Camp at Mikesse: 26 and 27 November 1889. Original letter, black ink on a laid paper bifolium ca. 25x20 cm (10 x 7 ¾ in). 3 pp. Fold marks, splitting apart on the centrefold, paper slightly soiled on the folds, but overall a very good expedition letter.
Rare extensive original letter by famous African explorer Henry Stanley. Written by him in a bush camp near a village of Mikese in German East Africa (modern-day Morogoro rural district of Tanzania) during the last days of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition (1887-1890) which became Stanley’s last African expedition. Organized to rescue Austrian-born governor of the Egyptian Equatoria province Emin Pasha from the rebellious Mahdist forces, the expedition ended up a success (although it turned out that Emin Pasha was not in immediate danger and didn’t want to be rescued). Stanley and his party approached Equatoria (modern-day South Sudan and Uganda) from the west, ascending the Congo River and its tributaries and crossing the ill-famed Ituri rainforest to Lake Albert, taking many human casualties. Having persuaded Emin Pasha to leave Equatoria, the party returned via the east coast and Zanzibar, discovering the Ruwenzori Range and Lake Edward and establishing links between that lake and Lake Albert. The expedition was deemed controversial due to the cruelties of the white members towards the Africans and the great loss of life thus incurred.
The letter was written during the last leg of the expedition and addressed to C.S. Smith, a British vice-consul in Zanzibar in the 1880s and apparently a co-owner of the local general trade company “Smith, Mackenzie & Co.” (1871-1965). The company carried out mail services, imported and exported goods (Indian rice and cotton, African spices, coconuts, copra, ivory etc.) and represented several major insurance companies and informational agencies in Zanzibar and later British East Africa. The company supplied Stanley and the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition with porters, donkeys and provisions (Stanley, H.M. In Darkest Africa…Vol. 1. New York, 1891, pp. 37, 60, 65).
In the letter Stanley gives the plan of his travel for the last week, from Mikese to Zanzibar, via Ngerengere, Msua, Mbuyuni, Kibiro, Kingani River, and Bagamoyo; talks about Hermann Wissmann (1853-1905), the newly appointed Reichskommissar for the German East Africa who sent various provisions and champagne for Stanley when he approached the German-controlled territory; complains about the lack of news and any printed material, expresses fear that his letters from the expedition might have been lost and undelivered, and mentions Emin Pasha and Sir Gerald H. Portal (1858-1894), the Consul General for British East Africa in 1889-92. Overall an interesting and content rich Stanley’s expedition letter which in the context of his fears of many of his letters being lost, becomes an especially valuable artefact from the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition.
Excerpts from the letter:
“Camp at Mikesse, November 26th/89.
We have been able to advance much more rapidly than I thought we would have done. If nothing happens to distract the arrangement, our movements hence will be as follows:
Gerengere [Ngerengere] – 27th November
Itaet [?] 29th
Camp in Pori 30th
Mbuyuni Dec 1
Kibiro 2 Dec
Kingani R. 3rd
We are disappointed at not having any letters or newspapers or any kind of greeting from you at Zanzibar. <…> We have been indebted to Capt. Wissman for bounteous supplies of good things, but we have been unable to get even a newspaper from you, what is the matter? Every mail you sent to Africa has been lost and now even when we are within touch of you we cannot get a word. <…> I have never had such unlucky experience with my letters as on this expedition. A […?] fear creeps over me that you may not have received mine. <…>
P.S. Nov. 27th. I have had to open this note to make amends for the above scrawl. 2 hours beyond Mikessa your 4 couriers handed me 1 letter from Mr. C.S. Smith & 1 from Mr. Nicol. The contents have been understood. Another mail lost! It does not matter – we hope to be at Zanzibar before we die. But we looked eagerly through your list – a noble list it is too – to see of you had shoved in a packet of old newspapers, even a lot of old advertisements, any ancient printed matter, a dine novel, or a penny dreadful would have answered. You have heard of the travellers parched with thirst pointing to his naked throat for water, but you perhaps never heard of the dessicated [sic!] brain. Well we suffer from that complaint. Wissman has sent champagnes & beer & rusks & a princely supply of animal food, but the Samaritan to relieve charitably the stress of the mind has not appeared. I wonder if it is possible for us to find anything at Bagamoyo – for a comfortable read across the channel to Zanzibar.
I have announced to the people what a feast of fat rice – you call it “large” – awaits them & they have responded just as people with healthy appetites might be expected to do. The effect was too utterly-utterly indescribable. The port wine will assist the anaemic. I anticipate vast pleasure when the division will be made.
We all rejoice to hear that the Good Queen reigns yet, and that Europe has refrained from suicide, but the thousand and thousand incidents of her life we have yet to learn. Our Pasha is all in a quiver at something good said to him by Mr. Portal...”.
Price: $4,500.00 USD