The Life of
Sir Richard Burton


Thomas Wright

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Table of Contents

Preface.
Chapter I
19th March 1821-October 1840
Childhood and Youth

1. Torquay and Elstree.

2. Tours and Elstree.

3. Death of Richard Baker, 16th September 1824.

4. At School, Richmond, 1829.

5. The Continent Again.

Chapter II
October 1840-April 1842
Oxford

6. Trinity College, October 1840.

7. Expelled, April 1842.

Chapter III
April 1842-20th February 1847
Sind

8. To Bombay, 18th June 1842.

9. Baroda. The Bubu.

10. Karachi. Love of Disguise.

11. A Dangerous Mission, 1845.

12. The Persian Beauty.

13. A Simian Dictionary.

14. Duality.

Chapter IV
20th February 1847-1849
Under the Spell of Camoens

15. Goa and Camoens.

16. “Would you a Sufi be?”

17. Letter to Sarah Burton, 14th Nov. 1848.

18. Allahdad.

Chapter V
1849 to 3rd April, 1853
Chiefly Boulogne

19. A Motto from Ariosto.

20. Isabel Arundell & “My Dear Louisa.” 1851.

21. Forster FitzGerald Arbuthnot 1853.

Chapter VI
3rd April 1853 to 29th October 1854
Pilgrimage to Mecca

22. The Man Wants to Wander.

23. Haji Wali, 1853.

24. The Pilgrim Ship, 6th July 1853.

25. Medina.

26. Mecca.

27. Burton’s Delight in Shocking.

28. El Islam.

Chapter VII
29th October 1854 — 9th February 1855
To Harar

29. At Aden. The Arabian Nights. Oct. 1854.

30. From Zeila to Harar, 27th November 1854 to 2nd January 1855.

31. At Harar.

32. From Harar to Berbera. 13th Jan. 1855-5th Feb. 1855.

33. The Fight at Berbera, 22nd April, 1855.

Chapter VIII
9th February 1855-October 1856
The Crimea

34. The Crimea.

35. Engaged to Isabel Arundell, August 1856.

Chapter IX
December 1856-21st May 1859
The Unveiling of Isis

36. To Fuga. January to March 1857.

37. Zanzibar to Tanganyika, 26th June 1857 to 26th May 1858.

38. The Return Journey, 26th May 1858 to 13th February 1859.

Chapter X
22nd January 1861-to August 1861
Mormons and Marriage

39. We rushed into each other’s arms. 22nd May, 1860.

40. Brigham Young. April 1860 to November 1860.

41. Marriage. 22nd January 1861.

42. At Lord Houghton’s.

Chapter XI
August 1861-November 1863
Fernando Po

43. African Gold.

44. Anecdotes.

45. Fans and Gorillas.

46. The Anthropological Society, 6th Jan. 1863.

Chapter XII
29th November 1863 to 15th September 1865
Gelele

47. Whydah and its Deity. 29th November 1863.

48. The Amazons.

49. “The Customs.”

50. Death of Speke, 15th September 1864.

Chapter XIII
September 1865-October 1869
Santos: Burton’s Second Consulate

51. To Santos.

52. Aubertin. Death of Steinhauser, 27th July 1866.

53. The Facetious Cannibals.

54. Down the Sao Francisco.

55. In Paraguay. August 15th to September 15th 1868. April 4th to April 18th 1869.

Chapter XIV
October 1869-16th August 1871 “Emperor and Empress of Damascus.”

56. Archbishop Manning and the Odd Fish.

57. 3rd Consulate, Damascus.

58. Jane Digby el Mezrab.

59. To Tadmor.

60. Palmer and Drake. 11th July 1870.

61. Khamoor.

62. The Shazlis.

63. The Recall. 16th August 1871.

Chapter XV
16th August 1871-4th June 1872

64. With Sir H. Stisted at Norwood. August 1871.

65. Reduced to £15.

66. An Orgie at Lady Alford’s. 2nd November 1871.

67. The Tichborne Trial.

68. Khamoor at the Theatre.

Chapter XVI
4th June 1872-24th October 1872
In Iceland

69. In Edinburgh Again, 4th June 1872.

70. Wardour Castle, 5th July 1872.

71. St. George and Frederick Burton.

72. At the Athenaeum.

73. Jane Digby Again.

74. His Book on Zanzibar.

Chapter XVII
24th October 1872-12th May 1875
Trieste

75. Burton at Trieste, 24th October 1872.

76. At the Vienna Exhibition, 1873.

77. A Visit from Drake, June 1873.

78. Khamoor returns to Syria, 4th December 1874.

Chapter XVIII
12th May 1875-18th June 1876
The Trip to India

79. Visit to England, 12th May 1875.

80. Tonic Bitters.

81. A Trip to India, December 1875, 18th June 1876.

82. Arbuthnot Again. Rehatsek.

83. In Sind.

84. Golconda.

Chapter XIX
18th June 1876-31st March 1877
Colonel Gordon

85. Ariosto.

86. Death of Rashid Pasha, 24th June 1876.

87. Colonel Gordon 1877.

88. Jane Digby the Second.

89. The Old Baronetcy. 18th January 1877.

Chapter XX
31st March 1877 to 27th December 1879
Midian

90. “The New Joseph.” 31st March 1877-21st April 1877. 19th October 1877-20th April 1878.

91. More Advice to “Lazybones.” 8th May 1877.

92. Haji Wali Again.

93. Graffiti.

94. Letter to Sir Henry Gordon, 4th July 1878.

95. Death of Maria Stisted, 12th November 1878.

96. Burton’s “Six Senses.”

97. Still thinking of Midian. April-December 1879.

Chapter XXI
27th December 1879-August 1881
Camoens

98. The Lusiads.

99. At Ober Ammergau, August 1880.

100. Mrs. Burton’s Advice to Novelists. 4th September 1880.

101. The Kasidah, 1880.

102. Lisa.

Chapter XXII
August 1881-May 1882
John Payne

103. With Cameron at Venice, August 1881.

104. John Payne, November 1881.

105. To the Gold Coast, 25th November 1881-20th May 1882.

Chapter XXIII
20th May 1882-July 1883
The Meeting of Burton and Payne

106. Mrs. Grundy begins to roar. May 1882.

107. The Search for Palmer, October 1882.

Chapter XXIV
July 1883-November 1883
The Palazzone

108. Anecdotes of Burton.

109. Burton and Mrs. Disraeli.

110. “I am an Old English Catholic.”

111. Burton begins his Translation, April 1884.

112. The Battle over the Nights.

113. Completion of Mr. Payne’s Translation.

Chapter XXV
1883 to May 1885
The Kama Shastra Society

114. The Azure Apollo.

115. The Kama Sutra.

Chapter XXVI
The Ananga Ranga or Lila Shastra

116. The Ananga Ranga.

117. The Beharistan, 1887.

118. The Gulistan, 1888.

119. The Nigaristan.

120. Letters to Payne, 19th January 1884.

121. At Sauerbrunn, 12th August 1884.

122. Burton’s Circulars, September 1884.

123. The Book of the Sword.

124. The Lyrics of Camoens, 1884.

125. More Letters to Payne, 1st October 1884.

126. Death of Gordon, January 1885.

127. W. F. Kirby, 25th March 1885.

Chapter XXVII
May 1885-5th February 1886 A Glance through “The Arabian Nights”

128. Slaving at the Athenaeum, May 1885.

129. A Visit to Mr. Arbuthnot’s.

130. Dr. Steingass.

131. Anecdotes.

132. The Pentameron. Burton and Gladstone.

133. A Brief Glance through the Nights.

Chapter XXVIII
The Two Translations Compared

134. The Blacksmith Who, etc.

135. Abu al-Hasan.

136. The Summing Up.

Chapter XXIX
Burton’s Notes

137. Burton’s Notes.

138. The Terminal Essay.

139. Final Summing up.

140. Mr. Swinburne on Burton.

Chapter XXX
21st November 1885-5th June 1886 K. C. M. G.

141. In Morocco, 21st November 1885.

142. K.c.m.g., 5th February 1886.

143. Burton at 65.

144. More Anecdotes.

Chapter XXXI
Burton’s Religion

145. Burton’s Religion.

146. Burton as a Writer.

Chapter XXXII
5th June 1886-15th April 1888
Burton and Social Questions: Anecdotes

147. The Population Question.

148. New Projects.

149. Mr. A. G. Ellis and Professor Blumhardt. 5th June 1886-5th April 1887.

150. Dr. Leslie and Dr. Baker: Anecdotes. April 1887.

151. Three Months at Abbazia. 1st Dec. 1887-5th March 1888.

Chapter XXXIII
19th March 1888-15th October 1888
The Last Visit to England

152. Meeting with Mr. Swinburne and others, 18th July 1888-15th October 1888.

153. H. W. Ashbee.

154. A Bacon Causerie.

155. The Gypsy, August 1888.

156. The Supplemental Nights. 1st December 1886-1st August 1888.

157. Comparison.

Chapter XXXIV
“The Scented Garden”

158. Nafzawi.

159. Origin of The Scented Garden.

160. Contents of The Scented Garden.

161. Sir Richard Burton’s Translation.

Chapter XXXV
15th October 1888 to 21st July 1890 Working at the “Catullus” and “The Scented Garden”

162. Switzerland 15th October 1888.

163. Mr. Letchford, August and September 1889.

164. To Dr. Tuckey.

165. To Mr. Kirby 15th May 1889.

166. Tunis and Algiers, November 1889 to March 1890.

167. Visit of Arbuthnot, Last Letter to Mr. Payne, May 1890.

Chapter XXXVI
“The Priapeia”

168. The Priapeia.

169. Catullus and the Last Trip, July — September 1890.

170. At Maloja, July 1890.

171. The Golden Ass.

Chapter XXXVII
Death of Sir Richard Burton

173. Death. 20th October 1890.

Chapter XXXVIII
20th October 1890-December 1890
The Fate of “The Scented Garden”

173. The Fate of The Scented Garden.

174. Discrepancies in Lady Burton’s Story.

175. The Fate of the Catullus.

176. Lisa Departs, November 1890.

Chapter XXXIX
January 1891 to July 1891
Lady Burton in England

177. Lady Burton in England.

178. The Funeral at Mortlake, 15th June 1891.

179. The Scented Garden Storm, June 1891.

Chapter XL
July 1891-December 1893 O Tomb, O Tomb!

180. A Letter to Miss Stisted.

181. The writing of the Life August 1892-March 1893.

182. The Library Edition of The Nights 1894.

Chapter XLI
Death of Lady Burton

183. Lady Burton at Eastbourne.

184. Death of Lady Burton, 22nd Mar. 1896.

185. Miss Stisted’s “True Life.”

186. Mr. Wilkins’s Work, 1897.

187. Burton’s Friends.

Appendix
  1. Bibliography of Richard Burton
  2. List of works included in the “Memorial Edition” of Burton’s works.
  3. List of Biographies of Sir Richard Burton and Lady Burton.
  4. Extracts relating to Burton
  5. Bibliography of Foster FitzGerald Arbuthnot
  6. Bibliography of F. Steingass
  7. Bibliography of John Payne
  8. Notes on Rehatsek’s Translation of the Beharistan
  9. Notes on the Nigaristan and Other Unpublished Translations by Rehatsek, Presented to the Royal Asiatic Society by F. F. Arbuthnot.
    1. The Nigaristan (Picture Gallery), by Mu’in-uddin Jawini. Faithfully translated from the Persian by E. Rehatsek. 1888.
    2. Translations from the Persian, by the late E. Rehatsek.
    3. Translations from the Persian and Arabic, by the late E. Rehatsek.
    4. Biography of our Lord Muhammed, Apostle of Allah (Benediction of Allah and peace be on him).
  10. W. F. Kirby
  11. Genealogical Table

This Work is

Dedicated to

Sir Richard Burton’s Kinsman

And Friend,

Major St. George Richard Burton,

The Black Watch.

Preface.

Fifteen years have elapsed since the death of Sir Richard Burton and twelve since the appearance of the biography of Lady Burton. A deeply pathetic interest attaches itself to that book. Lady Burton was stricken down with an incurable disease. Death with its icy breath hung over her as her pen flew along the paper, and the questions constantly on her lips were “Shall I live to complete my task? Shall I live to tell the world how great and noble a man my husband was, and to refute the calumnies that his enemies have so industriously circulated?” She did complete it in a sense, for the work duly appeared; but no one recognised more clearly than herself its numerous shortcomings. Indeed, it is little better than a huge scrap-book filled with newspaper cuttings and citations from Sir Richard’s and other books, hurriedly selected and even more hurriedly pieced together. It gives the impressions of Lady Burton alone, for those of Sir Richard’s friends are ignored — so we see Burton from only one point of view. Amazing to say, it does not contain a single original anecdote1 — though perhaps, more amusing anecdotes could be told of Burton than of any other modern Englishman. It will be my duty to rectify Lady Burton’s mistakes and mis-statements and to fill up the vast hiatuses that she has left. Although it will be necessary to subject her to criticism, I shall endeavour at the same time to keep constantly in mind the queenliness and beauty of her character, her almost unexampled devotion to her husband, and her anxiety that everyone should think well of him. Her faults were all of the head. Of the heart she had absolutely none.

As the Richard Burton whom I have to pourtray differs considerably from Lady Burton’s “Earthly God,”2 I have been very careful to give chapter and verse for all my statements. The work has been written on the same lines as my Life of Edward FitzGerald; that is to say, without any aim except to arrive at the precise truth. But although I have regarded it as no concern of mine whether any particular fact tells for or against Sir Richard Burton, I do think that when the reader rises from the last page he will feel that he has been in the company not only of one of the greatest, noblest and most fearless of Englishmen, but also of one who, without making much profession of doing so, really loved his fellow-men, and who, despite his inability to put himself in line with religionists, fought steadily on the side of righteousness. We are aware that there are in his books a few observations which call for vehement and unqualified denunciation; but against them must be placed the fundamental goodness of the man, to which all who knew him intimately have testified. In not a few respects Sir Richard Burton’s character resembled Edward FitzGerald’s. Burton, indeed, hailed the adapter of Omar Khayyam as a “fellow Sufi.”

Lady Burton, too, comes extremely well out of the fire of criticism. The reader may object to her religious views, he may smile at her weaknesses, he may lament her indiscretions, but he will recognise that at bottom she was a God-fearing, noble-minded woman; and he will, we think, find himself really in love with her almost before knowing it.

The amount of absolutely new information in this work is very large. Thus we are telling for the first time the history of Burton’s friendships with Mr. F. F. Arbuthnot, Mr. John Payne, and others; and we are giving for the first time, too, a complete and accurate history of the translation of The Arabian Nights, The Scented Garden, and other works. Hundreds of new facts are recorded respecting these and other absorbing topics, while the citations from the unpublished letters of Burton and Lady Burton will, we are sure, receive a welcome. We are able to give about fifty entirely new anecdotes — many of them extremely piquant and amusing. We also tell the touching story of Burton’s brother Edward. In our accounts of Burton’s travels will be found a number of interesting facts and some anecdotes not given in Burton’s works.

The new material has been derived from many sources — but from ten in particular.

  1. From two hundred unpublished letters of Sir Richard Burton and Lady Burton.

  2. From interviews with Mrs. E. J. Burton3 and Mr. F. Burton (Burton’s cousins), Mr. John Payne, Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mr. Watts-Dunton, Mr. W. F. Kirby, Mr. A. G. Ellis, Dr. Codrington, Professor James F. Blumhardt, Mr. Henry R. Tedder (librarian and secretary of The Athenaeum, Burton’s club), Mrs. Baddeley (mother of Burton’s friend, St. Clair Baddeley), Madame Nicastro (sister of the late Mr. Albert Letchford, illustrator of The Arabian Nights), Dr. Grenfell Baker (Burton’s medical attendant during the last three years of his life), and many other ladies and gentlemen.

  3. From letters received from Major St. George Burton (to whom I have the pleasure of dedicating this work), Lady Bancroft, Mr. D. MacRitchie, Mr. E. S. Mostyn Pryce (representative of Miss Stisted), Gunley Hall, Staffordshire, M. Charles Carrington, of Paris, who sent me various notes, including an account of Burton’s unfinished translation of Apuleius’s Golden Ass, the MS. of which is in his possession, the Very Rev. J. P. Canon McCarthy, of Ilkeston, for particulars of “The Shrine of our Lady of Dale,” Mr. Segrave (son of Burton’s “dear Louisa”), Mrs. Agg (Burton’s cousin), and Mr. P. P. Cautley (Burton’s colleague at Trieste). Nor must I omit reference to a kind letter received from Mrs. Van Zeller, Lady Burton’s only surviving sister.4

  4. From the Burton collections in the Free Libraries of Camberwell and Kensington.

  5. From unpublished manuscripts written by Burton’s friends.

  6. From the church registers of Elstree. By examination of these and other documents I have been able to correct many mistakes.

  7. From the manuscripts of F. F. Arbuthnot and the Oriental scholar, Edward Rehatsek. These are now in the possession of the Royal Asiatic Society.

  8. From Mr. Arbuthnot’s typewritten and unpublished Life of Balzac now in my possession. This contains many notes throwing light on the Burton and Arbuthnot friendship.

  9. From the Genealogical Table of the Burtons of Shap, very kindly sent me by Mr. E. S. Mostyn Pryce.

  10. From various persons interviewed during many journeys. One of these journeys (June 1905) took me, of course, to the Tomb of Mortlake, and I was gratified to find that, owing to the watchfulness of the Arundell family, it is kept in perfect repair.5

Let me first speak of the unpublished letters. These were lent me by Mr. John Payne (40 letters), Mr. W. F. Kirby (50 letters), Major St. George Burton, Mrs. E. J. Burton, Mrs. Agg, Mr. Mostyn Pryce, Dr. Tuckey, Mr. D. MacRitchie, and Mr. A. G. Ellis. Many of the letters reveal Burton in quite a new light. His patriotism and his courage were known of all men, but the womanly tenderness of his nature and his intense love for his friends will come to many as a surprise. His distress, for example, on hearing of the death of Drake,6 is particularly affecting.

Of the friends of Sir Richard Burton who have been interviewed I must mention first of all Mr. John Payne. But for Mr. Payne’s generous assistance, this work I must frankly admit, could not have been written. He, and he alone, held the keys to whole chambers of mystery. Mr. Payne was at first extremely reluctant to give me the material required. Indeed, in his first letter of reply to my request for information (7th August 1904) he declined positively either to enter the lists against Burton, with whom, he said, he had been on terms of intimate friendship, or to discuss the matter at all. “As for what,” he said, “it pleases the public to think (save the mark!) of the relative merits of my own and Burton’s translations, I have long ceased to care a straw.” But this led me to write even more pressingly. I assured Mr. Payne that the public had been unjust to him simply because nobody had hitherto set himself the great task of comparing the two translations, and because the true history of the case had never been laid before them. I assured him that I yielded to nobody in admiration of Sir Richard Burton — that is, on account of what he (Sir Richard) did do, not on account of what he did not do; and I gave it as my opinion that Mr. Payne owed it both to the public and to himself to lay bare the whole story. After several letters and interviews I at last induced him to give way; and I think the public will thank me for my persistency.

My revelations, which form an astonishing story, will no doubt come as a complete surprise to almost everybody. I can imagine them, indeed, dropping like a bombshell into some circles; but they are founded, not only upon conversations with Mr. Payne, but upon Burton’s own letters to Mr. Payne, all of which have been in my hands, and careful study of the two translations. The public, however, cannot possibly be more surprised than I myself was when I compared the two translations page by page, I could scarcely believe my own eyes; and only one conclusion was possible. Burton, indeed, has taken from Payne at least three-quarters of the entire work. He has transferred many hundreds of sentences and clauses bodily. Sometimes we come upon a whole page with only a word or two altered.7 In short, amazing to say, the public have given Burton credit for a gift which he did not possess8 — that of being a great translator. If the public are sorry, we are deeply sorry, too, but we cannot help it. Burton’s exalted position, however, as ethnologist and anthropologist, is unassailable. He was the greatest linguist and traveller that England ever produced. And four thrones are surely enough for any man. I must mention that Mr. Payne gave me an absolute free hand — nay, more than that, having placed all the documents before me, he said — and this he repeated again and again — “Wherever there is any doubt, give Burton the benefit of it,” and I have done so.

In dealing with the fight9 over The Arabian Nights I have endeavoured to write in such a way as to give offence to nobody, and for that reason have made a liberal use of asterisks. I am the more desirous of saying this because no one is better aware than myself of the services that some of Burton’s most bitter opponents — those ten or twelve men whom he contemptuously termed Laneites — have rendered to literature and knowledge. In short, I regard the battle as fought and won. I am merely writing history. No man at the present day would dream of mentioning Lane in the same breath with Payne and Burton. In restoring to Mr. Payne his own, I have had no desire to detract from Burton. Indeed, it is impossible to take from a man that which he never possessed. Burton was a very great man, Mr. Payne is a very great man, but they differ as two stars differ in glory. Burton is the magnificent man of action and the anthropologist, Mr. Payne the brilliant poet and prose writer. Mr. Payne did not go to Mecca or Tanganyika, Burton did not translate The Arabian Nights,10 or write The Rime of Redemption and Vigil and Vision. He did, however, produce the annotations of The Arabian Nights, and a remarkable enough and distinct work they form.

I recall with great pleasure an evening spent with Mr. Watts-Dunton at The Pines, Putney. The conversation ran chiefly on the Gipsies,11 upon whom Mr. Watts-Dunton is one of our best authorities, and the various translations of The Arabian Nights. Both he and Mr. A. C. Swinburne have testified to Burton’s personal charm and his marvellous powers. “He was a much valued and loved friend,” wrote Mr. Swinburne to me12, “and I have of him none but the most delightful recollections.” Mr. Swinburne has kindly allowed me to give in full his magnificent poem on “The Death of Richard Burton.” Dr. Grenfell Baker, whom I interviewed in London, had much to tell me respecting Sir Richard’s last three years; and he has since very kindly helped me by letter.

The great object of this book is to tell the story of Burton’s life, to delineate as vividly as possible his remarkable character — his magnetic personality, and to defend him alike from enemy and friend. In writing it my difficulties have been two. First, Burton himself was woefully inaccurate as an autobiographer, and we must also add regretfully that we have occasionally found him colouring history in order to suit his own ends.13 He would have put his life to the touch rather than misrepresent if he thought any man would suffer thereby; but he seems to have assumed that it did not matter about keeping strictly to the truth if nobody was likely to be injured. Secondly, Lady Burton, with haughty indifference to the opinions of everyone else, always exhibited occurrences in the light in which she herself desired to see them. This fact and the extreme haste with which her book was written are sufficient to account for most of its shortcomings. She relied entirely upon her own imperfect recollections. Church registers and all such documents were ignored. She begins with the misstatement that Burton was born at Elstree, she makes scarcely any reference to his most intimate friends and even spells their names wrongly.14 Her remarks on the Kasidah are stultified by the most cursory glance at that poem; while the whole of her account of the translating of The Arabian Nights is at variance with Burton’s own letters and conversations. I am assured by several who knew Burton intimately that the untrustworthiness of the latter part of Lady Burton’s “Life” of her husband is owing mainly to her over-anxiety to shield him from his enemies. But I think she mistook the situation. I do not believe Burton had any enemies to speak of at the time of his death.

If Lady Burton’s treatment of her husband’s unfinished works cannot be defended, on the other hand I shall show that the loss as regards The Scented Garden was chiefly a pecuniary one, and therefore almost entirely her own. The publication of The Scented Garden would not — it could not — have added to Burton’s fame. However, the matter will be fully discussed in its proper place.

It has generally been supposed that two other difficulties must confront any conscientious biographer of Burton — the first being Burton’s choice of subjects, and the second the friction between Lady Burton and the Stisteds. But as regards the first, surely we are justified in assuming that Burton’s studies were pursued purely for historical and scientific purposes. He himself insisted in season and out of season that his outlook was solely that of the student, and my researches for the purposes of this work have thoroughly convinced me that, however much we may deprecate some of these studies, Burton himself was sincere enough in his pursuit of them. His nature, strange as it may seem to some ears, was a cold one15; and at the time he was buried in the most forbidding of his studies he was an old man racked with infirmities. Yet he toiled from morning to night, year in year out, more like a navvy than an English gentleman, with an income of £700 a year, and 10,000 “jingling, tingling, golden, minted quid,” as R. L. Stevenson would have said, in his pocket. In his hunger for the fame of an author, he forgot to feed his body, and had to be constantly reminded of its needs by his medical attendant and others. And then he would wolf down his food, in order to get back quickly to his absorbing work. The study had become a monomania with him.

I do not think there is a more pathetic story in the history of literature than that which I have to tell of the last few weeks of Burton’s life. You are to see the old man, always ailing, sometimes in acute pain — working twenty-five hours a day, as it were — in order to get completed a work by which he supposed he was to live for ever. In the same room sits the wife who dearly loves him, and whom he dearly loves and trusts. A few days pass. He is gone. She burns, page by page, the work at which he had toiled so long and so patiently. And here comes the pathos of it — she was, in the circumstances, justified in so doing. As regards Lady Burton and the Stisteds, it was natural, perhaps, that between a staunch Protestant family such as the Stisteds, and an uncompromising Catholic like Lady Burton there should have been friction; but both Lady Burton and Miss Stisted are dead. Each made, during Lady Burton’s lifetime, an honest attempt to think well of the other; each wrote to the other many sweet, sincere, and womanly letters; but success did not follow. Death, however, is a very loving mother. She gently hushes her little ones to sleep; and, as they drop off, the red spot on the cheek gradually fades away, and even the tears on the pillow soon dry.

Although Miss Stisted’s book has been a help to me I cannot endorse her opinion that Burton’s recall from Damascus was the result of Lady Burton’s indiscretions. Her books give some very interesting reminiscences of Sir Richard’s childhood and early manhood,16 but practically it finishes with the Damascus episode. Her innocent remarks on The Scented Garden must have made the anthropological sides of Ashbee, Arbuthnot, and Burton’s other old friends shake with uncontrollable laughter. Unfortunately, she was as careless as Lady Burton. Thus on page 48 she relates a story about Burton’s attempt to carry off a nun; but readers of Burton’s book on Goa will find that it had no connection with Burton whatever. It was a story someone had told him.

In these pages Burton will be seen on his travels, among his friends, among his books, fighting, writing, quarrelling, exploring, joking, flying like a squib from place to place — a 19th century Lord Peterborough, though with the world instead of a mere continent for theatre. Even late in life, when his infirmities prevented larger circuits, he careered about Europe in a Walpurgic style that makes the mind giddy to dwell upon.

Of Burton’s original works I have given brief summaries; but as a writer he shines only in isolated passages. We go to him not for style but for facts. Many of his books throw welcome light on historical portions of the Bible.17

Of those of his works which are erotic in the true sense of the word I have given a sufficient account, and one with which I am convinced even the most captious will not find fault.18 When necessity has obliged me to touch upon the subject to which Sir Richard devoted his last lustrum, I have been as brief as possible, and have written in a way that only scholars could understand. In short I have kept steadily in view the fact that this work is one which will lie on drawing-room tables and be within the reach of everyone. I have nowhere mentioned the subject by name, but I do not see how I could possible have avoided all allusion to it. I have dwelt on Burton’s bravery, his tenderness, his probity, his marvellous industry, his encyclopaedic learning — but the picture would not have been a true one had I entirely over-passed the monomania of his last days. Hamlet must be shown, if not at his maddest, at any rate mad, or he would not be Hamlet at all.

As regards Burton’s letters, I have ruthlessly struck out every sentence that might give offence.19 While I have not hesitated to expose Sir Richard’s faults, I have endeavoured to avoid laying too much stress upon them. I have tried, indeed, to get an idea of the mountain not only by climbing its sides, but also by viewing it from a distance. I trust that there will be found nothing in this book to hurt the feelings of any living person or indeed of any body of persons. I have certainly tried my utmost to avoid causing pain, and if the reader will kindly bear in mind that it is as much a Christian duty to avoid taking offence as to avoid giving offence, we shall amble along pleasantly together to the very last page. Out of consideration for Catholics I have suppressed a number of passages; and if I have allowed Sir Richard in one or two instances to make a lunge at their church, I trust they will notice that I have permitted him the same licence with regard to the Church of England and Exeter Hall. Finally, my impartiality is proved by my allowing him to gird at the poet Cowper.

Wherever possible, that is to say, when I could do it without ambiguity I have also out of courtesy used the term Catholic instead of Roman Catholic; and in order to meet what I believe to be the wishes of Lady Burton’s executors, I have omitted all mention of certain events that occurred after Sir Richard’s death.

The various works of Mr. W. H. Wilkins have been of great help to me, and I cannot avoid paying a passing tribute to the excellent opening passages20 of the Preface of his edition of Lady Burton’s Life of her husband.

The illustrations in this book are of exceptional interest. They include the Burton family portraits, the originals of which are in the possession of Mr. Mostyn Pryce and Mrs. Agg. During the lifetime of Sir Richard and Lady Burton they were the property of Lady and Miss Stisted; but, owing to her difference with these ladies, Lady Burton was not able to use them in the life of her husband; and Miss Stisted’s own scheme did not include illustrations. So they are now reproduced for the first time. The most noticeable are the quaint picture of Burton, his brother and sister as children, and the oil painting of Burton and Lady Stisted made by Jacquand about 1851. Of great interest, too, is the series of photographs taken at Trieste by Dr. Grenfell Baker; while the portraits of Burton’s friends, Mr. F. F. Arbuthnot, Mr. John Payne, Major St. George Burton, Dr. Baker, Mr. W. F. Kirby, Mr. A. G. Ellis, Professor J. F. Blumhardt, and others, will no doubt be appreciated by the public.

The writing of this book has been a thorough pleasure to me, not only on account of the infinite charm of the subject, but also because everyone whom I have approached has treated me with studied kindness. The representatives of Sir Richard Burton, of Lady Burton (through Mr. W. H. Wilkins) and of Miss Stisted have not only helped and permitted me to use the unpublished letters,21 but have generously given me a free hand. I am deeply indebted to them, and I can only trust that these pages will prove that their confidence in my judgment has not been misplaced.

To everyone who has assisted me I tender my sincere thanks, and I assure them that I shall never forget their abundant kindness.

Finally, in writing this work every possible care has been taken to ensure accuracy22; but that absolute perfection has been attained is improbable. It is hoped, however — to borrow the quaint expression of the Persian poet Jami — “that the noble disposition of the readers will induce them to pass over defects.”23

My grateful thanks are due to the following ladies and gentlemen for various services.

Arbuthnot, Mrs. F. F., 43 South Street, Park Lane, London.

Ashbee, Mr. C. G., Woolstapler Hall, Chipping Cambden, Gloucestershire.

Agg, Mrs. Hewletts, Cheltenham.

Baddeley, Mrs., Brighton.

Baker, Dr. Grenfell, 25, Southwick Street, Hyde Park, W.

Birch, Mrs. G. M., Lympstone Grange, South Devon.

Blumhardt, Prof. James F., British Museum.

Burton, Mrs. E. J., 31, Wilbury Road, Brighton.

Burton, Major St. George, The Black Watch.

Burton, Mr. Frederick, Brighton.

Cautley, Mr. P. P., 4, Via della Zonta, Trieste.

Clayton, Mr. Arthur, South View, Ropley, Hants.

Carrington, Mr. Charles, 13, Faubourg Montmartre, Paris.

Chatto, Mr. Andrew, Hillside, Elstree.

Codrington, Dr., Royal Asiatic Society, Albemarle Street.

Committee, The, of the Central Library, Camberwell.

Eales, Rev. A. R. T., The Rectory, Elstree, Herts.

Ellis, Mr. A. G., British Museum.

Editors, The, of the following newspapers: The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Standard, The Daily News, The Morning Post, The Daily Chronicle, The Daily Mail, The Athenaeum, The Saturday Review, The Academy, for inserting letters for me at different times. These letters put me in touch with several of Burton’s old friends.

Gardiner, Mr. C. H., 4, Montpelier Crescent, Brighton.

George, Mr. William H., 2, Highfield Terrace, Bognor.

Hector, Mr. E., Bookseller, 103, John Bright Street, Birmingham.

Hutchinson & Co., Messrs, for the loan of the portrait of Khamoor.

Jones, Mr. Herbert, The Library, High Street, Kensington.

Josling, Mr. A., 36, Lyndhurst Grove, Camberwell.

Kirby, Mr. W. F., “Hilden,” Sutton Court Road, Chiswick, London.

Letchford, Miss Daisy (now Madame Nicastro), Mezellina 178, Naples.

McCarthy, The Very Rev. P. J. Canon, Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

Mendelssohn, Mr. S., 21, Kensington Court Gardens, London, W.

Murray, Mr. T. Douglas, Pyt Cottage, Tisbury, Wilts.

MacRitchie, Mr. David, 4, Archibald Place, Edinburgh.

Newcombe, Mr. C. F., 16, Champion Park, Denmark Hill, London, S. E.

Nicastro, Madame.

Payne, Mr. John.

Pelham, Dr., President of Trinity College, Oxford.

Pryce, Mr. E. S. Mostyn, Gunley Hall, Chirbury, Shropshire.

Rankin-Lloyd, Mrs., Wilne House, Pembroke.

Royal Asiatic Society (for permission to examine the Arbuthnot and Rehatsek manuscripts).

Roe, Rev. Henry, 12, Barnoon Terrace, St. Ives, Cornwall.

Sams, Rev. G. F., The Rectory, Emberton, Bucks.

Segrave, Mr. H., Seaview, Lyme Regis, Dorset.

Snowsill, Mr. W. G., Camberwell Central Library.

Spencer, Mr. W. T., Bookseller, 27, New Oxford Street, London, W. C.

Steingass, Mrs., 36, Lyndhurst Grove, Camberwell.

Tussaud, Mr. John, of “Madame Tussaud’s.”

Tedder, Mr., The Athenaeum.

Tuckey, Dr. Charles Lloyd, 88, Park Street, Grosvenor Square, London.

Van Zeller, Mrs. (Lady Burton’s sister).

Wilkins, Mr. W. H., 3, Queen Street, Mayfair, London, W.

Wood, Mr. W. Martin, Underwood, Oatlands Avenue, Weybridge.

Wyllie, Mr. Francis R. S., 6, Montpellier Villas, Brighton.

My wife, too, upon whom devolved the heavy task of transcribing, must also be awarded her meed of praise.

The following is a fairly complete list of the various Books and Magazine Articles that have been laid under contribution.

Thomas Wright.

1 The few anecdotes that Lady Burton does give are taken from the books of Alfred B. Richards and others.

2 Lady Burton to Mrs. E. J. Burton, 23rd March 1891. See Chapter xxxix.

3 A three days’ visit to Brighton, where I was the guest of Mrs. E. J. Burton, is one of the pleasantest of my recollections.

4 Mrs. Van Zeller had, in the first instance, been written to, in my behalf, by Mrs. E. J. Burton.

5 It is important to mention this because a few months ago a report went the round of the newspapers to the effect that the tomb was in ruins.

6 See Chapter xvii.

7 It is as if someone were to write “Allah is my shepherd, I shall not want,” &c., &c. — here and there altering a word — and call it a new translation of the Bible.

8 See almost any ‘Cyclopaedia. Of the hundreds of person with whom I discussed the subject, one, and only one, guessed how matters actually stood — Mr. Watts-Dunton.

9 Between Payne and Burton on the one side and the adherents of E. W. Lane on the other.

10 At the very outside, as before stated, only about a quarter of it can by any stretch of the imagination be called his.

11 Burton’s work on this subject will be remembered.

12 31st July 1905.

13 See Chapters xxii. to xxix. and xxxv. He confessed to having inserted in The Arabian Nights a story that had no business there. See Chapter xxix., 136.

14 Thus she calls Burton’s friend Da Cunha, Da Gama, and gives Arbuthnot wrong initials.

15 I mean in a particular respect, and upon this all his friends are agreed. But no man could have had a warmer heart.

16 Particularly pretty is the incident of the families crossing the Alps, when the children get snow instead of sugar.

17 Particularly Unexplored Syria and his books on Midian.

18 It will be noticed, too, that in no case have I mentioned where these books are to be found. In fact, I have taken every conceivable precaution to make this particular information useless except to bona-fide students.

19 I am not referring to “Chaucerisms,” for practically they do not contain any. In some two hundred letters there are three Chaucerian expressions. In these instances I have used asterisks, but, really, the words themselves would scarcely have mattered. There are as plain in the Pilgrim’s Progress.

20 I have often thought that the passage “I often wonder . . . given to the world to-day,” contains the whole duty of the conscientious biographer in a nutshell.

21 Of course, after I had assured them that, in my opinion, the portions to be used were entirely free from matter to which exception could be taken.

22 In the spelling of Arabic words I have, as this is a Life of Burton, followed Burton, except, of course, when quoting Payne and others. Burton always writes ‘Abu Nowas,’ Payne ‘Abu Nuwas,’ and so on.

23 Conclusion of The Beharistan.

Chapter I

19th March 1821-October 1840

Childhood and Youth

1. Torquay and Elstree.

Sir Richard Burton, the famous traveller, linguist, and anthropologist — “the Arabian Knight” — “the last of the demi-gods” — has been very generally regarded as the most picturesque figure of his time, and one of the most heroic and illustrious men that “this blessed plot . . . this England,” this mother of heroes ever produced.

The Burtons, a Westmoreland family 24 who had settled in Ireland, included among their members several men of eminence, not only in the army, which had always powerfully attracted them, but also in the navy and the church. 25 For long there was a baronetcy in the family, but it fell into abeyance about 1712, and all attempts of the later Burtons to substantiate their claim to it proved ineffectual. 26

Burton supposed himself to be descended from Louis XIV. La Belle Montmorency, a beauty of the French court, had, it seems, a son, of which she rather believed Louis to be the father. In any circumstances she called the baby Louis Le Jeune, put him in a basket of flowers and carried him to Ireland, where he became known as Louis Drelincourt Young. Louis Young’s grand-daughter married the Rev. Edward Burton, Richard Burton’s grandfather. Thus it is possible that a runnel of the blood of “le grand monarque” tripped through Burton’s veins. But Burton is a Romany name, and as Richard Burton had certain gipsy characteristics, some persons have credited him with gipsy lineage. Certainly no man could have been more given to wandering. Lastly, through his maternal grandmother, he was descended from the famous Scotch marauder, Rob Roy.

Burton’s parents were Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Netterville Burton, a tall, handsome man with sallow skin, dark hair, and coal-black eyes, and Martha Beckwith, the accomplished but plain daughter of Richard and Sarah Baker, of Barham House (now “Hillside” 27), Elstree, Hertfordshire.

Richard Baker was an opulent country gentleman, and the most important personage in the parish. Judging from the size of his pew at church, “No. 19,” he must also have been a man of eminent piety, for it contained sixteen sittings. At all events he kept the parish in admirable order, and, as churchwarden, discountenanced unreasonable sleeping in church. Thanks to his patronage the choir made marked progress, and eventually there was no louder in the county. In 1813, we find him overseer with one George Olney. He took a perfunctory 28 interest in the village school (where, by the by, Arthur Orton, the Tichborne claimant, received his elaborate education), and was for a time “director.” He led the breezy life of a country gentleman. With his fat acres, his thumping balance at the bank, his cellar of crusted wine, and his horse that never refused a gate, this world seemed to him a nether paradise. He required, he said, only one more boon to make his happiness complete — namely, a grandson with unmistakably red hair. A shrewd man of business, Mr. Baker tied up every farthing of his daughter’s fortune, £30,000; and this was well, for Burton’s father, a rather Quixotic gentleman, had but a child’s notion of the use of money. The Burtons resided at Torquay, and Colonel Burton busied himself chiefly in making chemical experiments, of which he was remarkably fond; but the other members of the household, who generally went about holding their noses, appear not to have sympathised with his studies and researches. He was very superstitious — nothing, for instance, could induce him to reveal his birthday; and he fretted continually because he was not permitted to invest his wife’s money and make a second fortune; which no doubt he would very soon have done — for somebody else.

Richard Francis Burton was born at Torquay 29 on 19th March 1821; and to the intemperate joy of the family his hair was a fierce and fiery red. The news flew madly to Elstree. Old Mr. Baker could scarcely contain himself, and vowed then and there to leave the whole of his fortune to his considerate grandson. The baby, of course, was promptly called Richard after Mr. Baker, with Francis as an afterthought; and a little later the Burtons went to reside at Barham House with the grandparents. Richard was baptised in the parish church at Elstree, 2nd September 1821. In the entry his father’s abode is called “Bareham Wood,” 30 the name being spelt various ways. Our illustration of the old church is taken from an engraving made to commemorate the burial of William Weare 31 murdered by the notorious John Thurtell; an event that occurred in 1823, when Burton was two years old.

There was another link between the Burtons and the Bakers, for Joseph Netterville’s youngest brother, Francis, military surgeon in the 99th regiment, married Sarah Baker, Mr. Richard Baker’s eldest daughter. Dr. Burton 32 who was in St. Helena at the time of Napoleon’s death lives in history as the man who “took a bust of the dead emperor.” 33

24 They came from Shap.

25 Thus there was a Bishop Burton of Killala and an Admira Ryder Burton. See Genealogical Tree in the Appendix.

26 Mrs. Burton made a brave attempt in 1875, but could never fill the gap between 1712 and 1750.

27 Now the residence of Mr. Andrew Chatto, the publisher.

28 In 1818 the Inspector writes in the Visitors’ Book: “The Bakers seldom there.” Still, the Bakers gave occasional treats to the children, and Mrs. Baker once made a present of a new frock to each of the girls.

29 Not at Elstree as Sir Richard Burton himself supposed and said, and as all his biographers have reiterated. It is plainly stated in the Elstree register that he was born at Torquay.

30 The clergyman was David Felix.

31 Weare’s grave is unmemorialled, so the spot is known only in so far as the group in the picture indicates it.

32 He died 24th October 1828, aged 41; his wife died 10th September 1848. Both are buried at Elstree church, where there is a tablet to their memory.

33 For a time Antommarchi falsely bore the credit of it.

2. Tours and Elstree.

Being subject to asthma, Colonel Burton now left England and hired a chateau called Beausejour situated on an eminence near Tours, where there was an English colony. For several years the family fluctuated between Tours and Elstree, and we hear of a great yellow chariot which from time to time rolled into daylight. Richard’s hair gradually turned from its fiery and obtrusive red to jet black, but the violent temper of which the former colour is supposed to be indicative, and of which he had already many times given proofs, signalised him to the end of life. In 1823 Mrs. Burton gave birth to a daughter, Maria Katharine Elisa, who became the wife of General Sir Henry Stisted; and on 3rd July 1824 to a son, Edward Joseph Netterville, both of whom were baptized at Elstree. 34 While at Tours the children were under the care of their Hertfordshire nurse, Mrs. Ling, a good, but obstinately English soul who had been induced to cross the Channel only after strenuous opposition.

34 Maria, 18th March 1823; Edward, 31st August 1824.

3. Death of Richard Baker, 16th September 1824.

Richard Burton always preserved some faint recollections of his grandfather. “The first thing I remember,” he says, “was being brought down after dinner at Barham House to eat white currants, seated upon the knee of a tall man with yellow hair and blue eyes.” This would be in the summer of 1824. Mr. Baker, as we have seen, had intended to leave the whole of his property — worth about half a million — to his red-haired grandson; and an old will, made in 1812, was to be cancelled. But Burton’s mother had a half brother — Richard Baker, junior — too whom she was extravagantly attached, and, in order that this brother should not lose a fortune, she did everything in her power to prevent Mr. Baker from carrying out his purpose. Three years passed away, but at last Mr. Baker resolved to be thwarted no longer, so he drove to his lawyer’s. It was the 16th of September 1824. He reached the door and leapt nimbly from his carriage; but his foot had scarcely touched the ground before he fell dead of heart disease. So the old will had to stand, and the property, instead of going to Burton, was divided among the children of Mr. Baker, Burton’s mother taking merely her share. But for this extraordinary good hap Richard Burton might have led the life of an undistinguished country gentleman; ingloriously breaking his dogs, training his horses and attending to the breed of stock. The planting of a quincunx or the presentation of a pump to the parish might have proved his solitary title to fame. Mr. Baker was buried at Elstree church, where may be seen a tablet to him with the following inscription:

“Sacred to the memory of Richard Baker, Esq., late of Barham

House in this parish, who departed this life on the 16th September

1824, aged 62 years.” 35

Soon after the death of her husband, Mrs. Baker must have left Elstree, 36 for from 1827 to 1839, Barham House was occupied by Viscount Northland. The Burtons continued to reside at Tours, and all went well until cholera broke out. Old Mrs. Baker, hearing the news, and accounting prevention better than cure, at once hurried across the channel; nor did she breathe freely until she had plugged every nose at Beausejour with the best Borneo camphor.

The apprehensive old lady, indeed, hovered round her grandchildren all day like some guardian angel, resolutely determined that no conceivable means should be spared to save them from the dreaded epidemic; and it was not until she had seen them safely tucked in their snowy, lavendered beds that her anxieties of the day really ceased. One night, however, when she went, as was her custom, to look at the sleeping children before retiring herself, she found, to her horror, that they were not there. The whole household was roused, and there was an agonising hue and cry; but, by and by, the culprits were seen slinking softly in at the principal door. It seems that they had climbed down from their room and had gone the round with the death carts and torches, to help collect corpses; and enquiry revealed that they had worked considerably harder than the paid men. When the cholera scare passed off Mrs. Baker took to learning French, and with such success that in less than six months she was able to speak several words, though she could never get hold of the correct pronunciation. Despite, however, her knowledge of the language, the good lady did not take kindly to France, and she often looked wistfully northwards, quoting as she did so her favourite Cowper:

“England with all thy faults I love thee still.”

She and Mrs. Ling, the old nurse, who pined for English beef and beer, made some attempts to console each other, but with inappreciable success, and finally the fellow-sufferers, their faces now beaming with smiles, returned together to their England. And not even Campbell’s sailor lad was gladder to see again the “dear cliffs of Dover.”

Our charmingly quaint picture of Richard, his sister and brother, in wondrous French costumes, is from an oil painting 37 which has not before been copied. Richard was first taught by a lame Irishman named Clough, who kept a school at Tours; and by and by, chiefly for the children’s sake, Colonel Burton gave up Beausejour and took a house in the Rue De L’Archeveche, the best street in the town. The little Burtons next attended the academy of a Mr. John Gilchrist, who grounded them in Latin and Greek. A kind-hearted man, Mr. Gilchrist often gave his pupils little treats. Once, for instance, he took them to see a woman guillotined. Richard and Edward were, to use Richard’s expression, “perfect devilets.” Nor was the sister an angelet. The boys lied, fought, beat their maids, generally after running at their petticoats and upsetting them, smashed windows, stole apple puffs; and their escapades and Richard’s ungovernable temper were the talk of the neighourhood. Their father was at this time given to boar hunting in the neighbouring forest, but as he generally damaged himself against the trees and returned home on a stretcher, he ultimately abandoned himself again to the equally useful but less perilous pursuit of chemistry. If Colonel Burton’s blowpipes and retorts and his conduct in private usually kept Mrs. Burton on tenterhooks, she was no less uneasy on his account when they went into society. He was so apt to call things by their right names. Thus on one occasion when the conversation ran upon a certain lady who was known to be unfaithful to her husband, he inexpressibly shocked a sensitive company by referring to her as “an adulteress.” In this trait, as in many others, his famous son closely resembled him.

A youthful Stoic, Burton, in times of suffering, invariably took infinite pains to conceal his feelings. Thus all one day he was in frightful agony with the toothache, but nobody knew anything about it until next morning when his cheek was swollen to the size of a peewit’s egg. He tried, too, to smother every affectionate instinct; but when under strong emotion was not always successful. One day, throwing stones, he cut his sister’s forehead. Forgetting all his noble resolutions he flew to her, flung his arms round her, kissed her again and again, and then burst into a fit of crying. Mrs. Burton’s way of dressing her children had the charm of simplicity. She used to buy a piece of yellow nankin and make up three suits as nearly as possible alike, except for size. We looked, said Burton, “like three sticks of barley sugar,” and the little French boys who called after them in the streets thought so too, until Richard had well punched all their heads, when their opinions underwent a sudden change.

Another household incident that fixed itself in Burton’s mind was the loss of their “elegant and chivalrous French chef,” who had rebelled when ordered to boil a gigot. “Comment, madame,” he replied to Mrs. Burton, “un — gigot! — cuit a l’eau, jamais! Neverre!” And rather than spoil, as he conceived it, a good leg of mutton he quitted her service. 38 Like most boys, Burton was fond of pets, and often spent hours trying to revive some bird or small beast that had met with misfortune, a bias that affords a curious illustration of the permanence of character. The boy of nine once succeeded in resuscitating a favourite bullfinch which had nearly drowned itself in a great water jug — and we shall find the man of sixty-nine, on the very last day of his life, trying to revive a half-drowned robin.

35 Beneath is an inscription to his widow, Sarah Baker, who died 6th March, 1846, aged 74 years.

36 Her last subscription to the school was in 1825. In 1840 she lived in Cumberland Place, London.

37 The original is now in the possession of Mrs. Agg, of Cheltenham.

38 Wanderings in West Africa, ii. P. 143.

4. At School, Richmond, 1829.

In 1829 the Burtons returned to England and took a house in Maids of Honour Row, Richmond, while Richard and Edward were sent to a preparatory school at Richmond Green — a handsome building with a paddock which enclosed some fine old elms — kept by a “burly savage,” named the Rev. Charles Delafosse. Although the fees were high, the school was badly conducted, and the boys were both ill-taught and ill-fed. Richard employed himself out of school hours fighting with the other boys, and had at one time thirty-two affairs of honour to settle. “On the first occasion,” he says, “I received a blow in the eye, which I thought most unfair, and having got my opponent down I proceeded to hammer his head against the ground, using his ears by way of handles. My indignation knew no bounds when I was pulled off by the bystanders, and told to let my enemy stand up again. ‘Stand up!’ I cried, ‘After all the trouble I’ve had to get the fellow down.’” 39

Of the various countries he knew, Burton hated England most. Would he ever, he asked see again his “Dear France.” And then Fate, who revels in irony, must needs set him to learn as a school task, of all the poems in English, Goldsmith’s Traveller! So the wretched boy, cursing England in his heart, scowling and taking it out of Goldsmith by daubing his pages with ink, sat mumbling:

“Such is the patriot’s boast, where’er we roam

His first, best country ever is at home.” 40

By and by, to Burton’s extravagant joy — and he always intemperately loved change — measles broke out in the school, the pupils were dispersed, and Colonel Burton, tired of Richmond, resolved to make again for the continent. As tutor for his boys he hired an ox-like man “with a head the shape of a pear, smaller end uppermost” — the Rev. H. R. Du Pre afterwards rector of Shellingford; and Maria was put in charge of a peony-faced lady named Miss Ruxton. The boys hurrahed vociferously when they left what they called wretched little England; but subsequently Richard held that his having been educated abroad was an incalculable loss to him. He said the more English boys are, “even to the cut of their hair,” the better their chances in life. Moreover, that it is a real advantage to belong to some parish. “It is a great thing when you have won a battle, or explored Central Africa, to be welcomed home by some little corner of the great world, which takes a pride in your exploits, because they reflect honour on itself.” 41 An English education might have brought Burton more wealth, but for the wild and adventurous life before him no possible training could have been better than the varied and desultory one he had. Nor could there have been a more suitable preparation for the great linguist and anthropologist. From babyhood he mixed with men of many nations.

39 Life, i. 29.

40 Goldsmith’s Traveller, lines 73 and 74.

41 Life, i. 32.

5. The Continent Again.

At first the family settled at Blois, where Colonel and Mrs. Burton gave themselves over to the excitement of dressing three or four times a day; and, as there was nothing whatever the matter with them, passed many hours in feeling each other’s pulses, looking at each other’s tongues, and doctoring each other. Richard and Edward devoted themselves to fending and swimming. If the three children were wild in England they were double wild at Blois. Pear-headed Mr. Du Pre stuck tenaciously to his work, but Miss Ruxton gave up in despair and returned to England. At a dancing party the boys learnt what it was to fall in love. Richard adored an extremely tall young woman named Miss Donovan, “whose face was truly celestial — being so far up” but she was unkind, and did not encourage him.

After a year at Blois, Colonel and Mrs. Burton, who had at last succeeded in persuading themselves that they were really invalids, resolved to go in search of a more genial climate. Out came the cumbersome old yellow chariot again, and in this and a chaise drawn by an ugly beast called Dobbin, the family, with Colonel Burton’s blowpipes, retorts and other “notions,” as his son put it, proceeded by easy stages to Marseilles, whence chariot, chaise, horse and family were shipped to Leghorn, and a few days later they found themselves at Pisa. The boys became proficient in Italian and drawing, but it was not until middle life that Richard’s writing developed into that gossamer hand which so long distinguished it. Both had a talent for music, but when “a thing like Paganini, length without breadth” was introduced, and they were ordered to learn the violin, Richard rebelled, flew into a towering rage and broke his instrument on his master’s head. Edward, however, threw his whole soul into the work and became one of the finest amateur violinists of his day. Edward, indeed, was the Greek of the family, standing for music and song as well as for muscle. He had the finely chiselled profile and the straight nose that characterises the faces on Attic coins. Richard, though without the Roman features, was more of the ancient Roman type of character: severe, doggedly brave, utilitarian; and he was of considerably larger mould than his brother. In July 1832, the family stayed at Siena and later at Perugia, where they visited the tomb of Pietro Aretino. At Florence, the boys, having induced their sister to lend them her pocket money, laid it out in a case of pistols; while their mother went in daily terror lest they should kill each other. The worst they did, however, was to put a bullet through a very good hat which belonged to Mr. Du Pre. When their mother begged them not to read Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to a Son, concerning the morality of which she had doubts, they dutifully complied and surrendered themselves piously, and without a murmur, to the chaste pages of Paul de Kock. They did not, however, neglect the art treasures of Florence; and at Rome, their next stopping-place, they sauntered about with Baedeker’s predecessor, “Mrs. Starke,” and peered into earthly churches and flower-illumined ruins. Later the family journeyed to Naples, where the boys continued their studies under Mr. Du Pre. As a clergyman, this gentleman steadily inculcated in his pupils the beautiful principles of the Christian religion, and took a sincere and lively interest in their favourite pastime of cock-fighting.

Colonel Burton continued his chemical studies, and in an evil hour for the family, purchased a copy of the quaint text book by S. Parkes: “A Chemical Catechism . . . with copious notes . . . to which are added a Vocabulary and a Chapter of Amusing Experiments.” 42 And very amusing they were when Colonel Burton made them. Having studied the book closely, including the “poetry” with which it is studded, he manufactured, at vast expense, a few cakes of a nasty-looking and evil-smelling substance, which, he said, was soap, and ought to be put on the market. Mrs. Burton intimated that he might put it on the market or anywhere else as long as he did not make any more. He next, by the aid of the same manual, prepared a mixture which he called citric acid, though any other name would have suited it equally well; and of this, as neither he nor anybody else had any use for it, he daily produced large quantities. From Naples the family moved to Sorrento, where S’or Riccardo and S’or Edwardo, as the Italians called them, surrendered themselves to the natural and legendary influences of the neighbourhood and to reading. The promontory on which Sorrento stands is barren enough, but southward rise pleasant cliffs viridescent with samphire, and beyond them purple hills dotted with white spots of houses. At no great distance, though hidden from view, stood the classic Paestum, with its temple to Neptune; and nothing was easier than to imagine, on his native sea as it were, the shell-borne ocean-god and old Triton blowing his wreathed horn. Capri, the retreat of Tiberius, was of easy access. Eastward swept a land of myrtle and lemon orchards. While the elder Burton was immersed in the melodious Parkes, who sang about “Oxygen, abandoning the mass,” and changing “into gas,” his sons played the parts of Anacreon and Ovid, they crowned their heads with garlands and drank wine like Anacreon, not omitting the libation, and called to mind the Ovid of well-nigh two thousand years previous, and his roses of Paestum. From poetry they turned once more to pistols, again brought their mother’s heart to her mouth, and became generally ungovernable. A visit to a house of poor reputation having been discovered, their father and Mr. Du Pre set upon them with horsewhips, whereupon the graceless but agile youths ran to a neighbouring house and swarmed to the top of a stack of chimneys, whence partly by word and partly by gesticulation they arranged terms of peace.

In 1836, the Burtons left for Pau in the South of France; and while there Richard lost his heart to the daughter of a French baron. Unfortunately, however, she had to go away to be married; and Richard who loved her to desperation, wept bitterly, partly because he was to lose her and partly because she didn’t weep too. Edward and the young lady’s sister, who also understood each other, fared no better, for Colonel Burton having got tired of Pau, the whole family had to return to Italy. At Pisa “S’or Riccardo” and “S’or Edwardo” again “cocked their hats and loved the ladies,” Riccardo’s choice being a slim, soft, dark beauty named Caterina, Edwardo’s her sister Antonia. Proposals of marriage were made and accepted, but adieux had soon to follow, for Colonel Burton now moved to Lucca. All four lovers gave way to tears, and Richard was so wrung with grief that he did not become engaged again for over a fortnight. At Lucca the precious pair ruffled it with a number of dissolute medical students, who taught them several quite original wickednesses. They went, however, with their parents, into more wholesome society; and were introduced to Louis Desanges, the battle painter, Miss Helen Croly, daughter of the author of Salathiel, and Miss Virginia Gabriel (daughter of General, generally called Archangel Gabriel) the lady who afterwards attained fame as a musical composer 43 and became, as we have recently discovered, one of the friends of Walter Pater. Says Burton “she showed her savoir faire at the earliest age. At a ball given to the Prince, all appeared in their finest dresses, and richest jewellery. Miss Virginia was in white, with a single necklace of pink coral.” They danced till daybreak, when Miss Virginia “was like a rose among faded dahlias and sunflowers.”

Here, as everywhere, there was more pistol practice, and the boys plumed themselves on having discovered a new vice — that of opium-eating, while their father made the house unendurable by the preparation of sulphuretted hydrogen and other highly-scented compounds. It was recognised, however, that these chemical experiments had at least the advantage of keeping Colonel Burton employed, and consequently of allowing everybody a little breathing time at each stopping-place. In the spring of 1840, Colonel Burton, Mr. Du Pre and the lads set out for Schinznach, in Switzerland, to drink the waters; and then the family returned to England in order that Richard and Edward might have a university education. Their father, although not quite certain as to their future, thought they were most adapted for holy orders. Their deportment was perfect, the ladies admired them, and their worst enemies, it seems, had never accused them of being “unorthodox in their views.” Indeed, Mrs. Burton already pictured them mitred and croziered. For a few weeks the budding bishops stayed with “Grandmama Baker,” who with “Aunt Sarah” and “Aunt Georgiana,” and Aunt Sarah’s daughters, Sarah and Elisa, was summering at Hampstead; and filled up the time, which hung heavy on their hands, with gambling, drinking and love-making.

42 It seems to have been first issued in 1801. There is a review of it in The Anti-Jacobin for that year.

43 She was thrown from her carriage, 7th August 1877, and died in St. George’s Hospital.

Chapter II

October 1840-April 1842

Oxford

6. Trinity College, October 1840.

Edward was then placed under a clergyman at Cambridge — The Rev. Mr. Havergal, whose name, to that gentleman’s indignation, the brothers turned into “a peculiar form of ridicule.” 44 Richard was to go to Trinity College, Oxford. Neither, as we have seen, had been suitably prepared for a University career. Richard, who could speak fluently French, Italian, and modern Greek, did not know the Apostles’ Creed, and what was even more unusual in a prospective clergyman, had never heard of the Thirty-nine Articles. He was struck with the architecture of the colleges, and much surprised at the meanness of the houses that surrounded them. He heretically calls the Isis ‘a mere moat,’ the Cherwell ‘a ditch.’ The brilliant dare-devil from Italy despised alike the raw, limitary, reputable, priggish undergraduates and the dull, snuffling, smug-looking, fussy dons. The torpor of academic dulness, indeed, was as irksome to Burton at Oxford as it had been to FitzGerald and Tennyson at Cambridge. After a little coaching from Dr. Ogle and Dr. William Alexander Greenhill 45, he in October 1840, entered Trinity, where he has installed in “a couple of frowsy dog-holes” overlooking the garden of old Dr. Jenkins, the Master of Balliol.

“My reception at College,” says Burton, “was not pleasant. I had grown a splendid moustache, which was the envy of all the boys abroad, and which all the advice of Drs. Ogle and Greenhill failed to make me remove. I declined to be shaved until formal orders were issued by the authorities of the college. For I had already formed strong ideas upon the Shaven Age of England, when her history, with some brilliant exceptions, such as Marlborough, Wellington and Nelson, was at its meanest.” An undergraduate who laughed at him he challenged to fight a duel; and when he was reminded that Oxford “men” like to visit freshmen’s rooms and play practical jokes, he stirred his fire, heated his poker red hot, and waited impatiently for callers. “The college teaching for which one was obliged to pay,” says Burton, “was of the most worthless description. Two hours a day were regularly wasted, and those who read for honours were obliged to choose and pay a private coach.”

Another grievance was the constant bell ringing, there being so many churches and so many services both on week days and Sundays. Later, however, he discovered that it is possible to study, even at Oxford, if you plug your ears with cotton-wool soaked in glycerine. He spent his first months, not in studying, but in rowing, fencing, shooting the college rooks, and breaking the rules generally. Many of his pranks were at the expense of Dr. Jenkins, for whose sturdy common sense, however, he had sincere respect; and long after, in his Vikram and the Vampire, in which he satirises the tutors and gerund-grinders of Oxford, he paid him a compliment. 46

Although he could not speak highly of the dons and undergraduates, he was forced to admit that in one respect the University out-distanced all other seats of learning. It produced a breed of bull-terriers of renowned pedigree which for their “beautiful build” were a joy to think about and a delirium to contemplate; and of one of these pugnacious brutes he soon became the proud possessor. That he got drunk himself and made his fellow collegians drunk he mentions quite casually, just as he mentions his other preparations for holy orders. If he walked out with his bull-terrier, it was generally to Bagley Wood, where a pretty, dizened gipsy girl named Selina told fortunes; and henceforward he took a keen interest in Selina’s race.

He spent most of his time, however, in the fencing saloons of an Italian named Angelo and a Scotchman named Maclaren; and it was at Maclaren’s he first met Alfred Bates Richards, who became a life friend. Richards, an undergraduate of Exeter, was a man of splendid physique. A giant in height and strength, he defeated all antagonists at boxing, but Burton mastered him with the foil and the broad-sword. Richards, who, like Burton, became a voluminous author 47 wrote long after, “I am sure, though Burton was brilliant, rather wild, and very popular, none of us foresaw his future greatness.”

Another Oxford friend of Burton’s was Tom Hughes, author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays; the man who, in Burton’s phrase, “taught boys not to be ashamed of being called good,” 48 and he always revered the memory of his tutor, the Rev. Thomas Short. 49 Burton naturally made enemies as well as friends, but the most bitter was that imaginary person, Mrs. Grundy. This lady, whom he always pictured as an exceedingly stout and square-looking body with capacious skirts, and a look of austere piety, had, he tells us, “just begun to reign” when he was at Oxford, although forty years had elapsed since she first made her bow 50, and set everybody asking, “What will Mrs. Grundy say?” Mrs. Grundy had a great deal to say against Richard Burton, and, life through, he took a peculiar delight in affronting her. The good soul disapproved of Burton’s “foreign ways” and his “expressed dislike to school and college life,” she disapproved of much that he did in his prime, and when he came to translate The Arabian Nights she set up, and not without justification, a scream that is heard even to this day and in the remotest corners of the kingdom.

If Richard was miserable at Oxford, Edward was equally so at Cambridge. After the polish and politeness of Italy, where they had been “such tremendous dandies and ladies’ men,” the “boorishness and shoppiness,” of Oxford and Cambridge were well-nigh unendurable. Seizing an early opportunity, Richard ran over to Cambridge to visit his brother. “What is the matter, Edward,” enquired Richard. “Why so downcast?” “Oh, Dick,” moaned Edward, “I have fallen among epiciers. 51

44 Life, by Lady Burton, i. 67.

45 Dr. Greenhill (1814-1894), physician and author of many books.

46 Vikram and the Vampire, Seventh Story, about the pedants who resurrected the tiger.

47 He edited successively The Daily Telegraph and The Morning Advertiser, wrote plays and published several volumes of poetry. He began The Career of R. F. Burton, and got as far as 1876.

48 City of the Saints, P. 513.

49 Short died 31st May 1879, aged 90.

50 In Thomas Morton’s Play Speed the Plough, first acted in 1800.

51 Grocers.

7. Expelled, April 1842.

The dull life at Oxford was varied by the occasional visit of a mesmeric lecturer; and one youth caused peals of canorous laughter by walking round in a pretended mesmeric sleep and kissing the pretty daughters of the dons.

The only preacher Burton would listen to was Newman, then Vicar of St. Mary’s; of Pusey’s interminable and prosy harangues he could not bear even to think. Although unable to bend himself to the drudgery of Oxford, Burton was already forming vast ambitions. He longed to excel as a linguist, and particularly in Oriental languages. Hence he began to teach himself Arabic; and got a little assistance from the Spanish scholar Don Pascual de Gayangos. When he asked the Regius Professor of Arabic to teach him, he was rebuffed with the information that it was the duty of a professor to teach a class, not an individual. He spent the vacation with his Grandmother Baker in Great Cumberland Place, and he and his brother amused themselves about town with other roisterers, chiefly in gambling. Returned to Oxford he applied sedulously to the acquisition of foreign languages. He says, “I got a simple grammar and vocabulary, marked out the forms and words which I knew were absolutely necessary, and learnt them by heart. . . . I never worked more than a quarter of an hour at a time, for after that the brain lost its freshness. After learning some three hundred words, easily done in a week, I stumbled through some easy book-work and underlined every word that I wished to recollect. . . . Having finished my volume, I then carefully worked up the grammar minutiae, and I then chose some other book whose subject most interested me. The neck of the language was now broken, and progress was rapid. If I came across a new sound, like the Arabic Ghayn, I trained my tongue to it by repeating it so many thousand times a day. When I read, I invariably read out loud, so that the ear might aid memory. I was delighted with the most difficult characters, Chinese and Cuneiform, because I felt that they impressed themselves more strongly upon the eye than the eternal Roman letters.” 52 Such remarks from the man who became the first linguist of his day are well worth remembering. For pronouncing Latin words the “Roman way” he was ridiculed, but he lived long enough to see this pronunciation adopted in all our schools. The long vacation of 1841 was spent at Wiesbaden with his father and mother. Here again the chief delights of Richard and his brother were gambling and fencing; and when tired of Wiesbaden they wandered about the country, visiting among other places Heidelberg and Mannheim. Once more Richard importuned his father to let him leave Oxford and enter the army, but Colonel Burton, who still considered his son peculiarly fitted for the church, was not to be moved. Upon his return to England, however, Burton resolved to take the matter into his own hands. He laid his plans, and presently — in April 1842 — an opportunity offered.

The Oxford races of that year were being looked forward to with exceptional interest because of the anticipated presence of a noted steeplechaser named Oliver, but at the last moment the college authorities forbade the undergraduates to attend them.

Burton, however, and some other lawless spirits resolved to go all the same, and a tandem conveyed them from the rear of Worcester College to the race meeting. Next morning the culprits were brought before the college dignitaries; but the dons having lectured Burton, he began lecturing them — concluding with the observation that young men ought not to be treated like children. As a consequence, while the other offenders were merely rusticated, Burton was expelled. 53 He made a ceremonious bow, and retired “stung with a sense of injustice,” though where the injustice comes in, it is difficult to see. His departure from Oxford was characteristic. He and Anderson of Oriel, one of the other offenders, hired a tandem in which they placed their luggage, and then with “a cantering leader and a high-trotting shaft horse” they rode through the High Street, and so on to London, Burton artistically performing upon a yard of tin trumpet, waving adieux to his friends and kissing his hands to the shop girls. About the same time Edward, also for insubordination, had to leave Cambridge. Thus Burton got his own way, but he long afterwards told his sister, Lady Stisted, that beneath all his bravado there lay a deep sense of regret that such a course had been necessary.

52 Life, i. 81.

53 Or so he said. The President of Trinity writes to me: “He was repaid his caution money in April 1842. The probability is that he was rusticated for a period.” If so, he could have returned to Oxford after the loss of a term or two.

Chapter III

April 1842-20th February 1847

Sind

8. To Bombay, 18th June 1842.

On his arrival in London, Burton, in order to have an hour or two of peace, coolly told his people that he had been given an extra vacation, “as a reward for winning a double first.” Then occurred a quite un-looked-for sequel. His father insisted on giving a dinner in honour of the success, and Burton, unwillingly enough, became the hero of the moment. At table, however, a remark from one of the guests revealed the precise truth — with the result of an unpleasant scene; but eventually it was deemed advisable to let Burton have his own way and exchange the surplice for the sword. The Indian Service having been selected, a commission was purchased for £500, and Burton presently found himself Ensign to the 18th Regiment, Bombay Native Infantry. Delirious with joy, he applied himself vigorously to Hindustani under a dirty, smoky Scotch linguist, named Duncan Forbes. While thus employed he made the acquaintance of two persons who just them enjoyed a remarkable reputation, namely John Varley 54, the water colour painter and occultist, and the Rev. Robert Montgomery. 55 An artist of undoubted genius, Varley usually got fair prices for his pictures, but the expenses of a numerous family kept him miserably poor. Then he took to “judicial astrology,” and eventually made it a kind of second profession. Curious to say, some of his predictions came true, and thanks to this freak of fate he obtained more fame from his horoscopes than from his canvasses. He “prognosticated,” says Burton, “that I was to become a great astrologer.” Straightway Burton buried himself in astrological and cabalistic books 56, studied the uncanny arts, and became learned in “dark spells and devilish enginery,” but his own prophecies generally proved to be of the Moseilima type; that is to say, the opposite invariably happened — a fatality that pursued him to the end of life. The Rev. Robert Montgomery, with whom also he became acquainted, was the fashionable preacher and author whom Macaulay cudgelled so pitilessly in the Edinburgh Review. Burton’s aunts, Sarah and Georgiana, 57 who went with the crowd to his chapel, ranked the author of “Satan, a Poem,” rather above Shakespeare, and probably few men have received higher encomiums or a greater number of wool-work slippers.

Having been sworn in at the East India House, Burton went down to Greenwich, whence on 18th June, 1842, after being “duly wept over,” he, in company with his beautifully built bull-terrier of renowned pedigree, set sail for Bombay. He divided his time during the voyage, which lasted four months, between studying Hindustani and taking part in the quarrels of the crew. This was the year of the murder of Sir William Macnaughten by the Afghans and the disastrous retreat of the British from Cabul; consequently the first request of the voyagers on reaching Bombay (28th October 1842) was for news about Afghanistan. They learnt that the prestige of the British arms had been restored by Pollack, and that the campaign was ended.

To Burton, who had counted on being sent to the front, this was a burning disappointment. He found Bombay marvellously picturesque, with its crowds of people from all parts of the world, but before many days had passed he fell ill and had to be transferred to the Sanitarium, where he made the acquaintance of an old Parsee priest who assisted him in his Hindustani. Even in these early days we find him collecting material of the kind that was to be utilised in his Arabian Nights. He was struck, for example, with the fine hedges of henna whose powerful and distinctive odour loaded the atmosphere; and with the immense numbers of ravenous kites and grey-headed crows that swooped down on dead and even dying animals.

54 He died 17th November 1842, aged 65.

55 Robert Montgomery 1807-1855.

56 “My reading also ran into bad courses — Erpenius, Zadkiel, Falconry, Cornelius Agrippa” — Burton’s Autobiographical Fragment.

57 Sarah Baker (Mrs. Francis Burton), Georgiana Baker (Mrs. Bagshaw).

9. Baroda. The Bubu.

After six weeks’ rest, having received orders to join his regiment, which was then stationed at Baroda, he engaged some Goanese servants and made the voyage thither in a small vessel called a pattymar. It took them four days to march from the Tankaria-Bunder mudbank, where they landed, to Baroda; and Burton thus graphically describes the scenery through which they passed. “The ground, rich black earth . . . was covered with vivid, leek-like, verdigris green. The little villages, with their leafy huts, were surrounded and protected by hedge milk bush, the colour of emeralds. A light veil, as of Damascene silver, hung over each settlement, and the magnificent trees were tipped by peacocks screaming their good-night to the son.” The sharp bark of the monkey mingled with the bray of the conch. Arrived at Baroda, he lodged himself in a bungalow, and spent his time alternately there with his books and on the drill ground. He threw himself into his studies with an ardour scarcely credible — devoting twelve hours a day to Hindustani, and outwearying two munshis.

At that time it was quite the custom for the officers, married as well as single, to form irregular unions with the Hindu women. Every individual had his Bubu; consequently half-caste children were not uncommon; but Burton was of opinion that this manner of life had advantages as well as disadvantages. It connected, he says, “the white stranger with the country and its people, gave him an interest in their manners and customs, and taught him thoroughly well their language.” Like the rest, Burton had his Bubu. Still, he was no voluptuary. Towering ambition, enthusiasm, and passion for hard work trampled down all meaner instincts. Languages, not amours, were his aspiration, and his mind ran on grammar books rather than ghazels; though he confesses to having given whole days and nights to the tender pages of Euclid. Indeed, he was of a cold nature, and Plutarch’s remark about Alexander applies equally to him: “For though otherwise he was very hot and hasty, yet was he hardly moved with lust or pleasure of the body.” When the officers were not on the drill ground or philandering with their dusky loves, they amused themselves shooting the black buck, tigers, and the countless birds with which the neighbourhood abounded. The dances of the aphish-looking Nautch girls, dressed though they were in magnificent brocades, gave Burton disgust rather than pleasure. The Gaikwar, whose state processions were gorgeous to a wonder, occasionally inaugurated spectacles like those of the old Roman arena, and we hear of fights between various wild animals. “Cocking” was universal, and Burton, who as a lad had patronised this cruel sport, himself kept a fighter — “Bhujang” — of which he speaks affectionately, as one might of an only child. The account of the great fight between Bhujang and the fancy of a certain Mr. Ahmed Khan, which took place one evening “after prayers,” may be read by those who have a taste for such matters in Burton’s book Sind Revisited. 58 When Bhujang died, Burton gave it almost Christian burial near his bungalow, and the facetious enquired whether the little mound was not “a baby’s grave.”

His hero was the eagle-faced little veteran and despot, Sir Charles Napier, generally known from his Jewish look as “Fagin,” and from his irascibility as “The Devil’s Brother,” and after the war with Sind, the chief event of which was the battle of Meeanee (February 21st), where Sir Charles and Major Outram defeated the Ameer, his admiration grew almost to worship; though he did not actually see his hero till some months later. According to Punch the news of the battle was transmitted to headquarters in one word: “Peccavi.” A quarrel then broke out between the great English leaders, and Western India was divided into the two opposing camps of Outramists and Napierists, Burton, of course, siding with the latter. In April, Burton returned to Bombay to present himself for examination in Hindustani, and having passed with honour 59 he returned to Baroda, where he experienced all the inconveniences attendant on the south-west monsoon. The rain fell in cataracts. Night and day he lay or sat in a wet skin; the air was alive with ants and other winged horrors, which settled on both food and drink, while the dust storms were so dense that candles had to be burned in mid-day. However he applied himself vigorously to Gujarati 60, the language of the country, and also took lessons in Sanskrit.

“I soon,” he says, “became as well acquainted as a stranger can with the practice of Hinduism. I carefully read up Ward, Moor, and the publications of the Asiatic Society . . . and eventually my Hindu teacher officially allowed me to wear the Brahminical thread.” He learnt some of the Hindu text books by heart, including the Tota-kahani 61, which gave him a taste for “parrot books,” 62 on which he became an authority; while the study of the Baital-Pachisi led to his writing Vikram and the Vampire. 63 All this application caused his fellow officers to call him “The White Nigger.”

Although, in after years, Burton often made bitter attacks on Christianity, and wrote most scathingly against the Roman Catholic priesthood, and the cenobitic life of the monks, yet at times he had certain sympathies with Roman Catholicism. Thus at Baroda, instead of attending the services of the garrison chaplain, he sat under the pleasant Goanese priest who preached to the camp servants; but he did not call himself a Catholic. In August he visited Bombay to be examined in Gujarati; and having passed with distinction, he once more returned to Baroda — just in time to join in the farewell revels of his regiment, which was ordered to Sind.

58 Sind Revisited. Vol. ii. pp. 78-83.

59 5th May 1843. He was first of twelve.

60 “How,” asked Mr. J. F. Collingwood of him many years after, “do you manage to learn a language so rapidly and thoroughly?” To which he replied: “I stew the grammar down to a page which I carry in my pocket. Then when opportunity offers, or is made, I get hold of a native — preferably an old woman, and get her to talk to me. I follow her speech by ear and eye with the keenest attention, and repeat after her every word as nearly as possible, until I acquire the exact accent of the speaker and the true meaning of the words employed by her. I do not leave her before the lesson is learnt, and so on with others until my own speech is indistinguishable from that of the native.” — Letter from Mr. Collingwood to me, 22nd June 1905.

61 The Tota-kahani is an abridgment of the Tuti-namah (Parrot-book) of Nakhshabi. Portions of the latter were translated into English verse by J. Hoppner, 1805. See also Anti-Jacobin Review for 1805, p. 148.

62 Unpublished letter to Mr. W. F. Kirby, 8th April 1885. See also Lib. Ed. of The Arabian Nights, viii., p. 73, and note to Night V.

63 This book owes whatever charm it possesses chiefly to the apophthegms embedded in it. Thus, “Even the gods cannot resist a thoroughly obstinate man.” “The fortune of a man who sits, sits also.” “Reticence is but a habit. Practise if for a year, and you will find it harder to betray than to conceal your thoughts.”

10. Karachi. Love of Disguise.

On board the Semiramis, in which the voyage was performed, he made the acquaintance of Captain Scott, nephew of the novelist — a handsome man “with yellow hair and beard,” and friendship followed. Both were fond of ancient history and romance, and Burton, who could speak Italian fluently and had knowledge of the canalization of the Po Valley, was able to render Scott, whose business was the surveyal of Sind, the precise assistance he just then required. Burton also formed a friendship with Dr. John Steinhauser, afterwards surgeon at Aden. Then, too, it was at Karachi that he first saw his hero, Sir Charles Napier. Though his ferocious temper repelled some, and his Rabelaisisms and kindred witticisms others, Sir Charles won the admiration and esteem of almost all who knew him. It was from him, to some extent, that Burton acquired the taste, afterwards so extraordinarily developed for erotic, esoteric and other curious knowledge. Napier intensely hated the East India Company, as the champions of his detested rival, Major Outram, and customarily spoke of them contemptuously as the “Twenty-four kings of Leadenhall Street,” while Burton on his part felt little respect for the effete and maundering body whose uniform he wore and whose pay he drew.

Karachi 64, then not much better than a big village, was surrounded by walls which were perforated with “nostril holes,” for pouring boiling water through in times of siege. There were narrow lanes, but no streets — the only open place being a miserable bazaar; while owing to the absence of sewers the stench was at times unendurable. Near the town was a great shallow artificial pond which abounded in huge sleepy crocodiles, sacred animals which were tended by a holy fakir, and one of Burton’s amusements was to worry these creatures with his bull terrier. Tired of that pastime, he would muzzle a crocodile by means of a fowl fastened to a hook at the end of a rope, and then jump on to its back and take a zig-zag ride. 65 The feat of his friend, Lieutenant Beresford, of the 86th, however, was more daring even than that. Here and there in the pond were islets of rank grass, and one day noticing that the crocodiles and islets made a line across the pond, he took a run and hopped from one crocodile’s back on to another or an islet until he reached the opposite side, though many a pair of huge jaws snapped angrily as he passed.

Burton presently found himself gazetted as Captain Scott’s assistant; and having learnt the use of the theodolite and the spirit level, he went on December 10th (1844) with a surveying party to Hyderbad 66 and the Guni River. The work was trying, but he varied it with hawking; and collected material for a work which he published eight years later with the title of Falconry in the Valley of the Indus. He then made the acquaintance of three natives, all of whom assisted him in his linguistic studies, Mirza Ali Akhbar 67, Mirza Daud, and Mirza Mohammed Musayn. Helped by the last he opened covertly at Karachi several shops with the object, however, not of making profit, but of obtaining intimate knowledge of the people and their secret customs. Then he put on long hair and a venerable beard, stained his limbs with henna, and called himself Abdullah of Bushire, a half-Arab. In this disguise, with spear in hand and pistols in holsters, he travelled the country with a little pack of nick-knacks. In order to display his stock he boldly entered private houses, for he found that if the master wanted to eject him, the mistress would be sure to oppose such a measure.

All his life he loved to disguise himself. We shall see him later as a Greek doctor, a Pathan Hakim, and an Arab shaykh. His shops had plenty of customers, for he was in the habit of giving the ladies, especially if they were pretty, “the heaviest possible weight for their money,” though sometimes he would charge too much in order to induce them to chaffer with him. He learnt most, however, from the garrulity of a decayed beauty named Khanum Jan, who in her springtide had married a handsome tailor. Her husband having lost the graces of his person, she generally alluded to him affectionately as “that old hyena.” This couple proved a Golconda for information. Burton had not long studied these and other persons before coming to the conclusion that the Eastern mind is always in extremes, that it ignores what is meant by the “golden mean,” and that it delights to range in flights limited only by the ne plus ultra of Nature herself. He picked up miscellaneous information about magic, white and black, Yoga 68, local manners and customs such as circumcision, both female and male, and other subjects, all of which he utilised when he came to write his Notes and Terminal Essay to The Arabian Nights, particularly the articles on Al Islam and woman. Then, too, when at Bombay and other large towns he used to ransack the bazaars for rare books and manuscripts, whether ancient or contemporaneous. Still, the most valuable portion of his knowledge was acquired orally.

64 Now it is a town of 80,000 inhabitants.

65 Sind Revisited, i. 100.

66 “The first City of Hind.” See Arabian Nights, where it is called Al Mansurah, “Tale of Salim.” Burton’s A. N., Sup. i., 341. Lib Ed. ix., 230.

67 Mirza=Master. Burton met Ali Akhbar again in 1876. See chapter xviii., 84.

68 Yoga. One of the six systems of Brahmanical philosophy, the essence of which is meditation. Its devotees believe that by certain ascetic practices they can acquire command over elementary matter. The Yogi go about India as fortune-tellers.

11. A Dangerous Mission, 1845.

About this time it was reported to Sir Charles Napier that Karachi, though a town of only 2,000 souls, supported no fewer than three houses which were devoted to a particular and unspeakable vice 69 which is said to be common in the East. Sir Charles, whose custom it was to worm out the truth respecting anything and everything, at once looked round for someone willing to make enquiries and to report upon the subject. Burton being then the only British officer who could speak Sindi, the choice naturally fell upon him, and he undertook the task, only, however, on the express condition that his report should not be forwarded to the Bombay Government, from whom supporters of Napier’s policy “could expect scant favour, mercy, or justice.” Accompanied by his Munshi, Mirza Mohammed Hosayn Shiraz, and disguised as a merchant, Burton passed many evenings in the town, made the required visits, and obtained the fullest details, which were duly dispatched to Government House. But in 1847, when Napier quitted Sind “he left in his office Burton’s unfortunate official.” “This,” says Burton, “found its way with sundry other reports to Bombay, and produced the expected result. A friend in the secretariat informed me that my summary dismissal had been formally proposed by one of Sir Charles Napier’s successors, but this excess of outraged modesty was not allowed.” 70 A little later, however, Burton had to suffer very severely for this unfortunate occurrence. Of course he heard regularly from home. His father was still immersed in blow-pipes and retorts, his mother still mildly protesting. His sister, who had won to herself for her loveliness the name of “the Moss Rose,” was married to General Sir Henry Stisted 71, his brother Edward was practising as an army doctor; his Grandmother Baker was dead. 72

69 Burton used to say that this vice is prevalent in a zone extending from the South of Spain through Persia to China and then opening out like a trumpet and embracing all aboriginal America. Within this zone he declared it to be endemic, outside it sporadic.

70 Burton’s Arabian Nights, Terminal Essay, vol. x. pp. 205, 206, and The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, by W. H. Wilkins, ii., 730.

71 Married in 1845.

72 She died 6th March 1846, aged 74.

12. The Persian Beauty.

During one of his rambles he formed the acquaintance of a beautiful olive, oval-faced Persian girl of high descent. We are told that her “eyes were narcissi, her cheeks sweet basil,” her personal charms together with her siren voice and sweet disposition caused him to fall in love with her; but he had scarcely learnt that his passion was reciprocated before she died. We are told also that for many years he could never think of her without pain; and that when, some time after, he narrated the story to his sister he revealed considerable emotion. Miss Stisted thought she could see references to this episode in Burton’s poem The Kasidah, portions of which were written some three years later: “Mine eyes, my brain, my heart are sad — sad is the very core of me.” This may be so, but the birth of a litter of pups, presented to him by his beloved bull terrier, seems to have taken the edge off his grief; and his tribute to one of these pups, which received the name of Bachhun, is really affecting.

The “Acting Commissioner” of the time was General Jacob of the Sind Horse, who wore a helmet of silver and a sabre-tache studded with diamonds. This, however, was not from pride or love of display, but because he held it policy in those who have to deal with Hindus not to neglect show and splendour. “In the eyes of Orientals,” he used to remark, and Burton endorsed the saying, “no man is great unless he is also superbly dressed.” As Jacob stuttered, one of his correspondents thought his name was J. J. J. J. J. Jacob, and terribly offended the testy General by writing it so. A brave and self-confident, but rancorous old man, Jacob by his senseless regulations brought the Indian army to the verge of ruin. This peccadillo was passed over, but a more serious offence, his inability to play whist, was remembered against him by his brother officers right to the day of his death. 73

73 He died 5th October 1858. See Sind Revisited, ii. 261.

13. A Simian Dictionary.

When the Sikh war broke out Burton resigned his post under Scott in order to take part in the campaign in the Punjab, but peace being proclaimed a few weeks later, after the battle of Sobraon, Burton had no opportunities of distinguishing himself. So he returned to his studies, and now became ambitious to understand not only the people but also the monkeys of India. Consequently he collected some forty of them, made them live and eat after the manner of humans; and studies them as they mowed and gibbered. He would then talk to them and pronounce the sounds they made, until at last they could conduct quite a conversation together. Burton never divulged this talk, which, of course, may have been of a confidential nature, but he compiled a Simian Dictionary, and thus to some extent anticipated the work of Mr. R. L. Garner. Unfortunately the dictionary was some years later destroyed by fire.

14. Duality.

We shall often notice in Burton’s life what Burton himself called his dual nature. In the tale of Janshah in The Arabian Nights we read of a race of split men who separated longitudinally, each half hopping about contentedly on its own account, and reuniting with its fellow at pleasure. If Burton in a pre-existent state — and he half believed in the Pre-existence of Souls — belonged to this race, and one of his halves became accidentally united to one of the halves of somebody else, the condition of affairs would be explicable. In any circumstances, he was always insisting on his duality. For example — a kind-hearted man, who detested cruelty to animals, nevertheless he delighted, as we have seen, in the sport of cocking; an ambitious man, who wore himself out with his studies yet he neutralised all his efforts to rise by giving way to an ungovernable temper. He would say just what he thought, and no man could have exhibited less tact. Thus he managed to give offence, and quite unnecessarily, to his superior officer, Colonel Henry Corsellis, and they were henceforth at handgrips.

Among his favourite books was Jami’s Beharistan. The only pity is that he did not take the advice proffered in the Third Garden:

“If Alexander’s realm you want, to work adroitly go,

Make friends more friendly still, and make a friend of every foe.”

