On sale: Burton's unknown art

MORE than 100 drawings and watercolours by Sir Richard Burton, the Victorian explorer, scholar and diplomat, are to be sold by Christie's this month.

Lady Burton would not have approved: when Sir Richard died, in 1890, she burnt almost all his unpublished manuscripts including diaries and journals. That makes this collection an unexpected find and it is expected to fetch pounds 45,000 in all. How it survived remains a mystery.

As a pious Catholic, Lady Burton was horrified by her husband's salacious translation of the Arabian Nights. 'She was worried it would spoil his reputation,' said Nicholas Lambourn of Christie's. At her own death, any remaining manuscripts were bequeathed to her sister with the instruction that they 'be burnt without being read'. Fortunately, one of three literary trustees prevented that: the collection is now in a public library in California.

The sale pictures illustrate many aspects of Burton's life: military service in India and the Crimea (his reports on homosexual brothels in Karachi put an end to his military career); a pilgrimage in disguise to Mecca, which was forbidden to non-Muslims; expeditions to Africa.

A Burton expedition discovered the source of the Nile, but it was his second in command who actually found Lake Victoria, and, much to Burton's disappointment, broke a promise not to tell the world before Burton returned to England. The sketches are in a scrapbook bulging with untidy, rough-edged pieces of paper. Most are accompanied by barely legible notes in his spidery handwriting; others are illustrations in pen-and-ink or watercolour.

His panoramic landscapes reflect a scientist's eye for intricate detail; but some of his oddly proportioned figures reveal Burton as an untrained artist.

A self-portrait of him in oriental dress is expected to sell for between pounds 4,000 and pounds 6,000. His dress and the Persian inscription suggest that it dates from the Mecca pilgrimage in 1853.

One faint sketch in the album shows a sacrifice on the road to Benin. In his journal he noted: 'An unpleasant object now met our eyes . . . the figure of a man bare to the waist . . . and wrists fastened to a framework of peeled sticks. . . . He had been crucified. . . . The features still expressed strangulation.'

Mr Lambourn said: 'Burton was more intelligent than Livingstone or Stanley. And whereas the London Illustrated News turned Africans into caricatures, he treated them seriously.'

The album also contains some caricatures, but whether all are by Burton is unclear. Nor is it clear whether any of the unflattering drawings of women represent the incendiary Lady Burton.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power