Burton
I am an immense admirer of your Villon.
Though I knew Richard Burton well, it was not until I traveled with him in the Fayoum that I understood something of the man's wayward character and of the astounding diversity of his mental energies. He was an Elizabethan born out of time. Restless and adventurous, contemptuous of convention, intolerant of restraint or discipline, as reckless of himself as of others, prone to engage in a quarrel upon the slightest provocation, as becomes one who is conscious that he is a master in the use of sword or rapier, he should have marched with Hernan Cortez or sailed strange seas with Francis Drake or camped in the sands of Asia with Marco Polo. He spoke, and moved, and wrote, and lived as though he breathed the air of the spacious times of Good Queen Bess.
He was composite of a hundred attributes, none of which pertained to his English family traditions. Unusually tall in stature, gaunt in the cast of his features, swarthy in complexion with gypsy-brown eyes, lithe and active in every movement, yet grave and dignified in manner, he did not belong to the occident but to the stony wadys of Arabia. I have been his companion both in desert and city, and always he suggested to me some proud Arab of the days when the banners of Islam waved from the Indus to the Pyrenees. His childhood was passed wandering over France, Italy and Spain, and the opportunities of such an education, nurtured by his extraordinary gifts as a linguist, made him not only fluent in European idioms but curiously versed in their dialects and slang. At Oxford, where his unruly disposition led him to challenge a fellow-undergraduate to a duel for not liking the cut of his beard, he devoted himself chiefly to the study of oriental languages. Rusticated for his rebellious ways, he passed to the army in India, where in a brief while he became proficient in Marathi, Persian, Gujarati, Arabic and Hindustani. In order that he might make himself intimately acquainted with the customs of the people, he would disguise himself as a native merchant or a peddler of small wares and visit the shops in the bazaars, or mingle with its crowds, or play the part of a client in some doubtful den, where he learnt much of the strange lore which appears in the footnotes of his translation of The Thousand Nights and a Night.
It was while living as a native amongst the Moslems of Sind that he conceived the idea of making the pilgrimage to Meccah—the journey which first brought him into general notice. For that hazardous adventure, he prepared himself in the performance of the complicated Mohammedan ritual and steeped himself in the manners and usages of the orient. To cover up his traces he assumed the name and dress of a Pathan of the hills and, as such, made his way to Egypt where he resided in a native quarter of Cairo, his real identity being known only to three friends. His subsequent account of A Pilgrimage to Meccah is one of the most remarkable books of its kind ever written. Full of strange knowledge, colorful, picturesque, uncouth, it holds a mirror to the genius who wrote it.
His next venture was into the Somali country, where he reached the jealously guarded capital, Herrar [sic], which no white man had previously seen. On his return to the coast of the Red Sea, his camp was raided, and a Somali javelin was thrust through his face. The head of the spear was barbed, and Burton, knowing that he could not draw it back again, deliberately broke off the wooden shaft near to the cheek it had entered and then drew the blade completely through. The wounds left long white scars on each of his bronzed cheeks, which used to fill my younger soul with envy as they shone in the animation of conversation.
It was in Cairo, in 1881, that Burton first showed me a part of his translation of The Thousand Nights and a Night. He had been long engaged on that work, mainly at Trieste, where he acted as British Consul from 1871 to 1890. Previously he had been British Consul at Damascus, an ideal arena for one so accustomed to the ways of Orientals and so profound a scholar of Arabic. But his readiness to quarrel fomented political problems, and, to his utter grief, he was recalled from that city known to all Arabs as “a fragment of paradise fallen upon the earth.” Later, he was appointed to the Consulship at Trieste, where the wealth of his knowledge of the orient might have been lost to the world of culture had he not taken in hand that literary monument to his vast intimacies with mankind.
In Cairo, however, he was enveloped in the atmosphere of his task, and there, when the mood was upon him, he wrote swiftly. He used to keep the portion of the translation on which he was working at the moment in a piece of camel's skin. Much handling had rubbed away most of the scanty hair which nature bestows on that uncouth beast, and it was sadly torn at the back, but the package was made sufficiently secure by a long, thin girdle of camel leather. The manuscript was closely written in the small scrawl which its author used. So indistinct and minute was his handwriting that I have letters from him which I had difficulty in deciphering. His screed must have proved a sore trial to the compositors who eventually set the type of the sixteen bulky volumes which comprised the first edition of The Thousand Nights and a Night. Lying beside that manuscript in its cloak of camel hide were some chapters of his unfinished Book of the Sword and his translation of the Arabic classic, The Scented Garden, which latter work, at the death of its gifted maker, was unhappily destroyed by Lady Burton.
One day, after reading some pages of his translation of one of The Arabian Nights, with their amazing footnotes describing Arab customs referred to in the text, I suggested to him that he might wisely show the manuscript to my father, who happened to be in Cairo at that time. He assented, but Sir Edwin, being an experienced editor as well as an Arabic scholar and conversant both with oriental customs and occidental scruples, promptly commissioned me to carry back to Burton a note advising him, “Make more decorous your anthropological footnotes. Their worth is beyond measure, but scarcely may they find place, under their present candid form, in a popular work. The digestion of the public is not sufficiently robust to assimilate literary food so strange and strong. Soften your instruction, disguise your splendid knowledge, and you will sell two hundred thousand copies of the most colorful book in the world.”
Burton would not alter a phrase or a word. He was obdurate. In due course, the first edition appeared, enriched to the full with its curious collection of pornographical footnotes, and the sales were necessarily limited to a scholarly group of subscribers. Victorian scruples militated for awhile against wider distribution. Other times, other manners, and in these days of tolerance, the verdict condones the obstinacy of Burton. Nevertheless, there was a period when he regretted his rejection of the counsel given to him, as the following letter written by the author of The Kasidah to the author of The Light of Asia admits,
December 21st, 1882
My dear Arnold,
I have not followed your advice, and I regret not having done so.
Mariez vous on ne vous mariez pas, just explains my condition.
Had I not put in those confounded footnotes, I should have wished that I had.
However, they shall disappear from the next edition. Meanwhile, the Book of the Sword is getting on merrily. Ever yours faithfully,
RICHARD F. BURTON.
There was an eerie vein in Burton. His eyes suggested it. They were of the Romany type—deep and brown as is the shadow of a palm. On the third finger of his left hand he wore a ring in which was set a goodly sized asteria sapphire, from the light of which Arabs would shrink lest they should suffer ill hap from the evil eye of its imprisoned devil. Small wonder that they sometimes whispered amongst themselves that he held communion with the jinns.
On several occasions, I have known him to disclose a remarkable gift of prescience. I was standing one day on the high mud-bank of Boulak, the port of Cairo where the Nile boats are moored, when Burton unexpectedly appeared.
“Where go you,” he asked, “for parting is written on your forehead?”
“Tomorrow, at dawn, I start for Nubia and its eastern deserts,” I replied.
For some moments he was silent. Then, very quietly, he said, “Disaster lies in your path. You will be wrecked and lose some of your men and part of your equipment. But you will go on. And months hence you will return, brown in the face as your followers and in rags. And at the place where we now stand we shall meet again.”
As he foretold, it happened. My dahabeeah was wrecked near Gebel Tookh, with the loss by drowning of two sailors and most of my kit. But I pursued my way southwards, nor was it until long after that I returned, in raiment threadbare, bronzed as a Bishareen—and as I climbed the high mud-bank at Boulak there stood Richard Burton, El Hajj!
Thereafter, I was much with Burton, and together we visited the Fayoum, to the west of Cairo, with many an interesting happening attendant on the companionship of one so strong, strange and informative.
Though Burton could not change the dark tint of his sunburnt skin with the ease of a chameleon in its passing from anger to calm, he could vary his voice and gestures with an effect. I recall an evening walk with Burton in the outskirts of an Egyptian village. The sun was setting beyond the broken tomb of some forgotten saint and casting weird shadows as if water had been thrown in patches on the ground.
We were so engrossed in our conversation that we scarcely noticed a beggar step forth from the dust heaps of the village and crouch in the sand before us—a huddled bundle of rags fretfully demanding baksheesh. To the prone figure I said, in Arabic, “May God give unto thee,” which is the equivalent of our phrase, “I have no small change.” Whereupon the beggar arose and cursed me. It was a most thorough and magnificent curse. He cursed my eating and my drinking, my waking and my sleeping, my living and my dying, my ancestors and my descendants.
Burton and I stood motionless, listening. But I knew Burton too well to be surprised at the explosion which followed the close of the curse. Up went his arms, and he thundered, “Dog! Has't thou then forgotten what the Prophet said—how thy lips should be blistered and thy tongue be made hot for calling on the name of Allah in vain? Dost thou not know that our brother here is a believer in the Book? Get thee down. Set thy forehead in the dust, and cry on Allah for mercy.”
And that beggar, astounded by the sudden torrent of Arabic poured out upon him, straightway sank down on his knees and wailed to Allah to erase from the divine records the purport of his curse.
Again the voice of Burton thundered, “Get thee back into the shadows,” and as the distressed beggar disappeared, he turned to me and, with exquisite gentleness and the most perfect composure, said, “I beg your pardon. What were we chatting about?”
It is difficult to avoid coupling in one's mind the names of Richard Burton and T. E. Lawrence—the two men whose names will ever be associated with modern tales of Arabian adventure. The Elijah-mantle of Burton fell so easily upon the Elisha-shoulders of Lawrence that any reference to the colorful life of either of them seems to blend, before our mental eyes, as do motion pictures, into the energies of the other.
At Alexandria our principal work began. We visited the new harbour works, which had been constructed by Sir George Elliott, though his name did not appear, the nominal Directors being Greenshields and Company. Here I became acquainted with Capt. Blomfield R.N. who was Captain of the Port, and Morice Bey who was the head of the lighthouse service. The Consul, Mr. Cookson, was an old Constantinople friend. We had many conferences with the contractors, engineers, and merchants of the place, as well as with the above named people. I was invited by Cookson to meet Sir Richard Burton the traveller at dinner. He was an interesting man but I was so disgusted with his language that I took an early opportunity of leaving the table. After nearly a fortnight, I went up on the 24th. Decr., to Cairo in order to pass my Christmas there. …
During our stay at Trieste I visited the palace of Miramar, which was formerly the residence of the ill-fated Archduke Maximilian, before he became the Emperor of Mexico. The most attractive thing to me in the palace was a portrait of the Empress Maria Theresa, a portrait worthy of the strong personality rendered especially interesting to me owing to my long residence in the neighbourhood of the Hungarian frontier.
I stayed rather longer at Trieste than my colleagues, and before leaving there called on Mrs. Burton the wife of Consul Burton, the great traveller, whom I had met and disliked at Alexandria a few weeks before. She was almost as eccentric as her husband, but a fine looking woman and very tall.
Mr. Brock, the Vice-Consul, was very attentive and obliging. He took me for a drive in the country on the last day of my stay. A great feature of the hills round Trieste is their hard, sterile look; they are covered with stones. Mr. Brock told me that in the old Napoleonic Wars, England drew her supplies of oak from these parts, which accounted for the hills being so denuded of timber. The authorities were, at the time of my visit, trying to get plantations of the Pinus Austriacus to grow on the stony hill sides, and I walked along the rows of plants—each carefully rooted in the soil underlying the stones. These stones were of varying sizes, from a cricket ball to a man's head. By careful watching and nursing the plants were beginning to grow well.
My Dear Burton,
My present little volume being now ready for publication, I come, in pursuance of an often declared intention, to dedicate its pages to you; for so far as their chief contents are concerned Translations from the "Rimas" of our now common friend, Luiz de Camoens I may apply to you the well-known title of
THE ONLIE BEGETTER OF THESE INSVING SONNETS.
But for you, I never should have undertaken the task of selecting and translating the Seventy of the entire collection, which I now, through your name, offer to an indulgent public.
Although my more arduous undertaking of translating the "Lusiads" had been so favourably received by our literary world, and although one of my most generous critics of that work yet one of those who must be really pleased before he will praise expressed a hope that I "might be induced to give a complete translation of Camoens' minor works," not even this flattering invitation would have moved me to as much as my present effort, had it not been that, while sojourning with you last winter at Cairo, you had engaged me to daily afternoon readings with you of your first sketches of Translations of all the CCCLII Sonnets as published by our friend, the Visconde de Juromenha; not only the whole of which, but also those of the Cañcoes, Sextinas, Odes, and Oitavas besides, it is your intention some day to give to the world.
Such a work as this, for more reasons than one, I never could attempt. I need not repeat to you what we have so often discussed in conversation, all my grounds for holding (so far, at all events, as my own art is concerned) that the great majority of these compositions, as well as of the sonnets, are entirely beyond the reach of rhythmic translation. This essential reason, however, I may mention : that without the music of the particular language in which so many of them are written the music being sometimes more cared for than the ideas it chants I could not reproduce, to my own satisfaction, either the feeling of the poet, or a pleasant poem in English, or one that could be read by the side of the original. These objections neither you nor I have found to exist in translating the great Epic ; some parts of which, and even in some few studied descriptions, we both know to be somewhat unmusical, but the whole of which, particularly when rendered in corresponding rhyme and metre, is fairly within the scope of our language. Nor have I found them to exist in regard to any of the seventy sonnets that I have now selected and translated.
I should be bold, perhaps, in hoping for these the same amount of favour that attended my "Lusiads;" yet to my own mind they do not appear to have been less successfully treated ; and certainly I have not bestowed less care upon them; for if the task has been less arduous, it has required much careful manipulation. In their case, moreover, I have had the advantage of our reading them over and discussing them together; an advantage of which I could not avail myself for my translation of the "Lusiads," the whole of which (with the exception of receiving some very few occasional suggestions from friends) I was called on to carry through entirely alone.
I must not, however, omit to mention that your own determination to complete a translation of this work (now lately published, with your Commentary to follow), and your encouragement to me not to be deterred by the mere fact that such a production could never be generally popular, considerably contributed to the final accomplishment of my labours. The task of my present translations has been, as were the " Lusiads," a constant source of interest and occupation; often a refuge in times of vacancy or bad weather; and for the sake of pleasant recollections of my own, I have noted at the bottom of each sonnet where it was composed; realising in this respect the well-known phrase of Cicero: "Haec studia ... delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, perigrinantur, rusticantur."
It is not worth while to crowd this volume with too much introductory matter, but I may further remark that as neither you nor I would have under- taken to translate the "Lusiads" had we thought that work already fairly done, so we may say the same as regards the Sonnets. I cannot accept, and I am sure you cannot, the two or three that have fallen from the several pens of Southey, Adamson, and Hayley. Especially I cannot accept of Lord Strangford's twenty. To these last, Lord Byron's observation is the best that can be applied, without the necessity of adding his poetical anathema: "It is also to be remarked that the things given to the public as poems of Camoens are no more to be found in the original Portuguese than in the Song of Solomon." What you and I have always had in view, in treating our great poet, has been this: to study his truthfulness and his simplicity, and to endeavour to render him faithfully; not riding off from his occasional peculiar turns of thought, in order, covertly, to avoid difficulties, nor introducing some commonly received parochial phrases, instead of his own peculiar expressions; especially not affecting to be very poetical where he is not poetical at all. No former translators of Camoens have ever shown sufficient respect for their author to confine themselves to these rules.
As regards the sonnet itself, I doubt whether it is, or ever will be, a really popular form of poem in the English language, and I almost venture to doubt, also, whether our language is exactly suitable for it. Byron hated sonnets, and called them "the most puling, petrifying, stupidly platonic compositions." Wordsworth wrote numbers of them, with a sonnet in defence of the sonnet, thus showing, by the way, that he thought defence was needed. Sonnet writers, however, have never failed to appear among us, and the subject seems to-day to be attracting more than usual attention.
Indeed, the edition of Lord Strangford's " Poems from the Portuguese of Luiz de Camoens" now before me, is the fifth, and may not, for aught I know, be the latest ; and so far I may be encouraged. But I must candidly say, that if the popularity of his lordship's work, which is thus indicated, arose from the mere English poems themselves as he published them, then Camoens, honestly translated, may not stand an equal chance of being as popular as Lord Strangford; for there is scarcely a trace of the original, in either thought or phrase, in Lord Strangford's compositions. I do not, however, believe it will be thus. Camoens' Sonnets, faithfully interpreted, letter and spirit, will be quite new to the English ear, and, I anticipate, will be pleasing; though anything pertaining to the Portuguese language is confessedly but little known or thought of among us.
A curious fact in our literature, only lately made known to me, will serve to illustrate what I have just now said. I had heard of, but in my ignorance had never read, Mrs. Browning's "Sonnets from the Portuguese." Hastening of late to procure the volume containing them, I found there was no sort or kind of the Portuguese element in any one of the whole forty of them. This mystery was solved, however, by my being informed, on inquiring of authority, that the title was a mere fiction; that the authoress, not wishing the world to be too familiar with her own heart's feelings, had purposely invented a misleading title; and that to render concealment all the surer, she had resorted to the word "Portuguese," as referring to the language which was the least known, or scarcely known at all, in our literary world, and into which few or none would be likely to look in search of her originals.
Now, as I had determined to make the National Epic of Portugal (the language of which I had been called upon for years to study and speak and write) known in England in its own colours, so now, under the inducements above referred to, I have worked out Seventy Sonnets of the same author with a corresponding object ; having done which, I shall henceforth consider that I have fulfilled my duty to Camoens, in introducing him fairly to our English literature, however English literature may be disposed to receive him. This much I have felt I owed to the country where I learned his language; and I have done my best to discharge that debt worthily. If I have now failed to render my author faithfully, to reproduce his feeling, and to present a sufficiently pleasing collection of English poems, then I must confess to have failed in this volume, to have come short of the approval accorded to me for my last work, and to have done you the injustice of attaching a weak performance to a strong name. The larger and heavier task of translating his every line is meanwhile reserved for you; "Cui labor ingeminat vires, dat cura quietem."
I have followed the form of publication observed in my "Lusiads." I publish the original of every sonnet. It is said that Fairfax (to whose great translation of Tasso one of my leading critics did me the honour of comparing mine) could not venture to do this. But I do it for Camoens' sake, and will cheerfully run the risk of suffering anything thereby at the hands of those who know enough of languages to make them competent judges of translation. There is, of course, always one risk to be run in offering this challenge while translating an author of three centuries old. Pretentious commentators will discover beauties in his defects, and sweetness in his rudeness. In the sonnets, however, Camoens, though certainly now and then obscure and sometimes fantastical, is almost always sweet. Yet he will now and then insist on a blunt phrase rather than be artificial and untruthful. As regards obscurities, by the way, how true it is that while the author is living they are treated as marks of weakness; but when dead, as mines of meaning.
I have almost invariably strictly followed the order of the rhymes, a matter of considerable difficulty in English. Of our language, in this respect, we may well say with Fielding, in his "Amelia:" "Rhymes are difficult things; they are stubborn things, sir." Of the facilities for rhyming in the Portuguese I have already said enough in my Introduction to the "Lusiads." Now and then (but in only two or three cases) I have been forced to change their order; the better to preserve the feeling of the original; and this has been the case even in the famous No. XIX. Further, I take the full responsibility of the two adjectives "resemblant" and "amene," and of the substantive "unlove," claiming for them perfect legitimacy.
In No. XIII I have not been able to resist the temptation of translating the sonnet into stanzas; while in No. LIX. I have purposely altered the order of the rhymes, making this heroic composition close with a couplet, as being essential to convey its full force to the English ear. In point of fact, I really believe the general English ear always looks for a couplet at the end of a sonnet. Shakespeare constantly concludes long blank verse speeches in this form. So did Ben Jonson and others. This kind of ending offers a species of final chord without which the poem appears to many to have arrived only at the "half-close."
Rossini used to complain with much annoyance that the public never understood his delicate Adagio conclusions; and it was he, I believe, who emphasised for classical music the measure called the Coda. Only in the real land and language of the sonnet, perhaps, is its completion really understood, where it floats away in a nose-gay of vowels, in alternate or distant rhymes. I was struck by the remark of an intelligent person who had copied out all these sonnets for me. He told me he thought them very smooth and pretty, but that somehow they seemed to finish before one had got to the real end of them. I attributed this to the want of the final couplet. The musical public annoyed Rossini by their similarly defective ear, which required the hammer of his Coda.
It now remains to observe upon my having added some original poems of my own, with one or two other translations, to this volume, which I dedicate to you as having provoked my Camoens' Sonnets. I do so in order to give them a place in print. Defoe wrote the tale of Mrs. Veal's Ghost for the purpose of carrying the sale of your ancestor Drelincourt's dismal book on Death; and so I cleave to my friend Camoens to give these short poems some life. The different members of the family have come forth, from time to time, at long intervals, during these last five and twenty years, and they exhibit various dispositions among them.
One of the youngest, which I make introductory to his own sonnets, consists of stanzas supposed to have been addressed by the Spirit of Camoens to his countrymen, at the national celebration of the Tercentenary of his death, on the 10th of last June, 1880; on which occasion it was with considerable regret that I found you were not to be my companion in Lisbon.
In full belief that my volume will find many readers for Camoens' sake, I remain, my dear Burton,
J. J. AUBERTIN.
P.S. I must not on any account omit to add that I have had the advantage of reading over my proofs with my friend Dr. Saraiva, from whose well-known command, both as scholar and poet, of his own language, and thorough proficiency in English, I have derived many valuable suggestions. In particular, I have adopted his orthography and accentuation.
I had perfect health till April ‘79, and though of a nervous temperament, was quite fearless like a man. I have had a hard life, like my husband, & over energetic in writing & undertakings. In 1879 April I fell down stairs & hurt myself badly but I do not know if it was directly after or before I began to get frightened in the streets, & feel as if I were going to tumble down but all that year after & up to the present time, I have days when I am worn out with struggling against fainting or hysteria, or whatever it is, & trying to live (I never in my life had hysterics)—the least agitation fright or over talking brings it. I get it worse in the street & in cabs or walking, & have now arrived at that pitch I cannot go out without my husband or my maid and carry restoratives in my pocket. This is the curse of my life & I should be grateful indeed if I could be cured. Some call it hysteria—some over-activity of the brain—some nerves. I do notice that soon after an attack I get a rumbling inside which makes me suspect wind-distension & liver have to do with it—but I am so delicate all medicine save Castor Oil or an occasional anti-bilious pill frighten me as they give me more pain, & operate less than they used.
Now I must plainly state that I am at the change of life, 7 months nothing, then a flooding, then 4 months, then a flooding—now 8 weeks without seeing anything. I have a fibrous tumour in the right ovaria, which troubles me but little, is not malignant & the Doctors—Maclagan, Liebman & others say does not increase & will probably wither up when I lose my monthly course wholly. I cannot therefore walk much, walking or standing, or much purgative medicine is apt to bring a little inflammation of the bowels or rather perhaps irritates the tumour. My husband says all my ailments come from liver, or that I am full of gout or rheumatism—likely enough, as it is in my family & my bones ache & are stiff. A Trieste doctor said I had fat round the heart, but I expect it is wind around the heart.
I have also another sorrow but it is congenital, a necessity to make water at least every 2 hours except at night when I often want but once, or not till morning.
My head is often full & woolly inside. I am languid & hate work, yet cannot keep from it, am always tired. I have great distension of stomach at times, breasts swollen, & varicose veins in one leg—clothes oppress me. Occasionally but not often I get an electric shock through the frame, as if someone had cut me down with a sword & it runs through to my hands and feet.
I eat, drink & sleep well, am regular in my bowels or rather make myself so by lavement of plain tepid water daily, & castor oil or pill every week because I get accumulations.
I was never in the family way. I feel sometimes as if I had a ball in my head that rumbled whatever side I put my head, that is when my monthly does not come on—it disappears with the period coming on.
John Payne Esq.
20 North Row
Park Lane London W.
Axim Gold Coast (direct
J. Irvine Esq. Exchange Court L’Pool)
My dear Mr. Payne
I received your welcome letter by the steamer of yesterday and tomorrow morning my companion Cameron and I again proceed to the “bush”. You will see the reason why this communication is so short. Of course you must go to press at once. I deeply regret it, but on arriving in England my time will be so completely taken up by the Gold Coast that I shall not have a moment’s leisure.
It would be a useless expense to keep up the type. Your terms about the royalty are more than liberal. I cannot accept them except for value received, and it remains to be seen what time is at my disposal. I am working out a scheme for Chinese immigration to the West African Coast, and this may take me next winter to China.
I can only say that I shall be most happy to render you any assistance in my power; at the same time I must warn you that I am a rolling stone. If I cannot find time you must apply in the matter of the introductory essay to the Rev. Percy Badger, Prof. Robertson Smith (Glasgow) and Prof. Palmer (Trinity, Cambridge). I have booked your private address and have now only to reciprocate your good wishes. Yours very faithfully
R. F. Burton
Pall Mall S. W.
Dear Mr. Payne
This is the first day I left the house. Please let me know when and where we can meet.
R. F. Burton
My dear Mr. Payne
I received your note about twelve hours after the time appointed. We must meet somehow or other. At what early hour do you open your doors? I am always up at 6 AM, and disposable from that hour till noon.
R. F. Burton
I enclose name of subscriber who is to be encouraged qua a reverend.
My dear Mr. Payne
Proofs received. I shall be very prudent about Badger and make a personal matter out of it. Please send me a lot of advertisements. I can place a multitude of copies. Mrs. Grundy is beginning to roar: already I hear the bore of her. And I know her to be an arrant whore and tell her so and don’t care a damn for her.
Richd F. Burton
His translation of the works of Camoens which was published by me (six volumes, including the Life of the poet), was one of the most laborious and (in a literary sense) successful efforts of Burton's pen. It was, indeed, a literary feat of which any man might be proud, corresponding, as it did, line for line with the original, in sense and metre and vigorous expression—no polished paraphrastic weakness, no evasion of difficulty. Its completion served as an occasion for a memorial banquet in Burton's honour (14th June, 1882), to which I invited some of the most notable men of the time. Among those who came were Mr. Ruskin, George Augustus Sala, (Sir) Edwin Arnold, Commander Lovett Cameron, Edmond Yates, Mr. Hyde Clarke, Mr. Yates Thompson, and the late Cornelius Walford, Lord Stanley of Alderley and Mr. W. C. Borlase. We were all proud of Burton as an Englishman who had carved for himself a high and distinguished position, and full expression was given to the feeling. In Mr. Ruskin's acceptance of my invitation, he said that he was not in the habit of going to such meetings, but that he would certainly break the rule on this occasion. He made a short speech, which was gathered in shorthand notes by Cornelius Walford. As the only utterance of the night which has been preserved, it may be thought (as the words of an Englishman whose like has yet to be found) worthy of a place here.
“I am indeed glad to be present here on this occasion, to see, and extend my welcome to, one who has seen so much of the world, and contributed so much to the pleasure which works of travel always confer.
I have been almost all my life treading a narrow range, geographically, if, perchance, it may be said a wide range mentally. It is quite true that I have visited Tuscany, Lombardy, and Venice; and although those spots are very rich in associations in that branch of inquiry to which I have devoted myself, they are but very small spots compared with the great surface of the globe. It is only in my old age that I begin to see how great the world is, and how many benefits and advantages are associated with travel.
Nor must I omit on this occasion to state the obligations which I owe to my good friend, the host of the evening, Mr. Bernard Quaritch. Often when I have been cast down with the unsatisfactory results of some of my performances, or out of heart with my actual achievements as compared with my desires, I have gone to him, and he, with his robust physique, and great mental activity, has inspired me with new energy, and imparted to me new hopes; at the same time supplying me with works which were essential to my inquiry. And thus he has stood as sponsor to my various efforts, and as a true friend during the greater part of my active life.”
[Cornelius Walford] And I have further to say that, during the whole period of my life, no greater honour has ever been conferred upon me than that of being asked to meet the distinguished guests assembled this evening in view of doing honour to our guest, Captain Richard Burton, whose acquaintance I have had the advantage of enjoying for more years than I now care to remember.
Dear Mr. Payne
My wife brought me your letter which in the hurry of travel had been mislaid. I did not answer at once wishing to tell you something definite concerning my movements. It was very good of you to make her that handsome present for her beasts.
I shall now be comparatively at leisure (correcting Gold Book) and have plenty of time to spare after next Christmas (when Sword book will be ready). Kindly send me at once Vol. 1 and I will go through it with the text. When do you want to get No. 2 out? And when should MS go to print?
We arrived here just in time for the opening of the Exhibition August 1. Everything went off well, but next evening an Orsini shell was thrown which killed one and wounded five including my friend Dr. Dorn Editor of the Triester Zeitung. The object of course was to injure the Exhibition and the effect will be ruinous. I expect more to come and dare not leave my post. So whilst my wife goes to Marienbad, I must content myself with the Baths of Monfalcone distant only one hour by rail.
I hope you will not forget my friend F. F. Arbuthnot and benefit him by your advice about publishing when he applies to you for it. He has undertaken a peculiar branch of Literature—the Hindu erotic which promises well.
united best regards I am
ever yrs truly
R. F. Burton
Hope you sent name of Revd R. Addison to Quaritch.
Trieste August 14 ‘82
Dear Mr. Payne
Yours of 8th just recd. The printer has delayed you about Vol. 1; but I don’t see that any harm is done. Why in a hurry with No. 2? (I see by PS that you purpose Xmas. That should do well.) Could it not wait till early October when an Autumn session will give a kind of fictitious season? Send me proofs of Vol. 2 as soon as you like. My table is already spread. And please take note, a post parcel registered is always safer than private hand. Of course the MS should be placed between card boards and covered with wax cloth. Quaritch is a man who works very fast, and I shall not borrow his editions till they are absolutely necessary. A line to him will then do the thing. I am delighted with idea of the special quarto edit.; for though not a bibliophile in practice (£.s.d. preventing) I am entirely so in theory.
If the Rev. Addison miss this opportunity of grace he can blame only himself. It is very sad, but not to be helped. I will attend to all your directions about publishing etc. And now good luck to the venture! Ever yours sincy
R. F. Burton
Trieste August 19
Dear Mr. Massey
I have been purposing to write to you since many days, the chief object being to excuse myself for the rudeness of not having returned your kind visit. But que faire? Every moment was occupied, between [friends], meetings, lectures and bringing out two books. As it is I left even relations without a visit and rushed off in despair on July 15. Arrived here in time for the Exhibition opening and the Orsini bomb thrown next day. I expect more rows as the Italian party is forming. It is all told in the Academy, for which I have already corrected proofs.
What are you doing now about the Origins? And how is the work going on? When will the two remaining vols. come out? I hope the Press will make an awful row about them.
As for myself I am working as hard as ever at a Gold book and a Sword book, at the Arabian Nights and at the Lyrics of Camoens (Lusiads getting on or rather off). A volume (no. 1) of the latter will be ready early next year but I shall probably not publish it till the autumn.
I hope that we shall meet often in future. Never again 3 years absent from England! That was caused by the failure of the Midian mines; the success of the Gold Coast will bring me home often enough. Don't invest in them without consulting me, however. It will be a great success if directors & engineers prove open to reason.
R. F. Burton
Gerald Massey Esq.
Trieste September 1
I have long ago received three sheets but delayed acknowledging the receipt till you return home from your short and well deserved holiday. A note was at once sent to Quaritch for the loan of the Calc. Edit. He has not yet answered. I don’t like putting you to the expense of a Wills & Norgate, nor to spend the money myself unless absolutely necessary. If Quar. refuses could you not lend me your own copy? It will be perfectly safe by post.
At what Night does p. 397 begin? How is it that you have no references marginal or top page to the number of the Nights? Surely this is one of the first things for students, also a notice of the Edit. From which you take the Night. In your place too I should have strictly kept to the formation of the original.
“And when it came to the 10th Night” etc. This could have broken those long and heavy looking paragraphs. English readers would have only skipped them—as they ought. It would have added bulk, but a little more or less in so bulky an affair can be of no matter. What news of Vol. 1? I am very anxious to see it and so are many female correspondents. I look forward with great pleasure to the work, and I have some comparatively spare hours before me. I hope that your trip has done you good and that you are well […] for your [task].
I have told Quaritch to send you my four books of Camoens, no 5 on the stocks.
Sept. 1. Just received this what shall we do?
Capt. Burton 28 Aug 1882
I am sorry I have not at present a copy of MacNaghten’s Arabian Nights or I would gladly have lent it to you. I send you a copy of the Boulaq edition which I hope will answer the purpose.
Your ever, dear Captain
Trieste Sept. 9
My dear Robertson Smith
I send this to Club, not knowing your other direction. Excuse my bolting without paying an old and valued debt—the dinner. Let it keep for next time. Never again do I stay three years away from England or rather London. The failure of the Midian Mines caused my last long absence. The success of the Gold Coast will bring me home next year. And then we must collect for our spirits a little Congress of Oriental men.
Can you give any news of Palmer (Arab. Prof. Cam.)? I wrote him a letter and presently heard that he had been taken prisoner at Moses Wady and sent off to Arabi. Yet curious to say the papers ignore him—at least I’ve seen nothing about him.
I want you now to find out for me what book there is containing pure Gypsy. Of course I have Pott and the other writers. But all my grams. and vocab. in Spanish, Slav etc. are full of localisms. I want a short account of the language as I am about to republish my identification of Gypsy with Jat—Getae, [Jgu-tha]—the great race which stretches from the Indus’ mouth to Chinese Tartary & possibly to the shores of the [H…] Sea. With best wishes and hoping to have a line from you giving me your good news. I am &c.
John Payne Esq.
3 Cliffords Inn, London EC
Trieste Sept. 29
Dear Mr. Payne
I had written these words when my servant brought me yours of 25th. The […] Edit and the Vol. 1 came yesterday even. Glad to see that you had taken a longer holiday than you intended; you brain work is hard and you must want rest. I shall set at once and work hard. The marginal reference is quite enough for the number of the Nights. As regards the Nightly formula as you have […] it so you must continue to do.
Perhaps it will be best to let Mr. R. L. Poole sing his song (Intolerable little cad!) If you like I can privately write to Editor Cotton and object to public review of a work privately printed. But I shall not do so without your express wish. Your book has no end of enemies and I can stir up a small wasp’s nest without once appearing in the matter. The best answer will be showing up a few of Lane’s mistakes, but this must be done with the greatest care, so that no hole can be picked in the critique.
I enclose three sonnets, a specimen of my next volume of Camoens by […] and should much like any suggestions from you. They are line for line and mostly word for word. But that is nothing: the question is are they readable English? They’ll be printed at my own expense so they ruin nobody. Switzerland has set you up and […] the solicitor’s office […] pull you down.
R. F. Burton
Trieste Oct 2
My dear Mr. Payne
Everything has come all right, 12 more sheets and yours of Sept. 29. Glad to hear of a new Edit. of Lane: it will draw attention to the subject. I must see what can be done with reviewers. “Saturday” […] and I are at drawn daggers and [Mr. Cole] of Athenaeum is such a stiff young she prig that I hardly know what to do about him. However, I shall begin work at once by writing and collecting the vulnerable points of the L. P. clique. He is a very much hated man and there will be no difficulty.
It should be very easy to collect another hundred subscribers. Has the prospectus been sent to Lord Henry Lennox? To General de. Horsey? Or to General Studholme Hodgson? If not the sooner the better.
I began work yesterday. Pencil in margin, and too late to make any great changes which by the by do not appear to be wanted. I don’t know what to advise about Quaritch until you tell me what his terms are.
ever yrs truly
R. F. Burton
Trieste Oct 8
My dear Mr. Payne
Yours of 4th received. In my own case I should encourage a row with this bête noire; but I can readily understand your having reasons for wishing to keep him or it quiet. I shall write today to Cotton saying what you suggested; and also to Tedder (Librarian Athenaeum Club) to know how R. L. P. is best hit. Tedder hates him—so do most people. Meanwhile you must (either yourself or by proxy) get a list of Lane’s lâches. I regret to say my copy of his Modern Egyptians has been lost or stolen and with it are gone the lists of his errata I had drawn up many years ago. Of course I don’t know Arabic but who does? One may know a part of it, a corner of the field, but all! Bah!
I […] adopt your change. My will alone […] Gest for Gesto is good English. Who hated thou take it = which must be preserved (83 4). I have explained intend in the Lusiads. Great respect for Gilbert, but I can’t let him monopolise a word, good or bad.
Most hearty thanks for the trouble you have taken. The remarks are those of a scholar and a translator.
R. F. Burton
Trieste 21 Oct 1882
My dear Mr. Payne
I enclose Cotton’s. Kindly return it and keep the [letter] private. It will, however, only be prudent to prepare for an attack. I am perfectly ready to justify a complete translation of the book. And if I am obliged to say what I think about Lane’s Edit. there will be hard hitting. Of course I wish to leave his bones in peace, but his […] of a nephew may make that impossible. Curious to see three editions of the 1001 N. advertised at the same time, not to speak of the bastard.
I return you nine sheets by parcel post office registered. You have done your work very well and my part is confined to a very small amount of scribble which you will rub out at discretion.
In the next edition I should suggest a less solid page: it looks awfully uncompromising. Also I would preserve the rhymes such as “the trees are growing and the water flowing and Allah all good bestowing” etc. etc. I would also add to the Oriental taste of your versions for instance always Allah never God.
I am working through but with great care. There is a change to be made in p. 1 No […] ever yet said Rabbi ‘l Alawayn (two words) always Alam’in (three or more). The enemy may hit us hard here.
How does the sale get on? That is the substantial part after all. Your criticisms on the three sonnets were so valuable that I take the liberty of sending you my versions (3) of 14 XIX. None of these please me; but I must have one, and would request you to choose for me. Only fair to say that I prefer no. 3, perhaps because it is no. 3 […] the last born.
The fair sex [appear wild] to get at the Nights. I have secured notes from two upon the nice subject, with no end of complaints about stern parents brothers and brothers-in-law. Have you seen Arbuthnot since I left.
R. F. Burton
Trieste Oct 29
My dear Mr. Payne
I have unpleasant news for you and for myself. The F. O. has ordered me to Syria and I start on Friday next. This move puts out all my plans for the winter. I hope, however, that all will be settled within two months at the most; and then I shall return to Trieste. Yesterday I sent you the penultimate (no 16) and tomorrow you shall have the ultimate (no 17) packed. You had better send me no more for the present, as my whereabouts will be exceedingly doubtful.
The more I read your translation the more I like it. You have no need to fear the Pool clique; that is to say you can give them as good as they can give you. I am quite ready to justify the “moral” point. Of course we must not attack Lane till he is made the cheval de bataille against us. But peace and quiet are not in my way and if they want a fight they can have it.
Many thanks […] sonnet. Your version is right good but it is yourself, not me. In such a matter each man expresses his own individuality. I shall follow your advice about the quatrains and tercets. No [XIX] is one of the hardest on account of its extreme simplicity. I shall trouble you again.
I have only the castrated Edit. of Villon, and should much like an original. It would await my return here.
It appears to me that is a misprint of some kind—there are so many of them in both edits. From Alexandria I hope to run up to Cairo and there I can make arrangements for questions and answers about difficult points. Adieu or rather au revoir. Ever yrs sincy
R. F. Burton
My wife will send you the volume (Mac) as soon as I start. I keep it for the possibility of a reprieve.
Trieste Dec. 23
My dear Mr. Payne
Yours of Dec. 18 received yesterday. You don’t notice what I said about corrections for another Edition: please look over my note I will write at once to Q. about Breslau Edit; but which of the 12 books shall I require for Vol III? I congratulate you upon the subscription list being so soon filled up. Is it not time to think of a reprint? Are you taking any steps to open a second list of subscribers?
My friend Arbuthnot writes to me that he proposes calling upon you. He has founded a Society consisting of himself and myself. The idea is Rabelaisian—I hope that you will enjoy it.
Will keep till first opportunity. I am finishing off my dreadful [Furioso] book. After January I shall run to the Greek Islands and pick up my forgotten modern Greek.
All the good wishes of this […] season.
R. F. Burton
We next met in the end of the same year, in accordance with a promise made on our parting, at Madeira, for a joint trip to the Gold Coast. The book that we published, To the Gold Coast for Gold, tells the story of that journey; we certainly found gold, but put none into our pockets. For both of us the Gold Coast only meant a loss of money, I was going to say of time and work, but we worked honestly, and besides gold prospecting, we did a great deal in natural history and botany, and established the existence of a Stone Age in that part of Africa, where, notwithstanding that the signs were evident, it had never been suspected by any of our predecessors. From Burton, during this trip, I learned much as to the real duties of an explorer and collector; and I also had an opportunity of seeing his kindness towards the unsophisticated natives, and of his tolerance of and courtesy to even those who were veneered with civilisation. His patience and endurance under illness and suffering were exceptional, and never an angry or a cross word have I heard him utter even when suffering severely from fever and acute pains.
We had some time together in England and Paris on our return, and when we parted it was with the intention of seeing each other soon and often. The best-laid plans of men often go wrong, and the fates have been stronger than our intentions, and though we have often corresponded we have seen but little of each other since then, certainly through no lack of affection on either side—and now it is too late to hope to see him once more in this life.
My unfortunate lack of method in compiling notes or diaries makes it difficult to fix the dates and places at which I met people, but perhaps some random recollections may be included here. Sir Richard and Lady Burton I met on more than one occasion, the first time at the dinner-table of John Macdonald. Burton was then sixty years of age, a man of herculean frame with a massive head and shoulders, a very dark complexion and a scarred face with strong nose and chin. His wife was still a handsome woman, though rather stout, whose adoration for Richard was very evident. Both in appearance and character Burton was out of place in a mid-Victorian drawing-room—he belonged to the spacious eighteenth century. Imperious and sometimes vain, he was sympathetic and generous to the work of others, but the strongest effect he produced on one when met in society was that he was rather obviously trying to shock and scandalise his hearers with his Rabelaisian humour. His tales when the ladies had withdrawn—luckily in those days they always “withdrew”—were “scorchers,” but even in ordinary conversation he was intolerant of les convenances. It is curious that this born adventurer, a fine swordsman, horseman, wrestler—indeed proficient in all the arts of self-defense—was never destined to see active service. I don't think he ever saw a shot fired in action. It was probably this, added to his constitutional restlessness, which caused him to throw up his army career. When he first went out to India he was known in his regiment as the “white nigger” because, not satisfied with the ordinary regimental routine, he chose to live among the natives and indulge his extraordinary taste for learning languages.
The account of a memorial window to be placed to the memory of Lord Salisbury recalled one of that discriminating statesman's acts of justice in the offer of a knighthood, after many years of neglect, to the great traveller and orientalist, Richard Burton. So does memory fly back to the past, and the pathetic line of Lamb recurs, “All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.”
The writer first met Captain Richard Burton, as he was then called, in the summer of 188-, at Trieste, where he succeeded the novelist Charles Lever as English Consul. There was at this time still a considerable English colony in the Austrian free port, consisting of merchants, some of whom remain there; a few ladies married to officers of the Austrian navy; and a considerable number of Scotch engineers, a very capable set of men employed in the arsenals of the Austrian Lloyd's and private engineering works. But the soul and life of the English colony was Richard Burton. To meet him was to be fascinated by his commanding figure, his leonine expression, and, above all, by his wonderful power of conversation. At first sight the keen, fierce glance from beneath his shaggy eyebrows, the resolute mouth, and the tawny Eastern complexion almost inspired the stranger with alarm; but this effect quickly disappeared on closer acquaintance. Then the kindly, soldier-like greeting at once put you at your ease. Some bright remark or interesting piece of information at length led to conversation, in which Richard Burton quickly discovered the capabilities of his new acquaintance, while he at the same time imparted some fresh knowledge.
The writer was introduced to him by a resident, a considerable dealer in corn at Odessa and Trieste. It was in a charming villa on the outskirts of Trieste, near the Fortezza, that he first dined with the Burtons. The party consisted of the two Burtons, the Vice-Consul Edward Brock (whom Lady Burton described in a letter as “the kindest creature on earth”), his two daughters, the widow of an Austrian naval officer with her charming niece the Countess of Gemmingen, the host and hostess, and myself. The dinner was to welcome the writer, who had just come to Trieste to act as Consular chaplain. “Do you know, you are the only padre Richard has ever taken to,” said Lady Burton to me as I sat by her side at dinner. “Richard was quite taken by your sermon on Sunday. He hasn't been to church for an age before.” I afterwards discovered that Lady Burton was a rigid Roman Catholic, which subsequent events manifested; but we remained the best of friends till her death. The conversation was chiefly on political topics, Trieste then being in a ferment owing to some demonstrations against the Austrian Government and the prospective bombardment of Alexandria, which subsequently became a matter of history. Though Burton hated the Russians, he equally hated the insouciance of the Turks, and thought that nothing less than an earthquake or the dismemberment of their country would awaken them from their profound lethargy. “Imagine,” said he, “the condition of an army whose soldiers will smoke cigarettes on a barrel of gunpowder!” He expressed great distrust of the Russians, and thought our Government sadly deficient in prompt action with the Sultan. He was scarcely fair to his opponent in the argument, Mr. Edward Brock, who, being a staunch Conservative, supported the Government. No great love was lost between the two, Brock complaining that Burton was too supercilious and impatient of contradiction, and Burton taunting Brock with holding too insular views.
On several occasions during the visit of the Emperor Francis Joseph to Trieste to inaugurate the opening of the Exposition, Sir Richard Burton invited distinguished visitors to his house. How hospitable was the reception we have learned from his niece, who tells us that in three weeks the bill for guests was one hundred and sixty-three pounds. At a luncheon at which the Count and Countess de Sales were present, together with other foreign visitors, it was a pleasure to observe the ease with which Sir Richard held the reins of the conversation, speaking equally well in French, German, or Italian, or indeed in any language. He was a supreme master of dialect; and, as his published memoirs have shown, he was equally proficient in the Eastern and Western tongues. This arose from his extended travels, combined with a marvellous natural facility for the acquisition of languages owing to his ready sympathy with all sorts and conditions of men. In addition, he was a keen and laborious student. To one who had been of English parentage, brought up on the Continent, an officer in India, a consul in Iceland, a traveller in Palestine, a discoverer in Africa, the gift of tongues was necessary; but a knowledge of the grammar and dialects of any language could only be acquired by persistent effort No subtle distinction in language was passed over by Burton, who instantly detected any false quantity, spelling, or accent even of his friend the hostess, he said that she spoke “excellent French, but with an Irish accent.”