Other instances of opposing qualities will be noticed as this work proceeds. Late in life, when he took to glasses, Burton used to say “My duality is proved by my eyes alone. My right eye requires a No. 50 convex lens, my left a No. 14.” His assiduous application to his studies now brought about an illness, and, having returned to Bombay, he obtained two years’ leave of absence to the salubrious Neilgherries.

Chapter IV

20th February 1847-1849

Under the Spell of Camoens

Bibliography:

1. Grammar of the Jataki Dialect, 1849.

2. Remarks on Dr. Dorn’s Chrestomathy of the Afghan Tongue, 1849.

3. Reports on Sind addressed to the Bombay Government.

4. Grammar of the Mooltanee Language.

15. Goa and Camoens.

He left Goa on 20th February 1847, taking as usual a pattymar, his mind vibrant with thoughts of his great hero, the “Portingall” Camoens, with whose noble epic all Western India, from Narsinga and Diu to Calicut is intimately associated. Passages from Camoens were frequently in his mouth, and in bitterest moments, in the times of profoundest defection, he could always find relief in the pages of him whom he reverently calls “my master.” Later in life he could see a parallel between the thorny and chequered career of Camoens and his own. Each spent his early manhood on the West Coast of India 74, each did his country an incalculable service: Camoens by enriching Portugal with The Lusiads, Burton by his travels and by presenting to England vast stores of Oriental lore. Each received insult and ill-treatment, Camoens by imprisonment at Goa, Burton by the recall from Damascus. There was also a temperamental likeness between the two men. The passion for travel, the love of poetry and adventure, the daring, the patriotism of Camoens all find their counterpart in his most painstaking English translator. Arrived at Panjim, Burton obtained lodgings and then set out by moonlight in a canoe for old Goa. The ruins of churches and monasteries fascinated him, but he grieved to find the once populous and opulent capital of Portuguese India absolutely a city of the dead. The historicity of the tale of Julnar the Sea Born and her son King Badr 75 seemed established, Queen Lab and her forbidding escort might have appeared at any moment. On all sides were bowing walls and tenantless houses. Poisonous plants covered the site of the Viceregal Palace, and monster bats hung by their heels at the corners of tombs. Thoughts of Camoens continued to impinge on his mind, and in imagination he saw his hero dungeoned and laid in iron writing his Lusiads. A visit to the tomb of St. Francis Xavier also deeply moved him. To pathos succeeded comedy. There was in Panjim an institution called the Caza da Misericordia, where young ladies, for the most part orphans, remained until they received suitable offers of marriage The description of this place piqued Burton’s curiosity, and hearing that it was not unusual for persons to propose themselves as suitors with a view to inspecting the curiosities of the establishment, he and some companions repaired to the Caza. Having seen the chapel and the other sights he mentioned that he wanted a wife. A very inquisitive duenna cross-examined him, and then he was allowed to interview one of the young ladies through a grating, while several persons, who refused to understand that they were not wanted, stood listening. Burton at once perceived that it would be an exhausting ordeal to make love in such circumstances, but he resolved to try, and a dialogue commenced as follows:

“Should you like to be married, senorita?”

“Yes, very much, senor.”

“And why, if you would satisfy my curiosity?”

“I don’t know.”

The rest of the conversation proved equally wooden and unsatisfactory, and quotations from poets were also wasted.

“The maid, unused to flowers of eloquence,

Smiled at the words, but could not guess their sense.”

Burton then informed the duenna that he thought he could get on better if he were allowed to go on the other side of the grating, and be left alone with the demure senorita. But at that the old lady suddenly became majestic. She informed him that before he could be admitted to so marked a privilege he would have to address an official letter to the mesa or board explaining his intentions, and requesting the desired permission. So Burton politely tendered his thanks, “scraped the ground thrice,” departed with gravity, and in ten minutes forgot all about the belle behind the grille. It was while at Panhim, that, dissatisfied with the versions of Camoens by Strangford 76, Mickle and others, Burton commenced a translation of his own, but it did not reach the press for thirty-three years. 77

We next find him at Panany, whence he proceeded to Ootacamund, the sanitarium on the Neilgherries, where he devoted himself to the acquisition of Telugu, Toda, Persian and Arabic, though often interrupted by attacks of ophthalmia. While he was thus engaged, Sir Charles Napier returned to England (1847) 78 and Sind was placed under the Bombay Government “at that time the very sink of iniquity.” 79

In September Burton visited Calicut — the city above all others associated with Camoens, and here he had the pleasure of studying on the spot the scenes connected with the momentous landing of Da Gama as described in the seventh and most famous book of the Lusiads. In imagination, like Da Gama and his brave “Portingalls,” he greeted the Moor Monzaida, interviewed the Zamorim, and circumvented the sinister designs of the sordid Catual; while his followers trafficked for strange webs and odoriferous gums. On his return to Bombay, reached on October 15th, Burton offered himself for examination in Persian, and gaining the first place, was presented by the Court of Directors with a thousand rupees. In the meantime his brother Edward, now more Greek-looking than ever, had risen to be Surgeon-Major, and had proceeded to Ceylon, where he was quartered with his regiment, the 37th.

74 Camoens, born at Lisbon in 1524, reached Goa in 1553. In 1556 he was banished to Macao, where he commenced The Lusiads. He returned to Goa in 1558, was imprisoned there, and returned to Portugal in 1569. The Lusiads appeared in 1572. He died in poverty in 1580, aged 56.

75 The Arabian Nights.

76 Who was broken on the wheel by Lord Byron for dressing Camoens in “a suit of lace.” See English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.

77 Begun at Goa 1847, resumed at Fernando Po 1860-64, continued in Brazil and at Trieste. Finished at Cairo 1880.

78 Napier was again in India in 1849. In 1851 he returned to England, where he died 29th August 1853, aged 71.

79 Life of Sir Charles Napier, by Sir W. Napier.

16. “Would you a Sufi be?”

Upon his return to Sind, Burton at first applied himself sedulously to Sindi, and then, having conceived the idea of visiting Mecca, studied Moslem divinity, learnt much of the Koran by heart and made himself a “proficient at prayer.” It would be unjust to regard this as mere acting. Truth to say, he was gradually becoming disillusioned. He was finding out in youth, or rather in early manhood, what it took Koheleth a lifetime to discover, namely, that “all is vanity.” This being the state of his mind it is not surprising that he drifted into Sufism. He fasted, complied with the rules and performed all the exercises conscientiously. The idea of the height which he strove to attain, and the steps by which he mounted towards it, may be fathered from the Sufic poet Jami. Health, says Jami, is the best relish. A worshipper will never realise the pure love of the Lord unless he despises the whole world. Dalliance with women is a kind of mental derangement. Days are like pages in the book of life. You must record upon them only the best acts and memories.

“Would you a Sufi be, you must

Subdue your passions; banish lust

And anger; be of none afraid,

A hundred wounds take undismayed.” 80

In time, by dint of plain living, high thinking, and stifling generally the impulses of his nature, Burton became a Master Sufi, and all his life he sympathised with, and to some extent practised Sufism. Being prevented by the weakness of his eyes from continuing his survey work, he made a number of reports of the country and its people, which eventually drifted into print. Then came the stirring news that another campaign was imminent in Mooltan, his heart leaped with joy, and he begged to be allowed to accompany the force as interpreter. As he had passed examinations in six native languages and had studied others nobody was better qualified for the post or seemed to be more likely to get it.

80 The Beharistan, 1st Garden.

17. Letter to Sarah Burton, 14th Nov. 1848.

It was while his fate thus hung in the balance that he wrote to his cousin Sarah 81 daughter of Dr. Francis Burton, who had just lost her mother. 82 His letter, which is headed Karachi, 14th November 1848, runs as follows:— “My dear cousin, I lose no time in replying to your note which conveyed to me the mournful tidings of our mutual loss. The letter took me quite by surprise. I was aware of my poor aunt’s health having suffered, but never imagined that it was her last illness. You may be certain that I join with you in lamenting the event. Your mother had always been one of my best relations and kindest friends; indeed she was the only one with whom I kept up a constant correspondence during the last six years. I have every reason to regret her loss; and you, of course, much more. Your kind letter contained much matter of a consolatory nature; it was a melancholy satisfaction to hear that my excellent aunt’s death-bed was such a peaceful one — a fit conclusion to so good and useful a life as hers was. You, too, must derive no small happiness from the reflection that both you and your sister 83 have always been dutiful daughters, and as such have contributed so much towards your departed mother’s felicity in this life. In my father’s last letter from Italy he alludes to the sad event, but wishes me not to mention it to my mother, adding that he has fears for her mind if it be abruptly alluded to.

“At the distance of some 1,500 84 miles all we can do is resign ourselves to calamities, and I confess to you that judging from the number of losses that our family has sustained during the last six years I fear that when able to return home I shall find no place capable of bearing that name. I hope, however, dear cousin, that you or your sister will occasionally send me a line, informing me of your plans and movements, as I shall never leave to take the greatest interest in your proceedings. You may be certain that I shall never neglect to answer your letters and shall always look forward to them with the greatest pleasure. Stisted 85 is not yet out: his regiment is at Belgaum 86, but I shall do my best to see him as soon as possible. Edward 87 is still in Ceylon and the war 88 has ceased there. I keep this letter open for ten or twelve days longer, as that time will decide my fate. A furious affair has broken out in Mooltan and the Punjaub and I have applied to the General commanding to go up with him on his personal staff. A few days more will decide the business — and I am not a little anxious about it, for though still suffering a little from my old complaint — ophthalmia — yet these opportunities are too far between to be lost.”

Unfortunately for Burton, his official respecting his investigations at Karachi in 1845 was produced against him 89, and he was passed over 90 in favour of a man who knew but one language besides English. His theory that the most strenuous exertions lead to the most conspicuous successes now thoroughly broke down, and the scarlet and gold of his life, which had already become dulled, gave place to the “blackness of darkness.” It was in the midst of this gloom and dejection that he wrote the postscript which he had promised to his cousin Sarah. The date is 25th November, 1848. He says, “I am not going up to the siege of Mooltan, as the General with whom I had expected to be sent is recalled. Pray be kind enough to send on the enclosed to my father. I was afraid to direct it to him in Italy as it contains papers of some importance. You are welcome to the perusal, if you think it worth the trouble. I have also put in a short note for Aunt Georgiana. Kindly give my best love to your sister, and believe me, my dear cousin, your most affectionate R. Burton.”

Chagrin and anger, combined with his old trouble, ophthalmia, had by this time sapped Burton’s strength, a serious illness followed, and the world lost all interest for him.

81 She married Col. T. Pryce Harrison. Her daughter is Mrs. Agg, of Cheltenham.

82 She died 10th September 1848, and is buried at Elstree.

83 Elisa married Colonel T. E. H. Pryce.

84 That is from Italy, where his parents were living.

85 Sir Henry Stisted, who in 1845 married Burton’s sister.

86 India, some 70 miles from Goa.

87 His brother.

88 The Ceylonese Rebellion of 1848.

89 See Chapter iii., 11.

90 See Arabian Nights, Terminal Essay D, and The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, vol. ii., p. 730.

18. Allahdad.

He returned to Bombay a complete wreck, with shrunken, tottering frame, sunken eyes, and a voice that had lost its sonority. “It is written,” said his friends, “that your days are numbered, take our advice and go home to die.” They carried him to his ship, “The Elisa,” and as there seemed little hope of his reaching England, he at once wrote a farewell letter to his mother. With him as servant, however, he had brought away a morose but attentive and good-hearted native named Allahdad, and thanks in part to Allahdad’s good nursing, and in part to the bland and health-giving breezes of the ocean, he gradually regained his former health, strength, and vitality. At the time he regarded these seven years spent in Sind as simply seven years wasted, and certainly his rewards were incommensurate with his exertions. Still, it was in Sind that the future became written on his forehead; in Sind that he began to collect that mass of amazing material which made possible his edition of The Arabian Nights.

Chapter V

1849 to 3rd April, 1853

Chiefly Boulogne

Bibliography:

5. Goa and the Blue Mountains, 1851.

6. Scinde; or the Unhappy Valley, 2 vols., 1851.

7. Sindh, and the Races that Inhabit the Valley of the Indus, 1851.

8. Falconry in the Valley of the Indus, 1852.

9. Commencement with Dr. Steinhauser of The Arabian Nights, 1852.

10. A complete System of Bayonet Exercise, 1853.

19. A Motto from Ariosto.

When “The Elisa” approached Plymouth, with its “turfy hills, wooded parks and pretty seats,” Allahdad opened his eyes in wonderment. “What manner of men must you English be,” he said, “to leave such a paradise and travel to such a pandemonium as ours without compulsion?” On arriving in London, Burton called on his Aunt Georgiana,91 flirted with his pretty cousins Sarah and Elisa, attended to business of various kinds, and then, in company with Allahdad, set out for Italy to see his father and mother, who were still wandering aimlessly about Europe, and inhaling now the breath of vineyard and garden and now the odours of the laboratory. He found them, his sister, and her two little daughters, Georgiana and Maria (Minnie) at Pisa, and the meeting was a very happy one. Burton’s deep affection for his parents, his sister and his brother, is forced upon our notice at every turn; and later he came to regard his nieces just as tenderly. Quoting Coleridge, he used to say:

“To be beloved is all I need,

And whom I love I love indeed.”92

If Burton was thus drawn to those nearest of kin to him, so also his warm heart welled with affection for his friends, and for those who did him kindnesses. “If you value a man or his work,” he said, “don’t conceal your feelings.” The warmth of his affection for his friends Drake, Arbuthnot, and others, will be noticed as this book proceeds. On one occasion, after a spontaneous outburst of appreciation, he said in palliation of his enthusiasm, “Pardon me, but this is an asthenic age — and true-hearted men are rare.” Presently we find him revisiting some of his old haunts. In his youth he had explored Italy almost from end to end; but the literary associations of the various towns were their principal charm. To him, Verona stood for Catullus, Brindisi for Virgil, Sorrento for Tasso, Florence for “the all Etruscan three,”93 Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, Reggio and Ferrara for Ariosto. It was from Ariosto, perhaps through Camoens, who adopted it, that he took his life motto, “Honour, not honours” —

“’Tis honour, lovely lady, that calls me to the field,

And not a painted eagle upon a painted shield.”94

All the Burton servants obtained some knowledge of Italian, even Allahdad being soon able to swear fluently in it, and his aptitude, joined to a quarrelsome temper and an illogical prejudice against all Italians, caused innumerable broils.

By and by the family returned to England and Miss Stisted thus describes the progress: “One of the earliest pictures in my memory is of a travelling carriage crossing snow-covered Alps. A carriage containing my mother and uncle, sister and self, and English maid, and a romantic but surly Asiatic named Allahdad. Richard Burton, handsome, tall and broad-shouldered, was oftener outside the carriage than in it, as the noise made by his two small nieces rendered pedestrian exercise, even in the snow, an agreeable and almost necessary variety.” Now and then he gave them bits of snow to taste, which they hoped might be sugar.95 On reaching England he sent Allahdad back to Bombay.

Much of the year 1850 was spent at Leamington and Dover, and in 1851, Burton, accompanied by his brother Edward, crossed to Boulogne, where he prepared for publication his books, Goa, Scinde, Falconry in the Valley of the Indus, and Bayonet Exercise. Love of a sort mingled with literature, for he continued various flirtations, but without any thought of marriage; for he was still only a lieutenant in the service of John Company, and his prospects were not rosy. We said “love of a sort,” and advisedly, for we cannot bring ourselves to believe that Burton was ever frenziedly in love with any woman. He was, to use his own expression, no “hot amortist.” Of his views on polygamy, to which he had distinct leanings, we shall speak later. He said he required two, and only two qualities in a woman, namely beauty and affection. It was the Eastern idea. The Hindu Angelina might be vacuous, vain, papilionaceous, silly, or even a mere doll, but if her hair hung down “like the tail of a Tartary cow,”96 if her eyes were “like the stones of unripe mangoes,” and her nose resembled the beak of a parrot, the Hindu Edwin was more than satisfied. Dr. Johnson’s “unidead girl” would have done as well as the blue-stocking Tawaddud.97

91 His Grandmother Baker had died in 1846.

92 The Pains of Sleep.

93 Byron: Childe Harold, iv. 56.

94 Ariosto’s Orlando was published in 1516; The Lusiads appeared in 1572.

95 Temple Bar, vol. xcii., p. 335.

96 As did that of the beauty in The Baital-Pachisi — Vikram and the Vampire. Meml. Ed., p. 228.

97 Tale of Abu-el-Husn and his slave girl, Tawaddud. — The Arabian Nights.

20. Isabel Arundell & “My Dear Louisa.” 1851.

It was during Burton’s stay at Boulogne that he saw the handsome girl who ten years later became his wife — Isabel, daughter of Mr. Henry Raymond Arundell. She was the eldest of a very large family. Just twenty, fair, “with yards of golden hair,” dark blue eyes and a queenly manner, Isabel Arundell everywhere attracted attention. No portrait, it was said, ever did justice to her virginal beauty. “When she was in any company you could look at no one else,” the charm of her manner exceeded even the graces of her person, but her education was defective, and she was amusingly superstitious. She could be heard saying at every turn: “This is a good omen; that a bad one; oh, shocking! the spoons are crossed;

By the pricking of my thumbs Something wicked this way comes.”

Though not themselves wealthy, the Arundells were of noble lineage, and had rich and influential relations who prided themselves on being “old English Catholics.” Among Miss Arundell’s ancestors was Henry, 6th Lord Arundell of Wardour; her grandfather and the 9th Lord were brothers; and her mother was sister to Lord Gerard.

Isabel Arundell and Burton could have conducted their first conversation just as well had they been deaf and dumb. Strolling on the ramparts he noticed a bevy of handsome girls, one of whom, owing to her exceptional looks, particularly fired him, and having managed to attract her attention, he chalked on a wall, “May I speak to you,” and left the piece of chalk at the end of the sentence. She took it up and wrote under it, “No, mother will be angry.”

She had, however, long pictured to herself an ideal husband, and on seeing Burton, she exclaimed under her breath: “That is the man!” She describes him as “five feet eleven inches in height, very broad, thin and muscular, with very dark hair, black, clearly defined, sagacious eyebrows, a brown, weather-beaten complexion, straight Arab features, a determined-looking mouth and chin, nearly covered by an enormous moustache; two large, black, flashing eyes, with long lashes,” and a “fierce, proud, melancholy expression.”98 In the words of one of his friends, he had the eye of an angel, the jaw of a devil. Also staying at Boulogne was a young lady for whom Burton entertained a sincere affection, and whom he would probably have married but for the poorness of his outlook. “My dear Louisa,”99 as he called her, was a relative of Miss Arundell, and hearing what had occurred, she did Burton and Miss Arundell the kindness of formally introducing them to each other, Miss Arundell never tried to attract Burton’s attention — we have her word for that — but wherever he went she went too; and she never lost an opportunity of accidentally crossing his path. She considered sacred a sash which she wore when dancing with him, and she remembered him specially in her prayers. Henceforward, one devouring desire occupied her mind. She wished — and praiseworthily — to be Burton’s wife. To him, on the other hand, she was but an ephemeral fancy — one of the hundred and fifty women — his fair cousins in England and the softer and darker beauties of France and Italy — to whom he had said tender nothings. Later, when Miss Arundell saw him flirting with another girl, a certain “Louise”100 (not to be confused with “my dear Louisa”), she bridled up, coloured to her brow-locks, called “Louise” “fast” and Louise’s mother “vulgar.” Naturally they would be.101 With “myosotis eyes,” peachy cheeks and auburn hair, rolling over ivory shoulders102, “Louise” was progressing admirably, when, unfortunately for her, there came in view a fleshy, vinous matron of elephantine proportions, whom she addressed as “mother.” The sight of this caricature of the “Thing Divine,” to use Burton’s expression, and the thought that to this the “Thing Divine” would some day come, instantly quenched his fires, and when the mother tried to bring him to a decision, by inquiring his intentions regarding her daughter, he horrified her by replying: “Strictly dishonourable, madam.” “Englishmen,” he reflected, “who are restricted to one wife, cannot be too careful.” Miss Arundell was also jealous of “My dear Louisa,” though unwarrantably, for that lady presently became Mrs. Segrave; but she and Burton long preserved for each other a reminiscitory attachment, and we shall get several more glimpses of her as this book proceeds.103

Isabel Arundell was herself somewhat cheered by the prophecy of a gipsy of her acquaintance — one Hagar Burton — who with couched eyes and solemn voice not only prognosticated darkly her whole career, but persistently declared that the romance would end in marriage; still, she fretted a good deal, and at last, as persons in love sometimes do, became seriously indisposed. Without loss of time her parents called in a skilful physician, who, with his experienced eye, saw at once that it was indigestion, and prescribed accordingly. Residing at Boulogne in 1851, was a French painter named Francois Jacquand, who had obtained distinction by his pictures of monks, and “a large historical tableau representing the death chamber of the Duc d’Orleans.” In an oil painting which he made of Burton and his sister, and which is here reproduced for the first time, Burton appears as a pallid young military man, heavily moustached, with large brown eyes104; and his worn and somewhat melancholy face is a striking contrast to the bright and cheerful looks of his comely sister. Our portraits of the Misses Stisted are also from paintings by Jacquand. Burton’s habit of concealing his ailments which we noticed as a feature of his boyhood was as conspicuous in later life. “On one occasion,” says Miss Stisted, “when seized with inflammation of the bladder, a fact he tried to keep to himself, he continued to joke and laugh as much as usual, and went on with his reading and writing as if little were the matter. At last the agony became too atrocious, and he remarked in a fit of absence ‘If I don’t get better before night, I shall be an angel.’ Questions followed, consternation reigned around, and the doctor was instantly summoned.”

98 Life, i., 167.

99 She became Mrs. Segrave.

100 See Burton’s Stone Talk, 1865. Probably not “Louise” at all, the name being used to suit the rhyme.

101 Mrs. Burton was always very severe on her own sex.

102 See Stone Talk.

103 See Chapter x.

104 The original, which belonged to Miss Stisted, is now in the possession of Mr. Mostyn Pryce, of Gunley Hall.

21. Forster FitzGerald Arbuthnot 1853.

When Burton first became acquainted with Forster FitzGerald Arbuthnot is uncertain; but by 1853, they were on terms of intimacy. Burton was then 32, Arbuthnot 20. Of this enormously important fact in Burton’s life — his friendship with Arbuthnot — no previous writer has said a single word, except Lady Burton, and she dismisses the matter with a few careless sentences, though admitting that Arbuthnot was her husband’s most intimate friend. Of the strength of the bond that united the two men, and the admiration felt by Arbuthnot for Burton, she had little idea. F. F. Arbuthnot, born in 1833, was second son of Sir Robert Keith Arbuthnot and Anne, daughter of Field-Marshal Sir John Forster FitzGerald, G.C.B. Educated at Haileybury, he entered in 1852 the Bombay Civil Service, and rose subsequently to the important position of “collector.” A man of a quiet and amiable disposition, Arbuthnot never said an unkind word either to or about anyone. The sweetness and serenity of his manner were commented upon by all his friends; but like so many of your quiet men, he had a determination — a steady heroism, which made everything give way. Oppose Burton, and you would instantly receive a blow aimed straight from the shoulder, oppose Arbuthnot and you would be pushed quietly and amiably aside — but pushed aside nevertheless. A great idea had early possessed him. He wanted to see as much attention paid to the literatures of India, Persia and Arabia as to those of ancient Greece and Rome. All the famous books of the East, he said, should be translated into English — even the erotic, and he insisted that if proper precautions were taken so that none but scholars could obtain them, no possible harm could ensue.105

“England,” he wrote long after (1887), “has greater interests in the East than any other country in Europe, and ought to lead the way in keeping the world informed on all subjects connected with Oriental literature. Surely the time has not arrived for her to take a back seat on that coach, and to let other nations do a work which she ought to do herself.”106 The expression “on that coach,” by the by, was eminently characteristic of a man who plumed himself on being a Jehu of Jehus. Hundreds of invaluable manuscripts written by poets and sages, he said, require to be translated into English, and the need of the day is an Oriental Translation Fund. A man of means, Arbuthnot was sometime later to apply his money to the cause he had at heart; and year in, year out, we shall find him and Burton striking at the self-same anvil. Though there was a considerable difference in their ages, and though thousands of miles often separated them, their minds were ever united, and they went down the stream of life together like two brothers.

105 Of course, since Arbuthnot’s time scores of men have taken the burden on their shoulders, and translations of the Maha-Bharata, the Ramayana, and the works of Kalidasa, Hafiz, Sadi, and Jami, are now in the hands of everybody.

106 Preface to Persian Portraits.

Chapter VI

3rd April 1853 to 29th October 1854

Pilgrimage to Mecca

Bibliography:

11. The Kasidah (commenced).

12. El Islam (commenced).

22. The Man Wants to Wander.

Much of his time at Boulogne Burton devoted to fencing; and to his instructor, M. Constantin, he paid glowing tributes. He thoroughly mastered the art, defeated all antagonists, whether English or French, earned his “brevet de pointe for the excellence of his swordsmanship, and became a Maitre d’ Armes.” As horseman, swordsman, and marksman, no soldier of his day surpassed him, and very few equalled him. But of fencing, flirting and book-writing, he soon got heartily tired. Like his putative ancestors, the gipsies, he could never be happy long in one place. He says, “The thoroughbred wanderer’s idiosyncrasy, I presume to be a composition of what phrenologists call inhabitiveness and locality equally and largely developed. After a long and toilsome march, weary of the way, he drops into the nearest place of rest to become the most domestic of men. For a while he smokes the pipe of permanence with an infinite zest, he delights in various siestas during the day, relishing withal a long sleep at night; he enjoys dining at a fixed dinner hour, and wonders at the demoralisation of the mind which cannot find means of excitement in chit-chat or small talk, in a novel or a newspaper. But soon the passive fit has passed away; again a paroxysm on ennui coming on by slow degrees, viator loses appetite, he walks bout his room all night, he yawns at conversations, and a book acts upon his as a narcotic. The man wants to wander, and he must do so, or he shall die.”107

107 Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah, Memorial Ed., vol. i., p. 16.

23. Haji Wali, 1853.

As we have seen, Burton, even before he had left Sind, had burned to visit Mecca. Four years had since elapsed, and his eyes still turned towards “Allah’s holy house.” Having obtained another twelve months’ furlough, in order that he “might pursue his Arabic studies in lands where the language is best learned,” he formed the bold plan of crossing Arabia from Mecca to the Persian Gulf. Ultimately, however, he decided, in emulation of Burckhardt, the great traveler, to visit Medina and Mecca in the disguise of a pilgrim, a feat that only the most temerarious of men would have dared even to dream of. He made every conceivable preparation, learning among other usefulnesses how to forge horse shoes and to shoe a horse. To his parents and Lady Stisted and her daughters, who were then residing at Bath, he paid several visits, but when he last parted from them with his usual “Adieu, sans adieu,” it did not occur to them that he was about to leave for good; for he could not — he never could — muster up sufficient courage to say a final “Good-bye.” Shortly after his departure his mother found a letter addressed to her and in his handwriting. It contained, besides an outline of his dangerous plans, the instruction that, in case he should be killed, his “small stock of valuables” was to be divided between her and his sister.

Once more Burton had the keen pleasure of putting on disguise. Richard F. Burton ceased to be, and a muscular and powerful Mirza Abdullah, of Bushire, took his place. “I have always wished to see,” he explained to a friend, “what others have been content to hear of.” He wore long hair and Oriental costume, and his face and limbs were stained with henna. Accompanied by Captain Henry Grindlay of the Bengal Cavalry, he left London for Southampton, 3rd April 1853, and thence took steamer for Egypt, without ever a thought of Isabel Arundell’s blue eye or Rapunzel hair, and utterly unconscious of the sighs he had evoked. At Alexandria he was the guest of Mr. John Thurburn and his son-in-law, Mr. John Larking108, at their residence “The Sycamores,” but he slept in an outhouse in order the better to delude the servants. He read the Koran sedulously, howled his prayers with a local shaykh who imparted to him the niceties of the faith, purified himself, made an ostentatious display of piety, and gave out that he was a hakim or doctor preparing to be a dervish. As he had some knowledge of medicine, this role was an easy one, and his keen sense of humour made the experience enjoyable enough. On the steamer that carried him to Cairo, he fraternized with two of his fellow-passengers, a Hindu named Khudabakhsh and an Alexandrian merchant named Haji Wali. Haji Wali, whose connection with Burton lasted some thirty years109, was a middle-aged man with a large round head closely shaven, a bull neck, a thin red beard, handsome features which beamed with benevolence, and a reputation for wiliness and cupidity. Upon their arrival at Boulak, the port of Cairo. Khudabakhsh, who lived there, invited Burton to stay with him. Hindu-like, Khudabakhsh wanted his guest to sit, talk, smoke, and sip sherbet all day. But this Burton could not endure. Nothing, as he says, suits the English less than perpetual society, “an utter want of solitude, when one cannot retire into one self an instant without being asked some puerile questions by a companion, or look into a book without a servant peering over one’s shoulder.” At last, losing all patience, he left his host and went to a khan, where he once more met Haji Wali. They smoked together the forbidden weed hashish, and grew confidential. Following Haji Wali’s advice, Burton, having changed his dress, now posed as an Afghan doctor, and by giving his patients plenty for their money and by prescribing rough measures which acted beneficially upon their imaginations, he gained a coveted reputation. He always commenced his prescriptions piously with: “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful, and blessings and peace be upon our Lord the Apostle”; and Haji Wali vaunted him as “the very phoenix of physicians.” According to his wont, he never lost an opportunity of learning the ways and customs of the various people among whom he was thrown, or of foisting himself on any company in which he thought he could increase his knowledge. His whole life indeed was a preparation for “The Arabian Nights.” Thus at Cairo he had the good fortune to cure some Abyssinian slave-girls of various complaints, including the “price-lowering habit of snoring,” and in return he made the slave dealer take him about the town and unfold the mysteries of his craft. He also visited the resting-place of his hero, Burckhardt;110 indeed, in whatever town he sojourned, he sought out the places associated with the illustrious dead. It was now the Ramazan, and he observed it by fasting, reading the Koran, and saying countless prayers with his face turned devoutly to the Kiblah.111 He heartily rejoiced, however, with the multitude when the dreary month was over, and he describes112 amusingly the scenes on the first day following it: “Most people,” he says, “were in fresh suits of finery; and so strong is personal vanity in the breast of Orientals . . . that from Cairo to Calcutta it would be difficult to find a sad heart under a handsome coat. The men swaggered, the women minced their steps, rolled their eyes, and were eternally arranging, and coquetting with their head-veils.” In the house of a friend he saw an Armenian wedding. For servant he now took a cowardly and thievish lad named Nur, and, subsequently, he made the acquaintance of a Meccan youth, Mohammed, who was to become his companion throughout the pilgrimage. Mohammed was 18, chocolate brown, short, obese, hypocritical, cowardly, astute, selfish and affectionate. Burton not only purchased the ordinary pilgrim garb, but he also took the precaution to attach to his person “a star sapphire,” the sight of which inspired his companions with “an almost reverential awe,” and even led them to ascribe to him thaumaturgic power.113 His further preparations for the sacred pilgrimage reads rather like a page out of Charles Lever, for the rollicking Irishman was as much in evidence as the holy devotee. They culminated in a drinking bout with an Albanian captain, whom he left, so to speak, under the table; and this having got noised abroad, Burton, with his reputation for sanctity forfeited, found it expedient to set off at once for Mecca. He sent the boy Nur on to Suez with his baggage and followed him soon after on a camel through a “haggard land infested with wild beasts and wilder men.” At Suez he made the acquaintance of some Medina and Mecca folk, who were to be his fellow-travellers; including “Sa’ad the Demon,” a negro who had two boxes of handsome apparel for his three Medina wives and was resolved to “travel free;” and Shaykh Hamid, a “lank Arab foul with sweat,” who never said his prayers because of the trouble of taking clean clothes out of his box. “All these persons,” says Burton, “lost no time in opening the question of a loan. It was a lesson in Oriental metaphysics to see their condition. They had a twelve days’ voyage and a four days’ journey before them; boxes to carry, custom houses to face, and stomachs to fill; yet the whole party could scarcely, I believe, muster two dollars of ready money. Their boxes were full of valuables, arms, clothes, pipes, slippers, sweetmeats, and other ‘notions,’ but nothing short of starvation would have induced them to pledge the smallest article.”114 Foreseeing the advantage of their company, Burton sagaciously lent each of them a little money at high interest, not for the sake of profit, but with a view to becoming a Hatim Tai,115 by a “never mind” on settling day. This piece of policy made “the Father of Moustaches,” as they called him, a person of importance among them. During the delay before starting, he employed himself first in doctoring, and then in flirting with a party of Egyptian women the most seductive of whom was one Fattumah,116 a plump lady of thirty “fond of flattery and possessing, like all her people, a voluble tongue.” The refrain of every conversation was “Marry me, O Fattumah! O daughter! O female pilgrim.” To which the lady would reply coquettishly, “with a toss of the head and a flirting manipulation of her head veil,” “I am mated, O young man.” Sometimes he imitated her Egyptian accent and deprecated her country women, causing her to get angry and bid him begone. Then, instead of “marry me, O Fattumah,” he would say, “O old woman and decrepit, fit only to carry wood to market.” This would bring a torrent of angry words, but when they met again all was forgotten and the flirtations of the day before were repeated.

108 Burton dedicated to Mr. John Larking the 7th volume of The Arabian Nights.

109 Haji Wali in 1877 accompanied Burton to Midian. He died 3rd August 1883, aged 84. See Chapter xx.

110 He died at Cairo, 15th October 1817.

111 That is, in the direction of Mecca.

112 Pilgrimage, Memorial Ed., i., 116.

113 See Preface to The Kasidah, Edition published in 1894.

114 Pilgrimage, Memorial Ed., i., 165.

115 A chieftain celebrated for his generosity. There are several stories about him in The Arabian Nights.

116 An incrementative of Fatimah.

24. The Pilgrim Ship, 6th July 1853.

Burton and his party now embarked on the sambuk which was to take them to Yambu, the port of Medina. As ninety-seven pilgrims were crowded on a vessel constructed to carry only sixty, most extraordinary scenes occurred. Thanks to the exertions of Sa’ad the Demon, Burton and his friends secured places on the poop, the most eligible part of the vessel. They would not be very comfortable anywhere, Sa’ad explained, but “Allah makes all things easy.” Sa’ad himself, who was blessed with a doggedness that always succeeds, managed to get his passage free by declaring himself an able seaman. Disturbances soon commenced. The chief offenders were some Maghrabis, “fine looking animals from the deserts about Tripoli,” the leader of whom, one Maula Ali, “a burly savage,” struck Burton as ridiculously like his old Richmond schoolmaster, the Rev. Charles Delafosse. These gentry tried to force their way on to the poop, but Sa’ad distributed among his party a number of ash staves six feet long, and thick as a man’s wrist. “He shouted to us,” says Burton, “‘Defend yourself if you don’t wish to be the meat of the Maghrabis!’ and to the enemy ‘Dogs and sons of dogs! now shall you see what the children of the Arab are.’ ‘I am Omar of Daghistan!’ ‘I am Abdullah the son of Joseph!’ ‘I am Sa’ad the Demon!117’ we exclaimed.” And, Burton, with his turbulent blood well stirred, found himself in the seventh heaven. “To do our enemies justice,” he continues, “they showed no sign of flinching; they swarmed towards the poop like angry hornets, and encouraged each other with cries of ‘Allaho Akbar!’ But we had a vantage ground about four feet above them, and their short daggers could do nothing against our terrible quarter staves. Presently a thought struck me. A large earthen jar full of drinking water, in its heavy frame of wood stood upon the edge of the poop. Seeing an opportunity, I crept up to the jar and rolled it down upon the swarm of assailants. Its fall caused a shriller shriek to rise above the ordinary din, for heads, limbs and bodies were sorely bruised by the weight, scratched by the broken potsherds, and wetted by the sudden discharge.118 The Maghrabis then slunk off towards the end of the vessel, and presently solicited peace.”

The beauties of the sunrise baffled description. The vessel sailed over a violet sea, and under a sky dappled with agate-coloured clouds. At noon the heat was terrible and all colour melted away, “with the canescence from above.” The passengers were sympathetic with one another, notwithstanding their recent factiousness, and were especially kind to a poor little brown baby, which they handed round and nursed by turns, but the heat, the filth, and the stench of the ship defied description. At Mahar, one of the places where they landed, Burton injured his foot with a poisonous thorn, which made him lame for the rest of the pilgrimage. Presently the welcome profile of Radhwa came in view, the mountain of which the unfortunate Antar119 sang so plaintively:

“Did Radhwa strive to support my woes,

Radhwa itself would be crushed by the weight,”

and on July 17th, after twelve days of purgatory, Burton sprang on shore at Yambu.

117 Burton says of the Arabs, “Above all their qualities, personal conceit is remarkable; they show it in their strut, in their looks, and almost in every word. ‘I am such a one, the son of such a one,’ is a common expletive, especially in times of danger; and this spirit is not wholly to be condemned, as it certainly acts as an incentive to gallant actions.” — Pilgrimage, ii, 21., Memorial Ed.

118 Pilgrimage to Meccah, Memorial Ed., i., 193.

119 A creation of the poet Al-Asma’i. He is mentioned in The Arabian Nights.

25. Medina.

He now dressed himself as an Arab, that is to say, he covered his head with a red kerchief bordered with yellow, his body with a cotton shirt and a camel’s hair cloak, while a red sash, a spear and a dagger completed the outfit. Then, having hired some camels, he joined a caravan, consisting of several hundred men and beasts, which was bound for Medina; but his injured foot still incommoded him. Determined, however, to allow nobody to exceed him in piety, he thrice a day or oftener pounded the sand with his forehead like a true Mussulman.

While passing through one of the mountain gorges the pilgrims were attacked by a number of predatory Bedouin, led by a ferocious chief named Saad, who fired upon them from the rocks with deadly effect, but, at last, after a journey of 130 miles, they reached Medina, with the great sun-scorched Mount Ohod towering behind it — the holy city where, according to repute, the coffin of Mohammed swung between heaven and earth.120 Medina consisted of three parts, a walled town, a large suburb, with ruinous defences, and a fort. Minarets shot up above the numerous flat roofs, and above all flashed the pride of the city, the green dome that covered the tomb of Mohammed. Burton became the guest of the dilatory and dirty Shaykh Hamid. The children of the household, he says, ran about in a half nude state, but he never once set eyes upon the face of woman, “unless the African slave girls be allowed the title. Even these at first attempted to draw their ragged veils over their sable charms.” Having dressed themselves in white, Burton and Hamid sallied out for the Prophet’s Tomb, Burton riding on a donkey because of his lameness. He found the approach to the Mosque choked up by ignoble buildings, and declares that as a whole it had neither beauty nor dignity. Upon entering, he was also disillusioned, for its interior was both mean and tawdry. After various prayers they visited first the “Hujrah,” where they saw the tombs of Mohammed, Abu Bakr, Omar and Fatimah; and afterwards El Rauzah, the Garden situated between the Hujrah and the Prophet’s Pulpit, both very celebrated spots. Of the latter, Mohammed said: “Between my house and my pulpit is a garden of the gardens of paradise.”121 After more prayers they wandered round to the other sights, including the fine Gate of Salvation, the five minarets, and the three celebrated pillars, called respectively, Al-Mukhallak, the Pillar of Ayishah, and the Pillar of Repentance. They then made their way to the Mosque of Kuba, some two miles out of the town, and witnessed the entry into Medina of the great caravan from Damascus, numbering 7,000 souls — grandees in gorgeous litters of green and gold, huge white Syrian dromedaries, richly caparisoned horses and mules, devout Hajis, sherbet sellers, water carriers, and a multitude of camels, sheep and goats.122 Lastly Burton and his friends pilgrimaged to the holy Mount Ohod with its graves of “the martyrs;” and to the celebrated Al-Bakia, or Saints’ Cemetery, where lie ten thousand of the Prophet’s companions. On entering the latter they repeated the usual salutation: “Peace be upon ye, O People of Al-Bakia,” and then sought out the principal tombs — namely those of the Caliph Othman,123 “Our Lady Halimah,”124 the Infant Ibrahim,125 and about fourteen of Mohammed’s wives.126 The cemetery swarmed with clamorous beggars, who squatted with dirty cotton napkins spread on the ground before them for the reception of coins. Some of the women promised to recite Fatihahs for the donors, and the most audacious seized the visitors by their skirts. Burton laid out three dollars in this way, but though the recipients promised loudly to supplicate Allah in behalf of his lame foot, it did not perceptibly benefit. Burton’s companions hinted that he might do worse than settle in Medina. “Why not,” said one, “open a shop somewhere near the Prophet’s Mosque? There thou wilt eat bread by thy skill, and thy soul will have the blessing of being on holy ground.” Burton, however, wanted to be going forward.

120 How this tradition arose nobody seems to know. There are several theories.

121 It is decorated to resemble a garden. There are many references to it in the Arabian Nights. Thus the tale of Otbah and Rayya (Lib. Ed., v., 289) begins “One night as I sat in the garden between the tomb and the pulpit.”

122 Pilgrimage to Meccah (Mem. Ed., i., 418).

123 Mohammed’s son-in-law.

124 Mohammed’s wet nurse.

125 Son of Mohammed and the Coptic girl Mariyah, sent to Mohammed as a present by Jarih, the Governor of Alexandria.

126 Khadijah, the first wife, lies at Mecca.

26. Mecca.

On 31st August, after praying “a two-bow prayer,” he bade adieu to Shaykh Hamid, and with Nur and the boy Mohammed, joined the caravan bound for Mecca, the route taken being the celebrated road through the arid Nejd made by Zubaydah, wife of Harun al Rashid. The events of the journey were not remarkable, though Mohammed very nearly killed himself by feeding too liberally on clarified butter and dates mashed with flour. Sometimes Burton cheered the way and delighted his companions by singing the song of Maysunah, the Arab girl who longed to get back from the Caliph’s palace to the black tents of her tribe. Everybody got into good humour when he began:

“Oh take these purple robes away,

Give back my cloak of camel’s hair,”

and they laughed till they fell on their backs when he came to the line where the desert beauty calls her Royal husband a “fatted ass.” In truth, they needed something to cheer them, for the sky was burnished brass, and their goats died like flies. Simoon and sand-pillar threw down the camels, and loathsome vultures ready for either beast or man hovered above or squabbled around them. To crown their discomforts they were again attached by the Bedouin, whom they dispersed only after a stubborn fight and with the loss of several dromedaries. After passing the classic Wady Laymun, sung by the Arab poet Labid127 in lines suggestive of Goldsmith’s Deserted Village, they very piously shaved their heads and donned the conventional attire, namely two new cotton cloths with narrow red stripes and fringes; and when the Holy City came in view, the whole caravan raised the cry, “Mecca! Mecca! the Sanctuary! O the Sanctuary! Labbayk! Labbayk!”128 the voices being not infrequently broken by sobs.

On entering the gates, Burton and Nur crossed the famous hill Safa and took up their abode with the lad Mohammed. Early next morning they rose, bathed, and made their way with the crowd to the Prophet’s Mosque in order to worship at the huge bier-like erection called the Kaaba, and the adjacent semi-circular Hatim’s wall. The famous Kaaba, which is in the middle of the great court-yard, looked at a distance like an enormous cube, covered with a black curtain, but its plan is really trapeziform. “There at last it lay,” cries Burton, “the bourn of my long and weary pilgrimage, realising the plans and hopes of many and many a year,” — the Kaaba, the place of answered prayer, above which in the heaven of heavens Allah himself sits and draws his pen through people’s sins. “The mirage of fancy invested the huge catafalque and its gloomy pall with peculiar charms.” Of all the worshippers who clung weeping to the curtain,129 or who pressed their beating hearts to the sacred black stone built into the Kaaba, none, thought Burton, felt for the moment a deeper emotion than he. But he had to confess the humbling truth that while theirs was the high feeling of religious enthusiasm, his was but the ecstasy of gratified pride. Bare-headed and footed and in company with Mohammed, he first proceeded to the holy well, Zem-Zem, said to be the same that was shown by God to Hagar.130 They found the water extremely unpleasant to the taste, and Burton noticed that nobody drank it without making a wry face. It was impossible at first to get near the Black Stone owing to the crush of pilgrims. However, they occupied the time in various prayers, blessed the Prophet, and kissed the finger tips of the right hand. They then made the seven Ashwat or circuits, and from time to time raised their hands to their ears, and exclaimed, “In the name of Allah and Allah is omnipotent!” The circuits finished, and it was deemed advisable to kiss the Black Stone. For some minutes Burton stood looking in despair at the swarming crowd of Bedouin and other pilgrims that besieged it. But Mohammed was equal to the occasion. Noticing that most of those near the Stone were Persians, against whom the Arabs have an antipathy, he interpolated his prayers with insults directed against them — one of the mildest being “O hog and brother of a hoggess.” This having small effect he collected half-a-dozen stalwart Meccans, “with whose assistance,” says Burton, “by sheer strength, we wedged our way into the thin and light-legged crowd. . . . After reaching the stone, despite popular indignation testified by impatient shouts, we monopolised the use of it for at least ten minutes. While kissing it and rubbing hands and forehead upon it, I narrowly observed it, and came away persuaded that it was an aerolite.” Burton and his friends next shouldered and fought their way to the part of the Kaaba called Al Multazem, at which they asked for themselves all that their souls most desired. Arrived again at the well Zem-Zem, Burton had to take another nauseous draught and was deluged with two skinfuls of the water dashed over his head. This causes sins to fall from the spirit like dust. He also said the customary prayers at the Makam Ibrahim or Praying Place of Abraham131 and other shrines. At last, thoroughly worn out, with scorched feet and a burning head, he worked his way out of the Mosque, but he was supremely happy for he had now seen:

“Safa, Zem-Zem, Hatim’s wall,

And holy Kaaba’s night-black pall.”132

The next day he journeyed to the sacred Mount of Arafat, familiar to readers of The Arabian Nights from the touching story of Abu Hasan and Abu Ja’afar the Leper and133 he estimated that he was but one of 50,000 pilgrims. The mountain was alive with people, and the huge camp at its foot had booths, huts and bazaars stocked with all manner of Eastern delicacies, and crowded with purchasers. Instead, however, of listening to the sermons, Burton got flirting with a Meccan girl with citrine skin and liquescent eyes.

On the third day, mounted on an ass, he made for Muna and took part in the ceremony called Stoning the Devil. He was, however, but one of a multitude, and, in order to get to the stoned pillar a good deal of shouldering and fighting was necessary. Both Burton and the boy Mohammed, however, gained their end, and like the rest of the people, vigorously pelted the devil, saying as they did so, “In the name of Allah — Allah is Almighty.” To get out of the crowd was as difficult as it had been to get in. Mohammed received a blow in the face which brought the blood from his nose, and Burton was knocked down; but by “the judicious use of the knife” he gradually worked his way into the open again, and piously went once more to have his head shaved and his nails cut, repeating prayers incessantly. Soon after his return to Mecca, Mohammed ran up to him in intense excitement. “Rise, Effendi,” he cried, “dress and follow me; the Kaaba is open.” The pair then made their way thither with alacrity, and, replies to the officials in charge being satisfactory, Mohammed was authoritatively ordered to conduct Burton round the building. They entered. It was a perilous moment; and when Burton looked at the windowless walls and at the officials at the door, and thought of the serried mass of excited fanatics outside, he felt like a trapped rat. However safe a Christian might have been at Mecca, nothing could have preserved him from the ready knives of the faithful if detected in the Kaaba. The very idea was pollution to a Moslem. “Nothing,” says Burton, “is more simple than the interior of this sacred building. The pavement is composed of slabs of fine and various coloured marbles. The upper part of the walls, together with the ceiling, are covered with handsome red damask, flowered over with gold. The flat roof is upheld by three cross beams, supported in the centre by three columns. Between the columns ran bars of metal supporting many lamps said to be of gold.” The total expense was eight dollars, and when they got away, the boy Mohammed said, “Wallah, Effendi! thou has escaped well! some men have left their skins behind.”

The fifty-five other wonders of the city having been visited, Burton sent on Nur with his heavy boxed to Jeddah, the port of Mecca, and he himself followed soon after with Mohammed. At Jeddah he saw its one sight, the tomb of Eve, and then bade adieu to Mohammed, who returned to Mecca. Having boarded the “Dwarka,” an English ship, he descended to his cabin and after a while emerged with all his colouring washed off and in the dress of an English gentleman. Mirza Abdullah of Bushire, “Father of Moustaches,” was once more Richard Francis Burton. This extraordinary exploit made Burton’s name a household word throughout the world, and turned it into a synonym for daring; while his book, the Pigrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, which appeared the following year, was read everywhere with wonder and delight. Had he been worldly-wise he would have proceeded straight to England, where, the lion of the hour, he might have obtained a reward more substantial than mere praise. But he did not show himself until the commotion caused by his exploit had been half-forgotten, and we shall find him making a similar mistake some years later, after his return from Tanganyika.134

It seems that Burton was known in the army as “Ruffian Dick” — not by way of disparagement, but because of this demonic ferocity as a fighter, and because he had “fought in single combat more enemies than perhaps any other man of his time.” One evening soon after his return from Mecca, a party of officers, including a friend of Burton’s named Hawkins, were lounging outside Shepherd’s Hotel at Cairo. As they sat talking and smoking, there passed repeatedly in front of them, an Arab, in his loose flowing 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. “D—— 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, d —— it, Hawkins, that’s a fine way to welcome a fellow after two year’s absence.” “It’s Ruffian Dick!” cried the astonished officer.135

Perhaps to this period must be assigned the bastinado incident. Burton used to tell the tale136 as follows: “Once, in Egypt, another man and I were out duck shooting, and we got separated. When I next came in sight of the other man some Turkish soldiers had tied him up and were preparing to administer the bastinado. As I hurried to his assistance he said something to the Turks which I could not catch, and pointed to me. Instantly they untied him and pouncing upon me, tried to put me in his place, while my companion took to his heels. As they were six to one, they succeeded, and I had the very unpleasant experience of being bastinadoed. The first dozen or two strokes I didn’t mind much, but at about the ninetieth the pain was too excruciating for description. When they had finished with me I naturally enquired what it was all for. It seems that my companion when firing at a duck had accidentally shot an Egyptian woman, the wife of one of the soldiers. Upon my appearance he had called out in Turkish to the soldiers: ‘It was not I who fired the shot, it was that other fellow,’ pointing to me. The blackguard has taken good care to keep out of my way ever since.”

127 Known to us chiefly through Dr. Carlyle’s poor translation. See Pilgrimage, ii., 147.

128 Here am I.

129 Readers of The Arabian Nights will remember the incident in the Story of the Sweep and the Noble Lady. “A man laid hold of the covering of the Kaaba, and cried out from the bottom of his heart, saying, I beseech thee, O Allah, etc.”

130 See Genesis xxi., 15.

131 The stone upon which Abraham stood when he built the Kaaba. Formerly it adjoined the Kaaba. It is often alluded to in The Arabian Nights. The young man in The Mock Caliph says, “This is the Place and thou art Ibrahim.”

132 See also The Arabian Nights, The Loves of Al-Hayfa and Yusuf, Burton’s A.N. (Supplemental), vol. v.; Lib. Ed., vol. xi., p. 289.

133 Burton’s A.N., v., 294; Lib. Ed., iv., 242.

134 See Chapter ix.

135 Sporting Truth.

136 The reader may believe as much of this story as he likes.

27. Burton’s Delight in Shocking.

The story of Burton’s adventures having spread abroad, people now took the trouble to invent many incidents that were untrue. They circulated, for example, a grisly tale of a murder which he was understood to have committed on a man who had penetrated his disguise,137 and, the tale continuing to roll, the murder became eventually two murders. Unfortunately, Burton was cursed with a very foolish habit, and one that later did him considerable harm. Like Lord Byron, he delighted to shock. His sister had often reproved him for it after his return from India, but without effecting a change. Kindly listeners hardly knew how to take him, while the malicious made mischief. One day, in England, when, in the presence of his sister and a lady friend, he had thought fit to enlarge on a number of purely fictitious misdeeds, he was put to some shame. His sister having in vain tried by signs to stop him, the friend at last cut him short with: “Am I to admire you, Mr. Burton?” And he accepted the reproof. Still, he never broke himself of this dangerous habit; indeed, when the murder report spread abroad he seems to have been rather gratified than not; and he certainly took no trouble to refute the calumny.

On another occasion he boasted of his supposed descent from Louis XIV. “I should have thought,” exclaimed a listener, “that you who have such good Irish blood in your veins would be glad to forget your descent from a dishonourable union.”

“Oh, no,” replied Burton vehemently, “I would rather be the bastard of a king than the son of an honest man.”

Though this was at the time simply intended to shock, nevertheless it illustrated in a sense his real views. He used to insist that the offspring of illicit or unholy unions were in no way to be pitied if they inherited, as if often the case, the culture or splendid physique of the father and the comeliness of the mother; and instanced King Solomon, Falconbridge, in whose “large composition,” could be read tokens of King Richard,138 and the list of notables from Homer to “Pedro’s son,” as catalogued by Camoens139 who said:

“The meed of valour Bastards aye have claimed

By arts or arms, or haply both conjoined.”

The real persons to be pitied, he said, were the mentally or physically weak, whatever their parentage.

137 The man was said to have been killed in cold blood simply to silence a wagging tongue.

138 See Shakespeare’s King John, act i., scene i.

139 Burton’s translation of the Lusiads, vol. ii., p. 425.

28. El Islam.

Burton now commenced to write a work to be called El Islam, or the History of Mohammedanism; which, however, he never finished. It opens with an account of the rise of Christianity, his attitude to which resembled that of Renan.140 Of Christ he says: “He had given an impetus to the progress of mankind by systematizing a religion of the highest moral loveliness, showing what an imperfect race can and may become.” He then dilates on St. Paul, who with a daring hand “rent asunder the ties connecting Christianity with Judaism.” “He offered to the great family of man a Church with a Diety at its head and a religion peculiarly of principles. He left the moral code of Christianity untouched in its loveliness. After the death of St. Paul,” continues Burton, “Christianity sank into a species of idolatry. The acme of stupidity was attained by the Stylites, who conceived that mankind had no nobler end than to live and die upon the capital of a column. When things were at their worst Mohammed first appeared upon the stage of life.” The work was published in its unfinished state after Burton’s death.

With The Kasidah we shall deal in a later chapter, for though Burton wrote a few couplets at this time, the poem did not take its present shape till after the appearance of FitzGerald’s adaptation of The Rubaiyat Oman Khayyam.

Having spent a few weeks in Egypt, Burton returned to Bombay, travelling in his Arab dress. Among those on board was an English gentleman, Mr. James Grant Lumsden, senior member of the Council, Bombay, who being struck by Burton’s appearance, said to a friend, “What a clever, intellectual face that Arab has!” Burton, overhearing the remark, made some humorous comment in English, and thus commenced a pleasant friendship.

140 Although Burton began El Islam about 1853, he worked at it years after. Portions of it certainly remind one of Renan’s Life of Jesus, which appeared in 1863.

Chapter VII

29th October 1854 — 9th February 1855

To Harar

Bibliography:

13. Pilgrimage to Al-Madimah and Meccah. 3 vols. 1855-1856.

29. At Aden. The Arabian Nights. Oct. 1854.

It was while staying at Bombay as Mr. Lumsden’s guest that Burton, already cloyed with civilization, conceived the idea of journeying, via Zeila in Somaliland, to the forbidden and therefore almost unknown city of Harar, and thence to Zanzibar. His application to the Bombay Government for permission and assistance having been received favourably, he at once set out for Aden, where he stayed with his “old and dear friend,” Dr. John Steinhauser, who had been appointed civil surgeon there. Steinhauser, a stolid man, whose face might have been carved out of wood, was, like Burton, an enthusiastic student of The Arabian Nights, and their conversation naturally drifted into this subject. Both came to the conclusion that while the name of this wondrous repertory of Moslem folk-lore was familiar to almost every English child, no general reader could form any idea of its treasures. Moreover, that the door would not open to any but Arabists. But even at the present day, and notwithstanding the editions of Payne and Burton, there are still persons who imagine that The Arabian Nights is simply a book for the nursery. Familiar only with some inferior rendering, they are absolutely ignorant of the wealth of wisdom, humour, pathos and poetry to be found in its pages.141 Writing in 1856, Burton says: “The most familiar book in England, next to the Bible, it is one of the least known, the reason being that about one-fifth is utterly unfit for translation, and the most sanguine Orientalist would not dare to render more than three-quarters of the remainder,142 consequently the reader loses the contrast — the very essence of the book — between its brilliancy and dulness, its moral putrefaction and such pearls as:

‘Cast the seed of good works on the least fit soil;

Good is never wasted, however it may be laid out.’

And in a page or two after such divine sentiment, the ladies of Baghdad sit in the porter’s lay, and indulge in a facetiousness which would have killed Pietro Aretino before his time.”143 When the work entitled A Thousand Nights and a Night was commenced, no man knows. There were Eastern collections with that title four centuries ago, laboured by the bronzed fingers of Arab scribes; but the framework and some of the tales must have existed prior even to the Moslem conquest. It has been noticed that there are resemblances between the story of Shahryar and that of Ahasuerus as recorded in Esther. In both narratives the King is offended with his Queen and chooses a new wife daily. Shahryar has recourse to the scimitar, Ahasuerus consigns wife after wife to the seclusion of his harem. Shahryar finds a model consort in Shahrazad, Ahasuerus in Esther. Each queen saves a multitude from death, each king lies awake half the night listening to stories.144 While many of the stories in The Arabian Nights are ancient, some, as internal evidence proves, are comparatively recent. Thus those of Kamar-al-Zaman II. and Ma’aruf the Cobbler belong to the 16th century; and no manuscript appears to be older than 1548. The most important editions are the Calcutta, the Boulac145 and the Breslau, all of which differ both in text and the order of the stories. The Nights were first introduced into Europe by Antoine Galland, whose French translation appeared between 1704 and 1717. Of the Nights proper, Galland presented the public with about a quarter, and he added ten tales146 from other Eastern manuscripts. An anonymous English edition appeared within a few years. The edition published in 1811 by Jonathan Scott is Galland with omissions and additions, the new tales being from the Wortley Montague MS. now in the Bodleian. In 1838, Henry Torrens began a translation direct from the Arabic, of which, however, he completed only one volume, and in 1838-40 appeared the translation direct from the Arabic, of which, however, he completed only one volume, and in 1838-40 appeared the translation of Edward William Lane,147 made direct from the Boulac edition. This work, which contains about one third of the entire Arabian Nights, was a great step forward, but unfortunately, Lane, who afterwards became an excellent Arabic scholar, was but a poor writer, and having no gift of verse, he rendered the poetical portions, that is to say, some ten thousand lines “in the baldest and most prosaic of English.”148

So Burton and Steinhauser said to themselves, As the public have never had more than one-third of the Nights, and that translated indifferently, we will see what we can do. “We agreed,” says Burton, “to collaborate and produce a full, complete, unvarnished, uncastrated, copy of the great original, my friend taking the prose and I the metrical part; and we corresponded upon the subject for years.”149 They told each other that, having completed their task, they would look out for a retreat as a preparation for senility, some country cottage, perhaps, in the South of France, where, remote from books, papers, pens, ink and telegrams, they could spend their nights in bed and their days in hammocks. Beyond planning the translation, however, nothing was done. Steinhauser died fourteen years later (1866), and whatever notes he made were dispersed, while Burton, even as late as 1883, had done nothing beyond making a syllabus of the Boulac edition.150 Still, the scheme was never for very long absent from his thoughts, and during his wanderings in Somaliland, the Tanganyika country and elsewhere, he often delighted the natives by reciting or reading some of the tales. The history of Burton’s translation of The Arabian Nights is, as we shall subsequently show, curiously analogous to that of The Kasidah.

141 To some of the beauties of The Arabian Nights we shall draw attention in Chapter 27.

142 Of course both Payne and Burton subsequently translated the whole.

143 First Footsteps in East Africa. (The Harar Book.) Memorial Ed., p. 26.

144 Esther, vi., 1.

145 Boulac is the port of Cairo. See Chapter xi..

146 Zeyn al Asnam, Codadad, Aladdin, Baba Abdalla, Sidi Nouman, Cogia Hassan Alhabbal, Ali-Baba, Ali Cogia, Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Peri-Banou, The two Sisters who were jealous of their Cadette.

147 Edward William Lane (1801-1876). He is also remembered on account of his Arabic Lexicon. Five volumes appeared in 1863-74, the remainder by his grand-nephew Stanley Lane-Poole, in 1876-1890.

148 Every student, however, must be grateful to Lane for his voluminous and valuable notes.

149 Lady Burton states incorrectly that the compact was made in the “winter of 1852,” but Burton was then in Europe.

150 My authorities are Mr. John Payne, Mr. Watts-Dunton and Burton’s letters. See Chapter 22, 104, and Chapter 23, 107.

30. From Zeila to Harar, 27th November 1854 to 2nd January 1855.

Burton now found that, as regards the projected expedition, his plans would have to be modified, and he finally decided to confine his explorations to “the great parched horn” of Somaliland. His plan was now to visit Harar via Zeila, and then make for Berbera, in order to join Lieutenant Speke, Herne and Stroyan, who had been authorised to assist him and had arranged to await him there. The presence at Berbera of Speke and his companions, would, it was supposed, “produce a friendly feeling on the part of Somali,” and facilitate Burton’s egress from Harar, should he ever, as was by no means certain, enter alive that dangerous and avoided city. Sir James Outram, then Political Resident at Aden, called the expedition a tempting of Providence, and tried hard to stop it, but in vain. Burton left Aden for Zeila on October 29th, taking with him a managing man called “The Hammal,” a long, lean Aden policeman, nicknamed “Long Gulad” and a suave but rascally Moslem priest dubbed “The End of Time.”151 They landed on October 31st, and found Zeila a town of white-washed houses and minaretted mosques, surrounded by a low brown wall with round towers. Burton, who called himself a Moslem merchant, spent three weeks buying camels and mules and interviewing guides, while he kept up his reputation for piety with the customary devotions. According to his wont, he carefully studied the customs of the people. “One of the peculiar charms,” he says, of the Somali girls, is “a soft, low and plaintive voice,” and he notices that “in muscular strength and endurance the women of the Somal are far superior to their lords.” The country teems with poets, who praise the persons of the belles very much in the style of Canticles, declaring prettily, for example, that their legs are as straight as the “Libi Tree,” and that their hips swell out “like boiled rice.” The marriage ceremonies, he tells us, are conducted with feasting, music and flogging. On first entering the nuptial hut the bridegroom draws forth his horsewhip and inflicts chastisement upon his bride, with the view of taming any lurking propensity to shrewishness. As it is no uncommon event to take four wives at once, this horsewhipping is naturally rather exhausting for the husband. Burton considered polygamy to be indispensable in countries like Somaliland, “where children are the principal wealth;” but he saw less necessity for it “among highly civilised races where the sexes are nearly equal, and where reproduction becomes a minor duty.” However, he would have been glad to see polygamy allowed even in England, “if only to get rid of all the old maids,” a class that he regarded with unbounded pity. He longed “to see these poor, cankered, angular ladies transformed into cheerful, amiable wives with something really to live for.” “Man,” it was a favourite saying with him, “is by nature polygamic, whereas woman, as a rule, is monogamic, and polyandrous only when tired of her lover. The man loves the woman, but the love of the woman is for the love of the man.” He also agreed with the 18th century Rev. Martin Madan, author of Thelyphthora, a treatise on female ruin, who insisted that polygamy would go far to remove one of the great reproaches of the streets of London and other large cities. “Except in books,” says Burton, “seduction in Mohammedan countries is almost unknown, adultery difficult.” That polygamy, however, is no panacea, the following remarks will show. “Both sexes,” he says, speaking of the Somali, “are temperate from necessity.” Drunkenness is unknown. Still, the place is not Arcady. “After much wandering,” he continues, “we are almost tempted to believe that morality is a matter of geography;152 that nations and races have, like individuals, a pet vice; and that by restraining one, you only exasperate another. As a general rule Somali women prefer flirtations with strangers, following the well-known Arabian proverb, ‘The new comer filleth the eye.’” Burton was thoroughly at home in Zeila “with the melodious chant of the muezzin” and the loudly intoned “Amin” and “Allaho Akbar” daily ringing in his ear. He often went into the Mosque, and with a sword and a rosary before him, read the “cow chapter”153 in a loud twanging voice. Indeed, he had played the role of devout Mohammedan so long, that he had almost become one. The people of Zeila tried to persuade him to abandon his project. “If,” said they, “you escape the desert hordes it will only be to fall by the hands of the truculent Amir of Harar.” Nothing, however, could dash Burton’s confidence in his star, and like Dante, he applied to Fear no epithets but “vile” and “base.”

One Raghi, a petty Eesa chief, having been procured as protector of the party, and other arrangements having been made, Burton on November 27th (1854) set out for his destination by a circuitous route. Raghi rode in front. Next, leading camels, walked two enormously fat Somali women; while by the side of the camels rode Burton’s three attendants, the Hammal, Long Gulad, and “The End of Time,” “their frizzled wigs radiant with grease,” and their robes splendidly white with borders dazzlingly red. Burton brought up the rear on a fine white mule with a gold fringed Arab pad and wrapper-cloth, a double-barrelled gun across his lap, and in this manner the little caravan pursued its sinuous course over the desert. At halting places he told his company tales from The Arabian Nights; they laughed immoderately at the adventures of the little Hunchback; tears filled their eyes as they listened to the sad fate of Azizah;154 and the two fat Somali women were promptly dubbed Shahrazad and Dunyazad. Dunyazad had been as far as Aden and was coquettish. Her little black eyes never met Burton’s, and frequently with affected confusion she turned her sable cheek the clean contrary way. Attendant on the women was a Zeila lad, who, being one-eyed, was pitilessly called “The Kalandar.” At their first halting place, Burton astonished the natives by shooting a vulture on the wing. “Lo!” cried the women, “he bringeth down the birds from heaven.” On their way through an ochreish Goban, or maritime plain, they passed huge hills made by white ants, Gallas graves planted with aloe,155 and saw in the distance troops of gazelles. They were now in the Isa country, “Traitorous as an Isa” being a Zeila proverb. Though the people were robbers and murderers, Burton, by tact, got on excellently with them, and they good-naturedly offered him wives. At every settlement the whole population flocked to see him, the female portion loudly expressing their admiration for him. “Come girls, “they cried one to another, “come and look at this white stranger.” According to Raghi, the fair face of a French lady who had recently landed at Berbera, “made every man hate his wife, and every wife hate herself.” Once they were attacked by Bedouin, who, however, on hearing the report of Burton’s revolver, declared that they were only in fun. Others who tried to stop them were shown the star sapphire, and threatened with “sorcery, death, wild beasts,” and other unpleasantnesses. At a place called Aububah, Raghi relinquished the charge of the caravan to some men of the Gudabirsi tribe, who led the way to the village of Wilensi, where they were the guests of the household of a powerful chief called Jirad Adan. Here Burton left Shahrazad, Dunyazad and the Kalandar, and proceeded to Sagharrah, where he met and formed a friendship with Jirad Adan. For several days he was prostrated by fever, and some Harar men who looked in tried to obtain him as a prisoner. The Jirad acted honourably, but he declined to escort Burton to Harar. “No one,” he said, “is safe in the Amir’s clutches, and I would as soon walk into a crocodile’s mouth as set foot in the city.” “Nothing then remained,” says Burton, “but payer d’audace,156 and, throwing all forethought to the dogs, to rely upon what has made many a small man great, the good star. I addressed my companions in a set speech, advising a mount without delay.”157 The End of Time, having shown the white feather, was left behind, but the rest courageously consented to accompany their leader. “At 10 a.m. on the 2nd January,” says Burton, “all the villagers assembled, and recited the Fatihah, consoling us with the information that we were dead men.” The little company, carrying their lives in their hands, then set forward, and presently came in sight of Harar, “a dark speck upon a tawny sheet of stubble.” Arrived at the gate of the town, they accosted the warder, sent their salaams to the Amir, and requested the honour of audience.

151 It was prophesied that at the end of time the Moslem priesthood would be terribly corrupt.

152 Later he was thoroughly convinced of the soundness of this theory. See Chapters xxii. to xxx.

153 In the Koran.

154 Burton’s A.N., ii. 323; Lib. Ed., ii., p. 215.

155 When the aloe sprouts the spirits of the deceased are supposed to be admitted to the gardens of Wak (Paradise). Arabian Nights, Lib. Ed., i. 127.

156 To face it out.

157 First Footsteps in East Africa, i., 196.

31. At Harar.

They were conducted to the palace, a long, single-storied, windowless barn of rough stone and reddish clay. Says Burton: “I walked into a vast hall between two long rows of Galla spearmen, between whose lines I had to pass. They were large, half-naked savages, standing like statues with fierce, movable eyes, each one holding, with its butt end on the ground, a huge spear, with a head the size of a shovel. I purposely sauntered down them coolly with a swagger, with my eyes fixed upon their dangerous-looking faces. I had a six-shooter concealed in my waist-belt, and determined, at the first show of excitement, to run up to the Amir, and put it to his head, if it were necessary, to save my own life.” The Amir was an etiolated young man of twenty-four or twenty-five, plain and thin-bearded, with a yellow complexion, wrinkled brows and protruding eyes. He wore a flowing robe of crimson cloth, edged with snowy fur, and a narrow white turban tightly twisted round a tall, conical cap of red velvet. On being asked his errand, Burton replied politely in Arabic that he had come from Aden in order to bear the compliments of the governor, and to see the light of his highness’s countenance. On the whole, the Amir was gracious, but for some days Burton and his party were in jeopardy, and when he reflected that he was under the roof of a bigoted and sanguinary prince, whose filthy dungeons resounded with the moans of heavily ironed, half-starved prisoners; among a people who detested foreigners; he, the only European who had ever passed over their inhospitable threshold, naturally felt uncomfortable. The Amir, it seems, had four principal wives, and an army of 200 men armed chiefly with daggers. Burton describes the streets of Harar as dirty narrow lanes heaped with garbage, and the houses as situated at the bottom of courtyards, closed by gates of holcus stalks. The town was proud of its learning and sanctity, and venerated the memory of several very holy and verminous saints. Neither sex possessed personal attractions, and the head-dresses of the women seen from behind resembled a pawnbroker’s sign, except that they were blue instead of gilt. The people lived chiefly on holcus, and a narcotic called “jat,” made by pounding the tender twigs of a tree of the same name. “It produced in them,” says Burton, “a manner of dreamy enjoyment, which exaggerated by time and distance, may have given rise to that splendid myth the Lotos and the Lotophagi.158 Their chief commodity was coffee, their favourite drink an aphrodisiac made of honey dissolved in hot water, and strained and fermented with the bark of a tree called kudidah.” Although unmolested, Burton had no wish to remain long at Harar, and when on 13th January he and his party took their departure it was with a distinct feeling of relief.

158 First Footsteps in East Africa, ii., 31.

32. From Harar to Berbera. 13th Jan. 1855-5th Feb. 1855.

At Sagharrah they found again the pusillanimous “End of Time,” and at Wilensi they were rejoined by Shahrazad, Dunyazad and the one-eyed Kalandar. Persons who met Burton and his friends enquired Irish-like if they were the party who had been put to death by the Amir of Harar. Everyone, indeed, was amazed to see them not only alive, but uninjured, and the Frank’s temerity became the talk of the desert. Burton now put the two women, the Kalandar, the camels, and the baggage, under the care of a guide, and sent them to Zeila, while he himself and the men made straight for Berbera. The journey, which led them past Moga’s tooth159 and Gogaysa, was a terrible one, for the party suffered tortures from thirst, and at one time it seemed as though all must perish. By good fortune, however, they ultimately came upon some pools. Any fear that might have haunted them, lest the water should be poisonous, was soon dispelled, for it contained a vast number of tadpoles and insects, and was therefore considered quite harmless and suitable for drinking. For many hours they again plodded on beneath a brazen sky. Again thirst assailed them; and, like Ishmael in the desert of Zin, they were ready to cast themselves down and die. This time they were saved by a bird, a katta or sand grouse, which they saw making for some hills; and having followed it, they found, as they had anticipated, a spring of water, at which they frenziedly slaked their thirst. Many other difficulties and troubles confronted them in their subsequent march, but at last they heard (delightful sound!) the murmur of the distant sea. Every man was worn out, with the exception of the Hammal, who, to Burton’s delight, not only talked, but sang and shouted. Finally they reached Berbera, where they found Speke, Herne and Stroyan, and on 5th February, Burton in company with the Hammal, Long Gulad, and The End of Time, set sail for Aden, calling on their way at Siyaro and Anterad, east of Berbera.

The first news Burton had on arriving there was of the death of his mother, which had occurred 18th December 1854, at the time he lay ill at Sagharrah. Always immersed in him, she used to say, when he left her, “It seems as if the sun itself has disappeared.” He, on his part, often bore witness to the unselfishness and blamelessness of her life, generally adding, “It is very pleasant to be able to feel proud of one’s parents.”

159 The legend of Moga is similar to that of Birnam Wood’s March, used by Shakespeare in Macbeth.

33. The Fight at Berbera, 22nd April, 1855.

Unable to let well alone, Burton now wanted to make a new expedition, this time to the Nile, via Berbera and Harar, and on a larger and more imposing scale. On 7th April he was back again at Berbera, taking with him Speke, Stroyan, Herne and 42 assistants, and his first care was to establish an agency on the coast, so as to have the protection of the English gunboat, the “Mahi,” which had brought them. Unfortunately, the Government drew off the gunboat, and this had scarcely been done before Burton and his party were attacked by 300 natives, who swarmed round them during the night, and tried to entrap and entangle them by throwing down the tents. A desperate hand-to-hand fight then ensued. Javelins hissed, war-clubs crashed. The forty-two coloured auxiliaries promptly took to their heels, leaving the four Englishmen to do as they could. Stroyan fell early in the fight. Burton, who had nothing but a sabre, fought like a demon; Speke, on his left near the entrance of the tent, did deadly execution with a pair of revolvers; Herne on his right emptied into the enemy a sixshooter, and then hammered it with the butt end. Burton, while sabreing his way towards the sea, was struck by a javelin, which pierced both cheeks, and struck out four of his teeth. Speke received eleven wounds, from which, however, he took no harm — a touching proof, comments Burton, of how difficult it is to kill a man in sound health. Eventually the survivors, stained with blood, and fearfully exhausted, but carrying, nevertheless, the corpse of poor Stroyan, managed to reach a friendly native craft, which straightway took them back to Aden.160

160 The story of these adventures is recorded in First Footsteps in East Africa, dedicated to Lumsden, who, in its pages, is often apostrophised as “My dear L.”

Chapter VIII

9th February 1855-October 1856

The Crimea

Bibliography:

14. First Footsteps in East Africa, 1856.

34. The Crimea.

Owing to his wounds Burton had to return to England, and, on his first opportunity, he gave an account of his explorations before the Royal Geographical Society. Little, however, was now talked of except the Crimean War, which had commenced, it will be remembered in March 1854. The Allies landed in the Crimea in September, Inkermann was fought on the 5th of November, and then followed the tedious siege of Sebastopol. Burton had not long been home before he applied for and obtained leave to join the besieging army; and his brother Edward also went out as surgeon, about the same time. Emulous of the deeds of Napier and Outram, Burton now thought he saw a career of military glory awaiting him. Soon after his arrival at the seat of war he was appointed chief of the staff to General Beatson, and in his “gorgeous uniform blazing with gold” he set vigorously to work to re-organize and drill his contingent of Bashi-Bazouks. He had great difficulties with Beatson, a brave, but passionate and undiplomatic old warrior; but he succeeded marvellously with his men, and his hope of winning fame rose higher than ever. The war, however, was crawling to an end, and the troops he had drilled so patiently had little to do beside look on. At this conjuncture he thought he saw a road to success in the relief of Kars, which had been persistently besieged by the Russians. Elated at the prospect of taking part in a great military feat, he hurried to Constantinople, obtained an interview with the British Ambassador, Lord Stratford, and submitted a plan for approval. To his amazement, Lord Stratford broke into a towering passion, and called him “the most impudent man in the Bombay Army.” Later Burton understood in what way he had transgressed. As the war was closing, it had been arranged by the Allies that Kars should be allowed to fall as a peace offering to Russia.

Burton now began to suffer from the untrue tales that were told about him, still he never troubled to disprove them. Some were circulated by a fellow officer of his — an unmitigated scoundrel whose life had been sullied by every species of vice; who not only invented calumniating stories but inserted particulars that gave them a verisimilitude. Two of this man’s misdeeds may be mentioned. First he robbed the Post Office at Alexandria, and later he unblushingly unfolded to Lord Stanley of Alderley his plan of marrying an heiress and of divorcing her some months later with a view to keeping, under a Greek law, a large portion of her income. He seemed so certain of being able to do it that Lord Stanley consulted a lady friend, and the two together succeeded in frustrating the infamous design. This sordid and callous rascal tried hard to lead people to suppose that he and Burton were hand and glove in various kinds of devilry, and a favourite phrase in his mouth was “I and Burton are great scamps.” Percy Smythe161 then an official under Lord Stratford, commented on hearing the saying: “No, that won’t do, —— is a real scamp, but Burton is only wild.” One story put abroad apparently by the same scoundrel is still in circulation. We are told that Burton was once caught in a Turkish harem, and allowed to escape only after suffering the usual indescribable penalty. As this was the solitary story that really annoyed Burton, we think it our duty to say that conclusive documentary evidence exists proving that, whether or not he ever broke into a harem, he most certainly underwent no deprivation. Other slanders of an even more offensive nature got abroad. Pious English mothers loathed Burton’s name, and even men of the world mentioned it apologetically. In time, it is true, he lived all this down, still he was never — he is not now — generally regarded as a saint worthy of canonization.

With the suspension of General Beatson — for the machinations of enemies ultimately accomplished the old hero’s fall — Burton’s connection with the Crimean army abruptly ceased. Having sent in his resignation, he returned to England and arrived here just in time to miss, to his disappointment, his brother Edward, who had again left for Ceylon. Edward’s after career was sad enough to draw tears from adamant. During an elephant hunt a number of natives set upon him and beat him brutally about the head. Brain trouble ensued, and he returned home, but henceforth, though he attained a green old age, he lived a life of utter silence. Except on one solitary occasion he never after — and that is to say for forty years — uttered a single word. Always resembling a Greek statue, there was now added to him the characteristic of all statues, rigid and solemn silence. From a man he had become aching marble. To Burton, with his great, warm, affectionate heart, Edward’s affliction was an unceasing grief. In all his letters he enquires tenderly after his “dear brother,” and could truly say, with the enemy of his boyhood, Oliver Goldsmith:

“Where’er I roam, whatever realms to see,

My heart untravelled fondly turns to thee:

Still to my Brother turns.”162

Arrived in England, General Beatson promptly instituted civil proceedings against his enemies; and Burton was in constant expectation of being subpoenaed. He thoroughly sympathized with Beatson, but he had no wish to be forced to remain in London, just as he had no wish at any time in his life to be mewed up anywhere. Consequently he disguised himself by wearing green spectacles and tying a pillow over his stomach to simulate corpulence. To one friend who met him, he made himself known. “Are you really Burton?” inquired his friend. “I shall be,” replied Burton, “but just now I’m a Greek doctor.” Burton’s conscience, however, finally had the mastery. He did attend the trial and he corroborated the statements of his late chief. The verdict of the jury went against Beatson, but it was generally felt that the old war dog had fully vindicated his character.

161 Afterwards Lord Strangford. The correspondence on this subject was lent me by Mr. Mostyn Pryce, who received it from Miss Stisted.

162 The Traveller.

35. Engaged to Isabel Arundell, August 1856.

In August, after a lapse of four years, Burton renewed acquaintance with Isabel Arundell, who one day met him, quite by accident, in the Botanical Gardens, and she kept meeting him there quite by accident every day for a fortnight. He had carried his life in his hand to Mecca and to Harar, he had kept at bay 200 Somalis, but like the man in Camoens, he finally fell by “a pair of eyes.”163 According to Lady Burton,164 it was Burton who made the actual proposal; and it is just possible.

“You won’t chalk up ‘Mother will be angry’ now I hope,” said Burton.

“Perhaps not,” replied Miss Arundell, “but she will be all the same.”

Mrs. Arundell, indeed, like so many other English mothers, was violently prejudiced against Burton. When her daughter broached the subject she replied fiercely: “He is not an old English Catholic, or even a Catholic, he has neither money nor prospects.” She might also have added that he was apt to respect mere men of intellect more than men of wealth and rank, an un-English trait which would be sure to militate against his advancement.

Miss Arundell bravely defended her lover, but without effect. A few days later she again met her old gipsy crone Hagar Burton, who repeated her sibylline declaration. As Miss Arundell never, by any chance, talked about anything or anybody except Burton, and as she paid liberally for consulting the Fates, this declaration necessarily points to peculiar acumen on the part of the gipsy.

At one of their meetings Miss Arundell put round Burton’s neck a steel chain with a medal of the Virgin Mary and begged him to wear it all his life. Possessing a very accommodating temperament in matters that seemed to himself of no vital importance, he consented; so it joined the star-sapphire and other amulets, holy and unholy, which, for different purposes, he carried about the world.

That this medal had often acted as a preservative to Burton she was in after life thoroughly convinced.

163 Burton’s Camoens, ii., 445.

164 The marriage did not take place till 22nd January 1861. See Chapter x.

Chapter IX

December 1856-21st May 1859

The Unveiling of Isis

Bibliography:

15. Lake Regions of Equatorial Africa.

16. Vol. 33 of the Royal Geographical Society.

36. To Fuga. January to March 1857.

The fame of a soldier having been denied him, Burton now turned his thoughts once more to exploration; and his eagerness for renown is revealed conspicuously in some verses written about this time. They commence:

“I wore thine image, Fame,

Within a heart well fit to be thy shrine!

Others a thousand boons may gain;

One wish was mine.”

He hoped to obtain one of its smiles and then die. A glorious hand seemed to beckon him to Africa. There he was to go and find his destiny. The last stanza runs:

“Mine ear will hear no other sound,

No other thought my heart will know.

Is this a sin? Oh, pardon, Lord!

Thou mad’st me so.”

He would obtain the fame of a great traveller; the earth should roll up for him as a carpet. Happy indeed was Isabel Arundell when he placed the verses in her hand, but melancholy to relate, he also presented copies to his “dear Louisa,” and several other dears.

He now read greedily all the great geographers, ancient and modern, and all the other important books bearing on African exploration. If he became an authority on Herodotus, Pliny, Ptolemy, Strabo, and Pomponious Mela, he became equally an authority on Bruce, Sonnini, Lacerda, the Pombeiros, Monteiro and Gamitto.

From Ptolemy downwards writers and travellers had prayed for the unveiling of Isis, that is to say, the discovery of the sources of the Nile; but for two thousand years every effort had proved fruitless. Burning to immortalize himself by wresting from the mysterious river its immemorial secret, Burton now planned an expedition for that purpose. Thanks to the good offices of Lord Clarendon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Royal Geographical Society promised him the necessary funds; while Cardinal Wiseman, ever his sincere friend, gave him a passport to all Catholic missionaries.165 To Burton, as we have seen, partings were always distressing, and in order to avoid bidding adieu to Miss Arundell he adopted his usual course, leaving a letter which mentioned love and that he was gone.

He quitted England for Bombay in October 1856, and crossed to Zanzibar in the Elphinstone sloop of war, Speke, who was to be his companion in the expedition, sailing with him. Burton was in the highest spirits. “One of the gladdest moments in human life,” he wrote, “is the departing upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the slavery of civilisation,166 man feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of youth, excitement gives a new vigour to the muscles and a sense of sudden freedom adds an inch to the stature.” Among the crew was a midshipman, C. R. Low, who became a life-long friend of Burton. Says Mr. Low, “We used to have bouts of single-stick in the pleasant evening sin the poop, and many’s the time he has blacked my arms and legs with his weapons. . . . Though a dangerous enemy, he was a warm and constant friend.”167 On reaching Zanzibar, Burton, finding the season an unsuitable one for the commencement of his great expedition, resolved to make what he called “a preliminary canter.” So he and Speke set out on a cruise northward in a crazy old Arab “beden” with ragged sails and worm-eaten timbers. They carried with them, however, a galvanised iron life-boat, “The Louisa,” named after Burton’s old love, and so felt no fear.

They passed the Island of Pemba, and on the 22nd reached Mombasa, which Burton was glad to visit on account of its associations with Camoens, who wrote

So near that islet lay along the land,

Nought save a narrow channel stood atween;

And rose a city throned on the strand,

Which from the margent of the seas was seen;

Fair built with lordly buildings tall and grand

As from its offing showed all its sheen,

Here ruled a monarch for long years high famed,

Islet and city are Mombasa named.168

Indeed he never missed an opportunity of seeing spots associated with his beloved “Master.” Then they turned southward and on February 3rd reached Pangany, whence, in company with a facetious fellow named Sudy Bombay, they set out on a canoe and foot journey to Fuga, which they found to be “an unfenced heap of hay cock huts.” Though a forbidden city to strangers they managed to get admittance by announcing themselves as “European wizards and Waganga of peculiar power over the moon, the stars, the wind and the rain.” They found the sultan of the place, an old man named Kimwere, sick, emaciated and leprous. He required, he said, an elixir which would restore him to health, strength, and youth. This, however, despite his very respectable knowledge of medicine, Burton was not able to compound, so after staying two days he took his leave. “It made me sad,” says Burton, “to see the wistful, lingering look with which the poor old king accompanied the word Kuahery! (Farewell!)” On the return journey Speke shot a hippopotamus which he presented to the natives, who promptly ate it. By the time Pangany was again reached both travellers were in a high fever; but regarding it simply as a seasoning, they felt gratified rather than not. When the Zanzibar boat arrived Speke was well enough to walk to the shore, but Burton “had to be supported like a bedridden old woman.”

165 This is now in the public library at Camberwell.

166 In England men are slaves to a grinding despotism of conventionalities. Pilgrimage to Meccah, ii., 86.

167 Unpublished letter to Miss Stisted, 23rd May 1896.

168 We have given the stanza in the form Burton first wrote it — beginning each line with a capital. The appearance of Mombasa seems to have been really imposing in the time of Camoens. Its glory has long since departed.

37. Zanzibar to Tanganyika, 26th June 1857 to 26th May 1858.

Burton left Zanzibar on his great expedition at the end of June, carrying with him various letters of introduction from the Sultan of Zanzibar, a diploma signed by the Shaykh El Islam of Mecca, and the passport already mentioned of Cardinal Wiseman. To his star-sapphire he added some little canvas bags containing horse chestnuts which he carried about “against the Evil Eye, and as a charm to ward off sickness.”169 Beside Burton and Speke, the party consisted of two Goa boys, two negro gun-carriers, Sudy Bombay, and ten Zanzibar mercenaries. Dr. Steinhauser, who had hoped to join them, was restrained by illness. “My desire,” says Burton, “was to ascertain the limits of Tanganyika Lake, to learn the ethnography of its tribes, and to determine the export of the produce of the interior.” He held the streams that fed Tanganyika to be the ultimate sources of the Nile; and believed that the glory of their discovery would be his. Fortune, however, the most fickle of goddesses, thought fit to deprive him of this ardently coveted boon.

The explorers landed at Wale Point on June 26th, and on July 14th reached K’hutu. At Dug’humi Burton, despite his bags of chestnuts, fell with marsh fever, and in his fits he imagined himself to be “two persons who were inimical to each other,” an idea very suitable for a man nursing the “duality” theory. When he recovered, fresh misfortunes followed, and finally all the riding asses died. Burton, however, amid it all, managed to do one very humane action. He headed a little expedition against a slave raider, and had the satisfaction of restoring five poor creatures to their homes.

