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5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive Burton, 27 April 2013
This review is from: Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: A Biography (Paperback)
In the Introduction of CAPTAIN SIR RICHARD FRANCIS BURTON Edward Rice tells us that if Burton had been the invention of a fictional work, no one would have believed it, and--even in the age of marvel comics--it's true. For a young man like myself, Burton was not only an adventurer, a spy and an explorer, but also the discoverer of the Kama Sutra and the Arabian Nights, pas une mince affaire (I'm French). As Burton's parents had money and incredible wanderlust, at puberty Burton and his brother had enough pocket change to not only offer themselves girls in such poverty stricken, lecherous and diseased haunts as Naples, but complete orgies. Sexually liberated, both barely-post-puberty boys were beyond their parent's control. Burton joins the army in India where he becomes fluent in 19 languages, one of which was Sanskrit. After having himself circumcised (which, I've heard, hurts like hell when one's an adult) he goes on a hajj to Mecca, forbidden to foreigners, a description that goes on for page after page, detailed right down to the removal of all bodily hair, and I mean ALL hair. He travels to Somali where the girls are sown up to protect their virginity, a passage forced by their husbands who, for a week, day and night, find pleasure in the resulting blood, a description that also goes on for page after page, disgusting and hypnotizing (afterwards, the men are said not to be able to walk {!?!?}). On his way back from African Harar (the first European to have been there), he was attacked by natives, sustaining eleven wounds, one of which was a spear that pierced his face from cheek to cheek. Miraculously making it back to an English camp, he was found to have syphilis in the second degree, not surprising for someone who'd lost his virginity at age 13 in a brothel. He goes off to the Crimean War, then, severely ill, he returns to England where he writes several books before traveling to America where he tries to learn Ute, shaves his head so as not to be scalped, and studies mormonism chez les mormons. Rice states that Burton's book on the States is so long that it borders on the boring, and the same can be said about Burton's travels that, again, go on and on. Not even forty (!!!) he returns to Africa, the Lake Victoria region to be exact, which is the place I've chosen to end this review.
An interviewer has said that this is the definitive Burton, and I can believe it. (On the other hand, I've just finished Meyer's THE BORGIA which, at 430 pages, should have gone on for at least a thousand more, so numerous are the incredible personages in that story.) My own books can be found on Amazon under Michael Hone.
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