To see Richard Burton at work was to see a man absorbed in his occupation. Of his long suite of rooms, one was laid out with small deal tables like those employed at a Civil Service examination. On these he would lay his books of reference, chiefly dictionaries and maps. Sitting with his manuscript before him at one of the tables, he would allow no reference to pass without verification. He was exact to a degree, and while unsparing in his criticism of others, he was equally severe with himself. Being naturally of a quick and ardent temperament, impatient of inaccuracy, and jealous for the exact proportions of truth, he sometimes seemed unduly irritable, but the irritation quickly passed if he were left alone. Yet there were occasions, when the gout (his persistent and last enemy), or the petty interruptions of domestic affairs, or possibly the scarcity of money—not infrequently accompanying so generous a nature—produced a kind of cerebral storm. Then Burton would pack up his portmanteau, taking with him some favourite author with whom to beguile the time, and drive off to the Opçina, where in a hotel at the summit of the hill he escaped the discomforts of domestic life and the smells of Trieste. Here the writer once witnessed Richard Burton in one of his characteristic moments of passion.
The dinner had been ordered at six. At half-past the hour it was not ready. The waiter was summoned. He made excuse. “Mille tonnerres—ventrebleu!” roared Burton, with a volley of unutterable language which he only could translate. The waiter literally flew before the storm, looking back at the writer with “Mais, mon Dieu, l’ Anglais!” The dinner quickly arrived, and with the soup Burton recovered his equanimity, though inveighing against all waiters, and the Triestin in particular.
“I can always manage him,” said Lady Burton to me, “he is like a child.” That she should have done so was due to her exceedingly sweet disposition and gentle manner; for though Burton confessed he had the temper of a demon, he said his wife had that of an angel. Never were a pair more equally matched. “One thing only would make me alter towards Dick,” she said, in confidence to me, when telling me that the doctors had told her that she had a disease which would eventually be fatal; “if ever he were unfaithful to me I would kill him.” This devotion to the man of her choice made her repose the strictest confidence in him, while she evidently listened with pleasure to his description of the charms of other women, secure of her hold on his affections.
Burton had the greatest admiration for the Emperor Francis Joseph, and it was at his express wish that the writer attended the opera given in His Majesty's honour after the presentation or levee. Though, like all Continental State functions, it was held on Sunday, the Royal command made it imperative that the English chaplain should represent the English community in Trieste. The Imperial guard of honour was very imposing, and the soldier-like simplicity and geniality of the Emperor of the most gracious character.
On the occasion of Mr. Brock's birthday, an invitation was sent to Richard and Isabel Burton, the Brocks, and one or two intimate friends to dine with the writer at the chaplaincy. Very early the cook had searched the markets for all that was rarest and best in the August season for the repast. To this was added what was most characteristically English in liquids. Knowing that Burton was not an abstainer, I had ascertained from Lady Burton his favourite drink. I procured some Allsopp's stout, and supplemented it with various wines, among which was the choicest Chianti which I could procure. The excellent Slav cooking effected quite an enticing meal, and when the dessert, which forms so necessary and pleasant a part of an Austrian repast, was reached, Burton was at his brightest and best. He told us tales of his African travels, and referred to the inaccuracies of the press with regard to Captain Speke. He complained only of the neglect which he had then received from the Government, and of the scanty recognition of the work he had done. We then had a hearty laugh over an episode of the afternoon. Lady Burton had asked the writer to accompany her to the quay. Stopping the cab where the Custom-House is situated, and where a sentry was mounted, she begged me to engage the Custom-House officer in conversation while she went aboard the Morocco to inquire about a case of wine for the Consul. Presently a porter came with the case and some loose bottles, the latter being placed by my orders in the bottom of the carriage. No sooner had this been done than Lady Burton followed, and stepping into the cab, bade the coachman drive off. Up to this moment I had kept watch, smoking a cigar, at the window of the carriage. The officer, seeing a case being placed in the carriage, was about to make inquiry just as the coachman whipped up the horse. Lady Burton smilingly saluted the officer from the window. This was enough to allay any suspicion; and, returning her Excellency's nod with a military salute, he was soon out of reach. But the speed at which we moved wrought havoc among the loose bottles, and soon the wine was running out at the bottom of the vehicle. Burton pretended to soundly rate his wife for exposing him to a charge of smuggling and soiling the reputation of the chaplain; but of course I took share of the blame, as the penalty had been already paid in the libation from the broken bottles. It was early in the morning that our merry party broke up, and Sir Richard humorously asked his wife to see him safely home through the vineyards of the Fortezza to their suite of rooms near the railway station.
The time soon came for my departure from Trieste, when Lady Burton was on the platform to bid me farewell I travelled via Vienna with Vice-Consul Brock, who had won his retirement. … Now, after our recent war with the Arabs, I think of Burton as the first Englishman who penetrated Somaliland, and of the kindly heart that beat under the rough exterior of the traveller, the explorer, and the discoverer in Central Africa. The hale old Emperor of Austria, whose presence made Trieste for a time the centre of attraction, has long survived; but the name of Burton will always be enshrined in the memory of visitors to Trieste.
Trieste, January 4th, 1883.
My dear Chaillé-Long,
I don't think that we can make any arrangement about the Juba and Zanzibar till you have done your work in Louisiana (?). Only let me know when it is done and you return to Europe. My movements are pretty well determined on unless it please the Devil in the Foreign Office to put a spoke in my wheel. I shall be here with variations till end of next summer, and then go to England in order to push the Gold Coast mines.
Gildehand (?), poor fellow, died a couple of years ago. I saw him about gold on his return to Zanzibar. He used to wander about in a very quiet way, and wrote little. I don't think he went far up the Juba, but he spoke of seeing gold quartz there. I have not heard his report confirmed, but, then, who is there to confirm it?
Stanley has awfully mixed the Brazza business, and has taken some trouble to ruin it. Brazza has completely won the day, and Stanley has compromised, not only himself, but his employers. Don't forget a line to me before you start, and —— damn old S.
R. F. BURTON.
Trieste Jan 4 ’83
My dear Mr. Payne
Yours of Dec 28 and more came all right. The fault of my note of Dec 12 was it did not say all it intended.
What can be the meaning or sense of not allowing a reissue of the uncastrated? Is there no way of obviating this? For instance cannot I reprint (of course in your interest?)
Of course you are working too hard—that we all are. The only plan is to lighten the load by every possible contrivance especially travelling. So at least I find.
Many thanks for the volume in anticipation. I have the early castrated. Quaritch has been written to about the Breslau. I have received no communication from him for some time, no answer to my note. Usually he is such an excellent correspondent that I fear he is not well enough to write.
I shall send you in a few days an “Arabian Nights” printed and translated by my friend Charles Clermont-Garreau. You will judge if it be worth accepting.
ever yrs sincy
R. F. Burton
Trieste Jan 15 ’83
My dear Mr. Payne
When you wrote (Jan 11) you had apparently not received my wife’s letter acknowledging the receipt of the two books (Calcutta and Villon). I shall take the greatest care of the latter and return it to you when read. Your 2 vols. of Breslau and last proofs reached me yesterday. I had written to old Quaritch for a loan of the B. Edit. He very sensibly replied by ignoring the loan and sending me a list of his prices. So then the thing dropped. What is the use of paying £3 odd for a work that would be perfectly useless to one. However, if you can manage him […]. But he waxes cannier every year.
I don’t know Clermont Garreau’s address; but am making enquiries: ditto about Aladdin, Ali Baba etc.
You seem to be in a fix about the reprinting. I fancy it is a work of time. You have pledged yourself to the subscribers, and the subscribers care […] the pledge. As the volumes grow in number so will the demand for a reprint. It will then be time enough to take steps in the matter. There are still two years to spare. Has Arbuthnot sent you his Vatsyayana?
Private. He I and the printer have started a “Hindu Kama Shastra (Ars Amoris) Society”. It will make the Brit. Pub. stare. Please encourage him.
R. F. Burton
Trieste 23 Jan 1883
Never mind the “abhorrent vehicle” it’s awful comfortable. Sent last proofs yesterday. Expect sheets 6-9 today. Almost ashamed to keep Villon—private copy. Mrs. B. easily appeased. It is a queer fish; the more I know him, the less I know of him. Advertise in Acad. and Ath.? Something quite new.
Trieste Feb 8 '83
Dear Mr. Massey
I quite agree with Mr. St Clair: the book improves as it advances. I am one of those who care mighty little for mere words (Hyde Clark gave me an indigestion) and prefer 1 sentence to a whole vocabulary. I hope to start the work of your popularisation and you must review my Sword book's Egyptianism as far and wide as you can. The Sword gives no uncertain note. "Aryanism" is simply one side of Egyptianism developed to the neglect of the other two; so is "Semiticism" & so is "Turanianism". We will put to flight that dire cohort of Indo-Germanics & Indo-Europeans. The very words are absurd. And the Sanskritists will hang us from an adunque nose.
I hope you will have a most copious index with references to every name, authority etc. And in the conclusion can't you give a résumé (use strong language) of your crucial points distributed under two heads (1) Linguistic (2) Historical. This will make up for the abrupt beginning of the book.
Thanks! The Sonnets are doing well & receiving their final corrections and copy. I shall not print them till my return to England, say August next and then will not fail to consult you when in print. You can't "say more than is necessary". At the same time we differ almost toto credo in those matters of taste which are irreconcilable. This is to say when you praises I sniff and v. versa. I don't know what the public will say, and—to speak the truth—don't care. My last book (Gold Coast) gave information enough for two, but no one sees it. By the bye, read Les Races Aryennes du Pérou, V. F. Lopez, Paris France 1871, and see how he perverts Egyptianism to Aryanism. Adieu or rather au revoir. Ever yours truly
R. F. Burton
Trieste May 1
Dear Mr. Massey
I was glad to see yours of April 23rd as your long silence suggested “seediness”—at least. Sorry that my notes were not more copious; but I am hard at work with 1001 Nights & a colleague's fishing-book besides my own particular. Are you firm about Pa-Rukh being the Phoenix? (Rokhi being the [neagi]) I think my "rooster" uses two consonants when he says Cock-a-doo-dle-do, and do you not find two consonants in all the many imitations of the nightingale's song?
The Book of the Sword is being printed. You know how much I lived out of England and consequently out of the Review Ring. A rascal (Escott) of Fortnightly has just kept a paper of mine for three months and returned it saying "it is a little out of date!" May his grass be defiled by many hogs!
You ought to find Mr. Cole of Athenaeum accessible: the worst is they are so awfully stingy imparting mean. Plenty of room for a new Review but not if its name is "The Radiator". Public will connect it with πR and radius-Vector. Your idea of the U.S. practical and would serve to forward arrangements. I would willingly write in it.
Your last chapter will have to be very carefully written and condensed. It must serve as the key to the whole. And then an Index, a work of art like Gull's Marco Polo.
R. F. Burton
CAPTAIN RICHARD FRANCIS BURTON, “dont le nom,” to quote the words of a distinguished authority, “sera cité toujours parmi ceux des plus grands voyageurs” although he happens to be a Consul, cannot, of course, he presented as an ordinary product of our Consular Service. Captain Burton is, in fact, a traveller who has been rewarded for his distinguished services to the cause of science by being appointed a Consul. The manner of his introduction into the Service was as follows:—Captain Burton, in character and appearance, is about as nearly as possible the exact antipodes of the conventional lady-killer. Yet, all swarthy and reckless as he was, a fair Desdemona had fallen once for all in love on hearing the tale of his “moving incidents by flood and field, hair-breadth escapes.” There were, of course, endless objections and difficulties in the way of their marriage. In the first place Miss Arundel was a devout Catholic, a member of a historical Catholic family whilst Captain Burton was—well, supposed to lean to Mohammedanism, if to any dogmatic form of religion in particular. Both of them at the time were equally untroubled with the cares attending the possession of an undue proportion of this world's goods, and the profession of traveller, though all very well for a bachelor, has, except in such rare instances as that of Sir Samuel Baker, not yet generally commended itself to marrying men. However, Captain Burton was of all men the least likely to be stopped by difficulties, and, after having taken eight years to overcome the obstacles raised by Church and family, Miss Arundel and he were married. The adventurous bride then waited on her friend, Lord Russell, at the Foreign Office, with the comforting assurance that, unless his lordship should consent to do something for them she and her husband must starve. Lord Russell no doubt recognised, as did all the world, that Captain Burton had considerable claims on his country, and he promised his wife that her husband should have a Consulate, adding that he must accept whatever was offered to him—a proviso not perhaps uncalled for, seeing that the offer which followed was that of the Consulate at Fernando Po. There are certain posts in the gift of the Crown which must make a Minister, if he has any sense of the ridiculous, smile at the idea of conferring them as a favour, and the Consulate at Fernando Po is one of them. A Consulate on the West Coast of Africa has been described as a corrugated iron case with a dead Consul inside. Nevertheless, beggars cannot be choosers, and so Lord Russell's offer was accepted.
But here it is necessary to go back to the previous career, for which Lord Russell's magnificent piece of patronage was the national reward. In the year 1842 Richard Burton left Oxford to join the Bombay Army, and employed his time to such advantage in the study of Hindustani during the voyage by the Cape of Good Hope that, four months after his arrival, he was able to pass the examination as interpreter, a feat which was very seldom accomplished in other instances under twelve or eighteen months. To Hindustani he added in a marvellously short time Mahratti, Guzerathi, Persian, Sindi, and Punjabi as the languages in which he was a “passed” interpreter. He possessed, indeed, in a most marked degree the faculty of acquiring a foreign tongue, going in this respect sometimes beyond those whose duty it was to examine him. This was exemplified some years later when, on returning to India after his famous pilgrimage to Mecca, he sought to pass the requisite examination in Arabic. To the amazement of everyone Lieutenant Burton was “plucked.” In his natural indignation he forwarded his papers to the Reverend Mr. Badger, the first Arabic scholar in the Presidency, who simply said that the examiners were wholly unqualified for their office. Richard Burton was not meant by Nature to be a soldier. There was no pipeclay in his organisation. A story is told of his being ordered by his commanding officer on parade to remove his forage-cap, when his hair appeared bound up like that of a sepoy, for which he was informed he ought to be ashamed of himself. He served five years on the Scinde Survey, after which he took definitively to travelling. His earliest works were one on the Neilgherry Mountains, one on Scinde, and another on “Falconry in the Valley of the Indus,” which were followed by that which gave his name to fame, “A Pilgrimage to Mecca and El Medina.” Burton next began, in 1854, his career as an African traveller, his lieutenant being Speke—Livingstone having not yet become known.
Of the respective value of the various discoveries of the several African travellers of this generation this is not the place to speak; but it should be borne in mind how far Burton led the way which was afterwards so nobly trodden by others. The names of African travellers of our day which occur to us are those of Burton, Speke and Grant, Livingstone, Baker, Stanley, Du Chaillu, Cameron, and Serpa Pinto. Of these, as Burton was almost the first in the field, so he has been the last, having recently returned with Cameron from an expedition to the Gold Coast. Travellers are of two classes—those to whom travelling and exploring is a mere interlude, and those to whom it is the main object of existence. Sir Samuel Baker, although the old spirit occasionally breaks out in the shape of a tour in Cyprus or elsewhere, has settled down on the whole into an English country gentleman. Colonel Grant finds the year not unendurable divided between Upper Grosvenor Street and his estate in Scotland; but the genuine, inborn explorer finds no permanent repose but in his work. Livingstone's last regret, when he felt that he was dying, was, not for England or his children, but that he should see his (African) river no more. Stanley, when asked by a lady on his return from the Congo, if he had been to the theatre, scornfully replied, “Theatre! Do you suppose I have time to go to a theatre?” He added that there was nothing for him but “work! work! work! and then to die.” Of this class is Burton, and we can scarcely more imagine him settling down quietly in his old age than Edie Ochiltree acting on the suggestion of life in a cottage.
Captain Burton has written quite a library of literature on both coasts of Africa, a library with all of which perhaps but few persons are familiar, but which nevertheless contains vast stores of learning and of thought.
From his next Consulate at Santos the indefatigable explorer descended the San Francisco river and wrote numerous volumes on Brazil. He was thence transferred to Damascus, and later from there to Trieste. Without for a moment wishing, or in the slightest degree meaning, to imply that any duties attaching to Captain Burton's official capacity are neglected, it is evident, from his frequent prolonged absences from his various posts, that those duties, whatever may be their nature, can very often be performed by deputy. From Santos, for instance, he obtained six months' leave in order to explore the San Francisco; from Damascus he was absent for a similar period in the land of Bashan. From Trieste he went for a whole winter again to the same historic locality; not to mention his lengthened absences in Iceland, and recently on the Gold Coast. He may, therefore, we think, not unfairly be taken as a type of the Amateur Consul—that is to say, of the distinguished public worker who is rewarded by a Consulate with no very serious duties attached to it. But it should be added that this arrangement does not involve any extra charge to the public, seeing that the absentee Consul relinquishes one-half of his salary during his absence in favour of his locum tenens. Captain Burton does not pass much of his time in England. However pleasant it may be on occasions to instruct the wise, and to lay down the law to lawgivers at Broadlands or at Hatfield, we can easily understand that to such a man everyday English life must be somewhat humdrum.
Four years after I left the coast, two of us made out a list of forty-four or forty-five white men that we had known in my first year there, including ourselves, and out of that list only four of us were left. Of these many had died from pure climatic causes, others from drink or accidents. Cameron and Burton in those days read a joint paper before the Society of Arts, making out that the climate was by no means so bad as was generally supposed. A very venerable gentleman, a retired army surgeon, opened the discussion somewhat on these lines :—“Mr. President, Ladies, and Gentlemen, with one leg in the grave, and the other out of it, for my doctors have given me only a few months to live, I have made it a solemn duty to come here to-night, even if it hastens my end, to warn the audience against believing in such a description of the climate as has been given you by the two illustrious travellers. My experience brought home to me it is a deadly one. In one expedition alone I saw forty men die from disease out of forty four. I warn any one here against going out there, or inducing any friend to go. It is as deadly a climate as any in the world. It is my solemn duty to raise my protest against this misleading paper,” and he sat down. Then there arose a Mr. W ___ a very handsome man, magnificently built, with silver grey locks and beard. “Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, with all due deference to the gallant gentleman who has just sat down, I make bold to state that had he prescribed my remedy, he would have brought all his men back.”
Everyone was almost breathless to know what this remedy was. He went on:—“I flatter myself,” he said, slapping his hand across his chest, “there is not a finer specimen of humanity in this room to-night than myself, yet I have lived forty years and over on that coast, and the remedy? I will tell you on my honour it has been a bottle of brandy before 11 a.m. every day of my life.” The, contrast between, the two speakers was great. The story Mr. W. gave of himself was, I believe, a true one, a case probably of the survival of one whom nothing could kill.
Sir Richard Burton himself was a man who could drink like a fish. Drink had no effect on him, but he did not drink so far as I knew him, save in company. It was a matter of indifference to him what he drank I believe. If water was there he was quite satisfied, if liquor it was the same.
I remember Captain K, of the SS Senegal telling me an episode on the voyage out to the Coast when Sir R. Burton was on board. At dinner one night some traders, or “palm oil ruffians” were boasting of the amount they could drink. Burton called for three soup tureens, filled them up with every sort of drink to be had on the wine list, champagne, beer, stout, claret, burgundy, brandy, whisky, gin, and liqueurs, mixed them all up together, then turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen I have been listening to all you have been saying, I invite you to drink glass for glass with me”: which they did until all were under the table dead drunk. The captain said he had to call in stewards and sailors to get them off to bed. Afterwards Burton resumed the conversation with the captain, and retiring to the deck sat talking with him until 2 a.m., never showing the slightest sign of having taken anything too much.
Burton told me one day, the West Coast languages were the only ones he could not master. I put my foot into it by saying as he was not so young as he was, he could hardly expect to add to his already long list of languages. If there was anything he disliked it was to be thought old. On the Coast his hair and beard were greyish, in London jet black.
Cameron I offended, for he brought out a Merryweather's fire engine, and was going to hydraulic a mine behind Axim with it, a very, very poor one just showing traces of gold in a pan. I told him if he stood on top of a hill and used a garden watering hose he would get about as good a result. This was too much for poor Cameron, too bluntly put, and he never forgave me.
Trieste 12 May 1883
My dear Mr. Payne
I am almost sorry that you have broken up pp of IV into paras. (I expressed only an individual taste) at my suggestion. You know the tastes of the Brit. Pub. far better than I can who am always out of the way. However this will serve to determine for the remaining volumes—broken or solid. Book post has brought me 3 books. Breslau and proof p.173-p.208. You must be working very hard. Your postcard says “you will receive Vol. III with this”. What Vol III? Breslau? I return your proofs. You are “drawing it very mild”. Has there been any unpleasantness about plain speaking? Poor Abu Hasan is (as it were) castrated. I should “Be bold or Audace etc.” only you know better than I do how far you can go and cannot go. I should simply translate every word.
R. F. Burton
My dear Mr. Payne
Yours of May 17 making me almost regret having spoken about the “mildness”. I perfectly understand your difficulty, however not appreciating Robertson Smith who as usual with the weak, after being persecuted becomes a persecutor). The poor sectaries must be in a stew if they are to marry Vol IV to Miss Respectability. Unfortunately it is these “offences against nature” (which come so naturally in Greece and Persia, and belong strictly to their fervid age) that give the book so much of its ethnological value. I should put it into the hands of every cadet going to the East.
I don’t’ know if I ever mentioned to you a paper (unpublished) of mine showing the geo. Limits of sodomy. A broad band across Europe and Asia widening out into China and embracing all America.
Port. Spain S. France Italy Greece Turkey
Curious, is it not? Beyond the limits the practice is purely sporadic, within them endemic. I shall publish it some day and surprise the world.
I don’t live in England, and I don’t care a damn for Pub. Op. I would rather tread on Mrs. Grundy’s pet corn than not. She may howl on her big bum to her heart’s content. Couldn’t I later chance some way or other for all offences?
I return the proofs Harun’s sin is really pathetic. The young idiot made me feel as it were—soft.
Richard F. Burton
Jerusalem, June 3, 1883
My Dear Burton,
I have a favour to ask, which I will begin with, and then go on to other subjects. In 1878 (I think) I sent you a manuscript in Arabic, copy of the manuscript you discovered in Harar. I want you to lend it to me for a month or so, and will ask you sending it to register it . This is the favour I want from you. I have time and means to get it fairly translated, and I will do this for you. I will send you the translation and the original back; and if it is worth it, you will publish it. I hope you and Mrs. Burton are well. Sorry that £.s.d. keep you away from the East, for there is much to interest here in every way, and you would be useful to me as an encyclopædia of oriental lore; as it is, Greek is looked on by me as hieroglyphics.
Here is the result of my studies: The whole of the writers on Jerusalem, with few exceptions, fight for Zion on the Western Hill, and put the whole Jerusalem in tribe Benjamin! I have worked this out, and to me it is thus: The whole question turns on the position of En-shemesh, which is generally placed, for no reason I know of, at Ain Hand. I find Kubat el Sama, which corresponds to Bæthsamys of the Septuagint, at the north of Jerusalem, and I split Jerusalem by the Tyropœan Valley (alias the Gibeon of Eden, of which more another time).
Anyway one can scarcely cut Judah out of Jerusalem altogether; yet that is always done, except by a few. If the juncture is as I have drawn it, it brings Gibeon, Nob and Mizpah all down too close to Jerusalem on the Western Hills. This is part of my studies. Here is the Skull Hill north of the City (traced for map, ordinance of 1864), which I think is the Golgotha; for the victims were to be slain on north of altar, not west, as the Latin Holy Sepulchre. This hill is close to the old church of St. Stephen, and I believe that eventually near here will be found the Constantine churches.
Moore is still Consul here. Small has gone to some baths in Germany. I have been, and still am, much interested in these parts, and as it is cheap I shall stop here. I live at Ain Kari, five miles from Jerusalem. There are few there who care for antiquities. Schink, and old German, is the only one who is not a bigot. Have you ever written on Palestine. I wondered you never followed up your visit to Harar; that is a place of great interest. My idea is that the Pison is the Blue Nile, and that the sons of Joktan were at Harar, Abyssinia, Godjam but it is not well supported.
The Rock of Harar was the platform Adam was moulded on out of clay from the Potter’s Field. He was then put in Seychelles (Eden), and after Fall brought back to Mt Moriah to till the ground in the place he was taken from (Targum). Noah built the Ark 12 miles from Jafa at Abn Shemeshih, the Flood began in an oven “taunur” there, it floated up and rested on Baris, afterwards Antonia; he sacrificed on the Rock (Adam was buried on the skull hill, hence the skull under the cross). It was only 776 A.D. that Mt Ararat of Armenia became the site of the Ark’s descent. Korán says Al Judi (Ararat) is holy land. After Flood the remnants went east to Plain of Shinar. Had they gone east from the El Judi of Ibn Omar Jesirah near Mossul or from Armenian Ararat they could never have reached Shinar. Shem was Melchizedek &c &c.
With kind regards to Mrs. Burton and you, and the hope you will send me the manuscript,
P.S.–Did you ever get the £1,000 I offered you on part of ex-Khedive for the Mines of Midian?
My dear Burton
Thanks for the M.S. which I will duly return ere long. I have changed my mind down here in these parts. Your letter is too short. What I state is, that by the general turn of scripture the tribe Judah possess Zion, [Shemesh] mainly all authors put in W. Hill of Jerusalem, if so then [Shem] did [Zion tear] between Judah & Benjamin son. The point is where is En-shemesh. I say at the K. el Sama at A.; Palestine Expl. Society says at B. Ain Hand; that is all the question. If you put En-shemesh at Ain Hand, Judah has none of Jerusalem.
If you put it at A, then the East Hill is Zion. No destruction can alter the general features of the land, to interfere with this theory. With kindest regards to Mrs. Burton & yourself. Believe me
C. G. Gordon.
Figure 3. Additional map from Events in the Life of Charles George Gordon (1886) p. 247.
Trieste 24 August
My dear Mr. Payne
I think there is no danger of proofs now miscarrying. Glad to see Vol. IV finished. Please keep up in No V this literality unto which you began. My test is that every Arab word should have its equivalent English. Of course you must cut out vain repetitions and tautologies, but there should be no change in the verbum verbo. Pity we can’t manage to end every volume with a tid-bit! Would it be dishonest to transfer a tale from one night or nights to another or others? I fancy not as this is done in various editions. A glorious ending for Vol IV would have been the “three wishes” after the Night of Power, and the Cabinet with five shelves turned into as many water closets. At this note you must be finishing your work fast, three vols. in one year and only four remaining.
I do not see my way to England just yet but still hope to manage a visit and meet Cameron during the interim. It is a matter of ways and means. I ought to go down in history as the man who rediscovered one Gold Country and rehabilitated a second and yet lost heavily (as yet) by the discoveries. However, I have no idea of complaining against […]: it is only part of the systematic mismanagement of the world by the […]
R. F. B.
PS Just received Sheet I Vol VI (?Vol V ?).
Trieste 1 Oct 1883
My dear Mr. Payne
End of vol. sent to you (we don’t agree about the finish however). We differ only in one point you quote the dictionaries, I the vulgar tongue. is she everywhere in Egypt and used for drugging as well as […]; the […] and drinking acids, by sugar increases its […] is practically unknown. T […] = […] bang has host of varieties. Hashish (as word denotes) applies to leaflets […] to the electuary made with milk, almonds etc. As regards […] you will find it (‘[warneo]’) in all trade reports from Arabia & Red Sea. Turmeric is almost unknown and saffron is everywhere used in Arabia and East Africa (Harar) for staining clothes. As regards […] the insomnia is correctly rendered pupil pupa pupilia but people understand that it alludes to the […].
What I meant by literalism is literally translating each noun (in the long lists which so often occur) in its turn, so that the student can use the translation. I hold the Nights the best of class books, and when a man knows it he can get on with Arabs everywhere.
Many thanks. The baths have set me up. I am sorry that you did not find Holland more enjoyable. It was a great favourite of mine when a kind of terra incognita now it is killed and cook’d. My wife joins me in best wishes
R. F. Burton
John Payne Esq.
5 Lansdowne Place
Trieste Jan 19 1884
My dear Mr. Payne
Will you kindly tell your publisher to send me (by usual Parcel Del. Comp.) the vols. after Vol III the latter being the last I received. A friend here is reading them solemnly and with huge delight: he would be much disappointed to break off perforce halfway. When do you think the 9 vols. will be finished?
Marvellous weather here. I am suffering from only one thing, a want to be in upper Egypt. And of course they won’t employ me. I have the reputation of “independent” a […] of oh-no-we-never-mention it Sir in the official catalogue, and the one unpardonable Chinese Gordon has been sacked for being “eccentric” which society abominates. England is now ruled by irresponsible clerks mostly snobs. My misfortunes in life began with not being a Frenchman. I hope to be in London next Spring and to have a talk with you about my translation of the 1001.
R. F. Burton
To the Editor of the Standard
Sir,—I was in the habit of meeting the Burtons constantly during fourteen years on terms of friendship and intimacy. I have been with Captain Burton In health and sickness, on excursions in search of Castelli in Istria, at his home in Trieste, and at my own house and elsewhere, and he never disguised his feelings as regards the petticoat tribe, as he termed the priests. The following anecdote shows that he was aware of, and feared, what was in store for him: indeed, I have often heard the subject discussed good-naturedly between man and wife, and it goes a long way to bear out the assertion of the stipulation said to have been exacted on Burton's marriage.
On the 19th March, 1884, the Feast Day of St. Joseph, I dropped in unexpectedly on the Burtons, and found Dick in bed, still under the effects of a bad attack of gout (see page 273, Vol. II of Lady Burton's 'Life of Sir Richard Burton'.) I was told that he was not to talk much, but he said he would be glad if I would talk to him. I spent the whole day at his bed-side, and he brightened up considerably in the course of the afternoon, and he said my visit had done him good. He said that St. Joseph had nearly done for him (Mrs. Burton said, on the other hand, that had it not been for St. Joseph he would have died), and that they (meaning his wife), taking advantage of his weak state, had tried to smuggle the padre into his room that morning, but that he had been one too many for them this time, and had kicked him (the padre) out.
The version Lady Burton gives of his last moments is, no doubt, correct; but it proves nothing beyond the fact, well known at Trieste, that Burton was dead long before the padre appeared. It was simply a farce to everybody but to Lady Burton herself. I might term it the sequel of what happened on St. Joseph's day, 1884. If Burton had rallied, he would have kicked out the padre as he did in 1884; but as he was dead when the padre came, hence he died converted. Such was the wish of Lady Burton, and the wish was father to the thought. That was what led her to put forth to the world what it was her dearest wish to accomplish. Did she believe it herself? Who can sound the intricate windings of the human heart? She was guided by what she considered higher considerations. This is clearly proved by subsequent events. And the wish to lie side by side with him at Mortlake did not count for little, nor did the outward pomp of a Roman Catholic funeral.
The Rev. Henry Overy has stated the unvarnished truth in saying that never was there an honester soul than Captain Burton. I would add that a character more worthy of respect and admiration than his never lived. As to his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith, the idea is inconsistent with the views I have heard him express over and over again, up to shortly before his death, and I boldly assert that nobody who knew him as I did will seriously accept the statement.
I am, Sir, your obedient
George L. Faber, H. B. M. Consul.
Fiume, December 31.
Trieste Thursday April 17
My dear Mr. Payne
I am just beginning to write a little and to hobble about (with a stick). A hard time since Jan 30! Let me congratulate you on being at Vol IX. Your translation is excellent and I am glad to see in Academy that you are working at Persian tales. Which are they? In my youth I read many of them.
Now that your 1001 are so nearly finished I am working up my translation and hereupon I have two little requests to make. They are somewhat indiscreet but you will have no ceremony in the matter of refusing.
1. I want the loan of your Calcutta and Breslau editions: the volumes shall be punctually returned to you.
2. For my guidance with that ticklish animal the publisher it would be a great kindness if you could let me know what arrangements you made. I understand you printed 9 vols. at £1.1.0 each, 500-£4500. What most concerns me is the cost of each vol. before it was delivered to subscribers. Whatever you tell me shall be kept secret: no one shall know it but our two selves.
My illness has thrown all my work into arrears, but a few weeks will fill the hole. I am about sending Quaritch my Vth Vol. of Camoens. In May we shall go to Marienbad within easy distance of England and Pluto [permittendi] I shall step over to see the village.
Do you want back your Preface (my MS articles)? Of course you re-write the whole.
Trieste April 27 1884
My dear Mr. Payne
Many thanks for your kind and friendly last. The Academy Canard completely misled me or I should not have spoken about the books; Quaritch is going to send me MacNaughten and I find Breslau here. The “special copy” will give me especial pleasure and will be one of my treasures.
Your proofs come in rather slowly, and I had hoped to have seen the Vol through before setting out for Marienbad (about 15 prox.) however the papers can follow me for I shall take all my 1001 N. books.
Unfortunately I see no chance of being in England soon, so as to talk over ways and means. All I want is a guide in dealing with that dragon the publisher. [Renown] (New York Tribune) says (23 Dec. & others) that you have printed 500 volumes each = 21 shillings and that the printing cost £200 per vol. If these figures be at all correct they are amply sufficient for my protection. (Private) A publisher lately wrote to me “send me your translation and I will pay for it” meaning probably he would oblige me with £100 or £200! Excuse these ignoble details—authors cannot always avoid them.
Three more vols. will make your translation admirably complete. By the by what do you understand by “huckle bones” = […]. I know huckle only=a sip and awáshik is quite unknown to me in that sense. I asked Baron Kremer who also found it impossible. Where did you get your translation? Easterns play with (sheep’s) knuckle bones, but I have heard of no other.
I find my translation has been made from the Bulak—a mere summary and abandoned labour is in front of me to combine the two or rather three. Health still improving despite weather.
R. F. B.
I hope you received last proofs (2 sets) the 2 [MS] articles & Vol. V Breslau.
Trieste May 5
Yours of 28/4 recd I fear my hand was hard to read. I shall not want Mac or Breslau having now bought them. Now have you answered my questions about [awáshik] which you render huckle bone (huh?) Where did you find the translation. I hope you have noted that we leave soon for Marienbad, Bohemia.
R. F. B.
Trieste May 12
My dear Mr. Payne
Many thanks for your kind note of May 7. I had not noticed that your card and my note crossed. Why do you allow yourself to be “overwhelmed”? Surely the “Nights” can wait a wee! Your private details are safe with me. I am much obliged to you for them. I am looking for the New York Tribune and will send it to you if found; but I fear it was lent to me by the U. S. Consul. Your account of huckle bone is perfectly satisfactory: my friend Baron Kremer and I were both ignorant of the word. In your card of 8 inst. you say that you have twice spoken about a bound copy. I read your letters carefully but I cannot remember any allusions to it. However, “bound” by all means As regards the calligraphy it has been [argling] me up from the beginning and at last come to a head. Lane gives the regular vulgar Cairene sound of the Fal’hah and it affects one like hearing Cork English. In India the Fal’har is mispronounced being altered to the general vowel (“bist”). Of course it is too late now to change. But I should much have preferred the old “Camaralzaman” to [Kemmarezzaman]. All Arabs pronounce Kamar (Bedawi Gamer) & it is hard to explain how terrible [Kemer] is! If you articulate the K () properly it is impossible to pronounce a short e after it. However what is written is written. I have adopted the good old Jonesian of Richardson’s dictionary with an accent only when absolutely required; no points and a comma only for the ayre (a’a). Excuse all this [weariness] and long Sanskrit and biblion &c.
R. F. B.
P. S. I return sheet and congratulate you on having backed one term of your most successful voyage. You have now nothing left except to be as literal and oriental as possible.
P.S. Have just found D. Tribune.
Card of 4th recd. All right again. Proofs no bother—quite the contrary. I do not forget [W.C.] and something more of required. Please let me know by card when Sword B. reaches you. I’m sending home Cam. Vol V.
R. F. B.
My dear Mr. Payne
Yours of 16 received yesterday. I feel much gratified by the dedication and thank you for it most cordially. […] is also a student but in [Anstruth.] “[Sufta]” is not students. As regards Mad a’a this is the pronunciation all over the Moslem world as far as known to me: I have never heard midfaa; the difference is only between [ventive] and instrumental and popular usage has taken the place of the philological. The [drug] and poison origin is the only one now accepted (as far as I know) in Persia probably because it is sporting i.e. picturesque.
I should much like to know what you are doing with the three supplemental volumes and hope that each will refer readers to the source whence you borrow it. This will be a great aid to students. The more I examine your translation the more I like it. Mine will never be as popular because I stick so much to the text. No arrangements yet made about it & MS will not be all ready till end of January. We (my wife and I) have enjoyed our ten days of Marienbad muchly; but the weather has as yet prevented bathing; a raw wester with wind and rain. Bad for poor people who can afford only the 21 days de rigueur. Cuthbert Bede (Rev. Bradley) is here and my friend J. J. Aubertin is coming. Let me know of your movements and again thanking you I am ever
R. F. Burton
Austria Aug 12 Direct Trieste
Dear Mr. Payne
What are you doing about the superogatory three vols.? We left Marienbad last of last month and came to this place (a very pretty little spa utterly clear of Britishers) where we shall stay till the end of the month and then again for Trieste to make plans for the winter. Will you kindly let me have the remaining volumes and when you have a spare quarter of an hour I want a little assistance from you. When you sent me your Breslau you pencilled in each vol. the places from which you had taken matter for translation. (How wretchedly that Breslau is edited!) I want these notes scribbled out by way of saving time. Of course I shall have to read over the whole series; but meanwhile will content myself with your references. Have you the Arabian Nights published in Turkish by Mr. Clermont Garreau? You will want it for the superogatory. If you can’t get it I have it somewhere and will look for it on return to Trieste. Have you a copy of Trebutien. Coker of Acad. has just sent me Clouston’s “Book of Sindibad” for review. I thought it was an old friend the Sailor, but found out my mistake. You will have no objection to my naming (in my review) your style in the 1001 as that we should have taken for a model? My corrections have reached nearly the end of your Vol IV. I am going in for notes where they did not send your scheme and shall make the book a perfect repertoire of Eastern Knowledge in its most esoteric form, including the habit of the Egyptians fellahs of copulating with the crocodile, a treatise on the geographical limits of sodomy and other excerpts from my note books. By the by why do you object to English […] by couplet. Excuse all this trouble and believe me ever yours truly
R. F. Burton
Arbuthnot told me you went lately
Trieste Sept 9
My dear Mr. Payne
Yours of 5th rejoiced me. I was beginning to very anxious about you. Men in the heights of work (or in training) are always open to a knock-down. Evidently my note to you from Marienbad in July never reached you. So I wrote to Arbuthnot and he wants to know if the enemy had found you out. And now I can only hope that the […] has done you good and that you will allow yourself many [stompers].
On return here I found Vol. IX with the dedication which delighted me hugely. I will patiently await the morrow. I did not notice your fine work in reviewing the Clouston treatise/treasure. I had not your express permission. Living so far from the world I am obliged to be very careful in these matters: one never knows what harm one may be doing unawares. Of course I shall speak of your translation in my preface, as it deserves to be spoken of.
Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to look over your proof: in fact I should be sorry not to do so. I have not yet found Garreau’s Nights but I hope soon to do so. My Turkish Edition was burnt many years ago in a fire at Grindlay’s; but you will easily find a copy. I suppose you read Turkish; and if you do not you will in three months: the literary style is a mass of Persian, and Arabic. You must find out which is the best Turkish Edition: my copy had evidently been translated from a MS very unlike the Calc. and Bulak. I have no doubt that your 500 copies will soon be subscribed for. I think you will like my work. As you have been chary of notes my version must by way of raison d’êtrė (amongst others) abound in esoteric lore, such as female circumcision and excision; different forms of eunuch manufactory etc. I answer all my friends that reading it will be a liberal education and assure them that with such a repertory of esotericism at their finger ends they will know all the [Sirbile] requisite to salvation. My conviction is that all the women in England will read it and half the men will cut me.
Many thanks for notes concerning the Breslau. Of course I shall have to read over the whole affair—a peine forte et dure, for, as you say, it is hideous. I have told Quaritch to send you a copy of Camoens (Lyrics) which will be out in a few days. Every & all suggestion thankfully received. Next vol. will be octaves, elegies & eclogues, what next for the British Bull!
R. F. Burton
Trieste Oct 1
My dear Mr. Payne
Yesterday I received the splendid collection of new vols. bound as they deserve. I am delighted with it, especially with the dedicatory and (when I have done with such matters) made a legacy of it.
To my horror Quaritch me a loose vol. of his last catalogue with a notice beginning
The only absolutely true translation of the etc.
My wife telegrammed to him (and followed with a letter) ordering it not to be printed. All in vain. I notice this only to let you know that the impertinence is wholly against my will.
Arbuthnot tells me that you are hard at work so I am loath to trouble you. But there is one little point which is working my brain. Does your first vol. of the Breslau contain at the end (like the other vols.) an index of tales? Or is it wanting as in mine? If an index be there please post me the 14 vol. & I will copy it and return. Life in Trieste is not propitious to work as in the Baths: yet I get on tolerably. Egypt is becoming a comedy. I expect to see Gordon (who is doubtless hand in hand with the Mahdi) send down and offer to guide Wolseley up to Khartoum. My wife joins me in kindest regards and best wishes. Ever yrs sincy
R. F. B.
Care of Union Bank,
The cause of any delay now is the difficulty of finding a publisher to adventure & yet I trust some means may be found. Pray tell me if you think the Ahrar Medina justly indicated on map. I think you may have passed some of it, but have had no access to books & maps. My order to Stanford was, for the wd between the heights of Tebûk & Medina; beyond my knowledge, “follow only Captain Burton” which I hope has been observed.
C. M. Doughty.
R.G.S. map & distance [observations] pub. without correction.
Trieste Oct 22
My dear Mr. Payne
I send the interleaved as you suggest: not quite certain of first […] all the rest right. Breslau has mostly been printed from a practically all Egyptian MS full of vulgarisms and in popular style, hence the omission of […]. I am not at all sure of my translation but it appears raisonnaire.
You know your own affairs best but I am sorry to see the style altered. The Nights were by no means literal but very readable which is the thing. For instance you make the Old Man (or rather Chief, like Sheyk al Jabal) of the sea “do his occasions” on Sindbad’s back and I translate “he bepissed and conskited my shoulders and all down my back”. People will look fierce but a n’est pas mon affair.
Wishing you good luck and expecting a pleasant meeting in early Spring (all our arrangements being near). I am yrs
My Dear Ouida
Thanks for your last welcome letter. Dick & I thank God are at last doing much better in health (unberufen). What will the sequel be to Princess Nap? It is long since I wrote to Judas. Her letters are not as brilliant as her conversation & the cold steel eyes. We staid on 3 months leave in Marienbad & Sauerbrunn and we have been ever since dancing attendance at the station & hosts & receiving the great flow of English going to Egypt beginning by Lord Northbrook. I am so thankful Dick is not in that mess—luck! We are very hard at work on Arabian Nights—and me with my various projects. Dick does all the translation & except consulting me on a word or prosage I am not allowed to read it. It will be a wonderful work—but I do all the financial part and it keeps my hands full especially as I have opposition & wish it to be a grand success. We talk of a trip home in March. I enclose you a paper on Vivisection. Please don’t speak of it for a few days. I am going to launch 1200 of them to the laboratories & Societies. I don’t know whether you are of my way of thinking or not. I feel very strongly about it. I don’t get much time for letter writing. I shall be intensely grateful for a Tauchnitz of your next if you send me one. Your affect. friend. Dick’s love.
Trieste. 23 Oct. 84.
In November 1884 I returned to Aden with the party who were to join me in the exploration. It consisted of my brother, William D. James, G. Percy Aylmer, E. Lort-Phillips, J. Godfrey Thrupp, our surgeon, and myself, in addition to our English servant, Burling, Aylmer's Swiss servant, Anselmier, and E. Lort-Phillips' Abyssinian servant, Girghis. All of us, with the exception of Thrupp and Burling, had journeyed together in the Soudan, and pretended to fair experience in African travel, while Thrupp had served over a year in South Africa as a surgeon on the staff during the Galeka and Zulu wars. On the way out I was delighted to meet Sir Richard Burton, who was much interested in our venture, and thought our chief difficulty would be with the tribes on the river (Webbe Shebeyli), but strongly advised us to announce boldly at first our intention to reach that point. Curiously enough, this advice was the exact opposite to that I received previously from Mons. Antoine d'Abbadie (whose extensive travels in Eastern Africa, especially among the Gallas, have not met with the recognition they deserve by English travellers), for he cautioned me against giving out that I even proposed to reach the Ogadayn. “Feel your way,” he said, “but never tell where you are going.” “Do nothing of the kind. Give out your goal at once, and don't attempt to dodge niggers,” cried Burton, and I think he was quite right. Any way, we followed his advice, and had frequent reason to congratulate ourselves upon having done so.
Derbyshire 13 Nov.
Still in difficulty about finding publisher, I shall write when there is any news. Very glad of the indication for the Harrats. I have been always since in Italy & divided from books & hope to amend my map with them under your correction. Wallin was quite right for the Harrat-el-Aueyrid though wrong when he […] speaks of rocks as of J. Sherra (limestone with flints) which he calls granite. The learned Wetzstein’s hearsays, as you know the Arabians speak & report often as mere pleasure, are not I believe of much value. I hope to see you in town in the Spring.
Truly yours Ch. M. Doughty.
