Sunday, 24 April 2011

why Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885) is better than everyone at everything



- he was said to be the strongest man in the British army, which he joined in 1859.

- he regularly wrote for The Times, Vanity Fair, and numerous other journals.

- he could break a horseshoe with his hands.

- he crossed the Channel in a balloon.

- he claimed to be descended from Edward I.

- he could hold a billiard cue horizontally and steady, gripping only the tip, with his arm outstretched.

- he could also vault over a billiard table using only his left hand.

- he travelled a thousand miles by sleigh, from Orenburg to Khiva, with only two other people, in one of the coldest winters then on record. His servant was 'a [...] salacious [...] Tartar dwarf named Nazar'.

- though married, Nazar 'lost his heart to an Ursk siren'.

- while on this journey across Asia, his beard snapped off due to frostbite.

- he wrote several bestselling books.

- he rowed from Windsor to Shrewsbury and back again (600 miles), at the age of 13. I don't know how this worked.

- he once carried two ponies under his arms, 'as if they had been cats'.

- his wife, Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed, was a mountaineer and also probably the first ever female film-maker.

- he once twisted a kitchen poker around a friend's neck, as a joke, in the presence of the future King Edward VII.

- he inspired Prince Charles's 60th birthday portrait.

- he was fluent in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, and Arabic. And was also proficient in Italian.

- he became extremely famous and you could buy Burnaby crockery and playing cards.

- Queen Victoria reportedly fainted on hearing of his death.

- he could also play the cornet.

These facts are all here and/or here and/or in Peter Hopkirk's The Great Game.

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