Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Burton: A biography of Sir Richard Francis Burton” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
Burton: A biography of...
Byron Farwell
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Burton: A biography of Sir Richard Francis Burton

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  174 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
No man can be all things at once, no matter how hard he tries, but no man ever tried harder than Richard Francis Burton. He made significant contributions in the fields of literature and geography, and was also a poet, traveler, soldier, diplomat, inventor, explorer, archaeologist, student of religion and more. But above all, Burton was an adventurer in both the intellectu ...more
Published 1963
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Burton, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Burton

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 15, 2011 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A fascinating, readable account of the jaw-droppingly talented man’s life. His ceaseless activity (he would produce 700 pages on a place he had stayed for a week, while sick, and while doing any number of other feats) is contrasted by his limitations (his books were pretty bad; he wasn’t a leader; his theories were often wildly off). Burton described himself: “Briefly, his memory was well-stored; and he had every talent save that of using his talents.” Very apt; Burton’s life was a series of alm ...more
Vince Ciaramella
Feb 25, 2017 Vince Ciaramella rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What a life and what a book. I would have loved to have hung out with him on some of his journeys. Sir Richard Burton was a man after my own heart. I love to travel and I cannot sit still.

This book has it all. I don't think I will ever have to read another biography about him. His world is a world I would love to visit. The trill of visiting far off lands, filling in the blank spots on the map. Yes it was dangerous and yes he feel ill many times but in the end he made it to old age and live
Theo Logos
Richard Francis Burton lived a fantastic life packed full of enough exploits, adventures, and accomplishments to make any ten men famous. As such, no single biography is sufficient to capture the whole man, and anyone truly interested in exploring his amazing life will do well to read several treatments of it. That said, Byron Farwell's excellent biography of Burton is an outstanding place to begin.
Farwell captures Burton's driven, restless spirit, from his wild youth wandering nomadically about
Christine Martin
Oct 07, 2015 Christine Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: purchased-audio
I am bummed. I was going to say that I started reading this book 20+ years ago, and it sat on my bedside table for just about as long. Always with the intent to pick it up again, as I am genuinely interested in Burton and his life's adventures. What I just saw though, when clicking to add the book, is that this book is not THE book. Farwell's biography on Burton was not the book at my bedside. It was Edward Rice's biography on Burton that sat there. Well, I enjoyed Farwell's biography, so I gues ...more
Jul 13, 2010 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Orientalists, Colonialists, and Adventurers
I am somewhat mystified that the fascinating life of Sir Richard Francis Burton is not better known. He seems to have become a footnote in the history of the Victorian age of exploration. Although many of his exploits ended in failure, the magnitude of his unsavory yet dominating character should be enough to have made him an enduring legend. The basis for my beloved Flashman, he spoke nearly 30 languages, snuck into Mecca disguised as a Mohammedan, almost discovered the source of the Nile, serv ...more
Cameron Powers
May 08, 2009 Cameron Powers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The incredible biography of a brilliant British career soldier and diplomat whose abilities to learn and to be adopted into native cultures are an inspiration to both the incredible enlightenment and loneliness which can result. Growing up in India, he apparently learned no less than 25 languages ultimately translating the Tales of the Arabian Nights. After his death his wife burned the remainder of his manuscripts which contained, like the Kama Sutra, which he also translated, fascinating first ...more
Sep 01, 2009 Conor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I picked up this book, I had read the wiki of Burton and checked out a few websites devoted to him. These made me imagine Burton as a paragon of adventure and a hero of a man. I wanted a book that would weave tales of his travels and tell me of the legend. But this book actually told me who the real Burton was: an incredible man, yes - he spoke 29 languages, was a master swordsman, wrote dozens of books, traveled to unexplored areas of Africa, and more - but he was also an alcoholic obsesse ...more
Alan Marchant
Sep 24, 2015 Alan Marchant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, biography
This is a pithy biography of the famous British adventurer that stands the test of time. Sir Richard Francis Burton is honored not by hagiography but by an evenhanded description of his many exploits, remarkable talents, and manifold weaknesses (especially blind egotism).
Burton was a man born at just the right time: an Englishman at the height of empire; an obsessive traveler on a globe with just the right amount of white space; and a perpetually curious linguist in a world of exotic religions a
Oct 28, 2015 Marjorie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story about a fascinating man born 1821 and died following a life of adventure in 1890. He explored, traveled and wrote copious notes all all he did and saw. No subject was off limits for him. However he had little to no self discipline hence did not achieve the greatness he felt he deserved. He learned approximately 29 languages and it seems could remember them and write in them for many years, as in 50 years, not having as far as is known, to have used the language for that span of time.
Jul 28, 2015 Cheri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auto-biography
A well researched book about a fascinating subject. Very readable and on the whole enjoyable. Burton is such a towering figure and iconoclast that even a poor book would probably be interesting and this is not a poor book. The only reason this doesn't have four stars is for the rather overt sexism and slight colonial apologist bent to the writing, (this isn't hidden, Farwell literally opens the book by saying that women as a sex aren't really adventurers by nature) but that said, he's a terrific ...more
Ulrika Eriksson
Jan 11, 2016 Ulrika Eriksson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The reserved portrait of Richard Frances Burton that the American Byron Farwell gives in his book Burton: A Biography issued 1963, is distanced and slightly derisive, enhanced by the upper class accent of the narrator. That Burtons life and books still fascinates us is not reflected in the book whatsoever. Much weight is put on his “failed” career. I lost confidence for this biographer because both the wondrously beautiful The Kasidah and the Arabian Nights were step-motherly treated. ...more
Mar 13, 2013 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
When I read this book some 25 years ago or more, I knew virtually nothing of this man. I ask myself, why? Why isn't this man better known? By all accounts, he was an amazing man, scholar, linguist, adventurer. His exploits, as chronicled in this biography, are the stuff of legend. Simply put, this is one of the most engaging, entertaining biographies I've ever read. Worth another read.
Jul 01, 2013 Leigh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The writer did a first class job of compiling a mass of journals and accounts into a coherent, and often hilarious, tale of the life of a remarkable non- conformist linguist and one of the worlds great travellers. A highly recommended read for history exploration buffs.
Nov 20, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent and entertaining biography of the Victorian adventurer and explorer, who discovered the source of the Nile and was the first Westerner to enter Mecca, disguised as an Arab. The stuff that ripping yarns are made of.
Sam Simpson
Boring. Boring. Boring. Byron accuses Burton of writing books at included extraneous information but Byron is just as guilty. This book could have been written in half the length. And the print is very small.
Aug 20, 2011 Lysergius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
He will always be the translator of the Arabian Nights for me... And I am sure he found the source of the Nile before Speke.

