With no little shame, and for lack of time, I would today just very briefly like to suggest a toast for one of the more colourful, and bad-ass looking HEMA pioneers of the British Empire, Captain Sir Richard Burton, explorer, translator, soldier, fencer, orientalist, ethnologist, spy, diplomat, poet and rebel “sexologist”, who died on this very day 1890, with a life time experience enough for ten men.
Sir Richard Burton studied fencing under Professor Charles Pons (1793-1885), Maitre d’Armes in Paris, and he was also a member of the infamous Kernoozer’s Club, alongside of men like Baron de Cosson, Egerton Castle and Walter & Frederick Pollock, men with great interest in the arms and armour of days bygone, and several of them taking active part in recreating the lost fighting arts. For us historical fencers he is most known for his work on the Book of the Sword.
Having in 1855 survived a Somalian Warrior’s javelin hanging from his face, piercing both cheeks, giving him the scar seen on his left cheek, he died in Trieste on the morning of October 20, 1890 of heart attack. After his death, his wife burned his final manuscript, a translation of The Perfumed Garden, a book on sexual techniques, health and medications for venereal diseases, entitled The Scented Garden. Later she would describe this manuscript as his Magnum Opus but explain that she had burnt it to protect his reputation.