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Series Two: Imperial Adventurers and Explorers

Part 2: Papers of James Augustus Grant (1827-92) and John Hanning Speke (1827-64) from the National Library of Scotland


Papers of James Augustus Grant (1827-92)

Reel 1

Letter from James Augustus Grant to his brother Alick, 30 September 1860 MS.17901

“My dear Alick

The Sultan’s Man of War…brought Speke. Col Rigby & myself here last Tuesday four days ago and we have been doing nothing since then but collecting men to carry our loads up country—one detachment of them left this morning and we ourselves mean to make a short march of two or three miles tomorrow merely for the name of the thing to show all...we are in earnest. For several days we shall have to make these short marches...and then nothing under ten miles daily - more would fatigue and probably do up the porters - though they are fine sturdy fellows carrying sixty pounds weight of our kit and 20 more of their own….”

Reel 4

Letter from Edwin Arnold to James Augustus Grant, October 1 1875 MS.17909

“You will have heard no doubt that we have received long letters from Stanley, & that he has marched 720 miles in 106 days from Bagamoyo to the Victoria Nyanza & sailed almost right round that Lake. I have his map of it - which I have with my own hands enlarged, & knowing how ? your fame is connected with the Victoria I wanted & still wish to show you this very interesting chart before any one sees it….”

Reel 4

Letter from Lord Baker to James Augustus Grant, 16 November 1875 MS.17909

“I return Gordon’s letter which is very interesting to me and I wish I were there to help him with all my heart—now that he is well rid of his sickly Europeans. The fact of his having towed the ‘Khedive’ the twin screw steamer up to Loboré is most cheering but he cannot possibly get up to Affaddo as he hopes. I saw stupendous falls above the Aswa river where the river was so narrow that you could throw a stone across. There were rocks at this point quite 30 feet above the surface where the fall was about 25 feet perpendicular and the natives had made a bridge by laying trees from rock to rock….

Nevertheless if Gordon establishes a chain of communication along the river he will be able to convey his heavy material along the banks whenever the obstructions prevent a direct transit by boat - and by reshipping above cataracts he will at all events get very near Affaddo and be able to convey his section of vessels by land to the navigable Nile.

I see Stanley has endeavoured to bring my name into his letter from Mr Tesés in a disagreeable manner - and it is to be hoped that his information on most matters is more correct, otherwise there must be a great amount of absurdity in his accounts - I quite agree with Gordon in hating these newspaper correspondents whose time is occupied in self glorification….

Although there is no doubt that Stanley has pushed on very well, there is an amount of bad taste about him that is simply incurable. He presumes to bring in my name 150 miles from any place that I visited during the last expedition, and would make it appear that I was not on good terms with M’tese, wheras it was I who established an alliance….”

Reel 4

Letter from C J Rigby regarding Speke’s death, 14 December 1864 MS.17910

“What a fearful sad end for poor Speke after all the dangers he has gone through to lose his life in so melancholy a manner: poor fellow I can hardly realise that he has gone from us for ever. What a dreadful shock it must have been for his poor Mother and father so soon after he was restored to them.

We have had 5 months of the most terrific heat I ever experienced and now when we ought to have the cold season it is stifling hot. We have had no rain for about 3 months and there is not a blade of grass or corn in the country, famine & cholera are raging, there is partial famine all over India….

About a month ago I wrote to Govt requesting to resign this Appointment for this is such an abominable country I cannot endure it, nothing but tough mutton to eat every day, no potatoes, no fruit, no vegetables & horrid musty bread…. You can form no idea what a detestable country India has become, everyone is trying to get out of it, or giving up the Service to take to coffee or tea planting….

I see that fellow Burton is going to Santos in Brazil. I was sorry to see Sir Roderic call such a man his friend, for he must know his true character. I have received a copy of poor Speke’s last book, it is better written than the first. What a sad loss he will be to African geography, it will be long before any men can be found with such indomitable perseverance and energy & with his experience & influence over wild races….”

Reel 4

Letter from W E Stairs to James Augustus Grant, 21 February 1890 MS.17910

“…. I can only say that I am extremely glad I went with the Expedition. Mr Stanley I found to be a tough’un but a good’un. As he gradually got to know us he trusted us all absolutely…. I suppose on Mr Stanley’s arrival in London you will be there to meet him—I will I fancy go to Dover & meet him….”

Reel 4

Letter from H M Stanley to James Augustus Grant, Congo River, 10 February 1880 MS.17910

“ I was delighted to get a letter from you because the mere fact that it was written was a proof that you held no very unkindly feelings, though after reading it I am rather alarmed when you say that you think Mrs Grant has not quite forgiven me. Dear me! You cannot possibly be in earnest for I am most anxious to be in Mrs Grant’s good graces. You must ask her for me to reflect upon the thousand & one injurious things said of me during my absence the two previous journeys, and how the most considerate and most circumspect behaviour & bearing towards natives hostile to our Expedition failed to please….”