John B.
Jul 14, 2016 John B. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the book, but not its repulsive subject, Richard Francis Burton.
Jan 29, 2016 George rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Poorly written and Burton as a human being proved to be annoying, egotistical self centered and paranoid.
Sep 10, 2010 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good overview of Burton's life. Farwell reveals some new material concerning Burton's Interest in and possible conversion to Sufism.
Oct 20, 2013 Nina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies, britian
Chris Wolff
Jan 06, 2014 Chris Wolff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most readable of the Burton biographies. Excellent work
Dec 18, 2010 Jeri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now this was a wild man. could speak 35 languages, traveled through Africa and Saudi Arabia in 1800s.
Matthew Stanfill
This is a fantastic book of possibly the most manly of men of the victorian age.fantastic.
Ian Jones
Ian Jones rated it really liked it
Jan 29, 2011
Sherry rated it really liked it
Feb 20, 2011
Middlethought rated it it was amazing
Jun 19, 2017
Adam rated it liked it
Aug 09, 2011
Gavin rated it it was amazing
Dec 20, 2014
Kyle Morris
Kyle Morris rated it it was amazing
Jun 28, 2010
Will rated it really liked it
Sep 07, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton
  • The Life of My Choice
  • Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer
  • The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton
  • A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton
  • Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, Vol 2
  • Captain James Cook: A Biography
  • Salaam Brick Lane: A Year in the New East End
  • Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia
  • Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al Madinah and Meccah: Volume 1
  • Dr. Johnson and Mr. Savage
  • Rum: The Epic Story of the Drink That Conquered the World
  • Trafalgar: The Nelson Touch
  • Captivity of the Oatman Girls: Being an Interesting Narrative of Life Among the Apache and Mohave Indians. Repr of the 1857 Ed
  • The White Indian boy: The story of Uncle Nick among the Shoshones
  • Micronations: the Lonely Planet guide to self-proclaimed nations
  • Wellington: The Years of the Sword
  • Majesty: Queen Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor
Farwell graduated from Ohio State University and the University of Chicago (M.A., 1968). He served in World War II as a captain of engineers attached to the Mediterranean Allied Air Force in the British Eighth Army area and later also saw combat in the Korean War. He separated from the military after seven years of active duty.

As a civilian, he became director of public relations and director of a
More about Byron Farwell...

Share This Book