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Works of travel have been the subject of increasingly sophisticated studies in recent years. This book undermines the conviction with which nineteenth-century British writers talked about darkest Africa. It places the works of travel within the rapidly developing dynamic of Victorian imperialism. Images of Abyssinia and the means of communicating those images changed in response to social developments in Britain. As bourgeois values became increasingly important in the nineteenth century and technology advanced, the distance between the consumer and the product were justified by the scorn of African ways of eating. The book argues that the ambiguities and ambivalence of the travellers are revealed in their relation to a range of objects and commodities mentioned in narratives. For instance, beads occupy the dual role of currency and commodity. The book deals with Henry Morton Stanley's expedition to relieve Emin Pasha, and attempts to prove that racial representations are in large part determined by the cultural conditions of the traveller's society. By looking at Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, it argues that the text is best read as what it purports to be: a kind of travel narrative. Only when it is seen as such and is regarded in the context of the fin de siecle can one begin to appreciate both the extent and the limitations of Conrad's innovativeness.
De Winton writes that he has learnt of Blackwoods' intention to publish later that month Werner's book, 'purporting from its title to be a history of the Emin Relief Expedition under the leadership of Mr. H. M. Stanley'. The Mackinnon in July 1888 expresses to de Winton his annoyance at Herbert Ward's part in circulating reports of the expedition to the public, and condemns the action as a breach of Ward's engagement with Stanley. The unease felt about the social composition of the expedition, with Stanley, of dubious background, assuming command over British officers and gentlemen, reflects the larger social movements and uncertainties of the time. Stanley's donning of the cloak of philanthropy was for Harry Quilter and others a social presumption, so that in this view the disparity between word and deed, which invites a more general scrutiny, has a class basis.
This chapter considers some British visitors to Abyssinia during the latter half of the nineteenth century. It focuses on one traveller from mid-century, narratives of a military campaign in the late 1860s, and the mission of a government representative in the late 1880s. It was only two years after the Great Exhibition that Life in Abyssinia by the gloriously named Mansfield Parkyns was published. The impact of the Abyssinian question on political and literary positions was apparent even before the decision to send the expedition had been reached. The title, Lord Napier of Magdala imposes his name on the Abyssinian scene as a tribute to his triumph and facilitates a kind of custodial entry of the African battle scene into British culture and history. Those who accompanied Napier were felt to be performing a useful role and one which contributed to British social cohesion as well as international influence.
This chapter presents the expedition led by Henry Morton Stanley in the 1880s to relieve Emin Pasha. It shows how social and commercial developments affected and were reflected in British attitudes to Africa. The chapter discusses the literary and cultural expressions of the controversy to which the expedition gave rise; crises of class and authority; and the commodification of narrative and explorer. A more concentrated and apparently more integral narrative is James Mounteney-Jephson's Emin Pasha and the Rebellion at the Equator. The controversy over the treatment and behaviour of the rear column led to direct challenges of authority in the form of accounts highly critical of Stanley. A settlement was reached by which Stanley was to pay costs and John Rose Troup to be allowed to publish his book on or after 15 October 1890, before which date none of the other officers should publish their accounts of the expedition.
This chapter looks at the ambivalent space occupied by some travellers and explorers in East and Central Africa. By the mid nineteenth century, East Central Africa, previously left to the Portuguese and Arabs, became the focus of British concern. Maitland has noted that after both the 1856-1859 expedition to Central Africa and the 1860-1863 expedition John Hanning Speke failed to hand over his journals to the Royal Geographical Society for first publication. James Grant, who would later serve as Head of the Intelligence Department in the Abyssinian Campaign, acted as an important go-between for Speke and his publisher, Blackwoods. It is significant that Grant includes an appendix listing the 'personal kit' he and Speke took with them, with comments on the reliability of various items.
In nineteenth-century travel narratives descriptions of Africans eating are flavoured with a patronising amusement or tainted with disgust. Increasing distance between food and its consumers had been given moral and social status during developments since the Middle Ages. In nineteenth-century Britain the adaptation to life in towns had important effects on food and eating habits, as John Burnett has remarked. From 1815 when the Assize of Bread was repealed 'there was no general attempt by government to intervene between producer, retailer and consumer in order to regulate the price or quality of food'. The accounts of Africans eating are framed in a form not just inaccessible to them but which is itself a mark of a culture from which their lowly position in the hierarchy of cultures or 'races' excludes them.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book concerns the cultural and political context of the formation and circulation of images of the travel writers in East and Central Africa at the second half of the nineteenth century. It particularly focuses on the ideology of the texts and of the authors and their readers. The book also focuses on British narratives and deals with Abyssinia, showing how the means of communicating the images of that country changed in response to social developments in Britain. It looks at the 1867 military expedition against that country, and the cultural significance of some of its narratives. The book considers accounts of food and eating habits. It picks out a range of objects and commodities mentioned in narratives.
Nine years after the controversy of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition and nine years after Joseph Conrad's own journey to the Congo, Heart of Darkness was published. For Henry M. Stanley physical adventure and discovery are the fulfilment of imaginative projection; for Conrad they may preclude it. Despite the vast body of criticism on Heart of Darkness relatively few commentaries have considered in detail either its roots in the 1890s or its relationship to the travel narratives on which it draws. In effect Heart of Darkness works to destabilise the values which are central to explorer-travellers like Stanley and to the society which they served by deliberately looking at a 'larger' picture. The offensive portrayal of the Africans, which manifests and does not transcend racism, pours cold water over Stanley's promotional brochure for the Congo Free State.
The textual models available for travellers' self-fashioning, for the structuring of their accounts of their experiences and impressions, must be acknowledged as having an important effect on representations. Two of the most enduring adventurers of the fin de siecle, Joseph Conrad's Marlow and H. G. Wells's Time Traveller, address the anxiety not only of travel, but of interpreting the traveller and the tale. Herman Melville, Henry M. Stanley and Conrad are so interesting because of their recognition of the insufficiency of dominant literary forms for what they wished to present as the truth of imperial relationships and racial perceptions. One of the remarkable features of Stanley's writing is his blending with the discourses of late nineteenth-century science and popular journalism so that his texts seem to carry multiple layers of authority.