Nov 27 1884
My dear Burton
Your dedication makes me very proud and the kindness of its terms gives me a still heartier pleasure than that of mere pride in your friendship. Thanks to you both—and notably to Frances H. for her letter (or rather your joint one) of the tenth which has now been followed by the arrival of the two volumes from Quaritch. They are yet more interesting (naturally) to me than their precursors. I hope you may find something to arride you (as Lamb says) in the little volume which accompanies this note. One thing of great price—a sound and orthodox religious tone (to say nothing of political temperance and conservatism)—I know you will not fail to recognise in its pages and to appreciate at its worth while giving all due praise for it not to me but to Him from whom all good gifts—plague, pestilence, religion and morality—proceed.
The learning and research of your work are in many points beyond all praise of mine, but not more notable than the strength and skill that wield them. I am hungrily anticipating the Arabian Nights. Of course it is understood that Watts and I subscribe for a copy apiece. My moral sense in need of reinvigoration since the perusal of old Lytton's prenuptial correspondence—I trust you have seen a copy, if not of the now suppressed volumes, at least of the lovely extracts in the Pall Mall? Cela rosse les combats de coq—to use a phrase of Bossuet's. It has been a sweet season for scandal—the Lord Chief Justice's most Christian household furnishing the latest dish of the course. Which reminds me that just after a very favourable review of my book in the Times I got a pathetically pressing invitation to luncheon from our common Houghton. I’m afraid the poor old Thermometer is getting very shaky—but the quicksilver though running low will keep time with the weather to the last. You both know how we look forward to our next meeting with you, when you shall not run away so soon as you did last time.
Both of yours always,
A. C. Swinburne.
49, Welbeck St,
Cavendish Square. W.
Dec 4 1884
My dear Richard
I ought to have written before to thank you for the two fresh volumes. I found them one afternoon when I came home pining for something nice to read so I began them with avidity. And they look so pretty and their green covers make a spring-time in the room. I didn’t write at once because I half expected a note from you & thought one might cross on the road. I have been shut in four days with a most vehement cold—you [would] think one in deepest dishes if you saw one & I weep as I write with influenza. We have had a sort of black broth of weather and all sorts of people I know are in my plight. I hope you have no such small miseries to deflect you from your Nights.
First I like your dedication with the charming castera compliment. I should like to know what Mr. Swinburne says to it. I keep looking as he seems to notice many writers that he will write a good article on you & Camoens. I think he must do it some day—it would proclaim the book. I am so afraid of people who would delight in it not knowing that it exists. I am constantly so very struck with what people don't know & how the best things get missed. I often think how you have widened my field. These lines are all new to me except three or four you printed in the Ac.. I am delighted with IX “I find so many doubts”—what a wand of emotions in fourteen lines & how effective the last line & how quaint! How mortally sad Camoens is—I feel my heart grow like lead at some of his verse “Ah me how longsome” p. 56 and “Love is a living Lowe” (78) and the autobiographic Canzons. How wonderfully you have done the three lines:
Perhaps Shakespeare knew this when he wrote: “I joy to have what I so fear to lose”—at any rate they had the same idea. All women anyhow must like Camoens as a lover. He understood the meaning of self surrender “our self surrendered to one dearest she”. And how splendid those dialogue poems (but I see on looking that those surrendering lines are in one of the dialogues). I could go on telling you of many other favourites but such numbers of them one shilling and the language is as sweet as the thoughts. I can't think in doing them literally how you could preserve so much grace & force & simple beauty. I like the constant toying with words & conceits and I can't help hoping he found a pleasure in lamentation. Another choice line I think delicious “Fast fades the Daisy & the flowers go die”. Your Sappho (378) is splendidly done not only the magic act wonderfully told but all the cause behind it. When Dante and Petrarch are held up as models of lovers I shall always in future put a third with them—Camoens.
I have enjoyed reading your discourses on the sonnets &c. I read them after dipping well into the poem & found they were like stars to guide. I suppose the critics will find fault because you have left them nothing to say—you give so much light you almost provide them with understanding. And now I think you will have had enough of what I think & feel about your Camoens but I am truly charmed with these volumes & I hope many others will get as much pleasure from them as I do.
George has been away a month. He chose Holland for warmth then Munich then Venice! I hope he is in some frizzly spot now. I wish I were for I find the winter always worse then I expect it to be—but just now with this heavy cold I can’t take a cheerful view. I hope Isabel is less suffering and give her my love. I feel it is time for a line to say how you both are.
Early in 1884 the ninth and last volume of Payne's Arabian Nights was in the hands of his subscribers. The price of the work was nine guineas. Imagining that the demand for so expensive a work would not be large, Payne limited himself to the publication of only 500 copies. The demand exceeded 2,000, so 1,500 persons were disappointed.
Burton being, as always, purse-pinched, felt deeply for these 1,500 disappointed subscribers, who were holding out their nine-guinea cheques, with nobody to take the money. Oh, what a calamity!
“Do you object to my making an entirely new translation?” he asked.
To which, of course, Payne replied that he could have no objection whatever. So Burton then set to work, hot-hand. In a letter to Payne of 20 June, 1884, he said: “The more I examine your translation the more I like it,” and on 12 August, 1884, he gave an idea of his own plan. He said: “I am going in for notes where they did not suit your scheme, and shall make the book a perfect repertoire of Eastern knowledge in its most esoteric form.”
Although, as we have seen, Burton's service to Payne's translation was but trifling, Burton was to Payne in another way a tower of strength. Professional spite, jealousy, and other causes had ranged against his Nights quite an army of men of more or less weight, including the group who for various reasons made it their business to cry up the wooden and common-place translation of E. W. Lane. Burton, who had for long been spoiling for a fight, fell upon the Laneites like Samson upon the Philistines. He smote them hip and thigh, he gloried in the tumult, he wallowed in blood. But though the battle was hot while it lasted it was soon over, and the cowed Laneites subsided into silence. …
From May 1885 to February 1886 Burton was again in England, and he and Payne often met. “I think,” said Burton, on one occasion, “when I have finished the Nights I shall translate Boccaccio.”
“My dear boy,” said Payne, “I've already done him, and my book is in the press.” …
“You are taking the bread out of my mouth,” commented Burton, plaintively.
“But,” continued Payne, “there is another work that I thought of doing-the Pentameron of Basile, and if you care to take my place I will not only stand aside, but lend you the materials collected for the purpose.”
Burton, who was not aware of the existence of the Pentameron until Payne told him, welcomed the idea, and in due course commenced and finished the translation, but Payne insisted that Burton's work “is a poor, crude, lifeless performance,” and he resolved, though he was unable to carry out his intention, to make a translation of it himself after all. …
Payne often said that Burton used words incorrectly, instancing for example Burton's employment of the word “purfled” as a synonym for “embroidered,” and contended that he could furnish scores of examples of Burton's inaccurate use of archaic words. Indeed Burton, a magnificent man of action, had, in Payne's opinion, scarcely any merits as a writer.
How much manner and deliberately cultivated courtesy has to do with personal success in the world. There was Sir Richard Burton, for instance, by far the greatest traveller and geographical and ethnological student of his time. I never met him but that I was astonished at the depth and range of his knowledge. Moreover his pre-eminence in his own line was universally admitted. Yet what success he achieved was all against the collar, and he never attained to anything like the position to which his abilities and performances entitled him, while far inferior men walked into berths ahead of him. His comparative failure from the worldly point of view was due, so it is said, to the fact that he was apt to treat mediocrities, even if occupying high posts, with little consideration for their feelings, and that his criticism of the mistakes of his nominal superiors was apt to be more caustic and telling than delicate. It is certain in any case that Sir Richard never held the official position to which his abilities and remarkable achievements entitled him. When I met him he was a disappointed man who had seen persons who were inferior to himself in every respect put over his head, and who was besides in no enviable case pecuniarily.
He showed, however, nothing of this in his manner or conversation on ordinary occasions. He was the broadest and deepest man of his height I ever encountered, though I had seen some magnificent specimens of his build out West. Sitting at the dining table he almost required two places, and I noticed on one occasion that he had a most singular habit of looking quickly every few minutes, first over one shoulder, and then over the other, as if he expected to be attacked from behind. Meeting him one evening at the house of the great Arabian scholar, Dr. Badger, he talked very freely indeed. We were seated after dinner in a large room in the basement, Burton and Badger smoking long Turkish pipes, the tobacco in which, after having been lighted by a glowing charcoal disc from the fire, passed through the hubble-bubble and a long stem to the mouth. I could never handle this contrivance artistically and confined my smoking to the less complicated cigar. But they both seemed to enjoy the narghileh hugely, and Burton became very frank and communicative. Referring to his travels in Africa I asked him about H. M. Stanley, when he said: “The impression of my old Arab merchants on the coast and their men is that Stanley never went to some of the places he said he visited at all, and if half I have heard about him is true, I should have been very sorry to be one of his party. I might not have been sitting safely here now. But there are a good many tales told about travellers over and above the travellers' tales they tell themselves. I have suffered from some of them myself,” and he laughed a great laugh. Then he and Badger took to talking Arabic at the top of their voices, till I thought the house would come down upon us all. A tremendous man possessed of encyclopaedic information, that was the impression the famous Richard Burton produced upon me.
I began this reference to Burton, however, solely by way of illustration of the failure of a brilliant man of a very different career to attain to the summit of his ambition to which he was fully entitled. This was due to a faculty he had in common with Burton, that of unnecessarily making enemies of people who might be useful to him, or who might at least interfere with his projects. I am bound to say I admired Sir William Harcourt. …
Before I went to America, I made the acquaintance of Dr. George Bird; he continued to be one of my most intimate friends till his death, fifty years afterwards. When I first knew him, Bird was the medical adviser and friend of Leigh Hunt, whose family I used often to meet at his house. He had been dependent entirely upon his own exertions; had married young; and had had a pretty hard fight at starting to provide for his children and for himself. His energy, his abilities, his exceeding amiability, and remarkable social qualities, gradually procured him a large practice and hosts of devoted friends. He began looking for the season for sprats—the cheapest of fish—to come in; by middle life he was habitually and sumptuously entertaining the celebrities of art and literature. With his accomplished sister, Miss Alice Bird, to keep house for him, there were no pleasanter dinner parties or receptions in London. His clientele was mainly amongst the artistic world. He was a great friend of Miss Ellen Terry's, Mr. Marcus Stone and his sisters were frequenters of his house, so were Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Woolner the sculptor—of whom I was not particularly fond—Horace Wigan the actor, and his father, the Burtons, who were much attached to him—Burton dedicated one volume of his ‘Arabian Nights’ to him—Sir William Crookes, Mr. Justin McCarthy and his talented son, and many others.
The good doctor was a Radical and Home Ruler, and attended professionally the members of one or two labouring men's clubs for fees which, as far as I could learn, were rigorously nominal. His great delight was to get an order for the House of Commons, especially on nights when Mr. Gladstone spoke; and, being to the last day of his life as simple-minded as a child, had a profound belief in the statesmanship and integrity of that renowned orator.
As far as personality goes, the Burtons were, perhaps, the most notable of the above-named. There was a mystery about Burton which was in itself a fascination. No one knew what he had done; or consequently what he might not do. He never boasted, never hinted that he had done, or could do, anything different from other men; and, in spite of the mystery, one felt that he was transparently honest and sincere. He was always the same, always true to himself; but then, that ‘self’ was a something per se, which could not be categorically classed—precedent for guidance was lacking. There is little doubt Burton had gipsy blood in his veins; there was something Oriental in his temperament, and even in his skin.
One summer's day I found him reading the paper in the Athenaeum. He was dressed in a complete suit of white—white trousers, a white linen coat, and a very shabby old white hat. People would have stared at him anywhere.
‘Hullo, Burton!’ I exclaimed, touching his linen coat, ‘Do you find it so hot—Deja?’
Said he: ‘I don't want to be mistaken for other people.’
‘There's not much fear of that, even without your clothes,’ I replied.
Such an impromptu answer as his would, from any other, have implied vanity. Yet no man could have been less vain, or more free from affectation. It probably concealed regret at finding himself conspicuous.
After dinner at the Birds one evening we fell to talking of garrotters. About this time the police reports were full of cases of garroting. The victim was seized from behind, one man gagged or burked him, while another picked his pocket.
‘What should you do, Burton?’ the Doctor asked, ‘if they tried to garrote you?’
‘I'm quite ready for 'em,’ was the answer; and turning up his sleeve he partially pulled out a dagger, and shoved it back again.
We tried to make him tell us what became of the Arab boy who accompanied him to Mecca, and whose suspicions threatened Burton's betrayal, and, of consequence, his life. I don't think anyone was present except us two, both of whom he well knew to be quite shock-proof, but he held his tongue.
‘You would have been perfectly justified in saving your own life at any cost. You would hardly have broken the sixth commandment by doing so in this case,’ I suggested.
‘No,’ said he gravely, ‘and as I had broken all the ten before, it wouldn't have so much mattered.’
The Doctor roared. It should, however, be stated that Burton took no less delight in his host's boyish simplicity, than the other in what he deemed his guest's superb candour.
‘Come, tell us,’ said Bird, ‘how many men have you killed?’
‘How many have you, Doctor?’ was the answer.
Richard Burton was probably the most extraordinary linguist of his day. Lady Burton mentions, I think, in his Life, the number of languages and dialects her husband knew. That Mahometans should seek instruction from him in the Koran, speaks of itself for his astonishing mastery of the greatest linguistic difficulties. With Indian languages and their variations, he was as completely at home as Miss Youghal's Sais; and, one may suppose, could have played the role of a fakir as perfectly as he did that of a Mecca pilgrim. I asked him what his method was in learning a fresh language. He said he wrote down as many new words as he could learn and remember each day; and learnt the construction of the language colloquially, before he looked at a grammar.
Lady Burton was hardly less abnormal in her way than Sir Richard. She had shared his wanderings, and was intimate, as no one else was, with the eccentricities of his thoughts and deeds. Whatever these might happen to be, she worshipped her husband notwithstanding. For her he was the standard of excellence; all other men were departures from it. And the singularity is, her religious faith was never for an instant shaken—she remained as strict a Roman Catholic as when he married her from a convent. Her enthusiasm and cosmopolitanism, her naiveté and the sweetness of her disposition made her the best of company. She had lived so much the life of a Bedouin, that her dress and her habits had an Eastern glow. When staying with the Birds, she was attended by an Arab girl, one of whose duties it was to prepare her mistress' chibouk, which was regularly brought in with the coffee. On one occasion, when several other ladies were dining there, some of them yielded to Lady Burton's persuasion to satisfy their curiosity. The Arab girl soon provided the means; and it was not long before there were four or five faces as white as Mrs. Alfred Wigan's, under similar circumstances, in the ‘Nabob.’
12 Jany 85 Trieste
Dear Mr. Fahie
Your 1st letter which I received on 28 Nov 1884, & a subsequent one, were answered immediately by a post-card, because I feared the impossibility of a proper answer in due time. True we were shut up in our intérieur with our literature, but such an amount, & an accumulation of unanswered letters, constantly interrupted for days by the continuous flow of English from Richd to Egypt—as the only safe passage (owing to Cholera). You will be sorry to hear that after having considered Capt. Burton cured from his last illness he was struck down again on the 18th of Dec with rheumatism & I am again grande malade in the sick room, as he must always be upon the bed or armchair, & works in the interludes between pain. I will see to having the passage you want copied from Zanzibar. I have to thank you for your most interesting work on Electric Telegraphy which we both greatly appreciated. I am not surprised at what you tell me about your dream, Richd has a very magnetic effect upon certain temperaments, myself amongst a number of cases, but I know several people (men also) who have had dreams about him. I am also as you know a Papist—an old one too. Your dream is like my daily hopes & struggles from the year 56 till now, to make him Catholic, though I never speak of it to him (28 years or 29) we are married 24 come the 22d. I feel immensely interested about Mr. Davy—I have no time at this moment but before the winter is out I hope to get his story noticed again in the papers, and then keep the ball rolling. I don't think Capt. Burton would ever have time—he leaves all that sort of things over to me.
I was most grateful to you for the many subscriptions you have brought me. No, the Arabian Nights will not have the Arabic Side by side, it would then be 20 vols. not 10 nor will it be illustrated but it will, he tells me, be quite perfect, & contain no end of explanatory notes from himself, alive with the repertoire of Eastern knowledge not found in books but I am not allowed to read them.
I enclose you the last new additions to the numbers. As all the subscribers have addressed themselves to you I shall trust you to answer them & thank them, except Mr. Nelson who has written personally, & you must also give them his cordial Salaams & thanks.
I want to write you as interesting a letter to you as you have written to me but I cannot because I have got one of those stupid colds and an aching rheumatism that communicates itself to my letter.
Being a Catholic I may send a few prayers I composed & had printed & circulated amongst my friends & relatives, but two clauses are not quite official & I have been lectured from high quarters for them. I also send you a devotion I am very fond of, that of the Divine Face of Our Lord. You would do a holy work, if you know a Catholic Church in Teheran, to get the priest to start this […]. I can send it in French, Italian or German or Dutch.
Please write whenever you feel inclined or think of us & believe me your kindness is deeply felt by us.
With our best regards, I am yours sincerely
Mr. Davy has his own plan on my starting up things to do—we hope to go home in spring I shall be able to do him more good then.
27. Jan. 1885
Since last writing Prof. Wm Wright & Prof. Robertson Smith have advised me to offer my book of Arabian travels to the Pitt Press (Cambr.) so I did not see further about it in London. I have been reading this Christmas with great interest & great pleasure your Pilgrimage & further I am quite happy and find that there’s nothing in my writing which disaccords with your [approvamenti] of the Arabs. I find the same again in reading Robertson Smith's “Letters from Jidda & Taif”: there is no difference between us, so it must seem we have fairly made out the Arabs in their Peninsula: you learned men part from observation & part from the Arabs letters & I without any book reading from observation [with] [meditation] only. Your Midian I have not yet read.
At Cambridge my MS has been referred to Robertson Smith to report. His report will be as favourable as possible. He wishes me to send him any letters I have of Oriental scholars witnessing to the value in their opinion of the work that such may be part of the report. As I think well you are kindly disposed towards my treatise & I know you are generous, would you perhaps send me a line or two also for this purpose. The only difficulty we expect is to overcome the possible stolidity of a few (alone) mathematicians who may make much of the expense.
I could not say so w. Postcard what experience I had of the learned Wetzstein’s hearsays. I did not find them of the slightest avail whatever upon any occasion. The relations of any one Arabian for a vast country seldom are or rather never are which thus stand unconnected of other men’s cross relations. His informant, if I remember well, was an [Ageyly] from [er-Russ el-Kasîm]. Such had almost certainly not been beyond the Haj road Westward. I think there is a good deal talked of Wadi Nejid, that’s the Arabian’s man-pleasing fabulosity in an open ear. We can go over it all in the Spring when I hope to find you in Town.
me dear Sir
C. M. Doughty.
care of Prof Robertson Smith
Trinity College, Cambridge.
19 Feb 85 Trieste
My dear Albert,
I was very pleased to get your letter just a month old—it seems so quick doesn't it to be able to hear from so far. I felt so very grateful to you also for the 4 subscriptions & the cuttings and all the kind things his Majesty said. In short such a pleasant letter to get from a distance & from an old home that Dick & I were quite cheered & pleased about it. The work is expensive but that is partly because it will cost at least 2000 or 3000 to bring out & 2dy because it wd never do to let the public be able to buy it as from all Dick says it wd make one's hair stand on an end. Scully seems to have had 2 lives. I remember him a greyhaired middle aged man with first sickly wife & Grace a puling child. He surely must have had his day but Dick & I always liked him & I am sorry. Do you remember when Dick met him (when people were looking shy at him for his 2d or 3d incendio) & laughing said “Well Paddy burn the street down next time its precious ugly” & he laughed & enjoyed it so.
Dick hopes you will thank the Emperor for all the kind things he said & for subscribing to the work & he will certainly write to HM. And there are 4 more vols. of Camoens to come out; HM has or ought to have 6, they have been sent.
I have not sent to [G…] at S. Paulo, I wonder whether you would. I send you one or two more circulars. I will have all your books for Rio sent in a tinned lined box. You will get 3 vols. first to come out when we leave to go home which I fear can't be till April, but they will follow faster as he will have 6 ready & all MSS done in about 3 ½ more months. No money till books are sent & then Coutts Strand by cheque.
We hope to go to London in April. I hope you will come quicker than the end of year It wd be so very pleasant to meet again & then I want to see your wife & children. Dick & I are a pair of old cripples. He poor fellow was laid up 8 months last winter with a complication of diseases gout rheumatism fever & general catarrh of everything then we went for 3 months cure to Marienbad & Sauerbaum & he was apparently cured but broke out again 2 months ago with the same but in a milder form & without gout. We are not going to risk it again. Trieste is fearfully unhealthy always full of epidemics but a delightful place & we have a charming palazzo & garden with the best air & splendid views from every window. I know nothing finer except Rio at sunrise. We have no more ambition but to live a private happy independent life & to own a small house of our own at Tangier & keep our place here for change.
I was very glad to get your scraps of family news—I often wondered what became of your mother & shd be so glad to see her again. You will give her my love won’t you? You don’t mention the Duffields nor Edward. Was there not a 3d brother? I did not know poor Mr. Gallop was dead—I remember the house well. Business is bad everywhere & here dreadful. No one has a florin & if they have don't like to part with it. I think Thornton has as you say been a successful but I should not say a happy man. Their happiest time was at Rio.
My father is thank God still alive but out of his family only us 4 sisters are left all married & 2 have children. The child left 16 months ago. Aubertin is a constant companion in our travels. He has been 3 times to see us but Hunt has fallen away except when we are in London.
Yes! I know all the Lloyds people as we always travel with them & their director Baron Marco Morpurgo, is just like a brother to us. At a petit supper the last night of the carnival, when we were all costumé but not Masqué, at his house, I told him all about you & should have done so long ago but did not know you were his agent. He is also Consul General for Brazil, & I told him how lucky he was to have such a good man on the other side of the world, & told him how highly you were thought of by the Emperor & that goes a long way with Marco.
I did not know poor Tupper was dead. Naughty Tupper. I wonder where he is? I should immensely like a journey to Brazil again, but not to live there.
We are all feeling perfectly miserable about the war publicly & privately. A dear cousin of mine Rudolph de Lisle was the first of two killed. Gordon is a great friend of ours & we knew Piggott & Fred Burnaby. I have another cousin there in the Guards Everard Primrose who would be a great loss to me—but I thank God on my bended knees every day that Dick was not sent. He was taken ill long before there was any likelihood of anyone being sent. Gladstone is certainly the English Antichrist.
Dick joins me in best love & thanks to you for all your kindness & hope you will not lose sight of us for so long & will keep us au courant about your London visits. Please also present our kind regards to Mr. Bradshaw & believe me ever your sincere old friend
My letter is awfully untidy but if you knew how my nose is kept at the grinding stone you would not wonder that when I want to write a letter for pleasure I have no hand left to hold the pen.
May 1. 85 Trieste
My dear Mr. Fahie
I got your kindest & welcome letter yesterday & I answer it today because I cannot write again till I am in London. I am so sorry to leave my comfortable home, the garden & fields & chestnuts out in full beauty, but my dear husband's life & health is my first object in life & must command everything. I shall be […] at the sight of my numerous relations & friends especially my dear old father of 86 whom I do not expect to see again. Out of 18 months poor Richard has only had 5 months without actual suffering & only 2 months of that not absolutely delicate. The last 2 winters there has been such mortality at Trieste of men of his age (64), that I dare not risk another winter unless he quite recovers. We shall get first rate advice in London where I have taken a lodging for 3 months—we are now packed and DV off on 9th but may not arrive till 20th. You can write to me at 14 Montague Place Bayswater Sqr. W. London—my father's house, which will be perhaps safer than my lodging, which is 2 or 3 doors off. You are too kind & indulgent in your expressions about me, I hope some day I may earn them. I am so sorry for Mr. [Banginingi]. When the books are ready he must be asked if he is willing to have them—I certainly agree to accept the Prince's name on the list & we must hope he may pay or tell Mr. Aganoor to pay for him.
I am not startled though grieved about Mr. Davy. I had a sort of presentiment about it—that it was no use. When a man has been neglected a whole life & honours begin to fall thick about him take it as a warning he will not live long. If I see offers of service & honours, being showered upon my own "uncrowned King", I shall do all I can to make him refuse them.
I cannot send you any anecdotes of Lever. He was our predecessor. The family Father, Mother, Son & 3 daughters. The 3 first are dead. The 3 last alive & married & in different parts of the world. I am friends with all three but am forced to say they are 'Kittle Cattle' to deal with, & I know one of them was in an awful rage with Mr. Fitzpatrick's biog. though I thought it charming, & it made me quite long to know him and I told her so. Richard offered then to write his biography in '73, or if they did not finish it, if they wd collect the papers he wd teach them how to do it, but the offer was declined rather abruptly. It was kindly meant to give them a chance of saying what pleased them about it. You see what a hornet's nest I shd get into, & they are women with pitiless tongues.
I send you my last effort. The petition to the Pope is simply the embodiment of the appeal for animals. I also take the liberty of sending you my last photograph. I was not posing but resting between the sittings & was taken by instantaneous photography without knowing it so the position is more natural. Believe me with our kind regards yours sincerely
Six years elapsed before we met again. This was on June 27, 1885. The Burtons had just come to London and had asked Irving and me to take supper with them at the Cafe Royal after the play, Olivia. That night was something of a disappointment. All of our little partie carrés had made up our minds for a long and interesting—and thus an enjoyable—evening.
Chiefest amongst the things which Irving was longing to hear him speak of was that of the death of Edmund Henry Palmer three years earlier. Palmer had been a friend of Irving's long before, the two men having been made known to each other by Palmer's cousin, Edward Russell, then in Irving's service. When Arabi's revolt broke out in Egypt, Palmer was sent by the British Government on a special service to gather the friendly tribes and persuade them to protect the Canal. This, by extraordinary daring and with heroic devotion, he accomplished; but he was slain treacherously by some marauders. Burton was then sent out to bring back his body and to mete out justice to the murderers—so far as such could be done.
Just before that time Burton had in hand a work from which he expected to win great fortune both for himself and his employer, the Khedive. This was to re-open the old Midian gold mines. He had long before, with endless research, discovered their locality, which had been lost and forgotten. He had been already organising an expedition, and I had asked him to take with him my younger brother George, who wished for further adventure. He had met my suggestion very favourably, and having examined my brother's record was keen on his joining him. He wanted a doctor for his party; and a doctor who was adventurous and skilled in resource at once appealed to him. Arabi's revolt postponed such an undertaking; in Burton's case the postponement was for ever. Our new civic brooms had been at work in London and new ordinances had been established. Punctually at midnight we were inexorably turned out. Protests, cajoleries, or bribes were of no avail. Out we had to go! I had a sort of feeling that Burton's annoyance was only restrained from adequate expression by his sense of humour. He certainly could be “adequate”—and in many languages which naturally lend themselves to invective—when he laid himself out for it. The Fates were more propitious a few months later, when Irving had a supper at the Continental Hotel, on July 30—the last night of the season and Benefit of Ellen Terry. By this time we understood the licensing law and knew what to do. Irving took a bed at the hotel and his guests were allowed to remain; this was the merit of a hotel as distinguished from a restaurant. There was plenty of material for pleasant talk in addition to Captain and Mrs. Burton, for amongst the guests was James McHenry, J. L. Toole, Beatty Kingston (the war correspondent of the Daily Telegraph), Willie Winter, Mr. Marquand of New York, and Richard Mansfield. All was very pleasant, but there was not the charm of personal reminiscence, which could not be in so large a gathering.
23 Dorset St
Portman Square W
London July 6. 85
Dear Mr. Fahie
I left Trieste in May, travelled about a bit, & arrived here 14 June & found your nice letter. You will not be surprised that I have not answered for what with business, family, visits, letters, invitations & shopping after 3 years absence & in the height of the season you can imagine the rest. Your name is duly down for the Athenaeum. My husband is with me & under a good doctor’s advice & we hope the F. O. will be merciful & let us stay till November. I rather despair about Mr. Davy's widow & orphans because I know Childers well and he is out. The Nights are well on, the 1st Vol will be out in August, and then regularly once a month till finished.
We certainly put the first name down for whom Mr. Aganoor is agent very gratefully and must take the chance. Poor Davy I always feel when a man has been neglected that it is dangerous for him suddenly to be given riches & honours, he is sure to go. And now at the end of this letter it suddenly strikes me & it will show you what a muddle my head is in that I got your letter a day or two before I left Trieste & answered it & brought it over in my desk & it was not one of those on my hotel here but really you have said so many nice kind things about me in it that it deserves two replies instead of one. Tomorrow I am going to make a speech at St James's Hall before a multitude concerning cruelty to animals—I will send you a copy. With Captain Burtons and my best regards, I am yours sincerely
The Journals of Major-General C. G. Gordon, C. B., at Kartoum. Printed from the Original MSS. Introduction and Notes by A. Egmont Hake, author of “ The Story of Chinese Gordon,” &c. With Portrait, Two Maps, and Thirty Illustrations after sketches of General Gordon.  (Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.)
This portly volume contains so little for the reviewer proper that he must perforce adopt the pleasant modern fashion and review the writer. “Chinese Gordon,” as his old friends preferred to call him, and as he is entitled in a host of books and papers between the days of Andrew Wilson and Samuel Mossman, has of late been the sport of fortune. Party spirit, which seems the only tangible trace of Old England now left to Young England, no longer finds a tool in him. His first silly little book on Palestine did no good to his great and glorious name; it proved his mastery of the tongue biblical, that Jacobian dialect which by a strange freak of fate still predominates in the English vocabulary; it showed that while most men read volumes of controversy he was satisfied to rest upon his instincts and to see in Jerusalem what no eye yet saw there; and it represented him suffering very severely from that curious complaint, “Holy Land on the Brain,” which latterly took the form of “establishing the boundaries” of Ephraim, &c. Lastly, he has been “ levelled down ” by certain friends, fussily sympathetic, those burrs which cling to the skirts of a great man, and which rise, as Easterns say, like beetles borne in roses upon the heads of kings. In their thirst for notoriety they have managed to weary the public of his name—a fact made unpleasantly evident by the falling off of subscriptions. Who, in these times, has a right to more than the normal nine days? The Journals, however, will go far towards reviving general interest in a moribund theme. They are being extensively read and universally appreciated, because they show the writer not only en deshabille, but stark naked. They bare the charm of certain confessional autobiographies lately published, and they enable the reader to take his own measure of a man whose perfect truthfulness and integrity, whose disinterested spirit and whose systematic suppression of miserable selfishness made him a phenomenon in the nineteenth century.
These Ephemerides, divided into six books, and covering only three months (Sept. 10-Dec. 14, 1884), are the jottings and scribblings of everyday life under the most peculiar and adverse circumstances. The writer had been implored to return to his old home, and his going had been incontinently deplored by those who forgot to support him, because he could not cope single-handed with a country fighting for a cause based upon religion and patriotism, however deformed by fanaticism and imposture. As might be expected the Journals are utterly deficient in the graces of literature. Their only ornaments are capitals and school-girl italics, and they are full of such mistakes as “Touran” for Imran (p. 19). Written on the spur of the moment they are contradictory in the extreme; they repeat the same words sometimes thrice, and even oftener; they heap commonplace upon commonplace; they show the hallucinations (e.g., concerning M. Renan) to which all African travellers after a time become subject, teste Livingstone; and they trifle (twice) about a turkey-cock when the shells are sighing, and the Nordenfeldts are growling. They evidence the strangest temper in the world. With Gordon one never knew what would happen next; to-day your intimate, he would forget your name to-morrow. And this was no vulgar caprice, but thinking and acting under a Controul as peculiar as the daemon of Socrates. They preserve his Biblical phraseology (pp. 117, 173), about which he even “chaffs” himself (p. 216); and “the very feeblest of the conies” (p. 326) and “Shimei dusting David” (p. 376) contrast strangely with “a corker” and “black sluts” (passim). The natural querulousness bred by the situation (pp. 92, 112), the trenchant satire upon the crass ignorance of public offices (p. 201), and the most galling contempt of “ the Dignities,” whom he quizzes and caricatures with a humour often expanding into drollery, are curiously balanced by an insight of which few can boast, and by instincts which belong to himself. And the scratchy and sketchy, the blurred and blotted picture is lit up with a golden glory; the man is the very soul of honour, the embodiment of what every gentleman should strive to be.
I must be allowed a few words on these “instincts” and insight. The former are not unfrequently prophetic, e.g., “Now MARK THIS” (the figures of print are not mine), “if the Expeditionary Force, and I ask for no more than 200 men, does not come in ten days, the town may fall; and I have done my best for the honour of our country. Good bye” (p. 395, dated December 14). His “insights” are too many for quotation; but here are a few. “Simmons and I agree on one subject —that Egypt is useless to us unless we have command of the seas; and if we have command of seas, Egypt is ours; therefore, it is not worth bothering about. We will [shall?] never be liked by its peoples, we do not go the right way to be liked” (p. 130). Unite true: we are not men enough to govern Egypt: our hands are tied. We must dance en sabots to the tune of progress, philanthropy and other mauvaises plaisanteries. The identity of “standing orders” and “dead letters” in the East (p. 100), touches the thing with a needle-point. The uselessness of those wretched (Hindu) Sepoys, “Snake-like creatures whose faces show that they hate us” (p. 189), is an old truth told in a new way; and nothing can be better than the suggestion of garrisoning India by Chinese and Negroes. And mark this, “It is a great question of doubt to me if public officials ought to sink their personality” (p. 233). England is now ruled by the worst of bureaucracies, a permanent clerkery which openly declares that executives are made only to obey orders, that the most commanding mind must be directed by its diminutive, and that personal influence is an insult to the uninfluential governing many-headed. But “England was made by adventurers,” and is being rapidly unmade by offices. It will be a bitter pill for Englishmen to read touching France (p. 311), “If you can find no chivalry in your own house you had better borrow it from your neighbour.” And it is bitterer still for Englishmen to realise the fact that England is the only place where they are not derided and despised, while minds like Gordon are beginning to despise England for her gross and abominable worship of the Golden Calf.
I am unwilling to touch upon such disputed points as introducing into Egypt the Turks whom Mohammed Ali the Great made the business of his life to expel; as admitting the French, whose government almost equals our own in energy and consistency; and as evacuating the Sudan, which we may abandon, but Europe will not, thereby preparing for ourselves not a nest but a hive of hornets. Nor can one discuss Gordon’s strictures on the Intelligence Department (p. 154) without falling into personalities: I can only repeat my assertion that in the scandalous affairs with Osman Digna after Major Morice's death not an English officer could speak Arabic, and the most delicate work was entrusted to the most lying of men—hired dragomans. But however invidious the task, every reviewer must be prepared to quote the weighty words in p. 234, easily supplying the hiatuses:
“There are times when men like ... ought to obey, and there are times when they ought to disobey or to resign. Now, if ... had only hinted his resignation, the Governments were so placed as to be obliged to listen to him. I have a strong suspicion ... did know how to act. It was ... and a wish to be agreeable to Her Majesty’s Government, which prevented him acting according to his own ideas. His amiability did for him.”
What a commentary upon our present national motto “Too late”—ever too late!
And now for a few personal details. Shortly after Gordon was appointed to the Sudan in 1874 he consulted me about an Eastern harbour of export. I suggested one north of the equator, which should separate Egypt from Zanzibar: my advice was disregarded and poor Admiral McKillop brought upon himself much trouble. In 1876 my correspondent offered me command of the Eastern Sudan with £1,500 per annum; but as I asked £2,000 he was nettled, and wrote that he hardly expected so much devotion to £. s. d. My answer was that every Farthing (and something more) would be spent in the country; but the amount to spend would represent the measure of my power and influence. This satisfied him; and yet I could not accept the offer. We were at once too like and too unlike to act together without jarring. We did not meet till 1879 at Cairo, and I was astonished to find how unlike were all his portraits. No photograph had represented those calm benevolent blue eyes and that modest reserved and even shy expression, blent with simple dignity, which, where, he was intimate, changed to the sympathetic frankness of a child’s face.
His letters to me show a many-sided man utterly unlike the mere puritan, the bibliolater of popular belief. In predestinarianism he was more fatalistic (not Calvinistic) than any Moslem; and, as the Journals show, a transition to El-Islam would not have been violent. Having prayed and taken counsel with his soul and his Guide, he acted unreservedly, and, he often wrote: “Anyone could do this as well as I can: I am a mere machine in the hands of God.” He appeared by no means surprised when I told him he was a rank Spiritualist, a tool in the hands of his Controul. Hence, it appears to me, the curious changes of policy and conduct which perplexed his best friends, such as his slavery-proclamation at Khartum after his hanging the unfortunate slave-dealers, a measure which I, not being a “Christian hero,” never would have taken had they not actually committed murder. Hence his fury against Zubayr Pasha, and then his extreme anxiety to re-employ him; also his convicting an employé of deliberate money-theft and promoting the same man to a Pashalik a few months afterwards. Hence, apparently, he forgot to insist at headquarters upon his being followed at once by a body of English troops—500 or 5,000 bayonets mattered but little—and his stinging sense of being deserted till they were sent up under General Too Late. And so in minor matters; for months he would drink nothing but water, and then prefer, very decidedly, water with whisky. Thus, finally, I explain a host of seeming contradictions, which to him (and to none other) seemed natural and consequent.
I have lately been asked, Are you sure of his death? and I answer, No. All accounts of his being killed are so discrepant, so louche, that I should not be surprised to hear of him somewhere in the direction of the Congo slowly making his way south. Of course, every week without intelligence dims our hopes; but I cannot yet persuade myself to despair of shaking hands once more with Chinese Gordon, and of congratulating upon another quasi-miraculous escape the man I have ever looked upon as the Soul of Honour.
Richard F. Burton.
My dear friend
A thousand thanks for your subscription, which I endorsed. Let us in union as Authors pray we may not be too much fleeced by the Trade, something we must expect with a big big D for the middle men. I went to your place & fancy! No one ever told me where was a lift but said the 8th story. I knew I couldn't do it. I am so glad to think that you like us because we have always had such a sense of bon camaraderie with you & an instinct of good lasting friendship. You will be glad to know that Dick “the awful” is progressing in health. The doctor says in another month quite fit. I am a poor devil with a tumour in the right ovaria & change of life to be examined by Spencer Wells tomorrow at 2 o clock & worst my dear father aged 86 had a paralytic stroke on Saturday & is not expected to last. We are 4 daughters & a Sister of Charity in attendance. I feel so distressed you will not mind a short letter but in a fortnight hence D.V. I hope to have nerve enough to ascend your lift & see you if you are here.
July 28 ’85.
23 Dorset Street
23 Dorset St.
Portman Sq. 17 Aug. 14 85
I was so pleased with your last kind letter & so was Dick & now I have been reading your book. I have given you the new soubriquet of the "Storm finch". I read it because Lallah said it would make my hair curl & I was so interested in all your struggles. The struggles of your quite early life, feeling apart from everybody & nobody understanding you was so thoroughly my own case up to twenty years of age, that it was minutely interesting to me to know that such a clever woman as you had suffered so.
Had you ever met (what God has blessed me with in answer to years of passionate prayer)—a Master—what a different life you would have had, but the question is if you would have been so great had you been content.
The period that you speak of in your youth—as "if a Roman Catholic had got hold of me now &c." (Oh! that one had)—is my own state always. I started so & after 24 ½ years of the Society of hard headed Atheists & clever books, I am at that same state intensified. I am always attended by a personal Saviour (in my own belief) always watching & teaching me. And you, you dear warmhearted glorious woman, I believe that the same Saviour loves you intensely—you are just after his own heart, & he is only longing that you should turn to him & believe & trust him. You see he has never let you take root anywhere because you must do so in the end. He will be the only Master. You will laugh at me, so infinitely your inferior in learning & reading, when I say that when the subject of religion crops up in all your clever & brilliant infidel's talk, I listen for the sake of the wit, & I laugh & enjoy the flow & brilliancy, but I, the least of you all at such meetings, feel how flimsy, unstable, childish & trifling are the religious arguments you use to prove there is nothing. I feel as if I knew it all when I was 4 years old, & marvel to see you great spirits floundering so on the great question, when terra firma is within your immediate reach & you cannot see it. I am writing by the bed side of my sick father & the cat has added her autograph. I ought to write it again, but I know you will forgive it.
I was so delighted with you for speaking well of the Jews & your insight in separating the nice Jews from the usurers. After all we are reformed Jews & soon there will be I hope reformed Christians. With best love from both I am yr affect friend
Upper House, Guildford
for a few days but then back to:
23 Dorset St
Montague Square W
Dear Mr. Fahie
I dare say it will appear strange to you that it is so cold that the pen keeps tumbling out of my fingers. I cannot remember when I wrote to you because since I arrived in London on 2nd June, I have been in a whirl of work which I should be sorry should last for life. Invitations, visits, letters, family, shopping, business of all sorts so that from the time my eyes are open in the A.M. until midnight I am all upon wires & with poor health.
However, 1st, your name is down at Athenaeum but they want you to write & give all your Christian names in full to the secretary. 2. The 1st Vol of nights came out on 10 Sept and were all delivered or shipped on same day. Eight went to Persia, 4 in a box to you and 4 with special directions. The 2d will be out about the 5th Oct and sent ditto. Tell me what they think of it. Now I have before me a letter of yours of July 16th & one of Aug 10.
I am so grieved to know you have a domestic affliction. You do not specify it, but I can feel for you. My dear father—the best that ever lived—had a paralytic stroke on 25th July. He is 86 so no hope. We are 4 daughters, an old family nurse and a Sister of Charity nursing him. He lingers still. When he goes we not only lose him, but it is the breaking up of our home. My husband, thank God, is almost well but has not got back his strength. I send you his photo, with real pleasure, apart from the letter. We hope to winter in N. Africa without giving up Trieste altogether.
You will think me just as bad as your other friends about poor Mrs. Davy, but the fact is everybody is so wild about the election nobody will listen to anything I say. The Conservatives say wait till we are sure. The Liberals don't ask till we are in & perhaps in the end neither will do anything.
Mrs. Nevill was the Lever I went to see in India. So many thanks for the hint about the proverbs. I shall try & get them. I do not know the book called “We Catholics” but take it to be a reprint from the Tablet. But if I find it I shall send it to you. My King is still uncrowned. There is a Sir Richard Burton, but Dick & I often get brevet rank & we suppose it is because people think he ought to be & suppose it impossible that he is not.
My speech at St James Hall went off beautifully. There were thousands there & the society have taken up my work at their expense & sent out thousands perhaps 50 thousand. When we have got one million signatures they are to be bound & sent by a deputation to the Pope. A happy thought strikes me. Mr. Floyer is a friend of ours & perhaps he could help Mrs. Davy. As soon as I get back to town I will try. I don't know any of the other friends you mention Mr. Pepys or Mrs. Holly.
With best regards, yours sincy, Isabel Burton.
Excuse writing I really can't hold my pen.
Dear Mr. Fahie
I have just written to you and sent the Catholic, & Captain Burton's photo & my special petitions. I have now to thank you for the fifty guineas. I hold the 2d till I know Coutts has the first & then burn it. It was very clever how you managed to get the money from the Prince. Another man in another country says he does not know how to approach the Emperor on the subject. Then people are now to be asked to accept &c &c so we must send you 10 slips to paste in your books as they are packed in a professional way such as we could never manage. If you look at the circular, you will see Captain Burton guarantees only to pay all over the United Kingdom, & it was frightfully heavy. If he paid abroad too he would have to charge more for the books if he meant to make by it. You will be surprised to know we have many more subscribers than books & we are calling in defaulters in order to recomplete our sets, & sell them to the hungry ones. So if our letters have crossed yours, you must none of you be vexed—as you are duly marked off as paid in full from today. The defaulters are condemned to an immediate 10 guineas or return I Vol. II Vol starts on 14th. I have 70 people who won't leave me in peace until I find them one. It has already risen to 12 guineas except with us who cannot take more than 10.
Richd is much better—& we do not think of Trieste till March. You have to send all your Xtian names to the Secretary of the Athenaeum & I have told him about a seconder I am doing for the orphans & widow but expect no success. Nobody cares anything except for elections nor listens to me. I am trying Floyer who has just rendered much service in Egypt. You know how hard it is to get money fr. anyone.
With best regards & great thanks for all you have done for us. I am yours sincerely
Oct 4. Rosary Sunday
23 Dorset St.
I am going to my old paternal home Wardour Castle on Tuesday but for a very short time. Wasn't it you who visited it and sent me some flowers to Trieste which I thought so pretty.
Nov. 14 / 85
I have this morn recd the 2 vols. and have only to thank you for your kindness—suggesting a hope that no. IV will be found as such things mostly are. I leave for Tangiers on Friday & my direction will be with my wife who remains a few weeks in London
I am very glad you like the style of the book and shall not forget your suggestions as regards Aladdin. Believe me with many thanks
R. F. Burton
A STORY OF SIR RICHARD BURTON.
It curious to note the strange trifles that can upset people of tough and powerful physique. The sight of a cat will drive one person to abject despair and horror, others are overcome by a scent or a sound which has no terror for the rest of the world. The late Sir Richard Burton—a strong man if ever there was one—used to faint away at the smell of honey. One night he was at a dinner party, and took in a Lady. During dinner he was very lively and talkative, but towards dessert he suddenly became alert and distrait, turned rather pale, and kept looking about the room. At length a friend asked him if anything was the matter. “I am sure there is some honey in the room,” he replied, “I shall have to go. I can’t stand the smell of it.” The hostess was asked about it, and she told Sir Richard that not only was there no honey in the room, but none in the house. Nevertheless, he still declared that there was honey in the room. At length a footman, hearing the discussion, acknowledged to the hostess that some honey bad been sent to her that evening from a neighbour, and that he had placed it on the sideboard. It was removed, and only just in time, for the great explorer was very nearly fainting.
