The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VII. The Literature of Travel, 1700–1900

§ 13. Sir Richard Burton

But Sir Richard Burton stands first among eastern travellers. A man of cosmopolitan education and tastes, soldier, linguist, oriental scholar, he has recorded the strenuous activities of his crowded life in many volumes recounting travels in Asia, Africa and South America. In 1853, Burton, disguised as an Afghan physician and assuming the name Mirza Abdullah, made the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, sharing all the experiences of his Moslem companions. His record of these experiences may be best described in the words of another oriental scholar, Stanley Lane Poole:

  • The pilgrimage to the Holy Cities of Islam records the most famous adventure of one of the boldest explorers of the century:—its vivid descriptions, its pungent uncompromising style, its intense personal note distinguish it broadly from the common run of books of travel; and the picture it gives of Arab life and manners, the insight it reveals in Semitic ideas give it a permanent value as a national record, as true to-day as half a century ago, and as true then as a thousand years before. Dashed off in Burton’s rapid impulsive way, the book is the strangest compound of Oriental learning, a grim sardonic humour, and an insobriety of opinion expressed in the writer’s vigorous vernacular.