…Upon finishing The Arabian Nights, Richard Francis Burton began to work on a new edition of The Perfumed Garden of the Cheikh Nefzaoui, an Arabic manual on the art of love, a sort of complementary tome to the “literal” eroticism that had made The Arabian Nights such a hip, if the term could be used for Victorian England, underground classic, shunned by respectable society, the kind of voyeuristic terms of disavowal that were to repeat itself in the art of Edouard Manet’s Olympia; a precursor to the onslaught of modernism, the “death of god”, Nietzsche, and shake and baked by Burton’s dogged lack of dismay exhibited by publishing six supplemental volumes with still more compendious notes on the erotic customs of the East.
Burton was attacking the prudery and repressecsexuality of English society who for the most part had never traveled off the Island, but it was simultaneously a quasi reinforcing of British colonialism and orientalism which, placed within the context of Burton’s framework, secular atheism, was strange and backward indeed; from cannibalism and wanton violence from Africa to the Arabian peninsula Burton left few unscathed in his sampling of the local flavors varying from polygamy to homosexuality Burton could have stepped forth from the heart of Bohemian hippie counterculture of the pre and post Woodstock generation. Biblical figure, Beat poet, hippie, Graham Greene protagonist, Joseph Conrad figure, John Galsworthy anti-hero, D.H. Lawrence romantic, Byronesque figure, he quite fittingly croaked of a heart attack while completing the last several pages of Perfumed Garden, finally turning out the love light on October 20, 1890.
At the moment of his death Isabel Burton called in a priest for the essential ceremonies, insisting that her husband had been at heart a true Catholic. She provided for elaborate Catholic funerals in Trieste and in England, and had his body placed in the Mortlake Catholic Cemetery in an extraordinary tomb built in the shape of an Arab tent, decorated inside with tinkling camel bells and stars to imitate the desert night. She had perhaps, forgotten what Burton wrote after walking around the Mormon cemetery in Salt Lake City: “The tombs, like the funeral ceremonies, are simple, lacking the monumental mockery which renders the country churchyard in England a fitter study for farce than for elegy.”
(see link at end)…Feeling that this character might be too conspicuous for his deceptive purposes, Burton transformed Abdullah into a “wandering dervish with a knowledge of magic and horoscopes” (Lovell, 122). He wore a plainer
robe and did not display quite the linguistic mastery of Arabic that his first Abdullah manifested. Burton’s meticulous attention to the details of his Muslim impersonation did not merely reflect a desire to comprehend the life
and experiences of the Oriental Other; rather, he transcended his ethnological interests in “passing as an Oriental” by engaging in unethical sociological practice (for which he was criticized in some quarters), as well
as for indulging in the sheer pleasure of his wanderlust, what his biographer Lovell calls “the pure romance of the Hajj”…
…Burton’s impersonation is an exhibition of his intellectual superiority and physical stamina, overcoming massive logistical problems simply to pursue his subject, the composition of his Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to
Al-Madinah and Meccah in 1856, while it also acknowledges his complicity with British imperialism. Burton’s persistent appropriation of Oriental costume, this time the private dress of a pilgrim, suggests the ability of a male
to enter a public space with a private intent. Further, in assuming a garb that is alien to his class he becomes in a sense a member of an ambiguous caste. And his compulsive documentation of the sexual practices of Chinese, Indian, African, and “other” peoples places him firmly in the ultramasculine realm. Read More:https://ohiostatepress.org/Books/Book%20PDFs/Hoeveler%20Interrogating.pdf