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 Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2001

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From Christie's online auction catalogue: "BURTON, Sir Richard Francis (1821-1890). Autograph manuscript treatise entitled 'Human Sacrifice among the Sephardine or Eastern Jews'." (150,000 - 200,000 British pounds)

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BURTON, Sir Richard Francis (1821-1890). Autograph manuscript treatise entitled 'Human Sacrifice among the Sephardine or Eastern Jews', almost entirely unpublished, n.p. [Trieste], n.d. [1877], written in brown ink on recto (17 pages in blue), footnotes and emendations on facing verso, occasional later annotations in pencil (by W.H.Wilkins), leaves numbered in autograph, watermark of Smith and Meynier, Fiume, a few newspaper cuttings pasted in, approximately 180 pages, 340 x 220 mm, and 126 pages, 220 x 165 mm. Early 20th-century pebble grain red cloth for Henry Sotheran and Co., titled in gilt on the upper cover (spine partially detached, some wear, extremities rubbed).

Provenance. Sir Richard Burton -- Lady (Isabel) Burton (1831-1896) -- Mrs Elizabeth Fitzgerald (her sister and literary executor, d.1902) -- W.H. Wilkins (d.1905) -- Henry Sotheran and Co -- Henry Frederick Walpole Manners-Sutton, fifth Viscount Canterbury (1879-1918)] -- the Trustees of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (by deed of assignment from the executors of the estate of the late Lady Burton, 1909).



Burton MSTHE manuscript comprises: an introduction addressed 'To the Reader', a preface (in 3 parts), and six chapters, two appendices, an earlier draft of the first appendix, and drafts and notes entitled 'Anthropology of the Jews' and 'Jews'. The posthumous edition by W.H.Wilkins of three manuscripts by Burton (The Jew, the Gypsy and El Islam, London, 1898) includes in Part I the preface and most of chapter VI of the present manuscript, corresponding to approximately 70 pages in Burton's hand.

The unpublished chapters describe (in chapters I - IV) the events surrounding the disappearance of Padre Tomaso, a Capuchin friar, and his Syrian Christian servant, in Damascus in 1840, when thirteen members of the Jewish community were arrested and accused of having committed ritual murder. Some 'confessed' under torture, but all were eventually acquitted. In chapters V and VI Burton gives his views on the continuity of 'the tradition of human sacrifice', with a historical aperçu of accusations made in Syria, Lebanon and parts of Europe. Appendix I ('Jews in Roumania') gives a version of the arrival of the Jews in Moldavia and Wallachia, and their situation at the time of Burton's writing. Appendix II is largely a dismissive commentary on Dr Alexander McCaul's pamphlet (published in 1840) which by examining Rabbinical writings refutes the ritual murder accusation. The manuscript is Burton's final and complete autograph copy.


The accusation of ritual murder made against the Jews was largely mediaeval in origin, and had parallels in charges made against various heretical Christian sects. The common form of it was the notion that at the Passover Christian blood was used in Jewish rites. Invariably, the accusations led to violence, and often to tragedies for whole Jewish communities. By the 19th Century such tales were no longer given credence in Western Europe, but they continued to occur among the more fanatical Christian communities of the East, and in 1881-1882 allegations of blood libel were raised again in the clerical publication Civiltà Cattolica in Rome. Towards the end of the century they were revived in parts of Eastern Europe including Roumania, and particularly in Russia where they were instrumental in provoking massacres.

By reviving interest in the events of 1840, Burton sought to reopen an issue which informed public opinion had already largely rejected as untrue. The introduction includes his justification for the work, that 'The statements contained in these pages must, if untrue to fact, be speedily buried in the limbo of vagaries and dreams. If true, they open up an unknown chapter of Modern History which deserves careful perusal'. He repudiates the judicial investigation of Padre Tomaso's case ('the preposterous preference of fiction to fact'), and the 'peculiar action of the British authorities', preferring to believe the statements of 'native Christians quite as well informed in their own way as, and far more acute than, the average higher orders of our own countrymen'.

The preface consists of a 'General Opinion of the Jews', an 'Opinion of the Jew in England', and 'The Jew of the Holy Land and his destiny', largely a disquisition on the differences between the Ashkenazim ('who have brought from Northern climes a manliness of bearing, a strongness of spirit and a physical hardness ... They will travel by night over difficult and dangerous paths ... They can endure extremes of heat and cold of hunger and thirst') and the Sephardim who, if more intellectual, are not their equal in 'manliness', the quality which Burton placed above all others.