The tropical vegetation and the pleasant streams afforded delightful vistas both by daylight and moonlight, but every mile the travellers were saddened by the sight of clean-picked skeletons or swollen corpses. Sometimes they met companies of haggard, heavy-gaited men and women half blind with small-pox — the mothers carrying on their backs infants as loathsome as themselves. Near every kraal stood detached huts built for the diseased to die in. They passed from this God-forsaken land to a district of springs welling with sweet water, calabashes and tamarinds, and circlets of deep, dew-fed verdure. The air was spicy, and zebras and antelopes browsed in the distance. Then the scene again changed, and they were in a slimy, malarious swamp. They were bitten by pismires an inch long, and by the unmerciful tzetze fly. The mercenaries, who threatened to desert, rendered no assistance, and the leader, one Said bin Salim, actually refused to give Burton a piece of canvas to make a tent. Sudy Bombay then made a memorable speech, “O Said,” he said, “if you are not ashamed of your master, be at least ashamed of his servant,” a rebuke that had the effect of causing the man to surrender at once the whole awning. At other times the star-sapphire which Burton carried on his person proved a valuable auxiliary — and convinced where words failed. But the mercenaries, mistaking Burton’s forbearance for weakness, became daily bolder and more insolent, and they now only awaited a convenient opportunity to kill him. One day as he was marching along, gun over shoulder and dagger in hand, he became conscious that two of his men were unpleasantly near, and after a while one of them, unaware that Burton understood his language, urged the other to strike. Burton did not hesitate a moment. Without looking round, he thrust back his dagger, and stabbed the man dead on the spot.170 The other, who fell on his knees and prayed for mercy, was spared. This, however, did not cure his followers of their murderous instincts, and a little later he discovered another plot. The prospective assassins having piled a little wood where they intended to kindle a fire, went off to search for more. While they were gone Burton made a hole under the wood and buried a canister of gunpowder in it. On their return the assassins lighted the fire, seated themselves comfortably round, and presently there weren’t any assassins. We tell these tales just as Burton told them to his intimate friends. The first may have been true, the second, we believe, simply illustrates his inveterate habit of telling tales against himself with the desire to shock. In any circumstances, his life was in constant peril; but he and the majority of the party, after unexampled tortures from thirst, arrived footsore and jaded in a veritable land of Goshen — Kazeh or Unyanyembe, where they met some kindly Arab merchants.

“What a contrast,” exclaims Burton, “between the open-handed hospitality and the hearty good-will of this noble race — the Arabs — and the niggardliness of the savage and selfish African. It was heart of flesh after heart of stone.” Burton found the Arabs of Kazeh living comfortably and even sybaritically. They had large, substantial houses, fine gardens, luxuries from the coast and “troops of concubines and slaves.” Burton gallantly gives the ladies their due. “Among the fair of Yombo,” he says, “there were no fewer than three beauties — women who would be deemed beautiful in any part of the world. Their faces were purely Grecian; they had laughing eyes their figures were models for an artist with —

“Turgide, brune, e ritondette mamme.”

like the ‘bending statue’ that delights the world. The dress — a short kilt of calabash fibre — rather set off than concealed their charms, and though destitute of petticoat they were wholly unconscious of indecorum. These beautiful domestic animals graciously smiled when in my best Kenyamwezi I did my devoir to the sex; and the present of a little tobacco always secured for me a seat in the undress circle.”

Of the native races of West Africa Burton gave a graphic account when he came to write the history of this expedition.171 All, it seems, had certain customs in common. Every man drank heavily, ate to repletion and gambled. They would hazard first their property and then themselves. A negro would stake his aged mother against a cow. As for morality, neither the word nor the thing existed among them. Their idea of perfect bliss was total intoxication. When ill, they applied to a medicine man, who having received a fee used it for the purpose of getting drunk, but upon his return to sobriety, he always, unless, of course, the patient took upon himself to die, instead of waiting, attended conscientiously to his duties. No self-respecting chief was ever sober after mid-day. Women were fattened for marriage just as pigs are fattened for market — beauty and obesity being interchangeable terms. The wearisome proceedings in England necessary to a divorce, observes Burton, are there unknown. You turn your wife out of doors, and the thing is done.

The chief trouble at Kazeh, as elsewhere, arose from the green scorpion, but there were also lizards and gargantuan spiders. Vermin under an inch in length, such as fleas, ants, and mosquitoes, were deemed unworthy of notice. The march soon began again, but they had not proceeded many miles before Burton fell with partial paralysis brought on my malaria; and Speke, whom Burton always called “Jack,” became partially blind. Thoughts of the elmy fields and the bistre furrows of Elstree and the tasselled coppices of Tours crowded Burton’s brain; and he wrote:

“I hear the sound I used to hear,

The laugh of joy, the groan of pain,

The sounds of childhood sound again

Death must be near.”

At last, on the 13th February they saw before them a long streak of light. “Look, master, look,” cried Burton’s Arab guide, “behold the great water!” They advanced a few yards, and then an enormous expanse of blue burst into sight. There, in the lap of its steel-coloured mountains, basking in the gorgeous tropical sunshine, lay the great lake Tanganyika. The goal had been reached; by his daring, shrewdness and resolution he had overcome all difficulties. Like the soldiers in Tacitus, in victory he found all things — health, vigour, abundance.

No wonder Burton felt a marvellous exultation of spirits when he viewed this great expanse of waters. Here, he thought, are the sources of that ancient river — the Nile. Now are fulfilled the longing of two thousand years. I am the heir of the ages! Having hired “a solid built Arab craft,” the explorers made their way first to Ujiji and then to Uvira, the northernmost point of the lake, which they reached on April 26th. On their return voyage they were caught in a terrible storm, from which they did not expect to be saved, and while the wild tumbling waves threatened momentarily to engulf them a couplet from his fragmentary Kasidah kept running in Burton’s mind:

“This collied night, these horrid waves, these gusts that sweep

the whirling deep;

What reck they of our evil plight, who on the shore securely

sleep?”172

However, they came out of this peril, just as they had come out of so many others. Burton also crossed the lake and landed in Kazembe’s country,173 in which he was intensely interested, and some years later he translated into English the narratives of Dr. Lacerda174 and other Portuguese travellers who had visited its capital, Lunda, near Lake Moero.

169 These little bags were found in his pocket after his death. See Chapter xxxviii.

170 This story nowhere appears in Burton’s books. I had it from Mr. W. F. Kirby, to whom Burton told it.

171 The Lake Regions of Central Africa, 1860.

172 Subsequently altered to “This gloomy night, these grisly waves, etc.” The stanza is really borrowed from Hafiz. See Payne’s Hafiz, vol. i., p.2.

“Dark the night and fears possess us, Of the waves and whirlpools

wild:

Of our case what know the lightly Laden on the shores that

dwell?”

173 The ruler, like the country, is called Kazembe.

174 Dr. Lacerda died at Lunda 18th October 1798. Burton’s translation, The Lands of the Cazembe, etc., appeared in 1873.

38. The Return Journey, 26th May 1858 to 13th February 1859.

The explorers left Tanganyika for the return journey to Zanzibar on May 26th. At Yombo, reached June 18th, Burton received a packet of letters, which arrived from the coast, and from one he learnt of the death of his father, which had occurred 8 months previous. Despite his researches, Colonel Burton was not missed in the scientific world, but his son sincerely mourned a kind-hearted and indulgent parent. At Kazeh, Fortune, which had hitherto been so favourable, now played Burton a paltry trick. Speke having expressed a wish to visit the lake now called Victoria Nyanza, a sheet of water which report declared to be larger than Tanganyika, Burton, for various reasons, thought it wiser not to accompany him. So Speke went alone and continued his march until he reached the lake, the dimensions of which surpassed his most sanguine expectations. On his return to Kazeh he at once declared that the Victoria Nyanza and its affluents were the head waters of the Nile, and that consequently he had discovered them. Isis (he assured Burton) was at last unveiled. As a matter of fact he had no firmer ground for making that statement than Burton had in giving the honour to Tanganyika, and each clung tenaciously to his own theory. Speke, indeed, had a very artistic eye. He not only, by guess, connected his lake with the Nile, but placed on his map a very fine range of mountains which had no existence — the Mountains of the Moon. However, the fact remains that as regards the Nile his theory turned out to be the correct one. The expedition went forward again, but his attitude towards Burton henceforth changed. Hitherto they had been the best of friends, and it was always “Dick” and “Jack,” but now Speke became querulous, and the mere mention of the Nile gave him offence. Struck down with the disease called “Little Irons,” he thought he was being torn limb from limb by devils, giants, and lion-headed demons, and he made both in his delirium and after his recovery all kinds of wild charges against Burton, and interlarded his speech with contumelious taunts — his chief grievance being Burton’s refusal to accept the Victoria Nyanza-Nile theory. But Burton made no retort. On the contrary, he bore Speke’s petulance with infinite patience. Perhaps he remembered the couplet in his favourite Beharistan:

“True friend is he who bears with all

His friend’s unkindness, spite and gall.”175

There is no need for us to side either with Speke or Burton. Both were splendid men, and their country is proud of them. Fevers, hardships, toils, disappointments, ambition, explain everything, and it is quite certain that each of the explorers inwardly recognised the merit of the other. They reached Zanzibar again 4th March 1859.

Had Burton been worldly wise he would have at once returned home, but he repeated the mistake made after the journey to Mecca and was again to suffer from it.

Speke, on the other hand, who ever had an eye to the main chance, sailed straight for England, where he arrived 9th May 1859. He at once took a very unfair advantage of Burton “by calling at the Royal Geographical Society and endeavouring to inaugurate a new exploration” without his old chief. He was convinced, he said, that the Victoria Nyanza was the source of the Nile, and he wished to set the matter at rest once and for every by visiting its northern shores. The Society joined with him Captain James A. Grant176 and it was settled that this new expedition should immediately be made. Speke also lectured vaingloriously at Burlington House. When Burton arrived in London on May 21st it was only to find all the ground cut from under him. While Speke, the subordinate, had been welcomed like a king, he, Burton, the chief of the expedition, had landed unnoticed. But the bitterest pill was the news that Speke had been appointed to lead the new expedition. And as if that was not enough, Captain Rigby, Consul at Zanzibar, gave ear to and published the complaints of some of Burton’s dastardly native followers. Although Fortune cheated Burton of having been the actual discoverer of the Source of the Nile, it must never be forgotten that all the credit of having inaugurated the expedition to Central Africa and of leading it are his. Tanganyika — in the words of a recent writer, “is in a very true sense the heart of Africa.” If some day a powerful state spring up on its shores, Burton will to all time be honoured as its indomitable Columbus. In his journal he wrote proudly, but not untruly: “I have built me a monument stronger than brass.” The territory is now German. Its future masters who shall name! but whoever they may be, no difference can be made to Burton’s glory. Kingdoms may come and kingdoms may go, but the fame of the truly great man speeds on for ever.

175 The Beharistan. 1st Garden.

176 J. A. Grant, born 1827, died 10th February, 1892.

Chapter X

22nd January 1861-to August 1861

Mormons and Marriage

Bibliography:

17. The City of the Saints, 1861.

39. We rushed into each other’s arms. 22nd May, 1860.

During Burton’s absence Isabel Arundell tortured herself with apprehensions and fears. Now and again a message from him reached her, but there were huge deserts of silence. Then came the news of Speke’s return and lionization in London. She thus tells the story of her re-union with Burton. “On May 22nd (1860), I chanced to call upon a friend. I was told she had gone out, but would be in to tea, and was asked to wait. In a few minutes another ring came to the door, and another visitor was also asked to wait. A voice that thrilled me through and through came up the stairs, saying, ‘I want Miss Arundell’s address.’ The door opened, I turned round, and judge of my feelings when I beheld Richard!. . . . . We rushed into each other’s arms. . . . . We went down-stairs and Richard called a cab, and he put me in and told the man to drive about anywhere. He put his arm round my waist, and I put my head on his shoulder.”177 Burton had come back more like a mummy than a man, with cadaverous face, brown-yellow skin hanging in bags, his eyes protruding and his lips drawn away from this teeth — the legacy of twenty-one attacks of fever.

When the question of their marriage was brought before her parents, Mr. Arundell not only offered no impediment, but remarked: “I do not know what it is about that man, I cannot get him out of my head. I dream of him every night,” but Mrs. Arundell still refused consent. She reiterated her statement that whereas the Arundells were staunch old English Catholics, Burton professed no religion at all, and declared that his conversation and his books proclaimed him an Agnostic. Nor is it surprising that she remained obdurate, seeing that the popular imagination still continued to run riot over his supposed enormities. The midnight hallucinations of De Quincey seemed to be repeating themselves in a whole nation. He had committed crimes worthy of the Borgias. He had done a deed which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at. Miss Arundell boldly defended him against her mother, though she admitted afterwards that, circumstances considered, Mrs. Arundell’s opposition was certainly logical.

“As we cannot get your mother’s consent,” said Burton, “we had better marry without it.”

“No,” replied Miss Arundell, “that will not do,” nor could any argument turn her.

“You and your mother have certainly one characteristic in common,” was the comment. “You are as obstinate as mules.”

Burton was not without means, for on the death of his father he inherited some £16,000, but he threw his money about with the recklessness of an Aladdin, and 16 million would have gone the same way. It was all, however, or nearly all spent in the service of the public. Every expedition he made, and every book he published left him considerably the poorer. So eager for exploration was he that before the public had the opportunity to read about one expedition, he had started on another. So swiftly did he write, that before one book had left the binders, another was on its way to the printers. Systole, diastole, never ceasing — never even pausing. Miss Arundell being inflexible, Burton resolved to let the matter remain nine months in abeyance, and, inactivity being death to him, he then shot off like a rocket to America. One day in April (1860) Miss Arundell received a brief letter the tenor of which was as follows:— “I am off to Salt Lake City, and shall be back in December. Think well over our affair, and if your mind is then made up we will marry.”

Being the first intimation of his departure — for as usual there had been no good-bye — the message gave her a terrible shock. Hope fled, and a prostrating illness followed. The belief that he would be killed pressed itself upon her and returned with inexplicable insistence. She picked up a newspaper, and the first thing that met her eye was a paragraph headed “Murder of Captain Burton.” The shock was terrible, but anxious enquiry revealed the murdered man to be another Captain Burton, not her Richard.

177 The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, i., 149.

40. Brigham Young. April 1860 to November 1860.

It was natural that, after seeing the Mecca of the Mohammedans, Burton should turn to the Mecca of the Mormons, for he was always attracted by the centres of the various faiths, moreover he wished to learn the truth about a city and a religion that had previously been described only by the biassed. One writer, for instance — a lady — had vilified Mormonism because “some rude men in Salt Lake City had walked over a bridge before her.” It was scarcely the most propitious moment to start on such a journey. The country was torn with intestine contentions. The United States Government were fighting the Indians, and the Mormons were busy stalking one another with revolvers. Trifles of this kind, however, did not weigh with Burton. After an uneventful voyage across the Atlantic, and a conventional journey overland, he arrived at St. Joseph, popularly St. Jo, on the Missouri. Here he clothed himself like a backwoodsman, taking care, however, to put among this luggage a silk hat and a frock coat in order to make an impression among the saints. He left St. Jo on August 7th and at Alcali Lake saw the curious spectacle of an Indian remove. The men were ill-looking, and used vermilion where they ought to have put soap; the squaws and papooses comported with them; but there was one pretty girl who had “large, languishing eyes, and sleek black hair like the ears of a King Charles Spaniel.” The Indians followed Burton’s waggon for miles, now and then peering into it and crying “How! How!” the normal salutation. His way then lay by darkling canons, rushing streams and stupendous beetling cliffs fringed with pines. Arrived at his destination, he had no difficulty, thanks to the good offices of a fellow traveller, in mixing in the best Mormon Society. He found himself in a Garden City. Every householder had from five to ten acres in the suburbs, and one and a half close at home; and the people seemed happy. He looked in vain, however, for the spires of the Mormon temple which a previous writer had described prettily as glittering in the sunlight. All he could find was “a great hole in the ground,” said to be the beginning of a baptismal font, with a plain brick building, the Tabernacle, at a little distance. After a service at the “Tabernacle” he was introduced to Brigham Young, a farmer-like man of 45, who evinced much interest in the Tanganyika journey and discussed stock, agriculture and religion; but when Burton asked to be admitted as a Mormon, Young replied, with a smile, “I think you’ve done that sort of thing once before, Captain.” So Burton was unable to add Mormonism to his five or six other religions. Burton then told with twinkling eyes a pitiful tale of how he, an unmarried man, had come all the way to Salt Lake City, requiring a wife, but had found no wives to be had, all the ladies having been snapped up by the Saints. A little later the two men, who had taken a stroll together, found themselves on an eminence which commanded a view both of the Salt Lake city and the Great Salt Lake. Brigham Young pointed out the various spots of interest, “That’s Brother Dash’s house, that block just over there is occupied by Brother X’s wives. Elder Y’s wives reside in the next block and Brother Z’s wives in that beyond it. My own wives live in that many-gabled house in the middle.”

Waving his right hand towards the vastness of the great Salt Lake, Burton exclaimed, with gravity:

“Water, water, everywhere”

and then waving his left towards the city, he added, pathetically:

“But not a drop to drink.”

Brigham Young, who loved a joke as dearly as he loved his seventeen wives, burst out into hearty laughter. In his book, “The City of the Saints,” Burton assures us that polygamy was admirably suited for the Mormons, and he gives the religious, physiological and social motives for a plurality of wives then urged by that people. Economy, he tells us, was one of them. “Servants are rare and costly; it is cheaper and more comfortable to marry them. Many converts are attracted by the prospect of becoming wives, especially from places like Clifton, near Bristol, where there are 64 females to 36 males. The old maid is, as the ought to be, an unknown entity.”178

Burton himself received at least one proposal of marriage there; and the lady, being refused, spread the rumour that it was the other way about. “Why,” said Burton, “it’s like

A certain Miss Baxter, Who refused a man before he’d axed her.”179

As regards the country itself nothing struck him so much as its analogy to Palestine. A small river runs from the Wahsatch Mountains, corresponding to Lebanon, and flows into Lake Utah, which represents Lake Tiberias, whence a river called the Jordan flows past Salt Lake City into the Great Salt Lake, just as the Palestine Jordan flows into the Dead Sea.

From Salt Lake City, Burton journeyed by coach and rail to San Francisco, whence he returned home via Panama.

178 He is, of course, simply endorsing the statement of Hippocrates: De Genitura: “Women, if married, are more healthy, if not, less so.”

179 The anecdotes in this chapter were told me by one of Burton’s friends. They are not in his books.

41. Marriage. 22nd January 1861.

He arrived in England at Christmas 1860, and Miss Arundell, although her mother still frowned, now consented to the marriage. She was 30 years old, she said, and could no longer be treated as a child. Ten years had elapsed since Burton, who was now 40, had first become acquainted with her, and few courtships could have been more chequered.

“I regret that I am bringing you no money,” observed Miss Arundell.

“That is not a disadvantage as far as I am concerned,” replied Burton, “for heiresses always expect to lord it over their lords.” — “We will have no show,” he continued, “for a grand marriage ceremony is a barbarous and an indelicate exhibition.” So the wedding, which took place at the Bavarian Catholic Church, Warwick Street, London, on 22nd January 1861, was all simplicity. As they left the church Mrs. Burton called to mind Gipsy Hagar, her couched eyes and her reiterated prophecy. The luncheon was spread at the house of a medical friend, Dr. Bird, 49, Welbeck Street, and in the midst of it Burton told some grisly tales of his adventures in the Nedj and Somaliland, including an account of the fight at Berbera.

“Now, Burton,” interrupted Dr. Bird, “tell me how you feel when you have killed a man.” To which Burton replied promptly and with a sly look, “Quite jolly, doctor! how do you?” After the luncheon Burton and his wife walked down to their lodgings in Bury Street, St. James’s, where Mrs. Burton’s boxes had been despatched in a four-wheeler; and from Bury Street, Burton, as soon as he could pick up a pen, wrote in his fine, delicate hand as follows to Mr. Arundell:

“January 23 1861,180

“Bury Street,

“St. James.

“My dear Father, “I have committed a highway robbery by marrying your daughter Isabel, at Warwick Street Church, and before the Registrar — the details she is writing to her mother. “It only remains to me to say that I have no ties or liaisons of any sort, that the marriage is perfectly legal and respectable. I want no money with Isabel: I can work, and it will be my care that Time shall bring you nothing to regret.

“I am

“Yours sincerely,

“Richard F. Burton.”

“There is one thing,” said Burton to his wife, “I cannot do, and that is, face congratulations, so, if you are agreeable, we will pretend that we have been married some months.” Such matters, however, are not easy to conceal, and the news leaked out. “I am surprised,” said his cousin, Dr. Edward J. Burton, to him a few days later, “to find that you are married.” “I am myself even more surprised than you,” was the reply. “Isabel is a strong-willed woman. She was determined to have her way and she’s got it.”

With Mr. Arundell, Burton speedily became a prime favourite, and his attitude towards his daughter was Metastasio’s:

“Yes, love him, love him,

He is deserving even of such infinite bliss;”

but Mrs. Arundell, poor lady, found it hard to conquer her prejudice. Only a few weeks before her death she was heard to exclaim, “Dick Burton is no relation of mine.” Let us charitably assume, however, that it was only in a moment of irritation. Isabel Burton, though of larger build than most women, was still a dream of beauty; and her joy in finding herself united to the man she loved gave her a new radiance. Her beauty, however, was of a rather coarse grain, and even those most attached to her remarked in her a certain lack of refinement. She was a goddess at a little distance.

Her admiration of her husband approached worship. She says, “I used to like to sit and look at him; and to think ‘You are mine, and there is no man on earth the least like you.’” Their married life was not without its jars, but a more devoted wife Burton could not have found; and he, though certainly in his own fashion, was sincerely and continuously attached to her. If the difference in their religious opinions sometimes led to amusing skirmishes, it was, on the other hand, never allowed to be a serious difficulty. The religious question, however, often made unpleasantness between Mrs. Burton and Lady Stisted and her daughters — who were staunch Protestants of the Georgian and unyielding school. When the old English Catholic and the old English Protestant met there were generally sparks. The trouble originated partly from Mrs. Burton’s impulsiveness and want of tact. She could not help dragging in her religion at all sorts of unseasonable times. She would introduce into her conversation and letters remarks that a moment’s reflection would have told her could only nauseate her Protestant friends. “The Blessed Virgin,” or some holy saint or other was always intruding on the text. Her head was lost in her heart. She was once in terrible distress because she had mislaid some trifle that had been touched by the Pope, though not in more distress, perhaps, than her husband would have been had he lost his sapphire talisman, and she was most careful to see that the lamps which she lighted before the images of certain saints never went out. Burton himself looked upon all this with amused complacency and observed that she was a figure stayed somehow from the Middle Ages. If the mediaeval Mrs. Burton liked to illuminate the day with lamps or camphorated tapers, that, he said, was her business; adding that the light of the sun was good enough for him. He objected at first to her going to confession, but subsequently made no further reference to the subject. Once, even, in a moment of weakness, he gave her five pounds to have masses said for her dead brother; just as one might give a child a penny to buy a top. He believed in God, and tried to do what he thought right, fair and honourable, not for the sake of reward, as he used to say, but simply because it was right, fair and honourable. Occasionally he accompanied his wife to mass, and she mentions that he always bowed his head at “Hallowed by Thy Name,” which “shows,” as Dr. Johnson would have commented, “that he had good principles.” Mrs. Burton generally called her husband “Dick,” but frequently, especially in letters, he is “The Bird,” a name which he deserved, if only on account of his roving propensities. Often, however, for no reason at all, she called him “Jimmy,” and she was apt in her admiration of him and pride of possession, to Dick and Jimmy it too lavishly among casual acquaintances. Indeed, the tyranny of her heart over her head will force itself upon our notice at every turn. It is pleasant to be able to state that Mrs. Burton and Burton’s “dear Louisa” (Mrs. Segrave) continued to be the best of friends, and had many a hearty laugh over bygone petty jealousies. One day, after calling on Mrs. Segrave, Burton and his wife, who was dressed in unusual style, lunched with Dr. and Mrs. E. J. Burton. “Isabel looks very smart to-day,” observed Mrs. E. J. Burton. “Yes,” followed Burton, “she always wears her best when we go to see my dear Louisa.”

Burton took a pleasure in sitting up late. “Indeed,” says one of his friends, “he would talk all night in preference to going to bed, and, in the Chaucerian style, he was a brilliant conversationalist, and his laugh was like the rattle of a pebble across a frozen pond.” “No man of sense,” Burton used to say, “rises, except in mid-summer, before the world is brushed and broomed, aired and sunned.” Later, however, he changed his mind, and for the last twenty years of his life he was a very early riser.

Among Burton’s wedding gifts were two portraits — himself and his wife — in one frame, the work of Louis Desanges, the battle painter whose acquaintance he had made when a youth at Lucca. Burton appears with Atlantean shoulders, strong mouth, penthouse eyebrows, and a pair of enormous pendulous moustaches, which made him look very like a Chinaman. Now was this an accident, for his admiration of the Chinese was always intense. He regarded them as “the future race of the East,” just as he regarded the Slav as the future race of Europe. Many years later he remarked of Gordon’s troops, that they had shown the might that was slumbering in a nation of three hundred millions. China armed would be a colossus. Some day Russia would meet China face to face — the splendid empire of Central Asia the prize. The future might of Japan he did not foresee.

Says Lady Burton: “We had a glorious season, and took up our position in Society. Lord Houghton (Monckton Milnes) was very much attached to Richard, and he settled the question of our position by asking his friend, Lord Palmerston, to give a party, and to let me be the bride of the evening, and when I arrived Lord Palmerston gave me his arm. . . . Lady Russell presented me at Court ‘on my marriage.’”181

Mrs. Burton’s gaslight beauty made her the cynosure of all eyes.

180 This letter was given by Mrs. FitzGerald (Lady Burton’s sister) to Mr. Foskett of Camberwell. It is now in the library there, and I have to thank the library committee for the use of it.

181 Life, i., 345.

42. At Lord Houghton’s.

At Fryston, Lord Houghton’s seat, the Burtons met Carlyle, Froude, Mr. A. C. Swinburne, who had just published his first book, The Queen Mother and Rosamund,182 and Vambery, the Hungarian linguist and traveller. Born in Hungary, of poor Jewish parents, Vambery had for years a fierce struggle with poverty. Having found his way to Constantinople, he applied himself to the study of Oriental languages, and at the time he visited Fryston he was planning the most picturesque event of his life — namely, his journey to Khiva, Bokhara and Samarcand, which in emulation of Burton he accomplished in the disguise of a dervish.183 He told the company some Hungarian tales and then Burton, seated cross-legged on a cushion, recited portions of FitzGerald’s adaptation of Omar Khayyam,184 the merits of which he was one of the first to recognise. Burton and Lord Houghton also met frequently in London, and they corresponded regularly for many years.185 “Richard and I,” says Mrs. Burton, writing to Lord Houghton 12th August 1874, “would have remained very much in the background if you had not taken us by the hand and pulled us into notice.” A friendship also sprang up between Burton and Mr. Swinburne, and the Burtons were often the guests of Mrs. Burton’s uncle, Lord Gerard, who resided at Garswood, near St. Helens, Lancashire.

182 1861.

183 Vambery’s work, The Story of my Struggles, appeared in October 1904.

184 The first edition appeared in 1859. Burton’s works contain scores of allusions to it. To the Gold Coast, ii., 164. Arabian Nights (many places), etc., etc.

185 Life of Lord Houghton, ii., 300.

Chapter XI

August 1861-November 1863

Fernando Po

Bibliography:

18. Wanderings in West Africa. 2 vols. 1863.

19. Prairie Traveller, by R. B. Marcy. Edited by Burton 1863.

20. Abeokuta and the Cameroons. 2 vols. 1863.

21. A Day among the Fans. 17th February 1863.

22. The Nile Basin, 1864.

43. African Gold.

As the result of his exceptional services to the public Burton had hoped that he would obtain some substantial reward; and his wife persistently used all the influence at her disposal to this end. Everyone admitted his immense brain power, but those mysterious rumours due to his enquiries concerning secret Eastern habits and customs dogged him like some terrible demon. People refused to recognise that he had pursued his studies in the interest of learning and science. They said, absurdly enough, “A man who studies vice must be vicious.” His insubordination at various times, his ungovernable temper, and his habit of saying out bluntly precisely what he thought, also told against him. Then did Mrs. Burton commence that great campaign which is her chief title to fame — the defence of her husband. Though, as we have already shown, a person of but superficial education; though, life through, she never got more than a smattering of any one branch of knowledge; nevertheless by dint of unremitting effort she eventually prevailed upon the public to regard Burton with her own eyes. She wrote letters to friends, to enemies, to the press. She wheedled, she bullied, she threatened, she took a hundred other courses — all with one purpose. She was very often woefully indiscreet, but nobody can withhold admiration for her. Burton was scarcely a model husband — he was too peremptory and inattentive for that — but this self-sacrifice and hero worship naturally told on him, and he became every year more deeply grateful to her. He laughed at her foibles — he twitted her on her religion and her faulty English, but he came to value the beauty of her disposition, and the goodness of her heart even more highly than the graces of her person. All, however, that his applications, her exertions, and the exertions of her friends could obtain from the Foreign Secretary (Lord Russell)186 was the Consulship of that white man’s grave, Fernando Po, with a salary of £700 a year. In other words he was civilly shelved to a place where all his energies would be required for keeping himself alive. “They want me to die,” said Burton, bitterly, “but I intend to live, just to spite the devils.” It is the old tale, England breeds great men, but grudges them opportunities for the manifestation of their greatness.

The days that remained before his departure, Burton spent at various Society gatherings, but the pleasures participated in by him and his wife were neutralised by a great disaster, namely the loss of all his Persian and Arabic manuscripts in a fire at Grindley’s where they had been stored. He certainly took his loss philosophically; but he could never think of the event without a sigh.

Owing to the unwholesomeness of the climate of Fernando Po, Mrs. Burton was, of course, unable to accompany him. They separated at Liverpool, 24th August 1861. An embrace, “a heart wrench;” and then a wave of the handkerchief, while “the Blackbird” African steam ship fussed its way out of the Mersey, having on board the British scape-goat sent away — “by the hand of a fit man” — one “Captain English” — into the wilderness of Fernando Po. “Unhappily,” commented Burton, “I am not one of those independents who can say ce n’est que le premier pas qui coute.” The stoic, however, after a fair fight, eventually vanquished the husband. Still he did not forget his wife; and in his Wanderings in West Africa, a record of this voyage, there is a very pretty compliment to her which, however, only the initiated would recognise. After speaking of the black-haired, black-eyed women of the South of Europe, and giving them their due, he says, “but after a course of such charms, one falls back with pleasure upon brown, yellow or what is better than all, red-auburn locks and eyes of soft, limpid blue.” How the blue eyes of Mrs. Burton must have glistened when she read those words; and we can imagine her taking one more look in the glass to see if her hair really was red-auburn, as, of course, it was.

Burton dedicated this work to the “True Friends” of the Dark Continent, “not to the ‘Philanthropist’ or to Exeter Hall.”187 One of its objects was to give a trustworthy account of the negro character and to point out the many mistakes that well-intentioned Englishmen had made in dealing with it. To put it briefly, he says that the negro188 is an inferior race, and that neither education nor anything else can raise it to the level of the white. After witnessing, at the Grand Bonny River, a horrid exhibition called a Juju or sacrifice house, he wrote, “There is apparently in this people [the negroes] a physical delight in cruelty to beast as well as to man. The sight of suffering seems to bring them an enjoyment without which the world is tame; probably the wholesale murderers and torturers of history, from Phalaris and Nero downwards, took an animal and sensual pleasure in the look of blood, and in the inspection of mortal agonies. I can see no other explanation of the phenomena which meet my eye in Africa. In almost all the towns on the Oil Rivers, you see dead or dying animals in some agonizing position.”189

Cowper had written:

“Skins may differ, but affection

Dwells in white and black the same;”

“which I deny,” comments Burton, “affection, like love, is the fruit of animalism refined by sentiment.” He further declares that the Black is in point of affection inferior to the brutes. “No humane Englishman would sell his dog to a negro.”190 The phrase “God’s image in ebony” lashed him to a fury.

Of his landing at Sierra Leone he gives the following anecdote:191 “The next day was Sunday, and in the morning I had a valise carried up to the house to which I had been invited. When I offered the man sixpence, the ordinary fee, he demanded an extra sixpence, ‘for breaking the Sabbath.’ I gave it readily, and was pleased to find that the labours of our missionaries had not been in vain.” At Cape Coast Castle, he recalled the sad fate of “L.E.L.”192 and watched the women “panning the sand of the shore for gold.” He found that, in the hill region to the north, gold digging was carried on to a considerable extent. “The pits,” he says, “varying from two to three feet in diameter, and from twelve to fifty feet deep, are often so near the roads that loss of life has been the result. Shoring up being little known, the miners are not infrequently buried alive. . . . This Ophir, this California, where every river is a Tmolus and a Pactolus, every hillock a gold-field — does not contain a cradle, a puddling-machine, a quartz crusher, a pound of mercury.” That a land apparently so wealthy should be entirely neglected by British capitalists caused Burton infinite surprise, but he felt certain that it had a wonderful future. His thoughts often reverted thither, and we shall find him later in life taking part in an expedition sent out to report upon certain of its gold fields.193

By September 26th the “Blackbird” lay in Clarence Cove, Fernando Po; and the first night he spent on shore, Burton, whose spirits fell, wondered whether he was to find a grave there like that other great African traveller, the Cornish Richard Lander.194

186 Lord Russell was Foreign Secretary from 1859-1865.

187 Wanderings in West Africa, 2 vols., 1863.

188 The genuine black, not the mulatto, as he is careful to point out. Elsewhere he says the negro is always eight years old — his mind never develops. Mission to Gelele, i, 216.

189 Wanderings in West Africa, vol. ii., p. 283.

190 See Mission to Gelele, ii., 126.

191 Although the anecdote appears in his Abeokuta it seems to belong to this visit.

192 Mrs. Maclean, “L.E.L.,” went out with her husband, who was Governor of Cape Coast Castle. She was found poisoned 15th October 1838, two days after her arrival. Her last letters are given in The Gentleman’s Magazine, February 1839.

193 See Chapter xxii.

194 Lander died at Fernando Po, 16th February 1834.

44. Anecdotes.

Fernando Po,195 he tells us, is an island in which man finds it hard to live and very easy to die. It has two aspects. About Christmas time it is “in a state deeper than rest”:

“A kind of sleepy Venus seemed Dudu.”

But from May to November it is the rainy season. The rain comes down “a sheet of solid water, and often there is lightning accompanied by deafening peals of thunder.” The capital, Sta. Isabel, nee Clarence, did not prepossess him. Pallid men — chiefly Spaniards — sat or lolled languidly in their verandahs, or crawled about the baking-hot streets. Strangers fled the place like a pestilence. Fortunately the Spanish colony were just establishing a Sanitarium — Sta. Cecilia — 400 metres above sea level; consequently health was within reach of those who would take the trouble to seek it; and Burton was not slow to make a sanitarium of his own even higher up. To the genuine natives or Bubes he was distinctly attracted. They lived in sheds without walls, and wore nothing except a hat, which prevented the tree snakes from falling on them. The impudence of the negroes, however, who would persist in treating the white man not even as an equal, but as an inferior, he found to be intolerable. Shortly after his arrival “a nigger dandy” swaggered into the consulate, slapped him on the back in a familiar manner, and said with a loud guffaw, “Shake hands, consul. How d’ye do?” Burton looked steadily at the man for a few moments, and then calling to his canoe-men said, “Hi, Kroo-boys, just throw this nigger out of window, will you?” The boys, delighted with the task, seized the black gentleman by his head and feet, and out of the window he flew. As the scene was enacted on the ground floor the fall was no great one, but it was remarked that henceforward the niggers of Fernando Po were less condescending to the Consul. When night fell and the fire-flies began to glitter in the orange trees, Burton used to place on the table before him a bottle of brandy, a box of cigars, and a bowl containing water and a handkerchief and then write till he was weary;196 rising now and again to wet his forehead with the handkerchief or to gaze outside at the palm plumes, transmuted by the sheen of the moon into lucent silver — upon a scene that would have baffled the pen even of an Isaiah or a Virgil.

The captains of ships calling at Sta. Isabel were, it seems, in the habit of discharging their cargoes swiftly and steaming off again without losing a moment. As this caused both inconvenience and loss to the merchants from its allowing insufficient time to read and answer correspondence, they applied to Burton for remedy. After the next ship had discharged, its captain walked into the Consulate and exclaimed off-handedly, “Now, Consul, quick with my papers; I want to be off.” Burton looked up and replied unconcernedly: “I haven’t finished my letters.” “Oh d ——— your letters,” cried the captain, “I can’t wait for them.” “Stop a bit,” cried Burton, “let’s refer to your contract,” and he unfolded the paper. “According to this, you have to stay here eighteen hours’ daylight, in order to give the merchants an opportunity of attending to their correspondence.” “Yes,” followed the captain,” but that rule has never been enforced.” “Are you going to stay?” enquired Burton. “No,” replied the captain, with an oath. “Very good,” followed Burton. “Now I am going straight to the governor’s and I shall fire two guns. If you go one minute before the prescribed time expires I shall send the first shot right across your bows, and the second slap into you. Good-day.”197 The captain did not venture to test the threat; and the merchants had henceforth no further trouble under his head.

195 For notes on Fernando Po see Laird and Oldfield’s Narrative of an Expedition into the Interior of Africa, etc. (1837), Winwood Reade’s Savage Africa, and Rev. Henry Roe’s West African Scenes (1874).

196 Told me by the Rev. Henry Roe.

197 Life, and various other works.

45. Fans and Gorillas.

During his Consulship, Burton visited a number of interesting spots on the adjoining African coasts, including Abeokuta198 and Benin, but no place attracted him more than the Cameroon country; and his work Two Trips to Gorilla Land199 is one of the brightest and raciest of all his books. The Fan cannibals seem to have specially fascinated him. “The Fan,” he says “like all inner African tribes, with whom fighting is our fox-hunting, live in a chronic state of ten days’ war. Battles are not bloody; after two or three warriors have fallen their corpses are dragged away to be devoured, their friends save themselves by flight, and the weaker side secures peace by paying sheep and goats.” Burton, who was present at a solemn dance led by the king’s eldest daughter, Gondebiza, noticed that the men were tall and upright, the women short and stout. On being addressed “Mbolane,” he politely replied “An,” which in cannibal-land is considered good form. He could not, however, bring himself to admire Gondebiza, though the Monsieur Worth of Fanland had done his utmost for her. Still, she must have looked really engaging in a thin pattern of tattoo, a gauze work of oil and camwood, a dwarf pigeon tail of fan palm for an apron, and copper bracelets and anklets. The much talked of gorilla Burton found to be a less formidable creature than previous travellers had reported. “The gorilla,” he, says, in his matter-of-fact way, “is a poor devil ape, not a hellish dream creature, half man, half beast.” Burton not only did not die at Fernando Po, he was not even ill. Whenever langour and fever threatened he promptly winged his way to his eyrie on the Pico de Sta. Isabel, where he made himself comfortable and listened with complaisance to Lord Russell and friends three thousand miles away fuming and gnashing their teeth.

198 See Abeokuta and the Cameroons, 2 vols., 1863.

199 Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo, 2 vols., 1876.

46. The Anthropological Society, 6th Jan. 1863.

After an absence of a year and a half, Burton, as the result of his wife’s solicitation at the Foreign Office, obtained four months’ leave. He reached England in December 1862 and spent Christmas with her at Wardour Castle, the seat of her kinsman, Lord Arundell. His mind ran continually on the Gold Coast and its treasures. “If you will make me Governor of the Gold Coast,” he wrote to Lord Russell, “I will send home a million a year,” but in reply, Russell, with eyes unbewitched200 observed caustically that gold was getting too common. Burton’s comment was an explosion that terrorised everyone near him. He then amused himself by compiling a pamphlet on West African proverbs, one of which, picked up in the Yorubas country, ran, oddly enough: “Anger draweth arrows from the quiver: good words draw kolas from the bag.”

The principal event of this holiday was the foundation, with the assistance of Dr. James Hunt, of the Anthropological Society of London (6th January 1863). The number who met was eleven. Says Burton, “Each had his own doubts and hopes and fears touching the vitality of the new-born. Still, we knew that our case was good. . . . We all felt the weight of a great want. As a traveller and a writer of travels I have found it impossible to publish those questions of social economy and those physiological observations, always interesting to our common humanity, and at times so valuable.” The Memoirs of the Anthropological Society,201 met this difficulty. Burton was the first president, and in two years the Society, which met at No. 4, St. Martin’s Place, had 500 members. “These rooms,” Burton afterwards commented, “now offer a refuge to destitute truth. There any man, monogenist, polygenist, eugenestic or dysgenestic, may state the truth as far as is in him.” The history of the Society may be summed up in a few words. In 1871 it united with the Enthnological Society and formed the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain. In 1873 certain members of the old society, including Burton, founded the London Anthropological Society, and issued a periodical called Anthropologia, of which Burton wrote in 1885, “My motive was to supply travellers with an organ which would rescue their observations from the outer darkness of manuscript and print their curious information on social and sexual matters out of place in the popular book intended for the Nipptisch, and indeed better kept from public view. But hardly had we begun when ‘Respectability,’ that whited sepulchre full of all uncleanness, rose up against us. ‘Propriety’ cried us down with her brazen, blatant voice, and the weak-kneed brethren fell away.202 Yet the organ was much wanted and is wanted still.”203 Soon after the founding of the Society Burton, accompanied by his wife, took a trip to Madeira and then proceeded to Teneriffe, where they parted, he going on to Fernando Po and she returning to England; but during the next few years she made several journeys to Teneriffe, where, by arrangement, they periodically met.

200 “Who first bewitched our eyes with Guinea gold.” Dryden, Annus Mirabilis, 67.

201 Incorporated subsequently with a Quarterly Journal, The Anthropological Review.

202 See Chapter xxix., 140.

203 Foreword to The Arabian Nights, vol. 1. The Arabian Nights, of course, was made to answer the purpose of this organ.

Chapter XII

29th November 1863 to 15th September 1865

Gelele

Bibliography:

23. A Mission to the King of Dahome. 2 vols., 1864.

24. Notes on Marcy’s Prairie Traveller. Anthropological Review, 1864.

47. Whydah and its Deity. 29th November 1863.

In November 1863 the welcome intelligence reached Burton that the British Government had appointed him commissioner and bearer of a message to Gelele, King of Dahomey. He was to take presents from Queen Victoria and to endeavour to induce Gelele to discontinue both human sacrifices and the sale of slaves. Mrs. Burton sadly wanted to accompany him. She thought that with a magic lantern and some slides representing New Testament scenes she could convert Gelele and his court from Fetishism to Catholicism.204 But Burton, who was quite sure that he could get on better alone, objected that her lantern would probably be regarded as a work of magic, and that consequently both he and she would run the risk of being put to death for witchcraft. So, very reluctantly, she abandoned the idea. Burton left Fernando Po in the “Antelope” on 29th November 1863, and, on account of the importance attached by savages to pageantry, entered Whydah, the port of Dahomey, in some state. While waiting for the royal permit to start up country he amused himself by looking round the town. Its lions were the Great Market and the Boa Temple. The latter was a small mud hut, with a thatched roof; and of the ‘boas,’ which tuned out to be pythons, he counted seven, each about five feet long. The most popular deity of Whydah, however, was the Priapic Legba, a horrid mass of red clay moulded into an imitation man with the abnormalities of the Roman deity. “The figure,” he tells us, “is squat, crouched, as it were, before its own attributes, with arms longer than a gorilla’s. The head is of mud or wood rising conically to an almost pointed poll; a dab of clay represents the nose; the mouth is a gash from ear to ear. This deity almost fills a temple of dwarf thatch, open at the sides. . . . Legba is of either sex, but rarely feminine. . . . In this point Legba differs from the classical Pan and Priapus, but the idea involved is the same. The Dahoman, like almost all semi-barbarians, considers a numerous family the highest blessing.” The peculiar worship of Legba consisted of propitiating his or her characteristics by unctions of palm oil, and near every native door stood a clay Legba-pot of cooked maize and palm oil, which got eaten by the turkey-buzzard or vulture. This loathsome fowl, perched upon the topmost stick of a blasted calabash tree, struck Burton as the most appropriate emblem of rotten and hopeless Dahomey.

204 See Wanderings in West Africa, vol. 2, p. 91. footnote.

48. The Amazons.

Gelele’s permit having arrived, the mission lost no time in proceeding northward. Burton was accompanied by Dr. Cruikshank of the “Antelope,” a coloured Wesleyan minister of Whydah, named Bernisco, and a hundred servants. At every halting place the natives capered before them and tabored a welcome, while at Kama, where Gelele was staying, they not only played, but burst out with an extemporaneous couplet in Burton’s honour:

“Batunu205he hath seen the world with its kings and caboceers, He now cometh to Dahomey, and he shall see everything here.”

Burton presently caught sight of Gelele’s body-guard of 1,000 women — the famous Amazons, who were armed with muskets, and habited in tunics and white calottes. With great protruding lips, and no chin to speak of, they were surely the ugliest women in the world. Of their strength, however, there was no question, and Burton says that all the women of Dahomey are physically superior to the men, which accounts for the employment of so many of them as soldiers. The Amazons were bound to celibacy, and they adhered to it so scrupulously that when Burton arrived, there were only 150 under confinement for breaking their vow. Gelele who was 45 years of age, and six feet high, sat under the shade of a shed-gate, smoking a pipe, with a throng of his wives squatted in a semi-circle round him. All were ugly to a wonder, but they atoned for their deplorable looks by their extreme devotion to, or rather adulation of their master. When perspiration appeared upon the royal brow, one of them at once removed it with the softest cloth, if his dress was disarranged it was instantly adjusted, when he drank every lip uttered an exclamation of blessing. Gelele, drowsy with incense, received Burton kindly, and treated him during the whole of his stay with hospitality. He also made some display of pageantry, though it was but a tawdry show. At the capital, Abomey, “Batunu” was housed with a salacious old “Afa-diviner”206 called Buko-no, who was perpetually begging for aphrodisiacs.

205 Burton.

206 Afa is the messenger of fetishes and of deceased friends. Thus by the Afa diviner people communicate with the dead.

49. “The Customs.”

Upon Gelele’s arrival at Abomey the presents from the Queen were delivered; and on December 28th what was called “The Customs” began, that is the slaughtering of criminals and persons captured in war. Burton begged off some of the victims, and he declared that he would turn back at once if any person was killed before his eyes. He tells us, however, that in the case of the King of Dahomey, human sacrifice is not attributable to cruelty. “It is a touching instance of the King’s filial piety, deplorably mistaken, but perfectly sincere.” The world to come is called by the Dahomans “Deadland.” It receives the ‘nidon’ or soul; but in “Deadland” there are no rewards or punishments. Kings here are kings there, the slave is a slave for ever and ever; and people occupy themselves just the same as on earth. As the Dahoman sovereign is obliged to enter Deadland, his pious successor takes care that the deceased shall make this entrance in royal state, “accompanied by a ghostly court of leopard wives, head wives, birthday wives, Afa wives, eunuchs, singers, drummers, bards and soldiers.” Consequently when a king dies some 500 persons are put to death, their cries being drowned by the clangour of drums and cymbals. This is called the “Grand Customs.” Every year, moreover, decorum exacts that the firstfruits of war and all criminals should be sent as recruits to swell the king’s retinue. Hence the ordinary “Annual Customs,” at which some 80 perish. Burton thus describes the horrors of the approach to the “palace” — that is to say, a great thatched shed — on the fifth day of the “Customs.” “Four corpses, attired in their criminal’s shirts and night-caps, were sitting in pairs upon Gold Coast stools, supported by a double-storied scaffold, about forty feet high, of rough beams, two perpendiculars and as many connecting horizontals. At a little distance on a similar erection, but made for half the number, were two victims, one above the other. Between these substantial structures was a gallows of thin posts, some thirty feet tall, with a single victim hanging by the heels head downwards.” Hard by were two others dangling side by side. The corpses were nude and the vultures were preying upon them, and squabbling over their hideous repast. All this was grisly enough, but there was no preventing it. Then came the Court revels. The king danced in public, and at his request, Burton and Dr. Cruikshank also favoured the company. Bernisco, when called upon, produced a concertina and played “O, let us be joyful, when we meet to part no more.” The idea, however, of getting to any place where he would never be separated from Gelele, his brutish court, his corpses and his vultures severely tried Burton’s gravity. Gelele, who was preparing for an unprovoked attack upon Abeokuta, the capital of the neighbouring state of Lagos, now made some grandiose and rhapsodical war speeches and spoke vauntingly of the deeds that he and his warriors meant to perform, while every now and then the younger bloods, eager to flesh their spears, burst out with:

“When we go to war we must slay men,

And so must Abeokuta be destroyed.”

The leave-taking between Gelele and “Batunu” was affecting. Burton presented his host with a few not very valuable presents, and Gelele in return pressed upon his guest a cheap counterpane and a slave boy who promptly absconded.

Whydah was reached again on 18th February 1864, and within a week came news that Gelele, puffed up with confidence and vainglory, had set out for Abeokuta, and was harrying that district. He and his Amazons, however, being thoroughly defeated before the walls of the town, had to return home in what to any other power would have been utter disgrace. They manage things differently, however, in Dahomey, for Gelele during his retreat purchased a number of slaves, and re-entered his capital a triumphing conqueror. Burton considered Gelele, despite his butcherings and vapourings, as, on the whole, quite a phoenix for an African. Indeed, some months after his mission, in conversations with Froude, the historian, he became even warm when speaking of the lenity, benevolence and enlightenment of this excellent king. Froude naturally enquired why, if the king was so benevolent, he did not alter the murderous “Customs.” Burton looked up with astonishment. “Alter the Customs!” he said, “Would you have the Archbishop of Canterbury alter the Liturgy!”

To a friend who observed that the customs of Dahomey were very shocking, Burton replied: “Not more so than those of England.”

“But you admit yourself that eighty persons are sacrificed every year.”

“True, and the number of deaths in England caused by the crinoline alone numbers 72.”207

207 This was Dr. Lancaster’s computation.

50. Death of Speke, 15th September 1864.

In August 1864 Burton again obtained a few months’ leave, and before the end of the month he arrived at Liverpool. It will be remembered that after the Burton and Speke Expedition of 1860 Speke was to go out to Africa again in company with Captain J. Grant. The expedition not only explored the western and northern shores of the Victoria Nyanza, but followed for some distance the river proceeding northwards from it, which they held, and as we now know, correctly, to be the main stream of the Nile. Burton, however, was still of the opinion that the honour of being the head waters of that river belonged to Tanganyika and its affluents. The subject excited considerable public interest and it was arranged that at the approaching Bath meeting of the British Association, Speke and Burton should hold a public disputation upon the great question. Speke’s attitude towards Burton in respect to their various discoveries had all along been incapable of defence, while Burton throughout had exhibited noble magnanimity. For example, he had written on 27th June 1863 from the Bonny River to Staff-Commander C. George, “Please let me hear all details about Captain Speke’s discovery. He has performed a magnificent feat and now rises at once to the first rank amongst the explorers of the day.”208 Though estranged, the two travellers still occasionally communicated, addressing each other, however, not as “Dear Dick” and “Dear Jack” as aforetime — using, indeed, not “Dear” at all, but the icy “Sir.” Seeing that on public occasions Speke still continued to talk vaingloriously and to do all in his power to belittle the work of his old chief, Burton was naturally incensed, and the disputation promised to be a stormy one. The great day arrived, and no melodramatic author could have contrived a more startling, a more shocking denouement. Burton, notes in hand, stood on the platform, facing the great audience, his brain heavy with arguments and bursting with sesquipedalian and sledge-hammer words to pulverize his exasperating opponent. Mrs. Burton, who had dressed with unusual care, occupied a seat on the platform. “From the time I went in to the time I came out,” says one who was present, “I could do nothing but admire her. I was dazed by her beauty.” The Council and other speakers filed in. The audience waited expectant. To Burton’s surprise Speke was not there. Silence having been obtained, the President advanced and made the thrilling announcement that Speke was dead. He had accidentally shot himself that very morning when out rabbiting.

Burton sank into a chair, and the workings of his face revealed the terrible emotion he was controlling and the shock he had received. When he got home he wept like a child. At this point the grotesque trenches on the tragic. On recovering his calmness, Burton expressed his opinion, and afterwards circulated it, that Speke had committed suicide in order to avoid “the exposure of his misstatements in regard to the Nile sources.” In other words, that Speke had destroyed himself lest arguments, subsequently proved to be fundamentally correct, should be refuted. But it was eminently characteristic of Burton to make statements which rested upon insufficient evidence, and we shall notice it over and over again in his career. That was one of the glorious man’s most noticeable failings. It would here, perhaps, be well to make a brief reference to the expeditions that settled once and for ever the questions about Tanganyika and the Nile. In March 1870, Henry M. Stanley set out from Bagamoro in search of Livingstone, whom he found at Ujiji. They spent the early months of 1872 together exploring the north end of Tanganyika, and proved conclusively that the lake had no connection with the Nile basin. In March 1873, Lieutenant Verney Lovett Cameron, who was appointed to the command of an expedition to relieve Livingstone, arrived at Unyanyembe, where he met Livingstone’s followers bearing their master’s remains to the coast. Cameron then proceeded to Ujiji, explored Tanganyika and satisfied himself that this lake was connected with the Congo system. He then continued his way across the continent and came out at Banguelo, after a journey which had occupied two years and eight months, Stanley, who, in 1874, made his famous journey from Bagamoro via Victoria Nyanza to Tanganyika and then followed the Congo from Nyangwe, on the Lualaba, to the sea, verified Cameron’s conjecture.

At the end of the year 1864 the Burtons made the acquaintance of the African traveller Winwood Reade; and we next hear of a visit to Ireland, which included a day at Tuam, where “the name of Burton was big,” on account of the Rector and the Bishop,209 Burton’s grandfather and uncle.

208 Communicated to me by Mr. W. H. George, son of Staff-Commander C. George, Royal Navy.

209 Rev. Edward Burton, Burton’s grandfather, was Rector of Tuam. Bishop Burton, of Killala, was the Rev. Edward Burton’s brother.

Chapter XIII

September 1865-October 1869

Santos: Burton’s Second Consulate

Bibliography:

25. Speech before the Anthropological Society. 4th April 1865.

26. Wit and Wisdom from West Africa. 1865.

27. Pictorial Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

28. Psychic Facts, by Francis Baker (Burton). 1865.

29. Notes . . . connected with the Dahoman. 1865.

30. On an Hermaphrodite. 1866.

31. Exploration of the Highland of the Brazil. 2 vols. 1869.

51. To Santos.

Owing mainly to Mrs. Burton’s solicitation, Burton was now transferred from Fernando Po to Santos, in Brazil, so it was no longer necessary for him and his wife to live apart. He wrote altogether upon his West African adventures, the enormous number of 9 volumes! namely: Wanderings in West Africa (2 vols.), Abeokuta and the Cameroons (2 vols.), A Mission to the King of Dahome (2 vols.), Wit and Wisdom from West Africa (1 vol.), Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo (2 vols.). Remorselessly condensed, these nine might, with artistry, have made a book worthy to live. But Burton’s prolixity is his reader’s despair. He was devoid of the faintest idea of proportion. Consequently at the present day his books are regarded as mere quarries. He dedicated his Abeokuta “To my best friend,” my wife, with a Latin verse which has been rendered:

“Oh, I could live with thee in the wild wood

Where human foot hath never worn a way;

With thee, my city, and my solitude,

Light of my night, sweet rest from cares by day.”

In her own copy Mrs. Burton wrote close to the lines, “Thank you, sweet love!”210

Burton and his wife now set out for Lisbon, where they saw a bull-fight, because Burton said people “ought to see everything once,” though this did not prevent them from going to several other bull-fights. Mrs. Burton was not at all afraid of the bulls, but when some cockroaches invaded her apartment she got on a chair and screamed, though even then they did not go away. More than that, numbers of other cockroaches came to see what was the matter; and they never left off coming. After “a delightful two months” at Lisbon, Burton set out for Brazil, while his wife returned to England “to pay and pack.” She rejoined him some weeks later at Rio Janeiro, and they reached Santos on 9th October 1865. They found it a plashy, swampy place, prolific in mangroves and true ferns, with here and there a cultivated patch. Settlers, however, became attached to it. Sandflies and mosquitoes abounded, and the former used to make Burton “come out all over lumps.” Of the other vermin, including multitudinous snakes, and hairy spiders the size of toy terriers they took no particular notice. The amenities of the place were wonderful orchids, brilliantly coloured parrots and gigantic butterflies with great prismy wings. The Burtons kept a number of slaves, whom, however, they paid “as if they were free men,” and Mrs. Burton erected a chapel for them — her oratory — where the Bishop “gave her leave to have mass and the sacraments.” Her chief convert, and he wanted converting very badly, was an inhuman, pusillanimous coal-black dwarf, 35 years of age, called Chico,211 who became her right-hand man. Just as she had made him to all appearance a good sound Catholic she caught him roasting alive her favourite cat before the kitchen fire. This was the result partly of innate diablery and partly of her having spoilt him, but wherever she went Mrs. Burton managed to get a servant companion whom her lack of judgment made an intolerable burden to her. Chico was only the first of a series. Mrs. Burton also looked well after the temporal needs of the neighbourhood, but if she was always the Lady Bountiful, she was rarely the Lady Judicious.

210 The copy is in the Public Library, High Street, Kensington, where most of Burton’s books are preserved.

211 Spanish for “little one.”

52. Aubertin. Death of Steinhauser, 27th July 1866.

The Burtons resided sometimes at Santos and sometimes at Sao Paulo, eight miles inland. These towns were just then being connected by railway; and one of the superintendents, Mr. John James Aubertin, who resided at Sao Paulo, became Burton’s principal friend there. Aubertin was generally known as the “Father of Cotton,” because during the days of the cotton famine, he had laboured indefatigably and with success to promote the cultivation of the shrub in those parts. Like Burton, Aubertin loved Camoens, and the two friends delighted to walk together in the butterfly-haunted forests and talk about the “beloved master,” while each communicated to the other his intention of translating The Lusiads into English. Thirteen years, however, were to elapse before the appearance of Aubertin’s translation212 and Burton’s did not see print till 1880. In 1866 Burton received a staggering blow in the loss of his old friend Dr. Steinhauser, who died suddenly of heart disease, during a holiday in Switzerland, 27th July 1866. It was Steinhauser, it will be remembered, with whom he had planned the translation of The Arabian Nights, a subject upon which they frequently corresponded.213

212 The Lusiads, 2 vols., 1878. Says Aubertin, “In this city (Sao Paulo) and in the same room in which I began to read The Lusiads in 1860, the last stanza of the last canto was finished on the night of 24th February 1877.”

213 Burton dedicated the 1st vol. of his Arabian Nights to Steinhauser.

53. The Facetious Cannibals.

Wherever Burton was stationed he invariably interested himself in the local archaeological and historical associations. Thus at Santos he explored the enormous kitchen middens of the aboriginal Indians; but the chief attraction was the site of a Portuguese fort, marked by a stone heap, where a gunner, one Hans Stade, was carried off by the cannibals and all but eaten. Burton used to visit the place by boat, and the narrative written by Hans Stade so fascinated him that he induced a Santos friend, Albert Tootal, to translate it into English. The translation was finished in 1869, and five years later Burton wrote for it an introduction and some valuable notes and sent it to press. Though Burton scarcely shines as an original writer, he had a keen eye for what was good in others, and he here showed for the first time that remarkable gift for annotating which stood him in such stead when he came to handle The Arabian Nights.

Hans Stade’s story is so amusing that if we did not know it to be fact we should imagine it the work of some Portuguese W. S. Gilbert. Never were more grisly scenes or more captivating and facetious cannibals. When they told Stade that he was to be eaten, they added, in order to cheer him, that he was to be washed down with a really pleasant drink called kawi. The king’s son then tied Stade’s legs together in three places. “I was made,” says the wretched man, “to hop with jointed feet through the huts; at this they laughed and said ‘Here comes our meat hopping along,’” Death seemed imminent. They did Stade, however, no injury beside shaving off his eyebrows, though the younger savages, when hungry, often looked wistfully at him and rubbed their midriffs. The other prisoners were, one by one, killed and eaten, but the cannibals took their meals in a way that showed indifferent breeding. Even the king had no table manners whatever, but walked about gnawing a meaty bone. He was good-natured, however, and offered a bit to Stade, who not only declined, but uttered some words of reproof. Though surprised, the king was not angry; he took another bite and observed critically, with his mouth full, “It tastes good!”

Life proceeds slowly, whether at Santos or Sao Paulo, almost the only excitement being the appearance of companies of friendly Indians. They used to walk in single file, and on passing Burton’s house would throw out their arms as if the whole file were pulled by a string. Burton did not confine himself to Santos, however. He wandered all over maritime Brazil, and at Rio he lectured before the king214 and was several times invited to be present at banquets and other splendid gatherings. On the occasion of one of these notable functions, which was to be followed by a dinner, one room of the palace was set apart for the ministers to wait in and another for the consuls. The Burtons were told not to go into the consular room, but into the ministers’ room. When, however, they got to the door the officials refused to let them pass.

“This is the ministers’ room,” they said, “You cannot come here.”

“Well, where am I to go?” enquired Burton.

Mrs. Burton stood fuming with indignation at the sight of the stream of nonentities who passed in without question, but Burton cried, “Wait a moment, my darling. I’ve come to see the Emperor, and see the Emperor I will.”

So he sent in his card and a message.

“What!” cried the Emperor, “a man like Burton excluded. Bring him to me at once.” So Burton and his wife were conducted to the Emperor and Empress, to whom Burton talked so interestingly, that they forgot all about the dinner. Meanwhile flunkeys kept moving in and out, anxiety on their faces — the princes, ambassadors and other folk were waiting, dinner was waiting; and the high functionaries and dinner were kept waiting for half an hour. “Well, I’ve had my revenge,” said Burton to his wife when the interview was over. “Only think of those starving brutes downstairs; but I’m sorry on your account I behaved as I did, for it will go against all your future ‘at homes.’” At dinner the Emperor and the Empress were most attentive to the Burtons and the Empress gave Mrs. Burton a beautiful diamond bracelet.215

Among Burton’s admirers was a Rio gentleman named Cox, who had a mansion near the city. One day Mr. Cox arranged a grand dinner party and invited all his friends to meet the famous traveller. Burton arrived early, but presently disappeared. By and by the other guests streamed in, and after amusing themselves for a little while about the grounds they began to enquire for Burton. But no Burton was to be seen. At last someone happened to look up the highest tree in the compound and there was the guest of the day high among the branches squatting like a monkey. He had got up there, he said, to have a little peace, and to keep on with the book he was writing about Brazil. He came down, however, when the lunch bell rang, for though he grumbled at all other noises, he maintained that, somehow that sound always had a peculiar sweetness.

Wit and humour, wherever found, never failed to please Burton, and a remark which he heard in a Brazilian police court and uttered by the presiding magistrate, who, was one of his friends, particularly tickled him:

“Who is this man?” demanded the magistrate, in reference to a dissipated-looking prisoner.

“Un Inglez bebado” (a drunken Englishman), replied the constable.

“A drunken Englishman,” followed the magistrate, “What a pleonasm!”

A little later Burton and his wife went down a mine which ran three quarters of a mile into the earth. “The negret Chico,” says Burton, “gave one glance at the deep, dark pit, wrung his hands and fled the Tophet, crying that nothing in the wide, wide world would make him enter such an Inferno. He had lately been taught that he is a responsible being, with an ‘immortal soul,’ and he was beginning to believe it in a rough, theoretical way: this certainly did not look like a place ‘where the good niggers go.’” However, if Chico turned coward Burton and his wife did not hesitate. But they had moments of fearful suspense as they sank slowly down into the black abysm. The snap of a single link in the long chain would have meant instantaneous death; and a link had snapped but a few days previous, with fatal results. Arrived at the bottom they found themselves in a vast cave lighted with a few lamps — the walls black as night or reflecting slender rays from the polished watery surface. Distinctly Dantesque was the gulf between the huge mountain sides which threatened every moment to fall. One heard the click and thud of hammers, the wild chants of the borers, the slush of water. Being like gnomes and kobolds glided hither and thither — half naked figures muffled up by the mist. Here dark bodies, gleaming with beaded heat drops, hung in what seemed frightful positions; “they swung like Leotard from place to place.” Others swarmed up loose ropes like Troglodytes. It was a situation in which “thoughts were many and where words were few.”

Burton and his wife were not sorry when they found themselves above ground again and in the sweet light of day.

214 Dom Pedro, deposed 15th November 1889.

215 This anecdote differs considerably from Mrs. Burton’s version, Life, i., 438. I give it, however, as told by Burton to his friends.

54. Down the Sao Francisco.

The next event was a canoe journey which Burton made alone down the river Sao Francisco from its source to the falls of Paulo Affonso — and then on to the sea, a distance of 1500 miles — an astounding feat even for him. During these adventures a stanza in his own unpublished version of Camoens constantly cheered him:

“Amid such scenes with danger fraught and pain

Serving the fiery spirit more to flame,

Who woos bright honour, he shall ever win

A true nobility, a deathless fame:

Not they who love to lean, unjustly vain,

Upon the ancestral trunk’s departed claim;

Nor they reclining on the gilded beds

Where Moscow’s zebeline downy softness spreads.”216

Indeed he still continued, at all times of doubt and despondency, to turn to this beloved poet; and always found something to encourage.

216 Lusiads, canto 6, stanza 95. Burton subsequently altered and spoilt it. The stanza as given will be found on the opening page of the Brazil book.

55. In Paraguay. August 15th to September 15th 1868. April 4th to April 18th 1869.

The year before his arrival in Santos a terrible war had broken out between Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina on the one side and Paraguay on the other; the Paraguayan dictator Lopez II. had been defeated in many battles and Paraguay so long, thanks to the Jesuits and Dr. Francia, a thriving country, was gradually being reduced to ruin. Tired of Santos, which was out of the world and led to nothing, Burton in July 1868 sent in his resignation. Mrs. Burton at once proceeded to England, but before following her, Burton at the request of the Foreign Office, travelled through various parts of South America in order to report the state of the war. He visited Paraguay twice, and after the second journey made his way across the continent to Arica in Peru, whence he took ship to London via the Straits of Magellan.217 During part of the voyage he had as fellow traveller Arthur Orton, the Tichborne claimant. As both had spent their early boyhood at Elstree they could had they so wished have compared notes, but we may be sure Mr. Orton preserved on that subject a discreet silence. The war terminated in March 1870, after the death of Lopez II. at the battle of Aquidaban. Four-fifths of the population of Paraguay had perished by sword or famine.

217 He describes his experiences in his work The Battlefields of Paraguay.

Chapter XIV

October 1869-16th August 1871 “Emperor and Empress of Damascus.”

Bibliography:

32. Vikram and the Vampire.

33. Letters from the Battlefields of Paraguay. 1870.

34. Proverba Communia Syriaca. 1871.

35. The Jew. Written 1871, published 1898.

56. Archbishop Manning and the Odd Fish.

Mrs. Burton had carried with her to England several books written by her husband in Brazil, and upon her arrival she occupied herself first in arranging for their publication, and secondly in trying to form a company to work some Brazilian mines for which Burton had obtained a concession. The books were The Highlands of Brazil (2 vols. 1869), The Lands of the Cazembe (1873) and Iracema, or Honey Lips, a translation from the Brazilian (1886).

We hear no more of the mines, but she was able to send her husband “the excellent news of his appointment to the Consulate of Damascus.” He heard of it first, however, not from her letter, but casually in a cafe at Lima, just as he was preparing to return home. On arriving in England almost his first business was to patent a pistol which he had invented especially for the use of travellers, and then he and Mrs. Burton gave themselves the pleasure of calling on old friends and going into society. To this date should, perhaps, be assigned the story218 of Archbishop, afterwards Cardinal Manning, and the Odd Fish. Burton had just presented to the Zoological Gardens a curious fish which lived out of water, and took but little nourishment. He had often presented different creatures to the Zoo, though nobody had ever thanked him, but this gift created some commotion, and “Captain Burton’s Odd Fish” became the talk of London.

In the midst of its popularity Burton one day found himself seated at a grand dinner next to his good friend the long, lean and abstemious Archbishop Manning. But much as Burton liked Manning, he could never bear to be near him at meal times. Manning always would eat little and talk much; so Burton, who was a magnificent trencherman, suffered serious inconvenience, and the present occasion proved no exception. It was in vain that Burton urged the Archbishop to mortify himself by eating his dinner. After a while Mrs. Burton, who sat on the other side of the Archbishop, remarked “Richard must take you to the Zoo and show you his famous fish.” “I’ll certainly go,” said Manning, turning to Burton, “I am really curious to see it.” “Then my Lord,” followed Burton, “there will be a pair of odd fish. You know, you neither eat nor drink, and that’s the peculiarity of the other fish.”

As usual when in England, Burton spoke at several public meetings, and Mrs. Burton, of whose appearance he continued to be justifiably proud, generally accompanied him on the platform. Before speaking he always ate sparingly, saying “No” to almost everything. On one of such evenings he was the guest of Dr. Burton, and by chance, hot curry, his favourite dish, was placed on the table. “Now this is real wickedness, cousin,” he exclaimed, “to have hot curry when I can’t eat it.” When dinner was nearly over somebody came in with a basket of damask roses. “Ask for two of them,” whispered Burton to his wife. She did, and appeared with them in her bosom on the platform, “And oh,” added my informer, “how handsome she looked!”

Having visited Uriconium, the English Pompeii, the Burtons made for Vichy, where they met Mr. Swinburne, (Sir) Frederick Leighton and Mrs. Sartoris. His companions on this journey, as on so many others, were two books — one being the anodynous Camoens, the other a volume consisting of the Bible, Shakespeare and Euclid bound together, which looked, with its three large clasps, like a congested Church Service. Mrs. Burton then returned to England “to pay and pack,” while Burton, “being ignorant” as they say in the Nights, “of what lurked for him in the secret purpose of God,” proceeded to Damascus, with two bull-terriers, descendants, no doubt, of the Oxford beauty.

218 Unpublished. Told me by Mrs. E. J. Burton. Manning was made a cardinal in 1875.

57. 3rd Consulate, Damascus.

Mrs. Burton followed in December, with her entire fortune — a modest £300 in gold, and life promised to be all labdanum. Disliking the houses in Damascus itself, the Burtons took one in the suburb El Salahiyyah; and here for two years they lived among white domes and tapering minarets, palms and apricot trees. Midmost the court, with its orange and lemon trees, fell all day the cool waters of a fountain. The principal apartments were the reception room, furnished with rich Eastern webs, and a large dining room, while a terrace forming part of the upper storey served as “a pleasant housetop in the cool evenings.” The garden, with its roses, jessamine, vines, citron, orange and lemon trees, extended to that ancient river, the jewel-blue Chyrsorrhoa. There was excellent stabling, and Mrs. Burton kept horses, donkeys, a camel, turkeys, bull-terriers, street dogs, ducks, leopards, lambs, pigeons, goats, and, to use Burton’s favourite expression, “other notions.” They required much patient training, but the result was satisfactory, for when most of them had eaten one another they became a really harmonious family.

If Mrs. Burton went abroad to the bazaar or elsewhere she was accompanied by four Kawwasses in full dress of scarlet and gold, and on her reception day these gorgeous attendants kept guard. Her visitors sat on the divans cross-legged or not according to their nation, smoked, drank sherbet and coffee, and ate sweetmeats.

For Ra’shid Pasha, the Wali or Governor-General of Syria, both Burton and his wife conceived from the first a pronounced antipathy. He was fat and indolent, with pin-point eyes, wore furs, walked on his toes, purred and looked like “a well-fed cat.” It did not, however, occur to them just then that he was to be their evil genius.

“Call him Ra’shid, with the accent on the first syllable,” Burton was always careful to say when speaking of this fiendish monster, “and do not confound him with (Haroun al) Rashi’d, accent on the second syllable — ‘the orthodox,’ the ‘treader in the right path.’”219

219 Mr. John Payne, however, proves to us that the old Rashi’d, though a lover of the arts, was also a sensual and bloodthirsty tyrant. See Terminal Essay to his Arabian Nights, vol. ix.

58. Jane Digby el Mezrab.

At an early date Burton formed a friendship with the Algerine hero and exile Abd el Kadir, a dark, kingly-looking man who always appeared in snow white and carried superbly-jewelled arms; while Mrs. Burton, who had a genius for associating herself with undesirable persons, took to her bosom the notorious and polyandrous Jane Digby el Mezrab.220 This lady had been the wife first of Lord Ellenborough, who divorced her, secondly of Prince Schwartzenberg, and afterwards of about six other gentlemen. Finally, having used up Europe, she made her way to Syria, where she married a “dirty little black”221 Bedawin shaykh. Mrs. Burton, with her innocent, impulsive, flamboyant mind, not only grappled Jane Digby with hoops of steel, but stigmatised all the charges against her as wilful and malicious. Burton, however, mistrusted the lady from the first. Says Mrs. Burton of her new friend, “She was a most beautiful woman, though sixty-one, tall, commanding, and queen-like. She was grande dame jusqu’ au bout des doights, as much as if she had just left the salons of London and Paris, refined in manner, nor did she ever utter a word you could wish unsaid. She spoke nine languages perfectly, and could read and write in them. She lived half the year in Damascus and half with her husband in his Bedawin tents, she like any other Bedawin woman, but honoured and respected as the queen of her tribe, wearing one blue garment, her beautiful hair in two long plaits down to the ground, milking the camels, serving her husband, preparing his food, sitting on the floor and washing his feet, giving him his coffee; and while he ate she stood and waited on him: and glorying in it. She looked splendid in Oriental dress. She was my most intimate friend, and she dictated to me the whole of her biography.”222 Both ladies were inveterate smokers, and they, Burton, and Abd el Kadir spent many evenings on the terrace of the house with their narghilehs. Burton and his wife never forgot these delightsome causeries. Swiftly, indeed, flew the happy hours when they

“Nighted and dayed in Damascus town.”223

220 She thus signed herself after her very last marriage.

221 Mrs. Burton’s words.

222 Life i., p. 486.

223 Arabian Nights. Lib. Ed, i., 215.

59. To Tadmor.

Burton had scarcely got settled in Damascus before he expressed his intention of visiting the historic Tadmor in the desert. It was an eight days’ journey, and the position of the two wells on the way was kept a secret by Jane Digby’s tribe, who levied blackmail on all visitors to the famous ruins. The charge was the monstrous one of £250; but Burton — at all times a sworn foe to cupidity — resolved to go without paying. Says Mrs. Burton, “Jane Digby was in a very anxious state when she heard this announcement, as she knew it was a death blow to a great source of revenue to the tribe . . . She did all she could to dissuade us, she wept over our loss, and she told us that we should never come back.” Finally the subtle lady dried her crocodile eyes and offered her “dear friends” the escort of one of her Bedawin, that they might steer clear of the raiders and be conducted more quickly to water, “if it existed.” Burton motioned to his wife to accept the escort, and Jane left the house with ill-concealed satisfaction. The Bedawi224 in due time arrived, but not before he had been secretly instructed by Jane to lead the Burtons into ambush whence they could be pounced upon by the tribe and kept prisoners till ransomed. That, however, was no more than Burton had anticipated; consequently as soon as the expedition was well on the road he deprived the Bedawi of his mare and accoutrements, and retained both as hostages until Damascus should be reached again. Appropriately enough this occurred on April the First.225 Success rewarded his acuteness, for naturally the wells were found, and the travellers having watered their camels finished the journey with comfort. Says Mrs. Burton, “I shall never forget the imposing sight of Tadmor. There is nothing so deceiving as distance in the desert. . . . A distant ruin stands out of the sea of sand, the atmosphere is so clear that you think you will reach it in half an hour; you ride all day and you never seem to get any nearer to it.” Arrived at Tadmor they found it to consist of a few orchards, the imposing ruins, and a number of wretched huts “plastered like wasps’ nests within them.” Of the chief ruin, the Temple of the Sun, one hundred columns were still standing and Burton, who set his men to make excavations, found some statues, including one of Zenobia. The party reached Damascus again after an absence of about a month. The Bedawi’s mare was returned; and Jane Digby had the pleasure of re-union with her dear Mrs. Burton, whom she kissed effusively.

Both Burton and his wife mingled freely with the people of Damascus, and Burton, who was constantly storing up knowledge against his great edition of The Arabian Nights, often frequented the Arabic library.226 Their favourite walk was to the top of an adjacent eminence, whence they could look down on Damascus, which lay in the light of the setting sun, “like a pearl.” Then there were excursions to distant villages of traditionary interest, including Jobar, where Elijah is reputed to have hidden, and to have anointed Hazael.227 “The Bird,” indeed, as ever, was continually on the wing, nor was Mrs. Burton less active. She visited, for example, several of the harems in the city, including that of Abd el Kadir. “He had five wives,” she says, “one of them was very pretty. I asked them how they could bear to live together and pet each other’s children. I told them that in England, if a woman thought her husband had another wife or mistress, she would be ready to kill her. They all laughed heartily at me, and seemed to think it a great joke.”228 She also took part in various social and religious functions, and was present more than once at a circumcision — at which, she tells us, the victim, as Westerns must regard him, was always seated on richest tapestry resembling a bride throne, while his cries were drowned by the crash of cymbals. Burton’s note-books, indeed, owed no mean debt to her zealous co-operation.

224 Burton generally writes Bedawi and Bedawin. Bedawin (Bedouin) is the plural form of Bedawi. Pilgrimage to Meccah, vol. ii., p. 80.

225 1870. Three months after Mrs. Burton’s arrival.

226 It contained, among other treasures, a Greek manuscript of the Bible with the Epistle of Barnabas and a portion of the Shepherd of Hermas.

227 1 Kings, xix., 15; 2 Kings, viii., 15.

228 The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, ii., 386.

60. Palmer and Drake. 11th July 1870.

The Burtons spent their summer in a diminutive Christian village called B’ludan, on the Anti-Lebanon, at the head of the Vale of Zebedani, Burton having chosen it as his sanitarium. A beautiful stream with waterfalls bubbled through their gardens, which commanded magnificent views of the Lebanon country. As at Santos, Mrs. Burton continued her role of Lady Bountiful, and she spent many hours making up powders and pills. Although in reality nobody was one jot the better or the worse for taking them, the rumour circulated that they were invariably fatal. Consequently her reputation as a doctor spread far and wide. One evening a peasant woman who was dying sent a piteous request for aid, and Mrs. Burton, who hurried to the spot, satisfied the poor soul by the administration of some useless but harmless dose. Next morning the woman’s son appeared. He thanked Mrs. Burton warmly for her attentions, said it was his duty to report that his mother was dead, and begged for a little more of the efficacious white powder, as he had a bedridden grandmother of whom he was also anxious to be relieved.

One piping hot morning229 when walking in his garden Burton noticed a gipsy tent outside, and on approaching it found two sun-burnt Englishmen, a powerful, amiable-looking giant, and a smaller man with a long beard and silky hair. The giant turned out to be Charles Tyrwhitt Drake and the medium-sized man Edward Henry Palmer, both of whom were engaged in survey work. Drake, aged 24, was the draughtsman and naturalist; Palmer,230 just upon 30, but already one of the first linguists of the day, the archaeologist. Palmer, like Burton, had leanings towards occultism; crystal gazing, philosopher’s stone hunting. After making a mess with chemicals, he would gaze intently at it, and say excitedly: “I wonder what will happen” — an expression that was always expected of him on such and all other exciting occasions. A quadruple friendship ensued, and the Burtons, Drake and Palmer made several archaeological expeditions together. To Palmer’s poetical eyes all the Lebanon region was enchanted ground. Here the lovely Shulamite of the lovelier Scripture lyric fed her flocks by the shepherd’s tents. Hither came Solomon, first disguised as a shepherd, to win her love, and afterwards in his royal litter perfumed with myrrh and frankincense to take her to his Cedar House. This, too, was the country of Adonis. In Lebanon the wild boar slew him, and yonder, flowing towards “holy Byblus,” were “the sacred waters where the women of the ancient mysteries came to mingle their tears.”231 Of this primitive and picturesque but wanton worship they were reminded frequently both by relic and place name. To Palmer, viewing them in the light of the past, the Cedars of Lebanon were a poem, but to Burton — a curious mixture of the romantic and the prosaic — with his invariable habit of underrating famous objects, they were “a wretched collection of scraggy Christmas trees.” “I thought,” said Burton, “when I came here that Syria and Palestine would be so worn out that my occupation as an explorer was clean gone.” He found, however, that such was not the case — all previous travellers having kept to the beaten tracks; Jaydur, for example, the classical Ituraea, was represented on the maps by “a virgin white patch.” Burton found it teeming with interest. There was hardly a mile without a ruin — broken pillars, inscribed slabs, monoliths, tombs. A little later he travelled as far northward as Hamah232 in order to copy the uncouth characters on the famous stones, and Drake discovered an altar adorned with figures of Astarte and Baal.233 Everywhere throughout Palestine he had to deplore the absence of trees. “Oh that Brigham Young were here!” he used to say, “to plant a million. The sky would then no longer be brass, or the face of the country a quarry.” Thanks to his researches, Burton has made his name historical in the Holy Land, for his book Unexplored Syria — written though it be in a distressingly slipshod style — throws, from almost every page, interesting light on the Bible. “Study of the Holy Land,” he said, “has the force of a fifth Gospel, not only because it completes and harmonises, but also because it makes intelligible the other four. Oh, when shall we have a reasonable version of Hebrew Holy Writ which will retain the original names of words either untranslatable or to be translated only by guess work!”234 One of their adventures — with a shaykh named Salameh — reads like a tale out of The Arabian Nights. Having led them by devious paths into an uninhabited wild, Salameh announced that, unless they made it worth his wile to do otherwise, he intended to leave them there to perish, and it took twenty-five pounds to satisfy the rogue’s cupidity. Palmer, however, was of opinion that an offence of this kind ought by no means to be passed over, so on reaching Jerusalem he complained to the Turkish governor and asked that the man might receive punishment. “I know the man,” said the Pasha, “he is a scoundrel, and you shall see an example of the strength and equity of the Sultan’s rule;” and of course, Palmer, in his perpetual phrase, wondered what would happen. After their return to Damascus the three friends had occasion to call on Rashid Pasha. “Do you think,” said the Wali, with his twitching moustache and curious, sleek, unctuous smile, “do you think you would know your friend again?” He then clapped his hands and a soldier brought in a sack containing four human heads, one of which had belonged to the unfortunate Salameh. “Are you satisfied?” enquired the Wali.235

229 11th July 1870.

230 E. H. Palmer (1840-1882). In 1871 he was appointed Lord Almoner’s Professor of Arabic at Cambridge. He was murdered at Wady Sudr, 11th August 1882. See Chapter xxiii.

231 Renan. See, too, Paradise Lost, Bk. 1. Isaiah (xvii., 10) alludes to the portable “Adonis Gardens” which the women used to carry to the bier of the god.

232 The Hamath of Scripture. 2. Sam., viii., 9; Amos, vi., 2.

233 See illustrations in Unexplored Syria, by Burton and Drake.

234 The Land of Midian Revisited, ii., 73.

235 Life of Edward H. Palmer, p. 109.

61. Khamoor.

Having been separated from “that little beast of a Brazilian” — the cat-torturing Chico — Mrs. Burton felt that she must have another confidential servant companion. Male dwarfs being so unsatisfactory she now decided to try a full-sized human being, and of the other sex. At Miss Ellen Wilson’s Protestant Mission in Anti-Lebanon she saw just her ideal — a lissom, good-looking Syrian maid, named Khamoor, or “The Moon.” Chico the Second (or shall we say Chica236 the First.) had black plaits of hair confined by a coloured handkerchief, large, dark, reflulgent eyes, pouting lips, white teeth, of which she was very proud, “a temperament which was all sunshine and lightning in ten minutes,” and a habit of discharging, quite unexpectedly, a “volley of fearful oaths.” She was seventeen — “just the time of life when a girl requires careful guiding.” So Mrs. Burton, or “Ya Sitti,” as Khamoor called her, promptly set about this careful guiding — that is to say she fussed and petted Khamoor till the girl lost all knowledge of her place and became an intolerable burden. Under Mrs. Burton’s direction she learnt to wear stays237 though this took a good deal of learning; and also to slap men’s faces and scream when they tried to kiss her. By dint of practice she in time managed this also to perfection. Indeed, she gave up, one by one, all her heathenish ways, except swearing, and so became a well-conducted young lady, and almost English. Mrs. Burton was nothing if not a woman with a mission, and henceforward two cardinal ideas swayed her namely, first to inveigle the heathen into stays, and secondly, to induce them to turn Catholics. Her efforts at conversion were more or less successful, but the other propaganda had, to her real sorrow, only barren results.

In March 1871, Charles Tyrwhitt Drake, who had spent some months in England, arrived again in Damascus, and the Burtons begged him to be their permanent guest. Henceforth Mrs. Burton, Burton and Drake were inseparable companions, and they explored together “almost every known part of Syria.” Mrs. Burton used to take charge of the camp “and visited the harems to note things hidden from mankind,” Drake sketched and collected botanical and geological specimens, while Burton’s studies were mainly anthropological and archaeological. They first proceeded to Jerusalem, where they spent Holy Week, and after visiting Hebron, the Dead Sea, and other historical spots, they returned by way of Nazareth. But here they met with trouble. Early in his consulate, it seems, Burton had protested against some arbitrary proceedings on the part of the Greek Bishop of Nazareth, and thus made enemies among the Greeks. Unhappily, when the travellers appeared this ill-feeling led a posse of Nazarenes to make an attack on Burton’s servants; and Burton and Drake, who ran half dressed out of their tents to see what was the matter, were received with a shower of stones, and cries of “Kill them!” Burton stood perfectly calm, though the stones hit him right and left, and Drake also displayed cool bravery. Mrs. Burton then hastened up with “two six shot revolvers,” but Burton, having waved her back — snatched a pistol from the belt of one of his servants and fired it into the air, with the object of summoning his armed companions, whereupon the Greeks, though they numbered at least a hundred and fifty, promptly took to their heels. Out of this occurrence, which Burton would have passed over, his enemies, as we shall see, subsequently made considerable capital. The party then proceeded to the Sea of Galilee, whence they galloped across “their own desert” home. During these travels Burton and Drake made some valuable discoveries and saw many extraordinary peoples, though none more extraordinary than the lazy and filthy Troglodytes of the Hauran,238 who shared the pre-historic caves with their cows and sheep, and fed on mallows just as their forefathers are represented as having done in the vivid thirtieth chapter of Job,239 and in the pages of Agatharchides.240

236 Chica is the feminine of Chico (Spanish).

237 Mrs. Burton’s expression.

238 District east of the Sea of Galilee.

239 Job, chapter xxx. “But now they that are younger than I have me in derision . . . who cut up mallows by the bushes and juniper roots for their meat.”

