Review of “The Devil Drives: A life of Sir Richard Burton” by Fawn M. Brodie

In this fascinating and adventurous biography, Brodie tells an extraordinary story of one of the 19th century’s most interesting men, Sir Richard Francis Burton.  Burton was a writer, scientist, soldier, Oxford student, raconteur, sword fighter, explorer, and exceptional linguist. “Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause; He noblest lives and noblest dies who makes and keeps his self-made laws.”[i]

In his early childhood his parents moved the family several times from France to Italy, to England, and back to Italy. His father knew if Richard were to make it in life he would need the aid of aristocratic peers and friends and sent him off to college at Oxford. Burton eventually grew to know 29 different languages, but failed an honors test at Oxford for reciting the more difficult Romaic form of Greek rather than the ancient.

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