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Sir Richard Burton (1821-1890) – explorer, linguist, anthropologist – was one of the most fascinating figures of the Victorian era. In 1866, while serving as British consul in Brazil, he presented four lectures on the highlights of his travels in Arabia and Africa. The first two lectures describe the visits Burton made to Maedina and Mecca disguised as an Islamic pilgrim. The rites of pilgrimage, framed by the drama of Burton's disguise and its attendant dangers, are described in extensive and sympathetic detail. The next two lectures are dramatic accounts of Burton's journeys to Harar and Dahomey, and of his mission to persuade King Gelele to give up the practice of human sacrifice. The vivid details he presents reveal not only the characteristics of the cultures he encountered but also the prejudices of the culture he represented. Well received by critics when first published in 1990, Sir Richard Burton's Travels in Arabia and Africa of lectures is now available in paperback.
John Hayman is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Victoria and editor of John Ruskin: Letters from the Continent, 1858 and of Robert Brown and the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition.
"Burton's own narratives [...] are classics of travel. Best known is the account of his journey to Medina and Mecca, closed to non-Muslims [...] As Hayman observes, [Burton] reveals his volatile temper as well as his amazing capacity to assimilate information which must have been retained in his head, as no writing was permitted."
– History Today
"Burton's lectures [...] give the full flavor of both his fierce temperament and his fiercer curiosity."
– Los Angeles Times