Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, by Richard Burton

Preface to the Memorial Edition.

AFTER my beloved husband had passed away from amongst us, after the funeral had taken place, and I had settled in England, I began to think in what way I could render him the most honour. A material Monument to his memory has already been erected by his countrymen in the shape of a handsome contribution to the beautiful Mausoleum-tent in stone and marble to contain his remains; but I also hoped to erect a less material, but more imperishable, Monument to his name, by making this unique hero better known to his countrymen by his Works, which have hitherto not been sufficiently known, not extensively enough published, and issued perhaps at a prohibitive price. Viewing the long list of Works written by him between 1842 and 1890, many of which are still unpublished, I was almost disheartened by the magnitude of the work, until the Publishers, Messrs. Tylston and Edwards, fully appreciating the interest with which the British Public had followed my husband’s adventurous career and fearless enterprise, arranged to produce this uniform Memorial Edition at their own expense.

Mr. Leonard Smithers, a man of great literary talent and of indefatigable energy, who admired and collaborated with my husband in the traduction of Latin Classics for two years before he died, has also kindly volunteered to be my working assistant and to join with me in the editing.

My part is to give up all my copyrights, and to search out such papers, annotations, and latest notes and corrections, as will form the most complete work; also to write all the Prefaces, and to give every assistance in my power as Editress.

The Memorial Edition commences with the present “Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah,” which will be followed at intervals by others of my husband’s works. Since this “Memorial Edition” was arranged, and the Prospectus issued, I have parted with the Copyright of my husband’s famous translation of the “Arabian Nights” to the Publishers, and they are arranging to bring out that work at an early date, and as nearly as possible uniform in appearance with the Memorial Edition.

The ornamentations on the binding are, a figure of my husband in his Arab costume, his monogram in Arabic, and, on the back of the book, the tent which is his tomb.

Both the publishers and myself have to thank Mr. Smithers for the infinite trouble he has taken in collating the first, second, third and fourth editions of the ‘Pilgrimage’ with Sir Richard’s own original annotated copies. All the lengthy notes and appendices of the first edition have been retained, and these are supplemented by the notes and appendices in the later editions, as well as by the author’s MS. notes. He has adopted Sir Richard’s latest and most correct orthography of Arabic words, and has passed the sheets through the press. Following my husband’s plan in “The Thousand Nights and a Night,” he has put the accents on Arabic words only the first time of their appearance, to show how they ought to be; thinking it unnecessary to preserve throughout, what is an eyesore to the reader and a distress to the printer. So it is with Arabic books, — the accents are only put for the early student; afterwards, they are left to the practical knowledge of the reader. All the original coloured illustrations of the first edition, and also the wood engravings of the later issues, are reproduced for the first time in one uniform edition. The map and plans are facsimilies of those in the latest (fourth) edition. In fact, everything has been done to make this book worthy of its author and of the public’s appreciation.

For those who may not know the import of “A Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah,” in 1853, they will not take it amiss when I say that there are Holy Shrines of the Moslem world in the far-away Desert, where no white man, European, or Christian, could enter (save as a Moslem), or even approach, without certain death. They are more jealously guarded than the “Holy Grail,” and this Work narrates how this Pilgrimage was accomplished. My husband had lived as a Dervish in Sind, which greatly helped him; and he studied every separate thing until he was master of it, even apprenticing himself to a blacksmith to learn how to make horse-shoes and to shoe his own horses. It meant living with his life in his hand, amongst the strangest and wildest companions, adopting their unfamiliar manners, living for nine months in the hottest and most unhealthy climate, upon repulsive food; it meant complete and absolute isolation from everything that makes life tolerable, from all civilisation, from all his natural habits; the brain at high tension, but the mind never wavering from the role he had adopted; but he liked it, he was happy in it, he felt at home in it, and in this Book he tells you how he did it, and what he saw.

Sir Richard Burton died at the age of 70, on the 20th October, 1890. During the last 48 years of his life, he lived only for the benefit and for the welfare of England and of his countrymen, and of the Human Race at large. Let us reverently raise up this “Monument,” aere perennius, to his everlasting memory.

ISABEL BURTON. May 24, 1893.


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