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A Gipsy Genius
by [?]


Men are the only things worth while, in this world, and I purpose to write briefly of a man, who, though living in these, our own, so-called, degenerate days, would have found a perfect setting in “the spacious times of great Elizabeth.” He would have been a worthy companion of Raleigh, half-pirate and half-poet. He had in his time but one soul-kinsman, and that man was at once England’s shame and glory, embalmed forever in the ominous work, Khartoum.

Sir Richard Burton was the last of the English “gentleman adventurers.” He came late into the world, but he had in him the large, strong qualities that have made England master of the world. He was a Gypsy genius, though his utmost research could never find more clew to a Romany ancestry than the fact that there was a Gypsy family of the same name. He looked the Gypsy in ever feature, and he had upon him such an urging restlessness as no man ever had, save, perhaps, the Wandering Jew. His life was an epic of thought, of investigation and of adventure. The track of his wanderings laced the globe. He loved “the antres vast and deserts idle,” and he had the FLAIR, the houndscent, as it were, to find the hearts of strange peoples. His “Life,” by his wife, is the most interesting biography since that of Boswell, and strangely enough, it is, like the famous “Johnson,” as interesting for its revelation of the biographer as for its portrayal of the subject. Burton’s wife was the loving-est slave that ever wedded with an idol. The story of the courtship is ridiculous almost to the verge of tragic. As a girl, a gypsy woman named Burton, told Isabel Arundell that she would marry one of the palmist’s name, would travel much, and receive much honor.

One day, at Boulogne, she was on the ramparts, with companions, when she saw Burton. She describes him raptuously; tall, thin, muscular, very dark hair, black, clearly-defined, sagacious eye-brows, a brown weather-beaten complexion, straight Arab features, a determined looking mouth and chin. And then she quotes a clever friend’s description, “That he had the brow of a God, the jaw of a Devil.”

His eyes “pierced you through and through.” When he smiled, he did so “as though it hurt him.” He had a “fierce proud melancholy expression,” and he “looked with contempt at things generally.” He stared at her, and his eyes looked her through and through. She turned to a friend and said in a whisper, “That man will marry ME.” The next day they walked again. This time this man wrote on the wall, “May I speak to you?” She picked up the chalk and scrawled, “No, mother will be angry.” A few days later they met in formal manner, and were introduced. She started at the name, Burton. Her naif rhapsodies on the meeting are refreshing. One night he danced with her. She kept the sash and the gloves she wore that night as sacred mementoes. Six years passed before she saw her Fate again. He had been in the world though, and she had kept track of his actions. In 1856 she met him in the Botanical Gardens “walking with the gorgeous creature of Boulogne–then married.” They talked of things, particularly of Disraeli’s “Tancred.” He asked her if she came to the Gardens often. She said that she and her cousin came there every morning. He was there next morning, composing poetry to send to Monkton-Milnes. They walked and talked and did it again and again. “I trod on air,” wrote the lady in her old, old age. Why not? She was one woman who had found a real hero. He asked her if she could dream of giving up civilization, and of going to live there if he could obtain the Consulate of Damascus. He told her to think it over. She said, “I don’t WANT to think it over–I’ve been thinking it over for six years, ever since I first saw you, at Boulogne, on the ramparts. I have prayed for you every day, morning and night. I have followed all your career minutely. I have read every word you ever wrote, and I would rather have a crust and a tent with YOU than to be Queen of all the world. And so I say now, yes, yes, yes.” She lived up to this to the day of his death, and long after it.