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The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  282 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Starting in a hollowed log of wood—some thousand miles up a river, with an infinitesimal prospect of returning! I ask myself "Why?" and the only echo is "damned fool! . . . the Devil drives!"

So Richard Francis Burton, preparing for an exploration of the lower Congo in 1863, wrote to Monckton Milnes from the African kingdom of Dahomey. His answer, "the Devil drives," applie
Paperback, 408 pages
Published July 17th 1984 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1967)
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(showing 1-30 of 692)
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Eric Ruark
May 19, 2014 Eric Ruark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I fell in love with Sir Richard and his adventures when I was in college back in the early 70s. One of my friends introduced me to his writings. When Brodie's book came out, I devoured it. Here was a man who was a man's man and sought to live life to the fullest. He went where no white man had ever gone in Africa. The description of his meeting with Livingston had me in stitches as they compared scars. If you love biographies that read like true adventure stories, this is the book for you.
I found reading this biography interestingly readable and informative due to at least two reasons; the first being the marvelous flowing narrative by Professor Fawn Brodie who aptly supported her writing by innumerable references and the second being Sir Richard Burton himself, in other words, "Richard Burton's life offers dazzling riches. He was one of the greatest Victorian explorers, an innovative translator and brilliant linguist, a prolific travel writer, a pioneer in the fields of anthropo ...more
Sally Tarbox
Feb 26, 2016 Sally Tarbox rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
"But he is not intentionally irreverent...he speaks the things that others think and hide", 27 February 2016

This review is from: The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton (Paperback)
I started off deciding to just read a chapter a day, while focussing mainly on a great novel I was reading simultaneously.

But found myself unable to put down this wonderful account of the fascinating Richard Burton: fearless explorer, amazing linguist, soldier, anthropologist and writer. He went on a mission to
Apr 06, 2016 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Fascinating bio of the original inspiration for the 60's children's cartoon show , "The World of Commander McBragg." Preceding his death and subsequent resurrection as one of the greatest Shakespearian and cinema actors of the 20th Century (lol), the life of Sir Richard Burton was certainly one to put modern "Renaissance Men" to shame. His obsessive search for the White Nile's source led him into heated verbal and correspondence combat with a fellow explorer, as well as actual physical combat- h ...more
Kevin Tole
A truly excellent biography of the foremost British explorer of Africa and Arabia.
Burton was a complex man, raised in France and harbouring sa loathing of all things British ever since. He comes across as a square peg in a round hole in both the Indian Army and in the Consular services which he spent most of his life in. The explorations of India, Arabia, Ethiopia and the Nile expeditions were all done as tours of leave from either of these positions.
Perhaps the greatest linguist of his generati
Lesley Truffle

Richard Burton’s ability to tolerate extreme pain and hardship was astonishing. He is ranked along with Livingstone, Stanley, Baker and Speke as one of the first five British pioneering African explorers. At one stage searching for the source of the Nile he was unable to walk, undernourished and seriously ill but rather than return to Britain he persevered and had to be carried on a stretcher. Mosquito infested swamps, parasites, depression, fevers, ulcers, delirium, foul food, chronic filth, de
Aug 28, 2011 Dfordoom rated it really liked it
Captain Sir Richard Burton was one of the great characters of the 19th century and it would be difficult to write a dull book about this man. There’s certainly nothing dull about Fawn M. Brodie’s 1967 Burton biography The Devil Drives. But does she penetrate the many mysteries that surround Burton’s life? Well, sort of.