Chapters I and II comprise an extensive, detailed and often obsessive account, based on contemporary narratives and unspecified documentary sources, of the life and death of 'the Martyr Padre Tomaso' and the consequent events. Chapter III discusses the procès verbal of the alleged murderers with frequent interpolations by Burton disputing the statements of the defendants and their witnesses, and Chapter IV includes the 'Confessions' or testimony of the 'Doctor (Hakham) Moshe Abu'l Afiya' [the principal Jewish witness]. These chapters also incorporate Burton's views of the varying responses of the different European consuls to the investigation, from which only the Frenchman, Count Ratti-Menton [a known anti-semite] 'who had to fight the battle single-handed', emerges with credit.

A digression on the riots in 1860 and disturbances during his consulate in 1870 permits the inclusion of some self-justificatory passages on 'Captain Burton's' efforts to check 'vested abuses' while his reports to his superior were ignored, contending that the hatred felt by the 'mob of "homicidal Damascus" [the Muslims] for the Christians rested upon its resentment of the protection of the minorities by the European powers. This subject allows Burton to introduce contemptuous references to those statesmen responsible for legislation to remove Jewish disabilities, including Lord Palmerston (who had acted 'with that ... superficial regard for right which in later life justified the large Irish land-holder in concealing the growth of Fenianism') and Lord John Russell, equally 'unopen to reason', both in Burton's eyes to blame for the problems of the English consuls in Damascus ('The most melancholy result of the priest's death was the protection extended to the Jews by the European powers').

The final appendices and notes, composed in expectation that South Eastern Europe will 'at some not distant period become a focus of disorder', include some colourful writing on the Roumanians, 'still bearing the brand of the sloth and ignorance, the sensuality and moral degradation which characterised their Turkish rulers', and on recent history and the new wealth and influence of the Jews ('the Juggernaut car of Hebrew plutocracy'). Burton's indefatigable quest for anthropological and ethnological facts is curiously combined in the manuscript with his obsessive pursuit of his principal theme, self-justification for his actions in Damascus, details culled from anti-semitical tracts to underpin his argument, passages of description and observations about the contemporary political scene in the Near East.


There is little to suggest that before Burton was appointed consul in Damascus he was anti-semitic. Not long before he had written 'Had I choice of race there is none to which I would more willingly have belonged than the Jewish' (The Highlands of Brazil, 1869, I, 430), and in the present manuscript, despite his hostility, he shows admiration and even envy for the social and political cohesion of the Jewish community and the 'prodigious superiority of vital power' which he saw in it. The change that he underwent at Damascus was directly related to his perception of the humiliating circumstances of his recall.

Damascus was the most fanatical of the cities of the Ottoman Empire. All the Christian and Muslim divisions were represented there, and it had a sizeable Jewish community, mostly of the Sephardim. Rumours, slanders and intrigues were a constant feature of inter-communal relations, and violence easily flared. The events of 1840 had led to many Jews being killed, prompting Sultan Abdül Mecid to issue a firman repudiating the ritual murder accusation as a calumny, and ordering their protection. In 1849 the British Government instructed its consuls to extend their protection (already given to the Christian minorities) to the Ottoman Jews. Burton came bitterly to resent this.

In his first eighteen months as consul he fell foul of the Ottoman Governor of Syria, Mohammed Reshid Pasha, as well as of the Consul General in Beirut and, above all, Sir Henry Elliot, the Ambassador at Constantinople, who had strenuously opposed his appointment, predicting that Burton, famous for his participation in the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, would be regarded as an infidel by some and a renegade by others. In January 1871 the Porte delivered to Elliot a complaint about Burton's long absences on various excursions, and his denunciations of the Muslims in their proceedings against Christians. The Pasha insinuated that by spreading rumours that Turkey was about to declare war on Russia he might precipitate an uprising against the Christians (of whom many had died in riots in 1860). Elliot himself complained that Burton's conduct was no more satisfactory to British subjects there, whether Christians or Jews, than to the Muslims. He was involved in an 'affray' at Nazareth and made unauthorised visits to the leader of the Druse, and to a heretical Sufi sect. The letter of recall reached him in August 1871, and it was recommended that he be re-employed in 'some post unconnected with the Mahommedan faith'. This ended permanently his hopes of an embassy in the Arab world.