240 Greek Geographer. 250 B.C.

62. The Shazlis.

Mrs. Burton now heard news that fired her with joy. A sect of the Mohammedans called Shazlis used to assemble in the house of one of their number of Moslem prayer, reading and discussion. One day they became conscious of a mysterious presence among them. They heard and saw things incommunicably strange, and a sacred rapture diffused itself among them. Their religion had long ceased to give them satisfaction, and they looked anxiously round in search of a better. One night when they were overcome by sleep there appeared to each a venerable man with a long white beard, who said sweetly, “Let those who want the truth follow me,” and forthwith they resolved to search the earth until they found the original of the vision. But they had not to go far. One of them chancing to enter a monastery in Damascus noticed a Spanish priest named Fray Emanuel Forner. Hurrying back to his comrades he cried “I have seen the oldster of the dreams.” On being earnestly requested to give direction, Forner became troubled, and with a view to obtaining advice, hurried to Burton. Both Burton and his wife listened to the tale with breathless interest. Mrs. Burton naturally wanted to sweep the whole sect straightway into the Roman Church, and it is said that she offered to be sponsor herself to 2,000 of them. In any circumstances, she distributed large numbers of crucifixes and rosaries. Burton, who regarded nine-tenths of the doctrines of her church as a tangle of error, was nevertheless much struck with the story. He had long been seeking for a perfect religion, and he wondered whether these people had not found it. Here in this city of Damascus, where Our Lord had appeared to St. Paul, a similar apparition had again been seen — this time by a company of earnest seekers after truth. He determined to investigate. So disguised as a Shazli, he attended their meetings and listened while Forner imparted the principal dogmas of the Catholic faith. His common sense soon told him that the so-called miraculous sights were merely hallucinations, the outcome of heated and hysterical imagination. He sympathised with the Shazlis in that like himself they were seekers after truth, and there, as far as he was concerned, the matter would have ended had the scenes been in any other country. But in Syria religious freedom was unknown, and the cruel Wali Rashid Pasha was only too delighted to have an opportunity to use his power. He crushed where he could not controvert. Twelve of the leading Shazlis — the martyrs, as they were called — were seized and imprisoned. Forner died suddenly; as some think, by poison. This threw Burton, who hated oppression in all its forms, into a towering rage, and he straightway flung the whole of his weight into the cause of the Shazlis. Persecution gave them holiness. He wrote to Lord Granville that there were at least twenty-five thousand Christians longing secretly for baptism, and he suggested methods by which they might be protected. He also recommended the Government to press upon the Porte many other reforms. Both Burton and his wife henceforward openly protected the Shazlis, and in fact made themselves, to use the words of a member of the English Government, “Emperor and Empress of Damascus.”

That Rashid Pasha and his crawling myrmidons were rascals of the first water and that the Shazlis were infamously treated is very evident. It is also clear that Burton was more just than diplomatic. We cannot, however, agree with those who lay all the blame on Mrs. Burton. We may not sympathise with her religious views, but, of course, she had the same right to endeavour to extend her own church as the Protestants at Beyrout, who periodically sent enthusiastic agents to Damascus, had to extend theirs.

The Shazli trouble alone, however, would not have shaken seriously Burton’s position; and whatever others may have thought, it is certain Burton himself never at any time in his life considered that in this matter any particular blame attached to his wife. But unfortunately the Shazli trouble was only one of a series. Besides embroiling himself with the truculent Rashid Pasha and his underlings, Burton contrived to give offence to four other bodies of men. In June, 1870, Mr. Mentor Mott, the kind and charitable241 superintendent of the British Syrian School at Beyrout, went to Damascus to proselytize, and acted, in Burton’s opinion, with some indiscretion. Deeming Damascus just then to be not in a temper for proselytising, Burton reprimanded him, and thus offended the Protestant missionaries and Mr. Jackson Eldridge, the Consul-General at Beyrout. In Burton’s opinion, but for Mrs. Mott the storm would have gradually subsided. That lady, however, took the matter more to heart than her husband, and was henceforth Burton’s implacable enemy. Then arose a difficulty with the Druzes, who had ill-treated some English missionaries. As they were Turkish subjects the person to act was Rashid Pasha, but Burton and he being at daggers drawn, Burton attempted to fine the Druzes himself. He was reminded, however, that his power was limitary, and that he would not be allowed to exceed it. To the trouble with the Greeks we have already referred. But his chief enemies were the Jews, or rather the Jewish money-lenders, who used to go to the distressed villages, offer money, keep all the papers, and allow their victims nothing to show. Interest had to be paid over and over again. Compound interest was added, and when payment was impossible the defaulters were cast into prison. Burton’s predecessor had been content to let matters alone, but Burton’s blood boiled when he thought of these enormities. Still, when the money-lenders came to him and stated their case, he made for a time an honest attempt to double; but ultimately his indignation got the better of his diplomacy, and with an oath that made the windows rattle, he roared, “Do you think I am going to be bum-bailiff to a parcel of blood-suckers!” And yet these gentlemen had sometimes, in their moderation, charged as little as sixty per cent. Henceforward Burton looked evil upon the whole Jewish race, and resolved to write a book embodying his researches respecting them and his Anti-Semite opinions. For the purpose of it he made minute enquiries concerning the death of one Padre Tommaso, whom the Jews were suspected of having murdered in 1840. These enquiries naturally have his foes further umbrage, and they in return angrily discharge their venom at him. In his book The Jew, published after his death,242 he lashes the whole people. He seems in its pages to be constantly running up and down with a whip and saying: “I’ll teach you to be ‘an Ebrew Jew,’ I will.” His credulity and prejudice are beyond belief. He accepts every malicious and rancorous tale told against the Jews, and records as historical facts even such problematical stories as the murder of Hugh of Lincoln. Thus he managed to exasperate representatives of almost every class. But perhaps it was his championship of the Shazlis that made the most mischief. Says Lady Burton, “It broke his career, it shattered his life, it embittered him towards religion.”

Complaints and garbled stories reached London from all sides, and Burton was communicated with. He defended himself manfully, and showed that in every question he had been on the side of righteousness and equity, that he had simply fought systematically against cruelty, oppression and nefariousness. He could not and would not temporize. An idea of the corruption prevalent at Damascus may be fathered from the fact that on one occasion £10,000 was promised him if he would “give an opinion which would have swayed a public transaction.” Says Lady Burton, “My husband let the man finish, and then he said, ‘If you were a gentleman of my own standing, and an Englishman, I would just pitch you out of the window; but as you are not, you may pick up your £10,000 and walk down the stairs.’”243

241 Burton’s words.

242 Published in 1898.

243 Life, i., 572.

63. The Recall. 16th August 1871.

Accusations, many of them composed of the bluest gall; and manly letters of defence from Burton now flew almost daily from Damascus to England. The Wali, the Jews and others all had their various grievances. As it happened, the British Government wanted, just then, above all things, peace and quiet. If Burton could have managed to jog along in almost any way with the Wali, the Druzes, the Greeks, the Jews and the other factors in Syria, there would have been no trouble. As to whether Burton was right or wrong in these disputes, the Government seems not to have cared a straw or to have given a moment’s thought. Here, they said, is a man who somehow has managed to stir up a wasp’s nest, and who may embroil us with Turkey. This condition of affairs must cease. Presently came the crash. On August 16th just as Burton and Tyrwhitt Drake were setting out for a ride at B’ludan, a messenger appeared and handed Burton a note. He was superseded. The blow was a terrible one, and for a moment he was completely unmanned. He hastened to Damascus in the forlorn hope that there was a mistake. But it was quite true, the consulship had been given to another.

To his wife he sent the message, “I am superseded. Pay, pack, and follow at convenience.” Then he started for Beirut, where she joined him. “After all my service,” wrote Burton in his journal, “ignominiously dismissed at fifty years of age.” One cry only kept springing from Mrs. Burton’s lips, “Oh, Rashid Pasha! Oh, Rashid Pasha!”

At Damascus Burton had certainly proved himself a man of incorruptible integrity. Even his enemies acknowledged his probity. But this availed nothing. Only two years had elapsed since he had landed in Syria, flushed with high premonitions; now he retired a broken man, shipwrecked in hope and fortune. When he looked back on his beloved Damascus — “O, Damascus, pearl of the East” — it was with the emotion evinced by the last of the Moors bidding adieu to Granada, and it only added to his exasperation when he imagined the exultation of the hated Jews, and the sardonic grin on the sly, puffy, sleek face of Rashid Pasha.

Just before Mrs. Burton left B’ludan an incident occurred which brings her character into high relief. A dying Arab boy was brought to her to be treated for rheumatic fever. She says, “I saw that death was near. . . . ‘Would you like to see Allah?’ I said, taking hold of his cold hand. . . . I parted his thick, matted hair, and kneeling, I baptised him from the flask of water I always carried at my side. ‘What is that?’ asked his grandmother after a minute’s silence. ‘It is a blessing,’ I answered, ‘and may do him good!’”244 The scene has certain points in common with that enacted many years after in Burton’s death chamber. Having finished all her “sad preparations at B’ludan,” Mrs. Burton “bade adieu to the Anti-Lebanon with a heavy heart, and for the last time, choking with emotion, rode down the mountain and through the Plain of Zebedani, with a very large train of followers.” — “I had a sorrowful ride,” says she, “into Damascus. Just outside the city gates I met the Wali, driving in state, with all his suite. He looked radiant, and saluted me with much empressement. I did not return his salute.”245

It is satisfactory to know that Rashid Pasha’s triumph was short-lived. Within a month of Burton’s departure he was recalled by the Porte and disgraced. Not only so but every measure which Burton had recommended during his consulship was ordered to be carried out, and “The reform was so thorough and complete, that Her Majesty’s Ambassador at Constantinople was directed officially to compliment the Porte upon its newly initiated line of progress.” But nobody thanked, or even though of Burton. On the occasion of his departure Burton received shoals of letters from prominent men of “every creed, race and tongue,” manifesting sorrow and wishing him God-speed. Delightful, indeed, was the prologue of that from Abd El Kadir: “Allah,” it ran, “favour the days of your far-famed learning, and prosper the excellence of your writing. O wader of the seas of knowledge, O cistern of learning of our globe, exalted above his age, whose exaltation is above the mountains of increase and our rising place, opener by his books of night and day, traveller by ship and foot and horse, one whom none can equal in travel.” The letter itself was couched in a few simple, heartfelt words, and terminated with “It is our personal friendship to you which dictates this letter.” “You have departed,” wrote a Druze shaykh, “leaving us the sweet perfume of charity and noble conduct in befriending the poor and supporting the weak and oppressed, and your name is large on account of what God has put into your nature.”

Some of the authorities at home gave out that one of the reasons for Burton’s recall was that his life was in danger from the bullets of his enemies, but Burton commented drily: “I have been shot at, at different times, by at least forty men who fortunately could not shoot straight. Once more would not have mattered much.”

244 The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, ii., 504.

245 The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, ii., 505.

Chapter XV

16th August 1871-4th June 1872

“The Blackness of Darkness”

64. With Sir H. Stisted at Norwood. August 1871.

Arrived in England Burton went straight to his sister’s at Norwood. His dejection was abysmal. Says Miss Stisted, “Strong, brave man though he was, the shock of his sudden recall told upon him cruelly. Not even during his last years, when his health had all but given way, was he so depressed. Sleep being impossible, he used to sit up, sometimes alone, sometimes with Sir H. Stisted, until the small hours of the morning, smoking incessantly. Tragedy was dashed with comedy; one night a terrible uproar arose. The dining-room windows had been left open, the candles alight, and the pug asleep under the table forgotten. A policeman, seeing the windows unclosed, knocked incessantly at the street door, the pug awoke and barked himself hoarse, and everyone clattered out of his or her bedroom to ascertain the cause of the disturbance. My uncle had quite forgotten that in quiet English households servants retire to rest before 3 a.m.”246 Subsequently Lady Stisted and her daughters resided at Folkestone, and thenceforth they were “the Folky Folk.” Burton also took an early opportunity to visit his brother, and tried to lead him into conversation; but nothing could break that Telamonian silence.

246 Temple Bar, vol. xcii., p. 339.

65. Reduced to £15.

Mrs. Burton, who had returned to Damascus “to pay and pack,” now arrived in England, bringing with her very imprudently her Syrian maid Khamoor. The £16,000 left by Burton’s father, the £300 Mrs. Burton took out with her, and the Damascus £1,200 a year, all had been spent. Indeed, Mrs. Burton possessed no more than the few pounds she carried about her person. In these circumstances prudence would have suggested leaving such a cipher as Khamoor in Syria, but that seems not to have occurred to her. It is probable, however, that the spendthrift was not she but her husband, for when she came to be a widow she not only proved herself an astute business woman, but accumulated wealth. On reaching London she found Burton “in one room in a very small hotel.” His pride had not allowed him to make any defence of himself; and it was at this juncture that Mrs. Burton showed her grit. She went to work with all her soul, and for three months she bombarded with letters both the Foreign Office and outside men of influence. She was not discreet, but her pertinacity is beyond praise. Upon trying to learn the real reason of his recall, she was told only a portion of the truth. Commenting on one of the charges, namely that Burton “was influenced by his Catholic wife against the Jews,” she said, “I am proud to say that I have never in my life tried to influence my husband to do anything wrong, and I am prouder still to say that if I had tried I should not have succeeded.”

For ten months the Burtons had to endure “great poverty and official neglect,” during which they were reduced to their last £15. Having been invited by Mrs. Burton’s uncle, Lord Gerard, to Garswood,247 they went thither by train. Says Mrs. Burton, “We were alone in a railway compartment, when one of the fifteen sovereigns rolled out of my pursed, and slid between the boards of the carriage and the door, reducing us to £14. I sat on the floor and cried, and he sat by me with is arm round my waist trying to comfort me.”248 The poet, as Keats tells us, “pours out a balm upon the world,” and in this, his darkest hour, Burton found relief, as he had so often found it, in the pages of his beloved Camoens. Gradually his spirits revived, and he began to revolve new schemes. Indeed, he was never the man to sit long in gloom or to wait listlessly for the movement of fortune’s wheel. He preferred to seize it and turn it to his purpose.

247 Near St. Helens, Lancs.

248 Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Lady Burton, i., 591.

66. An Orgie at Lady Alford’s. 2nd November 1871.

If the Burtons lacked money, on the other hand they had wealthy relations with whom they were able to stay just as long as they pleased; and, despite their thorny cares, they threw themselves heartily into the vortex of society. Among their friends was Lady Marion Alford, a woman of taste, talent and culture. The first authority of the day on art needlework, she used to expound her ideas on the looms of the world from those of Circe to those of Mrs. Wheeler of New York. At one of Lady Alford’s parties in her house at Princes Gate, October 1871, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh being present, Burton appeared dressed as a Syrian shaykh, and Mrs. Burton as a Moslem lady of Damascus. Burton was supposed not to understand English, and Mrs. Burton gave out that she had brought him over to introduce him to English society. She thus described the occurrence in an unpublished letter to Miss Stisted.249

“Our orgie was great fun. The Bird and I wore Arab dresses. I went in the dress of an Arab lady of Damascus, but as myself, accompanied by Khamoor in her village dress and introducing Hadji Abdullah, a Moslem shaykh of Damascus. We then spoke only Arabic to each other, and the Bird broken French to the company present. We were twenty-eight at supper. The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh were there. We let them into the joke, and they much enjoyed it, but all the rest were quite taken in half the evening. Even Lord Lyons and many of our old friends. The house was perfect and the fountain part250 quite like Damascus. After supper we made Turkish coffee and narghilihis, and Khamoor handed them to the Princes on her knees, the tray on her head in Eastern fashion. They were delighted and spoke to her very kindly. They talked for long to Richard, and afterwards to me, and asked when we were going back to Syria before Lord Granville’s brother.” This letter, like most of Mrs. Burton’s letters to Miss Stisted, is signed “Z,” short for “Zoo.”

In February (1872) Mrs. Burton’s mother, who had for years been paralysed, grew rapidly worse. Says Mrs. Burton, writing to Miss Stisted (29th February), “My time is divided between her and Richard’s concerns. She did rally a little and I took advantage of it to go one to one dinner and to the Thanksgiving Day251 which we saw to perfection, and enjoyed enormously; and last night to a very large gathering at Lady Margaret Beaumont’s . . . Everybody was there and it gave me an opportunity of saying ‘How d’ye do?’ to the world after my return from Syria . . . I am working tooth and nail at the Bird’s252 case, and have got our ambassador (Elliott) to see me at twelve next Saturday.” At this time everyone was talking about Livingstone, the story of the meeting of him and Stanley being still fresh in men’s minds. It was thought that another expedition ought to be sent out with Burton to lead, and a grand luncheon was got up for the express purpose of bring Burton and a certain great personage together. When the soup was being served, the great personage, turning to Burton, said: “You are the man to go out to Livingstone. Come, consent, and I will contribute £500 to the expedition.”

Mrs. Burton, who sat next to her husband, looked up with beaming eyes, and her heart beat with joy. The object of the luncheon had been achieved, and Fortune was again bestowing her smiles; but as ill luck would have it, Burton happened just then to be in one of his contrary moods. He went on spooning up his soup, and, without troubling to turn his head, said, “I’ll save your Royal Highness that expense.”

Poor Mrs. Burton almost fainted. The Livingstone expedition was subsequently undertaken by Cameron.

249 2nd November 1871.

250 The fountain was sculptured by Miss Hosmer.

251 27th February 1871. Celebration of the Prince of Wales’s recovery from a six weeks’ attack of typhoid fever.

252 Her husband’s case.

67. The Tichborne Trial.

Another event of this period was the Tichborne trial, but though Burton was subpoenaed by the claimant, his evidence really assisted the other side.

“I understand,” began his interlocutor, “that you are the Central African traveller.”

“I have been to Africa,” modestly replied Burton.

“Weren’t you badly wounded?”253

“Yes, in the back, running away.”

His identity being established, Burton gave his evidence without further word fence. “When I went out to Brazil,” he said, “I took a present from Lady Tichborne for her son, but being unable to find him,254 I sent the present back. When returning from America, I met the claimant, and I recognise him simply as the man I met. That is all.” Burton, like others, always took it for granted that the claimant obtained most of his information respecting the Tichbornes from Bogle, the black man, who had been in the service of the family.

253 Of course, this was an unnecessary question, for there was no mistaking the great scar on Burton’s cheek; and Burton’s name was a household word.

254 February 1854. Sir Roger had sailed from Valparaiso to Rio Janeiro. He left Rio in the “Bella,” which was lost at sea.

68. Khamoor at the Theatre.

In some unpublished letters of Mrs. Burton, written about this time, we get additional references to Khamoor, and several of them are amusing. Says Mrs. Burton in one of them,255 “Khamoor was charming at the theatre. I cried at something touching, and she, not knowing why, flung herself upon my neck and howled. She nearly died with joy on seeing the clown, and said, ‘Oh, isn’t this delightful. What a lovely life!’ She was awfully shocked at the women dancing with ‘naked legs,’ and at all the rustic swains and girls embracing each other.”

In January 1872, the Burtons were at Knowsley,256 the Earl of Derby’s, whence Mrs. Burton wrote an affectionate letter to Miss Stisted. She says,257 “I hope you are taking care of yourself. Good people are scarce, and I don’t want to lose my little pet.” Later, Burton visited Lady Stisted at Edinburgh, and about that time met a Mr. Lock, who was in need of a trusty emissary to report on some sulphur mines in Iceland, for which he had a concession. The two came to terms, and it was decided that Burton should start in May. He spent the intervening time at Lord Gerard’s,258 and thence Mrs. Burton wrote to Miss Stisted259 saying why she did not accompany Burton in his visit to his relatives. She says, “I hope you all understand that no animosity keeps me from Edinburgh. I should have been quite pleased to go if Richard had been willing, but I think he still fancies that Maria (Lady Stisted) would rather not see me, and I am quite for each one doing as he or she likes . . . The Bird sends his fond love and a chirrup.”

255 Undated.

256 Knowsley is close to Garswood, Lord Gerard’s seat.

257 Letter, 4th January 1872.

258 Garswood, Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire.

259 Unpublished letter.

Chapter XVI

4th June 1872-24th October 1872

In Iceland

Bibliography:

36. Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast. 2 vols., 1872.

37. Unexplored Syria. 2 vols., 1872.

38. On Human Remains, etc., from Iceland, 1872.

69. In Edinburgh Again, 4th June 1872.

In May, Burton was back again in Edinburgh, preparing for the Iceland journey. He took many walks down Princes Street and up Arthur’s Seat with Lady Stisted and his nieces, and “he was flattered,” says Miss Stisted, “by the kindness and hospitality with which he was received. The 93rd Highlanders, stationed at the Castle, entertained in genuine Highland fashion; and at our house he met most of the leading Scotch families who happened to be lingering in the northern capital.” Lord Airlie, the High Commissioner, held brilliant receptions at Holyrood. There were gay scenes — women in their smartest gowns, men wearing their medals and ribands. General Sir H. Stisted was there in his red collar and cross and star of the Bath. Burton “looked almost conspicuous in unadorned simplicity.” On 4th June260 Burton left for Iceland. The parting from his friends was, as usual, very hard. Says Miss Stisted, “His hands turned cold, his eyes filled with tears.” Sir W. H. Stisted accompanied him to Granton, whence, with new hopes and aspirations, he set sail. Spectacularly, Iceland — Ultima Thule — as he calls it — was a disappointment to him. “The giddy, rapid rivers,” were narrow brooks, Hecla seemed but “half the height of Hermon,” the Great Geyser was invisible until you were almost on the top of it. Its voice of thunder was a mere hiccough. Burton, the precise antithesis of old Sir John de Mandeville, was perhaps the only traveller who never told “travellers’ tales.” Indeed, he looked upon Sir John as a disgrace to the cloth; though he sometimes comforted himself with the reflection that most likely that very imaginative knight never existed. But he thoroughly enjoyed these Icelandic experiences, for, to use one of his own phrases, the power of the hills was upon him. With Mr. Lock he visited the concession, and on his way passed through a village where there was a fair, and where he had a very narrow escape. A little more, we are told, and a hideous, snuffy, old Icelandic woman would have kissed him. In respect to the survey, the mass of workable material was enormous. There was no lack of sulphur, and the speculation promised to be a remunerative one. Eventually, however, it was found that the obstacles were insuperable, and the scheme had to be abandoned. However, the trip had completed the cure commenced by Camoens, and at the end of it everybody said “he looked at least fifteen years younger.”

Burton had scarcely left Granton for Iceland before Mrs. Arundell died, and the letters which Mrs. Burton wrote at this time throw an interesting light on the relations between her and Burton’s family. To Miss Stisted she says (June 14th), “My darling child. My dear mother died in my arms at midnight on Wednesday 5th. It was like a child going to sleep, most happy, but quite unexpected by us, who thought, though sinking, she would last till August or October. I need not tell you, who know the love that existed between her and me, that my loss is bitter and irreparable, and will last for life. May you never know it! I have written pages full of family detail to darling Nana, and I intended to enclose it to you to read en route, but I thought perhaps our religious views and observances might seem absurd to the others, and I felt ashamed to do so. You know when so holy a woman as dear mother dies, we do not admit of any melancholy or sorrow except for ourselves Your dear little letter was truly welcome with its kind and comforting messages. I am glad that our darling [Burton] was spared all the sorrow we have gone through, and yet sorry he did not see the beauty and happiness of her holy death . . . She called for Richard twice before her death. Do write again and often, dear child. Tell me something about the Iceland visits. . . . Your loving Zooey.”

What with the unsatisfactory condition of their affairs, and the death of her mother, Mrs. Burton was sadly troubled; but the long lane was now to have a turning. One day, while she was kneeling with wet cheeks before her mother’s coffin, and praying that the sombrous overhanging cloud might pass away, a letter arrived from Lord Granville offering her husband the Consulate of Trieste261 with a salary of £700 a year. This was a great fall after Damascus, but in her own words, “better than nothing,” and she at once communicated with her husband, who was still in Iceland.

260 The True Life, p. 336.

261 It had just been vacated by the death of Charles Lever, the novelist. Lever had been Consul at Trieste from 1867 to 1872. He died at Trieste, 1st June 1872.

70. Wardour Castle, 5th July 1872.

She then made a round of country house visits, including one to Wardour Castle.262 In an unpublished letter to Miss Stisted, she says: “My pet, I came here on Tuesday . . . I have never cried nor slept since mother died (a month to-morrow) I go up again on Monday for final pack-up — to my convent ten days — . . . . then back to town in hopes of Nana in August, about the 7th. Then we shall go to Spain, and to Trieste, our new appointment, if he [Burton] will take it, as all our friends and relations wish, if only as a stop-gap for the present. Arundell has done an awfully kind thing. There is a large Austrian honour in the family with some privileges, and he has desired me to assume all the family honours on arriving, and given me copies of the Patent, with all the old signatures and attested by himself. This is to present to the Herald’s College at Vienna. He had desired my cards to be printed Mrs. Richard Burton, nee Countess Isabel Arundell of Wardour of the most sacred Roman Empire. This would give us an almost royal position at Vienna or any part of Austria, and with Nana’s own importance and fame we shall (barring salary) cut out the Ambassador. She wants a quiet year to learn German and finish old writings. . . . I should like the tour round the world enormously, but I don’t see where the money is to come from . . . This is such a glorious old place . . . The woods and parks are splendid, and the old ruin of the castle defended by Lady Blanche is the most interesting thing possible. Half the other great places I go to are mushroom greatness, but this is the real old thing of Druid remains and the old baronial castle of knights in armour and fair Saxon-looking women, and with heavy portcullises to enter by, and dungeons and subterranean passages, etc. There is a statue of our Saviour over the door, and in Cromwell’s siege a cannon ball made a hole in the wall just behind it and never took off its head. . . . Your loving Zoo.”

A few days later Mrs. Burton received a letter from her husband, who expressed his willingness to accept Trieste. He arrived at Edinburgh again on September 5th, and his presence was the signal for a grand dinner, at which all the notables of the neighbourhood, including many people of title, were present. But, unfortunately, Burton was in one of his disagreeable moods, and by the time dinner was half over, he found that he had contradicted with acerbity every person within earshot. While, however, he was thus playing the motiveless ogre, his brother-in-law, Sir Henry Stisted, at the other end of the table, was doing his utmost to render himself agreeable, and by the extraordinary means of rolling out anecdote after anecdote that told against the Scotch character. The Mackenzies, the Murrays, the MacDonalds, the McQueens, looked black as thunder, and Stisted’s amiability gave even more offence than Burton’s ill-temper. Noticing that something was amiss opposite him, Burton stopped his own talk to listen. Then Stisted’s innocence and the ludicrousness of the whole scene dawned upon him, and leaning back in his chair he roared with uncontrollable laughter. When he met his wife again one of her first questions was about this dinner, at which she had hoped her husband would dazzle and delight the whole company, and which she supposed might lead to his promotion. He then told her the whole story, not omitting his ill-humour. She listened with dismay, and then burst into tears. “Come,” he commented, “I wasn’t so bad as Stisted, anyhow.”

262 Near Salisbury.

71. St. George and Frederick Burton.

Upon his return to London, Burton renewed his acquaintance with his cousins Dr. and Mrs. Edward John Burton. He and Dr. Burton, whom he thought fit to call after a character in The Arabian Nights, “Abu Mohammed Lazybones,”263 had long known each other, but Dr. Burton had also for some time resided in distant lands. The notes that brought about the meeting — and they could not be briefer — now lie before me. They run:

“Athanaeum Club,

“Sept. 20 ‘72

“My dear Cousin,

“When and where can I see you? Yours truly,

“R. F. Burton.”

“Junior United Service Club.

“My dear Richard,

“Any day at 4 p.m.

“Yours ever,

“E. J. Burton.”

A few days later, Burton dined with Edward John, and made the acquaintance of his young cousins, St. George and Frederick. Of St. George, a dark-haired lad, who was particularly clever and had a humorous vein, Burton from the first thought highly. One day, happening to turn over some of the leaves of the boy’s exercise book, he stumbled upon the following lines:

“The map of Africa was dark as night,

God said, ‘Let Burton live,’ and there was light.”

He laughed heartily and thanked his little cousin for the compliment, while the couplet became a stock quotation in the family. Later, when St. George went to a French school, he was very proud to find that the boys were conversant not only with the exploits of his famous uncle, but also with the history of the Dr. Francis Burton who had made Napoleon’s death mask. Frederick Burton was a plump, shy, fair-haired little fellow, and Burton, who loved to tease, did not spare his rotundity. In one of Frederick’s copy-books could be read, in large hand,

“Life is short.”

“I,” commented Burton, “find life very long.”

Subsequently he advised his cousin to go to the River Plate. “Well,” he would ask, when he entered the house, “has Frederick started for the River Plate yet? I see a good opening there.”

As Dr. Burton was born in the house of his father’s brother, the Bishop of Killala, Burton used to affect jealousy. “Hang it all, Edward,” he would say, “You were born in a bishop’s palace.”

Apparently it was about this time that the terrible silence of Burton’s brother was for a moment broken. Every human device had been tried to lead him to conversation, and hitherto in vain. It seems that some years previous, and before Edward’s illness, Dr. E. J. Burton had lent his cousin a small sum of money, which was duly repaid. One day Dr. Burton chose to assume the contrary, and coming upon Edward suddenly he cried:

“Edward, you might just as well have paid me that money I lent you at Margate. I call it shabby, now.”

Edward raised his head and fixing his eyes on Dr. Burton said, with great effort, and solemnly, “Cousin, I did pay you, you must remember that I gave you a cheque.”

Thrilled with joy, Dr. Burton attempted to extend the conversation, but all in vain, and to his dying day Edward Burton never uttered another word.

263 Burton’s A.N. iv. Lib. Ed., iii., 282. Payne’s A.N. iii., 10.

72. At the Athenaeum.

Of all the spots in London, none was so dear to Burton as his club, The Athenaeum. When in England, he practically lived there, and its massive portico, its classic frieze, and the helmeted statue of Minerva were always imaged on his heart. He wrote a number of his books there, and he loved to write his letters on its notepaper stamped with the little oval enclosing Minerva’s head. He used to make his way to the Athenaeum early in the day264 and go straight to the library. Having seated himself at the round table he would work with coralline industry, and without a single break until six or seven in the evening. It was a standing joke against him in Dr. Burton’s family that when at the club he was never at home to anybody except a certain Mrs. Giacometti Prodgers. This lady was of Austrian birth, and, according to rumour, there was a flavour of romance about her marriage. It was said that while the laws of certain countries regarded her as married, those of other countries insisted that she was still single. However, married or not, she concentrated all her spleen on cab-drivers, and was continually hauling some luckless driver or other before the London magistrates. Having a profound respect for Burton’s judgment, she often went to him about these cab disputes, and, oddly enough, though nobody else could get at him, he was always at the service of Mrs. Prodgers, and good-naturedly gave her the benefit of his wisdom.265 To the London magistrates the good lady was a perpetual terror, and Frederick Burton, a diligent newspaper reader, took a pleasure in following her experiences. “St. George,” he would call across the breakfast table, “Mrs. Giacometti Prodgers again: She’s had another cab-man up.”

One evening, says a London contributor to the New York Tribune266 referring to this period, “there was a smoking party given by a well-known Londoner. I went in late, and on my way upstairs, stumbled against a man sitting on the stairs, with a book and pencil in his hands, 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.”

264 Told me by Mr. Henry Richard Tedder, librarian at the Athenaeum from 1874.

265 Burton, who was himself always having disputes with cab-drivers and everybody else, probably sympathised with Mrs. Prodgers’ crusade.

266 Of 2nd November 1891.

73. Jane Digby Again.

Report now arrived that Jane Digby was dead; and paragraphs derogatory to her character appeared in the press. Mrs. Burton not only answered them, but endeavoured to throw a halo over her friend’s memory. She said also that as she, Mrs. Burton, had Jane Digby’s biography, nobody else had any right to make remarks. Comically enough, news then came that Jane was still alive. She had been detained in the desert by the fighting of the tribes. Says Mrs. Burton, “her relatives attacked her for having given me the biography, and she, under pressure, denied it in print, and then wrote and asked me to give it back to her; but I replied that she should have had it with the greatest pleasure, only she having ‘given me the lie’ in print, I was obliged for my own sake to keep it, and she eventually died.” This very considerate act of Jane’s saved all further trouble.

74. His Book on Zanzibar.

On his expedition with Speke to Tanganyika, Burton had already written four volumes,267 and it was now to be the subject of another work, Zanzibar, which is chiefly a description of the town and island from which the expedition started. The origin of the book was as follows. With him on his way home from Africa he had brought among other MSS. a bundle of notes relating both to his “preliminary canter” and to Zanzibar, and the adventures of these notes were almost as remarkable as those of the Little Hunchback. On the West Coast of Africa the bundle was “annexed” by a skipper. The skipper having died, the manuscripts fell into the hands of his widow, who sold them to a bookseller, who exposed them for sale. An English artillery officer bought them, and, in his turn, lost them. Finally they were picked up in the hall of a Cabinet Minister, who forwarded them to Burton. The work contains an enormous mass of geographical, anthropological and other information, and describes the town so truthfully that nobody, except under compulsion, would ever dream of going there. The climate, it seems, is bad for men, worse for women. “Why,” he asks, “should Englishmen poison or stab their wives when a few months at Zanzibar would do the business more quietly and effectually?” The expense of getting them over there may be one objection. But whoever goes to Zanzibar, teetotallers, we are told, should keep away. There it is drink or die. Burton introduces many obsolete words, makes attacks on various persons, and says fearlessly just what he thinks; but the work has both the Burtonian faults. It is far too long, and it teems with uninteresting statistics.

There also left the press this year (1871) a work in two volumes entitled Unexplored Syria, by Burton and Tyrwhitt Drake.268 It describes the archaeological discoveries made by the authors during their sojourn in Syria, and includes an article on Syrian Proverbs (Proverba Communia Syriaca) which had appeared the year before in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Some of the sayings have English analogues, thus:

“He who wants nah

Mustn’t say ah;”

“nah” being wealth or honour; “ah,” the expression of fear or doubt.269

At one of the meetings of the Royal Geographical Society, at which Burton had been billed to speak, there were present among the audience his wife, Mr. Arundell, and several other members of the family. Considerable hostility was shown towards Burton; and Colonel Rigby270 and others flatly contradicted some of his statements respecting Zanzibar. Then Burton flew into a temper such as only he could fly into. His eyes flashed, his lips protruded with rage, and he brandished the long map pointer so wildly that the front bench became alarmed for their safety. Old Mr. Arundell, indignant at hearing his son-in-law abused, then tried to struggle on to the platform, while his sons and daughters, horrified at the prospect, hung like bull-dogs to his coat tails. Says Burton, “the old man, who had never been used to public speaking, was going to address a long oration to the public about his son-in-law, Richard Burton. As he was slow and very prolix, he would never have sat down again, and God only knows what he would have said.” The combined efforts of the Arundell family however, prevented so terrible a denouement, Burton easily proved his enemies’ statements to be erroneous, and the order was eventually restored.

267 Lake Regions of Equatorial Africa (2 vols. 1860). Vol. 33 of the Royal Geographical Society, 1860, and The Nile Basin, 1864.

268 A portion was written by Mrs. Burton.

269 These are words used by children. Unexplored Syria, i., 288. Nah really means sweetstuff.

270 Afterwards Major-General. He died in April 1887. See Chapter ix., 38.

Chapter XVII

24th October 1872-12th May 1875

Trieste

Bibliography:

39. Medinah and Meccah. 3 vols. in one, 1873.

40. Minas Geraes. 7th January 1873. J. A. I.

41. The Lands of the Cazembe. 1873.

42. The Captivity of Hans Stadt, 1874.

43. Articles on Rome. Macmillan’s Mag. 1874-5.

44. The Castellieri of Istria.

45. Gerber’s Province of Minas Geraes.

46. New System of Sword Exercise.

47. Ultima Thule, or a Summer in Iceland. 2 vols. 1875.

48. Two Trips to Gorilla Land. 2 vols. 1875.

49. The Inner Life of Syria. 2 vols., 1875, by Mrs. Burton.

50. The Long Wall of Salona.

75. Burton at Trieste, 24th October 1872.

Burton left England for Trieste 24th October 1872,271 but the popular belief that he entered the town with a fighting cock under his arm and a bull-terrier at his heels lacks foundation. He was fifty-one, the age of the banished Ovid, to whom he often compared himself, and though the independent and haughty Burton bears no resemblance to the sycophantic and lachrymose yet seductive Sulmoan, nevertheless his letters from Trieste are a sort of Tristia — or as the flippant would put it — Triestia. Indeed, he read and re-read with an almost morbid interest both the Tristia and the Ex Ponto.272 Ovid’s images seemed applicable to himself. “I, too,” he said, “am a neglected book gnawed by the moth,” “a stream dammed up with mud,” “a Phalaris, clapped, for nothing in particular, into the belly of a brazen bull.” Like Ovid, too, he could and did pronounce his invective against the Ibis, the cause of all his troubles, that is to say, Rashid Pasha, whose very name was as gall and wormwood. His fate, indeed, was a hard one. The first linguist of his day, for he spoke twenty-eight languages and dialects, he found himself relegated to a third-rate port, where his attainments were absolutely valueless to anybody. The greatest of travellers, the most indefatigable of anthropologists, the man who understood the East as no other Englishman had understood it — was set to do work that could in those days have been accomplished with ease by any raw and untravelled government official possessed of a smattering of German and Italian. But the truth is, Burton’s brilliant requirements were really a hindrance to him. The morbid distrust of genius which has ever been incidental to ordinary Government officialism, was at that time particularly prevalent. The only fault to be found with Burton’s conduct at Damascus, was that, instead of serving his own interest, he had attempted to serve the interests of his country and humanity. By trimming, temporizing, shutting his eyes to enormities, and touching bribes, he might have retained his post, or have been passed on to Constantinople.

When time after time he saw incompetent men advanced to positions of importance, his anger was unrestrainable, “Why,” he asked bitterly, “are the Egyptian donkey-boys so favourable to the English?” Answer, “Because we hire more asses than any other nation.”

Trieste is a white splash between high wooded mountains and a dark precipice rising from a sea intense as the blue of the gentian. The population was about 140,000, mostly Italian speaking. Nominally they were Catholics, and of genuine Catholics there might have been 20,000, chiefly women. “Trieste,” said Burton, “is a town of threes — three quarters, three races (Italian, Slav and Austrian), and three winds (Sirocco, Bora, and Contraste).” One brilliant man of letters had been connected with the town, namely Marie-Henry Beyle, better known by his pen name, Stendhal,273 who, while he was French Counul here, pumice polished and prepared for the press his masterpiece, La Chartreuse de Parme, which he had written at Padua in 1830. To the minor luminary, Charles Lever, we have already alluded. Such was the town in which the British Hercules was set to card wool. The Burtons occupied ten rooms at the top of a block of buildings situated near the railway station. The corridor was adorned with a picture of our Saviour, and statuettes of St. Joseph and the Madonna with votive lights burning before them. This, in Burton’s facetious phrase, was “Mrs. Burton’s joss house;” and occasionally, when they had differences, he threatened “to throw her joss house out of the window.” Burton in a rage, indeed, was the signal for the dispersal of everybody. Furniture fell, knick-knacks flew from the table, and like Jupiter he tumbled gods on gods. If, however, he and his wife did not always symphonize, still, on the whole, they continued to work together amicably, for Mrs. Burton took considerable pains to accommodate herself to the peculiarities of her husband’s temperament, and both were blessed with that invaluable oil for troubled waters — the gift of humour. “Laughter,” Burton used to say, and he had “a curious feline laugh,” “animates the brain and stimulates the lungs.” To his wife’s assumption of the possession of knowledge, of being a linguist, of being the intellectual equal of every living person, saving himself, he had no objection; and the pertinacity with which she sustained this role imposed sometimes even on him. He got to think that she was really a genius in a way, and saw merit even in the verbiage and rhodomontade of her books. But whatever Isabel Burton’s faults, they are all drowned and forgotten in her devotion to her husband. It was more than love — it was unreasoning worship. “You and Mrs. Burton seem to jog along pretty well together,” said a friend. “Yes,” followed Burton, “I am a spoilt twin, and she is the missing fragment.”

Burton, of course, never really took to Trieste, his Tomi, as he called it. He was too apt to contrast it with Damascus: the wind-swept Istrian hills with the zephyr-ruffled Lebanon, the dull red plains of the Austrian sea-board with the saffron of the desert, the pre-historic castellieri or hill-forts, in which, nevertheless, he took some pleasure, with the columned glories of Baalbak and Palmyra. “Did you like Damascus?” somebody once carelessly asked Mrs. Burton.

“Like it!” she exclaimed, quivering with emotion, “My eyes fill, and my heart throbs even at the thought of it.”

Indeed, they always looked back with wistful, melancholy regret upon the two intercalary years of happiness by the crystalline Chrysorrhoa, and Mrs. Burton could never forget that last sad ride through the beloved Plain of Zebedani. Among those who visited the Burtons at Trieste, was Alfred Bates Richards. After describing Mrs. Burton’s sanctuary, he says: “Thus far, the belongings are all of the cross, but no sooner are we landed in the little drawing-rooms than signs of the crescent appear. These rooms, opening one into another, are bright with Oriental hangings, with trays and dishes of gold and burnished silver, fantastic goblets, chibouques with great amber mouth-pieces, and Eastern treasure made of odorous woods.” Burton liked to know that everything about him was hand-made. “It is so much better,” he used to say, than the “poor, dull work of machinery.” In one of the book-cases was Mrs. Burton’s set of her husband’s works, some fifty volumes.274

Mr. Richards thus describes Burton himself, “Standing about five feet eleven, his broad, deep chest and square shoulders reduce his apparent height very considerably, and the illusion is intensified by hands and feet of Oriental smallness. The Eastern and distinctly Arab look of the man is made more pronounced by prominent cheek-bones (across one of which is the scar of a javelin cut), by closely-cropped black hair, just tinged with grey, and a pair of piercing, black, gipsy-looking eyes.” Out of doors, in summer, Burton wore a spotlessly white suit, a tie-pin shaped like a sword, a pair of fashionable, sharply-pointed shoes, and the shabbiest old white beaver hat that he could lay his hands upon. On his finger glittered a gold ring, engraved with the word “Tanganyika.”275 In appearance, indeed, he was a compound of the dandy, the swash-buckler and the literary man. He led Mr. Richards through the house. Every odd corner displayed weapons — guns, pistols, boar-spears, swords of every shape and make. On one cupboard was written “The Pharmacy.” It contained the innocuous medicines for Mrs. Burton’s poor — for she still continued to manufacture those pills and drenches that had given her a reputation in the Holy Land. “Why,” asked Richards, “do you live in a flat and so high up?” “To begin with,” was the reply, “we are in good condition, and run up and down the stairs like squirrels. If I had a great establishment, I should feel tied and weighed down. With a flat and two or three servants one has only to lock the door and go out.” The most noticeable objects in the rooms were eleven rough deal tables, each covered with writing materials.276 At one sat Mrs. Burton in morning neglige, a grey choga — the long, loose Indian dressing-gown of soft camel’s hair — topped by a smoking cap of the same material. She observed, “I see you are looking at our tables. Dick likes a separate table for each book, and when he is tired of one he goes to another.” He never, it seems, wrote more than eleven books at a time, unless stout pamphlets come under that category. Their life was a peaceful one, except on Fridays, when Mrs. Burton received seventy bosom and particular friends, and talked to them at the top of her voice in faulty German, Italian, which she spoke fluently, or slangy English.277 In the insipid conversation of this “magpie sanhedrin,” “these hen parties,” as he called them, Burton did not join, but went on with his work as if no one was present. Indeed, far from complaining, he remarked philosophically that if the rooms had been lower down probably 140 visitors instead of 70 would have looked in. The Burtons usually rose at 4 or 5, and after tea, bread and fruit, gave their morning to study. At noon they drank a cup of soup, fenced, and went for a swim in the sea. Burton then took up a heavy iron stick with a silver knob278 and walked to the Consulate, which was situated in the heart of the town, while Mrs. Burton, with her pockets bulging with medicines, and a flask of water ready for baptism emergencies hanging to her girdle, busied herself with charitable work, including the promotion of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They generally dined at the table d’hote of the Hotel de la Ville, and dined well, for, as Burton says used to “Only fools and young ladies care nothing for the carte.”279 Having finished their coffee, cigarettes, and kirsch, outside the hotel, they went home to bed, where, conscious of a good day’s work done, they took their rest merrily. Sometimes they interrupted the routine with excursions into the surrounding country, of which they both knew every stock and stone, pre-historic or modern. Of business ability, Burton had never possessed one iota, and his private affairs were constantly mis-managed. As at Fernando Po, Santos and Damascus, he promptly looked out for a sanitarium, his choice finally resting upon a loftily-situated village called Opcina.

Reviewing Burton’s career, Mr. Alfred Bates Richards says: “He has done more than any other six men, and is one of the best, noblest and truest that breathes. While not on active service or on sick leave he has been serving his country, humanity, science, and civilisation in other ways, by opening up lands hitherto unknown, and trying to do good wherever he went. He was the pioneer for all other living African travellers.”

If Trieste was not an ideal post for him, still it had the patent advantage of being practically a sinecure. He and his wife seem to have been able to get away almost at any time. They sometimes travelled together, but often went in different directions, and as Burton was as restless as a hyena, he never stayed in any one place many hours. Occasionally they met unexpectedly. Upon one of these meetings in a Swiss hotel, Burton burst out affectionately with, “And what the devil brought you here?” To which she replied, promptly but sweetly, “Ditto, brother.” For study, Burton had almost unlimited time, and nothing came amiss to him. He lost himself in old sacramentaries, Oriental manuscripts, works on the prehistoric remains of Istria, Camoens, Catullus, The Arabian Nights, Boccaccio. His knowledge was encyclopaedic.

271 Mrs. Burton and Khamoor followed on Nov. 18th.

272 Burton’s works contain many citations from Ovid. Thus there are two in Etruscan Bologna, pp. 55 and 69, one being from the Ars Amandi and the other from The Fasti.

273 Stendhal, born 1783. Consul at Trieste and Civita Vecchia from 1830 to 1839. Died in Paris, 23rd March 1842. Burton refers to him in a footnote to his Terminal Essay in the Nights on “Al Islam.”

274 These are all preserved now at the Central Library, Camberwell.

275 Now in the possession of Mrs. St. George Burton.

276 In later times Dr. Baker never saw more than three tables.

277 Mrs. Burton, was, of course, no worse than many other society women of her day. Her books bristle with slang.

278 It is now in the possession of Mrs. E. J. Burton, 31, Whilbury Road, Brighton.

279 Later Burton was himself a sad sinner in this respect. His studies made him forget his meals.

76. At the Vienna Exhibition, 1873.

Early in 1873 the Burtons visited Vienna chiefly in order to see the great Exhibition. The beauty of the buildings excited their constant admiration, but the dearness of everything at the hotels made Burton use forcible language. On one occasion he demanded — he never asked for anything — a beefsteak, and a waiter hurried up with an absurdly small piece of meat on a plate. Picking it up with the fork he examined it critically, and then said, quite amiably for him, “Yaas, yaas,280 that’s it, bring me some.” Next he required coffee. The coffee arrived in what might have been either a cup or a thimble. “What’s this?” demanded Burton. The waiter said it was coffee for one. “Then,” roared Burton, with several expletives, “bring me coffee for twenty.” Their bill at this hotel came to £163 for the three weeks.

280 His usual pronunciation of the word.

77. A Visit from Drake, June 1873.

On their return from Vienna, they had the pleasure of meeting again Lady Marion Alford, Aubertin, and that “true-hearted Englishman, staunch to the backbone,” Charles Tyrwhitt Drake, who “brought with him a breath from the desert and stayed several weeks.” The three friends went to a fete held in the stalactite caverns of Adelsberg, from which Burton, who called them the eighth wonder of the world, always assumed that Dante got his ideas of the Inferno. Lighted by a million candles, and crowded with peasants in their picturesque costumes, which made wondrous arabesques of moving shadows, the caves presented a weird and unearthly appearance, which the music and dancing subsequently intensified. Shortly afterwards Drake left for Palestine. In May (1874), Burton was struck down by a sudden pain, which proved to arise from a tumour. An operation was necessary, and all was going on well when a letter brought the sad news of Drake’s death. He had succumbed, at Jerusalem, to typhoid fever, at the early age of twenty-eight.281 Burton took the news so heavily, that, at Mrs. Burton says,282 it “caused the wound to open afresh; he loved Drake like a brother, and few know what a tender heart Richard has.” To use Dr. Baker’s283 phrase, he had “the heart of a beautiful woman.”

281 12th August 1874.

282 Letter to Lord Houghton.

283 Dr. Grenfell Baker, afterwards Burton’s medical attendant.

78. Khamoor returns to Syria, 4th December 1874.

In the meantime Mrs. Burton was reaping the fruits of her injudicious treatment of Khamoor. Thoroughly spoilt, the girl now gave herself ridiculous airs, put herself on a level with her mistress, and would do nothing she was told. As there was no other remedy, Mrs. Burton resolved philanthropically to send her back to Syria, “in order that she might get married and settled in life.” So Khamoor was put on board a ship going to Beyrout, with nine boxes of clothes and a purse of gold. “It was to me,” says Mrs. Burton, “a great wrench.” Khamoor’s father met her, the nine boxes, and the purse of gold at Beyrout, and by and by came to the news that she was married and settled down in the Buka’a. Such was the end of Chico the Second.

Chapter XVIII

12th May 1875-18th June 1876

The Trip to India

Bibliography:

51. The Port of Trieste.

52. The Gypsy. Written in 1875.

53. Etruscan Bologna. 1876.

54. New System of Sword Exercise for Infantry. 1876.

79. Visit to England, 12th May 1875.

On 8th December 1874, Burton sent his wife to England to arrange for the publication of various of his works, and in May 1875, having obtained leave, he followed her, arriving in London on the 12th. He took with him “a ton or so of books” in an enormous trunk painted one half black the other white — “the magpie chest” which henceforth always accompanied him on his travels. At the various stations in England there were lively scenes, the company demanding for luggage excess, and Burton vigorously protesting but finally paying. He then took the value out by reeling off a spirited address to the railway clerk, punctuated with expletives in twenty odd African or Asiatic languages, on the meanness of the clerk’s employers.

80. Tonic Bitters.

Always suffering from impecuniosity, the Burtons were perpetually revolving schemes for increasing their income. One was to put on the market a patent pick-me-up, good also for the liver, to be called, “Captain Burton’s Tonic Bitters,” the recipe of which had been “acquired from a Franciscan monk.” “Its object,” observed Burton facetiously, to a friend, “is to make John Bull eat more beef and drink more beer.” Mrs. Burton imagined naively that if it were put into a pretty bottle the demand would exceed the supply. They had hopes, too, for the Camoens, which had taken many years of close application and was now approaching completion. Still, it was argued that a Translation of Camoens, however well done, could not hope for the success of a well-advertised liver tonic, seeing that while most people have a liver, it is only here and there one who has a taste for Camoens. The tonic was placed on the market, but the scheme, like so many others, proved a fiasco. Nobody seemed to want to be picked up, and the indifference of a Christian nation to the state of its liver, was to Burton extremely painful. So he abandoned philanthropy, and took to lecturing before the Anthropological and other societies, dining out, and calling on old friends. One Sunday he visited the Zoo; but when he asked for a glass of beer at the refreshment bar, the girl declined to serve him because he was “not a bona-fide traveller!”

In 1875, Burton’s portrait, painted by the late Lord Leighton, was exhibited in the Academy; and on July 6th of the same year, Burton started off on a second trip to Iceland, which occupied him six weeks, but he and his wife did not meet again till October 6th. On December 4th (1875) they left London for the Continent. The morning was black as midnight. Over the thick snow hung a dense, murky fog, while “a dull red gleam just rendered the darkness visible.”

“It looks,” said Burton, “as if London were in mourning for some great national crime.”

To which Mrs. Burton replied, “Let us try to think, darling, that our country wears mourning for our departure into exile.”

On reaching Boulogne they sought out some of their old acquaintances, including M. Constantin, Burton’s fencing master. After a brief stay in Paris, they proceeded to Trieste, ate their Christmas dinner, and then set out for India, partly for pleasure and partly for the purpose of collecting information about the abandoned diamond mines of Golconda.

81. A Trip to India, December 1875, 18th June 1876.

The Suez Canal, which had been finished some five years previous, gave them much pleasure, and it was like living life over again to see the camels, the Bedawin in cloak and kuffiyyah, the women in blue garments, and to smell the pure air of the desert. On reaching Yambu, Burton enquired whether Sa’ad the robber chief, who had attacked the caravan in the journey to Mecca days, still lived; and was told that the dog long since made his last foray, and was now safe in Jehannum.284 They landed at Jiddah, where Burton was well received, although everyone knew the story of his journey to Mecca, and on rejoining their ship they found on board eight hundred pilgrims of a score of nationalities. Then a storm came on. The pilgrims howled with fright, and during the voyage twenty-three died of privation, vermin, hunger and thirst. Says Mrs. Burton:285 “They won’t ask, but if they see a kind face they speak with their eyes as an animal does.” At Aden Burton enquired after his old Harar companions. Shahrazad was still in Aden, the coquettish Dunyazad in Somaliland, the Kalandar had been murdered by the Isa tribe, and The End of Time had “died a natural death” — that is to say, somebody had struck a spear into him.286 Bombay was reached on February 2nd.

284 Hell.

285 A.E.I. (Arabia, Egypt, Indian).

286 Burton’s A. N., v., 304. Lib. Ed., vol. 4., p. 251.

82. Arbuthnot Again. Rehatsek.

The first person Burton called on was his old friend, Forster FitzGerald Arbuthnot, who now occupied there the important position of “Collector.” Arbuthnot, like other people, had got older, but his character had not changed a tittle. Business-like and shrewd, yet he continued to be kindly, and would go out of his way to do a philanthropic action, and without fuss of parade. A friend describes him as “a man of the world, but quite untainted by it.” He used to spend the winter in Bombay, and the summer in his charming bungalow at Bandora. In a previous chapter we referred to him as a Jehu. He now had a private coach and team — rather a wonder in that part of the world, and drove it himself. Of his skill with the ribbons he was always proud, and no man could have known more about horses. Some of the fruits of his experience may be seen in an article287 which he contributed to Baily’s Magazine (April 1883) in which he ranks driving with such accomplishments as drawing, painting and music. His interest in the languages and literatures of the East was as keen as ever, but though he had already collected material for several books he does not seem to have published anything prior to 1881. He took his friends out everywhere in his four-in-hand, and they saw to advantage some of the sights of Burton’s younger days. With the bungalow Mrs. Burton was in raptures. On the eve of the Tabut feast, she tells us, the Duke of Sutherland (formerly Lord Stafford) joined the party; and a number of boys dressed like tigers came and performed some native dancing with gestures of fighting and clawing one another, “which,” she adds oddly, “was exceedingly graceful.”

The principal event of this visit, however, was Burton’s introduction to that extraordinary and Diogenes-like scholar, Edward Rehatsek. Lady Burton does not even mention Rehatsek’s name, and cyclopaedias are silent concerning him; yet he was one of the most remarkable men of his time, and henceforward Burton was in constant communication with him. Born on 3rd July 1819, at Illack, in Austria, Edward Rehatsek was educated at Buda Pesth, and in 1847 proceeded to Bombay, where he settled down as Professor of Latin and mathematics at Wilson College. He retired from his professorship in 1871, and settled in a reed-built native house, not so very much bigger than his prototype’s tub, at Khetwadi. Though he had amassed money he kept no servants, but went every morning to the bazaar, and purchased his provisions, which he cooked with his own hand. He lived frugally, and his dress was mean and threadbare, nevertheless, this strange, austere, unpretentious man was one of the greatest linguists of his time. Not only could he speak most of the languages of the East, including Arabic and Persian, but he wrote good idiomatic English. To his translations, and his connection with the Kama Shastra Society, we shall refer later. He was visited in his humble home only by his principal friend, Mr. Arbuthnot, and a few others, including Hari Madhay Parangpe, editor of Native Opinion, to which he was a contributor. The conversation of Rehatsek, Burton, and Arbuthnot ran chiefly on Arbuthnot’s scheme for the revival of the Royal Asiatic Translation fund, and the translation of the more important Eastern works into English; but some years were to elapse before it took shape.

On February 4th, Burton wrote to his cousin, St. George Burton — addressing his letter, as he was continually on the move, from Trieste. He says:

“My Dear Cousin, “You need not call me ‘Captain Burton.’ I am very sorry that you missed Woolwich — and can only say, don’t miss the Line. I don’t think much of Holy Orders, however, chacun a son gout. Many thanks for the details about the will. Assist your mother in drawing up a list of the persons who are heirs, should the girl die without a will.288 Let ‘the party’ wash his hands as often as he pleases — cleanliness is next to godliness. As the heir to a baronetcy289 you would be worth ten times more than heir to an Esquireship — in snobby England. Write to me whenever you think that I can be of any service and let me be

“Yr. aff. cousin,

“R. F. Burton.”

287 About driving four horses.

288 I do not know to what this alludes.

289 See Chapter i.

83. In Sind.

From Bombay, the Burtons journeyed to Karachi, which had grown from 3,000 to 45,000290 and could now boast fine streets and noble houses. Here Burton regaled his eyes with the sights familiar to his youth; the walks he had taken with his bull-terrier, the tank or pond where he used to charioteer the “ghastly” crocodile,291 the spot where he had met the beautiful Persian, and the shops which had once been his own; while he recalled the old familiar figures of hook-nosed Sir Charles Napier, yellow-bearded Captain Scott, and gorgeously-accoutred General J-J-J-J-J-J-Jacob. His most amusing experience was with a Beloch chief, one Ibrahim Khan, on whom he called and whom he subsequently entertained at dinner spread in a tent.292 The guests, Sind fashion, prepared for the meal by getting drunk. He thoroughly enjoyed it, however, and, except that he made impressions with his thumb in the salt, upset his food on the tablecloth, and scratched his head with the corkscrew, behaved with noticeable propriety. Having transferred from the table to his pocket a wine-glass and some other little articles that took his fancy, he told his stock stories, including the account of his valour at the battle of Meeanee, where at imminent risk of his life, he ran away. Tea he had never before tasted, and on sampling a cup, he made a wry face. This, however, was because it was too strong, for having diluted it with an equal quantity of brandy, he drank it with relish.

After a visit to the battlefield of Meeanee293 the Burtons returned to Bombay in time for the feast of Muharram, and saw the Moslem miracle play representing the martyrdom and death of Hassan and Hossein, the sons of Ali. Then Mirza Ali Akbar, Burton’s old munshi, called on them. As his visiting card had been printed Mirza Ally Akbar, Burton enquired insultingly whether his old friend claimed kin with Ally Sloper. In explanation the Mirza said that the English were accustomed to spell his name so, and as he did not in the least mind what he was called, he had fallen in with the alteration.

290 Its population is now 80,000.

291 Sind Revisited, i., 82.

292 See Sind Revisited, vol. ii., pp. 109 to 149.

293 Where Napier with 2,800 men defeated 22,000.

84. Golconda.

On February 21st the Burtons left Bombay and journeyed by way of Poona to Hyderabad, where they were hospitably entreated by Major Nevill, the Commander-in-Chief of the Nizam’s troops, and Sir Salar Jung, the Prime Minister. They rode through the town on elephants, saw the Nizam’s palace, which was “a mile long and covered with delicate tracery,” an ostrich race, an assault-at-arms, and fights between cocks and other creatures. At “Hyderabad,” says Mrs. Burton, “they fight every kind of animal.” “A nautch,” which Sir Salah gave in their honour, Mrs. Burton found tame, for the girls did nothing but eat sweetmeats and occasionally run forward and twirl round for a moment with a half-bold, semi-conscious look.294

Then followed the visit to Golconda and its tombs of wax-like Jaypur marble, with their arabesqued cupolas and lacery in stone. Here Burton accumulated a good deal of miscellaneous information about diamond mining, and came to the conclusion that the industry in India generally, and especially in Golconda, had been prematurely abandoned; and endeavoured by means of letters to the press and in other ways to enlist the sympathies of the British capitalists. But everything that he wrote on the subject, as on kindred subjects, has a distinctly quixotic ring, and we fear he would not have been a very substantial pillar for the British capitalist to lean against. He was always, in such matters, the theorist rather than the practical man — in other words, the true son of his own father.

The Burtons then returned to Bombay, which they reached in time to take part in the celebrations in honour of the Prince of Wales, who had just finished his Indian tour. Honouring the Guebres — the grand old Guebres, as he used to call them — and their modern representatives, the Parsees, Burton paid a visit to the Parsee “burying place” — the high tower where the dead are left to be picked by vultures, and then he and his wife left for Goa, where they enjoyed the hospitality and company of Dr. Gerson Da Cunha,295 the Camoens student and enthusiast.

Mrs. Burton was as disgusted with Goa as she had been charmed with Dr. Da Cunha. She says, “Of all the God-forgotten, deserted holes, one thousand years behind the rest of creation, I have never seen anything equal it.” They left India at the end of April, and were back again at Trieste on June 18th.

294 Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, ii., 584.

295 Dr. Da Cunha, who was educated at Panjim, spent several years in England, and qualified at the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons. He built up a large practice in Goa.

Chapter XIX

18th June 1876-31st March 1877

Colonel Gordon

85. Ariosto.

Shortly after his return from India, Burton commenced a translation of the Orlando Furioso296 of Ariosto, a poet, to whom, as we have seen, he had been drawn ever since those far-off days when with his father and the rest of the family he had meandered about Italy in the great yellow chariot. Reggio, the poet’s birthplace, and Ferrara, where the Orlando Furioso was written and Ariosto died, were sacred spots to him; while the terrific madness of the hero, the loves of Ruggiero and Bradamante and the enchanted gardens with their Arabian Nights atmosphere, lapped him in bliss much as they had done in the old days. Only a small portion of this translation was ever finished, but he had it in mind all the rest of his life, and talked about it during his last visit to England.

296 There are many English translations, from Harrington’s, 1607, to Hoole’s, 1783, and Rose’s, 1823. The last is the best.

86. Death of Rashid Pasha, 24th June 1876.

In June came the news of the murder of Rashid Pasha; and a thousand memories, sweet and bitter, thrilled the Burtons. Mrs. Burton recalled that “cool and aromatic housetop,” the jewel-blue Chrysorrhoa, the saffron desert, and then it was “Oh, Rashid Pasha! Oh, Rashid Pasha!” Still she found it in her woman’s heart to forgive the detested old enemy, now that he was gone, but Burton could not restrain a howl of triumph such as might have become some particularly vindictive Bible hero.

Writing on 24th June to his cousin, Dr. Edward John Burton, he says, “We returned here on the 18th inst., and the first thing I heard was the murder of my arch-enemy, Rashid Pasha. Serve the scoundrel right. He prevented my going to Constantinople and to Sana’a, in Arabia. I knew the murderous rascal too well to trust him. Maria wrote to me about poor Stisted’s death.297 A great loss for Maria and the chicks. I suppose you never see Bagshaw.298 What news are there of him? Is Sarah (What’s her name? Harrison?)299 still to the fore. It is, I fear, useless to write anything about poor Edward300 except to thank you most heartily for your disinterested kindness to him. I will not bother you about our journey, which was very pleasant and successful. You will see it all, including my proposals for renewed diamond digging, written in a book or books.”

“United best love to my cousin and the cousinkins.”

Burton made frequent enquiries after Edward, “Many thanks,” he writes on a post card, “for the news of my dear brother,” and all his letters contain tender and warm-hearted references to him.

297 Sir Henry Stisted died of consumption in 1876.

298 Robert Bagshaw, he married Burton’s aunt, Georgiana Baker.

299 His cousin Sarah, who married Col. T. Pryce Harrison. See Chapter iv. and Chapter xix.

300 Burton’s brother.

87. Colonel Gordon 1877.

In July 1875, Burton heard from Colonel (afterwards General) Gordon, who wanted some information about the country south of the Victoria Nyanza; and the friendship which then commenced between these brilliant men was terminated only by death. In every letter Gordon quoted Burton’s motto, “Honour, not honours,” and in one he congratulated his friend on its happy choice. For several years Gordon had been occupied under the auspices of the Khedive, in continuing the work of administering the Soudan, which had been begun by Sir Samuel Baker. He had established posts along the Nile, placed steamers on the Albert Nyanza, and he nursed the hope of being able to put an end to the horrid slave trade. In January 1877, he was appointed by the Khedive Governor of the entire Soudan. There were to be three governors under him, and he wrote to Burton offering him the governor-generalship of Darfur, with £1,600 a year. Said Gordon, “You will soon have the telegraph in your capital, El Fasher. . . . You will do a mint of good, and benefit those poor people. . . . Now is the time for you to make your indelible mark in the world and in these countries.”301

Had such an offer arrived eight years earlier, Burton might have accepted it, but he was fifty-seven, and his post at Trieste, though not an agreeable one, was a “lasting thing,” which the governor-generalship of Darfur seemed unlikely to be. So the offer was declined. Gordon’s next letter (27th June 1877) contains a passage that brings the man before us in very vivid colours. “I dare say,” he observed, “you wonder how I can get on without an interpreter and not knowing Arabic. I do not believe in man’s free will; and therefore believe all things are from God and pre-ordained. Such being the case, the judgments or decisions I give are fixed to be thus or thus, whether I have exactly hit off all the circumstances or not. This is my raft, and on it I manage to float along, thanks to God, more or less successfully.”302

On another occasion Gordon wrote, “It is a delightful thing to be a fatalist” — meaning, commented Burton, “that the Divine direction and pre-ordination of all things saved him so much trouble of forethought and afterthought. In this tenet he was not only a Calvinist but also a Moslem.”303

301 Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, ii., 656.

302 Romance of Isabel Lady Burton.

303 Burton’s A.N., Suppl., ii., 61. Lib. Ed. ix., p. 286, note.

88. Jane Digby the Second.

The patent Pick-me-up having failed, and the Burtons being still in need of money, other schemes were revolved, all more or less chimerical. Lastly, Burton wondered whether it would be possible to launch an expedition to Midian with a view to searching for gold. In ancient times gold and other metals had been found there in abundance, and remains of the old furnaces still dotted the country. Forty cities had lived by the mines, and would, Burton averred, still be living by them but for the devastating wars that had for centuries spread ruin and destruction. He, reasoned, indeed, much as Balzac had done about the mines of Sardinia as worked by the Romans, and from no better premises; but several of his schemes had a distinctly Balzacian aroma,304 as his friend Arbuthnot, who was writing a life of Balzac, might have told him. Burton himself, however, had no misgivings. His friend, Haji Wali, had indicated, it seems, in the old days, the precise spot where the wealth lay, and apparently nothing remained to be done except to go and fetch it.

Haji Wali had some excellent points. He was hospitable and good-natured, but he was also, as Burton very well knew, cunning and untrustworthy. The more, however, Burton revolved the scheme in his mind, the more feasible it seemed. That he could persuade the Khedive to support him he felt sure; that he would swell to bursting the Egyptian coffers and become a millionaire himself was also taken for granted, and he said half in earnest, half in jest, that the only title he ever coveted was Duke of Midian. There were very eager ears listening to all this castle building. At Trieste, Mrs. Burton had taken to her bosom another Jane Digby — a creature with soft eyes, “bought blushes and set smiles.” One would have thought that former experiences would have made her cautious. But it was not so. Mrs. Burton though deplorably tactless, was innocence itself, and she accepted others at their own valuation. Jane Digby the Second, who went in and out of the Burton’s house as if she belonged to it, was in reality one of the most abandoned women in Trieste. She was married, but had also, as it transpired, an acknowledged lover.

Like women of that class she was extravagant beyond belief, and consequently always in difficulties. Hearing the everlasting talk about Midian and its supposed gold, the depraved woman305 made up her mind to try to detach Burton’s affections from his wife and to draw them to herself. To accomplish this she relied not only on the attractions of her person, but also on glozing speeches and other feminine artifices. Having easy access to the house she purloined private letters, papers and other writings, and after all hope of recovery was over, she would put them back. She slipped love letters, purporting to be from other women, into Burton’s pockets; and whenever Mrs. Burton brushed his coat or dried his clothes she was sure to come upon them. Mrs. Burton also received pseudonymous letters.

But whatever Mrs. Burton’s faults, she, as we have seen, passionately loved, trusted and even worshipped her husband; and whatever Burton’s faults, he thoroughly appreciated her devotion. They were quite sufficient for each other, and the idea of anyone trying to come between them seemed ludicrous. Consequently Mrs. Burton carried her letters to her husband and he brought his to her. Amazing to say, neither of them suspected the culprit, though Burton thought it must be some woman’s intrigue, and that need of money was the cause of it.

The real truth of it did not come out till after Burton’s death, and then the unhappy woman, who was near her end, made Lady Burton a full confession, adding, “I took a wicked pleasure in your perfect trust in me.”

304 Thus, Balzac, tried to discover perpetual motion, proposed to grow pineapples which were to yield enormous profits, and to make opium the staple of Corsica, and he studied mathematical calculations in order to break the banks at Baden-Baden.

305 We are telling the tale much as Mrs. Burton told it, but we warn the reader that it was one of Mrs. Burton’s characteristics to be particularly hard on her own sex and also that she was given to embroidering.

89. The Old Baronetcy. 18th January 1877.

Repeated enquiry now took place respecting the old baronetcy in the Burton family, and Mrs. Burton in particular made unceasing efforts, both in the columns of Notes and Queries and elsewhere, in order to obtain the missing links. Several of Burton’s letters at this period relate to the subject. To Mrs. E. J. Burton, 18th January 1877, he writes: “My dear cousin, I write to you in despair: That ‘party,’ your husband, puts me off with a post-card to this effect, ‘Have seen W—— -ll, no chance for outsiders,’ and does not tell me a word more. I wish you would write all you know about it. Another matter. Had the old man left me his money or any chance of it, I should have applied for permission to take up the old baronetcy. But now I shall not. Your husband is the baronet and he can if he likes assume the “Sir” at once. Why the devil doesn’t he? Of course I advise him to go through the usual process, which will cost, in the case of a baronetcy, very few pounds. Neither he nor you may care for it, but think of the advantage it will be to your children. Don’t blink the fact that the British public are such snobs that a baronet, even in the matrimonial market, is always worth £50,000, and it is one of the oldest baronetcies in the kingdom. Do take my advice and get it for your eldest son [St. George Burton]. As I said before, your husband might assume it even without leave, but he had better get ‘the Duke’ to sanction it. And don’t fail to push the man, who won’t even claim what is his right. Que diable! Am I the only article named Burton that has an ounce of energy in his whole composition.”

Chapter XX

31st March 1877 to 27th December 1879

Midian

Bibliography:

55. Sind Revisited. 1877.

56. The Gold Mines of Midian. 1878.

57. A.E.I. (Arabia, Egypt, India) by Isabel Burton. 1879.

58. Ogham Runes. 1879.

59. The Land of Midian Revisited. 2 vols., 1879.

90. “The New Joseph.” 31st March 1877-21st April 1877. 19th October 1877-20th April 1878.

Burton now felt that the time was ripe to broach his views concerning the golden Chersonese to the Khedive (Ismail), and having easily obtained leave from the home authorities, he proceeded straight to Cairo. The Khedive, impressed with his representations and enthusiasm, promptly consented to supply funds, and “the New Joseph,” as Burton was now called, began preparations for the expedition that was to make both Egypt and himself rich beyond computation. Then followed a conversation with Haji Wali, whom age — he was 77 — “had only made a little fatter and a little greedier,” and the specious old trickster promised to accompany the expedition. As usual Burton began with a preliminary canter, visiting Moilah, Aynunah Bay, Makna and Jebel Hassani, where he sketched, made plans, and collected metalliferous specimens. He returned to Egypt with native stories of ruined towns evidencing a formerly dense population, turquoise mines and rocks veined with gold. The Khedive in idea saw himself a second Croesus. These were the quarries, he held, whence Solomon derived the gold for the walls of the house of his God, his drinking vessels and his lion throne, but Colonel Gordon, when afterwards told of his scheme, smiled incredulously. As the hot season necessitated a delay of six months, Burton returned to Trieste, where life seemed hum-drum enough after so many excitement, and spangled visions. He spent the time writing a book The Gold Mines of Midian and the Ruined Midianite Cities, and the sluggish months having at last crawled by, he again left Trieste for Cairo.

91. More Advice to “Lazybones.” 8th May 1877.

In a letter to Mrs. E. J. Burton, headed “At Sea, 8th May 1877,” he again touches on the old baronetcy. “Next Saturday I expect to be at Trieste, whence this letter will start. The Times has probably told you the story of my last adventure, and this will probably have explained to you why yours of March 8th has remained so long unanswered. That document informed me that ‘Lazybones’ was going to make himself useful. I hope he has done so. If not, he can learn all about his grandfather from papers published by the late Admiral Burton, and I do not think that Miss Eruli would object to letting him have copies. Of course, don’t speak about the baronetcy. That failing, all he has to do is to put the matter (after making an agreement) into the hands of a professional man, who will visit Shap (Westmoreland) and Galway, and who will find no difficulty in establishing direct descent. Please write to me again. I shall be heard of in Trieste for some time. Many thanks to the boys, and salute ‘Lazybones’ according to his merits.”

In due time Burton arrived at Cairo, and the curious expedition set forth for wild, mysterious Midian. He himself knew nothing of engineering, but he had the services of a practical engineer — one M. Marie; and some artists, and a number of Egyptian officers and Soudanese soldiers accompanied the expedition. The party included neither metallurgist nor practical prospector306 but Burton carried a divining rod, and seems really to have believed that it would be a help. The expenses, it was ascertained, would amount to one thousand nine hundred and seventy-one pounds twelve shillings and sixpence — no very extravagant sum for purchasing all the wealth of Ophir.

306 Preface to Midian Revisited, xxxiv.

92. Haji Wali Again.

At Zagazig they were joined by the venerable wag and trickster, Haji Wali, and having reached Suez they embarked on the gunboat, the “Mukhbir,” for Moilah, which they reached on December 19th. Burton landed with studied ceremony, his invariable plan when in the midst of savage or semi-civilised people. The gunboat saluted, the fort answered with a rattle and patter of musketry. All the notables drew up in line on the shore. To the left stood the civilians in tulip-coloured garb, next were the garrison, a dozen Bashi-Bazouks armed with matchlocks, then came Burton’s quarry men; and lastly the escort — twenty-five men — held the place of honour on the right; and as Burton passed he was received with loud hurrahs. His first business was to hire three shaykhs and 106 camels and dromedaries with their drivers. The party was inclined to be disorderly, but Burton, with his usual skill in managing men, soon proved who was master.

Nothing if not authoritative, he always spoke in the commanding voice of a man who brooks no denial, and, as he showed plainly that acts would follow words, there was thenceforward but trifling trouble. He himself was in ecstasies. The Power of the Hills was upon him.

93. Graffiti.

The exploration was divided into three journeys, and between each and the next, the expedition rested at Moilah. The first or northward had scarcely begun, indeed, they had not no further than Sharma, before Haji Wali found it convenient to be troubled with indigestion in so violent a form as to oblige him to return home, which he straightway did with great alacrity. His object in accompanying the expedition even thus far is not clear, but he evidently got some payment, and that the expedition was a hopeless one he must have known from the first. The old rogue lived till 3rd August 1883, but Burton never again met him.

Even in Midian, Burton was dogged by Ovid, for when he looked round at the haggard, treeless expanse he could but exclaim, quoting the Ex Ponto,

“Rara neque haec felix in apertis eminet arvis

Arbor, et in terra est altera forma maris.”

[“Dry land! nay call it, destitute of tree,

Rather the blank, illimitable sea.”]307

The expedition then made for Maghair Shu’ayb, the Madiama of Ptolemy and the old capital of the land. Here they spent a “silly fortnight, searching for gold,” which refused to answer even to the diving rod. They saw catacombs — the Tombs of the Kings — some of which were scrawled with graffiti, laboured perhaps by some idle Nabathaean boy in the time of Christ. They found remains of furnaces, picked up some coins, and saw undoubted evidences of ancient opulence. That was all. Thence they made for Makna, passing on their way a catacombed hill called “the Praying Place of Jethro,” and a shallow basin of clay known as Moses’ Well. From Makna, where they found their gunboat waiting for them, they then cruised to El Akabah, the ancient Eziongeber, in whose waters had ridden the ships of Solomon laden with the merchandise of India and Sheba. They reached Moilah again on February 13th. The second journey, which took them due East as far as the arid Hisma, lasted from February 17th to March 8th. Burton considered the third journey the most important, but as they found nothing of any consequence it is difficult to understand why. First they steamed to El Wijh, in the “Sinnar,” which had taken the place of the Mukhbir, and then marched inland to the ancient mines of Abul Maru. But Burton now saw the futility of attempting to proceed further. On April 10th they were back again at El Wijh, on the 18th at Moilah and on the 20th at Suez.

In the meantime, Mrs. Burton had left Trieste, in order to join her husband. She stayed a week at Cairo, where she met General Gordon, who listened smilingly to her anticipations respecting the result of the expedition, and then she went on to Suez. Writing to her nieces, the Misses Stisted, 23rd March 1878, she said: “I have taken a room looking across the Red Sea and desert towards Midian, and hope at last to finish my own book [A.E.I., Arabia, Egypt and India]. What on earth Paul is doing with Richard’s Midian308 God only knows. I have written and telegraphed till I am black in the face, and telegrams cost 2s. 6d. a word.” At last on 20th April, while Mrs. Burton was in church, a slip of paper was put into her hand: “The ‘Sinnar’ is in sight.”

Determined that the Khedive should have something for his money, Burton and his company had, to use Mrs. Burton’s expression, “returned triumphantly,” with twenty-five tons of minerals and numerous objects of archaeological interest. The yield of the argentiferous and cupriferous ores, proved, alas! to be but poor. They went in search of gold, and found graffiti! But was Burton really disappointed? Hardly. In reading about every one of his expeditions in anticipation of mineral wealth, the thought forces itself upon us that it was adventure rather than gold, sulphur, diamonds and silver that he really wanted. And of the lack of that he never had reason to complain.

An exhibition of the specimens, both mineralogical and archaeological, was held at the Hippodrome, and all Cairo flocked to see “La Collection,” as the announcement expressed it, “rapportee par le Capitaine Burton.”309 The Khedive opened the exhibition in person, and walked round to look at the graffiti, the maps, the sketches of ruins and the twenty-five tons of rock, as nobody had more right; and Burton and M. Marie the engineer accompanied him.

“Are you sure,” enquired the Khedive, pointing to some of the rocks, “that this and this contain gold?”

“Midian,” replied M. Marie, blandly, “is a fine mining country.”

And that information was all the return his Highness got for his little outlay of one thousand nine hundred and seventy one pounds twelve shillings and sixpence.

307 Ex Ponto III., i., 19.

308 The Gold Mines of Midian and the Ruined Midianite Cities (C. Kegan Paul and Co.) It appeared in 1878.

309 The Land of Midian Revisited, ii., 254.

94. Letter to Sir Henry Gordon, 4th July 1878.

Returned to Trieste, Burton once more settled down to his old dull life. The most interesting letter of this period that has come to our hands is one written to Sir Henry Gordon,310 brother of Colonel, afterwards General Gordon.

It runs: “Dear Sir, I am truly grateful to you for your kind note of June 30th and for the obliging expressions which it contains. Your highly distinguished brother, who met my wife at Suez, has also written me a long and interesting account of Harar. As you may imagine, the subject concerns me very nearly, and the more so as I have yet hopes of revisiting that part of Africa. It is not a little curious that although I have been in communication with Colonel Gordon for years, we have never yet managed to meet. Last spring the event seemed inevitable, and yet when I reached Suez, he had steamed south. However, he writes to me regularly, scolding me a little at times, but that is no matter. I hope to be luckier next winter. I expect to leave Trieste in a few days311 and to make Liverpool via long sea. Both Mrs. Burton and I want a medicine of rest and roast beef as opposed to rosbif. Nothing would please me more than to meet you and talk over your brother’s plans. My direction is Athenaeum Club, and Woolwich is not so difficult to explore as Harar was. Are we likely to meet at the British Association?”

310 Kindly copied for me by Miss Gordon, his daughter.

311 They left on July 6th (1878) and touched at Venice, Brindisi, Palermo and Gibraltar.

95. Death of Maria Stisted, 12th November 1878.

Burton and his wife reached London on July 27th (1878). Presently we hear of them in Ireland, where they are the guests of Lord Talbot of Malahide, and later he lectured at various places on “Midian” and “Ogham Runes.” Again Gordon tried to draw him to Africa, this time with the offer of £5,000 a year, but the answer was the same as before. Then came a great blow to Burton — the death of his beloved niece — “Minnie” — Maria Stisted. Mrs. Burton, who was staying at Brighton, wrote to Miss Georgiana Stisted a most kind, sympathetic and beautiful letter — a letter, however, which reveals her indiscreetness more clearly, perhaps, than any other that we have seen. Though writing a letter of condolence — the sincerity of which is beyond doubt — she must needs insert remarks which a moment’s consideration would have told her were bound to give offence — remarks of the kind that had already, indeed, made a gulf between her and Burton’s relations.

She says: “My poor darling Georgy, I do not know how to write or what to say to you in such poignant grief. I think this is the most terrible blow that could have happened to Maria (Lady Stisted) and you. I do not grieve for Minnie, because, as I told Dick in my letter, her pure soul has known nothing but religion and music, and is certainly in its own proper place among the angels, but I do grieve for you with all my heart. . . . It is no use to talk to you about ‘Time healing the wound,’ or ‘resigning oneself to what is inevitable,’ but I have so long studied the ways of God, that I know He has taken the angel of your house as He always does, that this is a crisis in your lives, there is some change about to take place, and some work or new thing you have to do in which Minnie was not to be. I can only pray for you with all my heart, as I did at communion this morning.” So far, so good, but then comes: “and have masses said to create another gem upon Minnie’s crown.”

Yet Mrs. Burton knew that she was writing to staunch Protestants whom such a remark would make positively to writhe. Still, in spite of her indiscretions, no human being with a heart can help loving her. She then goes on: “Please know and feel that though the world looks dark, you have always a staunch friend in me. Dick feels Minnie’s death fearfully. He telegraphed to me and writes every day about it. I don’t think he is in a state of health to bear many shocks just now, he is so frightfully nervous. He so little expected it, he always thought it was only one of the little ailments of girls, and Maria (Lady Stisted) was over anxious; so it has come like a sledge-hammer upon him. I feel what a poor letter this is, but my heart is full, and I do not know how to express myself. Your attached and sympathising Aunt Zoo.”

Burton was just then engaged upon his work The Land of Midian Revisited, and he dedicated it to the memory of his “much loved niece.”

96. Burton’s “Six Senses.”

On 2nd December 1878, Burton lectured at 38, Great Russell Street before the British National Association of Spiritualists — taking as his subject, “Spiritualism in Foreign Lands.” His ideas on Spiritualism had been roughly outlined some time previous in a letter to The Times.312 He said that the experience of twenty years had convinced him: (1) that perception is possible without the ordinary channels of the senses, and (2) that he had been in the presence of some force or power which he could not understand. Yet he did not believe that any spirits were subject to our calls and caprices, or that the dead could be communicated with at all. He concluded, “I must be contented to be at best a spiritualist without the spirits.” The letter excited interest. The press commented on it, and street boys shouted to one another, “Take care what you’re doing! You haven’t got Captain Burton’s six senses.” At Great Russell Street, Burton commenced by defending materialism. He could not see with Guizot that the pursuit of psychology is as elevating as that of materialism is degrading. What right, he asked, had the theologian to limit the power of the Creator. “Is not the highest honour His who from the worst can draw the best?”313 He then quoted his letter to The Times, and declared that he still held the same opinions. The fact that thunder is in the air, and the presence of a cat may be known even though one cannot see, hear, taste, smell or feel thunder or the cat. He called this force — this sixth sense — zoo-electricity. He then gave an account of spiritualism, thaumaturgy, and wizardry, as practised in the East, concluding with a reference to his Vikram and the Vampire. “There,” said he, “I have related under a facetious form of narrative many of the so-called supernaturalisms and preternaturalisms familiar to the Hindus.”314 These studies will show the terrible ‘training,’ the ascetic tortures, whereby men either lose their senses, or attain the highest powers of magic, that is, of commanding nature by mastering the force, whatever it may be, here called zoo-electric, which conquers and controls every modification of matter.315 His lecture concluded with an account of a Moorish necromancer, which reminds us of the Maghrabi incident in “the Story of Judar.” When Burton sat down, Mrs. Burton asked to be allowed to speak. Indeed, she never hesitated to speak upon any subject under the sun, whether she did not understand it, as was almost invariably the case, or whether she did; and she always spoke agreeably.316 She pointed out to the spiritualists that they had no grounds to suppose that her husband was one of their number, and stated her belief that the theory of zoo-electricity would suit both spiritualists and non-spiritualists. Then, as a matter of course, she deftly introduced the “one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” to which it was her “glory to belong,” and which this theory of Burton’s “did not exactly offend.” As regards the yogis and the necromancers she insisted that her husband had expressed no belief, but simply recounted what is practised in the East, and she concluded with the remark, “Captain Burton is certainly not a spiritualist.” Some good-humoured comments by various speakers terminated the proceedings. It is quite certain, however, that Burton was more of a spiritualist than Mrs. Burton would allow, and of Mrs. Burton herself in this connection, we shall later have a curious story to tell.317

During the rest of her holiday Mrs. Burton’s thoughts ran chiefly on philanthropic work, and she arranged gatherings at country houses in support of the society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. These were well attended and some enthusiasm was shown, except when there happened to be a meet of the fox hounds in the district, or when rabbit coursing was going on.

312 November 1876.

313 From the then unpublished Kasidah.

314 The famous Yogis. Their blood is dried up by the scorching sun of India, they pass their time in mediation, prayer and religious abstinence, until their body is wasted, and they fancy themselves favoured with divine revelations.

315 The Spiritualist. 13th December 1878.

316 In short, she had considerable natural gifts, which were never properly cultivated.

317 See Chapter xxxviii.

97. Still thinking of Midian. April-December 1879.

The Burtons remained in London until after the publication of Mrs. Burton’s book “A.E.I.,” 318 and then Burton set out alone on a tour through Germany. Mrs. Burton, who was to meet him at Trieste, left London 27th April; and then followed a chapter of accidents. First she fell with influenza, and next, at Paris, when descending the stairs, which had been waxed, she “took one header from the top to the bottom,” and so damaged herself that she had to be removed in a coupe lit.319 She reached Trieste after “an agonizing sixty hours” and was seriously ill for several weeks. All the while, Burton, whose purse, like that of one of his favourite poets, Catullus, was “full of cobwebs,” had been turning his thoughts to Midian again. He still asseverated that it was a land of gold, and he believed that if he could get to Egypt the rest would be easy. Says Mrs. Burton, writing to Miss Stisted, 12th December 1879: “Darling Dick started on Friday 5th, a week ago, in high spirits. My position is singular, no child, no relative, and all new servants.” She then speaks of her Christmas book, which had just gone to the publishers. She says, “It is for boys from 12 to 16, culled from ten volumes: Dick’s three books on Sind, his Goa, Falconry, Vikram, Bayonet and Sword Exercise, and my A.E.I.” and she was in hopes it would revive her husband’s earliest works, which by that time were forgotten. The fate of this work was a melancholy one, for the publisher to whom the manuscript was entrusted went bankrupt, and no more was every heard of it.320 Burton’s hope that he would be able to lead another expedition to Midian was not realised. Ismail was no longer Khedive, and Tewfik, his successor, who regarded the idea as chimerical, declined to be bound by any promise of his father’s. His Excellency Yacoub Artin Pasha321 and others of Burton’s Egyptian friends expressed sympathy and tried to expedite matters, but nothing could be done. To make matters worse, Burton when passing through Alexandria was attacked by thieves, who hit him on the head from behind. He defended himself stoutly, and got away, covered however, with bruises and blood.

318 Arabia, Egypt, India.

319 Letter to Miss Stisted.

320 She says, I left my Indian Christmas Book with Mr. Bogue on 7th July 1882, and never saw it after.

321 Burton dedicated to Yacoub Pasha Vol. x. of his Arabian Nights. They had then been friends for 12 years.

Chapter XXI

27th December 1879-August 1881

Camoens

Bibliography

60. Camoens, 6 vols. 1 and 2, the Lusiads. 1880. 3 and 4, Life of Camoens and Commentary. 1882. 5 and 6, The Lyrics. 1884.

