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Publisher's Summary

Explorer and inventor, soldier and poet, archaeologist and diplomat, Richard Francis Burton (1821-90) was the most versatile and remarkable man of his age. But he was foremost an adventurer: "an adventurer in the intellectual and the spiritual as well as the physical world".

The pioneering traveler in Central Africa who was the first European to see Lake Tanganyika was also the translator of The Arabian Nights and the secret translator of Eastern sex manuals like The Perfumed Garden. The man who made a dangerous pilgrimage to Mecca in disguise also produced major writings on reptiles and religion, mining and mountain-climbing, slavery and sexuality.

Byron Farwell brilliantly recreates the sheer excitement of Burton's achievements and his astonishing range of interests in this fascinating biography.

©1963 Byron Farwell (P)1995 Blackston Audio Inc.

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  • Overall

A balanced view of Burton

This is a good overall view of Burton's life, but it does show its age in some parts (i.e. had to look up Midian) because country names and places have changed in the last four decades.

The book's first half is excellent as Burton led an exciting, adventuring life. But the second half drags quite a bit as Burton slows down and the book becomes more or less a listing of his published works and a year-by-year account of his wanderings.

That being said, it is an enjoyable listen and a good peak into the workings of colonialism and Victorian England.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Excellent in every way

If you could sum up Burton in three words, what would they be?

Real Life Adventure

Any additional comments?

This biography is brimming with detail and historical background, and all of this contributes to the sense of participating in Burton's explorations. Simon Vance does a wonderful job as the narrator, reading with intelligence and verve.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Very nice listen. I enjoyed the story very much. t

I enjoy this very much. The only problem I experience is when the story repeated itself for several times. a technical issue since the author would say something and then immediately afterwards repeat the same several lines immediately afterwards. I enjoyed the book very much. This is truly a very interesting man!

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Reserved portrait of Richard Frances Burton

The reserved, distanced and slightly derisive portrait of Richard Frances Burton that the American Byron Farwell gives in his book Burton: A Biography issued 1963, is enhanced by the upper class accent of the narrator. That Burton's life and books still fascinates us is not reflected in the book whatsoever. Much weight is put on his “failed” career. I lost confidence for this biographer because both the wondrously beautiful The Kasidah and the Arabian Nights were step-motherly treated.

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Not sure about Byron

The trouble with an audiobook is you can't look in the back and see what the documentation was on, say, the ugly nun who was spirited away from a convent by mistake. It sounds like some rowdy bar story to me. He clearly lived a larger life than most of us but I lost my confidence in Byron's perspective, especially after the blithe remark at the start of the book about women not having the mental capacity to be explorers.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful