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Burton, Sir Richard F. (1821-1890)  
 
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When Burton sought to assimilate an indigenous culture he threw himself into the local milieu, seeking the common man's life rather than upper class ways. This propensity of immersing himself among the lower classes gave rise to Burton's being referred to by his fellow Britons as the "White Nigger."

After a long engagement, Burton married Isabel Arundel in 1861. Marrying a Roman Catholic afforded Burton yet another opportunity to affront English sensibilities, as did his publication of exotic sexual manuals and how-to books. Burton's marriage seems to have been happy, and his wife seems to have supported his scholarly works, including the famous translations.

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Throughout his career, Burton collected literature in its original language and translated it into English. It is through his efforts that The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana (1883), Ananga Ranga or the Hindu Art of Love (1885), The Perfumed Garden of Cheikh Nefzaoui: A Manual of Arabian Erotology (1886), and The Arabian Nights (1885-1888) made their way to Victorian readers. In addition, he translated salacious Roman classics, such as The Carmina of Gaius Valerius Catullus (1894-posthumous), and Priapeia, or the Sportive Epigrams of Divers Poets on Priapus (1890). By publishing such scurrilous works, he flirted with violation of the Obscenity Acts.

In the "Terminal Essay" of The Arabian Nights, published in 1885, Burton announced his theory of a "Sotadic Zone" where homosexuality allegedly flourished. Burton averred that homosexuality was "geographical and climatic, not racial." The Sotadic Zone encompassed most of the Mediterranean countries, the Middle East, China, Japan, and the islands of the South Seas. This theory was not widely adopted, but it may have confirmed the opinion of many British readers that homosexuality was essentially a foreign vice.

Burton died October 20, 1890 in Trieste. His wife ordered a marble monument for him shaped like a tent, where he lived so much of his life.

Alex Hunnicutt

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    Bibliography
   

Burne, Glenn S. Richard F. Burton: A Biography. Twayne's English Authors Series. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985.

Farwell, Byron. Burton: A Biography of Sir Richard Francis Burton. New York: Viking, 1988.

Hasting, Michael. Sir Richard Burton: A Biography. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1978.

Lovell, Mary S. A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton. New York: Norton, 1998.

Rice, Edward. 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. New York: Harper-Perennial, 1991.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Hunnicutt, Alex  
    Entry Title: Burton, Sir Richard F.  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated August 26, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/burton_rf.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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