Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol I (1901).djvu/414

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Burton
Burton
352

of the country, which no European had ever visited. On this occasion he assumed the disguise of an Arab merchant, but when once within the city he disclosed himself to the Amir, The success of this adventure perhaps encouraged him to neglect necessary precautions when the regular expedition was organised. While still near the port of Berberah the camp was attacked one night by the Somalis. Stroyan was killed; Speke was wounded in no less than eleven places; Burton’s face was transfixed by a spear from cheek to cheek; Herne alone escaped unhurt. The party could do nothing but return to Aden, whence Burton proceeded to England on sick certificate. While under treatment for his wound he wrote ‘First Footsteps in East Africa’ (1856), and again met his future wife. As soon as he had recovered he volunteered for the Crimea, where he spent a year from October 1855. His only appointment was that of chief of the staff to General Beatson, an old Indian officer of fiery temper, in command of a large body of irregular cavalry, known as ‘Bashi-Buzouks,’ who were stationed at the Dardanelles, far from the seat of war. Here Burton submitted to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe two characteristic schemes—one for the relief of Kars, the other for raising the Caucasus under Schamyl in the rear of the Russians—but nothing came of either. When General Beatson was dismissed from his command Burton also resigned and returned to England.

Meanwhile arrangements had been made with the Royal Geographical Society that Burton should lead an exploring expedition into Central Africa, with Speke as second in command. The government gave a grant of 1,000l. towards the expenses, and the East India Company allowed its officers two years’ leave. This was the first serious attempt undertaken to discover the sources of the Nile. Little more was then known about Central Africa than in the days of Ptolemy. German missionaries had caught sight of the Mountains of the Moon, and had brought back native stories of the existence of a great lake. It was Burton’s business to find this great lake, by a route never before trodden by white feet. The expedition may be said to have lasted altogether for two years and a half. Burton left England in October 1856, and did not return until May 1859. He had to go first to Bombay to report himself to the local government. Some months were occupied in a preliminary exploration of the mainland near Zanzibar, which was to be the scene of preparation and the point of departure. The actual start from the coast was made at the end of June 1857. After incredible difficulties and hardships, due as much to the untrustworthiness of their followers as to opposition from native tribes, Lake Tanganyika, the largest of the Central African lakes, was seen on 14 Feb. 1858. About three months were spent on the shores of the lake, and on 26 May the return journey was commenced. On the way back Speke was detached to verify reports of another lake to the northward, which he sighted from a distance, and surmised to be the true source of the Nile. This lake is the Victoria Nyanza, and Speke’s surmise was proved to be correct by his subsequent expedition in company with James Augustus Grant [q. v. Suppl.] Tanganyika only supplies one of the head-waters of the Congo. A difference on this hydrographical question led to an unfortunate estrangement between the two travellers. They returned together to Zanzibar in March 1859. Speke proceeded in advance to England, while Burton was delayed by illness at Aden. When at last he arrived in London he found that another expedition had already been determined on, in which he was to have no part. He had to be content with the Royal Geographical Society’s medal, and with writing an account of his own expedition, under the title of ‘The Lake Regions of Equatorial Africa’ (1860, 2 vols.) He also filled an entire volume (xxxiii.) of the ‘Journal of the Geographical Society.’

Burton’s plan of life was now entirely unsettled. His engagement to his future wife, which may be said to date from before his expedition to Central Africa, was not recognised by her family. There seemed to be no career for him either in India or as an explorer. But he could not rest from travel. The court of directors again gave him whatever leave he asked; and in the summer of 1860 he set off on a rapid run across North America, with the special object of studying the Mormons at Salt Lake city. This, of course, resulted in a book, ‘The City of the Saints’ (1861), which is characterised by much plain speaking. Within a month of his return Isabel Arundell consented to marry him without her parents’ knowledge [see Burton, Isabel, Lady]. The wedding took place privately, in a Roman catholic chapel, on 22 Jan. 1861. The Arundell family were soon reconciled, and neither party ever regretted the step. In the following March Burton accepted the appointment of consul at Fernando Po, which resulted in his being struck off the Indian army, without half-pay or even the legal right to call himself captain.