The unthinkable. The unknowable. The hidden. The explorations of Sir Richard Burton….
Burton married Isabel Arundel in 1861, in an almost secret ceremony in the Bavarian Catholic Church. “We will have no show,” Burton insisted, “for a grand marriage ceremony is a barbarous and indelicate exhibition.”
Marriage brought to Richard Burton a wife who adored, admired, and defended him all her life, but who also worked strenuously to tame him. He repaid her with lasting devotion and respect, but he also escaped from her for long periods. Their marriage has been described repeatedly as one of the great enduring Victorian romances; Ouida, who knew them well, called it “a love-marriage in the most absolute sense of the word.” Early in the marriage Richard ran the risk of wrecking it altogether by hypnotizing Isabel, daily, if we are to believe her biography, in an effort to find out what she was thinking. “He used laughingly to tell everybody,” she wrote, “it’s the only way to get a woman to tell you the truth.” Later he boasted that he could hypnotize her from a distance of many miles and maintain a kind of telepathic communication.Several months after their marriage, when it became clear that the active social life they were leading among the great houses of England wouldsoon exhaust the meager resources, Burton accepted an obscure position as consul at Fernando Po, an island off the coast of West Africa chiefly important as a naval station for ships engaged in the suppression of the slave trade. This was the best that the timid officials of the Foreign Office, who put respectability at the top of their requirements, dared offer the most courageous and distinguished explorer in England. The fever-ridden island was said to be certain death for English women, and Isabel stayed behind disconsolate in England, as she described it, “neither maid, nor wife, nor widow.”
No British consul in any African post ever utilized his time and opportunities as well as Richard Burton during his four years at Fernando Po. He made repeated journeys into the interior of West Africa and wrote three absorbing volumes describing his experiences: Wanderings in West Africa from Liverpool to Fernando Po (1863), and A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome (1864). The last, an account of the kingdom of the Amazons, is reputedly one of the best of the pioneer studies on African customs.
Burton was fascinated with the spectacle of 2,500 women warriors who, he said, though “too light to stand a charge of the poorest troops in Europe,” and who maneuvered “with the precision of a flock of sheep,” nevertheless fought with great ferocity. Their battles consisted largely of raids on neighboring tribes for slaves, a practice Burton had been commissioned to discourage. He had small success in this. “You are a good man,” King Gelele told him patronizingly, “but too angry.”
(see link at end)…The negro race is mostly untainted by sodomy and tribadism. Yet Joan dos Sanctos418 found in Cacongo of West Africa certain “Chibudi, which are men attyred like women and behaue themselves womanly, ashamed to be called men; are also married to men, and esteem that vnnaturale damnation an honor.” Madagascar also delighted in dancing and singing boys dressed as girls. In the Empire of Dahomey I noted a corps of prostitutes kept for the use of the Amazon-soldieresses. Read More:http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/afterword4.html
(see link at end)……She had one very anxious time; it was when Burton was sent on a special mission to the King of Dahome, to impress upon that potentate the importance the British Government attached to the cessation of the slave-trade, and to endeavour by every possible means to induce him to discontinue the Dahoman customs, which were abominable cruelties. Burton succeeded in some things, and his dusky majesty took a great fancy to him, and he made him a brigadier-general of his Amazons. When the news of this unlooked-for honour reached Isabel, she became ” madly jealous from afar,” for she pictured to herself her husband surrounded by lovely houris in flowing robes mounted on matchless Arab steeds. Burton, however, allayed her pangs by sending her a little sketch of the chief officer of his brigade, as a type of the rest. Even
Isabel, who owns that she was influenced occasionally by the green-eyed monster, could not be jealous of this enchantress. Read More:http://archive.org/stream/romanceofisabell00burtuoft/romanceofisabell00burtuoft_djvu.txt