This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for March 19, 2017: Susanna

Mar. 19, 2017: birthday: Richard Francis Burton

It’s the birthday of translator, writer, and soldier Richard Francis Burton (books by this author), born in Torquay, England (1821). Growing up, he loved languages, and he learned French, Italian, and Latin, and local dialects as his family traveled around Europe — his father was an officer in the British army. He hated Oxford, but he learned Arabic there and went on to fight in the East India Company and learn Hindi, Persian, and quite a few local Indian languages. He wrote about his travels in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and he often disguised himself in local clothing. He became famous when he published A Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Medinah and Meccah (1855), about his experience disguising himself to make the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, which is forbidden for non-Muslims.

He wrote the definitive English translation of A Thousand Nights and a Night, (usually referred to as The Arabian Nights), and it was he who introduced The Kama Sutra to Western audiences.