Ruffian Dick: A Novel of Sir Richard Francis Burton

Ruffian Dick: A Novel of Sir Richard Francis Burton

by Joseph Kennedy, John Enright


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Lust and adventure meet history in this ride through roughshod America that rings truer than any history book.

Uncovered from the ashes of the British Consulate in Trieste, an archaeological excavation has found the once-thought destroyed and very private journal of Richard Burton, a man regarded as perhaps one of the greatest intellects, rogues, and colorful adventurers of the nineteenth century. In the journal’s pages a different man comes to light: here is Richard Burton unplugged and uncensored—the Renaissance man of his age fully revealed.

Presented as a transcription of the once-lost journal, Ruffian Dick follows the famous British adventurer into the true wilderness of American politics and the Wild West, all while the country is on the brink of the Civil War. Based on the historical fact that Burton actually did visit the United States in 1860, and traveled cross-country to study and write about the then-notorious polygamous Mormons in their stronghold at Salt Lake City, Joseph Kennedy’s Doctorow-esque mixture of fact and fiction takes the reader deep into that place and time.

With Kennedy’s research and eye for historic detail, Ruffian Dick (as Burton was known to his contemporaries) is an adventure tale that brings to light a side of the famed explorer never seen before.

Skyhorse Publishing, as well as our Arcade, Yucca, and Good Books imprints, are proud to publish a broad range of books for readers interested in fiction—novels, novellas, political and medical thrillers, comedy, satire, historical fiction, romance, erotic and love stories, mystery, classic literature, folklore and mythology, literary classics including Shakespeare, Dumas, Wilde, Cather, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631581021
Publisher: Yucca
Publication date: 10/25/2016
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 624,767
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Joseph Kennedy, recently deceased, was a professional archaeologist and writer living in Hawaii who had spent a great deal of time in both England and America researching the life of Sir Richard Burton. Kennedy is also the author of the books Coca Exotica, The Tropical Frontier, and The North Shore of O’ahu and was a regular contributor to Natural History magazine. In addition to many publications in professional journals, he had also written for Scientific American’s Discovering Archaeology, Mobius magazine, Pacifica, Archaeology, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, and Hawaii Architectural Digest. He lived in Haleiwa, Hawaii.

John Enright’s essays, articles, short stories, and poems have appeared in more than seventy books, anthologies, journals, periodicals, and online magazines. After serving stints in semipro baseball, the Lackawanna steel mills, and the publishing industry in New York, San Francisco, and Hong Kong, Enright taught at American Samoa Community College in Pago Pago. He and Kennedy were lifelong friends. Today, Enright and his wife live in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Read an Excerpt



April 1, 1859, off the coast of Zanzibar, aboard the HMS Dragon of Salem

At last away from the Continent of Decrepitude and the land where absolutely nothing can go as planned. Africa has nearly taken my life. From my exposure to it I am sick to the bone and through every fiber of my mind and body while Speke, damn him, is up and gad-flying about as I lay rotting in my deck hammock. True to his lot, he is hallo-ing and cheerio-ing every Jack Tar in sight, no doubt regaling them with his dreadful hunting stories and vilifying me to the gentlemen officers. Already I have heard whispering cowards misrepresenting the details of my brief love affair with the daughter of Said bin Salim back in Ujiji. To compound my misery, I have learned that the gentle Col. Hammerton has gone to his reward since I was last there and has been replaced at Zanzibar with Christopher Rigby. This cur has hated me since I routed him on a Gujarati examination back in India. Being both first- rate bounders, I suspect he and Jolly Jack Speke will become fast friends.

I assume they will first compare notes on my social life as that is a favourite target of the teetotalers and adult virgins I know them both to be. Rigby's bubu in India once confided to me that the man was horribly wounded while leading a charge in the Afghan Campaign, and that a devastating blow between the legs left him incapable of servicing women. She went on to say that he took the greatest care to hide his wound when changing trousers.

"My dear young girl," I said, "Lt. Rigby was no closer to Kabul than you were to Brighton when the Afghans staged their revolt. The idea of a man like that leading a charge is ridiculous and his effort to conceal his 'wound' can be traced directly to the uncommonly small size of his weapon."

She looked at me awestruck until I held up my little finger and wiggled it in the air. This simple gesture delighted her and she brought forth a genuine laugh. Like any woman would she later confronted Rigby with my story and demanded to know if this were the real reason she had been cheated in bed. Once exposed, so to speak, Rigby made a clumsy effort to purchase her silence in this matter.

