"I had always been
ready to accept the conventional view of Stanley. His character seemed
cold and barren, so that any prospective biographer would surely turn
aside in dismay, like a climber from a sheer granite cliff. It would
explain why few attempts had been made to tell the story of his life,
althought he was undoubtedly the boldest of the nineteenth-century
For all that, it was
impossible not to respect his achievements. As a newspaper correspondent
in the troubled Congo of the early sixties, I had gazed at his monument,
that massive bronze statue (now demolished) beside the Stanley Pool;
I realised that his true monument was the Congo State itself, the
biggest territory carved out of Africa during the age of imperialism.
Perhaps my lack of sympathy for Stanley was influenced by this very
fact: he had been the empire-builder for King Leopold, and so his
image was stained by the bloody horrors of the Congo, most hauntingly
conveyed in Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness ...
...In writing this biography,
I have been able to make many discoveries about Stanley, but one of
the difficulties has been to sift fact from fantasy and falsehood.
His personality led him to conceal his 'shameful origins' and romantic
attachments to such an extent that his own account is untrustworthy.
Previous biographers have been far too ready to take him at his own
...I hope that even if
some of my interpretations are open to argument, this book destroys
forever the image of Stanley as a ruthless conquistador and reveals
him as one of the most fascinating of the Great Victorians."
"When the two-volume
Through the Dark Continent appeared, it showed a perspective that
had been lacking from How I Found Livingstone . With such a narrative,
popular success was certain, and Stanley displayed once more his flair
for sweeping readers from discovery to discovery and battle to battle.
But there was also a seriousness that showed how he meant to be worthy
of the gold medals from scored of learned societies and the congratulations
of monarchs, presidents and prime ministers around the world...
...As Stanley changed
Africa, so it had changed him. In 1868, he had looked less than his
age; now he was grey-haired and drawn. The three-year journey from
Zanzibar to Boma, and especially the final, desperate months on the
Congo, drained the ebullience and bravado out of him." p.