Burton went his wild way of travel and of adventure, and for many years I lost sight of him altogether. Of course I was always hearing of him and reading of him. Burton never kept the world waiting very long for some tidings of his whereabouts. When we did meet again I met a man strangely soberised and calmed down in temperament and manner from the Richard Burton of my earlier acquaintance. During this latter period we met at the houses of many London friends, most often, I think, at the house of my friends Dr. George Bird and his sister Miss Alice Bird, who were then living in Welbeck Street. Burton had laid aside all the rough, overbearing manners of the earlier days. He had become quiet, even gentle, in demeanour, willing to listen to anyone's views, although on subjects which the ‘anyone’ was not by any means likely to understand so well as Burton did; modest of assertion, even when dealing with regions and with themes which he himself knew at first hand; patient of contradiction, even on subjects of which he had made himself a master. What had brought about this remarkable change? I presume one need have no great hesitation in ascribing it, above all things, to the influence of the gentle, true-hearted, woman whom he had made his wife and his companion. I have never seen a pair who seemed to be more completely, yet less ostentatiously, devoted to each other than Sir Richard and Lady Burton. Her eyes seemed always to follow him with looks of the most tender watchfulness and sympathy. It was easy to understand that under the constant influence of such a companionship the manners of a man so really great at heart would have lost their roughness and arrogance and softened and sweetened gradually into affinity with that soft, sweet, yet strong womanly nature. For awhile it used to amuse and amaze me to hear Burton, when invited to lay down the law on some subject of Eastern interest, quietly and modestly declare that on that particular question some other man of Eastern experience was probably a better authority than he, and that the other man, if appealed to, would be sure to give a judgment about which there could be no dispute. Could this really be the Richard Burton of the old days in the Fleet Street club? What likelihood had there seemed then of Burton's admitting that anybody could be better qualified than he to give an opinion on any and every Eastern subject? Another contrast of peculiarities in the former Richard Burton and the latter. It was not always easy to get the former to give his opinion or his advice on any Oriental question to one who, like myself, for instance, was little better than a mere ignoramus on such matters. Burton's manner always seemed to say, even if his words did not, “Well, now, you know, you really are so little acquainted with these subjects that it would be no use my throwing away my experience in trying to instruct you. Go and spend a year or two of rough travel in this or that Asiatic or African region, and then it might be worth my while to put you in the way of forming sound opinions about that particular country and its ways and its people.” The latter Richard Burton was as gentle, as modest, and as patient in striving to enlighten folks like myself, when we had sense enough to seek for enlightenment, as I had known Richard Owen to be when answering the question of some diffident admirer on some problem of natural history.
My son [Justin Huntly McCarthy], who was a great admirer of Richard Burton, having perhaps caught the flame of admiration in the first instance from the ardour of Algernon Swinburne, came to know the Burtons well in those later days, and, indeed, worked with Lady Burton in the preparation of a condensed and popular version of Burton's rendering of “The Thousand and One Nights.” Some lines on Burton, written by my son, were inscribed, at the wish of his widow, on the tomb of the great traveller at Mortlake. I remember hearing Burton speak with an anger, which in those later days found only quiet expression, about some of the extravagant stories which had made their way into print about him, and about his alleged indifference to the lives of others where the accomplishment of any personal object of his became endangered. Some of those tales I had read so often in print that I came to regard them as unquestionably authentic, and Burton assured me that he had contradicted them again and again without being able to shake the popular faith in their truth. It was of course the old familiar experience: a telling story is put into print and everyone reads and remembers it; it is contradicted on authority, and of those who read the story not one in twenty sees the contradiction. My later memories of Burton are full of nothing but admiration. All the aggressiveness, the antagonism, the dogmatic self-assertion, the desire to startle and shock which had brought on him severe criticisms at a former part of his career had passed away from him, and left him with the truest and brightest parts of his nature, with the quiet courage, patience, and moderation of a genuine hero. I am glad and proud to have known the earlier Richard Burton, but I should not have known even him quite truly if I had not known the later Richard Burton as well.
Then I lost sight of Burton altogether for many years, and time went on and soon left the sixties behind. Meanwhile the world was always hearing something about Burton and his travels and his doings. He had written and published many books and some translations, and had occupied himself much in the elaborate preparation of his own annotated version of the Arabian Nights. I renewed my acquaintance with him during the later years of his life, and met him often at the houses of friends in London. At that time I first had the good fortune to meet Lady Burton, the gifted, charming, and devoted wife whose influence had such a refining and ennobling effect on Burton's temper and manners. I have never observed a more remarkable change in the personality of any man than that which I saw in the manners and, so far as I could judge, in the very nature of the Richard Burton whom I knew in the sixties. The genius, the intellectual power, the unfailing variety of thought and expression, the quest for new ideas and new experiences—these were always the same. But the Burton of later days had grown kindly, considerate, patient of other men's opinions, ready to put the best construction on other men's motives, unwilling to wound, though certainly not afraid to strike, in defence of any cause that called for his help. I could not but ascribe this remarkable change in Burton's bearing to the sweet and gentle influence of that woman whose very eyes told the love and devotion which she felt for him, and the tenderness with which she applied herself to bring out all that was best in him. The favoring fates were never more kind to Burton than when they allowed that devoted woman to watch by him to the last. I have many bright recollections of the Burtons and their friendliness to me and mine. My son had a great love for the study of Oriental history, literature, and languages, and Sir Richard Burton lent him help, as kindly as it was precious, in all his efforts to gain something from the inexhaustible treasure-houses of Oriental letters. My son afterwards worked with Lady Burton in the preparation of a condensed edition of Burton's Arabian Nights, an edition adapted for the study and the enjoyment of the younger generation.
I cannot refrain from introducing here some mention of a curious incident which recalls with melancholy surroundings the memory of Lady Burton. My son and daughter and I were walking one day on the King's Road in Brighton when the figure of a lady passed silently by us. I did not see her face, and she passed very quickly, but my daughter suddenly stopped and surprised us with the news that Lady Burton had just gone by. Then she reminded herself and us that it could not be Lady Burton, for if she were at Brighton just then we must have known it from some friends of ours who were also intimate friends of the Burtons, and whom we had seen that very day. If Lady Burton were in Brighton, those friends would never have failed to tell us of the fact. These reasons prevented us from following the lady, who soon passed out of sight. My daughter declared that the woman who had passed us was so strikingly like Lady Burton that anybody might have been deceived by the resemblance. On our way home we bought an evening paper, and the first thing we saw on opening it was the sad news of Lady Burton's death. I do not want to attach to the story any of the peculiar significance which might have made it of special interest to the members of the society engaged in psychical research. I do not regard it as an illumination from the spiritual world. It was a strange coincidence, and nothing more but the coincidence was strange indeed, and as such is worth a record in these pages. We had not at the time heard anything of Lady Burton's illness, and our only feeling of wonder was that she should have been in Brighton just then without our having heard of it, and that she should have passed us without any sign of recognition. The reader will well understand our feelings when we opened the paper which told the story of her death.
I have not known in my experience any other illustration so impressive of the influence which a noble-hearted woman may exercise over a man of original and powerful mind as that which the love of Lady Burton wrought upon the life of her husband. Any one must have seen from the first that Burton had a true heart and a noble nature, but his was especially an impulsive spirit, and during his unmarried years he followed the sudden dictates of his impulses whither they led him. Nothing was ever said against him which, even if it were true, would have accused him of more than a certain reckless and eccentric energy, apt to lead him into all manner of wild enterprises from the sheer love of adventure. But it was clear enough that his overmastering love for movement and action, his temperament of self-assertion and antagonism, had made him responsible for some undertakings and many utterances which were not worthy of his genius and his better nature. He loved to assail the fond beliefs of other people and found a wild pleasure in the breaking of their idols and the disturbing of their beliefs. He loved to startle the timid and shock the precise. In the days when I first knew him I thought him possessed by the very genius of contradiction as well as by the genius of adventure, and those who admired him most must often have felt that he was throwing away his best faculties in the excitement of creating a sensation. Under the influence of Lady Burton the most complete change took place in these peculiarities of his, and he seemed to be inspired only by the desire to seek after the truth and the right in the work of life as well as in mere intellectual speculation. He was a stronger man in those quiet days when I knew him as the husband of Lady Burton, and his intellect appeared to do itself more justice than in the former time when he was still living for himself and his impulses alone.
Every one must have noticed now and then how by some strange process of mental grouping we come to associate in our minds two totally different personalities, unlike in nature and in no wise connected by fate, so that we can hardly think of the one without thinking of the other. In this way I find myself constantly associating the Richard Burton of my later meetings with a man of very different characteristics and a very different career, a man who was once famous, but whom the present generation has, I fear, well-nigh forgotten. The man I have in my mind is Richard Henry Home, the author of the epic poem “Orion,” which in the days of my early boyhood set the whole literary world aflame with controversy. One obvious explanation of my associating Richard Burton with “Orion” Home might be found in the fact that during the later period of my acquaintance with Burton I had also frequent opportunities of meeting Home. I met them both sometimes at the same house, the house of my dear old friend Dr. George Bird, of Welbeck Street, who died some years ago. But I met a great many other distinguished and some famous men at Dr. Bird's house and at other houses about the same time, and there is no one of these whom I feel compelled by some instinctive force to associate with Richard Burton. I never happened to hear Burton and Home engaged in any manner of speculative or other controversy. Home, to be sure, was a sort of adventurer in his own way as well as a poet, for in his early days he had taken service in the Mexican navy and had his share in many sea-fights, and in later years, not very long before I knew him, he had diversified his occupations as a poet and dramatist by going out to Australia to dig for gold. But in my mind, as in that of the ordinary world, the name of Home was associated only with that epic poem of “Orion” which he published defiantly at the price of one farthing a copy in order thus to show his conviction that the British public would not rise to the payment of any decent price for poetry. That the light of genius was in the poem I feel well convinced, but that conviction does not do much to explain why I so often associate its author with another man of genius belonging to a different order. Home did not show himself to my observation in any manner of contrast with Richard Burton, for his manner was as quiet, modest, and unasserting as that of Richard Burton himself in the days when I saw the two men together. If I have to all appearance gone out of my way in bringing the author of “Orion” into a chapter which professes to deal only with Sir Richard and Lady Burton, I can but plead in my excuse that the association once more came into my mind and that I followed it.
Oswald Crawfurd in the summer of 1885 avowed his intention of introducing me to the African explorer, Richard Burton. To know Burton had been one of the seemingly unrealizable dreams of my boyhood—and I was almost equally interested in his wife. Accordingly he having come to England in June or July, 1885, I was convoked to meet him. We arrived simultaneously at the old entrance to Queen Anne's Mansions and were both together introduced into something like a boot-cupboard, some stuffy, constricted, smelly little hole of a place instead of the outer door of Crawfurds' flat: how or why, I can not think. Under these embarrassing circumstances I had to introduce myself to Burton and then issue from our confinement and grope for the real door of entry. This unconventionality of approach dissipated all formality and we entered the Crawfurds' drawing-room (very “aesthetic”) laughing heartily. From that moment we became friends. Together with Edward Fairfield of the Colonial Office, whom I had come to know over African questions (Fairfield was almost the only person in that Office at that date who took any interest in Africa) I subscribed to the great translation of the Arabian Nights which Burton had come to London to publish. Possibly I obtained a few other subscribers, and very likely this was done by me before I met Burton personally. But I had the joy soon after the dinner at Crawfurd's of giving a “Burton” dinner myself at the Scottish Club, asking Fairfield, and a number of other people to meet him.
He was at his most charming manner: amusing, informative, reminiscent; daring, yet kindly. I have seldom heard such conversation: there is nothing like it nowadays. Clever people are too guarded as to what they say, lest they be distributing “copy”; politicians are afraid of committing themselves or of revealing their gaps of knowledge. I dared much to provide an assemblage worthy of such a guest, and having first obtained Burton's acceptance I asked men like H. W. Bates (Secretary of the Royal Geographical), John Scott Keltie (its recently appointed Librarian), Edwin Arnold of the Daily Telegraph, Edward Fairfield of the Colonial Office, Dr. Sclater of the Zoological Society, Major Champain of the Indo-Persian Overland Telegraph, and a tenth person whose individuality I have forgotten—probably Oswald Crawfurd or T. Douglas Murray. It was a most successful evening and a reflex of it appears in my story of The Gay-Dombeys.
I had read Burton's books from the age of fourteen and had singularly desired to meet him and his wife, whose books I had also studied. They at any rate revealed her lovable disposition, even if they were neither scientific nor always accurate. We had many subjects of common interest, in most of which he far excelled me, such as in his knowledge of Arabic and Portuguese, of East and West Africa, of Italian, and dialects or subordinate languages in Italy. He had been almost the first of British writers to grasp the scheme of the Bantu languages of Africa and I was ambitiously contemplating the compilation of a conclusive study of that form of speech, the completion of the work which W. H. Bleek had just begun when he died in 1875.
Burton seemed in most respects the finisher of studies I had only adumbrated. “Why,” I asked myself, almost in despair, “had I just met him when he was entering old age and I was about to depart on a long absence—two or three years—in Central Africa?”
For, not long after he had left London to return to Trieste, having secured some ten thousand pounds in subscriptions to his ten first volumes of the Arabian Nights (and being for the first time in his life in financial ease), I had embarked with my Tamil servant for the Niger Delta. I left Liverpool at the beginning of October, 1885, as Her Majesty's Vice Consul for the “Oil Rivers” and for the Cameroons.
Sir Richard Burton, the great Eastern traveller, who in disguise entered a mosque and went through the pilgrimage to the shrine at Mecca… was a queer bluff man, whom for the first time I met at a dinner party given by Henry Irving, long ago, at the Garrick, whereat were present, Stanley (the explorer, of whom I have made mention … ), George Sala, Johnny Toole, Edmund Yates, William Howard Russell, and others. Now all these whom I have mentioned were excellent raconteurs. Irving effaced himself, and was determined that Stanley should give us his marvellous African experiences. However, as, at that time, Stanley was slow of speech and, always diffident, was unwilling to thrust himself before the company, no chance was offered him during dinner, as the conversation was general, the chief parts in it being admirably taken by Russell, Sala, Toole, Irving, and Burton. It was a memorable evening. Coffee and cigars having arrived, our host took advantage of the lull, and reclining in his chair with a large cigar he turned towards Stanley on his right, and thus addressed him—“My dear fellow, you must tell us about—your—adventures—your wanderings—in—um—Africa.” And before Stanley could say “Certainly” or make any apology or preface, Irving had rapped the table with his knife, and, with pince-nez settled firmly on nose, he first regarded his opposite neighbour earnestly, then included everyone in a sweeping glance as he said—“Now—gentlemen—I want you to listen—to—ar—Mr. Stanley. His experiences are most interesting,” then he repeated emphatically as, slipping a little lower down in his chair, he glanced up at Stanley, “most interesting.” These last words were a sort of “cue for Stanley,” who was to understand from the emphatic repetition that if he had not got his “most interesting” experiences ready to hand he was to “make 'em so.” So we all settled down to listen to Stanley. Only thrice have I listened to Stanley—long ago. His matter was always (especially at that time when he was in such demand), as Irving had described it, “most interesting,” but he had not then acquired the art of telling his own excellent stories. His narrative at that time needed careful editing, and he himself, however impressive his delivery in a big assembly, could not for a small and select audience give dramatic point to such scenes and incidents as were essentially dramatic. His humour, too, was of the driest, but his eye was ever on the alert to see if his points were taken. Now it must be remembered that his narrative viva voce was given in the presence of a light-hearted company, who preferred the repartee, the “good story,” the imported jest, to any amount of adventures among strange people and curious creatures, particularly when doled out to them in a measured tone, and in sentences so deliberately uttered that those who tried to “hang on his lips” gave up the attempt and fell back in their chairs. “The ancient mariner” with his story was “not in it” with Stanley on this occasion. Somehow his manner and his strange tales fascinated me, and, like the Athenians of old, I “determined to hear more of this matter.” The others gradually succumbed; one furtively looked at his watch and was suddenly missing; another apologised for interrupting to ask for a soda and whisky. This demand, which in no way interfered with the steady flow of Stanley's narration, caused a slight movement among the audience, one rising to ring the bell; and the summons being instantly answered by the waiter, several guests indicated in whispers their desire for drinks and cigars, which having been brought, and the company having once again settled down to resume their listening to a story that had gone on steadily the whole time without interruption, certain of the guests were noticeable by their absence. About a fourth of the party had taken the opportunity of retiring; nor did they return. Irving, as host, behaved admirably. Partially disappearing under the table, he was stretched out at full length, his head supported by the top rail of the chair-back, in which position he appeared to be listening as carefully as does a judge, with his eyes shut, to a lengthy speech of counsel. Occasionally he would nod; and lest a false construction should be placed on this Homeric action, he would open his eyes, murmur approval, give a glance, somewhat sardonically, round the table, and then relapse into his attitude of “attention.” At some time or other that narrative concerning “the Dark Continent” was finished, and with Irving and one or two others—who they were I forget—I was left to congratulate the explorer, and not only that, but to walk a part of the way home with him, when I took the opportunity of expressing a hope that we soon might meet again, which we did, at the house of the well-known Times correspondent, Colonel Hozier, when Stanley, in his very best manner, told me all that was interesting in the private and public life of some Central African chief or other, and I was treated to the pick of his many curious unpublished adventures in the strangest parts and among the queerest people. This was a most amusing evening, but that one when, at Irving's, the raconteurs Sala, Billy Russell, Burton, and Edmund Yates couldn't get a word in edgeways, and had to sit and listen in silence, was unique.
It was at Oscar Wilde's house in Tite Street that I met on one occasion Sir Richard Burton, the famous Eastern traveller, Arabic scholar, and translator of the Arabian Nights. It was in his later days, when he seemed somewhat bowed by age and infirmity. The rest of the company were mostly standing up and talking, as is usual at afternoon “At Homes,” but Burton remained seated in an arm-chair, like a monarch, and people were brought up by the host to be presented to him. One had the impression of a massive personality, and one with whom it would not be pleasant to quarrel. I always thought Leighton's portrait of him extremely fine, though perhaps a little less rugged than the reality; but of course Burton was much older and greyer than the date of that portrait when I saw him.
Whistler's talk of Howell and of Tudor House, overflowed with anecdotes that have less to do with his life than that of the adventurer for whom he ever retained a tender regret, and the group gathered about Rossetti. … Another memory was of a dinner at Mr. lonides, with Rossetti a pagan, Sir Richard Burton a Mahommedan if anything, Lady Burton a devout and rather pugnacious Catholic. They fell into a hot argument over religion, only Whistler said nothing. Lady Burton, who was in a state of exaltation, could not stand his silence: “And what are you, Mr. Whistler?”—”I, Madam?” he answered, “why, I am an amateur!”
Raleigh, Sir Walter of that ilk, has always seemed to me the best representative of Elizabethan England; for he could speak and act with equal inspiration. He was a gentleman and adventurer, a courtier and explorer, a captain by sea and land, equally at home in Indian wigwam or English throne-room. A man of letters, too, master of a dignified, courtly English, who could write on universal history to while away the tedium of prison. Raleigh touched life at many points, and always with a certain mastery; yet his advice to his son is that of a timorous prudence. “Save money,” he says; “never part with a man's best friend,” and yet he himself as a courtier could squander thousands of pounds on new footgear. One of the best “all-round” men in English history was Raleigh, though troubled with much serving which, however, one feels came naturally to him; for he was always absolutely sceptical as to any after-life, and so won a concentrated and uncanny understanding of this life and his fellow-men. And yet Raleigh perished untimely on a scaffold, as if to show that no worldly wisdom can be exhaustive, falling to ruin because he could not divine the perverse impulses of a sensual pedant.
But in spite of the vile ingratitude of James and his base betrayal, aristocratic England managed to use Walter Raleigh and rewarded him, on the whole, handsomely. He played a great part even in those spacious days; was a leader of men in Ireland in his youth, a Captain of the Queen's Guard in manhood; and, ennobled and enriched, held his place always among the greatest, and at last died as an enemy of kings, leaving behind him a distinguished name and a brilliant page in the history of his country.
But what would the England of today, the England of the smug, uneducated Philistine tradesmen, make of a Raleigh if they had one? The question and its answer may throw some light on our boasted “progress” and the astonishingly selfish and self-satisfied present-day civilization of till-and-pill.
Richard Burton I met for the first time in a London drawing-room after his return from the Gold Coast sometime in the eighties. His reputation was already world-wide—the greatest of African explorers, the only European who had mastered Arabic and Eastern customs so completely that he had passed muster as a Mohammedan pilgrim and had preached in Mecca as a Mollah. He knew a dozen Indian languages, too, it was said, and as many more European, besides the chief African dialects; was, in fine, an extraordinary scholar and a master of English to boot, a great writer.
I was exceedingly curious, and very glad indeed to meet this legendary hero. Burton was in conventional evening dress, and yet, as he swung round to the introduction, there was an untamed air about him. He was tall, about six feet in height, with broad, square shoulders; he carried himself like a young man, in spite of his sixty years, and was abrupt in movement. His face was bronzed and scarred, and when he wore a heavy moustache and no beard he looked like a prize-fighter; the naked, dark eyes—imperious, aggressive eyes, by no means friendly; the heavy jaws and prominent hard chin gave him a desperate air; but the long beard which he wore in later life, concealing the chin and pursed-out lips, lent his face a fine, patriarchal expression, subduing the fierce provocation of it to a sort of regal pride and courage. “Untamed”—that is the word which always recurs when I think of Burton.
I was so curious about so many things in regard to him that I hesitated and fumbled, and made a bad impression on him; we soon drifted apart—I vexed with myself, he loftily indifferent.
It was Captain Lovett-Cameron who brought us closer together; a typical sailor and good fellow, he had been Burton's companion in Africa and had sucked an idolatrous admiration out of the intimacy. Burton was his hero; wiser than anyone else, stronger, braver, more masterful, more adroit; he could learn a new language in a week, and so forth and so on—hero-worship lyrical.
“A Bayard and an Admirable Crichton in one,” I remarked scoffingly. “Human, too,” he replied seriously, “human and brave as Henry of Navarre.”
“Proofs, proofs,” I cried.
“Proofs of courage!” Cameron exclaimed, “every African explorer lives by courage: every day war-parties of hostile tribes have to be charmed or awed to friendliness; rebellious servants brought to obedience; wild animals killed, food provided—all vicissitudes Burton handled as a master, and the more difficult and dangerous the situation the more certain he was to carry it off triumphantly. A great man, I tell you, with all sorts of qualities and powers, and, if you followed his lead, the best of ‘pals.’ ”
“No one would believe how kind he is; he nursed me for six weeks through African fever—took care of me like a brother. You must know Dick really well: you'll love him.”
Thanks to Cameron, Burton and I met again and dined together, and afterwards had a long palaver. Burton unbuttoned, and talked as only Burton could talk of Damascus and that immemorial East; of India and its super-subtle peoples; of Africa and human life in the raw today as it was twenty thousand years ago; of Brazil, too, and the dirty smear of Portuguese civilization polluting her silvered waterways and defiling even the immaculate wild.
I can still see his piercing eyes, and thrill to his vivid, pictured speech; he was irresistible; as Cameron had said, “utterly unconventional.” Being very young, I thought him too “bitter,” almost as contemptuous of his fellows as Carlyle; I did not then realize how tragic-cruel life is to extraordinary men.
Burton was of encyclopaedic reading; knew English poetry and prose astonishingly; had a curious liking for “sabre-cuts of Saxon speech”—all such words as come hot from life's mint. Describing something, I used the phrase, “Frighted out of fear.”
“Fine that,” he cried; “is it yours? Where did you get it?”
His ethnological appetite for curious customs and crimes, for everything singular and savage in humanity was insatiable. A Western American lynching yarn held him spell-bound; a crime passionel in Paris intoxicated him, started him talking, transfigured him into a magnificent story-teller, with intermingled appeals of pathos and rollicking fun, camp-fire effects, jets of flame against the night.
His intellectual curiosity was astonishingly broad and deep rather than high. He would tell stories of Indian philosophy or of perverse negro habits of lust and cannibalism, or would listen to descriptions of Chinese cruelty and Russian self-mutilation till the stars paled out. Catholic in his admiration and liking for all greatness, it was the abnormalities and not the divinities of men that fascinated him.
Deep down in him lay the despairing gloom of utter disbelief. “Unaffected pessimism and constitutional melancholy,” he notices, “strike deepest root under the brightest skies,” and this pessimistic melancholy was as native to Burton as to any Arab of them all. He was thinking of himself when he wrote of the Moslem, “he cannot but sigh when contemplating the sin and sorrow, and pathos and bathos of the world; and feel the pity of it, with its shifts and changes ending in nothingness, its scanty happiness, its copious misery.” Burton's laughter, even, deep-chested as it was, had in it something of sadness.
At heart he was regally generous; there was a large humanity in him, an unbounded charity for the poor and helpless; a natural magnanimity, too; “an unconditional forgiveness of the direst injuries” he calls “the note of the noble.”
His love of freedom was insular and curiously extravagant, showing itself in every smallest detail.
“My wife makes me wear these wretched dress-clothes,” he cried one evening. “I hate 'em—a livery of shame, shame of being yourself. Broad arrows would improve 'em,” and the revolt of disgust flamed in his eyes.
Like most able, yet fanatical, lovers of liberty, he preferred the tyranny of one to the anarchical misrule of the many. “Eastern despotisms,” he asserts, “have arrived nearer the ideal of equality and fraternity than any republic yet invented.”
“A master of life and books,” I said of him afterwards to Cameron, “but at bottom as tameless and despotic as an Arab sheikh.”
Two extracts from his wonderful Arabian Nights are needed to give color to my sketch. I make no excuse for quoting them, for they are superexcellent English, and in themselves worthy of memory. Here is a picture of the desert which will rank with Fromentin's best:
Again I stood under the diaphanous skies, in air glorious as ether, whose every breath raises men's spirits like sparkling wine. Once more I saw the evening star hanging like a solitaire from the pure front of the western firmament; and the after-glow transfiguring and transforming, as by magic, the homely and rugged features of the scene into a fairyland lit with a light which never shines on other soils or seas. Then would appear the woollen tents, low and black, of the true Badawin, mere dots in the boundless waste of lion-tawny clays and gazelle-brown gravels, and the camp-fire dotting like a glow-worm the village centre. Presently, sweetened by distance, would be heard the wild, weird song of lads and lasses, driving, or rather pelting, through the gloaming their sheep and goats; and the measured chant of the spearsmen gravely stalking behind their charge, the camels; mingled with the bleating of the flocks and the bellowing of the humpy herds; while the reremouse flittered overhead with his tiny shriek, and the rave of the jackal resounded through deepening glooms, and—most musical of music—the palm trees answered the whispers of the night breeze with the softest tones of falling water.
And here a Rembrandt etching of Burton storytelling to Arabs in the desert:
The sheikhs and “white-beards” of the tribe gravely take their places, sitting with outspread skirts like hillocks on the plain, as the Arabs say, around the camp-fire, whilst I reward their hospitality and secure its continuance by reading or reciting a few pages of their favourite tales. The women and children stand motionless as silhouettes outside the ring; and all are breathless with attention; they seem to drink in the words with eyes and mouth as well as with ears. The most fantastic flights of fancy, the wildest improbabilities, the most impossible of impossibilities appear to them utterly natural, mere matters of everyday occurrence. They enter thoroughly into each phase of feeling touched upon by the author; they take a personal pride in the chivalrous nature and knightly prowess of Taj al-Mulúk; they are touched with tenderness by the self-sacrificing love of Azizah; their mouths water as they hear of heaps of untold gold given away in largesse like clay; they chuckle with delight every time a Kazi or a Fakir—a judge or a reverend—is scurvily entreated by some Pantagruelist of the wilderness; and, despite their normal solemnity and impassibility, all roar with laughter, sometimes rolling upon the ground till the reader's gravity is sorely tried, at the tales of the garrulous Barber and of Ali and the Kurdish sharper. To this magnetizing mood the sole exception is when a Badawi of superior accomplishments, who sometimes says his prayers, ejaculates a startling “Astaghfaru'llah”—I pray Allah's pardon—for listening to light mention of the sex whose name is never heard amongst the nobility of the desert.
Even when I only knew Burton as a great personality I touched the tragedy of his life unwittingly more than once. I had heard that he had come to grief as Consul in Damascus—Jews there claiming to be British subjects in order to escape Mohammedan justice, and when thwarted stirring up their powerful compatriots in London to petition for his recall; his superior at Beyrout always dead against him—eventually he was recalled, some said dismissed. I felt sure he had been in the right. “Won't you tell me about it?” I asked him one evening.
“The story's too long, too intricate,” he cried. “Besides, the Foreign Office admitted I was right.”
When I pressed for details he replied:
“Do you remember the cage at Loches, in which an ordinary man could not stand upright or lie at ease, and so was done to death slowly by constraint. Places under our Government today are cages like that to all men above the average size.”
The English could not use Burton; they could maim him.
Englishmen are so strangely inclined to overpraise the men of past times and underrate their contemporaries that many have been astonished at my comparing Burton with Raleigh. But, in truth, both in speech and action Burton was the greater man. He was a more daring and a more successful explorer; an infinitely better scholar, with intimate knowledge of a dozen worlds which Raleigh knew nothing about, a greater writer, too, and a more dominant, irresistible personality. Young Lord Pembroke once slapped Raleigh's face; no sane man would have thought of striking Burton. Aristocratic Elizabethan England, however, could honor Raleigh and put him to noble use, whereas Victorian England could find no place for Richard Burton and could win no service from him. Think of it! Burton knew the Near East better than any Westerner has ever known it; he was a master of literary Arabic and of the dialects spoken in Egypt and the Soudan. Moreover, as he himself puts it modestly, “the accidents of my life, my long dealings with Arabs and other Mohammedans and my familiarity not only with their idiom, but with their turn of thought and with that racial individuality which baffles description” made Burton an ideal ruler for a Mohammedan people. He was already employed under the Foreign Office.
Notwithstanding all this when we took Egypt we sent Lord Dufferin to govern it, and tossed a small consular post to Richard Burton as a bone to a dog. Dufferin knew no Arabic, and nothing about Egypt. Burton knew more than anyone else on earth about both, and was besides a thousand times abler than the chattering, charming Irish peer. Yet Dufferin was preferred before him. Deliberately I say that all England's mistakes in Egypt—and they are as numerous and as abominable as years of needless war have ever produced—came from this one blunder. This sin England is committing every day, the sin of neglecting the able and true man and preferring to him the unfit and second-rate, and therefore negligible, man; it is the worst of crimes in a ruling caste, the sin against the Holy Spirit, the sin once labelled unforgivable. “No immorality,” said Napoleon to his weak brother, “like the immorality of taking a post you're not fitted for.” No wonder Burton wrote that the “crass ignorance” (of England) “concerning the Oriental peoples which should most interest her, exposes her to the contempt of Europe as well as of the Eastern World.” No wonder he condemned “the regrettable raids of '83-'84,” and “the miserable attacks of Tokar, Teb, and Tamasi” upon the “gallant negroids who were battling for the holy cause of liberty and religion and for escape from Turkish task-masters and Egyptian tax-gatherers.” With heartfelt contempt he records the fact that there was “not an English official in camp ... capable of speaking Arabic.”
Gladstone appointed Dufferin; Gladstone sent Gordon to the Soudan at the dictation of a journalist as ignorant as himself! Gladstone, too, appointed Cromer, and after Tokar and Teb we had the atrocious, shameful revenge on the Mahdi's remains and the barbarous murders of Denshawi; and a thousand thousand unknown tragedies besides, all because England's rulers are incapable of using her wisest sons and are determined to pin their faith to mediocrities—like choosing like, with penguin gravity.
“England,” says Burton, “has forgotten, apparently, that she is at present the greatest Mohammedan empire in the world, and in her Civil Service examinations she insists on a smattering of Greek and Latin rather than a knowledge of Arabic.” Here is what Burton thought about the English Civil Service; every word of it true still, and every word memorable:
In our day, when we live under a despotism of the lower “middle-class” who can pardon anything but superiority, the prizes of competitive service are monopolized by certain “pets” of the médiocratie, and prime favourites of that jealous and potent majority—the mediocrities who know “no nonsense about merit.” It is hard for an outsider to realize how perfect is the monopoly of commonplace, and to comprehend how fatal a stumbling-stone that man sets in the way of his own advancement who dares to, think for himself, or who thinks more or who does more than the mob of gentlemen-employees who know very little and do even less. “He knows too much” is the direst obstacle to official advancement in England—it would be no objection in France; and in Germany, Russia, and Italy, the three rising Powers of Europe, it would be a valid claim for promotion. But, unfortunately for England, the rule and government of the country have long been, and still are, in the hands of a corporation, a clique, which may be described as salaried, permanent and irresponsible clerks, the power which administers behind the Minister. They rule and misrule; nor is there one man in a million who, like the late Mr. Fawcett, when taking Ministerial charge, dares to think and act for himself and to emancipate himself from the ignoble tyranny of “the office.”
With all its faults the English Civil Service is better than our Parliamentary masters. Like fish, a State first goes bad at the head. Burton used to tell how he came home and offered all East Africa to Lord Salisbury. He had concluded treaties with all the chiefs; no other Power was interested or would have objected. But Lord Salisbury refused the gift. “Is Zanzibar an island?” he exclaimed in wonder, and “Is East Africa worth anything?” So the Germans were allowed twenty years later to come in and cut “the wasp's waist” and bar England's way from the Cape to Cairo.
England wasted Burton, left his singular talents unused, and has already paid millions of money, to say nothing of far more precious things (some of them beyond price), for her stupidity, and England's account with Egypt is still all on the wrong side—stands, indeed, worse than ever, I imagine; for Egypt is now bitterly contemptuous of English rule. Egypt is a source of weakness to England therefore, and not a source and fount of strength, as she would have been from the beginning if the old Parliamentary rhetor had had eyes as well as tongue, and had set Burton to do the work of teaching, organizing, and guiding which your Dufferins, Cromers, Kitcheners and the rest are incapable even of imagining.
The worst of it is that Burton has left no successor. Had he been appointed he would have seen to this, one may be sure; would have established a great school of Arabic learning in Cairo, and trained a staff of Civil Servants who would have gladly acquired at least the elements of their work—men who would not only have known Arabic, but the ablest natives, too, and so have availed themselves of a little better knowledge than their own. But, alas! the chance has been lost, and unless something is done soon, Egypt will be England's worst failure, worse even than India or Ireland. But I must return to Burton. I should like to tell of an evening I spent once with him when Lord Lytton was present. Lytton had been Viceroy of India, the first and only Viceroy who ever understood his own infinite unfitness for the post.
“I only stayed in India,” he used to say, “to prevent them sending out an even worse man.”
I asked him afterwards why he didn't recommend Burton for the post; for he knew something of Burton's transcendent quality.
“They'd never send him,” he cried, with unconscious snobbery. “He's not got the title or the position; besides, he'd be too independent. My God, how he'd kick over the traces and upset the cart!”
The eternal dread and dislike of genius I And yet that very evening Burton had shown qualities of prudence and wisdom far beyond Lytton's comprehension.
But I must hasten. I found myself in Venice once with time on my hands, when I suddenly remembered that across the sea at Trieste was a man who would always make a meeting memorable. I took the next steamer and called on Burton. I found the desert lion dying of the cage; dying of disappointment and neglect; dying because there was no field for the exercise of his superlative abilities; dying because the soul in him could find nothing to live on in Trieste; for in spite of his talent for literature, in spite of his extraordinary gift of speech, Burton was at bottom a man of action, a great leader, a still greater governor of men.
While out walking one afternoon we stopped at a little cafe, and I had an object-lesson in Burton's mastery of life. His German was quite good, but nothing like his Italian. He seemed to know the people of the inn and every one about by intuition, and in a few minutes had won their confidence and admiration. For half an hour he talked to a delighted audience in Dante's speech, jewelled with phrases from the great Florentine himself. As we walked back to his house he suddenly cried to me:
“Make some excuse and take me out tonight; if I don't get out I shall go mad…”
We had a great night—Burton giving pictures of his own life; telling of his youth in the Indian Army when he wandered about among the natives disguised as a native (I have always thought of him as the original of Kipling's “Strickland”). His fellow-officers, of course, hated his superiority: called him in derision “the white nigger”; Burton laughed at it all, fully compensated, he said, for their hatred by the love and admiration of Sir Charles Napier (Peccavi, “I have Scinde,” Napier), hero recognizing hero. It was to Napier, and at Napier's request, that he sent the famous “report” which, falling into secretarial hands, put an end to any chance of Burton's advancement in India—the tragedy again and again repeated of a great life maimed and marred by envious, eyeless mediocrities. What might have been, what would have been had he been given power—a new earth if not a new heaven—the theme of his inspired Report.
I got him to talk, too, about The Scented Garden, which he had been working at for some time. Lady Burton afterwards burnt this book, it will be remembered, together with his priceless diaries, out of sheer prudery. He told me (what I had already guessed) that the freedom of speech he used, he used deliberately, not to shock England, but to teach England that only by absolute freedom of speech and thought could she ever come to be worthy of her heritage.
“But I'm afraid it's too late,” he added; “England's going to some great defeat; she's wedded to lies and mediocrities.” . . . He got bitter again, and I wished to turn his thoughts.
“Which would you really have preferred to be,” I probed, “Viceroy of India or Consul-General of Egypt?”
“Egypt, Egypt!” he cried, smarting up, “Egypt! In India I should have had the English Civil Servants to deal with—the Jangali, or savages, as their Hindu fellow-subjects call them—and English prejudices, English formalities, English stupidity, English ignorance. They would have killed me in India, thwarted me, fought me, intrigued against me, murdered me. But in Egypt I could have made my own Civil servants, picked them out, and trained them. I could have had natives, too, to help. Ah, what a chance! I know Arabic better than I know Hindu. Arabic is my native tongue; I know it as well as I know English. I know the Arab nature. The Mahdi business could have been settled without striking a blow. If Gordon had known Arabic well, spoken it as a master, he would have won the Mahdi to friendship. To govern well you must know a people—know their feelings, love their dreams and aspirations. What did Dufferin know of Egypt? Poor Dufferin, what did he even know of Dufferin? And Cromer's devoid even of Dufferin's amiability!”
The cold words do him wrong, give no hint of the flame and force of his disappointment; but I can never forget the bitter sadness of it: “England finds nothing for me to do, makes me an office-boy, exiles me here on a pittance.” The caged lion!
I have always thought that these two men, Carlyle and Burton, were the two greatest governors ever given to England. The one for England herself, and as an example to the world of the way to turn a feudal, chivalrous State into a great modern industrial State; the other the best possible governor of Mohammedan peoples—two more prophets whom England did not stone, did not even take the trouble to listen to. She is still paying, as I have said, somewhat dearly for her adders' ears and must yet pay still more heavily.
I have found fault with Carlyle because he was a Puritan, deaf to music, blind to beauty. Burton went to the other extreme: he was a sensualist of extravagant appetite learned in every Eastern and savage vice. His coarse, heavy, protruding lips were to me sufficient explanation of the pornographic learning of his Arabian Nights. And when age came upon him; though a quarter of what he was accustomed to eat in his prime would have kept him in perfect health, he yielded to the habitual desire and suffered agonies with indigestion, dying, indeed, in a fit of dyspepsia brought on by over-eating. And with these untamed appetites and desires he was peculiarly sceptical and practical; his curiosity all limited to this world, which accounts to me for his infernal pedantry. He never seemed to realize that wisdom has nothing to do with knowledge, literature nothing to do with learning. Knowledge and learning, facts, are but the raw food of experience, and literature is concerned only with experience itself. A child of the mystical East, a master of that Semitic thought which has produced the greatest religions, Burton was astoundingly matter-of-fact. There was no touch of the visionary in him—the curious analogies everywhere discoverable in things disparate, the chemical reactions of passion, the astounding agreement between mathematical formulas and the laws of love and hatred, the myriad provoking hints, like eyes glinting through a veil, that tempt the poet to dreaming, the artist to belief, were all lost on Burton. He was a master of this life and cared nothing for any other; his disbelief was characteristically bold and emphatic. He wrote:
shivered clock again shall strike, the broken reed shall
But we, we die, and Death is one, the doom of Brutes,
the doom of Men.
But, with all his limitations and all his shortcomings, Burton's place was an Eastern throne and not the ignoble routine of a petty Consular office.
length the good hour came; he died,
As he had lived alone:
He was not missed from the desert wide,
Perhaps he was found at the Throne.
But Bismarck was not so great a man, in my opinion, as Sir Richard Burton: in force of character, in daring and in strength, they were not unlike; but Burton had a wider intelligence, a larger mind, and a richer generosity and kindliness of nature.
To me the difference between the fates of Bismarck and Burton gives rise to many reflections. For thirty years Bismarck had supreme power and made Germany the first state in Europe—I had almost said in the world; but England denied Burton almost everything. Although he had served the foreign office with extraordinary ability, they refused him even the usual retiring pension.
In my last visit to him in Trieste, I couldn't help asking him how it came about, why the English authorities were so down on him, and he said smiling, “You will laugh if I tell you. I think I blundered in my first talk with Lord Salisbury. He called me ‘Burton;’ his familiarity encouraged me, and I spoke to him as ‘Salisbury.’ I saw him wince, and he went back immediately to ‘Mr. Burton,’ but out of cheek or perversity I kept up the ‘Salisbury.’ He was so ignorant; he didn't know where Mombassa was; and the idea that I had brought back treaties handing over the whole of Central Africa to Britain merely filled him with dismay. He kept repeating, ‘dreadful responsibility-dreadful;’ he was in reality, I believe, a very nice old lady.” I could not help laughing.
Burton's judgment of Lord Salisbury was justified to me later in a peculiar way. One evening Teresa, Lady Shrewsbury, after meeting me somewhere at dinner, offered to take me home in her brougham. I thanked her warmly, for she was always interesting, knew everybody, and had a real salon in London.
Arthur Balfour had been one of the chief personages at the dinner. I asked her what she thought of him. “I know him very slightly,” she replied, “but think him very distinguished-looking.”
“I'm afraid,” I said, “that his outward is the best part of him.”
“Strange,” she said, “that reminds me that once, driving like this a few years ago with Lady Salisbury, I asked her what she thought of her husband's good-looking nephew. “Oh, my dear,” she replied, “he's nothing for us women: I don't believe he has any more temperament than my poor old Bob!”
So Lord Salisbury was judged by his wife very much as Sir Richard Burton had judged him.
When Burton showed me his translation of The Arabian Nights and I saw that he had described every sort of sensuality with the crudest words, I got frightened for him; still, I told him that I would help him so far as I could and put myself at his disposal. I would have liked him to modify some of the bestialities; however, as I have said elsewhere, it wasn't my business to condemn a great man but to help him; and I am proud of the fact that partly through my help he made ten thousand pounds out of the venture. No one could be with Burton for an hour without feeling his extraordinary force of character and the imperial keenness of his intelligence. If England had treated him as she should, he would have given her a glorious empire, the whole central plateau of Africa from the Cape to Cairo, without a war, and no one would be astonished now that I should compare him with Bismarck; but England couldn't use her greatest man of action!
I have never told how we came to know each other intimately. Captain Lovett Cameron, his lieutenant on several of his African journeys, had introduced me to him; but I was awkward and self-conscious and made some conventional foolish remark that caused Burton to turn from me contemptuously. I confessed my fault to Cameron afterwards, who insisted that the faux pas could easily be repaired. “You've no idea how generous kind Dick is; as soon as he gets to know you, he'll cotton to you,” and he fixed a meeting for the morrow in Pall Mall at one of the clubs.
I thought over the meeting and arranged what I'd say. It had suddenly come into my head that Burton knew Lord Lytton and that they were friends. As soon as the three of us met next day, I shot off my bolt. “The other morning,” I began, “I walked down Pall Mall just behind two men curiously differentiated in clothes and in person; the one was a little dandy, high heels, yellow kid gloves, tall hat, rouged cheeks—he evidently wore corsets too; the other, a very tall man, swung along with a sombrero on his head and a heavy stick in his hand. I was near enough to hear them talk. The dandy was intent on persuading his companion. “Ah, Dick,” he began, “delicacies escape you men of huge appetite; you miss the deathless charm of the androgyne: the figure of the girl of thirteen with sex unexpressed as yet, slim as a boy with breasts scarcely outlined, and narrow hips; but unlike a boy, Dick; no lines or ugly muscles, the knees also are small; everything rounded to rhythmic loveliness-the most seductive creature in all God's world.”
“You make me tired, Lytton,” cried the big man in a deep tone, “you cotquean, you! Your over-sweet description only shows me that you have never tried the blue-bottomed monkey!”
“First-rate,” cried Burton laughing to me, “you have hit off Lytton to the soul, which probably means that my portrait, too, is life-like.”
From that hour on the ice was broken between us and we became friends, and I soon found Burton, as Cameron had said, determined unconditionally to forgive all injuries, one of the noblest spirits I have met in this earthly pilgrimage!
It was Burton who discovered the source of the Nile, for on that memorable journey of '58 Speke was merely his lieutenant; and when they reached Ujiji, on the eastern side of Lake Tanganyika, Burton was the first to proclaim the obvious fact; yet when Speke returned to England and claimed the honor of the discovery, Burton said nothing about the matter; there was in him at all times a real generosity.
Who can forget the verse in which he embodied his stalwart creed?
thy manhood bids thee do,
From none but self expect applause;
He noblest lives and noblest dies
who makes and keeps his self-made laws.
When Burton died, Swinburne wrote for me a long elegy on him in the Saturday Review, which ends with this couplet that appealed to me intensely:
royal heart we mourn, the faultless friend
Burton—a name that lives till fame be dead.
‘Honour not Honours.’
