In "Flashman on the March", the celebrated Victorian bounder, cad, and lecher, Sir Harry Flashman, V.C., returns to play his (reluctant) part in the Abyssinian War of 1868 in the long-awaited twelfth installment of the critically acclaimed Flashman Papers.
In the interview with Harry Mount, Frasier also talks about the inspiration for Flashman:
"Everybody thinks he's based on Sir Richard Burton. I knew nothing about Burton. A bit rough on Burton, who so far as I know wasn't a scoundrel and certainly wasn't a coward."
Its easy to understand why people guess at the connection. There is certainly a lot of Burton in Flashman's elan. The passage from Burton's "Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah" that I blogged a few weeks ago could have come straight from a Flashman book, and Flashy's mastery of languages and disguises are also extremely reminiscent of "Ruffian Dick" Burton.
If the juxtaposition is not too bathetic, with Flashy in Africa and the horror in the Sudan continuing, "MPs rap UN over Darfur death toll", its intriguing to remember that in 1877 General Gordon offered Burton the governor-generalship of Darfur.
He turned it down, but its interesting to speculate how that part of the world might be different if he had taken the job.
The governor who was appointed spent fourteen years as personal slave to the Mahdi after the province fell to the Dervishes. I bet things would have turned out very differently if Burton the haji was stirred into the mix.