Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The tomb of Sir Richard Burton

Good to hear that there are moves afoot to restore the mausoleum where British explorer Sir Richard Burton is buried. Last Saturday's Times reported that the Friends of Burton are aiming to return the Bedouin tent shaped building to something like its original state. Built in 1890 by his wife Isabel, the structure in St Mary Magdalen's churchyard, Mortlake, fell into disrepair during the 20th Century, although some repairs were made in 1975.

Sir Richard Burton was one of the most famous (possibly infamous) Victorian explorers, known for his travels in Asia and Africa. He was also a writer, linguist and translator of such works as the Arabian Nights and Kama Sutra. In 1853 he undertook a Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, in disguise and the account of the trip make him famous. However, it's an account of Burton's time in West Africa that made it into
Those Who Dared.

A few years after reaching Mecca in disguise, Burton, having now joined the Foreign Office, was sent to Fernando Po, a small island off the West African coast, a place he was to describe as 'the very abomination of desolation'. From here he managed to make a number of excursions into the interior including a mission to visit Gelele, King of Dahomey (now part of modern day Benin). As well as making diplomatic moves, he wanted to investigate claims of human sacrifice and find the fabled Amazon warriors of Dahomey. He concluded that the former was exagerrated and was severely disappointed with the latter.

The full text of many of Burton's books can be read here and plenty of information about the man on this site.

No comments:

Post a Comment