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A Rage To Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton [Paperback]

Mary S. Lovell
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: 19.99
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Book Description

7 Oct 1999

Richard Burton was a brilliant, charismatic man - a unique blend of erudite scholar and daring adventurer. Fluent in twenty-nine languages, he found it easy to pass himself off as a native, thereby gaining unique insight into societies otherwise closed to Western scrutiny. He followed service as an intelligence officer in India by a daring penetration of the sacred Islamic cities of Mecca and Medina disguised as a pilgrim. He was the first European to enter the forbidden African city of Harar, and discovered Lake Tanganyika in his search for the source of the Nile. His fascination with, and research into, the intimate customs of ethnic races (which would eventually culminate in his brilliant Kama Sutra) earned him a racy reputation in that age of sexual repression.

Little surprise, then, that Isabel Arundell's aristocratic mother objected to her daughter's marriage to this most notorious of figures. Isabel, however, was a spirited, independent-minded woman and was also deeply, passionately in love with Richard. Against all expectations but their own, the Burtons enjoyed a remarkably successful marriage.

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A Rage To Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton + A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby + Bess Of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth
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Product details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (7 Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349110166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349110165
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 49,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mary S. Lovell was an accountant and company director until she began writing in 1980 following a serious riding accident which left her temporarily disabled. Now an internationally acclaimed biographer, she has written best selling biographies of Beryl Markham, Amelia Earhart, Cynthia Pack, Jane Digby, Sir Richard and Isabel Burton, the Mitford sisters and Bess of Hardwick. Her latest biography is a family saga of the Churchills. Her books have been translated into foreign language editions, in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Danish and Finnish. Her biography of Amelia Earhart was made into a movie starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere in 2010, and she has three further titles optioned for film treatments. Until 2011 she often led reader groups interested in Jane Digby around Syria to follow in the exciting footsteps of this favourite subject of hers. She has recently completed promotional tours in the USA and UK, and is now working on the final chapters of her first novel.

Product Description


Scholarly ... Fabulous ... The biography shines its light on that remorselessly interesting period of British history, the Victorian era (TELEGRPAH)

A monumentual biography (THE TIMES)


A RAGE TO LIVE is a splendid and very enjoyable book. Mary S Lovell does her hero and heroine proud (LITERARY REVIEW)

Book Description

*A fascinating 'dual' biography of Richard and Isabel Burton.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
Richard Burton began his autobiography, 'Autobiographers generally begin too late. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and personal 31 Aug 2001
This is a wonderful biography which portrays the Burtons well-travelled lives as a a couple, rather than focusing only on Richard. Mary Lovell has had access to papers and letters unavailable to previous biographers and has re-read the existing material. While minutely researched and scholarly, it is also a warm and personal story of two very alive people with a hunger for knowledge and experience exploring the world together. She feels a closeness to her subjects which is always apparent in the book without becoming cloying. Burton was the archetypal Victorian adventurer, beginning his career as an officer in the East India company and serving as consul in different parts of the world while pursuing his alternative careers of writing and exploration. Often in conflict with his superiors, a rebel and not an easy man to know. His books often throw light on little-known areas, male brothels in India, for example, which interested him as an anthropologist. As an adventure story alone the book is hard to put down. But the chief fascination lies in the intimate picture of this couple who had such a rage to live, and whom you feel you know by the end. Mary Lovell has struck the right balance of scholarship and personal warmth.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive biography of extraordinary couple 28 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of the few things everybody knows about Sir Richard Francis Burton was that 'he was probably gay & his bigoted Catholic wife burned his papers after his death'. Unfortunately, it's not true.This superb joint biography of Richard & Isabel is the only Burton biography to date which uses all available papers & consequently gives a clear & irrefutable account of this extraordinary couple who suited each other so well. Monumental injustice has been done to Isabel's reputation after her death, & few people appreciate her own Lara Croft tendencies, chomping cigars & dodging snakes, sharks & assassins! This book is ESSENTIAL reading for anybody with an interest in Burton.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Three Best Burton Biographies I've Read 10 Feb 2011
If you've never read a Burton biography, then by all means start here. Lovell has found quite a bit more information about Richard and much more about Isabel than previously written about. Between Wright's RFB: A Biography and Fawn Brodie's The Devil Drives, somehow Lovell has captured a differing sense altogether of this fascinating couple. Great research, wonderfully written, and detailed to a level that even "Ruffian Dick" would have been proud of.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventurous, passionate and a pleasure to read 21 Sep 2012
It's over 800 pages long ! My first fear was that halfway through i would put it down and never read it again. But wow, once i started reading i couldn't and wouldn't put it down! It is as exciting as a novel, as educating as a biography should be and quite touching as well, and one find that you long for the life that these to amazing people led, the ups and downs.
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