Of course the biographer’s task is made much more difficult in this case due to the extraordinary burning frenzy in which Burton’s widow indulged. She burnt the whole of his almo
Apr 25, 2011 Clint rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
I guess I've known who Richard Burton was since I was in high school, but mostly as the translator of Arabian Nights and the first white dude in Mecca. But I really had no idea what an all-round badass he was. Soldier, swordsman, explorer, linguist, ethnologist, etc etc etc. He makes Hemingway look like a wimp and an idiot. 29 languages, 43 books (really big ones), hopping around all over the world half blind/paralyzed/dead with various gnarly tropical diseases; it really makes one wonder where ...more
Sep 14, 2015 Jeroenf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
400 bladzijden is haast te weinig om het rijk gevulde leven van Richard Burton alle eer aan te doen. Hij sprak niet alleen 29 talen plus nog een hoop dialecten, hij was ook ontdekkingsreiziger, antropoloog, linguïst en poëet. Op het einde van zijn leven daagde hij het preutse Victoriaanse Engeland uit met zijn ongecensureerde vertalingen van onder meer de vertellingen van Duizend-en-een-nacht en de Kamasutra. Boeiend portret van een van de opmerkelijkste figuren uit de 19e eeuw.
Lisa Mccarville
Dec 29, 2015 Lisa Mccarville rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bio-history
Fawn Brodie's writing and research is captivating. I re read this book every few years. Burton's life is intriguing and inspiring. Fascinating read by one of the best researchers of biographic writing I have read.
Rian Jordan
Apr 26, 2015 Rian Jordan rated it it was amazing
I have read several book about Richard Burton. This one is at the top of the list.
Dec 28, 2013 Shirley rated it it was amazing
Sir Richard Burton will now be one of my dinner guests were I to pick them. You know that game when you are asked to pick who would be at your table. Most add people like Churchill. I would now have Sir Richard. He was a truly remarkable man. This book gives some inkling of how remarkable he really was. For those interested in the history of Africa, the Middle East and the beginning of colonial and imperial times, when the world was still largely undiscovered and there were men who took up the c ...more
Oct 18, 2013 N A rated it liked it
It is a sort of international travelogue combined with history. Hard to find book, I recommended to many friends from various parts of the world, each one read part of its own territory with good interest and a feeling of appreciation of Burton's in depth anthropological observations, although simultaneously, the biographical side of the genre has not been ignored and a good portrait of Burton emerges. One of the beys I read.
Aug 07, 2008 Carole rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, classics
Sir Richard F. Burton was an amazing erson. He could speak over 40 languages, discovered the source of the Nile River and had an unquenchable wanderlust. The real "The Book of 1001 Arabian Nights" is 17 volumes annotated w/comments on the social habits of people Burton met along the way. I don't hv volume 17. Burton also is reesponsible for us having the Kama Sutra. Good Reads isn't up to date on his books (YET).
May 12, 2012 Frank rated it it was amazing
This is a biography of Sir Richard F. Burton. I think he is one of the most fascinating figures of Victorian England. He was a linguist and explorer and the first European to make a pilgrimage to Mecca disguised as an Arab. He also translated the Arabian Nights and The Perfumed Garden much to the disgust of his wife. Highly recommend this.
Jul 18, 2008 Steve rated it it was amazing
Explorer, translator, anthropologist, Sufi and iconoclast, Sir Richard Burton remains a sort of hero to me. His life was tumultuous and fascinating. I clearly recall an anecdote about how he was compiling a simian lexicon and, while a soldier, would dine with a table of monkeys, including one that wore a little dress and earrings.
Peter Thornton
Jan 11, 2014 Peter Thornton rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Great biography of a fascinating man.
Matthew Stanfill
Jun 02, 2015 Matthew Stanfill rated it it was amazing
You cant really go wrong with an RFB bio. I did enjoy it but I enjoy Edward Rice's book on burton the best I think.
Jan 05, 2008 Heusen added it
Of all the books on Captain Sir Richard Burton, Fawn McKay Brodie's is the best at capturing the spirit and energy of this great explorer. Ever since reading this, I have read every book on Burton that I can get my hands on. He will definitely be one of the 5 persons I want to meet in the after-life.
Brendan Rowe
Jan 01, 2013 Brendan Rowe rated it it was amazing
This is by far the best biography of the Renaissance man that was Richard Burton. Fawn Brodie's research was fantastic, her delivery engaging, and her objectiveness worth mentioning, as most of Burton's biographers were very religious men who gloated over editing out some of his more colorful exploits.
Chiant ! A forces de citations, de références et de ton compassé Fawn Brodie réussit à rendre super chiante la vie a priori passionnante de Richard Burton. Aucune émotion dans la visite de La Mecque, j'ai laissé tomber peu après (même pas allé jusqu'aux sources du Nil)
Aug 03, 2011 Bill added it
Brodie applies lots of Freudian analysis to Burton's life and adventures. This isn't the best Burton biography, but is worth a read if you can find a used copy. Edward Rice's "Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton" is superior, but it had the advantage of coming later.
May 26, 2015 Scott rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographical
To paraphrase Bill Murray in that classic film, Stripes, Sir Richard Francis Burton, YOU are a madman. When you took that spear in the mouth in Somalia, and then you made your escape with it still sticking through your face... I want to party with you, cowboy!
Dec 05, 2013 Jason rated it liked it
A thorough and well-written biography of a colorful character. Brodie lays on the psychoanalysis pretty strong at points, and is a little defensive of Burton 's shortcomings and failures, but it is worth a read.
Mar 18, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating biography of Sir. Richard Burton, perhaps the original "most interesting man in the world." Burton was an explorer, linguist, soldier, archaeologist, poet, and writer.
Nov 24, 2011 Derek rated it really liked it
There are several Burton bios - I haven't read them all - but this one is eminently readable. I suspect it isn't as dense as some of the others. Great, great read.
Omens Adamantis
Sep 07, 2012 Omens Adamantis rated it really liked it
Great Biopic of an awesome Man !!

Sir Richard Francis Burton is far over any comparison with men of his time !!

Fiction Heroes are weak compared to this RL man !
Dan Thompson
Jul 05, 2011 Dan Thompson is currently reading it
Referred to me by the guy we are going on safari with in Dec. Says it is the one " must read " if you are coming to Africa.
El Diablo
May 09, 2008 El Diablo rated it it was amazing
great insight into a brilliant, complex, and often contradictory genius
Keith Slade
OK biography of Richard Francis Burton, explorer and linguist.
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Fawn McKay Brodie (September 15, 1915 – January 10, 1981) was a biographer and professor of history at UCLA, best known for Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, a work of psychobiography, and No Man Knows My History, the first prominent non-hagiographic biography of Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement.

Raised in Utah in a respected, if impoverished, Latter-day Saint (L
More about Fawn M. Brodie...

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