Reel 7

Proof of ‘A Walk Across Africa’ by James Augustus Grant, MS.17928

“The four native races were as follows:-

I. ‘The Wazaramo - A smart, dressy (though nearly naked), well-to-do looking people, with a most self-possessed air, and fond of ornaments in beads, sea-shells, or tin. Their heads are covered with wool, elongated with bark fibre into hanks, and their bodies smeared with an oily pomade of red clay….The worst features in this Wazaramo race are, that they will give travellers no aid, and will pounce upon stray men.

II. ‘The Wasagara’ population live such an outcast life on the tops of their conical hills, above the path of the traveller, that we saw little of their manners or customs. Parties from the coast attack them, to capture their people and cattle….

III. ‘The Wagogo’ We did not enter their oblong, walled villages, but I have a distinct and vivid recollection of the people. Among them were smart, wiry, active young fellows, who would make first-rate recruits. Their woolly hair, elongated by working into it hanks of bark fibre, flew in the air as they ran; beads were at times strung on, or an ostrich-feather waved about their heads; their ear-lobes were distended by a plug of wood, &c….

IV. ‘Wanyamuezi:- The 115 porters we left the seaport with were of the class of the Wanyamuezi, and we had good opportunity for observing their habits and character. They were average-sized, slim-limbed negroes, many of them with handsome countenances and incisions of caste above the cheek-bones; they were dressed in goat-skins hanging loosely in their front from the right shoulder; most of them with a shabby small bow and a couple of arrows; a few of the better sort had flint-guns, which they carried awkwardly at the long “trail”, and pointing to the men behind them.

They are frank and amiable on first acquaintance, eating or taking anything from your hand, singing the jolliest of songs with deep-toned choruses from their thick necks and throats, but soon trying to get the upper hand, refusing to make the ring-fence round camp, showing sulks, making halts, or going short marches, treating with perfect contempt any message sent them even to sit apart from your tent, as the smoke of their fires, the odour of their persons, and their total want of delicacy annoy you….

We had daily visits from the women of the country…. They were copper-coloured and flat-featured, and wore round their necks a profusion of pendent bead necklaces of the colour of the mountain-ash berry; their ankles were concealed with masses of wire rings. For hours they sat silently before us, smoking, nursing, and shampooing the limbs and necks of their infants; some wore the heavy cloth of the country, others had soiled robes of calico. Young girls, many of them with pleasing faces and plump round figures, wore merely a diminutive cloth about their loins, and infants had a fringe of beads…. We saw some decidedly handsome N’yambo girls on this route: their men attend upon cattle exclusively, while they stay at home doing household work, cooking, coquetting, and showing off their beautiful feet….”

Papers of John Hanning Speke (1827-64)

Reel 16

Proof of Speke’s Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile MS.4874

“In the following pages I have endeavoured to describe all that appeared to me most important and interesting among the events and the scenes that came under my notice during my sojourn in the interior of Africa. If my account should not entirely harmonise with preconceived notions as to primitive races, I cannot help it. I profess accurately to describe naked Africa-Africa in those places where it has not received the slightest impulse, whether for good or evil, from European civilisation….

The Wa-n-guana, as their name implies, are men freed from slavery; and as it is through these singular negroes acting as hired servants that I have been chiefly indebted for opening this large section of Africa, a few general remarks on their character cannot be out of place here.

Of course, having been born in Africa, and associated in childhood with the untainted negroes, they retain all the superstitious notions of the true aborigines, though somewhat modified, and even corrupted, by that acquaintance with the outer world which sharpens their wits.

Most of these men were doubtless caught in wars, as may be seen every day in Africa, made slaves of, and sold to the Arabs for a few yards of common cloth, brass wire, or beads. They would then be taken to Zanzibar market, resold like horses to the highest bidder, and then kept in bondage by their new masters, more like children of his family than anything else. In this new position they were circumcised to make Mussulmans of them, that their hands might be ‘clean’ to slaughter their master’s cattle, and extend his creed; for the Arabs believe the day must come when the tenets of Mahomet will be accepted by all men….

The whole system of slave-holding by the Arabs in Africa, or rather on the coast, or at Zanzibar, is exceedingly strange; for the slaves, both in individual physical strength and in numbers, are so superior to the Arab foreigners, that if they chose to rebel, they might send the Arabs flying out of the land. It happens, however, that they are spell-bound, not knowing their strength any more than domestic animals, and they even seem to consider that they would be dishonest if they ran away after being purchased, and so bring pecuniary loss on their owners….

Bomani to Ikambura, 4th October

A short stage brought us to Ikambura, included in the district of Nzasa, where there is another small village, presided over by Phanzé Khombé la Simba meaning Claw of Lion. He, immediately after arrival, sent us a basket of rice, value one dollar, of course expecting a return—for absolute generosity is a thing unknown to the negro. Not being aware of the value of the offering, I simply requested the Sheikh to give him 4 yards of American sheeting, and thought no more about the matter, until presently I found the cloth returned. The ‘Sultan’ could not think of receiving such a paltry present from me, when on the former journey he got so much; if he showed this cloth at home, nobody would believe him, but would say he took much more and concealed it from his family, wishing to keep all his goods to himself. I answered that my footing in the country had been paid for on the last journey, and unless he would accept me as any other common traveller, he had better walk away….”



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