Naturally, the girl solemnly accepted the bribe and then went about spreading this exciting news to relatives and soldier friends throughout the garrison. He has never forgiven me for the ragged doggerel I engraved on the table of the officer's mess:

Chris Rigby went to draw his sword and found he had a dagger he couldn't hope to thrust his girl so instead paid pounds to gag her.
This catchy rhyme spread like a plague for Rigby and soon every sepoy in camp knew it by heart. I must be sure to scrawl it on the nearest wall the moment we reach Zanzibar and teach it to every prostitute in town. I am surprised to find myself comforted by the thought of returning to this filthy little island, but after what has taken place on the mainland, any sane man would have to agree with me.

As dispirited as I am now, nothing could compare to those first days when we paused to rest at Tabora. After trekking back from the great lake (called 'The Sea of Ujiji' by the natives) both Speke and I were in a terrible way. As cruel fate would have it though, he was well on his way to recovery after a few days while I was still sinking. My own resurgence was hampered by a poor mental condition brought on by learning of the death of my father, the deplorable behavior of the Africans in my charge, and, most importantly, the overbearing compulsions of my compagnon de voyage.

As in every other place he has ever been, Speke was positively bored with the fascinations of the anthropology and geography of his present location and longed only for the hunt. I will declare that any man, and under any circumstances whatsoever, who would happily kill and leave on the ground to rot 105 elephants (his contemptible total just so far) richly deserves a special place in hell. Might not Dante find an even lower level for this man's Eternity? I pray for this in a dozen languages.

His bothersome fascination with animal murder is just one of the many wedges between us. By the time we reached Tabora, there were only two men who would go along with him on his hunting adventures — both family-less natives who had participated in the lowest forms of capital crimes. The rest of the bearers shy from his fanatical recruiting. I could tell the natives harboured a dark secret about Speke's personality and tastes but I don't know yet quite what it is.

Speke was forever on edge and always ready to go. All that remained of his physical discomforts was an annoying whistle that accompanied the incessant blowing of his nose. An insect had gnawed a hole in his eardrum and air rushed through the wound whenever there was enough internal pressure. Worse, Speke could not conceive of anyone being ill when he wasn't. My first rumblings in the morning at Tabora were a torture of agony. My eyes burned when they met the light, and joints, stiff and swollen, would ache till the warmth of noon. He kept insisting that we "strikeout for some game" or "sharpen our eyes on a few targets." I once asked him if he would like to accompany me on a trip to meet some girls and he answered, "Oh no, that won't do, Dick. That wouldn't do at all."

As I stirred to address this painful condition, I would look to the other side of the tent and see Speke, fully clothed and hunching towards me; he sat on the edge of his cot with his hands patiently folded by his knees. When he saw I was stirring from my hammock, he would begin beaming and talking at the same instant: "Well Dick, shall we have a go at it? I mean," he licked his lips. "Shall we load-up and really have a jolly good go at it?" His brows were arched and his fists now clenched in positive enthusiasm. I refused to move a muscle but continued to stare at him from my berth.

"I say, Dick, are you listening?" His idiotic smile disappeared for a moment and then quickly returned when he reported a wildebeest herd a day's journey to the west or the promise of "big game" just five hard miles south. I was too sick and disgusted to answer, so I continued glaring at him from my horizontal station. The prospect of even getting up to myself was a nasty notion, so one might imagine how I received his invitation to quick march off for twenty miles in order to do some sport shooting.

"Jack," I said finally, "you are a bloody ass and if you don't stop annoying me with this hunting business, I will take a spear from Bombay and pin you to the wall like a ruddy bug!" This murderous threat shut him up momentarily and exasperated him so that he was forced to leave the tent. It was my first hint that I had the power to get rid of him without actually formalizing the request as a direct order. Any outright dismissal, of course, would be the subject of some tattle-tailing to the RGS. Murchison and the rest will most likely find his hunting routine quite normal and suspect me of being the madman.

Later in the morning I ran into Speke near the tree where the bearers were staying. He was having an awful time trying to hang on to a cheap memento given to him by his precious mum. One of the petty chiefs of the village had taken a fancy to it and went so far as to inform Speke that it was part of his rent for resting his people on his brother-in-law's land.

When I arrived, the two men were actually tugging back and forth with the bauble between them. I could see that temperatures were beginning to rise and I stood by as a spectator with a group of young men from the village who had been attracted by Speke's cries of outrage. Of course, the villagers got into the tempo of the event at once and began jostling each other about in mock combat. Wagers were being made, and the level of horseplay began to escalate.

