Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Bula Matari

Meaning Breaker of Rocks. That was what they called Sir Henry Morton Stanley when he was in the Congo, and probably other things too, since he had a reputation for callous violence and brutality. An illegitimate child brought up in a workhouse in Wales, at the age of 18 he made his passage to the United States, and in New Orleans became friendly with a wealthy trader named Stanley, whose name he later assumed.

After fighting on both sides in the American Civil War (presumably not both at the same time), he became one of the New York Herald’s overseas correspondents and in 1869 was instructed to find the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, who was known to be in Africa but had not been heard from for some time. He travelled to Zanzibar, set off with 200 porters and located Livingstone on November 10, 1871 at Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika, greeting him (so he later asserted) with: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

He made other expeditions in Africa and was indirectly responsible for helping establish the notorious rule of LĂ©opold II of Belgium over the Congo Free State. On his return to Europe he married a Welsh artist, entered Parliament as Unionist member for Lambeth North, served from 1895 to 1900 and died in 1904.

You might call this a full life; in the graveyard of St. Michael's Church in Pirbright, Surrey, he is safely buried under a large piece of granite.

This picture of him comes from The Boy’s Own Book of Astounding Hats.


Minerva said...

I never knew that he was a 'difficult' man, only a persistent one..

Anonymous said...

Please, can you tell me where I can get that book?
Yours sincerly
Henri Joyet

Tony said...

Sorry, Henri: it's been out of print for years. You might try the second-hand bookshops; I got mine in a Marrakech souk.

Omni-reader said...

Tim Jeal's new biography paints a very different picture of Stanley than the popular slander of callous brutality. His private papers have been now used to dispel some of the calumnies of his enemies that have become commonplace.

Tony said...

Yes, indeed, it seems that Jeal's biography does rehabilitate Stanley fairly convincingly (I haven't read it, only Paul Theroux's review of it).

But it wasn't only Stanley's enemies that lied about him—he was a determined liar himself.

Eddie Ozols said...

Totally wrong facts about Stanley. His mission was dedicated to the abolition of slavery. While his violence on his expeditions is documented he was much kinder to his porters and others than most explorers of his day. Ref Stanley - The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer.