The publication of The Richard Burton Diaries edited by Chris Williams (Yale University Press, 2012) unveiled, for the first time in their entirety in one volume, the surviving diaries of Richard Burton (born Richard Jenkins, 1925–1984). Written between 1939 and 1983, they cover the years of his legendary career and his celebrated marriages to Elizabeth Taylor.
From his personal diaries, a very different Richard Burton is revealed from the one we familiarly “know” as acclaimed actor, international film star, and jet‑set celebrity. In his role as actor, Burton touched shoulders with creative powerhouses—among them Olivia de Havilland, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, Laurence Olivier, John Huston, Dylan Thomas, and Edward Albee. But his private, handwritten diary pages portray a different person—a family man, a father, a husband, a man often troubled and always keenly observing. Understood through his own words, Burton becomes a fully rounded human being who, with a wealth of talent and a surprising burden of insecurity, confronts the peculiar challenges of life lived in the spotlight.
At times Burton struggles to come to terms with the unfulfilled potential of his life and talent. In other entries, he crows over achievements and hungers for greater challenges. He may be watching his weight, his drinking, or other men watching his Elizabeth. But throughout, he is articulate, opinionated, and fascinating. His diaries offer a rare, fresh perspective on his own life and career, Elizabeth Taylor’s, and the glamorous world of film, theatre, and celebrity that they inhabited.