How I Found Dr. Livingstone


Featured in Macworld - one of the
best history sites on the web

How I Found Dr. Livingstone
by Henry Stanley (excerpt)
HistoryWiz Primary Source

1871

Henry Stanley, a well-known African explorer, started out as a reporter for the New York Herald. His paper sent him to Africa to search for Dr. David Livingstone, a missionary and explorer who had been missing for years. Most believed he was dead. As he searched, Stanley wrote accounts of his adventures which were printed in the Herald. These accounts helped to stimulate a popular interest in the exploration of Africa in Britain and America. When he found Dr. Livingstone, Stanley reported this famous exchange.

"Dr. Livingstone,
I presume?"

We were now about three hundred yards from the village of Ujiji, and the crowds are dense about me. Suddenly I hear a voice on my right say, ---

"Good morning, sir!"

Startled at hearing this greeting in the midst of such a crowd of black people, I turn sharply around in search of the man, and see him at my side, with the blackest of faces, but animated and joyous---a man dressed in a long white shirt, with a turban of American sheeting around his woolly head, and I ask: ---

 
 
 

"Who the mischief are you?"

"I am Susi, the servant of Dr. Livingstone," said he, smiling and showing a gleaming row of teeth.

"What! Is Dr. Livingstone here?"

"Yes, sir."

"In this village?"

"Yes, sir."

"Are you sure?"

"Sure, sure, sir. Why, I leave him just now."

"Good morning, sir," said another voice.

"Hallo," said I, "is this another one?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, what is your name?"

"My name is Chumah, sir."

"What! are you Chumah, the friend of Wekotani?"

"Yes, sir."

"And is the Doctor well?"

 
 
 

"Not very well, sir."

"Where has he been so long?"

"In Manyuema."

"Now, you, Susi, run, and tell the Doctor I am coming."

"Yes, sir," and off he darted like a madman.

But by this time we were within two hundred yards of the village, and the multitude was getting denser, and almost preventing our march. Flags and streamers were out; Arabs and Wangwana were pushing their way through the natives in order to greet us, for, according to their account, we belonged to them. But the great wonder of all was, "How did you come from Unyanyembe?"

Soon Susi came running back, and asked me my name; he had told the Doctor that I was coming, but the Doctor was too surprised to believe him, and, when the Doctor asked him my name, Susi was rather staggered. But, during Susi's absence, the news had been conveyed to the Doctor that it was surely a white man that was coming, whose guns were firing and whose flag could be seen; and the great Arab magnates of Ujiji---Mohammed bin Sali, Sayd bin Majid, Abid bin Suliman, Mohammed bin Gharib, and others---had gathered together before the Doctor's house, and the Doctor had come out from his veranda to discuss the matter and await my arrival.

In the meantime, the head of the expedition had halted, and the kirangozi was out of the ranks, holding his flag aloft, and Selim said to me, "I see the Doctor, sir. Oh, what an old man! He has got a white beard." And I---what would I not have given for a bit of friendly wilderness, where, unseen, I might vent my joy in some mad freak, such as idiotically biting my hand, turning somersaults, or slashing at trees, in order to allay those exciting feelings that were well-nigh uncontrollable. My heart beats fast, but I must not let my face betray my emotions, lest it shall detract from the dignity of a white man appearing under such extraordinary circumstances.

So I did that which I thought was most dignified. I pushed back the crowds, and, passing from the rear, walked down a living avenue of people until I came in front of the semicircle of Arabs, in the front of which stood the white man with the grey beard. As I advanced slowly towards him, I noticed he was pale, looked wearied, had a grey beard, wore a bluish cap with a faded gold band round it, had on a red-sleeved waistcoat and a pair of grey tweed trousers. I would have run to him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob---would have embraced him, only he being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me; so I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing---walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said:---

 
 
 

"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

"Yes," said he, with a kind smile, lifting his cap slightly.

I replace my hat on my head, and he puts on his cap, and we both grasp hands, and I then say aloud:

--- "I thank God, Doctor, I have been permitted to see you." He answered, "I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you."

I turn to the Arabs, take off my hat to them in response to the saluting chorus of "Yambos" I receive, and the Doctor introduces them to me by name. Then, oblivious of the crowds, oblivious of the men who shared with me my dangers, we---Livingstone and I---turn our faces towards his tembe. He points to the veranda, or, rather, mud platform, under the broad, overhanging eaves; he points to his own particular seat, which I see his age and experience in Africa have suggested, namely, a straw mat, with a goatskin over it, and another skin nailed against the wall to protect his back from contact with the cold mud. I protest against taking this seat, which so much more befits him than me, but the Doctor will not yield: I must take it.

We are seated---the Doctor and I---with our backs to the wall. The Arabs take seats on our left. More than a thousand natives are in our front, filling the whole square densely, indulging their curiosity and discussing the fact of two white men meeting at Ujiji---one just come from Manyuema, in the west, the other from Unyanyembe, in the east.

Conversation began. What about? I declare I have forgotten. Oh! we mutually asked questions of one another, such as: ---

"How did you come here?" and "Where have you been all this long time?---the world has believed you to be dead." Yes, that was the way it began; but whatever the Doctor himself informed me, and that which I communicated to him, I cannot correctly report, for I found myself gazing at him, conning the wonderful man at whose side I now sat in Central Africa. Every hair of his head and beard, every wrinkle of his face, the wanness of his features, and the slightly wearied look he wore, were all imparting intelligence to me---the knowledge I had craved for so much ever since I heard the words, "Take what you want, but find Livingstone!"

Colonial Africa Primary Sources

Africa Primary Sources

copyright HIstoryWiz 1999-2008


Through Amazon.com
HistoryWiz Books

Your purchase of books or other items through links on this site helps keep this free educational site on the web.