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Falling Stars

Alan Coren, 5 November 1981

Richard Burton 
by Paul Ferris.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77966 4
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Peter Sellers 
by Alexander Walker.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77965 6
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... It is not easy to determine which is the better book. Richard Burton was printed by Butler and Tanner Limited, Peter Sellers by the Fakenham Press, and since the one establishment is in Somerset and the other in Norfolk, it is fair to absolve both of them from the sort of catchpenny opportunist hustling which these days has the publishing world of London by the throat ...

Signs of the Times

Mark Ford, 21 February 2008

... sweating too, trying To recall the serpentine journeys made by adventurers such as Mungo Park And Richard Burton, and the weeping jungles And empty deserts they traversed. Unsheathed, their bone- Handled bush knives whispered Like settling locusts or long- Promised waterfalls. One sticky morning John Hanning Speke awoke on a spur above Lake Tanganyika ...

The Pretend and the Fake

Mark Rudman, 4 March 1999

... extracts information with a glance. And why break down the lovely moment when she and her partner, Richard Burton, reunite in an appointed barn, which emanates warmth, and Mary leans back against the haystacks to welcome her lover’s embrace. So much had happened in less than a decade, who knows they hadn’t forgotten how much they’d liked playing ...

Let in the Djinns

Maya Jasanoff: Richard Burton, 9 March 2006

The Highly Civilised Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World 
by Dane Kennedy.
Harvard, 354 pp., £17.95, September 2005, 0 674 01862 1
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... of a man regarded as one of the most unreal, isolated and timeless figures of the Victorian era. Richard Burton arrived in the Adriatic port in 1873 as Britain’s consul. He had pretty much seen everything. He had visited sacred centres from Benares to Salt Lake City, with a pilgrimage to Mecca in between; he had trekked thousands of miles into central ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: What’s your codename?, 23 June 2005

... Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Broadsword calling Danny Boy.’ Richard Burton could make any code name sound good. The character he plays in Where Eagles Dare, Major Smith, leads an elite commando raid on a Nazi fortress in the Austrian Alps. The aim of the mission is, ostensibly, to rescue a US general who’s been taken prisoner by the Germans ...

He wouldn’t dare

David A. Bell: Bloodletting in Paris, 9 May 2002

Blood in the City: Violence and Revelation in Paris 1789-1945 
by Richard D.E. Burton.
Cornell, 395 pp., £24.50, September 2001, 0 8014 3868 3
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... who delights in the first also thrills, secretly, to the second. In Blood in the City, Richard Burton takes his readers on a walking tour of Parisian sacrifice and slaughter. He moves from the Bastille to the place de la Concorde (where Louis XVI was executed), to the Hôtel de Ville (where successive generations of revolutionaries raised the ...

Stardom

Megan Vaughan: Explorers of the Nile, 8 March 2012

Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure 
by Tim Jeal.
Faber, 510 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 571 24975 6
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... them? In the course of twenty years in the mid-19th century a group of British explorers – Richard Burton, John Hanning Speke, David Livingstone, Samuel Baker (with his wife, Florence), Henry Morton Stanley and James Grant – slogged out on their respective expeditions through East and Central Africa, and engaged in an intense and bitter battle ...

Imagine Tintin

Michael Hofmann: Basil Bunting, 9 January 2014

A Strong Song Tows Us: The Life of Basil Bunting 
by Richard Burton.
Infinite Ideas, 618 pp., £30, September 2013, 978 1 908984 18 0
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... might nominate Trakl, Laforgue, Keats and Shelley (I don’t think I breathed while I was reading Richard Holmes’s Shelley: The Pursuit all those years ago); for a rare, artful blending of long and short, one can’t do better than Rimbaud and Hölderlin; and for the latter, Hamsun, Yeats, Shaw – and Bunting. Incidentally, or maybe not, Bunting also shows ...

