LIVINGSTONE (DAVID) Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone"), to "My Dear Sir" [his publisher John Murray], informing him that he has just had a call from Mrs Grimstone, sister of "a young artist who died at Lake Ngami 1850", 28 January no year [1857]

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Lot 100
LIVINGSTONE (DAVID)
Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone"), to "My Dear Sir" [his publisher John Murray], informing him that he has just had a call from Mrs Grimstone, sister of "a young artist who died at Lake Ngami 1850" and talking of his drawings of Africa, 57 Sloane Street, 28 January no year [1857]
Sold for £ 1,250 (US$ 1,626) inc. premium

Lot Details
Property of a descendant of Robert Cooke, David Livingstone's publisher
LIVINGSTONE (DAVID)
Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone"), to "My Dear Sir" [his publisher John Murray], informing him that he has just had a call from Mrs Grimstone, sister of "a young artist who died at Lake Ngami 1850" whose "drawings about 20 in number are very truthful & good"; he goes on however to explain that Stevenson, the companion who brought them back to England, refuses to part with them ("...When Mrs G. applied for them Mrs Stevenson sent one of a part of Lake Ngami saying that she knew of no other. But Mrs G. got the impression of her husband boasting of having so many fine African engravings. And I was shewn a fine drawing of Koloberg & another Bechuana town [as well as that of Lake Ngami deleted] by the artist himself" and asking if it "Would it be practicable to get engravings of these by fair means?", adding that "They would be better I think than Mr Wolf's compositions" and suggesting the family's feelings be mollified by having the artist's name put to them, 4 pages, 8vo, 57 Sloane Street, 28 January no year [1857]

Footnotes

  • ʻBOASTING OF HAVING SO MANY FINE AFRICAN ENGRAVINGS' – Livingstone, having just begun work on Missionary Travels, struggles to find worthy illustrations for his narrative. Unlike, say, Captain Grant, Livingstone had no competence, or interest in, sketching the places he visited. Nevertheless, illustrations played a vital in the public reception of Victorian accounts of exploration, of which Missionary Travels is the pre-eminent example: ʻFor those readers that may have only looked at the pictures in the book, missing out on Livingstone's frequent attempts to control how they were interpreted through comments in the text, these illustrations were Livingstone's Missionary Travels; they were Africa... However, whereas explorers usually returned from the field laden with sketches, Livingstone readily admitted his inadequacy in this department' (Louise Henderson, ʻPublishing Livingstone's Missionary Travels', Livingstone Online, 2015).

    The artist discussed in the present letter was Alfred Rider (or Ryder), described by Livingstone in Missionary Travels as ʻMr Alfred Rider, an enterprising young artist who had come to make sketches of this country and of the lake immediately after its discovery, [who] had died of fever before our arrival' (p.75). It appears that Livingstone was unable to get hold of any other illustrations barring that of Lake Ngami, which was to form one of the best-known in the book and is captioned ʻLake Ngami discovered by Oswell, Murray & Livingstone/ From a Drawing made on the spot by the late Alfred Ryder Esq'. The drawing shows Livingstone standing proudly pointing to the lake he has discovered, while his wife and baby sit by his side with two impeccably attired toddlers on the lake shore, while an African cooks in the foreground – all of which, apart from the scenery – as has been often pointed out – is pure fiction (for further discussion of the lithograph, see Tim Barrington, ʻFabricating Africa: Livingstone and the Visual Image' in David Livingstone and the Victorian Encounter with Africa, NPG, 1996).

    Livingstone makes further reference to Rider's drawings, and our letter, when writing to Murray on 4 February, so one must assume that ours is to Murray himself rather than Cooke (see the Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland).
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