Richard Burton

From LGBT Archive
(Redirected from Sir Richard Burton)
Jump to: navigation, search
Not to be confused with Richard Burton, the Welsh actor.
Painting of Sir Richard Burton
Burton's portrait by Lord Leighton (1875) in the National Portrait Gallery
Sir Richard Burton (Richard Francis Burton, 1821–1890) was a writer, explorer and diplomat.

He was born in Torquay, but incorrectly claimed to have been born in the family home at Barham House in Elstree in Hertfordshire.[1][2]

In 1853 he disguised himself as a Muslim and undertook the pilgrimage to Mecca. Had he been discovered there as a non-Muslim he would probably been killed.

It is unclear whether Burton ever had homosexual relations, but he certainly investigated a male brothel said to be used by British soldiers, and the detail in his report has suggested to some that he may have been a customer. In his unexpurgated translation of the Arabian Nights he included a 14,000 word essay entitled "Pederasty" (Volume 10, section IV, D). Burton postulated that male homosexuality was prevalent in an area of the southern latitudes named by him the "Sotadic zone".

Burton is buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Mortlake, in a tomb resembling a tent.

This article is a stub. You can help the UK LGBT History Project by expanding it.


  1. Mary S Lovell, A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard & Isabel Burton (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1988). ISBN 0-393-04672-9., page 1.
  2. Thomas Wright, The Life of Sir Richard Burton, (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1906). ISBN 1-4264-1455-2, volume 1, page 37.