61. The Kasidah. 1880.

62. Visit to Lissa and Pelagoza. 1880.

63. A Glance at the Passion Play. 1881.

64. How to deal with the Slave Trade in Egypt. 1881.

65. Thermae of Montfalcone. 1881.

98. The Lusiads.

Burton had brought with him to Egypt his translation of The Lusiads, which had been commenced as early as 1847, and at which, as we have seen, he had, from that time onward, intermittently laboured. At Cairo he gave his work the finishing touches, and on his return to Trieste in May it was ready for the press. There have been many English translators of Camoens, from Fanshawe, the first, to Burton and Aubertin; and Burton likens them to the Simoniacal Popes in Dante’s Malebolge-pit — each one struggling to trample down his elder brother.322 Burton’s work, which appeared in 1882, was presently followed by two other volumes consisting of a Life of Camoens and a Commentary on The Lusiads, but his version of The Lyrics did not appear till 1884.

Regarded as a faithful rendering, the book was a success, for Burton had drunk The Lusiads till he was super-saturated with it. Alone among the translators, he had visited every spot alluded to in the poem, and his geographical and other studies had enabled him to elucidate many passages that had baffled his predecessors. Then, too, he had the assistance of Aubertin, Da Cunha and other able Portuguese scholars and Camoens enthusiasts. Regarded, however, as poetry, the book was a failure, and for the simple reason that Burton was not a poet. Like his Kasidah, it contains noble lines, but on every page we are reminded of the translator’s defective ear, annoyed by the unnecessary use of obsolete words, and disappointed by his lack of what Poe called “ethericity.” The following stanza, which expresses ideas that Burton heartily endorsed, may be regarded as a fair sample of the whole:

“Elegant Phormion’s philosophick store

see how the practised Hannibal derided

when lectured he with wealth of bellick lore

and on big words and books himself he prided.

Senhor! the soldier’s discipline is more

than men may learn by mother-fancy guided;

Not musing, dreaming, reading what they write;

’tis seeing, doing, fighting; teach to fight.”323

The first six lines contain nothing remarkable, still, they are workmanlike and pleasant to read; but the two concluding lines are atrocious, and almost every stanza has similar blemishes. A little more labour, even without much poetic skill, could easily have produced a better result. But Burton was a Hannibal, not a Phormion, and no man can be both. He is happiest, perhaps, in the stanzas containing the legend of St. Thomas,324 or Thome, as he calls him,

“the Missioner sanctified

Who thrust his finger in Lord Jesu’s side.”

According to Camoens, while Thorme was preaching to the potent Hindu city Meleapor, in Narsinga land325 a huge forest tree floated down the Ganges, but all the king’s elephants and all the king’s men were incompetent to haul it ashore.

“Now was that lumber of such vasty size,

no jot it moves, however hard they bear;

when lo! th’ Apostle of Christ’s verities

wastes in the business less of toil and care:

His trailing waistcord to the tree he ties,

raises and sans an effort hales it where

A sumptuous Temple he would rear sublime,

a fit example for all future time.”

This excites the jealousy and hatred of the Brahmins, for

“There be no hatred fell and fere, and curst

As by false virtue for true virtue nurst.”

The chief Brahmin then kills his own son, and tries to saddle the crime on Thome, who promptly restores the dead youth to life again and “names the father as the man who slew.” Ultimately, Thome, who is unable to circumvent the further machinations of his enemies, is pierced to the heart by a spear; and the apostle in glory is thus apostrophised:

“Wept Gange and Indus, true Thome! thy fate,

wept thee whatever lands thy foot had trod;

yet weep thee more the souls in blissful state

thou led’st to don the robes of Holy Rood.

But angels waiting at the Paradise-gate

meet thee with smiling faces, hymning God.

We pray thee, pray that still vouchsafe thy Lord

unto thy Lusians His good aid afford.”

In a stanza presented as a footnote and described as “not in Camoens,” Burton gives vent to his own disappointments, and expends a sigh for the fate of his old friend and enemy, John Hanning Speke. As regards himself, had he not, despite his services to his country, been relegated to a third-rate seaport, where his twenty-nine languages were quite useless, except for fulminating against the government! The fate of poor Speke had been still more lamentable:

“And see you twain from Britain’s foggy shore

set forth to span dark Africk’s jungle-plain;

thy furthest fount, O Nilus! they explore,

and where Zaire springs to seek the Main,

The Veil of Isis hides thy land no more,

whose secrets open to the world are lain.

They deem, vain fools! to win fair Honour’s prize:

This exiled lives, and that untimely dies.”

Burton, however, still nursed the fallacious hope that his merits would in time be recognised, that perhaps he would be re-instated in Damascus or appointed to Ispahan or Constantinople.

322 Inferno, xix.

323 Canto x., stanza 153.

324 Canto x., stanzas 108-118.

325 Between the Indus and the Ganges.

99. At Ober Ammergau, August 1880.

In August (1880) the Burtons paid a visit to Ober Ammergau, which was just then attracting all eyes on account of its Passion Play. Burton’s object in going was “the wish to compare, haply to trace some affinity between, this survival of the Christian ‘Mystery’ and the living scenes of El Islam at Mecca,” while Mrs. Burton’s object may be gauged by the following prayer which she wrote previous to their departure from Trieste: “O Sweet Jesu . . . Grant that I, all unworthy though I be, may so witness this holy memorial of thy sacrificial love, Thy glorious victory over death and hell, that I may be drawn nearer to Thee and hold Thee in everlasting remembrance. Let the representation of Thy bitter sufferings on the cross renew my love for Thee, strengthen my faith, and ennoble my life, and not mine only, but all who witness it.” Then follows a prayer for the players.

Burton found no affinity between the scenes at Ober Ammergau and those at Mecca, and he was glad to get away from “a pandemonium of noise and confusion,” while Mrs. Burton, who was told to mind her own business by a carter with whom she remonstrated for cruelly treating a horse, discovered that even Ober Ammergau was not all holiness. Both Burton and his wife recorded their impressions in print, but though his volume326 appeared in 1881, hers327 was not published till 1900.

326 A Glance at the Passion Play, 1881.

327 The Passion Play at Ober Ammergau, 1900.

100. Mrs. Burton’s Advice to Novelists. 4th September 1880.

The following letter from Mrs. Burton to Miss Stisted, who had just written a novel, A Fireside King,328 gives welcome glimpses of the Burtons and touches on matters that are interesting in the light of subsequent events. “My dearest Georgie, On leaving you I came on to Trieste, arriving 29th May, and found Dick just attacked by a virulent gout. We went up to the mountains directly without waiting even to unpack my things or rest, and as thirty-one days did not relieve him, I took him to Monfalcone for mud baths, where we passed three weeks, and that did him good. We then returned home to change our baggage and start for Ober Ammergau, which I thought glorious, so impressive, simple, natural. Dick rather criticises it. However, we are back. . . . I read your book through on the journey to England. Of course I recognised your father, Minnie,329 and many others, but you should never let your heroine die so miserably, because the reader goes away with a void in his heart, and you must never put all your repugnances in the first volume, for you choke off your reader. . . . You don’t mind my telling the truth, do you, because I hope you will write another, and if you like you may stand in the first class of novelists and make money and do good too, but put your beasts a little further in towards the end of the first volume. I read all the reviews that fell in my way, but though some were spiteful that need not discourage . . . Believe me, dearest G., your affectionate Zookins.”

Miss Stisted’s novel was her first and last, but she did write another book some considerable time later, which, however, would not have won Mrs. Burton’s approval.330

328 A Fireside King, 3 vol., Tinsley 1880. Brit. Mus. 12640 i. 7.

329 See Chapter xx., 96. Maria Stisted died 12th November 1878.

330 See Chapter xli.

101. The Kasidah, 1880.

This year, Burton, emulous of fame as an original poet, published The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi, A Lay of the Higher Law, which treats of the great questions of Life, Death and Immortality, and has certain resemblances to that brilliant poem which is the actual father of it, Edward FitzGerald’s rendering of The Rubaiyat of Oman Khayyam. Lady Burton tells us that The Kasidah was written about 1853, or six years before the appearance of FitzGerald’s poem. Nothing, however, is more certain than that, with the exception of a few verses, it was written after FitzGerald’s poem. The veriest tyro in literature, by comparing the two productions, would easily understand their relationship.331 The facts are these. About 1853, Burton, in a time of dejection, caused by the injustice done him in India, planned a poem of this nature, wrote a few stanzas, and then put it by and forgot all about it. FitzGerald’s version of Omar Khayyam appeared in 1859, and Burton no sooner read than he burned to rival it. So he drew from the pigeon-hole what he called his Lay, furbished up the few old verses, made a number of new ones, reconstructed the whole, and lo, The Kasidah! Burton calls it a translation of a poem by a certain Haji Abdu. There may have been a Haji Abdu who supplied thoughts, and even verses, but the production is really a collection of ideas gathered from all quarters. Confucius, Longfellow, Plato, the FitzGeraldian Oman Khayyam, Aristotle, Pope, Das Kabir and the Pulambal are drawn upon; the world is placed under tribute from Pekin to the Salt Lake City. A more careless “borrower” to use Emerson’s expression, never lifted poetry. Some of his lines are transferred bodily, and without acknowledgment, from Hafiz;332 and, no doubt, if anybody were to take the trouble to investigate, it would be found that many other lines are not original. It is really not very much to anyone’s credit to play the John Ferriar to so careless a Sterne. He doesn’t steal the material for his brooms, he steals the brooms ready-made. Later, as we shall see, he “borrowed” with a ruthlessness that was surpassed only by Alexandre Dumas. Let us say, then, that The Kasidah is tesselated work done in Burton’s usual way, and not very coherently, with a liberal sprinkling of obsolete words. At first it positively swarmed with them, but subsequently, by the advice of a friend, a considerable number such as “wox” and “pight” was removed. If the marquetry of The Kasidah compares but feebly with the compendious splendours of FitzGerald’s quatrains; and if the poem333 has undoubted wastes of sand, nevertheless, the diligent may here and there pick up amber. But it is only fair to bear in mind that the Lay is less a poem than an enchiridion, a sort of Emersonian guide to the conduct of life rather than an exquisitely-presented summary of the thoughts of an Eastern pessimist. FitzGerald’s poem is an unbroken lament. Burton, a more robust soul than the Woodbridge eremite, also has his misgivings. He passes in review the great religious teachers, and systems and comes to the conclusion that men make gods and Gods after their own likeness and that conscience is a geographical accident; but if, like FitzGerald, he is puzzled when he ponders the great questions of life and afterlife, he finds comfort in the fact that probity and charity are their own reward, that we have no need to be anxious about the future, seeing that, in the words of Pope, “He can’t be wrong, whose life is in the right.” He insists that self-cultivation, with due regard for others, is the sole and sufficient object of human life, and he regards the affections and the “divine gift of Pity” as man’s highest enjoyments. As in FitzGerald’s poem there is talk of the False Dawn or Wolf’s Tail, “Thee and Me,” Pot and Potter, and here and there are couplets which are simply FitzGerald’s quatrains paraphrased334 — as, for example, the one in which Heaven and Hell are declared to be mere tools of “the Wily Fetisheer.”335 Like Omar Khayyam, Haji Abdu loses patience with the “dizzied faiths” and their disputatious exponents; like Omar Khayyam too, Haji Abdu is not averse from Jamshid’s bowl, but he is far less vinous than the old Persian.

Two of the couplets flash with auroral splendour, and of all the vast amount of metrical work that Burton accomplished, these are the only lines that can be pronounced imperishable. Once only — and only momentarily — did the seraph of the sanctuary touch his lips with the live coal.

“Do what 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.”

and

“All other life is living death, a world where none but phantoms dwell

A breath, a wind, a sound, a voice, a tinkling of the camel-bell.”

We are also bidden to be noble, genuine and charitable.

“To seek the true, to glad the heart, such is of life the Higher Law.”

Neglecting the four really brilliant lines, the principal attraction of The Kasidah is its redolence of the saffron, immeasurable desert. We snuff at every turn its invigorating air; and the tinkle of the camel’s bell is its sole and perpetual music.

At first Burton made some attempt to create the impression that there was actually a Haji Abdu, and that the verses were merely a translation. Indeed, he quotes him, at the end of his Supplemental Nights, vol. ii., and elsewhere, as an independent author. Later, however, the mask which deceived nobody was removed. Not only was The Kasidah written in emulation of FitzGerald’s Omar, but Burton made no secret that such was the case. To further this end Mr. Schutz Wilson, who had done so much for the Rubaiyat, was approached by one of Burton’s friends; and the following letter written to Burton after the interview will be read with some amusement. “Dear Richard,” it runs, “‘Wox’ made me shudder! If you give more specimens do be good and be sparing of the ‘pights,’ ‘ceres’ and ‘woxes.’ I showed the Lay to Schutz Wilson. He seemed absorbed in the idea of Omar, and said ‘Oh! I am the cause of its going through five editions.’ I told him this was even more striking than Omar, but he didn’t seem able to take in the new idea! When you want people’s minds they are always thinking of something else.”336 Although the critics as a body fell foul of The Kasidah, still there were not wanting appreciators, and its four great lines have often been quoted.

331 Only an admirer of Omar Khayyam could have written The Kasidah, observes Mr. Justin McCarthy, junior; but the only Omar Khayyam that Burton knew previous to 1859, was Edward FitzGerald. I am positive that Burton never read Omar Khayyam before 1859, and I doubt whether he ever read the original at all.

332 For example:—

“That eve so gay, so bright, so glad, this morn so dim and sad

and grey;

Strange that life’s Register should write this day a day, that

day a day.”

Amusingly enough, he himself quotes this as from Hafiz in a letter to Sir Walter Besant. See Literary Remains of Tyrwhitt Drake, p. 16. See also Chapter ix.

333 We use the word by courtesy.

334 See Life, ii., 467, and end of 1st volume of Supplemental Nights. Burton makes no secret of this. There is no suggestion that they are founded upon the original of Omar Khayyam. Indeed, it is probable that Burton had never, before the publication of The Kasidah, even heard of the original, for he imagined like J. A. Symonds and others, that FitzGerald’s version was a fairly literal translation. When, therefore, he speaks of Omar Khayyam he means Edward FitzGerald. I have dealt with this subject exhaustively in my Life of Edward FitzGerald.

335 Couplet 186.

336 Preserved in the Museum at Camberwell. It is inserted in a copy of Camoens.

102. Lisa.

By this time Mrs. Burton had provided herself with another Chico. Chico the Third (or Chica the Second) was a tall and lank, but well-built Italian girl, daughter of a baron. Lisa had Khamoor’s ungovernable temper, but to the Burtons she at first exhibited the faithfulness of a dog. Her father lived formerly at Verona, but in the war of 1866, having sided with Austria,337 he fell upon evil days; and retired to Trieste on a trifling pension. Mrs. Burton and Lisa had not been long acquainted before Lisa became a member of the Burton household as a kind of lady’s maid, although she retained her title of Baroness, and Mrs. Burton at once set about Anglicising her new friend, though her attempt, as in Khamoor’s case, was only partially successful. For instance, Lisa, would never wear a hat, “for fear of losing caste.” She was willing, however, to hang out her stocking on Christmas eve; and on finding it full next morning said, “Oh, I like this game. Shall we play it every night!” Just however, as a petted Khamoor had made a spoilt Khamoor; so a petted Lisa very soon made a spoilt Lisa.

With Mrs. Burton, her Jane Digbys, her Chicos, and her servants, Burton rarely interfered, and when he did interfere, it was only to make matters worse; for his judgment was weaker even than hers. On one occasion, however, he took upon himself to dismiss the cook and to introduce another of his own finding. On being requested to prepare the dinner the new acquisition set about it by drinking two bottles of wine, knocking down the housemaid, and beating the kitchenmaid with the saucepan. Burton, who flew to their rescue, thought he must be in Somali-land once more.

337 Italy having sided with Prussia in the war of 1866 received as her reward the long coveted territory of Venice.

Chapter XXII

August 1881-May 1882

John Payne

103. With Cameron at Venice, August 1881.

Burton had for several years been acquainted with the African traveller V. Lovett Cameron,338 and in August 1881 they met accidentally at Venice. A geographical conference was being held in the city and representatives from all nations were assembled; but, naturally, the first geographer of the day, Captain Burton, was not invited either to speak or even to be present. On the morning of the conference, Burton, Mrs. Burton and Cameron gave themselves the treat of going over to the Lido for bathing and breakfast; and being in puckish mood, the two men, notwithstanding the great crowd of pleasure seekers, took off their shoes and stockings, turned up their trousers, and made sand castles. “Look, nurse,” bawled Burton to his wife, “see what Cammy and I have done!” “If you please, nursey,” whined Cameron, “Dick’s snatched away my spade.” At that moment Lord Aberdeen, President of the Royal Geographical Society, and a party of grave antiquaries and geographers, mostly run to nose, spectacles, and forehead, arrived on the scene; with the result of infinite laughter, in which Burton and Cameron joined heartily; and henceforward Mrs. Burton answered to no name but “Nursey.” Burton, however, was justly indignant on account of his not having been invited to the conference, and his revenge took the shape of a pungent squib which he wrote on his card and left in the Congress Room. Next day, while Burton and Cameron were strolling in front of St. Mark’s, a Portuguese gentleman came up and saluted them. To Burton’s delight it was his old friend Da Cunha, the Camoens enthusiast; and then ensued a long argument, conducted in Portuguese, concerning Burton’s rendering of one of Camoens’ sonnets, Burton in the end convincing his friend of its correctness. Having parted from Da Cunha, they ran against an Egyptian officer who had just visited Mecca and brought back a series of photographs. The conversation this time was conducted in Arabic, and Burton explained to the Egyptian the meaning of much of the ritual of the pilgrimage. “As a cicerone,” says Cameron, “Burton was invaluable. His inexhaustible stock of historical and legendary lore furnished him with something to relate about even the meanest and commonest buildings.”339 There were trips about the green canals in a long black gondola on the day and night of the regatta, when the Grand Canal and St. Mark’s were illuminated, all of which Burton enjoyed thoroughly, for round him had gathered the elite of Venice, and his brilliant personality, as usual, dazzled and dominated all who listened to him.

338 Born 1844. Appointed to the command of an East Coast expedition to relieve Livingstone, 1872. Crossed Africa 1875.

339 “Burton as I knew him,” by V. L. Cameron.

104. John Payne, November 1881.

We now come to that absorbing period of Burton’s life which is connected principally with The Arabian Nights. Amazing as the statement may seem, we feel ourselves compelled to say at once, though regretfully, that Burton’s own account of the history of the translation, given in his Translator’s Foreword to the Arabian Nights, and Lady Burton’s account, given in her life of her husband, do not tally with the facts as revealed in his letters. In matters relating to his own history Burton often spoke with amazing recklessness,340 and perhaps he considered he was justified in stating that his translation of The Arabian Nights was well advanced by November 1881, seeing that it had for thirty years intermittently occupied his thoughts. As regards Lady Burton, no doubt, of some of the facts presently to be given, she was unaware. But she was one who easily deceived herself. Whatever she wished, she was apt to believe. The actual facts compiled from existing documentary evidence — including Burton’s own letters — will now be revealed for the first time; and it will be found, as is generally the case, that the unembroidered truth is more interesting than the romance. The story is strangely paralleled by that of the writing of The Kasidah; or in other words it recalls traits that were eminently characteristic of Burton. As early as 1854, as we have seen, Burton and Steinhauser had planned a translation of The Arabian Nights, Steinhauser was to furnish the prose, Burton the poetry. They corresponded on the subject, but made only trifling progress. Steinhauser died in 1866, his manuscripts were scattered, and Burton never heard of them again. Absolutely nothing more was done, for Burton was occupied with other matters — travelling all over the world and writing piles of voluminous books on other subjects. Still, he had hoards of Eastern manuscripts, and notes of his own on Eastern manners and customs, which had for years been accumulating and an even greater mass of curious information had been stored in his brain. Again and again he had promised himself to proceed, but something every time hindered.

In November 1881, Burton, who was then at Trieste, noticed a paragraph in The Athenaeum341 to the effect that Mr. John Payne, the well-known author of The Masque of Shadows and of a famous rendering of The Poems of Francois Villon, was about to issue a Translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and one Nights. Burton, who was an enthusiastic admirer of the Villon and who, moreover, had not relinquished his own scheme, though it had lain so long quiescent, wrote at once to The Athenaeum a letter which appeared on 26th November 1881. He said: “Many years ago, in collaboration with my old and lamented friend, Dr. F. Steinhauser, of the Bombay Army, I began to translate the whole342 of The Thousand Nights and a Night. The book, mutilated in Europe to a collection of fairy tales, and miscalled the Arabian Nights, is unique as a study of anthropology. It is a marvellous picture of Oriental life; its shiftings are those of the kaleidoscope. Its alternation of pathos and bathos — of the boldest poetry (the diction of Job) with the baldest prose (the Egyptian of to-day) and finally, its contrast of the highest and purest morality with the orgies of Apuleius and Petronius Arbiter, take away the reader’s breath. I determined to render every word with the literalism of Urquhart’s Rabelais, and to save the publisher trouble by printing my translation at Brussels.

“Not non omnia possumus. Although a host of friends has been eager to subscribe, my work is still unfinished, nor could it be finished without a year’s hard labour. I rejoice, therefore, to see that Mr. John Payne, under the Villon Society, has addressed himself to a realistic translation without ‘abridgments or suppressions.’ I have only to wish him success, and to express a hope that he is resolved verbum reddere verbo, without deference to any prejudice which would prevent his being perfectly truthful to the original. I want to see that the book has fair play; and if it is not treated as it deserves, I shall still have to print my own version.343 ‘Villon,’ however, makes me hope for the best.”

In this letter Burton oddly enough speaks of his own work as “still unfinished.” This was quite true, seeing that it was not even begun, unless two or three pages which he once showed to Mr. Watts-Dunton,344 and the pigeon-holing of notes be regarded as a commencement. Still, the announcement of Mr. Payne’s edition — the first volume of which was actually in the press — must have caused him a pang; and the sincere good wishes for his rival’s success testify to the nobility, unselfishness and magnanimity of his character.

Mr. Payne, supposing from his letter that Burton had made considerable progress with his translation, wrote on November 28th to Burton, and, using the words Tantus labor non sit cassus, suggested collaboration. Thus commenced one of the most interesting friendships in the annals of literature. Before relating the story, however, it will be helpful to set down some particulars of the career of Mr. Payne. John Payne was born in 1842 of a Devonshire family, descended from that breezy old sea-dog, Sir John Hawkins. Mr. Payne, indeed, resembles Hawkins in appearance. He is an Elizabethan transferred bodily into the 19th and 20th centuries, his ruff lost in transit. Yet he not infrequently has a ruff even — a live one, for it is no uncommon event to see his favourite Angora leap on to his shoulders and coil himself half round his master’s neck, looking not unlike a lady’s boa — and its name, Parthenopaeus, is long enough even for that. For years Mr. Payne followed the law, and with success, but his heart was with the Muses and the odorous East. From a boy he had loved and studied the old English, Scotch and Welsh writers, with the result that all his productions have a mediaeval aroma. The Faerie Queene, Chaucer and his successors — the Scottish poets of the 15th and 16th Centuries, The Morte d’Arthur, the authorised version of the Bible and North’s Plutarch have always lain at his elbow. Then, too, with Dante, Shakespeare and Heine’s poems he is supersaturated; but the authorised version of the Bible has had more influence on him than any other book, and he has so loved and studied it from boyhood that he had assimilated its processes and learned the secrets of the interior mechanism of its style. It is not surprising that his first publication should have been a book of poetry. The merits of The Masque of Shadows and other Poems were acknowledged on all sides. It was seen that the art of ballad writing — which Goethe calls the most difficult of arts — was not, as some averred, a forgotten one. The Masque of Shadows itself is melodious and vivid from the first line to the end, but the captain jewel is the necromantic and thrilling Rime of Redemption — the story of a woman who erred and of a man who prayed and wrestled with God in prayer for her, and ultimately wrung her salvation by self-sacrifice from Divine Justice. Here and there are passages that we could have wished modified, but surely such a terrific fantasy was never before penned! It is as harrowing as The Ancient Mariner, and appeals to one more forcibly than Coleridge’s “Rime,” because it seems actual truth. Other volumes, containing impassioned ballads, lyrics, narrative poems and sonnets, came from Mr. Payne’s pen. His poems have the rush and bound of a Scotch waterfall. This is explained by the fact that they are written in moments of physical and mental exaltation. Only a mind in a quasi-delirious state, to be likened to that of the pythoness on the tripod, could have evolved the Rime of Redemption345 or Thorgerda346. No subject comes amiss to him. His chemic power turns everything to gold. “He sees everything,” as Mr. Watts-Dunton once said to the writer — “through the gauze of poetry.” His love for beautiful words and phrases leads him to express his thoughts in the choicest language. He puts his costliest wine in myrrhine vases; he builds his temple with the lordliest cedars. Mr. Payne does not write for the multitude, but few poets of the day have a more devoted band of admirers. Some readers will express a preference for The Building of the Dream,347 others for Lautrec348 or Salvestra349, and others for the dazzling and mellifluous Prelude to Hafiz. Mr. A. C. Swinburne eulogised the “exquisite and clear cut Intaglios.”350 D. G. Rossetti revelled in the Sonnets; Theodore de Banville, “roi des rimes,” in the Songs of Life and Death, whose beauties blend like the tints in jewels.351

Mr. Payne first took up the work of a translator in 1878, his earliest achievement in the new province being his admirable rendering of Villon, in which he gives the music of the thief poet, and all his humour, and this reminds us that Mr. Payne, unlike most poets, is a skilled musician. Of his life, indeed, music, in its most advanced and audacious manifestations had always been as much an essential a part as literature, hence the wonderful melodic effects of the more remarkable of his poems. Already an excellent Arabic scholar, he had as early as 1875 resolved upon a translation of The Arabian Nights, and he commenced the task in earnest on 5th February 1877. He worked with exhausting sedulity and expended upon it all the gifts in his power, with the result that his work has taken its places as a classic. The price was nine guineas. Imagining that the demand for so expensive a work would not be large, Mr. Payne, unfortunately, limited himself to the publication of only 500 copies. The demand exceeded 2,000, so 1,500 persons were disappointed.

It was at this moment that Mr. Payne became acquainted with Burton. Mr. Payne admired Burton as a traveller, an explorer, and a linguist, and recognised the fact that no man had a more intimate knowledge of the manners and customs of the East; and Burton on his part paid high tribute to Mr. Payne’s gifts as a translator and a poet.352

340 Nearly all his friends noticed this feature in his character and have remarked it to me.

341 The number is dated 5th November 1881. Mr. Payne had published specimens of his proposed Translation, anonymously, in the New Quarterly Review for January and April, 1879.

342 This was a mistake. Burton thought he had texts of the whole, but, as we shall presently show, there were several texts which up to this time he had not seen. His attention, as his letters indicate, was first drawn to them by Mr. Payne.

343 In the light of what follows, this remark is amusing.

344 See Chapter xxiii, 107.

345 In the Masque of Shadows.

346 New Poems, p. 19.

347 The Masque of Shadows, p. 59.

348 Published 1878.

349 New Poems, p. 179.

350 Published 1871.

351 Mr. Watts-Dunton, the Earl of Crewe, and Dr. Richard Garnett have also written enthusiastically of Mr. Payne’s poetry.

352 Of “The John Payne Society” (founded in 1905) and its publications particulars can be obtained from The Secretary, Cowper School, Olney. It has no connection with the “Villon Society,” which publishes Mr. Payne’s works.

105. To the Gold Coast, 25th November 1881-20th May 1882.

When Mr. Payne’s letter reached Trieste, Burton had just started off, with Commander Verney Lovett Cameron, on an expedition to the Gold Coast. In his Fernando Po period he had, as we have seen, been deeply interested in the gold digging and gold washing industries,353 had himself, indeed, to use his own words, “discovered several gold mines on that coast.” For years his mind had turned wistfully towards those regions, and at last, early in 1881, he was able to enter into an arrangement with a private speculator concerning the supposed mines. He and Cameron were to have all their expenses paid, and certain shares upon the formulation of the company. The travellers left Trieste on November 18th, being accompanied as far as Fiume by Mrs. Burton and Lisa, who on the 25th returned to Trieste; and on December 17th they reached Lisbon, whither Mr. Payne’s letter followed them. Burton, who replied cordially, said “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 1,000 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 Arabists354. . . . . I am an immense admirer of your Villon.”

Writing to Burton early in the year Payne observed that as his first volume was in type, apparently it should at once go to press, but that he would be pleased to submit subsequent volumes to Burton. Terms were also suggested.

Burton’s reply, addressed Axim, Gold Coast, and received by Mr. Payne, 20th March, 1882, runs as follows: “I received your welcome letter by the steamer of yesterday, and to-morrow morning my companion Cameron and I again proceed to the ‘bush.’ 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,” he said, “are more than liberal. I cannot accept them, however, 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, Professor Robertson Smith (Glasgow) and Professor Palmer (Trinity, Cambridge). I have booked your private address and have now only to reciprocate your good wishes.”

On April 18th Mrs. Burton and Lisa set out for England in order to rejoin Burton — Lisa, as usual, without any headgear — a condition of affairs which in every church they entered caused friction with the officials. When this began Mrs. Burton would explain the position; and the officials, when they came to find that nothing they could say or do make the slightest difference to Lisa, invariably expressed themselves satisfied with the explanation.

Burton and Cameron reached Liverpool on May 20th, and were able to report both “that there was plenty of gold, and that the mines could easily be worked.” The expedition, however, was unproductive of all anticipated results and no profit accrued to Burton. Indeed it was Iceland and Midian over again. “I ought,” he says in one of his letters to Payne, “to go down to history as the man who rediscovered one Gold Country and rehabilitated a second, and yet lost heavily by the discoveries.”355

353 See Chapter xi., 43.

354 Dr. Badger died 19th February, 1888, aged 73.

355 To Payne. 20th August 1883.

Chapter XXIII

20th May 1882-July 1883

The Meeting of Burton and Payne

Bibliography

66. Lord Beaconsfield.

67. To the Gold Coast for Gold. 2 vols. 1883.

68. Stone Implements from the Gold Coast. Burton and Cameron.

106. Mrs. Grundy begins to roar. May 1882.

In May 1882, Burton called on Mr. Payne, and the matter of The Arabian Nights was fully discussed. It then transpired that Burton’s project was still entirely in nubibus. He told Mr. Payne that he had no manuscript of any kind beyond “a sheet or two of notes,”356 and it was afterwards gathered from his words that these notes were a mere syllabus of the contents of the Boulac edition of the Nights — the only one of the four printed texts (Calcutta, Macnaghten, Boulac and Breslau) used and combined by Mr. Payne with which Burton was then acquainted.357 Mr. Payne’s first volume was completely in type and had for some weeks been held over for Burton’s return to England. Of the remaining volumes three were ready for press, and the rest only awaited fair copying. Burton’s thoughts, however, were then completely occupied with the Gold Coast, consequently the whole project of collaboration fell through. Mr. Payne’s first volume duly appeared; and as the result of further conversations it was arranged that Burton should read Mr. Payne’s subsequent proofs, though he declined to accept any remuneration unless it should turn out that his assistance was necessary. In June, Mr. Payne submitted the first proofs of Vol. ii. to Burton. Meantime the literalism of Mr. Payne’s translation had created extraordinary stir, and Burton wrote thus forcefully on the matter (June 3rd): “Please send me a lot of advertisements.358 I can place a multitude of copies. Mrs. Grundy is beginning to roar; already I hear the voice of her. And I know her to be an arrant w —— and tell her so, and don’t care a ——— for her.”

The event at Trieste that summer was the opening of a Grand International Exhibition — the hobby of the Governor of the town — Baron de Pretis, and Burton thus refers to it in a letter written to Mr. Payne, 5th August (1882). “We arrived here just in time for the opening of the Exhibition, August 1st. 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 while my wife goes to Marienbad, I must content myself with the Baths at Monfalcone,359 distant only one hour by rail” In the next letter (August 14th) Burton refers to a proposed special quarto (large paper) edition of Mr. Payne’s Nights, the scheme for which, however, fell through. “I am delighted with the idea,” he says, “for though not a bibliophile in practice (£ s. d. preventing) I am entirely in theory.” There is also an amusing reference to a clergyman who after giving his name for a copy withdrew it. Says Burton, “If the Rev. A. miss this opportunity of grace he can blame only himself. It is very sad but not to be helped. . . . And now good luck to the venture.” Later he observes, “The fair sex appears wild to get at the Nights.360 I have received notes from two upon the nice subject, with no end of complaints about stern parients, brothers and brothers-in-law.”

In September Burton asks for the loan of Payne’s copy of the Calcutta Edition (Macnaghten) and enquires after Vol. i. He says “What news of Vol. i.? I am very anxious to see it, and so are many female correspondents. I look forward with great pleasure to the work.”

It was now understood that an attack was to be made on Payne’s volume in the press. Says Burton, September 29th (1882). “Perhaps it will be best to let ——— -361 sing his song. ———— 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.362 I enclose three sonnets, a specimen of my next volume of Camoens, 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 will ruin nobody. Switzerland has set you up and don’t let the solicitor’s office pull you down.”

On October 2nd he says: “Glad to hear of a new edition 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 ———— of ——— 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 clique. ——— is a very much hated man, and there will be no difficulty.” On the 8th, in reference to the opposing “clique,” Burton writes: “In my own case I should encourage a row with this bete noire; but I can readily understand your having reasons for wishing to keep it quiet.” Naturally, considering the tactics that were being employed against them, the Villon Society, which published Mr. Payne’s works, had no wish to draw the attention of the authorities to the moral question. Indeed, of the possible action of the authorities, as instigated by the clique, the Society stood in some fear.

Burton goes on: “I shall write to-day to T——— to know how —— is best hit. T——— hates me — so do most people. Meanwhile, you must (either yourself or by proxy) get a list of Lane’s laches. 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! Many thanks for the notes on the three sonnets [Camoens]. Most hearty thanks for the trouble you have taken. The remarks are those of a scholar and a translator.”

Later, Burton sent Payne other Camoens sonnets to look over. Writing on 29th October 1882, he says, “Many thanks for the 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. 19 is one of the darkest on account of its extreme simplicity. I shall trouble you again.”

The first proofs (pp. 1-144) of Vol. ii. were read by Burton in October 1882, and returned by him October 21st. In his letter to Mr. Payne of that date he says, “It will 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 Edition there will be hard hitting. Of course I wish to leave his bones in peace, but —— may make that impossible. Curious to see three editions of the 1,000 Nights advertised at the same time, not to speak of the bastard.363 I return you nine sheets [of proofs] by parcels post 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.”

Subsequently Burton observed that Mr. Payne required no assistance of any kind; and therefore he re-refused to accept remuneration for reading the proofs. Naturally, they differed, as Arabists all do, upon certain points, but on all subjects save two Burton allowed that Mr. Payne’s opinion was as good as his own.

The first concerned the jingles in the prose portions of the Nights, such as “The trees are growing and the waters flowing and Allah all good bestowing.” Burton wanted them to be preserved, but to this Mr. Payne could not consent, and he gives the reasons in his Terminal Essay. The second exception was the treatment of the passages referring to a particular subject; and this indicates to us clearly the difference in the ideas and aims of the two men. Of artistry, of what FitzGerald calls “sinking and reducing,” Burton had no notion. “If anything is in any redaction of the original, in it should go,” he said. “Never mind how shocking it may be to modern and western minds. If I sin, I sin in good company — in the company of the authors of the Authorised Version of the Bible, who did not hesitate to render literatim certain passages which persons aiming simply at artistic effect would certainly have omitted.”

Payne on the other hand was inclined to minimise these passages as much as possible. Though determined that his translation should be a complete one, yet he entirely omitted coarsenesses whenever he could find excuse to do so — that is to say, when they did not appear in all the texts. If no such excuse existed he clothed the idea in skilful language.364 Nothing is omitted; but it is of course within the resources of literary art to say anything without real offence. Burton, who had no aptitude for the task; who, moreover, had other aims, constantly disagreed with Payne upon this point.

Thus, writing 12th May 1883, he says: “You are drawing it very mild. Has there been any unpleasantness about plain speaking? Poor Abu Nuwas365 is (as it were) castrated. I should say ‘Be bold or audace,’ &c., only you know better than I do how far you can go and cannot go. I should simply translate every word.”

“What I meant by literalism,” he says, 1st October 1883, “is literally translating each noun (in the long lists which so often occur) in its turn, so that the student can use the translation.”

This formed no part of Mr. Payne’s scheme, in fact was directly opposed to the spirit of his work, which was to make the translation, while quite faithful to the original, a monument of noble English prose and verse.

“I hold the Nights,” continues Burton, the best of class books, and when a man knows it, he can get on with Arabs everywhere. He thus comments on Payne’s Vol. iv., some of the tales of which, translate them as you will, cannot be other than shocking. “Unfortunately it is these offences (which come so naturally in Greece and Persia, and which belong strictly to their fervid age) that give the book much of its ethnological value. I don’t know if I ever mentioned to you a paper (unpublished) of mine showing the geographical limits of the evil.366 I shall publish it some day and surprise the world.367 I don’t live in England, and I don’t care an asterisk for Public Opinion.368 I would rather tread on Mrs. Grundy’s pet corn than not, she may howl on her *** *** to her heart’s content.” On August 24th (1883) Burton says, “Please keep up in Vol. v. this literality in which you began. My test is that every Arab word should have its equivalent English. . . . Pity we can’t manage to end every volume with a tidbit! 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 or the Night of Power369 and The Cabinet with Five Shelves.”370

356 No doubt the “two or three pages” which he showed to Mr. Watts-Dunton.

357 This is a very important fact. It is almost incredible, and yet it is certainly true.

358 Prospectuses.

359 Its baths were good for gout and rheumatism. Mrs. Burton returned to Trieste on September 11th.

360 This is, of course, a jest. He repeats the jest, with variation, in subsequent letters.

361 The author wishes to say that the names of several persons are hidden by the dashes in these chapters, and he has taken every care to render it impossible for the public to know who in any particular instance is intended.

362 Of course, in his heart, Burton respected Lane as a scholar.

363 Apparently Galland’s.

364 Mr. Payne’s system is fully explained in the Introductory Note to Vol. i. and is consistently followed through the 13 volumes (Arabian Nights, 9 vols.; Tales from the Arabic, 3 vols.; Alaeddin and Zein-ul-Asnam, i vol.).

365 One of the poets of The Arabian Nights.

366 See Chapter iii. 11.

367 He published some of this information in his Terminal Essay.

368 Perhaps we ought again to state most emphatically that Burton’s outlook was strictly that of the student. He was angry because he had, as he believed, certain great truths to tell concerning the geographical limits of certain vices, and an endeavour was being made to prevent him from publishing them.

369 Burton’s A. N. vi., 180; Lib. Ed. v., 91, The Three Wishes, or the Man who longed to see the Night of Power.

370 The Lady and her Five Suitors, Burton’s A. N., vi., 172; Lib. Ed., v., 83; Payne’s A. N., v., 306. Of course Mr. Payne declined to do this.

107. The Search for Palmer, October 1882.

Burton was now to make what proved to be his last expedition. All the year Egypt had been ablaze with the rebellion of Arabi Pasha. Alexandria was bombarded by the English on July 11th, Arabi suffered defeat at Tell-el-Kebir three months later. On the commencement of the rebellion the British Government sent out Burton’s old friend Professor Palmer to the Sinaitic peninsula with a view to winning the tribes in that part of the British side, and so preventing the destruction of the Suez Canal. The expedition was atrociously planned, and the fatal mistake was also made of providing it with £3,000 in gold. Palmer landed at Jaffa at the end of June, and then set out via Gaza across the “Short Desert,” for Suez, where he was joined by Captain Gill and Lieutenant Charrington. In fancy one hears him as he enters on his perilous journey asking himself that question, which was so absurdly frequent in his lips, “I wonder what will happen?”

It is customary for travellers, before entering the Arabian wastes, to hire a Ghafir, that is, a guide and protector. Palmer, instead of securing a powerful chief, as the case required, selected a man of small account named Matr Nassar, and this petty shaykh and his nephew were the expedition’s only defence.

The doomed party left Suez on August 8th. On the 10th at midnight they were attacked by the Bedawin. “Palmer expostulated with his assassins; but all his sympathetic facility, his appeals to Arab honour and superstition, his threats, his denunciations, and the gift of eloquence which had so often prevailed with the wild men, were unheeded.” As vainly, Matr Nassar371 covered his proteges with his aba372 thus making them part of his own family. On the evening of August 11th the captives were led to the high bank of the Wady Sudr, where it received another and smaller fiumara yet unnamed, and bidden to prepare for death. Boldly facing his enemies, Palmer cursed them373 in Biblical language, and in the name of the Lord. But while the words were in his mouth, a bullet struck him and he fell. His companions also fell in cold blood, and the bodies of all three were thrown down the height374 — a piteous denouement — and one that has features in common with the tragic death scene of another heroic character of this drama — General Gordon.

The English Government still believed and hoped that Palmer has escaped; and on October 17th it sent a telegram to Burton bidding him go and assist in the search for his old friend.

Like the war horse in the Bible, the veteran traveller shouted “Aha!” and he shot across the Mediterranean like a projectile from a cannon. But he had no sooner reached Suez than he heard — his usual luck — that Sir Charles Warren, with 200 picked men, was scouring the peninsula, and that consequently his own services would not be required. In six weeks he was back again at Trieste and so ended Viator’s375 last expedition. The remains of Palmer and his two companions were discovered by Sir Charles and sent to England to be interred in St. Paul’s Cathedral. To Palmer’s merits as a man Burton paid glowing tributes; and he praised, too, Palmer’s works, especially The Life of Harun Al Raschid and the translations of Hafiz,376 Zoheir and the Koran. Of the last Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole says finely: It “has the true desert ring in it;.. the translator has carried us among the Bedawin tents, and breathed into us the strong air of the desert, till we fancy we can hear the rich voice of the Blessed Prophet himself as he spoke to the pilgrims on Akabah.”

In his letter to Payne of 23rd December 1882, Burton adumbrates a visit eastward. “After January,” he says, “I shall run to the Greek Islands, and pick up my forgotten modern Greek.” He was unable, however, to carry out his plans in their entirety. On January 15th he thanks Payne for the loan of the “Uncastrated Villon,”377 and the Calcutta and Breslau editions of the Nights, and says “Your two vols. of Breslau and last proofs reached me yesterday. I had written to old Quaritch for a loan of the Breslau edition. 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 me. . . . But he waxes cannier every year.”

371 Possibly this was merely pantomime. Besant, in his Life of Palmer, p. 322, assumes that Matr Nassar, or Meter, as he calls him, was a traitor.

372 Cloak.

373 Cursing is with Orientals a powerful weapon of defence. Palmer was driven to it as his last resource. If he could not deter his enemies in this way he could do no more.

374 Burton’s Report and Besant’s Life of Palmer, p. 328.

375 See Chapter vi., 22.

376 Palmer translated only a few songs in Hafiz. Two will be found in that well-known Bibelot, Persian Love Songs.

377 There were two editions of Mr. Payne’s Villon. Burton is referring to the first.

Chapter XXIV

July 1883-November 1883

The Palazzone

108. Anecdotes of Burton.

In 1883 the Burtons removed from their eyrie near the Railway Station and took up their abode in a palazzone378 — “the Palazzo Gosleth” — situated in a large garden, on the wooded promontory that divides the city from the Bay of Muggia. It was one of the best houses in Trieste, and boasted an entrance so wide that one could have driven a carriage into the hall, a polished marble staircase and twenty large rooms commanding extensive and delightful views. The garden, however, was the principal amenity. Here, in fez and dressing-gown, Burton used to sit and write for hours with nothing to disturb him except the song of birds and the rustle of leaves. In the Palazzo Gosleth he spent the last eight years of his life, and wrote most of his later works.

Perhaps this is the best place to introduce a sheaf of miscellaneous unpublished anecdotes which have been drawn together from various sources. We are uncertain as to their dates, but all are authentic. To the ladies Burton was generally charming, but sometimes he behaved execrably. Once when he was returning alone to Trieste, a lady past her prime, being destined for the same place, asked whether she might accompany him. Burton, who hated taking care of anyone, frowned and shook his head. “There can be no scandal, Captain Burton,” pleaded the lady, “because I am old.”

“Madame,” replied Burton, “while fully appreciating your kindness, I must decline. Had you been young and good-looking I would have considered the matter.”

378 Augmentative of palazzo, a gentleman’s house.

109. Burton and Mrs. Disraeli.

But Burton could be agreeable enough even to plain ladies when he wished. In one of his books or pamphlets he had said “There is no difference except civilization between a very old woman and an ape.” Some time after its publication, when he was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Disraeli, Mrs. Disraeli, herself both elderly and very plain, laid a plan to disconcert him. She seated herself close to a low mirror, in the hopes that Burton would presently join her. He soon fell into the trap and was observed a few minutes later leaning over her and “doing the amiable.”

“Captain Burton,” said Mrs. Disraeli, with affected annoyance, and pointing to her reflection, “There must be an ape in the glass. Do you not see it?”

Burton instantly recalled the remark in his book, but without exhibiting the least disconcertion, he replied, “Yaas, yaas, Madam, quite plainly; I see myself.”

It was altogether impossible for Burton to do anything or to be in anything without causing a commotion of some kind. Generally it was his own fault, but sometimes the Fates were to blame. Few scenes at that period could have been more disgraceful than those at the official receptions held in London by the Prime Minister. Far too many persons were invited and numbers behaved more like untutored Zulus than civilised human beings.

“Now darling,” said Mrs. Burton to her husband, just before one of these functions, “You are to be amiable, remember, and not lose your temper.” Burton readily promised compliance, but that day, unfortunately, the crush on the staircase was particular disgraceful. Apparently Burton, his wife on arm, was pushed on to the train of a lady in front of him, but whatever he was doing the crush had rendered him helpless.

“Oh dear!” cried the lady, “this horrid man is choking me.”

“It’s that blackguard of a Burton!” followed the lady’s husband.

Burton’s eyes flashed and his lips went livid, “I’ll have you out for this,” he cried, “and if you won’t fight I’ll thrash you like a dog.”

“That’s how you keep your promise,” said Mrs. Burton to him, when they got home. “You don’t get half a dozen steps up the staircase before you have a row with someone.” Then he burst out with his “pebble on ice” laughter.

For Burton to overhear remarks uncomplimentary to himself was no uncommon occurrence, but he rarely troubled to notice them. Now and again, however, as the previous anecdote shows, he broke his rule. Once at a public gathering a lady said, loudly, to a companion, “There is that infamous Captain Burton, I should like to know that he was down with some lingering and incurable illness.”

Burton turned round, and fixing his eyes upon her, said with gravity: “Madame, I have never in all my life done anything so wicked as to express so shocking a wish as that.”

The next anecdote shows how dangerous Burton could be to those who offended him. When the Sultan of Zanzibar was paying a visit to England, Burton and the Rev. Percy Badger were singled out to act as interpreters. But Burton had quarrelled with Badger about something or other; so when they approached the Sultan, Burton began addressing him, not in Arabic, but in the Zanzibar patois. The Sultan, after some conversation, turned to Badger, who, poor man, not being conversant with the patois, could only stand still in the dunce’s cap which Burton, as it were, had clapped on him and look extremely foolish; while the bystanders nodded to each other and said, “Look at that fellow. He can’t say two words. He’s a fraud.” Burton revelled in Badger’s discomfiture; but a little later the two men were on good terms again; and when Badger died he was, of course, Burton’s “late lamented friend.”

Another of Burton’s aversions was “any old woman made up to look very young.” “Good gracious,” he said, one day to a painted lady of that category. “You haven’t changed since I saw you forty years ago. You’re like the British flag that has braved a thousand years of the battle and the breeze.” But the lady heaped coals of fire on his head.

“Oh, Captain Burton,” she cried, “how could you, with that musical — that lovely voice of yours — make such very unpleasant remarks.”

110. “I am an Old English Catholic.”

In England, whatever objections Protestants may make to Roman Catholic services, they admit that everything is done decently and in order. The laxity, however, in the Italian churches is, or was until recently, beyond belief, and every traveller brought home some queer tale. Mrs. Burton, who prided herself on being “an old English Catholic,” was frequently distressed by these irregularities, and she never hesitated to reprove the offending priests. One day a priest who had called at Burton’s house was requested to conduct a brief service in Mrs. Burton’s private chapel. But the way in which he went through the various ceremonies so displeased Mrs. Burton that she called out to him, “Stop! stop! pardon me, I am an old English Catholic — and therefore particular. You are not doing it right — Stand aside, please, and let me show you.” So the astonished priest stood aside, and Mrs. Burton went through all the gesticulations, genuflexions, etcetera, in the most approved style. Burton, who was standing by, regarded the scene with suppressed amusement. When all was over, he touched the priest on the shoulder and said gravely and slowly, pointing to Mrs. Burton: “Do you know who this is? It is my wife. And you know she will some day die — We all must die — And she will be judged — we must all be judged — and there’s a very long and black list against her. But when the sentence is being pronounced she will jump up and say: ‘Stop! stop! please pardon my interruption, but I am an old English Catholic.’”

To one house, the hostess of which was one of the most fashionable women in London, Burton, no matter how much pressed, had never been prevailed upon to go. He disliked the lady and that was enough. “Here’s an invitation for all of us to Lady —— ‘s,” said Mrs. Burton to him one day in honied tones. “Now, Dick, darling, this time you must go just for Lisa’s sake. It’s a shame she should lose so excellent a chance of going into good society. Other people go, why shouldn’t we? Eh, darling?”

“What won’t people do,” growled Burton, “for the sake of a dinner!”

Eventually, however, after an explosion, and he’d be asterisked if he would, and might the lady herself be asterisked, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, “Dick Darling” was coaxed over, and he, Mrs. Burton and Lisa at the appointed time sallied forth in all the glory of war paint, and in due course were ushered into the detested house.

As he approached the hostess she looked steadily at him through her lorgnon, and then, turning to a companion, said with a drawl: “Isn’t it horrid, my dear! Every Dick, Tom and Harry’s here to-night.”

“That’s what comes of being amiable,” said Burton to his wife, when they got home again — and he’d be asterisked, and might everybody else be asterisked, if he’d enter that asterisked house again. Then the humour of it all appealed to him; and his anger dissolved into the usual hearty laughter.

One very marked feature of Burton’s character was that, like his father, he always endeavoured to do and say what he thought was right, quite regardless of appearances and consequences. And we may give one anecdote to illustrate our meaning.

On one occasion379 he and another Englishman who was known by Burton to have degraded himself unspeakably, were the guests at a country house. “Allow me, Captain Burton,” said the host, “to introduce you to the other principal guest of the evening, Mr. —— ” Looking Mr. —— in the face, Burton said: “When I am in Persia I am a Persian, when in India a Hindu, but when in England I am an English gentleman,” and then he turned his back on Mr. —— and left him. As Mr. —— ‘s record was not at the time generally known, those who were present at the scene merely shrugged their shoulders and said: “Only another of Burton’s eccentricities.” A few months, later, however, Mr. — -‘s record received publicity, and Burton’s conduct and words were understood.

One of Burton’s lady relations being about to marry a gentleman who was not only needy but also brainless, somebody asked him what he thought of the bridegroom-elect.

“Not much,” replied Burton, drily, “he has no furniture inside or out.”

To “old maids” Burton was almost invariably cruel. He found something in them that roused all the most devilish rancours in his nature; and he used to tell them tales till the poor ladies did not know where to tuck their heads. When reproved afterwards by Mrs. Burton, he would say: “Yaas, yaas, no doubt; but they shouldn’t be old maids; besides, it’s no good telling the truth, for nobody ever believes you.” He did, however, once refer complimentarily to a maiden lady — a certain Saint Apollonia who leaped into a fire prepared for her by the heathen Alexandrians. He called her “This admirable old maid.” Her chief virtue in his eyes, however, seems to have been not her fidelity to her principles, but the fact that she got rid of herself, and so made one old maid fewer.

“What shall we do with our old maids?” he would ask, and then answer the question himself — “Oh, enlist them. With a little training they would make first-rate soldiers.” He was also prejudiced against saints, and said of one, “I presume she was so called because of the enormity of her crimes.”

Although Mrs. Burton often reproved her husband for his barbed and irritating remarks, her own tongue had, incontestibly, a very beautiful edge on it. Witness her reply to Mrs. X., who declared that when she met Burton she was inexpressibly shocked by his Chaucerian conversation and Canopic wit.

“I can quite believe,” commented Mrs. Burton, sweetly, “that on occasions when no lady was present Richard’s conversation might have been startling.”

How tasteful is this anecdote, as they say in The Nights, “and how enjoyable and delectable.”

379 We have altered this anecdote a little so as to prevent the possibility of the blanks being filled up.

111. Burton begins his Translation, April 1884.

As we have already observed, Mr. Payne’s 500 copies of the Thousand Nights and a Night were promptly snapped up by the public and 1,500 persons had to endure disappointment. “You should at once,” urged Burton, “bring out a new edition.” “I have pledged myself,” replied Mr. Payne, “not to reproduce the book in an unexpurgated form.”

“Then,” said Burton, “Let me publish a new edition in my own name and account to you for the profits — it seems a pity to lose these 1,500 subscribers.” This was a most generous and kind-hearted, but, from a literary point of view, immoral proposition; and Mr. Payne at once rejected it, declaring that he could not be a party to a breach of faith with the subscribers in any shape or form. Mr. Payne’s virtue was, pecuniarily and otherwise, its punishment. Still, he has had the pleasure of a clear conscience. Burton, however, being, as always, short of money, felt deeply for these 1,500 disappointed subscribers, who were holding out their nine-guinea cheques in vain; and he then said “Should you object to my making an entirely new translation?” To which, of course, Mr. Payne replied that he could have no objection whatever. Burton then set to work in earnest. This was in April, 1884. As we pointed out in Chapter xxii., Lady Burton’s account of the inception and progress of the work and Burton’s own story in the Translator’s Foreword (which precedes his first volume) bristle with misstatements and inaccuracies. He evidently wished it to be thought that his work was well under weigh long before he had heard of Mr. Payne’s undertaking, for he says, “At length in the spring of 1879 the tedious process of copying began and the book commenced to take finished form.” Yet he told Mr. Payne in 1881 that beyond notes and a syllabus of titles nothing had been done; and in 1883 he says in a letter, “I find my translation is a mere summary,” that is to say, of the Boulac edition, which was the only one familiar to him till he met Mr. Payne. He admits having made ample use of the three principal versions that preceded his, namely, those of Jonathan Scott, Lane and Payne, “the whole being blended by a callida junctura into a homogeneous mass.” But as a matter of fact his obligations to Scott and Lane, both of whom left much of the Nights untranslated, and whose versions of it were extremely clumsy and incorrect, were infinitesimal; whereas, as we shall presently prove, practically the whole of Burton is founded on the whole of Payne. We trust, however, that it will continually be borne in mind that the warm friendship which existed between Burton and Payne was never for a moment interrupted. Each did the other services in different ways, and each for different reasons respected and honoured the other. In a letter to Mr. Payne of 12th August, 1884, Burton gave an idea of his plan. He says “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.” A paper on these subjects which Burton offered to the British Association was, we need scarcely say, courteously declined.

Writing to Payne on September 9th (1884) he says, “As you have been chary of notes my version must by way of raison d’etre (amongst others) abound in esoteric lore, such as female circumcision and excision, 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 Scibile380 requisite to salvation. My conviction is that all the women in England will read it and half the men will cut me.”

380 That which is knowable.

112. The Battle over the Nights.

Although, as we have seen, Burton’s service to Mr. Payne’s translation was almost too slight to be mentioned, Burton was to Mr. Payne in another way a tower of strength. Professional spite, jealousy and other causes had ranged against his Nights whole platoons of men of more or less weight. Jealousy, folly and ignorance made common cause against the new translation — the most formidable coterie being the group of influential men who for various reasons made it their business to cry up the commonplace translation of E. W. Lane, published in 1840, and subsequently reprinted — a translation which bears to Payne’s the relation of a glow-worm to the meridian sun. The clique at first prepared to make a professional attack on the work, but the appearance of Volume i. proved it to be from a literary, artistic and philological point of view quite unassailable. This tactic having failed, some of these gentlemen, in their meanness, and we fear we must add, malevolence, then tried to stir up the authorities to take action against Mr. Payne on the ground of public morality.381 Burton had long been spoiling for a fight — and now was his opportunity. In season and out of season he defended Payne. He fell upon the Lane-ites like Samson upon the Philistines. He gloried in the hurly-burly. He wallowed, as it were, in blood. Fortunately, too, at that time he had friends in the Government — straightforward, commonsense men — who were above all pettinesses. Lord Houghton, F. F. Arbuthnot, and others, also ranged themselves on the same side and hit out manfully.

Before starting on the Palmer expedition, Burton, in a letter of October 29th, had written to Mr. Payne: “The more I read your translation the more I like it. You have no need to fear the Lane 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.” The battle was hot while it lasted, but it was soon over. The Lane-ites were cowed and gradually subsided into silence. Mr. Payne took the matter more coolly than Burton, but he, too, struck out when occasion required. For example, among the enemy was a certain reverend Professor of Semitic languages, who held advanced opinions on religious matters. He had fought a good fight, had suffered persecution on that account, and is honoured accordingly. “It is usual,” observed Burton, “with the weak, after being persecuted to become persecutors.”382 Mr. ——— had the folly to put it about that Payne’s translation was made not direct from the Arabic but from German translations. How he came to make so amazing a statement, seeing that at the time no important German translation of the Nights existed,383 it is difficult to say; but Mr. Payne sent him the following words from the Nights, written in the Arabic character: “I and thou and the slanderer, there shall be for us an awful day and a place of standing up to judgment.”384 After this Mr. ——— sheathed his sword and the Villon Society heard no more of him.

381 Let it be remembered that the edition was (to quote the title-page) printed by private subscription and for private circulation only and was limited to 500 copies at a high price. Consequently the work was never in the hands of the general public.

382 This was a favourite saying of Burton’s. We shall run against it elsewhere. See Chapter xxxiv., 159. Curiously enough, there is a similar remark in Mr. Payne’s Study of Rabelais written eighteen years previous, and still unpublished.

383 Practically there was only the wearisome, garbled, incomplete and incorrect translation by Dr. Weil.

384 The Love of Jubayr and the Lady Budur, Burton’s A. N. iv., 234; Lib. Ed., iii., 350; Payne’s A. N., iv., 82.

113. Completion of Mr. Payne’s Translation.

Mr. Payne’s first volume appeared as we have seen in 1882. The last left the press in 1884. The work was dedicated to Burton, who writes, “I cannot but feel proud that he has honoured me with the dedication of ‘The Book of the Thousand Nights and one Night.’ . . . He succeeds admirably in the most difficult passages, and he often hits upon choice and special terms and the exact vernacular equivalent of the foreign word so happily and so picturesquely that all future translators must perforce use the same expression under pain of falling far short.”

Having finished the Nights, Mr. Payne commenced the translation of other Eastern stories — which he published under the title of Tales from the Arabic.385

385 Three vols., 1884.

Chapter XXV

1883 to May 1885

The Kama Shastra Society

Bibliography:

69. Publications of the Kama Shastra Society.

Author. Translator.

1. The Kama Sutra. 1883 Vatsyayana. Bhagvanlal Indraji.

2. The Ananga Ranga. 1885 Kullianmull. ”

3. The Arabian Nights. 1885-1886. “ Burton.

4. The Scented Garden

(“My old version”). 1886. Nafzawi. Burton and others.

5. The Beharistan. 1887. Jami. Rehatsek.

6. The Gulistan 1888. Sadi. ”

or Rose Garden.

Works still in Manuscript.

Author. Translator

7. The Nigaristan Jawini. Rehatsek.

8. The Observances of the Zenanah ”

9. Etiquette of eating and Drinking ”

(A Persian Essay).

10. Physiognomies (A Persian MS.) Al-R’azy ”

11. Anecdotes from the Nuzhat al Yaman. ”

(Persian).

12. The Merzuban Namah. (Persian).

13. Extracts from Al Mostatraf. (Arabic). ”

14. Extracts from Siraj-ul-moluk. (Arabic). ”

15. Extracts from Tuhfat al akhwan us Safa.* ”

* For further particulars respecting these works see Appendix.

114. The Azure Apollo.

If Payne’s translation had been met by the wind, Burton anticipated that his own, with its blunt faithfulness to the original and its erotic notes, would be met by whirlwind. Considering the temper of the public386 at the time he thought it not improbable that an action would be brought against him, and in fancy he perceived himself standing at bay with the Authorised Version of the Bible in one hand as a shield, and Urquhart’s Rabelais in the other as a missile.

But though a man of amazing courage, Burton was not one to jeopardise himself unnecessarily. He was quite willing to take any reasonable precautions. So he discussed the matter with his friend F. F. Arbuthnot, who had recently returned from India, married,387 and settled at a charming place, Upper House Court, near Guildford. Mr. Arbuthnot, who, as we have seen, had for years given his whole soul to Eastern literature, had already published a group of Hindu stories388 and was projecting manuals of Persian389 and Arabic390 literature and a series of translations of famous Eastern works, some of which were purely erotic. He now suggested that this series and Burton’s Arabian Nights should be published nominally by a society to which might be given the appropriate name, “The Kama Shastra” — that is the cupid-gospel — Society, Kama being the Hindu god of love. This deity is generally represented as a beautiful youth riding on an emerald-plumaged lorry or parrot. In his hand he holds a bow of flowers and five arrows — the five senses; and dancing girls attend him. His favourite resort is the country round Agra, where Krishna391 the azure Hindu Apollo,

“Tunes harps immortal, and to strains divine

Dances by moonlight with the Gopia nine.”392

The books were to be translated by Rehatsek and a Hindu pundit named Bhagvanlal Indraji, Burton and Arbuthnot were to revise and annotate, and Arbuthnot was to find the money. Burton fell in with the idea, as did certain other members of Arbuthnot’s circle, who had always been keenly interested in Orientalism, and so was formed the famous Kama Shastra Society. That none of the particulars relating to the history of the Society has before been made public, is explained by the fact that Burton and Arbuthnot, conversant with the temper of the public, took pains to shroud their proceedings in mystery. It cannot, however, be too strongly insisted upon that Arbuthnot’s standpoint, like Burton’s, was solely for the student. “He wished,” he said, “to remove the scales from the eyes of Englishmen who are interested in Oriental literature.” These erotic books in one form or another are in the hands of 200,000,000 of Orientals. Surely, argued Arbuthnot, a few genuine English students — a few, grave, bald-headed, spectacled, happily married old gentlemen — may read them without injury.393 The modern student seeks his treasure everywhere, and cares not into what midden he may probe so long as he finds it. No writer on 18th century French History, for example, would nowadays make half apologies, as Carlyle did, for having read Casanova. Indeed, he would lay himself open to censure unless he admitted having studied it carefully. Still, every genuine and right-minded student regards it as a duty to keep books such as these, which are unsuited for the general public, under lock and key — just as the medical man treats his books of plates and other reference volumes. Then again it is entirely a mistake to suppose that the works issued or contemplated by the Kama Shastra Society were all of them erotic. Two out of the six actually done: The Beharistan and The Gulistan, and the whole of the nine still in manuscript, might, after a snip or two with the scissors, be read aloud in almost any company.

We have the first hint of the Kama Shastra Society in a letter to Payne, 5th August 1882. “I hope,” says Burton, “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.” On Dec. 23th he writes: “My friend Arbuthnot writes to me that he purposes calling upon you. He has founded a society consisting of himself and myself.” After further reference to the idea he adds, “I hope that you will enjoy it.” A few days later Mr. Arbuthnot called on Mr. Payne. Mr. Payne did not “enjoy” the unfolding of the Kama Shastra scheme, he took no interest in it whatever; but, of course, he gave the information required as to cost of production; and both then and subsequently assisted in other matters of business. Moreover, to Mr. Arbuthnot himself, as a man of great personal charm, Mr. Payne became sincerely attached, and a friendship resulted that was severed only by death.

The arrangement about financing the books did not, of course, apply to The Arabian Nights. That was Burton’s own affair; for its success was supposed to be assured from the first. Of the books other than The Arabian Nights published by the Kama Shastra Society — each of which purported, facetiously, to be printed at Behares, the name which Burton chose to give to Stoke Newington, we shall now give a brief account.

Several, we said, are erotic. But it should be clearly understood what is here meant by the term. The plays of Wycherley and other Caroline dramatists are erotic in a bad sense. We admit their literary qualities, but we cannot hide from ourselves the fact that they were written by libertines and that an attempt is made to render vice attractive. The injured husband, for example, is invariably ridiculed, the adulterer glorified. The Hindu books, on the other hand, were written by professedly religious men whose aim was “not to encourage chambering and wantonness, but simply and in all sincerity to prevent the separation of husband and wife” — not to make them a married couple look afield, but “to lead them to love each other more by understanding each other better.” Vatsyayan and Kullianmull,394 indeed, though they poetized the pleasures of the flesh, would have been horrified could they have read the plays of Wycherley and Etheridge. The erotic books that Arbuthnot wished to be translated were the following — all by Hindu poets more or less famous:—

The Kama Sutra (Book of Love) by Vatsyayana. Ananga Ranga (Stage of Love) by Kullianmull. Ratirahasya (Secrets of Love) by Kukkoka. Panchasakya (The Five Arrows) by Jyotirisha. Smara Pradipa (Light of Love) by Gunakara. Ratimanjari (Garland of Love) by Jayadeva. Rasmanjari (Sprout of Love) by Bhanudatta.

Of these seven books two only were issued, namely the Kama Sutra and the Ananga Ranga or Lila Shastra. The precise share that Burton395 had in them will never be known. It is sufficient to say that he had a share in both, and the second, according to the title page, was “translated from the Sanskrit and annotated by A. F. F. and B. F. R.,” that is F. F. Arbuthnot and Richard Francis Bacon — the initials being purposely reversed.

386 The public were to some extent justified in their attitude. They feared that these books would find their way into the hands of others than bona fide students. Their fears, however, had no foundation. In all the libraries visited by me extreme care was taken that none but the genuine student should see these books; and, of course, they are not purchasable anywhere except at prices which none but a student, obliged to have them, would dream of giving.

387 He married in 1879, Ellinor, widow of James Alexander Guthrie, Esp., of Craigie, Forfarshire, and daughter of Admiral Sir James Stirling.

388 Early Ideas by an Aryan, 1881. Alluded to by Burton in A. N., Lib. Ed., ix., 209, note.

389 Persian Portraits, 1887. “My friend Arbuthnot’s pleasant booklet, Persian Portraits,” A. N. Lib. Ed. x., 190.

390 Arabic Authors, 1890.

391 In Kalidasa’s Megha Duta he is referred to as riding on a peacock.

392 Sir William Jones. The Gopia correspond with the Roman Muses.

393 The reader will recall Mr. Andrew Lang’s witty remark in the preface to his edition of the Arabian Nights.

394 Kalyana Mull.

395 The hand of Burton betrays itself every here and there. Thus in Part 3 of the former we are referred to his Vikram and the Vampire for a note respecting the Gandharva-vivaha form of marriage. See Memorial Edition, p. 21.

115. The Kama Sutra.

When commencing upon The Kama Sutra, Indraji — for he was the actual translator — found his copy, which had been procured in Bombay, to be defective, so he wrote to Benares, Calcutta and Jeypoor for copies of the manuscripts preserved in the Sanskrit libraries of those places. These having been obtained and compared with each other, a revised copy of the entire work was compiled and from this Indraji made his translation. “This work,” he says, “is not to be used merely as an instrument for satisfying our desires. A person acquainted with the true principles of this science, who preserved his Dharma (virtue or religious merit), his Artha (worldly wealth) and his Kama (pleasure, or sensual gratification), and who has regard to the customs of the people, is sure to obtain the mastery over his senses. In short, an intelligent and knowing person, attending to Dharma, and Artha and also to Kama, without becoming the slave of his passions, will obtain success in everything that he may do.” According to Vatsyayana, Kama should be taught just as is taught — say, hygiene or political economy. “A man practising Dharma, Artha and Kama enjoys happiness both in this world and in the world to come.” It must not be supposed that the work is entirely erotic. There are also directions for one’s conduct at religious festivals, especially that in honour of Saraswati,396 picnics, drinking parties and other social gatherings. Still, the erotic preponderates. The work is mainly a handbook on Love. One is informed respecting what women are or are not worthy of affection. There are full instructions respecting kissing, an art which is not so easy to learn as some persons think. Still, a man who could not kiss properly after reading the Kama Sutra would be a dullard indeed. Some of the remarks are quaint enough. Thus we are told that “nothing tends to increase love so much as the effects of marking with the nails397 and biting.” Some girls when asked in marriage are slow to make up their minds. With that situation there are, it seems, several ways of dealing. The simplest is the following: “When the girl goes to a garden, or to some village in the neigbourhood, the man should, with his friends, fall on her guards, and having killed them, or frightened them away, forcibly carry her off.” Sometime it is the man who is shy. In such cases the girl “should bring him to her house under the pretence of seeing the fights of quails, cocks and rams, of hearing the maina (a kind of starling) talk. . . . she should also amuse him for a long time by telling him such stories and doing such things as he may take most delight in.”

For Edwin and Angelina when they get married there is also much wholesome instruction. “The wife, whether she be a woman of noble family or a virgin widow re-married,398 should lead a chaste life.” “When the man sets out on a journey she should make him swear that he will return quickly.399 . . . When the man does return home she should worship the God Kama.” Ladies will be interested to learn that there are twenty-seven artifices by which a woman can get money out of a man. One is “Praising his intelligence to his face.” Then there are useful directions for the personal adornment of both sexes. “If the bone of a peacock or of a hyena be covered with gold and tied to the right hand, it makes a man lovely in the eyes of other people.”

Of the essential portions of the book it is sufficient to say that they are similar to those of the other avowedly erotic Eastern works, the contents of the principal of which have been touched upon by Burton in the Terminal Essay to his Arabian Nights and in some of his notes. Finally we are told that the Kama Sutra was composed for the benefit of the world by Vatsyayana, while leading the life of a religious student, and wholly engaged in the contemplation of the Deity. At the same time, the teaching of this holy man amounts to very much the same as that of Maupassant, which is, to use Tolstoy’s words, “that life consists in pleasures of which woman with her love is the chief, and in the double, again reflected delight of depicting this love and exciting it in others.”400

The work lets a flood of light on Hindu manners and customs; and it must be borne in mind that the translation was issued privately at a high price and intended only for “curious students.” In the Preface, Burton and Arbuthnot observe that after a perusal of the Hindoo work the reader will understand the subject upon which it treats, “At all events from a materialistic, realistic and practical point of view. If all science is founded more or less on a stratum of facts, there can be no harm in making known to mankind generally certain matters intimately connected with their private, domestic and social life. Alas! complete ignorance of them has unfortunately wrecked many a man and many a woman, while a little knowledge of a subject generally ignored by the masses would have enabled numbers of people to understand many things which they believed to be quite incomprehensible, or which were not thought worthy of their consideration.”

Writing to Payne, 15th January, 1883, Burton says, “Has Arbuthnot sent you his Vatsyayana?401 He and I and the Printer have started a Hindu Kama Shastra (Ars Amoris Society). It will make the Brit(ish) Pub(lis) stare. Please encourage him.” Later Arbuthnot, in reply to a question put to him by a friend, said that the Society consisted practically of himself, Sir Richard Burton and the late Lord Houghton.402

396 This goddess is adored as the patroness of the fine arts. See “A Hymn to Sereswaty,” Poetical Works of Sir William Jones, Vol. ii., p. 123; also The Hindoo Pantheon, by Major Moor (Edward FitzGerald’s friend).

397 “Pleasant as nail wounds” — The Megha Duta, by Kalidasa.

398 A girl married in her infancy.

399 The Hindu women were in the habit, when their husbands were away, of braiding their hair into a single lock, called Veni, which was not to be unloosed until their return. There is a pretty reference to this custom in Kalidasa’s Megha Duta.

400 Guy de Maupasant, by Leo Tolstoy.

401 The Kama Sutra.

402 Richard Monckton Milnes, born 1809, created a peer 1863, died 1885. His life by T. Wemyss Reid appeared in 1891.

Chapter XXVI

The Ananga Ranga or Lila Shastra

Bibliography:

70. The Book of the Sword. 1884.

116. The Ananga Ranga.403

The title page of the second book, the Ananga Ranga, which was issued in 1885, was as follows:

ANANGA RANGA

(Stage of the Bodiless One)

or

THE HINDU ART OF LOVE

(Ars Amoris Indica)

Translated from the Sanskrit

and annotated

by

A. F. F. and B. F. R.

Cosmopoli MDCCCLXXXV, for the Kama Shastra Society of London and

Benares, and for private circulation only.

Dedicated to that small portion of the British Public which takes

enlightened interest in studying the manners and customs of the

olden East.

We are told that this book was written about 1450 by the arch-poet Kalyana Mull,404 that lithographed copies have been printed by hundreds of thousands, that the book is in the hands of almost every one “throughout the nearer East,” and also that it is “an ethnological treasure, which tells us as much of Hindu human nature as The Thousand Nights and a Night of Arab manners and customs in the cinquecento.” In India the book is known as the Kama Shastra or Lila Shastra, the Scripture of Play or Amorous Sport. The author says quaintly, “It is true that no joy in the world of mortals can compare with that derived from the knowledge of the Creator. Second, however, and subordinate only to his are the satisfaction and pleasure arising from the possession of a beautiful woman.”

“From the days of Sotades and Ovid,” says the writer of the Preface, who is certainly Burton, “to our own time, Western authors have treated the subject either jocularly or with a tendency to hymn the joys of immorality, and the gospel of debauchery. The Indian author has taken the opposite view, and it is impossible not to admire the delicacy with which he has handled an exceedingly difficult theme. . . . .Feeling convinced that monogamy is a happier state than polygamy, he would save the married couple from the monotony and satiety which follow possession, by varying their pleasures in every conceivable way and by supplying them with the means of being psychically pure and physically pleasant to each other.”

There is a reference to this work in Burton’s Vikram and the Vampire, where we read:405 “As regards the neutral state, that poet was not happy in his ideas who sang,

‘Whene’er indifference appears, or scorn,

Then, man, despair! then, hapless lover, mourn!’

for a man versed in the Lila Shastra can soon turn a woman’s indifference into hate, which I have shown is as easily permuted to love.”

This curious book concludes: “May this treatise, Ananga Ranga, be beloved of man and woman, as long as the Holy River Ganges, springeth from Shiva with his wife Gauri on his left side; as long as Lakshmi loveth Vishnu; as long as Brahma is engaged in the study of the Vedas, and as long as the earth, the moon and the sun endure.”

The Kama Shastra Society also issued a translation of the first twenty chapters of The Scented Garden.406 In reality it was a translation of the French version of Liseux, but it was imperfect and had only a few notes. It has been repeatedly denied that Burton had anything to do with it. All we can say is that in a letter to Mr. A. G. Ellis of 8th May 1887, he distinctly calls it “my old version,”407 and he must mean that well-known edition of 1886, because all the other impressions are like it, except in respect to the title page.

403 Burton possessed copies of this work in Sanskrit, Mar’athi Guzrati, and Hindustani. He describes the last as “an unpaged 8vo. of 66 pages, including eight pages of most grotesque illustrations.” Burton’s A. N., x., 202; Lib. Ed., viii., 183.

404 Kullianmull.

405 Memorial Edition, p. 96.

406 The book has several times been reprinted. All copies, however, I believe, bear the date 1886. Some bear the imprint “Cosmopoli 1886.”

407 See Chapter xxxii. It may be remembered also that Burton as good as denied that he translated The Priapeia.

117. The Beharistan, 1887.

The Society now determined to issue unexpurgated editions of the three following great Persian classics:

The Gulistan or Rose Garden, by Sadi (A.D. 1258). The Nigaristan or Picture Gallery, by Jawini (A.D. 1334). The Beharistan or Abode of Spring, by Jami (A.D. 1487).

The first to appear was The Beharistan in 1887. Jami, the author, is best known in England on account of his melodious poems Salaman and Absal, so exquisitely rendered by Edward FitzGerald, and Ysuf and Zuleika (Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife), familiar to Englishmen mainly through Miss Costello’s fragrant adaptation.408 To quote from the Introduction of the translation of The Beharistan, which is written in Arbuthnot’s bald and hesitating style, “there is in this work very little indeed to be objected to. A few remarks or stories scattered here and there would have to be omitted in an edition printed for public use or for public sale. But on the whole the author breathes the noblest and purest sentiments, and illustrates his meanings by the most pleasing, respectable, and apposite tales, along with numerous extracts from the Koran.” The work consists of stories and verses — two or three of which will be found in our Appendix — pleasantly intermingled; but as Rehatsek, the translator, made no attempt to give the verses rhythmical form, only an inadequate idea is conveyed of the beauty of the original. It would require an Edward FitzGerald or a John Payne to do justice to Jami’s jewelled verses.

408 A portion of Miss Costello’s rendering is given in the lovely little volume “Persian Love Songs,” one of the Bibelots issued by Gay and Bird.

118. The Gulistan, 1888.

The Gulistan of Sadi,409 which was the next book issued, is best known in England from the translations by James Ross (1823) and Edward B. Eastwick (1852). Sadi’s aim was to make “a garden of roses whose leaves the rude hand of the blast of Autumn could not affect.”410 “The very brambles and rubbish of this book,” says an ancient enthusiastic admirer, “are of the nature of ambergris.” Men treasured the scraps of Sadi’s writing “as if they were gold leaf,” and The Gulistan has attained a popularity in the East “which has never been reached in this Western world.” The school-boy lisps his first lessons in it, the pundit quotes it, and hosts of its sayings have become proverbial. From end to end the “unity, the unapproachable majesty, the omnipotence, the long-suffering and the goodness of God” are nobly set forth — the burden of every chapter being:

“The world, my brother! will abide with none,

By the world’s Maker let thy heart be won.”

409 Byron calls Sadi the Persian Catullus, Hafiz the Persian Anacreon, Ferdousi the Persian Homer.

410 Eastwick, p. 13.

119. The Nigaristan.

The third of the great trio, Jawini’s Nigaristan, did not reach the press owing to Arbuthnot’s death. The manuscript, however, in Rehatsek’s hand-writing, is still in the possession of the Royal Asiatic Society, 22, Albermarle Street, and we trust to see it some day suitably edited and published. Arbuthnot, who contributes the preface, points out that it contains 534 stories in prose and verse, and that it abounds “in pure and noble sentiments, such as are to be found scattered throughout the Sacred Books of the East, the Old and New Testaments and the Koran.” A few citations from it will be found in our Appendix.

120. Letters to Payne, 19th January 1884.

On January 19th, Burton, after asking for the remaining volumes of Mr. Payne’s Nights, says “A friend here is reading them solemnly and with huge delight: he would be much disappointed to break off perforce half way. 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 manner 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.”

All the early months of 1884, Burton was seriously ill, but in April he began to mend. He writes to Payne on the 17th: “I am just beginning to write a little and to hobble about (with a stick). A hard time since January 30th! 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.411 Which are they? In my youth I read many of them. Now that your 1001 are so nearly finished I am working at my translation.” He then asks what arrangements Mr. Payne made with the publishers and the cost of the printing. “All I want,” he says, on April 27th, “is a guide in dealing with that dragon the publisher;” and in later letters he thanks Mr. Payne for answering his questions. On June 20th (1884) writing from Marienbad he says, “I should much like to know what you are doing with the three supplemental volumes, and I hope that each will refer readers to the source whence you borrow it. This will be a great aid to the students. The more I examine your translation the better I like it. Mine will never be so popular because I stick so much to the text.412 No arrangements yet make about it, and MS. will not be all ready till end of January. We (my wife and I) have enjoyed our ten days at 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. Edward Bradley) is here and my friend J. J. Aubertin is coming.”

411 Tales from the Arabic.

412 That is in following the Arabic jingles. Payne’s translation is in reality as true to the text as Burton’s.

121. At Sauerbrunn, 12th August 1884.

The next letter to Payne, written from Sauerbrunn, in Austria, is dated 12th August 1884. After enquiring concerning “the supererogatory three vols.” he says, “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 volume 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 Ganneau? You will want it for the supererogatory. 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? Cotton, of Academy has just sent me Clouston’s Book of Sindibad413 for review. I thought it was our old friend the sailor, but find out my mistake. You will have no objection to my naming (in my review) your style in the 1001 as that he should have taken for a model.”

He writes again on September 9th (1884): “On return here I found Vol. ix., with the dedication which delighted me hugely. I did not notice your fine work in reviewing the Clouston treatise. 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 proofs; in fact, I should be sorry not to do so. I have not yet found Ganneau’s Nights, but I hope 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;414 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 Calcutta and Bulak. . . . I have told Quartich to send you a cop of Camoens (Lyrics), which will be out in a few days.”

413 By W. A. Clouston, 8vo., Glasgow, 1884. Only 300 copies printed.

414 Mr. Payne understood Turkish.

122. Burton’s Circulars, September 1884.

By September 1884 the first volumes of Burton’s Arabian Nights were almost ready for print, and Burton asked himself how many copies would suffice the public. He was aware that 1,500 persons were disappointed of being able to obtain copies of Mr. Payne’s Edition, but it did not necessarily follow that all these 1,500 would subscribe to his. Finally he decided upon 1,000, and he had three circulars printed respecting the work.

The first began “Captain Burton, having neither agent nor publisher for his forthcoming Arabian Nights, requests that all subscribers will kindly send their names to him personally (Captain Burton, Trieste, Austria), when they will be entered in a book kept for the purpose.” It was then mentioned that there would be ten volumes at a guinea apiece,415 each to be paid for on delivery, that 1,000 copies would be printed, and that no cheaper edition would be issued. The second dealt with the advantages of the work to students of Arabic. The third consisted of an article welcoming the work from The Daily Tribune, New York, written by G. W. S(malley). Burton posted about 20,000 of these circulars at an expense of some £80, but received only 300 favourable replies. Lady Burton, in dismay, then wrote to Mr. Payne begging for advice. Several letters passed between them, and Mr. Payne sent her the names of the subscribers to his own book and lists of other likely persons. A second shower of circulars effected the desired purpose. Indeed it did far more, for the number of favourable replies ultimately rose to 2,000. But as we have seen, Burton had restricted himself to the issue of 1,000. So he found that he had made precisely the same mistake as Mr. Payne. However, it could not be remedied.

415 Copies now fetch from £30 to £40 each. The American reprint, of which we are told 1,000 copies were issued a few years ago, sells for about £20.

123. The Book of the Sword.

This year was published Burton’s The Book of the Sword, which he dedicated, appropriately, to the memory of his old friend Alfred Bates Richards, who had died in 1876. It is a history of the sword in all times and countries down to the Middle Ages,416 with numerous illustrations, the interest being mainly archaeological. Of “The Queen of Weapons” he ever spoke glowingly. “The best of calisthenics,” he says, “this energetic educator teaches the man to carry himself like a soldier. A compendium of gymnastics, it increases strength and activity, dexterity, and rapidity of movement. The foil is still the best training tool for the consensus of eye and hand, for the judgment of distance and opportunity, and, in fact, for the practice of combat. And thus swordsmanship engenders moral confidence and self-reliance, while it stimulates a habit of resource.”

416 He had intended to write two more volumes dealing with the later history of the weapon.

124. The Lyrics of Camoens, 1884.

This same year, too, he published his translation of the Lyrics of Camoens, in which, as will have been judged from the letters already quoted, he had been assisted by Mr. John Payne, who was also a Portuguese scholar and a lover of Camoens. “The learning and research of your work,” wrote Mr. A. C. Swinburne, in reference to Burton’s six Camoens volumes, “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.”

125. More Letters to Payne, 1st October 1884.

On October 1st 1884, Burton wrote to thank Mr. Payne for a splendid and complete set (specially bound) of his edition of the Nights. He says, “I am delighted with it, especially with the dedication.417 . . . To my horror Quaritch sent me a loose vol. of his last catalogue with a notice beginning, ‘The only absolutely true translation of the [Arabian Nights], &c.’ My wife telegraphed 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. Life in Trieste is not propitious to work as in the Baths; yet I get on tolerably. Egypt is becoming a comedy.” Then follows the amazing remark: “I expect to see Gordon (who is doubtless hand in hand with the Mahdi) sent down to offer to guide Wolseley up to Khartum.”

417 It is dedicated to Burton.

126. Death of Gordon, January 1885.

Burton little dreamt that the days of the heroic Englishman were numbered. Sent by the English Government to the Soudan, Gordon had been at Khartum hardly a month before it was invested by the Mahdi. The relief expedition arrived just two days too late. Gordon was slain! This was in January 1885. The shock to Burton was comparable only to that which he received by the death of Speke. In one of the illustrated papers there was a picture of Gordon lying in the desert with vultures hovering around. “Take it away!” said Burton. “I can’t bear to look at it. I have had to feel like that myself.”

127. W. F. Kirby, 25th March 1885.

Shortly after the announcement of his edition of the Nights, Burton received a letter from Mr. W. F. Kirby,418 better known as an entomologist, who had devoted much study to European editions of that work, a subject of which Burton knew but little. Mr. Kirby offered to supply a bibliographical essay which could be used as an appendix. Burton replied cordially, and this was the beginning of a very pleasant friendship. Mr. Kirby frequently corresponded with Burton, and they often met at Mr. Kirby’s house, the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, or the British Museum. Says Mr. Kirby: “At the British Museum, Burton seemed more inclined to talk than to work. I thought him weak in German419 and when I once asked him to help me with a Russian book, he was unable to do so.” Thus even a Burton has his limitations. “He told me,” continues Mr. Kirby, “that he once sat between Sir Henry Rawlinson and a man who had been Ambassador at St. Petersburg, and he spoke to one in Persian, and the other in Russian, but neither of them could understand him. I have never, however, been able to make up my mind whether the point of the story told against him or against them.420 Although Burton was a student of occult science, I could never lead him to talk about crystals or kindred subjects; and this gave me the idea that he was perhaps pledged to secrecy. Still, he related his experiences freely in print.” Oddly, enough, Burton used to call Mr. Kirby “Mr. Rigby,” and he never could break himself of the habit. “Apparently,” says Mr. Kirby, “he associated my name with that of his old opponent, Colonel, afterwards Major-General Rigby,421 Consul at Zanzibar.” In a letter of 25th March 1885, Burton asks Mr. Kirby to draw up “a full account of the known MSS. and most important European editions, both those which are copies of Galland and (especially) those which are not. It will be printed in my terminal essay with due acknowledgment of authorship.”422 On April 8th (1885) he says, “I don’t think my readers will want an exhaustive bibliography, but they will expect me to supply information which Mr. Payne did not deem necessary to do in his excellent Terminal Essay. By the by, I shall totally disagree with him about Harun al Rashid and the Barmecides,423 who were pestilent heretics and gave rise to the terrible religious trouble of the subsequent reigns. A tabular arrangement of the principal tales will be exceedingly useful.”

418 For outline of Mr. Kirby’s career, see Appendix.

419 Burton read German, but would never speak it. He said he hated the sound.

420 We cannot say. Burton was a fair Persian scholar, but he could not have known much Russian.

421 See Chapter ix.

422 This essay will be found in the 10th volume of Burton’s Arabian Nights, and in the eighth volume (p. 233) of the Library Edition.

423 Mr. Payne’s account of the destruction of the Barmecides is one of the finest of his prose passages. Burton pays several tributes to it. See Payne’s Arabian Nights, vol. ix.

