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Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: The Secret Agent Who Made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, Discovered the Kama Sutra, and Brought the Arabian Nights to the West Paperback – April 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (April 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060973943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060973940
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
One of the most unique figures of the 19th century.
George W. Lynn
He worked on behalf of the British Empire during the "Great Game" between Britain and Russia over control of Afghanistan (then, as now, strategically important).
Philip W. Henry
This book tells some fascinating history and is one of the best damn reads I've ever enjoyed.
Gerald A. Nygaard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Barry J McKnight on February 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
This was by far the best biography of the illustrious Richard Burton I have read. The level of scholarship displayed by the author is impressive and does justice to a man whose gifts made him one of the most impressive characters from history. I highly recommend this book as well as those written by Burton himself.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By amy.mike@worldnet.att.net on October 13, 1997
Format: Paperback
It is one of the most comprehensive biographies I have ever read. The book literally changed my life. The adventures and the knowledge that Richard Burton undertook and learned can fill 100 lifetimes. I have worked (albeit unsuccessfully) to approach the intensity of this man's life. It is so rewarding to read about a man who was the scholar and the adventurer and who leaves the reader with a sense of awe that one man can accomplish as much as he did. The book is great not only because it tells of Burton, but because in the process of learning about him, you vicariously learn about unknown cultures and esoteric knowledge that would take volumes to fill. It takes you on a journey to another world.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By SW FL Reader on March 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
You want to talk about traveling, eating, praying and loving.....the bio of Sir Richard Francis Burton is the real deal on Eat Pray Love. This Englishman who lived during 1821-1890 traveled throughout India, made the pilgrimage to Mecca,(incognito) explored parts of Africa in search of the Nile's source, lived as consul in Damascus, Brazil and Italy. Having to learn many different languages and dialects (29), study several religions, cultures, eat the food, wear the clothes, screw the women, he became one of "them" (depending on which country he was in as a spy) else he'd be killed.

Facing death by starvation, thirst, exhaustion, countless diseases, temporary blindness, attacks from native barbarians during his treks across lands, where in some cases no white man had ever been, he kept careful notes of all he witnessed to be published upon his return. As if that weren't enough, he went on to translate the Kama Sutra and Arabian Nights, before this amazing man died of the ripe old age of 69.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Bonavia VINE VOICE on September 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a book that may look intimidating with its 600+ pages, but unlike some other reviewers, I did not find a single dull moment. Edward Rice has done a truly masterful job in carrying us through the whole life of this extraordinary man.

Burton had energy and talent enough for any six normal people - perhaps more. Even in his declining years, weak and wracked by sickness, he still traveled, traveled compulsively, though in these latter days the travels did not, as always previously, produce books full of information on the places and people and societies he visited. He was now focused on the translations for which he is (among other things) famous. Yet still, when the old lion was required to return from England to his "official" consular job in Trieste, Rice notes that "Noise, fatigue, hours spent in changing trains or boarding or disembarking from steamboats did not deter Burton. Geneva, Venice, Naples, Brindisi, Malta, Tunis, Algiers, the Riviera, the Alps, with a dozen stops in between, were visited and complained about."

It's hard to give the flavor of this amazing biography - amazing life! Soaking up languages as if by osmosis, dressing and passing for any of a dozen Eastern races and sharing their ways, visiting their secret holy places - hey, what a movie or TV series, would knock spots off Tomb Raiders etc...

The pleasure is increased by Rice's occasional laconic throwaway lines: "The Maratha princes...were patrons of the great god Siva and practiced forms of phallic worship, engaged in by male and female devotees alike in very wild and primitive rites." That's all we get on that. (But then, perhaps it's all we need.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By George W. Lynn on December 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
One of the most unique figures of the 19th century. If anyone from that era might qualify as a renaissance man surely it would be this man. The very model of the 19th century explorer, but not only an explorer of the globe but of the human experience. A soldier in India, traveler across the Middle East, explorer in Somalia and Central Africa and diplomat,translator, author, poet, probably the most noted linguist of his time. There doesn't appear to be any area of human existence that didn't fascinate and intrigue him. While he was often lionized in Victorian England, his interests extended into human sexuality as it was practiced in the various lands he traveled, and scandalized many of his contemporiaries, and most especially his wife, who spent a significant portion of the time immediately following his death burning as much of his writings as she could get her hands on. This book is as close to being the definitive work of his life as anything ever written, including all his various flaws and pecularities.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Melinda Gottesman on June 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
The most incredible thing about this book is the fact that it's true! Burton led such an extraordinary life! I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious, but reluctant to travel, experience, and live. This book is also excellent for anyone who is interested in language, religion, or travel. Burton spoke 26 languages, experienced firsthand an assortment of different religions including Hinduism and Islam, and shows just how much one person can accomplish in a lifetime. Only 4 stars due to some dry bits in the book, but never a dull moment in Burton's life...
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