.... No one who had the privilege of knowing Sir Richard, or "The Captain," as he used to be called by his familiars in his earlier days, could fail to be impressed by his thoroughly unselfish nature and his kindly sympathetic manners. No young literary aspirant ever appealed for his help in vain—an encouraging letter, a few words of cheerful import were the invariable reply to any such appeal. Young men used to surround him whenever he appeared in public, and hung upon his words with the deepest possible interest. Children never had any fear of him, they felt instinctively they were beloved, and from his own little nephews and nieces—who treated him as a pet horse, his chief duty with regard to them being to carry them on his back, a la camel corps—to the tiny dwellers in Morocco and Arabia, whose cheeks he would always pat or pinch when he met there—he was the universal children's friend. The gipsies also came in for much of his attention; this may be partly accounted for by his supposed Romany origin. He shared many of their superstitions and fears with the nomad tribes. For instance, he loathed all thoughts even of the outward aspect of death; he had a horror of coffins, funerals, and all things appertaining thereto. It was said of him that he was the only gorgio who had the peculiar eyes of the gipsy proper. He would look at you intently for a few moments, and then his eye appeared to glaze and seemed to look past you and fix itself on some object beyond. Other people contend that Burton is one of the six essentially Romany names. Sir Richard frequently conversed with the gipsies in Tangier during his residence there. He spoke Romany as fluently as the other twenty-three languages in which he was proficient.
On one occasion a personage, very well known in London society, who had heard much of Burton's marvellous linguistic attainments, and was somewhat incredulous of them, resolved to put them to the test. He wrote to Sir Richard and asked him to dine with him, saying that he had invited twenty-five people of twenty-five different nationalities to meet him, thus hoping, I have no doubt, to catch the famous traveller and litterateur tripping. He was disappointed. Sir Richard talked to each of them in turn, fluently and well. In relating the incident afterwards to a friend, he said, with much animation, "and I got through without any blunders." Just imagine the prodigious memory alone that must have been required before even the rudiments of each of these tongues could have been mastered.
There is an art in conforming to the simplest rules and customs in such countries as Arabia; and this art Sir Richard was master of to the very letter. He knew exactly when to bow, where to say a prayer, or to utter a salutation, he was never at a loss. One day he was walking with a friend through the streets of Tangier, when they overtook a Moor going to the graveyard. The lady was anxious to follow him to see what he would do, but was afraid of committing herself by some blunder. Sir Richard had no such scruples, and presently they found themselves in the graveyard with the Moor. Sir Richard immediately said the prayer for the dead. The native looked amazed, then delighted, finally almost embracing him in his joy at such unexpected sympathy. In many such ways did Burton prove his perfect accord with the peoples amongst whom he sojourned.
We have had a surfeit of affairs African lately, and it is any earnest wish to avoid mentioning that particular country, but I must just touch upon it to tell the following story. When Burton was in Africa he suffered from the usual craving for meat. There had been no white ants for days. At last they met a boy—a sleek, fat, rounded boy, who looked (as Sir Richard explained) "full of curves-a boy who was evidently at home at meal-times." "I gave that boy one look," he said, "but a look that sent him howling away to his mother." “Mind you, I had tasted no meat for days," was his postscript added to the description, with one of the numerous flashes from the keen, clever eyes.
Burton gave some quaint touches in several of his books of travel. He delighted to mention the men who accompanied him on his expeditions by their names, which were quite remarkable, and must, one would imagine, have required some abbreviation for ordinary use. For instance, one gentleman was known by the title of "The End of Time." The person bearing this lugubrious and haunting cognomen was an adept in the art of quoting—an accomplishment, by the way, which is considered one of the qualifications of a perfect gentleman in certain countries. “The End of Time" was always ready with an appropriate line, and Sir Richard often made use of them afterwards in conversation.
I have mentioned Sir Richard's great love for children, but I have not spoken of the lavish manner in which he treated these small torments of the world to anything and everything their fancies suggested. Lady Burton has often been quoted as an example of what perfect wife should be, and well merits the implied compliment. She was a woman in a thousand: thoroughly capable of entering into all her husband's pursuits, and able to sympathise in his many noble works. For once the world looked upon a union as thorough in its way as that of Paulo and Francesca, of Hero and Leander, or of Romeo and Juliet, without any of the sickly sentimentality which is characteristic of all these loves—a rara avis—a literary man wedded to a literary woman, who was not jealous of her husband, and who did more by her good sense, kindly criticism, and unchanging sympathy, than all the Courts, Senate Houses and Governments in the world, towards his work. I once heard a disinterested bystander remark, on seeing Sir Richard and his wife together—“There! that is one of the marriages that have been made in Heaven." And if I were to try from now till the grass had grown green on poor Burton's grave, I could find no sentence in the whole of the English language which so aptly describes the harmony of that happy home.
All this time I am forgetting the children and Sir Richard's purse. So much did he disburse on their behalf, that Lady Burton found it necessary at last to take charge of all the money, and merely to dole out to “Dick” what he absolutely required. One day he was going out with a friend who was staying with them (I think in Tangier). He asked his wife for some money, and Lady Burton handed him the equivalent of half-a-crown. “Is this all I am to have, Belle” he queried, somewhat ruefully. “Yes, Dick, .and quite enough too, for you know you will come back without a penny, and with nothing to show for it either." And the great man pocketed the coins, and, laughing at his wife's sage remarks, went out as happy as a schoolboy in receipt of a tip. He was particularly fond of sitting upon a rustic seat improvised by the ocean at Tangier, and most of the residents knew this, and used to leave it for him to use. He went one morning to it, but found to his dismay that it was covered with sand and dirt, and quite unfit for him to sit upon. Some little boys and girls were playing on the shore not very far off, so lie called to them to ask them what they had been doing to his seat. " Oh, is it yours, Captain? " was the unabashed reply, " then we won't do it again;" and, true to their word, for the future the Captain found- his pet coign of vantage always untenanted, and what is more, carefully swept free of all sand.
Sir Richard's visit to Tangier must have been one of the most trying times in his life. He was waiting from day to day to know who would be appointed Consul in the place of Sir John Hay, who had already signified his intention of resigning his post. As much influence as possible Lady Burton was doing her utmost to , arouse on her husband's behalf at home ; meanwhile Sir Richard was learning all he could of the duties of the office at Tangier. He was busy then with his "Arabian Nights," and even on the voyage there he rose every morning at five o'clock and worked for three or four hours before any of the other passengers were astir.
By the way, his handwriting was so small that his friends always told him it required a powerful magnifying glass to decipher it at all. He could, if he liked, write very clearly, and he was always careful to put in the names of any foreign places, people, and things most distinctly. He was one of the busiest men that ever lived, and yet he found time for everything and could always spare a few minutes for anyone who wished for his help or advice. The only remark he made when the Tangier Consular bonne bouche was dropped into Mr. Kirby Green's mouth, was to effect that as he had to bear the disappointment, he was glad it was because such a good man had won the day. That was exactly typical of the man: he never could be mean or selfish about anything, and in the very least important details his true nobleness of heart stood forth.
Posterity has a duty to perform which the present has grossly neglected, namely, some honour to show to the memory of one of the most brilliant men of our time. It is not twice in a generation that such a Hercules of literary power and universal tact is born; and when we have the good fortune to live during his reign, we should do something to testify to our appreciation. Sir Richard Burton is dead, but he has left behind him legacies which the world of letters can never thank him enough for. An example of manly fortitude and courage which is unequalled in our day, and a wife whose claim on British hearts should win for her at least the balm of knowing her husband's name to be entered on the roll of England's heroes.
And there was that grim splendour of a man, Sir Richard Burton, he also came with his lady-he looking like an Arab Sheikh with his long beard and the cruel scar across his face. Oriental stories, creepy, and if uttered so that we children could not quite hear, went up to heaven unexpurgated with the wine and the tobacco smoke. I always associated him with the drawings of my Dalziel's ‘Arabian Nights’, he was the Djinn who brought the hatchet and the cord, he was Agib losing his eye, the Barber extracting the bone from the hunch-back's throat, the Fire worshipper that bound Prince Assad, the Bird catcher who snared King Beder, he was Aladdin's Drug merchant, the African magician, King of the Djinns-there was no end to the possible transformations of that appalling beard of his. But my ‘Arabian Nights’ entertainment was expurgated; it was not till long after that I read the Terminal Essay.
Once, as recitations were the vogue in those days, I was put up to show off. He plunged his hand into a cigar box and strode out of the house. Another transformation? No. Just a walk about Bloomsbury till the infliction was over.
‘Bored,’ said my father, ‘merely bored!’
My mother was hurt. She tossed her head. ‘He's a great reciter himself-didn't he say that he did the whole of the Lusiads—or whatever the poem was, by heart!’
‘Yes, yes, but that was on a camel in the desert.’
‘It was to keep off boredom!’
And perhaps even then the solemn cantos of Camoens, as waves lapping the beach or the drumming of the desert wind, might have been heard along the grey pavements of Bloomsbury.
bronzed women, scorcht by burning clime,
astraddle rode the slow-paced gentle Steer,
beasts which their owners hold of beeves the prime,
better than any of the herds they rear:
Pastoral canticles, or prose, or rhyme,
concerted in their mother-tongue we hear;
and to the rustick reed sweet tunes they teach,
as Tit’yrus chaunted 'neath his spreading beech.
After ten minutes or so the bored and bearded lion returned.
And what a contempt he had for women whether white or bronzed! At my sister, who once furtively handed him her autograph book, he scowled and then scribbled something in Arabic. He would not tell her what he had written, but subsequent research revealed it as: ‘Ask a woman's counsel and do the opposite.’ Sometimes the surprise when it came was less pleasing. He loved to shock, and with the macabre. ‘Dear Sir Richard!’ lisped a silly society woman who had been lapping up his tales of blood and scalpings; ‘Next time-as I've never theen a thcalp, you mutht promith to bring me back one.’ He was a man who did not lightly forget a promise. And next time, at such another Bloomsbury gathering, again maybe to mitigate the boredom and give the touch of reality, he tossed a bag, holding the grizzly horror, into her silken lap.
They were a strange uncanny couple, he and Lady Burton. She let tame snakes twine about her neck, and she burnt some of his best scholarship after his death—‘On the advice’, said my father fiercely, ‘of that d—d Catholic priest of hers!’
John Payne Esq.
Tangier 15 Jan 1886
My dear Payne
One line to say how much I am disgusted with the way Ruskin depreciated your translation. It is infinitely more correct and show your better knowledge of Arabic than Lane’s but Lane is an official to the Brit. Pub. and you are a volunteer. However, I suppose you will take no notice of it. As you perceive the world has not “read up” for the subject.
What news of yr Boccace? I look forward to Vol 1 with lively pleasure. You will be glad to hear that today I finished my translation and tomorrow begin with the terminal essay, so that happen what may subscribers are safe. Tangier is beastly but not bad for work. They have put us in Quarantine from Gib. because the press (protected by the ministers &c) want to buy cash cheap and dear. It is a place of absolute rascality and large fortunes are made by selling European protections, a regular Augean stable.
When you have time send me a line of good news about yourself. My wife is still in London where she is detained by the abominable quarantines.
R. F. B.
My dear Mr. Smith—You will not think that I have forgotten you because you have received no letter from Tangier: I never cease to regret that all our projects for meeting fell through and to hope that this will not be the case next summer.
How have you weathered the winter? It must have been a severe trial: even here we once had snow almost down to the sea, a sight not seen since 1846.
My wife and I are preparing for a return to Trieste and leave Tangier on the 25th inst. I have to thank the place for keeping me out of bed all winter; but after that there is little to say in its favour except that it is excellent for work and for wearing out old clothes. My Vol. X is quite finished and awaits only the copier and I hope all will be out of hand by June-July next.
I wonder how it has been with Ireland? That little world is so unique that it seems to have the finest weather when Europe has the foulest. I shall write to you when our trip to England is decided upon and now leave room for a few lines from my wife. How I should like to see Auld Reekie once more! Meanwhile with the best of wishes and kindest of regards I am ev.
R. F. Burton
53 Bedford Square, London, March 3, 86.
My dear Sir Richard.
The accompanying letter will amuse you. The idea of a man in Mauritius sending to Benares for the Arabian Nights is good. I went to Quaritch thinking that he might be able to supply M. Clericeau with a copy, but he made a great deal of bother, said he had none left, but that if he might be able to procure a copy he would want £30 for it, &c &c. In fact I found him impossible. So I send you the letter & have written to M. Clericeau that I have done so. Quite understand that I do not know M. Clericeau at all.
I suppose you are back in Trieste by this time, & I trust in good health.
Permit me to congratulate you upon the dignity which a grateful (?) government has bestowed upon you!
Lady Burton is I trust well pray present her my respective compliments and affectionate regards from my wife and daughters.
Do not forget my friend Gideon of Paris, who wrote to you I believe for a copy the Nights, but let him have a copy if you can.
me yours very truly
H. S. Ashbee.
19 January 1886
Mr. A.S. Ashbee,
In October 1885, the delivery of the journal The Book, revealed an interesting article about a recent publication from The Kama Shastra Society of Benares, where there is a complete translation of the Arabian Nights by RJ Burton under the title "The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night."
As I have been fortunate to obtain, second-hand, an earlier publication from the same company that produced The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, your article has excited my covetousness and after writing without success to Benares and my correspondent in Paris, I am forced to have recourse to your kindness to tell me if I might be able to obtain this version of the "Arabian Nights," used or otherwise.
Excuse me, sir for my indiscretion but the fault is in your article; so please receive in advance my thanks and believe me
Your much obliged servant,
Trieste Austria April 2 ‘86
My dear Ouida
It is a very long time since we heard from you, though often of you. On 23d ult. I returned from a winter in Marocco and it kept me out of bed which is saying a great deal. Isabel joined me at Tangier and hated it—her fondest affection is all lavished upon this elongated sewer, Trieste.
Here we remain till end of May when I must again be in London and look after the 4 remaining vols. of The Arabian Nights. You know I suppose that they have K.C.M.G.d me and I’m ungrateful enough to comment “Half gives who late gives.” I want you if you can without trouble make enquiries for me at Florence about a book not to be had here: you must know so many people that you will find it easy.
When do intend to carry out your promised visit to Vienna? Remember your engagement to us here. Please let me have your news and how he and she (Elle et Lui) are getting on. I often saw Colnaghi in London. And how is her stout-hearted ladyship? We may meet next spring or autumn as I must go to Naples about my Basile. Isabel joins in best love.
R. F. Burton
Trieste, April 6th, 1886.
My dear Chaillé-Long,
Yours of March 19th has just reached me. I have been straying. Very glad that you keep touch of me, as we are sure to meet some day on Nile bank. No chance of my forgetting you. I quite agree in all you say about Gordon's reported death. No need of my re-reading him. I have worked up the whole affair. Don't believe a word of it, and told the public so in my review of his book for The Academy. They, Kitchener and others—I met Kitchener in London after ten years—have proved, as you say, too much. The vulgar idea is that Gordon would have never quitted Khartoum alive; but he was an exceptional man and not to be judged by the normal standard, and he had an exceptional temper, which may make him lie perdu for years on the ingrata patria principle. Mr. Philister and Mrs. Grundy have done their best to ruin his reputation by bringing him down to their low level (I have protested against this); but you and I know better. I am told that his family also has considerable doubts concerning his death. Time alone can set matters right. I saw Stanley once, and at first did not recognize him; his hair, formerly white, had turned a fine glossy black, but he has done work which should not make him ashamed of la grisaille. I shall be in London about June 15th. Any chance of seeing you there?
My wife joins me in kindest regards and best wishes; don't let us lose touch of one another.
R. F. Burton.
H. S. Ashbee Esq.
53 Bedford Square
23 Dorset Street
[July 3, 1886]
Dear Mr. Ashbee
I hope that you have enjoyed yourself and returned thoroughly satisfied. When shall I send the books and how get a sight at [O…D…]?? Please don’t forget the list of distinguished men you were kind enough to offer me.
R. F. Burton.
The following year, 1886, however, whilst the Burtons were again in London, we had two other delightful meetings. On July 9, 1886, Irving had Sir Richard and Lady Burton—he had been knighted in the meantime—to supper in the Beefsteak Room after the play, Faust. This was another partie carrés; just Sir Richard and Lady Burton, Irving and myself. That night we talked of many things, chiefly of home interest. Burton was looking forward to his retirement and was anxious that there should not be any hitch. He knew well that there were many hands against him and that if opportunity served he would not be spared. There were passages in his life which set many people against him. I remember when a lad hearing of how at a London dinner party he told of his journey to Mecca. It was a wonderful feat, for he had to pass as a Muhammedan; the slightest breach of the multitudinous observances of that creed would call attention, and suspicion at such a time and place would be instant death. In a moment of forgetfulness, or rather inattention, he made some small breach of rule. He saw that a lad had noticed him and was quietly stealing away. He faced the situation at once, and coming after the lad in such a way as not to arouse his suspicion suddenly stuck his knife into his heart. When at the dinner he told this, some got up from the table and left the room. It was never forgotten. I asked him once about the circumstance—not the dinner-party, but the killing. He said it was quite true, and that it had never troubled him from that day to the moment at which he was speaking. Said he: “The desert has its own laws, and there—supremely of all the East—to kill a man is a small offence. In any case what could I do? It had to be his life or mine!” As he spoke the upper lip rose and his canine tooth showed its full length like the gleam of a dagger. Then he went on to say that such explorations as he had undertaken were not to be entered lightly if one had qualms as to taking life. That the explorer in savage places holds, day and night, his life in his hand; and if he is not prepared for every emergency, he should not attempt such adventures.
Though he had no fear in the ordinary sense of the word, he was afraid that if any attack were made on him apropos of this it might militate against his getting the pension for which he was then looking and on which he largely depended. We spoke of the matter quite freely that evening. At that time he was not well off. For years he had lived on his earnings and had not been able to put by much. The Arabian Nights brought out the year before, 1885, produced ten thousand pounds. There were only a thousand copies issued at a cost of ten guineas each. The entire edition was subscribed, the amounts being paid in full and direct to Coutts and Co., so that there were no fees or discounts. The only charge against the receipts was that of manufacturing the book. This could not have amounted to any considerable sum, for the paper was poor, the ink inferior, and the binding cheap. Burton had then in hand another set of five volumes of Persian Tales to be subscribed in the same way. Neither of the sets of books were “published” in the literal way. The issue was absolutely a private one. All Burton's friends, myself included, thought it necessary to subscribe. Irving had two sets. The net profits of these fifteen volumes could hardly have exceeded thirteen thousand pounds. Our next meeting was on September 18, 1886, when we were all Irving's guests at the Continental once again—another partie carrés.
On this occasion the conversation was chiefly of plays. Both Sir Richard and Lady Burton impressed on Irving how much might be done with a play taken from some story, or group of stories, in the Arabian Nights. Burton had a most vivid way of putting things—especially of the East. He had both a fine imaginative power and a memory richly stored not only from study but from personal experience. As he talked, fancy seemed to run riot in its alluring power; and the whole world of thought seemed to flame with gorgeous colour. Burton knew the East. Its brilliant dawns and sunsets; its rich tropic vegetation, and its arid fiery deserts; its cool, dark mosques and temples; its crowded bazaars; its narrow streets; its windows guarded for out-looking and from in-looking eyes; the pride and swagger of its passionate men, and the mysteries of its veiled women; its romances; its beauty; its horrors. Irving grew fired as the night wore on and it became evident that he had it in his mind from that time to produce some such play as the Burtons suggested, should occasion serve. It was probably the recollection of that night that brought back to him, so closely as to be an incentive to possibility, his own glimpse of the East as seen in Morocco and the Levant seven years before. When De Bonder published his Mahomet in Paris some few years later he was in the receptive mood to consider it as a production. I asked Lady Burton to get me a picture of her husband. She said he had a rooted dislike to letting any one have his picture, but said she would ask him. Presently she sent me one, and with it a kindly word: “Dick said he would give it you, because it was you; but that he wouldn't have given it to any one else!”
23 Dorset St. 21 Sept 86
Yesterday visited Mrs. Kirby Green: dined with […]. Today have much writing to do enough for two days. Will lunch at Baynes, and dine at Van Z.—I have not yet sent 165 to Turin. Must I? Or will you relent? I told the Baynes 2 Birds. Former said you ought to go to the Workhouse, & the latter muttered quixotic!! beautiful!! with sickly smile. I will wait for your card in answer to this before making this dreadful wrench.
I push yr affairs 23d a propitious day.
Captain Sir Richard F.
Figure 4. Postcard from Isabel to Richard Burton, 1886/09/26.
Today I send a letter. I will pay but it's an awful pity!
So sorry, will write to poor Mrs. Clarke.
Yesterday lunch here & dined with Baynes. Wrote all day. Adelaide came & helped me by pasting the scraps in. I sent lithograph with note from self to Lord Derby (& his brother through him).
Edward for Royal George
Hon R. Burke
Lady Dorothy Nevill
I know all these more or less.
Today I call on Lady Iddesleigh the 3 at the F.O., Lady D. Nevill and tomorrow Lady Hardman.
Tomorrow I dine with […]. Feel seedy—a little over worked and cold weather.
loving Puss & faithful KTT
Figure 5. Letter from Isabel Burton to Richard Burton, 1886.
H. S. Ashbee Esq.
53 Bedford Square
23 Dorset Sreet
Dear Mr. Ashbee
I am starting […] the [morn] for Oxford where I must again pass a week. Pray excuse me to [C…S…]: during the last seven days I have had every moment occupied. I will call upon him on my return. Kind regards to all your family.
R. F. Burton
Oct 24 86
23 Dorset St.
Portman Sq. w
My dear friend
I send you privately copies of two papers, which will coach you up to the case of our hope that Dick may be pensioned & retire. Do you think you could forward them to your friend Mr. Walter Herries Pollock, with a word from yourself, asking him to give us a lift in the "Saturday Review". "Punch", "Truth" "V. Fair" & "The World," have done so, saying it is an exceptional case that all sides may agree upon as right. I do grieve at putting an extra strand of work upon you, but you can do me a great service, & how I wish I could ever do one for you
Lord Salisbury likes to have his hands strengthened. He personally is quite willing to do it.
42 Rutland Gate SW
My dear Burton
I have just discovered that a note I wrote to you a few days ago was posted to the wrong address.
It was to try to persuade you to come to the Anthropol. Institute next Tuesday & to dine first, with me here (Salisbury Club, 12 S. James’s Square S.W.) at 6 ½ o’clock.
The papers are West African—races at Sierra Leone by Griffith the Colonial Sec. there (who is away) & one by a black man on African Symbolic messages. There is another paper that will be but briefly read by Consul Donald Cameron (Eastern Soudan) on languages & races about Suakin.
Will you? We have to dine very punctually at 6 ½ because the time is so short. Do not mind evening dress.
Perhaps, even, you might come also to the Council at 5h. You are a member, as you will see by enclosed card.
I should have said that Flinders Petrie will be at dinner. He is going with aid of a small grant to make photographs of heads according to a carefully arranged list here of Ancient Egyptian pictures & carvings to illustrate as well as may be, the races of the old times.
Capt. Sir Richard Burton KCB.
The portraits in the Albemarle dining-room suggest the African travellers I have met at the Athenaeum. Sir Richard Burton was a man who must have fixed attention anywhere. I think his wife says in her biography that some people called his expression diabolical. Though I did not, like her, fall in love with him at first sight, it never struck me in that way. It was severe, stern, saturnine if you like, but not in the slightest degree repulsive. On the contrary, in animated conversation it brightened up, and the smile when he put you straight on some vexed geographical point was winning and almost sweet. Before I met him in the flesh, I had remarked to Lord Houghton that the gratuitous aggressiveness of his books rubbed me up the wrong way. Lord Houghton, who was fond of fighting his own battles, said, ‘If the man is in the right, why should he not be aggressive?’ And undoubtedly Burton, like Sir Charles Napier, was a man of strong will and stronger animosities; he never could get on smoothly either with rivals or superiors. He won me to share his resentment to the full, at his not having been named Consul-General in Morocco in succession to Drummond Hay, for no man seemed better fitted for such a post. Since his Biography was written by the wife who adored him, I have reconsidered that opinion. But when there was nothing to irritate and you only sought to learn, he would roar you as softly as any sucking dove. At the club he lunched alone, and generally with a book before him. When he dived to the smoking-room for coffee and cigar, then came your opportunity. Then he would talk unreservedly enough about the lands he had visited and the perils he had escaped. Then he would discuss the devious wanderings of the Israelites in the desert, expatiate on the treasures of the mines of Midian which he had been sent to prospect, or revert to his stormy consulate at Damascus, when there were troubles in ‘the Mountain,’ and he was generally in hot water.
There was one delicate subject I never ventured to approach, and that was Central Africa and the Nile Sources. I had heard too much about it from Colonel Grant, who was the devoted friend of Speke, and necessarily the bitter aversion of Burton. Indeed, there was no love lost between them. Grant I knew intimately, and the more he was known the better he was liked. With his tall, muscular figure—decouple, as the French phrase it—he looked the athlete for the ‘walk across Africa.’ With that commanding form and pleasant but determined face, he was the very man to smooth his way among savages without falling back on firearms. After all he had accomplished, there was no blood-guiltiness on his conscience. When he had married a lady of fortune and taken up house in Grosvenor Street, he was the most hospitable of entertainers, and gathered hosts of congenial friends around him. Naturally he took a deep interest in the Geographical Society, and was a regular attendant at the dinners, to which he generally invited a guest. The most kindly of men and absolutely trustworthy, you should have given implicit credence to anything he said. Yet I confess I have been staggered by circumstantial stories, relative to Burton's relations with Speke, and though I have had them confirmed subsequently on independent authority, I hesitate still to do more than hint at them. The traveller was interested in other things than the problem of the Nile Sources. Little as you might know of botany, nothing was more agreeable than to be taken into his back drawing-room and den to turn over the portfolios of Central African flora, with running commentaries on the circumstances in which the plants had been gathered.
One day, stopping to speak to Grant at his luncheon-table in the club, he introduced me to a sun-burned, sun-dried, careworn man, sitting opposite him. Unfortunately I did not catch the name, and after some casual remark passed on, though Grant in his cordial way asked me to join them. Only afterwards I learned to my regret that it was Stanley, just returned from his melancholy march for the relief of Emin Pasha. So I had but a single glimpse of another Pasha—Sir Samuel Baker—standing on the steps of Shepheard's Hotel at Cairo, the African explorer whose fascinating literary style has always given his books an exceptional charm for me. Cairo was then full of notorieties, for the gaieties at the opening of the Suez Canal were in full swing, and most of the visitors paid some attention to the toilet. Baker was got up in rough tweeds and knickerbockers, as if he were turning out for a day's shooting. I was hurrying off to catch a train, and had scarcely time to take a second look. So I had but a vague impression of the broad chest and massive build which he declared to be of inestimable value to the explorer, when he knocked the ringleader of the mutineers out of time in the scrimmage at the start from Khartoum for the Nile fountains.
I dined with Professor Palmer at the Athenaeum on the eve of his leaving for Arabia on the mysterious missions which have never been altogether explained. I owed that pleasure to his intimacy with Chenery, for their common interest in oriental studies drew them closely together. As to the objects of these missions, he was naturally reserved. It was understood that the first and chief one was to treat with the desert sheiks and assure the Suez Canal from their raiding when Arabi had raised the standard of revolt. On landing at Port Said Palmer changed his costume, and was riding through the Sinaitic Peninsula in Syrian robes, lavishing magnificent gifts. That first mission was so successful, that arriving at Suez, he persuaded the Admiral and Lord Northbrook that with £20,000 at his disposal he could easily raise 50,000 Bedouins. He set off again, with £3000 in gold in his saddlebags, professedly to purchase camels: rather, perhaps, for the confidential interview with the leading chiefs, for which he had prearranged. On the way to that meeting he was ambushed and murdered.
Palmer, with his placid face, his keen, bright eyes and soft-flowing beard, was admirably fitted to assume the disguise of the Bedouin, with whose habits and speech he was familiar. He was sanguine as to results, and would probably have succeeded, but for an intervention which no Englishman could possibly have foreseen. I should be loath to give credence to that sinister rumour, had it not been confirmed to me by a keen-witted editor, the reverse of credulous, on evidence he accepted as absolutely truthful. It was said that a countryman closely lit with some of the Arab chiefs had warned them of the envoy's second journey and its objects, intimating besides that his camels would be weighted with gold. But no shadow of the impending tragedy rested upon Palmer that night. His spirits rose high over the excitement of the journey; the talk was rather retrospective than regardful of the future; and I sat in silence, listening to the animated conversation, enriched by stores of recondite learning. Then the old friends shook hands and parted for the last time.
Anxiously sought information as to the best place to which to take her, consulting many persons and books. Egypt stood first with most authorities, Algiers next. But even about Algiers opinions varied greatly, one writer stating that he had lived there twenty-eight years, and had known twenty-eight exceptional winters, so unreliable was the climate. A visit paid us by Sir Richard and Lady Burton enabled me to consult him, when I found him a complete encyclopedia, and able to speak of most places from personal experience. Cairo he pronounced to have been spoilt for really delicate persons by its defective system of drainage: and only in the desert was pure air to be found. Pau, Tunis, Tangiers, and the Riviera all came under his ban. He most favoured Tenerife.
Jan 10 1887
My dear Payne
That last cup of tea came to grief. I ran away from London abruptly feeling a hippopotamus gradually creep over my brain, longing to see a sight of the sun and so forth. We shall cross over next Thursday (if the weather prove decent) and rush up to Paris where I shall have some few days’ work in the Bib. Nation. There to Cannes, the Riviera etc.
At the end of my 5th vol. (supplemental) I shall walk into Edinb. Review the […] and the old ruffian Reeve. You would do me a kindness if you would jot down in brief the gross blunders of the article &c. to show me that we both agree. Of course the move will be kept private.
I hope that you like Vol X and its notices of your works. I always speak of it in the same terms, always with the same appreciation and admiration. My wife joins me in kindest regards and best wishes, hoping to find you all fit next Spring, say April with the Chelidons
R. F. B.
Trieste May 8 ‘87
Excuse post card. The "Perfumed Garden" is not yet out nor will be for 6 months. The old version is to be had at Robson & Kerslake Coventry St Haymarket. The Supplementary Nights you can procure from the agent Mr. O. Notcutt 4 Fairholt Road, Stoke Newington, London. Many thanks: I am getting better and hope soon to be in full blast of work.
Trieste May 27 [/87]
My dear Sir
before acknowledging yours of May 17, the receipt of the two volumes of
It came yesterday and is an excellent copy, for which you have my grateful
thanks! I suppose you have found that missing vol. of Chavis and Cazotte
I propose to include
all most of these tales in my Suppl. Vols. but they
will be translated directly from the Arab. MS. in the Bibliotheque Natl
Paris of which I have had a copy made. Repeating my thanks to you I am ev yrs
R. F. Burton
You have been very kind and so has Mr. Kirby in taking so much trouble about Scott's tale and I return you my best thanks. It must probably be sought in the Bodleian Library and the question must keep until my return to Town next spring.
Could you kindly tell me Mr. Blumhardt's Christian name or names? A post card will do. I must quote him in my Supplem. vol. iii and do not want to betray any special ignorance.
Salute for me Mr. Bendall and tell him how happy I shall be to see him at Trieste if he pass through that very foul port.
Again thanking you for your kindness I am
R. F. Burton
A.G. Ellis Esq.
Aubrey Beardsley came to my shop for the first time about the year 1890, before he was much known. He was such an extraordinary-looking man, exactly like the signed photograph hanging in my parlour, that I could not help wondering for long who he was. Then came an occasion on which he made a purchase and asked me to put the volume on one side for him, and at last I knew his name. Later on he suggested that he might illustrate a book for me to publish.
In those days Beardsley's beautiful decorative work was, I thought, a revelation in art. His later output, that with which everyone is familiar, was entirely different. He had come under the influence of Smithers—and, I must add, Sir Richard Burton.
About 1888 Sir Richard Burton was a frequent visitor to my shop, and I learned a good deal about what he called his “Yellow Breakfasts,” held once a week at his rooms, close to my shop. Merry gatherings they seem to have been, and the guests generally included, I think, Swinburne and Whistler, Wilde and Beardsley. The gathering would have spent the night at some club or another, playing cards and drinking. Then they would adjourn at dawn to Burton's for breakfast.
Mr. Watts-Dunton told me that it was from this circle that he rescued Swinburne when he took him away to Putney. "Why," exclaimed Watts-Dunton, "the man couldn't drink more than three brandies without going under the table !" Sir Richard Burton told me that it was at one of these parties that Whistler first saw Oscar Wilde. "Who is this damned young Irishman?" he asked in a loud voice while he adjusted his monocle.
Casa Napier [Alamo] 16 Jan
Dear Sir Rd Burton
Many thanks for your note especially when as I see you are very full of work. The 2 vols. Arabia Deserta will be pubd by the Cambridge Univy Press this week & I hope may be almost immediately in your hands for the Academy, as the Editor wished me to send them on to you direct. I think you ask “what I would have particularly noticed in them?” I prefer to have them, without notes or comments, in your distinguished and generous hands. They are not only a [Journal] record but I believe will be new to Orientalists, though not perhaps to you as I know you once purposed to travel in Nejd. Truly yours C. M. D.
The British Post Office in Beyrouth will find me for a year to come.
Hotel des Alpes
Feb. 9 [/88]
Dear Mr. Smithers
I return with many thanks The Old Man letter-post, registered: please let me have a line acknowledging receipt, as such things are sometimes lost. See p. 3 within [p…] is for [principum]—Haykun ‘l Sádát. In p. 7 I cannot understand the note [“alter aquam …”] etc. The MS. is probably the work of a non-English writer, and the translation would have to be thoroughly changed before making an appearance in public.
We have had here a still, quiet, foggy winter, but now horrid […] has come down upon us just as the birds & the buds were expecting spring. Snow everywhere and no sign of St. Valentine. I am tired of the place and next Friday (15th) shall transfer myself to Lausanne (Hotel Gibbon) and after a week begin my return march for Trieste, arriving there early in March. With many thanks for the use of the MS., I am ever
R. F. Burton
It is sweet of you to remember me. Our interview in London was too brief, & not a tete-tête. My talk with the Sheik was longer. I did not leave London till May but heard nothing more of you. I have really been doing nothing since then; and writing nothing except lines on Matthew Arnold of which I send you a copy.
The Spring here is glorious after the winter’s copious rains. I have had the pleasure of having the Windsors here four months & Lady Paget three weeks. I think they will buy some place. I enjoyed England as a woman always enjoys a place where she is flattered and fêté—but life here is much more graceful, [parlée] and open to the impressions of Nature. Each existence is good for one in its turn but this […].
I am grieved the Tories have not more liberality of feeling towards you and appreciation of genius & originality in their treatment of so great a scholar & traveller as the Sheik. England has never even faintly comprehended the treasure she possessed in his vast and uncommon powers.
Trieste Mar 14 ’88
My dear Payne
I have been moving since yours of March 5 reached me and unable to answer you. Why? Because I had a copy of Zayn etc., but it has been lost or mislaid or something and I have looked over a […] of papers in vain. I shall not forget it and will forward it if it turns up. But if you cannot wait my friend M. Hermann Zotenberg (Bib. Nation. Paris) will readily provide you another.
Delighted to hear that in spite of cramp Vol V Bandello is finished and shall look forward to the secret being revealed. You are quite right never to say a word about it. There is nothing I abhor so much as a man entrusting me with a secret.
By the by a correspondent from New York who has every means of learning assures me that both your Nights and mine are admitted at the usual rate and although your 1st Vol was subjected to trouble &c that is now over. Is this good news?
My wife joins me in kindest regards
R. F. B.
Grand Hotel Aigle Vaud
Thanks for your nice letter. Will you send the lines on Matthew Arnold here. The reason you did not see me after that one visit was, that I left London for good 2 days later, & have never been back I left on 5 January & you staid till May—I shall look out for Les Lettres et les Arts. I do go on with my work for the Animals. I superintend, I pay & I keep a large stable hospital & […] but I cannot do active personal work & have to pay 2 more whom I can however trust in. The reason being that I consecrate all my time to Richard since his great illness & never leave him—though he is now gloriously better & the stronger of the two.
I should love a play by you. I wanted Irving to adapt scenes from the Arabian Nights too. We are now doing a lot of "chow chow." We are then going to do a real autobiography which will be a pastime. We are having a delightful Swiss tour before London. I am going to leave the other sheet for the Sheik. He was so angry when I sent off my last without giving him a chance. With best love I am dear Ouida your affect. friend Isabel Burton.
My dear Ouida
It was the fault of circumstances not ourselves that we saw so little of you in Town. You will observe by our direction that I have at last (after ’72!) finally broken away from pestilent Trieste & I will never see it again except to pack up. Do tell me (completely private) the truth of a tale we heard and which I for one thoroughly disbelieve: it is simply this that the public is beginning to neglect the authoress of Under Two Flags. What can have started such an idea? Excuse the roughness of the question, but I have now known you for years and take the utmost interest in your work. You can turn your hand to anything, but honneur oblige and if you write plays they must be of the best. How would be to start a startler (story) anonymously as Bul. Lytton did in his last (and best) days? For me The Nights are finished, all but the printing. As the idiot public has despised my wife's Household (i.e. chastened) Edition I go to England (July 15) and print (not publish) "The Black Book of the Arab. Nights" with all the horrors between the pasteboards. Aha! Brit. Publ. scribes & Pharisees.
Do send us a line at leisure.
R. F. Burton
I do not despair of Stanley, even If the mysterious white pasha of the Bahr el Ghazel should turn out to be Emin, as I told a Herald correspondent yesterday was most probable. Stanley is an artist […] surprises, catastrophes and properties of a drama, as well as in its denouement. He is, in fact, a sort of a geographical Sardou, and when the world pulls out its cambric handkerchief he will probably come up smiling and ask, “What the deuce is the matter?” I am a great admirer of Stanley. He is simply the prince of African explorers of this day or of any day. But as an administrator I rank him at below par, and the best proof of this is that of all the new stations he has founded on the Congo, at a cruel expense and Waste of Life and Labor, as well as of gold, there is hardly one that has not been abandoned and left to fall in ruin. On the present occasion his avowed object was to ‘rescue’ Emin Pasha, who has distinctly and determinedly declared that he did not need to be rescued; but Stanley's real object was to divert the ivory trade from the long and expensive Zanzibar route to a cheap and safe water-way. The Congo idea was excellent. By this means Belgium would recoup the millions wasted on expeditions and stations. Zanzibar also, under those unprejudiced annexationists, our cousins German, could have the sole profit of slave exportation, nor would a Teuton of them all raise a hand against what brings grist to the mill.
Stanley has thus by one touch of his magic wand, converted the Congo Free State, the happy man-hunting grounds of Tippoo Tib and his merry Swahili men, absurdly named Arabs, into the Congo Slave State, par excellence.
The great slave mines are now transferred from Unyamyezi country in the old Mountains of the Moon to the Upper Congo. These fresh diggings remain to be explored. Tippoo Tib is made Governor (God save mark!) of these new slave reserves at a salary of £300 per annum, where he can easily make £300,000 a year and where his followers are pretty sure to shoot him if he should talk any nonsense about abolition of the slave trade.
You must not expect to hear any truths of this kind in England, where the tyrannical opinions of society subdue even the boldest spirit. A well-known Administrator who was sent to the Congo, after a careful inquiry, found Mohammedanism a grand and saving fact, and set down the Christian missionary as an utter humbug, in all except being a doughty explorer, a laborious and useful linguist, and an able collector of other men's money.
The Administrator goes home fully resolved to state the facts uncompromisingly before the public of Great Britain, but, although the Administrator is an honest man, the influence of mediocre society ideas came trooping back into his brain, and so far from stating the fact, he stands up and declares that the missionaries are the cream of creation and the gospel is overspreading the land, while, if he mentions Islam, it is in a patronizing tone, as if the Mohammedans were mere cooks. This allows the unfortunate public no chance of learning the truth.
The narrator must be honest and honourable, but he dare not state the facts, nor has he the courage of his own opinions. If he did society would turn upon him with its usual, “Oh, we never mention him,” and his name never would be heard unless accompanied by a snarl or sneer. The fact is, England's chronic disease is religiosity in the few and hypocrisy in the many.
RICHARD F. BURTON.
Hotel Meurice, Paris, July 18th, 1888.
St. James Hotel
July 22 [1888]
Dear Mr. Smithers
Yesterday I received your kind present. The "sketches" will be useful to me by reason of their date and I shall often want to quote from [Hoyland]. Have you seen our new Journal of the Gypsy Lore Soc? Editor Mr. David MacRitchie, Archibald Place, Edinburgh? I think it is going to be a success. Many thanks for informing me about Mr. Jacobs: today I will have a look at him and see whether punishment is required. I am now hard at work with my Reviewers Reviewed which will contain some hard hitting. Also, I am correcting Supp. Vol. VI and I have given Vol V over to the printers.
R. F. Burton
Leonard C. Smithers Esq.
St. James Hotel
July 28 [27 1888]
My dear Sir
I have failed to borrow Jacobs and don't want to buy him. Could you manage to lend it me for a couple of days as I want much to "whip" him.
R. F. Burton
Leonard C. Smithers Esq.
The Granville Ramsgate
August 8 [1888]
My dear Sir
Many thanks for your kind letter of Augt 5. Romeike & Curtice who sent me the cutting give June 9; but they may be in error. Mr. Clouston may not have written the ugly grumble; but it was necessary to contradict a false statement. In my youth I served with Sir Charles Napier and learnt, from his career, never to be silent when the Press wants answering. I shall be glad to hear what you think of my "Reviewers Reviewed" which will end Vol. VI and the labour improves.
I shall be delighted to see the Priapeia, although some translation (French? or Italian?) was formerly known to me. And I will read without delay the "Turkish evening entertainments" if you can let me have them at once while we are here at Ramsgate. We shall return to town (The Langham) on the 15th inst. Of course the Indexes etc. etc. will be in Vol VI, except in the case of those who decline going beyond Vol V.
Ramsgate is a fine place for air, much better, indeed, than Margate, and is doing both of us good after a feverish fortnight in London. With many thanks.
R. F. Burton
P.S. I have this moment received yours of August 7 and of course accept Mr. Clouston’s explanation. Sorry that you have had much trouble about the matter.
The Langham Portland
Dear Mr. Ellis
I have indented heavily upon your kindness by sending you Preface to my last Suppl. vol. and should be deeply obliged to you if you would run your eye over it and return it to this direction. You live in a magazine of learning where references are so easy and to us outsiders so difficult. Excuse this practical proof that need has no law and believe me ev
R. F. Burton
Dear Mr. Ellis
One line to thank you for your kind corrections. Can you tell me if Brit. Mus. contains the Proverbes et Dictons de la Syrie par Carlo Landberg, Leide Brill & Co?
R. F. Burton
August 22 [88]
Dear Mr. Smithers
Today I return to your Sheffield direction the two volumes with many thanks. "Nile Notes" I read in '52 when it first came out. The imitation of "Eothen" was then very distinct and the author added some neat peculiarities of his own such as Kushuk Arnem for [Korchuk Khanum]—[…]. Of the T. Even. Entertainments, I have [tran.] long notes which will be useful, as they repeat the stories of The Nights in a bare and barbarous fashion.
I hardly think that "thirty" can be the reading (p. 309); and as regards the two older sons, they were simply older than the hero.
Private. I think that Mr. Clouston is quite right in providing an Edit. of The Nights, with his notes, etc. if any publisher will listen to the proposal. Nimmo's reprint of Mr. Scott is exhausted and he does not intend to re-issue.
I await the Priapeia with extreme curiosity. Meanwhile
Yours very truly
R. F. Burton
Leonard C. Smithers Esq.
P.S. We shall be here till Sept. 1, after which we go to Oxford etc. returning on or after 15 Sept. Athenaeum or this direction will always find me. I am now working at the “Improprieties” of Sa'di.
Sept. 20, 1888
Dear Mr. Ashbee
We returned yesterday to the Langham and shall be here till Oct 15—more or less. What are your movements?
You remember lending me one of Davenport’s treatises. Arbuthnot has lost his copy of the other and I want you kindly to let me have a loan of it. It shall be carefully returned after a few days. Or are there 2—a total of 3?
Ev yr sincy
R. F. Burton
No. 48 The Langham
John Payne Esq.
10 Oxford Road
My dear Payne
Arbuthnot will be in town on Tuesday Oct. 2. What do you say to meeting him at the Langham 7 PM table d’hote hour sans façons and salad as you like. It will be our last chance of a meeting thus far we intend to flee on Oct. 15.
R. F. Burton
Sept. 30 [:88]
Dear Mr. Smithers
I have kept, as you allowed me, the printed papers for the purpose of showing them to a few select friends. Many thanks for putting down my name as a subscriber to the Priapeia. Where do you think I can get a copy of the Tableaux Vivants in case Mr. Nichols (to whom I have written) failing me?
I am also curious about the Er. Bib. Society? Have you formally established it, with list of members, annual subscription etc.? Or is it, like the Kama Shastra awaiting development? Something of the kind is very necessary to abate a yearly increasing abuse [by] the "bawdy publisher" who asks guineas for books which are worth only shillings and who booms the market only for his own benefit.
I am finishing my big task and working hard at the "Reviewers Reviewed."
R. F. Burton
48 Langham Oct. 20
Dear Mr. Smithers
Thanks for yours of Oct. 6—I waited till Mr. Nichols had sent me Tab. Viv. (book came yesterday) before answering you. Thanks for details about E. Bib. Soc. Avery is a most prodigious rogue backed by someone more roguish. He pirated my friend Arbuthnot's book & our joint works. Now do I understand Rob. & Kers. The "Scented Garden" is not finished nor will it appear before the end of the year. They tried to sell "Gulistan" as a pornographic book in order to make more money. […] The object is to "make" regardless of mode.
We start on Monday 15—Folkes., Boulogne, Paris and then a stop to Geneva. I shall always be happy to hear from you (via Athenaeum) and will undertake to answer regularly & keep our correspondence private. Ev yrs
R. F. B.
The Pavillion Folkstone Oct.
