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Lot 14: LIVINGSTONE, David (1813-1873). Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone") to "H", Cataracts

Est: $5,000 USD - $7,000 USDSold:
Christie'sFebruary 26, 2004New York, NY, US

Item Overview


LIVINGSTONE, David (1813-1873). Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone") to "H", Cataracts, 7 June 1863. 4 pages, 8vo, light browning to edges, small hole affecting a few letters.

A JOCULAR LIVINGSTONE FORWARDS SUPPLIES. Livingstone, presumably writing to Horace Waller, a member of Bishop Mackenzie's missionary party, sends some beef along with this humorous letter. "I beg your acceptance of a bit of beef and hope you have no scruples of conscience in eating it as it was killed in a most atrocious manner. I shall let you know how just to try your stomach. In trying him in the yoke he lay down, evidently an old trick and rise he would not. As I had a craving for meat fresh and good I said 'if you don't get up we shall eat you.' Stopped his breath a remedy I never saw fail before, then cut his throat and felt rather glad the experiment ended as it did for I had a sore longing for fresh beef. I fear another must fall for he runs at the men and tries to gore them."

"I send two Shupanga men and your boy to see they don't crib the meat in the way they can do anything of that sort without compunction and lie afterwards like fishwives. We know them to be there and have just to lay our account with it." Livingstone ends his letter with his opinion of the "serpent": "I think [it is] typical of Matikenya in the Barotse Valley, it holds canoes fast though 20 men paddle if no one knows the proper words to use to him. Anyone with a bad tongue in his head had better go overland. He would let me pass of course."

Despite his playfulness, Livingstone's letter was sent during a difficult time of the Zambezi expedition: in early 1863, dysentery attacked his party, forcing his brother Charles and his second-in-command John Kirk to depart (see Livingstone's letter to Kirk, lot 15). At about the time of this letter, he discovered that one of his boats had been burned by the Mañanja and some three weeks after this letter, Livingstone received word of Earl Russell's order that he withdraw the expedition. Livingstone wrote another letter to Waller at time, not nearly so playful, in which he famously stated: "I don't know whether I am to go on the shelf or not. If I do, I make Africa the shelf."

Horace Waller (1833-1896) worked for a period with Charles Frederick Mackenzie, bishop of Central Africa. After Stanley succeeded in discovering Livingstone, Livingstone's journals were entrusted to Waller for publication.

Auction Details

Printed Books and Manuscripts

February 26, 2004, 12:00 AM EST

20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY, 10020, US