LIVINGSTONE, DAVID (1813-1873, African explorer)

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Lot 385
LIVINGSTONE, DAVID (1813-1873, African explorer)

Sold for £ 28,800 (US$ 36,382) inc. premium
LIVINGSTONE, DAVID (1813-1873, African explorer)
LONG AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED TWICE ('David Livingstone' and 'D. Livingstone'), TO LORD [PALMERSTON, THE PRIME MINISTER], REPORTING ON THE ZAMBEZI EXPEDITION OF 1858-1864, in particular the trip of August to November 1861: Livingstone describes Lake Nyasa [now Lake Malawi] which he had recently discovered and named [in 1859] ('...We have just returned from the exploration of Lake Nyasa in a boat which we carried past about 35 miles of the cataracts on this river. In that space we ascended about 1200 feet, and when we embarked on the upper [River] Shire we were virtually on the Lake for the next sixty miles has little current and is all smooth and deep. We found the southern end of Nyasa forked and resembling somewhat the boot shape of Italy...the length of the Lake is over 200 miles. It lies nearly North and South and gives access to a large section of slave producing territory...'); reports the activities of an Arab dhou built on the lake to supply the slave trade at the Portuguese slaving outlet Iboe ('...I had a strong desire to capture this vessel...Had I possessed slave papers I might have tried as we could then have navigated the Lake with our whole party on board...'); recounts how he has been robbed, the first time for him in Africa ('...We were robbed by professional thieves from the coast creeping up to our sleeping places ...They shew their art by choosing the hour just before dawn...'); characterises the behaviour of the people away from the slave routes and of the elephants ('...When we killed one for food the rest of the herd stood a mile off for two days. Elsewhere they would not have stood within 30 or 40 miles...'); gives an account of an intimidating encounter with a party of Zulus [Mazitu] ('...evidence of their vengeance on the people of the country were abundant...they were as much afraid of me as our men were of them - I went to them unarmed - and because I would not sit in the Sun while they sat in the shade they tried to scare me by rattling their shields, and that having no effect...they sped away up the hills as if they had seen a ghost...') and of how the people of Ajawa had attacked them ('...some foolish Manganja called out that one of their sorcerers had come and deprived us of the protection of our English name. We were at once surrounded - and showers of poisoned arrows shot at us. We were obliged to act in self defence and drive them off...'); he also suggests inconclusively that it may be possible that the river Ruvuma opens into the lake ('...some asserted positively that we could sail out of Nyasa into that River, others equally positive declared we must carry the boat fifty miles. Sorry that we had not accomplished all we intended we returned after three months to the ship...'); mentions the help he has given to the Oxford and Cambridge Mission, of which he did not have a very high opinion ('...there is no one here to laugh at or oppose their ceremonies, and time will dilute their prejudices. When they have settled down to their work their influence will be very beneficial in the country...'), telling Palmerston that the Portuguese have followed them and set up 'an extensive system of slave hunting in the very country to which the bishop had come', but he was able to hand over three groups of slaves to the bishop 'as a commencement of his flock'; describes the plainness of the women living around the lake and their use of peleles as adornments ('...the lips which in all conscience are big enough naturally are enlarged by the insertion of quartz stones till "hideous" becomes a mild term for their appearance. We may have appeared ugly to them for they crowded round us in hundreds whenever we stopped. Indeed we were as great curiosities as the hippopotamus was in London and without knowing that they were understood called us the "chirombo" = the wild beasts!...'); expresses his disappointment at the strength of the slave trade and the denial by the Portuguese of other legitimate trade to other nations ('...I am still suffering from the fatigues of our late journey and that may influence my spirits...In your own carreer (sic) against this gigantic evil and on a much larger scale many untoward events must have arisen. Your Lordship will therefore be the better able to sympathize with me in this case...'); provides information about how the native eat insects [kungo] ('...Columns exactly like smoke floated over the Lake. We thought at first that these were smoke from the Eastern shore but passing through one we found it to be composed of myriads of an insect just like our smallest gnats - the people actually collect these minute creatures and boil them into cakes - which have the flavour of locusts and taste like fish. I wonder if a cake would be acceptable to the Lord Mayor..'); gives his opinion that British cotton merchants could begin to trade; outlines his future intentions; and sends his salutations to Lady Palmerston, 12 full pages, quarto, River Shire [flows through modern Malawi to Mozambique], marked 'Private', 12 November 1861


