Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

That famous greeting was uttered by journalist and explorer Henry Stanley on this date in 1871. Maybe.

That ubiquitous quote was likely fabricated, as it turns out.  Stanley tore the pages out of his diary relating to this famous encounter with Livingstone in Africa. And Livingstone's account of their meeting never mentions these words either.

Stanley was only 30 years old when he found Livingstone in Africa. He was a more 'colorful' character than I'd realized, too, even by the standards of Victorian-age African explorers. Did you know that, as a 21 year old man in 1862, he'd fought in the American Civil War at the Battle of Shiloh.  For the Confederacy. After the Civil War, Stanley mounted and expedition to the Ottoman Empire and was imprisoned there for a time.  Only after that did he mount an expedition to Africa to find Livinstone.

In 1876, five years after making his name by finding Livingstone, Stanley was retained by King Leopold II to explore the Congo and to claim it for Belgium. The violence and brutality that characterized these expeditions is widely regarded to be the basis for Joseph Conrad's classic 1903 novel Heart of Darkness (later the inspiration for the 1979 movie Apocalypse Now).   He died in London in 1904 at the age of 63, after being knighted and becoming a Member of Parliament.

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