Chapter XXVII

May 1885-5th February 1886

A Glance through “The Arabian Nights”

Bibliography:

71. The Thousand Nights and a Night. 1st Vol. 12th September 1885. 10th Vol. 12th July 1886.

72. Il Pentamerone. (Translated — not published till 1893).

73. Iracema or Honey Lips; and Manoel de Moraes the Convert. Translated from the Brazilian. 1886.

128. Slaving at the Athenaeum, May 1885.

In May 1885, Burton obtained leave of absence, and on arriving in England he made various arrangements about the printing of The Arabian Nights and continued the work of translation. When in London he occupied rooms at the St. James’s Hotel (now the Berkeley) in Piccadilly. He used to say that the St. James’s Hotel was the best place in the world in which to do literary work, and that the finest place in the whole world was the corner of Piccadilly. Still, he spent most of his time, as usual, at the Athenaeum. Mr. H. R. Tedder, the Secretary, and an intimate friend of Burton’s, tells me that “He would work at the round table in the library for hours and hours — with nothing for refreshment except a cup of coffee and a box of snuff, which always stood at his side;” and that he was rarely without a heavy stick with a whistle at one end and a spike at the other — the spike being to keep away dogs when he was travelling in hot countries. This was one of the many little inventions of his own. Mr. Tedder describes him as a man of great and subtle intellect and very urbane. “He had an athletic appearance and a military carriage, and yet more the look of a literary man than of a soldier.” In summer as usual he wore white clothes, the shabby old beaver, and the tie-pin shaped like a sword. Mr. Tedder summed him up as “as a compound of a Benedictine monk, a Crusader and a Buccaneer.”

The Hon. Henry J. Coke, looking in at the Athenaeum library one day, and noticing the “white trousers, white linen coat and a very shabby old white beaver hat,” exclaimed, “Hullo Burton, do you find it so very hot?”

“I don’t want,” said Burton, “to be mistaken for anyone else.”

“There’s not much fear of that, without your clothes,” followed Coke.424

During this holiday Burton visited most of his old friends, and often ran down to Norwood to see his sister and her daughter, while everyone remarked his brightness and buoyancy. “It was delightful,” says Miss Stisted, “to see how happy he was over the success of his venture.” He had already resolved to issue six additional volumes, to be called Supplemental Nights. He would then take sixteen thousand pounds. He calculated printing and sundries as costing four thousand, and that the remainder would be net profit. As a matter of fact the expenses arose to £6,000, making the net profit £10,000425 Burton had wooed fortune in many ways, by hard study in India, by pioneering in Africa, by diplomacy at Court, by gold-searching in Midian and at Axim, by patent medicining. Finally he had found it in his inkstand; but as his favourite Jami says, it requires only a twist of the pen to transmute duvat into dulat426 — inkstand into fortune.

Except when his father died, Burton had never before possessed so large a sum, and, at the time, it appeared inexhaustible. Bubbling over with fun, he would pretend to make a great mystery as to the Kama Shastra Society at Benares, where he declared the Nights were being printed.

424 Tracks of a Rolling Stone, by Hon. Henry J. Coke, 1905.

425 Lady Burton’s edition, issued in 1888, was a failure. For the Library Edition, issued in 1894, by H. S. Nichols, Lady Burton received, we understand, £3,000.

426 Duvat inkstand, dulat fortune. See The Beharistan, Seventh Garden.

129. A Visit to Mr. Arbuthnot’s.

Of all the visits to be made during this holiday Burton had looked forward to none with so much pleasure as those to Mr. Arbuthnot, or “Bunny,”427 as he called him, and Mr. Payne. Mr. Arbuthnot was still living at Upper House Court, Guildford, studying, writing books, and encouraging struggling men of letters with a generosity that earned for him the name of “the English Mecaenas;” and it was there the friends discussed the publications of the Kama Shastra Society and made arrangements for the issue of fresh volumes. While the roses shook their odours over the garden, they talked of Sadi’s roses, Jami’s “Aromatic herbs,” and “Trees of Liberality,”428 and the volume Persian Portraits,429 which Arbuthnot, assisted by Edward Rehatsek, was at the moment preparing for the press. Among the objects at Mr. Arbuthnot’s heart was, as we have said, the resuscitation of the old Oriental Translation fund, which was originally started in 1824, the Society handling it having been established by Royal Charter. A series of works had been issued between 1829 and 1879, but the funds were completely exhausted by the publication of Al Biruni’s Memoirs of India, and there were no longer any subscribers to the Society. Mr. Arbuthnot now set himself assiduously to revive this fund, he contributed to it handsomely himself and by his energy induced a number of others to contribute. It is still in existence, and in accordance with his suggestion is worked by the Royal Asiatic Society, though the subscriptions and donations to the Translation Fund are kept entirely separate, and are devoted exclusively to the production of translations of Oriental works, both ancient and modern. Thanks to the fund, a number of translations of various Oriental works has been issued, including volumes by Professor Cowell, Rehatsek, Miss C. M. Ridding, Dr. Gaster and Professor Rhys Davids. Its most important publication, however, is the completion of the translation of Hariri’s Assemblies,430 done by Steingass.431

427 Mr. Arbuthnot was the only man whom Burton addressed by a nickname.

428 Headings of Jami’s chapters.

429 It appeared in 1887.

430 Abu Mohammed al Kasim ibn Ali, surnamed Al-Hariri (the silk merchant), 1054 A. D. to 1121 A. D. The Makamat, a collection of witty rhymed tales, is one of the most popular works in the East. The interest clusters round the personality of a clever wag and rogue named Abu Seid.

431 The first twenty-four Makamats of Abu Mohammed al Kasim al Hariri, were done by Chenery in 1867. Dr. Steingass did the last 24, and thus completed the work. Al Hariri is several times quoted in the Arabian Nights. Lib. Ed. iv., p. 166; viii., p. 42.

130. Dr. Steingass.

Born in 1825, Dr. Steingass came to England in 1873, and after five years as Professor of Modern Languages at Wakefield Grammar School, Birmingham, was appointed Professor at the Oriental Institute, Woking. Though entirely self-taught, he was master of fourteen languages.432 His Arabic Dictionary (1884) and his Persian English Dictionary (1892) are well known, the latter being the best extant, but he will, after all, be chiefly remembered by his masterly rendering of Hariri. Dr. Steingass presently became acquainted with Burton, for whom he wrote the article “On the Prose Rhyme and the Poetry of the Nights.”433 He also assisted Burton with the Notes,434 supervised the MSS. of the Supplemental Volumes and enriched the last three with results of his wide reading and lexicographical experience.435 The work of transcribing Burton’s manuscript and making the copy for the press fell to a widow lady, Mrs. Victoria Maylor, a Catholic friend of Mrs. Burton. Mrs. Maylor copied not only The Arabian Nights, but several of Burton’s later works, including The Scented Garden.

432 Times, 13th January 1903.

433 Lib. Ed. vol. 8, pp. 202-228.

434 See Notes to Judar and his Brethren. Burton’s A. N., vi., 255; Lib. Ed., v., 161.

435 Burton’s A. N. Suppl., vi., 454; Lib. Ed., xii., 278. Others who assisted Burton were Rev. George Percy Badger, who died February 1888, Mr. W. F. Kirby, Professor James F. Blumhardt, Mr. A. G. Ellis, and Dr. Reinhold Rost.

131. Anecdotes.

When asked why he spent so much time and money on Orientalism, Arbuthnot gave as excuse his incompetency to do anything else. He admitted, indeed, that for the higher walks of life, such as whist and nap, he had no aptitude. Occasionally at Upper House Court, politics were introduced, and Arbuthnot, a staunch Liberal in a shire of Tories, was sometimes rallied upon his opinions by the Conservative Burton and Payne. He took it all, however, as he took everything else, good humouredly, and even made some amiable attempts to convert his opponents. “His Radicalism,” says Mr. Payne, amusingly, “was entirely a matter of social position and connection. He was good enough for a Tory.” As usual, Burton paid a visit to Fryston, and he occasionally scintillated at Lord Houghton’s famous Breakfasts in London. Once the friends were the guests of a prosperous publisher, who gave them champagne in silver goblets. “Doesn’t this,” said Lord Houghton, raising a bumper to his lips, “make you feel as if you were drinking out of the skulls of poor devil authors?” For reply Burton tapped his own forehead.

About this time an anonymous letter of Burton’s appeared in The World, but we forget upon what subject. It excited wide interest, however, and hundreds of persons wrote to Mr. Yates, the editor, for the name of the author.

“Did you see my letter in The World?” enquired Burton of Mrs. E. J. Burton.

“The Christian World?” asked Mrs. Burton innocently.

“No,” replied Burton, sharply, “The Unchristian World.”

Once when Burton was present at some gathering, a missionary caused a shudder to run through the company by saying that he had had the dreadful experience of being present at a cannibal feast. The cannibals, he said, brought in their prisoner, butchered him, cut him up, and handed the pieces round smoking hot. With his curious feline laugh, Burton enquired, “Didn’t they offer you any?” “They did,” replied the missionary, “but of course I refused.” “What a fool you were,” cried Burton, “to miss such a unique opportunity.”

132. The Pentameron. Burton and Gladstone.

We must next record a visit to Mr. Payne, who then resided in London. Burton talked over his projects, and said that he had been wondering what book to take up after the completion of The Nights. “I think,” said he, “I shall fix upon Boccaccio next.”

“My dear boy,” followed Mr. Payne, “I’ve just done him.”436 As his poem “Salvestra” shows, Mr. Payne’s mind had for long been running on “that sheaf of flowers men call Decameron.” His brilliant translation was, indeed, already in the press, and it appeared the following year in three volumes.

“You are taking the bread out of my mouth,” commented Burton plaintively.

“But,” continued Mr. Payne, “there is another work that I thought of doing — The Pentameron,437 by Giambattista 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 had some knowledge of the Neapolitan dialect but had never met with the work referred to, welcomed the idea; and as soon as he had finished the Nights he commenced a translation of The Pentameron, which, however, was not published until after his death. His rendering, which cannot be praised, was aptly described by one of the critics as “an uncouth performance.” Burton also told Payne about the proposed Ariosto translation, and they discussed that too, but nothing was done.

On July 19th 1885, the Burtons lunched with Lord Houghton — “our common Houghton,” as Mr. Swinburne used to call him; and found his lordship unwell, peevish, and fault-finding. He had all the trials of the successful man who possesses everything that wealth can purchase or the mind conceive.

“Good-bye, my dear old friend,” cried Burton, when parting, “Would that I could share your troubles with you!”438

But poor Lord Houghton was too far gone to appreciate the jest. Indeed, he was on the brink of the grave. A few days later he left for Vichy, where he died on August 11th. His remains were brought to Fryston, and Burton and Arbuthnot were present at his funeral.

In October, while he was the guest of Lord Salisbury at Hatfield, Burton solicited the consulate of Morocco, and as his application was supported by fifty men of prominence he felt almost certain of obtaining it.

Apparently, it was during this visit to England, too, that Burton committed the frightful sin of contradicting Mr. Gladstone. At some great house after dinner, Mr. Gladstone, who was the guest of the evening, took it upon himself, while every one listened in respectful silence, to enlarge on Oriental matters.

After he had finished, Burton, who had been fidgeting considerably, turned to him and said, “I can assure you, Mr. Gladstone, that everything you have said is absolutely and entirely opposite to fact.”

The rest of the company were aghast, could scarcely, indeed, believe their ears; and one of them, as soon as he had recovered from the shock, was seen scribbling like mad on a menu card. Presently Burton felt the card tucked into his hand under the table. On glancing at it he read “Please do not contradict Mr. Gladstone. Nobody ever does.”

436 See Chapter xxx.

437 This work consists of fifty folk tales written in the Neapolitan dialect. They are supposed to be told by ten old women for the entertainment of a Moorish slave who had usurped the place of the rightful Princess. Thirty-one of the stories were translated by John E. Taylor in 1848. There is a reference to it in Burton’s Arabian Nights, Lib. Ed., ix., 280.

438 Meaning, of course, Lord Houghton’s money.

133. A Brief Glance through the Nights.

By this time Burton had finished the first volume of his translation of The Arabian Nights, which left the press 12th September 1885. The book was handsomely bound in black and gold, the colours of the Abbaside caliphs; and contained a circular “earnestly requesting that the work might not be exposed for sale in public places or permitted to fall into the hands of any save curious students of Moslem manners.” The last volume was issued in July 1886. Let us turn over the pages of this remarkable work, surrender ourselves for a few moments to its charms, and then endeavour to compare it calmly and impartially with the great translation by Mr. Payne.

What a glorious panorama unfolds itself before us! Who does not know the introduction — about the king who, because his wife was unfaithful, vowed to take a new wife every evening and slay her in the morning! And all about the vizier’s daughter, the beautiful Shahrazad, who, with a magnificent scheme in her head, voluntarily came forward and offered to take the frightful risk.

Did ever tale-teller compare with Shahrazad? Who does not sympathise with the Trader who killed the invisible son of the jinni? Who has not dreamt of the poor fisherman and the pot that was covered with the seal of King Solomon? The story of Duban, who cured King Yunon of leprosy and was sent home on the royal steed reads like a verse out of Esther,439 and may remind us that there is no better way of understanding the historical portions of the Bible than by studying The Arabian Nights. King Yunan richly deserved the death that overtook him, if only for his dirty habit of wetting his thumb when turning over the leaves of the book.440 What a rare tale is that of the Ensorcelled Prince, alias The Young King of the Black Isles, who though he sat in a palace where fountains limbecked water “clear as pearls and diaphanous gems,” and wore “silken stuff purfled with Egyptian gold,” was from his midriff downwards not man but marble! Who is not shocked at the behaviour of the Three Ladies of Baghdad! In what fearful peril the caliph and the Kalendars placed themselves when, in spite of warning, they would ask questions! How delightful are the verses of the Nights, whether they have or have not any bearing upon the text! Says the third Kalendar, apropos of nothing:

“How many a weal trips on the heels of ill

Causing the mourner’s heart with joy to thrill.”

What an imbecile of imbeciles was this same Kalendar when he found himself in the palace with the forty damsels, “All bright as moons to wait upon him!” It is true, he at first appreciated his snug quarters, for he cried, “Hereupon such gladness possessed me that I forgot the sorrows of the world one and all, and said, ‘This is indeed life!’” Then the ninny must needs go and open that fatal fortieth door! The story of Nur al-Din Ali and his son Badr al-Din Hasan has the distinction of being the most rollicking and the most humorous in the Nights. What stupendous events result from a tiff! The lines repeated by Nur al-Din Ali when he angrily quitted his brother must have appealed forcibly to Burton:

Travel! and thou shalt find new friends for old ones left behind; toil! for the sweets of human life by toil and moil are found; The stay at home no honour wins nor ought attains but want; so leave thy place of birth and wander all the world around.441

As long as time lasts the pretty coquettish bride will keep on changing her charming dresses; and the sultan’s groom (poor man! and for nothing at all) will be kept standing on his head. The moribund Nur al-Din turns Polonius and delivers himself of sententious precepts. “Security,” he tells his son, “lieth in seclusion of thought and a certain retirement from the society of thy fellows. . . . In this world there is none thou mayst count upon. . . . so live for thyself, nursing hope of none. Let thine own faults distract thine attention from the faults of other men.442 Be cautious, kind, charitable, sober, and economical.” Then the good old man’s life “went forth.” This son, when, soon after, confronted with misfortune, gives utterance to one of the finest thoughts in the whole work:

“It is strange men should dwell in the house of abjection, when the plain of God’s earth is so wide and great.”443

But there is another verse in the same tale that is also well worth remembering — we mean the one uttered by Badr al-Din Hasan (turned tart merchant) when struck by a stone thrown by his son.

Unjust it were to bid the world be just; and blame her not: She ne’er was made for justice: Take what she gives thee, leave all griefs aside, for now to fair and Then to foul her lust is.444

We need do no more than mention the world-famous stories of the unfortunate Hunchback and the pragmatical but charitable Barber. Very lovely is the tale of Nur al-Din and the Damsel Anis al Jalis445 better known as “Noureddin and the Beautiful Persian.” How tender is the scene when they enter the Sultan’s garden! “Then they fared forth at once from the city, and Allah spread over them His veil of protection, so that they reached the river bank, where they found a vessel ready for sea.” Arrived at Baghdad they enter a garden which turns out to be the Sultan’s. “By Allah,” quoth Nur al-Din to the damsel, “right pleasant is this place.” And she replied, “O my lord, sit with me awhile on this bench, and let us take our ease. So they mounted and sat them down . . . and the breeze blew cool on them, and they fell asleep, and glory be to Him who never sleepeth.” Little need to enquire what it is that entwines The Arabian Nights round our hearts.

When calamity over took Nur al-Din he mused on the folly of heaping up riches:

“Kisra and Caesars in a bygone day stored wealth; where is it, and ah! where are they?”446

But all came right in the end, for “Allah’s aid is ever near at hand.” The tale of Ghanim bin Ayyub also ends happily. Then follows the interminable history of the lecherous and bellicose King Omar. Very striking is its opening episode — the meeting of Prince Sharrkan with the lovely Abrizah. “Though a lady like the moon at fullest, with ringleted hair and forehead sheeny white, and eyes wondrous wide and black and bright, and temple locks like the scorpion’s tail,” she was a mighty wrestler, and threw her admirer three times. The tender episode of the adventures of the two forlorn royal children in Jerusalem is unforgettable; while the inner story of Aziz and Azizah, with the touching account of Azizah’s death, takes perhaps the highest place in the Nights. The tale of King Omar, however, has too much fighting, just as that of Ali bin Bakkar and Shams al Nahar, the amourist martyrs, as Burton calls them, has too much philandering. Then comes the Tale of Kamar al Zaman I— about the Prince and the Princess whose beauty set the fairy and the jinni disputing. How winning were the two wives of Kamar al Zaman in their youth; how revolting after! The interpolated tale of Ni’amah and Naomi is tender and pretty, and as the Arabs say, sweet as bees’ honey.447 All of us as we go through life occasionally blunder like Ni’amah into the wrong room — knowing not what is written for us “in the Secret Purpose.” The most interesting feature of the “leprosy tale” of Ala-al-Din is the clairvoyance exhibited by Zubaydah, who perceived that even so large a sum as ten thousand dinars would be forthcoming — a feature which links it with the concluding story of the Nights — that of Ma’aruf the cobbler; while the important part that the disguised Caliph Haroun Al-Rashid, Ja’afar and Masrur play in it reminds us of the story of the Three Ladies of Baghdad. On this occasion, however, there was a fourth masker, that hoary sinner and cynical humorist the poet Abu Nowas.

One of the most curious features of the Nights is the promptitude with which everyone — porters, fishermen, ladies, caliphs — recites poetry. It is as if a cabman when you have paid him your fare were to give you a quatrain from FitzGerald’s rendering of Omar Khayyam, or a cripple when soliciting your charity should quote Swinburne’s Atalanta. Then in the midst of all this culture, kindliness, generosity, kingliness, honest mirth — just as we are beginning to honour and love the great caliph, we come upon a tale448 with the staggering commencement “When Harun al Rashid crucified Ja’afar;” and if we try to comfort ourselves with the reflection that we are reading only Fiction, History comes forward and tells us bluntly that it is naked truth. Passing from this story, which casts so lurid a light over the Nights, we come to Abu Mohammed, Lazybones, the Arab Dick Whittington, whose adventures are succeeded by those of Ali Shar, a young man who, with nothing at all, purchases a beautiful slave girl — Zumurrud. When, after a time, he loses her, he loses also his senses, and runs about crying:

“The sweets of life are only for the mad.”

By and by Zumurrud becomes a queen, and the lovers are re-united. She is still very beautiful, very sweet, very pious, very tender, and she flays three men alive.

We need do no more than allude to “The Man of Al Yaman and his six Slave Girls,” “The Ebony Horse,” and “Uns al Wujud and Rose in Hood.”

The tale of the blue-stocking Tawaddud449 is followed by a number of storyettes, some of which are among the sweetest in the Nights. “The Blacksmith who could handle Fire without Hurt,” “The Moslem Champion,” with its beautiful thoughts on prayer, and “Abu Hasn and the Leper” are all of them fragrant as musk. Then comes “The Queen of the Serpents” with the history of Janshah, famous on account of the wonderful Split Men — the creatures already referred to in this work, who used to separate longitudinally. The Sindbad cycle is followed by the melancholy “City of Brass,” and a great collection of anecdotes illustrative of the craft and malice of woman.

In “The Story of Judar”450 we find by the side of a character of angelic goodness characters of fiendish malevolence — Judar’s brothers — a feature that links it with the stories of Abdullah bin Fazil451 and Abu Sir and Abu Kir.452 Very striking is the account of the Mahrabis whom Judar pushed into the lake, and who appeared with the soles of their feet above the water and none can forget the sights which the necromancy of the third Maghrabi put before the eyes of Judar. “Oh, Judar, fear not,” said the Moor, “for they are semblances without life.” The long and bloody romance of Gharib and Ajib is followed by thirteen storyettes, all apparently historical, and then comes the detective work of “The Rogueries of Dalilah,” and ‘the Adventures of Mercury Ali.” If “The Tale of Ardashir” is wearisome, that of “Julnar the Sea Born and her son King Badr,” which like “Abdullah of the Land, and Abdullah of the Sea,”453 concerns mer-folk, amply atones for it. This, too, is the tale of the Arabian Circe, Queen Lab, who turns people into animals. In “Sayf al Muluk,” we make the acquaintance of that very singular jinni whose soul is outside his body, and meet again with Sindbad’s facetious acquaintance, “The Old Man of the Sea.”

“Hasan of Bassorah” is woven as it were out of the strands of the rainbow. Burton is here at his happiest as a translator, and the beautiful words that he uses comport with the tale and glitter like jewels. It was a favourite with him. He says, “The hero, with his hen-like persistency of purpose, his weeping, fainting, and versifying, is interesting enough, and proves that ‘Love can find out the way.’ The charming adopted sister, the model of what the feminine friend should be; the silly little wife who never knows that she is happy till she loses happiness, the violent and hard-hearted queen with all the cruelty of a good woman; and the manners and customs of Amazon-land are outlined with a life-like vivacity.”

Then follow the stories of Kalifah, Ali Nur al Din and Miriam the Girdle Girl454; the tales grouped together under the title of “King Jalead of Hind;” and Abu Kir and Abu Sir, memorable on account of the black ingratitude of the villain.

“Kamar al Zaman II.” begins with the disagreeable incident of the Jeweller’s Wife — “The Arab Lady Godiva of the Wrong Sort” — and the wicked plot which she contrived in concert with the depraved Kamar al Zaman. However, the storyteller enlists the reader’s sympathies for the Jeweller, who in the end gains a wife quite as devoted to him as his first wife had been false. The unfaithful wife gets a reward which from an Arab point of view precisely meets the case. Somebody “pressed hard upon her windpipe and brake her neck.” “So,” concludes the narrator, “he who deemeth all women alike there is no remedy for the disease of his insanity.” There is much sly humour in the tale, as for example when we are told that even the cats and dogs were comforted when “Lady Godiva” ceased to make her rounds. “Abdullah bin Fazil” is simply “The Eldest Lady’s Tale” with the sexes changed.

The last tale in the Nights, and perhaps the finest of all, is that of “Ma’aruf the Cobbler.”455 Ma’aruf, who lived at Cairo, had a shrewish wife named Fatimah who beat him, and hauled him before the Kazi because he had not been able to bring her “kunafah sweetened with bees’ honey.” So he fled from her, and a good-natured Marid transported him to a distant city. Here he encounters an old playfellow who lends him money and recommends him to play the wealthy merchant, by declaring that his baggage is on the road. This he does with a thoroughness that alarms his friend. He borrows money right and left and lavishes it upon beggars. He promises to pay his creditors twice over when his baggage comes. By and by the king — a very covetous man — hears of Ma’aruf’s amazing generosity, and desirous himself of getting a share of the baggage, places his treasury at Ma’aruf’s disposal, and weds him to his daughter Dunya. Ma’arfu soon empties the treasury, and the Wazir, who dislikes Ma’aruf, suspects the truth. Ma’aruf, however, confesses everything to Dunya. She comes to his rescue, and her clairvoyance enables her to see his future prosperity. Having fled from the king, Ma’aruf discovers a magic “souterrain” and a talismanic seal ring, by the aid of which he attains incalculable wealth. Exclaims his friend the merchant when Ma’aruf returns as a magnifico, “Thou hast played off this trick and it hath prospered to thy hand, O Shaykh of Imposters! But thou deservest it.” Ma’aruf ultimately succeeds to the throne. Then occurs the death of the beautiful and tender Dunya — an event that is recorded with simplicity and infinite pathos. The old harridan Fatimah next obtrudes, and, exhibiting again her devilish propensities, receives her quietus by being very properly “smitten on the neck.” So ends this fine story, and then comes the conclusion of the whole work. This is very touching, especially where the story-telling queen, who assumes that death is to be her portion, wants to bid adieu to the children whom she had borne to the king. But, as the dullest reader must have divined, the king had long before “pardoned” her in his heart, and all ends pleasantly with the marriage of her sister Dunyazad to the king’s brother.

What an array of figures — beautiful, revolting, sly, fatuous, witty, brave, pusillanimous, mean, generous — meets the eye as we recall one by one these famous stories; beautiful and amorous, but mercurial ladies with henna scented feet and black eyes — often with a suspicion of kohl and more than a suspicion of Abu Murreh456 in them — peeping cautiously through the close jalousies of some lattice; love sick princes overcoming all obstacles; executioners with blood-dripping scimitars; princesses of blinding beauty and pensive tenderness, who playfully knock out the “jaw-teeth” of their eunuchs while “the thousand-voiced bird in the coppice sings clear;”457 hideous genii, whether of the amiable or the vindictive sort, making their appearance in unexpected moments; pious beasts — nay, the very hills — praising Allah and glorifying his vice-gerent; gullible saints, gifted scoundrels; learned men with camel loads of dictionaries and classics, thieves with camel loads of plunder; warriors, zanies, necromancers, masculine women, feminine men, ghouls, lutists, negroes, court poets, wags — the central figure being the gorgeous, but truculent, Haroun Al Rashid, who is generally accompanied by Ja’afer and Masrur, and sometimes by the abandoned but irresistible Abu Nowas. What magnificent trencher-folk they all are! Even the love-lorn damsels. If you ask for a snack between meals they send in a trifle of 1,500 dishes.458 Diamonds and amethysts are plentiful as blackberries. If you are a poet, and you make good verses, it is likely enough that some queen will stuff your mouth with balass rubies. How poorly our modern means of locomotion compare with those of the Nights. If you take a jinni or a swan-maiden you can go from Cairo to Bokhara in less time than our best expresses could cover a mile. The recent battles between the Russians and the Japanese are mere skirmishes compared with the fight described in “The City of Brass” — where 700 million are engaged. The people who fare worst in The Arabian Nights are those who pry into what does not concern them or what is forbidden, as, for example, that foolish, fatuous Third Kalendar, and the equally foolish and fatuous Man who Never Laughed Again;459 and perhaps The Edinburgh Review was right in giving as the moral of the tales: “Nothing is impossible to him who loves, provided” — and the proviso is of crucial importance — “he is not cursed with a spirit of curiosity.” Few persons care, however, whether there is any moral or not — most of us would as soon look for one in the outstretched pride of a peacock’s tale.

Where the dust of Shahrazad is kept tradition does not tell us. If we knew we would hasten to her tomb, and in imitation of the lover of Azizeh460 lay thereon seven blood-red anemones.

439 Cf. Esther, vi., 8 and 11.

440 Ought there not to be notices prohibiting this habit in our public reference libraries? How many beautiful books have been spoilt by it!

441 The joys of Travel are also hymned in the Tale of Ala-al-Din. Lib. Ed., iii., 167.

442 Cf. Seneca on Anger, Ch. xi. “Such a man,” we cry, “has done me a shrewd turn, and I never did him any hurt! Well, but it may be I have mischieved other people.”

443 Payne’s Version. See Burton’s Footnote, and Payne vol. i., p. 93.

444 Burton’s A. N. i., 237; Lib. Ed., i., 218. Payne translates it: If thou demand fair play of Fate, therein thou dost it wrong; and blame it not, for ’twas not made, indeed, for equity. Take what lies ready to thy hand and lay concern aside, for troubled days and days of peace in life must surely be.

445 Burton’s A. N., ii., 1; Lib. Ed., i., 329; Payne’s A. N., i., 319.

446 Payne has — “Where are not the old Chosroes, tyrants of a bygone day? Wealth they gathered, but their treasures and themselves have passed away.” Vol. i., p. 359.

447 To distinguish it from date honey — the drippings from ripe dates.

448 Ja’afar the Barmecide and the Beanseller.

449 Burton’s A. N., v., 189; Lib. Ed., iv., 144; Payne’s A. N., iv., 324.

450 Burton’s A. N., vi., 213; Lib. Ed., v., 121; Payne’s A. N., vi., 1.

451 Burton’s A. N., ix., 304; Lib. Ed., vii., 364; Payne’s A. N., ix., 145.

452 Burton’s A. N., ix., 134; Lib. Ed., viii., 208; Payne’s A. N., viii., 297.

453 Burton’s A. N., ix., 165; Lib. Ed., vii., 237; Payne’s A. N., viii., 330.

454 Burton’s A. N., viii., 264 to 349; ix., 1 to 18; Lib. Ed., vii., 1 to 99; Payne’s A. N., viii., 63 to 169.

455 Burton’s A. N., vol. x., p. 1; Lib. Ed., vol. viii., p. 1; Payne’s A. N., vol. ix., p. 180.

456 Satan — See Story of Ibrahim of Mosul. Burton’s A. N., vii., 113; Lib. Ed., v., 311; Payne’s A. N., vi., 215.

457 Payne.

458 “Queen of the Serpents,” Burton’s A. N., v., 298; Lib. Ed., iv., 245; Payne’s A. N., v., 52.

459 Burton’s A. N., vi., 160; Lib. Ed., v., 72; Payne’s A. N., v., 293.

460 See Arabian Nights. Story of Aziz and Azizeh. Payne’s Translation; also New Poems by John Payne, p. 98.

Chapter XXVIII

The Two Translations Compared

134. The Blacksmith Who, etc.

Having glanced through the Nights, let us now compare the two famous translations. As we have already mentioned, Burton in his Translator’s Foreword did not do Mr. Payne complete justice, but he pays so many compliments to Mr. Payne’s translation elsewhere that no one can suppose that he desired to underrate the work of his friend. In the Foreword he says that Mr. Payne “succeeds admirably in the most difficult passages and often hits upon choice and special terms and the exact vernacular equivalent of the foreign word so happily and so picturesquely that all future translators must perforce use the same expression under pain of falling far short.” Still this does not go far enough, seeing that, as we said before, he made his translation very largely a paraphrase of Payne’s. Consequently he was able to get done in two broken years (April 1884 to April 1886) and with several other books in hand, work that had occupied Mr. Payne six years (1876-1882). Let us now take Mr. Payne’s rendering and Burton’s rendering of two short tales and put them in juxtaposition. The Blacksmith who could handle Fire without Hurt and Abu Al Hasan and Abu Ja’afar the Leper will suit our purpose admirably.

The portion taken by Burton from Payne are in italics.

         Payne                             Burton
     Vol. V. p. 25                      Vol. V. p. 271
                                (Lib. Ed., vol. iv., p. 220)

    THE BLACKSMITH WHO               THE BLACKSMITH WHO
    COULD HANDLE FIRE                 COULD HANDLE FIRE
     WITHOUT HURT                       WITHOUT HURT

  A certain pious man             It reached the ears of
once heard that there           a certain pious man that
abode in such a town a          there abode in such a town
blacksmith who could            a blacksmith who could
put his hand into the fire      put his hand into the fire
and pull out the red-hot        and pull out the iron red-hot,
iron, without its doing         without the flames
him any hurt.  So he set        doing him aught of hurt.
out for the town in question    So he set out for the town in
and enquiring for the           question and asked for
blacksmith, watched him         the blacksmith; and when
at work and saw him do          the man was shown to
as had been reported to         him; he watched him at
him.  He waited till he         work and saw him do as
had made an end of his          had been reported to him.
day's work, then going          He waited till he had made
up to him, saluted him          an end of his day's work;
and said to him, "I             then, going up to him,
would fain be thy guest         saluted him with the salam
this night."  "With all         and said, "I would be thy
my heart," replied the          guest this night."  Replied
smith, and carried him to       the smith, "With gladness
his house, where they           and goodly gree!" and
supped together and lay         carried him to his place,
down to sleep.  The guest       where they supped together
watched his host, but           and lay down to sleep.
found no sign of [special]      The guest watched but saw
devoutness in him and           no sign in his host of praying
said to himself.  "Belike       through the night or
he concealeth himself from      of special devoutness, and
me."  So he lodged with         said in his mind, "Haply
him a second and a third        he hideth himself from
night, but found that he        me."  So he lodged with
did no more than observe        him a second and a third
the ordinary letter of the      night, but found that he
law and rose but little         did not exceed the devotions
in the night [to pray].  At     prescribed by the
last he said to him, "O         law and custom of the
my brother, I have heard        Prophet and rose but little
of the gift with which          in the dark hours to pray.
God hath favoured thee          At last he said to him, "O
and have seen the truth of      my brother, I have heard
it with mine eyes.  Moreover,   of the gift with which
I have taken note of            Allah hath favoured thee,
thine assiduity [in             and have seen the truth of
religious exercises], but       it with mine eyes.  Moreover,
find in thee no special         I have taken note
fervour of piety, such as       of thine assiduity in
distinguisheth those in         religious exercises, but find
whom such miraculous            in thee no such piety as
gifts are manifest.             distinguished those who work
"Whence, then, cometh           saintly miracles; whence,
this to thee?"  "I will         then cometh this to thee?"
tell thee," answered the        "I will tell thee,"
smith.                          answered the smith.

"Know that I was once           "Know that I was once
passionately enamoured of       passionately enamoured
a certain damsel and            of a slave girl and oft-times
required her many a time        sued her for loveliesse,
of love, but could not          but could not prevail
prevail upon her, for           upon her, because she
that she still clave fast       still held fast by her
unto chastity.  Presently       chastity.  Presently there
there came a year of            came a year of drought and
drought and hunger and          hunger and hardship, food
hardship; food failed and       failed, and there befell a
there befell a sore famine      sore famine.  As I was
in the land.  I was sitting     sitting one day at home,
one day in my house,            somebody knocked at the
when one knocked at the         door; so I went out, and,
door; so I went out and         behold, she was standing
found her standing there;       there; and she said to
and she said to me, 'O          me, 'O my brother, I am
my brother, I am stricken       sorely an hungered and I
with excessive hunger, and      lift mine eyes to thee,
I lift mine eyes to thee,       beseeching thee to feed me,
beseeching thee to feed         for Allah's sake!'  Quoth
me for God's sake!'                I, 'Wottest thou not how
Quoth I, 'Dost thou not         I love thee and what I have
know how I love thee            suffered for thy sake?  Now
and what I have suffered        I will not give thee one
for thy sake!  I will give      bittock of bread except
thee no whit of food,           thou yield thy person
except thou yield thyself       to me.'  Quoth she,
to me.'  But she said,          'Death, but not
'Better death than              disobedience to the Lord!'
disobedience to God.'  Then     Then she went away and
she went away and               returned after two days with
returned after two days         the same prayer for food
with the same petition          as before.  I made her a
for food.  I made her a like    like answer, and she
answer, and she entered         entered and sat down in my
and sat down, being nigh        house, being nigh upon
upon death.  I set food         death.  I set food before
before her, whereupon her       her, whereupon her eyes
eyes ran over with tears,       brimmed with tears, and
and she said, 'Give me          she cried, 'Give me meat
to eat for the love of God,     for the love of Allah, to
to whom belong might            whom belong Honour and
and majesty!'  'Not so,         Glory!'  But I answered
by Allah,' answered I,          'Not so, by Allah, except
'except thou yield thyself      thou yield thyself to me.'
to me.'  Quoth she,             Quoth she, 'Better is
'Better is death to me          death to me than the wrath
than the wrath of God           and wreak of Allah the
the Most High.'  And            Most Highest; and she
she left the food               rose and left the food
untouched and went away         untouched461  and went away
repeating the following         repeating these couplets:
verses:

O, Thou, the only God, whose    O, Thou, the One, whose grace
  grace embraceth all that be,    doth all the world embrace;
  Thine ears have heard my        Thine ears have heard, Thine
  moan, Thine eyes have seen      eyes have seen my case!
  my misery;

Indeed, privation and distress  Privation and distress have dealt
  are heavy on my head; I         me heavy blows; the woes
  cannot tell of all the woes     that weary me no utterance
  that do beleaguer me.           can trace.

I'm like a man athirst, that    I am like one athirst who eyes
  looks upon a running stream,    the landscape's eye, yet may
  yet may not drink a single      not drink a draught of
  draught of all that he doth     streams that rail and race.
  see.

My flesh would have me buy its  My flesh would tempt me by the
  will, alack, its pleasures      sight of savoury food whose
  flee!  The sin that pays their  joys shall pass away and
  price abides to all eternity.   pangs maintain their place.

[The girl, "worn out with want," came a third time, and met with the same answer. But then remorse seized upon the blacksmith and he bade her, "eat, and fear not."]

"When she heard this            "Then she raised her eyes
she raised her eyes to          to heaven and said,
heaven and said,

"'O my God, if this             "'O my God, if this man
man be sincere, I pray          say sooth, I pray thee
Thee forbid fire to do          forbid fire to harm him
him hurt in this world          in this world and the
and the next, for Thou art      next, for Thou over all
He that answereth prayer        things art Omnipotent and
and art powerful to do          Prevalent in answering the
whatsoever Thou wilt!'          prayer of the penitent!'

"Then I left her and            Then I left her and went
went to put out the fire        to put out the fire in
in the brasier.  Now the        the brazier.  Now the
time was the winter-cold,       season was winter and the
and a hot coal fell on          weather cold, and a live
my body; but by the             coal fell on my body, but
ordinance of God (to            by the decree of Allah (to
whom belong might and           whom be Honour and
majesty), I felt no pain        Glory!) I felt no pain, and
and it was born in upon         it became my conviction
me that her prayer had          that her prayer had been
been answered."                 answered."

[The girl then praised God, who “straightway took her soul to Him.” The story finishes with some verses which are rendered by Payne and Burton each according to his wont.]

461 Here occurs the break of “Night 472.”

135. Abu al-Hasan.

We will next take “Abu al-Hasan and Abu Ja’afar the Leper.”

         Payne                             Burton
         V. 49                             V. 294
                                    (Lib. Ed., iv., 242)

   ABOULHUSN ED DURRAJ                 ABU AL-HASAN
   AND ABOU JAAFER THE                      AND
         LEPER                     ABU JA'AFAR THE LEPER

Quoth Aboulhusn ed              I had been many times
Durraj, I had been many         to Mecca (Allah increase
times to Mecca (which           its honour!) and the folk
God increase in honour)         used to follow me for my
and the folk used to follow     knowledge of the road and
me by reason of my knowledge    remembrance of the water
of the road and                 stations.  It happened one
the watering-places.  It        year that I was minded to
chanced one year that I         make the pilgrimage to
was minded to make the          the Holy House and visitation
pilgrimage to the Holy          of the tomb of His
House of God and visit the      Prophet (on whom be
tomb of His prophet (on         blessing and the Peace!)
whom be peace and blessing),    and I said in myself.  "I
and I said to myself,           well know the way and
"I know the road and will       will fare alone."  So I
go alone."  So I set out        set out and journeyed till I
and journeyed till I came       came to Al-Kadisiyah, and
to El Cadesiyeh, and entering   entering the Mosque there,
the Mosque there, saw           saw a man suffering from
a leper seated in the           black leprosy seated in
prayer-niche.  When he          the prayer-niche.  Quoth he
saw me, he said to me,          on seeing me, "O Abu
"O Aboulhusn, I crave           al-Hasan, I crave thy company
thy company to Mecca."          to Meccah."  Quoth I
Quoth I to myself, "I           to myself, "I fled from all
wished to avoid companions,     my companions and how
and how shall I                 shall I company with lepers."
company with lepers?"           So I said to him, "I will
So I said to him, "I will       bear no man company,"
bear no one company,"           and he was silent at my
and he was silent.              words.

Next day I continued            Next day I walked on
my journey alone, till I        alone, till I came to
came to Acabeh, where           Al-Akabah, where I entered
I entered the Mosque and        the mosque and found the
was amazed to find the          leper seated in the prayer
leper seated in the prayer-     niche.  So I said to myself,
niche.  "Glory be to God,"      "Glory be to Allah!
said I in myself.  "How         how hath this fellow preceded
hath this fellow foregone       me hither."  But
me hither?"  But he             he raised his head to me
raised his eyes to me           and said with a smile, "O
and said, smiling, "O,          Abu al-Hasan, He doth
Aboulhusn, He doth for          for the weak that which
the weak that which the         surpriseth the strong!"
strong wonder at."  I           I passed that night confounded
passed that night in            at what I had
perplexity, confounded at       seen; and, as soon as
what I had seen, and in         morning dawned, set out
the morning set out again       again by myself; but
by myself; but when I           when I came to Arafat
came to Arafat and entered      and entered the mosque,
the mosque, behold,             behold! there was the leper
there was the leper seated      seated in the niche.  So I
in the niche!  So I threw       threw myself upon him
myself upon him and kissing     and kissing his feet said,
his feet, said, "O my           "O my lord, I crave thy
lord, I crave thy company."     company."  But he answered,
But he said,                    "This may in no
"This may nowise be."           way be."  Then I began
Whereupon I fell a-weeping      weeping and wailing at
and lamenting, and              the loss of his company
he said: "Peace: weeping        when he said, "Spare thy
will avail thee nothing,"       tears, which will avail thee
And he recited the              naught!" and he recited
following verses:               these couplets:

For my estrangement dost thou   Why dost thou weep when I
  weep,--whereas it came          depart and thou didst parting
  from thee,--And restoration     claim; and cravest union
  dost implore, when none,        when we ne'er shall re-unite
  alas! may be?                   the same?

Thou sawst my weakness and      Thou lookedest on nothing save
  disease, as it appeared, and    my weakness and disease;
  saidst, "He goes, nor comes,    and saidst, "Nor goes, nor
  or night, or day, for this his  comes, or night, or day, this
  malady."                        sickly frame."

Seest not that God (exalted be    Seest not how Allah (glorified
  His glory) to His slave           His glory ever be!) deigneth
  vouchsafeth all he can conceive   to grant His slave's petition
  of favour fair and free!          wherewithal he came.

If I, to outward vision, be as    If I, to eyes of men be that and
  it appears and eke in body, for   only that they see, and this
  despite of fate, e'en that        my body show itself so full
  which thou dost see.              of grief and grame.

And eke no victual though I       And I have nought of food that
  have, unto the holy place         shall supply me to the place
  where crowds unto my Lord         where crowds unto my Lord
  resort, indeed, to carry me.      resort impelled by single aim.

I have a Maker, hidden are His    I have a high Creating Lord
  bounties unto me; yea,            whose mercies aye are hid;
  there's no parting me from        a Lord who hath none equal
  Him, and without peer is He.      and no fear is known to Him.

Depart from me in peace and       So fare thee safe and leave me
  leave me and my strangerhood;     lone in strangerhood to wone.
  For with the lonely               For He the only One, consoles
  exile still the One shall         my loneliness so lone.
  company.

So I left him and continued       Accordingly I left him,
my journey; and                   but every station I came
every stage I came to, I          to, I found he had foregone
found him before me, till         me, till I reached Al-Madinah,
I came to Medina, where           where I lost sight
I lost sight of him and           of him, and could hear
could hear no news of             no tidings of him.  Here
him.  Here I met Abou             I met Abu Yazid
Yezid el Bustani and Abou         al-Bustami and Abu Bakr
Beker es Shibli and a             al-Shibli and a number of
number of other doctors,          other Shaykhs and learned
to whom I told my case,           men to whom with many
and they said, "God               complaints I told my case,
forbid that thou shouldst         and they said, "Heaven
gain his company after            forbid that thou shouldst
this!  This was Abou              gain his company after
Jaafer the leper, in whose        this!  He was Abu Ja'afar
name, at all tides, the folk      the leper, in whose name
pray for rain, and by whose       folk at all times pray for
blessings prayers are answered."  rain and by whose blessing
When I heard                      prayers their end attain."
this, my longing for his          When I heard their words,
company redoubled and             my desire for his company
I implored God to reunite         redoubled and I implored
me with him.  Whilst I            the Almighty to reunite me
was standing on Arafat,           with him.  Whilst I was
one plucked me from behind,       standing on Arafat one
so I turned and                   pulled me from behind, so
behold, it was Abou Jaafer.       I turned and behold, it
At this sight I gave a loud       was my man.  At this
cry and fell down in a            sight I cried out with a
swoon; but when I came            loud cry and fell down in
to myself, he was gone.           a fainting fit; but when I
                                  came to myself he had disappeared
                                  from my sight.

This increased my yearning        This increased my yearning
for him and the ways              for him and the
were straitened upon              ceremonies were tedious to
me and I prayed God to            me, and I prayed Almighty
give me sight of him;             Allah to give me sight of
nor was it but a few days         him; nor was it but a few
after when one pulled me          days after, when lo! one
from behind, and I turned,        pulled me from behind,
and behold, it was he             and I turned and it was
again.  Quoth he, "I conjure      he again.  Thereupon he
thee, ask thy desire              said, "Come, I conjure
of me."  So I begged him          thee, and ask thy want of
to pray three prayers to          me."  So I begged him to
God for me; first, that           pray for me three prayers:
He would make me love             first, that Allah would make
poverty; secondly, that I         me love poverty; secondly,
might never lie down to           that I might never lie down
sleep upon known provision,       at night upon provision
and thirdly, that                 assured to me; and
He, the Bountiful One,            thirdly, that he would
would vouchsafe me to             vouchsafe me to look upon
look upon His face.  So he        His bountiful face.  So
prayed for me, as I wished,       he prayed for me as I
and departed from me.             wished, and departed from
And, indeed, God hath             me.  And indeed Allah
granted me the first two          hath granted me what the
prayers; for He hath              devotee asked in prayer;
made me in love with              to begin with he hath made
poverty, so that, by Allah,       me so love poverty that, by
there is nought in the            the Almighty! there is
world dearer to me than           nought in the world dearer
it, and since such a year,        to me than it, and secondly
I have never lain down            since such a year I have
upon assured provision;           never lain down to sleep
yet hath He never let me          upon assured provision,
lack of aught.  As for the        withal hath He never let
third prayer, I trust that        me lack aught.  As for the
He will vouchsafe me that         third prayer, I trust that
also, even as He hath             he will vouchsafe me that
granted the two others,           also, even as He hath
for He is bountiful and           granted the two precedent,
excellently beneficient.  And     for right Bountiful and
may God have mercy on             Beneficient is His Godhead,
him who saith:                    and Allah have mercy on
                                  him who said;

Renouncement, lowliness, the      Garb of Fakir, renouncement,
  fakir's garments be; In           lowliness;
  patched and tattered clothes    His robe of tatters and of rags
  still fares the devotee.          his dress;

Pallor adorneth him, as on their  And pallor ornamenting brow
  latest nights, The moons          as though
  with pallor still embellished   'Twere wanness such as waning
  thou mayst see.                   crescents show.

Long rising up by night to pray   Wasted him prayer a-through
  hath wasted him; And from         the long-lived night,
  his lids the tears stream down. And flooding tears ne'er cease
  as 'twere a sea.                  to dim his sight.

The thought of God to him his     Memory of Him shall cheer his
  very housemate is; For            lonely room;
  bosom friend by night, th'      Th' Almighty nearest is in
  Omnipotent hath he.               nightly gloom.

God the Protector helps the fakir The Refuge helpeth such Fakir
  in his need; And birds and        in need;
  beasts no less to succour him   Help e'en the cattle and the
  agree.                            winged breed;

On his account, the wrath of      Allah for sake of him of wrath
  God on men descends, And          is fain,
  by his grace, the rains fall    And for the grace of him shall
  down on wood and lea.             fall the rain;

And if he pray one day to do      And if he pray one day for plague
  away a plague, The oppressor's    to stay,
  slain and men from              'Twill stay, and 'bate man's
  tyrants are made free;            wrong and tyrants slay.

For all the folk are sick,        While folk are sad, afflicted one
  afflicted and diseased, And he's  and each,
  the pitying leach withouten     He in his mercy's rich, the
  stint or fee.                     generous leach;

His forehead shines; an thou      Bright shines his brow; an thou
  but look upon his face, Thy       regard his face
  heart is calmed, the lights of  Thy heart illumined shines by
  heaven appear to thee.            light of grace.

O thou that shunnest these, their  O thou that shunnest souls of
  virtues knowing not, Woe's        worth innate,
  thee!  Thou'rt shut from        Departs thee (woe to thee!) of
  them by thine iniquity.           sins the weight.

Thou think'st them to o'ertake,   Thou thinkest to overtake them,
  for all thou'rt fettered fast;    while thou bearest
  Thy sins from thy desire        Follies, which slay thee whatso
  do hinder thee, perdie.           way thou farest.

Thou wouldst to them consent      Didst not their worth thou hadst
  and rivers from thine eyes        all honour showed
  Would run from them, if thou    And tears in streamlets from
  their excellence could'st see.    thine eyes had flowed.

Uneath to him to smell, who's     To catarrh-troubled men flowers
  troubled with a rheum, Are        lack their smell;
  flowers; the broker knows       And brokers ken for how much
  what worth the garments be.       clothes can sell;

So supplicate thy Lord right      So haste and with thy Lord
  humbly for His grace And          re-union sue,
  Providence, belike, shall       And haply fate shall lend thee
  help thy constancy;               aidance due.

And thou shalt win thy will and   Rest from rejection and
  from estrangement's stress        estrangement stress,
  And eke rejection's pains       And joy thy wish and will shall
  shall be at rest and free.        choicely bless.

The asylum of His grace is wide   His court wide open for the
  enough for all That seek; The     suer is dight:--
  one true God, the               One, very God, the Lord, th'
  Conqueror, is He!                 Almighty might.

We may also compare the two renderings of that exquisite and tender little poem “Azizeh’s Tomb”462 which will be found in the “Tale of Aziz and Azizeh.”

         Payne                             Burton

I passed by a ruined tomb in the  I past by a broken tomb amid
  midst of a garden way, Upon       a garth right sheen, Whereon
  whose letterless stone seven      on seven blooms of Nu'aman
  blood-red anemones lay.           glowed with cramoisie.

"Who sleeps in this unmarked      Quoth I, "Who sleepeth in this
  grave?"  I said, and the          tomb?"  Quoth answering
  earth, "Bend low; For a           earth, "Before a lover
  lover lies here and waits for     Hades-tombed bend reverently."
  the Resurrection Day."

"God keep thee, O victim of       Quoth I, "May Allah help thee,
  love!"  I cried, "and bring       O thou slain of love, And
  thee to dwell In the highest      grant thee home in heaven
  of all the heavens of Paradise,   and Paradise-height to see!
  I pray!

"How wretched are lovers all,     "Hapless are lovers all e'en
  even in the sepulchre,            tombed in their tombs,
  For their very tombs are          Where amid living folk the
  covered with ruin and decay!      dust weighs heavily!

"Lo! if I might, I would plant    "Fain would I plant a garden
  thee a garden round about,        blooming round thy grave
  and with my streaming tears       And water every flower with
  the thirst of its flowers         tear-drops flowing
  allay!"                           free!"463

462 Burton’s A. N., ii., p. 324-5; Lib. Ed., ii., p, 217; Payne, ii., p. 247.

463 The reader may like to compare some other passages. Thus the lines “Visit thy lover,” etc. in Night 22, occur also in Night 312. In the first instance Burton gives his own rendering, in the second Payne’s. See also Burton’s A. N., viii., 262 (Lib. Ed., vi., 407); viii., 282 (Lib. Ed., vii., 18); viii., 314 (Lib. Ed., vii., 47); viii., 326 (Lib. Ed., vii., 59); and many other places.

136. The Summing Up.

The reader will notice from these citations:

(1) That, as we have already said, and as Burton himself partly admitted, Burton’s translation is largely a paraphrase of Payne’s. This is particularly noticeable in the latter half of the Nights. He takes hundreds — nay thousands — of sentences and phrases from Payne, often without altering a single word.464 If it be urged that Burton was quite capable of translating the Nights without drawing upon the work of another, we must say that we deeply regret that he allowed the opportunity to pass, for he had a certain rugged strength of style, as the best passages in his Mecca and other books show. In order to ensure originality he ought to have translated every sentence before looking to see how Payne put it, but the temptation was too great for a very busy man — a man with a hundred irons in the fire — and he fell.465

(2) That, where there are differences, Payne’s translation is invariably the clearer, finer and more stately of the two. Payne is concise, Burton diffuse.466

(3) That although Burton is occasionally happy and makes a pat couplet, like the one beginning “Kisras and Caesars,” nevertheless Payne alone writes poetry, Burton’s verse being quite unworthy of so honourable a name. Not being, like Payne, a poet and a lord of language; and, as he admits, in his notes, not being an initiate in the methods of Arabic Prosody, Burton shirked the isometrical rendering of the verse. Consequently we find him constantly annexing Payne’s poetry bodily, sometimes with acknowledgement, oftener without. Thus in Night 867 he takes half a page. Not only does he fail to reproduce agreeably the poetry of the Nights, but he shows himself incapable of properly appreciating it. Notice, for example, his remark on the lovely poem of the Fakir at the end of the story of “Abu Al-Hasan and Abu Ja’afer the Leper,” the two versions of which we gave on a preceding page. Burton calls it “sad doggerel,” and, as he translates it, so it is. But Payne’s version, with its musical subtleties and choice phrases, such as “The thought of God to him his very housemate is,” is a delight to the ear and an enchantment of the sense. Mr. Payne in his Terminal Essay singles out the original as one of the finest pieces of devotional verse in the Nights; and worthy of Vaughan or Christina Rossetti. The gigantic nature of Payne’s achievement will be realised when we mention that The Arabian Nights contains the equivalent of some twenty thousand decasyllabic lines of poetry, that is to say more than there are in Milton’s Paradise Lost, and that he has rendered faithfully the whole of this enormous mass in accordance with the intricate metrical scheme of the original, and in felicitous and beautiful language.

(4) That Burton, who was well read in the old English poets, also introduces beautiful words. This habit, however, is more noticeable in other passages where we come upon cilice,467 egromancy,468 verdurous,469 vergier,470 rondure,471 purfled,472 &c. Often he uses these words with excellent effect, as, for example, “egromancy,”473 in the sentence: “Nor will the egromancy be dispelled till he fall from the horse;” but unfortunately he is picturesque at all costs. Thus he constantly puts “purfled” where he means “embroidered” or “sown,” and in the “Tale of the Fisherman and the Jinni,” he uses incorrectly the pretty word “cucurbit”474 to express a brass pot; and many other instances might be quoted. His lapses, indeed, indicate that he had no real sense of the value of words. He uses them because they are pretty, forgetting that no word is attractive except in its proper place, just as colours in painting owe their value to their place in the general colour scheme. He took most of his beautiful words from our old writers, and a few like ensorcelled475 from previous translators. Unfortunately, too, he spoils his version by the introduction of antique words that are ugly, uncouth, indigestible and yet useless. What, for example, does the modern Englishman make of this, taken from the “Tale of the Wolf and the Fox,” “Follow not frowardness, for the wise forbid it; and it were most manifest frowardness to leave me in this pit draining the agony of death and dight to look upon mine own doom, whereas it lieth in thy power to deliver me from my stowre?”476 Or this: “O rare! an but swevens477 prove true,” from “Kamar-al-Zalam II.” Or this “Sore pains to gar me dree,” from “The Tale of King Omar,” or scores of others that could easily be quoted.478

Burton, alas! was also unscrupulous enough to include one tale which, he admitted to Mr. Kirby, does not appear in any redaction of the Nights, namely that about the misfortune that happened to Abu Hassan on his Wedding day.479 “But,” he added, “it is too good to be omitted.” Of course the tale does not appear in Payne. To the treatment meted by each translator to the coarsenesses of the Nights we have already referred. Payne, while omitting nothing, renders such passages in literary language, whereas Burton speaks out with the bluntness and coarseness of an Urquhart.

In his letter to Mr. Payne, 22nd October 1884, he says of Mr. Payne’s translation, “The Nights are by no means literal but very readable which is the thing.” He then refers to Mr. Payne’s rendering of a certain passage in the “Story of Sindbad and the Old Man of the Sea,” by which it appears that the complaint of want of literality refers, as usual, solely to the presentable rendering of the offensive passages. “I translate,” he says **********. “People will look fierce, but ce n’est pas mon affaire.” The great value of Burton’s translation is that it is the work of a man who had travelled in all the countries in which the scenes are laid; who had spent years in India, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and the Barbary States, and had visited Mecca; who was intimately acquainted with the manners and customs of the people of those countries, and who brought to bear upon his work the experience of a lifetime. He is so thoroughly at home all the while. Still, it is in his annotations and not in his text that he really excells. The enormous value of these no one would now attempt to minimize.

All over the world, as Sir Walter Besant says, “we have English merchants, garrisons, consuls, clergymen, lawyers, physicians, engineers, living among strange people, yet practically ignorant of their manners and thoughts. . . . . it wants more than a knowledge of the tongue to become really acquainted with a people.” These English merchants, garrisons, consults and others are strangers in a strange land. It is so very rare that a really unprejudiced man comes from a foreign country to tell us what its people are like, that when such a man does appear we give him our rapt attention. He may tell us much that will shock us, but that cannot be helped.

464 Thus in the story of Ibrahim and Jamilah [Night 958], Burton takes 400 words — that is nearly a page — verbatim, and without any acknowledgement. It is the same, or thereabouts, every page you turn to.

465 Of course, the coincidences could not possibly have been accidental, for both translators were supposed to take from the four printed Arabic editions. We shall presently give a passage by Burton before Payne translated it, and it will there be seen that the phraseology of the one translator bears no resemblance whatever to that of the other. And yet, in this latter instance, each translator took from the same original instead of from four originals. See Chapter xxiii.

466 At the same time the Edinburgh Review (July 1886) goes too far. It puts its finger on Burton’s blemishes, but will not allow his translation a single merit. It says, “Mr. Payne is possessed of a singularly robust and masculine prose style . . . Captain Burton’s English is an unreadable compound of archaeology and slang, abounding in Americanisms, and full of an affected reaching after obsolete or foreign words and phrases.”

467 “She drew her cilice over his raw and bleeding skin.” [Payne has “hair shirt.”] — “Tale of the Ensorcelled Prince.” Lib. Ed., i., 72.

468 “Nor will the egromancy be dispelled till he fall from his horse.” [Payne has “charm be broken.”] — “Third Kalendar’s Tale.” Lib. Ed., i., 130. “By virtue of my egromancy become thou half stone and half man.” [Payne has “my enchantments.”] — “Tale of the Ensorcelled Prince.” Lib. Ed., i., 71.

469 “The water prisoned in its verdurous walls.” — “Tale of the Jewish Doctor.”

470 “Like unto a vergier full of peaches.” [Note. — O.E. “hortiyard” Mr. Payne’s word is much better.] — “Man of Al Zaman and his Six Slave Girls.”

471 “The rondure of the moon.” — “Hassan of Bassorah.” [Shakespeare uses this word, Sonnet 21, for the sake of rhythm. Caliban, however, speaks of the “round of the moon.”]

472 “That place was purfled with all manner of flowers.” [Purfled means bordered, fringed, so it is here used wrongly.] Payne has “embroidered,” which is the correct word. — “Tale of King Omar,” Lib. Ed., i., 406.

473 Burton says that he found this word in some English writer of the 17th century, and, according to Murray, “Egremauncy occurs about 1649 in Grebory’s Chron. Camd. Soc. 1876, 183.” Mr. Payne, however, in a letter to me, observes that the word is merely an ignorant corruption of “negromancy,” itself a corruption of a corruption it is “not fit for decent (etymological) society.”

474 A well-known alchemical term, meaning a retort, usually of glass, and completely inapt to express a common brass pot, such as that mentioned in the text. Yellow copper is brass; red copper is ordinary copper.

475 Fr. ensorceler — to bewitch. Barbey d’Aurevilly’s fine novel L’Ensorcelee, will be recalled. Torrens uses this word, and so does Payne, vol. v., 36. “Hath evil eye ensorcelled thee?”

476 Lib. Ed., ii., 360.

477 Swevens — dreams.

478 Burton, indeed, while habitually paraphrasing Payne, no less habitually resorts, by way of covering his “conveyances,” to the clumsy expedient of loading the test with tasteless and grotesque additions and variations (e.g., “with gladness and goodly gree,” “suffering from black leprosy,” “grief and grame,” “Hades-tombed,” “a garth right sheen,” “e’en tombed in their tombs,” &c., &c.), which are not only meaningless, but often in complete opposition to the spirit and even the letter of the original, and, in any case, exasperating in the highest degree to any reader with a sense of style.

479 Burton’s A. N., v., 135; Lib. Ed., iv., 95.

Chapter XXIX

Burton’s Notes

137. Burton’s Notes.

These Notes, indeed, are the great speciality of Burton’s edition of the Nights. They are upon all manner of subjects — from the necklace of the Pleiades to circumcision; from necromancy to the characteristics of certain Abyssinian women; from devilish rites and ceremonies to precious stones as prophylactics. They deal not only with matters to which the word erotic is generally applied, but also with unnatural practices. There are notes geographical, astrological, geomantic, bibliographical, ethnological, anthropomorphitical; but the pornographic, one need hardly say, hugely predominate. Burton’s knowledge was encyclopaedic. Like Kerimeddin480 he had drunk the Second Phial of the Queen of the Serpents. He was more inquisitive than Vathek. To be sure, he would sometimes ask himself what was the good of it all or what indeed, was the good of anything; and then he would relate the rebuke he once received from an indolent Spaniard whom he had found lying on his back smoking a cigarette. “I was studying the thermometer,” said Burton, and I remarked, “‘The glass is unusually high.’ ‘When I’m hot, it’s hot,’ commented the Spaniard, lazily, ‘and when I’m cold it’s cold. What more do I want to know?’” Burton, as we have seen, had for a long time devoted himself particularly to the study of vice and to everything that was bizarre and unnatural: eunuchs, pederasts, hermaphrodites, idiots, Augustus-the-Strongs, monstrosities. During his travels he never drank anything but green tea, and if Le Fanu’s ideas481 in In a Glass Darkly are to be respected, this habit is partly responsible for his extraordinary bias. He deals with subjects that are discussed in no other book. He had seen many lands, and, like Hafiz, could say:

“Plunder I bore from far and near,

From every harvest gleaned an ear;”

and blighted ears some of them were. No other man could have written these notes; no other man, even if possessed of Burton’s knowledge, would have dared to publish them. Practically they are a work in themselves. That they were really necessary for the elucidation of the text we would not for a moment contend. At times they fulfil this office, but more often than not the text is merely a peg upon which to hang a mass of curious learning such as few other men have ever dreamt of. The voluminous note on circumcision482 is an instance in point. There is no doubt that he obtained his idea of esoteric annotation from Gibbon, who, though he used the Latin medium, is in this respect the true father of Burton. We will give specimens of the annotations, taken haphazard — merely premising that the most characteristic of them — those at which the saints in heaven knit their brows — necessarily in a work of this kind exclude themselves from citations:

“Laughter. ‘Sweetness of her smile’(Abu al Husn and Tawaddud). Arab writers often mention the smile of beauty, but rarely, after European fashion, the laugh, which they look upon as undignified. A Moslem will say ‘Don’t guffaw (kahkahah) in that way; leave giggling and grinning to monkeys and Christians.’ The Spaniards, a grave people, remark that Christ never laughed.”483

“Swan-maidens. ‘And became three maidens’ (Story of Janshah).484 We go much too far for an explanation of the legend; a high bred girl is so much like a swan485 in many points that the idea readily suggests itself. And it is also aided by the old Egyptian (and Platonic) belief in pre-existence, and by the Rabbinic and Buddhistic doctrine of Ante-Natal sin, to say nothing of metempsychosis. (Josephus’ Antiq., xvii., 153).”

“The Firedrake. ‘I am the Haunter of this place’ (Ma’aruf the Cobbler).486 Arab, Amir=one who inhabiteth. Ruins and impure places are the favourite homes of the Jinn.”

“Sticking Coins on the Face. ‘Sticks the gold dinar’ (Ali Nur al-Din).487 It is the custom for fast youths in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere to stick small gold pieces, mere spangles of metal, on the brows, cheeks and lips of the singing and dancing girls, and the perspiration and mask of cosmetics make them adhere for a time, till fresh movement shakes them off.”

“Fillets hung on trees. ‘Over the grave was a tall tree, on which hung fillets of red and green’ (Otbah and Rayya).488 Lane and many others are puzzled about the use of these articles. In many cases they are suspended to trees in order to transfer sickness from the body to the tree and to whoever shall touch it. The Sawahili people term such articles a Keti (seat or vehicle) for the mysterious haunter of the tree, who prefers occupying it to the patient’s person. Briefly the custom, still popular throughout Arabia, is African and Fetish.”

The value of the notes depends, of course, upon the fact that they are the result of personal observation. In his knowledge of Eastern peoples, languages and customs Burton stands alone. He is first and there is no second. His defence of his notes will be found in the last volume of his Supplemental Nights. We may quote a few sentences to show the drift of it. He says “The England of our day would fain bring up both sexes and keep all ages in profound ignorance of sexual and intersexual relations; and the consequences of that imbecility are particularly cruel and afflicting. How often do we hear women in Society lamenting that they have absolutely no knowledge of their own physiology. . . . Shall we ever understand that ignorance is not innocence. What an absurdum is a veteran officer who has spent a quarter of a century in the East without knowing that all Moslem women are circumcised, and without a notion of how female circumcision is effected,” and then he goes on to ridicule what the “modern Englishwoman and her Anglo-American sister have become under the working of a mock modesty which too often acts cloak to real devergondage; and how Respectability unmakes what Nature made.”489

Mr. Payne’s edition contains notes, but they were intended simply to elucidate the text. Though succinct, they are sufficient for the general reader. Here and there, however, we come upon a more elaborate note, such as that upon the tuning of the lute (Vol. viii., 179), where Mr. Payne’s musical knowledge enables him to elucidate an obscure technical point. He also identified (giving proper chapter and verse references), collated, and where needful corrected all the Koranic citations with which the text swarms, a task which demanded great labour and an intimate knowledge of the Koran. The appropriate general information bearing on the work he gave in a succinct and artistic form in his elaborate Terminal Essay — a masterpiece of English — in which he condensed the result of erudition and research such as might have furnished forth several folio volumes.

480 Or Karim-al-Din. Burton’s A. N., v., 299; Lib. Ed., iv., 246; Payne’s A. N., v. 52.

481 Le Fanu had carefully studied the effects of green tea and of hallucinations in general. I have a portion of the correspondence between him and Charles Dickens on this subject.

482 Burton’s A. N., Suppl. ii., 90-93; Lib. Ed., ix., 307, 308.

483 Lib. Ed., iv., 147.

484 “The Story of Janshah.” Burton’s A. N., v., 346; Lib. Ed., iv., 291.

485 One recalls “Edith of the Swan Neck,” love of King Harold, and “Judith of the Swan Neck,” Pope’s “Erinna,” Cowper’s Aunt.

486 Burton’s A. N., x., 6; Lib. Ed., viii., 6.

487 Burton’s A. N., viii., 275; Lib. Ed., vii., 12.

488 Burton’s A. N., vii., 96; Lib. Ed., v., 294.

489 Burton’s A. N., Suppl. Nights, vi., 438; Lib. Ed., xii., 258.

138. The Terminal Essay.

Finally there is the Terminal Essay, in which Burton deals at great length not only with the origin and history of the Nights and matters erotic, but also with unnatural practices. This essay, with the exception of the pornographic portions, will be found, by those who take the trouble to make comparisons, to be under large obligations to Mr. Payne’s Terminal Essay, the general lines and scheme of which it follows closely. Even Mr. Payne’s special phrases such as “sectaries of the god Wunsch,”490 are freely used, and without acknowledgement. The portions on sexual matters, however, are entirely original. Burton argues that the “naive indecencies of the text of The Arabian Nights are rather gaudisserie than prurience.” “It is,” he says, “a coarseness of language, not of idea. . . . Such throughout the East is the language of every man, woman and child, from prince to peasant.” “But,” he continues, “there is another element in the Nights, and that is one of absolute obscenity, utterly repugnant to English readers, even the least prudish.” Still, upon this subject he offers details, because it does not enter into his plan “to ignore any theme which is interesting to the Orientalist and the Anthropologist. To assert that such lore is unnecessary is to state, as every traveller knows, an absurdum.”

That these notes and the Terminal Essay were written in the interests of Oriental and Anthropological students may be granted, but that they were written solely in the interests of these students no one would for a moment contend. Burton simply revelled in all studies of the kind. Whatever was knowledge he wanted to know; and we may add whatever wasn’t knowledge. He was insatiable. He was like the little boy who, seeing the ocean for the first time, cried, “I want to drink it all up.” And Burton would have drunk it all. He would have swallowed down not only all the waters that were under the firmament but also all the creatures, palatable and unpalatable — especially the unpalatable — that sported therein.

490 Burton’s A. N., x., 199; Lib. Ed., viii., 174; Payne’s A. N., ix., 370.

139. Final Summing up.

To sum up finally: (1) Both translations are complete, they are the only complete translations in English, and the world owes a deep debt of gratitude to both Payne and Burton.

(2) According to Arabists, Payne’s Translation is the more accurate of the two.491

(3) Burton’s translation is largely a paraphrase of Payne’s.

(4) Persons who are in love with the beauty of restraint as regards ornament, and hold to the doctrine which Flaubert so well understood and practised, and Pater so persistently preached will consider Payne’s translation incomparably the finer.

(5) Burton’s translation is for those who, caring nothing for this doctrine, revel in rococo work, a style flamboyant at all costs, and in lawless splendours; and do not mind running against expressions that are far too blunt for the majority of people.

(6) Payne’s rendering of the metrical portions is poetry; Burton’s scarcely verse.

(7) Burton’s Terminal Essay, with the exception of the pornographic sections, is largely indebted to Payne’s.

(8) The distinctive features of Burton’s work are his notes and the pornographic sections of his Terminal Essay — the whole consisting of an amazing mass of esoteric learning, the result of a lifetime’s study. Many of the notes have little, if any, connection with the text, and they really form an independent work.

Burton himself says: “Mr. Payne’s admirable version appeals to the Orientalist and the Stylist, not to the many-headed; and mine to the anthropologist and student of Eastern manners and customs.” Burton’s Arabian Nights has been well summed up as “a monument of knowledge and audacity.”492

Having finished his task Burton straightway commenced the translation of a number of other Arabic tales which he eventually published as Supplemental Nights493 in six volumes, the first two of which correspond with Mr. Payne’s three volumes entitled Tales from the Arabic.

491 The writer of the article in the Edinburgh Review (no friend of Mr. Payne), July 1886 (No. 335, p. 180.), says Burton is “much less accurate” than Payne.

492 New York Tribune, 2nd November 1891.

493 See Chapter xxxiii.

140. Mr. Swinburne on Burton.

Congratulations rained in on Burton from all quarters; but the letters that gave him most pleasure were those from Mr. Ernest A. Floyer and Mr. A. C. Swinburne, whose glowing sonnet:

“To Richard F. Burton

On his Translation of the Arabian Nights”

is well known. “Thanks to Burton’s hand,” exclaims the poet magnificently:

“All that glorious Orient glows Defiant of the dusk. Our twilight land Trembles; but all the heaven is all one rose, Whence laughing love dissolves her frosts and snows.”

In his Poems and Ballads, 3rd Series, 1889, Mr. Swinburne pays yet another tribute to the genius of his friend. Its dedication runs:— “Inscribed to Richard F. Burton. In redemption of an old pledge and in recognition of a friendship which I must always count among the highest honours of my life.”

If private persons accorded the work a hearty reception, a large section of the press greeted it with no les cordiality. “No previous editor,” said The Standard, “had a tithe of Captain Burton’s acquaintance with the manners and customs of the Moslem East. Apart from the language, the general tone of the Nights is exceptionally high and pure. The devotional fervour . . . often rises to the boiling point of fanaticism, and the pathos is sweet and deep, genuine and tender, simple and true. . . . In no other work is Eastern life so vividly pourtrayed. This work, illuminated with notes so full of learning, should give the nation an opportunity for wiping away that reproach of neglect which Captain Burton seems to feel more keenly than he cares to express.” The St. James’s Gazette called it “One of the most important translations to which a great English scholar has ever devoted himself.”

Then rose a cry “Indecency, indecency! Filth, filth!” It was said, to use an Arabian Nights expression, that he had hauled up all the dead donkeys in the sea. The principal attack came from The Edinburgh Review (July 1886). “Mr. Payne’s translation,” says the writer, “is not only a fine piece of English, it is also, save where the exigencies of rhyme compelled a degree of looseness, remarkably literal. . . . Mr. Payne translates everything, and when a sentence is objectionable in Arabic, he makes it equally objectionable in English, or, rather, more so, since to the Arabs a rude freedom of speech is natural, while to us it is not.” Then the reviewer turns to Burton, only, however, to empty out all the vials of his indignation — quite forgetting that the work was intended only for “curious students of Moslem manners,” and not for the general public, from whom, indeed, its price alone debarred it.494 He says: “It is bad enough in the text of the tales to find that Captain Burton is not content with plainly calling a spade a spade, but will have it styled a dirty shovel; but in his notes he goes far beyond this, and the varied collection of abominations which he brings forward with such gusto is a disgrace and a shame to printed literature. . . . The different versions, however, have each its proper destination — Galland for the nursery, Lane for the library, Payne for the study and Burton for the sewers.”495

Burton’s spirited reply will be found in the last volume of his Supplemental Nights. Put compendiously, his argument is: “I had knowledge of certain subjects such as no other man possessed. Why should it die with me? Facts are facts, whether men are acquainted with them or not.” “But,” he says, “I had another object while making the notes a Repertory of Eastern knowledge in its esoteric form. Having failed to free the Anthropological Society496 from the fetters of mauvaise honte and the mock-modesty which compels travellers and ethnographical students to keep silence concerning one side of human nature (and that side the most interesting to mankind) I proposed to supply the want in these pages. . . . While Pharisee and Philistine may be or may pretend to be ‘shocked’ and ‘horrified’ by my pages, the sound commonsense of a public, which is slowly but surely emancipating itself from the prudish and prurient reticences and the immodest and immoral modesties of the early 19th century, will in good time do me, I am convinced, full and ample justice.”

In order to be quite ready, should prosecution ensue, Burton compiled what he called The Black Book, which consisted of specimens, of, to use his own expression, the “turpiloquium” of the Bible and Shakespeare. It was never required for its original purpose, but he worked some portions into the Terminal Essay to The Arabian Nights.497 And here it may be said that when Burton attacks the Bible and Christianity he is inconsistent and requires to be defended against himself. The Bible, as we have seen was one of the three books that he constantly carried about with him, and few men could have had greater admiration for its more splendid passages. We know, too, that the sincere Christian had his respect. But his Terminal Essay and these notes appeared at a moment when the outcry was raised against his Arabian Nights; consequently, when he fires off with “There is no more immoral work than the Old Testament,” the argument must be regarded as simply one of Tu quoque. Instead of attacking the Bible writers as he did, he should, to have been consistent, have excused them, as he excused the characters in The Arabian Nights, with: “Theirs is a coarseness of language, not of idea, &c., &c. . . . Such throughout the East is the language of every man, woman and child,”498 and so on. The suggestion, for example, that Ezekiel and Hosea are demoralizing because of certain expressions is too absurd for refutation. The bloodshed of the Bible horrified him; but he refused to believe that the “enormities” inflicted by the Jews on neighbouring nations were sanctioned by the Almighty.499 “The murderous vow of Jephthah,” David’s inhuman treatment of the Moabites, and other events of the same category goaded him to fury.

If he attacks Christianity, nevertheless, his diatribe is not against its great Founder, but against the abuses that crept into the church even in the lifetime of His earliest followers; and again, not so much against Christiantiy in general as against Roman Catholicism. Still, even after making every allowance, his article is mainly a glorification of the crescent at the expense of the cross.

494 Still, as everyone must admit, Burton could have said all he wanted to say in chaster language.

495 Arbuthnot’s comment was: “Lane’s version is incomplete, but good for children, Payne’s is suitable for cultured men and women, Burton’s for students.”

496 See Chapter xii., 46.

497 Burton’s A. N., x., 180, 181; Lib. Ed., viii., 163.

498 Burton’s A. N., x., 203; Lib. Ed., viii., 184.

499 Of course, all these narratives are now regarded by most Christians in quite a different light from that in which they were at the time Burton was writing. We are all of us getting to understand the Bible better.

Chapter XXX

21st November 1885-5th June 1886

K.C.M.G.

Bibliography:

74. Six Months at Abbazia. 1888.

75. Lady Burton’s Edition of the Arabian Nights. 1888.

141. In Morocco, 21st November 1885.

On October 28th the Burtons went down to Hatfield, where there was a large party, but Lord Salisbury devoted himself chiefly to Burton. After they had discussed the Eastern Question, Lord Salisbury said to Burton “Now go to your room, where you will be quiet, and draw up a complete programme for Egypt.”

Burton retired, but in two or three minutes returned with a paper which he handed to Lord Salisbury.

“You’ve soon done it,” said his Lordship, and on unfolding the paper he found the single word “Annex.”

“If I were to write for a month,” commented Burton, on noticing Lord Salisbury’s disappointment, “I could not say more.”

However, being further pressed, he elaborated his very simple programme.500 The policy he advocated was a wise and humane one; and had it been instantly adopted, untold trouble for us and much oppression of the miserable natives would have been avoided. Since then we have practically followed his recommendations, and the present prosperous state of Egypt is the result.

On 21st November 1885, Burton left England for Tangier, which he reached on the 30th, and early in January he wrote to the Morning Post a letter on the Home Rule question, which he thought might be settled by the adoption of a Diet System similar to that which obtained in Austro-Hungary. On January 15th he wants to know how Mr. Payne’s translation of Boccaccio501 is proceeding and continues: “I look forward to Vol. i. with lively pleasure. You will be glad to hear that to-day I finished my translation and to-morrow begin with the Terminal Essay, so that happen what may subscribers are safe. Tangier is beastly but not bad for work. . . . It is a place of absolute rascality, and large fortunes are made by selling European protections — a regular Augean stable.”

Mrs. Burton and Lisa left England at the end of January, and Burton met them at Gibraltar.

500 Lady Burton gives the extension in full. Life, vol. ii, p. 295.

501 The Decameron of Boccaccio. 3 vols., 1886.

142. K.c.m.g., 5th February 1886.

When the first volume of The Arabian Nights appeared Burton was sixty-four. So far his life had been a long series of disappointments. His labours as an explorer had met with no adequate recognition, the Damascus Consulship could be remembered only with bitterness, his numerous books had sold badly. Every stone which for forty years he had rolled up proved to be only a Sisyphus stone. He was neglected, while every year inferior men — not to be mentioned in the same breath with him — were advanced to high honours. Small wonder that such treatment should have soured him or that — a vehement man by nature — he should often have given way to paroxysms of anger. Still he kept on working. Then all of a sudden the transplendent sun sailed from its clouds and poured upon him its genial beams. He had at last found the golden Chersonese. His pockets, so long cobwebbed, now bulged with money. Publishers, who had been coy, now fought for him. All the world — or nearly all — sang his praises.502 Lastly came the K.C.M.G., an honour that was conferred upon him owing in large measure to the noble persistency of the Standard newspaper, which in season and out of season “recalled to the recollection of those with whom lay the bestowal of ribbons and crosses the unworthy neglect with which he had been so long treated.”

Lady Burton thus describes the reception of the news. “On the 5th of February 1886, a very extraordinary thing happened503 — it was a telegram addressed ‘Sir Richard Burton!’ He tossed it over to me and said, ‘Some fellow is playing me a practical joke, or else it is not for me. I shall not open it, so you may as well ring the bell and give it back again.’ ‘Oh no,’ I said, ‘I shall open it if you don’t.’”

It was from Lord Salisbury, conveying in the kindest terms that the queen had made him K.C.M.G. in reward for his services. He looked very serious and quite uncomfortable, and said, “Oh, I shall not accept it.”504 His wife told him, however, that it ought to be accepted because it was a certain sign that the Government intended to give him a better appointment. So he took it as a handsel.

502 Any praise bestowed upon the translation (apart from the annotations) was of course misplaced — that praise being due to Mr. Payne.

503 Lady Burton’s surprise was, of course, only affected. She had for long been manoeuvering to bring this about, and very creditably to her.

504 Life, ii., 311.

143. Burton at 65.

Having accompanied Sir Richard Burton to the meridian of his fame, we may fitly pause a moment and ask what manner of a man he was at this moment. Though sixty-five, and subject to gout, he was still strong and upright. He had still the old duskened features, dark, piercing eyes, and penthouse brows, but the long and pendulous Chinaman moustaches had shrunk till they scarcely covered his mouth. The “devil’s jaw” could boast only a small tuft of hair. There were wrinkles in “the angel’s forehead.” If meddlesome Time had also furrowed his cheeks, nevertheless the most conspicuous mark there was still the scar of that great gash received in the ding-dong fight at Berbera. His hair, which should have been grizzled, he kept dark, Oriental fashion, with dye, and brushed forward. Another curious habit was that of altering his appearance. In the course of a few months he would have long hair, short hair, big moustache, small moustache, long beard, short beard, no beard. Everyone marked his curious, feline laugh, “made between his teeth.” The change in the world’s treatment of him, and in his circumstances, is noticeable to his countenance. In photographs taken previous to 1886 his look betrays the man who feels that he has been treated neglectfully by an ungrateful world for which he had made enormous sacrifices. Indeed, looking at the matter merely from a pecuniary standpoint, he must have spent at least £20,000 of his own money in his various explorations. He is at once injured, rancorous, sullen, dangerous. All these pictures exhibit a scowl. In some the scowl is very pronounced, and in one he looks not unlike a professional prize-fighter. They betray a mind jaundiced, but defiant. A restless, fiery soul, his temper, never of the best, had grown daily more gnarled and perverse. Woe betide the imprudent human who crossed him! What chance had anybody against a man who had the command of all the forcible words in twenty-eight languages! His peremptory voice everywhere ensured obedience. To all save his dearest friends he was proud and haughty. Then came the gold shower. There was actually a plethora of money. The world, so long irreconcilable, had acknowledged his merits, and the whole man softened. The angelical character of the forehead gradually spread downwards, and in time tempered even the ferocity of the terrible jaw. It was the same man, but on better terms with himself and everybody else. We see him sitting or strolling in his garden with quite a jaunty air — and when there is a cigar in his mouth, the shadow of which modifies still more the characteristics of that truculent region, it is hard to believe that we are looking at the same man. He has a youthful vigour, an autumnal green. In one photograph Lady Burton, devoted as ever to her husband, is seen nestling at his side and leaning her head against his shoulder. She had grown uncomfortably stout and her tight-fitting dress was hard put to it to bear the strain. Her glorious hair was now grown gray and thin, and it was generally hidden by a not very becoming big yellowish wig with curls, which made her look like a magnified Marie Antoinette.

Burton’s chief pleasure in his garden was feeding the birds. They used to wait for him in flocks on an almond tree, and became “quite imperious in their manners if he did not attend to them properly.” He loved the sparrow especially, for Catullus’ sake.

His gigantic personality impressed all who met him. Conversation with him reduced the world from a sphere to a spherule. It shrank steadily — he had traversed so much of it, and he talked about out-of-the-way places so familiarly. As of old, when friends stayed with him he never wanted to go to bed, and they, too, listening to his learned, animated and piquant talk, were quite content to outwatch the Bear. As an anthropologist his knowledge was truly amazing. “He was also a first-rate surgeon and had read all the regular books.”505 People called him, for the vastness of his knowledge, the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He looked to the past and the future. To the past, for no one was more keenly interested in archaeology. He delighted to wander on forlorn moors among what Shelley calls “dismal cirques of Druid stones.” To the future, for he continued to study spiritualism, and to gaze into crystals. He longed to make himself master of the “darkling secrets of Eternity.”506 Both he and Lady Burton were, to use Milton’s expression, “struck with superstition as with a planet.” She says: “From Arab or gipsy he got. . . . his mysticism, his superstition (I am superstitious enough, God knows, but he was far more so), his divination.”507 Some of it, however, was derived from his friendship in early days with the painter-astrologer Varley. If a horse stopped for no ascertained reason or if a house martin fell they wondered what it portended. They disliked the bodeful chirp of the bat, the screech of the owl. Even the old superstition that the first object seen in the morning — a crow, a cripple, &c. — determines the fortunes of the day, had his respect. “At an hour,” he comments, “when the senses are most impressionable the aspect of unpleasant spectacles has a double effect.”508 He was disturbed by the “drivel of dreams,” and if he did not himself search for the philosopher’s stone he knew many men who were so engaged (he tells us there were a hundred in London alone) and he evidently sympathised with them.

Fear of man was a feeling unknown to him, and he despised it in others. “Of ten men,” he used to say, quoting an Osmanli proverb, “nine are women.” Behind his bed hung a map of Africa, and over that a motto in Arabic which meant:

“All things pass.”

This saying he used to observe, was always a consolation to him.

If he had been eager for money, it was only for what money would buy. He wanted it because it would enable him to do greater work. “I was often stopped, in my expeditions,” he told Dr. Baker, “for the want of a hundred pounds.” He was always writing: in the house, in the desert, in a storm, up a tree, at dinner, in bed, ill or well, fresh or tired — indeed, he used to say that he never was tired. There was nothing histrionic about him, and he never posed, except “before fools and savages.” He was frank, straightforward, and outspoken, and his face was an index of his mind. Every thought was visible just “as through a crystal case the figured hours are seen.” He was always Burton, never by any chance any one else. As. Mr. A. C. Swinburne said of him: “He rode life’s lists as a god might ride.” Of English Literature and especially of poetry he was an omnivorous reader. He expressed warm admiration for Chaucer, “jolly old Walter Mapes,” Butler’s Hudibras, and Byron, especially Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, with its allusions to his beloved Tasso, Ariosto and Boccaccio. Surely, however, he ought not to have tried to set us against that tender line of Byron’s,

“They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died,”509

by pointing out that the accent of Arqua is rightly on the second syllable, and by remarking: “Why will not poets mind their quantities in lieu of stultifying their lines by childish ignorance.”510 Then, too, he savagely attacked Tennyson for his “rasher of bacon line” — “the good Haroun Alraschid,”511 Raschid being properly accented on the last syllable. Of traveller authors, he preferred “the accurate Burckhardt.” He read with delight Boswell’s Johnson, Johnson’s Journey to the Western Islands, Renan’s Life of Jesus, Gibbon, whom he calls “our great historian”512 and the poems of Coleridge. At Cowper he never lost an opportunity of girding, both on account of his Slave Ballads513 and the line:

“God made the country and man made the town.”514

“Cowper,” he comments, “had evidently never seen a region untouched by the human hand.” It goes without saying that he loved “his great namesake,” as he calls him, “Robert Burton, of melancholy and merry, of facete and juvenile memory.” Of contemporary work he enjoyed most the poems of D. G. Rossetti, Mr. Swinburne, Mr. John Payne and FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat, and we find him praising Mr. Edmund Gosse’s lyrics. Of novelists Dickens was his favourite. He called Darwin “our British Aristotle.” Eothen515 was “that book of books.” He never forgave Carlyle for denouncing The Arabian Nights as “downright lies” and “unwholesome literature;” Miss Martineau, as an old maid, was, of course, also out of court. If she had written Shakespeare, it would have been all the same. He enjoyed a pen and ink fight, even as in those old Richmond School days he had delighted in fisticuffs. “Peace and quiet are not in my way.” And as long as he got his adversary down he was still not very particular what method he employed.

