Livingstone's 'lives'

Livingstone's 'lives': A metabiography of a Victorian icon

Justin D. Livingstone
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 320
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt18pkdxz
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    Livingstone's 'lives'
    Book Description:

    David Livingstone, the ‘missionary-explorer’, has attracted more commentary than nearly any other Victorian hero. Beginning in the years following his death, he soon became the subject of a major biographical tradition. Yet out of this extensive discourse, no unified image of Livingstone emerges. Rather, he has been represented in diverse ways and in a variety of socio-political contexts. Until now, no one has explored Livingstone’s posthumous reputation in full. This book meets the challenge. In approaching Livingstone’s complex legacy, it adopts a metabiographical perspective: in other words, this book is a biography of biographies. Rather than trying to uncover the true nature of the subject, metabiography is concerned with the malleability of biographical representation. It does not aim to uncover Livingstone’s ‘real’ identity, but instead asks: what has he been made to mean? Crossing disciplinary boundaries, Livingstone’s 'lives' will interest scholars of imperial history, postcolonialism, life-writing, travel-writing and Victorian studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-913-5
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of illustrations (pp. viii-ix)
  4. GENERAL EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION (pp. x-xii)
    John M. MacKenzie

    Walking along a Bergen street in 2012, I was startled to see the ‘Dr. Livingstone Travellers’ Café’. On investigation, it certainly referred tothatDr. Livingstone. Even in Norway, the name of Livingstone seemed to conjure up the notion of travel, not to mention solid food on a restricted budget. Such is the universality of the Livingstone ‘brand’. It leads me to think that, although Justin Livingstone’s essay in ‘metabiography’ is inevitably and properly restricted to Anglophone and mainly British (with one or two excursions into the Caribbean, South Africa and elsewhere) representations of the Livingstone life and reputation, it...

  5. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. List of abbreviations and a note on spelling (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Bio-diversity: metabiographical method (pp. 1-18)

    John Updike reportedly once remarked that biographies are nothing but ‘novels with indexes’.¹ This delightfully scathing quip epitomises a certain sense that biography is a spurious enterprise, a genre to be defined in terms of its limits, and best approached with a healthy dose of suspicion. Even where it has not been brushed aside with quite such dismissive disregard, it is notable that biography has not been the subject of serious critical examination until fairly recently. The result is that, for those now writing on the subject, it has become almost axiomatic to pass comment on its lack of theorisation....

  8. CHAPTER TWO Styling the self: making Missionary Travels (pp. 19-68)

    In November 1857, David Livingstone’sMissionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, published by the renowned John Murray, was released to an eager British public. The text, consisting of almost 700 pages, was immediately met with rapturous response not least for its breadth and scope of content. As theLeeds Mercuryput it, the book seemed to add ‘as many facts and thoughts new to the European world as have ever before been compressed within that compass’.¹ Indeed, for theGlasgow Herald, Missionary Travelswas the ‘book of the season’, if not what theCaledonian Mercurycalled ‘the work of...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Death: lamenting Livingstone (pp. 69-113)

    It is Tuesday 27 January, 1874, and a telegram from Her Majesty’s Acting Consul-General at Zanzibar reaches the Foreign Office, confirming the breaking news of the death of Dr David Livingstone.¹ In the weeks that follow, an incredulous British public struggles to disbelieve and discredit the account. Months later and after an agonising delay, the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s steamshipMalwaarrives, bearing a broken and wizened body to port in Southampton. Waiting is a public throng, in mourning for its hero. Later he is laid to rest in a teeming Westminster Abbey, the resting place of the nation’s chosen...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Empire: imperial afterlives (pp. 114-177)

    In the Livingstone biographical tradition it is almost obligatory for authors to commence their work with a prefatory disclaimer justifying their publication. As the Congregational minister Charles Silvester Horne wrote in 1912: ‘At first it seemed unnecessary to re-write his life. The task has been so well fulfilled by many sympathetic biographers … But it is so great a possession that there seemed to be room for yet another attempt to present it to those in our own century who ask for short measure and a clear, simple narrative of facts.’¹ The sheer extent of the discourse that accumulated around...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Nation: Scotland’s son (pp. 178-221)

    If Livingstone has been hailed as a great British and imperial icon, he has also been upheld as the national hero of his country of birth. He is, it has been claimed, ‘Scotia’s noblest son’ and one of the north’s many determined ‘sons of toil’.¹ Indeed, a considerable body of the modern Livingstone scholarship has rightly contended that any serious study must not fail to take account of his ‘Scottishness’. George Shepperson’s 1960 article ‘David Livingstone the Scot’ took a major step in this direction. He argued that Livingstone was fundamentally shaped both by his perception of his Highland ancestry...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Fiction: laughing at Livingstone? (pp. 222-271)

    The biographical portrait, the predominant mode in which Livingstone has been posthumously portrayed, has proven itself to be a literary genre flexible enough to accommodate an array of perspectives and politics. This chapter, however, moves away from professedly ‘factual’ representations to consider the consciously fictional. Surprisingly, studies of Livingstone have almost universally ignored the creative literature that the missionary explorer generated. Certain scholars – Clare Pettitt and John M. MacKenzie among them – do draw attention to several of the novels and plays inspired by Livingstone, but for the most part they have been passed over without sustained engagement. This...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Revisionism: sins, psyche, sex (pp. 272-291)

    Who was the real David Livingstone? This is a question I have aimed to render problematic. The complexity and multifaceted nature of his posthumous identity reveals the extent to which the matter defies easy resolution. While the issue of Livingstone’s true essence may continue to be worth pursuing, it is something that I have resolutely set to one side in the course of this project. Since Stanley met Livingstone with the words, ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’, his biographers have routinely ‘presumed’ knowledge and command over his identity. He has been an occupied space, and I have sought to resist the...

  14. INDEX (pp. 292-304)

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