Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: The Secret Agent Who Made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, Discovered the Kama Sutra, and Brought the Arabian Nights to th

Edward Rice, Author
Edward Rice, Author Scribner Book Company $35 (0p) ISBN 978-0-684-19137-9
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
The subtitle of this engrossing book, ``The Secret Agent Who Made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, Discovered the Kama Sutra , and Brought the Arabian Nights to the West,'' indicates only the half of it. Beginning his career as a spy for the East India Company, Burton (1821-1890) visited the ``forbidden'' cities of Medina and Mecca disguised as an Arab, made a yet more perilous trip to the secret city of Harar in Somalia, discovered Lake Tanganyika in his search for the Nile's source, and had sundry adventures in West Africa, the New World and the Levant. One of the great Arabists of his time, a master of 29 languages, he translated a mass of Oriental literature, mystical and erotic. Upon his death, his wife, in a spasm of piety-cum-prudery, burned his heavily annotated translation of The Perfumed Garden and much else. Explorer, swordsman, linguist, scholar, writer, lover of women and pursuer of hidden knowledge, Burton was par excellence the Victorian version of Renaissance man. Rice, author of biographies of Thomas Merton and Margaret Mead, delivers a book worthy of Burton's fierce spirit and protean accomplishments. Illustrations. (May)
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