Men of the Time, eleventh edition/Burton, Richard Francis
|←Burt, Thomas||Men of the Time, eleventh edition by
Burton, Richard Francis
|Bury (Viscount), William Coutts Keppel→|
BURTON, Captain Richard Francis, son of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Netterville Burton, of Tuam, Galway, was born in 1821. He began life at Oxford, and was destined for the Church, but he yearned so much after military service that his father procured him a commission in the Indian Army, and sent him out to India in 1842 at the end of the Affghan War. He was nineteen years in the Bombay Army, eight years in active service, chiefly on the staff of Sir Charles Napier, who soon discovered his merits, and turned them to account. He quickly passed examinations in eight Oriental languages—Hindostani, Persian, Arabic, and others. He now speaks and knows thoroughly twenty-nine languages, both European and Oriental, not counting dialects. As a horsoman, swordsman, and shot, he became unsurpassed, and received from France a brevet de pointe for his swordsmanship. He published in 1853 a system of bayonet exercise, which was adopted by the Horse Guards. During the times when he was not on active service he was serving his country, humanity, science, and civilization in other ways, by opening up lands hitherto unknown. He made an expedition to Mecca and Medina in 1853. His talents for mixing with and simulating natives of all countries, but especially Oriental characters, and of becoming as one of themselves, without anyone ever doubting his origin; his perfect knowledge of their language, and his being gifted by nature with an Arab head and face, favoured his first great enterprise. He next explored Harar, in Moslem Abyssinia, and went to Somali-Land, in East Africa. He commanded the expedition, taking with him the gallant Speke and Lieutenants Herne and Stroyan. The explorers were attacked in the night by the natives. All fought their way bravely through the enemy; Captain Burton and Captain Speke were both desperately wounded, and poor Stroyan was killed, while Herne's fate was to be untouched. In the Crimea he was chief of the staff to General Beatson, and he was the principal organiser of the irregular cavalry. Lord Palmerston was going to send Captain Burton to raise a large body of Kurdish horse, when peace was proclaimed. In 1856 he set out for his great explorations of the lake regions of Central Africa, again taking with him his comrade in arms and travel, Speke, who was afterwards in his turn commander of a subsequent expedition with Grant. Then it was that Burton discovered Tanganyika. The expedition was absent three years. In 1860 Burton went to the United States, visited California and Salt Lake City, and travelled during that expedition 25,000 miles. In 1861, when the Indian Army changed hands his military career terminated. The same year Earl Russell sent him to Fernando Po, on the West Coast of Africa. The Bight of Biafra, 600 miles in extent, was his jurisdiction. He did good service here for three years. He thoroughly explored from Bathurst, on the Gambia, down to San Paulo de Loanda, in Angola, marched up to Abeokuta, and ascended the Cameroon Mountains. He visited the cannibal Mpangwe, the Fans of Du Chaillu; he went to Benin City, unknown to Europe since the death of Belzoni; he ascended the Congo River, and explored the Yellalah Rapids, the Elephant Mountains, and the whole line of lagoons between Lagos and the Volta rivers. Then he was sent on a dangerous mission—a three months' mission to the King of Dahomey, with presents, to induce King Gelele to abolish his "customs." Captain Burton was then transferred to São Paulo (Brazil), where he was active and useful for four years, both on the coast and in the interior. He thoroughly explored his own province, which is larger than France, the gold and diamond mines of Minas Geraes, canoed down the great river San Francisco, 1500 miles, visited the Argentine Republic, the Rivers La Plata and Paraguay, for the purpose of reporting to the Foreign Office the state of the Paraguayan War. He crossed the Pampas and the Andes to Chili and Peru, and visited all the Pacific Coast. Returning by the Straits of Magellan, Buenos Ayres, and Rio to London, he found himself appointed to Damascus. While holding that position he explored various parts of Syria. In 1871 the consulate of Damascus was reduced to a vice-consulate, and Captain Burton was recalled. In 1872 he set out for Iceland, and thoroughly studied and explored it, returning the same year to find himself posted at Trieste. In 1876 Captain Burton visited Midian, and wrote an account of his travels in that country. At the close of the year 1877 he started again for Midian, purposing to organise a new exploration and partial exploitation of the mines which he discovered there. The second expedition left Suez, Dec. 10, 1877, and returned there on April 10, 1878. During four months of hard travelling and voyaging they lost only one soldier, who died of fever. They brought home some twenty-five tons of geological specimens to illustrate the general geological formation of the land; six cases of Colorado and Negro ore; five cases of ethnological and anthropological collections—such as Midianite coins, inscriptions in Nabathean and Cufic, remains of worked stones, fragments of smelted metale, glass and pottery; upwards of 200 sketches in oil and water colours, photographs of the chief ruins, including catacombs, and of a classical temple, apparently of Greek art; and, finally, maps and plans of the whole country, including thirty-two ruined cities, some of whose names can be restored by consulting Strabo and Ptolemy, besides sketches of many ateliers where perambulating bands like the gipsies of ancient and modem times seem to have carried on simple mining operations. The caravan consisted of eight Europeans, three Egyptian officers of the staff and two of the line, twenty-five soldiers and thirty miners, ten mules, and about one hundred camels. In 1882 Captain Burton and Commander V. L. Catneron undertook a journey of exploration in the country lying at the back of the Gold Coast Colony. Captain Burton has written some thirty volumes, which describe his travels. Among them are: "The Lake Regions of Central Africa;" "Abeokuta; or, an Exploration of the Cameroon Mountains," 1863; "A Narrative of a Mission to the King of Dahomey," 1864; "Explorations of the Highlands of the Brazil, with a full account of the Gold and Diamond Mines;" also, "Canoeing down 1500 miles of the great river São Francisco, from Sabarà to the Sea," 2 vols., 1868; "Vikram and the Vampire, or tales of Hindu Devilry," 1869; "Zanzibar, City, Island, and Coast," 2 vols., 1872; and (in collaboration with Mr. Charles F. Tyrwhitt Drake) "Unexplored Syria: Visits to the Libanus, the Tulúl el Safá, the Anti-Libanus, the Northern Libanus, and the 'Aláh;" "Two Trips to Gorilla Land and Cataracts of the Congo," 2 vols., 1875; "Ultima Thule, or a Summer in Iceland," 2 vols., 1875; "Etruscan Bologna: a Study," 1876; "Sind Revisited; with Notices of the Anglo-Indian Army; Railroads, Past, Present, and Future, &c.," 2 vols., 1877; "The Gold Mines of Midian and the Ruined Midianite Cities. A Fortnight's Tour in North Western Arabia," 1878; a translation of "Camoens's Lusiads," 1880; "Camoens: his Life and his Lusiads; a Commentary;" 2 vols., 1881; "A Glance at the Passion Play," 1881; and "To the Gold Coast for Gold: a Personal Narrative" (conjointly with Commander Verney Lovett Cameron), 1882. Captain Burton has received the gold medals of the French and English Geographical Societies.