The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Friends and family of David Livingstone

Friends and family of David Livingstone

A group portrait showing five people intimately connected with the life and work of the explorer and missionary David Livingstone. The photograph was taken in June 1874 at Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire. Once the home of Lord Byron, in the mid-nineteenth century it was owned by Livingstone’s friend and fellow explorer William Frederick Webb. Livingstone stayed there from September 1864 to April 1865 while he was writing The Zambezi and Its Tributaries.

The couple on the left are Agnes and Tom Livingstone, two of the explorer’s six children. The two Africans standing on the far side of the table are Abdullah Susi and James Chuma, Livingstone’s loyal attendants who travelled with him for many years and brought his body to the coast after his death at Ilala in 1873. Once they had accomplished their mission, the British authorities would have happily forgotten them but they were taken to Zanzibar and then afterwards to Britain through the generosity of Livingstone’s old friend Dr James Young, the Scottish chemist who had made a fortune in the paraffin oil industry. The man on the right, seated on the ground with an open map on his lap, is the clergyman, missionary and anti-slavery activist Horace Waller, a close associate of David Livingstone’s who edited the explorer’s journals after his death. They were issued in two volumes in 1874, as The Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa, from 1865 until his death. Waller gratefully acknowledge the assistance he received from Susi and Chuma and included portraits of them in his work. When the Royal Geographical Society presented them with medals in recognition of their contributions to geography, Waller was unstinting in his praise: ‘The faithful companions of Livingstone were able to give an intelligible account of every river and mountain and village in the regions they had passed through; and such aid as they could give was of the first importance to Mr Livingstone in preparing the work on which he was engaged’ [quoted in The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, 2013, ed. John Hannavy].

Photographed by R. Allen and Son.

Published as Number 2 in a series entitled ‘Livingstone Memorials’, a caption printed recto in the margin reads ‘Brought by faithful hands o’er land and sea’, the words which are carved on Livingstone’s tomb in Westminster Abbey.


Code: 126192
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