Two factions were formed along betting lines and began to out-shout each other. Voices became bellicose and I was quite sure that there would soon be trouble. Speke finally spotted me and said, "Damn it, Burton, can't you make this fellow understand that he can't have this? Doesn't he understand that it's mine and that I would rather die than give it up?"

I told him that by my calculations he should be getting his last wish in a few moments time. I suggested that he should try and strike a bargain as a general melee was about to break out and he surely would be involved. "Look, old boy," I said, "why don't you let me try and placate the chief here by offering him something else of yours? I really don't believe you have much of a choice at this point. Let me inform the chief who you are and see if that will strike the right chord."

As Speke could not understand the man's language, I was able to maneuver the conversation in a most direct and dishonest way. I suspect the ensuing interactions can best be written this way.

JHS: By all means, Burton! Tell this clutching nigger who he's dealing with; tell him my mother gave this to me. Tell him if he does not desist I will beat him.

RFB (in dialect to the chief): My companion wishes to tell you that you are a great chief and a mighty warrior. He submits to you completely and wishes to formalize his defeat according to the customs of his people.

RFB: Quickly, Speke; unhitch your trousers and let them fall to your ankles. It is a sign of your virility and part of the important Unrecognized Male Greeting Ceremony. Do as I say or you may be killed.

The chief, amused at the spectacle of the white, thin legs before him, was a man possessed of a staccato, choking laugh that originated deep in his throat, and I can assure you it was at full force in this particular situation.

The chief: Tell your friend that his custom is a strange one. In Tabora when a man disrobes in front of another he is either about to bathe or else he is preparing for Arab love. I accept this apology, before he turns like a baboon and fouls the air. (Much laughter).

RFB: That's it Jack! He has forgotten about the memento from your mother and is willing to trade for something else.

JHS: Trade? Why, I'll do nothing of the sort. What could this savage possibly have that would be worth anything to me?

The chief had been chuckling with the other men since the time Speke's trousers came down. He interrupted his fun in order to share what he thought a clever joke. "Tribesmen from the northern villages make this kind of love with the Arabs." He slapped his buttock. "The Kowouli would be well pleased with your friend's apology and would be happy to give him forgiveness and plenty of attention." (Uncontrolled shrieks of laughter followed by hysterics).

RFB: Despite your sarcasm Jack, I believe this chap actually does have something you would be interested in. He has just told me that he can see that you are a great hunter and could be persuaded to tell you where the king of the village goes to secure his royal game.

JHS (Suspicious but interested; his trousers still on the ground): What does the blackguard want in exchange for this information?

RFB: He has indicated that one of your pistols and a few cartridges will be the price.

JHS: Another pistol? Does every black nigger in Africa want one of my pistols? This is the fifth time I've had to give up a revolver to save my life.

Poor Speke! He could not have known that I have been consciously suggesting his firearms as trade items from day one. My purpose is to lighten our load and, of course, not miss any opportunity to whittle his substantial arsenal down to reasonable size.

RFB to chief: I have convinced my friend that a powerful warrior like yourself would be better served by a gun rather than a simple locket.

The gun is exchanged.

At first stunned and then grateful, realizing he has been compensated as never before in his life, the chief thanked me and announced that, "This is the greatest day in my life. I must go and tell my wife." He motioned in the direction of his hut, the gun waving wildly over his head.

RFB: The chief said to travel north for five days until you reach the village of the Kowouli. When you arrive, demand to be taken to the "back trail" or the "royal road." And, Speke, if you value your life, be sure to let down your britches honoring the unrecognized male greeting ceremony. This will let them know your intentions and ensure friendly associations.

The thought of sending Speke off on a wild goose chase to the regional seat of homosexuality brought me a great deal of pleasure and comfort, but, as expected, there was a bit of devil to pay upon his return.

I was enjoying a glorious mid-day at Tabora until Jack and one of his men returned from their "hunting trip" up north. Earlier that morning, I had the opportunity to take some hashish with an Arab slaver, so the sight of their arrival proved even more amusing than I had anticipated. Speke looked horribly rumpled as though he hadn't slept since I last saw him and he was covered with dried mud. His bush chapeaux, usually fixed with military precision, was skewed and twisted over to one side of his head giving him a clownish appearance, his trousers were blown out at the knees and seat, and his socks had slipped from their garters and bunched loosely at the tops of his boots. This site brought an intoxicated smile to my face and I called out, "Hallo! Jack Speke. Is that you? Come over for some late breakfast. Why I hardly recognized you behind all that filth."

