Dr Livingstone, I presume?


Stanley and Livingstone

Dr Livingstone, I Presume?

‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ is one of the most famous quotes in history and was supposedly uttered by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley in 1871 upon finding the missing missionary David Livingstone. However, the quote is now believed to have been invented by Stanley or his biographer. Stanley’s diary pages referring to the encounter were torn out and Livingstone’s account of the meeting doesn’t mention the phrase.



Sympathy is no substitute for action.

Dr Livingstone

David Livingstone (1813-73) was an enthusiastic Scottish missionary, although not particularly successful: he only ever managed to convert one African, a chieftain who lapsed shortly afterwards due to ‘the temptations of polygamy’.
When Livingstone’s mission was closed, he began an exploration of inner Africa. He discovered the Victoria Falls and was searching for the source of the Nile when he lost contact with the outside world for more than five years, prompting Henry Morton Stanley to set out in search of him.
Livingstone suffered from ill health and, even after Stanley found him, he was never well enough to travel home to Scotland. He died of malaria and internal bleeding caused by dysentery in 1873.

Livingstone was once attacked and mauled by a lion, but was saved from death by the intervention of an African servant.

Livingstone had his uvula (dangly bit in throat) removed in an operation called a uvulopalatopharynge-ctomy.

Bad Reputation

Stanley was not an especially popular or likeable character. His contemporary, Sir Richard Francis Burton, claimed: ‘Stanley shoots Africans as if they were monkeys.’ Ashley Jackson, professor of imperial and military history at King’s College London and an expert in African colonial history, said: ‘Stanley had one of the biggest kill rates of all the great African explorers in terms of the number of people who died during his journeys, and you can’t gloss over the fact.’
Queen Victoria described Stanley as a 'determined ugly little man, with a strong American twang'. Florence Nightingale called his book, How I Found Livingstone, 'the very worst book on the very best subject I ever saw in my life.'
One British newspaper commented that ‘He has no concern with justice, no right to administer it; he comes with no sanction, no authority, no jurisdiction—nothing but explosive bullets and a copy of the Daily Telegraph.’
Recently, some revisionist historians have tried to rescue Stanley’s reputation, but he is still generally remembered as one of history’s total bastards. The only extant statue of Stanley is lying on its side in Kinshasa.

Henry Morton Stanley’s birth certificate read ‘John Rowlands, bastard’.

GEORGE KIMBLE (1908-2004)

The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it.

Stanley, Before He Was Famous

The explorer Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904), born John Rowlands, grew up in a Welsh workhouse. Aged 18, he fled to the USA as a cabin boy and fought for both sides in the American Civil War. He is the only person known to have served on the Confederate Army, the Union Army and the Union Navy in the American Civil War.
When the war ended he became a journalist; his mission to find Livingstone in the African jungle was actually a journalism trip rather than an exploratory one.  His boss at this time was James Gordon Bennett, Jr., whose scandalous, flamboyant and controversial reputation inspired the exclamation ‘Gordon Bennett!’

It was Henry Morton Stanley who popularised the term ‘dark continent’ to refer to Africa.

It is thought that Joseph Conrad based the character of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness on Stanley.

Livingstone wrote that several African tribes ostracised their members for farting in the presence of strangers.

Stanley tried without success to get the Zamberi river renamed 'the Livingstone'.

Members of Stanley's last expedition gave 6 handkerchiefs to cannibals so they could sketch the process of a native being cooked.