David Livingstone (1813-1873) letter -- Extremely rare hand written letter (dated 6, July 1865) from David Livingstone and signed by him that gives a human glimpse into the life of a man of supreme commitment to God and to the people of the continent of Africa. The 4-page letter is to a Mr. William Logan (see below) thanking him for a present and relating a story about his great grandfather who was committed to prison for writing to the Minister on behalf of a poor woman, but how God showed his faithfulness! David's mother died on June 18th, 1865. Perhaps this was a letter to a Mr. Logan thanking him for the gift of a book by Janet Hamilton. Was it given at his mother's funeral in June? We don't know, but something stirred the memory of a story his mother loved to tell. It is a long detailed letter with excellent content that gives a glimpse into the heart and mind of David Livingstone other than the ones of him living in the stark and sometimes dangerous conditions in Africa. It is signed in the inside of page 3, where Mr. Livingstone went to finish his letter. This is a very special item! On June 19th David Livingstone had received a telegram, which stated that his mother had died the day before. According to William Blaikie's account (pp 355-356), taken from another letter written by Livingstone, Monday, 19th June -- A telegram came, saying that mother had died the day before. I started at once for Scotland. No change was observed till within an hour and a half of her departure.... Seeing the end was near, sister Agnes said, 'The Saviour has come for you, mother. You can "lippen" yourself to him?' She replied, 'Oh yes.' Little Anna Mary was help up to her. She gave her the last look, and said 'Bonnie wee lassie,' gave a few long inspirations, and all was still, with a look of reverence on her countenance. She had wished William Logan, a good Christian man, to lay her head in the grave, if I were not there. When going away in 1858, she said to me that she would have liked one of her laddies to lay her head in the grave. It so happened that I was there to pay the last tribute to a dear good mother.
-- This letter is from the Russell Aitken collection with provenance material (letter and invoice from 1949). Aitken was an artist (sculptor), expert marksman, big-game hunter and adventure writer whose substantial philanthropy reflected his passions for art and sport (died in 2002, 92 years of age). There is a thin piece of tape to strengthen an inside edge.
-- Handwritten front of envelope signed by David Livingtone.
-- Ulva, Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Ulbha) is an island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Mull. This is the location of Janet Hamilton, the New Moorland parish and the Hamilton jail mentioned in the letter below.
Here is the letter July 6th, 1865 -- 18 days after the death of his mother): "My Dear Mr. Logan, Thank you very much for your present and I assure you that I read Janet Hamilton's book with very great pleasure and I thank her kindly for the kind words she uttered in reference to me. ... tell her that my maternal great grandfather was in New Moorland parish at a time when but few could use their views as she can -- and a poor woman who got but sixpence a month from the parish employed him to write a petition to the minister for more. This incensed his reverence so much that he committed my grand father [Gavin Hunter] to Hamilton Jail. He there imitated King David among the Philistines and feigned madness. A sergeant who had his pick of the prisoners to be drafted as soldiers said to him, "My footman and I don't believe that you are insane but tell me your case and...befriend you" He replied that he had a wife and three children who must starve without his services and was greatly distressed in mind on their account. The sergeant gave him three shillings, a larger sum than he had ever possessed in his life before, for a common labourer...pay at the time was put three pence (Scotts...) per diem. The sergeant then went to his officer and said that one of their recruits was clearly out of his mind and obtained permission to dismiss him. Many a prayer there no doubt ascended on behalf of this soldier...of my great grandfather...all his kindness was returned unto his own bosom by Him who put the kindly feelings unto his heart. I heard this told by my grandfather and lately by my mother. We go off this afternoon. Many thanks for your friendship. For the departed now numbered...all no death for whom we give thanks that they died in the Lord. David Livingstone"
-- First Edition copy of "The Personal Life of David Livingstone, by William G. Blaikie (1880). The book is chiefly from his unpublished journals and correspondence in the possession of his family. The contents of the above-mentioned letter are in this book.