Speke interrupted a conversation with his guide and looked over at me. After a few last words to his man, he broke away and presented himself in front of my table. He stood there with a restrained look on his face and began brushing the dust from his sleeves and tugging on his jacket to smooth out the wrinkles. I spoke to him in a voice showing the greatest concern and interest. "Good heavens, Jack, you are a mess. Do sit down and tell me the most intimate details of your little trip."

He sat down without saying a word. Finally, after finding the wherewithal to compose himself, he said, "Burton, I suspect you of conspiring against me. You are a liar and a vulgar beast no different from your tribal friends at Kowouli: and like them, probably a homosexual as well!"

I later learned that Speke and two of his men arrived at the village in the midst of some sort of festival. Anxious to start things out on the right foot, Jack hailed the celebrants with a loud shout and after getting their attention, raised a hand in salute and performed the "Unrecognized Male Greeting Ceremony" according to instruction. This triggered a wild response from the Kowouli. Speke was mobbed, carried off and manhandled, so to speak, by adolescent boys clad only in their initiation markings. It was impossible to wrench any further details from the only other returning eyewitness. It is known that Speke's other companion elected to stay at Kowouli calling it, "the place of his preference."

Speke stiffened for a long bombast as he stood tall in front of me. "I have wasted ten days ration, left behind a once-decent and hard-working native, have been forced to surrender both body and soul, and have suffered the loss of all my Manton Brothers .70 calibers, which were stolen before my eyes in the first thirty seconds after I arrived. Sir, you may be sure that the Royal Geographic Society will hear of this. If I am not mistaken, Sir Roderick Murchison will not take kindly to your wanton lack of seriousness nor your childish pranks. Why, had we not found the boat, there may have been a murder charge hanging over your head in addition to the grievous moral crime you have committed.

"Beyond these things, Lt. Burton, the dazed look on your face tells me that you are full of hemp smoke once again. Judging from past performances, I'd say you have a black wench procuring it for you, and no doubt performing other filthy duties as well."

"Jack," I said in an overly tender and calm voice, "Did you say something about finding a boat?"

Speke hung his head down for a moment and then rallied it up straight until his chin was pointed at my eyes. "Thank the good Lord we were able to launch the only available boat and make our escape by sea; and do not think for a moment that they weren't swimming after us or calling out the lewdest epithets: never in my life have I heard such ..."

"Jack, does this mean that there is another great body of water in that vicinity?"

"Well, yes," he said in a startled voice that broke at the end of the final word. He cleared his throat and said, "Yes ... yes. I suppose there is."

I could see the realization of what had happened slowly washing across his dull-witted good looks. He drifted off for a moment and then continued his stern harangue with a new confidence. "I plan on filing a full report of your actions and will not be at a loss for reasons why you failed to accompany me on my journey" — he cleared his throat and raised the octave — "to the ... the true source of the Great Nile."


Excerpted from "Ruffian Dick"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Joseph Kennedy and John Enright.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter I: Africa and the Source of the Nile,
Chapter II: Zanzibar and Shihab,
Chapter III: A Proposition, Several Letters and Mr. O'Floyn "One Punch" Powers,
Chapter IV: Arrival in America and Orders from Her Majesty's Foreign Office,
Chapter V: An American Baseball Game in Hoboken,
Chapter VI: By Rail to the Republican National Convention,
Chapter VII: Down the Mississippi by Paddlewheel Steam Ship,
Chapter VIII: A Slave to a Slave in Old Louisiana,
Chapter IX: The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Her Daughter, and the Undoing of Mr. Geek Baby Jem,
Chapter X: Difficulties at the Debutante Ball,
Chapter XI: Preparations for the Red Indian West,
Chapter XII: By Stagecoach into the Territories,
Chapter XIII: Fort Laramie,
Chapter XIV: The Pony Express and the Travellers' Travails,
Chapter XV: Trouble on the Trail,
Chapter XVI: Grips Tighten on the Approach to the Great Salt Lake,
Chapter XVII: A Member of the Dangerous Danite Band Encounters Rifle Shot,
Chapter XVIII: The Big Mormon, The Son of Thunder, and a Case of American Justice,
Chapter XIX: Ecce Homo: Burton Finds Himself in Others and Dissects Mankind,

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