Give her a snake

Mary Beard, 22 March 1990

Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions 
by Lucy Hughes-Hallett.
Bloomsbury, 338 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 7475 0093 2
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... the chapter which looks at Joseph Mankiewicz’s film Cleopatra, the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton extravaganza of 1962. Hughes-Hallett shows how the extraordinary popular appeal of this film was related to the personalities – as they were perceived by the public – of Taylor and ...
Leaving a Doll’s House: A Memoir 
by Claire Bloom.
Virago, 288 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 1 86049 146 4
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... producer with ‘sadistic’ sexual inclinations, had an ‘incandescent’ affair with a pre-Liz Richard Burton and flirted with Elvis Presley, she might be thought to have quite a lot to offer on the carnal gossip front. But if public notice has seemed to neglect this promising material, it is largely because Bloom shows so little interest in it ...

Mecca Bound

Robert Irwin, 21 July 1994

The Hajj: Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places 
by F.E. Peters.
Princeton, 399 pp., £19.95, July 1994, 0 691 02120 1
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Pilgrims and Sultans: The Hajj under the Ottomans 
by Suraiya Faroqhi.
Tauris, 244 pp., £34.50, May 1994, 1 85043 606 1
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The Hadj: A Pilgrimage to Mecca 
by Michael Wolfe.
Secker, 331 pp., £19.99, January 1994, 0 436 58404 2
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... In the section of The Anatomy of Melancholy devoted to the perils of religious enthusiasm, Robert Burton pauses briefly to comment on the complex and meritorious rituals of the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca: their fastings, their running till they sweat, their long prayers, Mahomets temple, tombe, and building of it, would aske a whole volume to dilate: and for their paines taken in this holy pilgrimage, all their sins are forgiven, and they are reputed so many saints ...

More Fun

Tom Jaine, 7 July 1994

The Alchemy of Culture: Intoxicants in Society 
by Richard Rudgley.
British Museum, 160 pp., £14.95, October 1993, 0 7141 1736 6
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... One of the aims of anthropology,’ Richard Rudgley says, ‘is to understand the self by way of the other.’ Are we to take it that if the Koryaks of Siberia had a high old time on the fly-agaric – or on the recycled urine of a fly-agaric consumer – we too should stock up on magic mushrooms? Rudgley maintains that humans have ‘a universal need for liberation from the restrictions of mundane existence, satisfied by experiencing altered states of consciousness ...

Perfect Light

Jenny Diski, 9 July 1992

Diana: Her True Story 
by Andrew Morton.
Michael O’Mara, 165 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85479 191 5
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 285 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 7475 1164 0
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Antonia White: Diaries 1958-1979 
edited by Susan Chitty.
Constable, 352 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 09 470660 3
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... and I recognised the not-quite-extraterrestrial, dumpy, middle-aged forms of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton panting their way up the hill. The glow was not, of course, from their outward perfection, nor their inner beauty and wisdom, but the result of years and years of attention from precision-ground lenses and high-wattage lights being focused and ...

How to Serve Coffee

Rory Stewart: Aleppan Manners, 16 February 2017

Aleppo Observed: Ottoman Syria through the Eyes of Two Scottish Doctors, Alexander and Patrick Russell 
by Maurits H. van den Boogert.
Arcadian Library, 254 pp., £120, September 2015, 978 0 19 958856 5
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... Empire by the Russells’ contemporary Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and later accounts by Sir Richard Burton or Gertrude Bell, ignored the Russells. A new imperial readership expected ‘serious’ writers like Burckhardt (who was sent to Aleppo in 1809 to study how to disguise himself as a Muslim) to provide a detailed account of political rivalries ...

Stanley and the Women

Tony Gould, 25 July 1991

Stanley: The Making of an African Explorer 
by Frank McLynn.
Constable, 411 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 09 462420 8
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Stanley: Sorcerer’s Apprentice 
by Frank McLynn.
Constable, 499 pp., £25, January 1991, 0 09 470220 9
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Dark Safari: The Life behind the Legend of Henry Morton Stanley 
by John Bierman.
Hodder, 401 pp., £17.95, January 1991, 0 340 50977 5
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... of William Grant Stairs and memoirs of Alice Pike Barney’; he also pays generous tribute to Richard Hall’s earlier biography, ‘a model of hard-nosed and painstaking investigation’. Hall was the first to reveal Stanley’s secret engagement to Alice Pike. Unfortunately, his excitement over this discovery led him to make the tactical ...

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