  • '...The chief object of our exploration was to find an outlet by the [River] Ruvuma away from Portuguese claims. We have opened a cotton field 400 miles in length - the [HMS] Pioneer is too deep to allow of running up and down the river but while confined to one spot on the lower Shire cotton in the seed, equal to 300 lbs of clean cotton, was collected at a very cheap rate. This was effected with ease during four months and these not the months of the cotton crop. The people had not been stimulated by the prospect of a market to cultivate more than they require for their own use...We found the very finest cotton - equal to the American Sea island up at its Northern end...We must have an outlet beyond their [the Portuguese] pretensions. It was this necessity that led me to explore the Lake and though the reports about the Ruvuma were very contradictory yet all agreed that it was a very large river. We shall carry a steamer now coming out in pieces past the cataracts of the Shire and then seek a new path to the coast. In the mean time cotton merchants ought to begin their trade...'

    The Zambezi [then spelled Zambesi] Expedition (1858-1864) was an official exploration funded by the British Foreign Office. Its main aims were to catalogue the natural resources of the Zambezi River area, to identify raw materials for British industry and to promote commercial markets and civilization to supplant the slave trade. Leader of the expedition, Livingstone was appointed H.M. Consul at Quelimane. The Expedition spent most of its six years along the final 250 miles of the Zambezi and the lower 130 miles of its northern tributary the Shire River, over which region Portugal claimed sovereignty though its writ ran only intermittently. Livingstone was very optimistic about the prospects for a British cotton industry in this region. On the trip from August to 8 November 1861 Livingstone failed to map the area satisfactorily - had this been done controversies about the source of the Nile would have been more easily resolved.

    With his brother Charles, Livingstone published an account of the expedition: Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its tributaries; and of the discovery of Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, 1858-1864, published in 1865, and dedicated to Lord Palmerston. The present letter corresponds to Chapter XIX of the book. The two accounts share much of the same content and numerous details, though often differently expressed, such as 'the boot-shape of Italy' and 'we equalled the hippopotamus on his first arrival among the civilized on the banks of the Thames' in the book as opposed to the details given above in the letter. Elsewhere the two sources supplement and complement each other. The book is more expansive on some episodes, such as the plainness of the women with their peleles and the account of the parley with the armed Mazitu who in the book 'sped away like frightened deer'.

    THERE ARE MANY DETAILS AND WHOLE EPISODES REPORTED IN THE PRESENT LETTER THAT ARE NOT IN THE PRINTED ACCOUNT: there is, for instance, no mention in the book of the party being attacked with poisoned arrows and having to defend themselves. On the other hand, in the manuscript only a passing reference is made to massacres perpetrated by the Zulus, whereas a fuller account occurs in the printed book. In the book the kungo cake is described thus: 'an inch thick as the blue bonnet of a Scotch ploughman, was offered to us; it was very dark in colours, and tasted not unlike caviare, or salted locusts' (compare above). No publication of the present letter has been found. Both accounts are in fact needed for a full picture of the expedition, the letter having been written closer to the time of the action, indeed predating the book by four years.

    The Livingstones' Narrative...1858-1864 (1865) was dedicated by David Livingstone to Lord Palmerston 'as a tribute justly due to the great Statesman who has ever had at heart the amelioration of the African race; and as a token of admiration of the beneficial effects of that policy which he has so long laboured to establish on the West Coast of Africa; and which, in improving that region, has most forcibly shown the need of some similar system on the opposite side of the Continent.'
LIVINGSTONE, DAVID (1813-1873, African explorer)
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