Did Tinco Lycklama read the Kama Sutra?

Sorry, folks, if we made the title sound sensational. But, a piece of factual information came to us – and we don’t wont to deprive you of it. And, it relates to the Kama Sutra.

Jelle Dickhoff in Leeuwarden is busy decyperhing private correspondance of Tinco Lycklama. Writing from Cannes, in a letter to his brother Augustinus dated 8 March 1887, Tinco says the following: “Dezer dagen kreeg ik een bezoek van Sir Richard Burton, een engelsche gentleman en reiziger in Afrika, die met Speke het meer Taganika ontdekte en ook naar Medina en Mekka reisden”.  (“I recently received the visit of Sir Richard Burton, an English gentleman and Africa traveller, who discovered with Speke the Lake Tanganyika and also travelled to Medina and Mecca.”)

Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-189) – Photo source : Gallica/BnF

We won’t expand here on the biography of Sir Richard Burton (1821-190 – please check Wikipedia). The man certainly had a fascinating life and a strong sense for adventure – just like Tinco. Travelling with John Speke, Richard Francis Burton was the first European to see Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, when searching for the source of the river Nile in the years 1858-60.

Richard Burton also had an interest in the topic of sexuality. This led him to team up with Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot and publish (in 1883) the first translation from Sanskrit of the Kama Sutra.

So, now we know from Tinco’s letters that he knew Sir Richard Burton. However, we don’t know yet why Burton came to visit Tinco in Cannes. Perhaps because of Burton’s general interest in world cultures and travel stories? There is a chance that Tinco met Burton in Damascus, in 1868. Tinco doesn’t mention Burton, but he writes about his visit to Edward Thomas Rogers, the British consul in that city. Richard Burton actually succeeded Edward Thomas Rogers as consul at Damascus in that same year. Perhaps he arrived before Tinco left. Or, he may have heard about Tinco from Rogers. Perhaps we will learn more about the relationship through other letters or souces.

First edition of the Kama Sutra, by Richard Burton (1883) – Photo courtesy of Christie’s

We really don’t know whether Tinco read the Kama Sutra. But, wouldn’t you think that, four years after its publication, Richard Burton must have discussed it when he visited Tinco? There is no trace in Tinco’s library. However, it would be awkward if he hadn’t known about the Kama Sutra from a first-hand source, its editor.

We recommend burtoniana.org as an excellent source about Sir Richard Francis Burton.