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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885), Soldier, traveller and balloonist

Soldier and traveller; born 3 March 1842, in Bedford. Cornet in Household Cavalry of British Army aged 16, rising to lieutenant 1862, captain 1866, lieutenant-colonel 1880 and command of regiment 1881; visited South America, Spain and Tangier 1868, Russia 1870, Spain 1874, Sudan 1875, Russia and Central Asia 1875–6 and Turkey and Armenia 1876–7, publishing two accounts of his travels, The Ride to Khiva (1876) and On Horseback through Asia Minor (1877); took part in Russo-Turkish War 1877; married Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed 1879; unsuccessfully stood for Parliament as a Tory 1880, also helping to found the Primrose League 1883; crossed Channel on solo balloon flight 1882; disappointed not to be sent to Egypt in command of his regiment in 1884, joined the forces independently and was wounded at the second battle of El Teb; anxious to join the relief expedition to rescue General Gordon in Khartoum, again travelled without leave and was killed at the battle of Abu Klea, 17 January 1885.

Burnaby was physically tall, strong and barrel-chested, and his prowess became legendary. He was an eager traveller during his months of leave and an intrepid poineer balloonist. Sallow-skinned and strong featured, his looks were described as ‘Jewish and Italian’, although photographs do not support this possibly hostile account. Temperamentally he was impetuous, pugnacious, independent and adventurous, and frequently found himself censured by his superiors. But ‘if he was unpopular at the Horse Guards he was daily becoming more popular with the people’,[1] by whom he was regarded as a ‘colourful celebrity’,[2] part hero, part fool, and leader of jingoist sentiment. His private life was less happy and it is thought that he volunteered for the Khartoum expedition in order to die.

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) Graphic, 31 Jan. 1885, p.105 (obit.)
2) Stearn 2004.

Referencesback to top

Alexander 1957
Alexander, M.C., The True Blue: The Life and Adventures of Colonel Fred Burnaby, 1842–85, London, 1957.

Burnaby 1877
Burnaby, F.G., On Horseback through Asia Minor, London, 1877.

Burnaby 1882
Burnaby, Col. F., A Ride across the Channel and Other Adventures in the Air, London, 1882.

Cooper 1876–83
Cooper, T., Men of Mark: A Gallery of Contemporary Portraits of Men Distinguished in the Senate, the Church, in Science, Literature and Art, the Army, Navy, Law, Medicine, etc. Photographed from life by Lock and Whitfield, London, 7 ser., 1876–83.

Coxwell 1889
Coxwell, H.T., My Life and Balloon Experiences, 2 vols, London 1889.

Denker 1995
Denker, E., In Pursuit of the Butterfly: Portraits of James McNeill Whistler, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, 1995.

Duff 1926
Duff, L.B., Burnaby, Welland, Canada, 1926.

Fife-Cookson 1879
Fife-Cookson, J.C., With the armies of the Balkans and at Gallipolli in 1877–1878, London 1879.

Foister et al. 1988
Foister, S., R. Gibson, M. Rogers and J. Simon, The National Portrait Gallery Collection, London, 1988.

Funnell 1996
Funnell, P., Victorian Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, London, 1996.

Hastings 2005
Hastings, M., Warriors: Extraordinary Tales from the Battlefield, London, 2005.

Laver 1936
Laver, J., ‘Vulgar Society’: The Romantic Career of James Tissot, 1836–1902, London, 1936.

Le Blond 1928
Mrs Aubrey Le Blond (formerly Mrs F. Burnaby), Day In, Day Out, London, 1928.

Mann 1882
Mann, R.K., The Life, Adventures and Political Opinions of F G Burnaby, London, 1882.

Marshall & Warner 1999
Marshall, N.R., and M. Warner, James Tissot: Victorian Life/Modern Love, New Haven and London, 1999.

Matthews & Mellini 1982
Matthews, R.T., and P. Mellini, In ‘Vanity Fair’, London, 1982.

Matyjaszkiewicz 1984
Matyjaszkiewicz, K., ed., James Tissot, exh. cat., Barbican Art Gallery: Oxford, 1984.

Naylor 1965
Naylor, L., The Irrepressible Victorian: The Story of Thomas Gibson Bowles, London, 1965.

Ottawa 1965
An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Victorian Artists in England, exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada, 1965.

Piper 1992
Piper, D., The English Face, 2nd rev. ed., London, 1992.

Rhode Island 1968
James Jacques Joseph Tissot, 1836–1902, exh. cat., Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1968.

Rogers 1993
Rogers, M., Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, London, touring exh. cat., NPG, London, 1993.

Saumarez Smith 2000
Saumarez Smith, C., The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, London, 2000.

Stearn 2004
Stearn, R.T., ‘Burnaby, Frederick Gustavus (1842–1885)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004.

Stetz 2007
Stetz, M.D., Facing the Late Victorians: Portraits of Writers and Artists from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, Newark, DE, 2007.

Ware 1885
Ware, J.R., The Life and Times of Colonel Fred Burnaby, London, 1885.

Warner 1935
Warner, O., ‘Burnaby of Khiva’, Army Quarterly, vol.30, 1935, pp.284–91.

Wentworth 1984
Wentworth, M., James Tissot, Oxford, 1984.

White-Spunner 2006
White-Spunner, B., Horse Guards, London, 2006.

Wilton 1992
Wilton, A., The Swagger Portrait: Grand Manner Portraiture in Britain from Van Dyck to Augustus John, 1630–1930, exh. cat., Tate, London, 1992.

Wood 1986
Wood, C., Tissot: The Life and Work of Jacques Joseph Tissot 1836–1902, London, 1986.

Wright 1908
Wright, T., The Life of Colonel Fred Burnaby, London, 1908.