(direct Athenaeum Club)
Dear Mr. Smithers
After a rude week of hard labour, we bolted from London on the 15th and have been resting here ever since. On the 25th we go on to Paris where I shall find the "Scented Garden" duly copied and ready for translation.
Priapeia not yet received. I like the idea of your four proposed prints—Ovid, Sterne & Stevenson, Noerins & Poggio, but I should most like Meursius’ Aloisia Sigea. Do you know anything of her (A.S.'s) history? Vols. V and VI of Supp. Nights are all ready, as far as I have to do with them. Please keep me au courant if you have time concerning Vizetelly & La Terre. It is a pity that Priapeia did not proceed in time as in order the Tab. Viv.; but tears over spilled milk are to be avoided. I am now reviewing for Academy Lord Strat. de Redcliffe and that will be the last till The Garden is thrown open.
R. F. Burton
At Trieste I was welcomed by Sir Richard and Lady Burton, and the next few days were days of enjoyment. Burton was already suffering from the malady which killed him; but we still talked of the possibility of that journey which we had planned in earlier days from Tangier to Alexandria through the midst of the Beduin tribes of the Cyrenaica. …
In the later part of the summer  Burton came to Oxford in order to copy the unique manuscript of Aladdin which had been discovered in the Bodleian, and a translation of which he wished to include in a supplementary volume of his Thousand and One Nights. I asked him to stay with me in College, but he preferred putting up at the Mitre. “College,” he said, was “a hotel of the ninth century” and dining with me twice a week. One Sunday he told me that he had gone to London the day before to see his doctor as he had had some twinges of gout, so when the dessert was placed upon the table and he was preparing to help himself to a glass of College port I put my hand on his arm and said: “Take claret instead; remember the gout!” “Oh,” he replied, “the doctors now tell you that port is the best thing for the gout!” and before the evening was over he had drunk three glasses of it. On Tuesday morning while at breakfast, I received a note from Lady Burton “Do come and see us; Dick is down with the gout.” I went to the Mitre and found Burton groaning in bed and Lady Burton packing up his clothes and preparing to carry him off to town. It was the beginning of the illness from which he never recovered. On one of the evenings that he dined with me he told me that when learning to speak a new language the first thing he acquired was “the swear-words; after that, everything is easy.”
The last time I saw him was when he was in England, a little over two years ago, and though then he was already an invalid, and the subject of loving and anxious care from his wife, his mighty intellect was still undimmed, as it was to the last, and it was a pleasure to sit and listen to him unfolding somewhat of his vast store of experience and knowledge.
The four years which Nicolson spent in Hungary were four years of boredom. … For one summer he stayed at Fiume at the Villa Hoyos. A second was spent at Stübing in the company of Sir Richard and Lady Burton who had come up from Trieste. Burton would play amicably with the three Nicolson children, thrusting his dark face into theirs, shouting at the youngest baby, “Hallo, little Tehran!” The child yelled: the memory of those questing panther eyes remained with this infant as a thrill of terror and delight.
The names of Sir Richard and Lady and Lady Burton are here united because the following contribution is their joint work. Another reason for coupling them may be found in the fact of their loving comradeship in the literary calling. “We divide the work,” says Captain Burton. “I take all the hard and scientific part and make her do all the rest.” Lady Burton has won for herself an enviable place in the world of letters, while the number, the variety, and the quality of the Captain's works are truly remarkable. Readers of the interesting letter here given will learn what it has cost the intrepid traveller, who made the memorable pilgrimage to Meccah and Medinah, to raise himself to a level with literary men of the foremost rank.
Lady Burton writes to regret that so little can be said upon the subject.
My husband dictates as follows: 
His early youth was passed on the Continent, where, in addition to the usual studies of Latin and Greek, he learnt, instinctively as it were, French and Italian, with their several dialects, as thoroughly as he did English. In his native tongue he was ever fond of the older writers, and gave himself with great ardour to the systematic study of Addison. He knew Shakespeare almost by heart, and learnt to admire the thorough propriety of words which distinguished him. He worked hard at the perfect prose of the English translation of the Bible, and to this he added Euclid by way of shortening his style and attaining clearness of thought. When travelling in Central Africa he always carried with him the three bound up together in a single volume, with three clasps like a breviary, and used it to cheer his many dull and disagreeable hours, not spent in actual exploration. When picturing scenery it was his habit to draw from nature, as if painting a landscape. When describing character, he studied the man as completely as he could, and meditated carefully over his mental picture before he ventured to put it upon paper. He is thoroughly convinced that to express clearly, a man must think clearly, and must thoroughly understand what he means to express; and he would often pass the earlier hours of the night in reflecting upon the task of the coming morning. He felt that what is called unconscious cerebration was a great aid to his work. Having fixed in his mind exactly what he intended to say, he preserved himself from incoherent and unconnected writing. In India he passed stiff examinations in six languages, not to speak of Arabic and Pushtoo, the language of the Afghans. These studies again benefited his English style. Being forced to think of the foreign sentences before they were spoken, he applied the same process to English, and in that way gained no little clearness and point. In his many versions of Eastern authors, for instance, “The Thousand Nights and a Night,” in sixteen volumes, he attempted to carry out his ideal estimate of a translator. According to him, the grand translator, Chaucer, was so-called by his contemporaries because he cast in thorough English mould the thoughts and language of Petrarch and of Boccaccio. Moreover, as no language is complete, and each has some points in which it can be improved he was ambitious of transferring from foreign tongues the idioms and turns of phrase which he thought might be naturalised and treated as welcome guests in English. Of course the process was viewed with different eyes by different people, some with friendly regard, whilst others characterised such efforts as “diverting lunacies of style.”
Here my husband ceases to dictate, and I think I have given you as long an answer as you require. There is no doubt he is a master of English, and handles and plays with it skillfully; but to carry out his programme one must begin from childhood, and I doubt if it will serve what you want, whereas I think three very simple rules of my own might. One is, never to be ashamed to ask the meaning of anything, be it ever so simple, if one ought to know it. The second is, to read slowly, considering the words, and looking for the meaning of each different word in all its bearings. The third is, whether in speaking or in writing, to imagine you are relating a story to your friend by your own fireside, which gives a great charm to style, provided you avoid the jerky, or flippant, or question and answer style, adhering to flowing, earnest, natural, easy narrative, as you would in such case, quite devoid of shyness and restlessness.”
I have inserted the above remarkable record here in order to illustrate the fact that obscurity is avoided and clearness gained only as a result of the most patient toil and constant care.
25 Oct. 88.
We are fully rested from London, & are looking forwd to a nasty crossing tomorrow as the S.W. gales seem to be coming up. I heartily reciprocate, so does Dick—we all do, your kind words of affection & hopes for the future. We shall always be true friends & God willing will never neglect an opportunity of a happy meeting.
I ought not to ask you to write to me because I know how valuable your time is, but if you ever do, tell me about a Syndicate which Dr. Baker says takes up an authoresses book & brings it out in several paying magazines at the same time. I suppose country & popular mags & afterwards she may bring it out as a book. Is it true? Is there such a thing? I am thinking of my poor despised Edition of the Nights.
How I enjoyed the night you dined with us, but I could not get enough of you because Dr. Baker monopolized you. He says you are one of the very few of his Gods who have not disappointed him. The more he knows you the more he will like you I say—for when you are a friend you are a real one.
Au revoir not goodbye & God bless you & take care of you
Hotel National Geneva
Nov. 4 [/88]
Dear Mr. Smithers
We left Paris in fog and rain and reached this in fresh fallen snow (on the mountains) yesterday morn. Today the weather is perfection and we are resolved not to move Vevey-wards till the end of the month. I am now ready & anxious to see the Priapeia. What do you think of the Vizetelly business? and how will it affect the e. Bib & Kama Societies? I regretted that he pleaded guilty but he must best know his own business. The "cheapness" of his publications appears to have been the gravamen. At Liseux I bought Cleland's Fanny Hill (an old acquaintance) (25 fr.) and made all arrangements for copying the best MS. of the "Scented Garden." Hoping to hear from you soon. I am ev.
Yours very sincy
R. F. Burton
Hotel National, Geneva,
November 4th, 1888.
My dear Chaillé-Long,
Many thanks for a good long letter, dated last August, which has at length found me. The White Pasha may still be Gordon. It is aut Emin aut Stanley. As regards the latter, you, of course, understand that I do not admire him as a man or a geographer, but as one who has been Fortune's favourite, and who has done for Africa, what none of us have succeeded in doing, has bisected the Continent, and has given a new base whereupon to operate north and south. Voila!
You will have no chance of public recognition for your great part of the work in the solution of the Nile Source problem. You have Grant against you, who hates his idol to be touched by a hand profane, and the miserable X refuses your Three Prophets because it does not chime in with English ignorance. The R.G. Soc. will be interested in anything you do about Corea, but they will not have Africa stirred up. I still trust that Stanley is alive, but am almost certain that, as usual, he will not bring back a single white man. His committee seems to have bad news about him, but they do nothing beyond humbugging and blindfolding the public.
I do not quite understand what you propose to do in Corea, especially as the temper of the people seems to be adverse to trading and other industry. But I am delighted to read that you think of a return to civilization, and that there is a chance of our meeting again. We shall be in Switzerland till March next, and then will go to Verona (Lombardy), Trieste, Athens, and back again to Austria for the summer. Let me hear from you when your plans are well worked up. My wife joins me in many salaams and the best of wishes.
Yr. sincere friend,
R. F. Burton.
Hotel National Geneva
My dear Payne
I have just received enclosed from a correspondent, and thinking that you would like to hear about yourself in the J. I enclose it. Please read and return. We shall stay here till end of November and then move on. Poste Restante Geneva all always find us.
How are you getting on in health and strength? Your winter must be truly beastly—to judge from ours. “The Scented Garden” now begun in real earnest. With united kindest regards. Ever yours
R. F. Burton
Hotel National Geneva
Nov. 14 [/88]
Dear Mr. Smithers
With the prospectus you sent me no address. I wrote at once to my agent:
4 Fairholt Road
(Our weather has changed for the worse and today is our go of fog and rain—however, others are worse off.) He will pay my subscription to the Priapeia as soon as the Vol. is sent to him. Many thanks for your kindly offer of Ovid Travestie.
Aloisia Sigea and her sister were well known blue stockings at the Court of Portugal in Camoens' day. You will see their names mentioned in my biography of the poet.
The Pentamerone must wait till the Scented Garden is finished—say about next autumn. But the "final copy" only wants correction and subsequent recopying.
My review of Lane-Poole's Lord S.de R. is gone to Academy. I cannot but speak well of the work.
Thanks for the details about Vizetelly trial—will it have any consequences? By this time you will have received Vols. V & VI of A. Nights & I want your judgment (candid) upon Reviewers Reviewed. The Liber Sadius in English will be atrocious as Fanny Hill shows our language is not fit for erotics.
R. F. Burton
Hotel National Geneva
My dear Payne
I am glad too you like the gentle rebuke administered to Stead, Reeve and co.
You have your body I have none or quasi none. You could greatly oblige me by getting down when you have a moment to spare the names of reverends and ecclesiastics who have written and printed facetious books. In England I have Swift and Sterne; in French Rabelais, but I want one more also two in Italian and two in German.
We are enjoying Geneva and magnificent weather and only wish you are here. With kindest regards from both.
R. F. B.
Hotel du Lac Vevey Geneva
Dec. 2 [88]
Dear Mr. Smithers
Only yesterday did I receive yours of Nov. 26 and all my attention was, at once, given to the Priapeia. It is (or rather will be) a scholarly publication and I have only one objection to the workmanship. The sting of the epigram should be in its tail e. g. ad costam tibi septimam recondam (no. V, p. 8) but the English version here fails and ends in the uninteresting "sting of the lyrics." When shall I receive other sheets?
Your opinion of my work is very flattering in the extreme—too flattering to admit except as the favorable estimate of a friend. Of course you understand that the phrase to which you take exception (the Cautious Canary) had no reference to any one individually and merely characterized a class. I am wholly ignorant of the business matters connected with The Nights and it never was my practise to sneer at a friend openly or covertly.
The "Scented Garden" flourishes but gives me much trouble. I am having chapter XXI copied from the Algerian MS. Have written to Algiers, […], Tunis, etc. for information & shall probably seek it personally next winter in Northern Africa. Meanwhile, we are here for a month & then probably return to Montreux.
R. F. Burton
What is the address of Mr. Nichols. I presume the London agents are Robson & Kerslake of […] Coventry St.
Dec. 24 ‘88
Dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of Dec. 21st received. Do not mistake me about the Priapeia: I like the first sheet very much and find it a scholarly performance; moreover it promises to become the one useful edition. You are quite right not to hurry the book through, but to humour the printers with their normal "heavy engagement."
On Jan. 2 we remove to Hotel des Alpes Montreux Lake of Geneva, which appears the only "fashionable" (i.e. crowded and uncomfortable) wintering place in Switzerland. I shall rub up against my kind there for a month or so and then plus voyages.
You will find Coynte in Chaucer. "Futter" is still common in Scotland, and the word is of noble family […], futuv, foutuv, etc. I have 2 copies of the "Return of Age to Youth-tide;" and I am sure that a literal rendering will be valuable—are you doing it? I should much like to see the translation.
It strikes me that Mr. Nichols will be a useful man in the matter of the "Scented Garden" (which progresses well) especially if we have a list of 250 subscribers to the E. B. S. Beware of Rob. & Kers. they are "on the make" as the Yankee hath it: perhaps it will be advisable to repudiate them in Mr. N's next issue. Best wishes for the Xtian Saturnalia—my fete is Dec. 27 when [God-dad] returns. Ev yrs sincy
R. F. Burton
Hotel des Alpes
Montreux Jan. 31 [/89]
(we shall be here till Feb. 15)
Dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of 23 recd. The missing word must be "nimble" ("or nimbly applied"—hand). In p. 36 I much prefer peetras to the silly petra. In XXXIV I think it is a pity not to preserve the original order "a girl who is many men etc." so many willow-wood pokers. In p. 41 one would prefer "never shaven" to unshaven, the latter suggesting to us moderns only a stubbly chin. These, however, are mere mistakes and I congratulate you upon reaching the half-way house without accident. Payne will also translate Zayn al Asnam. Mr. Liseux (best type of old-fashioned "bawdy publisher") has been asking me 150 francs for a useless MS. You need not believe a word he says about his translation (or anything else). I have not seen Cornazano. Of course, I shall be my own publisher and carefully eschew Rob. & Kers. & Nic. and their whole lot. But I want as many names as possible of firms which take such volumes and I suppose Mr. N. will make no secret of his South American house? He has given you very fair terms in the Priapeia. My only use of him as regards the Garden will be to send him an Advt. (when the volume or volumes shall be in the printer's hands) and find out how many copies he will take. I shall print a 1000 and might expect my old subscribers to take them up. But the public is a fickle catch and a manual of Erotology cannot have the interest of the Nights. It is however giving me the devil's own botherment and putting me to all manner of expense. The MSS. are so vile, defective in every page: I begin to see that a visit to Algiers will be necessary. The "Old Man" returns to you soon
R. F. Burton
Hotel Gibbon Lausanne
Feb. 17 ‘89
Dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of 12th recd yesterday: we shall be here for a week and afterwards must be addressed "Trieste", to be kept till called for. I must take measures about the wandering agent you kindly apprize me of (without, of course, pointing to you) or he will be playing some ugly tricks. I never expected Nichols to tell his South Amer. address. There is no chance of my employing him, beyond [placing a few copies: he showed the cloven foot at once and] would not forward me to my club Vol. I until I had paid. These fellows are all rogues and over-greedy (that is foolish) rogues.
And now to Pr. P. 49 […] I should have rendered by limper=flabbier: a good […] word. [XVIII] for “wanton girl” pathic girl one to be used fore and aft. LI full of punctuation-errors and at end “in the gardens which leaving you […] forsook” etc. (not “for the only thing which is left”). LIV is a puzzle; I think it […] the meaning.
I shall have nothing to do with Liseux's Justine. The French of De Sade is monotonous enough and a few pages chokes me off a bit, but what will it be in brutal Anglo Saxon? He is a greedy rascal like the rest. I proposed an exchange with him but he would have none of it—wanted ready money for a confessedly worthless MS.
Our winter came on Feb. 7th. It is always a snowy month in Switzerland, but it seldom sees such a snowfall as this, R.R. is stopped and streets utterly and entirely beastly. I am collecting notices about old Gibbon and have already seen a host of relics.
R. F. Burton
Trieste April 3 '89
Dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of 28 ult. reached here yesterday & I lose no time in answering. The excesses (never mind these being "tinged," this is as it should be) please me immensely, they are thoroughly well studied. Allow me to suggest that you give Lat. list of names applied to the Yoni as a pendant to the Phallus terms. I should not allude to Tableaux Viv. p. 129. Ruticliffe considered as doggerel may amuse, but that is all. Why not conjecturally fill up brackets in p. 32. Priapus never, I believe, held a scythe: the sickle was for the purpose of amputating parts.
I am somewhat in a fix and want the aid of my friends. Can you assist me to a verse of Juvenal only whose garbled end I can give? “uda terit inguina barba”—speaking of one Ravola who is gamahucking his mistress. The second want is more serious. I do not wish to pay that rogue Liseux 250 francs for his Aretino. I require an extract from him (P. A.) with an account of his Figurae Veneris, and I must have the same from Forberg. The Scented Garden has now reached a point where these are necessary to complete the Historique. As regards your hand press at 2d/ a page who finds paper, you or printer? Why do we not imitate the Yankees who colour their types and produce impressions so much sharper? I am sorry that you have had so much trouble about "Truth" which was to me only une luxe.
Let me hear from you soon.
R. F. Burton
Trieste May 1 '89
Dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of 26 ult. reached me yesterday; & I have read the accompaniments carefully as usual. In […] / 60 surely it would be as well to fill up the blank. (N.B. Penelope to Ulysses is better than reverse). A Duchess was a troll etc. The notes did not fall off—quite the contrary. It is, of course, a matter of taste, but I should avoid all concessions to popular prejudice e.g. "foully disfigured" (enlivened?) (p. 162) and "infamous books" (priapistic?) (p. 165). All such peace offerings are only misjudged by the Publisher, qui l’excuse j'accuse is his motto. If we sit as judges and use the commanding tone Mr. P. is apt to feel crushed.
By the by in p. 134 l. 9 do you allude to receiving the old comic post or another n.?
A detailed note on Bestiality in Classical lit. would be exceedingly valuable. But perhaps you have written one at end of p. 176.
I do not think that the P.O. is directing its attention to Trieste, and if you want my book safely sent hence to England you could transmit it to me and I would forward at once. Attention seems too confined to France & Holland. I have my own dodge for sending home MS. About a week ago, I applied to Mr. Ashbee (directing to Coleman Street, not to his private address) but he has not yet answered. I have written direct to Mssr. Vizetelly. "Konima" is a rank blunder but hitherto I have not been able to trace the source. That will come in time. Does the surveillance over Mr. Nichols affect you?
We are doing very well despite a most changeable season and
an overdose of Sirocco: I hope that the "seasonable" Spring weather
has not affected you.
I’ll acknowledge Forberg when he comes. Forberg
arrived safe this morn. Many thanks.
R. F. Burton
Trieste May 8 ’89
Dear Mr. Ellis
I find it stated by Vicomte Delaborde “Marc-Antoine Raimondi” that the Duke of Cumberland bought some fragments of Marc Antonio’s engravings and that these after forming part of the Willett Collection passed into the Brit. Museum. Could you kindly inform me if they are still there. The fragments are supposed to be part of the engravings made by M. A. from Giulio Romano’s series of “Postures” (I Modi) which P. Aretino is said to have illustrated by sonnets. You have so often assisted me in these small matters that I now apply to you without ceremony or apology.
After a ten months wander I found myself again at Trieste and very glad to be with my books once more. The spring was late and unpleasant but now all is blooming and people begin to talk of summer quarters. How has the time passed with you? What news of Mr. Blumhardt? And your fellow-sufferer from leather emanations the Sanskritist? Hoping to have a word from you. I am ev.
R. F. Burton.
Friday night, May 8,
Dear Mr. Ashbee
Thanks for yours of 27th ult. Since then we have had Count Teleki here and he stayed a few days whilst sorting his collection. He looks in first-rate trim, hard as nails and is getting over a bout of ague and fever caught (not in Masailand) but at Zanzibar. I hope to meet him again at [Ausee] during the summer and have advised him as his chief object in visiting London is to show before the R.G.S., not to put in an appearance before the autumn. He is very grateful to you for your kindness and he wrote you a long letter—direct to Coleman Street—from Aden. You will rejoice to hear of his success.
We shall not see England this summer as the Garden must be finished without delay. Tunisia is far too good to pay: you must be contented with the knowledge of having done excellent work for its own reward. “King Africa & his mines” would probably have paid you in coin.
My wife joins me in sending kindest regards to Mrs. Ashbee, and the demoiselles, not forgetting Miss Elsa.
R. F. Burton
P.S. I enclose a note with my requirements. Arbuthnot wrote to me from Granada and I expect another chit soon.
Trieste May 13
My dear Mr. Smithers
In sheet 20 p. 153, 1 line from bottom I have only to note one another for each other.
Yesterday, I read your Introduction and return it today with my foreword. Please send duplicate proofs of both and if possible don't print off till they are returned corrected. I will not lose a moment.
Excuse the freedom of changing—I won't say correcting—and adopt only what you yourself like.
My friend Arbuthnot is now here & stays with us for seven days. Put him down for 5 (five) copies.
F.R.A.S. etc., etc.
18 Park Lane
He will return to town before end of month & he has promised me to run down to Sheffield and have a talk with you. Better do nothing except correct proofs and register subscribers’ names till he returns. Put off Rob. & Kers. He and I see no reason why you should not issue copies to men well known as perfectly secure, especially as soon as Parliament is up. I say this because a question (by Mr. Smith?) in the House of Commons would entail disagreeable results to both of us.
I have two Lat. copies of Ausonius and now want the best English translation. Hard work is cut out for us. Catullus is being rapidly licked into shape. Pity we did not begin with him.
R. F. B.
Trieste May 22 '89
Dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of May 11th safely to hand. I have no doubt you are right about “Turd”. Mr. Clouston has sent me his "Group" and a very dull group he has made of it. He seems to have worked out that subject. Messrs. Rob. & Kers. lent me Aretino's sonnets by Liseux—60 francs is too much, but the vol. is very interesting. I am attempting to "rehabilitate" the Aretino who was the perfect expression of the Renaissance epoch when Hellenism and Civilization were contending with [duty] and barbarism. Mrs. Grundy will furiously rage, but she will have other matters to exercise what she calls her mind.
After a month of hideous Scirocco we have been having a few fine days with a north wind most grateful to unstrung nerves.
I have been carefully looking over your p.p. 133-135 and want you to “verify quotations,” and to add information.
1 where have you found Trepsicles (p. 135)
2. you quote P.P. anent Nico; but I cannot find the name either in Xenephon or in [Athen.] lib v.
These are affaires de rien, but provide a handle to carping criticism when the book comes to be handled by experts and the notes are so good that they must be cleared of all carelessness.
p. 173 suggested to me that a classical note on bestiality esp. of the Gods & Goddesses might be useful. You could easily work up the subject.
I hope that my friends will keep me au courant of Vizetelly's business. It appears to me that the National Purity is going too far and that a reaction will presently set in.
R. F. Burton
P. S. I find Forberg useful and only hope that I am not keeping it too long.
Trieste June 2 ’89.
Dear Mr. Smithers
The Ovid reached me some days ago and yours of May 27 yesterday. Thanks for the news concerning Vizetelly. As you say, these idiots are driving the trade underground to the detriment of everyone. But our Govt. or rather our public opinion will not even regulate prostitution—what can be expected from their absurd ideas of morality? (Weather here quite perfect and the same throughout Europe, apparently.) Mr. Clouston's last (I have read it through) is the mere sweepings of a Folklore shop and reads as if he had grown tired of his work or had exhausted himself. I am sorry for him as he has a mother to keep besides himself.
You are unreasonably despondent about your volume. It is by no means a "poor amateurish piece of work" and had the beginning been equal to the end it would have been greatly valued. The commentary is excellent and I congratulate you upon it throughout. The 130 names of sexual organs may form a dull list but will be useful to students. You have said amply sufficient upon "postures" and as you say the subject needs a volume. Don't allow Nichols (or anything else) to hurry you for his own private purposes; this is ever the fashion of such gentry—all for self. Your 250 copies will readily sell, and you should prepare one (at fullest leisure) for another and an enlarged edition which will certainly be called for. I hope in another year to be wholly free from engagements and will if you like trans. the prose translations of the Epigrams into verse. Meanwhile please don’t forget Niko and Trepsicles. Sursum Corda! and no painting by the way.
Why should Vizetelly go bankrupt for a few hundred? Last time he fell without a blow and published his defense afterwards. I hope he will not do so now, but play bull (interview newspapers, write articles etc.) and raise Cain.
R. F. Burton
Trieste June 26
Dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of June (?) recd, and envelope containing excursus and Introduction. I read the latter carefully & sent you a p-card to say that a change is wanted. Your p. xxxi set my wits working and I polished off a few lists of which I enclose 2 rough specimens. Hexams. and pentams. are a fine [brain-gymnastic] but hardly read like poetry in English. But the great point is variety and before I go farther we must meet and combine. The vol. I am sure will sell well & you must prepare for another day ordering the notes e.g., Yoni & Phallus in one place (not in 2 far distant). You must be very careful about index i.e. index every note.
I have no patience with Vizetelly: he ought to have fought the battle like a man and spent money upon the editors and critics. Now he has caved in without a blow & I suppose 6 months hence he will print his defense as before. Why not boldly quote the Bible & Shaks.? I have not seen Mr. Payne's Aladdin, but he will surely send it to me. It is hard for me to believe that Mr. Clouston's huge dull book can pay and I am sorry that he has made so bad a venture. I have puzzled out Niko & Trepsicles: the [Thes. Ent.] was right about the book no. v, but forgot the chapt. etc.
On Monday next, we start (with official leave) for our 2 weeks holiday, returning to my [remit] about Sept. 1. We shall stick to Styria and the neighborhood. Letters to Trieste (Consulate) will always be forwarded, only there will be some delay in my replying. When will Priapeia be out?
R. F. B.
To the Reader […]
always guiltless of garment and garb
So hide with thy tunic the part which is made
to be mostly hidden,
or wi’ what eyes see the part
pleased by these lines to […]
Graz, Styria July 11
One line to acknowledge yours of July 5 with excellent photo. We are on the loose till end of September, but anything urgent directed to Brit. Consl. Trieste Austria always finds me. Vive […]
Hotel Erzherzog Karl
Vienna (address Trieste)
August 29 '89
Dear Mr. Smithers
I arrived here yesterday after nearly two months of general discomfort in the Highlands of Styria, a July alternately roasting & chilling and an August as bad as yours in England. Many thanks for the last sheets of Priapeia which worthily end your work. My holiday has been spent in translating you and I enclose final copy. I should like it to be type written (if not to be had, copyist; but I prefer former—of course at my expense) and then to be carefully read by you and reviewed—no ceremony! you know that is by no means in my way. Lastly, I would have your corrected copy (with original) so as to give a final polish. This should be done, if possible, before Nov. 1, as soon after that time we shall be starting for winter in North Africa.
I am pretty sure that your volume will sell, so I have made all these preparations. Your idea of Lat. text prefixed and notes suffixed is good. For frontispiece let me suggest Hindu women in Moor’s Pantheon admiring the Linga-Yoni; it is (we must avoid everything “bawdy”) delicate and artistic. The vol. must be large and handsome, a credit to Brit. "Pornology."
Under existing circumstances, I would not (if I were you) hurry on the printing of Aloisia Sigea or we may draw down some molesting measures. The papers tell me that Vizetelly's petition is refused, although good names were on it. I can't pity him: he gave up the game too tamely. If I am brought into court it will be with the Bible and Shakespeare and I will insist upon reading the passages which are at point.
The effect of our English purists is to throw the hat into the hands of the French who get all the profit of our new modesty.
Write me a line to Trieste where we shall be about mid-September. The F. O. is complaining about my long and frequent absences—but I don't give a damn about the F. O.
R. F. Burton
P.S. You will find it necessary to re-write almost all the excursus (e.g. names of male parts) and especially to “verify quotations.” The latter point has taken me the devil of a time.
Sept. 13, '89
Dear Mr. Smithers
I recd yrs of sept. 8, yesterday. Your having copied my "Arabic in Shorthand" without almost a fault is sufficient comment upon the ability of the copying expert.
All your alterations in red ink are marked improvements; in fact you have been set upon the true way—literalism and now all will go well. You will be quite right to subjoin all the shorter notes. I shall not leave for Africa till Nov. 15 (circa). In Tunis and Algiers I shall hear from you as at Trieste.
I have made no notes on Introduction or excursus; but shall be ready with a few lines of Foreword to my translation. What do you say to this title page? (I should like to see this in print)
Cosmopoli 1890: Printed by the Erot. Bib. Soc. in one vol. 500 copies signed for private subscribers only.
Priapeia, or The Sportive Epigrams of divers Poets on Priapus: The Latin text now for the first time Englished in prose and verse (the metrical version by the Translator of the "Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night"), with Introduction, notes explanatory and illustrations and excursus by (you must here adopt some nom de plume)
Italian Frontisp. which is quaint and sufficient: Moor's is too Oriental. Forberg is ready whenever you want him.
We must not hurry this affair but must allow full time for Mr. Nichols to sell off 1st edit. When this is done I must find a new lot of subscribers. It is not my little game just at present (with "Garden," Pentamerone etc. in view) to be too prominent in the matter, but when time comes, I can work with old Quar. Rob. & Kers. Arbuthnot and a host of others. Let us say 500 copies at £3.3.0, 320 pp. with an outlay of £150-200 which we must share.
You are right to keep back A. Sigea till this matter is finished. I don't care a damn for the Saturday, the Pall M. and Co.
For this Edt. you should prepare a short account of the translations into all the mod. languages of Europe, this proving the advisability of England not being left out in the cold.
I have a sneaking fondness for Brown-Sequard, one of the most original men known to me and his injection of spermatozoa deeply attracts me. More of this presently. Payne's Aladdin has not yet reached me—patience! I shall winter in Malta, Tunis and Algiers, returning to Trieste end of April? (March?).
Trieste Thursd. Nov. 14 ‘89
Recd yours of 11th this morn. We start early tomorrow, will take Pros. to Brindisi & post it there after thinking it over. Also will answer letter. In p. 17 no. xv line 7 alter "youth" to "lad"—if not printed off. Otherwise no matter. Send letters to Trieste till further notice.
R. F. B.
Brindisi Nov. 17
(direct Consulate Trieste)
Dear Mr. Smithers
According to promise, I return prospectus: you must have written it in an unhappy hour and it sadly wants revision. However it solves one of my difficulties: I have now resolved to put "Translator of the 1000" etc. in the prospectus and Senex in the title-page of the volume. Pray take measures accordingly. I think you are right in not halting Edit. No. 1. But your Prospectus is far too long esp. with the additions you propose. So I send you a draft page which will cost little (and entail only somewhat more trouble in sending the long prosp. to bona fide) and efficiently fill the place of the long and expensive advt you propose. A morning's walk brought this conviction. All right about the index. You are right about the initials of lines, but after all it is a mere detail: we go in for matter rather than manner. Of course I paid through the nose for agency and was cheated accordingly: next time I shall consult you. Pickering & Chat, have promised me a set of illustrations and when I see them you shall have my opinion: don't buy till then.
Catullus gets on well (glad to hear that field of literalism is wide open). You shall see [Satyr.] when finished. By the by what niche do you recommend for it (kindly think over it)? Please give me the metrical scheme which I have forgotten.
For Gr. & Rom. Sodomy see the great German encyclopedia quoted by me in Vol. X. I am told that the volumes are sold separately and that one need not buy the whole century. It is excellent upon purely classic pederasty. For Delepierre's "Point" you can apply to Quaritch, but 'ware prices.
As soon as I see daylight through Catullus, I shall write to you in re Juvenal. I won't trouble you about copying Cat., but send you my text & transl. (like Priapeia) in one. Your handwriting is first rate for me, but I do not wish you to waste your valuable time in mere mechanicals.
I am glad that you see the advisability of not affiliating ourselves to any society. Let me hear from you soon.
R. F. Burton
Print following upon these papers which will form an envelope. Also make the gothics large & staring to attract the eye.
The First English Translation (verse and prose) (Black Gothics) of (small type) The Priapeia (Red Gothics). The metrical part is by the translator of "The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night," and the prose-postern is by "Juvanus" who has added notes explaining the text and long excursus on the pederasty of either sex, bestiality, masturbation, […], the cunnilinges, the figurae veneris (classical postures of coition), the habits of Roman dancing-girls, the tribadism of Roman women, the "infamous finger" and so forth.
The work will be completed in one volume (4°, large print and about ? pages), with etched frontispiece representing the classical Priapus and bound in antique boards. Five hundred copies will be printed (not published) for sale to subscribers only and the translators bind themselves never to reprint the work. The net price of the subscription to be paid when the work is ready for delivery (next 1890) (is £3.3.0) and applications should be addressed to the Agent Mr. ? ? of ? ?.
Brindisi enroute to
Wed. Nov. 20 '89
Dear Mr. Smithers
The day before yesterday, I sent back (registered) your Prospectus with a succedaneum: and I still think that the bigger text will be risking money and doing too much for an Advt. Please return enclosed for my friend Mr. Tedder (Librarian, Athenaeum) after taking from it anything you want. Keep an eye on Mrs. Besant as the case will be interesting to both of us. What of the telegraph boys and Cavendish Square? Catullus has reached No. XXIX and you will be pleased with it. I shall write again from Malta.
Malta Dec. 11 '89
Dear Mr. Smithers
Recd: 1 card Nov. 22.
1 letter Nov. 25 with request for cheque.
1 sheet proofs (all right)
I congratulate you on the event despite a streak of disappointment—which will quite disappear. Girls are more comforting than boys.
Certainly let us say "Printed by the Translators" without "Soc." and now I have determined to place my identity in title-page "by the Translator of the 1000 Ns.". I must keep my few words of Foreword till all is finished so as to see what to say. The short page is in lieu of your long Prospectus which I cut up unmercifully: it will be for Introduction. Mind what you do with Quaritch and make no arrangement with him without consulting me. Of course, he will "take you up" (and us.)
No news about translations of Pr. as regards bibliography, I should mention only the marking Editions. No hurry whatever about Catullus (take him most easily): we must engineer Priapeia first. We will certainly print text (Ellis? Mueller?), our transl. & prose with notes & excursus. I shall send you final copy in Latin text as before. (Let me know when you find notes.)
With respect to the trade we must be guided by our subscribers’ list. For The A. N. I paid the trade 10 percent: my wife (for her edition) 20 percent or so. Our main object should be to get as many private names as possible.
Again thanks for your kindness in the matter of copying, etc. The details as regards Nichols are (alas!) perfectly intelligible. The A. N. pictures have not yet come and you will do wisely to await my opinion. The price is heavy and may be money quite thrown away. Clouston should do his best to become a journalist, pure and simple; these books will pay no more and his keenness in chase of coin would better suit a newspaper.
Today I have had a misfortune. We had taken passages for Tunis & yesterday the weather, which has been perfect summer, turned to the bad and this morning the wind (Scirocco) is awful, blowing big guns, it rains and the sea is rough as rough can be. So we are obliged to spend another week in Malta and I am dead tired of the place. Next time, I hope to write to you from Africa.
R. F. Burton
Tunis (direct British
Consulate Gen., Tunis,
Dec. 20 (end of my yearly mourning
: birth of Sun-god tomorrow; meanwhile,
My dear Mr. Smithers
Yesterday I received yours of Dec. 4 returning the Sidda but no Aglae and no proof of Advt. They will probably come by next mail and as you wrote to me here direct (for a month), the letter will not be a full fortnight on its way.
I got dead sick of Malta. Well civilized society, charming Hotel, first rate food, look out on dead hole across a street you could spit over and failed to get away as the weather was breaking. But last Thursday, I mustered up courage although not a little funking for my wife and set out in face of rain and Grigale (Eurakylon)? we tossed a few but made this port yesterday morn. and in the evening got your letter. I am now answering the latter.
Mr. Ashbee will surely send you the book—he is very good in that way. You must see "Apprius". Certainly insert a biographical list of Latin Edns. as complete as you can collect without over trouble or time-waste.
Don't hurry about Catullus. I am about half way through him—rough copy which will take a power of correcting and polishing. By the bye, I like your Scherzi very well as Scherzi but not as translations. These according to me should be more serious e.g. Lesbia 7, VIII:
That Lesbia ours, that Lesbia
That Lesbia, she Catullus loved erst
Than self more fondly and than all his kin—
She now when four roads fork and alleys lurk
Gulps down th’ high-spirited seed from Remus sprung
And so forth
Don't begin Catullus till you are quite free from necessary work and then begin with a will. My part will be done about March.
I note the absolute injustice with which Mrs. Besant was treated by the Judge etc., and I propose to comment upon it. The Cavendish Sqr. business appears to be compromising and one of the Princes is named in the matter.
As soon as Catullus is finished I shall take up Juvenal and Shaykh Sa'di, whose "practice" will make Brit. Pub.’s hair stand on end. He has his way more philosophically even than Horace.
If your weather is bad we are not much better off here, only it is dull sky and no sun for fog & snow. Of course, we grumble—that is human nature. Being amongst Moslems again is a kind of repose to me. The atmosphere of Christendom demoralizes and distresses me. Write as soon as you can.
R. F. B.
Trieste (Direct c/o
Algiers) Jan. 8
My dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of Jan. 2 came yesterday. Post offices are Devil’s Delights. You escaped a cheat-fee of 8d and we have just had to pay 3 francs for an open-end parcel of photos because a seal was on the string. No reason with these rascals.
Xmas to New Year et. seq. is a fortnight utterly wasted in England and the English world. I suppose, however, that your printers after the venal swinery are getting back into business. But I can pity the poor beasts: life in England for the poor working man is a mere Purgatory. So, by the bye, is the English Country house life for women: it is a standing marvel to me how they stand it. What would French or Italian women do under the circumstances.
Glad to hear the N. has shown such prudence. The Purity People sadly want a victim in order to quicken the Brit. subscriber and you must do your very best to keep the Ero. S. out of court.
I have done little with the Garden at Tunis where I expected so much. My French friends abound in promises, but apparently hold performance to be an affaire de luxe. Again today I am assured of "mountains and [mounds]" which will probably turn out midges & mole hills.
In Re Glubit, the orig. source of husking (corn) sets us pretty free to render as we please. I prefer sucer because it is still so much the practise in France & Italy whereas "tossing you off into the gutter" is British & Northern. Moreover of our sources equally possible I always prefer the stronger and more exaggerated.
Juvenal will I agree with you make good work. Catullus progresses slowly but steadily.
R. F. B.
Consulate Tunis Jan. 16
(direct Consulate General Algiers)
My dear Smithers
By this time you will have got mine of Jan. 8, which crossed yours of 10th (yesterday received). I will notice parag. by para.
All right about the etching. £10 was an exorbitant price.
Mr. Notcutt as usual makes difficulties: he is a curse of Allah as an agent. When you receive his list send it to me and I will carefully look over it and return by next post. You have answered him exactly as I could have wished.
Don't forget duplicate proofs of prospectus—one for me to keep. Before reading it I can hardly answer the question about February or March. There will be no reason for delaying the issue and I adopt once for all "By the Translator" etc. We must begin with circulars to private subscribers and end with the booksellers.
Of course, "notes in nonpareil" should be avoided.
But I should certainly make an erratum of "circumcise." If not, the enemy will have you upon the hip.
Certainly include Bibliography & Introduction. As regards Phallicism, Priapic cult etc. I should if I were you give (say a single page) about worship of Karma, Davenport’s essay and other modern treatises, referring to them all the curious concerning the trite and well-worn subject.
As regards the books (one & all) which you kindly offer to lend me I must await our return to Trieste in March. I accept with gratitude the Hecatelegium and shall keep it as one of my (few) treasures.
We should have left Tunis last Wednesday when my wife's Italian maid was violently attacked by influenza and rendered quite incapable of travel. So, much to my disgust we are detained here & probably shall not escape before March 20. I shall rush off to Algiers as fast as trains (40 hours) will carry us, keeping one day only for inspecting Constantine. The weather has been damnable—rain every night & most every day. Now, however, the glass has risen abnormally and we may expect a few dry hours before the spring rains of February set in. We are all disgusted with the climate & it is my 4th failure, the others being Tangier, Abbazia, Cannes & Montreux. Where the devil is one to go for a dry winter short of Canada or Tenerife?
At Algiers, I shall probably find a letter from you and will return it without delay.
R. F. B.
Hotel St George Algiers
Jan 28 ’90
My dear Mr. Thayer yours of Jan. 9 reached me safely and found us still at Tunis, one of the most beastly places you can well imagine; so unwholesome that even Dr. Baker could not do a line of work. It lies between two fetid swamps and feels like a perpetual cold bath; the streets are grapevines and the roads impassable. We left it on Jan. 20 and took a week for the railway to Algiers, staying three days for Constantine. Here we are most comfortably housed (at the usual exhorbitant expense) and intend passing the rest of our leave returning by Marseille, the Riviera and upper Italy to Trieste. There’s a report here that a new General order will compel Consuls to retire at the age of 65; in which case we get our marching orders.
Your last does not give a very good account of your head; let us hope that you have better news for us now. Of course you will not […] Beethoven until you feel fit for the task—which must be terrible. Mr. Cautley gives us a queer account of the weather at Trieste. What have you to tell us about the Jews? What more about [Mr. Joy] Your “anchor to windward” should have caught ground by this time, it will be a valuable protest against “received opinion” and at any rate arouse public attention. Have you written a line to Miss A. Edwards? I see she is making a great stir & deserves to make it, for her energy & perseverance. She will be the first to review you.
We were all glad to hear that you have had a visit from your nephew; 24 is a pleasant age for “self & party”. You should keep the young gentleman for a time and look after his hygiene. Each and every of us “reciprocates” your kind sayings and we all look forward to a most pleasant visit in March. Meanwhile ever yours most truly
R. F. B.
Hotel St Georges
Jan 28 1890
My dear Payne
I am answering yours of Jan 2nd: it reached me at Tunis and I kept it till we arrived at Algiers. Sorry that you have had such a bother about Aladdin. Why did not ask for my direction at Athenaeum Club? However I presume that all is now right and that they are keeping the book for me at Trieste. I have asked our friend Arbuthnot to take charge of the two Arabic MS.
1. Zayn al Asnam
and he will bring them tome in May. I regretted very much to hear that health prevented you visiting Tunis when at Cairo—the trip would have done you so much good. You should pass at least one winter out of England.
At Tunis I failed in procuring MSS for notes about the Scented Garden. Contacted all the booksellers in the bazar and people generally. No one knew anything about it. Today I am to see M. McCarthy of the Algiers Bibliotheque Musée; but I am by no means sanguine. This place is a Paris after Tunis & Constantine but like all France (and Frenchmen) in modern days duty is ditchwater. The [re…] is dead and damned, politics and money getting have made the gay nation stupid as Paddies. In fact the world is growing vile and bête. A vivant les chinois! A [new major enough] irruption would do Europe much good.
My wife joins me in kind regards and best wishes. Ever yrs sincy
R. F. Burton
Hotel St. George
(direct Consulate General Algiers)
Feb. 7 '90
My dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of F. 1 reached me yesterday with list of names all right. I did not expect the latter and so my asking for it must have been badly expressed. The French post here is vile & I shall hardly dare to send it back to you before we reach Marseilles which will be early in March. Is this too late? if so we will risk it at once. Of course consult Mr. Notcutt in any case of difficulty. The list is that of The Nights but it dates from 1884.
I have looked over Ch. 7. In p. 49 l. 16 ought to end with colon—“at the head:” not worthwhile cancelling page. But in p. 53 l. xlv there is a vile [metre] which should begin
“which lost mulct shall I pay of country” etc.
I must either cancel page or put into list of errata. All the rest is quite right.
We had beautiful weather till Febr. 1st and since that a rainy spell which still continues. But the climate is not damp. The water runs off at once, and the wadi are dry half an hour after the heaviest downfalls. On 15th we propose to visit Hammám Righal, hot baths a few miles distant; direct Algiers as above. We are here in the outskirts of the city, about as oriental as Kensington Gardens and when I return, we shall move into a town Hotel. Algiers is a fine specimen of a French "Colony." A huge artificial Port, awfully expensive and quite desert of shipping. A splendid city doing nothing but doze on a hillside and look lovely. An Arab population thoroughly malcontent and "descolors" of the most squalid. Our old Austrian friend, Dry Rot, in full force. Roads except the main lines of diligence, detestable. Travelling arrangements, except feeding, thoroughly uncomfortable. Prices those of Paris and more so. A rule of [Magus], [Sorcerer] & [lie].
I have done little with the Garden although they still make promises. Have reached Catullus 7xviiii: the run in is now easy. After that correction—which is not. Let me hear from you soon.
Dr. Baker who is with me has a Ms. 450 pp. clean writing which he wants to print at his own expense. Proofs will have to be corrected from Trieste & sent back per return of post.
Paper must be good and type handsome. Could you manage to get me a rough estimate, taking average page and so forth. After this we might discuss the binding and other particulars.
R. F. Burton.
Feb 12 '90
(direction c/o Consulate General)
My dear Mr. Ellis
Yours of Jan 29 followed me to this place. We have been passaging at Malta, Tunis etc. As regards "Changán" which I would translate “Bolo or Horseback” you seem to have looked up all the authorities known to me. You might, however, add to them the Thousand Nights (I have no copy here) where the index will save you the bother of wading through whole volumes. See the story of the Shi'ah who attempted to kill Haroun Al-Rashid. Sorry that I have not more to say.
