England’s fascination with other cultures led to a certain occupational hazard. … For some Englishmen, transformation was irreversible.

Shona Sanzgiri on ethnographer and “amateur barbarian” Sir Richard Francis Burton.

Known as the man who “discovered the Kama Sutra” for having translated it, Sir Richard Francis Burton had lived a rather adventurous and scandalous life while managing to be an extremely prolific writer. I intend to look up some of his books, but, first, I must get this excellent biography by Edward Rice. I also just realized that one of my copies of The Arabian Nights was translated by him.

Oh, and a note about his Kama Sutra translation: actually, he did not know ancient Sanskrit, so he was helped by his friend and noted Orientalist, Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot. Together, to avoid legal issues, they formed the Kama Shastra Society and published this as well as other erotica under that banner. Crafty old devils, eh?

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