Richard Burton: Diaries show amazement at his success

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor Burton said Taylor - who he married twice - was his 'greatest luck of all'

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The editor of Richard Burton's diaries says the legendary Welsh actor remained down to earth and without pomposity, despite his huge success.

Burton wrote more than 400,000 words in pocketbooks and desk diaries until just before his death aged 58 in 1984.

They were given to Swansea University and have been made into a book by Welsh history professor Chris Willliams.

"He keeps pinching himself as if to say 'how has all of this happened to me?' " said Prof Williams.

Burton's diaries were left to Sally Hay, who Burton married in 1983, the year before he died in Switzerland in 1984. She gave them to Swansea University in 2005.

Prof Williams said it was one of the most rewarding research projects he had known.

"I expected him to be a bit pompous, a bit self-important but he comes across as somebody down to earth.

"He keeps pinching himself as if to say 'how has all of this happened to me, an ordinary boy from a mining valley in south Wales and here I am married to the world's most beautiful woman, have all this money, a yacht, an aeroplane and all of these homes around the world'?"

Burton married screen icon Elizabeth Taylor and their turbulent relationship is laid bare in the diaries to be published next month.

They were married first from 1964 to 1974 and then again from 1975 to 1976. He married five times in all.

Prof Williams describes Burton as a complex and, at times, a sad character as well as someone "very engaged with the history of the world, the problems of the world".

"He read a lot of politics. He was an early environmentalist in terms of thinking about the impact of pollution.

"He was very keen on sports writing and devoured crime novels," Prof Williams told BBC Radio Wales.

Like his father, Burton died from a cerebral haemorrhage. He died at his home in August 1984.

The Richard Burton Diaries will be published by Yale University Press in October.

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