Page:Men of the Time, eleventh edition.djvu/213

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Miners' Conference, held at Manchester in Sept., 1882.

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