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Man of the World: Sir Richard Francis Burton

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Man of the World: Sir Richard Francis Burton

Sir Richard Francis Burton

We tend to draw on the fringe elements of culture and history for inspiration for our products. When we first developed our signature Opium Den scent, we were inspired by a time when the modern world was still taking shape. A world where contact with another culture often meant thrilling and mind-expanding adventure — and danger.

It was a world that Sir Richard Francis Burton thrived in.

Burton was a British explorer, solider, linguist, and diplomat. He served in the army in India, searched for the source of the Nile in Central Africa, and was the first European non-Muslim to step foot inside of Mecca and live to tell about it in over 300 years.

Sir Richard Francis Burton in Persian Disguise

He also spoke at least 25 languages, produced dozens of scholarly works, and served as a British diplomat from Equatorial Guinea to Brazil to Damascus. He might still be a household name to this day, like Shackleton or Cook, if it weren't for the more — unsavory — elements of his character.

Burton was nicknamed Ruffian Dick at a young age for his ferocious demeanor and love for a good fight. He sported an impressive mustache starting in his late teens, and challenged a classmate to a duel his first day at Trinity College Oxford for mocking it.

He bared a prominent facial scar in his later years from that time in the bush when a Somali spear went through one cheek, smashed out his back teeth, and pierced through the other side of his face. He escaped the ambush that night, but not all the members of his camp did.

Sir Richard Francis Burton In Later Years

He also boozed heavily, experimented with local narcotics wherever he explored, and yes, smoked opium from time to time. He was an avowed womanizer, kept records on local sexual customs during his travels, and published the first english translation of The Kama Sutra.

To 19th century Victorian England, his values were abhorrent. For Burton, nothing was more pleasing than shocking those living under the "slavery of civilization". He even produced a manuscript near the end of this life titled The History of Farting, just to get a rise out of polite society. 

But there were darker accusations that dogged Burton throughout his life. Some he admitted cryptically, and others he denied to his grave. Whether true or not, there's no denying the world has never seen another man quite like Burton, and never will again.

Read "Gone To The Devil" by Simon Bendle, published by Compass Cultura, for the full story on Burton's life.

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