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Lot 80: DAVID LIVINGSTONE

Christie's

September 23, 2004
London, United Kingdom

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Description

Autograph letter signed to James Aspinall Turner MP, Tette, 9 March 1859, 8 pages, folio, envelope.

A LONG DISPATCH FROM THE ZAMBESI, CHARACTERISTICALLY MIXING UTOPIAN OPTIMISM AND QUERULOUS COMPLAINT. The letter opens with news of efforts to secure insect specimens for Turner, which Livingstone proposes to send back via a Royal Navy cruiser which is to call at the mouth of the Zambesi in May -- 'We may not meet a cruizer then but will bury a bottle and appoint a time perhaps a month later'. Livingstone's optimism in the letter is focused on the potential of the Zambesi basin for colonisation and economic exploitation: 'we have proved that during a large portion of the year Europeans may come up this river with safety... We have also shown that the Zambesi may be navigated during most of the year in flat bottomed boats'; the cotton produced in the Delta is 'quite as good as the upland American -- some is quite as long in staple as the Egyptian... Now that my attention has been specially directed to the subject I feel more than ever convinced that this Africa North of about 15° south Latitude is incomparably the best adapted for the produce of cotton [of] any in the world'. Not only this, but 'Sugar cane grows equally well. I could collect some cart loads of Indigo from the streets and immediate vicinity of Tette. I can speak with confidence now...'. Of a number of subjects of complaint, Livingstone begins with their light steamer [the Ma Robert], which draws a full foot more than was claimed, and is underpowered, besides other faults; on a political level, he directs bitter irony at a French slaving scheme disguised as 'emigration': 'The free emigrants are sent down the river in chains. It is vexatious to see the infatuation -- they cannot raise sugar in Bourbon without guano -- Here the can grows so well without manure it is called indiginous'. Livingstone's feeling is that only a British colonisation of the highlands will cure the areas ills: 'Our people would make themselves rich, while virtually crowning with success on long continued efforts for the abolition of the slave trade'. The letter ends with angry references to the departure from the expedition of the naval officer [Commander Bedingfield], who 'resigned and repeated the resignation from an idea that we could move neither hand nor foot without him. I was obliged to teach him better'.

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September 23, 2004, 12:00 AM EST

London, United Kingdom