By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. By this time Burton had become fascinated by the idea of discovering the source of the White Nile and in 1855 planned an expedition with three officers of the British East India Company, including John Hanning Speke, intending to push across Somaliland. London is fantastic for exploring off the tourist track. Disguised as a Persian named Mirza Abdullah, Burton would not break character for days–frequently fooling his own close confidants while on classified missions. In Pakistan, Burton’s interests switched from Hinduism to Islam, sparking a fascination that would inspire his first major adventure–a pilgrimage to Mecca. Understood something like 29 or more languages and dialects. In later years, after gaining notoriety for his epic globe-trotting adventures, the imposing, darkly handsome Burton would proudly brandish his spear-hewn battle scar, often sitting for photographs and portraits with his damaged left cheek turned toward the artist. A ladder at the back leads to a small glass panel in the roof allowing a glimpse inside. He also published a complete edition of the 'Arabian Nights' (1885 - 1888). by Chris Parker | Jun 30, 2016 | Historical Badass | 12 comments. He described his adventures in First Footsteps in East Africa (1856). After becoming a self-proclaimed “master-Sufi,” Burton left his post in the east and spent two years in England and France, planning his pilgrimage while also embarking on an exhaustive study of the sword. Notify me of followup comments via email. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. At the Dardanelles he helped train Turkish irregulars but saw no action at the front. They were reunited when he was transferred to Brazil and then, in 1869, to Damascus. His wife Isabel, who he had married in 1861, was unable to join him as the climate was considered too unhealthy. As a favoured intelligence officer of Sir Charles James Napier, commander of the English forces in the Sindh, Captain Burton went in disguise as a Muslim merchant in the bazaars, bringing back detailed reports. He created dictionaries of the languages he learned. Plagued by fever and tropical disease, the explorers spent nearly two years in the jungles of interior Africa. Burton’s unwillingness to accept this theory without further exploration led to quarrels with Speke and their eventual estrangement. His father, retiring early from an unsuccessful army career, chose to raise his two sons and daughter in France and Italy, where young Richard developed his astonishing talent for languages to such an extent that before matriculating at Trinity College, Oxford, in 1840, he had become fluent in French, Italian, and the Béarnais and Neapolitan dialects, as well as in Greek and Latin. Order today and get it via priority mail for arrival within one to three days! Africans attacked the party near Berbera, however, killing one member of the party and seriously wounding Speke. Your email address will not be published. The following year he explored what is now Somalia with a number of other officers, including John Speke. Not Burton. He mastered Arabic and Hindī and during his eight-year stay became proficient also in Marāṭhī, Sindhī, Punjābī, Telugu, Pashto, and Multānī. But Burton, like a mad grizzly, continued to fight and eventually escaped… with the javelin still lodged in his jaw. It’s amazing the “chutzpah” some of these British explorers had;hiking off into the wilderness and actually coming back alive! Burton himself had a javelin hurled through his jaw and was forced to return to England. He also translated the Kama Sutra and The Arabian Nights into English–introducing stories such as “Aladdin” to the western world. Nevertheless, Burton is my favorite hero; an Indiana Jones in the actual goddamned spear-pierced flesh. Burton spent his later years working as a diplomat for England and continued to pursue exotic challenges. Noted for his mellifluous baritone voice, Burton established himself as a formidable Shakespearean actor in the 1950s, and he gave a memorable performance of Hamlet in 1964. Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles, 1971–77. Richard Burton, CBE (10 November 1925 – 5 August 1984) was a Welsh actor. He searched for gorillas in the Congo (and found cannibals instead), got struck by lightning, and bagged peaks in the Cameroon Mountains. Burton’s last major expedition was an attempt to find the source of the Nile. Burton stalled, and during the brief pause an eager warrior stepped up and speared him through the face. He published 43 volumes on his explorations and almost 30 volumes of translations, including an unexpurgated translation of The Arabian Nights. Eventually in his travels over the world he learned 25 languages, with dialects that brought the number to 40. Preconceived ideas, misperceptions, misunderstandings and distortions are omnipresent within this book which served as basic point of study and reference for the formation of the English colonial policy in the area of the Horn of He was eventually expelled for attending a steeplechase race against college rules and refusing to apologize afterward. Though Burton’s intense cultural studies annoyed other Victorian-era officers who accused him of going native, his uncanny ability to assimilate made him the perfect spy for the British army. After recovery, in July 1855, he went to Crimea to volunteer in the war against Russia. In 1853, Burton, disguised as a wandering Dervish, set out for Mecca in a land only “open to the adventurous traveler.” The trip involved crossing the famed “Empty Quarter”–the world’s largest contiguous desert and at the time still a blank white space on the map. The arduous pilgrimage, which began with an attack by brigands that killed 12 men in his caravan, ended on September 11, 1853, when Burton entered the city of Mecca. He was knighted in 1886. The explorers hiked hundreds of miles until they arrived in Ujiji, where they found Africa’s Great Lakes.
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