BACKGROUND: David's mother had a great store of family traditions, and, like the mother of Sir Walter Scott, she retained the power of telling them with the utmost accuracy to a very old age. In one of Livingstone's private journals, written in 1864, during his second visit home, he gives at full length the above-mentioned story, which some future Macaulay may find useful as an illustration of the social conditions of Scotland in the early part of the eighteenth century.
-- The story recounted in the letter above is corroborated by a paragraph in "The Personal Life of David Livingstone, by William G. Blaikie (1880) -- "Mother told me stories of her youth: they seem to come back to her in her eighty-second year very vividly. Her grandfather, Gavin Hunter, could write, while most common people were ignorant of the art. A poor woman got him to write a petition to the minister of Shotts parish to augment her monthly allowance of sixpence, as she could not live on it. He was taken to Hamilton jail for this, and having a wife and three children at home, who without him would certainly starve, he thought of David's feigning madness before the Philistines, and beslabbered his beard with saliva. All who were found guilty were sent to the army in America, or the plantations. A sergeant had compassion on him, and said, 'Tell me, gudeman, if you are really out of your mind. I'll befriend you.' He confessed that he only feigned insanity, because he had a wife and three bairns at home who would starve if he were sent to the army. 'Dinna say onything mair to ony body,' said the kind-hearted sergeant. He then said to the commanding officer, 'They have given us a man clean out of his mind: I can do nothing with the like o' him,' The officer went to him and gave him three shillings, saying, 'Tak' that, gudeman, and gang awa' hame to your wife and weans, 'Ay,' said mother, 'mony a prayer went up for that sergeant, for my grandfather was an unco godly man. He had never had so much money in his life before, for his wages were only threepence a day."
-- Janet Hamilton (mentioned in letter above and was also known by Mr. Logan) was a nineteenth century Scottish poet. She was born as Janet Thomson at Carshill, Shotts parish, Lanarkshire, 12 Oct. 1795, the daughter of a shoemaker. In her childhood the family moved to Hamilton, and then to Langloan, in the parish of Old Monkland, Lanarkshire. Her father at length settled down in business for himself as a shoemaker, and John Hamilton, one of his young workmen, married Janet in 1809. They lived together at Langloan for about sixty years, and had a family of ten children. Having learned to read as a girl, Janet Hamilton in her early years became familiar with the Bible, with Shakespeare and Milton, with many standard histories, biographies, and essays, and with the poems of Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns. Before she was twenty she had written numerous verses on religious themes. but family cares prevented further composition until she was about fifty-four. During her last eighteen years she was blind, and her husband and her daughter Marion read to her. She died on 27 Oct. 1873, having never been ‘more than twenty miles from her dwelling.’ A memorial fountain has been placed nearly opposite her cottage. In the letter above, David could have been referring to either of the following books published by this time:
-- William Logan (1813-1879 -- recipient of Livingston's letter) Born near Hamilton, the son of a weaver, Logan was greatly affected by seeing a Glasgow missionary die of typhoid. Secular employment having no charms for him, he went to work with sufferers of the disease in London and Leeds. From 1840 to 1842 he was in Rochdale, returning to Glasgow where he attended classes at the university while working as a missionary. While he was a student at the college he joined the city mission. His district was in the High Street, the physical, social, moral, and spiritual condition of which he found very bad. It taxed all his energies. Besides conducting regular religious services on Saturday evenings, he held a meeting for the members of his Bible-class, at which he taught them music, and gave lectures on chemistry, with experiments, generally closing with practical remarks for their daily guidance. His self-denying work remains to this day. He also spent time in various prisons, studying the causes of crime, before undertaking a second spell of missionary work in northern England. Many a young man and young woman has had cause to bless William Logan. Mr. Logan's literary work was a labor of love. He was the author of the "Moral Statistics of Glasgow;" "Early Heroes of the Temperance Reformation;" but in editing "Words of Comfort for Bereaved Parents" he took especial delight. The first few editions contained about fifty pages; its tenth British edition, 490 pages; its circulation reaching 25,000 copies. An American edition had also an