David Livingstone: His Life and Letters

David Livingstone: His Life and Letters

David Livingstone: His Life and Letters

David Livingstone: His Life and Letters

Excerpt

The aim of this book has been as far as possible to allow the subject of it to tell his own story in his own way, for a man's personality speaks out more truly in his direct utterance than by means of any paraphrase, however succinct. Drastically reduced from its original length it has of necessity excluded much that is of great interest, both substantial and subsidiary. The literature upon Livingstone is already enormous. A bibliography appended to Campbell's biography (1929) enumerates 87 books. A list compiled by Miss M. E. Appleyard for the University of Cape Town (1947) numbers 198. Since then, especially since the recent publication of a host of unpublished letters, the list has mounted considerably.

And yet no single comprehensive Life of Livingstone has appeared, for the sufficient reason perhaps that his ideal biographer would need to be a doctor, a naturalist in all its branches, an ethnologist of the Bantu race, an historian of the political science in the formative period of South and Central African colonization, as well as a student of the psychology of religion and of individual psychology. For he would be dealing with a subject who was an evangelist, physician, colonial statesman, linguist and anthropologist, geographer and scientist, as well as one for whom religion was the leit-motiv of life.

Of the biographies hitherto published the first is still the best, namely Blaikie's (1880), as it is also the most authoritative. He had access to material, especially in the form of private letters, some part of which has only recently come to light. He had also the advantage of personal converse with Livingstone's surviving contemporaries. But his book suffers from the defect of being uncritical. An aura of hagiography also beclouds the studies of his successors--except those few, having pro-Boer sympathies, whose estimate of Livingstone is distorted. But neither the one nor the other does justice to his subject; for a figure glimpsed through the refracted mists of sentiment is no more true to life than one whose portrayal is warped by prejudice. On the whole, however, Livingstone has been luckier . . .

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