On the wilder shores of love, Chiswick

Pictured: the Burton Mausoleum in the Churchyard of St Mary Magdalen, Mortlake.

Christopher Fowler writes, in The Book of Forgotten Authors (2017):

“From Chiswick, London, to the remotest regions of the world, the glamorous (Lesley) Blanch was another writer drawn to the exotic, but for once it was a woman who ventured into the world of the almost exclusively male traveller…

…Her first book became her most famous. In The Wilder Shores of Love she explored the lives of four extraordinary women: Isabel Burton, who supported her husband Sir Richard Burton, sharing his adventures; Lady Jane Digby…Isabelle Eberhardt…and Aimee Dubucq de Rivery…”

From the website of the Mausolea & Monuments Trust:

“The mausoleum of Sir Richard Burton (1821-90), explorer and translator of the Arabian Nights, was designed by his wife, Lady Isabel Burton (d 1896). After it was built, Lady Isabel, who spent much of her time in a rented cottage nearby, made frequent visits to the mausoleum. She is also interred in the mausoleum.

Burton had always hated the dark and once told his wife that, rather than being cremated he “would like to lie in an Arab tent” (Blanch, 126). So the mausoleum she designed for him, though built in stone, is shaped like a Bedouin tent. The 9 pointed star on the roof used to be clearly visible but now much of its gilding has worn away. There is a crucifix over the entrance (now blocked), an inscription to both Sir Richard and Lady Isabel on the door panel and, below that, a commemorative sonnet by Justin Huntly McCarthy, beginning, “Oh last and noblest of the Errant Knights…”

The interior is visible through a clear glass window in the rear wall, which is reached by a ladder. This window replaces a stained glass window with the Burton monogram. Camel bells hang from the ceiling and there are Arabic lamps on the floor near the foot of Sir Richard’s ornate, tapering, gilded coffin and Lady Isabel’s more conventional mahogany coffin. The walls are decorated with bands of cherubim and seraphim, painted on a thin layer of stucco that is peeling from the wall.

The mausoleum was partially restored in 1975 after a long period of neglect. 2010 saw a restoration project organised by the Friends of the Burton Mausoleum with support from English Heritage and the Environment Trust for Richmond upon Thames.”

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