Dr. Livingstone, I presume?
April 12, 2005 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Did Henry Morton Stanley actually say "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" when he first met him in the heart of Africa? If there's no other sources than Stanley himself, is it likely that he did say it?
posted by klue to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
He notes it in his diary, which makes it more credible in my eyes. The most likely explanation is that he thought of the line long before he found Livingstone. As in his mind wandered as he trudged through Africa or sat on a ship and he thought "Wouldn't it be cool if I said that if I find him? Yeah, I am totally gonna say that!"

The only thing that seems suspect to me is the spontaniety. Of course, we'll never know if he thought of it afterwards while he was getting a beer, and said "Oh, man! I should have said that!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:45 AM on April 12, 2005

Which reminds me of the Sesame Street skit where Bert and Ernie were searching for Dr. Livingstone, and all Ernie wanted to say was, "What's up, doc?"
posted by icontemplate at 10:06 AM on April 12, 2005

The most likely explanation is that he thought of the line long before he found Livingstone

I think Mayor Curley's got it. Kind of like Neil Armstrong saying "One small step for a man..." he planned that in advance, knowing it was momentous.
posted by raedyn at 11:39 AM on April 12, 2005

Henry Morton Stanley was a shameless self promoter, and everything he sais should be taken with a grain of salt. So, the answer is "maybe,"
posted by cccorlew at 11:41 AM on April 12, 2005

In addition to which, he undertook the search as a 'make-news-happen' stunt for the newspaper, which makes it even more likely that he composed the line with his future reading audience in mind. Even if it does appear in the diary, it was likely written for effect and in the knowledge that the diary would eventually appear in print.
posted by Miko at 1:17 PM on April 12, 2005

Neil Armstrong didn't say "One small step for a man..." He said "One small step for man..."
posted by timeistight at 1:18 PM on April 12, 2005

timeistight - interesting. I had only heard the interviews where he insisted that he had said the "a" and it just wasn't transmitted clearly /offtopic
posted by raedyn at 1:55 PM on April 12, 2005

Actually the rest of the exchange isn't that memorable, so perhaps he did actually say it, but you can never tell with Stanley

‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’
‘YES’, said he, with a kind smile, lifting his cap slightly.
I replace my hat on my head, and he puts on his cap, and we both grasp hands, and I then say aloud:
‘I thank God, Doctor, I have been permitted to see you.’
He answered, ‘I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you.’

However Miko and cccorlew are right about his record for shameless self-promotion. I'm sure like any tabloid journo, he was not above jazzing it up a bit (he worked for the famous Gordon Bennett). As an interesting footnote, he had also prepared for that moment by taking along a bottle of Sillery champagne and silver goblets to share drinkies with Livingstone in the heart of Africa. So there you have the austere Scots presbyterian missionary sipping champagne from silver goblets with one of the world's greatest chancers - quite an amusing picture.
posted by Flitcraft at 4:33 PM on April 12, 2005

The most likely explanation is that he thought of the line long before he found Livingstone

Jack Benny did a parody of this on his radio show (around 1940 maybe?). He was going to meet Dr. Livingstone and practiced that line the whole way there. So I suppose this theory's been around a while.
posted by kamikazegopher at 9:01 PM on April 12, 2005

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