Author: Lady Isabel Burton,William Henry Wilkins
Publisher: Library of Alexandria
LADY BURTON began her autobiography a few months before she died, but in consequence of rapidly failing health she made little progress with it. After her death, which occurred in the spring of last year, it seemed good to her sister and executrix, Mrs. Fitzgerald, to entrust the unfinished manuscript to me, together with sundry papers and letters, with a view to my compiling the biography. Mrs. Fitzgerald wished me to undertake this work, as I had the good fortune to be a friend of the late Lady Burton, and one with whom she frequently discussed literary matters; we were, in fact, thinking of writing a romance together, but her illness prevented us. The task of compiling this book has not been an easy one, mainly for two reasons. In the first place, though Lady Burton published comparatively little, she was a voluminous writer, and she left behind her such a mass of letters and manuscripts that the sorting of them alone was a formidable task. The difficulty has been to keep the book with limits. In the second place, Lady Burton has written the Life of her husband; and though in that book she studiously avoided putting herself forward, and gave to him all the honour and the glory, her life was so absolutely bound up with his, that of necessity she covered some of the ground which I have had to go over again, though not from the same point of view. So much has been written concerning Sir Richard Burton that it is not necessary for me to tell again the story of his life here, and I have therefore been able to write wholly of his wife, an equally congenial task. Lady Burton was as remarkable as a woman as her husband was as a man. Her personality was as picturesque, her individuality is unique, and, allowing for her sex, her life was as full and varied as his. It has been my aim, wherever possible, throughout this book to let Lady Burton tell the story of her life in her own words, and keep my narrative in the background. To this end I have revised and incorporated the fragment of autobiography which was cut short by her death, and I have also pieced together all her letters, manuscripts, and journals which have a bearing on her travels and adventures. I have striven to give a faithful portrait of her as revealed by herself. In what I have succeeded, the credit is hers alone: in what I have failed, the fault is mine, for no biographer could have wished for a more eloquent subject than this interesting and fascinating woman. Thus, however imperfectly I may have done my share of the work, it remains the record of a good and noble lifeÐa life lifted up, a life unique in its self-sacrifice and devotion.