Unlike so many of his fellow-countrymen, he was a lover or art, and had visited all the galleries in Europe. “If anyone,” he used to say, “thinks the English have the artistic eye, let him stand in the noblest site in Europe, Trafalgar Square, and look around.” On another occasion he described the square as “the nation’s last phase of artistic bathos.” The facade of the National Gallery was his continual butt.

A fine handwriting, he said, bespoke the man of audacity and determination; and his own might have been done with a pin. Then he used to split his words as if they were Arabic; writing, for example, “con tradict” for contradict. When young ladies teased him to put something in their albums he generally wrote:

“Shawir hunna wa khalif hunna,”

which may be translated:

“Ask their advice, ye men of wit

And always do the opposite.”

Another of his favourite sayings against women was the Persian couplet:

“Agar nek budi zan u Ray-i-Zan

Zan-ra Ma-zan nam budi, na Zan,”516

which may be rendered:

“If good were in woman, of course it were meeter

To say when we think of her, Beat not, not Beat her.”

Zan meaning “woman” and also “beat,” and ma-zan “beat not.”

There was in Burton, as in most great men, a touch of the Don Quixote, derived, no doubt, in his case, from his father. He was generous and magnanimous, and all who knew him personally spoke of him with affection. He was oftenest referred to as “a dear chap.” Arbuthnot regarded him as a paladin, with no faults whatever. When younger he had, as we have noticed, never undervalued a good dinner, but as he advanced in years, everything — food, sleep, exercise — had to give way before work.

505 Dr. Baker, Burton’s medical attendant.

506 Burton’s Camoens, i., p. 28.

507 Life, vol. i., p. 396.

508 Note to “Khalifah,” Arabian Nights, Night 832.

509 Childe Harold, iv., 31, referring, of course, to Petrarch.

510 Terminal Essay, Arabian Nights.

511 It reminded him of his old enemy, Ra’shid Pasha. See Chap. xiv.

512 Pilgrimage to Meccah, ii., 77.

513 Mission to Gelele, ii., 126.

514 Task, Book i.

515 By A. W. Kinglake.

516 See Lib. Ed. Nights, Sup., vol. xi., p. 365.

144. More Anecdotes.

For silver he had a conspicuous weakness. “Every person,” he used to say, “has some metal that influences him, and mine is silver.” He would have every possible article about him of that metal — walking-stick knobs, standishes, modern cups, ancient goblets — all of gleamy silver. Had he been able to build an Aladdin’s palace it would have been all of silver. He even regarded it as a prophylactic against certain diseases. If his eyes got tired through reading he would lie on his back with a florin over each. When the gout troubled him, silver coins had to be bound to his feet; and the household must have been very thankful for this supposed panacea, for when in pain, Burton, never a placid creature, had tremendous outbursts of anger. One of these scenes, which occurred at an hotel, is thus described by a witness. “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 witness 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 Triestine in particular.”517

Another anecdote of this period reveals Burton doing a little smuggling. One day, we are told, Lady Burton invited the consular chaplain to accompany her to the quay. Stopping her cab just in front of the Custom House, she induced her companion to talk to the Custom house officer while she herself went on board a vessel to see about a case of wine for her husband. Presently a porter came with the case and some loose bottles, the later being placed by the chaplain’s 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 the chaplain 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 and thus allayed his suspicions. He returned her nod with a military salute, and was soon invisible. The speed, however, was too much for the loose bottles, and the duty was paid in kind, as the wine flowed freely at the bottom of the cab, while Burton pretended to rate his wife for exposing him to the charge of smuggling and damaging the reputation of the chaplain.518

At Trieste Burton was always popular. The people appreciated his genius and sympathised with his grievances, and he could truly say of them in the words of his prototype, Ovid:

“They wish, good souls, to keep me, yet I know

They wish me gone, because I want to go.”519

Not that he pleased everyone. Far from it, and hereby hangs a delectable anecdote. Some Englishman at Trieste, who took umbrage on account of the colossal muddle Burton made with his accounts and the frequency of his absence, wrote to the Foreign Office something to this effect. “As Sir Richard Burton is nearly always away from his post and the Vice-Consul has to do the greater portion of the work, why on earth don’t you get rid of Sir Richard and let the Vice-Consul take his place? I wonder the Foreign Office can put up with him at all.”

To which came the following graceful reply. “Dear Sir — We look upon the consulship of Trieste as a gift to Sir Richard Burton for his services to the nation, and we must decline to interfere with him in any way.”520

517 Chambers’s Journal, August 1904.

518 Chambers’s Journal.

519 Ex Ponto, iv., 9.

520 Or words to that effect.

Chapter XXXI

Burton’s Religion

145. Burton’s Religion.

As regards religion, Burton had in early life, as we have seen, leaned to Sufism; and this faith influenced him to the end. For a little while he coquetted with Roman Catholicism; but the journey to Mecca practically turned him into a Mohammedan. At the time of his marriage he called himself an agnostic, and, as we have seen, he was always something of a spiritualist. Lady Burton, charmingly mixing her metaphors,521 says “he examined every religion, and picked out its pear to practise it.” The state of his mind in 1880 is revealed by his Kasidah. From that time to his death he was half Mohammedan and half Agnostic. His wife pressed him in season and out of season to become a Catholic, and, as we shall see, he did at last so far succumb to her importunities as to sign a paper in which, to use Lady Burton’s expression, “he abjured the Protestant heresy,” and put himself in line with the Catholics.522 But, as his opinions do not seem to have changed one iota, this “profession of faith” could have had little actual value. He listened to the prayers that his wife said with him every night, and he distinctly approved of religion in other persons. Thus, he praised the Princess of Wales523 for hearing her children say their “little prayers,”524 every night at her knee, and he is credited with the remark: “A man without religion may be excused, but a woman without religion is unthinkable.” Priests, ceremonials, services, all seemed to him only tinkling cymbals. He was always girding at “scapularies and other sacred things.” He delighted to compare Romanism unfavourably with Mohammedanism. Thus he would say sarcastically, “Moslems, like Catholics, pray for the dead; but as they do the praying themselves instead of paying a priest to do it, their prayers, of course, are of no avail.” He also objected to the Church of Rome because, to use his own words, “it has added a fourth person to the Trinity.”525 He said he found “four great Protestant Sommites: (1) St. Paul, who protested against St. Peter’s Hebraism; (2) Mohammed, who protested against the perversions of Christianity; (3) Luthur, who protested against the rule of the Pope; (4) Sir Richard Burton, who protested against the whole business.” The way in which he used to ridicule the Papal religion in his wife’s presence often jarred on his friends, who thought that however much he might disapprove of it, he ought, for her sake, to have restrained his tongue. But he did not spare other religious bodies either. He wanted to know, for instance, what the clergy of the Church of England did for the £3,500,000 a year “wasted on them,” while he summed up the Nonconformists in the scornful phrase: “Exeter Hall!” He considered anthropomorphism to explain satisfactorily not only the swan maiden, and the other feathered ladies526 of the Nights, but also angel and devil. Both Arbuthnot and Payne regarded him as a Mohammedan. Another friend described him as a “combination of an Agnostic, a Theist and an Oriental mystic.” Over and over again he said to his cousin, St. George Burton, “The only real religion in the world is that of Mohammed. Religions are climatic. The Protestant faith suits England.” Once he said “I should not care to go to Hell, for I should meet all my relations there, nor to Heaven, because I should have to avoid so many friends.” Lady Burton, who prayed daily “that the windows of her husband’s soul might be opened,” relied particularly on the mediation of “Our Lady of Dale” — the Dale referred to being a village near Ilkestone, Derbyshire, which once boasted a magnificent Premonstratensian monastery,527 and she paid for as many as a hundred masses to be said consecutively in the little “Church of Our Lady and St. Thomas,”528 at Ilkeston, in order to hasten that event. “Some three months before Sir Richard’s death,” writes Mr. P. P. Cautley, the Vice-Consul at Trieste, to me, “I was seated at Sir Richard’s tea table with our clergy man, and the talk turning on religion, Sir Richard declared, ‘I am an atheist, but I was brought up in the Church of England, and that is officially my church.’529 Perhaps, however, this should be considered to prove, not that he was an atheist, but that he could not resist the pleasure of shocking the clergyman.”

521 This was no solitary occasion. Burton was constantly chaffing her about her slip-shod English, and she always had some piquant reply to give him.

522 See Chapter xxxv., 166.

523 Now Queen Alexandra.

524 Life, ii., 342.

525 This remark occurs in three of his books, including The Arabian Nights.

526 Stories of Janshah and Hasan of Bassorah.

527 One arch now remains. There is in the British Museum a quarto volume of about 200 pages (Cott. MSS., Vesp., E 26) containing fragments of a 13th Century Chronicle of Dale. On Whit Monday 1901, Mass was celebrated within the ruins of Dale Abbey for the first time since the Reformation.

528 The Church, however, was at that time, and is now, always spoken of as the “Shrine of Our Lady of Dale, Virgin Mother of Pity.” The Very Rev. P. J. Canon McCarthy, of Ilkeston, writes to me, “The shrine was an altar to our Lady of Sorrows or Pieta, which was temporarily erected in the Church by the permission of the Bishop of Nottingham (The Right Rev. E. S. Bagshawe), till such time as its own chapel or church could be properly provided. The shrine was afterwards honoured and recognised by the Holy See.” See Chapter xxxix.

529 Letter to me, 18th June 1905. But see Chapter xxxv.

146. Burton as a Writer.

On Burton as a writer we have already made some comments. One goes to his books with confidence; in the assurance that whatever ever he saw is put down. Nothing is hidden and there is no attempt to Munchausenize. His besetting literary sin, as we said, was prolixity. Any one of his books reduced to one-quarter, or better, one-sixth the size, and served up artistically would have made a delightful work. As it is, they are vast storehouses filled with undusted objects of interest and value, mingled with heaps of mere lumber. His books laid one on the top of another would make a pile eight feet high!

He is at his best when describing some daring adventure, when making a confession of his own weaknesses, or in depicting scenery. Lieutenant Cameron’s tribute to his descriptive powers must not be passed by. “Going over ground which he explored,” says Cameron, “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.” Stanley spoke of his books in a similar strain.

Burton owed his success as a narrator in great measure to his habit of transferring impressions to paper the moment he received them — a habit to which he was led by reading a passage of Dr. Johnson’s Journey to the Western Islands. “An observer deeply impressed by any remarkable spectacle,” says Johnson, “does not suppose that the traces will soon vanish from his mind, and having commonly no great convenience for writing, defers the description to a time of more leisure and better accommodation. He who has not made the experiment or is not accustomed to require vigorous accuracy from himself, will scarcely believe how much a few hours take from certainty of knowledge and distinctness of imagery; how the succession of objects will be broken, how separate parts will be confused, and how many practical features and discriminations will be found compressed and conglobated into one gross and general idea.”530 “Brave words,” comments Burton, “somewhat pompous and diffused, yet worthy to be written in letters of gold.”531 Very many of Burton’s books, pamphlets and articles in the journals of the learned societies appeal solely to archaeologists, as, for example Etruscan Bologna,532 an account of the Etrurian people, their sharp bottomed wells, the pebble tombs of the poor and the elegant mausoleums of the wealthy with their figures of musicians and dancing girls “in garments of the most graceful form, finest texture and brilliant hues;” reminding us of the days when Veii fell, and its goddess, who “was light and easily removed, as though she followed willingly,” as Livy, with his tongue in his cheek, says, was conveyed to Rome; and of the later days when “Lars Porsena of Clusium” poured southward his serried host, only, according to the Roman historians, to meet with defeat and discomfiture.

Of Burton’s carelessness and inaccuracies, we have already spoken. We mentioned that to his dying day he was under a wrong impression as to his birthplace, and that his account of his early years and his family bristles with errors. Scores of his letters have passed through my hands and nearly all are imperfectly dated. Fortunately, however, the envelopes have in almost every case been preserved; so the postmark, when legible, has filled the lacuna. At every turn in his life we are reminded of his inexactitude — especially in autobiographical details. And yet, too, like most inexact men, he was a rare stickler for certain niceties. He would have defended the “h” in Meccah with his sword; and the man who spelt “Gypsy” with an “i” for ever forfeited his respect.

Burton’s works — just as was his own mind — are vast, encyclopaedic, romantic and yet prosaic, unsystematic; but that is only repeating the line of the old Greek poet:

“Like our own selves our work must ever be.”533

530 Murphy’s Edition of Johnson’s Works, vol, xii., p. 412.

531 Preface to The City of the Saints. See also Wanderings in West Africa, i., p. 21, where he adds, “Thus were written such books as Eothen and Rambles beyond Railways; thus were not written Lane’s Egyptians or Davis’s Chinese.”

532 The general reader will prefer Mrs. Hamilton Gray’s Tour to the Sepulchres of Etruria, 1839; and may like to refer to the review of it in The Gentleman’s Magazine for April, 1841.

533 Phrynichus.

Chapter XXXII

5th June 1886-15th April 1888

Burton and Social Questions: Anecdotes

147. The Population Question.

In social questions Burton took a keen interest. Indeed he was in many respects a man far in advance of his age. In denouncing various evils he betrays the earnestness of a Carlyle, and when propounding plans for the abolition of the Slave Trade in “that Devil’s Walk and Purlieu,” East Africa, Saul becomes one of the prophets. That he was no saint we should have known if he himself had not told us; but he had, as he believed, his special work to do in the world and he did it with all his might. Though a whirlwind of a man, he had, as we have seen, the tenderest of hearts, he thought with sorrow of the sufferings of the poor, and he often said to his wife: “When I get my pension we’ll spend the rest of our lives in helping the submerged tenth.” Although sympathising warmly with the efforts of General Booth and other men who were trying to grapple with social evils, he could see, nevertheless, that they touched only the fringe of the difficulty. He was, broadly speaking, what is now known as a Neo-Mathusian, that is to say, he held that no man had a right to bring into the world a larger number of children than he could support with comfort, that the poor ought to be advised to limit their families, and that persons suffering from certain terrible diseases ought not to be allowed to marry, or at any rate to have children.

Himself a man of splendid physique, Burton wanted to see every man in England physically healthy and strong. He considered it abominable that infant monstrosities or children born blind should be allowed to live, and held that showmen and others who exhibit monstrosities should be promptly jailed. “Indeed,” he says, “it is a question if civilisation may not be compelled to revive the law of Lycurgus, which forbade a child, male or female, to be brought up without the approbation of public officers appointed ad hoc. One of the curses of the 19th century is the increased skill of the midwife and the physician, who are now able to preserve worthless lives and to bring up semi-abortions whose only effect upon the breed is increased degeneracy.”534 He thought with Edward FitzGerald and many another sympathiser with the poor, that it is the height of folly for a labouring man living in a cottage with only two small bedrooms and earning twelve shillings a week to burden himself with a family of from ten to a dozen. Three or four children he considered enough for anybody. At the same time he perceived that the Neo-Malthusian system might be abused — that is to say, rich persons who could well afford to bring up respectable-sized families might be tempted to restrict the number to one or two.535 Consequently, in the Terminal Essay to the Arabian Nights, we find him recommending the study of an Arabic work, Kitab al Bah not only to the anthropologist but also to the million. He says, “The conscientious study would be useful to humanity by teaching the use and unteaching the abuse of the Malthusian system,536 whereby the family is duly limited to the necessities of society.” At the present time — with the diminishing birth-rate and when the subject is discussed freely in every upper and middle class home in England — these ideas cause no wonderment; but in those days they were novel.

534 Supplemental Nights, Lib. Ed., x., 302, Note.

535 The recent speeches (July 1905) of the Bishop of Ripon and the letters of the Rev. Dr. Barry on this danger to the State will be in the minds of many.

536 Burton means what is now called the Neo-Malthusian system, which at the time was undergoing much discussion, owing to the appearance, at the price of sixpence, of Dr. H. Allbutt’s well-known work The Wife’s Handbook. Malthus’s idea was to limit families by late marriages; the Neo-Malthusians, who take into consideration the physiological evils arising from celibacy, hold that it is better for people to marry young, and limit their family by lawful means.

148. New Projects.

We left the Burtons, it will be remembered, at Gibraltar. After a short stay there, they crossed over to Morocco in a cattle tug. Neither of them liked Tangiers, still, if the Consulate had been conferred upon Sir Richard, it would have given them great happiness. They were, however, doomed to disappointment. Lord Salisbury’s short-lived administration of 1886 had been succeeded by a Liberal Government with Lord Rosebery as Premier; and Tangiers was given to Mr. (afterwards Sir) W. Kirby Green.537 The Burtons were back in Trieste at the end of March.

The success of The Arabian Nights, which was owing entirely to its anthropological and pornographic notes, was for Sir Richard Burton both good and bad. It was good because it removed for the remainder of his life all pecuniary anxieties; it was bad because it led him to devote himself exclusively to subjects which certainly should not occupy exclusively the attention of any man. Henceforth every translation was to be annotated from a certain point of view.538 One can but regret this perversity, for the old Roman and other authors have unpleasantnesses enough without accentuating them. Thus in reading some sweet poem of Catullus, spoilt by perhaps a single objectionable line, we do not want our attention drawn particularly to the blemish. Unfortunately, Sir Richard now made this kind of work his speciality, and it would be idle — or rather it would be untrue — to deny that he now chose certain books for translation, not on account of their beautiful poetry and noble thoughts, but because they lent themselves to pungent annotation. Indeed, his passion for this sort of literature had become a monomania.539 He insisted, however, and he certainly believed, that he was advancing the interests of science; nor could any argument turn him. We wish we could say that it was chiefly for their beauties that he now set himself to translate Catullus, Ausonius,540 and Apuleius. He did appreciate their beauties; the poets and the classic prose writers were to him as the milk of paradise; and some of his annotations would have illuminated the best passages, but the majority of them were avowedly to be consecrate to the worst. Having in The Arabian Nights given the world the fruits of his enquiries in Eastern lands, and said his say, he might with advantage have let the subject rest. He had certainly nothing new to tell us about the manners and customs of the Romans. Then again, for the translating of so delicate, so musical and so gracious a poet as Catullus he was absolutely and entirely unqualified. However, to Catullus he now turned. Sirmio and Rome succeeded to Baghdad and Damascus; jinni and ghoul fled before hoofed satyrs and old Silenus shaking his green stick of lilies. As we shall see, however, he did not begin the translation in earnest till January 1890.541

537 This is Lady Burton’s version. According to another version it was not this change in government that stood in Sir Richard’s way.

538 Vide the Preface to Burton’s Catullus.

539 We are not so prudish as to wish to see any classical work, intended for the bona fide student, expurgated. We welcome knowledge, too, of every kind; but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in much of Sir Richard’s later work we are not presented with new information. The truth is, after the essays and notes in The Arabian Nights, there was nothing more to say. Almost all the notes in the Priapeia, for example, can be found in some form or other in Sir Richard’s previous works.

540 Decimus Magnus Ausonius (A.D. 309 to A.D. 372) born at Burdegala (Bordeaux). Wrote epigrams, Ordo Nobilium Urbium, short poems on famous cities, Idyllia, Epistolae and the autobiographical Gratiarum Actio.

541 Among the English translations of Catullus may be mentioned those by the Hon. George Lamb, 1821, and Walter K. Kelly, 1854 (these are given in Bohn’s edition), Sir Theodore Martin, 1861, James Cranstoun, 1867, Robinson Ellis, 1867 and 1871, Sir Richard Burton, 1894, Francis Warre Cornish, 1904. All are in verse except Kelly’s and Cornish’s. See also Chapter xxxv. of this work.

149. Mr. A. G. Ellis and Professor Blumhardt. 5th June 1886-5th April 1887.

On June 5th the Burtons and their “Magpie Trunk” again left Trieste and travelled via Innsbruck, Zurich, Bale and Boulogne to England. After a short stay at Folkestone with Lady Stisted and her daughter, they went on to London, whence Burton memorialized the vice-chancellor and the curators of the Bodleian Library for the loan of the Wortley Montagu manuscripts of the Arabian Nights. Not a private loan, but a temporary transference to the India Office under the charge of Dr. R. Rost. On November 1st came a refusal, and Burton, at great inconvenience to himself, had to go to Oxford. “The Bodleian,” he says, “is the model of what a reading library should not be, and the contrast of its treasures with their mean and miserable surroundings is a scandal.” He did not know in which he suffered most, the Bodleian, the Radcliffe or the Rotunda. Finally, however, the difficulty was got over by having the required pages photographed.

He now wrote to the Government and begged to be allowed, at the age of sixty-six, to retire on full pension. His great services to the country and to learning were set down, but though fifty persons of importance in the political and literary world supported the application, it was refused. It is, however, only just to the Government to say that henceforward Burton was allowed “leave” whenever he wanted it. An easier post than that at Trieste it would have been impossible to imagine, still, he was in a measure tied, and the Government missed an opportunity of doing a graceful act to one of its most distinguished servants, and to one of the most brilliant of Englishmen.

Then followed a holiday in Scotland, where the Burtons were the guests of Mr. (now Sir) Alexander Baird of Urie. Back in London, they lunched at different times with F. F. Arbuthnot, G. A. Sala, A. C. Swinburne, and “dear old Larkin” — now 85 — in whose house at Alexandria, Burton had stayed just before his Mecca journey. It was apparently during this visit that Burton gave to his cousin St. George Burton a seal showing on one side the Burton crest, on another the Burton Arms, and on the third a man’s face and a hand with thumb to the nose and fingers spread out. “Use it,” said Burton, “when you write to a d —— -d snob.” And he conveyed the belief that it would be used pretty often.

On 16th September 1886, writing to Mr. Kirby542 from “United Service Club,” Pall Mall, Burton says, “We here have been enjoying splendid weather, and a really fine day in England (I have seen only two since May) is worth a week anywhere else. . . . You will find your volumes543 sent to you regularly. No. 1 caused big sensation. A wonderful leader about it in Standard (Mrs. Gamp, of all people!) followed by abuse in Pall Mall. I have come upon a young woman friend greedily reading it in open drawing-room, and when I warned another against it, she answered: ‘Very well, Billy [her husband] has a copy, and I shall read it at once.’”

Later Burton’s curiosity was aroused by the news that Mr. A. G. Ellis, of the British Museum, had shown Mr. Kirby an edition of Alaeddin in Malay.544 “Let me know,” he says, “when you go to see Mr. Ellis. I especially want to accompany you, and must get that Malay version of Alaeddin. Lord Stanley of Alderley could translate it.”

It was about this time that Burton decided to make a new and lavishly annotated translation of The Scented Garden. To the Kama Shastra edition of 1886 we have already referred, and we shall deal fully with the whole subject in a later chapter.

On October 6th the Burtons heard Mr. Heron Allen lecture on palmistry at Hampstead. For some weeks Burton was prostrated again by his old enemy, the gout, but Lord Stanley of Alderley, F. F. Arbuthnot, and other friends went and sat with him, so the illness had its compensations. A visit to Mr. John Payne, made, as usual, at tea time, is next recorded, and there was to have been another visit, but Burton, who was anxious to get to Folkestone to see his sister, had to omit it.

On January 10th 1887, he writes to Mr. Payne as follows:

“That last cup of tea came to grief, I ran away from London abruptly, feeling a hippishness 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 Bibliotheque Nationale. Thence to Cannes, the Riviera, &c. At the end of my 5th Vol. (Supplemental) I shall walk in to Edin[burgh] Review.545 . . . I hope you like Vol. x. and its notices of your work. I always speak of it in the same terms, always with the same appreciation and admiration.”

On January 13th 1887, the Burtons reached Paris, where Sir Richard had the pleasure of meeting Herr Zotenberg, discoverer of the Arabic originals of Alaeddin and Zayn al Asnam; and thence they proceeded to Cannes, where the state of Burton’s health gave his wife great uneasiness. She says, “I saw him dripping his pen anywhere except into the ink. When he tried to say something he did not find his words.” An awful fit of “epileptiform convulsions,” the result of suppressed gout, followed, and the local doctors who were called in came to the conclusion that Burton could not recover. They thought it better, however, that their opinion should be conveyed to him by a perfect stranger, so they deputed Dr. Grenfell Baker, a young man who was then staying at Cannes, to perform the painful duty.

Dr. Baker entered the sick room and broke the news to Burton as best he could.

“Then you suppose I am going to die?” said Burton.

“The medical men who have been holding a consultation are of that opinion.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Burton said, “Ah, well! — sit down,” and then he told Dr. Baker a story out of The Arabian Nights. Dr. Baker remained a fortnight, and then Sir Richard, who decided to have a travelling medical attendant, sent to England for Dr. Ralph Leslie, who a little later joined him at Trieste.

To his circle of friends Burton now added Mr. A. G. Ellis, already referred to, Professor James F. Blumhardt, of the British Museum, and Professor Cecil Bendall, of University College, London.546 His first communication with Mr. Ellis seems to have been a post-card dated Trieste, 8th May 1887. He says “The Perfumed Garden is not yet out nor will it be for six months. My old version is to be had at — -‘s, Coventry Street, Haymarket. The Supplemental Nights you can procure from the agent, —— -, Farleigh Road, Stoke Newington.”

As we have seen, Burton’s first and second supplemental volumes of the Nights correspond with Mr. Payne’s three volumes of Tales from the Arabic. He also wished to include the eight famous Galland Tales:— “Zayn Al-Asnam,” “Alaeddin,” “Khudadad and his Brothers,” “The Kaliph’s Night Adventure,” “Ali Baba,” “Ali Khwajah and the Merchant of Baghdad,” “Prince Ahmad and the Fairy Peri-Banu,” and “The Two Sisters who Envied their Cadette;” but the only Oriental text he could find was a Hindustani version of Galland’s tales “Orientalised and divested of their inordinate Gallicism.” As Burton was at this time prostrated by illness, Professor Blumhardt kindly undertook “to English the Hindustani for him. While the volume was going forward, however, M. Zotenberg, of Paris, discovered a MS. copy of The Nights containing the Arabic originals of ‘Zayn Al-Asnam’ and ‘Alaeddin,’ and Burton, thanks to the courtesy of Zotenberg, was able to make use of it.”

542 Mr. Kirby was on the Continent.

543 Presentation copy of the Nights.

544 See Mr. Kirby’s Notes in Burton’s Arabian Nights.

545 See Chapter xxix.

546 Now Professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge.

150. Dr. Leslie and Dr. Baker: Anecdotes. April 1887.

From June 19th to 22nd there were rejoicings at Trieste on account of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. At the banquet, which took place at the Jager, Sir Richard occupied the chair, and he and the Rev. C. F. Thorndike, the chaplain, made speeches. During the summer Sir Richard’s health continued to cause grave anxiety, but he was well enough by July 15th to set out for the usual summer holiday. Accompanied by Lady Burton, Dr. Leslie and Lisa, he first visited Adelsburg, and then Sauerbrunn, where he got relief by drinking daily a cup of very hot water. In a letter to Mr. Ellis written from Sauerbrunn, 14th September 1887, Burton refers to Professor Blumhardt’s contribution to his Supplementary Nights, and finishes: “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 part.”

After the Burtons’ return to Trieste (at the end of September) Dr. Leslie obtained another post, and Dr. Baker was invited to take his place.

Dr. Baker consented to do so, only on the condition that Sir Richard would not dispute his medical orders. This, Dr. Baker explained to me, was a very necessary stipulation, for Sir Richard now looked upon the time spent over his meals as so many half-hours wasted. He never ate his food properly, but used to raven it up like an animal in order to get back quickly to his books. So a treaty was made, and Dr. Baker remained a member of the household the rest of Burton’s life.

To this period belong the following unpublished anecdotes. Of Burton’s interest in Ancient Etruria and especially in the archaeological discoveries at Bologna547 we have already spoken. Once when he and Dr. Baker were visiting Bologna they took a long walk outside the town and quite lost their bearings. Noticing a working man seated on the roadside, Burton asked him in French the way back. In reply the man “only made a stupid noise in his throat.” Burton next tried him with the Bolognese548 dialect, upon which the man blurted out, “Je don’t know savez.” Sir Richard then spoke in English, and the man finding there was no further necessity for Parisian, explained in his own tongue that he was an English sailor who had somehow got stranded in that part.

To Burton’s delight in shocking people we have already alluded. Nor did age sober him. He would tell to open-mouthed hearers stories of his hair-breadth escapes, and how some native plotted against his life. “Another moment,” he would say, “and I should have been a dead man, but I was too quick for my gentleman. I turned round with my sword and sliced him up like a lemon.” Dr. Baker, who had heard many tales about the Austrians and duelling, was exercised in his mind as to what ought to be done if he were “called out.” “Now,” said Burton, “this is one of the things in life worthy of remembrance. Never attack a man, but if he attacks you, kill him.” Sometimes the crusted tale about the Arab murder would come up again. “Is it true, Sir Richard,” a young curate once innocently inquired, “that you shot a man near Mecca?” “Sir,” replied Burton, tossing his head haughtily, “I’m proud to say that I have committed every sin in the Decalogue.”

In after years Dr. Baker was often asked for reminiscences of Burton. “Can you remember any of his sayings?” enquired one interlocutor. “Yes,” replied Dr. Baker. “He once said, ‘Priests, politicians and publishers will find the gate of Heaven extremely narrow.’” “I’m sorry for that,” followed the interlocutor, “for I’ve just been elected M.P. for the —— Division of Yorkshire.”

For Mrs. Lynn Linton, the novelist, whom he described as a “sweet, womanly woman,” Burton had a sincere regard, but he used to say that though she was an angel in the drawing-room, she was a raging, blood-thirsty tigress on the platform. One day, while Sir Richard, Mrs. Linton and Dr. Baker were chatting together, a lady to whom Mrs. Linton was a stranger joined the group and said “Sir Richard, why don’t you leave off writing those heavy books on Bologna and other archaeological subjects, and do something lighter? Couldn’t you write some trash — novels, I mean?” Sir Richard look sideways at Mrs. Linton, and kept his countenance as well as he could. On another occasion when Sir Richard, Lady Burton, Dr. Baker and an aged Cambridge Professor were chatting together, Burton unconsciously glided into Latin — in which he asked the professor a question. The old man began a laboured reply in the same language — and then, stopping suddenly, said, “If you don’t mind, Sir Richard, we’ll continue the conversation in English.”

Believing that Burton was overworking himself, Dr. Baker recommended him to order “a little rubbish in the shape of novels,” from London, and so rest his brain for an hour just before bedtime. Burton demurred, but the novels were ultimately sent for, they duly arrived, and Burton went through a course of “chou-chou,” as he called it. After a while, however, he gave up what he had never taken to kindly, and henceforward he nightly “rested his brain,” by reading books in the modern Greek dialects.

547 Chapter xxxi.

548 Burton’s book, Etruscan Bologna, has a chapter on the contadinesca favella Bolognese, pp. 242-262.

151. Three Months at Abbazia. 1st Dec. 1887-5th March 1888.

On the 1st of December 1887, in order to avoid the fearful boras of Trieste, and to shelter in the supposed mild climate of “the Austrian Riviera,” Burton, accompanied, as always, by his wife, Dr. Baker, and Lisa, went to stay at Abbazia. The subscriptions for his Supplemental Nights were now pouring in, and they put him in great jollity. Jingling his money in his pockets, he said to Dr. Baker, “I’ve always been poor, and now we’ll enjoy ourselves.” Henceforth he spent his money like a dissipated school-boy at a statute fair. Special trains, the best rooms in the best hotels, anything, everything he fancied — and yet all the while he worked at his books “like a navvy.” Abbazia was a disappointment. Snow fell for two months on end, and all that time they were mewed up in their hotel. Burton found the society agreeable, however, and he read German with the Catholic priest. Most of his time was spent in finishing the Supplemental Nights, and Lady Burton was busy preparing for the press and expurgated edition of her husband’s work which, it was hoped, would take its place on the drawing-room table. Mr. Justin Huntly McCarthy, son of the novelist, gave her considerably assistance, and the work appeared in 1888. Mr. Kirby’s notes were to have been appended to Lady Burton’s edition of the Nights as well as to Sir Richard’s, but ultimately the idea was abandoned. “My wife and I agreed,” writes Burton, “that the whole of your notes would be far too learned for her public,”549 so only a portion was used. Lady Burton’s work consisted of six volumes corresponding with Burton’s first ten, from which 215 pages were omitted.

Owing to the stagnation of Abbazia, and the martyrdom which he endured from the gout, Burton was very glad to get back to Trieste, which was reached on March 5th. When his pain was acute he could not refrain from groaning, and at such times, Lady Burton, kneeling by his bedside, use to say “Offer it up, offer it up” — meaning that prayer alone would bring relief.

To Mr. Payne, 14th March 1888, Burton writes, “I have been moving since yours of March 5th reached me, and unable to answer you. . . . Delighted to hear that in spite of cramp,550 Vo. V.551 is finished, and shall look forward to the secret552 being revealed. You are quite right never to say a word about it. There is nothing I abhor so much as a man intrusting me with a secret.”

On March 19th, Sir Richard finished his last volume of the Supplemental Nights, and in May he was visited at Trieste by his old friend, F. F. Arbuthnot.

On the 15th of April (1888) occurred the death of Matthew Arnold, who had for some years enjoyed a Civil List pension of £250 a year; and the event had scarcely been announced before Lady Burton, without consulting her husband,553 telegraphed to the Government to “give Burton Arnold’s pension.” This step, characteristic as it was indiscreet, naturally did not effect its purpose.

549 20th September 1887, from Adeslberg, Styria.

550 Writer’s cramp of the right hand, brought on by hard work.

551 Of the Translation of The Novels of Matteo Bandello, 6 vols. Published in 1890.

552 Mr. Payne had not told Burton the name of the work, as he did not wish the news to get abroad prematurely.

553 She very frequently committed indiscretions of this kind, all of them very creditable to her heart, but not to her head.

Chapter XXXIII

19th March 1888-15th October 1888

The Last Visit to England

“The Supplemental Nights”

Bibliography:

76. 1st Vol. Supplemental Nights, 1st December 1886. 6th Vol. 1st August 1888.

152. Meeting with Mr. Swinburne and others, 18th July 1888-15th October 1888.

Burton’s health continuing weak, he again endeavoured to induce the Government to release him from his duties. Instead of that, they gave him what he calls “an informal sick certificate,” and from the following letter to his sister (26th May 1888) we may judge that it was not given gracefully.

“Yesterday,” he says, “I got my leave accompanied by some disagreeable expressions which will be of use to me when retiring. We leave Trieste in June and travel leisurely over the St. Gothard and expect to be in England about the 10th. . . . The meteorologists declare that the heat is going to equal the cold. Folky554 folk are like their neighbours, poor devils who howl for excitement — want of anything better to do. The dreadful dull life of England accounts for many British madnesses. Do you think of the Crystal Palace this year? We have an old friend, Aird, formerly the Consul here, who has taken up his abode somewhere in Sydenham. I don’t want cold water bandages, the prospect of leave makes me sleep quite well. With love and kisses to both,555 Your affectionate brother, R. F. B.”

Burton and his wife reached Folkestone on July 18th. Next day they went on to London, where they had the pleasure of meeting again Commander Cameron, Mr. Henry Irving, M. Du Chaillu, Mr. A. C. Swinburne, and Mr. Theodore Watts[-Dunton]. What Burton was to Mr. Swinburne is summed up in the phrase — “the light that on earth was he.”556

554 Folkestone, where Lady Stisted was staying.

555 Lady Stisted and her daughter Georgiana.

556 Verses on the Death of Richard Burton. — New Review. Feb. 1891.

153. H. W. Ashbee.

His principal place of resort, however, during this visit was the house of Mr. H. W. Ashbee, 54, Bedford Square, where he met not only Mr. Ashbee, but also Dr. Steingass, Mr. Arbuthnot, Sir Charles Wingfield and Mr. John Payne, all of whom were interested, in different ways, in matters Oriental. Ashbee, who wrote under the name of Pisanus Fraxi (Bee of an ash), was a curiously matter-of-fact, stoutish, stolid, affable man, with a Maupassantian taste for low life, its humours and laxities. He was familiar with it everywhere, from the sordid purlieus of Whitechapel to the bazaars of Tunis and Algiers, and related Haroun Al-Raschid-like adventures with imperturbably, impassive face, and in the language that a business man uses when recounting the common transactions of a day. This unconcernedness never failed to provoke laughter, even from those who administered rebukes to him. Of art and literature he had absolutely no idea, but he was an enthusiastic bibliophile, and his library, which included a unique collection or rare and curious books, had been built up at enormous expense. Somebody having described him as “not a bad old chap,” Mr. Payne added characteristically, “And he had a favourite cat, which says something for him.”

154. A Bacon Causerie.

The serenity of these gatherings, whether at Mr. Ashbee’s or at Mr. Arbuthnot’s, was never ruffled unless somebody happened to introduce politics or the Shakespere-Bacon Question. Arbuthnot the Liberal was content to strike out with his back against the wall, so to speak, when attacked by the Conservative Burton, Ashbee and Payne; but Arbuthnot the Baconian frequently took the offensive. He would go out of his way in order to drag in this subject. He could not leave it out of his Life of Balzac even. These controversies generally resolved themselves into a duel between Mr. Arbuthnot and Mr. Payne — Burton, who loved a fight between any persons and for any reasons, looking on approvingly. Mr. Ashbee and Dr. Steingass were inclined to side with Mr. Payne. On one of these occasions Mr. Payne said impatiently that he could not understand “any sensible man taking the slightest interest in the sickening controversy,” and then he pointed out one by one the elements that in his opinion made the Baconian theory ridiculous.

“But,” followed Mr. Arbuthnot, “Shakespere had no education, and no person without an extremely good education could have written the play erroneously published under the name of William Shakespere.”

“If,” retorted Mr. Payne, “Shakespere had been without education, do you think the fact would have escaped the notice of such bitter and unscrupulous enemies as Nash, Greene, and others, who hated him for his towering superiority?”

Upon Mr. Arbuthnot admitting that he studies Shakespere merely from a “curio” point of view, and that for the poetry he cared nothing, Mr. Payne replied by quoting Schopenhauer: “A man who is insensible to poetry, be he who he may, must be a barbarian.”

Burton, who regarded himself as a poet, approved of the sentiment; Dr. Steingass, who wrote execrable verses in English which neither rhymed nor scanned, though they were intended to do both, was no less satisfied; Mr. Ashbee, who looked at matters solely from a bibliographical point of view, dissented; and Mr. Arbuthnot sweetly changed the conversation to Balzac; with the result, however, of another tempest, for on this subject Burton, who summed up Balzac as “a great repertory of morbid anatomy,” could never see eye to eye with Balzac’s most enthusiastic English disciple.

At Oxford, Burton met Professor Sayce, and did more literary work “under great difficulties” at the Bodleian, though he escaped all the evil effects; but against its wretched accommodation for students and its antediluvian methods he never ceased to inveigh. Early in August he was at Ramsgate and had the amusement of mixing with a Bank Holiday crowd. But he was amazingly restless, and wanted to be continually in motion. No place pleased him more than a day or two.

155. The Gypsy, August 1888.

Among the deal tables in Burton’s rooms at Trieste was one devoted to a work on the Gypsies, a race concerning whom, as we have seen, he had long been curious. He had first proposed to himself to write on the subject when he was in Sind, where he had made investigations concerning the affinity between the Jats and the Gypsies; and now with abundance of leisure he set about the work in earnest. But it was never finished, and the fragment which was published in 1898557 contains, Mr. Watts-Dunton558 assures me, many errors. Burton’s idea was to describe the Gypsy in all lands. Perhaps he is happiest in his account of the Spanish Gypsy woman. “Their women,” he says, “sell poultry and old rags. . . . and find in interpreting dreams, in philter selling, and in fortune-telling the most lucrative industries. They sing, and play various instruments, accompanying the music with the most voluptuous and licentious dances and attitudes; but woe to the man who would obtain from these Bayaderes any boon beyond their provocative exhibition. From the Indus to Gibraltar, the contrast of obscenity in language and in songs with corporal chastity has ever been a distinctive characteristic. . . . Gypsy marriages, like those of the high caste Hindus, entail ruinous expense; the revelry lasts three days, the ‘Gentile’ is freely invited, and the profusion of meats and drinks often makes the bridgegroom a debtor for life. The Spanish Gypsies are remarkable for beauty in early youth; for magnificent eyes and hair, regular features, light and well-knit figures. Their locks, like the Hindus, are lamp black, and without a sign of wave:559 and they preserve the characteristic eye. I have often remarked its fixity and brilliance, which flashes like phosphoric light, the gleam which in some eyes denotes madness. I have also noticed the ‘far-off look’ which seems to gaze at something beyond you and the alternation from the fixed stare to a glazing or filming of the pupil.”560

This peculiarity of the gypsy’s eyes, Burton had himself, for which reason alone, some writers, as we have already observed, have claimed him for the tribe. But he shared other peculiarities with them. For example, there was his extraordinary restlessness — a restlessness which prevented him from every settling long in any one place. Then, like the gypsies, he had an intense horror of a corpse — even of pictures of corpses. Though brave to temerity he avoided churchyards, and feared “the phosphorescence of the dead.” Many of his letters testify to his keen interest in the race. For example, he tells Mr. J. Pincherle, author of a Romani version of Solomon’s Song,561 the whole story of his wife and Hagar Burton. In 1888 he joined the newly-founded “Gypsy Lore Society,” and in a letter to Mr. David MacRitchie (13th May 1888) he says in reference to the Society’s Journal: “Very glad to see that you write ‘Gypsy.’ I would not subscribe to ‘Gipsy.’” In later letters he expresses his appreciation of Mr. MacRitchie’s article “The Gypsies of India,” and wishes the Society “God speed,” while in that of 13th August 1888, he laments the trifling results that followed his own and Arbuthnot’s efforts in behalf of Orientalism. “We [The Gypsy Lore Society]” he says, “must advance slowly and depend for success upon our work pleasing the public. Of course, all of us must do our best to secure new members, and by Xmas I hope that we shall find ourselves on the right road. Mr. Pincherle writes to me hopefully about his practical studies of Gypsy life in Trieste. As regards Orientalism in England generally I simply despair of it. Every year the study is more wanted and we do less. It is the same with anthropology, so cultivated in France, so stolidly neglected in England. I am perfectly ashamed of our wretched “Institution” in Hanover Square when compared with the palace in Paris. However, this must come to an end some day.”

On 13th August 1888, Burton writes to Mr. A. G. Ellis from “The Langham,” Portland Place, and sends him the Preface to the last Supplemental Volume with the request that he would run his eye over it. “You live,” he continues, “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.” On September 26th he sent a short note to Mr. Payne. “Arbuthnot,” he said, “will be in town on Tuesday October 2nd. What do you say to meeting him at the Langham 7 p.m. table d’hote hour?. . . . It will be our last chance of meeting.”

Sir Richard and Lady Burton, Dr. Baker, Arbuthnot, and Payne dined together on the evening appointed; and on October 15th Burton left London, to which he was never to return alive.

557 With The Jew and El Islam.

558 Mr. Watts-Dunton, need we say? is a great authority on the Gypsies. His novel Aylwin and his articles on Borrow will be called to mind.

559 My hair is straight as the falling rain

And fine as the morning mist.

— Indian Love, Lawrence Hope.

560 The Jew, The Gypsy, and El Islam, p. 275.

561 It is dedicated to Burton.

156. The Supplemental Nights. 1st December 1886-1st August 1888.

The translation of the Supplemental Nights, that is to say, the collection of more or less interesting Arabian tales not included in the Nights proper, was now completed. The first volume had appeared in 1886, the last was to be issued in 1888. Although containing old favourites such as “Alaeddin,” “Zayn Al Asnam,” “Ali Baba,” and the “Story of the Three Princes,” the supplemental volumes are altogether inferior to the Nights proper. Then, too, many of the tales are mere variants of the versions in the more important work. Burton’s first two supplemental volumes are from the Breslau text, and, as we said, cover the same ground as Mr. Payne’s Tales from the Arabic. In both he followed Mr. Payne closely, as will be seen from his notes (such as “Here I follow Mr. Payne, who has skilfully fine-drawn the holes in the original text”)562 which, frequent as they are, should have been multiplied one hundred-fold to express anything like the real obligation he owed to Mr. Payne’s translation. “I am amazed,” he once said to Mr. Payne, “at the way in which you have accomplished what I (in common with Lane and other Arabists) considered an impossibility in the elucidation and general re-creation from chaos of the incredibly corrupt and garbled Breslau Text. I confess that I could not have made it out without your previous version. It is astonishing how you men of books get to the bottom of things which are sealed to men of practical experience like me.” And he expressed himself similarly at other times. Of course, the secret was the literary faculty and intuition which in Burton were wanting.

Burton’s Third Volume 563 consists of the tales in Galland’s edition which are not in the Nights proper. All of them, with the exception of “Alaeddin” and “Zayn Al Asnam,” are reproductions, as we said, from a Hindustani translation of the French text — the Arabic originals of the tales being still (1905) undiscovered.

His Fourth and Fifth Volumes 564 are from the Wortley-Montague Text. His sixth and last 565 contains the Chavis and Cazotte Text — the manuscript of which is reputed to have been brought to France by a Syrian priest named Shawish (Frenchlifted into Chavis), who collaborated with a French litterateur named Cazotte. The work appeared in 1788. “These tales,” says Mr. Payne, “seem to me very inferior, in style, conduct, and diction, to those of ‘the old Arabian Nights,’ whilst I think ‘Chavis and Cazotte’s continuation’ utterly unworthy of republication whether in part or ‘in its entirety.’ It is evident that Shawish (who was an adventurer of more than doubtful character) must in many instances have utterly misled his French coadjutor (who had no knowledge of Arabic), as to the meaning of the original.” — Preface to Alaeddin, &c., xv., note. Mr. Payne adds, “I confess I think the tales, even in the original Arabic, little better than rubbish, and am indeed inclined to believe they must have been, at least in part, manufactured by Shawish.”566

562 Burton’s A. N., Suppl. i., 312; Lib. Ed., ix., 209. See also many other of Burton’s Notes.

563 Lib. Ed., vol. x.

564 Lib. Ed., x., p. 342. xi., p. 1.

565 Lib. Ed., xii.

566 Burton differed from Mr. Payne on this point. He thought highly of these tales. See Chapter xxxv, 167.

157. Comparison.

Burton’s supplementary volume containing “Alaeddin” and “Zayn Al Asnam,” appeared, as we have seen, in 1887; and in 1889 Mr. Payne issued a Translation from Zotenberg’s text. When dealing with the Nights proper we gave the reader an opportunity of comparing Burton’s translation with Payne’s which preceded it. We now purpose placing in juxtaposition two passages from their supplemental volumes, and we cannot do better than choose from either “Alaeddin” or “Zayn Al Asnam,” as in the case of both the order is reversed, Burton’s translation having preceded Payne’s. Let us decide on the latter. Any passage would do, but we will take that describing the finding of the ninth image:

Payne Burton

Then he set out and Then he set out nor gave not over journeying ceased travelling till such till he came to Bassora, time as he reached Bassorah, and entering his palace, when he entered saluted his mother and his palace; and after told her all that had saluting his mother, he befallen him; whereupon apprized her of all things quoth she to him “Arise, that had befallen him. O my son, so thou mayst She replied, “Arise, O see this ninth image, for my son, that we may look that I am exceedingly upon the Ninth statue, rejoiced at its presence with for I rejoice with extreme us. So they both joy at its being in our descended into the underground possession.” So both hall wherein were descended into the pavilion the eight images, and where stood the eight found there a great marvel; images of precious gems, to wit, instead of the and here they found a ninth image, they beheld mighty marvel. ’Twas the young lady resembling this: In lieu of seeing the the sun in her loveliness. Ninth Statue upon the The prince knew her golden throne, they found when he saw her, and seated thereon the young she said to him, “Marvel lady whose beauty suggested not to find me here in the sun. Zayn place of that which thou al-Asnam knew her at soughtest; me thinketh first sight and presently thou wilt not repent thee she addressed him saying, an thou take me in the “Marvel not for that stead of the ninth image.” here thou findest me “No, by Allah, Oh my in place of that wherefor beloved!” replied Zein thou askedst; and I ul Asnam. “For that thou deem that thou shalt not art the end of my seeking, regret nor repent when and I would not exchange thou acceptest me instead thee for all the jewels in of that thou soughtest.” the world. Didst thou Said he, “No, verily, but know the grief which thou art the end of every possessed me for thy wish of me nor would separation, thou whom I I exchange thee for all the took from thy parents gems of the universe. by fraud and brought thee Would thou knew what to the King of the Jinn!” was the sorrow which

surcharged me on account of

our separation and of my

reflecting that I took thee

from thy parents by fraud

and I bore thee as a present

to the King of the Jinn.

Indeed I had well nigh

determined to forfeit all

my profit of the Ninth

Statue and to bear thee

away to Bassorah as my

own bride, when my comrade

and councillor dissuaded

me from so doing lest

I bring about my death.”567

Scarce had the prince Nor had Zayn al Asnam made an end of his speech ended his words ere they when they heard a noise heard the roar of thunderings of thunder rending the that would rend a mountains and shaking mount and shake the the earth, and fear gat earth, whereat the Queen hold upon the queen, the Mother was seized with mother of Zein ul Asnam, mighty fear and affright. Yea and sore trembling; But presently appeared but, after a little, the the King of the Jinn, King of the Jinn who said to her, “O my appeared and said to her, lady, fear not! Tis I, the “O Lady, fear not, it is protector of thy son, whom I who am thy son’s I fondly affect for the protector and I love him affection borne to me by with an exceeding love his sire. I also am he who for the love his father manifested myself to him bore me. Nay, I am he in his sleep, and my object who appeared to him in therein was to make trial his sleep and in this I of his valiance and to learn purposed to try his an he could do violence to fortitude, whether or not his passions for the sake he might avail to subdue of his promise, or whether himself for loyalty’s the beauty of this lady sake.” would so tempt and allure

him that he could not

keep his promise to me

with due regard.”

Here, again, Payne is concise and literal, Burton diffuse and gratuitously paraphrastic as appears above and everywhere, and the other remarks which we made when dealing with the Nights proper also apply, except, of course, that in this instance Burton had not Payne’s version to refer to, with the consequence that in these two tales (“Alaeddin” and “Zayn Al Asnam”) there are over five hundred places in which the two translators differ as to the rendering, although they worked from the same MS. copy, that of M. Houdas, lent by him to Burton and afterwards to Payne. Arabists tell us that in practically every instance Payne is right, Burton wrong. The truth is that, while in colloquial Arabic Burton was perfect, in literary Arabic he was far to seek,568 whereas Mr. Payne had studied the subject carefully and deeply for years. But Burton’s weakness here is not surprising. A Frenchman might speak excellent English, and yet find some difficulty in translating into French a play of Shakespeare or an essay of Macaulay. Burton made the mistake of studying too many things. He attempted too much.

But in the Supplemental Nights, as in the Nights proper, his great feature is the annotating. Again we have a work within a work, and the value of these notes is recognised on all sides. Yet they are even less necessary for elucidating the text than those in the Nights proper. Take for example the tremendous note in Vol. i. on the word “eunuchs.” As everybody knows what a eunuch is, the text is perfectly clear. Yet what a mass of curious knowledge he presents to us! If it be urged that the bulk of Burton’s notes, both to the Nights proper and the Supplemental Nights, are out of place in a work of this kind — all we can say is “There they are.” We must remember, too, that he had absolutely no other means of publishing them.

567 This paragraph does not appear in the original. It was made up by Burton.

568 One friend of Burton’s to whom I mentioned this matter said to me, “I was always under the impression that Burton had studied literary Arabic, but that he had forgotten it.”

Chapter XXXIV

“The Scented Garden”

Bibliography:

77. The Scented Garden. “My new Version,” translated 1888-1890.

158. Nafzawi.

As we learn from a letter to Mr. Payne, 8th November 1888, Burton began his “new version” of The Scented Garden, or as it is sometimes called, The Perfumed Garden, in real earnest early in that month, and Lady Burton tells us that it “occupied him seriously only six actual months,”569 that is, the last six months of his life.

The Scented Garden, or to give its full title, “The Scented Garden for the Soul’s Recreation” was the work of a learned Arab Shaykh and physician named Nafzawi, who was born at Nafzawa, a white,570 palm-encinctured town which gleamed by the shore of the Sebkha — that is, salt marsh — Shot al Jarid; and spent most of his life in Tunis. The date of his birth is unrecorded, but The Scented Garden seems to have been written in 1431.571 Nafzawi, like Vatsyayana, from whose book he sometimes borrows, is credited with having been an intensely religious man, but his book abounds in erotic tales seasoned to such an extent as would have put to the blush even the not very sensitive “Tincker of Turvey.”572 It abounds in medical learning,573 is avowedly an aphrodisiac, and was intended, if one may borrow an expression from Juvenal, “to revive the fire in nuptial cinders.”574 Moslems read it, just as they took ambergrised coffee, and for the same reason. Nafzawi, indeed, is the very antithesis of the English Sir Thomas Browne, with his well-known passage in the Religio Medici,575 commencing “I could be content that we might procreate like trees.” Holding that no natural action of a man is more degrading than another, Nafzawi could never think of amatory pleasures without ejaculating “Glory be to God,” or some such phrase. But “Moslems,” says Burton, “who do their best to countermine the ascetic idea inherent in Christianity,576 are not ashamed of the sensual appetite, but rather the reverse.”577 Nafzawi, indeed, praises Allah for amorous pleasures just as other writers have exhausted the vocabulary in gratitude for a loaded fruit tree or an iridescent sunset. His mind runs on the houris promised to the faithful after death, and he says that these pleasures are “part of the delights of paradise awarded by Allah as a foretaste of what is waiting for us, namely delights a thousand times superior, and above which only the sight of the Benevolent is to be placed.” We who anticipate walls of jasper and streets of gold ought not, perhaps, to be too severe on the Tunisian. It must also be added that Nafzawi had a pretty gift of humour.578

569 Life, ii., 410. See also Romance, ii., 723.

570 As most of its towns are white, Tunis is called The Burnous of the Prophet, in allusion to the fact that Mohammed always wore a spotlessly white burnous.

571 As suggested by M. Hartwig Derenbourg, Membre de l’Institut.

572 The nominal author of the collection of Old English Tales of the same name.

573 Ridiculous as this medical learning reads to-day, it is not more ridiculous than that of the English physicians two centuries later.

574 Juvenal, Satire xi.

575 Religio Medici, part ii., section 9.

576 We should word it “Pauline Christianity.”

577 Arabian Nights, Lib. Ed., vii., 161.

578 See the example we give in 160 about Moseilema and the bald head.

159. Origin of The Scented Garden.

The origin of the book was as follows: A small work, The Torch of the World,579 dealing with “The Mysteries of Generation,” and written by Nafzawi, had come into the hands of the Vizier of the Sultan of Tunis. Thereupon the Vizier sent for the author and received him “most honourably.” Seeing Nafzawi blush, he said, “You need not be ashamed; everything you have said is true; no one need be shocked at your words. Moreover, you are not the first who has treated of this matter; and I swear by Allah that it is necessary to know this book. It is only the shameless boor and the enemy of all science who will not read it, or who will make fun of it. But there are sundry things which you will have to treat about yet.” And he mentioned other subjects, chiefly of a medical character.

“Oh, my master,” replied Nafzawi, “all you have said here is not difficult to do, if it is the pleasure of Allah on high.”

“I forthwith,” comments Nafzawi, “went to work with the composition of this book, imploring the assistance of Allah (May He pour His blessing on the prophet)580 and may happiness and pity be with him.”

The most complete text of The Scented Garden is that now preserved in the library at Algiers, and there are also manuscripts in the libraries of Paris, Gotha and Copenhagen. In 1850 a manuscript which seems to have corresponded practically with The Torch of the World was translated into French by a Staff Officer of the French Army in Algeria, and an edition of thirty-five copies was printed by an autographic process in Algiers in the year 1876.581 In 1886 an edition of 220 copies was issued by the French publisher Isidore Liseux, and the same year appeared a translation of Liseux’s work bearing the imprint of the Kama Shastra Society. This is the book that Burton calls “my old version,”582 which, of course, proves that he had some share in it.583

There is no doubt that the average Englishman584 would be both amazed and shocked on first opening even the Kama Shastra Society’s version; unless, perchance, he had been prepared by reading Burton’s Arabian Nights or the Fiftieth Chapter of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall with the Latin Notes, though even these give but a feeble idea of the fleshiness of The Scented Garden. Indeed, as Ammianus Marcellinus, referring to the Arabs, says: “Incredible est quo ardore apud eos in venerem uterque solvitur sexus.”

579 Also called The Torch of Pebble Strown River Beds, a title explained by the fact that in order to traverse with safety the dried Tunisian river beds, which abound in sharp stones, it is advisable, in the evening time, to carry a torch.

580 Mohammed, of course.

581 It contained 283 pages of text, 15 pages d’avis au lecteur, 2 portraits, 13 hors testes on blue paper, 43 erotic illustrations in the text, and at the end of the book about ten pages of errata with an index and a few blank leaves.

582 He also refers to it in his Arabian Nights, Lib. Ed., vol. viii., p. 121, footnote.

583 See Chapter xxvi.

584 But, of course, the book was not intended for the average Englishman, and every precaution was taken, and is still taken, to prevent him from getting it.

160. Contents of The Scented Garden.

Nafzawi divided his book into twenty one-chapters “in order to make it easier reading for the taleb (student).” It consists of descriptions of “Praiseworthy Men” and “Praiseworthy Women” from a Nafzawin point of view, interpretations of dreams, medical recipes for impotence, &c., lists of aphrodisiacs, and stories confirmatory of Ammianus’s remark. Among the longer tales are those of Moseilma, “Bahloul585 and Hamdonna,” and “The Negro Al Dhurgham”586 — all furiously Fescinnine. The story of Moseilema, Lord of Yamama, is familiar in one form or another to most students of Arab History. Washington Irving epitomises it in his inexpressibly beautiful “Successors” of Mahomet587 and Gibbon588 tells it more fully, partly in his text and partly in his Latin footnotes. Moseilema was, no doubt, for some years quite as influential a prophet as his rival Mohammed. He may even have been as good a man,589 but Nafzawi — staunch Mohammedan — will not let “the Whig dogs have the best of the argument.” He charges Moseilema with having perverted sundry chapters in the Koran by his lies and impostures, and declares that he did worse than fail when he attempted to imitate Mohammed’s miracles. “Now Moseilema (whom may Allah curse!), when he put his luckless hand on the head of some one who had not much hair, the man was at once quite bald . . . and when he laid his hand upon the head of an infant, saying, ‘Live a hundred years,’ the infant died within an hour.” As a matter of fact, however, Moseilema was one of the most romantic figures in Arabic history.590 Sedja, Queen and Prophetess, went to see him in much the same spirit that the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon. Moseilema, who outlived Mohammed about a year, was defeated and slain near his capital Yamama, by the Mohammedan hero Khalid, and Sedjah subsequently embraced Islamism.

In the tale entitled “Djoaidi and Fadehat el Djemal”591 appears that hoary poet, philosopher and reprobate, Abu Nowas592 of The Arabian Nights. Like the Nights, The Scented Garden has a cycle of tales illustrative of the cunning and malice of women. But all the women in those days and countries were not bad, just as all were not plain. Plumpness seems to have been the principal attraction of sex, and the Kama Shastra version goes so far as to assure us that a woman who had a double chin,593 was irresistible. If so, there were probably no words in the language good enough to describe a woman with three chins. According, however, to the author of the recent Paris translation594 this particular rendering is a mistake. He considers that the idea Nafzawi wished to convey was the tower-like form of the neck,595 but in any circumstances the denizens of The Scented Garden placed plumpness in the forefront of the virtues; which proves, of course, the negroid origin of at any rate some of the stories,596 for a true Arab values slenderness. Over and over again in the Nights we are told of some seductive lady that she was straight and tall with a shape like the letter Alif or a willow wand. The perfect woman, according to Mafzawi, perfumes herself with scents, uses ithmid597 (antimony) for her toilet, and cleans her teeth with bark of the walnut tree. There are chapters on sterility, long lists of the kind to be found in Rabelais, and solemn warnings against excess, chiefly on account of its resulting in weakness of sight, with other “observations useful for men and women.”

While chapters i. to xx. concern almost entirely the relations between the opposite sexes, Chapter xxi.598 which constitutes more than one-half of the book, treats largely of those unspeakable vices which as St. Paul and St. Jude show, and the pages of Petronius and other ancient authors prove, were so common in the pagan world, and which, as Burton and other travellers inform us, are still practised in the East.

“The style and language in which the Perfumed Garden is written are,” says the writer of the Foreword to the Paris edition of 1904, “of the simplest and most unpretentious kind, rising occasionally to a very high degree of eloquence, resembling, to some extent, that of the famous Thousand Nights and a Night; but, while the latter abounds in Egyptian colloquialisms, the former frequently causes the translator to pause owing to the recurrence of North African idioms and the occasional use of Berber or Kabyle words, not generally known.” In short, the literary merits or the work are trifling.

Although Nafzawi wrote his extended Scented Garden for scholars only, he seems afterwards to have become alarmed, and to have gone in fear lest it might get into the hands of the ignorant and do harm. So he ended it with:

“O you who read this, and think of the author

And do not exempt him from blame,

If you spare your good opinion of him, do not

At least fail to say ‘Lord forgive us and him.’”599

585 Court fool of Haroun al Rashid. Several anecdotes of Bahloul are to be found in Jami’s Beharistan.

586 A tale that has points in common with the lynching stories from the United States. In the Kama Shastra edition the negro is called “Dorerame.”

587 Chapter ii. Irving spells the name Moseilma.

588 Chapter ii. Sleath’s Edition, vol. vi., 348.

589 It must be remembered that the story of Moseilema and Sedjah has been handed down to us by Moseilema’s enemies.

590 The struggle between his followers and those of Mohammed was a fight to the death. Mecca and Yamama were the Rome and Carthage of the day — the mastery of the religious as well as of the political world being the prize.

591 As spelt in the Kama Shastra version.

592 Burton’s spelling. We have kept to it throughout this book. The word is generally spelt Nuwas.

593 The 1886 edition, p. 2.

594 Vol. i., p. 117.

595 Cf. Song of Solomon, iv., 4. “Thy neck is like the Tower of David.”

596 See Burton’s remarks on the negro women as quoted in Chapter ix., 38.

597 Women blacken the inside of the eyelids with it to make the eyes look larger and more brilliant.

598 So we are told in the Introduction to the Kama Shastra edition of Chapters i. to xx. Chapter xxi. has not yet been translated into any European language. Probably Burton never saw it. Certainly he did not translate it.

599 From the Paris version of 1904. See Chapter xxxviii. of this book, where the Kama Shastra version is given.

161. Sir Richard Burton’s Translation.

It was in the autumn of 1888, as we have seen, that Sir Richard Burton, who considered the book to take, from a linguistic and ethnological point of view, a very high rank, conceived the idea of making a new translation, to be furnished with annotations of a most elaborate nature. He called it at first, with his fondness for rhyming jingle, The Scented Garden-Site for Heart’s Delight, and finally decided upon The Scented Garden — Man’s Heart to Gladden. Sir Richard’s Translation was from the Algiers manuscript, a copy of which was made for him at a cost of eighty pounds, by M. O. Houdas, Professor at the Ecole des Langues Orientales Vivantes. This was of the first twenty chapters. Whether a copy of the 21st Chapter ever reached Sir Richard we have not been able to ascertain. On 31st March 1890, he wrote in his Journal: “Began, or rather resumed, Scented Garden,”600 and thenceforward he worked at it sedulously. Now and again the Berber or Kabyle words with which the manuscript was sprinkled gave him trouble, and from time to time he submitted his difficulties to M. Fagnan, “the erudite compiler of the Catalogue of Arabic books and MSS. in the Bibliotheque Nationale d’Alger” and other Algerian correspondents. Lady Burton describes her husband’s work as “a translation from Arabic manuscripts very difficult to get in the original” with “copious notes and explanations” of Burton’s own — the result, indeed, of a lifetime of research. “The first two chapters were a raw translation of the works of Numa Numantius601 without any annotations at all, or comments of any kind on Richard’s part, and twenty chapters, translations of Shaykh el Nafzawi from Arabic. In fact, it was all translation, except the annotations on the Arabic work.”602 Thus Burton really translated only Chapters i. to xx., or one-half of the work. But it is evident from his remarks on the last day of his life that he considered the work finished with the exception of the pumice-polishing; and from this, one judges that he was never able to obtain a copy of the 21st Chapter. Lady Burton’s statement and this assumption are corroborated by a conversation which the writer had with Mr. John Payne in the autumn of 1904. “Burton,” said Mr. Payne, “told me again and again that in his eyes the unpardonable defect of the Arabic text of The Scented Garden was that it altogether omitted the subject upon which he had for some years bestowed special study.” If Burton had been acquainted with the Arabic text of the 21st Chapter he, of course, would not have made that complaint; still, as his letters show, he was aware that such a manuscript existed. Having complained to Mr. Payne in the way referred to respecting the contents of The Scented Garden, Burton continued, “Consequently, I have applied myself to remedy this defect by collecting all manner of tales and of learned material of Arab origin bearing on my special study, and I have been so successful that I have thus trebled the original manuscript.” Thus, as in the case of The Arabian Nights, the annotations were to have no particular connection with the text. Quite two-thirds of these notes consisted of matter of this sort.

Mr. Payne protested again and again against the whole scheme, and on the score that Burton had given the world quite enough of this kind of information in the Nights. But the latter could not see with his friend. He insisted on the enormous anthropological and historical importance of these notes — and that the world would be the loser were he to withold them; in fact, his whole mind was absorbed in the subject.

600 Life, by Lady Burton, ii., 441.

601 The pen name of Carl Ulrichs.

602 Life, by Lady Burton, ii., 444.

Chapter XXXV

15th October 1888 to 21st July 1890

Working at the “Catullus” and “The Scented Garden”

Bibliography:

78. Catullus translated 1890, printed 1894.

79. The Golden Ass and other works left unfinished.

162. Switzerland 15th October 1888.

From London the Burtons proceeded first to Boulogne where Sir Richard visited the haunts of his early manhood and called upon his old fencing master, Constantin, who was hale and well, though over eighty; and then to Geneva, where he delivered before the local Geographical Society what proved to be his last public lecture. From Geneva he wrote several letters to Mr. Payne. In that of November 21st, his mind running on the Bandello, he says, “You would greatly oblige me by jotting down when you have a moment to spare the names of reverends and ecclesiastics who have written and printed facetious books.603 In English I have Swift and Sterne; in French Rabelais, but I want one more, also two in Italian and two in German.”

In reply, Mr. Payne sent him some twenty or thirty names in half a dozen literatures. From Geneva the Burtons made their way first to Vevey, where Sir Richard revelled in its associations with Ludlow, the English regicide, and Rousseau; and then to Lausanne for the sake of his great hero, Edward Gibbon; and on 12th March (1889) they were back again at Trieste.

Writing to Mr. A. G. Ellis on May 8th, Burton enquires respecting some engravings in the Museum brought over from Italy by the Duke of Cumberland, and he finished humorously with, “What news of Mr. Blumhardt? And your fellow-sufferer from leather emanations, the Sanskiritist?”604 — an allusion to the Oriental Room, under which, in those days, was the book-binding department.

603 There is an article on Clerical Humorists in The Gentleman’s Magazine for Feb. 1845.

604 Mr. Bendall.

163. Mr. Letchford, August and September 1889.

In July, for Burton found it impossible to content himself long in any place, the Burtons made another journey, this time through Western Austria, being accompanied as usual by Dr. Baker and Lisa. After their return, on September 13th, it was necessary for Burton to undergo two operations; and Lady Burton, racked with anxiety and fearing the worst, seemed, when all was successfully over, to have recovered from a horrible nightmare. Then followed acquaintance with the gifted young artist, Mr. Albert Letchford, and his beautiful and winning sister, Daisy. Mr. Letchford became the Burtons’ Court Painter, as it were — frequently working in their house — and both he and his sister admired — nay, worshipped Sir Richard down to the ground. Even as a child, Albert Letchford was remarkable for his thoughtful look, and his strong sense of beauty. In church one day he begged his mother to let him run home and get his little sword, as there was such an ugly woman there and he wished to cut her head off. As a youth he drew and studied from morning to night, living in a world of his own creation — a world of books and pictures. His letters were those of a poet and an artist. Beauty of the mind, however, attracted him even more than beauty of the body. Thus, he fell in love with his cousin Augusta, “though she had the toothache, and her head tied up in a handkerchief.” At seventeen he studied art in Venice. From Venice he went to Florence, where he met the Burtons and got from them introductions to all the best people, including the Countess Orford and Mlle. de la Ramee (Ouida). We then find him in Paris, in London, in Egypt, where he acquired that knowledge of the East which helped him later when he illustrated The Arabian Nights. Finally he settled at Trieste. “That wonderful man, Sir Richard Burton, with the eyes of a tiger and the voice of an angel,” writes Miss Letchford, “loved my brother, for he found something more in him than in others — he found a mind that could understand his own, and he often said that Mr. Albert Letchford was about the only man that he was pleased to see — the only one who never jarred on his nerves. To him did Sir Richard, proud and arrogant to most people, open his soul, and from his lips would come forth such enchanting conversation — such a wonderful flow of words and so marvellous in sound that often I have closed my eyes and listened to him, fancying, thus — that some wonderful learned angel had descended from Heaven unto Earth.”

Among the friends of the Burtons was the Princess of Thurn and Taxis, who with her husband became one of Letchford’s best patrons. The princess won Sir Richard’s heart by her intelligence, her beauty and grace; and “his conversation was never so brilliant, and his witticisms were never so sparkling as in her presence.” One day another princess — a foolish, vain woman — after making a number of insipid remarks, shook hands with Sir Richard, lifting high her arm and elbow in the fashion which was then just coming into vogue, but which has now lost acceptance.605 Sir Richard, while giving her his right hand, quietly with his left put down her arm and elbow. The princess turned scarlet, but she never after practised “the high shake.” Miss Letchford sums up Lady Burton as “a most beautiful and charming woman, with many lovely ideas, but many foolish ones.” Unfortunately she was guided entirely by her confessor, a man of small mental calibre. One of the confessor’s ideas was to convert Sir Richard by dropping small charms into his pockets. Sir Richard got quite used to finding these little images about him; but they invariably made their way out of the window into the garden. One of Lady Burton’s little failings was the fear lest anybody should come to the house in order to steal, and the servants had special commands to admit none who did not look “a perfect gentleman or lady,” with the result that one day they slammed the door in the face of the Archduke Louis Salvator, simply because he did not happen to have a card with him. After that Lady Burton’s orders were less strict.

Mr. Letchford’s paintings include views of the neighbourhood, a portrait of Burton which was exhibited in the Stanley Gallery, and a full-length portrait of Burton fencing,606 but he is best known by his series of illustrations to The Arabian Nights.

605 On the Continent it was called “The Prince of Wales shake.”

606 It is now in the Public Library, Camberwell.

164. To Dr. Tuckey.

On April 24th we find Burton writing to thank Dr. Charles Tuckey for the gift of a copy of his Psycho-Therapeutics. “An old pupil of Dr. Elliotson,”607 he says, “I am always interested in these researches, and welcome the appearance of any addition to our scanty knowledge of an illimitable field. Suggestion (what a miserable name!) perfectly explains the stigmata of St. Francis and others without preter-natural assistance, and the curative effect of a dose of Koran (a verset written upon a scrap of paper, and given like a pill of p.q.). I would note that the “Indian Prince”608 was no less a personage than Ranjit Singh, Rajah of the Punjab, that the burial of the Fakir was attested by his German surgeon-general, and that a friend and I followed Colonel Boileau’s example in personally investigating the subject of vivi-sepulture. In p. 10: The throngs of pilgrims to Mecca never think of curing anything but their ‘souls,’ and the pilgrimage is often fatal to their bodies. I cannot but take exception to such terms as ‘psychology,’ holding the soul (an old Egyptian creation unknown to the early Hebrews) to be the ego of man, what differentiates him from all other men, in fact, like the ‘mind,’ not a thing but a state or condition of things. I rejoice to see Braid609 duly honoured and think that perhaps a word might be said of ‘Electro-biology,’ a term ridiculous as ‘suggestion’ and more so. But Professor Yankee Stone certainly produced all the phenomena you allude to by concentrating the patient’s sight upon his ‘Electro-magnetic disc’ — a humbug of copper and zinc, united, too. It was a sore trial to Dr. Elliotson, who having been persecuted for many years wished to make trial in his turn of a little persecuting — a disposition not unusual.”610

607 John Elliotson (1791-1868). Physician and mesmerist. One always connects his name with Thackeray’s Pendennis.

608 A reference to a passage in Dr. Tuckey’s book.

609 James Braid (1795-1850) noted for his researches in Animal Magnetism.

610 See Chapter xxiv, 112.

165. To Mr. Kirby 15th May 1889.

In a letter to Mr. W. F. Kirby, 15th May 1889, Burton, after referring to a translation of the Kalevala,611 upon which Mr. Kirby was then engaged, says: “We shall not be in England this year. I cannot remove myself so far from my books, and beside, I want a summer in Austria, probably at Closen or some place north of Vienna. We had a long ten months’ holiday and must make up for time lost. The Scented Garden is very hard work, and I have to pay big sums to copyists and so forth. Yet it will, I think, repay the reader. What a national disgrace is this revival of Puritanism with its rampant cant and ignoble hypocrisy! I would most willingly fight about it, but I don’t see my way.” Writing again on 6th November (1889) he says, “I like very much your idea of visiting Sweden in the interests of the Kalevala. Perhaps you might date the Preface from that part of the world. The Natural History of The Nights would be highly interesting. Have you heard that Pickering and Chatto, of Haymarket, London, are going to print 100 (photogravure) illustrations of the Nights? When last in London I called on them. On Friday week, 15th November, we start upon our winter’s trip. From here to Brindisi, await the P. and O., then to Malta (ten days), Tunis (month), Tripoli and Algiers, where I hope at last to see the very last of The Scented Garden.”

611 The famous Finnish epic given to the world in 1835 by Dr. Lonnrot.

166. Tunis and Algiers, November 1889 to March 1890.

At the time stated, Burton, Lady Burton, Dr. Baker and Lisa took steamer for Brindisi, where they visited Virgil’s house, and then made for Malta. On December 20th they were at Tunis, and Sir Richard ransacked the bazaar and button-holed people generally in order to get manuscripts of The Scented Garden, but without success. Nobody had ever heard of it.612 At Carthage he recalled that rosy morning when Dido in “flowered cymar with golden fringe” rode out with Aeneas to the hung, read Salammbo, and explored the ruins; but Lady Burton had no eyes for anything but convents, monks and nuns, though she certainly once took Lisa to a harem, where they learnt how to make Tunisian dishes. The biblical appearance of everything reminded Burton of his Damascus days. Seeing a man in a burnous ploughing with oxen and a wooden plough on a plain where there was no background, he said, “Look, there’s Abraham!” At Constantine, Sir Richard and Lady Burton celebrated their 29th, and as it proved, their last wedding day. With Algiers, the next stopping place, which boasted a cardinal’s Moorish palace and a Museum, Burton was in ecstasies, and said he wanted to live there always; but in less than three weeks he was anxious to get as far away from it as possible.

From Algiers he wrote to Mr. Payne (28th January 1890). After recording his failure to obtain manuscripts of The Scented Garden at Tunis he says: “To-day I am to see M. Macarthy, of the Algiers Bibliotheque Musee; but I am by no means sanguine. This place is a Paris after Tunis and Constantine, but like all France (and Frenchmen) in modern days dirty as ditchwater. The old Gaulois is dead and damned, politics and money getting have made the gay nation stupid as Paddies. In fact the world is growing vile and bete, et vivent les Chinois!613 A new Magyar irruption would do Europe much good.”

In a letter to Mr. A. G. Ellis, dated 12th February, 1890, he refers to the anecdote of the famous Taymor al Wahsh, who, according to a Damascus tradition, played polo with the heads of his conquered enemies. “Every guide book,” he continues, “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 swordsmiths, and from his day no ‘Damascus blade’ has been made at Damascus. I have found these French colonies perfectly casual and 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. &c. After a month’s hard work I came upon only a single copy, the merest compendium, lacking also Chapter 21, my chief Righah (the absurd French R’irha) for a week or ten days [for the sake of the baths] then return to Algiers, steam for Marseilles 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 1891, I shall be free as air to come and go.” At Hammam R’irha, Burton began in earnest his translation of Catullus, and for weeks he was immersed in it night and day. The whole of the journey was a pleasurable one, or would have been, but for the cruelty with which animals were treated; and Burton, who detested cruelty in all forms, and had an intense horror of inflicting pain, vented his indignation over and over again against the merciless camel and donkey drivers.

As the party were steaming from Algiers to Toulon, a curious incident occurred. Burton and Dr. Baker having sauntered into the smoke room seated themselves at a table opposite to an old man and a young man who looked like, and turned out to be, an Oxford don. Presently the don, addressing the old man, told him with dramatic gesticulations the venerable story about Burton killing two Arabs near Mecca, and he held out his hand as if he were firing a pistol.

Burton, who had long known that the tale was in circulation but had never before heard anyone relate it as fact, here interrupted with, “Excuse me, but what was the name of that traveller?”

“Captain Burton,” replied the don, “now Sir Richard Burton.”

“I am Burton,” followed Sir Richard, “and I remember distinctly every incident of that journey, but I can assure you I do not remember shooting anybody.”

At that, the don jumped up, thanked him for giving the story denial, and expressed his happiness at being able to make the great traveller’s acquaintance.614

On March 26th (1890) a week after his return to Trieste, Burton wrote to Mr. A. G. Ellis: “It is very kind and friendly of you to write about The Scented Garden MSS. I really rejoice to hear that you and Mr. Bendall have escaped alive from those ground floor abominations stinking of half rotten leather. I know the two Paris MSS. [of The Scented Garden] (one with its blundering name): they are the merest abridgments, both compressing Chapter 21 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 number of pages they contain? Salam to Mr. Bendall, and best wishes to you both. You will see me in England some time after March 19th 1891.”

At no work that he had ever written did Sir Richard labour so sedulously as at The Scented Garden. Although in feeble health and sadly emaciated, he rose daily at half-past five, and slaved at it almost incessantly till dusk, begrudging himself the hour or two required for meals and exercise. The only luxury he allowed himself while upon his laborious task was “a sip of whiskey,” but so engrossed was he with his work that he forgot even that. It was no uncommon remark for Dr. Baker to make: “Sir Richard, you haven’t drunk your whiskey.” One day, as he and Dr. Baker were walking in the garden he stopped suddenly and said: “I have put my whole life and all my life blood into that Scented Garden, and it is my great hope that I shall live by it. It is the crown of my life.”

“Has it ever occurred to you, Sir Richard,” enquired Dr. Baker, “that in the event of your death the manuscript might be burnt? Indeed, I think it not improbable.”

The old man turned to the speaker his worn face and sunken eyes and said with excitement, “Do you think so? Then I will at once write to Arbuthnot and tell him that in the event of my death the manuscript is to be his.”

He wrote the letter the same day. Arbuthnot duly received it, and several letters seem to have passed between them on the subject; but we do not know whether Lady Burton was aware of the arrangement. All we can say is that Arbuthnot believed she knew all about it.

It seems to have been at this time that Lady Burton prevailed upon her husband to range himself nominally among the Catholics. “About a year before her death,” Mr. T. Douglas Murray writes to me, “Lady Burton showed me a paper of considerable length, all of it in Sir R. Burton’s writing and signed by himself, in which he declared that he had lived and would die a Catholic, adhering to all the rites and usages of the Church.”615 Curiously enough, while bringing forward all the evidence she could adduce to prove that Burton was a Christian, Lady Burton makes no reference in her book to this paper. Perhaps it was because Sir Richard continued to gibe at the practices of her church just as much after his “conversion” as before. However, it gratified her to know that if he was not a good Catholic, he was, at any rate, the next best thing — a Catholic. An intimate friend of Burton to whom I mentioned this circumstance observed to me, “I am sure, that Burton never in any way accepted the idea of a personal God; but, rather than be perpetually importuned and worried, he may have pretended to give in to Lady Burton, as one does to a troublesome child.”

Lady Burton tells us that during the last few years of his life he used to lock the outer doors of his house twice a day and then engage in private prayer; on the other hand, friends of Burton who knew him and were with him almost to the last have received this statement with skepticism.

Lady Burton’s happiness was further increased by the present of a very beautiful oil painting representing the Virgin Mary, done by Miss Emily Baker, Dr. Baker’s sister. It was generally known by the Burtons, from the colour of its drapery, as “the Blue Madonna.”616

612 Letter to Mr. Payne, 28th January 1890.

613 As ingrained clingers to red tape and immobility.

614 I give the anecdote as told to me by Dr. Baker.

615 Letter of Mr. T. D. Murray to me 24th September 1904. But see Chapter xxxi. This paper must have been signed within three months of Sir Richard’s death.

616 On 28th June 1905, I saw it in the priest’s house at Mortlake. There is an inscription at the back.

167. Visit of Arbuthnot, Last Letter to Mr. Payne, May 1890.

On May 11th Mr. Arbuthnot paid a second visit to Trieste, and the pleasure that the vent gave to Sir Richard is reflected in a letter to Mr. Payne written the same month. “At last!” he says, “Arbuthnot has brought the volume [Payne’s Alaeddin] and the MS. [Zotenberg’s MS. of Zayn al-Asnam which Burton had lent to Mr. Payne].” He then goes on to say that he has kicked up “an awful shindy with the Athenaeum Club,” about something, just as if he had not been kicking up awful shindies with all sorts of people ever since his schoolboy days at Tours. “I am delighted,” he goes on, “with the volume [Payne’s Alaeddin] and especially with the ascription,617 so grateful in its friendly tone. I have read every word with the utmost pleasure. We might agree to differ about Cazotte.618 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 to-day, d —— 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 to town undamaged. Best of good fortune to Bandello.”619

Burton and Arbuthnot had spent many a delightful hour sitting out on Burton’s verandah, smoking, listening to the nightingales, and enjoying sea and landscape. It must not be supposed that erotic literature was the only subject upon which they conversed, though as hierarchs of the Kama Shastra Society they naturally bestowed upon that and curious learning considerable attention. Religion was also discussed, and Arbuthnot’s opinions may be gathered from the following citation from his unpublished Life of Balzac which is now in my hands. “The great coming struggle of the 20th century,” he says, “will be the war between Religion and Science. It will be a war to the death, for if Science wins it will do away with the personal God of the Jews, the Christians and the Muhammedans, the childish doctrine or dogma of future rewards and punishments, and everything connected with the supernatural. It will be shown that Law reigns supreme. The police representing Law and Order will be of more importance than the clergy. Even now we might do away with the latter, everybody becoming his own priest — a great economy. None of us knows what happens to us after death, all we can do is to hope for the best, and follow the three great Laws, viz., 1. Instruct your mind. 2. Preserve your health. 3. Moderate your passions and desires.” Thus spake the Founder of the Kama Shastra Society.

On May 15th, Burton told Mr. Kirby all about the Algiers trip. “Plenty to see and do,” he says, “but I was not lucky about my MS. The Scented Garden. No one seemed to know anything about it. Never advise any one to winter in Algiers. All the settled English are selling their villas. French mismanagement beats ours holler, and their hate and jealousy of us makes their colonies penal settlements to us. We stay here [at Trieste] till the weather drives us away — about the end of June.” The letter concludes with kindly enquiries respecting Professor Bendall,620 Mr. A. G. Ellis and Dr. Kirby (Mr. Kirby’s son).

617 Alaeddin was prefaced by a poetical dedication to Payne’s Alaeddin, “Twelve years this day — a day of winter dreary,” etc.

618 See Chapter xxxiii., 156. Payne had declared that Cazotte’s tales “are for the most part rubbish.”

619 Mr. Payne’s translation of The Novels of Matteo Bandello, six vols. Published in 1890.

620 Now Professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge.

Chapter XXXVI

“The Priapeia”

Bibliography:

80. Priapeia. 1890.

168. The Priapeia.

The share that Sir Richard Burton had in the translation of the Priapeia has been the subject of dispute; but we are able to state positively that he was the author of the metrical portion. Indeed, he made no secret of it among his intimates. For some reason or other, however, he did not wish to have his name publicly associated with it; so the following passage was inserted in the preface: “The name of Sir Richard Burton has been inadvertently connected with the present work. It is, however, only fair to state that under the circumstances he distinctly disclaims having taken any part in the issue.” We have no other ground for the assumption, but this passage seems to point to a quarrel of some kind. It certainly does not alter the fact that every page bears evidence of Burton’s hand. The preface then goes on to say that “a complete and literal translation of the works of Catullus, on the same lines and in the same format as the present volume, is now in preparation.” A letter, however, written621 by Burton to Mr. W. F. Kirby, sets the matter entirely at rest. “I am at present,” he says, “engaged in translating the Priapeia, Latin verse, which has never appeared in English, French, or German garb; it will have the merit of novelty.”

The Priapeia, in its Latin form Priapeia sine Diversoreun poetarum in Priapum Lusus, is a work that has long been well known to scholars, and in the 16th and 17th centuries editions were common. The translation under consideration is entitled “Priapeia, or the Sportive Epigrams of divers Poets on Priapus: the Latin text now for the first time Englished in verse and prose (the metrical version by Outidanos) [Good for Nothing], with Introduction, Notes, Explanatory and Illustrative and Excursus, by Neaniskos [a young man],” whose name, we need hardly say, is no secret.

The image of Priapus, the god of fruitfulness, was generally a grotesque figure made of rough wood painted red and carrying a gardener’s knife and a cornucopia. Placed in a garden it was supposed to be a protection against thieves. “In the earliest ages,” observes the writer of the preface, “the worship of the generative energy was of the most simple and artless character . . . the homage of man to the Supreme Power, the Author of Life. . . . Afterwards the cult became depraved. Religion became a pretext for libertinism.” Poets wrote facetious and salacious epigrams and affixed them to the statues of the god — even the greatest writers lending their pens to the “sport” — and eventually some nonentity collected these scattered verses and made them into a book. Everybody knows Catullus’s contribution, which begins:

“A log of oak, some rustic’s blade

Hewed out my shape; grotesquely made

I guard this spot by night and day,

Scare every vagrant knave away,

And save from theft and rapine’s hand

My humble master’s cot and land.”

The chief complaint to be made against the writers of these verses is that they so rarely strayed from their subject. The address entitled “A Word to the Reader,” is padded with citations from Burton’s Camoens and his Supplemental Nights, including the well-known passage concerning his estimate of a translator’s office,622 and the whole work bears evidence of extreme haste. We are assured that it will be “most interesting to anthropologists and humanists.”

621 6th November 1889.

622 Lib. Ed., vol. xii., p. 226.

169. Catullus and the Last Trip, July — September 1890.

Burton, as we have seen, had commenced his translation of Catullus, 18th February 1890, at Hammam R’irha. He finished the first rough copy of Trieste March 31st, and commenced a second copy on May 23rd. “He would bring his Latin Catullus,” says Lady Burton, “down to the table d’hote with him, and he used to come and sit by me, but the moment he got a person on the other side who did not interest him he used to whisper to me ‘Talk, that I may do my Catullus.’” “Sir Richard,” says Mr. Leonard Smithers, upon whom had devolved the task of making the prose translation that was to accompany it, “laid great stress on the necessity of thoroughly annotating each translation from an erotic and especially pederastic point of view.”623

On July 1st the Burtons, accompanied as usual by Dr. Baker, Lisa and the magpie trunk, set out on what proved to be their last trip — a journey through the Tyrol and Switzerland. They arrived at Zurich just in time for “the great Schiefs-Statte fete, the most important national function of Switzerland,” which was held that year at the neighbouring town of Frauenfeld. Seven thousand pounds had been set aside for prizes for shooing, and forty thousand persons were present. Next day there was a grand Consular dinner, to which Burton was invited. Dr. Baker having expressed regret that he also had not been included, Burton remarked, “Oh, I’ll manage it. Write a letter for me and decline.” So a letter was written to the effect that as Sir Richard Burton made it a rule not to go anywhere without his medical attendant he was obliged to decline the honour, &c., &c. Presently, as had been expected, came another invitation with Dr. Baker’s name added. Consequently they went, and a very grand dinner it proved — lasting, by Lady Burton’s computation, six hours on end. At St. Mortiz-Kulm, and often after, they met Canon Wenham of Mortlake, with whom both Sir Richard and Lady Burton had long been on terms of friendship.

