GORDON, CHARLES GEORGE (1833-1885, soldier, explorer and colonial administrator)
Lot 382
GORDON, CHARLES GEORGE (1833-1885, soldier, explorer and colonial administrator)
Sold for £ 8,400 (US$ 11,802) inc. premium

Lot Details
GORDON, CHARLES GEORGE (1833-1885, soldier, explorer and colonial administrator)
LONG AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ('C.G. Gordon'), TO RICHARD FRANCIS BURTON, whom he calls 'one of nature's nobility', written in reply to Burton's letter declining the Governorship of Darfur, apologising for having offered an inadequate salary, indeed for having offered one at all ('...I considered you, from your independence, one of nature's nobility, who did not serve for money, excuse the mistake, if such it is...'); discussing the death of white men in tropical climates ('...do not you, who are a Philosopher think it is due to moral prostration, more than to the climate...'), with reference to his assistant [Colonel] Prout who, he says, has been lingering on the grave's brink for a long time ('...I doubt he will go up again [to the Lakes]...'); asserting that he himself has no fear of dying in any climate and quoting Burton's aphorism 'Men now seek honors not honor' ('...you put that in one of your books, do you remember it. how true it is. I have often pirated it and not acknowledged the author, though I believe, you stole it...'); mentioning or giving news or views on DAVID LIVINGSTONE ('...I should like to hear you hold forth on the idol "Livingstone" and on the slave trade...'), SIR SAMUEL BAKER ('...Baker certainly gave me a nice job, in raising him ag[ain]st the Govt so unnecessarily, even on his own shewing. vide his book "Ismailia" & judge justly...'), JAMES GRANT and his claim to have found the source of the Nile ('...I suppose you know that that old creature Grant, who, for 17 or 18 years, has traded on his wonderful walk. I am grateful to say he does not trouble me now...'), H.M. STANLEY, with a passing reference to his finding Livingstone ('...Stanley will give them some bother, they cannot bear him, and, in my belief, rather wishes he had not come through safe, he will give them a dose for their hard speeches. he is to blame for writing what he did, as Baker was. these things may be done, but not advertized...'), Andrew Wilson (1831-1881), [Verney Lovett] Cameron (1844-1894, African explorer) ('...the wonderful journey of Cameron...') and Lieutenant Faulkner R.N. (whom Burton had offered to Gordon) and Quarter Master Young ('...Mr W[alker] remarked that a Lieut to serve under a Qr Mr was unusual. "Oh!," said F. "I will black Young's boots", then months after, Young fled from F. who pursued him from tent to tent, with a revolver...'); Gordon also discusses the slave trade ('...I would like to hear you hold forth on the idol "Livingstone" and on the slave trade. Setting aside the end to be gained, I think that slave convention is a very unjust one in many ways, towards the people, but we are not an overjust nation, towards the weak...'), his own plans ('...I am now going to Dongola...and then to ...Aden near your old friends the Somalis (Now there is a Govt which might suit you, and which you might develop, paying off old scores, by the way, for having thwarted you...I then return to Kartoum...and then go to the Lakes...'), politics in the Sudan and his own ambitions ('...Kaba Rega [King of Unyoro], now we have two steamers in Lake Albert (which, by the way, is according to Mason, 120 miles longer than Gessi made it) asks for peace, which I am delighted at, he never was to blame...little by little, we creep on to our goal, viz the two lakes, and nothing can stop us, I think...'), and the work of the missionaries ('...You know the hopelessness of such a task, till you find a St Paul or St John, their representations now a days want so much a year, and a contract, it is all nonsense...), 6 pages, octavo, hinged and sewn into a dark green wrap-around binding, lettered in gilt 'Letter from General Gordon to Sir Richard Burton', 'En route to Berber' [Sudan], 29 October 1877


  • AN EXTRAORDINARY LETTER FROM ONE OF THE GREATEST AFRICAN EXPLORERS TO ANOTHER OF THEM, mentioning, discussing or alluding to most of the other major figures and some significant events, including the discovery of Livingstone by Stanley and the discovery of the source of the Nile by Grant (who denied Burton his true part in this collaborative venture).

    Gordon, having been appointed Governor-General of the Upper Sudan by the Kedive, with orders to pacify the tribes and annex the million square mile area stretching up to the Great Lakes, had written to Burton in June 1877 offering him the Governor-Generalship of Darfur at £1,600 a year ('...Now is the time for you to make your indelible mark in the world and in these countries...'). In a later letter Burton explained his reasons (aside from the smallness of the sum involved): 'You and I are too much alike. I could not serve under you nor you under me.' The post went to Rudolf Carl von Slatin and Gordon retired. The Mahdi took advantage of Slatin's weakness, captured him, forced him to convert to Islam and made him serve as his slave for fourteen years. Six years later the Mahdi took Khartoum and killed Gordon.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £175,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £175,001 to £3,000,000 the Hammer Price
12.5% from £3,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, cheque with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveller's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
Exempt from tax

Zero rated for VAT, no VAT will be added to the Hammer Price or the Buyer's Premium.

  1. Customer Services (UK)
    Customer services
    Work +44 20 7447 7447
    FaxFax: +44 20 7447 7401
  2. Books (UK)
    General enquiries
    Work +44 20 7393 3828
    FaxFax: +44 20 7393 3879
  3. Shipping (UK)
    Logistics - Shipping
    Work +44 20 7468 8302
    FaxFax: + 44 20 7629 9673
Similar Items