Sir Richard Francis Burton (19 March, 1821 – 20 October, 1890) was an English writer, translator, explorer, poet, diplomat, and spy… among many other interests. Among his many accomplishments and claim to fame, he is known for translating One Thousand and One Nights from Arabic to English.
- Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton was born in Torquay, Devon. His father was Lt.-Colonel Joseph Netterville Burton, of the 36th Regiment, and Martha Baker, daughter and co-heiress of Richard Baker, a wealthy English squire.
- The family traveled a lot and lived in different countries. Before he entered college Mr. Burton was already fluent in English, French, Italian, Neapolitan, and Latin. He also learned the Romani language while, allegedly, having an affair with a Roma girl.
- In 1842 Mr. Francis joined the army of the East India Company. To his dismay the first Anglo-Afghan War was over before he could fight, and he was station in Gujarat, India. While serving he managed to become proficient in Hindustani, Gujarati, Punjabi, Sindhi, Saraiki and Marathi as well as Persian and Arabic.
- He was considered peculiar by his army buddies because he took the time not only to learn the language, but also to learn the culture. Taming monkeys and try to learn their language didn’t help either.
Mr. Burton did manage to learn 60 “words”.
- After seven years in the army, which Burton considered to be “wasted time” he disguised himself as a Muslim and made a pilgrimage to Mecca. While he was not the first European to do so, he’s journal is the one most know.
- Mr. Burton has translated some very famous books such as One Thousand and One Nights , and The Perfumed Garden, as well as overseeing the translation of the Kama Sutra. He did not shy away from sexually explicit passages, or books on the subject and his work was very controversial.
- In 1855, while on expedition to the Horn of Africa, Mr. Burton’s camp was attacked by Somali warriors. He barely got away with his life, after a spear pierced his the face. Somehow he managed to escape with the spear still attached, but he had a notable scar which can be seen in photographs.
- Many other explorer used Mr. Burton’s notes for their own research and expeditions,, including David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley .
- Mr. Burton was Sean Connery’s inspiration for Indiana Jones’s father in Steven Spielberg‘s film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
- Richard Francis Burton published 47 books during his own lifetime, which included those about of cultures and tribes in Africa and Asia, and spoke nearly thirty languages. No wonder his obituary in The Times said he was “one of the most remarkable men of his time”.
Zohar – Man of la Book
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