Monday, October 19, 2009
Burning the Husband's Erotica
On October 19, 1890, explorer, Orientalist, and translator of erotica, Richard Francis Burton died in Trieste. He was the first non-Muslim to visit the holy city of Mecca, completing the trek in mufti, speaking the native tongues. Burton also spent years searching for the source of the Nile (it was ultimately discovered by his erstwhile exploring partner, John Hanning Speke) but he died in more mundane circumstances. Hoping to save his reputation, his wife lit a bonfire in the backyard of their house in Mortlake outside London. Among the things she burned were his unpublished translation of the erotic classic The Scented Garden, which he’d been working on for 14 years. She was offered the astounding sum of £6,000 to publish it. Burton was 69. Burton appears four times in A Book of Ages.