To Burton however the fiasco of his consulate was the result not of his relations with the Ottoman authorities but of complaints of him made by three of the 48 Sephardic Jews under his protection, to whom he had refused to extend the assistance required by his consular instructions. He was said to have 'lost the composure befitting the Diplomatic Service'. On his return to England, full of resentment and anger and for over a year on half-pay, he used his enforced leisure to gather material for the present work, to add to the information he had acquired in Damascus about the events of 1840. He completed the manuscript in May 1877, when he wrote to a publisher that it was ready, adding 'you must tell me that you want it, or rather that you are not afraid of it' (Fawn Brodie, page 363, n.7). He seems to have been dissuaded from publication only by friends, fearful of the harm it might do to his reputation.


The history of the manuscript after Isabel Burton's death was eventful. The trustees of her will included her nephew, Gerald Arthur Arundell (15th Baron Arundell of Wardour, 1869-1939). Her sister, Mrs Elizabeth Fitzgerald, her secretary, Miss Plowman and W.A. Coote were appointed her literary executors. Isabel's and her husband's letters, journals and manuscripts were to be burnt by Miss Plowman, according to separate instructions. The recent discovery of her 'Last Wishes' in the Arundell Papers in the Wiltshire Record Office has revealed a direction that 'a manuscript about the Jews - Richard's fair and rough copy - must be burnt' (M.S. Lovell. A Rage to Live, London 1998, page 789).

The burning of the papers was, however, delayed so that Isabel's editor, W.H. Wilkins, might have access to them to complete her autobiography. Mrs Fitzgerald meanwhile was eager for the publication of the manuscript.

In October 1897 The Athenaeum carried an advertisement for the publication by Hutchinson and Co. of a work by Burton entitled Human Sacrifice amongst the Eastern Jews: or the Murder of Padre Tomaso, edited by Wilkins.

This caused great concern, in particular to the Board of Deputies in London. The trial of Alfred Dreyfus in France two years earlier had provoked violent reactions, and arguments for and against his innocence continued to rage in the French press. The 1890s also witnessed an upsurge of violence against the Jews of Eastern Europe, and ritual murder accusations were used to trigger the waves of renewed anti-semitism. Against this background the Board of Deputies expressed their opposition to the publication of a work which would revive 'a cruel and absurd mediaeval legend' and inflame racial hatred. Under threat of a libel action the book was withdrawn. Wilkins removed many names, the chapters relating to Padre Tomaso and to 'human sacrifice', and the appendices. He included the preface and most of one chapter in The Jew, the Gypsy and El-Islam, misleadingly referring to the much more substantial withdrawn portion of the manuscript as 'an appendix'.

In 1904 Wilkins (whose ownership of the manuscript was doubtful) gave it to Sotherans and it was sold to Henry Frederick Manners-Sutton. In 1908 Manners-Sutton, through his publishing business, approached Gerald Arundell for permission to reprint the chapters published by Wilkins in a new and complete edition of the work.

Arundell, his co-executors, and Wilkins's executors objected strongly and in 1909 the ownership of the manuscript and of all the rights in it was transferred by deed of assignment to David Lindo Alexander, K.C., who was President of the Board of Deputies. Manners-Sutton gave it up only after a ruling in the High Court on 27 March 1911, when he was ordered to surrender it.


Included in the lot is a copy (manuscript) of Isabel Burton's will (28.12.1895); a page from The Athenaeum with Messrs Hutchinson's advertisement (16.10.1897); two indentures in which Isabel Burton's executors and the executors of W.H. Wilkins assign all their rights in the manuscript to D.L. Alexander (24.3.1909); the statement of the latter's claim and the judgement delivered in the High Court (27.3.1911); and related correspondence.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Richard Burton. The Jew, the Gypsy and El Islam (ed. W.H.Wilkins, 1898) Fawn Brodie. The Devil Drives (1967) B.J. Kirkpatrick. Catalogue of the Library of Sir Richard Burton etc (1972) M.S. Lovell. A Rage to Live. A biography of Richard and Isabel Burton (1998) Dr Alexander McCaul. Reasons for Believing that the charge lately revived against the Jewish People is a baseless falsehood (1840) Frank McLynn. Burton: Snow upon the desert (1993) Stanford J. Shaw. The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1991) Hermann Strack. Das Blut im Glauben und Aberglauben (Berlin, 1886) A. Vincent. 'The Jew, the Gypsy and El-Islam: An examination of Richard Burton's consulship and recall' (in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1985, pages 155-173) Sir Arnold Wilson. Richard Burton (1937)



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