David Livingstone (1813-1873)
Autograph letter signed to William French Stearns, 'Unyanyembe i.e. 60 days smart marching from the East Coast, Africa', 13 March 1872, two editorial markings in blue pencil, 4 pages, 8vo, on a bifolium (dampstained and discoloured with some fading affecting approximately seven words, small losses and tears to folds, losses to outer margin of first leaf affecting approximately 9 words, smaller losses to outer margin of second leaf, skilful modern restoration, mounted in an archival sleeve).
'I ... AM NOW STRONG AND WELL AND THANKS TO THE AMERICANS COMPLETELY EQUIPPED FOR ANY CONCLUDING TRIP': A PREVIOUSLY UNLOCATED LETTER FROM LIVINGSTONE'S LAST JOURNEYS, ONE OF THE 31 CARRIED OUT OF AFRICA BY HENRY MORTON STANLEY
A letter written on the eve of Stanley's departure for the coast: 'I have written to you before but my letters were destroyed because I have been considered a spy on the slave traders', referring to an enclosure (not present) 'penned long ago among the cannibals where I had no paper', thanking Stearns for his kindness to him in Bombay, 'I shall pay all the money I owe ... - the kindness never', referring with gratitude to Stanley's mission to help him - 'he has done it right nobly' - and complaining of the negligence of John Kirk (assistant political agent in Zanzibar) in sending supplies via the slave traders - 'they sent slaves instead of men' - but concluding 'Mr Stanley has supplied every want and I now only want to discover the ancient fountains of Herodotus and retire'. Livingstone reports the failure of the Agra and Masterman's Bank, giving instructions for the recovery of his deposit (the proceeds from the sale of the Lady Nyassa), 'I cannot enter into any creditors arrangement - they must return the whole deposit & interest according to the rules agreed upon by all civilized people', and complains again of the interception of his letters and plundering of his goods; 'I have been among the Philistines my dear fellow but am now strong and well and thanks to the Americans completely equipped for any concluding trip'.
William French Stearns (1834-1874) was a merchant from Massachussetts and partner in the firm of Stearns, Hobart and Co. in Bombay from 1857-1868. Livingstone had met him on board ship on his way to Bombay in 1865 and stayed with him in Bombay in the period immediately before his last departure for Africa ('I am living with ... Mr Stearns, a very good fellow', letter to Kirk, 2 December 1865). Five letters to him from Livingstone are known, three of them from Zanzibar in February 1866; a fourth, the enclosure referred to here, was written, on a leaf from a cheque book, from 'Manyema Country, Central Africa' in November 1870, and describes Livingstone's observations on the watershed (Norman R. Bennett, 'Livingstone's Letters to William F. Stearns', African Historical Studies (Boston, Mass., 1968-), vol 1, no 2 (1968)).
Stanley is known to have carried 31 of Livingstone's letters with him on his return to the coast. This letter is one of five listed by G.W. Clendennen & I.C. Cunningham, David Livingstone: A catalogue of documents (Edinburgh, 1979), as having been written on 13 March (although Livingstone would probably have added to earlier letters on the same day, as he did to his long public letter to Gordon Bennett Jr describing the slave trade). The others were to Sir William R.S.V. Fitzgerald, Governor of Bombay, 1867-72, to Agnes Livingstone, his eldest daughter, to Sir Bartle Frere and to Sir Roderick Murchison (who in fact had died on 22 October 1871): evidence of the affection and esteem in which Livingstone held Stearns.
The present letter has previously been known only from a text published in the New York Herald, 21 September 1872, with the omission of three phrases and a name, amounting to 24 words in total.