LIVINGSTONE (DAVID) Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone"), to his publisher John Murray ("My dear Mr Murray"), abandoning work on Missionary Travels, 57 Sloane Street, 15 March 1857

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Lot 101
LIVINGSTONE (DAVID)
Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone"), to his publisher John Murray ("My dear Mr Murray"), abandoning work on Missionary Travels, 'I WOULD MUCH RATHER TRAVEL THAN WRITE ABOUT IT', 57 Sloane Street, 15 March 1857

Sold for £ 4,750 (US$ 5,779) inc. premium
Property of a descendant of Robert Cooke, David Livingstone's publisher
LIVINGSTONE (DAVID)
Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone"), to his publisher John Murray ("My dear Mr Murray"), abandoning work on Missionary Travels in disgust on hearing of further piracies from Lord Dulcie ("...There does not seem much use in my toiling any longer over this book. I would much rather travel than write about it... you will agree with me it will be better for me to be off to Africa where I may be able to do some good than waste time in contending with these heartless pirates. I shall refund every penny you have expended on the plates when I get the Testimonial fund into my hands so you will lose nothing by your kindness in undertaking the publication..."); adding that he supposes Houlston & Wright were emboldened by his "peaceably allowing Routledge to proceed in his very questionable course" ("...No case ever so far as I am aware occurred of a missionary's letters being collected and published without any reference to the man himself. They did not I believe become the literary property of either the missionary society or of the British Banner or of any other paper by publication, they had no right to publish them in a collected form but as others are determined to take advantage of my wish to avoid all wrangling and contention I prefer to give up the thing altogether..."), 5 pages, minor thrips damage in small areas of the paper (affecting only a couple of letters) but otherwise in good and attractive condition, 8vo, 57 Sloane Street, 15 March 1857

Footnotes

  • ʻTHERE DOES NOT SEEM MUCH USE IN MY TOILING ANY LONGER OVER THIS BOOK. I WOULD MUCH RATHER TRAVEL THAN WRITE ABOUT IT' – LIVINGSTONE ABANDONS WORK ON MISSIONARY TRAVELS. He was, of course, to be dissuaded from this drastic course of action and within the space of six months or so complete what is widely regarded as the greatest – and most profitable – travel journal of the Victorian era; nevertheless the grumbles that he makes in our previously unknown letter remained in the forefront of his mind and were to re-emerge in the book's preface, where he famously declared that: ʻI think I would rather cross the African continent again than undertake to write another book. It is far easier to travel than to write about it'.

    This latest threat to the book came in the form of a work by Henry Gardiner Adams, published by Houlston & Wright, entitled Dr Livingstone: His life and Adventures in the Interior of South Africa: Comprising a Description of the Regions which he Traversed; an Account of Missionary Pioneers; and Chapters on Cotton Cultivation, Slavery, Wild Animals, Etc. (1857). It was based, much to Livingstone's fury, on a set of his letters to the London Missionary Society, leaked by its Secretary the Rev Ebenezer Prout. On 30 March he wrote to Murray again telling him that Adams "goes the ʻwhole hog'" and has dedicated the book to the LMS and wondering whether their ally Sir Roderick Murchison, President of the RGS, should intervene (Murray Archive, NLS). At this stage Livingstone's relations with the LMS were precarious. They, for their part, were hungry for the publicity, and attendant donations, that came with his name; he on the other hand had been offered far more lucrative work, courtesy of Murchison, with the British government: both sources of income, as it transpired, to be totally eclipsed by the revenues from the book, piratical efforts notwithstanding.
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