“He was an archaeologist, botanist, geologist, writer, poet and a brilliant ethnographer. He spoke 29 languages and could imitate 60 sounds made by monkeys. He could play four games of chess at once, blindfolded, and never lose...” So commences Richard Grant’s profile of Sir Richard Burton, one of the most extraordinary explorers of all time. He was an imposing figure and Bram Stoker, author of Dracula , would often speak of Burton’s iron countenance and fierce loyalty. Yet goodbyes reduced Burton to tears, and it was his lifelong habit to depart the company of friends and family under cover of darkness, for fear of embarrassment.
Such a divergent range of behaviours and experience is certainly no bad thing – in fact, in contrast to our contemporary, Internet-based lifestyles, it might even seem desirable. Bringing attention to these individuals – people who have endeavoured to find new lands, heights or species, as Burton did relentlessly, often without acknowledgment – is key to ...
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