As regards Taymúr al Wahsh I have quoted (Unexplored Syria) the popular tradition known to every Damascene. Probably it is not historical, but it is firmly established in local folk-lore. Every guide book mentions "My Lord Iron's" nickname The Wild Beast and possibly the legend was invented by way of comment. He drove away all the Persian (Shi'ah) swordsmiths, and from his day no "Damascus blade" has been made at Damascus.
I have found these French colonies perfectly casual & futile. The men take months before making up their minds to do anything. A most profligate waste of time! My prime object in visiting Tunis was to obtain information concerning The Scented Garden, to consult Mss. etc. After a month's hard work I came upon only a single copy, the merest compendium, lacking also chapt. xxi my chief want.
From this place we go (Sat. next) to Hammám Ríghah (the absurd French “R'isha”) for a week or ten days. Shall return to Algiers, steam for Marseille and return to Trieste via the Riviera and Northern Italy—a route of which I am dead sick.
Let us hope that the untanned leather bindings have spared you their malaria. You will not see me in England next summer, but after March 19 '91 I shall be free as air to come & to go.
yours very sincy
R. F. Burton
Hammam Risha (Righah)
direct c/o Consul Gen. Algiers
My dear Mr. Smithers
Seduced by Guide-book lies, I came to this place (4 hrs rail & 1 coach) from Algiers and found it damnable. A half-finished country concern owned & managed by a French "Gentleman"—with all French cheek, meanness & bounce. Building ¼-finished. Advertises a hundred rooms but only some 40 furnished. Dining room like hall of work-house. Old piscina under the drawing room, making atmosphere like English stable—tempered for benefit of grooms. To make matters worse rain in torrents and all the world wet. I am dying to get away from this wet Hell.
And now to answer yours received Feb. 18. Mr. Notcutt always forgets when he sees no way to turn coin. My idea was to stamp "Translator of Arabian Nights" in blue ink upon the envelope so that the latter might have a chance of being opened. My wife's plan was not safe.
The list shall be returned to you from Marseilles. Here the Post Office cannot be trusted. Their delays are terrible and you never know when they lose. You are quite right about not losing time.
It will hardly be worthwhile reprinting pp. 53-54, a note in errata will be amply sufficient. I have boggled awfully about that blessed line and am not yet satisfied with it.
As regards the etching I hardly think that you can do better than accept the £7.10. Your printer is certainly slow and I do not usually trust to printers' promises. However as his delays suit your over-occupation, we must not grumble.
Dr. Baker has filled up the paper of queries which you have been kind enough to draw up. As it is his first book, he naturally wants to see the minimum it will cost to print.
Two days ago, I finished "final copy" of Catullus and have begun to polish it up—which will take some time. I will then copy it myself again, re-correct and give it to my copyist at Trieste, so that you may be spared the bother of decyphering me. Before sending it, however, I want to see your prose version. From Trieste you shall receive the text I have chosen—Lucian Mueller, Leipzig, Teubner '85. Of course, you will not confine yourself to it, but take what appears to you best from all editions. It will be better not to print the Latin; but to give a reference when an unusual reading is chosen. What do you think of Postgate? Everything shows me that there is room for a new version.
We return to Algiers next week & leave for Marseilles early in March.
R. F. Burton
Faring thro' many a folk
& plowing many a sea-plain
These thy sad funeral-rites seek I, O brother of me,
So wi' the latest boons to the dead bestowed I pay not thee
And I address in vain ashes a-silent for age,
Sithence of thee (very thee) to bereave me Fortune was hindered,
Woe for thee, Brother forlore, cruelly torn from my love.
Yet in the meanwhile now what olden usage of forbears
Brings as the boons that befit mournfullest funeral rites,
Taken these gifts that flow with tear-floods shed by thy brother,
And to perpetual time, Brother all hail and farewell.
Algiers March 5 '90
My dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of Feb 25 has just reached me—needless to say it has wandered long and far. Sheet 8 also received. As regards the list I have looked over it and find that most of it must be revised: it dates from '84-89. I cannot correct it before returning to Trieste and comparing it with my other papers. Better to endure delay or a week or 10 days than to post many circulars to the dead & the disappeared. I return Ep. 95 of the Priapeia with a few pencillings: have no Latin copy here, but it appears to me that you follow the Latin inversions too faithfully. The first point is to make pleasant reading. I keep Juv. ii till you want it back.
My holidays are nearly over (March 15) and we embark as soon as we can get a good steamer. Don't write to me or send anything till I let you know my direction—it will probably be Trieste. Enclosed is a cutting which please return: has Mr. Bridger been making a fool of himself? Men like Mr. Thompson deserve to be run in on account of their extreme carelessness.
I have not been lucky with the Scented Garden: no native has been found to assist me. So I have to work entirely alone upon a single MS. all full of errors. This hurts my workman's conscience but needs must when the Devil drives. Catullus is being carefully revised, polished up etc., and a very troublesome operation is that same. I must end by copying it out myself and then have it copied by my scribes. Don't send me your prose of Catullus until you receive Müller's text—that which I have used for the verse. We can then either stick to it or change, as the spirit moves. But we will certainly omit the text, while recording only the most important var. text. In this way, we shall produce a scholarlike book of use to Latinists and not a mere translation like Elton and Lamb.
What do you think of this? I presume we shall have to print privately for subscribers and to put on a fancy price.
By the bye we must not forget sending programme of Priapeia to the Universities, Colleges & Professors in the United States. Of course, you have kept the list.
And in annotating Catullus, we must avoid repeating the notes of the Priapeia. This difficulty will be got over only by full reading. Adieu till next time.
R. F. B.
March 26 / 90
My dear Mr. Ellis
It was very kind and friendly of you to write about the Scented G. Mss. Yours is dated Feb. 26 and has just reached me on return from a 4 mths trip to Brindisi—Malta—Tunis—Algeria—Marseille etc. I really rejoice to hear that you and Mr. Bendall have escaped alive from those ground floor abominations stinking of half-rotten leather.
I think you may rely upon the Damascus tradition: the grey beards declare that it dates from old days. Taymúr hated the Shi'ahs and the Shámis (Syrians) who fled before him and since his day no “Damascus” blade has ever been made at Dam.
I know the two Paris Mss. (one with its blundering name): they are the merest abridgements both compressing chapter xxi of 500 pages (Arabic) into a few lines. I must now write to Gotha and Copenhagen in order to find out if the copies there be in full. Can you tell me what no. of pp. they contain.
Salaam (or rather namaskára) to Mr. Bendall and best wishes to you both. You will see me in England sometime after March 19/90.
Trieste May 10 / 90
My dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of May 6 reached me today and I reply at once.
1) It will never do to withdraw the book after 41 names have applied for copies.
2) I must not take too active a part whilst my direction is "Consulate Trieste": my service ends on March 19 / 91 after which I am free.
3) I propose my agent Mr. O. Notcutt to forward the letters to you and have written to him thereanent. Of course, he must not be put to any expense. His direction is Lyndhurst, Cypress Road, Finchley N. London.
As you are sure that Mr. Norris cannot be trusted, I think that you had better take in all the letters sent to his address and then no others need be directed to him.
Of course, some one has played spy. But how can that affect you?
R. F. Burton
PS. The first thing I should advise is to clear your house of copies, correspondence etc.
May 11 / 90
I wrote to you yesterday through Mr. Nott.—he may be absent and not forward the note at once. You must be fully prepared for a search-warrant and we must avoid any chance of questions being asked in the House of C. More at some future time.
Trieste May 12 / 90
My dear Mr. Smithers
Put off Rob. & Kers. with some pretext: the rascals want to reprint. Also one copy for:
George Louis Faber Esq.
H. M.'s Consul
I have told you more than once that my Foreword will be sent you as soon as your Introduction reaches me. If I were you, I would certainly announce Catullus. Why draft roughly? We have plenty of time especially as this interruption has occurred. The subscribers will keep for 6 mths and by that time the House of Commons (I funk questions) will not be sitting and the excitement about Priapeia will have cooled down.
You must do your best to find out if the house is watched. That can easily be done. You are the best dodge about the probability of a search-warrant: but you should be perfectly prepared. The detective’s blind is easily seen through. I suppose Vigil. Soc. of London who already had scent of the book some time ago. Tell me when Mr. Notcutt answers you. As I told you, impossible for me to appear openly so long as I hold the Consulate.
Don't forget to hunt me out Ausonius. I am again working at Catullus. Pity we can't bring him out before Priapeia—no one could have said a word.
R. F. B.
Your two of May 9 received. The thing is a misfortune and nobody's fault. But there is one precaution absolutely necessary. All the copies at the printer's should be packed up and warehoused. We must then have patience and delay till times are quiet.
Of course, no one can complain of a translation from the classics. But the notes and excursus will bring us under the act.
As for Ausonious, I intend to translate the whole and I will at once send for the French and German translations.
I hope this next mail will bring me better news. Meanwhile
My dear Payne
At last! Arbuthnot has brought the Vol and the MS. I have kicked up an awful shindy with Athenaeum Club and the Post Office here, which can offer no explanation. However all that is over now.
I am delighted with the volume and especially with the ascription so grateful in its friendly tone. I have read every word with the utmost pleasure. We might agree to differ about Cazotte. I think you are applying to 1750 the moralities of 1890.
Arbuthnot’s visit has quite set me up, like a whiff of London in the Pontine Marshes of Trieste. He goes today—damn the luck—but leaves us hopes of meeting during the summer in Switzerland or thereabouts. He is looking the picture of health and we shall return him [store] undamaged.
Best of good fortune to Bandello. My wife joins in all manner of good wishes. Ever yrs sincy
R. F. Burton
Sheet 21 recd. News (May 14) bad. Pity that the house-people could not wait a few days. Subscribers hate return of letters thro’ the Post. However, it is done now. Mr. Not. wrote to me the day before yesterday and seems not to have communicated with you or matters might have been arranged better.
Mr. Arbuthnot will see you early in June. Till then do not send out any copies.
This venture has come to grief and we must get rid of it as we best can. If I were you, I should see Quar. and the others and find out what they will pay for the 500 copies en bloc.
We then can undertake Catullus and be more careful about wording the prospectus. Here is the difficulty: no one will pay three guineas unless the book is appetising enough.
Don't be too sanguine about the search-warrant or concealment of the printer. Those purity-fellows are great at bribing and you never know when an underling may sell you.
Arbuthnot has been here for several days. I have shown him the book and talked over matters with him. He can after a fashion assist you with Quaritch Rob. & Kers. etc.
Ev yrs sincy
May 20 / 90
Yesterday received yours & portrait of Mr. P. Can’t say I like him. His characteristic is miserable, a childish development: it ought to be proportioned so as to serve for a club. What are we to do? Can this part be changed in any way? As regards the crudeness of the art, that might perhaps be corrected by printing on toned paper—a somewhat dark yellow to give look of age.
No news—good news: I therefore hope that nothing fashious has happened. Here we are in summer weather and I [purity list] summer, as during the last two years [prior] [antisummer]—raw and wet.
I am working pretty hard at Catullus and have sent for 2 translations of Ausonius. I think we ought to translate the whole. Ev yrs
Trieste May 28 / 90
My dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of May 23d recd with enclosure which I have corrected and return. Today (Wednesday is [un dis non] for posts at Trieste) did not bring me the proofs and I shall keep this open till they come. Ought we not to hurry up the printers and finish the Vol. without delay?
By this time you have received my letter and I repeat its chief object, viz. that I leave the matter wholly in your hands as advice from this distance is a farce. You will manage all in case of search-warrants, the printers etc.
Mr. N. has manifestly made his pit and sees no chance of more, ergò he won’t serve us. You are lucky to have found a friend in Chambers, as the subscribers must have some address.
Don't forget that when we make up accounts, I want you to show Not. all such minor expenses as postage, cab-bage (as someone said) etc. Of course movement implies expenditure.
It would be valuable to know what German Law could do in this case. Pr. is a cento of verses by Catullus, etc. Catullus is openly published and never prosecuted. A private vol. cannot injure the "morals of the people" nor in our case is it issued or published.
My friend Ar. has written from Paris and will see you about 1st week of June.
Quar. should be our last resource. It appears to me that your idea of sending circulars to safe names is very good & Mr. N. can give them, especially M.P.s who would be interested in the affair.
Here I stop & await proofs.
Yours reached me last night too late for post: I send Introduc. this morn. One ought to have revises but I leave this to you. By the bye when the detective showed warrant from Scot. Yard could you gather if he had been directed to look after a swindler hunting for subscriptions, or was he sent about the Pr. in particular?
R. F. B.
Trieste June 18 / 90
My dear Mr. Smithers
I did not answer yours of 5th and 8th inst. expecting every day the proofs promised on June 5. Hope there is nothing wrong, but with me no news is always good news.
Arbuthnot wrote to me a few days ago giving an account of his visit and decidedly objecting to my issuing anything before taking my pension.
I have asked him if he would object to our sending out 20 (no more) copies to perfectly safe men, so as to cover printer's bill and he doubtless will answer me at once.
By the bye how much would it cost to cancel all the pages where my name appears? I should be most unwilling to do this but it might be found necessary.
Meanwhile, I am most anxious to finish off Pr., so as to take wholly to Catullus. Our transl. will give us a fine opportunity of advertising Pr.
Have you not been able to hear anything about Ausonius? Old Quar. has promised to look out, but he will take his time.
I shall keep this open till post comes in and send it on if no proofs come from you.
No proofs, so I send this off.
R. F. B.
19 Up: Grosr
Midnight 26 June 90
My dear Baker
I have many apologies to make for not writing you sooner but I really did not know what to say about when we could accept your & Lady Baker’s kind invitation. Our boy has not been right and we could not fix on a date—there were other things besides connected with our going North and as Mrs. Grant makes all our appointments I asked her if she cd write definitely to Lady Baker as I did not know what to say to you!
In consequence I was not at the club for a fortnight I believe & today I got then the circular signed Fyfe which you received—I am not to give a farthing for a steamer as I already told you—the Africans have not been straight in the matter with me. Subs do not appear to flow and I doubt their getting enough to send out a respectable steamer—for even with £5,000 if they collect their sum it is not half enough to support a steamer.
I went and asked Stanley today about his book—it comes out on the 28th for the “Press” and later for the public so as to be simultaneous with America I think he said.
We have rcvd no invitation for his marriage tho’ he left the names of 200 before he went on his tour to Scotland—he was surprised because your names & ours were placed by his own hand after the invitations to his officers—but he is to see at once where the hitch is. I believe myself that no one has received their cards of invitation as yet. I wonder whether you ever heard a diabolical story told me by Nineveh Layard the other day. It seems that when he was on the Council of the Geogl Society about 1862 a letter from Speke was read reporting that Burton had made an attempt to poison Speke—the poison was to be put or, was put, in Speke’s medicine—but the native—called an “Arab”—never administered the poison because he was too much attached to Speke.
I have hunted up the records of the Geogl Society for Speke’s report and, as yet, I have failed to find it. But I have it from lips of his sister that this is a fact & that it caused her brother great distress for some time—I have a bad memory & do not remember the circumstance but I have always felt bitterly towards Burton & declined to be introduced to him when asked by Mrs. Burton. It is probably for the reason that I must have known of this poisoning case. I shall find out when it took place—my own idea is that Burton felt so sore at S.’s discovery of the Vic. Nyanza that he tried to get rid of him by poison and claim the discovery himself.
It is quite possible that S. did not hear of it till the journey he & I made together when “Bombay” may have told him. The consequences of this plot if it had succeeded would have been curious. I shd never have entered Africa neither would you have discovered the Albert—neither would Stanley have been known except as the discoverer of Livingstone—a pinch of poison makes a vast difference in our careers—but thank God, the villain failed in his object. I believe all the Council of 1862 are dead except Galton and Layard—I asked Galton twice about it—but he would not say yes or no—& I think he must know it. Layard has a perfect horror of Burton and spoke quite openly of him in the presence of two [or] three others—I have written Kenneth Murchison to search for any clue to this tragic affair.
I hear Burton has softening of the brain—I rather hope he may get his punishment—cruel though it is to think of such a thing—but we will talk over everything when we meet—with our kindest regards to Lady Baker & yourself ever believe me
J. A. Grant
Trieste June 26 / 90
Excuse hurry and pencil (I want to write by return of post). I had written you a long letter but yours of June 22 has quite changed matters. Thanks for Ausonius. I hope to receive him as soon as possible.
Remains only to accept your proposal and wholly to efface my name. The title should be:
by Nemo & Juvenis.
In your introduction I have modified p. xi so as not to dislocate whole affair.
I forward corrected proof of my
Foreword Word to the
Reader, with a few unimportant changes which can be easily made.
Also I send £25 for print expenses. The list of errata (marked X) will be quite sufficient. No revises of errata or Index wanted. I should like to revise your and my Introduction.
Notice to future subscribers will do very well.
The Frontispiece will now do well enough.
I am much vexed at leaving you after this fashion; but I must regard the advice of friends. Henceforward you will act as you please taking every precaution for your own safety and keeping me au courant.
Please send presentation copy to:
St. George's Club,
If you see that things are safe you had better push the work as much as possible. After their failure at Sheffield the Vigilances will probably hold their tempers out of shame.
Don't trouble yourself about sending original accounts. I am quite satisfied to leave everything in your hands.
On July 1 [we] start for our summer holiday returning in early September. Write to me care of Consulate Trieste and the letters will be forwarded. From time to time I shall send fresh directions. And my last word to you is
R. F. B.
My dear Mr. Smithers
Yours of July 1-6 reached me only this morn. I return the three pages you want but I regret that the errata sheet has remained at Trieste and cannot be found till my return in Sept. You will probably have kept notes of the important corrigenda and none of the others are required. Sorry to give you this trouble. Ausonius of Corpet (French translation) has at last come to hand and it appears complete. I am still looking out for German translations.
We shall have a fine field and virgin in England. I am now copying out Catullus; but you had probably better finish off all your work with the Pr. before sending on Ms.
The disclaimer (p. xi) is as you say strong; but everyone will see my hand in the book, not to speak of the first Prospectus which we sent out. In those to follow, you should send just one, not mentioning any names but Outidanos & Neaniskos. Arbuthnot will do his best & so will Dr. Leslie to whom I suggested a copy being sent. I don't want to write anything in any of the copies until I return home pensioned. Catullus will serve to advertise the remaining copies.
As regards J. Payne, I don't think there is any risk of damaging him and if he disclaims the volume, he will only advertise it.
I congratulate you on the baby's improvement and only hope that you will soon find time for your annual holiday. What a bother those printers seem to be!
Thanks for your offer to furnish me with accounts & vouchers. Of course in cases of business this is the better plan. Kindly enter all first names of subscribers upon my old list and don't forget a prospectus to the Savage Club.
Yesterday was our first summer day: till that, all was winter and we suffered accordingly. However the air here and the excellent Hotel will soon set us up again.
Please write as often as you find time and let me know all the news. Ev yrs sincy
Hotel Baur au Bar,
The coterie was rejoiced to receive your budget of July 19 and to hear news of you which had long been expected. You have had a most interesting and exciting time—of course all [recompensed] your most efficient services to the cause and fêted you to the top of your bent, that was only to be expected and had it not been done your friends would have had reasons to grumble and complain. [Brun] was especially generous to you and [Brun] is not given to that kind of thing without all-sufficient reasons. I am delighted to hear that vol. 1 is to be reprinted, and now for the finishing of your magnum opus, which you must press on for as soon as you have had a fair portion of rest after so much excitement. What you will want is collaboration or rather assistance in ordering and digesting your notes. Amongst your many admirers surely there will be found one ready to take the place of secretary or to find some young literati who is ready & willing to assist you in the rough work. This will at first be probably “antipathetic” to you after labouring so many years alone & single handed; and it will require a mental effort on your part to accept the inevitable—but I believe it is the inevitable and that it must be accepted if the work is to be finished. I hope I have not said too much but as a friend I feel myself bound to say it.
We have been at Zürich since July 14 and we start tomorrow en route for the Engadine. The weather, up to yesterday was unusually hot, has now broken into rain and mist, exactly what we don’t want. However in early August it is not likely to last. Mr. Cautley knows where to forward our letters.
Here we have made acquaintance with a very pleasant fellow George Catlin (nephew to the Old Redskin) Consul for U.S. He knows Montgomery & a host of other people and is well acquainted with your name. We shall have much to talk of when we meet—including the “unlucky Hebrews”.
About end of Augt we go to [Basle] and later sleeping car to Milan; after that Venice and Trieste.
I have distributed all your greetings & good wishes and the recipients order me to re-ci-pro-cate. And now nothing remains but to say au revoir
R. F. B.
On the 8th August, after nearly a month at Melchet, we went to Maloja in the Engadine, where we spent a few quiet, happy weeks. Sir Richard Burton and his wife were there. Stanley had last seen him in 1886. Had a visit from Sir Richard F. Burton, one of the discoverers of Lake Tanganyika. He seems much broken in health. Lady Burton, who copies Mary, Queen of Scotland, in her dress, was with him. In the evening, we met again. I proposed he should write his reminiscences. He said he could not do so, because he should have to write of so many people. ‘Be charitable to them, and write only of their best qualities,’ I said.—‘I don't care a fig for charity; if I write at all, I must write truthfully, all I know,’ he replied.
He is now engaged in writing a book called ‘Anthropology of Men and Women,’ a title, he said, that does not describe its contents, but will suffice to induce me to read it. What a grand man! One of the real great ones of England he might have been, if he had not been cursed with cynicism. I have no idea to what his Anthropology refers, but I would lay great odds that it is only another means of relieving himself of a surcharge of spleen against the section of humanity who have excited his envy, dislike, or scorn. If he had a broad mind, he would curb these tendencies, and thus allow men to see more clearly his grander qualities.
The two great explorers, SIR RICHARD BURTON and SIR HENRY M. STANLEY, were both friends of ours, and often dined with us. I couple their names because we were once together, with Lady Burton and Lady Stanley, at an hotel in the Engadine, and afterwards on the Lake of Como. My wife grouped them for a photograph, with Captain Mounteney Jephson, Stanley's friend and companion on his last great enterprise in “Darkest Africa,” and a faithful black servant, Sali, who suffered terribly from the Engadine climate. One glorious morning I remarked to Sali that at any rate that day, with such a splendid hot sun, must be all right; but he only whined, “No, no, no, sar; ice make him cold!”
Burton was full of talk and anecdote; Stanley was silent and reserved. But my wife could always succeed in thawing him, and we remember well the dramatic force with which he told us interesting stories of his conversations with the King of Uganda.
My dear Mr. Smithers
Before answering yours of 21st I awaited the dates in motion of our movements and now they are determined. We leave this for Trieste on Sept. 1 and shall be about a week on the road, so you will know where to write.
Much pleased to hear that you have managed an agent pro tem. It was my blunder confounding sheets b & d.
Which is the right phrase Nunc Plaudite or [Vos]? For the life of me I can’t remember and yet I could not have changed [Vos] to Nunc without reason.
In Sept.-Oct. you must send out ample stave of advts & rush the book as hard as you can. Parliament will not meet till later on.
Ausonius is desperately dull & will absolutely require the support of Juvenal. Meanwhile I am carefully supervising Catullus so […]
SIR RICHARD BURTON and MR. STANLEY.
Sir,—Amongst other good things which our Swiss journey has brought us this summer, the chief has been an accidental meeting with Sir and Mrs. Stanley and Mr. Mounteney Jephson, for a fortnight, at the Hotel Kursaal Maloja, in the Upper Engadine. The colossal hotel stands on a small plateau, the frontage to the east looking on the picturesque Sils lake, surrounded by mountains; the back of the hotel west, looking on other mountain scenery, and the precipitous descent into Italy viâ Chiavenna. On Sunday night, the 25th ult., we had a grand storm. The lake was black and green. Dense, black fearful looking clouds enveloped the mountains, the whole lit up by red lurid lightning, accompanied by a glorious artillery of thunder, it turned night into day and lasted some 15 hours. This was attended by hurricanes of wind, rain, sleet, and finally snow, a perfect Dante's "Inferno," which left us on the 26th with snow-covered mountains, blue sky, warm sun, and an atmosphere which makes it a pleasure to live. But this is not what I sat down to write. We had often seen Mr. Stanley in a casual way, but we had never lived in the same house, we had never got to know him. I have had amongst my treasures for many years a note from Mr. Stanley, telling me how much he thought of my husband; and Sir Richard has always had and always testified his great admiration for the “Prince of Travellers.” But now that they are always together, exchanging their mutual experiences and ideas, this admiration has developed into a sincere liking and friendship on both—on all sides—that will will last our lives. I can remember being prepared, from newspaper reports, to see a blustering, noisy, swaggering American, who would want to knock down and kill everything, and would be rude if one spoke to him. When I went forward to welcome him, I told him that I congratulated him on all his achievements, especially the last (his marriage), and that in my opinion he had got quite too much for one man. He stood quite still and stared at me with eyes that seemed of glass or stone, as if he did not see me for at least two minutes. I also stood quite still, and felt by instinct that this peculiarity is the effect of absolute shyness, and not from hauteur, and I have often remarked it in travellers fresh from the desert. We then all sat down, and Sir Richard and I had a hundred thousand things to ask him about, and were both charmed. We think we never met a man so modest, so unwilling to talk of himself and achievements, and yet so simple in narrating clearly any fact you may want to hear and understand. In a soft, quiet voice he will relate the most interesting things, and unconsciously changing his voice and manner, he acts the scene till you seem to see it. We are a party of six, Mr. Jephson being with them and Dr. Grenfell Baker with us, and it is just in our own little circle that his most attractive qualities come out. Without any affectation, he seems to shun all lionising, and to court perfect repose and privacy. He seems to us to be a man of the kindest heart and consideration, and it is only too evident that his followers perfectly idolise him, and would give their lives for him. I know this from Mr. Jephson, whom I knew before he went to Africa. He has also with him his black boy, Saleh, who looks contentment itself. You may see him playing dominoes with English boys (gentlemen's sons) at the next table to his master, in perfect security and happiness. Mr. Stanley is also possessed in the highest degree of another quality of the desert, which is given to a few only, and which also distinguishes my husband far from other men; a sixth sense, an intuitive perception which unveils all that surrounds you, however hidden, hence to mention one small item—lying or intriguing, it is like the gambol of an elephant, and one can scarcely help laughing in the face of any one who attempts it.
Mrs. Stanley, as all the world can tell who have the privilege of knowing her, is a sweet, sympathetic womanly woman, gifted with the highest and most refined intelligence. She seems to understand the great man thoroughly, an achievement in married life seldom accomplished under a year. I could not help remarking to her, after the first greetings were over, what an interesting and romantic meeting is ours. I said, " Thirty years ago my husband was the pioneer of all these travels, and I was the bride. Many travellers have intervened since then, and now (though our fate and yours are very different), after 30 years your husband has crowned these explorations. He is the hero, you are the bride, and we meet in this remote part of Switzerland." I know that these few facts will interest the public, and it is a pleasure to me that my husband, Richard Burton, and I, should testify our sentiments concerning Mr. and Mrs. Stanley. — Yours, &c.
Maloja, August 28. ISABEL BURTON.
Trieste Monday Sept. 8 / 90
No need to enclose (in other envelope) or register letters.
My dear Mr. Smithers
I returned home yesterday night & found two letters—Augt 27 & 30. We can now correspond regularly till mid-November.
The new prospectus, the title-page and the circular of Ovid will do very well (no objection whatever to sending it out with Priapeia.)
I have read reprint of the cancel sheet and deeply regret the necessity of change. But you will see that to oppose the general voice of friends & well-wishers would be impossible.
I return your three trans. of Cat. with pencil scribblings jotted down on the spur of the moment. You are by no means bound to adopt them but you will see what I aim at. Before translating you should read all the versions hitherto made and note their defects. Mostly they are not literal enough & they skirt the manifold difficulties & delicacies of one author's style. Above all things no hurry, we have plenty of time. My part of the work is finished for last copy and I have done half Ausonius.
Augt 30. The index is very good & by no means too detailed: it must have given you no end of trouble.
As regards Catullus we will certainly not insert the Latin. Take Müller's text as our main stand-by with variations where we find something better. The title page will do very well only I would add
Tr. &c &c
Outidanos & Neaniskos
so as to emphasize our individualities. We must avoid all trite notes and dwell at full length upon the erotics which must be our main raison d'etre in view of the host of predecessors.
Maloja (Maloggia) in the Engadin did us both a power of good; also meeting Stanley & his wife—I liked her very much. Also the Bancrofts (Mr. Mrs. and Master) were there and the first as usual kept us all astir. There was my old acquaintance Lord Dunraven, as pleasant as ever & his very charming Duchess of Leinster. Altogether we had a very good time, and we are resolved to pass next summer there before returning to England for good—or bad.
Tell me what you are doing and believe me ev yrs sincy
R. F. B.
C. V. Cat.
now Englished for the first time
literally & realistically
into Verse & Prose etc.
September 9th, 1890
My dear Chaillé-Long
Very glad to see your fist once more and pleased to read your papers. You have indeed hit the nail on the head. Lately I met H. M. S. and his wife at Maloja, Engadine, and like her very much. He was still in poor health, and I thought somewhat depressed preparing for his lectures in the States. He is to give 50 and if possible 100, Major Pond being the impresario. What the deuce have you been doing in Corea? Making money, I hope. When you are settled in Egypt, please send me a line. I was choked off the mines of Midian by the idiot who made over the country to the Turks, and I know the Turks too well ever to do biz with them. You will find Nile Valley, wonderfully altered and the keeper in full possession. My wife joins in kindest remembrances.
Ever yours sincerely
R. F. Burton.
P.S.—Can't you pass through Trieste en route for Egypt? There is a bedroom for you. I want to talk over your Stanley article in The Republic. Nothing like a U.S.-er to pitch into another. Vive Valeque.
In Paris I received a letter from Sir Richard Burton, known to me familiarly as “Dick Burton.” The letter, dated September 20th, begged me to come to Trieste and go thence to Egypt, that it was little, if at all, out of the way, and that he, as well as ‘Isabel’ (Lady Burton), was anxious to make the acquaintance of my wife. I was seriously considering the proposition to join him and Lady Burton, when a despatch from Trieste, October 20th, announced Burton's sudden death.
Burton was the prince of African explorers, a noble soul for whom I had a special attachment. His death caused me inexpressible pain. …
The fact is, Burton had been badly treated by Speke and Grant, and hence his mésintelligence with them. Burton always claimed that Speke, his subordinate, had acted without his authority and had taken advantage of his illness to leave him, and take from him the honour of the discovery of the Lake Tanganyika, which belonged to Burton as chief of the expedition. Burton's characteristic was loyalty, sincerity, with a horror of hypocrisy and cant. The Royal Geographical Society held him in little favour because of his independent and critical speech. Like Gordon and Baker, Burton was not liked by the cronies of the R.G.S.
Burton at twenty-one was a lieutenant in the 18th Infantry in Bombay. There it was he laid the foundation of his future fame in Oriental letters, by the acquisition of Hindustani, Guzerati, Persian, Marathi, Sindhi, Telugu, Afghan, Armenian, Turkish, Arabic. To these should be added a number of African idioms. He not only spoke the foregoing languages and several European tongues, but understood their literature.
Returned from his celebrated journey to Mecca, Burton found his vocation gone and himself without means. He was a splendid swordsman and a perfect master of bayonet fencing, then unknown in the British Army. With the idea of improving his circumstances, he wrote and published a manual of bayonet-fighting. A few years afterward it became the text-book of the Army, and he was authorized to draw upon the War Office for the sum of one shilling. The story sounds like a bad joke, but it is a fact. Sir Richard drew the shilling, and, instead of wearing it at his watch-chain as a memorial of the gratitude of his Government, gave it to a beggar. In spite of the conies of the R.G.S., who despised him, he was finally appointed H. B. M.'s Consul at Trieste, the salary of which enabled him to live modestly.
Trieste Sept. 24 / 90
My dear Mr. Smithers
I return Arbuth. who, as usual, is very nice and I join him in congratulating you upon the end of Labour No. i. My copy is not yet come: can there be any foul play in the matter? I delayed writing to you until your well deserved holiday comes to a close.
We must begin Cat. in real earnest about beginning of Oct. Never be deterred because someone has used the right word. Annex it impudently & glory in the theft unless it pay better to acknowledge it as a loan—this can occur only occasionally. Don't begin notes till we have both finished our transl. I shall have a small selection but they should go under Neaniskos.
As soon as you re-coup, please write personally to my wife and repay advances; with many thanks, saying nothing more except private chat & about the baby. I do not wish her to know that we make coin by it & I wholly ignore Catullus. Let me have accounts as regularly as you please when there is anything to account for. Also direct all letters to me, not to Lady B. because accidental openings often occur. I am very hopeful about Cat. & I think that Outid. and Neanis. will make names for themselves.
I am working too hard at Scented Garden for other disport and keep Ausonius for the winter which will easily see him finished. But he is flat and will want a blend of the sparkling & spicy. I am thinking of going at the (Greek) Anthology next. What do you say to it?
Write soon, ev yrs
R. F. B.
1 Copy (no engraving)
Henry R. Tedder Esq.
Librarian Athenaeum Club
1 Copy (no illustrations)
I think you had better have two sets (bound only when wanted).
The greater part with the Frontispiece.
A few (specials) without it.
Trieste Oct. 4
My dear Mr. Smithers
You have had a sad tale of disaster to tell me and I deeply regret your disasters. Don't keep silence, as croaking and cursing are good for the spirit; continue to tell me all & let me hope that misfortune is in the descendant. As regards your difficulty about agent you should consult Arbuthnot: I will do the same. But why not confine yourself to sending out only the copies applied for by safe people & keep the rest till we can advertise in Catullus.
Do I rightly understand that you have already 240 subscribers?
I wrote that post-card to show innocence and to see whether it would arrive safely. No sign of your letter having been opened.
I am now upon a new lay. Read "Memoirs" and return. The little vol. (200 pp.) is being translated into English and will be ready for printing by early spring. It is most interesting & I shall add notes. The subject (natural hermaphroditism) has strongly affected Germany. All you will have to do is to collect biological details about Chevalier d’Eon & other men-women. This should follow Catullus and there should be no row about printing it privately.
I rejoice to see that you are not ceding to evils but [contra fortia]. The enemy is acting like a ruffian and so roughly that we can finesse him. ev yrs sincy
(who still expects to be famous)
Presentation copies to Dr. Leslie (“to be forwarded to Canada”) and John Payne.
None to Cotton (Academy).
Send Prospectus (in my name) to Lord Dunraven (who is quite safe) 27 Norfolk St Park Lane London W.
You should keep some of the old Prospectuses and Advts for safe people only.
Presentation copies to Tedder and Zotenberg (not Gotenburg), the illustration (etching) cut out. “Copying clean” will be merely mechanical. Shall not be sorry to return to Arabic.
We had the usual burst of fine weather in the last third of August ending with a violent storm and a great fall of snow. Now the world is still somewhat white, but the weather is all perfection. The season however is ending and people are all on the flit.
When do you take your holiday?
We shall stay at Trieste till mid-November after which I intend proceeding to Corfu & Athens.
With many good wishes ev yrs sincerely. R.F.B.
Trieste Oct. 19
My dear Mr. Smithers
I have received a fine breezy note from you (Oct. 12): much pleased that you stick to Darwin's favorite "It’s dogged as does it." Our long lane must have a turning soon. Let me know your other address and see specimens of new Circulars. Don’t trouble about money or accounts till press of business is over. Certainly no change of binding—you have explained the cause of its lightness. How many presentations have you sent for me? And could you kindly send my name to each and every in the shape of a card. That will save me the bother of writing. You should keep seventy prospectuses (the old ones) with "Translator of the A. Nights" in it. If I have not spoken of it before send Prospectus to
L. Faber Esq.,
H.B.M.'s Consul, Fiume
Glad to hear that Catullus progresses. I shall expect him in a week and that will give me some 20 days to look over and copy my own work. You ought not to delay beyond that as I start for Greece about Nov. 15.
Thanks for kind offer about Chev. D'Eon & those of same kind. I am preparing the book very carefully and want it to be a joint venture—it seems to be certain of taking. The subject is most interesting and quite new as a thing. I shall have hard work but no matter. Glad to hear that you have shaken off the cough and have recovered from "holiday", we have had a succession of violent storms here.
Sir,—In The Times of the 21st inst. there is a notice of the death of Sir Richard Burton, an extract from which I give here :—”To the unhappy dispute between Burton and Speke, which gave rise to such bitter feeling, it is not necessary to do more than allude.” I do not myself see why your readers should have any doubt as to which of the two travellers was to blame for this “unhappy dispute,” neither why a slur should rest on the memory of Speke, one of the most upright men I ever knew—brave, noble, and true.
Burton’s instructions from the Royal Geographical Society were :—
“The great object of the expedition is to penetrate from Kilwa, &c., and to make the best of your way to the Lake of Nyassa, &c. Having obtained all the information you require here, you are to proceed northward, &c., towards the source of the Bahr-el-Abiad (White Nile), which it will be your next great object to discover. You will be at liberty to return to England by descending the Nile, or you may return by the route you advanced.”
On his return from Unyanyembe after discovering Lake Tanganyika, his companion, Speke, wished him to follow up the above instructions, but Burton, using strong language, declared “he was not going to see any more lakes.” Hence Speke went north alone and discovered the Victoria Nyanza, returning to Unyanyembe with his 20 followers. The discovery of this lake seems to have been galling to Burton; it created a “bitter feeling” and few words were exchanged by them during the remaining part of the journey to the East Coast. Things went from bad to worse. Speke was too generous to publish what occurred at this time, but he communicated grave charges against Burton to his relatives and to the Geographical Society, and the judgement of the Society was shown in the fact of their selecting Speke, and not Burton, to complete his discoveries.
The two travellers had no sympathies, their natures entirely differed. Speke observed and mapped and collected the specimens of natural history. He was the geographer and sportsman of the expedition. Burton knew little of these matters. He excelled in his own line, made copious notes by day and by night of all he saw and heard; he had the gift of languages; while surrounded by natives he amused them, won their confidence, and so obtained those stores of information which have been since transferred to something like 80 volumes. He travelled with three heavy cases of books for consultation. These included a work on the Upper Nile, which would have been of important service to Speke-had he ever seen it!
A sore subject of “quarrel” was the non-payment of the Wanyamwezi porters who had accompanied them to their own “Land of the Moon.” These men did not receive their just wages, in consequence of which upwards of 100 of the same race deserted the next expedition, which was in command of Captain Speke and me.
Under the above circumstances, and many more I could name, no one will feel surprised that “unhappy disputes” and “bitter feeling” existed between the two travellers, and I cannot see how it can be said of Sir Richard Burton that “no man ever succeeded better with the natives of Africa and Asia.” Neither do I agree with the writer of the article that he was “a man of real humanity,” when I consider his treatment of his companion and his native followers.
My long dead friend’s honour is to dear to me to allow a shade of doubt to rest on his honoured name; therefore, with all respect for those who mourn the more recently dead, I ask your insertion of this in your valued paper.
I have the honour to be your obedient servant,
J. A. Grant,
Househill, Nairn, Oct. 25.
I had the pleasure of a slight acquaintance with the late Sir Richard Burton, familiarly known to his friends as "Ruffian Dick." Not that there was anything offensive meant by that epithet. Indeed, in his case it had a playfully complimentary significance. There were in the old days, as many readers of SPORTING TRUTH will recollect, two famous pugilists who went by the nicknames respectively of the Old and Young Ruffian—the term referred purely to their style of fighting, and was not intended to convey the idea that they were any less decent or civilised members of society than their neighbours. For much the same reason was Sir Richard Burton dubbed "Ruffian Dick" by his pals. He was, without doubt, a terrible fighter, and sent to their last account in single combat more enemies than perhaps any man of his time. A man of peculiar temper, too, and strong individuality, with a wholesome contempt for Mrs. Grundy and all her ways. But his great distinguishing feature was his courage. No braver man than "Ruffian Dick" ever lived. His daring was of that romantic order which revels in danger for danger's sake. No crisis, however appalling, could shake his splendid nerve. He was as cool when his life hung on a hair's breadth, as when he sat smoking in his own snuggery.
I know of nothing in the annals of adventure to surpass his memorable journey to Mecca with the Mahommedan pilgrims. None but a follower of the True Prophet had ever penetrated the shrine where the coffin of Mohammed swings between earth and heaven. No eyes but those of the Faithful were permitted to gaze upon that Holy of Holies. Certain and speedy death awaited any infidel who should profane with his footsteps those sacred precincts or seek to pry into those hidden mysteries. There were secret pass-words among the pilgrims by which they could detect at once any one who was not of the True Faith, and detection meant instant death at the hands of enraged fanatics. Yet all these difficulties and dangers—apparently insurmountable—did not deter Ruffian Dick from undertaking the perilous enterprise. He went through a long course of preparation—studied all the minute ways of the Arabs—he already spoke their language like a native—professed the Mohammedan religion, acquired the secret pass words, and then boldly joined the great annual procession of pilgrims to the shrine of the Prophet.
Figure 6. Sporting Truth.
Careful and well-coached as he was, he forgot himself once, and was within an ace of betrayal and death. There are certain natural functions which the Mohammedans perform in a different attitude from that in vogue among Europeans. One night Ruffian Dick forgot this, and on returning to the tent noticed one dark pair of eyes fixed on him suspiciously. The rest were all asleep but Burton felt that he was suspected by the watchful owner of that one pair of eyes. The next morning that too-vigilant pilgrim was found dead—stabbed to the heart. "It was a case of his life or mine," said Ruffian Dick calmly when telling the tale. From that pilgrimage he came back safe, but there was not a single hour of the months it occupied that his life was not in his hands. The slightest slip would have betrayal him. But his coolness and nerve never deserted him, and he lived to be able to say that he was the first "infidel " that ever gazed upon the mysteries of Mecca.
How perfect his disguise was, the following anecdote will show. On his return from the pilgrimage to Mecca, his leave had expired and he had to return to India at once without time to rig himself out with a fresh outfit. One evening a party of officers were lounging outside Shepheard's Hotel at Cairo; as they sat talking and smoking, there passed repeatedly in front of them an Arab in his loose slowing robes, with head proudly erect, and the peculiar swinging stride of those sons of the desert. As he strode backwards and forwards he drew nearer and nearer to the little knot of officers, till at last, as he swept by; the flying folds of his burnous brushed against one of the officers. "Damn that nigger's impudence," said the officer. "If he does that again I'll kick him." To his surprise the dignified Arab suddenly halted, wheeled round, and exclaimed, "Well, damn it, Hawkins, that's a nice way to welcome a fellow after two year's absence." "By G—d, it's Ruffian Dick," cried Hawkins. And Ruffian Dick it was, but utterly transformed out of all resemblance to a European. His complexion was burned by the sun to a deep umber tint, and his cast of features was more Oriental than English, so that in the robes of an Arab he might well pass for one of that nomad race.
I remember on one occasion meeting him on his return from one of his many daring expeditions when he had brought back with him an ugly scar across the face. He frankly told us that he had received it from the husband of an Oriental lady with whom he had had an intrigue. "Ruffian Dick" had been caught red-handed, and in the brawl which followed, had received that nasty cut across the face from a yataghan. “And is that man living now, Ruffian Dick” asked one of his auditors. "I think not” said Burton, coolly.
Ruffian Dick had a stern, fierce, almost forbidding face, and not of remarkable power and character, and I remember an excellent portrait of him, I think by Oules, in the Academy a few years back, which attracted much attention. His wife, a tall and handsome lady, was almost as intrepid as her husband, and followed him in many of his adventurous journeys. She was devoted to him and so far from being jealous of his attentions to other women, took quite a frank delight in telling the stories of his amours. But "Ruffian Dick" was not only a great traveller and explorer, he was a scholar and a man of letters. I daresay some readers of SPORTING TRUTH have seen, or at any rate heard of his unexpurgated edition of the " Arabian Nights,” which is hardly the sort of book a man would care to leave lying about on his drawing room table. He spoke and wrote fluently I am afraid to say how many languages, translated the poem of Camoens from Portuguese into spirited and graceful English verse, wrote an elaborate history of the Sword, besides narratives of his own adventures- But if his widow ever chooses to write the story of his life, the public will have some much racier details than it has ever had yet of the extraordinary career of "Ruffian Dick."
SIR RICHARD BURTON: SOME PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF AN EXTRAORDINARY MAN
G W S
London, October 22.
I believe I first met Richard Burton at a dinner given by Mr. Bateman, at that time manager of the Lyceum Theatre, some twenty years ago. He was then about fifty; in the prime of a strength and vigor which it seemed as if nothing could shake. His fame had been established since 1850, when he returned to England after his discovery of Lake Tanganyika. In every way he was a notable figure; a man at whom you would look more than once whether you knew who he was or not. He looked like what he was—a traveller who had seen many men and many climes. An Eastern sun had tanned him brown; a yellowish, muddy, freckled brown; a complexion a man may be born with, but seldom attains to later in life. From the mere hue of his skin you would set him down as a native of the tropics, born somewhere in Asia or Polynesia. If such a notion came into your head, it was dispelled at once by the features and bearing of the man. There was about him such an air of energy and force and masterfulness as we do not readily associate with Orientals. Those rugged features and the burning light of his blue eyes, deep-sunk, with a certain fierceness about them and him, the stature, the broad shoulders, the muscular frame, the air of alertness and cool readiness for whatever might be coming—in none of these traits was there any likeness to the languor and leisurely indolence of the softer races. He had, indeed, something of the Arab about him, and still more of the Malay, for whatever the Westerner may think, there are plenty of Oriental peoples with all the vital force of the European; or of the tigers In their own jungles. He had points of resemblance with Mr. Stanley, I afterward thought; the mouth and especially the singular smile were in each of the two men very much the same. The muscles of the mouth seemed trained to other uses than the expression of pleasurable emotion.
