"The Richard Burton Diaries" prove that immense talent, attractiveness, fame and wealth don't bring happiness. A lover of books and the theater, Burton in the diaries he kept intermittently throughout his life shows himself a skilled writer - he published a number of articles without recourse to a ghost.
The diaries detail his life with Elizabeth Taylor and friendships and affairs with actors, directors and writers. Touchingly, they begin in his Welsh schoolboy days and last through his first acting triumphs into his drift into celebrity and mediocre films. Even such a famous life grows mundane. What's striking are his guilt and self-loathing at bad moods, heavy drinking and sleeping too late. A violated Puritan conscience rages.
I browsed through Burton's diaries soon after reading William Styron's Selected Letters. Letters are like diaries; both intimate, informal, revelatory. A letter to a close friend is like a shared diary entry; a diary entry is a letter to the self.
Neither man mentions meeting the other, but they have much in common. Both are talented men who rose from meager backgrounds to immense fame and acclaim. Both celebrate and despise their success. Sadly, their hyper masculinity conflicts with their sensitivity and creativity. That division brought forth for both of them great art and great pain.