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Burton: Snow upon the Desert Hardcover – July 1, 1991

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd (July 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719548187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719548185
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,553,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Award-winning British historian ( Jacobite Army in England ) McLynn surpasses himself with this thoroughly engrossing life of the Victorian explorer. Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) emerges as a man riddled with inconsistencies. He was a linguist fluent in 20 languages, yet his books were written in shamefully bad English, even if they were acknowledged as masterpieces. Despite his abhorrence of authority, he accepted a post with the British consul in India in 1842, opening the door to his anthropological studies. Burton achieved fame 10 years later, when he infiltrated a pilgrimage to Mecca at the risk of his life. That feat typifies the explorer's practices in immersing himself in the cultures of India, Arabia, Africa--and the Mormons in the U.S. McLynn also discusses Burton's fixation on sexual practices, particularly esoteric varieties of homosexuality in "forbidden" societies. And for all his involvement with the world's peoples, he was, according to McLynn, a bigot and a misogynist, despising even his devoted wife, Isabel. In this meticulously detailed biography, Burton is revealed as a Nietzschean poet, author and celebrated translator (e.g., The Arabian Nights ), a man of unequaled accomplishments, spoiled but a genuine genius. Illustrations.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This biography by a critically acclaimed scholarly British writer ( Stanley: The Making of an African Explorer , LJ 11/1/90) offers yet another portrait of the great Victorian explorer and scholar whose multifaceted talents and complex personality continue to fascinate. Unlike the 1990 best-selling biography by Edward Rice ( Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton , LJ 4/15/90), this work takes a psychobiographical approach and gives Fawn Brodie's earlier biography ( The Devil Drives , LJ 6/1/67) its just scholarly due. It also draws upon previously unused sources and adds much to the story of Burton's quest for the source of the Nile and his relationship with co-explorer John Hanning Speke. McLynn focuses on Burton's self-destructiveness, his lack of a stable identity, and the bisexual elements in his nature; he holds that an early disastrous failure with an Indian mistress caused Burton to marry the sexually unthreatening Isabel. McLynn's treatment of Isabel Burton at times takes on the tone of Burton's own capacity for contempt; she is treated more evenly in Brodie's biography, which has stood the test of time superbly. Nonetheless, McLynn's reconstruction of Burton's convoluted inner life is scholarly, well written, and compelling. For biography, history, and travel collections.
- Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on October 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a fair study on the life of Burton though it really doesnt shed any new light on this extraordinary individual, other than psychoanalytic musings on his childhood, grasping at the reasons behind his motivations for his in-depth studies on sex, his neurotic drive to be constantly on the move, his marriage and relationships. The texts major flaw is this particular approach to the subject; (that intellectual sixties trend of psychoanalysing the dead) reinforcing the myth that Burton was the stereotypical Victorian, demonstrating all the biases, racism and limited view of the world that we associate with this stereotype. This man goes way beyond the Victorian model and certainly transcends Freudian flights of fancy. If you can ignore McLynns psychological method, this biography is a welcome addition to Burton studies.
R.F. Burton is a difficult study because there are so many sides to the man. In fact one can certainly classify him as a phenomenon. He was a linguist of genius, and there are scholars who claim he was the linguist of the 19th century: a poet, scholar, soldier, archaeologist, anthropologist, Master swordsman, mystic and genuine seeker of the Divine. As a sexologist he anticipated Freud, and sought to open the subject of study against typical Victorian opposition. His writings occasionally indulge in the common racism of the times, though his observations and comments of unknown cultures and particular characters in those cultures can be insightful and sympathetic. Similar to most individuals of depth and genius, Burton was a contradiction, and this biography more than displays these contradictions.
The psychoanalytic technique to delve into a subject can be questioned.
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