I am further able to state that the gross travesty of Lady Burton's grief—"her weeping and wailing on the floor," etc., etc.—is the outcome of a malevolent imagination, from which nothing is sacred, not even a widow's tears. Lady Burton bore herself through the most awful trial of her life with quietude, fortitude, and resignation.
And now to turn to the second charge—to wit, that Sir Richard was never a Catholic at all; from which, if true, it follows that he was in fact "kidnapped" by his wife and the priest on his death-bed.
If this charge did not involve a suggestion of bad faith on the part of Lady Burton, I should have ignored it; for I hold most strongly that a man's religion is a matter for himself alone, a matter between himself and his God, one in which no outsider has any concern. Burton himself took this view, for he once said: "My religious opinion is of no importance to anybody but myself. No one knows what my religious views are. I object to confession, and I will not confess. My standpoint is, and I hope ever will be, the Truth, as far as it is in me, known only to myself." This attitude he maintained to the world to the day of his death; but to his wife he was different. Let me make my meaning quite clear. I do not say Burton was a Catholic or that he was not; I offer no opinion. But what I do assert with all emphasis is that he gave his wife reason to believe that he had become a Catholic; and in this matter she acted in all good faith, in accordance with the highest dictates of her conscience and her duty.
- Speech at the Anthropological Society, London, 1865.