extensive sale. Quiet and unobtrusive in manner, yet with broad sympathies, Mr. Logan was ready to help every good work. While attentive to business, yet, like a true disciple, he was constantly going about doing good; and only to a few was it known how generously he helped and encouraged the struggling poor. His interest in the arts led to his erecting a monument to the memory of David Gray, the Kirkintilloch poet. He was also the constant friend of Janet Hamilton, the poet of Coatbridge. He not only showed her all manner of friendly attentions, but did more perhaps than any one else to bring her into fame, buying her books largely and sending copies to influential critics and literary men who might otherwise have failed to notice them. To him, Janet Hamilton in some measure, owed her recognition. If any young minister was in trouble through charges of heresy, William Logan was sure to find his way to his side and cheer him with his sympathy. His "Words of Comfort for Parents Bereaved of Little Children" - the idea of which was suggested by the help he obtained from friendly letters when his girl Sophia was taken from him at the age of five years - have gone far and wide into houses of mourning and have been stained by blessed tears they have helped to bring. Mr. Logan was, in his day, one of Scotland's most zealous temperance reformers. His last illness was severe and brief. On 16th September, 1879, he passed into eternity. There were thousands he had never seen who felt that they had lost a friend when his death was announced. His resting-place is in the Glasgow Necropolis. A handsome monument to his memory was erected a few years since.
-- David Livingstone and slavery "And if my disclosures regarding the terrible Ujijian slavery should lead to the suppression of the East Coast slave trade, I shall regard that as a greater matter by far than the discovery of all the Nile sources together." -- Quoted from a letter Livingstone wrote to the editor of the New York Herald. Livingstone's letters, books and journals did stir up public support for the abolition of slavery. However he became humiliatingly dependent for assistance on the very slave-traders whom he wanted to put out of business. Because he was a poor leader of his peers, he ended up on his last expedition as an individualist explorer with servants and porters but no expert support around him. At the same time he did not use the brutal methods of maverick explorers such as Stanley to keep his retinue of porters in line and his supplies secure. For these reasons from 1867 onwards he accepted help and hospitality from Mohamad Bogharib and Mohamad bin Saleh (also known as Mpamari), traders who kept and traded in slaves, as he recounts in his journals. They in turn benefited from Livingstone's influence with local people, which facilitated Mpamari's release from bondage to Mwata Kazembe. Livingstone was also furious to discover some of the replacement porters sent at his request from Ujiji were slaves.
-- It was early in the morning of May 1st, 1873. Exhausted, David Livingston was confronted by one of his servants by his bedside. “You must rest Mr. Livingston, you must sleep!” “No!” David Livingston replied, “I must pray for Africa! Please prop me up by my bed to pray.” At 4 a.m. on David Livingstone's friends heard an unusual noise, lit a candle To their amazement, David Livingston had died on his knees, praying for the country that he had given his entire life and strength to evangelize!
The tribal leaders gathered from all areas of the continent of Africa to honor this great general of God. They removed his heart and buried it reverently at the foot of a mulva tree. A wood monument was erected. They embalmed his body by filling it with salt, leaving it in the sun to dry for 14 days, then wrapping it in cloth, before enclosing the body in the bark of a Myonga tree, over which they sewed heavy sail cloth. This package was tied to a long pole so that two men could carry it. Along with his papers they started toward Zanzibar on a 1,000-mile trip that was to take nine months. They began a relay to hand carry his body to the coast where an awaiting vessel would carry him back to his homeland for burial. They arrived in February of 1874 and gave the body to the officers of the British Consul. When the body arrived in England on April 15, there was some doubt about the identity of the remains. However, upon examination of the mangled left arm, the doubt disappeared. On April 18, 1874, almost a year after his death, London came to stop as he was buried in Westminster Abbey with the kings and the great. At his funeral were his children, Susi, Henry Stanley--and the aged Robert Moffat, who started it all.
-- Victor Animatograph Co. Hand Colored Glass Magic Lantern Slide (above), circa 1915. This is a portrait of David Livingstone (1813-1873). Victor Animatograph slide mount measures about 4" x 3 1/4", image size is about 2 1/2" x 2."