This dinner lasted, or the talk lasted, from eight in the evening till four next morning. There were other interesting persons, but it was Burton who kept us till this unreasonable hour. His talk had the kind of fascination which Robinson Crusoe’s might have on his return from his island in the Pacific; or which Othello’s had; or which Mr. Stanley’s has when he unbosoms himself frankly, as he sometimes does when the company is to his mind; or when most of the company have departed. It had a dramatic power which was remarkable, and a use of pantomime which both men evidently learned from long intercourse with African tribes, on whom any other language than that of pantomime was thrown away, unless you happened to know their own. But there I drop the comparison. Burton’s conversation, with all its merits and its quite irresistible attractiveness, had other qualities which were altogether his own. Some of them have since come out in his translation of the Arabian Nights, and still more in his notes to the translation. It is better to indicate them and pass on. But whatever his faults were, it might be hard to name another man who could and would have kept about him for eight or nine hours a group mostly composed of hardened men of the world, of journalists, of men who had to go far in search of novelty, and who, moreover, had to be up early next morning for work; or most of them had. A biography of Burton made up of the materials which he himself supplied on that occasion, would be something of which there is no present example in literature.
He was at this time, I think, consul in Damascus. Some years after there was a smoking party given by a well-known Londoner. I went late, and on my way upstairs stumbled against a man sitting on the steps, with a book and pencil in his band, absorbed in his reading and the notes he was making. It was Burton When I spoke to him he woke up as if from a dream, with the dazed air of one not quite sure where he is. I asked him what he was reading. It proved to be Camoens, and he told me he was translating the Portuguese poet. It seemed an odd place for such work, and I said as much. “Oh,” answered Burton, “I can read anywhere or write anywhere. And I always carry Camoens about with me. You see, he is a little book, and I have done most of my translating in these odd moments,—or, as you say, in this odd fashion.” And he added, with a kind of cynical grin on his face, “You will find plenty of dull people in the rooms above.” He had been bored, and this was his refuge.
“Besides,” he said, “I have been up all last night, and I can’t waste time.” I looked at him with that sort of curiosity one has in the presence of a perfectly unique, or, at any rate, original person, whose character and capacities are both evidently beyond the common. And I asked, “Are you never tired?” he answered “Never.” Indeed, now that he had fairly withdrawn his attention from his book, he seemed wide awake and fresh. As he did not seem to mind, I pursued him with questions.
“What do you mean by ‘never’?”
“I mean that I cannot remember that I ever knew what it was to feel tired or to be unable to go on with any work I wanted to do.”
“Do you know Portuguese well?”
“Yes, it is no effort to master a language or a dialect.”
“How many do you know?”
I forbore to ask him what they were. He added, however: “I include different dialects of the same language in the twenty-seven.” Bayard Taylor had a similar gift of tongues and power of mastering local peculiarities of speech. “I know,” said Taylor once, “all the various patois and dialects of South Germany as well as any peasant knows any one of them which he speaks.”
There came from the drawing-room on the floor above a great noise of talk; you might call it a roar of human voices. There were clouds of smoke drifting and eddying about Guests and servants were passing and repassing. And there in the centre of this stream and amid all the social hurly-burly sat Burton, indifferent to every thing around him, forgetful of it, hearing nothing but the music of Portuguese verse, living over again the miserable yet heroic life of a poor poet who had been dead three hundred years. There you saw one side of Burton which not everybody has seen; or had then seen. He was known, of course, as a writer of books. He had written many books, too many; some of them good, but the Burton the world knew was the daring adventurer, the explorer, the great traveller, the man who delighted to put his life at the mercy of a multitude of Moslem fanatics at Mecca, or of black savages in Central Africa.
He had already done most of the exploring work on which his fame, or that part of his fame, will rest permanently. He had made his expedition to Somaliland, a perilous endeavor. He had entered the sacred city of Harrar as he had entered Mecca, a thousand deaths encompassing him. He had plunged into Africa and had to plunge out again, he and Speke just escaping with their lives. He had tried again and journeyed to Ujiji, he and Speke the first white men to do it, and found his great lake, Speke finding also the Victoria Nyanza. He had gone on a mission to the King of Dahomey. He had gone to South America and crossed that continent; parts of it then not much better known than Africa itself. The world knew him, in short, as a restless spirit with a passion for travel, for penetrating into the least known recesses of the globe; careless of health, of danger. Impelled by a spirit which seemed to belong rather more to the Elizabethan than the Victorian era. He had not travelled to write books, he had written books because he travelled. And here he was on a thronged London staircase in Belgravia at midnight deep buried in the stanzas of the Lusiad; his soul engrossed in pure literature. He had in him, in truth, the soul of a scholar as well as of the crusader or the buccaneer. “His translation of Camoens,” says a competent critic, “is in itself a masterly performance, abounding with the most recondite and learned annotations.” And many of his books of travel are full of exact and curious learning.
The one piece of literature with which Burton’s name is likely to be most closely connected is his translation of the Arabian Nights. That, too, is a masterly performance, yet it cannot be discussed merely, or perhaps mainly, as literature. The book is a kind of Encyclopaedia of Eastern life, and Burton has dealt with it as a man of action might deal with a series of physiological problems, of which many are entirely outside either literature or the ordinary range of human interests or social interests.
He has handled some of the most repulsive questions that can be raised with the most complete unreserve. “The sense of decency, ” said a European traveller, “ does not exist in the East.” Burton was in many points more Oriental than European and this elaborate work proves it over and over again. It will remain a monument of knowledge and of audacity.
A portrait of Burton was painted some years ago by Sir Frederick Leighton; probably the strongest and most masculine of all the portraits which have come from the hand of the accomplished President of the Royal Academy. He has drawn Burton as he was, extenuating nothing, and the force and fidelity of the. painting leave nothing to be desired. Where this picture now is I know not, but it ought to be, if it is not, in the National Portrait Gallery. For Burton will always have a place, and a high one, on any list that can be drawn up of the extraordinary men of his own time, a man whom few surpassed in courage, in versatility, in actual exploits, or in some of the qualities which are most essential to the heroic character. He died Consul at Trieste, almost unknown to the people among whom his last years were spent, and half forgotten in England. That is all the British Government thought itself able to do for Burton except to confer on him a Knight Commandership of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, an honor which he shares with some two hundred others, many of them successful colonial politicians. G. W. S.
[…] on the 29th, in a very fine morning, I was again shaking hands with Mr. and Mrs. Lay at Hankow. It was here that, on looking through some newspapers, I came upon a telegraphic paragraph from London, headed, "Death of a Man of Note." My friend of many years, and my colleague, not competitor, in translation, Captain Sir Richard Burton, had gone. Linked with some foes and with a thousand friends, this indefatigable author and explorer was, perhaps, too independent of public opinion to be conventionally popular and to be fairly recognized and rewarded. His papers showed that he was on the point of writing to me in answer to my letter on the subject of my visit to Macao; but the letter was never written: "Flere et meminisse relictum est."
Burton had many great and endearing qualities, with others of which perhaps the most curious was his pleasure in dressing himself, so to speak, in wolf’s clothing, in order to give an idea that he was worse than he really was. I attended his funeral at the Roman Catholic Cemetery near Sheen. It had been arranged by his widow, Lady Burton, a devoted Catholic, and was crowded with her Catholic friends. I did not see more than three geographers among them, of whom Lord Northbrook, a former President of the Society, was one. From pure isolation, we two kept together the whole time. There were none of Burton's old associates. It was a ceremony quite alien to anything that I could conceive him to care for.
Anyhow, I was glad to be instrumental in procuring a Government Pension of £300 a year for Lady Burton, and in this way. At a meeting of the Council of the Royal Geographical Society, Sir Mountstuart E. Grant Duff, the then President, said that private information had reached him (of which he mentioned some details) that Government would be disposed to grant a pension to Lady Burton if a good case could be made out relating to Burton's services to science, and if the Council of the Society were to back it. Would any one undertake to carry this through? No one answered, so he addressed himself to me personally, asking if I would. I expressed a cordial desire to help, but feeling at the moment too ignorant of the views of competent authorities concerning Burton's linguistic knowledge (on which much emphasis had been laid), and of much else that might with advantage be advanced in his favour, was unable to answer off-hand, but willingly undertook to inquire and report. This I did, asking the opinions of many, with the result that Burton's knowledge of vernacular Arabic and other languages was considered to be unequalled, but not his classical knowledge of them, and that it was better to rest his claims on his wide discursiveness rather than on any one specified performance. I followed this advice, and my Report formed the basis of the proposed application, which in due course gained its end. My own acquaintance with Lady Burton was slight, and my memories of her husband refer chiefly to his unmarried days.
Several of us subscribed to have a public memorial of Speke, and obtained a plot in Kensington Gardens to place it. It now stands in the form of an obelisk, by the side of the broad gravel walk leading northwards from the Albert Memorial. There was much difficulty in selecting an inscription which should not arouse criticism, for there were still those who maintained with Burton that Speke had not discovered the true source of the Nile. Lord Houghton solved the difficulty by simplifying the proposed legend to “Victoria Nyanza and the Nile,” which words the obelisk now bears.
Speke, Burton, Grant, Baker, Livingstone, and Stanley are all gone; I wish it could be arranged to make a joint and interesting memorial of our great African explorers in the plot where Speke's obelisk now stands in neglected solitariness. It would not require more than two or three extra yards on either side, parallel to the Grand Walk, and the same in depth, to give room for this, and to allow of the growth of a few hardy plants suggestive of tropical vegetation, with pathways between them. England has done so very much for African geography that she ought to bring the fact home to the national conscience.
It is a difficult thing to sit down quietly to write the description of a dear friend at any time, and when the friend is (or was, I am sorry to say) so many-sided a man as Richard Francis Burton, the task becomes a thousand times more difficult than in the case of an ordinary individual. I do not propose in any way to give the story of Burton's life—that has been done already, and doubtless will soon be done again—but rather to give to the world my own impressions of him as a man. Others may have known him longer and perchance better than I, but still I have known him intimately; I have been his companion in health and in sickness, in anticipation and disappointment, and have seen him in many and varying moods, and if I have the requisite skill may haply give a sketch of him which will represent him fairly to the world.
Burton was a man whose mental capacity was extraordinary, and whose physical powers were far above the average, whilst he also possessed a phenomenal love and power of hard work. It may be asked why a man so exceptionally gifted did not achieve a phenomenal success and die a Peer and Knight of the Garter. The answer is not far to seek; he preferred a position where he was practically independent, and where he could say and do what he liked, to one which, however splendid, would involve certain restraints. He was not a man to endure the wearing of any fetters, not even if they were golden and bejewelled. His independence he valued before all else, and this love of freedom and his unflinching, outspoken honesty prevented his ever becoming a courtier. If he could have stooped ever so little no one can calculate the heights (as judged by ordinary standards) to which he must have risen.
Many of his friends have lamented that his rare qualities and unequalled services in travel and to science, as well as those rendered to his country in Scinde and in the consular service, had never been properly recognised or adequately rewarded; not one word of complaint or repining was ever to be heard from his lips on this subject. He knew, and made no secret of his knowledge, the reasons why honours had not been showered upon him, and always averred that it was his own choice that it was so, for he far preferred to remain as he was to placing himself under an obligation to any than. His horror of being thought a self-seeker often caused him to say and do things which have been distorted to his disadvantage, but he never bore malice, and was more free from jealousy than any other man I have ever seen. Perhaps when one first met this tall, dark man, with his scarred face, piercing dark eyes under the overhanging brow, his mouth hidden by a long moustache, one thought the face a striking one but not attractive, and the cynical and sarcastic remarks which he often made did not tend to at first overcome this feeling. Then one came to know the man, however, one found that those eyes could beam kindly upon his friends, that advice and information would take the place of cynicism and sarcasm, and that under the rugged exterior there was concealed a heart as tender as that of any woman. Witty remarks and humoristic sayings abounded in his talk, but it was rare indeed that they were calculated to really hurt any man but himself, and it is a fact that most of the stories that have been circulated to his detriment have arisen from his way of telling anecdotes about himself, and putting his own share in the transaction in the blackest possible light. He knew his friends would understand him and recked nothing of what the rest of the world would think.
His entire freedom from jealousy was amply proved to me on the few and rare occasions when he permitted himself to say anything about his dead companion, Speke. Of Speke's work as an observer and geographer, and his industry, he ever spoke in the highest terms of praise, while of the causes of the unhappy difference between them he refused to say ever a word. Of things which had been said against himself he could give satisfactory explanations in every case, and clearly explained how easy it might be for accusations to be bandied about which had no other foundation than the delirious fancy of a fever-stricken brain. He showed, and in this my own experiences corroborate his, that often an idea is conceived during an acute attack of fever, and endures afterwards during periods of apparent convalescence, when the fever has not been really cured, but only rendered latent, sufficiently long to make as permanent and lasting an impression upon the memory as an actual occurrence, and that these fancies or ideas are often cherished for years as being actual facts. To the morbid influences of solitude or restricted companionship, and bad food (implying lack of nutrition for the brain as well as for other organs), to illnesses and demoralising surroundings he—and here again I can fully bear him out—attributed many random sayings and even writings which had been reported to the detriment of other travellers, and which both for the credit of those who first said or wrote them, and also of those who circulated them, especially of the latter, ought never to have been made known to the world at large.
Notwithstanding the allowances he made for the circumstances by which men were surrounded, as influencing their thoughts and sayings, he did not consider that they could be used as an excuse for acts of violence, and always held that it was both unjust and unlawful to force a way into or through any country in despite of the wishes of the natives.
In regard to slavery he was fully in accord with all the best feeling on the subject, and, though he did not enter into the matter actively himself, always encouraged me in my endeavours to combat this evil, and gave me good and wholesome advice, which moreover had the advantage of being practical and practicable.
In his feelings towards the negro race he held a wise position, as far removed, on the one side, from the looking upon each and every man with a dark skin as a “nigger,” as from the gushing philanthropy which exalts the negro of the West Coast, debased by gin and spurious civilisation, on a pedestal of impossible virtues, on the other. Gin and gunpowder he would always have tabooed in Africa, and he was equally strong against the forcing upon the negroes a meretricious imitation of European civilisation, instead of leading them onwards and upwards to a true civilisation of their own. So averse was he to the results of this spurious culture, that those who did not know the true feelings of the man, when they have read his humorous and cynical remarks upon its unhappy victims, have often considered that he was hostile to them and not to the system of which they are the lamentable results.
His scientific, apart from his linguistic and scholarly attainments, were most wonderful, and if he had cared to make them known to the world he would have ranked high as geologist, naturalist, anthropologist, botanist, or antiquarian; in fact, he was admirably equipped in all ways as a scientific explorer, and when you add to the above qualifications his marvellous aptitude for languages and his equally marvellous accuracy, it must be allowed that no traveller of present or past ages outrivals, even if any equals or comes near him. Going over ground which he explored, with his Lake Regions of Central Africa in my hand, I was astonished at the acuteness of his perception and the correctness of his descriptions. One was tempted to apply the phrase of verbal photographs to his records of travel, but though equalling photographs in minuteness and faithfulness, they far excelled photographs in being permeated with a true artistic sense. As in Central Africa, so in other countries, the writings of Richard Burton on his many and varied travels, though they were not profitable to him in a pecuniary sense, being “caviare to the general,” will hold their place with those of Bruce and a few others as standard and classical works when much of the sensational literature of so-called exploration, which is now poured out with as much rapidity and facility as three-volume novels, and of an equally sensational character, will have been entirely forgotten.
His translation of the Lusiads of Camoens proves both his philological and poetical powers, as does his rendering of The Thousand Nights and a Night; but while the latter must be locked in the closet of the scholar, the former can be read by each and all with advantage. The erotic nature of much of The Thousand Nights and a Night and of some other works which he had a share in preparing for the press has been brought forward by his enemies as proving that he had an impure mind, but nothing could be more unfair. As the pathologist must study pathology in order to find a cure for disease, so Burton, as a student of human nature, had to examine and analyse the impure as well as the pure, for human nature is so intimately compounded of both good and evil that he who studies one alone is apt to arrive at conclusions more erroneous than he would if he had never studied at all.
Of his religious opinions it is more difficult to speak than of anything else; his intellect recognised the fact that there must be a Creator, but it did not and could not tell him who or what that Creator was. His was a mind which required absolute proof of any system of religion before he could believe, but at the same time it was so acute that it detected flaws in any chain of reasoning by which any one endeavoured to prove to him that a religion was true. For those who faced him in theological discussion he was a difficult man to grapple with, as his retentive memory was so stocked with facts culled from Bible, Alkoran, and ancient and almost forgotten history that the brave man who entered into the lists with him found himself confronted with weapons of which he had never dreamed, his most cherished arguments confronted by others of which he was obliged to admit the cogency, in fact, his forces both outnumbered and out-generalled. Perhaps the best thing that one can say about Burton in his attitude towards religion is what he used to say about religion himself: “I cannot understand it, and therefore I know nothing.” It was certainly not for want of study that he neither knew nor understood, for I do not believe any man was ever more qualified to write a critical comparison of the various religions of the world. Notwithstanding his own attitude of unbelief (or rather lack of belief) he never disputed the right of others to believe what they chose, or attempted to sap their faith. His ever affectionate and devoted attachment to his wife, who is an ardent Roman Catholic, is proof of this if proof were wanted.
Another point of superiority in Burton to most men was his power of instantly putting a stop to argument and dissension, and this whether the parties were white, black, or of both colours. Fortunately I have not seen him have cause to do this more than twice or thrice, but on each occasion his influence was magical. As he could control others so he could also control himself, and in my experience of him I have never seen him lose his temper, and the perfect submission with which during the last few years of his life he acquiesced in the regulations of his wife and his doctor, without one word of murmuring or symptom of dissatisfaction, was one of the most touching things I ever witnessed, and also a proof of how completely he had mastered what in his young days had been a fiery temper. These minute regulations were doubtless dictated by loving care and medical necessity, but none the less must have been galling to one who had always been a rule to himself, and had eaten, slept, drank, smoked, and worked as and when it best suited his own inclination.
Burton must always live in our memories as a great man who achieved much, and who might have achieved more had he not been peculiarly sensitive and afraid of the reproach being made that he was working for his own advantage. Had he lived in the Elizabethan instead of the Victorian era he would have been an epoch maker. And perhaps an age may again come in which a man of his exceptional type may find due scope for his energies and abilities. As it is, Scinde, Mecca, Harar, Somaliland, Tanganyika (to say nothing of lesser journeys), are proud names for him to have emblazoned on his escutcheon. …
Soldier, scholar, poet, explorer, it will be long before we again see his equal, and as we feel his loss and regret never again to hear his voice, so must our sympathy be true and deep for her who has been his loyal, trusty, loving helpmate for so many years. Good-bye, Dick.
A totally different type of man was shown in Richard Burton, a reversal of most of the characteristics of Gordon. Self-reliant, self-sustained, seeking no support from heaven or earth, substituting self-will for faith, and strenuous effort for Divine assistance; endowed by nature with a frame of iron and muscles of steel, he was an athlete who might have figured in the arena in Greek or Roman times. Audacious in speech and act, and fond of shocking the prejudices of those with whom he talked, he was the expounder of the most outrageous paradoxes possible to conceive. He was eminently a social animal; loved the pleasures of the table, and would talk with a friend all night, in preference to going to bed, and in the Chaucerian style. Yet with women I never knew him even hint an indelicacy; for the charm of his conversation was to them very great, he had so much to tell.
In his earlier days he was a strikingly handsome man; and even since his face had been scarred and furrowed by wounds and trials, there yet lingered on that expressive countenance the “faded splendour wan,” which had survived his youth. Among his personal habits was that of carrying in his hand an iron walking-stick, as heavy as a gun, to keep his muscles properly exercised, and a blow from his fist was like a kick from a horse. Mind and muscle with him were equally strong propellers, and the animal nature as vigorous as the intellectual. He had the faculty of making staunch friends and bitter enemies, and many of each.
Burton had a curious characteristic, which he shared with Lord Byron: that of loving to paint himself much blacker than he really was; and to affect vices, much as most men affect virtues, and with the same insincerity.
It amused him to reverse Hamlet's advice, of assuming a virtue though he had it not, and to startle strangers with dark hints of things unmentionable to ears polite.
In some conversations with Trelawny, recently published, that old and intimate friend of Byron dwells on that trait of Byron's character, laughing good-naturedly at it, when questioned as to Byron's real moral character, by his curious interlocutor, who seems to have taken Manfred as a true type of the poet, darkly hinting at haunting memories of past sins.
“Alone with me,” says Trelawny, “Byron never boasted of his vices. When others were present, he tried to shock them, and blacken his own character; but he had few vices, and none of those he most affected.”
This paragraph might have been as truly written of Burton as of Byron; and a propensity such as this, shared in by two men of such superior intellect, and strong hatred of cant or pretension of any kind, offers a theme most puzzling to the student of human nature. Nothing amused Burton more than to defy popular prejudices, and horrify simple-minded people by darkly hinting at imaginary sins committed by himself or comrades under stress of circumstances or the pressure of necessity, during his wanderings among savage men in remote places on the sea or on the desert.
He told me, among many others, one story corroborative of this, over which he chuckled most heartily, while narrating it.
Dining in England with a very strait-laced set of people in the country, who, he fancied, considered him as something little short of an ogre, he met several very young ladies, and he made up his mind to horrify them. He commenced giving a narrative of an imaginary shipwreck on the Red Sea, or the Blue Nile, remote from all human habitation or help.
After describing how they all suffered from the pangs of hunger, and the wolfish glances they began to cast on each other from time to time, as the days wore on, and no relief came; dropping his voice to a mysterious whisper, almost under his breath, he added: “The cabin-boy was young and fat, and looked very tender, and on him, more than on any other, such looks were cast, until” Here he paused, looked around at the strained and startled faces of his auditors, in which horror was depicted, and then abruptly concluded, as though dismissing a disagreeable memory “But these are not stories to be told at a cheerful dinner party, in a Christian country, and I had best say no more. Let us turn to some more cheerful subject.” Of course he was pressed to continue, and complete his story, but stubbornly refused; leaving his hearers in a most unsatisfactory state of mind as to the denouement of the unfinished narrative. Burton told me he was thoroughly convinced, by the startled looks cast upon him by the younger ladies, that they believed that he and his tougher comrades in the shipwreck had roasted and eaten that cabin-boy, whose tenderness he had so eulogised. They seemed to have no doubt that he really was a cannibal, in fact as well as in intention.
It frequently is a tendency, observable in men of strong will, to scoff at the judgments and prejudices of their weaker brethren; yet there are but few men who would carry it so far as this, and never subsequently take the trouble to remove the impression thus formed.
At one time General Gordon made overtures to Burton, to join him in the Soudan, with a view to co-operation in the work to be done there; while the former was in the employ of the Egyptian Government, during the reign of Ismail Pacha. But Burton did not relish the idea. His reason was the very simple one, that there could not be two heads to one body, and that neither Gordon nor himself could play a secondary part, or obey the orders of a superior. It is a curious matter for speculation, as to what the result of such a coalition would have been, could the terms have been arranged. For nature never made two men more diametrically opposed in thought, feeling and principle, than those two celebrities. It is more than probable that such a combination would have resulted in a speedy conflict and collision between two characters as strong and stubborn as theirs.
As their characters and conduct were so totally different, so also were their methods, and their plans and purposes. For the one represented the St. Paul, after his conversion; the other, the Saul of the earlier period. The one was the apostle of persuasion, with an appointed mission; the other the apostle of force, and of worldly expediency, without fanaticism.
The cardinal mistake in Gordon's policy and treatment of the natives in the Soudan, was the attempt to deal with a set of unscrupulous savages as though they were susceptible of the finer sympathies of civilized human beings. His final effort, and the treachery through which he perished, prove this conclusively.
Richard Burton would have made no such mistake. He thoroughly knew the men he had to deal with, and had no illusions. He would have had no confidence in African sympathy or affection for the foreigner and the Christian; and might probably in his treatment of the Soudanese have been as much too harsh as Gordon was too kind.
The combination of two such systems must have proved utterly incongruous and incompatible, and the conflict of two such opposite characters inevitable. Yet could the different characteristics of the two men have been blended into one, the apparently insolvable question of the colonization and civilization of Central Africa might have found the man fitted to grapple with and settle it.
In the latest and, for the moment, most conspicuous African semi-political missionary, Mr. Stanley, the ideas of Burton, not of Gordon, seem to have prevailed. In his hand is the sword of St. Peter, not the cross of St. Paul; and the heads as well as the ears of many centurions are lopped off as his march progresses. Stanley, like Burton, attempts to make no “Pilgrim's Progress;” and seems sometimes almost ruthless, in forcing his way through reluctant or hostile communities or tribes.
As Burton's explorations were never made with strong-armed escorts, it is impossible to say whether he, under similar circumstances, would have done as Stanley has, and forced, where he could not find a path of exploration, over the bodies of resisting Savages, seeking to expel the invader from their country.
The earlier as well as the closing incidents of Gordon's career constitute a drama in which there were many acts, the last of which was the saddest and sternest tragedy of modern times.
But he was not the pioneer in this effort to conciliate the Soudanese. Years before, Said Pacha, Viceroy of Egypt, had attempted to organize the government of the Soudan, and annex it to Egypt in fact as well as in name. He visited the country, penetrating as far as Khartoum, and gave a most liberal charter, under which existing abuses were removed. He gave them a most able Governor, in the person of Arakel Bey, who, had he lived, might have rivalled the reputation of his more famous brother Nubar Pacha. But Arakel Bey died from the fever of the climate, and the Viceroy's other representatives were unable or unwilling to carry out the promised reforms, aggravating discontents by the promise of better things.
Sai'd Pacha's policy was that of Gordon a policy of conciliation, and an appeal to an enlightened self-interest, made to the natives by one who they knew was capable of carrying it out. But it failed, for the reasons stated.
Said's successor, Ismail, resorted to force to compel the submission of the warlike Soudanese; and the successive Governorships of Gordon and Baker Pachas, created only a chronic condition of rebellion and resistance to Egyptian authority outside the range of the repeating rifles of their soldiers.
This is the moral of the story so graphically told by Sir Samuel Baker, in his narrative of the expedition made by him; the mark made by it being similar to the passage of a ship through the sea as it was opened before, closing behind, leaving no trace of its pathway.
Practically the same result has followed every effort made there, including Emin Bey's at one time regarded as too firmly established to be shaken.
Today the net result of the sacrifice of so many noble Christian lives, martyrised for duty and love of fame, has been the re-closing of that part of the African Continent to civilization, and the renewed sway of the slave-hunters, the Mahdists, and Dervishes, over a vast area, once partially redeemed.
The infant Congo settlement is the only point of light amidst the surrounding darkness, a forlorn hope a problem yet to be solved.
Lady Burton was and is a remarkable woman, and a fitting helpmate to her husband in many respects, although in mind and character his direct opposite. A strikingly handsome and imposing-looking woman, she attracted and fixed the roving fancy of Burton in her early youth; and submitted to the spell of his personal magnetism, although at that time no two human beings could have been more utterly unlike. She was one of the old Arundel family, staunch Catholics all of them; a model of all the feminine proprieties, yet engaged herself with the free-thinking pilgrim from Mecca.
One day he came, claimed, and took her away; like the lady in the romaunt of the Sleeping Beauty.
She adopted many of her husband's ways of life and theories as to woman's sphere of duty; and used, on their expeditions in the East, and in their tent life, to do a man's work after a march, and made herself a good shot with rifle and pistol, with no hesitation in using either effectively, if necessary. Intellectually, she was quite the peer of her husband; and Burton declared seriously to me, that his wife's books sold better, and made more money, than his own.
The most striking and interesting of those books of hers is the “Inner Life of Syria,” wherein she describes the Eastern woman and her ways and surroundings, with a verve and picturesqueness which recall the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; with the addition of a fund of information derived from long intercourse with the inmates of the Harem, which her gifted precursor had no means of acquiring.
Any one desirous of knowing what the Eastern woman really is, and what her actual life, can get the information better through Lady Burton's books than from any other source,
In one respect, Burton's influence over his wife was limited. He never could shake her religious faith, or the fervent practice of her religion. On this one point she was adamant.
In many passages of her book on Syria, her declaration of faith passes almost into mysticism, although veiled by the pretext of a dream.
The fervent appeal to the Queen, to do tardy justice to her husband's services, in the same book, shows how warmly the woman's heart still beats for him after so many years of wedded life; and gives “that touch of nature” which “makes the whole world kin.”
Men who have not done a tithe of his work, for Queen and country, have received peerages, pensions and large money grants, for their recompense! When, however, the work done and its recompense become proportional, in any country, we shall have arrived at the millennium!
Lady Burton's latest labour of love has been to issue an expurgated edition for the use of families of her husband's literal translation of “The Thousand and One Nights;” familiar to our boyhood through the English version of Galland's French translation, from which all the crudities and indecencies of the original were carefully expunged.
Burton has given those wonderful narratives in all their naked simplicity, told, as they were, without regard to decency or morality; and it is a painful commentary on the refinement of the nineteenth century that he has made more money out of the prurient taste of the higher class of the community, to whom it was offered at exceptionally high prices, than out of his books recording his strange incidents of explorations and adventures, almost unparalleled in modern travel.
It is melancholy to have to add that the improper book sold, and paid liberally, while the proper one did not. To Burton's cynical humour this fact must have been very amusing; but it tells badly for what we pompously term “The Spirit of the Age;” for the readers must have been all English in both cases, that being the language in which both books were published.
At the present time, with broken health, and a spirit doubtless soured by the small recognition his great services have received, Richard Burton lives retired, in the nominal charge of his Consulate at Trieste, while smaller and meaner men strut conspicuously over the public stage, and fill the public eye.
To the few who know and properly appreciate him and his gifted wife, they both fill a high place in the records of our century; but it will probably be reserved for posterity to appreciate them at their true valuation.
Dear Friend—If by mistake I threw away a Hakluyt Society bound in pale blue, or a Biblical Archeology Magazine please bring them back to me & tell me if the man brought back my trunk or left it with you. I expect you tonight. Will you bring back any novels or books lent to you if you have any, as the last books are being packed up, & I cannot lend any more.
Langham Hotel, London,
April 11th, 1891.
Dear Mr. Chaillé-Long,
You must have thought me so ungrateful for not answering your kind, sympathetic letter of five months ago, but indeed I have felt it deeply. Losing the man who had been my earthly God for thirty-five years in two hours was like a blow on the head, and for a long time I was completely stunned, and the hundreds of kind, sympathetic letters that I received accumulated in a box.
After fourteen weeks' hard work, which was fortunately a necessity and aroused me from my stupor, I had finished all my work and arrived in England. I took to my bed, where I have been ever since, for my courage broke down. I am too weak to write except by dictation. I am going into a Convent for a short while. I shall send you a card for the funeral, in case it will be convenient for you to come.
With my grateful thanks
for your kindness,
Yours very sincerely,
Throughout life he kept up a regular correspondence with his sister, whom he tenderly loved, and who much resembles him. A fortnight seldom passed without a letter in his quaint little handwriting, which often required our joint efforts to decipher. Frequently one would contain some terse remark which became a household saying for months afterwards. “What fools think others don't,” for example; or writing about people with very large self-esteem,—”People much to be envied,—pity they are such beasts;” again a-propos of those who receive kicks and cuffs from the world without resenting them, “a good plan, if you can but follow it.” He always wrote fully about himself and his plans, but invariably noticed any little piece of family or society news we had told him, however insignificant it might have been. The last letter was written within a few days of his death, rejoicing in improved health, and anticipating his return in the spring.
Each time he came to England we saw him frequently. When we lived at Sydenham he often went with us to the Crystal Palace. We used to joke on these occasions, declaring he explored the palace and grounds as thoroughly as Harar or Lake Tanganyika; and generally we had to divide into two parties, one resting while the other accompanied him. Later, when we moved to Folkestone, that place received its share of attention. Caesar's Hill, the Warren, and Sandgate, &c., all were carefully reconnoitered. In short he seemed unable to rest until he had walked or driven all over a new place and its environs.
The fine bracing air of Folkestone always revived him, and he invariably left us looking and feeling better. Most devoted care was taken of his health by both wife and doctor; and if he could only have lived in really pure air, done less work, and slept more, ten years might have been added to his existence. We tried hard to persuade him to spend the winter with us instead of going on to Cannes the year of the Riviera earthquakes. Gipsy-like, he abhorred the idea of tying himself down for any length of time. So long as it was possible even to be carried in and out of trains and steamers, travel he would; and he had only just returned from the fatiguing trip to Malogia, to rest a few weeks before starting for Greece, when one night he died suddenly, quite worn out. The brave heart so unmercifully tried could literally beat no longer. And no doubt he knew what was best for himself. Better to die in full possession of his glorious faculties, able to the last to work with those who lead the van of human progress, than to husband his remaining strength for all the horrors of old age. We
lack the light that on earth was he,
But for him the quick, painless death in the zenith of his matchless genius was surely well.
2 Worple Road
Dear old friend
I got your kind letter yesterday, being down at my hermitage near my “Jemmy’s” grave. I was so glad to get your splendid account of Albert Letchford’s picture—I always think all he paints is perfection & I am sure that this will be a great success, & a great happiness to me too. I have written him a long letter today, & sent him the 500 florins, by order on the Credit Filiale, & begged him to forward it to me & thanked him warmly. I hope his trouble will be rewarded by the publicity & fame I hope to give it bye & bye before long.
I cried much over your letter, & all you said about my darling. No! Time brings no healing & I miss him more & more. I am only happy here in my cottage retirement, I pass much time in our Tent, (the mausoleum) & feel a longing to be in it for good—I was very near it, as I have had influenza since 27 Jany, & was so bad as to have all the last sacraments, but God snatched me back, & I am convalescent but weak, & that is what keeps me so silent. I cannot write much for my head’s sake. My health & spirits are gone with him. I am so sorry for all you tell me, but you know you are a wonderful man for your age, & considering that you live in Trieste, which is of such a nervous & excitable temperature.
But I do grieve & so did Jemmy that you neglected your Beethoven for your Hebrew—God bless my dear friend now & for ever, in May we meet here & there. Why did you speak of my long loving kindness to him—what else could I be to the half of myself, my life, my soul, as he was for near thirty-six years.
Do not forget if you come to England to let me know at once that I may do all I can to make your stay happy & agreeable. You ask what I am doing. I am trying to get all the Life ready for the press & making arrangements. I am tackling Catullus—I have got the first & last part of his life done. But as my books have only just been unpacked & housed, I have not got on so well as I hoped but I think I shall improve now. I have been so handicapped by illness, & 4 deaths in my immediate family—& workmen in both my houses from August to February—I could never get them out. Two of my boxes of books &c have been lost altogether. There were 204 & I have had 202.
Give my love to the Thorndikes & all other dear old friends & believe me ever your affect Isabel Burton.
Those who have read the books of this traveler and scholar during the past forty years may be counted by millions. His writings have delighted readers in every part of the civilized world, and it may be said that his travels were as extensive, though chiefly in the uncivilized regions were they most valuable. This is to class parts of Arabia and Africa which he visited as uncivilized, and I feel sure that no one who has visited those regions will object to styling the great majority of the people barbarians.
I have heard Burton say of them: “The worst races are not necessarily the lowest in the scale as to intellect; they are those whose talents are given to vice and cruelty among themselves, neighboring peoples and strangers. Such people are in the way of true civilization, and like tigers, cobras and other hindrances to the peaceful occupation of some of the fairest portions of the earth, the sooner they are helped to disappear the better it will be for the rest of mankind.”
Richard Francis Burton was born, March 19th, 1821, son of Lieutenant Colonel Burton, a retired Irish officer. He inherited his father's military talents and love of a roaming life, and his mother's wit and powers of observation and description. These he used to the very best advantage on his journeys in new fields, as every candid reader is pleased to say on reading almost any one of his many volumes. His early life was begun as a boy in Tours, France, a city of books and bookmakers, and there he made himself familiar with the language as derived from his playmates, and which was soon polished by masters, willing teachers of such an apt student, at Blois, another historic French city. His recollections of those early days were amusing. “Frenchmen, and French women in particular,” he was wont to say, “seemed to me to be forever in masquerade, not only in dress, but in thought and expression.”
He probably never changed that opinion.
I asked him why he thought thus of his coreligionists, and he answered: “The Catholic religion redeems a Frenchman, but an Irishman ennobles the Catholic faith.”
“They have some great men in France,” I ventured.
“Seldom that one can be so named who was a zealous churchman. Great and good men everywhere belong to a higher order than any church.”
“How did you enjoy your life at Oxford?”
“Trinity College was supplied, as usual, with boys, or ‘men,’ as they are proud to call each other, who cared more for physical than for mental culture; their pleasures, too, were of the same color. My studies were very little trouble to me, for the tutors never seemed to take pains to teach us anything. If we found out by ourselves, we were fortunate in gaining some degree of recognition; but if we failed through lack of method in our instructors, we were demerited, degraded, and finally plucked. I did not dare to bring such a disgrace home to my ‘governor,’ so I helped myself to a leave of absence.”
“Your days in the private school at Richmond were more pleasant, it must be presumed.”
“Indeed they were. Richmond is one of the fairest spots in beautiful England, and our school (Watson's) one of the best, and I really learned more there than at Trinity, counting the same number of days to each place. I would abolish colleges as they are now, and turn them into schools for specialties, to fit boys for some certain business or walk in life. If a boy is born to a title, let him cram history, poetry and biography; if his lot is to be a gentleman, fill him up with poetry, romance, general literature and politics; if to commerce or manufacture, stuff him with the elements of mechanics, of engineering, chemistry, and the details of some certain line of trades; and so on give each one a fair start in life.”
The earnestness with which he advocated such a change in the methods and system of teaching was convincing of his sincerity. One of his arguments was (1869): “In answering your inquiry I am free to say I never liked the present academic or collegiate system, because it enables men of mediocre ability to creep into places where they may do infinite harm. Look at my case in India in 1857. I had suggested the necessity for an increase of British power, as a means of protection and prevention of certain wrongs and abuses, at Aden and its coasts and in the Red Sea, when my college-bred superiors, instead of comprehending the necessity and providing the means, reprimanded me. If they had heeded me the frightful massacre at Jiddah might have been avoided, and a check been put on the slave trade many years sooner than it was done. It is strange, but true, that human life is the price of incompetency in office.”
He obtained an appointment in the Indian Army in 1842, and felt he had entered on a sure road to fame; but he soon discovered that preferment would come only with gray hair, and he was too impatient to wait when he saw so much to do. Sir Charles Napier recognized his ability, but Sir Charles was not all in all, and Lieutenant Burton was coolly ignored in favor of some more fortunate though less competent man, who happened to have a friend near the powers.
Precious time was lost, and in a letter of that period he wrote (1859): “If I can do so, you may look for me any day in the United States, on the way to Utah and the Great Salt Lake, and you may do for me a necessary and valuable service if you will compile a dictionary of local slang supplementary to Bartlett's, including of course the Western varieties, for my use. Also, if you will give me a list of articles needed or most useful on the journey across the plains.”
I introduced the traveler soon after his arrival in New York to the foreman of Colt's factory, and we together examined a number of revolvers at the store. While we were debating the matter, as to which would be most useful, Mr. Colt came in and was made acquainted with Burton, and begged the favor of making him a present of two handsomely mounted and chased navy “popguns.” We all adjourned to the Astor House, where the genial proprietor joined the party.
After listening to one of Burton's tales of his life in India, Colonel Stetson said he would call in a man from the office who could understand that kind of story, and he introduced Mr. Parkinson, the confectioner, and Edwin Forrest, the actor. Burton and Forrest were all in all to each other for three hours or more, the rest of us were only too happy in listening, and occasionally, when Mr. Forrest suggested, assisted at “circumventing Colonel Stetson's poison,” which ceremony usually emptied a quart decanter of the best French brandy at each round.
“There's no other liquor fit for gods and men,” said Forrest.
“Not every man is worthy of such ambrosial dew,” said Artemus Ward (Browne), who looked in the door that had been left ajar by the ganymede.
“Oh, dew come in!” said the tragedian.
Twenty-eight years after that “glorious night” the English Consul at Trieste, writing about other things, concluded his letter in these words: “And then the memory of that night with Forrest, Ward (Browne) and the others, including yourself, is still fresh and a source of lively pleasure. The stories told by Forrest, Ward and yourself enriched my leisure hours all the way to Utah.”
The consul and I were the only two remaining of that party.
My desire to travel in the Levant, Egypt, Palestine and Greece had drawn me toward sunrise as far as London; there I halted for the benefit of introductory letters to Dr. Birch, of the British Museum, and others, and I found a home in Great Russell Street, nearly opposite the British Museum. I was anxious to make the acquaintance of the artist W. H. Bartlett, who had visited the countries I wished to see, and found him through the kindness of Mr. Virtue, his publisher.
Mr. Bartlett took me to his color man, and I bought a liberal supply of materials, both oil and water, for use on a journey which was planned to take me far away from supplies, and the generous dealer invited me to dine with him at his club. There it was made known that I intended to visit the Nile land, and many remarks were made by way of suggestions for my benefit in preparation and on the road, and one of the company at the table said he had met Lieutenant Richard F. Burton, who was an officer in the service of the Honorable East India Company, and that he was then in London, and he would undertake to give me an introduction to him.
In about a week I had the pleasure of unfolding my plans for the coming year, which then extended no farther than Egypt and Palestine, to one who listened with deep interest. He said he had been to Europe on leave of absence over three years, and intended to return to India in a few months, when he hoped to meet me at Cairo, or Alexandria, as it might be.
He was a fine-looking man, English (Irish) all over, and in conversation made you feel at ease. He was not obtrusive in opinion, nor would he dispute on any topic, unless requested to do so for the sake of bringing out his great knowledge of men and things. A desire to know something about the United States led him to ask questions, or to lead the conversation in that direction, many times during our five weeks of social intercourse.
A day with him in the British Museum was full of surprises and delight for me, because of his very intimate knowledge of objects in the Oriental sections, and he was ever ready with a story or an incident in his own experience to the point. In the East India Company's rooms he was more at home, if possible, and threw a charm around every object that he noticed or I spoke about. I grew, as it were, by jumps of years when in his company. His kindly helpfulness was shown in correcting the errors in an outline grammar of the Arabic language, which I had prepared in MS for an inside pocket, and permitting me to copy his Turkish grammar, and a small one in Sanskrit.
His advice was to enter an Arab school in Cairo, and learn the dialect of the Koran, in order to get the intonation of the natives as well as the idiom, and he seemed to enjoy repeating the old adage, The traveler is wise who conceals his treasures, opinions and country; and also that other one, in which you are advised to conform to the habits and manners of the people among whom you happen to find yourself; and he was ready with many rich stories of his adventures and mishaps before he learned the true value of those wise counsels.
I had visited nearly every section of our country, from Hudson's Bay to Panama, and the Atlantic to the Mississippi, and was ready, therefore, to say something in reply to his inquiries, and sometimes to interest him to a high degree.
His accounts of life in India were always full of incident, and never prosy. He studied man, and was ever ready to compare notes with other students.
“I say, when you are in Jerusalem, just try to find any present excuse for calling the place El Kudus.”
“And yet, many millions look to it as the sanctuary of their holy religion.”
“And more millions turn their faces toward the Kaaba at Mecca, and would be taught to revere the North Pole if some saint should select it as his retreat.”
“Or swear by the Mormon Bible.”
“Tell me what that book is in origin and make-up.”
I told him the story of the invalid preacher Spaulding, his fiction of the Ten Lost Tribes and supposed origin of the people who inhabited this country before the Indians, and how Joseph Smith and Rigdon reconstructed the work, and published it as a divinely inspired and miraculously preserved book. I was able to tell him that the place where Smith said he found the gold plates which, he asserted, were covered with hieroglyphics, was in a field next to the farm of my uncle, Benjamin Armington, who lived at Monticello, a few miles south of Palmyra, N.Y.
“It would not be strange,” he said, “if the devotees of that book became a powerful people. Time will work wonders in obscuring the origin and in throwing a mysterious halo of sanctity around the book and the early promoters of the faith, and at length will cover up all, or nearly all, of the questionable features and sanctify every other, as has been done with the Vedas, the Shastra, the Granth, the Bible and other sacred books. The leaders recruit their ranks from able-bodied men and women who are religious, or superstitious, which is much better, and aim to teach them the faith as it is in Mormon, whether or not they know anything else beside work at their trade or occupation. This will breed a race of fanatics who will be the tools of any so-called religious teachers.”
“In what does this differ from the history of all other religions of which we have any account?”
“Not in any essential word or deed. Even Joe Smith, as he is called, died in the faith, if not for the faith, and he will be canonized in due time.”
“Brigham Young, his successor as the prophet of the people, is President of the Church and Governor of the Territory under the United States, uniting the Church and the State, which is contrary to the spirit of the founders of the nation, who tried to keep them apart because of the long train of evils that had followed such union in the past, in the Old World.”
“When religious fanatics are left to themselves and can carry out their own sweet will they invariably attempt to control the civil power. They are impatient of any and all criticism, proud of their assumed position as the mouthpiece of God, and naturally autocratic and despotic over their fellow men, whom they consider their inferiors, poor blind lost sinners in need of salvation which is in their keeping.”
I was amazed at this outburst and reminded him that the adage taught secrecy in opinions.
“Yes, I always observe that rule when among strangers; but even in these few days of our acquaintance I feel as though we had known each other many years, for we have followed out similar lines of inquiry and are interested in similar studies.”
Burton seemed to me at that time to love travel as a means of adding to his stock of knowledge of men and things and of gratifying a spirit of restless and insatiate curiosity, and I had to promise him to keep up a series of notes of my travels that we might compare when we should meet again in Egypt.
His kindly interest in me was shown in many ways; for instance, in an inquiry as to how I expected to get about among Arabs and Mohammedans without an interpreter, who would be ver