From the moment they met, their marriage seemed both inevitable and impossible. Isabel was a schoolgirl, scion of the Arundells, England's most distinguished Catholic family, and when they passed each other while walking at a seaside resort, Richard Burton had already made his mark as a linguist, scholar, traveler, and rebel against Victorian conformity. A hundred yards on, Isabel looked back and found him staring after her: she decided then that she would marry him.
It was several years before they met again. By then Burton was one of the most accomplished linguists in the Indian Army. An intelligence agent with a genius for disguise, he had risked death to penetrate Mecca during the hadj, posing as a native pilgrim. He would soon become even more famous as one of the earliest explorers of East Africa.
After their marriage, the Burtons traveled the world from diplomatic postings in Brazil and Africa to hair-raising adventures in the Syrian desert. In later life Richard courted further controversy as translator of such erotic classics as the unexpurgated edition of The Arabian Nights, The Perfumed Garden, and The Kama Sutra.
Based on previously unavailable archives, Mary Lovell has written a compelling joint biography that sets Isabel in her proper place as Burton's equal in daring and endurance, a fascinating figure in her own right.