GORDON, Charles G. (1833-1885). Autograph letter signed ("C. G. Gordon") to Sir Samuel Baker, Khartoum, 5 November 1884. 3 pages, 8vo, black border. [With:] Archive of approximately 120 letters to Sir Samuel Baker from various leading political figures, statesmen and explorers, 1867-1893. Together approximately 500 pages, various sizes.
GORDON FROM KHARTOUM: "REMEMBER THE EXPEDITION COMES UP FOR 'RELIEF OF THE GARRISONS' WHICH I FAILED TO ACCOMPLISH, IT DOES NOT COME UP FOR ME."
Gordon's bitterness towards the British government--and towards Britain itself--is palpable in this letter from late in the siege, probably one of the last that Sir Samuel Baker received from his old friend. "Remember the expedition comes up for 'relief of the Garrisons' which I failed to accomplish, it does not come up for me...I shall not come to England again," he continues, "I cannot stand it, but shall go to Brussells." He also mentions the murder of Col. Stewart and his party on the Abbas as reported to him by Kitchener. "How it happened I cannot make out, either she was captured by treachery or struck a rock...If it is true & I fear it is...then the journal from 1.3.84 to 10/9/84 is lost, it was a large volume full of details...I have placed 5 steamers at Metemma to wait arrival of the Force to relieve garrisons."
Lytton Strachey, in his scathing portrait of Gordon in Eminent Victorians, speculated that Gordon was playing a dangerous game of bluff with Prime Minister Gladstone: keeping himself in harm's way at Khartoum to compel the government to send a relief force and crush the Mahdi. Gladstone, for his part, refused to send a force while Gordon could escape on his own volition. By the late summer it was clear that Khartoum was hopelessly surrounded, and a relief expedition under Col. Wolseley arrived in Egypt on 9 September.
Gordon's words show his appreciation of the government's anger towards him. And in the large archive of letters to Samuel Baker included in this lot, several comment on Gordon, including Evelyn Baring's of 3 May 1892: "Poor Gordon, in his usual impulsive way, made a mistake, which he afterwards recognized as you are, without doubt, aware."
Much of the extensive annexed correspondence to Baker comes from Cabinet officials and dignitaries of the 1870s-1890s, including: Kitchener, Salisbury, Stafford Northcote, Lord John Russell, Lord Derby and others, sounding Baker out on the Middle East and especially Egypt. "I should very much like to know your plan," Lord Rosebery asks him on 3 May 1893, to "obtaining the Sultan's sanction to our occupation if you care to impart it." Opposition politicians vent their exasperation. Thus Lord Gray on 6 September 1889: "The Times of yesterday I see contains an account of more useless slaughter in Egypt caused by the refusal of our government to adopt a more decided policy in that part of the world..." Approximately 120. (120)