623 See Introduction by Mr. Smithers.

170. At Maloja, July 1890.

At Davos they found John Addington Symonds, and at Maloja Mr. Francis R. S. Wyllie, Mr. and Mrs. (Sir and Lady) Squire Bancroft, the Rev. Dr. Welldon and Mr. and Mrs. (Sir and Lady) Henry Stanley. Mrs. Stanley, apparently at Lady Burton’s suggestion, took a sheet of paper and wrote on it, “I promise to put aside all other literature, and, as soon as I return to Trieste, to write my autobiography.” Then doubling the paper she asked for Burton’s autograph; and her request having been complied with, she showed him what he had put his hand to. The rest of the company signed as witnesses.

For some days, though it was early autumn, the party was snow-bound, and Burton relieved the wearisomeness of the occasion by relating some of his adventures. Mrs. Bancroft told him many amusing stories as they walked together in a sheltered covered way.

“He had interested me so greatly,” writes Lady Bancroft to me,624 “that I felt myself in his debt, and so tried by that means to make it up to him. He laughed heartily at them. Indeed, I never knew anyone who more enjoyed my stories. One morning early I played a practical joke upon him. He politely raised his hat and said: ‘I will forgive you, dear friend, on one condition. Play the same trick on Stanley when he comes down and I will watch.’ I agreed, and fortunately brought down my second bird. Both victims forgave me. One day I posed the Burtons, the Stanleys, Captain Mounteney Jephson (Stanley’s friend and companion), with Salah (Stanley’s black servant) for a photograph, which was taken by a young clergyman. I have the delightful result in my possession. I remember on a splendid morning, when the weather had mended and the sun was dancing over a neighbouring glacier, my husband saying to the black boy, ‘Salah, isn’t this a lovely day — don’t you like to see the beautiful sun again?’ ‘No, sir,’ was the answer, ‘ice makes him cold.’ Both Stanley and Sir Richard interested me more than I can say; they were wonderful personalities, and those were, indeed, happy days.”

Almost every day during the trip Sir Richard brought the Catullus to the table d’hote, and on 21st July he had finished his second copy. He then wrote in the margin, “Work incomplete, but as soon as I receive Mr. Smithers’ prose, I will fill in the words I now leave in stars, in order that we may not use the same expressions, and I will then make a third, fair and complete copy.”625 During this trip, too, Burton very kindly revised the first half of Dr. Baker’s work The Model Republic. The second half was revised by John Addington Symonds after Burton’s death.

Burton was back again at Trieste on 7th September. He and the magpie trunk were never again to make a journey together. The melancholy fate of the Catullus, which Burton had put aside in order that he might finish The Scented Garden, will be recorded in a later chapter.

624 11th July 1905.

625 We quote Lady Burton. Mr. Smithers, however, seems to have doubted whether Burton really did write this sentence. See his Preface to the Catullus.

171. The Golden Ass.

Another work that Burton left unfinished was a translation of The Golden Ass of Apuleius — a work known to Englishmen chiefly by Bohn’s edition,626 and the renderings of the episode of Cupid and Psyche by Adlington and Walter Pater (in Marius the Epicurean). The manuscript of Burton’s translation is now in the possession of M. Charles Carrington, the Paris publisher, who is arranging for its completion by a competent hand. The portions due to Burton will, of course, be indicated. These consist of “The Author’s Intent,” about two pages small 4to; nearly all the story of Cupid and Psyche; and fragments of Books 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11.627

On 30th September Burton wrote again to Mr. W. F. Kirby. “Your collaboration,” he says, “has been most valuable to me. Your knowledge of Folk Lore is not only ample, it is collected and controlled by the habit of accuracy which Science gives and which I find in all your writings upon imaginative subjects. . . . Let me hope that new scenes will not cause you to forget old subjects, and remind you of the infinite important fact that I am a subscriber to the Kalevala.”

626 A Translation by Francis D. Bryne appeared in 1905.

627 I am indebted to M. Carrington for these notes.

Chapter XXXVII

Death of Sir Richard Burton

173. Death. 20th October 1890.

As we have seen, Burton had for some months shown signs of bodily decay; and he now daily grew weaker. His eyes, though still fierce and penetrating, were sunk into hollow cavities. His body was emaciated, his hands were thin to transparency, his voice was sometimes inarticulate, and he could hardly walk without support. Still, there seemed no immediate cause for anxiety, and, as will be seen from the following letter628 (15th October 1890) to Mr. David MacRitchie, he was busy evolving new plans, including a visit to Greece, to be made in the company of Dr. Schliemann,629 the archaeologist. “In the spring of next year (Inshallah!) there will be a total disruption of my Lares and Penates. I shall be ‘retired for age,’ and leave Trieste for ever with my mental eye upon a flat in London which can be locked up at a moment’s notice when the renter wants to go abroad. Meanwhile we are off to Athens about mid-November. All luck to the [Gypsy] Society.” On the same day he wrote to Mr. W. F. Kirby: “Excuse post-card. We have no secrets. Please don’t forget to keep me au courant of your movements in re Jan., &c. We shall not be in London before early September 1891, I imagine, but then it will be for good.” Elsewhere he says, almost in the words of Ovid, “My earnest wish is somehow to depart from these regions.” He was to depart, very soon, but in a manner little expected.

Sir Richard as we have noticed, would never say “Good-bye.” It was always “Au revoir.” One day in this October Miss Letchford went to see him with her little sister. It was tea-time, but Lady Burton was in another room with a visitor. Never had he appeared so bright or affectionate. He laughed and joked and teased the child and would not let them go for two hours. At last he shook hands and said, “Come and see me again very soon. I like you and your sister. — -Good-bye, Daisy.” “I was so startled,” comments Miss Letchford, “by that ‘Good-bye’ that a shiver passed over me. I felt at that moment that I should never see him again.” Two days later Mr. Albert Letchford called on Sir Richard, who seemed fairly well, but he remarked “The good Switzerland did me ended this evening.”

Dr. Baker, though himself just then a great sufferer from neuralgic headache, watched with anxious solicitude over his patient. On the last day of his life Sir Richard seemed better than usual, and all the household remarked his excellent spirits. It was Sunday October 29th. After returning from mass and communion at eight in the morning Lady Burton found him engaged upon the last page of the twentieth chapter of The Scented Garden.630 The work was therefore almost half done. She kissed him, and he said, “To-morrow I shall have finished this, and then I will begin our biography.” She commented “What happiness that will be!” Her mind, however, was not quite at ease that morning, for a bird had pecked for the third time at a window that was never opened, and Sir Richard remarked “This is a sign of death.”

The day was fine, and after breakfast Burton took his usual two hours’ walk with Dr. Baker. On the way out through the garden he noticed a robin drowning in the basin of a fountain.631 At his request Dr. Baker rescued it, and Burton, opening his coat and vest — for he never wore a waistcoat — warmed the bird at his breast, and then carried it to the house to be cared for by the porter. The incident carries us back to those old days at Tours, when, as a boy, he often laid himself out to revive unfortunate birds and small beasts. In the afternoon he wrote some letters and discussed gaily the proposed visit to Greece. They dined at half-past seven, and talked and laughed as usual, though Burton seemed tired. As usual, too, he shocked his wife by jesting about scapularies and other sacred things, but the conversation ran chiefly on General Booth’s scheme for relieving the Submerged Tenth; and Burton, who entered into the subject with zest, observed: “When you and I get to England and are quite free we will give our spare time to that.”632

In the course of the day Mrs. Victoria Maylor came in with the manuscript of The Scented Garden and the copy of it which she had made for the printers,633 and from this we may deduce that Sir Richard intended to go to press at once with the first twenty chapters of the work. He may have intended to publish the twenty-first chapter later as a second volume. At half-past nine he retired to his bedroom. Lady Burton then repeated “the night prayers to him,” and while she was speaking “a dog,” to use her own words, “began that dreadful howl which the superstitious regard as the harbinger of death.”

After prayers, Burton asked for “chou-chou;” she game him a paper-covered copy in two volumes of the Martyrdom of Madeline634 by Robert Buchanan, and he lay in bed reading it. At midnight he complained of pain in his foot, but said he believed it was only a return of the gout — the “healthy gout,” which troubled him about every three months.

“Let me call Dr. Baker,” said Lady Burton.

“No,” replied Sir Richard, “don’t disturb him poor fellow, he has been in frightful pain with his head; and has at last got a little sleep.”

At four, however, Lady Burton paid no heed to her husband’s remonstrances, but called up Dr. Baker, who, however, saw no cause for alarm, and after administering some medicine he returned to bed. Half an hour later Burton complained that there was no air, and Lady Burton, again thoroughly alarmed, rose to call in Dr. Baker once more.

Although Burton was then dying, he said, “Poor chap, don’t disturb him.”

But Lady Burton instantly summoned Dr. Baker, who on entering pronounced the situation grave. Lady Burton at once roused the servants and sent in all directions for a priest; while, assisted by Dr. Baker and Lisa, she “tried every remedy and restorative,” but in vain.

“Oh, Puss,” cried Burton, “chloroform — ether — quick!”

“My darling,” replied Lady Burton in anguish. “Dr. Baker says it would kill you. He is doing everything possible.”

His breathing then became laboured, and after a brief struggle for air he cried, “I am dying, I am dead.” Lady Burton held him in her arms, but he got heavier, and presently became insensible. Dr Baker applied an electric battery to the heart, and Lady Burton kneeling at the bedside, and holding her husband’s hand, prayed her “heart out to God to keep his soul there (though he might be dead in appearance) till the priest arrived.” But it was in vain. The priest, a Slavonian, named Pietro Martelani, came in about half-past six. We may regret what followed, but no one would judge harshly the actions of an agonised woman. Pity for human suffering must drown all other feelings. The priest looked at the dead but warm body and asked whether there was still any life. That the heart and pulsed had ceased to beat, Lady Burton herself afterwards admitted to her relations, but deceiving herself with the belief that life still continued in the brain, she cried: “He is alive, but I beseech you, lose not a moment, for the soul is passing away.”

“If,” said the Priest, “he is a Protestant, he cannot receive the Holy Sacrament in this way.”

Lady Burton having declared that her husband “had abjured the heresy and belonged to the Catholic Church,” the priest at once administered “the last comforts.”

It was certainly a kind of consolation to the poor lady to feel that her husband had not departed unhouselled; but it is equally evident that her mind had given way, for the scenes that presently followed can be explained only on this assumption.635

Dr. Baker at once sent a brief note to Mr. Letchford. Singularly enough the night before — that is the terrible Sunday night — Miss Daisy Letchford experienced “a strange instance of telepathy.” “My brother,” she says, “had gone out, and I waited alone for him. Suddenly I fancied I heard footsteps in the passage and stopping at the door of the room where I was reading. I felt drops of cold sweat on my forehead. I was afraid, yet I knew that no one was about at that time of the night. The door opened slowly, and I felt the impression of some one looking at me. I dared not raise my eyes. The footsteps seemed to approach. In a fit of fear I looked up and saw Sir Richard standing before me. He started, waved his hand and disappeared. Early in the morning came a ring at the bell. I jumped out of bed and burst into tears as I said, ‘This is to tell us that Sir Richard is dead.’ At that moment the maid brought in the letter for my brother from Dr. Baker. I ran with it into his room. ‘Albert, Albert,’ I cried, ‘Sir Richard is dead.’ He opened the letter. It was only too true.”

The same morning, Mr. P. P. Cautley, the Vice Consul, was called up to the house.

The undertaker, who was already there, asked in Mr. Cautley’s presence to what religion Sir Richard belonged.

Turning to Mr. Cautley, Lady Burton asked: “What religion shall I say?”

“Tell him Sir Richard’s true religion,” replied Mr. Cautley.636

She then said, “Catholic.”

“But!” interjected Mr. Cautley.

“YES,” followed Lady Burton, “he was a Catholic.”

Lady Burton still nursed the hope that Sir Richard was not quite dead. There was life in the brain, she persisted in saying. Would he revive? “For forty-eight hours,” she tells us, “she knelt watching him.” She could not shed a tear. Then she “had the ulnar nerve opened and strong electricity applied to make sure of his death.”

Some months after, when her mind had regained its equilibrium, she observed to Major St. George Burton.637 “To a Protestant, Dick’s reception into the Holy Church must seem meaningless and void. He was dead before extreme unction was administered; and my sole idea was to satisfy myself that he and I would be buried according to the Catholic rites and lie together above ground in the Catholic cemetery. He was not strictly received, for he was dead, and the formula Si es capax, &c., saved the priest’s face and satisfied the church.” When mortification began to set in, the body, which was found to be covered with scars, the witnesses of a hundred fights, was embalmed, laid out in uniform, and surrounded with candles and wreaths. “He looked so sweet,” says Lady Burton, “such an adorable dignity, like a sleep.”638 Behind the bed still hung the great map of Africa. On his breast Lady Burton had placed a crucifix, and he still wore the steel chain and the “Blessed Virgin Medal,” which she had given him just before the Tanganyika journey.

Priests, pious persons, and children from the orphanage of St. Joseph, in which Lady Burton had taken so much interest, watched and prayed, recited the office for the dead, and sang hymns.

There were three distinct funerals at Trieste, and there was to be another nine months onward in England. All that can be said is that Lady Burton seemed to draw comfort from pageantry and ceremonial that to most mourners would have been only a long-drawn agony.

The procession was a royal one. The coffin was covered with the Union Jack, and behind it were borne on a cushion Burton’s order and medals. Then followed a carriage with a pyramid of wreaths, and lastly, the children of St. Joseph’s orphanage, a regiment of infantry and the governor and officials of Trieste.

Every flag in the town was half-mast high, multitudes thronged the streets, and every window and balcony was crowded. Every head was uncovered. The procession wound its way from the Palazzo Gosleth down the declivity into the city under a bright sun pouring down its full beams, and so onward through the serried masses of spectators to the cemetery. Writing to Lady Stisted,639 Lady Burton says, “I did not have him buried, but had a private room in the cemetery [a “chapelle ardente”] consecrated (with windows and doors on the ground floor) above ground where I can go and sit with him every day. He had three church services performed over him, and 1,100 masses said for the repose of his soul.” “For the man,” commented the profane, “who, in his own words, ‘protested against the whole business,’ perhaps 1,100 masses would not have been enough.” In an oration delivered in the Diet of Trieste, Dr. Cambon called him an intrepid explorer, a gallant soldier, an honour to the town of Trieste.” The whole press of the world rang with his praises. The noble tribute paid to his memory by Algernon C. Swinburne has often been quoted:

“While England sees not her old praise dim,

While still her stars through the world’s night swim,

A fame outshining her Raleigh’s fame,

A light that lightens her loud sea’s rim:

Shall shine and sound as her sons proclaim

The pride that kindles at Burton’s name,

And joy shall exalt their pride to be

The same in birth if in soul the same.”640

“Our affairs,” Lady Burton tells Lady Stisted, in a heartrending letter,641 “are so numerous and we belonged to so many things that I have not strength enough to get them carried out before eight weeks, and I could not bear to arrive in Xmas holidays, but immediately after they are over, early January, I shall arrive, if I live, and pass through Folkestone on my way to Mortlake with the dear remains to make a tomb there for us two; and you must let me know whether you wish to see me or not.

“I wish to go into a convent for a spiritual retreat for fifteen days, and after that I should like to live very quietly in a retired way in London till God show me what I am to do or, as I hope, will take me also; and this my belief that I shall go in a few months is my only consolation. As to me, I do not know how anyone can suffer so much and live. While all around me had to go to bed ill, I have had a supernatural strength of soul and body, and have never lost my head for one moment, but I cannot cry a tear. My throat is closed, and I sometime cannot swallow. My heart swelled to bursting. It must go snap soon, I think. I have not forgotten you, and what it means to you who loved each other so much. I shall save many little treasures for you. His and your father’s watch, &c. There are hundreds of telegrams and letters and cards by every post from all parts of the world, and the newspapers are full. The whole civilized world ringing with his praise, and appreciative of his merits — every one deeming it an honour to have known him. Now it will be felt what we have lost. I shall pass the remainder of my short time in writing his life and you must help me. Best love to dearest Georgy. I will write to her. Your affectionate and desolate Isabel.”

To Mr. Arbuthnot, Lady Burton also wrote a very long and pitiful letter.642 As it records in other words much that has already been mentioned we will quote only a few sentences.

“Dear Mr. Arbuthnot, “Your sympathy and that of Mrs. Arbuthnot is very precious to me and I answer you both in one. I cannot answer general letters, but you were his best friend. I should like to tell you all if I saw you but I have no heart to write it. . . . I am arranging all his affairs and when finished I bring him to England. . . . I shall be a little slow coming because I have so much to do with his books and MSS., and secondly because the rent is paid to the 24th February and I am too poor to pay two places. Here I cannot separate from his body, and there it will be in the earth. I am so thoroughly stunned that I feel nothing outside, but my heart is crucified. I have lost all in him. You will want to know my plans. When my work is done, say 1st of March, I will go into a long retreat in a convent and will offer myself to a Sister of Charity. I do not think I shall be accepted for my age and infirmities, but will try. . . . The world is for me a dead letter, and can no more touch me. No more joy — no further sorrow can affect me. Dr. Baker is so good to me, and is undertaking my affairs himself as I really cannot care about them now. Love to both. God bless you both for unvarying friendship and kindness. Your affectionate and desolate friend, Isabel Burton.

“I have saved his gold watch-chain as a memorial for you.”

So passed from human ken the great, noble and learned Richard Francis Burton, “wader of the seas of knowledge,” “cistern of learning of our globe,” “exalted above his age,” “opener by his books of night and day,” “traveller by ship and foot and horse.”643 No man could have had a fuller life. Of all travellers he was surely the most enthusiastic. What had he not seen? The plains of the Indus, the slopes of the Blue Mountains, the classic cities of Italy, the mephitic swamps of Eastern Africa, the Nilotic cataracts, Brazil, Abeokuta, Iceland, El Dorado — all knew well — him, his star-sapphire, and his congested church service: lands fertile, barren, savage, civilized, utilitarian, dithyrambic. He had worshipped at Mecca and at Salt Lake City. He had looked into the face of Memnon, and upon the rocks of Midian, ‘graven with an iron pen,’ upon the head waters of the Congo, and the foliate columns of Palmyra; he had traversed the whole length of the Sao Francisco, crossed the Mississippi and the Ganges. Then, too, had not the Power of the Hills been upon him! With what eminence indeed was he not familiar, whether Alp, Cameroon or Himalaya! Nor did he despise the features of his native land. If he had climbed the easy Andes, he had also conquered, and looked down from the giddy heights of Hampstead. Because he had grubbed in the Italian Pompeii he did not, on that account, despise the British Uriconium.644 He ranks with the world’s most intrepid explorers — with Columbus, Cabot, Marco Polo, Da Gama and Stanley. Like another famous traveller, he had been “in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in weariness and painfullness.” In the words of his beloved Camoens, he had done

“Deeds that deserve, like gods, a deathless name.”645

He had lived almost his three score and ten, but, says one of his friends, “in the vigour, the vehemence indeed with which he vented his indignation over any meanness or wrong, or littleness, he was to the last as youthful as when he visited Mecca and Harar. If, however, the work he did, the hardships he endured, and the amazing amount of learning which he acquired and gave forth to the world are to be taken as any measure of his life, he lived double the term of most ordinary men.” Like Ovid, for the parallelism preserved itself to the end, he died in the land of his exile.

“It has been said of him that he was the greatest Oriental scholar England ever had and neglected.” He was a mighty writer of books — some fifty works, to say nothing of multitudinous articles in the journals of the learned societies, having proceeded from his pen. If it be conceded that he was wanting in the literary faculty and that no one of his books is entirely satisfactory, it should be borne in mind that he added enormously to the sum of human knowledge. We go to him, not for style, but for facts. Again, if his books are not works of art, they contain, nevertheless, many passages that cling to the memory. Take him as linguist, traveller and anthropologist, he was certainly one of the greatest men that modern England has produced.

628 Unpublished.

629 Dr. Schliemann died 27th December, 1890.

630 Not the last page of the Scented Garden, as she supposed (see Life, vol. ii., p. 410), for she tells us in the Life (vol. ii., p. 444) that the MS. consisted of only 20 chapters.

631 Told me by Dr. Baker.

632 Life, ii., 409.

633 Communicated by Mr. P. P. Cautley, the Vice-Consul of Trieste.

634 Asher’s Collection of English Authors. It is now in the Public Library at Camberwell.

635 She herself says almost as much in the letters written during this period. See Chapter xxxix., 177. Letters to Mrs. E. J. Burton.

636 See Chapter xxxi.

637 Letters of Major St. George Burton to me, March 1905.

638 Unpublished letter to Miss Stisted.

639 Unpublished letter.

640 Verses on the Death of Richard Burton. The New Review, Feb. 1891.

641 Unpublished. Lent me by Mr. Mostyn Pryce.

642 Unpublished.

643 See Chapter xiv, 63.

644 See The Land of Midian Revisited, ii., 223, footnote.

645 The Lusiads, Canto ii., Stanza 113.

Chapter XXXVIII

20th October 1890-December 1890

The Fate of “The Scented Garden”

173. The Fate of The Scented Garden.

Burton wad dead. All that was mortal of him lay cold and motionless in the chapelle ardente. But his spirit? The spirits of the departed, can they revive us? The Roman poet Propertius answers:

“Yes; there are ghosts: death ends not all, I ween.”

and Lady Burton was just as thoroughly imbued with that belief. Hereby hangs a curious story, now to be told as regards its essentials for the first time; and we may add that Lady Burton particularly wished these essentials to be made public after her decease.646

For sixteen days after her husband’s death Lady Burton shut herself up in the house in order to examine and classify his manuscripts, pack up books, &c., ready for the journey to England, and “carry out his instructions.” To the goodness — the sweetness — of her character we have several times paid tributes. We have spoken of the devotion to her husband which surrounds her with a lambent glory; but we have also shown that she was indiscreet, illiterate,647 superstitious and impulsive; and that she was possessed of a self-assurance that can only be described as colossal. We have also shown that her mind was unhinged by her sad trouble. Such, then, was the woman and such the condition of the woman upon whom devolved the duty of considering the manuscripts of one of the most original men of the 19th century. Which of them were valuable and which mere lumber she was quite incapable of judging. Her right course would have been to call in some competent person; but she thought she was competent.

At Lady Burton’s request, Mr. Albert Letchford and Miss Letchford had come to stay with her “for the remembrance of the love her husband bore them.” It fell to Miss Letchford to sort Sir Richard’s clothes and to remove the various trifles from his pockets. She found, among other things, the little canvas bags containing horse-chestnuts, which, as we have already noticed, he used “to carry about with him against the Evil Eye — as a charm to keep him from sickness.”

Lady Burton now commenced with the manuscripts — and let it be conceded, with the very best intentions. She would have nobody in the room but Miss Letchford. “I helped Lady Burton to sort his books, papers, and manuscripts,” says Miss Letchford. “She thought me too young and innocent to understand anything. She did not suspect that often when she was not near I looked through and read many of those MSS. which I bitterly repent not having taken, for in that case the world would not have been deprived of many beautiful and valuable writings. I remember a poem of his written in the style of ‘The House that Jack built,’ the biting sarcasm of which, the ironical finesse — is beyond anything I have ever read. Many great people still living found their way into these verses. I begged Lady Burton to keep it, but her peasant confessor said ‘Destroy it,’ so it was burnt along with a hundred other beautiful things.” She destroyed valuable papers,648 she carefully preserved and docketed as priceless treasures mere waste paper.649

There now remained only the manuscript of The Scented Garden and a few other papers. By this time Lady Burton had discovered that Miss Letchford was “not so ignorant as she thought,” and when the latter begged her not to destroy The Scented Garden she promised that it should be saved; and no doubt, she really intended to save it. Miss Letchford having gone out for the evening, Lady Burton returned again to her task. Her mind was still uneasy about The Scented Garden, and she took out the manuscript to examine it. Of the character of the work she had some idea, though her husband had not allowed her to read it. Fifteen hundred persons had promised subscriptions; and she had also received an offer of six thousand guineas for it from a publisher.650 She took out the manuscript and laid it on the floor, “two large volumes worth.”651 When she opened it she was perfectly bewildered and horrified. The text alone would have staggered her, but, as we have seen, Burton had trebled the size of the book with notes of a certain character. Calming herself, she reflected that the book was written only for scholars and mainly for Oriental students, and that her husband “never wrote a thing from the impure point of view. He dissected a passion from every point of view, as a doctor may dissect a body, showing its source, its origin, its evil, and its good.”652

Then she looked up, and there, before her, stood her husband just as he had stood in the flesh. He pointed to the manuscript and said “Burn it!” Then he disappeared.

As she had for years been a believer in spirits, the apparition did not surprise her, and yet she was tremendously excited. “Burn it!” she echoed, “the valuable manuscript? At which he laboured for so many weary hours? Yet, doubtless, it would be wrong to preserve it. Sin is the only rolling stone that gathers moss; what a gentleman, a scholar, a man of the world may write, when living, he would see very differently as a poor soul standing naked before its God, with its good or evil deeds alone to answer for, and their consequences visible to it from the first moment, rolling on to the end of time. Oh, he would cry, for a friend on earth to stop and check them! What would he care for the applause of fifteen hundred men now — for the whole world’s praise, and God offended? And yet the book is for students only. Six thousand guineas, too, is a large sum, and I have great need of it.”

At this moment the apparition again stood before her, and in a sterner and more authoritative voice said: “Burn it!” and then again disappeared. In her excitement she scarcely knew where she was or what she did. Still she hesitated. Then she soliloquised: “It is his will, and what he wishes shall be done. He loved me and worked for me. How am I going to reward him? In order that my wretched body may be fed and warmed for a few miserable years, shall I let his soul be left out in cold and darkness till the end of time — till all the sins which may be committed on reading those writings have been expiated, or passed away, perhaps, for ever? Nafzawi, who was a pagan, begged pardon of God and prayed not to be cast into hell fire for having written it, and implored his readers to pray for him to Allah that he would have mercy on him.”653

Still she hesitated. “It was his magnum opus,” she went on, “his last work that he was so proud of, that was to have been finished654 on the awful morrow that never came. If I burn it the recollection will haunt me to my dying day,” and again she turned over the leaves.

Then for the third time Sir Richard stood before her. Again he sternly bade her burn the manuscript, and, having added threatenings to his command, he again disappeared.

By this time her excitement had passed away, and a holy joy irradiated her soul. She took up the manuscript, and then sorrowfully, reverently, and in fear and trembling, she burnt it sheet after sheet, until the whole was consumed. As each leaf was licked up by the fire, it seemed to her that “a fresh ray of light and peace” transfused the soul of her beloved husband.

That such were the facts and that the appearance of her husband was not mere hallucination, Lady Burton stiffly maintained until her dying day. She told Mr. T. Douglas Murray655 that she dared not mention the appearances of her husband in her letter to The Morning Post656 or to her relatives for fear of ridicule. Yet in the Life of her husband — almost the closing words — she does give a hint to those who could understand. She says: “Do not be so hard and prosaic as to suppose that our dead cannot, in rare instances, come back and tell us how it is with them.”657

That evening, when Miss Letchford, after her return, entered Sir Richard’s room, she saw some papers still smouldering in the grate. They were all that remained of The Scented Garden. On noticing Miss Letchford’s reproachful look, Lady Burton said, “I wished his name to live for ever unsullied and without a stain.”

646 She impressed them on several of her friends. In each case she said, “I particularly wish you to make these facts as public as possible when I am gone.”

647 We mean illiterate for a person who takes upon herself to write, of this even a cursory glance through her books will convince anybody.

648 For example, she destroyed Sir Richard’s Diaries. Portions of these should certainly have been published.

649 Some of them she incorporated in her “Life” of her husband, which contains at least 60 pages of quotations from utterly worthless documents.

650 I am told that it is very doubtful whether this was a bona fide offer; but Lady Burton believed it to be so.

651 Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, vol. ii., p. 725.

652 The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton.

653 Lady Burton, owing to a faulty translation, quite mistook Nafzawi’s meaning. She was thinking of the concluding verse as rendered in the 1886 edition, which runs as follows:—

“I certainly did wrong to put this book together,

But you will pardon me, nor let me pray in vain;

O God! award no punishment for this on judgment day!

And thou, O reader, hear me conjure thee to say, So be it!”

But the 1904 and, more faithful edition puts it very differently. See Chapter xxxiv.

654 An error, as we have shown.

655 Mr. T. Douglas Murray, the biographer of Jeanne d’Arc and Sir Samuel Baker, spent many years in Egypt, where he met Burton. He was on intimate terms of friendship with Gordon, Grant, Baker and De Lesseps.

656 Written in June 1891.

657 Life, ii., p. 450.

174. Discrepancies in Lady Burton’s Story.

Some have regarded this action of Lady Burton’s — the destruction of The Scented Garden manuscript — as “one of rare self-sacrifice prompted by the highest religious motives and the tenderest love for one whom she looked to meet again in heaven, to which her burnt offering and fervent prayers might make his entrance sure.” If the burning of the MS. of The Scented Garden had been an isolated action, we might have cheerfully endorsed the opinion just quoted, but it was only one holocaust of a series. That Lady Burton had the best of motives we have already admitted; but it is also very evident that she gave the matter inadequate consideration. The discrepancies in her account of the manuscript prove that at most she could have turned over only three or four pages — or half-a-dozen at the outside.658

Let us notice these discrepancies:

(1) In her letter to the Morning Post (19th June 1891) she says of The Scented Garden: “It was his magnum opus, his last work that he was so proud of.” Yet in the Life (ii., 243) she calls it the only book he ever wrote that was not valuable to the world and in p. 445 of the same work she alludes to it “as a few chapters which were of no particular value to the world.” So it was at once the most valuable book he ever wrote and also of no value whatever. (2) In Volume ii. of the Life (p. 441) she says the only value in the book at all consisted in his annotations, and there was no poetry. This remark proves more than anything else how very superficial must have been her examination of the manuscript, for even the garbled edition of 1886 contains nearly 400 lines of verse, while that of 1904 probably contains over a thousand.659 For example, there are twenty-three lines of the poet Abu Nowas’s. (3) On page 444 of the Life she says: “It was all translation except the annotations on the Arabic work” — which gives the impression that the translation was the great feature, and that the notes were of secondary importance; but on p. 441 she says, “The only value in the book at all consisted in the annotations.” As a matter of fact, the annotations amounted to three-quarters of the whole. [See Chapter xxxiv.] (4) In the Life, page 410 (Vol. ii.), she says the work was finished all but one page; and on page 444 that only 20 chapters were done. Yet she much have known that the whole work consisted of 21 chapters, and that the 21st chapter was as large as the other twenty put together, for her husband was always talking about and trying to obtain an Arabic manuscript of this chapter (See chapter 35).

All this, of course, proved indubitably that Lady Burton actually knew next to nothing about the whole matter. Perhaps it will be asked, What has been lost by this action of Lady Burton’s? After carefully weighing the pros and cons we have come to the conclusion that the loss could not possibly have been a serious one. That Burton placed a very high value on his work, that he considered it his masterpiece, is incontrovertible, but he had formed in earlier days just as high an opinion of his Camoens and his Kasidah; therefore what he himself said about it has not necessarily any great weight. We do not think the loss serious for four reasons: First, because the original work, whatever its claims on the anthropologist, has little, if any, literary merit;660 secondly, because Sir Richard Burton’s “old version”661 of The Scented Garden is public property, and has been reprinted at least three times; thirdly, because only half was done; and fourthly, because the whole of the work has since been translated by a writer who, whatever his qualifications or disqualifications, has had access to manuscripts that were inaccessible to Sir Richard Burton. Practically then, for, as we have already shown, Sir Richard did not particularly shine as a translator, nothing has been lost except his notes. These notes seem to have been equivalent to about 600 pages of an ordinary crown octavo book printed in long primer. Two-thirds of this matter was probably of such a character that its loss cannot be deplored. The remainder seems to have been really valuable and to have thrown light on Arab life and manners. Although the translation was destroyed in October 1890, the public were not informed of the occurrence until June 1891 — nine months after.

Copies of the Kama Shastra edition of The Scented Garden issued in 1886662 are not scarce. The edition of 1904, to which we have several times referred, is founded chiefly on the Arabic Manuscript in the Library at Algiers, which a few years ago was collated by Professor Max Seligsohn with the texts referred to by Burton as existing in the Libraries of Paris, Gotha and Copenhagen.

658 It would have been impossible to turn over half-a-dozen without noticing some verses.

659 We have seen only the first volume. The second at the time we went to press had not been issued.

660 See Chapter xxxiv.

661 The Kama Shastra edition.

662 See Chapter xxvi.

175. The Fate of the Catullus.

The fate of the Catullus was even more tragic than that of The Scented Garden. This work, like The Scented Garden, was left unfinished. Burton had covered his Latin copy and his manuscript with pencil notes looking like cobwebs, and on one page was written “Never show half finished work to women or fools.” The treatment meted to his manuscript would, if Burton had been a poet of the first order, have drawn tears from a milestone. But it must be borne in mind that Lady Burton did consider him a poet of the first order, for she ranked his Camoens and his Kasidah with the work of Shakespere. And this is how she treated a work which she considered a world-masterpiece. First she skimmed it over, then she expurgated it, and finally she either typed it herself,663 or, what is more likely, put it into the hands of a typist who must have been extremely illiterate or abominably careless. Then, without even troubling to correct the copy, she sent the manuscript of the Catullus up the chimney after that of The Scented Garden. The typewritten copy was forwarded to the unhappy and puzzled Mr. Leonard C. Smithers, with the request, which was amusing enough, that he would “edit it” and bring it out. Just as a child who has been jumping on the animals of a Noah’s Ark brings them to his father to be mended.

“To me,” observes Mr. Smithers piteously, “has fallen the task of editing Sir Richard’s share in this volume from a type-written copy literally swarming with copyist’s errors.664 Lady Burton has without any reason constantly refused me even a glance at his MS.” The book, such as it was, appeared in 1894. If Burton had not been embalmed he would have turned in his coffin. We may or may not pardon Lady Burton for destroying the MS. of The Scented Garden, but it is impossible not to pass upon her at any rate a mild censure for having treated in that way a translation of Catullus after it had been expurgated to her own taste. Whether Burton would have considerably improved the poetry of his version we cannot say; but as it stands no single poem is superior to the work of his predecessors. One need only compare his rendering of the lines “To the Peninsula of Sirmio” with the Hon. George Lamb’s665

“Sirmio of all the shores the gem,”

or Leigh Hunt’s

“O, best of all the scattered spots that lie,”

to see what a fall was there, and yet neither Lamb’s version nor Hunt’s is satisfactory. His “Atys” pales before Cranstoun’s, and his “Epithalamium,” is almost unreadable; while the lines “On the death of Lesbia’s Sparrow” naturally compel comparison with Byron’s version. Nor will readers of the translations by Sir Theodore Martin or Robinson Ellis gain anything by turning to Burton.

On the other hand, we can well believe that his work, considered as a commentary on Catullus — for nearly all his loose notes have perished — would have been as valuable to us as, viewed in the same light, is his edition of Camoens. He had explored all the Catullus country. Verona, the poet’s birthplace, “Sweet Sirmio,” his home on the long narrow peninsula that cleaves Garda’s “limpid lake,” Brescia, “below the Cycnaean peak,”666 the “dimpling waters” of heavenly Como, and the estate of Caecilius;667 all were familiar to him. He knew every spot visited by the poet in his famous voyage in the open pinnance668 from Bithynia “through the angry Euxine,” among the Cyclades, by “purple Zante,” up the Adriatic, and thence by river and canal to ‘Home, sweet home.’ He was deep in every department of Catullian lore. He had taken enormous pains; he had given his nights and days to the work. The notes at the end of the printed volume are a mere drop compared with the ocean he left. However, the manuscript with its pencilled cobwebs, the voluminous “loose notes” — all — good and bad — went up the chimney.

Personally we have never expended a sigh over the loss of The Scented Garden, and we should not have minded one straw if Lady Burton had burnt also her typewritten travesty of the Catullus; but her destruction of Sir Richard’s private journals and diaries was a deed that one finds it very hard to forgive. Just as Sir Richard’s conversation was better than his books, so, we are told, his diaries were better than his conversation. Says Mr. W. H. Wilkins,669 referring to Sir Richard, “He kept his diaries and journals, not as many keep them, with all the ugly things left out, but faithfully and fully,” and again, “the private journals and diaries which were full of the secret thoughts and apologia of this rare genius have been committed to the flames.” Dr. Baker, who was favoured with the sight of portions of these diaries, tells me that Sir Richard used to put in them not only an epitome of every important letter written or received by him, and of every conversation he had with persons of consequence; but also any remarks that struck him, uttered by no matter whom.670

663 She often used a typewriter.

664 The same may be said of Lady Burton’s Life of her husband. I made long lists of corrections, but I became tired; there were too many. I sometimes wonder whether she troubled to read the proofs at all.

665 His edition of Catullus appeared in 1821 in 2 vols. 12 mos.

666 Poem 67. On a Wanton’s Door.

667 Poem 35. Invitation to Caecilius.

668 Poem 4. The Praise of his Pinnance.

669 Preface to the 1898 Edition of Lady Burton’s Life of Sir Richard Burton.

670 In her Life of Sir Richard, Lady Burton quotes only a few sentences from these Diaries. Practically she made no use of them whatever. For nearly all she tells us could have been gleaned from his books.

176. Lisa Departs, November 1890.

Like Chico, like Khamoor, Lisa, the Baroness lady-companion, had through injudicious treatment grown well-nigh unendurable. While Burton was alive she still had some dim notion of her place, but after his death she broke the traces, and Lady Burton had, with deep regret, to part with her. They separated very good friends, however, for Lady Burton was generosity itself. By this time she had been pretty well cured of lady’s maid and servant pets, at any rate we hear of no other.

Lady Burton was also distressed by an attack make in The Times upon the memory of her husband by Colonel Grant, who declared that Burton had treated both Speke and their native followers with inhumanity. Lady Burton replied with asperity — giving the facts much as we have given them in Chapter ix. Grant died 10th February 1892.

Chapter XXXIX

January 1891 to July 1891

Lady Burton in England

Bibliography (Posthumous works):

81. Morocco and the Moors, by Henry Leared, edited by Burton. 1891.

82. Il Pentamerone, published 1893.

83. The Kasidah (100 copies only). 1894.

[Note. — In 1900 an edition of 250 copies appeared].

177. Lady Burton in England.

By the new year Lady Burton had completed all her arrangements. The swarms of servants and parasites which her good nature had attracted to her had been paid, or thrown, off; and the books and the mutilated manuscripts packed up. Every day she had visited her “beloved in the chapelle ardente.” “I never rested,” she says, “and it was a life of torture. I used to wake at four, the hour he was taken ill, and go through all the horrors of his three hours’ illness until seven.”

On January 20th, Burton’s remains were taken to England by the steamer “Palmyra.” Lady Burton then walked round and round to every room, recalling all her life in that happy home and all the painful events that had so recently taken place. She gazed pensively and sadly at the beautiful views from the windows and went “into every nook and cranny of the garden.” The very walls seemed to mourn with her.

On arriving in England on February 9th her first concern was to call on Lady Stisted and Miss Stisted, in order to “acquaint them with the circumstances of her husband’s death and her intentions.” The meeting was a painful one both to them and to her. They plainly expressed their disapproval of the scenes that had been enacted in the death chamber and at the funerals at Trieste; and they declared that as Protestants they could not countenance any additional ceremonial of a like nature. Lady Burton next visited Ilkeston, in Derbyshire, where she had implored “Our Lady of Dale” to bring about her husband’s conversion. Entering the Catholic Church there, she knelt before the altar and cried “Here I asked! Here I obtained! Our Lady of Dale, deliver his soul from Purgatory!”671

Burton’s remains arrived — by “long sea” — in England on February 12th (1891) and were placed temporarily in the crypt of the Catholic Church at Mortlake; and Lady Burton then devoted the whole of her time to arranging for a public funeral in England.

To Mrs. E. J. Burton she wrote (23rd March 1891): “You must have thought me so ungrateful for not answering your sweet 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, was like a blow on the head, and for a long time I was completely stunned.”672

671 In the church may still be seen a photograph of Sir Richard Burton taken after death, and the words quoted, in Lady Burton’s handwriting, below. She hoped one day to build a church at Ilkeston to be dedicated to our Lady of Dale. But the intention was never carried out. See Chapter xxxi.

672 See Chapter xxxvii, 172.

178. The Funeral at Mortlake, 15th June 1891.

The sum of £700 having been raised by Burton’s admirers, a mausoleum, made of dark Forest of Dean stone and white Carrara marble, and shaped like an Arab tent, was erected in the Catholic Cemetery at Mortlake. Over the door is an open book inscribed with the names of Sir Richard and Lady Burton, and below the book runs a ribbon with the words “This monument is erected to his memory by his loving countrymen.” Among those present at the funeral were Major St. George Burton, Dr. E. J. Burton, Mr. Mostyn Pryce, Lord Arundell, Mr. Gerald Arundell, Lord Gerard, Lord Northbrook, Mr. Van Zeller, Dr. Baker, Dr. Leslie, Mr. F. F. Arbuthnot, Commander Cameron, and Mr. Justin Huntley McCarthy; and Canon Wenham officiated.

The coffin was laid in the middle of the church upon trestles, which were covered by “a cramoisie velvet pall.” Tall silver candlesticks with wax candles surrounded it. An unseen choir sang solemn chants. Lady Burton, “a pathetic picture of prayerful sorrow,” occupied a prie-dieu at the coffin’s side. When the procession filed out priests perfumed the coffin with incense and sprinkled it with holy water, acolytes bore aloft their flambeaux, and the choir, now seen to be robed in black, sang epicedial hymns. The service had all been conducted in Latin, but at this point Canon Wenham, turning to the coffin, said in English, “with a smile and a voice full of emotion,673 ‘Enter now into Paradise.’”

Lady Burton then laid on the coffin a bunch of forget-me-nots, and said, “Here lies the best husband that ever lived, the best son, the best brother, and the truest staunchest friend.”

The bystanders were moved according to their temperaments and religious views, but all were touched by the tempestuousness of Lady Burton’s grief. She seemed as “one of the Eumenides.” To some the pomp and scenic effects were gratifying. Others were affected by the reflection that the great traveller, after roaming through almost every known land, had at last been laid in a quiet nook in an English graveyard. Others who were familiar with Burton’s religious views considered “the whole ceremony an impertinence.” All, however, whatever their opinions, were united in the desire to honour the great Englishman whose motto had been “Honour not Honours.” So at last, after four funerals, Sir Richard Burton was left in peace.

The interior of the tomb remains much as it did on that day. Facing the entrance is an altar with pictures, vases and the other customary appurtenances. Sir Richard’s sarcophagus lies to one’s left, and on the right has since been placed the coffin of Lady Burton, while over all hang ropes of camel bells, which when struck give out the old metallic sound that Sir Richard heard so often in the desert.

The ceremony over, Lady Burton went to spend ten days in the convent of the canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre at Chelmsford — “my convent,” as she called it, because she was educated there. She then hired longing at No. 5, Baker Street, London, until a house — No. 67 — in the same street could be made ready for her. By the kindness of Queen Victoria she was allowed a pension of £150 a year.

673 It must be remembered that Canon Wenham had been a personal friend of both Sir Richard and Lady Burton. See Chapter xxxvi., 169.

179. The Scented Garden Storm, June 1891.

In the meantime, the fifteen hundred subscribers to The Scented Garden kept writing to Lady Burton to ask when the promised work was to be in their hands. As she could not possibly reply to so many persons, and as the nature of some of the letters cast her into a state of wild perturbation, there seemed only one course open to her — namely, to write to the press. So she sent to The Morning Post the well-known letter which appeared 19th June, 1891, mentioning some of her reasons for destroying the manuscript, the principal being her belief that out of fifteen hundred men, fifteen would probably read it in the spirit of science in which it was written, the other fourteen hundred and eighty-five would read it “for filth’s sake.” The principal cause, the apparition of her husband, she did not mention.674

The letter in The Morning Post had no sooner appeared than a cry arose against her from one end of the country to the other. The Press castigated her, private persons expressed their indignation by post. Burton’s family in particular bitterly resented what they considered a “foolish, mad act, insulting alike to the dead and the living.”

Lady Burton then wrote a second letter, which she sent to The Echo. She said that if Burton had lived “he would have been perfectly justified in carrying out his work. He would have been surrounded by friends to whom he could have explained any objections or controversies, and would have done everything to guard against the incalculable harm of his purchasers lending it to their women friends and to their boyish acquaintances, which I could not guarantee. . . . My husband did no wrong, he had a high purpose675 and he thought no evil of printing it, and could one have secured the one per cent. of individuals to whom it would have been merely a study, it would probably have done no harm.” Later she made some further defence in the New Review.

The opinions of Burton’s friends and intimate acquaintances on the matter were as follows: Mr. Payne and Mr. Watts-Dunton676 thought that Lady Burton did quite rightly, considering the circumstances, in destroying the work. Mr. W.F. Kirby thought that, though from her own point of view she was justified in so doing, she would have done better to present it to the College of Surgeons, where it would have been quite harmless and might have been consulted by bona-fide students.

Mr. Arbuthnot considered that in fulfilment of Burton’s promise it should have been given to him. He would, of course, have published it as a volume of the Kama Shastra Society, taking the usual precautions to prevent it from falling into unsuitable hands.

674 This letter will also be found in The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, ii., 722.

675 All my researches corroborate this statement of Lady Burton’s. Be the subject what it might, he was always the genuine student.

676 “It is a dangerous thing, Lady Burton,” said Mr. Watts-Dunton to her, “to destroy a distinguished man’s manuscripts, but in this case I think you did quite rightly.”

Chapter XL

July 1891-December 1893

O Tomb, O Tomb!

Bibliography:

84. Life of Sir Richard Burton, 2 vols. 1893.

85. Translation of Catullus. 1894.

86. The Library Edition of The Arabian Nights, 12 vols. 1894.

180. A Letter to Miss Stisted.

In July 1891 there appeared in Temple Bar an article by Miss Stisted, entitled “Reminiscences of Sir Richard Burton,” and upon reading it, Lady Burton, who headed her letter “5 or 67 Baker Street, Portman Square,” wrote as follows:

“Dearest Georgy,677 I read last night your clever and well-written article on my darling, and send you a little notice out of The Daily News. I congratulate you on it and on being able to write again. I was very sorry you and Maria [Lady Stisted] would not come to the funeral. When you come in August I shall give you a photo of the monument and a list of the people who were invited. . . . There were 850 asked, 400 influenza refusals and over 500 were present, counted by the police at the gates. . . . When you come I shall be I trust at No. 67.678 Your loving aunt Zoo.”

But the comic always treads on the heels of the pathetic for it is not probable that Miss Stisted valued very much the photograph of what in her “True Life,” she thought fit to call “an eccentric tomb” in a “shabby sectarian cemetery.”679 The removal into 67, Baker Street, took place in September 1891, and a little later Lady Burton hired a cottage at Wople End, near Mortlake, where she spent her summer months. During the last decade of her husband’s life she had become, to use her own words, coarse and rather unwieldy, but her sorrow had the effect of restoring to her some of the graces of person that had marked her early days. That this is no figment of our imagination may easily be seen by anyone who compares her portrait in the group taken by Miller in 1888 with the photograph by Gunn and Stuart,680 where she is in her widow’s cap with its long white streamers. In this photograph and others taken at the time she looks handsome and stately. She is once more “Empress of Damascus.” The house in baker Street has thus been described: “No sooner have you crossed Lady Burton’s threshold than you are at once transported, as if by magic, to Eastern climes. You are greeted by a handsome woman whose black dress and white widow’s cap present a striking contrast to the glow of rich but subdued colour which surrounds her. Opposite the fireplace is a full length and very characteristic portrait of Burton in fencing costume.681 Among the curiosities are the necklace682 of human bones given to Burton by Gelele, some specimens of old Istrian china picked up in the cottages near Trieste, and a three-sided mirror and two crystals with which Burton used to mesmerise his wife. From the ceiling hung a quaint Moorish lamp with many branches, and its softened rays often fall on a Damascene silver gilt coffee service studded with turquoises.” At the top of the house and approached by a narrow staircase and a ladder was a large loft, built by herself, for storing her husband’s manuscripts and books. On one side glittered a “small but tastefully decorated altar,” while scattered around were the many relics which have since drifted to Camberwell.

677 Miss Stisted, Newgarden Lodge, 22, Manor Road, Folkestone.

678 67, Baker Street, Portman Square.

679 True Life, p. 415.

680 Frontispiece to this volume.

681 The picture now at Camberwell.

682 Now at Camberwell.

181. The writing of the Life August 1892-March 1893.

In this loft Lady Burton spent many hours examining her husband’s papers, and in the autumn of 1902 she commenced in earnest to write his life — a work that occupied her about eight months. That she was absolutely unfitted for the task must be clear to all who have any knowledge of Burton. Indeed, she was quite incapable of doing literary work of any kind properly. The spirit in which she wrote may be gauged both from the book itself, with its frequent offences against good taste, and the following citation from a letter to a friend: “I do not know,” she said, “if I can harden my heart against the curs, but I can put out my tongue and point my pen and play pussy cat about their eyes and ears.” By “curs” she means those who rated her for burning her husband’s manuscripts, but in justice to her, let it be borne in mind that she had received some letters that were quite unworthy of the writers.

The great questions was, Would she live to complete her task? Owing to an incurable complaint she could give only a limited portion of her time to the work, and there were whole days in which no progress was made. Every page bears evidences of hurry. We have already told the story of the three appearances of Sir Richard just before the burning of The Scented Garden MS. Lady Burton persistently declared that after the third appearance her husband came again and never left her until she had finished her work. “He was constantly with me,” she said to Mr. Murray, “appearing exactly as in life, and he advised and comforted me. He helped me most materially towards the compilation of his own biography, and gave me references to books and manuscripts so that the biography came comparatively easy to my hand. He gave me absolutely the position of the book in the shelf and the page and reference itself which I required.”

A letter683 of one of Burton’s friends contains the following comments on the work. “I plainly see that the objects of writing the Life were two-fold. First to prove Sir Richard a Roman Catholic, and thus fit him to be buried with her, and secondly to whitewash his escapades and insubordination. As to the first, I know he despised684 the Roman Catholic religion; and if any very deep sense of religious feeling existed at all, it was of the Mohammedan rather than anything else; but his religion was not very apparent, though he was fundamentally an honest and conscientious man, and I think he had but one enemy — himself. He was a very great man; very like a magnificent machine one part of which had gone wrong — and that was his hot temper.”

Lady Burton’s book was finished at Mortlake on 24th March 1893, and appeared in the autumn of that year. She then commenced the issue of the Memorial Edition of her husband’s works. The Pilgrimage to Al Medinah and Meccah (2 vols.), The Mission to Gelele (2 vols.), and Vikram and the Vampire appeared in 1893, First Footsteps in East Africa in 1894. The venture, however, proved a failure, so no more volumes were issued. She published her husband’s Pentameron in 1893, and the Catullus in 1894.

Writing 11th July 1893 to Mrs. E. J. Burton just before a visit to that lady, Lady Burton says — and it must be borne in mind that her complaint often made her feel very ill — “Send me a line to tell me what is the nearest Roman Catholic Church to you, as I must drive there first to make all arrangements for Sunday morning to get an early confession, communion and mass (after which I am at liberty for the rest of the day) because, as you know, I have to fast from midnight till I come back, and I feel bad for want of a cup of tea. . . . The Life is out to-day.”

The reception accorded to her work by the Press, who, out of regard to Sir Richard’s memory, spoke of it with the utmost kindness, gave Lady Burton many happy hours. “It is a great pleasure to me,” she says, “to know how kind people are about my book, and how beautifully they speak of darling Richard.”685

Most of Lady Burton’s remaining letters are full of gratitude to God, tender and Christian sentiment, faulty English and bad spelling.686 “I did see The Times,” she says, “and was awfully glad of it. Kinder still is The Sunday Sun, the 1st, the 8th and the 15th of October, five columns each, which say that I have completely lifted any cloud away from his memory, and that his future fame will shine like a beacon in all ages. Thank God!” St. George Burton was wicked enough to twit her for her spelling, and to say that he found out as many as seventeen words incorrectly spelt in one letter. But she deftly excused herself by saying that she used archaic forms. “Never mind St. George,” she writes good-humouredly, to Mrs. E. G. Burton, “I like old spelling.” She did not excuse her slang by calling it old, or refer her friends to Chaucer for “awfully glad.”

The greatest pleasure of her life was now, as she oddly expresses it, to “dress the mausoleum” on “darling Dick’s anniversary.” She says (21st October 1893 to Mrs. E. J. Burton),687 “I received your dear flowers, and the mausoleum was quite lovely, a mass of lights and flowers sent by relations and affectionate friends. Yours stood in front of the altar.” Then follows a delicious and very characteristic sample of Lady Burton’s English: “We had mass and communion,” she says, “and crowds of friends came down to see the mausoleum and two photographers.”

She was glad to visit and decorate the Mortlake tomb certainly, but the pleasure was a very melancholy one, and she could but say, borrowing a thought from The Arabian Nights:

“O tomb, O tomb, thou art neither earth nor heaven unto me.”688

When Lady Stisted died (27th December 1893), Lady Burton felt the blow keenly, and she wrote very feelingly on the subject, “Yes,” she says, in a letter to Mrs. E. J. Burton, “I was very shocked at poor Maria’s death, and more so because I wish nothing had come between us.” “Poor Maria,” she wrote to St. George Burton, “You would be surprised to know, and I am surprised myself, how much I feel it.” In a letter to Madame de Gutmansthal-Benvenuti (10th January 1894), Lady Burton refers to the Burton tableau to Madame Tussaud’s. She says, “They have now put Richard in the Meccan dress he wore in the desert. They have given him a large space with sand, water, palms; and three camels, and a domed skylight, painted yellow, throws a lurid light on the scene. It is quite life-like. I gave them the real clothes and the real weapons, and dressed him myself.”

“I am so glad,” she writes to Miss Stisted,689 “you went to Tussaud’s, and that you admired Dick and his group. I am not quite content with the pose. The figure looks all right when it stands up properly, but I have always had a trouble with Tussaud about a certain stoop which he declares is artistic, and which I say was not natural to him.”

683 To Dr. E. J. Burton, 23rd March 1897.

684 I think this expression is too strong. Though he did not approve of the Catholic religion as a whole, there were features in it that appealed to him.

685 14th January 1896, to Mrs. E. J. Burton.

686 Sir Richard often used to chaff her about her faulty English and spelling. Several correspondents have mentioned this. She used to retort good-humouredly by flinging in his face some of his own shortcomings.

687 Unpublished letter.

688 Payne, i., 63. Burton Lib. Ed., i., 70.

689 Unpublished letter.

182. The Library Edition of The Nights 1894.

Lady Burton now authorised the publication of what is called the Library Edition of The Arabian Nights. According to the Editorial Note, while in Lady Burton’s Edition no fewer than 215 pages of the original are wanting690 in this edition the excisions amount only to about 40 pages. The Editor goes on: “These few omissions are rendered necessary by the pledge which Sir Richard gave to his subscribers that no cheaper edition of the entire work should be issued; but in all other respects the original text has been reproduced with scrupulous fidelity.”

By this time Lady Burton had lost two of her Trieste friends, namely Lisa, the baroness-maid who died in 1891, and Mrs. Victoria Maylor, Burton’s amanuensis, who died in 1894.

690 Lady Burton included only the Nights Proper, not the Supplementary Tales.

Chapter XLI

Death of Lady Burton

Bibliography:

87. The Jew, the Gypsy, and El Islam. 1898.

88. Wanderings in Three Continents. 1901.

183. Lady Burton at Eastbourne.

Lady Burton spent the year 1894 and part of 1895 at Baker Street and Mortlake, making occasional visits to friends. As at Trieste, she surrounded herself with a crowd of servants and other idle people whom, in her good nature, she systematically pampered, and who in their turn did their best to make her life unendurable. She could, however, easily afford these luxuries, for thanks to the large sums received for her Life of Sir Richard, the Library Edition, &c., she was now in affluent circumstances. She won to herself and certainly deserved the character of “a dear old lady.” In politics she was a “progressive Conservative,” though what that meant neither she nor those about her had any clear notion. She dearly loved children — at a safe distance — and gave treats, by proxy, to all the Catholic schools in the neighbourhood. She took an active interest in various charities, became an anti-vivisectionist, and used very humanely to beat people about the head with her umbrella, if she caught them ill-treating animals. If they remonstrated, she used to retort, “Yes, and how do you like It?” “When she wanted a cab,” says Mr. W. H. Wilkins, “she invariably inspected the horse carefully first, to see if it looked well fed and cared for; if not, she discharged the cab and got another; and she would always impress upon the driver that he must not beat his horse under any consideration.” On one occasion she sadly forgot herself. She and her sister, Mrs. FitzGerald, had hired a cab at Charing Cross Station and were in a great hurry to get home. Of course, as usual, she impressed upon the cabman that he was not to beat his horse. “The horse, which was a wretched old screw, refused, in consequence, to go at more than a walking pace,” and Lady Burton, who was fuming with impatience, at last so far forgot herself as to put her head out of the window and cry to the driver, “Why don’t you beat him? Why don’t you make him go?”691 She occasionally met her husband’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Arbuthnot and Mr. Payne. One day at some dinner it transpired in the course of conversation that Mr. Payne had all his life been an habitual sufferer from insomnia.

“I can tell you how to cure that,” said Lady Burton.

“How?” said Mr. Payne. “Say your prayers,” said she.

After an attack of influenza Lady Burton hired a cottage — Holywell Lodge — at Eastbourne692 where she stayed from September to March 1896, busying herself composing her autobiography.693 Two letters which she wrote to Miss Stisted from Holywell Lodge are of interest. Both are signed “Your loving Zoo.” The first contains kindly references to Mr. and Mrs. Arbuthnot, who had been visiting her, and to the widow of Professor Huxley694 who was staying at Eastbourne; and the second, which is amusing enough, records her experiences among some very uncongenial people at Boscombe. Wherever she went, Lady Burton, as we have seen, was always thrusting her opinions, welcome or not, upon other persons; but at Boscombe the tables were turned, and she experienced the same annoyance that she herself had so often excited in others.

“I went,” she says, “to a little boarding-house called. . . . The house was as comfortable as it could be, the food plain, but eatable, but the common table was always chock full of Plymouth Brethren and tract-giving old maids, and we got very tired of it.”

Then follows an account of her establishment at Eastbourne. “It consists,” she says, “of my secretary (Miss Plowman) and nurse, and we have our meals together, and drive out together whenever I am able. Then my servants are a maid, house-parlour-maid, a housemaid and a cook (my Baker Street lot). The cottage [at Mortlake] is in charge of a policeman, and Baker Street a caretaker. My friend left three servants in the house, so we are ten altogether, and I have already sent one of mine back, as they have too much to eat, too little to do, and get quarrelsome and disagreeable.” Thus it was the same old story, for Lady Burton, though she had the knack of living, was quite incapable of learning, or at any rate of profiting by experience.

The letter concludes sadly, “As to myself, I am so thin and weak that I cannot help thinking there must be atrophy, and in any case my own idea is that I may be able to last till March.”

691 The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, ii., 763.

692 Holywell Lodge, Meads, Eastbourne.

693 Left unfinished. Mr. Wilkins incorporated the fragment in The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton.

694 Huxley died 29th June 1895.

184. Death of Lady Burton, 22nd Mar. 1896.

Lady Burton from that time gradually grew weaker; but death, which “to prepared appetites is nectar,” had for her no terrors. To her it meant release from pain and suffering, ultimate reception into the presence of an all-merciful God, re-union with her beloved husband. She did, however, last, as she had anticipated, till March. Early in that month she returned to Baker Street, where she died rather suddenly on Sunday the 22nd.

By her will dated, 28th December 1895, she left some £12,000 to her sister, Mrs. FitzGerald,695 and the following persons also benefitted: her sister, Mrs. Van Zeller, £500; her secretary, Miss Plowman £25; Khamoor £50; her nephew Gerald Arthur Arundell, the cottage at Mortlake; the Orphanage at Trieste, £105. She directed that after her heart had been pierced with a needle her body was to be embalmed in order that it might be kept above ground by the side of her husband. She stated that she had bought a vault close to the tent, and that two places were to be reserved in it in order that if a revolution should occur in England, and there should be fear of the desecration of the dead, the coffins of her husband and herself might be lowered into it. She provided for 3,000 masses to be said for her at once at Paris, and left an annuity to pay for a daily mass to be said there perpetually. The attendance of priests at her funeral was to be “as large as possible.”

Lady Burton was buried on Friday March 27th, the service taking place in the Catholic church at Mortlake where five years previous she had knelt beside the coffin of her husband; and a large number of mourners was present. After mass her remains were carried to the Arab Tent, and so she obtained her wish, namely, that in death she and her husband might rest in the same tomb.

695 Mrs. FitzGerald died 18th January 1902, and is buried under the Tent at Mortlake. Mrs. Van Zeller is still living. I had the pleasure of hearing from her in 1905.

185. Miss Stisted’s “True Life.”

As might have been expected, Lady Burton’s Life of her husband gave umbrage to the Stisted family — and principally for two reasons; first its attempt to throw a flood of Catholic colour on Sir Richard, and secondly because it contained statements which they held to be incorrect. So after Lady Burton’s death, Miss Stisted wrote and published a small work entitled The True Life of Sir Richard Burton. It is written with some acerbity, for Lady Burton as a Catholic was not more militant than Miss Stisted as a Protestant. It throws additional and welcome light on Sir Richard’s early days, but as we have elsewhere remarked, the principal charge that it made against Lady Burton, namely that she was the main cause of her husband’s downfall at Damascus, is unsupported by sufficient evidence.

186. Mr. Wilkins’s Work, 1897.

That there should be a counterblast to The True Life was inevitable, and it came in the shape of The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, which consists of Lady Burton’s unfinished autobiography and a continuation by Mr. W. H. Wilkins. The work is a valuable addition to Burton lore, but Mr. Wilkins’s friendship for Lady Burton led him to place her on a far higher pedestal than we have been able to give her. Perhaps it was natural that in dealing with the True Life he should have betrayed some heat. However, death has now visited Miss Stisted696 as well as Lady Burton, and the commotion made by the falling of the stone into the pool is at this distance represented only by the faintest of circles. In 1898, Mr. Wilkins published, with an acceptable preface, three of Burton’s unfinished works in one volume, with the title of The Jew, the Gypsy, and El Islam, and in 1901 he placed the public under further obligation to him by editing and issuing Burton’s Wanderings in Three Continents.

696 She died in 1904.

187. Burton’s Friends.

Most of Burton’s friends have followed him to the tomb. Edward Rehatsek died at a ripe age at Worli on 11th December 1891, and was cremated in Hindu fashion. At the time of his death he was working at the translation of the third part of The Rauzat-us-Safa.697 In his last letter to Mr. Arbuthnot, after referring to his declining health, he finished by saying, “Hope, however, never dies; and as work occupies the mind, and keeps off despair, I am determined to translate for you, though slowly, the third part of the Rauzat-us-Safa, so as to make the history of the Khalifahs complete.”698

Mr. Arbuthnot continued to take interest in Oriental matters and wrote prefaces for several translations by Rehatsek and Dr. Steingass, including the First Part of Rehatsek’s Rauzat-us-Safa (1891) and Steingass’s Assemblies of Al Haririr (1898). His Arabic Authors appeared in 1890, his Mysteries of Chronology in 1900. He died in May 1901, and was buried at Shamley Green, Guildford. He left money for the Oriental Translation Fund, of which, it will be remembered, he was the founder, and his memory will always be honoured by Orientalists. A memorial of him — the Arbuthnot Institute — was opened at Shamley Green on 31st May 1905.

Mr. Ashbee died in 1900, Dr. F. J. Steingass in January, 1903.

After Burton’s death, Mr. Letchford went to Bohemia as the guest of the Prince of Thurn and Taxis. At Vienna his next resort, he painted many beautiful pictures, one of the best being founded on Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “Silence.” Finally he went to Naples, where he produced the series of pictures that has given him immortality — the illustrations to The Arabian Nights. Then followed days of darkness and trouble, but he was always courageous. “He felt that what he had striven for so long was now within his reach; he had the presentiment that he was about to take those flights of art which are permitted to very few.” His portrait of the son of Sir William Wollcock is a work of genius.

In July 1905, hearing that Mr. Letchford was ill, I wrote to his sister, Daisy,699 who lived with him. The letter was received, and Mr. Letchford intended replying to it himself. “He was only waiting to feel a little stronger,” wrote Miss Letchford, “he never thought the end was near. On Monday morning of the 24th of July he still kept making wonderful plans for the future. He had the room in which he spent his last hours crowded with flowers, and as he felt his powers failing him he recited Swinburne’s beautiful poem, ‘The Garden of Proserpine’:

“Though one were fair as roses

His beauty clouds and closes.”

“Suddenly he lost consciousness, and he awoke from his comatose state only to repeat the identical words which were Sir Richard Burton’s last — ‘I am dying — I am dead.’ His beautiful soul had left this world for ever, for it was indeed a beautiful soul.”700

Major Edward Burton, Sir Richard’s brother, died 31st October 1895 — after his terrible silence of nearly forty years. He was never married. Miss Stisted died in 1904. So of Burton’s parents there are now no descendants. Within fifteen years of his death, the family was extinct.

Of the friends and intimate acquaintances of Burton who still survive we must first mention Mr. A. C. Swinburne, Mr. Watts-Dunton and Mr. John Payne. Mr. Swinburne has, year after year, it is scarcely necessary to say, added to his fame, and all Englishmen are proud of his genius. The Definitive Edition of his works has delighted all his admirers; and just as we are going to press everyone is reading with intense interest his early novel Love’s Cross Currents. Mr. Watts-Dunton is in excellent health, and his pen is as vigorous as ever. He enjoys the proud position of being our greatest living literary critic.

Mr. Payne, who is still hard at work, has published since Burton’s death translations of The Novels of Matteo Bandello (six vols. 1890), the Quatrains of Omar Kheyyam (1898), and — Atlantean task — the Poems of Hafiz (3 vols. 1901). His Collected Poems (1862-1902) in two handsome volumes, appeared in 1902; and he has since issued Vigil and Vision (1903), Songs of Consolation, and Hamid the Luckless (1904). In the last he returns to his old love, The Arabian Nights, most of the poems being founded on tales in that work.

Mr. W. F. Kirby, Dr. Grenfell Baker, Mrs. E. J. Burton, Major St. George Burton, Mr. Frederick Burton, Mr. P. P. Cautley, Mr. A. G. Ellis, and Professor Blumhardt are also living. His excellency Yacoub Artin Pasha is still Minister of Instruction at Cairo; Mr. Tedder is still at the Athenaeum.

Our task is ended. Sir Richard Burton was inadequately regarded in his lifetime, and even now no suitable memorial of him exists in the capital of the Empire, which is so deeply indebted to him. Let us hope that this omission will soon be rectified. His aura, however, still haunts the saloons of his beloved Athenaeum, and there he may be seen any day, by those who have eyes latched701 over, busily writing at the round table in the library — white suit, shabby beaver, angel forehead, demon jaw, facial scar, and all. He is as much an integral part of the building as the helmeted Minerva on the portico; and when tardy England erects a statue to him it ought to select a site in the immediate neighbourhood of his most cherished haunt.

Our task, we repeat, is ended. No revolution, so far as we are aware, has distracted modern England, and Sir Richard and Lady Burton still sleep in sepulchral pomp in their marmorean Arab Tent at Mortlake. More than fifteen years have now elapsed since, to employ a citation from The Arabian Nights, there came between them “the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Companies and glory be to Him who changeth not, neither ceaseth, and in whom all things have their term.”702

THE END.

697 Or Garden of Purity, by Mirkhond. It is a history of Mohammed and his immediate successors.

698 Part 3 contains the lives of the four immediate successors of Mohammed.

699 Now Madame Nicastro.

700 Letter of Miss Daisy Letchford to me. 9th August, 1905.

701 See Midsummer Night’s Dream, iii., 2.

702 Close of the tale of “Una El Wujoud and Rose in Bud.”

Verses on the Death of Richard Burton703

By Algernon Charles Swinburne

Night of light is it now, wherein

Sleeps, shut out from the wild world’s din,

Wakes, alive with a life more clear,

One who found not on earth his kin?

Sleep were sweet for awhile, were dear

Surely to souls that were heartless here,

Souls that faltered and flagged and fell,

Soft of spirit and faint of cheer.

A living soul that had strength to quell

Hope the spectre and fear the spell,

Clear-eyed, content with a scorn sublime

And a faith superb, can it fare not well?

Life, the shadow of wide-winged time,

Cast from the wings that change as they climb,

Life may vanish in death, and seem

Less than the promise of last year’s prime.

But not for us is the past a dream

Wherefrom, as light from a clouded stream,

Faith fades and shivers and ebbs away,

Faint as the moon if the sundawn gleam.

Faith, whose eyes in the low last ray

Watch the fire that renews the day,

Faith which lives in the living past,

Rock-rooted, swerves not as weeds that sway.

As trees that stand in the storm-wind fast

She stands, unsmitten of death’s keen blast,

With strong remembrance of sunbright spring

Alive at heart to the lifeless last.

Night, she knows, may in no wise cling

To a soul that sinks not and droops not wing,

A sun that sets not in death’s false night

Whose kingdom finds him not thrall but king.

Souls there are that for soul’s affright

Bow down and cower in the sun’s glad sight,

Clothed round with faith that is one with fear,

And dark with doubt of the live world’s light.

But him we hailed from afar or near

As boldest born of his kinsfolk here

And loved as brightest of souls that eyed

Life, time, and death with unchangeful cheer,

A wider soul than the world was wide,

Whose praise made love of him one with pride

What part has death or has time in him,

Who rode life’s list as a god might ride?

While England sees not her old praise dim,

While still her stars through the world’s night swim

A fame outshining her Raleigh’s fame,

A light that lightens her loud sea’s rim,

Shall shine and sound as her sons proclaim

The pride that kindles at Burton’s name.

And joy shall exalt their pride to be

The same in birth if in soul the same.

But we that yearn for a friend’s face — we

Who lack the light that on earth was he —

Mourn, though the light be a quenchless flame

That shines as dawn on a tideless sea.

703 These lines first appeared in The New Review, February 1891. We have to thank Mr. Swinburne for kindly permitting us to use them.

Appendix I

Bibliography of Richard Burton

  1. Grammar of the Jataki or Belochi Dialect. (Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.) 1849.

  2. Remarks on Dr. Dorn’s Chrestomathy of the Afghan Tongue. (Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.) 1849.

  3. Reports addressed to the Bombay Government.

    (1.) General Notes on Sind.

    (2.) Notes on the Population of Sind.

  4. Grammar of the Mooltanee Language.

  5. Goa and the Blue Mountains. 1851.

  6. Scinde, or the Unhappy Valley. 2 vols., 1851.

  7. Sindh, and the Races that inhabit the Valley of the Indus. 1851.

  8. Falconry in the Valley of the Indus. 1852.

  9. Commencement (with Dr. Steinhauser) of The Arabian Nights. 1852.

  10. A Complete System of Bayonet Exercise. 1853.

  11. The Kasidah. (Written. Published in 1880.)

  12. El Islam. (Written. Published with The Jew and the Gypsy in 1898.)

  13. Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah. 3 vols. 1855-6. 2nd edition, 1857; 3rd edition, 1879.

  14. First Footsteps in East Africa, or an Exploration of Harar. 1856.

  15. Lake Regions of Equatorial Africa. 2 vols., 1860.

  16. Volume 33 of the Royal Geographical Society. 1860.

  17. The City of the Saints and across the Rocky Mountains to California. 1861.

  18. Wanderings in West Africa. 2 vols., 1863.

  19. Prairie Traveller, by R. B. Marcy. Edited by Burton, 1863.

  20. Abeokuta and the Cameroons. 2 vols., 1863.

  21. A Day among the Fans. 17th February 1863.

  22. The Nile Basin. 1864.

  23. A Mission to the King of Dahome. 2 vols., 1864.

  24. Marcy’s Prairie Traveller. Notes by Burton, (Anthropological Review), 1864.

  25. Speech at Farewell Dinner given by the Anthropological Society to R. F. B. before his departure for South America, 4th April 1865. (Anthropological Review, iii., 167-182.)

  26. Wit and Wisdom from West Africa. 1865.

  27. Pictorial Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. 1865.

  28. Psychic Facts. Stone Talk, by Francis Baker [Burton]. 1865.

  29. Notes on Certain Matters connected with the Dahoman. 1865.

  30. On an Hermaphrodite from the Cape de Verde Islands. 1866.

  31. Exploration of the Highlands of the Brazil. . . . also Canoeing down 1,500 Miles of the great River Sao Francisco, from Sabara to the Sea. 2 vols., 1869.

  32. Vikram and the Vampire. (Adapted from the Baital Pachisi.) 1870.

  33. Letters from the Battlefields of Paraguay. 1870.

  34. Proverba Communia Syriaca. (Royal Asiatic Society.) 1871. (See No. 37.)

  35. The Jew. (Written 1871. Published 1898 with The Gypsy and El Islam).

  36. Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast. 2 vols., 1872.

  37. Unexplored Syria, by Burton and C. Tyrwhitt Drake. 2 vols., 1872. No. 24 is included in Vol. i.

  38. On Human Remains, and other Articles from Iceland. 1872.

  39. Medinah and Meccah. 3 vols. in one, 1873.

  40. Minas Geraes and the Occupations of the Present Inhabitants. 7th January 1873.

  41. Lacerda’s Journey to Cazembe in 1798, translated and annotated by Capt. R. F. Burton. 1873.

  42. The Captivity of Hans Stade of Hesse, in A.D. 1547-1555, among the Wild Tribes of Eastern Brazil. Translated by Albert Tootal, of Rio de Janeiro, and annotated by Burton. 1874.

  43. Articles on Rome. (Macmillan’s Magazine.) 1874-5.

  44. The Catellieri, or Prehistoric Ruins of the Istrian Peninsula.

  45. Gerber’s Province of Minas Geraes. Translated by Burton. (Royal Geographical Society.) 1874.

  46. New System of Sword Exercise. 1875.

  47. Ultima Thule; or a Summer in Iceland. 2 vols., 1875.

  48. Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo. 2 vols., 1875.

  49. Inner Life of Syria. 2 vols., 1875. By Isabel Burton.

  50. The Long Wall of Salona and the Ruined Cities of Pharia and Gelsa di Lesina. 1875.

  51. The Port of Trieste.

  52. The Gypsy. (Written in 1875. Published in 1898 with The Jew and El Islam.)

  53. Etruscan Bologna. 1876.

  54. New System of Sword Exercise for Infantry. 1876.

  55. Sind Revised. 2 vols., 1877.

  56. The Gold Mines of Midian and the Ruined Midianite Cities. 1878.

  57. A. E. I. (Arabia, Egypt, India.) By Isabel Burton.

  58. Ogham Runes and El Mushajjar. 1879.

  59. The Land of Midian Revisited. 2 vols., 1879.

  60. Camoens. (1.) The Lusiands. 2 vols., 1879. (2.) Life of Camoens and Commentary. 1882. (3.) The Lyrics. 1884.

  61. Kasidah. 1880.

  62. Visit to Lissa and Pelagoza.704 1880.

  63. A Glance at the Passion Play. 1881.

  64. How to deal with the Slave Scandal in Egypt. 1881.

  65. Thermae of Monfalcone. 1881.

  66. Lord Beaconsfield, a Sketch. Pp. 12. 1882?

  67. To the Gold Coast for Gold. By Burton and Verney Lovett Cameron. 2 vols., 1883.

  68. Stone Implements from the Gold Coast. By Burton and Cameron. 1883.

  69. Publications of the Kama Shastra Society:—

    • The Kama Sutra. 1883.
    • The Ananga Ranga. 1885.
    • The Arabian Nights. 1885-1886.
    • The Scented Garden. 1886.
    • The Beharistan. 1887.
    • The Gulistan. 1888.
    • The Nigaristan, etc. (Unpublished.)
  70. The Book of the Sword. 1884.

  71. The Thousand Nights and a Night. 1st vol., 12th September 1885. 10th vol., 12th July 1886.

  72. Il Pentamerone. Translated. Printed in 2 vols., 1892.

  73. Iracema or Honey Lips; and Manuel de Moraes the Convert.
    Translated from the Brazilian. 1886.

  74. Six Months at Abbazia. By Burton and Lady Burton. 1888.

  75. Lady Burton’s Edition of The Arabian Nights. 6 vols. 1888.

  76. Supplemental Volumes to The Arabian Nights. 1st vol., 1st December 1886. 6th vol., 1st August 1888.

  77. The Scented Garden. Translated. 1888-1890.

  78. Catullus. (Translated 1890. Printed 1894).

  79. The Golden Ass, and other Works. Left unfinished.

  80. Priapeia. 1890.

Posthumous Publications
  1. Morocco and the Moors. By Henry Leared. Edited by Burton. Printed 1891.

  2. Il Pentamerone; or the Tale of Tales. 2 vols., 1893.

  3. The Kasidah. An edition of 100 copies.

  4. Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Lady Burton. 1893.

  5. Catullus. Printed 1894.

  6. Library Edition of The Arabian Nights.

  7. The Jew, the Gypsy, and El Islam. Printed 1898.

  8. Wanderings in Three Continents. 1901.

704 Two islands in the middle of the Adriatic.

Appendix II

List of works included in the “Memorial Edition” of Burton’s works.

Only 7 vols. appeared.

  1. Pligrimage to Al Medinah and Meccah. Vol. i., 1893.

  2. “ “ “ Vol. ii. ”

  3. Mission to Gelele. Vol. i., 1893.

  4. “ “ Vol. ii., ”

  5. Vikram and the Vampire. 1893.

  6. First Footsteps in East Africa. Vol. i., 1894.

  7. “ “ Vol. ii.

Appendix III

List of Biographies of Sir Richard Burton and Lady Burton.

Appendix IV

Extracts relating to Burton

From the Index to the Publications of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, including the Journal and Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London (1843-1871); the Journal and Memoirs of the Anthropological Society of London (1863-1871); the Anthropological Review; and the Journal of the Anthropological Institute (1871-1891).

705 J.A.I. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

706 T.E.S. — Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London. New Series.

707 A.R. — Anthropological Review.

708 A.R. iv. J.A.S. — Fourth vol. of the Anthropological Review contained in the Journal of the Anthropological Society.

709 Anthrop. Anthropologia — the Organ of the London Anthropological Society.

710 M.A.S. Memoirs read before the Anthropological Society of London.

Appendix V

Bibliography of Foster FitzGerald Arbuthnot

  1. Early Ideas. A group of Hindoo Stories. Collected by an Aryan. 1881.

  2. Persian Portraits. A Sketch of Persian History, Literature and Politics. 1887.

  3. Arabic Authors. A Manual of Arabian History and Literature. 1890.

  4. The Rauzat-us-safa. . . . By Muhammed ibu Khavendshah bin Mahmud, commonly called Mirkhond. Edited by F. F. Arbuthnot. 1891.

  5. The Assemblies of Al Hariri. . . . Prefaced and indexed by F. F. Arbuthnot. 8. 1898.

  6. The Mysteries of Chronology. 1900.

  7. Life of Balzac. Unpublished. 1902.

Appendix VI

Bibliography of F. Steingass

  1. English Arabic Dictionary, for the use of both travelers and students. pp. viii., 466. 1882.

  2. The Student’s Arabic-English Dictionary. pp. xvi., 1242. 1884.

  3. An Arabic Reading Book, by A. R. Birdwood, with preliminary remarks by F. Steingass. 1890.

  4. A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary. . . . Being Johnson and Richardson’s Dictionary revised by F. Steingass. 1892.

  5. The last twenty-four Makamats of Abu Muhammad al Kasim al Hariri, forming Vol. ii.; Chenery’s translation of the first twenty-four Makamats is sold with it as Vol. i. 1898.

Appendix VII

Bibliography of John Payne711

  1. The Masque of Shadows and other Poems. 1870.

  2. Intaglios; Sonnets. 1871.

  3. Songs of Life and Death. 1872.

  4. Lautrec: A Poem. 1878.

  5. The Poems of Francois Villon. 1878.

  6. New Poems. 1880.

  7. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. Nine vols. 1882-4.

  8. Tales from the Arabic. 3 vols. 1884.

  9. The Decameron of Boccaccio. 3 vols. 1886.

  10. Alaeddin and Zein ul Asnam. 1889.

  11. The Novels of Matteo Bandello. 6 vols. 1890.

  12. The Quatrains of Omar Kheyyam. 1898.

  13. The Poems of Hafiz. 3 vols. 1901.

  14. Collected Poems. (1862-1902). 2 vols. 1902.

  15. Vigil and Vision. New Sonnets. 1903.

  16. Songs of Consolation. New Lyrics. 1904.

  17. Hamid the Luckless and other Tales in Verse. 1904.

711 The titles of the volumes of original poetry are in italics. The others are those of translations.

Appendix VIII

Notes on Rehatsek’s Translation of the Beharistan

The Beharistan consists of eight chapters:

  1. Aromatic Herbs from the Life of Shaikh Junaid, etc. — a glorification of Sufism.

  2. Philosophical Ana.

  3. The Blooming Realms by Wisdom.

  4. The Trees of Liberality and Generosity.

  5. Tender State of the Nightingale of the Garden of Love.

  6. Breezes of Jocular Sallies.

  7. Signing Birds of Rhyme and Parrots of Poetry.

  8. Animal Fables.

We give the following as specimens of the Stories:

First Garden, pp. 14 and 15.

Story

Bayazid having been asked what the traditional and the divine law amounted to, he replied that the former is to abandon the world, and the latter to associate with the Lord. [These two laws are the Sonna and the Farz.]

Verses

O thou who concerning the law of the men of the period

Askest about the traditional and divine command;

The first is to turn the soul from the world away,

The second is to find the way of proximity to the Lord.

Story

Shebli (may his secret be sanctified) having become demented was taken to the hospital and visited by acquaintances. He asked who they were, and they replied: “Thy friends,” whereon he took up a stone and assaulted them. They all began to run away, but he exclaimed:— “O pretenders, return. Friends do not flee from friends, and do not avoid the stones of their violence.”

Verses

He is a friend, who although meeting with enmity

From his friend, only becomes more attached to him.

If he strikes him with a thousand stones of violence

The edifice of his love will only be made more firm by them.

Appendix IX

Notes on the Nigaristan and other unpublished translations by Rehatsek, Presented to the Royal Asiatic Society by F. F. Arbuthnot.

1. The Nigaristan (Picture Gallery), by Mu’in-uddin Jawini. Faithfully translated from the Persian by E. Rehatsek. 1888.

The Preface is by Arbuthnot. He points out that there are three great Persian didactic works, viz.:— The Gulistan, or Rose Garden, by Sadi; The Nigaristan by Jawini; and The Beharistan by Jami. The Nigaristan contains 534 stories in prose and verse. Some particulars of it are given in Arbuthnot’s Persian Portraits (Quaritch, 1887), p. 106. “These three books,” to use Arbuthnot’s works, “abound in pure and noble sentiments such as are to be found scattered throughout the Sacred Books of the East, the Old and New Testaments, and the Koran.”

The two following extracts will give some idea of the contents and style of the Nigaristan:

Zohra712

If Zohra plays the guitar a thousand years,

The musician’s song will always be this:

Try to become the subject of a good tale,

Since everyone who lives becomes a tale.

Fath Mousuli’s Prayer

After having been very prosperous and rich, Fath Mousuli fell into poverty and misery. After a while, however, when he had accustomed himself more to his position, he said, “O Lord, send me a revelation that I may know by what act I have deserved this gift, so that I may offer thanks for this favour.”

712 Zohra — the name of the planet Venus. It is sometimes given to girls.

2. Translations from the Persian, by the late E. Rehatsek.

  1. A Persian Tract on the observances of the Zenanah, pp. 1 to 10.

  2. A Persian Essay on Hospitality, or Etiquette of Eating and Drinking, pp. 20 to 29.

  3. A short Persian Manuscript on Physiognomies, pp. 1 to 8.

The last consists of a preface and ten chapters. “These leaves,” we are told, “are the compendium of a treatise written by the Ema’n Fakhr-al-din Al-Ra’zy — may God overwhelm him with forgiveness — on the Science of Physiognomies.” We are told how the abode influences character; when the character of a man corresponds with that of a beast; that “the index of the dominant passion is the face;” that “the male is among all animals stronger and more perfect than the female,” and so on.

A short quotation must suffice:

“When does the character of a man correspond to that of a beast?”

“If a man has a long face, protuberant eyes, and the tip of his nose long, drawn out like the snout of a dog, because as we have explained above, external appearances and internal qualities are closely connected with each other, so that if a man happens to resemble some animal he will possess the nature of it also.”

3. Translations from the Persian and Arabic, by the late E. Rehatsek.

Persian.
  1. Short anecdotes, stories and fables picked out and translated from the Nuzhat al Yaman, pp. 1 to 7.

  2. The Merzuban Namah, from which animal fables have been translated, pp. 7 to 21.

Arabic.
  1. Selected historical and other extracts from the celebrated Arabic work, Al Moustairaf, pp. 1 to 5.

  2. Some extracts from the well-known Siraj-ul-moluk, pp. 5 to 7.

  3. Twenty-five chapters of Extracts from the Arabic Tuhfat ekhoan us safa, under the title of “Discussion between man and animals before the King of the Jinns,” pp. 7 to 33.

4. Biography of our Lord Muhammed, Apostle of Allah (Benediction of Allah and peace be on him).

According to the tradition of A’bdu-l-Malik Ebn Hasham, obtained from Muhammed Ebn Esahag. Translated from the Arabic by Edward Rehatsek. Preface by F. F. Arbuthnot.

There is some account of this work in F. F. Arbuthnot’s Arabic Authors, pp. 52 and 53.

Appendix X

W. F. Kirby

William Forsell Kirby, F.L.S., F.E.S., is the son of Samuel Kirby, banker, and his wife Lydia, nee Forsell; nephew of William Kirby, well-known in connection with the London Orphan Asylum; and cousin to the popular authoresses, Mary and Elizabeth Kirby. Born at Leicester, 14th January 1844. He was assistant in the museum of Royal Dublin Society (later National Museum of Science and Art) from 1867 to 1879, and later was transferred to the Zoological Department of the British Museum. He is member of several learned societies, and has written a large number of Entomological Works. He has made a special study of the European editions of the Arabian Nights and its imitations, and has a very fine collection of books relating to this subject. To his contributions to Sir Richard Burton’s translation we have already alluded. He has also written Ed-Dimiryaht and other poems (1867); The New Arabian Nights (1883); and The Hero of Esthonia (1905); and his translation of the Kalevala is in the press. Mr. Kirby married in 1866, Johanna Maria Kappel, who died in 1893, leaving one son, William E. Kirby, M.D.

Appendix XI

Genealogical Table.

Genealogical Table

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