A Dramatis Personae of Burton Studies
Once one becomes indoctrinated into the world of Richard F. Burton, the many names of those who form part of the world and the studies become second nature. However, in early days a newcomer may be easily bewildered by the names tossed off so casually throughout the discussion. Here is a quick “cheat sheet” to bring newcomers, and lightly read oldsters, up to speed.
Author of an execrable 1962 novelized biography, That Blackguard Burton!
Fawn McKay Brodie (1915-1981), author of the 1967 Burton biography The Devil Drives, which grew from her editing and annotation of a 1963 edition of Burton's 1862 City of the Saints. A Mormon with deep roots in the culture, she had both interesting insights and obvious biases in evaluating Burton's visit to Salt Lake City in 1861. She was also the first to use the controversial technique of “psychobiography” on Burton, with results that are still debated today.
Isabel Arundell, Lady Burton (1831-1896), Richard Burton's wife of 29 years as well as his aide-de-camp, first reader, editor, publishing assistant and first major biographer.
James A. Casada, author of the 1990 Sir Richard F. Burton: A Biobibliographical Study, the second of two very important Burton annotated bibliographies. His book is based on Penzer's work, and some subsequent updates to the bibliographical record are based on both men's contributions. (Casada is vastly better known as a writer on hunting and field sports, as well as on Africana and African hunting.)
Author of the minor 1936 biography Burton of Arabia, updated in 1953 as The Arabian Knight.
Walter Phelps Dodge
Author of the minor 1907 biography The Real Sir Richard Burton.
“Allen Edwardes,” pseudonymous author of the substandard 1963 biography Death Rides a Camel.
The person behind the pen name may be R. (Robert) E. L. Masters (fl. 1996), who is credited as co-author with "Edwardes" on a few other books and is author in his own name of more than a dozen books on sexuality, psychedelia, mind expansion and similar topics, many in the early 1960s. His outdated web site indicates an interest in history and other topics not inconsistent with having an interest in Burton. Incomplete bibliographical data indicates his second name to be "Eduard" or "Eduarde." The unusual initials lead to the suspicion that he may be named after Robert E. Lee... and Lee's middle name was, of course, Edward.
Byron Farwell (1921-), author of the 1963 biography Burton: A Biography of Sir Richard Francis Burton. Although superseded by some of the later biographies, Farwell's is still considered the most balanced and accessible.
Author of the first major biography, written in 1887, during Burton's lifetime.
Author of a 2005 collection of biographical essays on Burton, The Highly Civilized Man.
Quentin Keynes (1921-2003) was the preeminent collector of Burton books, manuscripts, papers and other materials. He was also a great-grandson of Charles Darwin, and nephew of economist John Maynard Keynes. (The family name is pronounced "kaynz.")
Regrettably, he held his collection of unique materials rather closely for most of his life, neither publishing substantially on his own or permitting more than glimpses of selected items by other scholars such as biographer Fawn Brodie. Not until the mid-1990s did he grant unrestricted access to Mary S. Lovell, who found endless items of value among the manuscripts and other papers. In 1999 he finally published, in limited issue, Burton's personal collection of letters to and from John Speke, which he had owned and held closely for several decades. The collection was broken up and sold after his death in 2003 although the papers and manuscripts are believed to have been retained within the family.
Mary S. Lovell
Mary S. Lovell (1941-), author of the 1998 biography A Rage to Live: A Dual Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton. Lovell's work is imperfect, but because she struggles to take a balanced viewpoint and had access to several large collections of material overlooked by prior biographers, this stands as the best working biography yet in print.
Author of the 1990 biography Burton: Snow Upon the Desert and a 1991 history of Burton's travels in the Americas.
Norman L. Penzer (?-?, fl. 1921), author of the groundbreaking and irreplaceable 1923 An Annotated Bibliography of Sir Richard Francis Burton K.C.M.G., a thorough and exceptionally well-researched bibliography of Burton's works. Although Casada's work in many ways supersedes Penzer's, it does not supplant it.
Edward Rice (1918-2001), author of the 1990 biography Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton. Rice's biography sold well and sparked some recent interest in Burton, but is considered flawed because of the great amount of supposition and questionable “fill-in” material. Rice also focused greatly on Burton's supposed search for “gnosis” or religious understanding, and made much (perhaps too much) of his supposed services as a spy in India.
Hugh J. Schonfield
Author of the minor and very rare 1936 biography Richard Burton, Explorer.
John Hanning Speke (1827-1864), Burton's partner in the 1857-8 expedition to central Africa in which Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria were discovered. Speke, and his relationship with Burton, are highly controversial. On return to England, Burton (erroneously) claimed that his discovery, Tanganyika, was the source of the Nile, while Speke claimed that the lake he had discovered in a side trip, Victoria Nyanza, was the source. Although Speke's claim was based on sheer hunch, with no scientific basis to back it up, it was ultimately correct. The public battle over the topic cost Speke his life — he died during a fractious time in the argument from what was either an uncharacteristic hunting accident or suicide — and greatly damaged Burton's reputation for his prolonged and ultimately incorrect defense of Tanganyika.
Georgiana Stisted (ca. 1848-?, fl. 1897), Burton's niece, and the author of the 1897 revisionist biography The True Life of Capt. Sir Richard F. Burton, written as a rebuttal to Isabel's 1893 Life, which most of the Burton family felt unfairly represented Isabel's view of Burton. The battle between Isabel's viewpoint and (generally speaking) most Burton family and friends went on in an exchange of biographies and letters for some number of years. The current consensus is that neither biographer presented a completely accurate take.
Editor and co-author of Isabel's biography, The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton, published in 1897 shortly after her death. Wilkins also figures prominently in the many literary fracases in Burton's last years and the decade folllowing.
Thomas Wright (?-?, fl. 1906), author of the 1906 biography which claimed Burton was a plagiarist of Payne.
Page Updated 2008-08-21